2-D and 3-D Representations of Our Lord Jesus Christ

‘Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen (1 John 5:21).’

When believers express viewpoints arrived at by studying the Scriptures they may not always align with the viewpoints of other believers, but at the same time they subscribe to the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. Therefore it is not uncommon for Christians to worship within denominations that are sympathetic to their own viewpoints.

So, if what I am about to present is different to how you view it, I ask you to bear with me (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13); for I do it in love, and in what I believe to be the truth. Love and truth are inextricably bound together (Ephesians 4:15), just as all believers are bound together in the love of Jesus. We are united in Him, and in His love for us (John 13:34, 35). Christ loves us, and we love Him.

Twitter Images

I’m a subscriber to Twitter where I delight in sharing with other Christians. We praise God, love Him and adore Him, but do we honour Him when we post pictorial images that are meant to represent His Son? The motivations behind our postings are noble, because we want to give Him the glory and honour (1 Timothy 1:17; 1 Peter 1:7).

From a biblical perspective, the second commandment states: ‘You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments (Exodus 20:4-6).’

There is no ambiguity to the commandment. We are not to make ‘any likeness of anything,’ and we are not to ‘bow down to them nor serve them.’ In the broadest sense, we are not to worship idols, and categorically we are not to make them!

Images Beyond Twitter

Sadly, many who say they are Christians blatantly disobey God’s commandment. In the buildings where they assemble for worshipping God they proudly exhibit paintings, mosaics, stained glass images and sculptures that are meant to represent biblical characters, even those purporting to portray a semblance of Jesus. Some will try to justify their disobedience to the commandment by claiming the artistic representations of God’s Son reveal characteristics of His earthly or heavenly nature.

Astonishingly, there are people who revere these images and pray to them, believing that they will be blessed or healed as a result. There are some who believe by kissing an image they will have a better chance of receiving God’s blessing! It is no wonder that the Apostle John ended his first epistle with these words: ‘Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen (1 John 5:21).’

The recipients of John’s epistle were not guilty of misrepresenting Jesus by making images of Him, but John wanted them to be aware of the wiles of ‘the wicked one (V. 19),’ who would have them worship idols. They were to keep themselves separated from the wicked one, and to remain in Jesus, who ‘is true (V. 20).’

Verbal Representations

Biblical verbal representations of Christ express truths of His nature. They do not portray His literal appearance in terms of height, colour of His skin, facial characteristics, stature etc.. Take for example, John the Apostle’s description of Christ in the first chapter of Revelation. In verse 12, John turns around to ‘see’ the voice that spoke to him. It was the voice of: ‘One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and His hair were like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; (V.V. 12-14) ….. ‘He had in His right hand seven stars, out of HIs mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength (V. 16).’

These are figurative, verbal descriptions of the *omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent Jesus who holds the churches in His hand (V. 20).

John’s words do not describe the physical appearance of the risen Jesus. Their purpose is to impart knowledge as to the ‘nature’ of the Son of God. On grasping and taking in this glorious knowledge, you may be moved to bow down before Him. God forbid that you would bow down before a manmade image of Him, and yet some bow before images of the virgin Mary! No knowledgeable, believing Christian would ever bow in reverence before images of the Lord Jesus Christ or of His mother. It would be idolatry.

My Appeal

So it is my appeal for all to take heed to the second Commandment and to obey it. On account of this commandment there should be no making of idols, nor should they be worshipped. To my mind there is no place for pictorial representations of Jesus on Twitter, or similar social media outlets. All such representations of Jesus are untrue.

Artists sometimes depict Him as if a glowing light emanates from Him, and they may adorn Him with a halo, but the Scriptures never describe Him as having these characteristics. The nearest inference to them can be found in the account of His transfiguration when He appeared to three of His disciples and, ‘His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light (Matthew 17:1, 2).’  [See also Mark 9:2-3 and Luke 9:28-31.] These verbal descriptions are totally true, but any artistic representations of them would be erroneous.

