“Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the human mind, the good things that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
It has been a trend in our culture for some time to consider the concept of “hell” to be one that is outdated. Some express the mindset by saying that a good God wouldn’t send people to a place like that. Yet we have that best and most-loving One on record, from His walk here with us, referring to it.
Christian writer George MacDonald lived in Victorian times. In his three volumes of Unspoken Sermons, he treated important topics powerfully and in a way that enlarges and encourages his readers. He is the writer whom C.S. Lewis described as “my master.” Scripture is illuminated on MacDonald’s pages, and one is “fed.” He touches on every important subject, just as the Word does. MacDonald’s sense of hell is that the Father who is Love will resort to whatever tormenting tactics He has to use — to cause as many souls as possible to turn to Him in righteousness and recognition.
Righteousness? In referring to the essence of the sacred text, Dr. Isaac Rottenberg, a past president of the Dutch Reform Church, observed, “It’s all about righteousness.”
Recognition? We remember the conversation between Jesus (Yeshua) and His disciples that began with His asking them who other people said He was and culminated with His asking them, “But who do you say that I am?” When Peter — apparently alone — responded with full recognition, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” Jesus expressed profound appreciation for his recognition. “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, because flesh and blood has not revealed this to you — but my Father in heaven. And I say to you that you are Peter. And upon this rock I will build my church; and the powers of hell shall not prevail against it.”
For much of our early life we appreciated the non-judgmental, progressive qualities of the liberal Christian church that our family preferred. But in more-recent years we have seen this church become increasingly one of the “ear-tickling” variety, as described in Scripture. Its primary spokespeople have chosen to be guided by what is popular to the extent that they are leaning toward secular humanism — largely abandoning this church’s Christian foundation and even disrespecting the Bible.
The perception of “crude salvationism” may have driven some toward secular humanism. This perception would perhaps be voiced by people associated with liberal churches — or even more likely by those who don’t bother with church at all. Of course there is an element of truth to this perception: that a “dumbing down” of something vast has been done by well-meaning, unsophisticated people.
Astrophysicist and pastor Dr. Hugh Ross has devoted his life to searching out answers to important questions — with the unique result being a synthesis that reflects both his considerable personal “assets” and his (at least) two areas of expertise.
We have learned from him and his organization, Reasons to Believe (reasons.org), that our world is apparently fine-tuned to an astonishing degree and in a sufficiently significant number of ways to leave no other rational conclusion than that a Designer of absolute mastery is behind the evidence that He has left for us to find! We have also learned from Dr. Ross that astronomy is entirely focused on determining when cosmological events took place.
He and his associates see evidence of this masterful Designer’s having worked for millions of years to create an ideal environment in which He could, in Dr. Ross’s words, “in the shortest time possible accomplish the elimination of evil.” He notes the many ways in which this present world could be described, as it is in Genesis, as “very good.” Beyond this world, ahead of us, Dr. Ross foresees a “perfect” creation that will be free from every manifestation of evil — just as one reads about in Revelation.
Carlisle Marney expressed it this way: “We know a secret — Jesus is the name of our species.” It has been said that Jesus was the first Human Being; but He invites us all to join Him! Jesus (Yeshua) is the perfect example of what God had in mind for every one of us. In His own precious words to His disciples after the resurrection, as He prepared breakfast for them on a beach, “Come and dine.”
In the midst of the lively and sometimes heated discussion about Mormonism in recent days (Is it a cult? Is it not a cult but still heretical? Is it part of mainstream Christianity?), there is one question that no one seems to be asking: Do Mormons believe that Christianity is a cult?
Let’s remember that Mormonism did not begin as a reformation movement within the 19th century Church but rather as a repudiation of the Church of the day. According to the Book of Mormon itself (1 Nephi 14:10), there are only two churches, “the one is the Church of the Lamb of God and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore whoso belongeth not to the church of the lamb of God belongeth to that great church; which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.”
For the first Mormons, the devoted followers of Joseph Smith, there was no mistake about what this meant: Those who adhered to their faith, who were part of the Church of Latter Day Saints, belonged to “the Church of the Lamb of God”; everyone else belonged to “that great church; which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.”
As explained by early Mormon leader George Q. Cannon (1827-1901), “After the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, there were only two churches upon the earth. They were known respectively as the Church of the Lamb of God and Babylon. The various organizations which are called churches throughout Christiandom [sic], though differing in their creeds and organizations, have one common origin. They belong to Babylon.” (See his Gospel Truth, p. 324.)
