1. Are All Religions The Same?Related Media
One of the most basic claims of Christianity is that Jesus is the only way for salvation. Jesus Himself declared this very clearly, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). This was the message that the apostles preached; “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). And, “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43). The Apostle Paul in one of his letters writes, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people” (1 Timothy 2:5).
John in his letter writes, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). Paul makes a very strong statement, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (Galatians 1:8-9).
But how many people accept this truth today? If not, why not? I remember a story from a collection of moral stories in Sanskrit. A Hindu Brahmin priest is returning home after buying a goat kid to offer as a sacrifice to his family deity. He is passing through a jungle area and is spotted by three cheaters. The cheaters do not want to harm the priest; their only intention is to get the goat. So, they devise a scheme. As the priest is merrily walking along on the jungle trail, holding the goat kid on his shoulders, one of the cheaters comes to him and tells, “Shame on you! You are a priest. A holy man! Are you not ashamed to carry this dog on your shoulder?” To which the priest replied, “Are you blind? Do you not see? This is not a dog, this is a goat kid!” The cheater shakes his shoulders and quietly walks away.
As the priest is walking along, now looking at the goat on his shoulder, wondering what the fellow told him, another cheater comes along and tells him the same thing. This time the priest looks at the kid and hesitantly responds, “No. This is not a dog. Is it? No, this is a goat”. The cheater shrugs his shoulders and walks away. Now the priest is really wondering. Repeatedly looking at the goat and not sure what he is carrying. And then the third cheater shows up telling him the same thing. Before anyone can see him in this defiled condition, the priest quickly throws away the dog, no, the kid, and runs away.
The moral of the story is: When a lie is repeated several times, it does not become a truth; but it does become easily acceptable and convincing. Today we live in a pluralistic, polytheistic, agnostic or atheistic culture and have been bombarded with all the lies from all the directions so the very truth of God and His Word is questioned not only by people of other religions, but by some of the very people who are known by the name of Christ. We hear that all the roads lead to the same place. All religions are just different ways to reach God. One God, but people choose to worship Him in their own different ways. You can believe in anything as long as you are sincere.
But if this was true Jesus was the greatest liar and the Bible the most deceiving book! The basic question is; do all the world religions teach the same thing? Do all religions have the same concept of God and worship the same God? Just a cursory observation will tell us otherwise. Let us consider few theological points and do some comparison.
Theology: The Concept Of God
Every religion differs as to what they think about God. There are some religions, like Buddhism and Confucianism that are agnostic. They do not either reject the existence of God or accept it. Then there are some who are atheistic, like Jainism, who outright rejects the existence of God.
Religions that do accept the existence of God do not have the same concept of God. Hinduism, for example, one of the major world regions, has a concept of God who is so impersonal, unknowable, and indescribable so that they have invented many gods and deities, many of whom are nature gods, like fire, rivers, trees, or animal gods. God of Islam is a capricious God who is ready to zap unbelievers.
Contrast this with the concept of God in the Bible. A personal God who is interested in the world affairs, who loves the people of the world and who orders the events of the world and moves the history according to His plans and purposes to bring the humanity in closer relationship with Himself. A God who has revealed Himself and so can be known, can have personal relationship with Him.
Anthropology: The Concept Of Man
One of the major aspects of any religion is their concept of man, who is man, where did he come from. Hinduism, for example, puts man and animal on the same line. in the theory of reincarnation a human being in this life may be born as an animal in another life and also the other way around; an animal in this life can be born as a human being in other life. But it provides no explanation how the cycle of incarnation began, when and how man came into existence in the first place.
You can see how Hindu concept of man matches with Darwin’s theory of evolution, human being evolving from an inanimate cell. How this leads into devaluation of human life. How that comes into real practices like abortion, euthanasia and survival of the fittest that leads to horrible results like genocide carried out by Hitler and others.
Darwin deserves far more credit than we give him. We usually think of him in reference to creation vs. evolution. But basically what he has done is put man in the same line of animals. Let me give you a couple of examples. Garrett Matthias story was featured in May 2019 issue of The Reader’s Digest. He died of rare brain cancer at the age of five. A very smart kid. Before death he wrote his own eulogy.
He writes, “My favorite hero is: Batman…and Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, and Cyborg… When I die I am going to be a gorilla. I want to be burned (like when Thor’s mommy died) and made into a tree so I can live in it when I’m gorilla”.
What a sad story! The best hope a dying five year old has is to come back as a gorilla. Gives you a picture of the family he grew up in. Gives you picture of the culture in which our children and grandchildren are growing up.
Another example. We get Our Daily Bread in our email inbox every morning. On May 21, 2019 devotion this was cited. “In 2005, the London zoo introduced a four-day exhibit: ‘Humans in Their Natural Environment.’ The human ‘captives’ were chosen through online contest. To help visitors understand the humans, the zoo workers created a sign detailing their diet, habitat, and threats. According to the zoo’s spokesperson, the goal of the exhibit was to downplay the uniqueness of human beings. One participant in the exhibit seemed to agree: ‘When they see humans as animals, here, it kind of reminds them that we are not that special’”.
The way the trend is going today, I would not be surprised if in few short years all the zoos in all the countries follow this example and the distinction between humans and animals is erased, and no surprise, the West would be in the lead.
If we are not different from animals, we would live like animals. Actually, we would live worse than animals. Animals do not go against nature in their lifestyle, we humans do. And the Bible says so, as Isaiah noted God’s complaint, “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand” (Isaiah 1:2-3).
On the one hand, man is not any better than an animal. On the other, The New Age movements like Transcendental Meditation and Yoga put emphasis on inner personal resources. They emphasize that man is the master of himself and that he can master the whole universe. Yoga, for example, although it begins with physical exercises has as its ultimate aim first to master one’s own inner resources and then to master the whole universe. Ultimately one can play himself as god. Eastern cults have gained a strong hold on the Western society because they offer false hope and give permission to live your life your own way without having to obey God.
Contrast this Bible gives the balanced view of man. Only human being is created in the image of God. In the Book of Genesis in the creation account, when God created the animals and birds and trees and plants, fish and sea creatures, in every case it is noted, God created them “after their own kind” (Genesis 1:11-25; those words used ten times). But when it came to the creation of man, God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:16). Every other living thing was created “after its own kind”. Only human being is crated after God’s kind.
Being created in the image of God separates human being from any and every other living being. Only human being, because created in the image of God has soul, has conscious, has the concept of good and evil, and has eternal life. Man created in the image of God is over and above every other created thing.
Psalm Eight describes:
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? You have made him a little lower than God and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (NIV)
No other religion puts such a high value on the human life. Man before God is nothing; but man under God is everything. Man is over and above all and every created thing, only lower than God. Jesus described the value of human being, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26). That is why the Bible allows capital punishment, life for life, there is no other even exchange.
Hamartiology: The Concept Of Sin And Evil
No other religion has a clear concept of evil; how it came into the world and how it will end. Good and evil are considered coeternal; good can overcome the evil for some time, but is not able to do it completely and forever. That necessitates the repeated incarnations of Hinduism.
No other religion has the concept of inherent sinfulness of man, the moral depravity of man. The concept of morality is comparative; I am okay as long as I am not as bad as the other people. Person can always find someone who is living worst kind of moral life than himself and feel good about him. There is no standard of morality, or the standard of mortality is different for each person.
This provides a false sense of basic goodness of human being. The general idea is I am good enough, I am not bad. One of greatest hurdles that prevent people from coming to realization of the need of a savior is their assumed goodness.
The Bible, on the other hand, clearly spells out how sin entered into mankind and how the evil took control not only of the human heart but the whole creation was tainted by the evil. It is not the environmental pollution, but the moral pollution that creates all the major problems we face in the world today. There will be time when the evil will be completely and permanently taken care of; the evil will be destroyed and the good will prevail. The world is not what it was basically created to be, and cannot be until the evil is ultimately taken care of. And there certainly will be time when God will finally take care of it and we will live happily ever after.
Soteriology: The Concept Of Salvation
The concept of salvation is different in different religions. Not all religions believe in life after death. The Sadducees of Jesus’ time, for example, did not believe in afterlife.
The Hindu concept of reincarnation means endless life cycle from birth to death to birth. “Moksha” is the traditional Sanskrit term for release or liberation from the endless cycle of deaths and rebirths which is the supreme goal of human strivings. Reflecting the diversity of Hinduism, liberation can be attained in a variety of ways, from performance of certain rituals to highly disciplined forms of yoga, or by self enlightenment. In Moksha the individual Atman (soul) is believed to merge into the cosmic Brahma. A traditional image is that of a drop of water that, when dropped into the ocean loses its individuality and becomes one with the sea, or a spark of fire put back into the fire.
Buddha accepted the basic Hindu doctrines of reincarnation and karma, as well as the notion that the ultimate goal of the religious life is to escape the cycle of death and rebirth. Nirvana literally means extinction, and it refers to the extinction of all craving, an extinction that allows one to become liberated.
In Sikhism it’s been a matter of great debate amongst the Sikhs about Sikhism’s belief in afterlife. Many believe that Sikhism endorses the afterlife and the concept of reward and punishment, but a large number of Sikhs believe otherwise.
Most religions do not have the concept of eternal punishment. It has been argued that God is a loving God and cannot send anyone to eternal punishment.
All religions, except Christianity, are based on work salvation. Since there is no concept of inherent sin and the moral depravity of human being, morality is relative, works are weighed as good works versus bad works, and if the good works outweigh the bad, the person is a step ahead. Person is bound in the reward and punishment of good and bad Karmas (works) and there is nothing outside him that can help him.
That is where the Biblical concept of grace comes into picture. Because sin has taken control of the human nature, man is not able to save himself. And so not by works, but only by the grace of God a person can be released from the bondage of sin and its eternal consequences. Those who come into the relationship with God through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross will live in the presence of God for eternity. And those outside that relationship will suffer endless time in hell.
Eschatology: How Everything Will End
The general concept, as can be seen from the concepts of sin, evil and salvation, is cyclical; everything keeps going into never ending cycle. Evil and good coexist and there is no ultimate end of the evil. The Hindu concept of the four ages, for example, is a repeated and endless cycle. It begins with the age of truth and then it progresses into downward spiral into more and more evil and at the end of the fourth age the world is destroyed and then it begins again with the age of the truth. In the same way human birth, death and rebirth cycle never ends, trapping human being in endless cycle with no hope of escape.
Solomon expresses this idea very vividly:
What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new.” It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them (Ecclesiastes 1:3-10, NIV)
Although Solomon is speaking here about life on earth, under the sun, the same cycle goes on forever and there is no end, no way out.
On the other hand the Bible presents linear history; history moving from one point to the other point and bringing everything to the end as desired by God. It began with the creation, the Fall, God’s plan of salvation and will end when the current evil world system is destroyed and God’s Kingdom begins which will never end and people of God who have come into the relationship with God through Jesus will happily live with Him forever. No other world religion gives us this happy ending!
So, we do not believe any of the lies we are bombarded by all around us. We believe the Bible as inerrant and inspired Word of God. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). Or, as Solomon said, “Every Word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him” (Proverb 30:5). The psalmist says similar thing, “And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times” (Psalm 12:6).
And this Bible presents the unique unparallel claims of Jesus as the only Savior, no other way to receive salvation but through the grace of God on the basis of person’s coming into the relationship with Christ.
So, it is obvious that all religions are not the same. They do not all worship God and do not worship the same God. They do not all strive to reach the same destination. Each religion has a different concept of God, nature of man and his need of salvation, ways of salvation and the result of salvation and how the present world system will end.
There may be some similarities in all religions: for example, all religions teach goodness, serving others, living a moral life devoid of greed and malice. But these are only superficial similarities. It is believed that there is a common thread among all the religions. But when it comes to stating more precisely just what that common thread is, conversations usually become vague or contradictory. They all offer major theological and metaphysical concepts that are radically different from each other. “All religions are the same”, is a statement of ignorance and a complete lie that we hear so often that it has become acceptable.
Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship; relationship with the personal loving God. There is life after death. The soul that is born shall never die. Salvation is to come into a relationship with this God through Jesus Christ and to live eternally in the presence of God. Man is not able to save himself from eternal death. God loved mankind so much that He Himself provided the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. Christ is the only way - there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
So, what? How does all this relate to me personally? The very first thing, of course, is to accept the truth. You have to think logically and come to the conclusion that what the Bible says has to be true. If Jesus said there is no other way to come into the relationship with God, to receive eternal life of blissful existence, except through Him, we have to accept that as a true statement and so if that is true then come to trust Him who said that.
Secondly, if I have come to accept this truth and have come into relationship with Jesus, I need to continue growing in this truth, to be grounded in this truth so not only I am not deceived by the lies I hear all around me, but am able to defend it with full conviction. As Peter told, “In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). The goal of every believer’s life is continued growth in the knowledge of God through daily personal study of the Word of God with a purpose of becoming more like Christ which would be evidenced in daily life.
Third, guard the truth. Do not let the lies you hear rob you of your confidence in the truth. Occasional doubt is normal and we all have moments like that. Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for his doubt, but gently provided him the proof. It was only Thomas, however, among the disciples that called Jesus Lord and God. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you- guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us” (2 Timothy 1:14). And, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12).
Four, share the truth. Seek opportunities to share the truth with as many people as you can. When someone says all religions are the same, just ask him to name two religions and let him tell what both those religions think about God, and some of the other points mentioned above. People have just heard the lie; they have not thought through it, have not really considered it carefully.
Finally, live by the truth. If we claim to know the truth, we have to live by the truth. Peter writes, “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peer 3:11-12). John writes, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. All who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).
John ends his First Epistle by these words: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols”. This statement kind of seems out of place. But one of the Hebrew words for idol literally means a lie. So, in a sense he is saying, guard yourselves from all the lies you hear. Do not let anyone defraud you of your precious goat!
There is just one way for you all to come;
There is just one road that will lead you home;
There is just one gate to the realms of day—
The blessèd Jesus is the only way.
Jesus is the way—the only way;
Lovingly He calleth, thus the Scriptures say,
Whosoever will, let Him come today—
The blessèd Jesus is the only way!
There is just one fount—there is just one cross—
There is just one help for the sinner’s loss;
There is just one hope—all in all to me—
O blessèd Jesus, it is none but Thee!
Arthur J. Hodge (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1843)
2. The Mountain Too High To ClimbRelated Media
We are familiar with the Peanuts cartoons by Charles Schulz. Some of the cartoons present good theological insights. For example see this cartoon. Charlie Brown and Lucy are sitting inside their home and it is raining heavily outside. Lucy expresses her concern that this may flood the whole world. To which Charlie responds, No, that cannot happen, because God promised Noah that He would never do that again. Lucy’s response, you have taken a great load off my mind. To which Charlie responds, Sound theology has a way of doing that.
You see, theology impacts life. What you believe determines how you live. Your worldview, your value system, your lifestyle, and things you do and do not do; all is determined by your theology. That is why we have to make sure what we believe and what we believe is the truth or not. We are people of convictions. And our convictions are not formed by the lies we hear in the world, but the truth we learn from the Word.
There are two problems with religion, especially with Christianity. One, you have to take it by faith; you cannot prove it by imperial scientific evidence. It is not physical, it is metaphysical. And two, there are many things that we cannot understand. And this is true of all religions, but most for Christianity.
There are two results of these two problems. One, many have invented their own ways, manmade religions and two, we, believers, sometimes doubt our own faith. And so it is always good to think about what we believe, what is the Truth.
From our first lesson you remember the story of the three cheaters? A Hindu priest carrying a goat. One of the cheaters comes and tells him, how can you, a holy man, carry a dog? To which his response, are you blind? This is not a dog! This is a goat! Few minutes later another cheater tells him the same thing. Now the man is confused. Not sure what he is carrying. A little later third cheater tells him the same thing, how can you, a holy man, carry a dog? The man throws away his prized goat and runs away.