Question: Do we feed our children with untruthful images of our Lord, the sort that are often found in so-called children’s Bibles? Such images are false. They demean and diminish His glory.

Remember our Lord’s words, “For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve (Matthew 4:10b).’”’

*The Omniscience, Omnipotence and Omnipresence of God

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2018/04/14/the-omniscience-omnipotence-and-omnipresence-of-god/

Note

Recommended for reading: ‘Seeing Jesus’ The Case Against Pictures of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by Peter Barnes. It was published by The Banner of Truth Trust in 1990. ISBN 085151 580 0. Cost to buy at the time was 50p.

However, a version of this booklet can be purchased today from Amazon Co UK for £25.69, which is absolutely ridiculous!

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Letter to an Unbelieving Friend

Dear Friend,

Before you depart this life there is something essential you should know, and that is to know Jesus (1 John 5:20) – to know Him personally. If you know Him, trust Him and believe in Him, God will give you eternal life after death (5:11).

Jesus commands everyone to repent and to believe (Mark 1:15), and in return, those who obey Him will be granted a new and beautiful, pain-free life after death (Revelation 21:4). Jesus Himself rose from the dead (Romans 14:9) after suffering for the sins of those for whom He died (Hebrews 13:12). He lived a perfect and sinless life on behalf of all those who believe in Him. He died as a substitute to *atone for their sins and to satisfy the wrath (Romans 2:5) of His Father.

All without exception deserve to die (Romans 1:32) for their rebellion against God, just as Adam deserved to die for His disobedience to God. He ate of the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:6). Therefore all of his offspring, i.e., you and me, are tarred with his sinful nature (Romans 5:12). We naturally do things contrary to what God commands us. He commands us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30), and yet we naturally disobey Him, because we are in Adam. We are Adam’s offspring in the flesh. Therefore we all deserve death (Romans 1:32). We deserve to be estranged from God (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Furthermore, we deserve everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:46).

The natural response to this is to ask, “Why me?” And in protest you may claim, “I don’t deserve to die; I’m a good person.”

To justify yourself you might claim you have led a good life (Cf. Romans 3:12). You have hurt no one; you have not held a grudge against anyone. You have not told a lie. You have never stolen anything. You have never coveted anything. Besides, you have helped your neighbours; you have helped build your community, and you have done other magnanimous works, like caring for and loving your family.

The truth is, you are far from perfect, and if you are to live in God’s holy presence in His perfect kingdom, you must be perfect (Cf. James 3:2) and without sin (Romans 3:23). There is no way by your own efforts you are going to achieve the perfection of holiness which is required for being in the presence of God. You need to be made clean, and free of all sin.

The way of achieving this perfection is by believing and trusting in God’s Son (Ephesians 1:13) – Jesus, who died for you in your place (2 Corinthians 5:21). He became your substitute and received the punishment due to you. He suffered in your place (1 Peter 4:1). Furthermore, He rose from the dead (Romans 14:9) and ascended into heaven, from whence He will come with His angels (Matthew 25:31) to take you to be with Him to live with Him in His new earth (Revelation 21:1).

If you have not yet asked God to forgive you for the things you know you have done that did not please Him, then ask Him right now for His forgiveness (1 John 1:9). Repent of these sins before Him, and He will no longer hold them to your account. He will forget them (Psalm 103:12).

He is loving and merciful, and in His mercy (Exodus 34:6, 7) He will forgive you. He will welcome you into His kingdom (John 14:2).

How can you know that this is true? Simply believe (V. 1), just as the thief on the cross, who one minute was cursing Jesus (Matthew 27:44), but the next realised who He was – the Son of God. In faith he pleaded for Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom (Luke 23:39-42). Jesus forgave him his sins saying, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise (V. 43).”

In your believing, God gives you HIs gift of faith, and through faith in Jesus you are saved (Ephesians 2:8).

This is my message: Believe and you will be saved (Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9). You will receive the riches of Christ (2 Corinthians 8:9) and everlasting life (John 3:36). Don’t wait. Today is the day of salvation (6:2).

Your forever Friend.

