Going straight to the Cross
 

Learn the Lesson of Job

by Steve Preston

The book of Job makes for some very interesting reading. In Job we find a man who is righteous before God. So righteous, in fact, that God uses Job to prove to Satan that man can glorify God even while he is being afflicted. God allowed Satan to persecute Job to the point of losing almost, if not all, his family and possessions.

During the time of his afflictions, Job's friends continually try to convince him he has sinned, in some way causing the problems he is having. In the end, Job gripes about having to go through the problems, even though he has always done the will of God.

In chapters 38-40, God replies to Job. Verses 8 & 9 of chapter 40 sum up the whole reply to Job:

"Wilt thou even annul my judgment? Wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be justified? Or hast thou an arm like God? And canst thou thunder with a voice like him?"

God is in control of everything. It is not right for us to question the things God does.

Do you want to be pleasing to God? Then have faith enough to know that God will always be in control, even when things seem out of control to us.

God has an eternal purpose for all that he does. Let God do his work and let us simply do what he tells us to do.


Steve publishes BibleTalk, from which this article was taken, with his permission.

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Our Relationship with God

by Kenneth Bray

It is a great tragedy for one to go through life with the wrong concept of God. This leads to unbelief, hostility, or indifference. On the other hand, the greatest blessing that one can experience is that of having a proper understanding of God. This leads to a happy and harmonious relationship with Him and His world. Therefore, it is very important that we understand three basic factors concerning God so that we might have the proper relationship with Him.

The Existence of God Prompts Faith

The first thing that one must understand about God is that He exists. To provide us with the needed information about His existence, God has created a beautiful and orderly world which, in the fact of its own existence, declares His reality (Psalm 19:1). Furthermore, in His Word, the Bible, God is described so clearly that anyone of average intelligence is able to draw the conclusion that He does exist.

This affirmation of the existence of God is known as faith, which involves trust, acceptance, and confidence. Without this trust in the reality of God, it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). Our faith, therefore, must be fortified, strengthened, exercised, and fed. Upon this faith all the other virtues are based (2 Peter 1:5-7).

The Authority of God Prompts Obedience

As one learns about the existence of God, he is immediately impressed with the power or the authority of God. God is the creator of the universe, the regulator of human affairs, and the final judge of all who have lived (Acts 17:22-31).

When any honest, sincere, thinking person realizes the greatness of God, then the obvious reaction will be submission and obedience to His will and authority. For our own good God has revealed a plan of living which involves two things: first, what we must do to attain the right relationship with Him, and, second, what we must do to maintain that harmonious relationship.

All of this involves our obedience to His revealed will. Regarding this salvation Jesus said: "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).

The Nature of God Prompts Love

One of the most comprehensive descriptions of the nature of God is found in this beloved passage: "God is love" (1 John 4:8). It is true that God has a severe side and will punish the wicked (Romans 11:22), yet we need to keep in mind the love, compassion, and grace that so clearly depict His nature.

Since God first loved us, we then should love Him in return (1 John 4:19). This love means that we think of Him constantly throughout the day, that we take Him into our plans, that we joyfully serve Him, and that we allow Him to comfort and strengthen us in our difficulties.

Conclusion

Faith, obedience, and love blend to form the foundation of the Christian life. When these three qualities are present, the result will be a strong spiritual life. But remember, all of these qualities are prompted by our correct understanding of God. We gain that understanding through the revelation He has made of Himself through His creation and through His inspired word.

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The Historicity of Christ

by Mike McDaniel Defender, September 2004

Christianity depends on the historical existence of Christ. The historical Jesus began a religious movement which has shaken this world as has no other. Yet, some writers actually deny the historical existence of Jesus.

The cover of the December 1994 issue of LIFE magazine revealed an artist's rendering of Jesus with the question "Who Was He?" In a short article they stated:

"To some, Jesus is the Son of God, born to a virgin: the anointed, the Christ. To others he is just a man who inspired, through his teachings and exemplary life, 'several faiths now incorporated into Christianity.' And to still others he's a myth, a novelistic invention of Paul, and then, the Gospel writers, who required a charismatic anchor for their nascent (early) churches. He is, they say, an idea."

In this issue of LIFE magazine they interviewed many eminent thinkers. One of them, Jon Murray, the President of American Atheists, stated, "There was no such person in the history of the world as Jesus Christ. There was no historical, living, breathing, sentient human being by that name. The Bible is a fictional, nonhistorical narrative. The myth is good for business."

In spite of this incredible assertion, most respectable scholars, and serious historians do not question the historicity of Jesus. As F. F. Bruce has written, "Some writers may toy with the fancy of a 'Christ-myth,' but they do not do so on the ground of historical evidence. The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar."

There was a real historical person named Jesus of Nazareth who lived, had a tremendous influence upon the people, and died the death of crucifixion. To prove this, notice three lines of evidence. In the first place, notice the New Testament as evidence of the historicity of Christ. The New Testament presents to us the historical Jesus. The Scriptures' representation of Christ cannot be rationalized away or dismissed with the wave of a hand.

The evidence for the New Testament is much greater than the evidence for classical writings. For example, at least 24,633 manuscripts and portions of the New Testaments have been documented. In all of ancient history, the second book in line after the New Testament in manuscript is The Iliad by Homer. Yet it has only 643 surviving manuscripts. Dr. Clark Pinnock in his book, Set Forth Your Case, concluded after extensive research:

"There exists no document from the ancient world, witnessed by so excellent a set of textural and historical testimonies and offering so superb an array of historical data on which an intelligent decision may be made. An honest person cannot dismiss a source of this kind. Skepticism regarding the historical credentials of Christianity is based upon an irrational bias" (58). The New Testament gives an accurate picture of Jesus Christ to us as Son of Man and Son of God.

