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‘The only way to break orthodoxy is with heresy’


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RT :

"Historical analogies may be inaccurate, but Americans may need to look at their own civil war and compare it to what is happening in Ukraine now. Today the US supports a murderous criminal adventure that has little to do with unifying the country.

This assessment came from Professor Stephen Cohen, prominent US scholar of Russian studies and author, who advised George H.W. Bush in the late 1980s. He spoke to RT about the mistakes of the consecutive American administrations in their Russia policies, the worst crisis in decades that they led to and the deterioration of political discourse in America that prevents things from changing in Washington.

Cohen challenged the narrative of the Ukrainian events dominating in the US, calling the military crackdown by the government an “unwise, reckless, murderous, inhuman campaign that Kiev is conduction against what are admittedly rebel provinces.”

“Lincoln never called the Confederacy terrorists,” the scholar pointed out. “He always said, no matter how bad the civil war was, fellow citizens he wanted to come back to the union. Why is Kiev calling its own citizens terrorists? They are rebels. They are protesters. They have a political agenda. Why isn’t Kiev sending a delegation there to negotiate with them?

“Their demands are not unreasonable. They want to elect their own governors – we elect our own governors. They want a say on where their taxes go – ‘no taxation without representation.’ We know what that is,” Cohen said. “There are extremists among them, but there are also people who simply want to live in a Ukraine that is for everybody. And instead the Kiev army, with the full support of the United States, is supporting this assault.”

‘Kremlin an essential ally Washington pushes away’

What the US doing with Ukraine now is alienating arguably the best potential ally it has now, Cohen said.

“I am convinced that the most essential partner for the American national security in all of these areas from Iran to Syria, Afghanistan and beyond is the Kremlin, currently occupied by Putin. And the way the United States has treated Putin – I would call it a betrayal of American national interest.”

Russia helped the Obama administration save its face in Syria, where the president was pushed into bombing the country over chemical weapons. It helped make bridges with the new leadership of Iran to start the first serious negotiations in decades.

“Obama had within his grasp at last – because it was a failed foreign policy presidency for Obama – two achievements that would have been in American national interest. And they have slipped away almost in proportion to the degree that Obama pushed Putin away. Pushed Putin away so far that over Ukraine we [the US] could be on the verge of war with Russia.”

Cohen blames the US, particularly the Clinton administration for setting the world on a path that led it to the current confrontation between the West and Russia.

“This is the playing out of American policy of expanding NATO to Russia’s borders – for whatever reasons. It began with Clinton, was continued under the second George Bush, has been pushed by Obama. And that is the rooster that has come home to roost.”

“Some people in the 1990s… warned that this was going to happen. Now that it has, and the people would not take responsibility for it,” he said. “They would not say ‘OK, we were wrong, we have to rethink policy.’ Instead they say to people such as myself, ‘You are an apologist for Putin. You are serving the Kremlin, you are not a patriot.’”

‘Obama isolated himself on foreign policy’

This lack of ability to change policies is evident in the current administration, the scholar believes.

“I had lunch with two men much older than me, who had served many presidents and who’ve known them personally. And they were agreed that this president more than anyone in their lifetime isolated himself on foreign policy.”

One anecdotal example Cohen cited is Obama’s refusal to talk to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

“I have heard – whether it’s true or not I don’t know – that President Obama has declined to meet privately with Henry Kissinger, who sees Putin twice a year. Kissinger probably knows Putin better than any American statesmen alive today and who has been consulted by so many presidents. Think what we might about Kissinger’s past, but he has already declared his criticism of American policy towards Russia. And Obama wouldn’t want to spend an hour with him, asking ‘Are we doing something wrong? Are we misperceiving the situation?’”

It’s no surprise that a leader, who doesn’t take into account various viewpoint on a problem cannot take a rational decision on tackling it, Cohen said.

“I ask for a president to be a person, who solicits the best and most diverse learned views involving an existing crisis, that’s all… A president has to bring in people with conflicting views whose legitimacy is based on their knowledge, their learning. A president who doesn’t do that is going to get us into a crisis that Obama and Clinton got us into.”

‘The only way to break orthodoxy is with heresy’

Unfortunately for America, it’s not only the White house that discourages debate now, but also American society in general, the professor said.

“There is no debate of public opposition in this country about this, unlike the situation 20-25 years ago, when we had real debates and public fights,” he said. “I don’t know if they [the mainstream media – RT] know the truth and therefore are not telling the truth, or that they are just caught up in the myths that had been attached to Russia since the end of the Soviet Union.”

“An orthodoxy about Russia has formed in this country over 20 years,” he added. “And it’s not only wrong, it’s reckless. It led us to this crisis in Ukraine… The only way you can break orthodoxy is with heresy. Some of the things I say are regarded as heretical, treasonous, unpatriotic. But heresy is a good thing, when it’s needed.”

This situation is a sharp contrast to what happens in some other democracies, which don’t hush a public debate on foreign policy issues and don’t try to push opinions not liked by the political establishment into the ‘fringe press’.

“Germany, a relatively new democracy with a past as bad as Russia’s, could develop a democracy, where people can speak openly and feely without fear of failing to get a promotion or getting on an op-ed page. Two of three former German chancellors have blamed Europe for the crisis in Ukraine – not Russia.”

“Where are our former presidents? We know why President Clinton wouldn’t speak out, because he began that policy. But where is President Carter? Where are the former secretaries of state who pursued other policies? Why the silence? We’ve developed, I fear, a political culture within the establishment that is conformist. Even though the penalty of dissent in our country is cheap, unlike in many other countries.”

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Great article but here is the real truth.

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The fall of Russia is a eschatological necessity for the future history of the Book of Revelation to become real/true.

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Servants of Christ

An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians

www.easyenglish.info

Hilda Bright

The translated Bible text has been through Advanced Checking.

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.

About this letter Corinth

Corinth was an important city. It was on a very narrow section of land (called an ‘isthmus’) in the southern part of Greece.

1. It was the capital city of the region called Achaia.

2. It had two harbours. The harbour on the east coast was 4 miles (6 km) from the harbour on the west coast. Today a canal joins the two harbours. In Paul’s time, people pulled small boats across from one harbour to the other one. They dragged them on a kind of ship railway. Porters carried goods from large boats to the other side. They put the goods on a different boat. The journey would otherwise have been over two hundred miles round a very dangerous part of the sea.

3. As it was a busy centre for trade, Corinth was a good place for the *gospel to spread. Merchants and travellers would hear the message and take it with them. There were many different people in Corinth. There were *Romans because it was a *Roman colony. (A colony is a city or country that another country controls.) There were Greeks, *Jews, people from Asia and from further east. There were rich people and many slaves.

4. There was a *temple to Aphrodite, the Greek female god of love. There were thousands of *prostitutes in the city. Many of them belonged to this *temple. Corinth became well-known for bad *sexual behaviour. To live ‘like a Corinthian’ meant to become a drunk often or to visit *prostitutes.

5. The Isthmian Games took place near Corinth. They were famous and only second in importance to the Olympic Games.

Paul’s first visit to Corinth Acts 18:1-17

On his second journey to take people the good news about Jesus, Paul arrived in Corinth from Athens. He had only very little success in Athens and he did not stay there for very long. But he stayed in Corinth for 18 months. He spent longer there than in any other city apart from Ephesus. He stayed with Aquila and Priscilla, who were tent makers like himself. He *preached first in the *synagogue. When the *Jews opposed him, he used the home of Titius Justus. Titius Justus lived next door to the *synagogue. Paul *preached very successfully. Crispus, the ruler of the *synagogue, became a Christian. When a new *Roman ruler arrived, the *Jews took Paul to him. They said that Paul was teaching ‘against the law’. But the ruler refused to listen to the *Jews. This happened in about AD 51. Paul later went to Syria.

Paul’s letters to Corinth

1. The ‘previous’ letter. Paul said, ‘I wrote you a letter. In that letter, I told you to have nothing to do with men with bad character’ (1 Corinthians 5:9). This letter is either lost or it may be in 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1.

2. 1 Corinthians. When Paul was in Ephesus, he received news about troubles in the church at Corinth. This news came from people who were living in Chloe’s house (1 Corinthians 1:11), and from Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus (1 Corinthians 16:17). A letter also came from the Christians in Corinth. They asked for Paul’s advice about various problems. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians.

3. The second ‘painful’ visit. Paul heard that problems in Corinth were worse. So he made a second visit. There is no record about this. But Paul writes about when he visited Corinth for the ‘third’ time (2 Corinthians 12:14; 13:1-2). So there must have been a second visit.

4. The ‘severe’ letter. Paul’s visit was not successful. So he wrote a letter when he was feeling very hurt (2 Corinthians 2:4). He was almost sorry that he had sent it. Some writers believe that chapters 10-13 in 2 Corinthians are the ‘severe’ letter.

5. The letter to show that the Christians at Corinth and Paul were friends again. Paul was so worried about his ‘severe’ letter that he went to meet Titus. Titus had taken the severe letter to Corinth. Paul met Titus in Macedonia and learned that all was well. So, he wrote chapters 1-9 in 2 Corinthians. It is possible that someone put the severe letter and the next letter together in the wrong order.

The contents of 1 Corinthians

1:1-9 ~ Greetings and *thanksgiving

1:10–4:21 ~ Quarrels about leaders in the church

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The *gospel and human wisdom 1:18-25

v18 The message of the *cross seems foolish to those who are dying. But it is God’s power to us whom he is saving. v19 Because God said by Isaiah (Isaiah 29:14), ‘I will destroy the wisdom of those who are wise. I will bring to nothing the clever ideas of those who are clever.’ v20 Find me the wise person. Find me the expert in the law. Find me the great thinker of this time. God has made the wisdom of the world foolish. v21 God in his wisdom planned that the world would not know him through its own wisdom. But God was pleased to *save those who believe. They believe through the foolish message that we *preach. v22 *Jews demand wonderful signs. Greeks look for wisdom. v23 But we *preach about Christ’s death on the *cross. That offends *Jews. And *Gentiles think that it is nonsense. v24 But Christ is God’s power and wisdom to those whom God has called, both *Jews and *Gentiles. v25 The foolish things of God are wiser than human wisdom. The weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Verses 18-21 The world considers that some people are wise. But these wise people cannot use their human wisdom to understand God’s ways. They think that the message about a *crucified *Messiah is foolish. They want God to act in ways that seem wise and powerful to them. But God *saves those who are willing to trust him.

Verses 22-23 The *Jews thought that the idea of a *crucified *Messiah was an insult to God. The *Romans *crucified only slaves and dangerous criminals. And the *Jews believed that anyone who hung on a tree as a punishment would suffer God’s anger (Deuteronomy 21:23). They did not think that the message in Isaiah 53 was about someone who would suffer for other people.

The *Jews also expected wonderful signs when the *Messiah came. In the past, God had done wonderful *miracles for their nation. So they expected him to perform even greater *miracles by his *Messiah. Therefore the *Jews kept on asking Jesus for a sign to ‘prove’ that he was the *Messiah. But he refused (Matthew 12:38-39; John 6:30).

The Greeks thought that God does not feel human emotions. And they thought that he cannot change. Therefore, God could not become a man on earth. The idea that ‘the word became a *physical person’ (John 1:14) was impossible. The Greeks also liked to discuss ideas. And they liked to speak in clever ways. The message about the *gospel was simple. Paul *preached it in plain words. A *crucified God seemed to be the mad idea of people with little education.

Verses 24-25 But God’s plan was to *save all those who believe in Christ. No human wisdom or great effort can bring anyone into a friendship with God. *Sin has spoiled that friendship. However, Christ’s death on the *cross was not ‘foolish’ and ‘weak’. ‘God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are not our ways’ (Isaiah 55:8-9). The *crucifixion was a sign of God’s wisdom and power. They are greater than any wise efforts that people can make.