The moral of the story is: When a lie is repeated several times, it does not become truth; but it does become easily acceptable and convincing. Today we live in a pluralistic, polytheistic, agnostic or atheistic culture and have been bombarded with all the lies from all the directions so that the very truth of God and His Word is questioned not only by people of other religions, but by some of the very people who are known by the name of Christ. We hear that all the roads lead to the same place. All religions are just different ways to reach God.
Last time we noted some of the major differences between Christianity and the major world religions: the concept of God, the concept of man, the concept of the sin and salvation and how to attain it, the concept life after death; and so on. Today we want to talk about one more major point that sets Christianity apart from any other world religion. The topic today is the mountain too high for anyone to climb.
Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NIV)
Gods Seated On The Mountaintop!
For nine years, we lived in a small mountain town in India located in the foothills of the Himalayas. During this time, we travelled to different mountain areas. At one time, we took a bus for two days and reached a small remote village in the mountains. From there we walked three miles crossing a valley filled with beautiful flowers known as The Valley of Flowers (you can look up online under the same name) situated at about 10,000 ft elevation.
Then we began climbing up a steep mountain crossing numerous glaciers. After hours of trekking about four miles and climbing about 4000’ of elevation finally we reached the top, 14,000 ft. There we saw a beautiful lake surrounded by mountain peaks and fed by glaciers. This place is called Hemkund, literally, bowl of ice. There on the top of the mountain is a temple. Approximately 150,000 pilgrims travel to Hemkund every year.
Every mountain peak you climb in the Himalayan mountain range, there you will see a temple. People go there not for the natural beauty and the joy of being surrounded by God’s awesome creation, but for a pilgrimage. We visited other places like Hemkund, such as Gangotri, the mouth of the River Ganges (10,200 ft.). And Badrinath (10,170 ft.) and Kedarnath (11,755 ft.), that we did not visit, are some of the most popular pilgrim places in India (you can view all these sites online). All these mountaintop venues have major temples and are pilgrimage destinations.
Many civilizations are notable for mountaintop temples. The Incas built their temples on high mountain peaks and steep slopes. My wife and I recently toured Peru and saw some of these sites. The Mesopotamians built ziggurats and the Khmers built temples on mountains. Taoists and Buddhists also built their temples on high mountain peaks and ridges. Some are located on mountain slopes so steep that access is very difficult.
The ancient Greeks believed that their gods lived on Mount Olympus. The Hindus believe that Mahameru (Great Mountain) is the abode of gods. Ancients often looked to the skies and believed their gods resided there. As the gods lived in the heavens, places that were closer to the gods would have been considered as sacred.
The ancient Canaanites and other nations worshipped the heavenly bodies and their idols upon hills, mountains, and artificial elevations. The Israelites were commanded to destroy these places of idol worship, but instead, they imitated the heathens and worshipped the idols at high places (1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 17:10-11). These places of worship were known as the Bamah (High Places, used 105 times in the Old Testament including Numbers 33:52; Leviticus 26:30; Jeremiah 32:35; Ezekiel 20:29), because they were literally situated on higher grounds, on high hills or small mountaintops.
Clearly, mountains have an important place in spirituality. The use of mountains and high places for worship is so widespread as to be almost universal. From the dawn of human civilization man has somehow imagined that the higher you climb, the closer you are to God. It’s as if God is sitting on top of a high mountain and by climbing that mountain you can reach God.
Not only is there a belief that the higher you climb the closer you are to gods, but also the higher you climb the more significant you are. The closer to the stars, sun and moon you get, the more significant you become. By climbing physically higher, man has imagined becoming spiritually greater; not just being closer to God, but being more like God; attaining more of His power and spiritual attributes.
Biblically, the Tower of Babel served this purpose, “Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves’” (Gen. 11:4). Towers serve this purpose as do many other tall structures. There is constant competition in the world to build the tallest building.
Eternity In Their Heart
Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes presents the contrast between the things above the sun and the things under the sun in Chapter Three. By using the formal structure of couplets of the Hebrew poetry, he very vividly portrays that everything under the sun is for a moment:
A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance (3:2-4, NIV)
What Solomon is saying here is that there is nothing under the sun that is permanent, everything and every event has a brief appointed time. There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under the sun (3:1), and, He has made everything appropriate in its time (3:11a).
Although everything under the sun is temporal, God has set eternity in man’s heart (3:11b). Every culture, no matter how primitive or developed, has a concept of eternity, of something that will last forever. Because of this sense of eternity in his heart, man is looking for something that will last forever; most of all, something that will make him last forever.
Our Futile Attempts To Climb The Mountain
Because of this eternity in his heart, man, from the beginning of civilization, has been trying to reach God and has come up with various ways to climb the mountain that no one can climb. All world religions are man’s futile attempts to climb the mountain to reach God.
For example, the Mormon theology is that God was just like us, humans, but he attained his godship by climbing up a ladder to divinity. In the same way we can attain the same high and exalted position that God now has. The central tenet of Mormon theology is: God once was what we are now (just like us human being), we will be what God is now (just like God, the same high and exalted position).
The central tenet of Hindu theology is: I am Brahman! Man is divine. The only problem is we do not know our full potential. Like a burning coal covered by ashes, our divinity is covered by our ignorance. So, the Yoga provides an eight-step path to reach that full potential and become one with God.
Satan tempted Adam and Eve; “When you eat of it (the fruit) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God (Genesis 3:5). Does it not sound very much like Hindu theology? You are just like God, only that you do not know it. When you eat this fruit, your eyes will be opened, your ignorance will be dispelled and you will realize that you are just like God! From that point on man is in constant search to find ways to develop his divine potential and reach the ultimate heights.
Even Socrates, considered as father of the Western philosophy, said, “Know thyself” and “Knowledge is virtue”, meaning if you knew yourself, if you really realize who you are, if you knew how good you are, you will be really good.
The Mountain Too High To Climb
But the obvious problem is, if God is really God, a Supreme Being, transcendent, infinite, over and above every created thing, including humans, any attempt to physically reach God will leave a person frustrated and unsure of what is possible. God says, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). If God were seated on a high mountain, that mountain is too high for anyone to climb.
Similarly, Solomon said, “When I gave my heart to know wisdom and to see the task which has been done on the earth (even though one should never sleep day or night), and I saw every work of God, I concluded that man cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun. Even though man should seek laboriously, he will not discover; and though the wise man should say, ‘I know,’ he cannot discover” (Ecclesiastes 8:16-17). What he is saying is that man just does not know and cannot know. And if you think you know, you do not even know that you do not know!
One Sunday afternoon my family and I were cleaning up a church building. I was vacuuming children Sunday school area and found a small piece of paper. I keep that piece of paper in my Bible; keeps me humble. It reads, “If you have any question ask someone else because I’m stupider than you. My name is Rick”. He is not shy in giving his name. Too bad the Sunday school teacher did not get hold of it.
Out of the mouths of babes! Come to think of it, that is all of us before God! Actually, the Word of God says the same thing. On the other side of that piece of paper I have written Proverbs 30:23. Agur, one of the wise men, says, “Surely I am more stupid than any man, and I do not have the understanding of a man. Neither have I learned wisdom, nor do I have the knowledge of the Holy One”. And this was a wise man, whose words are recorded in the Word of God!
Do you know how much we know about the physical universe? Even with all the progress of science in the twenty-first century, scientists know only about five percent of the universe; the ninety-five percent still remains unknown. We don't know why the universe exists, what dark matter, or dark energy, is, or whether life exists anywhere else. We don't fully understand our own biology. We would never fathom how the human brain works. We don't know how the Earth works. There’s a lot we don’t know. All the stars, planets and galaxies that can be seen today make up just five percent of the universe. The other ninety-five percent is made up of stuff astronomers can’t see, detect or even comprehend. “The overwhelming majority of the universe is: who knows?” explains science writer Richard Panek, “It’s unknown for now, and possibly forever.” My question is if we do not know ninety-five percent of the universe, how can we know that we know five percent of it?
Isaac Newton, who discovered the Law of Gravity when he saw an apple fall from the tree, was once complimented for his genius. His humble response, “I am like a boy collecting sea shells on the seashore while the vast ocean remains unexplored”. Almost three hundred years later (he died in 1727) we have not much progressed. That is true of the universe. But even more so of the God who created the universe. Because God has to be far greater than the universe He created.
How can the finite human being reach this God? How can you know Him? How can you have a relationship with this Inaccessible God? How can you fill the hole in your heart? How can you have a meaningful and joyful life? There is no way a puny human being can do that by his own human efforts.
“He is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there was someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.” (Job 9:32-35, NIV)
God Comes Down The Mountain
The only way a finite human being could reach God, and have access to the infinite and transcendent God, is if God Himself came down to the human level and made Himself accessible. The only way man can know God, can have a relationship with Him, is if God revealed Himself to man.
And that is exactly what God has done in Jesus Christ. The Word that existed from the eternity past, the Word that was with God and the Word that was God… all things came into being by Him; and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. This Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1-3, 14).
The Creator of the entire universe became flesh, incarnated Himself in human body and made His dwelling among people. Instead of man trying to reach God and failing miserably, God Himself reached down to man. There is no other way for man to reach Him or to have the relationship with Him, apart from Jesus Christ as God’s provision.
“Although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6-11, NIV)
A few years ago, we received a Christmas card. On the outside of the card there are pictures of some of the most prominent men of the history: Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Hitler, Lenin, Napoleon, Mao, Maharshi Mahesh Yogi and Buddha. The caption over those pictures reads: “History is crowded with men who would be gods.” Opening the card inside is the picture of baby Jesus in the cradle and the caption reads: “But only one God who would be man”.
History is crowded with men who would be gods. But only one God who would be man. This is what makes Christianity unique among all the world religions: instead of man trying to reach God and failing miserably, God reached down to man and made Himself accessible to whoever wants to come into relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. God so loved people that He provided the way of salvation, the way to come into a relationship with Him, by sending Jesus Christ into the world. By first coming into a relationship with Jesus Christ any one can attain the relationship with God and live eternally in the presence of God.
“No priest, no theologian stood at the cradle in Bethlehem. And yet, all Christian theology has its origin in the wonder of all wonders that God became man. Alongside the brilliance of holy night there burns the fire of the unfathomable mystery of Christian theology” (Bonhoeffer in Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Thomas Nelson, 2010), P. 472).
We would never fathom the mystery of incarnation. But we do not have to understand it. We have to believe
One, it is only in Christ that we have access to God. There is no other name. Christianity makes sense. All other religions are man-centered. Christianity is God-centered. In all the other religions man takes the initiative and fails miserably. In Christianity God takes the initiative and fulfils the plan of salvation. Only through Christ we have access to God. As Christ Himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). And as Paul said, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:5).
Two, we do not have to understand; we have to believe. God is transcendent, infinite, beyond our reach and understanding. We will never understand Him fully. Even the eternity would be too short to understand Him. But not being able to understand is no excuse for not believing. Now we only see dimly like in a mirror (1 Corinthian 13:12).
Paul said “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). He was speaking in a spiritual sense. But we apply that more in our physical life than in our spiritual life. When we board an airplane, we do not know the pilot, we do not know the security personnel who checked everything and everybody, we do not know any of the ground crew, we do not know the mechanics who checked the engine; and yet we sit in the plane and just relax reading a book or dozing off.
When we drive we do not know the other drivers around us, their driving habits, their mental and emotional condition, whether they are drunk or not, physically impaired or not, their driving capability; whether our car would hold up; whether the road or the bridge hold up. But we go seventy-eighty mile speed trusting all things going well and keep driving, even though things do go bad, bridges collapse and we and other drivers make mistake.
We can take example after example in physical realm where we live by faith and just assume everything is alright. Because there is no other way! We would go insane if we did not. But when it comes in the spiritual matters, we want proof. We want to put our fingers in the hole.
And God in His grace does provide proof. But we have to accept that and believe that. Those who believe there is ample evidence of the truth. But those who do not want to believe, no matter how much proof is there, they will not believe. As in physical realm, so also in our spiritual realm we have to live by faith and not by sight.
Three, not being able to understand everything in the Word of God is no excuse for not trying to understand. The Old Testament prophets were intently searching Scriptures and were trying to understand what God was revealing to them in His Word (1 Peter 1:0-12). Similarly Peter instructs, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15).
Four, not being able to understand is not an excuse for not obeying. God does not expect us to understand everything, but He does expect us to obey. Certain things we will never understand, but the Word of God is plain and simple that demands our obedience. Mark Twain said, “I am not bothered by the things of the Bible I do not understand, what bothers me most are the things that I do understand” Because then you have to obey them!
Moses said, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
We have to be grounded in the Word of God. We have to study it, try to understand it, cherish it, share it and live by it. Do not let anything rob the joy of your salvation.
Yes, there are two problems with religion. You have to take it by faith and many things we cannot understand. This creates obvious problems; many have invented their own ways-religions and we sometimes doubt our own faith. But God has given us enough light in His revelation that we can trust Him and be grounded in the Truth He has revealed so that we are not beguiled by all the lies we hear around us and doubt our faith, but live life as a believer confident of the truth and living by the truth.
The Man And The Birds
by Paul Harvey
The man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind, decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man.
“I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he’d much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.
Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound…Then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud…At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.
Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it.
Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them…He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms…Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.
And then, he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me…That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.
“If only I could be a bird,” he thought to himself, “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safe, warm…to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand.”
At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells – Come all ye faithful – listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas.
And he sank to his knees in the snow.
A man becoming a bird is nothing compared to God becoming man. But that is exactly what God did. Because otherwise to reach Him is a mountain too high for man to climb (Phil 2:6-11).
O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him
Born the King of Angels:
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.
Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given!
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing!
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.
3. A Valley Too Deep To CrossRelated Media
This has been very special weekend for my wife Violet and me. This Friday we celebrated our 53rd anniversary. God has tremendously blessed us through the years. Last 45 years in full time ministry together. God has blessed us with three happily married sons and eight grandchildren; ranging from age seventeen to two.
By now you all know how much I enjoy the opportunities to share the Word of God with you all here. One of the joys of the ministry is to have opportunities like this to share the Word of God.
Hopefully you remember our topic, Jesus the only way. I am sure you remember the story of the three cheaters. A Hindu priest carrying a goat. One of the cheaters comes and tells him, how can you, a holy man, carry a dog? To which his response, are you blind? This is not a dog! This is a goat! Few minutes later another cheater tells him the same thing. Now the man is confused. Not sure what he is carrying. A little later third cheater tells him the same thing, how can you, a holy man, carry a dog? The man throws away his prized goat and runs away.
Remember the moral of the story? A lie when repeated several times does not turn into a truth, but it does become convincing. One of the lies in our contemporary culture we hear is that all religions are the same. You follow whatever path you want to, it does not make any difference; it leads you to the same God.
This may sometimes lead us to doubt our own faith. So we have been taking few points to dispel that lie so we would be confirmed in our own faith and also be ready to share the Truth when opportunity arrives.
All religions are the same is a lie from the very depth of hell. As Paul said, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).
In our first lesson we took several concepts and saw that Christianity is drastically different and unique among all world religions. The concept of God, concept of human being, concept of sin and salvation, the concept of life after death and how everything will end; all these are unique in Christianity.
In our second lesson our topic was Mountain Too High to Climb. We saw that the concept of God in Christianity is different from any other religion. God, in other religions is thought of as seated on a high mountain and man is trying to climb that mountain. But God is so highly exalted, transcendent, unfathomable and beyond human reach, that no one can reach up to Him. The only way we can reach God, can have access to Him, can have relationship with Him is if He Himself came down to our level.
And that is exactly what God did in Jesus Christ. God, who existed from the eternity past, became man and dwelt with us so through Jesus we can now know God and have relationship with Him. There are many men who would be god, but there is only one God who would be man.
