The gift or the wages

July 22, 2013

Most of us are aware of the scripture found in Romans 6:23 which reads in the KJV; “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  It seems to be such a simple verse that narrows our options to just two.  If we receive the gift of God we inherit eternal life.  If we collect the wages of sin we receive death.  However; it seems that what most of the Christian world teaches and believes is that everyone inherits eternal life; the question is where do we spend it?  Another question that arises is how do we inherit this eternal life and what do we have to do to get it?  Romans 5:15-16 refer to the gift as a free gift and Romans 8:2 teaches that Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death; but is that what we really believe? 


Most of us have the idea that if we get “out of fellowship” with God; then He will do whatever He has to do to get us back to Him.  God Himself may well cause bad things to happen to us until we “turn away” from whatever it is that has “separated us” from God’s love and turn back to Him.  If this were really the case then the wages of sin would be God punishing us until we turn back to Him; but the scripture says the wages of sin is death.  As we just mentioned; others think that if we do wrong we separate ourselves from the love of God.  There is scripture to back up this idea found in Isaiah 59:2 which reads in the KJV; “But our iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”  I truly believe the Old Testament is as valid today as it ever was; however we are in a different time.  We are even living in a different covenant and in the new covenant we read another scripture.  It is found in Romans 8:38-39 and reads in the KJV; “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, not powers, not things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ things changed.  That was the whole idea of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and our sins no longer separate us from God.  He tells us that now He will never leave us or forsake us; but we believe that the wages of sin is temporary separation from God until we “turn from our wicked ways” and come back to Him; but the scripture says the wages of sin is death. 


I could go on with many examples of faulty and flawed thinking on our parts; but the scripture tells of a God of love who will never leave us or forsake us.  We are told of God’s correction; but God corrects in love not in anger.  If we have received the gift of God; which is eternal life; we have begun that life already.  I know our bodies will die; but the real us has already inherited the promise of eternal life and the wages of sin do not apply to us.  If we are separated from God it is because we have moved away from Him.  He is very likely close at hand; but if we are not looking for Him; we will not find Him.  The message of the gospel is a message of life.  The wages of sin is death.  We must pick which message we want in our lives.


Discussing the Immortal Soul Part 5

April 1, 2013

I want to let this be the last article in the discussion on the Immortal Soul; even though it was not what I had initially planned.  I find this discussion most interesting; but am not altogether certain it has much significance as to ones salvation.  Let me just say that for years I; along with many others, believed in an immortal soul.  I would have stated categorically that when one dies that they go immediately to heaven or to hell depending upon whether or not they had accepted Jesus as their Saviour.  I believed we had to ask Jesus into our hearts; though after much study I see nothing in the scripture that says that.  I am going to enter into a discussion on Salvation; though I may not be able to write daily.  I will endeavor to keep current as much as I possibly can.  I have seen much over the years like death and hell being cast into the lake of fire.  The lake of fire is not called hell, and hell is cast into that lake and destroyed; so I fail to see how hell can be eternal.  I will readily admit to some scripture that seems to imply an eternal hell; but I cannot find any scripture to back up the implication.  I do think that if one is saved and has been born again that the next conscious thought they will have after the last conscious thought on this earth, will be in heaven.  My doubts may be that the next conscious thought comes immediately after one ceases to exist here; however, even if one is to lay in the ground for 10,000 years and then be resurrected; to them it was instantaneous.  I am not sure anything more than that matters.  I was prepared to go to some lengths to show that men adopted this doctrine of an eternal suffering in hell to scare men into repentance; and I do believe that is the case; but I have been born again so hell matters not to me.  I would rather point this discussion to the subject of how to be saved; rather than to concentrate any further on a subject that should not really matter to one who has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and confessed him with their mouth. 


I have always enjoyed studying the writings of the early church fathers.  One of those is Justin Martyr who was born around AD 100.  Whenever I read from Justin or any of the other early Christians, I am surprised at how different the beliefs of these who were so close to the time of the Apostles are from our own doctrines.  One of the documents that have survived is from Justin Martyr and is called his dialogue with Trypho.  In this dialogue in chapter LXXX we can read the following:


Then I answered, “I am not so miserable a fellow, Trypho, as to say one thing and think another. I admitted to you formerly, that I and many others are of this opinion, and [believe] that such will take place, as you assuredly are aware; but, on the other hand, I signified to you that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise. Moreover, I pointed out to you that some who are called Christians, but are godless, impious heretics, teach doctrines that are in every way blasphemous, atheistical, and foolish. But that you may know that I do not say this before you alone, I shall draw up a statement, so far as I can, of all the arguments which have passed between us; in which I shall record myself as admitting the very same things which I admit to you. For I choose to follow not men or men’s doctrines, but God and the doctrines [delivered] by Him. For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this[truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians,


In the beginning of this passage he is referring to the thousand year reign which Trypho was doubting; but then we see quite clearly that Justin Martyr did not consider that anyone who thought they would go straight to heaven when they die to even be Christian.  I understand this is not scripture and is the opinion of Justin Martyr, and that I do not always agree with him; but I will always believe that one who was that close to the times of the Apostle John should at least be heard.  When the early church fathers state something so strong; I will always find the time to study the subject in some earnest.