P.S.

To learn more about Jesus, I suggest you read the Gospel of Luke or the Gospel of John in the **Bible. If you are able to visit a Bible believing church, one where the Bible is truthfully taught, the members of that church will support you and encourage you in your walk with the Lord. You will never walk alone (Matthew 28:20). He will always be at your side. He will comfort you with His love.

*Limited Atonement

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2019/09/11/limited-atonement/

**Bible Versions

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2019/08/18/bible-versions/

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Experiences

‘He who keeps his command will experience nothing harmful; and a wise man’s heart discerns both time and judgment (Ecclesiastes 8:5).’

Our experiences are individual, and none of us have identical experiences. We may have similar experiences, but never the same. As a man, I’m glad I do not have to experience bearing and giving birth to a baby, but at the same time I’m sorry I shall never experience the joy that a woman may have after giving birth to her baby (John 16:21). As a married man I’ve had the joy of seeing our first child being born, but I’m glad I did not have to experience the pain my wife bravely endured during the delivery. The wonder of that experience of seeing our child for the first time and hearing her first cry as she entered the world, I shall never forget.

If we live long enough, like the writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes, we shall be able to look back and remember special moments of ‘weeping, laughing, mourning, dancing, embracing and loving (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8),  etc.. All such moments are experiential and personal.

The Greatest Experience

The most profound and greatest experiential moment men and women may be privileged to have is when they are ‘born again of the Spirit of God (John 3:3-8)’. At that life-giving moment everything changes. Nothing is ever the same. The world that was is transformed into the new world of Jesus – the newly born Christian is transported to a new realm of life where the palpable love of God (Ephesians 2:4; 1 John 4:7, 9) throbs his heart. Lies, hatred, lust, and evil desires are no longer the way of life. These passions no longer have sway, and over time they are replaced with ‘Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness (Galatians 5:22). Jesus becomes the believer’s way of life; for He is ‘the way the truth and the life (John 14:6).’

From the outset of that new relationship with the Son of God, all things become new. This experience is best described by Paul the Apostle in 2 Corinthians 5:17: ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.’  The stony heart (Ezekiel 11:19, 20) of death is done away with, and it is replaced with a new heart (36:26) of life and of love in the Spirit (Cf. Romans 8:2, 10). This remarkable, miraculous life continues through the transitional process of resurrection after death into the ultimate life everlasting. On receipt of this life the believer is given a new spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:44). The transformation from the old to the new is then complete and the believer is clothed (Isaiah 61:10) and equipped for eternity.

Life’s Experiences

Life as we know it is a continuum of experiences – one after another. In our relationships with people and our dealings with the physical world, our experiences are registered in the memory ‘box’ of our brain. We may recall them, or choose to forget them, or we may actually forget them! As they occur we may instinctively react to them or we may consider if there should be appropriate responses to them. The factor that governs our responses is the state of our heart. If our heart has been transformed by the love of Jesus, we will respond with His love (1 John 4:19). By His Spirit we have the power and the desire to do as He commands us:“A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another (John 13:34).”’

Experiential *Suffering

There are times when we cannot understand why God puts us through certain experiences – particularly times of pain and of grief. We ask Him to sustain us, and we ask Him to help us overcome our burdens. We plead for Him to intervene and alleviate the pain of those who are suffering. Our prayer might be something like this, “Please God, in your mercy remove the pain my friend is having, and if it is Your will, please heal him, I pray. I ask this in Your Son’s name. Amen.”

As we pray such a prayer we may be reminded of the suffering of Jesus who pleaded with His Father to take away the cup of suffering He would experience at the cross. There in the garden of Gesthemane before His arrest, He was in such agony that his sweat was like drops of blood (Luke 22:44). He prayed, ‘“O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done (Matthew 26:42).”’

When we think of His suffering, and compare it to ours, ours is nothing. Miraculously by His suffering we are healed (1 Peter 2:24). Our bodies may not be healed, but our spirit is healed, and we are given life in Him (John 11:25). We have the hope of eternal life (Titus 1:2) – a life where there will be no memory of today’s experiences. We are assured that all our new experiences will be without pain, sorrow, or crying; ‘for the former things’ will ‘have passed away (Revelation 21:4).’

