Free Indeed – What and Why I believe

Harvest Moon

1 Peter 3:15:  But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

Recently I attended a professional engineering society breakfast with about 10 people in attendance.  This is a casual monthly meeting at IHOP where we network and discuss industry news.  This particular meeting was around the Christmas holidays and I was talking with my table neighbor when I another conversation across the table erupted and one of the men joked about the insanity of Christians whose leader teaches of “eating his flesh and drinking his blood”.  It was quickly quieted by the leader as he tried to subtly signal to this guy without me or others noticing that I might be offended, the “Christian” in the group.  This is not a group of unintelligent drop outs, but accomplished professional engineers who are very bright and enjoy a strong debate.  It was not the place for a debate, but I find that this type of mocking of Christianity popular in every area of society.  It is pervasive in social media where anyone that stands for a conservative idea is an easy target.  You find the people who follow Christ targeted almost as sport in entertainment, news and politics.  Mocking Christianity has caught on to become a new bully sport.  Usually it is a cheap shot aimed to discredit the person as unintelligent or ignorant for believing in such a ridiculous farce.  As with most bullying, rare do you see the Christian put up a fight or engage in a strong counter argument presented.  Is it because Christians are generally peacemakers and do not stir up conflict?  Or is this because they really are shallow in their faith and have not thoughtfully considered and debated the counter arguments even for themselves?  Have they not studied the Word of God and gained the knowledge to defend the basic principals of their faith? 

The apostle Paul in his letter to Timothy tells us that society will embrace self serving ideas and we will be mocked and persecuted for our faith.  We have a faith that we have believed as Truth since our childhood and have trusted in the scriptures to proclaim this Truth.  But, the Scriptures are given to us by God and are useful in teaching, correcting and training in righteousness.  At the time Paul was writing these very words Christians were burning on posts in the streets as “Roman Candles”.

2 Timothy 3:1-17 “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 6 For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. 9 But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also. 10 Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! 12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

We are instructed to know the Scripture and use it to teach, admonish, correct and train ourselves so that we will be able to defend the Scriptures we believe as Truth in the society we live and to the marketplace of ideas. 

Who is our adversary?

Knowing who is our adversary is such an important point in the debate of ideas.  In many circumstances a spirited debate is not the way you will be engaged.  More likely you will be engaged with mocking and persecution as a direct personal attack.  The attack will be framed that you are unintelligent, stupid, ignorant, weak, shallow or any such terms that are attached to the person.  In this case it seems natural and obvious to engage and counter attack the person.  Don’t fall into this trap that will surely lead to the lowest common denominator of name calling exposing the worst in all involved. 

In the case of a good spirited debate or a personal attack we must recognize that our adversary is evil itself. The first step to engage a debate or mount a defense is to separate the person from the source of the attack.  We are defending what and why we believe as Truth in a debate against our adversary, satan, who defends a position we propose not to be truth.  We don’t forget the person that we are debating, but respect them with love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self control.  We position and thoughtfully debate arguments in the light of Truth provided in the Scriptures. 

Ephesians 6:10 – 20 “10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

The foundation of our argument is Scripture. 

We regard Scripture as the inerrant Word of God, as Truth and the final authority.  It should be questioned.  How can we build our argument solely on the Scripture that was written by man as truth?  If you have not tested this faith for yourself and believe in your whole heart that the Bible is the inspired Word of God then the foundation of which you stand is weak and will crumble when challenged.  The factual historicity and accounts of the Bible have been challenged for millennia.  The account of creation and positions of “old earth and new earth” have been debated.  The evolution of species can be demonstrated and the thought that man was not created in the image of God but evolved from apes could be argued, but impossible to prove.  The timelines and historicity have been confirmed.  Parallel secular historic records and writings outside of the Bible have been compared and found to be accurate.  The crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Christ has been the most tested and proven account in all of history.  To the amount that you are willing to bet your eternal salvation you must test the authenticity and truth of the Scriptures.  This testing will be different for every person.  Some like Lee Strobel, attorney and author of The Case for Christ or Hugh Ross, www.reasons.org ,noted Christian apologist and astrophysicist have dedicated their life to exploring history and science to test the scriptures. Many others have simply heard and believed the basics of Scripture that have been shared orally or in simple writings as enough to bet their eternal salvation. www.peacewithgod.net

God loves you and has a plan for you.