In the second place, notice these Jewish writers as evidence of the historicity of Christ. Josephus, a Jewish historian, lived from around A.D. 37 to 100. He spoke of John the Baptist. He also wrote: "Ananius, the high priest, assembled the Sanhedrin of judges and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called the Christ, this brother's name was James, also some of his companions, and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he had them stoned" (Jewish Antiquities, XX, 9.1).

In another passage he wrote: "Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew many after him both of the Jews and the Gentiles. He was Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the chief men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that had previously followed him did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive on the third day. As the divine prophets had foretold these and many other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named after him, is not extinct at this day" (Jewish Antiquities, XVHI, 3.1). Some have questioned this passage as a possible interpolation. In defense of the passage it does appear in every copy of Josephus that has come down to us and was quoted twice by Eusebius as early as A.D. 315.

The Jewish Talmud is the civil law of the Jews consisting of the Mishna (text) and the Gamara (commentary). In the Talmud there are some occasional references to Jesus, but most of them are vulgar and unquotable. They are deliberately intended to contradict events in the Gospel accounts and attack the Lord's credibility. However, the fact that the Jewish rabbis from the close of the first century on down have attempted so many attacks upon Jesus helps us to prove the reality of His earthly life. In their attempts to deny His divinity, they prove His historicity!

In the third place, notice these Roman writers as evidence of the historicity of Christ. Tacitus was a famous Roman historian who lived from around A.D. 55 to 117. Around the turn of the century he wrote his Annals in which he discussed the burning of Rome in A.D. 64.

"At this time Nero had been accused of having burned the city. To suppress the rumor, Nero falsely accused and punished, with the most acute tortures, persons who, already hated for their shameful deeds, were commonly called Christians. The founder of that name, Christus, has been put to death by the procurator, Pontius Pilate, in the reign of Tiberious; but the deadly superstition, though repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through the city (Rome) whither all things horrible and vile flow from all quarters, and are encouraged" (Annals 15:4).

Suetonius, another Roman historian who lived from around A.D. 65 to 135, wrote in his Life of Claudius: "Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, and expelled them from the city." This passage undoubtedly confirms Acts 18:2 that Claudius commanded all Jews to leave Rome. This included Priscilla and Aquila and proves that there were Christians in Rome as early as Claudius. It is well known that the name "Chrestus" was sometimes used of the heathen people for our Savior.

A Roman by the name of Pliny who lived from around A.D. 62 to 114, wrote to Trajan, when Pliny was Governor of Bithynia, to ask what he should do about the Christians.

"They affirmed that the sum of their guilt or error was to assemble on a fixed day before daybreak, and sung responsively a hymn to Christ as to God, and to bind themselves with an oath not to enter into any wickedness, or to commit thefts, robberies, or adulteries, or falsify their work or repudiate trusts committed to them: when these things were ended, it was their custom to depart and on coming together again, to take food, men and women together, yet innocently".

What is the value of these statements of famous Jewish and Roman writers? They are valuable because they help to show absolutely that Jesus of Nazareth was a historical figure. Such evidence is not necessary to one who accepts the New Testament as historically true. But since some who are not Christians will boldly assert that Jesus never really lived among men, this additional evidence proves that Jesus did exist.

Jesus continues to live today. This additional evidence should give us even more reason to accept the Gospel and obey it. Why not surrender your will to his in Gospel obedience today? "What will you do with Jesus my friend? Neutral you cannot be: Someday your heart will be asking, O friend, 'what will he do with me?'"

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Either Or

Steve Preston

Since the time of the creation of man, God has given us choices about almost everything. Our Creator even let Adam choose the names of all the animals that had been created (Genesis 2:19). There are, however, a few things that have only two choices.

  1. There are only two paths to take in life -- the broad way and the narrow way. "Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that enter in thereby. For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it" (Matthew 7:13,14).

  2. There are only two ways to "build" your faith -- on the rock or on the sand (hear and obey or hear and disobey). "Every one therefore that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man, who built his house upon the rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon the rock" (Matthew 7:24,25).

  3. There are only two walks (manner of life) to take -- light or darkness. "And this is the message which we have heard from him and announce unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:5-7).

  4. There are only two authorities in religion -- Heaven or men. "The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven or from men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why then did ye not believe him? But if we shall say, From men; we fear the multitude; for all hold John as a prophet" (Matthew 21:25,26). "No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Luke 16:13).

Each day of our lives we are presented with choices, such as what clothes to wear, what to eat, etc. But when it comes to matters of faith, there are some things that only have two choices. The most important of these choices concerns service to our Creator. We can choose to serve Him or not. There is no middle ground. One cannot choose to serve God only part time. Let each of us make up our mind and make the only choice that matters, and that is serving our God with our whole being!

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Do It Yourself

by Jim McDoniel

Henry Ford had carved into his fireplace mantel the words, "Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice." Doing jobs for ourselves can be rewarding and beneficial.

Several years ago, a friend in the lawn-mowing business asked me to hire him to take of my yard. I told him that I got a lot of exercise from my yard work. If I paid him to do my yard work, I would have to pay a health club for exercise time. (Now, at my present age, I do my own yard work and pay the health club to help me exercise.)

The basic principle has even greater application when I come to the realm of spiritual knowledge. If I search and find the meaning of a passage for myself, I will remember it better than if I have someone else study the passage for me. Also, I may learn some additional truths while searching the passage.


Jim preaches at the www.legacychurchofchrist.com, from whose Daily Bulletin this article was taken, with permission.

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by randal @ 1/20/09, 11:55 AM

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