*Suffering

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2017/12/27/suffering/ 

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Christian Rights and Human Rights

‘But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12).’

Christian Rights

What I am about to explain may not happily sit with some of you, but my duty is to be true to God and to all people. Jesus is ‘the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).’  He is the absolute *truth. He is the embodiment the truth, and all things are judged by Him. He is the Supreme Judge who searches the hearts and minds of all people (Romans 8:27), the One to whom everyone will be accountable (Matthew 12:36).

As we shall have to account for all we do and say (1 Peter 4:5), we would do well to heed the words of Paul the Apostle, ‘Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that if may impart grace to the hearers (Ephesians 4:29).’

When Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians, he made the case that he had the right to be paid for his preaching (9:14), but he abrogated his right. He explained that he was compelled to preach the gospel (9:16) because it was his calling. He did it without charge (V. 18), so as not to make the Corinthians feel obliged to pay him for his service (V. 12). He was motivated to save some (V. 22), and his reward was in the saving, not in the receipt of wages. [Note: Paul could not save, because it is God who saves (1 Corinthians 1:21).]

In Chapter 9 of 1 Corinthians, Paul drew attention to the entitlement of rights that were available to the Apostles:

In verse 4 he asked the rhetorical question, “Do we have no right to eat and drink?  and in verse 5, “Do we have no right to take along a believing wife?” And of course, they did!

Examples of moral and legal rights can also be found in the Old Testament. There’s the case of the daughters of Zelophehad regarding their inheritance of land. It is found in Numbers 27:4-7, which goes as follows:

‘“Why should the name of our father be removed from among his family because he had no son? Give us a possession among our father’s brothers.”’ So Moses brought their case before the LORD. And the LORD spoke to Moses saying: “The daughters of Zelophehad speak what is right; you shall surely give them a possession of inheritance among their father’s brothers, and cause the inheritance of their fathers to pass to them.”.  

So both the Old and New Testaments teach that God’s people have rights, but only those given to them by God.

The wonderful and blessed right He gives to some people is affirmed by the key text: ‘But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12).’

No one has the right to become a child of God unless God gives it to him. He can only receive it through faith, which in itself is a gift (Ephesians 2:8). Christians are therefore blessed of God.

Human Rights

What if I were to say to you no one has any right to anything?

What would be your response? Would you turn down your mouth? Would you feel disgruntled? Would you passionately disagree? Or you would go along with it?

I’m deliberately being provocative, because I want to present what I believe to be the truth. Let’s delve into the matter more deeply:

My proposition is that it is God who determines the rights of all people. He confers rights to whomever He chooses. People cannot determine them for themselves. They can make laws about this and that, and if they are respected and obeyed, it is because they are part and purpose of God’s will. Indeed, the Scriptures affirm that God wants people to benefit from good laws, because when they abide by them, there is peace and order in their lands. Therefore Christians are exhorted to obey such laws (Romans 13:1-7).

In the UK at this present time [as I write on 4th October, 2019] we are still in the European Union, and we are subject to the Union’s Human Rights Laws that are upheld by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). These laws were established in 1959, and they are based on 18 Articles concerning matters such as the obligation to respect human life, the right to life, the prohibition of torture, freedom of expression and the prohibition of discrimination etc..

All of these laws were drafted for the benefit and protection of EU citizens, but you may consider some of them contentious; for example, Article 10, which is about Freedom of Expression. It gives the right to people to have their own religious and other beliefs, and the right to change them. They have the right to freely worship and to express their beliefs, both in public and in private spaces.

I’m no lawyer, but it would appear that the very same Article 10 protects the right of anyone to express the view that religions are obnoxious and offensive to them. They could even express the view that all religions should be outlawed and made illegal, and that anyone found practising them should be imprisoned. This is freedom of speech without incitement to hate.