As opposed to Justin Martyr; I am not so certain that one who believes they go right to heaven is denying the resurrection and therefore not Christian; but I can see that one can be wrong in interpretation and still be a Christian; even if they are a confused one.  I would hope everyone who reads this would study the matter of the eternal soul, and if you would like, make comments and let me know where you stand.

Discussing the Immortal Soul Part 4

March 28, 2013

At this point in my studies, it seemed I might need to determine what it is that makes a man alive.  What is it that actually gives life, and can that life be immortal and does the Bible teach that.  I went back, as I usually do in most of my studies, to the beginning of the Bible.  I see most things are created by the power of God through His spoken Word.  He simply speaks those things that are not as though they are; and they appear.  Some say they come from nothing; but I see it as coming from God.  It seems from the book of Genesis that man was created in a different way.  Rather than just speaking man into existence; we read in Genesis 2:7 in the KJV; “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”  So God made us from the dust.  He fashioned us into a being but we had no life.  When Jehovah God breathed into us the breath of life; we became a living soul.  From this and other scripture we can say that a living being is a soul.  It would seem that all living beings are living souls.  This may not be what we are taught; but the scripture seems to say so.  I notice that the scripture does not say that man has a soul; but rather that man is a soul.  The word that is translated as soul is defined by Strong’s as the following:

soul, self, life, creature, person, appetite, mind, living being, desire, emotion, passion

a) that which breathes, the breathing substance or being, soul, the inner being of man

b) living being

c) living being (with life in the blood)

This seems to imply that any living; breathing thing is a soul.  Notice again that is seems to be limited to things that breathe.  A plant is alive but would not; by this definition be a soul.  I think it is significant to note again that this definition does not say that any animal or man has a soul; but rather is a soul.

We also see in Genesis 35:18 that a soul is considered to be departing as one dies.  This would only make sense that if one who is a living being is also a living soul; that when one is dying their soul would be departing.  The soul is the life and not something that is contained by the being.  It is the being.  This was different than what I had always believed.  Somehow I had always thought the soul was what was given by God; and in a sense that is the case; but not in the way I had always thought of it.  I had never thought animals had souls; and in one sense was correct, but they are souls.  We can read further about the soul in Ezekiel 18:4 which reads in the KJV; “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”  Again we see from the mouth of God Himself that the soul that sinneth will die, so we know that the soul can die.  If we tie some scripture together we see that all souls; which we defined earlier as life, belong to God.  We know that God is the giver of life so all life comes from God and belongs to God.  Life; therefore, is not something we posses, but is rather something that we are.  If we cease to exist it seems that life still belongs to God.  If the life is not in us then it no longer is ours.  Just like we can find no scripture to say that since life would come to us from God and that God has always been then we in some way pre-existed our own births; there is nothing to say that the life that leaves us is in any way ours and since it was once us now proves we continue to live.  That sounds a little complicated; but to simplify I believe that all life belongs to God.  All life has always belonged to God and always will belong to God.  Just because He imparts life to us for a season does not mean that life is ours forever.

If we go to the New Testament we can see Jesus talking about the soul.  In Matthew 10:28 we read in the KJV; “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  In this passage we see many significant things.  First; Jesus differentiates between the body and the soul.  He says plainly that the body can be killed without the soul being killed, but also there is a way in which both the body and the soul are killed.  All throughout the New Testament we see the body being called the flesh and the flesh and the spirit are two entirely different things.  It seems that without a spiritual birth we may not have a “spirit” but by virtue of being alive we are a soul.  As we continue with this discussion we will talk some about the difference between the spirit and the soul.


Discussing the Immortal Soul Part 3

March 27, 2013

As can be the case when one begins to question a belief; I had gone from one who had a firmly held belief to one who was having questions, and those questions were leading to some confusion.  I started to just forget the whole thing as I had no real problems with what I had always believed; and remembered the verse that teaches that God is not the author of confusion.  Something in me; though, wanted to make sure that what I believed was 100% scripture and was not the doctrines or traditions of men only.  I let my mind sort of sift through what I knew of the Bible and verses and stories that seemed to back up an immortal soul.  I remembered the story told by Jesus in Luke 16.  In this story it seems there was a very rich man who seemingly had everything he could possibly need or want and there was also a beggar who had nothing.  Both of them died and the beggar was carried to the bosom of Abraham; but the rich man was tormented in hell.  The rich man looked across the gulf that separated them and asked that the beggar could dip his finger in water and touch his tongue to cool it as he was being tormented by the flame.  The story shows the rich man talking with Abraham and Abraham talking to the rich man.  Standing all by itself; this story would seem to confirm that one immediately goes to heaven or hell when they die and that the soul is indeed immortal.  It seems that I also remembered scripture that seems to say Jesus preached to the ones who were in hell. 