Today our topic is A Valley Too Deep to Cross
Isaiah 6:1-7; Revelation 4:8
As we read think about what is the one central attribute of God and the one central attribute of man that is in focus here, the problem this creates and how it is resolved
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” (NIV)
Each of the four living creatures day and night never stop saying:
“‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.” (NIV)
Most of us, I suppose, have visited the Grand Canyon. It is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and 6100 feet deep. Now imagine God and man standing on the opposite rims of the Grand Canyon. Can any human being jump that 18 mile gap to reach God?
Bob Beamon in 1968 summer Olympic had long jump record of 29’ and two and a quarter inch. It took twenty three years to break that record, which was done by Mike Powell in 1991, who jumped 29’, four and a quarter inch, just two inches longer than the first record. Until today (2019), twenty eight years later, that record still stands. No one has been able so far to reach thirty feet!!
But the valley between God and man is far wider and deeper than the 18 miles width and 6100 feet depth of the Grand Canyon.
Most Significant Attribute Of God
What, do you think, is the most significant attribute of God? “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty” as both Isaiah in the Old Testament and John in the New Testament saw. These words, the word holy three times, are used only these two places in the whole Bible. But these words emphatically bring out the most significant attribute of God.
In Hebrew language there are no comparatives or superlatives. In English we would say holy, holier and holiest. But since there are no comparative or superlative, the Hebrew language uses repetition. Twice is better and three times is the best, the most. We sometimes use similar language. For example, when you are buying a property three most important things to consider are location, location and location! Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty. There is no one who can reach the level of His holiness. Only Thou Art holy, there is none beside Thee.
The holiness is God’s intrinsic quality. That is what makes Him God. One of the names of God in the Old Testament is “Holy”, just plain Holy. The phrase “Holy of Israel” is used 34 times in the Old Testament, 28 times in the Book of Isaiah. Holy of Israel means God of Israel, where Holy and God are synonyms.
The holiness of God supersedes His all other attributes. Holiness of God puts limitation on God’s all other attributes. For example, being all powerful and inability to do something cannot go together. That would be oxymoron! But because of his holiness the all powerful God cannot do some of the things that we can do. He cannot lie, he cannot cheat, He cannot commit any sinful act. He cannot do anything that is against His holy nature.
Similarly, an omnipresent God cannot be with evil. Or, all knowing omniscient God does not know many things, like He does not know the feeling of guilt.
When we think about the attributes of God, we think of Him being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. These are actually not intrinsic attributes of God. These are some of His abilities. What makes God God is not being omnipresent or omniscient or omnipotent. But what makes God God is His holiness.
Think about Jesus. While on earth omniscient God grew in wisdom and knowledge. Omnipresent God limited His presence. Nowhere in the New Testament we see Christ present at more than one place at the same moment. Omnipotent God became obedient to His parents. In everything He was just like us. There was only one thing he could not give up and still be God; His sinlessness, His holiness. What separated Him from the rest of the mankind was His holiness. He was God because He was sinless. During His earthly life He laid aside all His abilities we assign to God, except His holiness. He could not have been God without His holiness.
Most Significant Attribute Of Man
On the other hand, what is the most significant attribute of man? You know the number given to the Antichrist, right? 666! There are more speculations about the meaning of that number than that number itself! But one of the most convincing interpretations is that if the number seven is for perfection, for God, the number six is for imperfection, for man. The text does say that this is the number for man. If God is holy, holy, holy; man on the other hand, is unholy, unholy, unholy.
One of the commonly accepted principles of Christianity is the total depravity of every human being. Total depravity does not mean that every person is as depraved as he could be; there are comparatively good human beings. But it means that every aspect of being is tainted by evil, by sinful nature. As the prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9). And that applies to every human being ever born on the face of the earth.
Adolf Eichmann was a Nazi official who helped Hitler to carry out the mass murder of six million Jews during World War II. For years, he had evaded the authorities and lived in relative peace in Argentina. He was hunted down and on May 11, 1960 he was in the custody of the Mossad, Israel’s secret service and brought to trial, sentenced to death and hanged in May 1962.
One of the key witnesses at the trial was a Jew named Yehiel Di Nur, who suffered under Eichmann and witnessed firsthand all the atrocities. At the trial after his initial brief testimony Di Nur fainted and could not continue.
In an interview on 60 Minutes, some twenty years later, aired on 6 February 1983, De-Nur recounted the incident of his fainting at the Eichmann trial to Mike Wallace the host.
Wallace asked him, why did he faint? Was he overcome by hatred? Was he overcome by fear? Was it because of his horrid memories? No; it was none of these, he answered. Rather, Dinur explained to Wallace, “All at once I realized Eichmann was not the god-like army officer who had sent so many to their deaths. This Eichmann was an ordinary man. Man just like me. So I was afraid about myself. I realized that if he can do such things, what prevents me doing those things? I am capable to do this. I am ... exactly like he.”
The Valley Too Deep To Cross.
Holiness of God and sinfulness of man creates the vast valley between God and man that cannot be crossed. The valley too deep to cross.
It was not like that from the beginning. God created man upright. But they sinned and that created that vast and deep valley. Since then every human being is born with sin nature and is prone to sin. As David said, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:6).
The Bible says, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrew 12:14). And so the command, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, “Be holy because I Am holy” (Leviticus 11:45, 46; 19:2; 20:7, 26; 21:8; 1 Peter 1:15, 16).
Can anyone be holy as much as God is holy? Our goodness is comparative. We compare ourselves with those who, we think, are worse than us and we feel better. Compared to people like Hitler, we all can pat our backs and feel good. We can compare ourselves with what is going on in the world around us or in the culture we live and feel ourselves far better than them. The Pharisees did the same, “I am not like….”. And there is a Pharisee in every one of us. We all have that holier than thou feeling.
But who can meet that standard of holiness that God expects? The standard of righteousness that God wants us to meet is His righteousness that we can never attain. From the beginning of mankind humans have been trying their own ways to meet that standard, to cross that valley too deep to cross. Adam and Eve made clothes from fig leaves. Our good works are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Our religious activities are like clothes made from spider webs, “Their cobwebs are useless for clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make. Their deeds are evil deeds, and acts of violence are in their hands” (Isaiah 59:6).
In 2009 a movie Slumdog Millionaire was very popular. It is filmed in India featuring slumlord who is capturing street kids and maiming them and forcing them to beg, exploiting them to get rich. I have to warn you, this is very repulsive. In the movie there is a scene of two boys goofing around. One of them goes in a public latrine. The other boy just for the fun of it latched the door from outside.
Then they hear loud shouts welcoming Amitabh Bacchan, a famous and very popular Hindi film actor. The boys are great fan of him. The boy outside, forgetting his friend, runs away to see his favorite actor. The boy inside wants to do the same but has no way to get out. He does not want to miss the chance of seeing his favorite actor. So he takes extreme measures. The latrine is made of a cement slab with a hole with the sewer running below. He slips through the hole, walks through the sewer and comes out at the other end completely covered with the filth.
This is the picture of every human being covered with sin! In the book of Isaiah God tells, “From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness—only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with olive oil” (Isaiah 1:6).
The valley between God and man is too deep to cross by any human being unless, of course, God Himself provides the bridge to cross it. And that is what God has done in Jesus Christ.
The Lord looked and was displeased
that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no one,
he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm achieved salvation for him,
and his own righteousness sustained him.
He put on righteousness as his breastplate,
and the helmet of salvation on his head (Is. 59:15-17, NIV)
There is only one Mediator between man and God who has provided the way to come into relationship with the holy God. Now the curtain is torn and we can enter into the holy of holies and have relationship with the holy God. The valley too deep to cross can now be crossed by the cross, by everyone who comes to Christ by faith.
He took all our filth and gave His clean robe of righteousness to us! That is exactly what happens when a person comes to Jesus by faith. It is mind boggling. God in Christ took away our filthy garments and robed us with His own righteousness: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). Or, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”. (2 Corinthians 5:21).
One of the things that prevents people from coming to Christ is their assumed goodness. Unless and until you realize the valley too deep to cross, you will not see the value of God reconciling mankind to Himself through Christ
Our goodness, our holiness, is comparative holiness. But God does not grade us by a curve. Before God there is no difference between Hitler and me. The only difference is the grace of God that takes hold of me and prevents me to go that extreme. It is only His mercy that does not zap us every time we sin.
A couple of weeks ago we had a pest control person to take care of ant infestation in the house. When the young man came I asked would it be okay if I walked around with him and talked. When someone comes to our home for any service, I stay with him and talk. I observe how he does it so if possible I can learn and take care of that particular problem next time. It also helps me to make sure that the thing is done right.
But that gives also me opportunity to share the Gospel. No one that comes to the Christian home goes without hearing the Good News. After few initial get acquainted questions I ask do you go to church. This man said he does not like religion. I said, I do not like religion either. Then I had almost an hour with him to talk back and forth and share the Gospel. At the end when I asked him if he had any question, he asked, why God did not punish those people in the Bible who committed rape, incest, adultery, murder.
You see, when people hear the Gospel most of the time they do not want to commit themselves and want to avoid the topic and so come up with some question or point. The Samaritan woman did the same thing. The fellow who asked who is my neighbor also was just trying to avoid the main issue.
I told him, for the same reason that He does not zap you and me when we think bad thoughts or commit a sin. If God zapped every one every time they did something wrong, no one would be alive in the world. We think about sins of other people and think why does God not punish them, but we forget that before God we are sinful people. Our goodness, our holiness, is comparative holiness. But God does not grade us by a curve. Before God there is no difference between Hitler and me. But God in His mercy through Christ overlooks our sins and in His grace has provided the way for forgiveness.
No other religion speaks about the holiness of God in these terms. Sinfulness of man and the wide gap that creates making impossible for man to come into the relationship with God. A valley too deep to cross.
No other religion provides the way to fill the gap between God and man.
No other religion provides the way of forgiveness.
No other religion provides the way to attain the holiness that God requires.
One, It is only in Christ that we have access to God. There is no other name.
Christianity makes sense. It is logical religion. Obviously there is no other way to bridge the gap between God and man except through Christ.
If you have not yet come to that point, you can do that right now. Until and unless we come into the relation with God through Christ and receive His forgiveness and His holiness, we all are like Hitler destined to the same eternal fate.
Two, those of us who have received the righteousness from God, now demonstrate the righteousness of God in our daily life. God has robed us with His righteousness, now it is our responsibility to keep that robe clean. You know the story of the king Hezekiah who got sick and prayed to the Lord to heal him and the Lord granted him fifteen years more to live. In his thanksgiving prayer he muses to himself, how can I thank the Lord for this? He answers his own question, “I will walk humbly all my years because of this anguish of my soul” (Isaiah 38:15). All my life I will walk so carefully that I do not defile myself, do anything that displeases the Lord.
It was God who first put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head. And now it is our responsibility to put on the breastplate of righteousness and helmet of salvation.
Three, be assured of the truth of the Gospel. Study it, understand it, cherish it, share it. Do not let what we hear around us doubt your faith. Do not let anyone steal your goat!
Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and Mighty!
God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity!
Holy, Holy, Holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man, Thy glory may not see:
Only Thou art holy, there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power in love, and purity.
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise Thy name in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, Holy, Holy! merciful and mighty,
God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity!
Reginald Heber (1783–1826).
4. The Place No One Needs to GoRelated Media
By now you know the story of the three cheaters and the Hindu priest being cheated of his precious goat. And the moral of the story? A lie when repeated several times does not turn into a truth, but it does become convincing.
One of the lies we hear today is that all religions are the same. Follow your own path and you will find peace and fulfillment. In our first lesson we saw the drastic differences between Christianity and other religions.
Then in the second lesson we covered little bit of theology; God is so exalted and high that no one can reach Him, except that He Himself comes down and makes it possible for us to have access to Him.
Then we talked about the valley too deep to cross. The holiness of God and sinfulness of man creates a vast and deep chasm between man and God that can only be crossed through the Cross. Today our topic is the place no one needs to go.
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (NIV)
In a public school elementary class a teacher was having a class on biology and the lesson was on whale. Along with other things about the whale she mentioned that whale is a large mammal, but it has very narrow throat so it cannot swallow a large object, for example, it cannot swallow a grown up human being.
There was one girl from a Christian family who had learned the story of Jonah in her Sunday school class. So she raised her hand and said, “But, teacher, it swallowed Jonah!” To which the teacher said, “Well, as I told you, whale is a large mammal, but it has narrow throat so it cannot swallow a grown up person.
But the girl insisted, “But it did swallow Jonah”. The teacher by now was on the edge. She responded, “Young lady, I told you several times that the whale is large, but it has narrow throat so cannot swallow a grown up person.” The girl responded, “Okay, when I go to heaven, I will ask Jonah”.
But the teacher did not want to give up. Of course she did not believe in heaven or hell. But she responded, “How do you know Jonah went to heaven and not to hell? What if he went to hell?”
“Then YOU ask him” was the girl’s final response.
This is a joke. However, the teacher was right; whale is a large mammal but it has narrow throat and so cannot swallow a grown up human being. But that does not mean the Bible is wrong. The Bible does not mention that it was a whale or what kind of fish it was that swallowed Jonah, it just says a great fish. Also, if you remember, in our second lesson we learned that even in the twenty first century we know only five percent of marine biology. So the science does not and cannot prove the Bible wrong.
Hope you have liked the three messages we talked so far. I certainly do not like the message today. Nobody likes to be a bearer of bad news. And if there is one thing I or we all would like to be taken out from the Bible, it is the topic we are going to talk about today.
Hell? Who in his right mind would want to think of hell? We hear this word as a curse word. We use it for an extremely painful or difficult situation. But we rarely, if ever, think of it as a final and eternal destination.
When you think of hell, if ever, what comes to your mind? Fire and brimstone? Weeping and gnashing of teeth? No rest day or night? Their worm does not die and their fire is not quenched? Lake of burning sulfur? Everlasting destruction? People tormented day and night forever and ever? If you think of hell in any of these terms, you are right! Actually, that is how the Bible describes it.
Nobody wants to go there! When we think of life after death, we always have wishful thinking; we always think of heaven and never of hell. Hell is puzzling to many people. God is love; God is the epitome of love. How can a loving God send people to such a gruesome and horrible punishment and torment them forever? God sending people to a place of eternal torment has been repulsive to many.
S. Radhakrishnan, a well-known Indian philosopher of yesteryears (1888-1975) said, “God’s love would not allow even the worst sinner to slip away from Him completely… If God destroys His delinquent children, then we are attributing to God a very primitive instinct which even civilized men have sublimated. If Jesus took little children on His knees and told His hearers that the only way of pleasing God was to become themselves like little children, it is atrocious for us to thrust these citizens of the kingdom of heaven into the fire of hell” (Indian Religions (Orient Paperbacks, 1990), P. 149).
Similarly, Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) rejected Christianity mainly because of its concept of hell, “There is one serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment” (Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion (Touchstone, 1967), P. 17).
Can you think of the audacity of this “lover of wisdom” that he would find serious defect in Christ’s moral character and less humane than any human being! But Russell was right in one thing. Russell rightly understood that Christ believed in hell. Christ referred to hell far more than to heaven. If Christ was a moral teacher, as accepted by most people, He taught only what is true and so we have no choice but to accept the reality of hell. The word Gahanna, which is translated as hell in most of the versions, is used thirteen times in the New Testament, twelve of it by Christ Himself.
Now this raises a serious question. The Bible on the one hand does speak of the love of God and on the other hand does mention eternal punishment. How can we reconcile the love of God and the eternal punishment of hell? Fire and brimstone? Weeping and gnashing of teeth? No rest day or night? Their worm does not die and their fire is not quenched? Lake of burning sulfur? Everlasting destruction? People tormented day and night forever and ever?
Hell? Certainly Not! Three Wrong Answers
To avoid the Biblical concept of hell, people have come up with basically three explanations. None of these is new.
One of the most prevalent arguments against hell is the concept of universal salvation. All of the non Christian philosophers, as we saw Radhakrishnan and Russell, and most of the liberal theologians accept the concept of universal salvation.