What will happen when we leave the European Union remains to be seen, but I expect UK laws regarding rights will be similar to those of the European Union.

My Beliefs

As stated at the beginning of this article, I believe Jesus is the Supreme Judge, and He is also the One who made laws for all mankind to obey. He is the One who determines the rights of every single person. As we stand before Him He can do what He likes with us (Romans 9:20, 21), and no one can overrule Him.

At the same time He is just and holy; but more than that, He is compassionate and loving. He came to die for those whom He loves, and He gave them the right to become sons of God by adoption (John 1:12). This is His right and choice, not ours. We cannot demand adoption into His family. Only God can give us that right through the receiving of His gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8) in His Son.

Conclusion

God has absolute authority over His creation, and therefore He determines the rights of all people. We have no rights unless they are given to us by God.

*Truth

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2019/04/01/truth/

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Climate Change Emergency

‘For the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground (Genesis 2:5b, 6).’

So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry I have made them (Genesis 6:7).”’

‘In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the foundations of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights (Genesis 7:11, 12).’

‘But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up (2 Peter 3:10).’

The Emergency

Greta Thunberg recently *addressed the United Nations on the subject of climate change. Her message was gravely stark – If homo sapiens don’t respond now with absolute urgency there is no chance of their survival. As other species have become extinct, so too humans will no longer exist. She pointed to the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ‘based on indisputable scientific evidence’. To have any hope of avoiding irreversible increased global warming, humans must reduce CO2 emissions by far more than 50 percent in 10 years – 75 percent would be barely enough!

To prevent the average global air temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius in 10 years, which is the critical tipping point for irreversible chain reactions causing higher temperatures, drastic action is required NOW. Greta’s message, therefore, is to emphasise there is no time to waste. The world is in a state of EMERGENCY, and yet it is blissfully unaware of the impending disaster (Luke 17:26)!

Despite politicians and world governing authorities being aware of the science for the last 30 years they have failed to address the problem of CO2 and methane emissions. Young as she is, Greta has motivated her contemporaries to speak loudly by their mass protests worldwide. She says those in authority have failed to inform the world of the facts; if they had, parliaments and all governing bodies would have nothing else on their agendas. Indeed, everybody would be talking about nothing else. They would earnestly take drastic steps to reduce their emissions.

Greta accuses those who have been in power of betraying her generation and she insists their persistent policies of pursuing economic growth must stop. There must be change, and there will be change, she says ….. whether we like it or not!

I can understand her anger and sympathise greatly; for it is my generation that has largely caused this calamity. We were aware of the effect of carbon emissions, but we did very little to mitigate the damage being done to the eco-systems of the world. Millions of people have suffered as a result, and thousands have died because of the greed and selfishness of mainly the western world.

We have stripped and pillaged the world’s natural resources of oil, coal and wood – all of which have concentrates of carbon: oil at 87 percent, coal at 78 percent, and wood at 45-50 percent. Thoughtlessly we have burned this stolen booty, thereby polluting the very air we breathe and upon which we depend for life.

As Greta points out, it’s a do-or-die situation. There must be drastic change if we are to respond to the emergency. Each of us can try to play our part, but it will require a miraculous intervention, because we are so accustomed to our lifestyles. We don’t want to give them up. Most of us [in developed the countries] are comfortable as we are, and to make changes will require effort on our part. We need to look at every aspect of our lives: the things we do and the way we live. We should make changes that will significantly reduce our contribution to the warming of the earth’s atmosphere.

A Temporary Fix?

That means adapting to a whole new lifestyle, one in which we are contented with what we have (Philippians 4:11; 1 Timothy 6:8; Hebrews 13:5) and not be forever striving to get more, to become richer (Cf. 1 Timothy 6:10) and to acquire more possessions. None of these things bring happiness. Material prosperity accounts for nothing, but riches in Christ bring **happiness and everlasting joy (John 15:11; 1 Peter 1:8).