It seems the more I thought; the more confused things got.  I was seeing literal scriptures that seemed to contradict each other, and I knew that could not be so.  I began to study more to see what I was missing.  Looking to the story in Luke I noticed that this story was one of many parables Jesus taught.  I saw the lesson of the parable was not about heaven or hell; but that people on earth should believe according to what is written and if they will not accept what is written they would likely not believe even if one came back from the dead.  Also I noticed that the beggar was not said to be in heaven; but in Abraham’s bosom.  I was unsure of what that was; but wondered if it might be the Paradise Jesus referred to when he was on the cross.  Remember he told the thief on the cross beside him that he would see him in Paradise that very day.  I had been taught he was referring to heaven; but over the years I had questioned that interpretation of Paradise.  If Jesus went straight to heaven he would not have told Mary after he was risen to not touch him as he had not yet ascended to his Father.  If Jesus died and went straight to heaven he would have already ascended to his Father because heaven is the home of the Father.  I looked for this scripture and found Ephesians 4:9-10 which reads in the KJV; “Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?  He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.”  This seems pretty clear to me that Jesus descended before he ascended.  I understand that most in the modern church will not agree with this; but I can find no other explanation in the Bible. 


I began to wonder if the rich man poor man parable might actually show that all who died descended.  Some to hell and some to Paradise which the parable called the bosom of Abraham.  This would explain how the rich man could see Abraham and Lazarus I suppose, and would be a good explanation for why Jesus told Mary he had not yet ascended to his Father; but it still leaves some questions.  If the dead know nothing according to Ecclesiastes; then how can the rich man be having a conversation with another dead man?  If the spirit returns to God who gave it; how can life remain in the dead?  I decided to look for other references of the dead speaking.  I found a reference in the Old Testament of Saul calling up Samuel from the dead and talking to him.  Also on the Mount of transfiguration Jesus talked with Elijah and with Moses.  Now Elijah has never died as he was taken; but Moses had died, though his death was somewhat special as we see in Jude that the archangel Michael had a dispute with the devil over the body of Moses.  One could explain the parable as simply being a parable and therefore was a teaching lesson and not necessarily an actual event; and one could easily say that Saul talked with someone or something; but not Samuel who was dead.  The Bible does speak of familiar spirits who seem to be spirits who are intimately familiar with a human being and could therefore easily fool someone into believing they were that individual.  So we are left with only one positive instance where someone from the dead was seen speaking and that is Moses on the mount of transfiguration.  However; I don’t suppose that an archangel comes to dispute for the body of most of us when we die; so I could easily believe that Moses is a special exemption; but again I am not sure. 


I understand this discussion so far is only confusing the matter more; but it is how I went through this.  I tried then, and try now to always keep a few things in mind when exploring a doctrine.  One is that the Bible is always correct and never will contradict itself.  If I think I have found a contradiction; I must keep studying because the fault lies in me and not in the scripture.  Also; everything must fit in with everything else that is in the Bible for it to be accurate.  And too; there is a reason for a doctrine to be taught.  There is more to it than just intellectual exercise.  God is trying to teach us things we need to know to live the lives He desires for us to live.  He wants to bring us closer to Him, and doctrinal arguments do not do that, but as we learn more of Him our love for Him should increase as we see the plan He has for us.  We will continue tomorrow.

Discussing the Immortal Soul Part 2

March 26, 2013

I want to discuss a little about why I began to question the teaching on the immortal soul.  I was at a place in my studies where I was beginning to see many teachings that might not be based completely on scripture.  I was looking into many different things and trying to find the answers for why men would change the scripture and teach something that is not expressly taught in the scripture.  While rolling these thoughts around in my head; I read one of the most popular verses in the Bible.  Most could quote John 3:16 which reads in the KJV; “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  For some reason I paused in my reading and went back over what I had just read.  This verse; which I had read many times before seemed to be saying something different this time.  It was the same words; of course, but I now noticed that if we believe in the Son of God we inherit eternal life and will not perish.  Of course I knew that.  If one is saved they will inherit eternal life and not perish in hell; but is that what the verse really says?  It does say that if we believe we will inherit eternal life; but seems to say the choice is either that or perishing.  Immediately I thought of another verse I like found in Romans 6:23 which reads in the KJV; “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  The Gift of God is eternal life but the wages of sin is death.  Again; this was nothing new.  I had read both of these verses countless times; but I began to think I was seeing something different.