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Don't get what you mean, Steve. What it means to me is a third path (which always reminds me of Olaf palmes philosophy. Which interestingly also finds a sympathetic harmonic in Kissingers statements of the matter... There is much in the professors statements that is highly relevant to the matter.) which is to create a level playing field.

When the junta destroys an opposition, who has always asked to be listened to, it defines itself and in so doing condemns itself, laying the seed of its ultimate destruction while dragging countless innocents with it.

In such a situation one cannot but support people who want to be free from such a junta. There are principles that go beyond daily concerns.

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v19 Because God said by Isaiah (Isaiah 29:14), ‘I will destroy the wisdom of those who are wise. I will bring to nothing the clever ideas of those who are clever.’ v20 Find me the wise person. Find me the expert in the law. Find me the great thinker of this time. God has made the wisdom of the world foolish. v21 God in his wisdom planned that the world would not know him through its own wisdom. But God was pleased to *save those who believe. They believe through the foolish message that we *preach. v22 *Jews demand wonderful signs. Greeks look for wisdom. v23 But we *preach about Christ’s death on the *cross. That offends *Jews. And *Gentiles think that it is nonsense. v24 But Christ is God’s power and wisdom to those whom God has called, both *Jews and *Gentiles. v25 The foolish things of God are wiser than human wisdom. The weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Verses 18-21 The world considers that some people are wise. But these wise people cannot use their human wisdom to understand God’s ways.(SO,below,GAAL)

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God’s Providential Use of Nations

By Wayne Jackson
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As informed Bible students have observed so many times in the past, the providential activity of God is beyond human analysis. I sometimes refer to it as a provable-nonprovable proposition.

This is what I mean: the Lord’s providential operations are certain; for, in principle, Bible examples demonstrating such are very clear. The experiences of Joseph are sufficient within themselves to establish this point (see Genesis 45:5-9; 50:20).

It is equally certain, however, that providential actions are veiled from human perception at the time they are transpiring (Ruth 2:3; Esther 4:14). Paul, in referring to the conversion of Onesimus, could not be sure whether providence figured into the glorious event or not (Philemon 15). He suspected that it did, but he could not positively affirm it.

One aspect of Jehovah’s providence is his international operation. He is “ruler over the nations” (Psalm 22:28), and civil powers rise and fall at his behest (Daniel 2:21; 4:35). The general rule seems to be, “righteousness exalts a nation” (Proverbs 14:34), but “nations that forget God” are consigned to Sheol, i.e., the region of the wicked dead (Psalms 9:17).

Let us note several categories of this mysterious process of national providence.

The Use of Righteous Nations

The Lord can use a righteous nation to overthrow a wicked one. This certainly was the case in Israel’s early history when God led his people into Canaan and commanded them to destroy the tribes of that land (Deuteronomy 20:16-17). The ultimate potential redemption of humanity was at the root of this moral surgery. The failure of the nation to carry out completely the instructions was a source of severe hardship in the years that followed.

The Use of Wicked Nations

Jehovah may use an evil nation to chastise a relatively better one. There is no question but that the nations of Assyria and Babylon were far worse than both Israel and Judah, yet the Lord employed both of these pagan powers to punish his people who gradually (and sometimes more than gradually) were drifting into apostasy.

The Assyrians came marching against the northern kingdom of Israel under Tiglath-pileser (2 Kings 15:29; 16:7-9), and then twelve years later under Shalmaneser and Sargon. The capital city of Samaria was under siege for three years. It subsequently fell, and over twenty-seven thousand Jews were taken to Assyria as captives. All of this was because “they obeyed not the voice of Jehovah their God” (2 Kings 18:9-12).

A little more than a century later, Judah fell as well. Through the prophet Jeremiah, Jehovah pledged that he would send his “servant,” Nebuchadnezzar, against Judah, bringing desolation upon the land, and most of the people would be taken captive into Babylon.

This punishment was “because you have not heard my words” (Jeremiah 25:8ff). It is estimated that some seventy thousand Hebrews were transported into the pagan king’s land. The prophet Habakkuk disputed with God about the use of a heathen king to chastise his own people; but the Lord assured him such was necessary, and Nebuchadnezzar would be dealt with in due time (Habakkuk 1:5-11; cf. Jeremiah 25:12ff).

When the Jewish nation reached the zenith of its rebellion, even to the extent of murdering its long-awaited Messiah, God determined to send the Roman armies (called “his armies”) to destroy many of the Jews and burn their city (see Matthew 22:7). According to the Jewish historian, Josephus, more than a million Hebrews were slain and thousands more were sold into slavery.

The Lord had instructed Jewish Christians to “flee” the city (Matthew 24:15ff). What do you suppose would have been the fate of these children of God had they insisted they were patriots and therefore had the right to defend their Hebrew kinsmen and their homes against the evil empire of Rome?

Does the Principle Still Prevail?

Now here is the intriguing question: is God still working internationally—raising up and overthrowing powers, consistent with his ultimate will for mankind? Paul argues that he is.

The apostle contends that God “made of one [literally, out of one male] every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitations” (Acts 17:26). The providential purpose in this international orchestration is revealed in v. 27.

How, then, does one know which nations to favor and which to condemn? He doesn’t! That is God’s affair. He acts consistent with his own sovereignty and purpose (regardless of whether we understand the reasons or not), and no one is wise enough to question him (see Daniel 4:35; Romans 11:33-35).

The Christian’s duty is to love the Lord, do his will, serve his kinsmen in Christ, work for the conversion of the lost, and conduct his attitude and life so as to facilitate his enemies’ salvation, if at all possible.(MY DUTY TO JOHN DOLVA,this post,GAAL) Unfortunately these are biblical truths which all too many appear to have forgotten—if indeed they ever understood them

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below from http://orthodoxengland.org.uk/nationalism.htm

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Conclusion

Thus, a lack of love for God has secularized the understanding of God, reducing Him to a national myth. However, the lack of love for humanity has equally led to the secularization of the understanding of humanity, notably to the denial of man’s divine origin and destiny. Darwinism and evolutionism are clear examples of the former, abortion and euthanasia clear examples of the latter. In this way, humanity has fallen victim to all manner of secularist ideologies, from imperialism to colonialism, from Communism to Fascism. Such secular ideologies, formed on the basis of a lack of love for humanity, littered the twentieth centuries with corpses.

Moreover, such secular ideologies also affect the understanding of the rest of creation. Thus, exploitative secular ideologies, lacking love for God’s creation, have only contempt and scorn for the material world. For them, creation is spiritless and Godless, and so they can set about the systematic rape and destruction of the material world. Such industrialist ideologies have led to the massive pollution of the air, water and earth, to the contemporary, apocalyptic concern of climate change. (Here I differ some for Carbon as major climate change driver is elite HOAX,Gaal)

In the early centuries the Church rejected secular understandings of God, calling them heresies. It rejected heresies because they were in fact secularizations of the reality of God, God adapted to man, God anthropomorphized. Heresies adapted God to human consciousness, so deforming His reality. However, one of the greatest forms of secularism is nationalism, because it reduces our understanding to a mere thisworldly and spiritually empty attachment, to a denial of God. Nationalism attaches man to the earth and so leads to the denial not only of creation, not only of humanity, but above all to the denial of God, the Source of all being. Thus, nationalism is a form of secularism. And secularism, the denial of God, because it expresses and justifies the lack of love for God, is the ultimate heresy, because it leads to hell.

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So when Dolva speaks HERSEY, I think along these lines.(GAAL)

The fall of Russia is a eschatological necessity for the future history of the Book of Revelation to become real/true. Thus the desperate move to overthrow Ukraine is a necessity for our corrupt evil leaders (see TOP article and God's use of wicked nations) ,however it is within God's plans to fullfill His sovereign plan for antichrist world government. God turns evil into good and eventually this evil will be turned into Good (capital G).

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New Living Translation ROMANS 8:28
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.


see also http://www.myspiritfood.com/contentView.php?page=387

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to repeat

The Christian’s duty is to love the Lord, do his will, serve his kinsmen in Christ, work for the conversion of the lost, and conduct his attitude and life so as to facilitate his enemies’ salvation, if at all possible.(MY DUTY TO JOHN DOLVA,this post,GAAL)

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Putin will not declare/wage a defensive war on Christian values and thus Ukraine will become a human hell created by humans. If he did this then this hellish ending would not occur.

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TRUST GOD

Edited by Steven Gaal
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I still don't get it Steven. Am I your enemy? Am I in need of salvation?

I do have my moments of trying to understand the mystery of god but still, I am comfortable in god being a mystery.

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Salvation equals heaven....how can that be a bad thing ?? Our evil leaders will create a New World Order,however, nothing is hidden from GOD (nothng) and they will be punished. A new heaven and new earth ( A NEW UNIVERSE) will be created for the saved,ie THE FAMILY OF GOD.
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Accept that you are a sinner,repent, trust Jesus Christ as Savior and King of Kings.
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SALVATION



God loves you! He is concerned with your needs and your life. He is closer to you than your own breath. More than anything, God wants you to spend eternity in His presence.

Step 1: Come to Jesus
Maybe you’ve been feeling the need to turn toward Jesus and salvation, but you’ve held back, thinking, I’m not good enough. I can’t live a good enough life.

Not one of us could ever make ourselves become “good enough” to meet Jesus. But Jesus isn’t looking for us to be good enough; He only wants us to come to Him, just as we are, with all our flaws and imperfections. Jesus is able, once and forever, to save everyone who comes to God through him (Hebrews 7:25 NLT). Everyone, not just the good and perfect.

Second Corinthians 5:17 KJV tells us that

If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

We bring God our damaged goods—our lives—and through His mercy and goodness we can become new creations, with our pasts left behind.

Step 2: Repent of Your Sins
The second step to salvation is to repent of your sins, but it goes beyond asking for God’s forgiveness. When you repent, you are sorry for your sins and recognize how your sins have kept you from the abundant life God wants for you. You realize that without Christ in your life, you are lost.

Repentance is made up of three changes:
A change of mind
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is (Romans 12:2 NLT).

A change of heart
Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 18:31 NIV).

A change of living
God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him (Philippians 2:13 NLT).

Come to God humbly and confess your need of forgiveness. God’s Word says that if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong (I John 1:9 NLT).

Step 3: Believe in God and His Word
We alone cannot save ourselves from sin. Salvation is found in only one Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one and only Savior. Why should we believe in salvation through Jesus Christ? Read what God’s Word says:

We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done (Romans 3:22 NLT).

Salvation…comes from trusting Christ (Romans 10:8 NLT).

Jesus [said], “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again (John 11:25 NLT).

Take God at His Word. Believe the promises in His Word. It is just that simple.

Step 4: Confess the Name of Jesus
Acknowledging Christ as your Savior is a vital part of your salvation. God’s Word says,

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (Romans 10:9-10 NIV).

When Jesus comes into your heart, you’ll want to tell others about Him!

Confessing the Lord publicly with your mouth is important. Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33 NKJV,

“Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”

God’s Word is so clear, so definite on this. If you confess Jesus with your mouth and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

A Prayer of Salvation for You
We invite you to reach out and receive Jesus into your heart right now. Repent of your sins and surrender your will to His. Believe Him and receive Him.

We’d like to pray for you. Repeat this prayer and let God give you a joyous new life in Him beginning today:

made, and I ask

O Lord be merciful to me, a sinner. I have lived away from You. I’ve made wrong choices in my life. I am deeply sorry for the wrong choices I have You to come into my life today.

I sincerely repent of every sin I’ve ever committed and ask for Your forgiveness.

Lord, I ask you to come into my heart, for I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He went to the Cross for me. I receive Him into my heart as my Lord and Savior. Beginning at this moment, I will serve You all the days of my life. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen and amen!

Now What?
If you have gone through the four steps to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, you are now born-again, ready to begin your new life in Christ. Christ saves you and keeps you saved, but now it’s time for your part—to build your life around your Savior.

To draw closer to God and to center your life around Him, we suggest that you have your own personal Bible. The Word of God is the only weapon that can make possible a life of victory, as the source of faith is God’s Word (Romans 10:17). You can become a strong, effective Christian by reading and standing on God’s Word.