God commissioned us to look after the earth, to tend it (Genesis 2:15) and to care for the animals (1:28). He told us to multiply (1:28; 9:7), and this was for the purpose of us having a relationship with Him (Genesis 5:22, 24; 6:9), and from us He would choose a nation for Himself (Deuteronomy 7:6-8; 14:2; 1 Peter 2:9, 10) upon whom He would lavish His love (Deuteronomy 10:15) and give them eternal life (1 John 5:11).

Are We in the Last Days?

This world, designed and made by God (Genesis 1:31-2:1; John 1:1-3), is only a temporary construct (2 Corinthians 4:18), and God has predestined for it to end in fire (2 Peter 3:10) at a time of His choosing (Matthew 24:3-6). Maybe the current worldwide ***fires are a precursor of what is to come? And the Day of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:2) is not far away. ‘Therefore, let us not sleep, as the others do, but let us watch and be sober (V. 6).’

‘“And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man (Luke 17:26).”’

*Greta Thunberg Addressing the United Nations

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAJsdgTPJpU

**Happiness and Joy

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2019/04/13/happiness-and-joy/

***Fire

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2019/08/30/fire/

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The Christian Mindset

‘For “Who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).’

‘If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1).’

“What do you set your heart on?” and, “With what do you fill your mind?”

The answer to these questions will reveal who you are. They will reveal your identity – the essential you: the things that contribute to making you an individual, just as your fingerprint is uniquely yours.

A Christian’s Focus is on Jesus

A Christian sets his heart on pleasing Jesus (Hebrews 13:21), and to this end he learns all He can about the One he follows (John 10:27). His focus at all times is on His Lord and Master. He looks to Him for everything – for He is his Provider (Genesis 22:14) who supplies all his needs (Philippians 4:19).

A Christian passionately loves Jesus (John 14:21) and he has great joy in serving Him (John 12:26). He is motivated to study the Bible, to pray, and to live a life of obedience to Him (John 14:15, 23). He willingly takes up his cross and follows Him (Mark 10:38).

Christ is loving (1 John 3:16), merciful (Ephesians 2:4), kind and gentle (Matthew 11:29). He cares for His sheep (John 10:15). His followers (John 12:26) seek to imbibe these same characteristics. They want to be like Him – caring and loving. You might think this is a big ask, but God equips His saints with His indwelling Spirit (Luke 11:13; John 6:63). They can do all things in His strength (Philippians 4:13), and nothing is too difficult for the Him (Luke 1:37).

A Disciple of Christ Studies God’s Word

For a Christian the study of the God’s Word is paramount (Joshua 1:8). Reading the Bible and trying to understand it is of utmost importance, but this is best done in conjunction with prayer. Without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit it is impossible to grasp what it is all about (1 Corinthians 2:14). Head knowledge of the Scriptures alone is of no effect, but when the hearer of the Word is convicted (John 16:8) by the Holy Spirit of its truth, the gospel becomes ‘the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).’ 

The Bible is the prime source to which Christians go for seeking God’s wisdom (Romans 11:33; James 1:5) and for knowing His will. It is God’s rule book that spells out how believers should conduct their lives. The knowledge and wisdom gained from God’s Word must be put to practical use (James 1:22). Christians will want to respond to its imperatives, particularly the command to love God with all their heart, and to love their neighbours as themselves (Mark 12:29-31).

A Christian Worships with other Believers

Although a Christian is a unique individual, he is also a member of Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:27), which is His church (V. 28); therefore he fellowships and worships God with other believers who are to him, brothers (Cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:6) and sisters in Christ. They love one another as Christ loves them (John 13:34). In that love they build one another up in their faith by encouraging (Romans 14:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:11), teaching and exhorting (2 Timothy 4:2). They give practical help (Philippians 2:4) to their Christian brothers and sisters; particularly where members are frail and they are unable to look after themselves (Cf. 1 Timothy 5:3-10). Socially, they cultivate friendships within the church family (Romans 12:10), and they respect their neighbours to whom they witness (1 Corinthians 10:32, 33).