To this day, if you are a baptized Christian and you join the Mormon Church, you are told that you need to be baptized again as a Mormon, even if you were already baptized as an adult believer in Jesus. Obviously, your first baptism doesn’t count in the eyes of the LDS Church. What does this imply? And if Mormons accept the validity of another Christian’s faith, why are they proselytizing that person?
According to the Documentary History of the [LDS] Church, “Nothing less than a complete apostasy from the Christian religion would warrant the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (Introduction, xl) Precisely.
Why else did Joseph Smith allegedly receive his revelations? It was because all the other churches had departed from the faith. As stated in Joseph Smith History 1:19, in response to Smith’s question to the angelic beings about joining a church, “I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt . . . .”
That’s why Mormons have additional books they call scripture, grouped together in the Book of Mormon, which claims to be “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” In contrast, other reformation groups that arose within the Church have simply argued for a reinterpretation of the Bible itself as opposed to claiming to have new, additional books of revelation, equal to the Bible.
According to Brigham Young, “The Christian world, I discovered, was like the captain and crew of a vessel on the ocean without a compass, and tossed to and fro whithersoever the wind listed to blow them. When the light came to me, I saw that all the so-called Christian world was grovelling in darkness.” (JD 5:73)
These were clearly the views of the first generations of Mormons. As expressed by Mormon apostle Orson Pratt (1811-1881), “The Roman Catholic, Greek, and Protestant church, is the great corrupt, ecclesiastical power, represented by great Babylon. . .” (Orson Pratt, Writings of an Apostle, “Divine Authenticity,” no.6, p. 84). Yes, “Both Catholics and Protestants are nothing less than the ‘whore of Babylon’ whom the lord denounces by the mouth of John the Revelator as having corrupted all the earth by their fornications and wickedness.” (Pratt, The Seer, p. 255)
In recent decades, LDS missionaries have presented themselves as fellow-believers as they reach out to Christians, and in some ways, Mormons seem to be moderating their views. But the question they must answer is this: Do they believe that mainstream, historic Christianity is a cult (or, at the least, a departure from the biblical faith)? If so, let them declare it. If not, why does anyone need to leave their church to join the Mormons?
In Israel the more ultra-rabbinical a sect, the less they read and study the Bible. Most ultra-Orthodox groups in Israel and elsewhere teach their young men the rabbinical books of the Talmud, and their average yeshiva student knows selected Biblical texts only through the pre-digested commentaries of the Talmud and other rabbinical literature.
However, there are branches among Orthodox Jews that are giving priority to the study of the Bible. One such individual was Rabbi Mordechai Breuer who recently died at the age of 86. He was born into a family of modern Orthodoxy and became a highly respected authority – although virtually unknown outside of Israel – on the Old Testament books of the Bible.
In 1958 he was asked to proofread a Hebrew edition of the Bible and suddenly found himself to be considered an expert on the subject. From then on, his life was spent examining the Hebrew Biblical texts.
The Oldest Existing Hebrew Bible
As all Biblical scholars know, there are a great number of manuscripts (mainly fragments) of the Hebrew Bible which have been preserved over the last thousand years and are used today by scholars who are studying the texts or translating them into different languages. But the Bible considered to be the oldest and most reliable in existence is the Aleppo Codex (Codex is an archaic word for the earliest form of a book. Biblical text were usually written on scrolls to be read in the synagogue. When scribes wrote the text in book form, it was only for scholarly study), copied around 920 A.D. in Tiberius by the famous scribe Aaron Ben-Asher. The priceless Bible was stolen in the 11th century and brought to Egypt, finally ending up in a synagogue in Aleppo, Syria for 600 years.
Up until the 1950’s, the complete manuscript in Aleppo was still in good condition. But with the creation of the modern state of Israel, and the ensuing Arab rioting, scholars pleaded with the Aleppo rabbis to move the Bible to a safer location.
However, for centuries the rabbis of Aleppo had fiercely guarded the codex, keeping it in almost total isolation and not even letting Jewish scholars examine the manuscript! What is worse, the rabbis would not allow the scroll to be photographed, probably out of superstition that as long as that Bible was the sole possession of the Jewish community in Aleppo, they would be safe from calamity. (http://www.bible-researcher.com/aleppo.html)
In 1948 the synagogue was set on fire; the codex disappeared and the Aleppo rabbis led the world to believe it had been destroyed by fire. But witnesses to the rescue of the manuscript informed the Israeli government, and with much behind-the-scenes pressure, worldwide, the rabbis finally allowed the Aleppo Codex to be smuggled into Israel page by page with tourists in 1958. However, to the horror of the Israeli scholars, only two-thirds of the Bible arrived; the Torah was almost completely missing along with a few other portions. Out of a total of 487 pages, only 295 arrived.