Fellowship with other Christians is important. Find a church that believes in the real Jesus, one that teaches and demonstrates His power to save, heal, bless, and keep you.

Another vital part of your Christian life is prayer, or talking to God. You are His child now, and He’s interested in every aspect of your life. Share with Him what is on your heart. God’s Word says to

Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about what happens to you (1 Peter 5:7 NLT).

Your New Life in Christ
You are saved the moment you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, but you walk out your salvation for the rest of your life by following the Lord step by step, day by day.

Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re perfect. Christianity isn’t living in perfection every day, for we all stumble and fall from time to time. It doesn’t mean that you’ll never commit another sin. But the Bible says that if we sin, we have an advocate with God the Father—Jesus Christ (1 John 2:1). If you ask Him to forgive you, He is faithful and just to forgive.

Being a Christian means that the thrust of your life is toward God. If you do sin, you don’t turn completely away from God in your heart. When you become a Christian, your roots, your very life, is in God Himself.

God loves you, and He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to save all sinners, including you (John 3:16). Jesus isn’t one of the ways to get to heaven, He is the onlyway! Don’t let Satan and sin cheat you from becoming a child of God and receiving all the blessings God has in store for you.

You have a need for God that only He can fill, but God has a need for you. He needs you because He loves you, and He created you to have a personal relationship with Him. No other person can ever fill the place created in God’s heart just for you




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DNA is a code ......only an intelligence uses code.

New Living Translation ROMANS 1:20
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
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Its no mystery.

Edited by Steven Gaal
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Steven, are you a jehovas witness? I'm curious because you copy-paste a nlt translation.

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Steven, are you a jehovas witness? I'm curious because you copy-paste a nlt translation.

Gee John my bio states..... protestant theology. I follow the Lord Christ. Yes but to someone Bible illiterate it is very readable start. Jehovas Witness are'nt really Protestants (not really Christians since they dont believe the GODHEAD of JESUS CHRIST) ,see bottom link. THANKS SG

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Repentance is made up of three changes:

A change of mind

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is (Romans 12:2 NLT).

A change of heart

Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 18:31 NIV).

A change of living

God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him (Philippians 2:13 NLT).

Come to God humbly and confess your need of forgiveness. God’s Word says that if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong (I John 1:9 NLT).

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Be born again ........ John if you read the works of Paul with commentary for context I love to hear back from you.

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DNA is a code ......only an intelligence uses code.

New Living Translation ROMANS 1:20

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

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Its no mystery.

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New Living Translation
EXPOSED!

by Robert J. Stewart

Edited by Steven Gaal
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John. Thank you for your insights into what is happening in the Ukraine. Personally I think the term 'Terrorist/freedom fighter' should always be applied in these cases, to both government and rebels, and History can decide later which was which. Given Russia's long history of being invaded, including a particularly traumatic invasion within living memory, I think the West's policies towards Russia, and particularly the expansion of NATO ever eastward, have been plain stupid.


Steve, I believe Christians need to be careful about prophecies that imply the removal of human responsibility. The idea that you quote - that Russia is going to be 'dealt with' by the West so what's happening in the Ukraine is inevitable - does just that. You seem to adhere to the (fairly ancient) Christian viewpoint 'Athens has nothing to do with Jerusalem' and that 'pagan' philosophy has nothing to teach us.


You use Paul's 'Epistle to the Corinthians' to back this up, and I have to say I only think I understand what you're getting at here because I have heard the same interpretations that you have. I take it that by quoting 'Corinthians' you are saying that Paul's explanation blows every other philosophy and explanation out of the water.


And so, in my opinion, it does. However, consider Paul's position at the time he was writing. He was under arrest for terrorism (ie opposing the power of Rome) as well as speaking against the laws of Moses. In a series of speeches Luke records in 'The Acts of the Apostles' Paul claims that in proclaiming Christ he was demonstrating the fulfilment of the laws of Moses ie he was a good Jew and, even more surprising at a time when the Roman Emperor claimed he was God, Paul claimed in effect that he was a good Roman citizen.


The interpretation of the 'Book of Revelation' has often bitterly divided Christians, so much so that it would be foolish to be confident in using to single out particular modern nations as the target of God's wrath! I personally think that the best modern scholarship points to it being very specific to the circumstances and period in which it was written - ie during a persecution of the Christian faith by Roman authorities at the end of the 1st Century. The precise allusions in the book can now only be understood and applied in a very generalised sense, except perhaps to Christians in the world today who suffer the same kind of extreme persecution as some of the Christians were then.


I believe Christian principles can be applied to international politics. Paul elsewhere makes very clear that civil authorities are put there by God (a view that has, of course, been exploited by tyrants in the past - Charles l springs to mind.) However, it would have been a good principle to have applied when powerful states decided to carve up African states in the 19th Century, or for that matter to invade Iraq in the 21st.

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so much so that it would be foolish to be confident in using to single out particular modern nations as the target of God's wrath! (Norman Pratt)

(BTW Wars of aggression/Conquest are unBiblical unless God gives permission. The Pauline way would be opting out of military service unto death.)

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Yes and no. Just took a 20 week class in OT. The Old testament Prophets make very,very very very clear. God uses nations. Golly please dont throw out the Book of Revelation (many do for various reasons). We can argue this and that about it but it seems clear IMHO ,at a point in history a human (very small h) world government comes on stage. Russia is not going to be the most judged nation (Bible is very clear on existance of levels of punishment)......its USA for its aggessive/inhuman/diabolical/murderous policies. Its the inner heart of its Church members who HATE PUTIN. (Ive met tooooooooooo many) God judges the heart (contrary to what the majority of Jewish leadership thought at Jesus's time). I'm not putting Putin/Russia on a pedestal ...but really..we (West/USA) are on the march to take over Russia any nasty immoral why we can.

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http://www.tektonics.org/af/danieldefense.php

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DNA is a code ......only an intelligence uses code.
Great is our GOD !! All praise to Him !!


Edited by Steven Gaal
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I understand your duty to bring the message of christ to people, Steve.

Norman, I'll respond to your post later.

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Stephen: The First Martyr

Acts 6:3–15 January 11, 2015 44-24

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Open your Bible to Acts chapter 6, chapter 6. A few weeks ago we looked at the first part of this chapter down through verse 7 and examined a little bit about the original organization of the early church. We’re going to pick up the story in chapter 6 at verse 8.

You will remember that the chapter opened with a problem in the early church. A problem because some of the Hellenistic widows - that is, widows from outside Jerusalem, Jewish widows who had come to faith in Jesus Christ and were now a part of the church but were from Greek countries rather than the land of Israel - were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. There seemed to be great care given to the Jerusalem widows, those that were well-known to everybody. But some of the others were forgotten because they were from outside the normal circle.

In order to make sure their needs were met, somebody had to oversee the distribution of food and serve the tables. So they decided to select seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom to put in charge of this task. Those men are identified in verse 5. The first men in the list and the only one about whom it says anything is a man named Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. That’s where we meet Stephen. He becomes the main character in the narrative through the rest of this chapter and chapter 7. So let’s at least read from the eighth verse on to the end of this chapter and then a couple of others from chapter 7 and even a place in chapter 8 so we get the picture.

More about Stephen. According to verse 5, he was a man in the early church who was a part of the Hellenists. He was a Greek-speaking believer in Jesus Christ who had belonged to a Jewish synagogue, as all the Jews did, but in a foreign land. He along with all the rest were chosen to care for the widows who would be nearest and dearest to their hearts.

Stephen is then the subject of verse 8. “Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedman, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Then they secretly induced men to say, ‘We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.’ And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came up to him and dragged him away and brought him before the Council. They put forward false witnesses who said, ‘This man incessantly speaks against this holy place and the Law; for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.’ And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel. The high priest said, ‘Are these things so?’” And Stephen gave a very long answer all the way through chapter 7.

In response to his great answer sweeping through the Old Testament, verse 54 says, “When they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.”

“They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ Having said this, he fell asleep. Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.”

“Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.”

What an amazing man was Stephen. He was not a deacon. They didn’t come until later, but he was put in charge of serving tables. He was not an apostle, but he did signs and wonders. The miraculous power granted to the apostles was extended to him and also to another leader by the name of Philip. He was not a prophet, but he was a great preacher. Not a deacon, but a servant. Not an apostle, but a miracle worker. Not a prophet, but a great preacher. He is a very unique man. He stands between the apostles and the structure of the early church uniquely. The only parallel to him we will meet in chapter 8, and it is Philip who is also named in chapter 6 along with him.

He is a largely overlooked individual. From what we can tell, he had a very short career. The church is very new and very young, and that means he is a very new believer, but the vast grasp that he had of the Old Testament is enough to be laid out in an entire chapter because of its accuracy and its richness. One whom everybody deemed to be a servant, and yet a miracle worker and a preacher and the first Christian martyr. We need to know this man. This is a man who is great by every divine measure. He’s full of everything that every believer should be full of.

He is a transitional personality. The testimony being given to the Jews led by Peter and the apostles is soon to be closed. The testimony to the gentile world begun by Paul is soon to be opened. Between Peter and Paul, Stephen is like a bridge. He’s chosen by Peter and the apostles. He’s martyred at the hands of Paul. He is a transitional man, a bridge. He didn’t minister to the Israeli Jews. He didn’t minister to the foreign gentiles. He ministered to the foreign Jews. Again, an indication of his unique transition. He is the catalyst for the dispersion of the church. It was because of his martyrdom and the persecution that was launched at the point of his martyrdom that the believers scattered. And that was the purpose of God in his martyrdom because Jesus had said, “When the Holy Spirit comes, you will be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the world.” What was going to send them into Judea? What was going to send them into Samaria? What was going to send them into the world? Not a missionary mission, but persecution, martyrdom, the threat of death.

As we read in chapter 8. It is the very death of Stephen that becomes the catalyst to fulfill the promise of Jesus in Acts 1:8 before His ascension. He is the forerunner of the very man who stood and watched him crushed under the bloody stone: Saul of Tarsus. He is the forerunner of Paul. He is the one who carried the message to Hellenists, who carried the message to the people who lived outside Jerusalem and Judea, confronting congregations in Jewish synagogues, but those who were foreigners. He takes the first step beyond the Jews in the direction of the gentiles.

The mantle of Stephen falls strangely on Saul, one of Stephen’s most bitter enemies. In fact, it may be that the apostle Paul owes much of his exposure to the gospel to the sermon that Stephen preached. Stephen was a noble personality. He was essential to God’s plan for world evangelization. It was his martyrdom, as I said, that launched the church into the world. He is also a graphic testimony that it’s not the length of a man’s life that establishes his importance and his influence. In fact, the length of a man’s life has sometimes very little to do with its impact. His ministry was extremely short. They were all new believers, brand new believers. Months, weeks, that’s all.

He doesn’t seem to have had a very long career. This is the only sermon that we have recorded that he ever preached, and there were no positive results. As far as we can tell, there’s no record that anybody was saved or anybody believed, and yet it was the catalyst that caused the church to move in the next step of the Great Commission. Again, it may have been his death that began the career of Saul who became Paul.

The nobility of this man is bound up in his courage with the truth. What we know about him is all in this text of Scripture. We know nothing beyond this, but we do know that what reigns supreme in his life is this amazing courage, amazing courage. Because of that courage, he put himself in a position to lose his life, but that was the plan. He is the first Christian martyr, but the threats of imprisonment and even the threats of death had no effect on him because he was so totally committed to being faithful. He paid the ultimate price for his commitment.

I want you to see if you can’t get to know Stephen a little bit. There is a lot that can be said here, even though it’s a brief text. I would encourage you to read this section on your own and draw out of it what you can. Let me just give you a little background. The church had been basically promised by our Lord. It has been given its commission in chapter 1, verse 8 to take the gospel into the world to be witnesses of Christ to the ends of the earth. The church then began on the Day of Pentecost. We saw that in chapter 2. It came into existence as an evangelistic agency. It came into existence to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. That’s what the church does. That’s its mission.