I went to my Strong’s Concordance to see the meaning of some words.  I first looked at the word life from “eternal life”.  I found it means the state of one who is possessed of vitality or is animate.  It also means every living soul.  It also means life.  Eternal life is that life that lasts forever.  I understood that; but I thought everyone lived forever either in heaven or hell and this verse seems to say there is a choice of eternal life of perishing.  Next I looked up perish.  I found, according to Strong’s it means, to destroy; to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin; render useless; to kill; to perish, to be lost, ruined, destroyed.  Also metaphorically it can mean to give over to eternal misery in hell.  The metaphoric definition was the one I was used to; but seems to be a definition based upon a doctrine rather than a true definition.  I decided I needed to keep looking for more scripture and found my way to Solomon; the one who was called the wisest man of all time.  I found a verse in Ecclesiastes 9:5 which reads in the first part of the verse; “for the living know that they shall die; but the dead know not any thing,”  Further into Ecclesiastes in the 12th chapter and the 7th verse we read; “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”  I also read in Ezekiel 18:4 that God says all souls are His; and that the soul that sinneth shall die.  I did look up the word “die” in Ezekiel; but there was not mystery.  It simply means to die.  Rather then clearing things up; these scriptures made me dig a little deeper.  If the soul is immortal and we live forever somewhere; then it would seem that the dead would know something.  It would also seem that the scripture could not say the soul that sins will die; if it is immortal.  They would either know they were in heaven or hell.  The scripture, though, says the dead know nothing.  The next verse mentioned says the dust shall return to the earth which is an obvious reference to the body dying and returning to dust; but then it says the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.  I had to wonder what that meant.  If one were to go to heaven one could consider that meant returning to God who gave it; but if one were to go to an eternal hell; they would not be returning to God; because according to what I had been taught; God was not in hell. 

Also; if the soul can die and the spirit returns to God; then perhaps it is the spirit that is immortal and the soul can die.  Even that brought about more questions.  If a spirit returns to God who gave it; does it return as the spirit of a particular person; or is it simply reabsorbed into God.  If it is the spirit of a particular person then again, one would think that spirit would have knowledge of something; and the scripture says the dead know nothing.  I imagine the scripture could be saying the body that dies and returns to the earth will know nothing; but no one seems to think the body is immortal so why would the scripture make a big deal about the body which is dead not knowing anything?  The body, in scripture, seems to be almost insignificant, though we place a lot of importance on it.  The spirit and the soul seem to be the topic of conversation.  What it seems to be saying is the body simply dies and goes away.  The soul of those who sin die and the spirit returns to God.  I suppose that the soul of one who believes inherits eternal life and goes to be with God, at least after the resurrection; but the spirit returns to God. 

What I had found so far were many questions and very few answers.  We will continue this tomorrow.






Discussing the Immortal Soul Part 1

March 25, 2013

Some of the controversial things that we discuss concerning the scriptures don’t really matter a whole lot in the overall scheme of things.  They make for interesting discussions and hopefully push more people into actual study of the Bible instead of just casual reading; but in one sense don’t really make a difference.  However; it does seem important to try and glean the true meaning from the scripture.  To clarify my beginning statement; one can argue the doctrine of an eternal hell of everlasting punishment; but if one is born again and endures to the end and are saved; any teaching on hell becomes irrelevant to them.  To the saved; the consequences of hell and the length of time one spends there means nothing as they did not go there.  On the other hand; what we teach about hell may well influence how an unsaved and unborn again person feels about the One our teaching concentrates on.  So while the question of hell may be of no real interest to one who is not going there; what we believe about hell may well influence what one believes about God. 


There are plenty of scriptures concerning hell in the Bible that seem to back up the idea of an eternal hell where those who reject God will be punished for all of time in the flames of torment.  On the other hand; there are other scriptures where we read that death and hell will be cast into the lake of fire and destroyed; and depending on what belief you begin your study with; you will probably be able to find many scriptures to back up what you believe.  While this discussion may well include a lot about heaven and hell; I really want to concentrate on the idea of an immortal soul.  As one who grew up in the church, I always believed in an eternal soul.  I had been taught as a child by those who loved me and would never intentionally mislead or hurt me that there is an afterlife.  Everyone will live forever in either heaven or hell.  I never questioned that teaching as it was ingrained into my thinking.  We know and can back up by numerous verses that the gift of God is eternal life and that life will be with Him in heaven.  Jesus talked about hell and it seems as though there were many scriptures that talked about everlasting destruction and things like that; but as I matured and began to study on my own I would find simple scriptures that made me wonder.  To be honest, I usually just glossed them over as most of us do and went on saying that we cannot understand the things of God.  Unfortunately; this way of thinking is quite common in the church today.  We bring a certain set of beliefs to the table and if we read anything that seems to contradict those beliefs; we just blow them off in one way or another; usually by saying something religious like God’s ways are higher than our ways or something like that.  We then go on about our business and don’t much worry about the scripture that momentarily stopped us and made us think.  Over the years I have come to believe that scripture that stop us for a moment and makes us think, are the very scriptures we need to study.  Rather than run from what seems to vary from our beliefs; perhaps we should study very hard to see why that scripture hit us. 