Until today, the missing leaves are a subject of fierce controversy as some scholars b elieve they are still hidden among the Jewish community of Aleppo.
A Modern Searcher for God’s Word
In 1968, Rabbi Mordechai Breuer was assigned the task of determining the Hebrew Bible’s wording, spelling, vowels and cantillation (chanting) from ancient manuscripts for a modern Bible commentary which would be faithful to the belief that the Biblical text was inspired by God.
Breuer would have given almost anything to have had access to the Aleppo Codex as the basis for his research. And by now, the Aleppo Bible was in Israel! However as scholars are prone to do, the professors at the Hebrew University studying the Bible would not allow any other researchers to share the asset! (Ha’aretz, 22Mar07)
Due to lack of choice, Breuer used five other most important Bible manuscripts (although newer than the Aleppo Codex). He began his own monumental reconstruction of the Masoretic texts (see the story below) comparing them word for word. His method of selecting the correct text each time he observed variations, was to choose the spelling and notations of what he found in the majority of the five manuscripts. For example, if manuscripts 1, 2, 3 and 5 agreed on a spelling, but 4 did not, he would use the majority spelling.
By accepting the version of the majority and discounting the deviations of the minority, Breuer was convinced he was uncovering the one authoritative original writings of the Bible preserved by Masorah (oral tradition) – the ancient version given by the inspiration of God. (Ibid)
Other scholars strongly disagreed with his methodology because they supposed that there were many oral traditions which came down through the centuries as Jews emigrated to different nations. But Breuer believed that from time immemorial there was a single universally accepted oral tradition and the variant spellings and notations in the different manuscripts were simply errors made by scribes.
Recreating the Text of a Lost Torah
Thus, Rabbi Breuer reconstructed the entire Old Testament by examining each word in the five most important ancient manuscripts. And then his wildest dream came true. Somehow, he managed to get his hands on a copy of the Aleppo Codex. He never even told his son how he came to possess the facsimiles, but the son said when he came home that day with the manuscript, “he acted like an accomplice to a crime!”
Then the next miracle happened. When Breuer began to compare his re-creation of the Biblical text from the five manuscripts to the Aleppo text, lo an behold, they were exactly the same except for two places! An incredible discovery! This comparison proved that from the time the books of the Bible were written there was one and only one universally accepted version of the Masoretic text that was handed from one generation to the next, and it proved that the Aleppo Codex faithfully recorded it.
Furthermore, this meant Breure’s method could be used authoritatively to reconstruct the missing portions of the Aleppo Codex. (Ibid)
Rabbi Breuer later issued an independent version of the entire Old Testament that was quickly accepted as the most reliable and accurate. The “Jerusalem Crown” Bible is a modern version of the Hebrew Scriptures based on the Aleppo Codex and the reconstruction work of Breuer. It is the official version of the Bible of the State of Israel and used when the President of Israel is sworn into office.
Dead Sea Scrolls 1000 years older than Aleppo Codex
With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, very few dramatic changes in the Biblical text have been found. The Dead Sea Scrolls have, in almost every case, confirmed the accuracy of the Masorah, and suggest that an ancestor of the Masoretic Text (a scroll or codex with notations) was indeed in existence at least 100 years before the birth of the Messiah.
There is one very interesting difference found in the Dead Sea Scrolls in Psalm 22:17 (English, 22:16). The Masoretic texts read “like a lion are my hands and feet” which does not make sense. But the Septuagint – a Greek translation of the Old Testament by Jewish scholars in the second century B.C., – reads, “They have pierced my hands and feet.”
Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed the Septuagint version of this verse! Since Psalm 22 is one of the most important and clearest chapters describing the death of the Messiah, this is an important verification. Many of the latest revised translations have incorporated changes due to research done with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Nevertheless, nearly all are theologically insignificant such as minor misspellings.