Believers come together to be instructed and empowered and energized for the task of evangelism. The Lord gave to them all the necessary components for effective evangelism. The first thing we saw early in the book of Acts was the unity of the church. Unity of love, one heart, one mind, loving one another, sacrificing for one another. Powerful, concentrated, united single testimony. We saw the courage of the church early on. They boldly proclaimed the gospel, boldly confronted the Jews, relentlessly accepting persecution and using it as an opportunity for further proclamation of the gospel.

We also saw the total involvement of the church. Everybody was on board. Everybody was involved. All who believed were all baptized, and they were all together as one, and they were all engaged in the apostle’s doctrine and prayer and the breaking of bread and fellowship. There was a power in that unity. There was a fearlessness in that unity, and they all knew the message. They knew the message was Christ and Him crucified, risen, reigning and returning. They never were sidetracked. They didn’t deviate onto social issues and temporary earthly concerns. It was always the preaching of the Word of God. It was always the explaining of the only Bible in existence at the time, the Old Testament in light of the arrival of the promised Messiah. Their chief business was the ministry of the gospel, the ministry of reconciliation.

The church was purified. The church, by being preoccupied with the Spirit of God and the Word of God was purified by that, but further purified by the Lord Himself. He actually killed a couple of people who lied to the Holy Spirit and sent fear through the church. The price of belonging was high. Only the pure came. Only those who wanted their sin dealt with and who wanted to walk in righteousness participated. They got organized. They brought together, as I’ve said, these godly men mentioned in chapter 6, verse 5, to provide ministry for them. Then there were the apostles who were doing all the teaching early on, but you can see the responsibility to teach begins even to transition to those men who were chosen there in chapter 6. Stephen becomes a preacher and Philip becomes a preacher.

All the keys to evangelism are there, and that’s why the church exists. It exists in the world for the evangelism of the world. There was unity and courage and total involvement. There was clear understanding of the content and there was purity and there was discipline, and there was spiritual organization. All of that was in good order. That leads us up to our text in verse 8 where we see the very short career of this amazing man named Stephen.

What the Lord used Stephen to do was to launch the church into the world in a most amazing way. He was the trigger that fired the church out. As I said, we don’t have any record that anybody responded to his message positively or anybody was saved. But the church was scattered and because the church was scattered, the gospel was taken to the world and many were saved. Now, as we look at Stephen here, let me just kind of break this text up into four thoughts, okay? His choosing, his character, his courage, and his countenance. All right?

His choosing, his choosing. Go back to chapter 6, verse 3. They’re looking for, “men of good reputation who are full of the Spirit and of wisdom.” Stephen was one of those men. So we know this, he was full of the Spirit, full of wisdom, and verse 5 says he was full of faith and it’s implied, full of the Holy Spirit. When they look for the best of men, and they want seven of them out of the thousands of Christians now – the church has exploded, right? Three thousand at Pentecost. Five thousand more men in chapter four. Thousands are coming into the church. They’re looking for just seven men. Stephen was one of the seven.

What that tell us is the church did hold him in high reputation. If you’re looking among thousands and maybe in the twenty thousands of people for seven, that’s pretty high criteria when you identify those seven. His name, Stephanos means “victor’s crown” and he actually won that in his martyrdom. He was a Jew from outside the land of Israel. The early church would have been careful in its choosing, selecting those only of the highest spiritual quality, and those qualifications would have been defined for them by the apostles.

This is something the people actually do. The people actually do this. The congregation is involved in this. They’re actually told to find these men. Verse 3, “Select from among you seven men, brethren.” So they raised up these seven. The highest spiritual character, the highest level of devotion to Christ, of courage to proclaim the gospel. This sets in motion what we learn later from Paul as those qualifications which are introduced here are delineated more specifically with regard to elders and deacons.

So the very choosing of Stephen establishes at the beginning his uniqueness and his greatness. The people choose the seven. They present them to the apostles for validation and verification. This is enough for me to know about Stephen. Out of all the thousands of men, thousands and thousands and thousands of men, he’s the first one in the list of seven.

The second reason that we know he plays a very important role not only because of his choosing and the perception of the church, but his character is delineated here. Let’s go back to verse 5 for a minute. We can assume from verse 3, he like the rest, was of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, but specifically it says about him in verse 5, “He is a man full of faith,” full of faith. Plērēs, meaning full. He is filled up. That is to say his life is dominated by faith. He walks by faith. He is controlled by faith. The idea of full is total control.

When you say, for example, “Someone is filled with rage or filled with anger or filled with madness or filled with joy or filled with love,” you mean that is a dominating emotion. That is a dominating force at that point in the person’s life. That is a consuming thing. It is unmixed. It is unmitigated. Things which control are the things that would be contained in the notion of being filled. He is filled with faith. What do we know about his faith? What did he believe? If he is full of faith, what did he believe? Well, I can tell you what he believed. Go to chapter 7, and let’s pick it up at verse 2. Here’s what he said as he begins his sermons, “Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.’” Of course, he is quoting Genesis 12. “Then he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. From there, after his father died, God had him move to this country in which you are now living. But He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground, and yet, even when he had no child, He promised that He would give it to him as a possession, and to his descendants after him.”

Again, he’s quoting Genesis 12 and Genesis 13. The first thing you know what he believed, he believed in the Old Testament. He believed in the authenticity and validity of the Old Testament. He believed also that God determined and God ruled history. The common idea in the world is that kings and governors and statesmen and politicians make history. Stephen believed that God wrote history, God wrote history. History was all a revelation of God’s character and God’s purpose and God’s plan. He believed in the Old Testament. He believed in the God revealed in the Old Testament, and he unfolds that all the way through the sermon.

When you come down to verse 52 toward the end, you find out something else he believed. In verse 52, “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One.” He believed Jesus was the Messiah. He believed in Jesus as the righteous one of God, and he believed that His death was the pivotal point in which history turned. They killed the righteous one. He also believed that Jesus was risen. How do we know that he believed that? Because, “Being full of the Holy Spirit – ” in verse 55 “ - he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. He said, ‘I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” Verse 59, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”

He believed in the Messiah. He believed the Messiah had risen and ascended. He believed the Messiah was in heaven. He believed the Messiah cared for him. He believed the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, was waiting to receive him. He believed in the Holy Spirit, verse 51. He says, “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit.” This is what he believed. He was full of faith, and he believed in all these great spiritual realities that he delineates in this great sermon.

He believed so strongly in the God of the Old Testament and the Old Testament, he believed so strongly in the Lord Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection, and his own hope of eternal life and welcome into heaven that he bet his life on it. He put his life on the line, so much that he believed that he was willing to be stoned to death. He knew the price that could be paid for being as bold as he was willing to be.

Obviously, faith has different dimensions. It has different levels. It has different kinds of demonstrations and commitments. Stephen’s was full faith. He was totally controlled by what he believed, completely controlled in his life, his thought, his ministry, his responses, his emotions. He had given his life completely over to the truth of God, which he believed and was willing to die for it. We see also that he was full of the Spirit, full of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit. Clearly, that comes out as he is stoned, chapter 7, verse 55.

They’re gnashing their teeth at him ready to stone him. Verse 55, “Being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven.” He is totally controlled by his yieldedness to the Holy Spirit. This is a man who believes in the truth so passionately that he will die for it. This is a man who is so confident in the ministry of the Holy Spirit to care for him, to comfort him, to strengthen him, to bring him to a glorious end, that he has complete confidence in the Holy Spirit.

This is a man, back in verse 3, who is also full of wisdom. In fact, his wisdom is so profound, it is so beyond argument that when he speaks, his enemies cannot withstand what he says. And in fury and anger they kill him because they can’t answer his arguments.

Furthermore, verse 8 says, he is full of grace, full of grace. What is that? Well, it could be the grace of salvation, but we all have that fully. It could be the grace that comes in persecution, but I think it’s something else. I think it’s not the grace that he received. It’s the grace that he gave. What came out of him was grace, was grace. Another way to say it, he was full of what the Old Testament calls “lovingkindness.” The Old Testament word was chesed, lovingkindness. Why do I say that? Go to the end of chapter 7. While they’re stoning him, he’s falling on his knees. He cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” What kind of tenderheartedness is this? No anger, no vengeance, no violence, no retaliation. This is grace.

The congregation must have known him as a gracious person, a kind person, a loving person. Even toward those who are killing him in a fury of rage he could be gracious because he was full of the Holy Spirit. He could be gracious because he was full of faith. He could be gracious because he was full of wisdom. He could commit everything to God. Verse 59 of chapter 7, “Receive my spirit and please forgive them.” What an amazing man. This kind of grace comes out of full faith. This kind of grace is a product of the Holy Spirit.

Then it tells us in verse 8 that he was full of power. This is the result of being full of the Spirit. He is full of Holy Spirit power to an apostolic degree. He is performing great wonders and signs among the people. He is actually doing miracles and, of course, that is to validate him as one who when he speaks, speaks for God. This is before there was a New Testament. How did you know if anybody was a speaker for God? If he had miraculous power.

Again, the second man in the list in chapter 6, Philip, had the same power. Chapter 8, verse 6, “Philip also in Samaria is performing signs, wonders.” So I say, he’s not a deacon, but he serves the widows. He’s not an apostle, but he was able to do miracles to validate the truth. He’s not a prophet, but he is a great preacher of Scripture. What an amazing, amazing man. So we see his choosing and we see his character, and we aren’t even out of verse 8.

Let’s look at his courage. This is not going to surprise us knowing what we’ve just seen. His courage. This man, full of the Holy Spirit, full of faith, full of wisdom, full of power, this man, this remarkable man full of grace longing from the depths of his heart out of love to reach people with the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, met the hostile world head on. He went into the teeth of the battle. He preached Jesus as Messiah to the Hellenistic Jews. He confronted them. It took tremendous courage to do this. Verse 9, “Some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up an argued with Stephen.”

This is his mission field. The apostles are going to the Jerusalem Jews. Paul later will go to the gentiles. Stephen will go to the Jews in gentile lands. He starts in Jerusalem where synagogues for these pilgrims existed. There were communities of Grecian Jews who had resettled in the land of Israel. When there were feasts and festivals and when people came on pilgrimages to Jerusalem, they would find their way to these synagogues. These synagogues functioned perhaps in the language of the country of the people who made them. So that’s his mission field. Why? Because he’s one of them. He is introduced earlier in the chapter as one of them. All those names in verse 5 are Greek names. These Greek Jews were chosen to meet the needs of the Grecian Hellenistic widows.

So he goes to the place where he can reach his people. The place is the synagogue. The meeting place is where the Jews gathered. These meetings placed existed all the way back to the Babylonian captivity. During apostolic times, even Jewish communities from outside Jerusalem managed to establish their own synagogues where foreign Jews could come and meet and unite. Historians tell us, for example, that there were nearly 500 synagogues in Jerusalem. Many of these synagogues in Jerusalem at the time of our Lord, at the time of the book of Acts were for those who were pilgrims from other parts of the world and needed to interact with people who spoke their own language.

Now, this particular group is identified for us. First, the synagogue of the Freedman, the Freedmen. What is that? Pompeii, the Roman general, had carried off large numbers of Jews as prisoners to Rome. He had hauled them away in 63 B.C. He hauled these Jews away and sold them as slaves. Most of them eventually found their freedom, some of them very soon, and they came back to their land. Very likely, the synagogue of the Freedmen is a synagogue that basically was developed - and it only took ten men to start a synagogue - by freed Roman slaves who had returned to their own city to worship.

There also are mentioned Cyrenians, a city in Africa in the Libyan area. They had a large Jewish colony there. They also participated in a synagogue in Jerusalem. Then Alexandrians, the capital of Egypt, founded by Alexander the Great. A huge Jewish community there and a great library of many Jewish scholars there.