“I believe that all people are included in the grace of God. I believe that all the theologies that have made a large place for damnation and hell are unfaithful to a theology of grace. … A theology of grace implies universal salvation. What could grace mean if it were granted only to some sinners and not to others according to an arbitrary decree that is totally contrary to the nature of our God? If grace is granted according to the greater or lesser number of sins, it is no longer grace-it is just the opposite because of this accountancy. Paul is the very one who reminds us that the enormity of the sin is no obstacle to grace: Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more (Romans 5:20). This is the key statement. The greater the sin, the more God’s love reveals itself to be far beyond any judgment or evaluation of ours. This grace covers all things. It is thus effectively universal… nothing in his creation is excluded or lost.” (Jacques Ellul (1912-1994), What I Believe (Eerdmans 1989), pp. 188-192).
Another erroneous theological concept trying to avoid the concept of hell is a concept of Conditional Immortality (CI). CI says that not all human beings are immortal, only those who receive Jesus by faith will live forever in heaven with God; the rest of humanity, all unbelievers, will be resurrected at the final judgment, thrown into fire and instantly destroyed physically.
CI believes that all humanity lost their immortality at the Fall. When Adam and Eve sinned, they were kicked out of the Garden of Eden “Lest they eat the fruit of the Tree of Life and live forever (Genesis 3:22–23). In Revelation 22:2 access to the tree of life is restored—but only for the inhabitants of New Jerusalem. The unbelievers are already destroyed physically before the New Heaven and New Earth come into being (Revelation 20:11-15).
Thus, immortality and eternal life are conditioned upon salvation. The lost will not live forever, in the end they will be annihilated, and will not sufferer eternally, according to those argue for conditional immortality.
Many passages in the Bible are interpreted accordingly. John 3:16 “will perish” means they would die physically forever, and not enter into heaven, or hell. Paul says, “The wages of sin is death”—not living forever in torment (Romans 6:23). Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:28 to fear God who “can destroy both soul and body in hell.” He says in Matthew 7:13—14 that the narrow and difficult path leads to “life,” while the wide and easy path leads to “destruction.”
In Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares, the weeds are “burned up” or “consumed” (Matthew 13:30) by fire, which Jesus interprets as meaning that the unrighteous will be thrown into a fiery furnace (verses 40–42) and permanently destroyed. Peter says that, in condemning Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by burning them to ashes, He “made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:6). The residents of Sodom and Gomorrah were incinerated. Therefore, the ungodly will not live forever in ruin; they will be utterly destroyed.
However, one of the major differences between other living beings and the man is that, because the man is created in God’s image man is immortal. Man is separate, different from all other created living beings. Every other living being is created “according to its own kind”, a phrase used nine times in the first chapter of Genesis. But when it came to man, man was not created according to his own kind, but according to God’s own kind, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).
Because man is created in the image of God his soul is eternal. The Bible says, God has set the concept of eternity in his heart (3:11b). Every culture, no matter how primitive or developed, has a concept of eternity, of something that will last forever. Because of this sense of eternity in his heart, man is looking for something that will last forever; most of all, something that will make him last forever.
So you cannot separate mankind in two groups, one in the Christ who will live forever and the other without Christ who will be annihilated and dead forever. If the one is going to live forever, the other too will live forever.
This is part of the doctrinal statement of our church: “The spirits and souls of the unbelieving remain after death conscious and in misery until the final judgment of the great white throne at the close of the millennium, when soul and body alike shall be reunited and ultimately cast into the lake of fire not to be annihilated, but to be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power” (Stonebrair Church Membership Class Handbook, P. 17)
Third wrong concept of hell is making it temporal, a place or state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners who are expiating their sins before going to heaven. People in hell suffer punishment for their sins they committed during their life on earth. The punishment in hell will purge them, make them pure, acceptable and make them eligible to enter heaven. This way hell is temporary. Love Wins by Rob Bell seems to argue for this, hell is a “temporary period of pruning” and “intense experience of correction” (P. 91). Although Catholics believe in eternal hell, their doctrine of Purgatory speaks about temporary hell.
Of course, the Bible describes hell as eternal punishment. As we see from the story of the rich man and Lazarus, there is no opportunity to cross from one place to another after death. That choice is here during the life on earth. Either person has believed in this life and so suffers no condemnation and at death goes directly in the presence of God, or has not believed and goes directly in hell; there is no third option.
The Bible clearly describes hell as eternal punishment. And if heaven is eternal, hell is eternal. If you make hell temporary, heaven becomes temporary. Because the words Ages and ages, or forever and ever are used both for hell and heaven.
The Practical Result Of The Wrong Answers
The consequences of all these wrong ideas, no fear of hell or the ultimate judgment, are obvious. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. And then it is over. No one to answer to. No accountability. No responsibility. One of the main reasons for the decline in morality and ethics in our culture is no fear of God, no fear of judgment.
“Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11). And so the overall lesson Solomon draws at the end of the book is, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). The Bible says, “It is dreadful things to fall into the hand of the living God”. And, “For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 10:31; 12:29).
We believers do not need that fear. We do not fear judgment; we have no fear of hell. “Now therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ”. We want to live life pleasing to God not because of fear of hell or of judgment, but because of love for God and for the gratitude we feel for what He has done for us, as Paul says in Romans.
Hell? Certainly Yes! Three Right Answers
Behind all these wrong concepts is human thinking. How can loving God throw His children in such a horrible place forever and ever? That punishment is far exceeding to the sin and way out of proportion!
Holiness Of God Requires It
The first right answer against all the wrong answers above is the holiness of God. That was our topic in our previous lesson. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty! Without holiness no one can see God. And God’s standard of holiness is “Be holy as I am holy”. And no human being can ever meet that standard. The holiness of God requires just punishment of sin. As it was mentioned last week, the holiness of God overrules all His other attributes. Love of God is controlled by His holiness. Holy God cannot tolerate or overlook sin no matter how much He loves or would like to do so. We being sinful people have no concept of how repulsive sin is to God.
Last Sunday I used an extreme example describing a scene from the movie Slumdog Millionaire. I am afraid that may be too repulsive to talk about. But my point there was that is exactly how repulsive sin is to holy God.
Our Sense Of Justice Demands It
The prophet Habakkuk in the Old Testament cried out to God asking for justice, “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (Habakkuk 1:3-4).
That is all common human cry for justice. As we see the evil rampant all around us, we cry out to God for justice. God is God of justice. And since we are made in the image of God, one of our human traits, no matter how sinful we are, is to shout out, “That’s not fair!” And you can use many examples from your own life when you suffered injustice and cried out that’s not fair!
Graham Stains was a missionary in India. He, his wife, two sons and daughter ran a leprosarium and served the poorest of the poor in Bihar, northeast part of India. He was conducting regular weekly Bible studies in a nearby village. On January 22nd, 1999, after a Bible study, he was driving home late evening with his two sons, Philip (age 10) and Timothy (age 6). On the way a mob surrounded them, tied them in their jeep, doused them with gasoline and burned them alive.
Or, think of this. James Byrd Jr, a black man, was walking home one evening on June 7, 1998 when three white men picked him up, tied him behind their pickup truck and dragged him for three miles. He remained conscious throughout most of the ordeal, but was killed when his body hit the edge of a culvert, severing his right arm and head. The murderers drove on for another mile before dumping his torso in front of an African-American cemetery in Jasper, Texas.
Both these horrible incidents happened only six months apart. The culprits in both these cases were brought to trial and found guilty. The ring leader and his accomplices in Stains case are serving life sentence. One of the culprits in the Jasper case was executed on September 21, 2011. The ring leader, John William King, was just recently executed on April 24, 2019; twenty one years after the actual incident took place. A third accomplice is serving life sentence.
Now imagine, in each of these cases at the end of the trial and conviction, the judge tells them, “Fellows, you have done a horrible thing. But I am a loving and kind judge. So, I just warn you do not ever do such a thing again” and sets them free. What kind of uproar would it create?
Our justice system is flawed and many innocent people are convicted and guilty people go scot free. Just during the year of 2018 151 inmates were exonerated who were falsely “proven” guilty. They spent a total of 1,639 combined years in jail. The unwritten rule of justice is, let hundred guilty go unpunished, but not let one single innocent suffer unjust punishment.
But even in our flawed human justice system it would be unimaginable to let such atrocities go unpunished. Why do we keep all the murderers and rapists and those who commit horrible crimes locked up? If we follow only the principle of love, we should have no jails! No, justice demands just punishment. Our own sense of justice demands ultimate judgment. But that is exactly what we expect the holy God do at the end. How can we expect holy God, a perfect standard of justice and righteousness, let sin go unpunished?
Love Of God Provides The Way Of Escape
Hell? Yes! The holiness of God requires it, our sense of justice demands it, and three, love of God provides the way of escape.
The major argument of universalism against the existence of hell is the love of God. The question is how can a loving God send people to such a gruesome and horrible punishment and torment them forever? That is what Radhakrishnan said, “God’s love would not allow even the worst sinner to slip away from Him completely”. Bertrand Russell thought Jesus was more inhumane than any of us because He talked about hell.
The answer is, God does not send anyone to hell. He desires that no one go to that place. Hell is a place where no one needs to go. God clearly says in the Bible, “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? Declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23). God is patiently waiting for people to turn to Him so no one will go to that place (2 Peter 3:9). When one sinner repents, there is great rejoicing in heaven (Luke 15:7, 10)!
Because of His love for mankind and desire that no one goes to that place, God has provided the way of escape. God loved people so much that He gave His Son Jesus Christ who took the punishment of sin on Himself for all mankind. Now the only thing a person has to do to escape from that eternal punishment is trust Jesus and accept God’s forgiveness.
In the cross the holiness of God and love of God are reconciled. Judgment of sin is taken care of and the way for the sinner’s salvation provided. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:17-18).
I repeat, hell is a place where no one needs to go! God does not send anyone there and does not desire that anyone go there. But because of His holiness He cannot give blanket amnesty to all mankind. God has left the choice to each person. As C. S. Lewis said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’, and those to whom God ultimately says, ‘Thy will be done’” (The Great Divorce).
Three Appropriate Responses
One, Hell is a reality. We cannot fool with it. We cannot ignore it. We cannot believe all the lies of its non existence. But it is a place no one needs to go. We certainly can avoid it. The love of God has already provided the way to avoid it. That is what “salvation” basically means; saved from the wrath of God as the eternal punishment of hell.
But the justice of God does not and cannot give blanket amnesty to everyone. Every person has to choose it, make a conscious choice of it. By not making that choice of avoiding hell, everyone automatically makes the choice of hell. Every person born on the earth is destined to hell, unless he/she makes the choice of avoiding it through coming into relationship with Jesus. There is no other way.
Two, we warn people about it. Imagine you are working in a high rise building. You go to a restroom and see heavy smoke and flames coming out of all the vents. You realize the building is on fire. So you quietly and quickly, without telling anybody, slip out of the building and go home. In the evening news you see with horror that that whole building was destroyed by fire and most of the people working in there did not survive because they did not get early warning. How would you be able to live rest of your life with that guilt feeling of not warning people?
Three, it is only by the grace of God that we can escape from it. We realize that, as we saw in our previous lesson, nothing we have done or can do that saves us from the hell. We like the rest of the mankind deserved hell. It is only by the grace of God, we, through Jesus, are spared from that eternal destination. And so, the rest of our life we spend serving Him with heartfelt gratitude.
Most of us know that the Old Testament book of Isaiah divides in two major divisions. The first thirty nine chapters speak about God’s judgment on Israel because of their sin. The second division, twenty seven chapters speak about God’s coming salvation. The Chapter forty begins with the words, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God”.
But along with the message of comfort and salvation in the second division, there is also a message of condemnation. Twenty seven chapters of the second division divide in three equal parts of nine chapters each. And each part ends with condemnation of the wicked.
At the end of the first nine chapter part it is noted, “There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.” (48:22). Then at the end of second nine chapter it says with little more detail, “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘For the wicked’” (57:20-21). Then at the end of the third nine chapter division, which is the end of the book, it says in far more detail, “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm does not die, their fire is not quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.” (66:24)
Who are “they” that will go out and see the dead bodies whose worm does not die and whose fire is not quenched? We can imagine, like the story of the rich man and Lazarus; the rich man looking Lazarus resting in Abraham’s bosom. Here the picture is the other way around. These are the people who are described in the previous verses. These are the inhabitants of heaven.
Now imagine, you are in heaven. And God allows you to crack open the door and lets you see a scene of hell. Living dead bodies. Whose worm would never die and fire will never be quenched. Can you smell the stench? Can you hear the agonizing blood curdling cries? Can you see the dead living bodies flailing their hands in the air crying for help? This is Gahanna.
When you see that, what would you think? Thank God! But by the grace of God I would have been there. Now it is the warning I receive with all seriousness. Now it is my responsibility to warn others of the place no one needs to go. Now it is my joy and privilege to serve Him and live life pleasing to Him.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Isaac Watts, 1707
5. The Place Where Everyone is WelcomeRelated Media
I have really enjoyed and appreciated the time with you through the series of the messages. You have welcomed me with open arms and open hearts and I have appreciated your words of encouragement on the messages. It has been a great blessing for Violet and I to be part of this fellowship. My special thanks to the class leadership for giving me these opportunities.
Finally we come to the last message in our Jesus the only way series. This is the good news story. This is the best news that we have.
By now you know the story of the three cheaters and the Hindu priest being cheated of his precious goat. And you know the moral of the story. A lie when repeated several times does not turn into a truth, but it does become convincing.
One of the lies we hear today is that all religions are the same. Follow your own path and you will find peace and fulfillment. In our first lesson we noted many drastic differences between Christianity and other religions. Not all religions are the same as we are often told. They do not worship the same God nor do they have the same concept of life after death and how to attain salvation. There is only one genuine way to receive eternal life and that is through Jesus Christ. The next three messages we explained why we must accept that as the truth. God is so high and exalted that no one can reach Him unless He comes down to us which He did in Jesus (Mountain too High to Climb). Then we saw that our sin nature separates us from God. There is such a wide chasm between God’s holiness and our sinfulness that we cannot cross except via the cross of Christ (The Valley Too Deep to Cross). Then we saw that God’s holiness demands that sin must be punished. Unless we accept the way provided by God we wind up in the place of eternal punishment (The Place Where No One Needs to Go).
Now in this our fifth and last message we come to the best news that Christianity has to offer, The Place Where Everyone is Welcome.
Bible Reading: Revelation 21:1-7
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. (NIV)
Heaven: Our Final Destination
In his book Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, Pastor Chuck Swindoll tells a story about the 19th Century agnostic Thomas Huxley (1825-1895; It was Huxley who promoted Darwinism and Humanism in his attacks on Christianity). Huxley was in Dublin and was rushing to catch a train. He climbed aboard one of Dublin’s famous horse driven coaches and said to the coachman, “Hurry, I’m late … drive fast.” Off they went at a furious pace, and Huxley sat back in his seat and closed his eyes.
After a while, Huxley opened his eyes and glanced out the window to notice that they were going in the wrong direction. Realizing that he hadn’t told the driver where to take him, he called out, “Do you know where you’re going?”
The driver replied “No, your honor, but I am driving very fast as you told me to”.
Isn’t it strange and old and ironic habit of human beings to drive faster when we have lost our way?
Obviously this is the picture of the vast humanity today. In our fast paced life we are running around like a chicken with head cut off and have no idea where we are heading to. We have all kinds of plans for the life on this earth, but have no idea and no care about where we are going after this life.
Few weeks ago we were at a small party. We were sitting at the table with a young Chinese couple. I asked them, “Have you made long term plans?” He looked at me wide eyes and hesitantly said, yes. I said, “No, I mean, long, very long term plans? He was very polite and did not say anything, but his eyes told me he had no idea what I was talking about and may be thinking I was a nut!
In our last message we talked about one place; the place no one needs to go, but sadly most of the vast humanity will end up there. Most of the vast humanity will end up there because to go to that place you do not need to do anything. By not taking action to avoid that place you are automatically deciding to go there. Every human being born on the planet earth will wind up there unless he decides to take the way of escape provided by God in His grace that we have been talking about all along through the series.