A Follower of Christ Preaches the Gospel and Makes Disciples

If a Christian is to present the gospel to the unsaved he must know God’s Word well, and he must explain it in a way that the biblically illiterate can be challenged by it. He cannot be a sedentary member of Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:27); for his calling is to go forth and to, ‘“make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).’” A Christian is to be active in this way for as long as he is able, and he must have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Collectively and individually Christians preach the gospel to whomsoever they can, wherever they can, and whenever they can (Romans 10:13-17; 2 Timothy 4:2). It is their primary mission.

 Saints Look Forward to a New Life in a New World

The whole purpose of Christ’s coming to the earth was to make *atonement for the **elect. As is the case for all people, the elect are worthy of death and of everlasting punishment because of their disobedience (Cf. Romans 3:23). Before their conversion they are in Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22), and like him they deserve to die (Romans 1:32), but in God’s mercy (Ephesians 2:4) He gives them eternal life in Christ (John 11:25).

Not only does Jesus restore their relationship with His Father, but He will take them to be with Him and His Father (Matthew 16:27) in His new earth (Revelation 21:1). He will give them spiritual bodies (1 Corinthians 15:44) like His own (1 John 3:2).

This ultimate paradise is what all Christians crave for, day and night. They look forward to being with their LORD for evermore in His new kingdom of light and love (Revelation 22:3-5).

Conclusion

These are the things Christians fill their minds with and set their hearts on (Deuteronomy 6:8; 11:18; Colossians 3:1, 2). Christ dwells in them (Galatians 2:20), and their identity is found in Him.

*Limited Atonement

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2019/09/11/limited-atonement/

**Election

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2019/05/16/election/ 

**Unconditional Election

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2019/09/14/unconditional-election/ 

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Predestination – Part 2

‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will (Ephesians 1:3-5).’

In my previous article on the subject of *predestination I only gave a couple of examples of God’s workings in His plan of salvation which He preordained from before time. Both of these examples came from the Old Testament, and they were illustrations of how God’s plan was being worked out. He foreordained what would happen to King Belshazzar and to Joseph, each within their own contexts. Belshazzar acted in pride (Daniel 5:22, 23) and God struck him down (V. 30). Joseph acted in faith (Hebrews 11:22) and God lifted him up (Genesis 41:37-46). Every actor involved in both dramas played their parts in fulfilling God’s purposes. Similarly Esther unknowingly played her part in the preservation of the Jews (Esther 8:1-9:17) from whom came the Saviour Jesus of the tribe of Judah (Hebrews 7:14).

Basically, there are different camps when it comes to understanding the Scriptures in relation to predestination:

Camp One

There are those who claim that if they don’t have the freewill to choose whether they want to be followers of Jesus, God cannot hold them to account for their sins, and it would be unjust of Him to predestine them to hell. They also believe they have the freewill to reject God’s grace, and that they can choose Him if they like. For them predestination is a non-starter, despite Scriptures to the contrary: Romans 8:29, 30; Ephesians 1:4, 5, 11; Acts 4:28; 1 Corinthians 2:7.

They believe there is a God, but they do not have faith in His Son. They are not saved.

Camp Two

There is a camp who claim they have total freewill, and as such they can decide whether they will follow Jesus or reject Him. These people repudiate the doctrine of predestination. They believe that if they accept Jesus, and for as long as they continue accepting him, they will be given eternal life. They believe it’s all up to them! This is the epitome of arrogance. By claiming it’s up to them and their works (Cf. Ephesians 2:9), they must consider themselves greater and more powerful than God. Their freewill usurps God’s!

If that’s the case, why would they want to enter God’s kingdom? After all, they could build their own – a kingdom superior to His! They are like the descendants of Noah who lived in Shinar and built the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). We know what happened to them: Because of their pride God separated them to different lands and formed them into nations with their own languages (V.9).

These people justify themselves by their works, and they are not saved.

Camp Three

Another view is that God from before the creation of the world purposed to make a people who would follow Jesus (John 12:26). They would be be justified by faith in Him (Romans 3:28; 5:1; Galatians 2:16; 3:8, 24). Jesus would sacrifice Himself to make **atonement for them, and they would believe (John 5:46; 14:1) and trust Him (Proverbs 3:5). Because of their God-given faith (Ephesians 2:8) they would receive eternal life (John 10:28; 17:2).