Cilicia is mentioned, a district in the settlement known as Asia Minor near Syria, large Jewish colony. By the way, the principal city of Cilicia and that Jewish colony was Tarsus. Saul was from Tarsus. You know that was the most prominent member of that synagogue. Here’s where Saul probably functioned in the synagogue of the people from Cilicia.

Then there were some from Asia, meaning the western part of Asia Minor. The chief city was Ephesus. So you have five groups. Maybe there were five different synagogues. Some think so. Maybe there were three synagogues mixed and maybe there was only one synagogue, and they were all in the same one, and they all spoke some Greek well enough to interact. We don’t know, but to them, Stephen went. And what did he do? He rose up. I don’t think he was an invited speaker. I don’t think they lined him up for a weekend conference.

He rose up and argued with them and they argued back with him. He took his place there and spoke, and it created no small stir, but verse 10, they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Of course they were unable to cope. It may have been, not a stretch, that the one leading the argument against him was – fill in the blank. Saul, who would certainly have been great at arguing and making his case. Two brilliant minds, Stephen and Saul, battling over divine truth and Stephen won. Why? Was he a greater debater than Saul? No, but he had the truth on his side.

The argument there, when it says argued or disputing, it doesn’t necessarily indicate anger. But a kind of fair debate in which there was actual argument presented; not just harangue, but actual argument. I can’t imagine anything more exciting to watch than a debate between Stephen and Saul. The exact subject of the debate we don’t know, but we can guess. It was a debate between the old covenant and the new covenant, right? It was a debate over the identity of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. It was a debate over the role of the law. It was a debate about salvation by grace, and Stephen won the debate because of his unparalleled wisdom and because the Spirit was upon him.

The reaction, verse 11. “Then they secretly induced men to say, ‘We have heard him blaspheme words against Moses and against God.’” So that tells us he was arguing against the old covenant. He was arguing against the Judaistic misinterpretation of the Law of Moses. He was also arguing, no doubt, for the deity of Christ. By dismissing the saving power of the Law of Moses, he was seen as blaspheming Moses. By identifying Jesus as God, he was blaspheming God in their minds. Now, this is a man who has taken the message to the people. He has walked right into the fire and declared to them that the Law of Moses cannot save. It can only condemn. Maybe this is where Paul for the first time heard that, “By the deeds of the law, no flesh will be justified.”

Maybe this is where the apostle Paul heard for the first time that all the fullness of the Godhead dwelt bodily in Jesus Christ. To these Jews, these were blasphemous words, blasphemy against Moses, treading on very sacred soil, blasphemy against God by saying Jesus is equal to God. So they stirred the people, the elders, the scribes. These agitated Hellenistic Jews left their synagogues and started stirring up the rabble that Stephen was a blasphemer, Stephen was a blasphemer. Does that sound familiar? It’s exactly what happened to our Lord Jesus.

The people for the most part had just looked at the church as it grew and developed, and they were impressed. In fact, we learned back in chapter 2 that the apostles in the early church had favor with all the people, didn’t they? They respected them even in chapter 5 when Ananias and Sapphira were killed in the church, the people admired them. The crowd is indifferent, but impressed until now. Now, the stirring of the people along the lines that this Stephen who is part of this church is a blasphemer against Moses and a blasphemer against God; agitates the people, agitates the elders, agitates the scribes. They make up the Sanhedrin. The agitation reaches a level where they came up to Stephen and dragged him away, and brought him before the Sanhedrin.

This is where the false witnesses show up. Verse 13, “They put forward the false witnesses who said, ‘This man incessantly speaks against this holy place and the Law.’” Well, that tells us something about what the debate was on. Perhaps he was repeated the wretchedness of the temple. Certainly, he was telling them the true purpose of the law, to define sin, not provide salvation. They accused him also of saying that, “This Nazarene – ” that’s a scornful epithet, “ – this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place – ” the temple “ - and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.’”

So now we understand the picture. He’s preaching on the failing exit, the old covenant, the entrance of the new covenant with Jesus as Lord and Messiah. Just think about it. We have a synagogue on our block. This would be like going down there at Shabbat, standing up and starting a debate denouncing the Law of Moses and exalting the deity of Jesus Christ. Now, they may be nicer folks down there. From time to time, they sneak in here. So if you’re from there and you’re here, you’re welcome. You really are. But this is great boldness and Stephen knows what they’ve done to the Lord. He also knows that they have already imprisoned and beaten the apostles. He knows what’s at stake, and he knows that it is the Jews who will perpetrate these persecutions.

But his courage is undiminished. I don’t know how they found this guy out of the thousands of men in the church, but what a remarkable man he is. So courageous. In fact, this is what he says to them in chapter 7, verse 51. “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.” You killers of the Righteous One! Wow. This not friendship evangelism. This is a noble man. This man is heroic. We see it in his choosing out of all that could have been chosen, and he heads the list of those who are full of all the necessary spiritual realities. We see it in his character. We see it in his courage. Finally, it shows up in his countenance. This is just remarkable.

In chapter 6, verse 15, the final verse of the chapter, “And fixing their gaze on him,” that is, the infuriated synagogue people, the rulers, the elders, the scribes, the people, whoever it is that’s gathered in the crowd that’s dragged him away, including the false witnesses. They all are gazing at him, all of them now in the Council. The witnesses probably came to the Council. That would include the people who are making the accusations from the synagogue, the Sanhedrin members; they’re all there, whoever is there in that large gathering. There would be over 70 gathered just in the Sanhedrin alone and all the rest. They fixed their gaze on him, “All who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel.” Wow.

They are accusing him of blasphemy. They’re calling him evil. They’re saying he is denouncing God and Moses, and he is standing there looking angelic. His appearance is as the pure holiness of an angel. What a rebuke. What a rebuke. What does this mean? Did he have a halo over his heard? No. Don’t angels reflect the glory of God? Yes, they do. Yes, they do. Angels reflect the glory of God in light. Chapter 12, verse 7, “An angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell where Peter was.” When an actual angel appeared, light appeared. But this isn’t an actual angel, so this isn’t an actual angel and shining glorious light of an angel. What is this? I don’t know. I don’t know.

But in their minds, he looked like he has transcended above all of it, all of it. He looked as if he were pure and holy and virtuous. All of his power in the Holy Spirit, all of his wisdom in the Holy Spirit, all of his grace in the Holy Spirit, all of his faith, all of it came out on his face. He looked angelic. Only once in all the revelatory history has God ever put His glory on the face of a man, only once. That’s in Exodus 33, and He put it on the face of Moses, didn’t He? After Moses saw the glory of God in Exodus 33 and 34 and came down, his face was shining. He was reflecting somehow the glory of God. For a moment, God allowed Moses to reflect His glory. That’s the only time that’s happened in the whole Old Testament.

Here in the New Testament, while the Jews are accusing Stephen of being a blasphemer, God puts a glow on his face. He stands, as Moses did before his people in shining purity with the mark of divine favor on his face. And at the end of his life, he saw the glory of God, verse 55, chapter 7. He saw the heavens open. He saw the Son of Man standing at the right hand. He called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”

This is unparalleled experience. I don’t know all that this was, but I do know it came across as divine presence, divine approval, transcendent reality. They were damning him as a blasphemer and he had the face of an angel. What a man. May I suggest to you that God is still looking for men and women like this who can serve Him in His church, who can be chosen out of the thousands, who have manifestly demonstrated the character of a Stephen, full of faith, full of grace, full of the Holy Spirit, full of wisdom. God is still looking for people who have courage, boldness that has no limit. And God will demonstrate His glory on the face of those people; not visibly, but in the calm, peaceful, tranquil, almost transcendent trust that comes through in the most hateful, violent circumstances.

I imagine, and maybe it’s not an unimaginable thing, but I imagine that Saul, if he was there, never forgot the face of Stephen – never. Maybe when he was on the Damascus Road in chapter 9 and he fell down and the Lord blinded him and said, “It’s hard for you to kick against the goads. Why are you persecuting Me?” He may have thought of the face of Stephen.

Father, we thank you for giving us an opportunity to meet this man, the man with the face of an angel. The beauty in that is just striking, unforgettable. You’re still looking for men and women like that who can be chosen because of their character and courage to represent you in the world, to confront the world with the truth, and to receive all that the world throws back of hatred and rejection and persecution and violence and stand in the transcendent calm and peace of full confidence that all is well.

May we be such people who even when rejected and even when persecuted rise above it. And may Christ be seen through us as we give glory to Him. Thank you for a wonderful day together, and we give you praise. In Christ’s name, amen.

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  • 2341V4.jpgThe Ultimate Good News/Bad News

    Mark 8:27-33 September 05, 2010 41-40

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We come now to Mark chapter 8...Mark chapter 8. I have in my mind the desire to move somewhat rapidly through the gospel of Mark, hoping that some time next summer we may be able to finish this book. And I think we can do that. We’ll take some chunks and stay close to the text of Mark and not deviate unless the Lord causes us to go another direction. That’s kind of the plan. So we’re looking forward to just a great time together as we cover the second half of this wonderful history.

In the eighth chapter we come to verses 27 and following, verses 27 down to verse 33. This is a portion of Scripture that we’ve looked at before, not in Mark but a parallel text is in Matthew 16, and another parallel text is in Luke 9. It is little wonder that these three synoptic gospels, as they are called, they each give us a synopsis of the life of Christ, all feature this particular event because it is such a monumental one.

I have chosen to call this message, “The Ultimate Good News/Bad News” experience. And we’ve all had those. We’ve all had somebody say to us, “I have good news and bad news.” We know that. Sometimes it is trivial, and sometimes it is serious. But this is the ultimate good news/bad news experience. This is so extreme for Peter and the Apostles who are the ones to whom this good news and bad news are delivered. This is the ultimate trauma, the highest high followed by the lowest low.

In Peter’s case, the greatest commendation he ever received followed by the greatest condemnation he ever received, or for that matter anyone ever received. At first, the news couldn’t have been better and suddenly it couldn’t have been worse. Here’s the moment, let me read it to you, verse 27.

“Jesus went out, along with His disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples, saying to them ‘Who do people say that I am?’ And they told Him, saying, ‘John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets.’ And He continued by questioning them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered and said to Him, ‘You are the Christ.’ And He warned them to tell no one about Him. And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter, and said, ‘Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interest, but man’s.’”

This is just a compelling passage. This is the high point of the entire gospel of Mark. Everything prior leads up to it. Everything after, flows from it. This is the moment in time when the disciples settle the matter of the person of Jesus. This is the moment when they believe and are convinced and confess as to who His person is, He is the Christ, the Son of the living God, as Peter gives us in the full statement recorded in Matthew.

But there is still great confusion about...not the person, but the plan. They affirm the person, they deny the plan. From the perspective of Peter and the disciples, the good news was the affirmation that they understood the person, Jesus Christ, to be the Messiah, the Son of the living God. To a hopeful Jew, that is the ultimate revelation. That is the greatest revelation that could ever come. For centuries as a nation, for a lifetime as an individual, the Jews had anticipated the coming of their Messiah, and with the coming of Messiah, the fulfillment of all the Old Testament promise from the very beginning of the Old Testament, through to the end, just replete with promises that were attached to the arrival of the Messiah, promises of salvation, the expanded land, the Kingdom, blessing, prosperity, the earth changing, the land of Israel changing, glory coming, Israel being the most prominent powerful nation on the face of the earth, Messiah reigning, all joy, all peace, all blessing.

That’s what they waited for. They had followed Jesus, these men had, including the Twelve Apostles and others called disciples. They had followed Him for over two years. And all along they had hoped that He would be the Messiah. They had hoped He would be the Messiah, now they know it. Here they finally affirm they know it.

However, fast on the heels of that most glorious of all revelations, that most wondrous of all knowledge and conviction and confidence, comes the incomprehensible bad news that the Messiah is going to be killed and I’m not sure after that they heard the part about the resurrection. Shocking news, so shocking that Peter goes from being a hero to being an anti-hero. So shocking that he goes from being a spokesman for God, to being a spokesman for Satan. Such is the paradox of this hour, two colliding revelations. He is Messiah, the one whose life will bring salvation and blessing to Israel and the world, yet He will be killed by the people of Israel and the world.