In Acts 17:10-11 we see a reference to the people of Berea.  These people were called more noble because they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily to see whether or not the things they were being taught were so.  I have to think much of the controversy of today is caused by a lack of that Berean spirit that searches the scriptures daily to see if doctrines and beliefs are so.  We need to know the truth as that truth will set us free.  We need to search the scripture ourselves and allow the Holy Spirit to show us what is truth.  Even in the day of Paul and the days right after, the leaders of the new church were astonished at the false teachings that were already entering into the church.  The traditions of men quickly become entrenched into our beliefs and are woven tightly into the fabric of things that we consider to be essential to salvation.  If there was ever a day or a time where we need to study the scripture daily to see if those things are true; it is today.  The church has grown in numbers but the numbers are just numbers unless we follow the example of Jesus and do the works that he did and even greater works.  The church has grown in numbers but shows a radical decline in power.  The few that turned the world upside down have now become the many who blend into society and allow the world to dictate what is considered normal or moral. 


I have to think that a return to the exactitude of scripture is necessary to revitalize the church and to make it the positive influence and force we are supposed to be in the world.  False teachings lead to more false teachings and the power begins to fade.  Soon the truth of God is turned into a lie and we worship things that are not God.  So while an individual doctrine may not mean too much to the one who is studying; that underlying belief of the one being ok and not being effected can lead to a lack of desire to know the whole truth.  This thought that is so prevalent today that we are not supposed to understand it all almost defies credulity if you actually think about it.  Why would something be in scripture if we were not to understand it?  Maybe we just need to study harder and longer and have a greater desire to know the truth, no matter what that truth is.  Over the next few days; I want us to discuss this idea of an immortal soul, and see if it is actual scripture.


Discussing Prayer Part 5

March 24, 2013

I am oftentimes amazed at how people who claim to be Christians are so willing to take peoples word for what the Bible says rather than to find it for themselves.  I am beginning to believe that the majority of doctrines we hold sacred are, at least to some degree, in error.  If we hold our doctrinal beliefs under the light of the scripture, we find many of them coming up short.  Many times we base an entire doctrine on supposition, or upon an opinion that is only loosely based on scripture.   More often than not, the doctrinal error is loosed bases on one scripture only.  One example would be who it is we are to pray too.  I know it seems fairly obvious to many; but to just as many, or even more, the question is open.  The vast majority of Christians either believe in the doctrine of the Trinity or the Jesus name or Oneness doctrine.  In both cases we make Jesus God Himself; so why would it not be totally all right to pray to Jesus.  Some of the Trinitarians will say it is ok to pray to the Father, or the Son, or to the Holy Spirit; but if we look to the example of Jesus Christ we see it is always the Father to whom his prayers are addressed.  When asked to teach the disciples to pray; he taught them to say Our Father.  Of course; if we are relying only upon intellectual ability, we will have to say that Jesus would not pray to himself, and since as a human he was in positional submission to the Father; then to the Father he would pray.  The same individuals would argue that since Jesus is now risen and on the right hand of the Father, and is our mediator, it is just fine to pray to Jesus.  Of course the Oneness believers confess that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are all Jesus; so no matter to whom we pray, it is Jesus.


A few will decide maybe there should be some scriptural backup for this belief and will quote the words of Jesus found in John 14:13-14 where it reads; “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.”  I notice that in this passage Jesus did not say to ask him; but said to ask in his name; however, many teach that the true translation should say ask ME in my name.  The very earliest of all translations say whatsoever you ask the Father in my name; but let’s not argue the point.  Let’s assume for the sake of argument, that those who believe Jesus was teaching people to ask him, are correct.  This would mean Jesus was telling people to pray to him if he meant after his resurrection.  As far as I can tell; this is the sum total of all scriptural arguments that we should pray to Jesus.  Honestly; most who so believe cannot tell you of this verse.  Their argument is solely based upon Jesus being God and they know we are to pray to God; hence it is ok to pray to Jesus. We have songs that say Jesus take the wheel.  When things are going terribly wrong we may cry out “Sweet Jesus”.  There are countless stories of individuals who find themselves in  trouble which comes upon them so quickly all they have time to do is cry out the one word Jesus, and everything turns out ok.  We sing songs telling us to get Jesus on the mainline and tell him what we want.  One verse of the song He is all I need says He answers prayer; Jesus answers prayer.  We even teach that in order to be saved one must ask Jesus to come into our hearts and we cannot ask Him to do so without praying to him.  (I would ask if anyone can find a reference in the Bible to asking Jesus to come into our hearts.)  Our culture and our doctrine over the years has wandered far away from the exactitude of the scripture and is now almost exclusively based upon traditions that are passed down from generation to generation and only loosely based upon scripture.  It seems not many will ever question a doctrine or a belief. 