Freewill is not an issue for these believers, because they are grateful to have been chosen by God. They are pleased that He has authority over them and that He supplies them with all their needs (Philippians 4:19). They know that He orchestrates everything to work together for their good (Romans 8:28). They gladly accept that God is their Sovereign King. In His mercy He ***chose them from ‘before the foundation of the world’ for salvation (Ephesians 1:4, 5), and He will give them an inheritance (V. 11) in His new kingdom (1 Peter 1:3-5).

As stated above, these are saved (Ephesians 2:8, 9).

The Issue of Freewill

It seems then, that the crucial factor central to the doctrine of predestination is the issue of freewill. I have briefly considered freewill in a previous article on the subject of ***election. Here’s what I wrote: 

“What I do know is that I do not have total freedom. The only Person who does, is God. Within the limited freedom He gives us we are free to make decisions. We are free to elect for this or for that. We can choose to do right or to do wrong. We can choose to do good or to do evil (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).”

Freedom and freewill are therefore bound together. So I pose the question, “Are we free to do what we want?” No, because we are restricted by our limitations, i.e., our physical and mental abilities.

The crucial factor to consider is: “Are we free only to do or choose what we want within the limits of God’s will?”

We can do nothing beyond His decreed will. We can do nothing outside of what He has decreed for us to do. You might say this presents a problem; for we are not entirely free to choose what we want. But when you think about it, we are not free to do many things. We are restricted by law and by our physical natures. We can only operate within whatever constrains us – whether it is fences, walls, mountains, oceans, or our mental faculties or our physical abilities. We are designed as we are, and we are constrained by our natures. We can’t fly because we don’t have wings; therefore we are not free to fly through the air as the birds.

None of this prevents us from making decisions, and thus we are accountable for our choices and for our actions. All of them have been preordained within the constraints of God’s decreed will. Even our prayers are preordained and God knows what is in our hearts before we pray (Matthew 6:7, 8). We pray in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18) to the Father (Matthew 6:6) through Jesus (John 14:6) who is our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5).

God has designed us for the purpose of loving (Mark 12:30) and worshipping Him (Matthew 4:10). He has designed us to be like Him in several respects (Genesis 1:26). If we love Him and obey Him (Deuteronomy 12:28), He helps us day by day to conform more and more to His will (Matthew 6:10). We feed on His Word and seek to live according to His commands (Matthew 4:4). Our desire is to become more Christlike and to please God (1 Thessalonians 4:1). This process is known as ‘progressive sanctification’.

We are made saints at the time of our new birth in Christ by God’s Spirit (John 3:3-8), but we do not immediately live saintly lives. Sin still dwells in us (Cf. 1 John 1:9). Sanctification without the impediment of sin will only be possible when we pass from this world into the abode of Christ where our souls will dwell in His presence. At His second coming we shall be made like Him, complete with our new spiritual bodies (1 Corinthians 15:54). Only then shall we be made perfect in the image of Christ.

God’s predestined plan of salvation will be totally fulfilled when the whole harvest has been gathered in (Mark 4:29), and ALL the elect finally enter into His kingdom in His new earth (Revelation 21:1).

Conclusion

God is in charge. He has always been in charge. He leaves nothing to chance. He has predestined all things: past, present and future. At this moment His Son sits at His ****right hand in heaven, and He will come again to the earth to judge all mankind: the living and the dead who will be raised (Revelation 20:11-15). Those whom He pardons will receive eternal life (John 11:25, 26), and those whom He does not pardon will receive everlasting punishment (Mark 9:42-48).

*Predestination 

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2019/07/17/predestination/ 

**Limited Atonement

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2019/09/11/limited-atonement/

***Election

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2019/05/16/election/ 

****At the Right Hand of God

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2019/06/10/at-the-right-hand-of-god/ 

 

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