Finally, these disciples have come to the place where they can say, “You’re the Christ. You are the Christ.” Already they have said, “Truly You’re the Son of God,” that’s as to His person, being Christ is as to His work as the deliverer and the anointed one, the Prophet, Priest and King promised. They said, “Truly You’re the Son of God,” when He walked on water after the feeding of the five thousand. They have confirmed His deity and now they confirm His messianic office. And both of these come in just a few weeks. They’ve come to the rarified air, you might say, of the Mount Everest of revelation, they’ve come to the summit. You’re the Son of God and You are the Christ, only to be knocked off the summit into the lowest valley below. It is an oxymoron to them that the Messiah, the source of life, would be killed, that the Messiah, the King of Israel would be rejected by Israel. These are colliding realities that constitute the good news and the bad news.

So let’s look, first of all, at the good news...the good news, verses 27 to 30. “Jesus went out,” now we’ll stop there just long enough to go back to remember in verses 22 to 26, the prior passage, they were in Bethsaida which is on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, a little bit east of Capernaum. This town was the home of three of the Apostles. A familiar place, Jesus had done many, many miracles there, many works there. In fact judgment was pronounced on that town because there were so many works there that their punishment in the day of final judgment will be worse than the punishment of Tyre and Sidon, two idolatrous pagan cities, because of the revelation of Jesus that they had.

Well He’s back in a very familiar place, and familiar to the Apostles, a familiar town to all of them there on the north shore where many of them plied their trade as fishermen in the hometown of at least three. The conclusion of His ministry there was the healing of a blind man in private. He says to the blind man in verse 26, “Go home, don’t go into the village.” This is another one of those things in the gospel of Mark where Jesus says, “I don’t want this spread around.” And we’ll look at that in a moment.

So He’s finished that one final miracle, as it were, in the town of Bethsaida, now developing into a city. And then it says in verse 27, “He went out.” So we can assume that He left Bethsaida and went straight north because it says He went along with His disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. That would be 25 miles straight north of Bethsaida which was very near the Sea of Galilee called Fishing House, so we would assume its connection with fishing, that is Bethsaida, straight north to Caesarea Philippi. That is on the...that is the last outpost in Galilee, that’s the last outpost in Israel. It’s very near the ancient town of Dan. And you remember back in Judges chapter 20 and in 1 Chronicles, when you wanted to know the length of the land of Israel, you would say that it went from Dan to Beersheba...Beersheba was the southernmost outpost on the border and Dan was the northernmost outpost on the border. And Caesarea Philippi was up there on that northern border, mostly a Gentile city, it was mostly occupied by Gentiles although officially it was in the territory of Galilee in Israel. Originally its name was Paneas, it had been named by the pagans who lived there once and dominated that city for the god Pan. Have you ever heard of a pan flute? It is because in Greek mythology, Pan is a half-man, half-goat who plays a flute. And supposedly, this mythical character was born in a cave in this vicinity and so it came to be identified with that. There would have been a shrine to Pan still there, although his name had been replaced. And the reason it was replaced was that Herod the Great had been given that territory by Caesar Augustus and he had been given responsibility of that and all of Israel to rule on behalf of Rome, really over the Jews.

When he died, he split his realm into four parts. Gave it to his four sons. This part fell into the hands of his son Philip, Herod Philip the Tetrarch as he is known, who also ruled the area where Bethsaida was. This area fell into the hands of Philip the Tetrarch and it was a political thing to do when you got an area to do deference to Caesar to keep him on your good side. So he changed the name to Caesarea, which is a form of Caesar. It’s not to be confused, by the way, with the southern coastal Caesarea, west of Jerusalem. But, you know, naming cities after Caesar was something lots of folks wanted to do, to curry political favor. This was, however, Caesarea Philippi, connected with Philip the Tetrarch.

It is, as I said, a Gentile area. If you go 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee, you get into the shadow of the foot of Mount Hermon which rises nine thousand feet up and this area would have been one of the three headwaters for the water that flowed down into and made up the Jordan River. A place filled with idols because filled with Gentiles, because connected with idolatry in the past. The temple was there to Caesar Augustus. He was a mortal deity, if there is such a thing. Paneas was a mythical deity, he was a mortal deity.

The area was generally hostile to Judaism. It was generally hostile to Scripture. And so it’s a good location for the Lord to clarify that not all religions are, after all, acceptable. There’s only one Lord, one living God and when Peter says, “You’re the Son of the living God,” he had to be playing off all the dead idols that made up the panoply of deities which people in Gentile realms worshiped.

So they’re in that area, in that region. They are on the way, it says, to Caesarea Philippi and they have an ongoing conversation. You can’t...you can’t expect when you read a text of Scripture that that’s all that was said, okay? I think we understand that, right? We get a synopsis of what was said, we get a summary of what was said. This is conversation going on as they move through the villages that made up the region around the city of Caesarea Philippi.

They’ve been with our Lord for two and a half years. Luke adds in Luke 9:18 his section on the same event that Jesus had been praying, as, of course, was His custom. Comes back from praying and He gets together with the disciples. And then Mark says He questioned His disciples.

Now look, they’ve had two and a half years of school, it’s time for the exam. “Two and a half years they have been 24/7 with our Lord, two and a half years of divine revelation, two and a half years of thousands of miracles, two and a half years of the most profound teaching imaginable, and unimaginable, two and a half years for them to see everything they needed to see to learn everything they needed to learn. And recently it seemed as though His power had been ramped up, that vast powerful miracle of creating enough food for nearly 25 thousand people, let’s say, and then it followed a few weeks later, that in the area near Bethsaida with another similar feeding in Decapolis that perhaps approached 20 thousand people and He created food out of nothing. And there was that walking on the water episode of which Peter was an eyewitness, for he did it himself under the power of the Lord. And then there were the great healings, healing of Gentiles on the little tour in the Gentile areas and healings of Jews. There may have been a flurry of these things recently, but the massive miracles of creating food, creative miracles visible in every sense should have been sort of the final culminating evidences they needed to affirm that this is indeed their Messiah. They’ve had enough revelation to be believers.

Now let me say this. Galilee had had enough revelation to be damned. Okay? They were, in the words of Romans 1, without excuse. They had enough revelation to be judged. There’s no question about that. And Jesus judges them. There’s a passage in John 12 in verse 36 where Jesus says, “While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become sons of light.” He says in the verse before, “Walk while you have the light so the darkness will not overtake you.” And then it says, “These things Jesus spoke,” verse 36, “and He went away and hid Himself from them.” You’ve had the light, you’ve had the light, you’ve had the light, no more light.

This incident comes at the end of His life, just before the Upper Room discourse in His passion week. It’s over. He went away. Verse 37, “Though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him.”

Was this a shock and a surprise? No. It fulfills the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke, “Lord, who has believed our report and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For this reason they could not believe.” You will not believe and now you cannot believe. You’ve passed the point where it’s even possible.

Listen, if there was enough revelation to condemn unbelievers, there is enough revelation to convince believers. They shouldn’t have been asking these questions. Why does it take them so long to make this confession? And I remind you that this is the first time any person, any human in the gospel of Mark makes this confession about who Jesus is. The Father makes it at the baptism. The demons make it several times. But it’s not until now, two and a half years into this, with only some months left until the cross, that they finally make this confession. It’s about time.

So, when we come to this passage then, first comes the good news, and that is the confession, and it launched by an exam. I love these kinds of exams, there’s only two questions in this exam...I like a two-question exam, get right to the point. Two questions: question number one, “He was questioning His disciples saying to them,” and this is in conversation back and forth, ebb and flow, “‘Who do the people,’” hoi anthropoi, it’s a generic term, “‘Who do the people say that I am? Just another prophet? Who do they say I am?’” the people. Luke 9:18 says, “He also said, as the conversation went on, ‘What do the crowds say about Me?” and He used the word ockchlos meaning crowd, or masses. Luke’s favorite word to refer to the uncommitted crowds who followed for the miracles and the entertainment, but were impenitent, hard-hearted, self-righteous, indifferent and unbelieving. “Who do they say I am?”

In fact, in Matthew He adds that He said, “Who do they say I the Son of Man am?” What’s human insight? Give me the answer of human insight?

The response comes in verse 28, and again, you remember the questions being asked and answered and battered around a little bit? “And so they said to Him, ‘Somebody said John the Baptist,’” that seemed to always lead the parade of options. “And somebody else says Elijah, and there are others who think one of the prophets.”

And you can imagine in the conversation as it goes back and forth that they’re giving Him these names...John the Baptist? That’s the most common notion. How could it be John the Baptist, he was dead? Had his head chopped off. Don’t you remember Matthew 14:1 to 4, Luke 9:7 to 9, that Herod who chopped off his head when he heard about Jesus going everywhere, doing all these miracles said, “John the Baptist has come back from the dead?” Back from the dead. That seems to be the popular notion because you couldn’t deny that Jesus was a prophet. You couldn’t deny that He was a miracle worker. So maybe He was a resurrected John the Baptist.

Well others had other opinions. Some thought He was Elijah. Why would they pick Elijah? Well they would pick John the Baptist because John the Baptist was to be the forerunner of the Messiah. John even declared himself to be the forerunner of the Messiah. And Elijah, according to Malachi chapter 3 and chapter 4 was to come to the earth just prior to Messiah’s arrival. So if it’s not John the Baptist, maybe He’s not John the Baptist raised from the dead, maybe He’s Elijah. Elijah, after all, according to 2 Kings 2, had been taken to heaven and didn’t die. Well maybe he’s come back as Malachi said he would. And according to Matthew, somebody else said Jeremiah, some think You’re Jeremiah. Now why would they pull Jeremiah out? Well there was a very kind of bizarre tradition among the Jews at this time that Jeremiah in anticipation of the Babylonian captivity realizing what was coming, went to the temple and took the altar of incense and the Ark of the Covenant, took them away and put them somewhere at Mount Nebo, and according to the tradition, before Messiah returned, Jeremiah would return and he would go get the altar of incense, he would go get the ark and when he recovered the ark, then Messiah would come in His glory.

So there were all these possibilities. By the way, they were all wrong. The tradition about Jeremiah shows up in 2 Maccabees, that intertestamental apocryphal book, but they were all short of the truth. But here’s what they all had in common...they knew that Jesus had to be a prophet. They knew He had to be from God. But they also were convinced that He could not be the Messiah, not possible, absolutely not possible.

Why could He not be the Messiah? Because they had a very highly developed Messianic concept, political ruler, military power, overthrows Rome, destroys all Israel’s enemies, brings blessedness to Israel, prosperity to Israel, permanent peace to Israel, elevates Israel to be the greatest nation on the face of the earth, all other nations are under the shadow of Israel. The Messiah reigns in Israel and dominates the world, righteousness flows. They took all the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, the desert blossoms like a rose, Isaiah’s prophecies about the character of the Kingdom, all of that, the promises to David all fulfilled, the promises to Abraham all fulfilled, the promise of the New Covenant to Jeremiah, the salvation of Israel fulfilled and the salvation of Gentiles as the gospel extends to the earth.

Where was all this? Their messianic concept was highly developed and so they couldn’t get to the point where they saw Jesus as the Messiah, cause He didn’t fit that. He wasn’t a military leader. He wasn’t the conqueror. He wasn’t a destroyer of armies. He didn’t look like a king, act like a king. So they come up short. John 3:1 to 2, “We know You are a teacher come from God because nobody can do what You do except God be with him.” So we get that...we get it, You are a prophet from God. And that’s what they’re all saying, that’s the popular view...John the Baptist, Jeremiah, Elijah and I’m sure they threw in some others. That’s question number one on the test.