A three-year old girl asked her dad, “Daddy, when I was born, how did you know that I was a girl?” Not a joke, a real life story! By now you know my favorite reading when I am resting in that corner of the house every morning is Reader’s Digest. A hard question to explain to a three-year old! Her dad started with some difficulty, “well, honey, you see, when you were born, you did not have any clothes…”
Before her dad goes any further, she exclaimed, “Oh, I know, the boys are born with clothes”! (Reader’s Digest, January 2013)
That little girl did not realize at her age that not only girls, boys too are born without clothes. Everybody is born naked not only physically, but spiritually. No matter how much we try to cover up our nakedness, it does not work, it is only fig leaves and you ultimately wind up at the place no one needs to go.
It is the grace of God that the Bible does not end with a curse, but with a blessing. Last time we talked about the book of Isaiah. A mini Bible with sixty six chapters. We talked about the last verse, “They will go out and see the dead bodies of those who rebelled against Me. Their worm does not die and their fire is not quenched and they will be loathsome to all mankind”.
Similar way do you remember how the Old Testament ends? The last phrase of the Book of Malachi is, “…lest I come and strike the land with a curse” (NASB). The last word of the Old Testament is “curse”.
But the good news is that the Bible does not end with a curse, Bible ends with a blessing. At the end of the New Testament there is a promise, “Yes, I am coming quickly”. Then there is a prayer, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus”. And blessing, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with the saints”.
For the believer, that is our final destination. As Jesus told His disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled, you believe in God, also believe in Me. In My Father’s house there are many mansions. If that were not so, I would have told you. And I go prepare a place for you I will come back and take you to be with Me so you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3).
Heaven: Our Fairytale Come True
Have you ever considered what the fairy tales teach us? Is there any moral behind all these imaginary made-up stories? Why do we like these tales and why do we read these to our children and grandchildren? Most of the fairy tales, not all, have similar endings; they all lived happily ever after! And that is the secret of the fairy tales. They assure us of the ultimate victory of good over evil. There is a cosmic struggle between good and evil, and evil, much of the time, seems to have an upper hand. But ultimately evil will be destroyed; good will triumph and we all will live happily ever after. Fairy tales are just the reflection of this longing of every human heart.
Think about the Bible as a fairy tale! You will find all the ingredients of a fairy tale in the Bible. Our first parents were living happily. Enjoying their beautiful garden and unhindered fellowship with God. Then the serpent appeared from nowhere and everything changed. There are heartaches and sorrows and every kind of problems we face in life. Constant struggle between the evil and the good and many times evil has the upper hand.
The serpent later becomes the fire breathing dragon in the last book of the Bible. Think of this story:
A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth.
The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness.
Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.
The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness out of the serpent’s reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.
Finally the sky opened up with a loud thunder. The Prince appeared with all His splendor and grabbed the dragon and threw him in the fiery pit where he will suffer forever and ever. And the Bride will be with her prince and both together live happily ever after!
Did you see that? It is almost like a fast action thriller! Story with all the ingredients of a fairy tale!
But the major difference between the fairy tale and the Bible story, of course, is that the Bible story is not a fairy tale. And it is only through the Bible story that this longing of the human heart can be fulfilled. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life”, live happily ever after in the presence of God where there is fullness of joy (John 3:16; Psalm 16:11).
We still live in a world that is filled with evil and with hunger and sickness and all kind of frustrations and troubles that even believers are not immune to. The world is still under the grips of the evil one. And, as Paul says, “…the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth”, and we too, “who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-23).
The Bible, on one hand, provides the way to fulfill the longing of the human heart. On the other hand, it creates a hunger and thirst that cannot be satisfied by even the best things this world has to offer. Just like the Old Testament saints, we too are looking forward to the day when our “faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll; the trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend” and everything will be well with our soul (From the hymn, “It is Well with My Soul”). The Prince will ultimately defeat the old dragon and take His princess (Bride) to be with Him. And the dwelling of God will be with His people, and He will live with them and wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:3-4), and His people will live with Him happily ever after! (Actually, I like the fairy tale ending in Guajarati which says, “They ate (the fruit of the tree of life), drank (from the river of life) and reigned (forever)!”
To live happily ever after is a God-inspired longing of every human heart. Fairy tales are just the reflection of this longing of every human heart. In eternal life all our longings will be fulfilled, all our expectations realized, all our hopes realized. It will be like nothing we have ever experienced or even expected. As C. S. Lewis said, we all long for “the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” Or as the Bible says, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered in the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him. For to us God revealed them through the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 2:9-10).
Heaven: Our Eternal Home
Psalm 23 is probably most loved and most familiar psalm for all of us. Do you remember how that psalm ends? “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will be in the house of the Lord forever”! As long as I live on this earth, Lord’s goodness and mercy are always with me. And when my life on this earth ends, I have eternal home, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever!!
Heaven is the Lord’s house and our eternal home. There we will enjoy our unhindered fellowship with the Lord. In His presence there is fullness of joy and at His right hand eternal pleasures! There we will be with our loved ones in the Lord and no death and no separation ever. There we will serve the Lord and worship Him forever and ever.
You like the music in our church? It is outstanding! It is heavenly! When I attended the Dallas Theological Seminary (1974-1978) the seminary theme hymn was All hail the power of Jesus’ name. That time the seminary did not accept ladies, only men. The enrollment that time was around one thousand. We had chapel service every school day. When we sang that hymn with the top of our voices with full gusto the voices of thousand plus men filled the Chafer chapel and you can literally hear the rafters creaking. Even today as I think of that it gives me goose bumps.
But you ain’t seen nothing yet! Every time the door of heaven is cracked open and we have a glimpse of heaven we see it filled with loud sounds of praises and exuberant worship.
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped (Revelation 5:11-14, NIV)
If you are ever discouraged in this life, just read last two chapters of the Bible! There is so much about heaven in those two chapters. That is how the story ends. If we have come into the relationship with Christ we will certainly live happily ever after.
Heaven: Our Present Experience
Heaven is not only our future eternal home, it is our present experience. In a Sunday school a teacher carefully explained to the kids the plan of salvation, how to go to heaven. At the end of the lesson, to make sure the kids understood everything, she asked, “Okay, boys and girls, how do we go to heaven?” She expected answer something like you have to receive Jesus in your heart. But one girl raised her hand and answered, “You have to die”!
In a sense that girl was right. You cannot go to heaven until you die or the Lord comes to take His bride home. But that actually is our usual attitude toward heaven. When we die we will go to heaven and enjoy all the blessings of heaven. When a believer dies we use words like he went to be with the Lord! To be with the Lord has come to mean death!
Imagine this scenario. One morning after breakfast I tell Violet, okay I want to spend some time with the Lord and then I go to my room. Then she hears a knock at the door. She opens the door and sees two our very close friends. With a big smile she invites them in. Then the friend asks her, “Where is Imanuel?” Violet says, “He just went to be with the Lord!”
What do you think our friends would think? They would be shocked! And more than the news they would be shocked by the cavalier and casual way and with happy smile she conveyed the news. You want to live in a way that your wife, or husband, is at least somewhat sad when you die, not rejoicing.
And this actually happened. Once my wife and I went to attend a Christmas Eve service at our church. It was packed. I do not remember how it happened, but we got separated. May be I went to the rest room and she went in to find a spot. But when I came back I looked all around and I could not find her. She was not at our usual spot. You know how it is; we all have our own assigned seats. The service began and I just sat down where I found a spot.
My wife was feeling uneasy all the time during the service. A lady sitting next to her must have noticed that so she asked, “Are you alright?” My wife with a smile told her, “Yes, I am fine. I just lost my husband”. Again, can you imagine the shock the lady must have felt with the way my wife conveyed the news! Being very polite, as you have to be when you are in a church service, she began to express her sympathy. My wife told her what really had happened and I am sure they had a big laugh as we both had when she told me the story!
But my point is, we do not have to wait till we die to enjoy heaven. The moment we accept the Lord, we are already in heaven. Listen what the Bible says, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions… And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-6).
Eternal life for the believer is not pie in the sky that begins only after we die. As we continue to grow in our relationship with God through daily spending time in His Word and serving the Lord, we enjoy all the blessings of heaven here and now. When a person comes into a relationship with God he is assured of heaven. But as he continues to grow into that relationship heaven comes down to him and he experiences that joy of heaven increasingly. If we make knowing Him, loving Him and serving Him our priority, then the things of this world will grow strangely dim and we will be able not only to appreciate our spiritual blessings, but also be able to enjoy this life and the things of this world, and our life will be more and more filled with the joy and peace that God desires us to have.
Jesus said I have come so they may life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Our life is, should be, filled with joy and peace, excitement and exuberance! We have the real joy; we have the real reason for celebration and to enjoy life. We do not have to go around sad as Sadducees or like a fasting Pharisee! Let others see your joy. Let others experience your joy. When we enter a room every face should light up with a smile!
We do not have to wait till we die to enjoy Heaven. “Heaven came down and glory filled my soul”. Not when I die. But “when at the cross my Savior made me whole”!!
Heaven: Our Blessed Assurance
From the beginning of this series our main theme has been “Blessed assurance Jesus is mine, O what a foretaste of glory divine”! Do not let anyone rob you of your goat! Do not let all the lies we hear around us rob you of your assurance of eternal life, rob you of your joy of salvation, When doubt arise, think of the things we have talked about. Christianity is only religion that makes sense. It is the logical religion, common sense religion. If you have any common sense you have no choice but to accept this as the only truth. As Peter said, this Book has the words of eternal life, where else can we go? Or, there is no other name given under heaven among man by which we can be saved. If you have not yet accepted that truth, right now is the time to do that. And if you already have, be assured of the truth and bask in the light of the truth.
Heaven: Our Excitement Of It
When you are really excited about something what do you do? I can tell you one thing; you cannot keep quiet about it! One Sunday after the church service parents picked up their four year old girl from her Sunday school class. She was beaming. As soon as she got in the car she told her parents, “Mom, Daddy, did you know, my Sunday school teacher is Jesus’ grandma”. The parents were really surprised to hear that and asked, “Honey, how do you know that?” She replied, “All the time she keeps talking about Jesus and keeps showing His pictures”.
That is the kind of Sunday school teacher you want for your children and grand children! Check all the ladies’ purses here, and you will find photos of their grandkids. We are so excited about our grandkids. We have eight, ranging from sixteen to two. But the girl has a point. If you are excited about something or someone, you cannot keep quiet.
How excited are you about heaven? When was the last time that you shared about heaven to someone?
Heaven: Our Foremost Priority
My friends, this is not our home. We will be gone, sooner or later, sooner than we can think or imagine. Everything we do here is in the context of heaven. Like Paul said, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
You may have heard the phrase, he is so heavenly minded that no earthly good! That certainly is not true. As C. S. Lewis said those who made the most contribution for the advancement of the culture and betterment of the humanity were people who lived by eternal values. That certainly is true. Otherwise you would be most selfish, self centered and living with under the sun outlook and most miserable and everything meaningless. We have to make the most of the short life we are here on the earth and only Christianity provides you the way to make your life most meaningful, for this life on earth as well as life after death. If you are not heavenly minded you are no earthly good.
There was an old wise man lived simple life in a secluded place. He was known all around for his wisdom and many people paid him visit to learn from him. Once upon a time a tourist from America came to visit him. The tourist was really taken aback seeing the simplicity of the old man. He asked, “Teacher, how can you live like this? You have no bed, no piece of furniture, no utensils.”
The teacher in response asked the tourist, “My friend, you ask me where is my furniture or other things. But I have to ask you where is your furniture, your bed, your utensils?” The tourist was taken by surprise. He said, “Teacher, I am just a tourist, I am here for a short time, I am just passing through”.
“So am I, my friend, so am I”, replied the teacher.
My friends, if you have not made sure about heaven, it is still not too late. If you are not excited about heaven now you will never be.
There are only two purposes that the Lord has allowed us continue to live on earth. One is getting us ready for heaven. Daily we are not going closer to the grave, we are going closer to the Lord and daily we are becoming more and more like Jesus. And two, we are being blessing to people around us by sharing the Joy of the Lord with them. The greatest blessing of the believer’s life on earth not that he is blessed, but that he is a blessing.
My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now
I love Thee because Thou has first loved me
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now
I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.
In mansions of glory and endless delight
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.
William Ralph Featherston, 1864
Our heavenly Father, thank you that your story does not end with the bad news of the place where no one needs to go, but with the good news of the place where everyone is welcome. Thank you that in your grace and love for us, for the whole humanity, you have provided the way to enter this place. Thank you for this truth revealed to us through your written Word and made possible through your Living Word, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our prayer is that we would be excited about this place you have prepared for us, we would share it with those who have not yet accepted the way, we would live in great hope and expectation of that place daily getting ready for it and prepared to meet our Savior with whom we will spend the eternity. In your presence there is fullness of joy and eternal pleasures at your right hand. Thank you for
The Net Pastor's Journal, Eng Ed, Issue 33 Fall 2019
Fall 2019 Edition
A ministry of…
Part I: Strengthening Expository Preaching
“Strengthening Applications” (Pt. 2)
In the last edition of this NET Pastors Journal, we began to discuss how you can strengthen your sermon applications. In this edition we will continue that subject.
As preachers we need to remember that theology is thoroughly practical and, therefore, must also be practically applied in our sermons. Truth is not meant to be intellectual only: it is also meant to be practical. Hence, the practice of truth must form a significant part of our sermons. That is what we mean by application.
But many preachers often find it hard to determine how to apply the truth they are preaching so that it is relevant for today’s audience and at the same time true to the text. So, here are some ideas to help you make relevant applications in your sermons.
A. Helpful Hints For Uncovering Good Applications 1
First, examine the situation in the text. Ask questions like…
#1: What was the problem, issue, or circumstance back then?
- Who was the biblical author writing to?
- Why did the author write to these people at that time?
- What was the issue or circumstance or trial or suffering that needed to be addressed?
- What was the nature of the author’s rebuke, correction, exhortation, or explanation?
#2: What was the biblical solution or required action?
- How did the author address the problem? What instruction did he give them?
- Did God address them directly? If so, what did God instruct them to do or to be?
#3: What was the people’s response?
- What response did the biblical author expect or demand?
- How did the people receive the message and respond to the solution?
- What attitude did they express to the author’s instructions?
Second, examine the situation now. Ask questions like…
#1: How are people’s needs and problems similar today?
- How are we like the people in the biblical text?
- In what way is their life-situation similar to ours today? Be specific.
#2: What is the biblical solution for today?
- What does Scripture tell us about this question?
- What biblical principles can we apply to ourselves?
#3: What should be our response today?
- How should a Christian respond to the instructions of Scripture about this issue?
- What do we need to do to correct this problem in our day? Do we need to correct something in our attitude, our beliefs, our priorities, our values, our wills, our relationships?
- What must we do to be obedient to God’s word?
Thirdly, be specific for the actual applications you will preach
- How are the people in my congregation facing similar problems in their lives?
- How are we like the people in the passage?
- What response should I expect from my congregation - conviction, repentance, obedience, doubt, rejection, anger, questions, objections, acceptance, submission?
As you ask these questions, try to answer them by specifically naming the types of situations that are contemporary equivalents. Try to give specific guidance as to how they can apply the truth of God to their own lives.
Be concrete, real in the present day life of your people. Come up with credible, practical, examples, even though, perhaps, you cannot name actual situations because of confidentiality. In that case, you could, if it were appropriate, ask someone to give a personal testimony that relates to the subject.
So, prepare your own answers to your own questions and challenges as you consider the practical application of the truth in the text. What does God want this congregation and these people individually to do, believe, or change in their lives? What kind of people does God want them to become?
And always try to hold out hope, for example, that the Holy Spirit is within us to enable us to be obedient to the truth; that our destiny is secure and settled and ultimately we will be saved from trials; that we can have joy because of our faith and future hope in Christ.