The Bible went through a remarkable history to make it into this century, especially in view of the ancient methods of transmitting texts by hand, sometimes in primitive conditions, and considering that the scribes lacked photocopy machines, computers, printing presses, and similar modern inventions. (http://byubroadcasting.org/deadsea/book/chapter2/sec3.html)*
The Mesorah notations in the margins of the text show the painstaking and passionate zeal these ancient scribes possessed in their quest to safeguard the accuracy of the sacred text from generation to generation. The world owes an enormous debt to these dedicated Jewish scribes who spent their lives copying the Word of God, letter by letter, notation by notation, so that after several thousand years, we may still find salvation through the authentic Words of God as originally written down by Moses, the prophets, the kings and inspired men of God.
Concerning a division between the living Word as Christ and the written Word
Concerning the division between the living word as Christ and the written word of scripture, I know there is no real basis to present an argument from the scriptures. For the scriptures are not the sole basis in your mind, but a ground to a greater phenomenon, namely, an individual speaking likened unto the hearing of the saints of old (Hebrews 1:1).
It is impossible to explain this point. As the trinity is impossible to explain, it must simply be believed.
The scriptures are simply the things written or recorded that have been spoken by a living God. As you know, they can never be placed in the same category as thoughts coming from a man’s mind, no matter how extravagant (Isaiah 55:8)? God is living and His speaking lives just the same. For His speaking is not only an extension of His own heart but a revelation of His unchanging character, for as He wrought, He wrote and this for the sake of the end of the ages (1 Cor. 6:11). These “writings” He holds in esteem as high as His own reputation and name (Psalm 138:2). For instance, if He holds all things together by the power of his word (Heb. 1:3) than the same “Let there be light…” causes the light to rise every morning. This is the power of His word, placing the recording of the same in a category all by itself, being the only thing that is living/creative (Heb. 4:12). These things written are the breath of God, recorded, having the same life giving effects as it always has. God breathed into man to make him alive (Genesis 2:7). He spoke to the dry bones in the valley in order to bring life into them (Ezekiel 37:5). In the same way, nothing has been made apart from God’s speaking (Genesis 1; John 1:3; Psalm 33:9). The same is Christ. He is the very intent of God’s heart, revealing the actual character of God (Hebrews 1:3). Having always been with God (John 1:1,2), He is wisdom, understanding and knowledge (1 Cor. 1:30;Proverbs 2:6;8:22-32). He is the spoken word of God in human flesh (John 1:14). This is why the Scriptures are perfect, even after He has been revealed and penned out (Psalm 12:6,7;139:140;Proverbs 30:5).
I know what your thinking, how can Jesus be the story of Ruth, Ester or the Lamentations of Jeremiah?
They are words/stories/counsel/correction/psalms/letters (Luke 24:25-27;1 Cor. 10:6,11;Romans 15:4, God perfectly (Psalm 18:30) knit together to reveal the facets of Himself having breathed by His Spirit (1 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Timothy 3:16), Christ (The Word), the only revealer of God (John 14:9). The only thing able to bring us unto maturity (James 1:21;2 Timothy 3:16; 1Cor 3:2; Hebrews 5:12). He has preserved His words as promised (Matt. 5:18;Psalm 12:7;Mark 13:31;Matt. 24:35). This He has done without special effort because, the words written are Christ and Christ is unquenchable and indestructible (Isaiah 40:8). It is imperative that a man’s faith is based upon that which God has spoken, His word, for anything else would be a pseudo faith. Faith comes no other way (Romana10:17). Special phenomenon have no weight next to the words of God, for it believed alone can produce faith to please God (Heb 4:2; 11:6;Luke 16:31).
You have got to see this! His word alone is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105). His word alone is water for washing (Ephesians 5:26). Only if a man sees this can he truly say, “your word is like honey to my lips” (Psalm 119:103). His word is none other than He Himself. The intent of God’s heart, spoken by His Spirit, revealed through letters forming words, sentences, paragraphs, books, God’s complete revelation to man, JESUS (John 6:63). How can the Christ be words? Simple, He just is. There is nothing else that God has set His seal on. Not personal interpretations, or holy speakings…nothing else has God backed (2 Peter 1:20-21;Ephesians 2:20;3:5;2 Peter 3:2).
I know another point you are going to bring up…”Ye search the scriptures…” (John 5:39).
The Pharisees motives were called out by Christ several times (Matt 23). And just as a hunter can search for deer all day and come back empty handed, so were they in their selfish pursuit of the letter alone and not the Spirit (2 Cor 3:6). They simply would not believe that which would have transformed them, just as the Children of Israel mixed not the word of God with faith and fell in the desert. They, as a whole, hated Him (Luke 20:15). Just as Jesus is no use to you unless you apply Him, the blood in Exodus 12 was no use unless you applied it, the word of God is powerless to transform and quicken unto life if it is not mixed with faith.