The second question in verse 29, “He continued by questioning them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’” And, by the way, that is the most important question that you will ever answer. That is the most important question that any human being will ever answer...who is Jesus Christ? Everybody on this planet is accountable to God eternally for the answer to that question. Wrong answer means hell. Right answer means heaven. Common people have answers to that, philosophers have answers, pseudo-scholars have answers, liberal theologians have answers, Muslims have answers to that, Jews have answer to that, secularists, atheists, humanists, religionists...answers, however, that condemn them, wrong answers.

And then we’re all exposed to the endless books on the search for the historical Jesus. Articles that have been written, television seminars and series that have been portrayed as searching for the real Jesus. Whenever you see anybody searching for the real Jesus, you know it’s a satanic operation. What it is, is a veil to attack on the Bible. It’s not hard to find them if you read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I haven’t found it difficult at all...not at all.

In fact, they...the disciples...conclude exactly what John says the gospels were written to prove. John 20:31, “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.” That’s why the four gospels are written, John 20:31. It comes at the end of the fourth gospel...they’re all written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. What is Peter’s confession? According to Matthew’s full presentation, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter confesses exactly what the gospels are demonstrating. He doesn’t have the gospels, he’s there, he lives it.

So he comes to the conclusion that any good faithful gospel reader has to come to, so don’t give me any nonsense about your searching for the historical Jesus outside the gospels. That is a pretext for trying to destroy the scriptures and that is Satan’s game.

So, the question...who do you say that I am? Peter answered, he is now the established spokesman, and I’m sure they were talking about this all the time. I’m sure as they went around day after day were always talking about...Is He...Is He not? Who is He? But this is the first time a confession is made in Mark. “You are the Christ.” That’s the second time the word “Christ” has been used in the gospel of Mark. The first time is in 1:1, the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We haven’t heard that word in eight chapters. Christos, Hebrew equivalent for anointed. Christos is not a name, Jesus is His name. You should call His name Jesus. The name above every name given to Him after the resurrection is Lord. Jesus is His name, Lord is His ultimate title.

What is Christ? That is the word for anointed that defines His work. He is God’s promised King, prophet, priest. In fact, if you read Luke, the full statement of Peter, “You are the Christ of God.” If you read Matthew, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” I don’t think Peter said one thing, I think he repeated it several ways in the conversation. You are...they got it right...You’re the Christ, the Son of the living God...according to Matthew 16.

You say, “Well what are they thinking for two and a half years?” Oh, they were thinking that He was. They were thinking He was God, Son of God. They were thinking He was the Messiah. Of course they were. In fact, they were...they were mostly convinced that He was, why else would they turn their backs on Judaism, right? Why else would they walk away from the darkness? Why else would they follow Jesus to this extent?

By the way, many of His disciples had long since departed, right? John 6, they didn’t walk with Him anymore. He said things that scared them away. But they’re still here. Do they believe that He is the Son of God? They said it on the lake when He walked on the water, “Truly You are the Son of God.” Do they believe He’s the Messiah? They have...they have to some degree believed it all along. Why? John the Baptist, John 1:34 said, “You’re the Son of God,” He’s the Son of God. John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” John the Baptist identified Him as the Messiah. They accepted that. And in John 1:41, Andrew proclaims Jesus to be the Messiah. And Nathaniel calls Him the Son of God, the King of Israel.

So at the very outset based on the testimony of John the Baptist before they had seen anything, they acknowledged that Jesus could be the Messiah. And they said it, “He’s the King of Israel, He’s the Son of God, He’s the Messiah.” But through the years, they struggle with that. They don’t struggle because there’s no evidence of divine power. They just struggle because He doesn’t conform to their preconceived patterns. Its like, “He that is convinced against his will is unconvinced still.” It’s just a really hard hurdle to get over. They struggle with doubts because as the people concluded, He can’t be the Messiah, so He has to be somebody short of the Messiah, John the Baptist, the forerunner to the Messiah, Elijah who will come back before the Messiah, Jeremiah who will come back before the Messiah. But nobody is saying He’s the Messiah. He doesn’t fit the preconceived theological package. He’s maybe obviously a prophet of God, we’ll grant Him that. But He just hasn’t done what the Messiah will do. Where’s the conquest? Where’s national independence? National freedom? Power? Blessing? Where’s the overthrow of Rome? And He’s so meek and lowly and humble and submissive and pays taxes to Rome and He’s hated by the leaders of Israel.

In fact, it was so bewildering compared to their messianic view that even John the Baptist got confused. John the Baptist, the one who was His forerunner, the one who was related to Him, the one whose mothers were related, who talked about all these issues? John the Baptist must have heard from his own family all the story about how the angel came and announced to his mom and dad that he would be born and that he would be the forerunner of the Messiah and they must have told him about how Mary came and bore the child who was the Messiah, and Jesus was his relative and he knew who He was, and it was all angelic, divine revelation, and he heard perhaps again and again the incredible stories of the annunciation and the birth of the Messiah, and yet he gets confused. Why?

Well he’s in prison. This doesn’t look like the right plan here. So he sends some of his disciples and they come to Jesus and they say, “We want to know whether You’re the Messiah or we should look for somebody else.” That was the question everybody had. It can’t be You. Are You just another prophet and then the Messiah?

So you can understand they’re fluctuating between fear and doubt. And it’s not so much that they don’t accept that He’s the Son of God, the Messiah, it’s really not deniable. It’s just that they can’t take full ownership of it because it doesn’t look the way they think it should look. But here at last, the truth of His deity and Messiahship is settled. And though they continue to have doubts and fears about the plan, they don’t have doubts and fears about the person anymore, okay? They settle that here.

Jesus was the Son of Man, He also was the Son of God, by nature, man, and by nature, God. He’s not a mythical deity like Pan, and He’s not a mortal deity like Caesar. This confession comes out of Peter’s mouth, but it’s collective. But it isn’t just the result of experience. It isn’t just the result of empiricism. It isn’t just the result of human reason. It isn’t just connecting the obvious dots because when Peter says, “You’re the Christ, the Son of the living God,” immediately this is what Jesus said to him, recorded in Matthew 16:17, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonas, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you but My Father who is in heaven.”

Human reason doesn’t get all the way. Empiricism doesn’t get all the way. Experience doesn’t get all the way. It requires divine intervention to make this confession. That’s why 1 Corinthians 12:3 says, “No man can confess Jesus as Lord but by the Holy Spirit.” It’s a divine work and this is the moment. There were moments before this. There was a moment on the sea when they said, “Truly You are the Son of God.” That was a divine revelatory moment, “Truly You are the Son of God.” But Messiah, You just don’t fit the picture. Now they say, “You are the Christos, You are the Anointed One, You are Messiah, the One who has come as the prophet, priest and king to reign and rule, You are.”

And I would just extend this reality to say to you that no one makes the full confession of Jesus as Lord and Christ but by the intervention of God. No one is fully convinced unless God gives understanding. No man comes unto Me, Jesus said in John 6, unless the Father draws Him.” First Corinthians he says, “The only way you’ll know the truth is when the Spirit of God teaches you...the Spirit of God teaches you. The natural man understands not the things of God, they’re known only to those who are taught by the Holy Spirit.”

I love Matthew 11 and verse 27, along this same line, because it affirms that truth which I have just articulated to you. “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and anyone who whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” You can’t know God unless the Son reveals Him to you. You can’t know Christ unless the Spirit reveals Him to you.

So here comes the revelation from God as to who Jesus is. The remaining doubts disappear. It doesn’t mean they didn’t doubt the plan. Oh, they doubt the plan. But it does mean from here they don’t doubt the person. And that’s where you start, isn’t it? The truth of Jesus Christ was then believed because the full revelation came from God to them. Jesus was confessed as the Messiah because the work of God and the work of the Holy Spirit had been done in their hearts. They confess the truth in clear and deliberate contrast to the popular viewpoints. Everybody says You’re something other than Messiah, we say You’re Messiah. And they were the few who found the narrow way.

The good news ends with a familiar warning in verse 30. He warned them to tell no one about Him. And we covered that so many times...warning, epitimao, strong, strong word...to command, to warn, to rebuke, very strong compound word, sternly commands them, “Do not...do not spread this around. Don’t tell anybody about Me.”

Why? Did He not want to excite His enemies? Some people think that. Did He not want to excite His friends? And now that He has said He’s the Messiah, they’re going to escalate something like they did in John 6 when they tried to make Him King by force, remember that?, after He had fed them. Is it because He doesn’t want to excite His enemies or His friends? No...no. He’s not going to...He’s not going to diminish the hatred of His enemies, right? They’re still going to be after Him and they’re going to hate Him all the way till they get Him on the cross. And He’s still not going to be able to quell the excitement of some of His superficial friends, witness a few months down the road when He enters into Jerusalem at the triumphal entry and the whole city is screaming at Him as the King, as the Messiah. He’s not simply trying to keep His enemies off His back and keep His friends from pushing Him into things He doesn’t want to do. I’ve told you before and I say it again, the reason He says “Don’t tell anyone about this” is because He’s instructing the disciples that this is not the full message. He didn’t want miracles spread around because it wasn’t the full message that He was a miracle worker. To say He’s the Messiah is not the full message. You can pronounce Jesus as the Messiah, but that’s not the full message because it’s missing the gospel.

Well that’s evident because of the next verse, the bad news. Don’t tell anyone, you’ve got more to learn. “And He began,” which means this began the theme of His teaching from here on out, “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed and after three days rise again.”

Bad news. The best news ever just pronounced, followed by the worst news. What a blow. The last thing they would expect on the hills of a grand moment of revelation and clarity was a death announcement. How could the Messiah of God, the Redeemer of Israel, the conqueror of all God’s enemies suffer? Suffer?

By the way, “began to teach,” it becomes the theme. Chapter 9 verse 31, “As they go He was teaching His disciples, telling them, ‘Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men.’” when He’s been killed, He’ll rise three days later. Chapter 10 verse 33, “Behold, we’re going to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes will condemn Him to death, hand Him over to the Gentiles. They’ll mock Him, spit on Him and scourge Him and kill Him. Three days later He’ll rise again.”

What’s the point of all of this? Well He says it in verse 45 of chapter 10. “The Son of Man didn’t come to be served, but to give His life a ransom for many,” as Phil was singing about. He came to give His life a ransom for many. He would unfold that for them. Why You going to die? Why You going to die? You must suffer? It’s a little particle, de, it means it’s necessary, it is required that You suffer many things. What do You many things? Betrayal, arrest, denial, abandonment, injustice, prison, mockery, beating, crucifixion, disaffection from His disciples, etc., etc. You’re going to suffer many things, the Father determined, and be rejected, apodokimazo. Dokimazo means to test something to see if its true, to validate it, to access it. This is a compound form of that and it means to reject after investigation.

Jesus will suffer many things. One of those things will be an investigation. First Annas, Caiaphas, then Herod, then Pilate, all the mock trial. The verb is carefully selected. After examination, after assessment, after testing, He will be rejected as flawed and faulty and false but not without some kind of form of careful consideration. All of this comes to a head in the trials of Jesus. And the strange, bizarre aspect of it is that it’s not going to be by pagans and it’s not going to be by self-confessed, wicked, godless men, but all of this is going to come by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes. The Sanhedrin conducted all of that. They were the ones responsible for His betrayal. They bought Judas for His arrest. They were the ones who brought about the mock trials. They were the ones who handed Him over to the Romans for all the physical abuse. They were the ruling counsel of Judaism. They were the elite, 70 men, they were made up of elders, judges, tribal heads, chief priests...those would be the temple system priests, the Sadducees, the religious liberals, and then there were the scribes who would be the Pharisees. So it was a coalition government made up of Pharisees, Sadducees who were enemies theologically, and other important leaders in the community and judges and they constituted this coalition, religious governing body over Israel and it was they who would be responsible for the killing of the Messiah.