Lastly, address what action you suggest your people need to take. Be specific. Give examples. What kind of action do they need to take to inculcate the truth into their lives, to live as the people of God should live? What specific steps should they take? And offer to help them in this process. That’s your responsibility as a pastor not simply to tell them what to do, based on the truth of Scripture, but to help them practically to achieve that goal.
If the topic has to do with, for example, enduring hardship as a Christian, try to give them specific suggestions to deal with struggles (either physical, spiritual, emotional etc.) that test their faith. For example, (1) they could memorize pertinent, assuring Scriptures; (2) they could start to pray with a Christian friend who will provide mutual support; (3) they could share their struggles with a counsellor or pastor or with their Bible study group. Give Scripture for why it is biblical to bear one another’s burdens.
Remember that not every Scripture passage allows for a direct transfer of application. In other words, you can’t assume that what happened back then in the biblical text has its exact equivalent now, or that how they responded back then is necessarily how we should respond now. How you transfer across to today’s application will be dictated by the passage. This is where you have to be faithful to the intent of the biblical writer.
B. Essential Characteristics Of Good Application
1. Good Application Will Emphasize The Urgency Of The Message
It must have a sense of urgency that this must be done now – i.e. believe the gospel, submit to the will of God, stop sinful habits and associations etc.
2. Good Application Will Reflect The Intensity Of The Message
By intensity I mean the emphasis in the sermon that encourages a positive action in response to the conviction of the Word and of the preacher. This isn’t a nice fireside chat but a summons. Jesus’ parables always summoned people to some sort of action - e.g. The Good Samaritan: “Go and do likewise” (Lk. 10:37).
3. Good Application Will Correspond With The Purpose Of The Message
Application must directly relate to the purpose of the sermon. It must arise from and address the objective of the sermon. Whatever purpose you have determined for your sermon, the application must fulfill that purpose by making a tangible difference in people’s lives.
4. Good Application Will Induce The Motivation Of The Message
One of the purposes of every sermon is to motivate your listeners to some sort of action. The motivation you want to induce is that which touches the heart, instructs the mind, pricks the conscience, and directs the will to action - not by manipulation, or threat but by the Spirit-induced, truth-awakened response to the Word. “Our ultimate object is to move the will, to set it in another course, to increase its pace, and to make it sing in ‘the ways of God’s commandments’” 2
5. Good Application Will Impose The Confrontation Of The Message
Application is where the confrontation of the message becomes personal and direct (not impersonal or indirect) to the audience. They may be confronted with the “principle” of the truth and not react because it is impersonal and / or indirect. But when confronted with the “practice” of the truth, reaction is inevitable and necessary.
Expository preaching is confrontational in nature either through direct or indirect application. Most sermon applications have both types of confrontation. For example, Nathan the prophet’s confrontation with David (2 Sam. 12) started out with indirect application by telling the story but he ended up with direct application: “You’re the man”. Jesus was usually direct in his application.
By being direct, you do not run the risk of going over the people’s heads as you might with indirect application, where they miss the point altogether of how they are to respond. 2 Tim. 3:16-17 would seem to indicate that application of biblical truth should be (1) direct and explicit, rather than indirect and implicit; and (2) persuasive and confrontational, rather than suggestive and accommodating (cf. the apostolic preaching in Acts).
6. Good Application Will Generate The Persuasion Of The Message
Application has as its primary object the persuasion of the hearers to conform to the truth whether delivered throughout the sermon or at the end or both. The explanation preached is brought to bear upon the application to be followed. A sermon is, thus, both informative and transformational.
The power of persuasion comes from the Word of God applied by the Spirit of God to the heart, mind, will, and conscience. The means of persuasion is the preacher relating the truth to life in such a way that the hearers see the necessity for change and are persuaded to do something about it.
When the Spirit of God opens up the understanding of the Word of God and demonstrates the reality of it through the preacher’s application, that is a powerful catalyst for change.
For application to be persuasive, the presentation of the truth and its application must be presented properly, politely, and humbly such that the hearers will be receptive to it.
7. Good Application Will Surface From The Explanation Of The Message
The application must be driven by the text just as much as the explanation is driven by the text. Don’t use the text to spring board to any application you want. That is lack of integrity to your audience and to the text. Be sure that you derive your application from the text, that your applications line up with the biblical author’s intent, and that the main thrust of your application is the same as the main thought of the text.
Don’t use the text to achieve your own ends. This is a misuse of Scripture. Application must not in any way distort the meaning of the text as it applies to life. This is applying the text with integrity. This takes great discipline. It is as important to figure out the biblical application as it is to figure out the biblical meaning of the text.
Note that while the application must be derived from the text, the scope of application may be “stretched” in that the implications of the text for life may spread into all kinds of areas. Thus, one text with one meaning yields multiple applications.
8. Good Application Will Expose The Pastoral Thrust Of The Message
Good application will lead people where they should go. It will care for people when they hurt. It will rebuke people when they are disobedient. It will feed people when they are hungry. It will protect people when they are in danger.
9. Good Application Will Concretize The Abstract Ideas Of The Message
Don’t be concerned that by making your examples concrete you may let some of your hearers off the hook - i.e. they may conclude that since you have not named something that applies to them, that therefore they don’t need to respond. Here the Holy Spirit fills in the gap. He uses the examples you give to surface in the hearers minds and consciences things that they need to correct, change etc.
Be specific and concrete. That’s what application is. Relating the truth to life. In order to do this effectively, you must focus on life-related situations in which this particular truth applies in a particular way. Your task, as the preacher, is to make this clear and urge obedience to it. Don’t leave it at the conceptual level. That’s what many preachers do. They have trouble coming down from the abstract level of theology to the specific, concrete, life-situation level.
Don’t neglect application. Review your sermon before you preach it to assess how much application you have included. Is it enough? Is every major principle applied? My mentor, Dr. Stephen Olford, used to urge us to make application 50% of the sermon!
C. Guidelines For Applications
1. Look For Truths, Promises, Commands, And Examples
Promises, commands, and examples are given for more than mere creedal or intellectual assent. They are to be inculcated into life. The Bible contains truths to believe and obey.
The only acceptable response to the Bible’s truths is faith, which is evidenced not merely in passive acceptance of the principle, but in understanding its implications for life and living them out (i.e. application). Note that truths and examples may be explicit or implicit.
For example, an explicit principle is: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). While there is no doubt what an explicit principle is and says, how it plays out in life may vary from culture to culture. Our task is to discover the applications of the explicit principle for our lives in our culture today.
An implicit principle might be principles whose import for life are arrived at through logical deduction. For example, “You shall not commit adultery” implies the necessity for purity, fidelity, love.
Look for the principles and then move up the ladder of abstraction to determine their broadest sense. Then, apply them to life as it is to be lived in our society in our time
2. Educate yourself in the Hermeneutical Challenges of Applying the Old Testament
For more reading on this subject, I would recommend: “How is the Christian to Apply the Old Testament to Life?” in Making Sense out of the Old Testament by Tremper Longman III, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 103-136.
3. Be Aware Of The Culture Around You
This way, you can bring the Word to bear on real situations of real people. Applications that don’t make sense, or are “way out” will have little impact.
The truth principles in the Bible speak to all peoples of all times. Our task in preaching is to apply it to our people at our time – that’s relevance.
4. Recognize That No Two Preachers Will Necessarily Apply The Text Uniformly
This does not mean one is right and the other wrong. This simply means that their styles are different, or they bring out different aspects of the same truth, or their congregations would benefit from a different approach to the application.
5. Don’t Run Out Of Steam At Application Time
Maintain your conviction and passion about the truth as you apply. That is the crucial time for intensity, when you personalize it
6. Speak As One To Whom This Truth Also Applies and Has Been Applied
This does not mean that you have to use “we.” Sometimes you might, but generally you will use “you” to make it personal and convicting. But, you need to be sure that you have applied this truth to your own life first before you can exhort others to be obedient to it.
Always make this part of your preparation process. When your sermon is ready, and you are reviewing it before the Lord, review it prayerfully, asking God to show you truths that you need to apply to yourself.
7. Visualize Your Audience
See their needs (without being personal or breaking a confidence). Cover the spectrum of life-situations represented in your audience (e.g. at home, at work, at school, in your neighbourhood) – include everyone.
Use “perhaps” situations for each life-situation. “Perhaps you face this in your workplace...” etc. You may not address the exact situation that each person faces, but you will trigger in their minds other situations in which this application is personal to them.
8. Remember Four Principles Of Application
#1. The personal principle
This is the principle of the preacher applying the Scripture to his own life. If you preach to others what you have not applied to your own life, you will not preach with power. Not only does God know when you do this, but people will also. The preacher must preach what he believes and he must live it.
#2. The imagination principle
To properly apply the text, it must become real to you. The people, places, and emotions must come alive in your own imagination. If it is alive to the preacher, then it makes it easier for you to see how it applies to other people.
#3. The stretch principle
As we preach to people over a period of time and guide them, the preacher gets to know them better – their fears and needs. Our experience of the people, where they live and who they are, allows us to stretch the application of the Scriptures to cover as many of these areas as possible. This does not give license for using the text inappropriately or inaccurately. There is only one interpretation of Scripture, but there are many applications to human experiences and problems.
#4. The declarative principle
The application of the text must be declared with authority and clarity. There must be no uncertainty about the application of the text. The people come to church for clear direction, to find out what God says, how they must live, and how they can get help for their problems. Therefore, the application must be overtly declared so that the people are not left hanging or wondering what the point was.
Part II. Sermon Outlines
Title: Letters to the Seven Churches: Ephesus, Orthodox but Cold
Theme: Revival begins with repentance among God’s people
Point #1: First, the good news: “Externally your church appears in good spiritual health”
(1) You work constantly and diligently (2a)
(2) You judge evil clearly and decisively (2b)
(3) You press on faithfully and untiringly (3)
Point #2: Now the bad news: “Internally your church has a serious heart condition”
(1) Christ’s diagnosis: ”You’ve left your first love” (4)
(2) Christ’s treatment:
(a) “Remember from where you have fallen” (5a)
(b) “Repent and do the first works” (5b)
(c) Warning: “If you don’t, I will remove your lamp-stand” (5c)
(d) Promise to those who heed the warning: “I will give (you) to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God” (7)
1 Adapted from Dave Veerman, How to Apply the Bible (Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers, 1993).
2 John Henry Jowett, The Preacher His Life and Work (New York: Harper and brothers Publishers, 1912), 172, cited in Handbook of Contemporary Preaching, 211.
Related Topics: Pastors
La Revue Internet Des Pasteurs, Fre Ed 33, Edition de l’automne 2019
Edition d’Automne 2019
Un ministère de…
Partie I: Renforcement De La Predication Par Exposition
“Renforcement des Applications” (Pt. 2)
Dans l’édition passé de NET Pastors Journal, nous avons commencé à discuter de comment vous pouvez renforcer l’application de vos prédications. Nous allons continuer la discussion sur ce sujet dans la présente édition.
Entant que prédicateurs, nous devons nous rappeler que la théologie est foncièrement pratique et que par conséquent, nous devons l’appliquer pratiquement dans nos prédications. Pour ce faire, la pratique de la vérité doit être une partie importante de nos prédications. C’est ce que nous entendons par application.
Mais souvent, il est difficile pour plusieurs prédicateurs de déterminer la manière dont il faut appliquer la vérité qu’ils prêchent de manière à ce qu’elle soit pertinente pour leurs auditeurs d’aujourd’hui en même temps que pour le texte. Pour ce faire, voici quelques idées pour vous aider à faire des applications pertinentes de vos prédications.
A. Des Astuces Utiles Pour Decouvrir De Bonnes Applications 1
Premièrement, examinez la situation dans le texte. Posez des questions comme…
#1: Quel était le problème, la situation, ou la circonstance d’alors?
- A qui l’auteur biblique écrivait-il?
- Pourquoi l’auteur a-t-il écrit à ces gens en son temps?
- Quelle situation ou circonstance ou lutte ou souffrance avait besoin d’être résolue?
- Quelle était la nature de la correction, de l’exhortation ou de l’explication de l’ auteur?
#2: Quelle était la solution biblique ou l’action requise?
- Comment l’auteur a-t-il résolu le problème? Quelle instruction leur a-t-il donné?
- Dieu s’est-il adressé à eux directement? Si oui, qu’est-ce Dieu leur a instruit de faire ou d’être?
#3: Quelle était la réaction des gens?
- Quelle réaction l’auteur biblique attendait-il ou exigeait-il?
- Comment les gens ont-ils reçu le message et réagi à la solution?
- Quelle attitude ont-ils exprimé vis-à-vis des instructions de l’auteur?
Deuxiemement, examinez la situation maintenant. Posez des questions comme …
#1: En quoi les besoins et les problèmes des gens sont-ils similaires aujourd’hui?
- En quoi sommes-nous semblables aux personnes dans le texte biblique?
- En quoi la situation de leur vie est-elle semblable à la nôtre aujourd’hui? Soyez spécifique.
#2: Quelle est la solution biblique pour aujourd’hui?
- Que nous dit l’Ecriture concernant cette question?
- Quels principes bibliques pouvons-nous appliquer à nous-mêmes?
#3: Quelle devrait être notre reaction aujourd’hui?
- Comment le Chrétien répond-il aux instructions de l’Ecriture concernant ce problème?
- Que devons-nous faire pour corriger ce problème de nos jours? Devons-nous corriger quelque chose dans notre attitude, nos croyances, nos priorités, nos valeurs, nos désirs, ou nos relations?
- Que devons-nous faire pour être obéissants à la Parole de Dieu?
Troisièmement, soyez spécifique pour les vraies applications que vous allez prêcher
- Comment les gens dans mon église font-ils face à des problèmes similaires dans leurs vies?
- En quoi sommes-nous comme les gens dans le passage?
- Quelle réaction devrais-je attendre de mon église – la conviction, la répentance, l’obéissance, le doute, le rejet, la colère, des questions, des objections, l’acceptation, la soumission?
A mesure que vous-vous poser ces questions, essayez d’y répondre en nommant spécifiquement les types de situations qui ressemblent à des situations contemporaines. Essayez de donner des orientations sur la manière doit ils peuvent appliquer la vérité de Dieu dans leurs propres vies.
Soyez concret, vrai dans la situation présente de la vie de vos membres. Donnez des exemples pratiques et crédibles, même s’il se peut que vous ne puissiez pas nommer des situations réelles pour des raisons de confidentialité. Dans ce cas, vous pouvez, si cela est convenable, demander à quelqu’un de donner son propre témoignage sur le sujet.
Par conséquent, préparez vos propres réponses pour vos propres questions et défis à mesure que vous considérer l’application pratique de la vérité dans le texte. Qu’est-ce que Dieu veut que l’église et ces membres pris individuellement, fassent, croient, ou changent dans leurs vies. Quel genre de personnes Dieu veut-Il qu’ils deviennent?
Et, essayez toujours de garder l’espoir, par exemple, celui que le Saint-Esprit est en nous pour nous rendons capables d’être obéissants à la vérité; que notre destinée est garantie et établie et que nous seront définitivement sauvés des épreuves; que nous pouvons avoir la joie à cause de notre foi et notre avenir en Christ.
En dernière position, quelle action suggérez-vous à vos membres d’entreprendre. Soyez spécifiques. Donnez des exemples. Quelle sorte d’action ont-ils besoin d’entreprendre pour inculquer la vérité dans leurs vies, pour vivre comme le peuple de Dieu devrait vivre? Quels pas spécifiques devraient-ils prendre? Et offrez de les aider dans ce processus. C’est non seulement votre responsabilité en tant que pasteur de leur dire ce qu’ils doivent faire, en vous basant sur la vérité de l’Ecriture, mais aussi de les aider pratiquement à atteindre ce but.