John 3:16 “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”

Man is sinful and separated from God

Romans 3:23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God sent His son to die for our sins

Romans 5:8  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

I Corinthinans 15:3-4 “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures”

Through Prayer we can invite God into our lives and be saved from an eternal separation from God.

Romans 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;”

John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me”

For the individual who has considered this simple message, accepted this as Truth, and has bet their eternal salvation as fact may not be understood by those earnestly seeking an analytical dialogue, but should be respected for their simple faith and their basic argument that they just know in their heart that it is True.  They may be mocked for their lack of knowledge to engage in a debate with those who worship knowledge.  In all cases, the simple faith and those that pursue the highest intellectual debates all end in the same place.  A leap of faith.  Faith is the assurance of things not fully known.  It is “at the end of the road of knowledge” and is the one element still required by every man.

Hebrews 11:1 – 2 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval.  3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.

Debaters can take sections of scripture and build an opposing and, at times, convincing arguments in an effort to discredit Scripture as Truth.  If you can be convinced that portions of the scripture are not true then the foundation of your faith in Scripture as Truth itself is fragile and is where we need to pursue reconciliation of our doubts.  It is healthy to test your doubts, read the Scripture and personally hold it up to what you see and experience.  For me personally, this is why I am writing.  I may have started with a simple faith, but by nature want to question why?  I want to understand and be able to articulate why I believe what I believe. To this end I may have started with a simple faith, but have continually tested this faith to find it secure. 

I believe in God, the creator of heaven and earth. 

Why do I believe in the existence of God? He is self-evident in the universe I live.  When I observe the world, I see a created order.  I see the simple beauty of the stars, moon and sun.  This simple experience of observation inspires the question “Who created this?”  I observe the effects of the cycles and seasons of our planet.  Who designed the cycle of water to evaporate, rain, cleanse, nourish, be filtered, stored and process repeated to sustain life and cleanse our planet?   I experience and have tested the physical laws of nature.  Natural science and math display a perfect order and repeatability.  We have a close friend who, tragically, recently lost their son.  At the funeral we got a glimpse into the mind of this amazingly bright young man who studied mathematics, explored the depths and complexity of math problems, and proclaimed as evidence for his faith in God the infinite beauty of the dependable and perfect order of mathematics.  This is way beyond me, but helps me by association to have a greater appreciation for evidence supporting an architect in the created universe.  Are the laws of nature, the principles that govern our physical world just a “cosmic coincidence”?  They exist because they exist? Or does it make more sense that they were created by design?  I do not see “nature” as the thing to be worshiped, but see the “nature” of a creative God that designed and established natural order to the world and universe that we live in.  I find agreement with Norman Geisler in his statement, “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist”

Second – I believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God

There are many angles that I could choose to debate that the scriptures are the divinely inspired word of God delivered to men to record the origin, history, revelation of the character of God and His plan for the redemption of man.  I am not sure who originally penned the quote “Truth and time go hand in hand” but even those of us that have lived a few decades see that over time the true truth of any matter is eventually revealed.  The Bible makes distinctive claims of truth.  We test the truth by comparing it to reality.  Physical evidence such as archeological findings and extra-biblical manuscripts that support the timeline, events, persons and historical narrative that the Bible proclaims.  Considering the Bible was written over many centuries and by many authors, the theology and worldview proclaimed by the authors is consistent and coherent.  The morals and worldview of civilizations, nations, cultures and peoples have evolved over time, but the principles and worldview of the Bible have remained consistent.  The principles and worldview have stood the test of thousands of years for being logical, reasonable and true even though they often were disregarded because of current excepted cultural beliefs.  Evident in our recent U.S. civil rights history, the claims of the Bible ring true even as our culture prevented equal rights for various classes of citizens.  In 2018 the consistent teachings of the Bible are contrary to many of our accepted cultural norms, but I believe over time again will come full circle and reveal Gods Word and instruction on how we are to live as everlasting and true truth.