Eric Gilmour is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Revival & Evangelism. Visit his website at agonypress.podbean.com
Below is a video from James White broken up into three parts which shows White interacting with a video from Young-Earth Creation Science advocate Kent Hovind on the history of the Bible, and why the King James Version of the Bible is the “real” Bible. Dr. White has interacted extensively with King James Onlyists, writing a book on the subject and engaging in debates, and so he is thoroughly versed in their arguments and mindset.
What I find particularly important about this video, other than serving as a thoroughly amusing debunking of a common KJV-Only line of reasoning, is what Dr. White mentions in part 3 concerning the danger of this sort of simplistic, factually deficient teaching:
The reason i address this… is that a person who believes this, could never defend this against a knowledgeable opponent to Christianity. A Bart Ehrman would feast on this really bad information, as would a Shabir Ally, Muslims and secularists. We can’t be producing this kind of bad apologetic and putting it out there. Can you imagine a young person, and this is all they have, and they go into a secular situation? They are going to be destroyed, because they were not given the right information, and that’s what makes it really important.
Below then is the video from Kent Hovind, with responses from Dr. White interspersed. The purpose in posting this is not to go after Kent Hovind, but rather to show why we need to get our facts straight when presenting our reasons for believing what we do, and be lovers of truth before being defenders of our positions. As we present our positions in the cultural landscape of ideas, we must do our research!
BTW, if after watching part 3, you’re intrigued as to how a Christian book could be described as “the single most error ridden book I’ve ever read in English,” check out this video from a debate between White and Riplinger, for an example of some remarkable KJV-Only “God-given” acrostic algebra from the book Hovind mentions as a recommended resource.
Marcus French is Editor of Voice of Revolution, and also helps produce the daily radio show, The Line of Fire. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: The text below was written by Adolph Saphir in his work Christ Crucified; Lectures on 1 Corinthians
“…To know “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” is not the minimum of knowledge but the maximum of knowledge; it is not to know little, but to know all; that here is not a descent from a loftier region, but an elevation into the highest sanctuary; that “in Jesus Christ and Him crucified” all doctrines, all God’s teachings, and man’s experiences culminate; and from “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” all duties, all works all ministries are to emanate and to be evolved. Here is the hidden, the perfect wisdom of God. No doctrine is seen clearly and truly unless it leads to the cross; no work is God-pleasing, no experience or attainment genuine and vital, unless it has its source, root and strength in the cross; no waiting for the second Advent is healthy and purifying unless it is called forth by the contemplation of the great God and Savior, who gave Himself for us, and redeemed us from all iniquity. He who longs after wisdom, deep and broad, profound and comprehensive, lofty and real, heavenly and entering into the earthly life, let him learn from the Apostle Paul, that to know Jesus Christ and Him crucified is Alpha and Omega, that here are hid all treasures of wisdom, and knowledge, and spiritual understanding. No other fervor or activity is pleasing to God, and useful on earth, but that which proceeds from beholding the Lamb that was slain. That which appears to the world as an obstacle is a channel, for the weakness of God is stronger than man.
Idolatry substitutes ideas and things for the Divine Person. The world speaks of the true, the good, the beautiful; an element, an abstraction. This is not the language of revelation. The Pagan asks, “What?” The God-taught ask, “Who?” Ideas however sublime, laws, however pure, cannot bring peace to the heart and life to the soul. Salvation can only come through a Savior; life can only be given from the source of life, the living God. And this is the greatest mystery of Godliness, that God Himself has come down to earth; that God Himself has visited His people; that the Son of God became man. “God manifest in the flesh.” Higher than this we cannot rise. Greater gift that this God could not bestow on us. The Eternal has allied Himself with our finite existence.” (Adolph Saphir, “Christ Crucified” Lectures on 1 Corinthians chapter 2, page 13)
I recall a time in which Benny Hinn came to preach as a guest speaker at an Assemblies of God church in Orlando. The Pastor of the church arose to welcome the people. His choice text was Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” As he read through the Psalm, people nodded their heads as they listened to the passage, which they had undoubtedly heard many times before. It wasn’t long after he finished that Benny Hinn took the pulpit. He opened up his mouth and began to quote Psalm 23 to the congregation. And though the words were so familiar to their ears, and they had just heard the same passage read to them by their Pastor, many people in the congregation began to break down in tears, as their hearts were pierced through with God’s love for His own people.