How could they ever process this? I guess they didn’t think of Isaiah 53, “He would be wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, and the chastisement of our peace would fall on Him and by His stripes we would be healed.” Isaiah 53 lays it out. The suffering servant, the servant will suffer and die. And so the bad news comes on the heels of the good news and it’s the worst news imaginable, it’s incomprehensible, they can’t even process it. I don’t think they even heard the last part, “And after three days rise again.” He had said that before early in His ministry before these guys even were a part of His life when He said, “Destroy this body and in three days I’ll raise it up.” Here He says it again. Did they know Psalm 16, “That the Holy One will not see corruption but the Lord will show them the path of life,” a prophecy of the resurrection. Peter preached on that resurrection passage, didn’t he?, on the day of Pentecost. When Peter preached the resurrection on the first day that the church was born and the Spirit came, he chose Psalm 16 which proves the resurrection. Did they not know Isaiah 53 ends in verses 10 to 12 that the Messiah will be glorified and exalted and lifted up after His substitutionary death in which He dies as a substitute for transgressors? The resurrection is certain. It’s as certain as the crucifixion.

So the bad news is really good news cause He’s going to be killed but He’s going to be killed for you. He’s going to die in your place. He’s going to be basically punished for your sins, made sin for us, 2 Corinthians 5:21. He’s become a curse for us, Galatians 3. And then Matthew 16:21 says, “From that time on, Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, scribes, be killed, be raised up third day.” I think this was daily conversation from here on out. No questions anymore about the person but they struggle with the plan. They really struggle with the plan.

The struggle was not because Jesus wasn’t clear. Please notice verse 22, He was stating the matter plainly, parrhesia, it means clearly. I’d like that to be my life verse. “He was stating the matter clearly.” Clear is good, clear is good. Only here He’s stating something crystal-clear, unmistakable. You don’t have to be a scholar to figure out what He said. It’s not esoteric mystical language. He was stating it clearly7. Their confusion then comes not from His communication. But they can’t accept the plan.

So Peter, the middle of verse 32, took Him aside. Grabbed Him. “Come with me, Lord, Son of God, Messiah, come with me.” Brash? Yeah. Presumptuous? Absolutely. Drunk with privilege? Sure. Encouraged by a sense of importance from the Lord’s affirmation that you receive what you receive from God, He is full of love and kind intentions. There’s no question about the person but he’s got some questions about the plan. So he grabs the Lord and pulls Him away.

Now if you ever questioned the humanity of Jesus, this is one of the greatest illustrations in the gospels of how human Jesus was. He treated Him like a man because He was a man.

Pulls Him aside. He has to give Him a better understanding of this whole Messiahship responsibility. And then it says, “He began to rebuke Him.” He began to rebuke Him. Wow! It’s the same word used before when Jesus rebuked them or warned them not to tell anybody, strong, strong word. He goes after Jesus and he really takes Him on.

Matthew says it this way, “God forbid, Lord, this shall never happen to You.” He’s not asking questions, he’s making statements. Idiomatically, an interesting phrase in Matthew, “May God grant You better than that. Whoa! This isn’t going to happen and we’re not going to allow this.”

Well, verse 33, “Turning around and seeing His disciples, He had been pulled away by Peter, He rebuked Peter so they could all hear.” Same word again, third time it’s used...strong, and said, “Get behind Me, Satan.” Whoa! First of all, Matthew says, he said, “You’re a stumbling block, you’re in the way, you’re a hindrance.” Then the real blow, “Get out of My sight, Satan,” that’s literally what it says. “Get out of My sight, Satan.” It’s a bad idea for followers to play God. When you put yourself in the place of God, you end up putting yourself up in the place of Satan. He says, “You’re not setting your mind on God’s interests but man’s.” That’s an indictment of Peter. Peter didn’t want a cross. These guys were looking for glory. Do we remember that Peter in...that James and John had come with their mother to ask if they could sit on the right and the left in the Kingdom? I mean, it was all about elevation, glory, power, prosperity. Jesus says, “You are an offense to Me,” according to Matthew. “You’re a skandalon. Skandalon means you’re a trap, you’re a baited trap. You’re a Satan trap. You’re a Satan stumbling block. If you’re trying to dissuade Me from the cross, you’re on Satan’s side. Get out of My sight.”

Boy, has ever a man been so high and so low so fast? Whoa. Peter and the others were caught in the narrowness of the present and failed to grasp the echoes of the past prophets and the future glories of the resurrection. “You’re the stumbling block if you try to stop Me from the cross, which itself will be the stumbling block.”

Peter must have been crushed. But man’s way and Satan’s way is the path to glory and blessing and power without suffering, without pain. God’s way is glory, blessing, power through suffering...through suffering. Peter learned, he really did. It would be good to close by looking at 1 Peter, just a couple of comments.

First Peter 2:21, Peter writes, “You’ve been called for this purpose since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you and example for you to follow in His steps. He suffered and so will you. He committed no sin nor was any deceit found in His mouth...verse 22...while being reviled, He didn’t revile in return. While suffering, He uttered no threats but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.”

He’s writing to suffering believers who are being persecuted and he’s saying, “This is the path to glory and the model is your Savior.” This is Jesus’ path to glory, this is our path as well. And then verse 24 shows he understood the substitutionary atonement of Christ. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” And he did now understand Isaiah 53, for he draws this final statement from it, “By His wounds you are healed.”

So he understood the substitutionary atonement and he understood the path to glory through suffering, for even the Savior as well as for all who follow the Savior. So he says in chapter 4 verse 12, “Don’t be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you. Don’t be surprised.” Verse13, “Through the degree you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing.” Verse 19, “Those who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. Learn to suffer, it’s the path, it’s the path to glory.” Chapter 5 verse 10, “After you’ve suffered a little while, the God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory in Christ will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” And then here is a doxology that must have come from his own experience, “To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Peter needed to be perfected, confirmed, strengthened, establish, didn’t he? And it was a path of suffering that took him there.

The good news, Jesus is Messiah, the Son of God. The bad news, He’s going to die. The good news, He’s going to rise. And the really good news is called the gospel that Jesus died and rose again for the salvation of all who believe in Him.

Father, this is why we’re here to worship, cause of the glory of the gospel. Confirm it to our hearts, we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

Edited by Steven Gaal
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You ‘Must Be Made’ To Obey
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By J. Matt Barber
5-18-15

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While actions speak louder than words, words often predict future actions. Secular progressives’ words and actions rarely align. This is because the pseudo-utopian, wholly dystopian perch from which they view the world is so detached from reality that, from a cultural and public policy standpoint, they must disguise their intended actions in flowery and euphemistic language, or face near universal rejection.

When they don’t like the terms, liberals redefine the terms to mean something they do not, never have and never can mean. Consider, for instance, the once meaningful words “marriage” and “equality.”

Other “progressive” doublespeak includes words like “invest” (meaning socialist redistribution of wealth), “tolerance” (meaning embrace immorality or face total ruin), “diversity” (meaning Christians and conservatives need not apply), “hate” (meaning truth) or “The Affordable Care Act” (meaning unaffordable, unsustainable and utterly inferior socialized medicine).

Even so, it’s during those rare moments of candor that our cultural Marxist friends’ rhetoric actually aligns with their intended actions. In other words, every so often, and usually by accident, they tell the truth.

Take this recent declaration by President Obama at Georgetown University. He was discussing his contempt for conservative new media in general and Fox News in particular:

“[W]e’re going to have to change how our body politic thinks, which means we’re going to have to change how the media reports on these issues,” he said.

How Kim Jong-un of him. In sum: Goal 1) Control thought by, Goal 2) Controlling the media.

This is an idea older than ­ and as well preserved as ­ Vladimir Lenin himself. How Dear Leader intends to reconcile his scheme to “change how the media reports on these issues” with the First Amendment’s Free Press Clause, namely, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom … of the press,” is abundantly clear.

He doesn’t.

Our emperor-in-chief will force feed his once-free subjects yet another unconstitutional executive decree ­ a Net Neutrality sandwich with a side of Fairness Doctrine.

Or take would-be President Hillary Clinton’s comments last month on the “rite” of abortion vs. the right of religious freedom.

Reports LifeNews:

“The comment has Hillary Clinton essentially saying that Christians must be forced to change their religious views to accommodate abortions.

“‘Far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth. All the laws we’ve passed don’t count for much if they’re not enforced,’ Clinton said, using the euphemism for abortion.

“‘Rights have to exist in practice ­ not just on paper,’ Clinton argued. ‘Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.’”

That’s a lot of “have tos.” See the pattern here? Whether it’s Obama saying government will “have to change how the media reports,” or Hillary saying “deep-seated religious beliefs have to be changed,” such despotic demands should spike the neck hair of every freedom-loving American.

And then there are those left-wing extremists whose designs on despotism require that Christians “must be made” to obey. Homosexual practitioner and New York Times columnist Frank Bruni is one such extremist. In his April 3 column titled, “Bigotry: The Bible and the Lessons of Indiana,” Bruni quotes homosexual militant Mitchell Gold, a prominent anti-Christian activist: “Gold told me that church leaders must be made ‘to take homosexuality off the sin list,’” he writes. “His commandment is worthy ­ and warranted,” he adds.

Of course, if homosexual behavior, something denounced as both “vile affections” and “an abomination” throughout both the Old and New Testaments, is no longer sexual sin, then there can be no sexual sin whatsoever. To coerce, through the power of the police state, faithful Christians to abandon the millennia-old biblical sexual ethic and embrace the sin of Sodom would likewise require that Christians sign-off on fornication, adultery, incest and bestiality. Such is the unnatural nature of government-mandated moral relativism.

“But this isn’t free speech, it’s hate speech!” come the mournful cries of the ill-informed and the ill-prepared, desperately afraid to debate the issues on the merits. “Hate speech is excluded from protection,” opines CNN anchor Chris Cuomo in a recent tweet on the topic. “But there is no hate speech exception to the First Amendment,” replies UCLA law professor Eugene Volohk in a Washington Post op-ed. “Hateful ideas (whatever exactly that might mean) are just as protected under the First Amendment as other ideas.”

Of course this matters not to those to whom the First Amendment is meaningless.

Indeed, one man’s “hate speech” is another man’s truth, and as I’ve often said, truth is hate to those who hate truth.

And boy do they hate it.

And so they mean to muzzle it.

The time of which many of us have long warned is no longer on the horizon. The left’s full-on assault against freedom, most especially religious freedom, is at hand. Oddly, or maybe not so oddly, it’s at once the secular left and orthodox Muslims who lead the charge. These strange bedfellows share a common enemy. He is Truth in the person of Jesus Christ. In order to silence Him, they must silence His faithful followers.

Which brings us to this modern age of American lawlessness. We’re fast moving from a soft tyranny to hard tyranny, and “progressive” leaders like those mentioned above are, chillingly enough, emboldened to the degree that they will openly call for it.

Like our brothers and sisters around the world, American Christians must prepare for suffering.

But, like them, we mustn’t despair.

For there are different kinds of suffering.

Suffering through cancer, for instance, can, and often does, lead to death. Without Christ, who is mankind’s only hope, such suffering is hopeless indeed.

Yet when a young mother suffers through child birth, and while she may experience the same level of pain as the cancer sufferer, her crying out elicits an entirely different response, and her pain serves an entirely different purpose. While one type of suffering leads to death, the other leads to life. While one attends sorrow, the other attends joy.

Similarly, there is a kind of suffering, suffering in sin, which leads to spiritual death, and a kind suffering, suffering in grace, which leads to spiritual life. Anti-Christian persecution, be it efforts to force Christians into disobedience to God, attempts to silence them outright or, worse, the torture, enslavement and even execution of Christ followers ­ now widespread in both Muslim and Marxist nations across the globe ­ signifies “the beginning of birth pains” (see Matthew 24:8).

And birth pains lead to new life.

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Matt Barber is founder and editor-in chief of BarbWire.com. He is an author, columnist, cultural analyst and an attorney concentrating in constitutional law. Having retired as an undefeated heavyweight professional boxer, Matt has taken his fight from the ring to the culture war. (Follow Matt on Twitter:@jmattbarber).

Edited by Steven Gaal
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