Si par exemple le sujet à quelque chose à voir avec le fait de supporter les épreuves en tant que Chrétien, essayez de leur donner des suggestions spécifiques pour gérer les luttes (soit physiques, spirituelles, émotionnelle, etc.) qui éprouvent leur foi par exemple, (1) ils pourraient mémoriser des versets pertinents et rassurants; (3) ils pourraient partager leurs luttes avec un conseiller ou un pasteur ou avec leur groupe d’étude biblique. Donnez des versets sur ce pourquoi il est biblique de se supporter les uns les autres.
Souvenez-vous que ce ne sont pas tous les passages qui permettent un transfer direct d’application. En d’autres termes, vous pouvez supposer que ce qui s’est passé dans le contexte biblique a son equivalent exact aujourd’hui, ou que la manière doit ils ont réagi en son temps est nécessairement la manière doit nous devons réagir aujourd’hui. La manière dont vous transférez l’application d’aujourd’hui est dictée par le passage. C’est là que vous devez être fidèle à l’intention de l’auteur biblique.
B. Caracteristiques Essentielles D’une Bonne Application
1. Une Bonne Application Mettra l’Accent Sur l’Urgence Du Message
Il doit y avoir un sense d’urgence que cela doit être fait maintenant – par exemple: croyez en l’évangile, soumettez-vous à la volonté de Dieu, mettez fin aux habitudes et associations péchéresses etc.
2. Une Application Réflètera l’Intensity Du Message
Par intensité j’entends l’accent mis sur le message pour encourager une action positive en réponse à la conviction de la Parole et du prédicateur. Il ne s’agit pas d’une belle conversation autour d’un feu, mais d’une injunction. Les paraboles de Jésus pressent toujours les gens à entreprendre une sorte d’action – par exemple: le Bon Samaritain: “Va et toi, fait de même” (Lc. 10:37).
3. Une Bonne Application Correspondra avec Le But Du Message
L’Application doit être directement liée au but de la prédication. Quelque soit le but que vous avez déterminé pour votre message, l’application doit accomplir ce but en faisant une différence tangible dans la vie des gens.
4. Une Bonne Application Induira La Motivation Du Message
L’un des buts de toute predication est de motiver vos auditeurs à une sorte d’action. La motivation que vous voulez induire est celle qui touche le coeur, instruit l’esprit, pique la conscience, et conduit la volonté à l’action – non par la manipulation, ou la ménace mais par la reaction à la Parole inspirée par l’Esprit et l’éveil causé par la vérité. “Notre but ultime est de déplacer la volonté et la positionner sur une autre course, d’augmenter sa célérité, et de l’amener à chanter selon ‘les voies des commandement divins’” 2
5. Une Bonne Application Imposera La Confrontation Du Message
L’Application, c’est là où la confrontation du message devient personnelle et directe (pas impersonnelle ou indirecte) pour l’auditoire. Ils peuvent être confrontés au “principe” de la vérité sans y réagir parce que c’est impersonnel et/ou indirect. Mais s’ils sont confrontés à la “pratique” de la vérité, la réaction est inévitable et nécessaire.
La prédication par exposition exige de nature la confrontation soit par une application directe ou indirecte. La plupart des application de prédications ont les deux types de confrontation. Par exemple, la confrontation de David par la prophète Nathan (2 Sam. 12) a commencé par une application indirecte par l’histoire qu’il lui a dite et s’est terminée par une application directe: “Tu es cet homme-là”. Jésus était habituellement direct dans son application.
En étant direct, vous ne risquez pas de créer la confusion chez les gens comme vous pourriez le faire avec l’application indirecte, où ils ratent la manière dont ils doivent répondre. 2 Tim. 3:16-17 pourrait sembler indiquer que l’application de la vérité biblique devrait être (1) directe et explicite, plutôt qu’indirecte et implicite; et (2) persuasive et confrontante, plutôt que suggestive et accommodante (cf. la prédication apostolique dans le livre des Actes).
6. Une bonne Application Générera La Persuasion Du Message
L’Application a pour objectif premier la persuasion des auditeurs à se conformer à la vérité enseignée à travers la prédication ou à la fin ou les deux. L’explication prêchée est voulue pour porter sur l’application à suivre. Une predication, est donc, à la fois informative et transformationnelle.
La puissance de la persuasion vient de la Parole de Dieu appliquée par le Saint Esprit au coeur, l’esprit, la volonté et à la conscience. Le moyen de la persuasion est que le prédicateur relie la vérité à la vie de sorte à ce que les auditeurs voient la nécessité de changer et qu’ils soient persuadés de faire quelque chose à propos.
Lorsque l’Esprit de Dieu donne la compréhension de la Parole et démontre sa réalité à travers l’application du prédicateur, c’est un puissant catalyseur de changement.
Pour que l’application soit persuasive, la présentation de la vérité et son application doivent être exposées correctement, poliement et humblement de telle manière que les auditeurs lui soient receptifs.
7. Une Bonne Application Fera Surface à Partir de l’Explication du Message
L’application doit être dirigée par le texte tout comme l’explication doit autant être dirigée par le texte. N’utilisez pas le texte pour faire n’importe quelle application que vous désirez. Cela reviendrait à manquer d’intégrité vis-à-vis de vos auditeurs et du texte. Assurez-vous que vous tirez votre application du texte, que vos applications se conforment avec l’intention de l’auteur biblique, et que la vérité principale de votre application est la même que la pensée principale du texte.
N’utilisez pas le texte à vos propres fins. C’est une mauvaise utilisation de l’Ecriture. L’application ne doit en aucun cas tordre le sens du texte dans son application à la vie. C’est appliquer le texte avec intégrité. Cela exige une grande discipline. Il est tout aussi important de comprendre l’application biblique comme on comprend le sens biblique du texte.
Notez que tandis que l’application doit provenir du texte, l’ampleur de l’application peut être “étendue” en ce sens que les implications du texte pour la vie pourrait s’étendre à toutes sortes de domaine. Ainsi, un texte ayant un seul sens produit de multiples applications.
8. Une Bonne Application Exposera La Confiance du Pasteur dans Le Message
La bonne application guidera les gens là où ils doivent aller. Elle aura soin des gens quand ils sont blessés. Elle reprendra les gens s’ils sont désobéissants. Elle nourrira les gens lorsqu’ils ont faim. Elle protégera les gens lorsqu’ils sont en danger.
9. Une Bonne Application Concrétisera Les Idées Abstraites du Message
Ne vous inquiétez pas qu’en rendant vos exemples concrets, vous libéreriez certains de vos auditeurs de leur responsabilité – c’est-à-dire qu’ils se peut qu’ils concluent que du moment où vous n’avez pas nommé quelque chose qui s’applique à eux, ils n’ont pas besoin de réagir. Là, le Saint Esprit supplée à la lacune. Il utilise l’exemple que vous donnez pour faire surgir dans l’esprit des auditeurs les choses qu’ils doivent corriger, changer, etc.
Soyez spécifique et concret. C’est ce que c’est que l’application. Relier la vérité à la vie. Pour faire cela efficacement, vous devez mettre l’accent sur des situations de la vie dans lesquelles cette vérité particulière s’applique d’une manière particulière. Votre tâche en tant que prédicateur, c’est de rendre cela clair et de pousser à son obéissance. N’en rester pas au niveau conceptuel. C’est ce que plusieurs prédicateurs font. Ils ont des difficultés pour passer de l’aspect abstrait de la théologie à l’aspect spécifique, concret de la situation de vie.
Ne négligez pas l’application. Revoyez votre prédication avant de la prêcher afin d’évaluer à quel point vous avez pris compte l’application. Est-ce suffisant? A-t-on appliqué chaque principe majeur? Mon mentor, le Dr Stephen Olford, avait l’habitude de nous pousser à faire de l’application 50% de la prédication!
C. Directives Pour L’application
1. Cherchez Des Vérités, Des Promesse, Des Commandements, Et Des Exemples
Les promesses, les commandements, et les exemples sont plus que des credos ou un consentement intellectuel. Ils doivent être inculqués à la vie. La Bible contient des vérités à croire et à obéir.
La seule reaction acceptable à la vérité de la Bible est la foi, qui est prouvée non par une acceptation passive du principe, mais dans la compréhension de ses implications pour la vie et le fait de les mettre en pratique (c’est-à-dire l’application). Notez que les vérités et les exemples peuvent être explicites ou implicites.
Par exemple, un principe explicite est: “Tu aimeras ton prochain comme toi-même” (Lev. 19:18). Tandis qu’il n’existe aucun doute sur ce qu’est un principe explicite et ce qu’il dit, la manière de le mettre en pratique dans la vie pourrait varier d’une culture à l’autre. Notre devoir c’est de découvrir les applications du principe explicite pour nos vie dans notre culture aujourd’hui.
Un principe implicite pourrait être un principe dont la signification pour la vie est atteinte par une déduction logique. Par exemple, “Tu ne commettra point d’adultère” implique la nécessité de la pureté, de la fidélité, de l’amour.
Cherchez les principe et faites bouger l’échelle de l’abstrait pour determiner leur sens large. Puis, appliquez-les à la vie comme elle doit être vécue dans notre société dans notre temps.
2. Educatez-vous Dans les défis Hermeneuritques d’Appliquer l’Ancien Testament
Pour plus de lecture sur ce sujet, je recommanderais: “How is the Christian to Apply the Old Testament to Life?” (“Comment le Chrétien Doit-Il Appliquer l’Ancien Testament à la Vie?”) dans Making Sense out of the Old Testament (Comprendre l’Ancien Testament) de Tremper Longman III, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 103-136.
3. Soyez Conscient De Votre Environnement Culturel
De cette manière vous pouvez apporter la Parole adaptée à des situation réelles de personnes réelles. Les applications qui n’ont pas de sens ou “inadaptées” n’auront presque pas d’impact.
Les principes de vérité de la Bible parle à tous les hommes de tous les temps. Notre tâche dans la predication est de l’appliquer à nos gens à notre temps – c’est de la pertinence.
4. Reconnaissez Que Deux Prédicateurs N’Appliqueront Pas Nécessairement Le Même Texte De Manière Uniforme
Cela ne signifie pas que l’un a raison et que l’autre a tord. Cela signifie simplement qu’ils ont des styles différents, ou qu’ils mettent en exergues des aspects différents de la même vérité, ou que leurs églises bénéficieraient d’une approche différente de l’application.
5. Ne Perdez Pas De La Passion Au Moment de L’Application
Gardez votre conviction et passion concernant la vérité au moment de l’appliquer. C’est le moment crucial pour l’intensité, lorsque vous la personnaliser.
6. Prêcher Comme Quelqu’un A Qui Cette Vérité S’Applique aussi et a été Appliquée
Cela ne signifie pas que vous devez employer “nous.” Parfois, vous pourriez, mais généralement vous employerez “vous” pour la rendre personnelle et convainquant. Mais, vous devez être sûr que vous avez appliqué cette vérité à votre propre vie premièrement avant de pouvoir exhorter les autres à l’obéir.
Faites toujours de cela une partie de votre processus de préparation. Quand votre prédication sera prête, et que vous la révisiez devant le Seigneur, révisez-la dans la prière, demandant à Dieu de vous montrer les vérités que vous devez appliquer à votre vous-même.
7. Visualisez Votre Auditoire
Voyez leur besoins (sans être personnel ou briser la confiance). Couvrez le spectre de des situations de vie représentées dans votre auditoire (par exemple, en famille, au travail, à l’école, dans votre voisinage) – prenez tout le monde en compte.
Utilisez “peut-être” des situations pour chaque situation de vie. “Peut-être que vous êtes confrontés à cela dans votre lieu de travail...” etc. Vous pourriez ne pas parler des situations exactes à laquelle chaque personne est confrontée, mais vous souleverez dans leurs pensées d’autres situations dans lesquelles cette application leur est personnelle.
8. Rappelez-vous De Quatre Principes De L’Application
#1. Le principe personnel
C’est quand le prédicateur applique l’Ecriture à sa propre vie. Si vous prêchez aux autres ce que vous n’avez pas appliquer à votre propre vie, vous ne pourrez pas prêcher avec puissance. Ce n’est pas Dieu seulement qui saura quand vous agirez ainsi, mais les gens aussi le sauront. Le prédicateur doit prêcher ce qu’il croit et il doit le vivre.
#2. Le principe de l’imagination
Pour appliquer correctement le texte, il doit devenir réel pour vous. Les gens, les lieux, et les émotions doivent apparâitre vivants dans votre propre imagination. S’ils sont vivants au prédicateur, alors, il vous sera facile de voir comment ils s’appliquent à d’autres.
#3. Le principe de l’étendue
A mesure que nous préchons aux gens sur une période de temps et les dirigeons, nous apprenons à mieux les connaître – leurs craintes et leurs besoins. Notre expérience des gens, là où ils vivent et qui ils sont, nous permettent d’étendre notre application des Ecritures pour couvrir ces lieux autant que possible. Cela ne nous donne pas le droit d’utiliser le texte de façon inappropriée ou inadequate. Il n’y a qu’une interprétation de l’Ecriture, mais il y a plusieurs application aux expériences et problèmes humains.
#4. Le principe déclaratif
L’application du texte doit être dite avec autorité et clarté. Il ne doit pas y avoir de l’incertitude concernant l’application du texte. Les gens viennent à l’église pour une direction Claire, pour découvrir ce que Dieu dit, comment il doivent vivre, et comment ils peuvent avoir de l’aide pour leurs problèmes. Par conséquent, l’application doit être dite ouvertement de manière à ce que les gens ne soient pas suspendus en l’air, se demandant de quoi il est question.
Part II. Plan De La Predcation
Titre: Lettres au Sept Eglises: Ephèse, Orthodoxe mais Froid
Thème: Le réveil commence avec répentance parmi le people de Dieu
Point #1: Premièrement, la bonne nouvelle: “Exterieurement votre église paraît en bonne santé spirituelle”
(1) Vous travaillez constemment et diligemment (2a)
(2) Vous jugez le mal clairement et décisivement (2b)
(3) Vous persévérez fidèlement et inlassablement (3)
Point #2: Maintenant, la mauvaise nouvelle: “A l’intérieur, votre église a une condition sérieuse de coeur”
(1) Le diagnostique de Christ: “Vous avez abandonné votre premier amour” (4)
(2) Le traitement Christ’:
(a) “Souviens-toi d’où tu es tombé” (5a)
(b) “Répens-toi et pratique tes premières oeuvres” (5b)
(c) Avertissement: “Sinon j’auterai ton chandelier de sa place” (5c)
(d) Promesse à ceux qui prendrons garde à l’avertissement: “Je donnerai (à toi) à manger de l’arbre de vie, qui est dans le paradis de Dieu” (7)
1 Adapted from Dave Veerman, How to Apply the Bible (Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers, 1993).
2 John Henry Jowett, The Preacher His Life and Work (New York: Harper and brothers Publishers, 1912), 172, cited in Handbook of Contemporary Preaching, 211.
Related Topics: Pastors
Jurnalul Electronic Al Păstorilor, Rom Ed 33, Editia de toamnă 2019
Ediția de Toamnă 2019
„Întărind biserica în predicare biblică şi conducere”
Partea I: Consolidarea Predicării Expozitive
„Folosirea aplicațiilor” (Partea a 2-a)
În ediția anterioară a acestui jurnal, am început să vorbim despre felul în care putem folosi mai eficient aplicațiile din predică. În prezenta ediția, vom continua să discutăm despre acest subiect.
Ca predicatori, trebuie să ținem minte că teologia are un caracter practic și, prin urmare, trebuie să fie aplicată în mod practic în predicile noastre. Adevărul nu trebuie să aibă doar un caracter intelectual, ci trebuie să fie și practic. Așadar, aplicarea adevărului trebuie să reprezinte o parte importantă a predicii. La aceasta ne referim atunci când vorbim despre aplicații.