After the service, the Pastor of the church took Benny Hinn aside and said, “Why, when I read Psalm 23 to the congregation, did they simply hear it, but when you quoted it, they were emotionally moved to tears?” Hinn turned, looked at the Pastor, and in an effort to bring home the vast difference between a relationship with the Bible alone and a relationship with the Spirit that inspired it, lovingly replied, “You know the Psalm, I know the Shepherd.”
It is one thing to know the word of God and another thing to know the God of the word. As Leonard Ravenhill would point out, “it is not written that, those that know their Bible shall be strong and do exploits, but rather, they that know their God…” It is commonly taught, “you must know your Bible.” It is not God’s heart for you to merely, “know your Bible.” It is God’s plan that you, “know Him.” He didn’t save us to be scholars. He didn’t save us from not knowing about Him so we could know about Him. He saved us that we would know Him. Really. Eternal life is to KNOW GOD (John 17.2-3).
Though none of us are perfect nor will we ever be, we can know Him.
Michael Molinos said, “You cannot be perfect nor understand everything, but you can love Him.”
We are to be led, not by things about Him, but by Him. The Lord Himself wants to be the leader. He doesn’t want you to distantly follow the things that you can find out about Him or what has been recorded about Him, He wants you to be led by Him. He is the guide, He is the protector, He is the comfort, He is the Shepherd. Not His book. The Scriptures are meant to illuminate Him to us. Knowing Him is everything. If we don’t know Him, all of our degrees may as well collect dust or shine away in a glossy frame, for it all amounts to nothing. We need to KNOW GOD.
I want Him to hear me and me hear Him. The enjoyment of Him is everything. I believe that the enjoyment of God is the only true opening of the heart to hear or follow Him. Any following that isn’t issuing out of enjoyment of His presence above all things is tainted.
There is an inseparable connection of Lord and Shepherd. To actually know Him is to be under Him. Their is no knowing of God, in any way, apart from submission to His Lordship. If God were to allow us to go on forgiven only, rather than leading us also into submission to His Kingdom, would the root issue displayed in Eden truly have been dealt with?
We must never forget that the “Shepherdship” of Christ is only a reality in the lives that have subjected themselves to His “Lordship.” For the Scriptures say, “THE LORD is my Shepherd…” The benefits and guidance of the Lord in one’s life are real only to those whose hearts are subjected to the rule and reign of Christ the Lord.
Notice the word, “IS.” The wonder of the Shepherd leading and guiding, protecting and providing is current. Just because He “was” your Shepherd doesn’t mean He “is.” Just because you have plans for Him “to be” your Shepherd doesn’t mean His “is” now. Just because you gave your life to Him, doesn’t mean it is given now. If we leave the Lordship of Christ and decide to guide and lead ourselves, we no longer are able to claim that, “the Lord is [our] Shepherd.” We have become our own Shepherd.
I believe many have fallen into this trap. They cling to their lives and control their own destiny and religiously proclaim, “the Lord is my Shepherd.” This Intimate reality with God is too precious to reduce to a “positional” state. Some people believe that He is our Shepherd because we believed at one time. Listen, if we choose to rule our lives, He is not ruling. If we choose to Shepherd ourselves, He is not Shepherd.
I submit to all of us a question…is HE HIMSELF experienced in and clearly leading our lives as we have laid our lives at His feet? There are many wonderful evidences and promises in Psalm 23 of His wonderful Shepherding if He is in fact our Lord. “THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD.” Or, to rephrase, “The One that I have given my existence to, and that I know and experience, is, right now, this very day, my very own guiding, providing, lover, and leader of my life.”
Eric Gilmour is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Revival & Evangelism.
Editor’s Note: Originally published on TownHall.com, used with permission. Frank Turek is a speaker and author, and a leading Christian apologist. Learn more at his website www.CrossExamined.org
Do the New Testament documents tell the truth about what really happened in the first century? As I wrote in my last column, authors claiming to write history are unlikely to invent embarrassing details about themselves or their heroes. Since the New Testament documents are filled with embarrassing details, we can be reasonably certain that they are telling the truth.
Notice that the disciples frequently depict themselves as dimwits. They fail to understand what Jesus is saying several times, and don’t understand what his mission is about until after the resurrection. Their thick-headedness even earns their leader, Peter, the sternest rebuke from Jesus: “Get behind me Satan!” (What great press the disciples provided for their leader and first Pope! Contrary to popular opinion, it seems the church really didn’t have editorial control of the scriptures after all.)
