And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” – Luke 1:18-20
“How am I to know I am saved?” “How shall I know this?” That hidden and nagging doubt of forgiveness has touched us all. We want some evidence. Some sort of brand on our arm as a seal of becoming part of the grand Holy club. The Angel Gabriel came down and told Zachariah he should have a son, the old and shriveled man wanted a further token than the angel’s word. “How shall I really know?: The answer, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Lord.” “I know all about that, but I need something more, a token, another sign. Gabriel said, “You shall have a token: you shall be dumb till your son shall be given you.” I must quit asking for more evidence and be assured of God’s word.
Matthew 21:23 When He had come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him as He was teaching and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?”
It is a question that has been asked for two thousand years. By what authority did Jesus do all that He did? Was Jesus more than a teacher, a magician, or a charismatic leader? Is my belief from God or is it just religion? The question asked of Jesus was more than innocent questions by religious leaders. These were questions directed to the center of my belief in God. Religious leaders ask. Elders ask. Leaders ask. You may well ask. The source of their asking was unbelief. Any authority would diminish their self-conceived importance. Any acknowledgment of the authority of Jesus diminishes their claims.
But the asking is not wrong. The effort to accept God’s authority over all others starts with asking. Let us not let unbelief and the opinions of others be our authority. It is quite acceptable to ask if you accept the answer that Jesus is Lord.
Sermons just don’t do it for me anymore. For that matter the music or should I say spiritual songs, don’t do it for me either. I have served as a preacher in five churches of various lengths and sizes. It was overwhelming experience to which I have always accounted as both a privilege and call. To translate the difficult and make it plain and relevant is a task not to be taken lightly. I am fully aware of the time which must be expended to reach that perfect balance between deep theology and practical understanding. It is a gift from God to both the preacher and those who submit themselves each Sunday. They come to fill their spiritual bread baskets full for the week. They depend on the preacher to fill infuse them to carry on for a little while longer.
Years have come and gone.
Hundreds of messages, prayer meeting studies, Sunday School lessons and
Bible studies have been completed. I continually study, build and prepare messages. Weekly Bible study for the men in our church
requires just as much time and preparation as preaching; or maybe even more. And if the truth be known, these studies are
more preaching than a shared study. A few faithful shows up each week and seem
to be challenged. Some are even studying
ahead. One even told me that the studies
has caused him to dig deeper.
As I recollect on the nearer present, I am not quite as enthused. I don’t get much out of the messages as presented in church. Sure, there is evidence of study and all the video clips are well placed, but they are not doing it for me. There is nothing new. There is nothing challenging. I am easily distracted and the slow pace of the sermon allows my mind to wander. I guess I would rather read a well thought out argument, than to listen to one more three point, fill in the blank sermon.
I connect to God by working. My connection to God is more
focused and more intimate when I am doing for Him. I find true joy in study and
passing on that knowledge, that wisdom on to others. It is not enough to just accumulate a vast amount
of facts and illustrations. There is a
true joy in helping someone else to light the fire of their own intellectual
So, I am at a quandary. Do I just keep on going to church to be seen by my brothers and sisters? Does the effort equal any reward? I can well fill my own basket. I share from my basket and it never seems to run out. I feel an inner satisfaction with the supply by God. I read voraciously the great preachers; I am challenged by the great hymns of the church. I long for a church which challenges me more and coddles me less.
Where do I find intimacy with God? It is in my books, in my study, in the crafting of words to would challenge others. I guess that is good enough.
I received a question on a post the other day and it caused me to do some research and soul searching. The question was about the place of the current descendants of Abraham, the Jewish people, in the necessity to be evangelized by the Gentiles.
Excellent question. From that question you have to make the assumption that the chosen people of Israel, those who are a direct part of Abraham’s family, are not saved. That opens a hole can of worms. There are those who think that God’s promise to Abraham to make him a great nation and the world will be blessed by them, only refers to the acts of bringing the Messiah to the world and does not afford any special privileges or spiritual status to them other than birthing Jesus. These of the Supersessionism movement would assert a theological view that the Old covenant to Abraham was replaced by the New covenant of Jesus. Following this line of theology, the Jews like the rest of the world must accept Jesus to be saved.
Supersessionism is a very well accepted theology in the Christian Church for the majority of their existence. Christian traditions that have championed this single Covenant Theology are the Roman Catholic, Reformed and Methodist. never-the-less in a recent poll of Christians, 60% believe there will be righteous Jews in heaven.
The other side of the argument is dual-covenant theology which holds that the covenant given to Moses is still valid and therefore the Jews do not need evangelizing. If a ethnic Jew is keeping the Law and as Micah states in 6:8, “O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to live kindness and walk humbly with your God,” then they are assumed righteous and deserve the associated rewards. They would take the statement of Jesus, “No man comes to the Father but by me,” and translate the word man as Gentile. That Jesus only came for the Gentiles.
If this dual-covenant theology then it opens the possibility
of a third and a fourth and a fifth covenant. This view is currently being
championed by Islam saying that the final and most authentic expression of
Abrahamic prophetic monotheism, supersedes and replaces both Jewish and
Christian teachings. The doctrine of tahrif teaches that earlier
monotheistic scriptures or their interpretations have been corrupted, while the
Quran presents a pure version of the divine message that they originally
So now back to the original question. In God’s eyes “Whosoever believes in Jesus” John3:16 includes Judaism. Whether we actively do so that is up to the individual and calling. But just because a person is a gentile or a Jew makes little difference. It is one of those things we will discover when we get to our final reward. But before then it is just a talking point.