Timing is everything and we need to look  to whom Jesus was talking in John 14 and what all he was teaching.  This chapter is Jesus teaching his followers that he was going away.  He promises to send the Comforter and goes on and on about only doing the things the Father told him to do.  He again emphasizes that the Father is in him and he is in the Father.  He wants them to know they will not be alone; and he tells them something they have never heard; and that is to ask things in his name.  The word translated as his name means in his authority.  Keep in mind that when the scripture recorded earlier was spoken; Jesus was right there with them.  He had not been resurrected yet; but was still there and was telling his friends to ask him anything and he would do it.  We must; however, go forward just two chapters and see Jesus telling them they will lament when he is gone; but the world will rejoice.  He says their sorrow should be turned to joy because of what will take place because of his death and his resurrection.  In verse 22 of chapter 16 Jesus tells them that he will see them again and then they will rejoice and no man will be able to take their joy.  He is now teaching something different than he is there and will do for them whatever they ask.  In verse 23 he begins to speak of the time after his resurrection.  This is a time that goes forward and not backward.  All that he did while he was with them was about to change.  This is the point of John 14-16 and in the 23rd and 24th verse of John 16 we read of something very different after his resurrection.  He teaches them; “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing.  Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.  Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”  Jesus Christ himself said after his resurrection we would ask him nothing; but we should ask the Father in his name.  Jesus always pointed the way to the Father.  He told us that no man can come to the Father unless they go through him and here is Jesus explaining that.  He goes on in verse 26-27  to explain more; “At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:  For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.”


Most read this to say that Jesus is going to pray for us; but he actually says just the opposite.  He says he will not pray the Father for us; because after his death we are reconciled to God and can talk to Him ourselves and that the Father will listen because we love Jesus and believe that he came out from God.  Correct prayer is to the Father in the name or authority of Jesus.  Everything; not just prayer is through Jesus.  The worlds were created by God through Jesus.  The Spirit is sent by God through Jesus.  Salvation comes from God through Jesus.  This is a spiritual law that cannot be changed, so we need to make sure we understand it.  The simple fact is we pray to the Father in the name of Jesus.  That is what the Bible says.

Discussing Prayer Part 4

March 23, 2013

Most of the time a study on prayer goes into a little detail about the model prayer and we learn a few things about the proper attitude for prayer; but we usually get around to why don’t we get the things we pray for.  The majority of our prayer study time seems to be spent on this topic.  If we are honest with ourselves we will quickly see this topic is only of interest to one who is just trying to get things from God.  We learn verses; or part of verses, that we like to quote and build our belief system on.  We say “By his stripes we are healed”, which is a part of a verse found in Isaiah 53:5.  We may quote from the book of James “the prayer of faith shall save the sick” and wonder why we don’t get well.  We may well quote Philippians 4:19 and as we pray say; “My God shall supply all my needs.”  “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”  We love these verses and quote them and tell them back to God.  In another lesson we will discuss the proper way to pray; but most are aware of the power of the name of Jesus and we will “claim” things in the name of Jesus.  All of these, with the possible exception of claiming are, in fact, scripture and do mean what they say; however, they are not stand alone scriptures.


Many doctrines and beliefs that get us into trouble are built upon a single verse, and I would sternly warn against chasing single verse doctrines; however, we have just mentioned three verses and we can add many more to the list of why would should expect God to give us good things.  I want to say I don’t believe the problem with our ability to receive is a flaw in what the scripture says or even in an incorrect way of interpreting those scriptures; but rather the problem is with us and how we apply them.  In fact; let’s add some more scripture to what we already have.  “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”  The verse before taught us it did not take huge amounts of faith; but a lack of doubt.  We can expect more than just stuff and healing also.  We see in Luke 12:32; “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  Again we see in Matthew 7 Jesus saying that the Father will give good things to them that ask.  So we might well ask what is the problem?


In most cases I think we just don’t understand what the Bible is saying.  We read so much into it and try to make it mean what we want it to mean; but I think we have it right here.  We should be able to pray and expect God to give us what we ask; if we ask according to His will.  Wait a minute.  What about our will?  We also have to look to the book of James and the 4th chapter and see that we sometimes don’t have because we don’t ask; but sometimes we ask amiss.  Hmmmmmm.  We don’t like to read that part.  We want to just name it and claim it.  We seem to think of God as a big ATM and saying the name of Jesus is the PIN that makes it all work; but what works is belief.  Unfortunately we have been taught much that is against scripture.  We think of God in a very inappropriate way.  We are not sure He means what He says.  We doubt these verses are true and the faith part is not a problem because we are His and we do believe.  Or do we?  I have heard many “Christians” say; “Well I prayed and nothing happened and I knew it would not.”  If we are going to be honest we have thought that whether we want to admit it or not.  I would say that faith worked.  We got exactly what we believed.  Society and well meaning but misguided preachers and teachers have taught us things contrary to the scripture, and we believe them more than God.