After Jesus asks them to stay up and pray with him during his greatest hour of need, the disciples fall asleep on Jesus not once, but twice! Then, after pledging to be faithful to the end, Peter denies Christ three times, and all but one of them run away.
The scared, scattered, skeptical disciples make no effort to give Jesus a proper burial. Instead they say a member of the Jewish ruling body that sentenced Jesus to die is the noble one—Joseph of Arimathea buries Jesus in a Jewish tomb (which would have been easy for the Jews to refute if it wasn’t true). Two days later, while the men are still hiding, the women go down and discover the empty tomb and the risen Jesus.
Who wrote all that down? Men—some of the men who were characters in the story. Now if you were part of a group of men trying to pass off a false resurrection story as the truth, would you depict yourselves as dimwitted, bumbling, rebuked, lazy, skeptical sissies, who ran away at the first sign of trouble, while the women were the brave ones who discovered the empty tomb and the risen Jesus?
If men were inventing the resurrection story, it would go more like this:
Jesus came to save the world, and he needed our help. That’s why we were there for him every step of the way. When he was in need, we prayed with him. When he wept, we wept with him (and told him to toughen up!). When he fell, we carried his cross. The gates of Hell could not prevent us from seeing his mission through!
So when that turncoat Judas brought the Romans by (we always suspected Judas), and they began to nail Jesus to the cross, we laughed at them. “He’s God you idiots! The grave will never keep him! You think you’re solving a problem, but you’re really creating a much bigger one!”
While we assured the women that everything would turn out all right, they couldn’t handle the crucifixion. Squeamish and afraid, they ran to their homes screaming and hid behind locked doors.
But we men stood steadfast at the foot of the cross, praying for hours until the very end. When Jesus finally took his last breath and the Roman Centurion confessed that Jesus was God, Peter blasted him, “That’s what we told you before you nailed him up there!” (Through this whole thing, the Romans and the Jews just wouldn’t listen!)
Never doubting that Jesus would rise on the third day, Peter announced to the Centurion, “We’ll bury him and be back on Sunday. Now go tell Pilate to put some of your ‘elite’ Roman guards at the tomb to see if you can prevent him from rising from the dead!” We all laughed and began to dream about Sunday.
That Sunday morning we marched right down to the tomb and tossed those elite Roman guards aside. Then the stone (that took eleven us to roll into place) rolled away by itself. A glowing Jesus emerged from tomb, and said, “I knew you’d come! My mission is accomplished.” He praised Peter for his brave leadership and congratulated us on our great faith. Then we went home and comforted the trembling women.
There are other events in the New Testament documents concerning Jesus that are also unlikely to be made up. For example, Jesus:
• Is considered “out of his mind” by his own family who come to seize him to take him home (Mk 3:21,31).
• Is deserted by many of his followers after he says that followers must eat his flesh and drink his blood. (John 6:66).
• Is not believed by his own brothers (John 7:5). (Disbelief turned to belief after the resurrection—ancient historians reveal that Jesus’ brother James died a martyr as the leader of the church in Jerusalem in A.D. 62).
• Is thought to be a deceiver (John 7:12).
• Turns off Jewish believers to the point that they want to stone him (John 8:30-59).
• Is called a “madman” (John 10:20).
• Is called a “drunkard” (Mt. 11:19).
• Is called “demon-possessed” (Mk 3:22, Jn 7:20, 8:48).
• Has his feet wiped with hair of a prostitute which easily could have been seen as a sexual advance (Lk 7:36-39).
• Is crucified despite the fact that “anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse” (Deut 21:23).
If you’re inventing a Messiah to the Jews, you don’t say such things about him. You also don’t admit that some of you “still doubted” Jesus had really risen from the dead, especially while he’s standing right in front of you giving the great commission (Mt. 28:17-19).
Finally, anyone trying to pass off a false resurrection story as the truth would never say the women were the first witnesses at the tomb. In the first century, a woman’s testimony was not considered on par with that of a man. An invented story would say that the men—the brave men—had discovered the empty tomb. Yet all four gospels say the women were the first witnesses – all this while the sissy-pants men had their doors locked for fear of the Jews. (After I made this point during a presentation, a lady told me that she knew why Jesus appeared to the women first. “Why?” I asked. She said, “Because he wanted to get the story out!”)