Jesus is the central character for all of the Bible, both old testament and new testament. 

Matthew 5:17  Jesus says “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

If the life and teaching of Jesus can be authenticated this gives the greatest support for the truth of the whole Bible.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all testify to the life and ministry of Jesus.  There testimony has been proven to be consistent and accurate to the life and account of Jesus’ life.  There has been no life or event more documented, analyzed, challenged and supported by multiple writings, personal accounts, historic records and physical evidence than the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  The evidence is overwhelming that new testament documentation of Jesus life and ministry are true.  If the life and teachings of Jesus are true there is no greater support for the entire Bible as Jesus is the fulfillment of all the prophecies and promises of the Bible.  For more:  Read Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ

Third – I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and was crucified, buried and raised from the dead to sit at the right hand of God the Father.

The cornerstone of the Bible and all of the Christian faith is Jesus’ defeat of death through the resurrection.  The apostle Paul says its clearly

1 Corinthians 15:13-19 “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”

Man has forever sought to be reconciled with his creator and all the religions of the world have been built upon a path of redemption to live with God in heaven.  The old testament establishes that God created the world, provided the law that condemned man for his sin and demonstrates the cost of that sin through the blood sacrifice. From the creation of the universe when God established the stars and the moons he created the seasons and signs that point to a plan for redemption. 

Before God created the universe and and stars He had a plan to create man in His own image and in His great wisdom gave man free will to choose HIm.  He meticulously laid out the stars and the sun and moons and ordained the cycle of new moons that mark the months and seasons.  God instructed Moses to assemble the people on appointed days marked by the calendar He created to celebrate His provision and establish a plan of redemption.   

Leviticus 23:1-2  “The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed festivals, the appointed festivals of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.”

The Hebrew word for “feasts” (moadim) literally means “appointed times.” God has carefully planned and orchestrated the timing and sequence of each of these seven feasts to reveal to us a special story. The seven annual feasts of Israel were spread over seven months of the Jewish calendar, at set times appointed by God. They are still celebrated by observant Jews today. But for both Jews and non-Jews who have placed their faith in Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, these special days demonstrate the work of redemption through God’s Son.

The first four of the seven feasts occur during the springtime (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Weeks), and they all have already been fulfilled by Christ in the New Testament. The final three holidays (Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles) occur during the fall, all within a short fifteen-day period.

Many Bible scholars and commentators believe that these fall feasts have not yet been fulfilled by Jesus. However, the “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13) for all believers in Jesus Christ is that they most assuredly will be fulfilled. As the four spring feasts were fulfilled literally and right on the actual feast day in connection with Christ’s first coming, these three fall feasts, it is believed by many, will likewise be fulfilled literally in connection to the Lord’s second coming.

In a nutshell, here is the prophetic significance of each of the seven Levitical feasts of Israel:

1) Passover (Leviticus 23:5) – Pointed to the Messiah as our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) whose blood would be shed for our sins. Jesus was crucified during the time that the Passover was observed (Mark 14:12). Christ is a “lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19) because His life was completely free from sin (Hebrews 4:15). As the first Passover marked the Hebrews’ release from Egyptian slavery, so the death of Christ marks our release from the slavery of sin (Romans 8:2).

2) Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6) – Pointed to the Messiah’s sinless life (as leaven is a picture of sin in the Bible), making Him the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Jesus’ body was in the grave during the first days of this feast, like a kernel of wheat planted and waiting to burst forth as the bread of life.

3) First Fruits (Leviticus 23:10) – Pointed to the Messiah’s resurrection as the first fruits of the righteous. Jesus was resurrected on this very day, which is one of the reasons that Paul refers to him in 1 Corinthians 15:20 as the “first fruits from the dead.”

4) Weeks or Pentecost (Leviticus 23:16) – Occurred fifty days after the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and pointed to the great harvest of souls and the gift of the Holy Spirit for both Jew and Gentile, who would be brought into the kingdom of God during the Church Age (see Acts 2). The Church was actually established on this day when God poured out His Holy Spirit and 3,000 Jews responded to Peter’s great sermon and his first proclamation of the gospel.

5) Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24) – The first of the fall feasts. Many believe this day points to the Rapture of the Church when the Messiah Jesus will appear in the heavens as He comes for His bride, the Church. The Rapture is always associated in Scripture with the blowing of a loud trumpet (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:52).

6) Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27) – Many believe this prophetically points to the day of the Second Coming of Jesus when He will return to earth. That will be the Day of Atonement for the Jewish remnant when they “look upon Him whom they have pierced,” repent of their sins, and receive Him as their Messiah (Zechariah 12:10 and Romans 11:1-6, 25-36).

7) Tabernacles or Booths (Leviticus 23:34) – Many scholars believe that this feast day points to the Lord’s promise that He will once again “tabernacle” with His people when He returns to reign over all the world (Micah 4:1-7).

As Paul concludes in the last chapter and verse of his epic letter to the Romans he references this “mystery that has been kept secret”, but is now revealed.  We know the secret!  We know the final answer to God’s plan to redeem man to Himself.  It is not just for a select race, but for all nations for the purpose of bringing glory to Jesus. 

Romans 16:25-27  “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, 26 but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.”

I believe that the Holy Spirit resides in those who trust in Jesus as God’s redemption plan for man and trust Him as our Lord and Savior.

The prophet Joel gives us the promise of the Spirit.  Joel 2:28-32 “It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind: And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions, even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.  I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire and columns of smoke.  The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.  And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered:”

I believe that this occurred to the Apostles after the crucifixion as Jesus appeared to his followers in the upper room instructing them Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”  On the day of Pentecost according to the prophecy of Joel, the Holy Spirit was delivered to the Apostles.  When the crowds heard what Peter and the Apostles had to say they exclaimed “What shall we do?”  Acts 2:38 “Peter said to them, Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  I believe that the power of the Holy Spirit still resides in those to have trusted Jesus as their Savior today.  As described by the Apostle Paul:

1 Corinthians 12: 4-13 “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

I believe the Holy Spirit is working today through all the gifts given to the body of Christ (His Church) in all the world to demonstrate His power for the common good.   1 Corinthians 14:1 says “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts”  In my life experience I have witnessed many of these spiritual gifts.  In my life I have also earnestly prayed in faith for faith, wisdom, knowledge, healing miracles, prophecy, distinguishing of spirits tongues in various causes that the Holy Spirit would act through me.  In many cases my prayers were answered and in many instances my prayers were not answered.  I continue to trust that the power of the Holy Spirit lives in me and will continue to act and pray in faith that the power of the Spirit that resides in me can always choose to act according to His will for the common good.  I am challenged daily to put this faith in action and know that the Spirit is not likely to work through me if I do not exercise my faith in taking action. 

I believe Jesus will someday return in fulfillment of the prophetic feasts and I will live with Him as my savior and King for eternity. 

God in His great and creative wisdom created the universe, stars, moon, earth and man in His own image.  In His sovereignty He chose Abraham and his descendants to be His own.  The beauty and order of His creation testifies of a brilliant Creator.  The fact that God exists is self evident and we are with out excuse.  God spoke through many men to communicate His law, His instruction and His plans for forgiveness.  The Scriptures written by many men over thousands of years are divinely inspired and provide a consistent and coherent message.  He used his perfect order and cycles of the moon to appoint times to celebrate His provision.  God instructed Moses to assemble the people at these times and provided a path to save all mankind through them.  All of the Bible and the appointed times unveil a great mystery which is an ultimate plan of redemption for all mankind.  Jesus is the completion of the old testament, He is the first fruit, the passover lamb that rescues us from our sin and eternal separation from our Creator.  As promised in the scriptures, I believe He will return to reign and will “tabernacle” or live with those who have chosen to believe in Him as their perfect sacrifice and Savior. 

John 14:6  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

The secret to the great mystery is revealed, we know God’s plan for redemption. God Almighty has revealed Himself and His character to us.  He has given us His Word as Truth and the instruction and authority to live our lives.  Follow the Truth and He will guide you through today and will set you free. 

John 8:31-36 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free? 34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be FREE INDEED.

So then how shall I live today?

(See http://jeffreyapplegate.com/2018/01/13/2018-and-lifetime-resolution/)

 

 

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