Have you ever heard anyone say; “You don’t know why you are going through this.  I am sure God has a reason.  I am sorry your child died; but God knew what was coming in their lives and just took them on home.  I know you need a better job; but maybe you would be puffed up with more money and neglect God so he kept it from you.  I don’t know why God did not heal you but even Paul had his thorn in the flesh to keep him humble.  Maybe God made you sick to keep you humble.”  We are told so many things that are not found in the scripture; but we mean well and think they should be in the scripture; but let’s look at John 10:10 which reads; “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy:  I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”  No where are we told we will live forever; but the men of God were either martyred or seemed to die of old age.  We just read that the thief comes to kill, and yet we credit God with so many killings. 


With our own kids we can only protect them from all enemies as they listen to us and do what we have taught them to do.  In the book of Ephesians we are told to not give place to the devil; but if we look at our lives, we may well find ways we have done just that .  Maybe not horrible things that we all know are wrong; but maybe even those.  Sometimes we are just deceived into something that seems to be no big deal; but it opens the door just a little.  Sometimes we convince ourselves that something we really enjoy is not that bad; but the devil only needs a small opportunity.  We; however, think more of ourselves than we ought to; so we never think our problems are caused by us.  Instead of repenting and asking for forgiveness and changing our minds about our sin; we instead ask God to fix the mess that we have created by allowing the devil access to us.  I can just hear some saying they don’t do that; but I must ask if anyone reading this ever worries.  We know from Romans 14:23 that anything that is not of faith is sin.  Can one truly worry in faith?  Can one hold on to the scriptures while constantly worrying?  I think we give place to the devil all too often.  In many cases; we simply invite him in; but then expect God to override us and fix it all.


I will tell you if we follow the example of prayer given to us by Jesus and concentrate on others and not giving place to the devil; we will likely become the prayer warriors we wish to be.  Will all problems cease?  I doubt it; but we may begin to learn where they come from and how to overcome.  I once heard that worry must work; because most of what we worry about never happens.  I will add that we can prove faith works.  When we pray and don’t really expect that answer, we rarely get it.  We get what we believe.

Discussing Prayer Part 3

March 22, 2013

One of my favorite chapters in the entire Bible is the 17th chapter of John.  This is not called the model prayer; but what a model it is.  This is the prayer of Jesus right before he went to the garden and was betrayed.  We must keep in mind when looking at this prayer; that Jesus knew he was about to die.  Jesus seemingly was aware of everything that was going to happen to him yet in this prayer we see no hesitancy or no plea or request for this not to happen.  While it is true that previously Jesus had asked his Father to take this cup from him if it were possible; he also acknowledged that he understood this was the reason for which he was sent.  He didn’t argue with God; but simply expressed the human desire to live.  His faith; or his total submission to God was evident by willingly accepting his role in a plan to reconcile men to God.  But in the 17th chapter of John; though Jesus does acknowledge that the hour has come, I want us to notice that nothing in this prayer was about saving him.  How different this prayer from how we normally act when something is pressing on us.  We cry out to our God and beg Him to help us and to take this horrible thing away from us, oftentimes without ever realizing there is at least a possibility that there is a reason for what we are going through.  We may be in the middle of a lesson we need to learn; or perhaps our struggles will result in good in someone else; but we rarely think that way.  We just look to ourselves and ask God to take it all away.


In the beginning of the prayer of John 17 we see Jesus acknowledging His Father as the only true God and also acknowledging that the power he had been given was the power of God that God had given to him.  His praise continues as he talks to his Father in the way any son would at the end of a task given them.  He tells his Father that he has finished the work he had been given and that he had glorified his Father.  He sort of sums up what he did.  He has shown the Father’s name unto the ones God gave him.  He acknowledges again that not only does he realize all things are given to him by God; but that he has also taught men that all power was from God.  He tells his Father that he has given unto men all the words that the Father gave him and that because of those words, men know that Jesus came out from God.  He says he is not praying for everyone but for those whom the Father gave him, and tells him that other than the son of perdition, he has lost none of them, and that since he is leaving he asks his Father to keep them through His own name.  He does not ask God to take the chosen ones out of the world; but to keep them from evil.  He asks God to sanctify the chosen ones by his truth which is his word.  He then expands the prayer to include not just those who are alive and a part of his ministry; but he prays for those which will believe because of the words of those who are with him.  Jesus goes on to ask that we will be one even as he and the Father are one.  He prays that those who have been given to him by his Father will be with him where he is and that they may be able to behold the glory that the Father has given him.  He ends this prayer acknowledging that the world has not known the Father but that he has and also the chosen have known that God sent His Son.  He says he has declared the Father’s name and will continue to do so.  He asks that the love of God will be in them and that he will be in them.


In the time of his impending death Jesus took no thought whatsoever for himself.  He understood that if he first sought the kingdom of heaven everything else would be taken care of.  His concern was not for himself for he knew he was in the will of God; but his prayer was for others.  This prayer is such a model for us.  No matter what we are going through and no matter how dark things are we need; like Paul, to understand that we can know in whom we have believed and can be persuaded that He is able to keep that which we have committed unto Him against that day.  We can actually believe that if we acknowledge Him in all our ways, He will direct our paths.  If we truly believe God is directing our paths; why would we ever complain about the path we are on, or try to get off of it?  Should we not instead try to determine the will of God and submit, as did Jesus, to that will?  I am not saying we should never make requests; but rather that our requests and our own desires have taken over our prayer life.  Worship and acknowledgment of God and the needs of others were the concern and focus of the prayers of Jesus and should be our concern and focus also. 