In light of these embarrassing details—along with the fact that the New Testament documents contain early, eyewitness testimony for which the writers gave their lives—it takes more faith to believe that the New Testament writers were not telling the truth.
Editor’s Note: Originally published on TownHall.com, used with permission. Frank Turek is a speaker and author, and a leading Christian apologist. Learn more at his website www.CrossExamined.org
What are your most embarrassing moments? You don’t want to admit them. And if you do admit them, you certainly won’t add to your shame by inventing embarrassing moments about yourself to make you look even worse. Who’s going to lie to make himself look bad? People will lie to make themselves look good (especially politicians), but no one will lie to make himself look bad.
That’s why when historical accounts contain events embarrassing to the authors (or heroes of the authors) those events are probably true. Historians call this the principle of embarrassment, and it’s one reason why I think the writers of the Bible are telling the truth. There are far too many embarrassing details about the supposed heroes of the faith to be invented.
Just take a look at the Old Testament storyline. There’s little chance the Jews would have invented it. A story invented by Hebrews would more likely depict the Israelites as a noble and upright people. But the Old Testament writers don’t say this. Instead they depict their own people as sinful and fickle slaves who, time after time, are miraculously rescued by God, but who abandon him every chance they get. For example, after witnessing miracle after miracle that frees them from slavery in Egypt, they can’t resist worshiping the Golden Calf when Moses spends a few extra nights on the mountain. Talk about ungrateful folks with short memories! (We seem to suffer from this in America too).
The Old Testament writers record a Hebrew history filled with bone-headed disobedience, distrust, and selfishness. Their leaders are all world-class sinners, including Moses (a murderer), Saul (a paranoid egomaniac), David (an adulterer, liar, and murderer), and Solomon (a serial polygamist). These are supposed to be the “chosen people”—the ones through which God brings the Savior of the world? Yes, and the Old Testament writers admit that the ancestors of this Messiah include deeply sinful characters such as David and Solomon and even a non-Hebrew prostitute named Rahab. This is clearly not an invented storyline!
While the Old Testament tells of one embarrassing gaffe after another, most other ancient historians avoid even mentioning unflattering historical events. For example, there’s been nothing found in the records of Egypt about the Exodus, leading some critics to suggest the event never occurred. But what do the critics expect? Peter Fineman imagines what a press release from Pharaoh might say:
“A spokesman for Rameses the great, Pharaoh of Pharaohs, supreme ruler of Egypt, son of Ra, before whom all tremble in awe blinded by his brilliance, today announced that the man Moses had kicked his royal butt for all the world to see, thus proving that God is Yahweh and the 2,000-year-old-culture of Egypt is a lie. Film at 11:00.”
Of course no press secretary for Pharaoh would admit such an event if he wanted to keep his head! The Egyptian silence on the Exodus is understandable.
By contrast, when the Egyptians scored a military victory, they went to press and exaggerated greatly. This is apparent from the oldest known reference to Israel outside the Bible. It comes from a granite monument found in the funerary temple of Pharaoh Merneptah in Thebes. The monument boasts about the military victory of the Pharaoh in the highlands of Canaan, claiming that “Israel is laid waste, his seed is not.” Historians date the battle to 1207 B.C., which confirms that Israel was in the land by that time. We know this account is exaggerated because, as history attests, Israel was not laid waste. Its seed lived on and sprouted into a great empire under David 200 years later. And its seed lives on to this day more than 3,200 years later.
How does the New Testament measure up to the principle of embarrassment? While embarrassing testimony is alone not enough to ensure historical reliability—early, eyewitness testimony is also necessary (which the New Testament has)—the principle of embarrassment is even more pronounced in the New Testament. The people who wrote down much of the New Testament are characters (or friends of characters) in the story, and they often depict themselves in an extremely unflattering light. Their claims are not likely to be invented.
Let’s put it this way: If you and your manly friends were concocting a story that you wanted to pass off as the truth, would you make yourselves look like dim-witted, uncaring, rebuked, doubting cowards who ran away at the first sign of trouble while the women were the brave ones who remained faithful? No way! But that’s exactly what we find in the New Testament. That’s one reason why I don’t have enough faith to believe that the New Testament tells an invented story.
I’ll highlight some of the New Testament’s more embarrassing details in the next column—even a few details that some could interpret as embarrassing to Jesus. In the meantime, you can find a cumulative case for God and Christianity in the book from which this column is adapted: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.