We seem to think sometimes that we are much better parents than is our heavenly Father.  We would never let anything really bad happen to our children; though our children may disagree with that.  We may find it necessary to correct them from time to time and we may realize some things they think they need, they don’t.  Yet we seem to think that God withholds from us what we need.  We think if we have sinned He will not answer us and will keep the good things from us.  We make sure our own children are ok and safe no matter what they have done; but we don’t give the same credit to our heavenly Father.  We seem to think He picks and chooses those to whom blessings will flow.  I would say that perhaps we need to learn to pray from Jesus.  We need to concentrate a lot less on us and a lot more on Him.  We may see a big difference if we do.



Discussing Prayer Part 2

March 21, 2013

As mentioned yesterday, the disciples of Jesus did not appear to be praying men at all when they were chosen.  In fact; it would seem that only when they saw how important prayer was to Jesus did they ask him to teach them to pray.  Most of us can quote at least one version of the prayer which we call the model prayer and begins; “Our Father; which art in heaven; hallowed be thy name”.  Millions throughout the world say this prayer on a daily basis, and I am not saying that is a bad thing; but think that rather then giving us a prayer that requires no thought on our own part, Jesus was instead giving us an example of how a prayer should go.  I find it interesting to note who the prayer was addressed too.  In today’s church where the three in One is so readily accepted, we find people who pray to the Father.  We also find people who pray to Jesus or to the Holy Spirit.  Some will say all three are legitimate focuses of prayer since all are God and they pray to the one whom they think will have the best chance of answering their prayer.  Some denominations go even further and allow prayer to certain saints or to Mary.  The model prayer is directed to “Our Father”.  After the salutation, worship begins as the name of the Father is called hallowed.  Jesus taught to repent for the kingdom of God is at hand, and the next part of the prayer is acknowledging that the kingdom has come and to ask that the will of God will be done in earth as it is done in heaven.  A small supplication comes next as we are to ask for our daily bread.  We then are to ask for the forgiveness of God; but notice that we are asking to be forgiven in the same way that we forgive.  This goes along with so many other scriptures which teach that if we do not forgive we will not be forgiven.  We then ask for help with temptations and deliverance from evil.  Many translations say from the evil one.  We end with another acknowledgment of the power and glory of Almighty God.  Truly a simple prayer.  Not one where we beg God for anything or claim anything in the name of Jesus.  There is one simple request made for physical things and one simple request to be helped with temptations.  The request for forgiveness is tied into our own forgiveness for others; and other than that the prayer is one of worship and simple acknowledgment of God and who He is. 


This model prayer is an example of how Jesus took something that many deem to be so complicated and made it so simple.  Teachers and preachers today show a tendency to take simple things and make them very complicated.  In the same 6th chapter of Matthew where we find the model prayer, we also find a verse 33 which reads; “but seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  This is one of those verses I think we all know; but not many act as though they believe it.  We feel we have to tell God every little thing that is going on in our lives.  We complain to Him of our aches and pains and make sure He knows how bad off we are.  We are told to make our supplications known unto God; but do we really think He is surprised by what we tell him.  Matthew 6 is a busy chapter and in the beginning of the chapter we see Jesus teaching about ones who love to stand up in the church and pray loud and long so they can be seen and heard of men.  Jesus teaches that when they are heard and seen they have their reward.  He teaches that when we pray we should go to a private place; and there we should pray to our Father. I know many people who claim to be Christians who pray the same thing over and over, and there is even one or two verses that may make one think this is what they should do; but in the 7th verse of the 6th chapter we read the words of Jesus as he taught; “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do:  for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”  He continues teaching in verse 8; “Be not ye therefore like unto them:  for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask them.”


We know from scripture that God loves us so much that He gave His only begotten Son.  We know from other scriptures that the desire of God is to give us good things.  We also know; if we read carefully; that God desires our worship and our acknowledgement of who He is.  We; so many times, began our prayers with our most immediate needs and then go from there.  We pray for ourselves and our own needs so much.  Some will then go on to pray for others and for their churches and families.  Many keep a sick list they pray for daily.  All of these are good things; but we do not allow much time for worship.  We don’t allow much time for loving Him.  We are like selfish children who never talk to their parents unless they want something.  We are made in His image, and if we as earthly parents don’t like to be inundated with requests, and do like to be told that we are loved, we should realize God is the same way.  If we believe He is who we say He is; our love should be great.  We are taught that out of the abundance of our heart our mouth speaks.  If we slow down and listen to our own prayers we will see where our heart is.  Do we concentrate on us; or do we concentrate on God?