Pentru mulți predicatori însă este dificil să determine modul în care trebuie să aplice adevărul pe care îl predică, în așa fel încât să fie relevant pentru ascultătorii de astăzi și, în același timp, fidel textului. Așadar, iată câteva idei care te vor ajuta să faci aplicații relevante în predicile tale.
A. Sugestii Utile Pentru Descoperirea Aplicațiilor Potrivite 1
În primul rând, examinează situația din text. Pune întrebări, cum ar fi…
#1: Care a fost problema sau împrejurarea de atunci?
- Cui îi scria autorul biblic?
- De ce le scria autorul acelor oameni în momentul acela?
- Care era problema, împrejurarea, încercarea sau suferința despre care trebuia să discute autorul?
- Ce fel de mustrare, corectare, îndemnare sau explicație aduce autorul?
#2: Care a fost soluția biblică sau acțiunea cerută?
- Cum a tratat autorul problema? Ce învățătură le-a dat?
- Li s-a adresat Dumnezeu în mod direct? Dacă da, ce i-a învățat Dumnezeu să facă sau cum i-a învățat să fie?
#3: Care a fost răspunsul oamenilor?
- Ce răspuns a cerut sau a așteptat autorul?
- Cum au primit oamenii mesajul și cum au reacționat la soluția oferită?
- Ce atitudine au avut față de învățătura autorului?
În al doilea rând, examinează situația actuală. Pune întrebări cum ar fi…
#1: În ce fel se aseamănă nevoile și problemele oamenilor de astăzi cu ale celor de atunci?
- În ce fel ne asemănăm cu oamenii din textul biblic?
- În ce fel se aseamănă situația de viață a celor de atunci cu a noastră? Fii specific!
#2: Care este soluția biblică pentru noi?
- Ce ne spune Scriptura cu privire la întrebarea aceasta?
- Ce principii biblice putem aplica la noi înșine?
#3: Care ar trebui să fie răspunsul nostru astăzi?
- Cum ar trebui să răspundă un creștin la învățăturile Scripturii cu privire la acest subiect?
- Ce trebuie să facem pentru a corecta această problemă în vremea noastră? Trebuie să corectăm ceva în atitudinea noastră, în credințele, prioritățile, valorile, voința sau relațiile noastre?
- Ce trebuie să facem pentru a fi ascultători față de Cuvântul lui Dumnezeu?
În al treilea rând, folosește aplicații specifice
- Oamenii din biserica mea trec prin probleme asemănătoare?
- În ce fel ne asemănăm cu oamenii din textul biblic?
- Ce răspuns ar trebui să aștept din partea bisericii - convingere, pocăință, ascultare, îndoială, respingere, mânie, întrebări, obiecții, acceptare, supunere?
Atunci când îți pui aceste întrebări, încearcă să răspunzi în mod specific, dând exemple de tipuri de situații din zilele noastre, echivalente cu cele din text. Încearcă să arăți în mod specific cum poate fi aplicat adevărul Cuvântului lui Dumnezeu în viețile oamenilor.
Vorbește concret și cu realism despre viața de zi cu zi a oamenilor din biserica ta! Oferă exemple credibile și practice, deși poate nu poți numi anumite situații reale, pentru că trebuie să respecți confidențialitatea. În cazul acesta, ai putea, dacă este potrivit, să rogi pe cineva să spună o mărturie personală care are legătură cu subiectul discutat.
Așadar, pregătește-ți răspunsurile la întrebările și provocările tale, atunci când meditezi la aplicarea practică a adevărului din textul biblic. Ce vrea Dumnezeu ca această biserică și acești oameni să facă, să creadă sau să schimbe în viața lor? Ce fel de oameni vrea Dumnezeu să devină ei?
Și încearcă întotdeauna să oferi speranță, spunând, de pildă, că Duhul Sfânt este în noi și ne ajută să ascultăm de adevăr; că destinul nostru este sigur și neschimbat și, până la urmă, vom fi scăpați de încercări; că putem avea bucurie datorită credinței noastre și nădejdii pe care o avem în Hristos.
În cele din urmă, spune concret ce le sugerezi oamenilor să facă! Fii specific! Dă exemple! Ce trebuie să facă în mod concret pentru a înrădăcina adevărul în viețile lor, ca să trăiască așa cum copiii lui Dumnezeu ar trebui să trăiască? Ce pași concreți ar trebui să facă? Și oferă-le ajutorul tău în acest proces! Aceasta este responsabilitatea ta ca pastor; nu doar să le spui ce să facă, pe baza adevărului Scripturii, ci să îi ajuți în mod practic să atingă acel țel.
Dacă subiectul are de-a face, de pildă, cu suferirea greutăților ca și creștini, încearcă să oferi sugestii specifice care să-i ajute în luptele pe care le duc (fie fizice, spirituale, emoționale etc.) și care le testează credința. De pildă, (1) ar putea să memoreze versete încurajatoare din Scriptură; (2) ar putea începe să se roage cu un prieten creștin care să-l sprijine; (3) ar putea să vorbească despre luptele lor cu un consilier sau un pastor ori sau cu persoanele din grupul lor de studiu biblic. Citează versete care arată că a ne purta poverile unii altora este un lucru biblic.
Ține minte că nu orice text biblic permite o aplicație directă. Cu alte cuvinte, nu poți presupune că ce s-a întâmplat atunci în textul biblic are un echivalent exact în zilele noastre sau că felul în care au reacționat cei de atunci este neapărat felul în care ar trebui să răspundem și noi. Textul biblic este cel care dictează trecerea către aplicațiile pentru cei din vremea noastră. Aici este locul în care trebuie să fii credincios intenției autorului biblic.
B. Caracteristici Esențiale Ale Unei Aplicații Bune
1. O aplicație bună va sublinia urgența mesajului
Aplicația trebuie să transmită un sentiment al urgenței care să convingă că lucrul respectiv trebuie făcut chiar acum – de exemplu, să crezi evanghelia, să te supui voinței lui Dumnezeu, să renunți la obiceiuri și asocieri păcătoase etc.
2. O aplicație bună va reflecta intensitatea mesajului
Când vorbesc despre intensitate, mă refer la accentul predicii care încurajează la o acțiune pozitivă ca răspuns la convingerea primită prin Cuvânt și prin predicator. Aceasta nu este o discuție plăcută în jurul focului, ci o somație. Pildele lui Isus întotdeauna îi somau pe oameni să facă ceva – de exemplu, Pilda Bunului Samaritean: „Mergeți și faceți și voi la fel” (Luca 10:37).
3. O aplicație bună va corespunde scopului mesajului
Aplicația trebuie fie direct legată de scopul predicii. Ea trebuie să decurgă din obiectivul predicii și să se adreseze acestuia. Oricare ar fi scopul stabilit al predicii tale, aplicația trebuie să îndeplinească acel scop, făcând o schimbare concretă în viața oamenilor.
4. O aplicație bună va produce motivația mesajului
Unul din scopurile oricărei predici este să îi motiveze pe ascultători să acționeze într-un fel sau altul. Motivarea pe care vrei să o produci este aceea care atinge inima, învață mintea, atinge conștiința și determină voința să acționeze – nu prin manipulare ori amenințare, ci prin răspunsul față de Cuvânt determinat de Duhul Sfânt și de adevăr. „Principalul nostru obiectiv este determinarea voinței, mutarea ei pe un drum nou, creșterea ritmului pentru a o face să cânte în «căile poruncilor lui Dumnezeu».” 2
5. O aplicație bună va impune confruntarea mesajului
Aplicarea adevărului are loc atunci când confruntarea mesajului devine personală și directă (nu impersonală sau indirectă) pentru ascultători. Ascultătorii pot fi confruntați cu „principiul” adevărului și să nu reacționeze, deoarece acesta este impersonal și / sau indirect. Însă atunci când ascultătorul este confruntat cu „practicarea” adevărului, reacția este inevitabilă și necesară.
Predicarea expozitivă este confruntativă prin natura sa, prin aplicare directă sau indirectă. Majoritatea aplicațiilor conțin ambele tipuri de confruntarea. De pildă, profetul Natan, când l-a confruntat pe David (2 Sam. 12), a început cu o aplicație indirectă, spunând o povestire, însă a încheiat cu o aplicație directă: „Tu ești acela!” Isus făcea, de asemenea, de obicei, aplicații directe.
Atunci când ești direct, nu te expui riscului de a trece pe deasupra capetelor oamenilor, așa cum se întâmplă în cazul aplicațiilor indirecte, care nu reușesc să le arate oamenilor cum ar trebui să răspundă. 2 Timotei 3:16-17 pare să indice că aplicarea adevărului biblic ar trebui să fie (1) directă și explicită, mai degrabă decât indirectă și implicită; și (2) persuasivă și confruntativă, mai degrabă decât sugestivă și curtenitoare (cf. predicării apostolice din Fapte).
6. O aplicație bună va genera puterea de convingere a mesajului
Principalul scop al aplicației este convingerea ascultătorilor să se conformeze adevărului, fie că aplicația este făcută în timpul predicii sau la sfârșitul ei. Scopul explicațiilor din predică este să conducă la aplicația ce trebuie împlinită. Predica, așadar, are atât rolul de a informa, cât și de a transforma.
Puterea de convingere vine din Cuvântul lui Dumnezeu aplicat de Duhul lui Dumnezeu inimii, minții, voinței și conștiinței. Mijlocul de convingere este legătura pe care predicatorul o face între adevăr și viața de zi cu zi, astfel încât ascultătorii să vadă necesitatea schimbării și să fie convinși să facă ceva în privința aceasta.
Când Duhul lui Dumnezeu face posibilă înțelegerea Cuvântului lui Dumnezeu și demonstrează actualitatea acestuia prin aplicația folosită de predicator, atunci avem de-a face cu un puternic catalizator al schimbării.
Pentru ca aplicația să fie persuasivă, prezentarea și aplicarea adevărului trebuie făcute în mod cuviincios, politicos și cu smerenie, astfel încât ascultătorii să fie receptivi.
7. O aplicație bună va reieși din explicarea mesajului
Aplicația trebuie să decurgă din text, la fel ca explicația. Nu folosi textul pentru a sări la orice aplicație vrei tu. Aceasta este o lipsă de integritate față de ascultători și față de textul biblic. Ai grijă ca aplicația folosită să derive din text, ca aplicațiile să se conformeze intenției autorului biblic și ca ideea principală a aplicației folosite să fie aceeași cu ideea principală a textului.
Nu folosi textul pentru a-ți atinge propriile scopuri! Aceasta reprezintă o folosire greșită a Scripturii. Aplicația nu trebuie sub nicio formă să distorsioneze înțelesul textului atunci când îl aplică la viața de zi cu zi. Aceasta înseamnă să fii integru în aplicarea textului și lucrul acesta necesită multă disciplină. Să înțelegi aplicația biblică este la fel de important ca și a înțelege semnificația biblică a textului.
Să reținem că, deși aplicația trebuie să derive din text, sfera aplicației poate fi „întinsă”, prin aceea că implicațiile textului pentru viața noastră se pot întinde în diferite domenii. Astfel, un text cu o singură semnificație poate da multiple aplicații.
8. O aplicație bună va arăta grija pastorală din spatele mesajului
O aplicație bună îi va conduce pe oameni acolo unde trebuie să meargă, le va lega rănile, îi va mustra atunci când sunt neascultători, îi va hrăni când sunt flămânzi și le va oferi protecție atunci când se află în pericol.
9. O aplicație bună va concretiza ideile abstracte ale mesajului
Nu-ți face griji că, dând exemple concrete, îi vei lăsa pe dinafară pe unii dintre ascultători; de pildă, unii ar putea spune că, din moment ce nu ai spus ceva ce li se aplică lor, înseamnă că ei nu trebuie să dea niciun răspuns. Duhul Sfânt este cel care umple golurile în cazul acesta. El folosește exemplele pe care le dai tu pentru a aduce în mintea și conștiința ascultătorilor lucruri pe care ei trebuie să le schimbe, să le corecteze etc.
Vorbește specific și concret! Aplicația înseamnă a face legătura dintre adevăr și viață. Pentru a face eficient lucrul acesta, trebuie să privești la situații din viața reală în care se aplică acest adevăr în mod concret. Sarcina ta, ca predicator, este să arăți lucrul acesta în mod clar și să îndemni la ascultare. Nu lăsa adevărul la un nivel abstract! Mulți predicatori fac așa și nu reușesc să coboare de la nivelul abstract al teologiei la nivelul specific și concret al vieții reale.
Nu neglija aplicația! Verifică-ți predica înainte de a o predica, pentru a vedea câte aplicații ai inclus. Sunt suficiente? Ai aplicat fiecare principiu major din text? Mentorul meu, Dr. Stephen Olford, obișnuia să ne îndemne să facem în așa fel încât aplicațiile să reprezinte 50% din predică!
C. Ghid Pentru Folosirea Aplicațiilor
1. Caută adevăruri, promisiuni, porunci și exemple
Promisiunile, poruncile și exemplele nu sunt date doar pentru a fi acceptate la nivel intelectual sau la nivel de credință. Ele trebuie să fie inserate în viață. Biblia conține adevăruri ce trebuie crezute și urmate.
Singurul răspuns acceptabil față de adevărurile Bibliei este credința, care se vede nu în simpla acceptare pasivă a principiului, ci în înțelegerea implicațiilor sale în viață și în trăirea lor (adică în aplicarea lor). Nu uita că adevărurile și exemplele pot fi explicite sau implicite. Deși nu există dubii cu privire la ce este sau spune un principiu explicit, felul în care se aplică în viață poate să difere de la o cultură la alta. Sarcina noastră este să descoperim cum se aplică acest principiu explicit în viețile noastre și în cultura în care trăim.
Un principiu implicit poate fi un principiu la a cărui semnificație se ajunge prin deducție logică. De exemplu, „Să nu preacurvești” indică în mod indirect necesitatea de a trăi în puritate, fidelitate, dragoste.
Caută principiile și apoi urcă mai sus pe scara abstractului pentru a determina sensul lor mai larg. Apoi aplică aceste principii la viața noastră, așa cum trebuie să o trăim in societatea și în vremea noastră.
2. Studiază provocările hermeneutice ale aplicării Vechiului Testament
Pentru mai multe informații despre acest subiect, recomand capitolul: “How is the Christian to Apply the Old Testament to Life?” [Cum trebuie creștinul să aplice Vechiul Testament la viața sa?] din Making Sense out of the Old Testament [Interpretarea Vechiului Testament] de Tremper Longman III, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 103-136.
3. Cunoaște cultura în care te găsești
În felul acesta, poți face Cuvântul să se adreseze unor situații reale ale unor oameni reali. Aplicațiile care nu au sens ori sunt „pe lângă” nu vor avea prea mult impact.
Principiile adevărului din Biblie vorbesc tuturor oamenilor din toate timpurile. Sarcina noastră în predicare este să le aplicăm oamenilor noștri din vremea noastră – aceasta înseamnă relevanță.
4. Fii conștient că doi predicatori nu vor aplica neapărat la fel textul
Aceasta nu înseamnă că unul aplică textul corect, iar celălalt, nu. Pur și simplu înseamnă că cei doi au stiluri diferite, ori scot în evidență aspecte diferite ale aceluiași adevăr, ori că bisericile lor au nevoie de o altă abordare a aplicației.
5. Să nu rămâi fără vlagă atunci când ajungi la aplicații
Vorbește cu aceeași convingere și pasiune despre adevăr atunci când îl aplici! Momentul în care personalizezi adevărul trebuie să fie cel mai intens.
6. Vorbește ca unul căruia i se aplică de asemenea acest adevăr și ca și cum ți l-ai aplicat deja
Aceasta nu înseamnă neapărat că trebuie să folosești pronumele „noi.” Poți să o faci uneori, însă în general vei folosi pronumele „tu”, pentru a fi personal și convingător. Totuși, trebuie să te asiguri că ai aplicat acest adevăr la viața ta înainte de a-i îndemna pe alții să îl asculte.
Include întotdeauna lucrul acesta în pregătirea predicii. Când predica este gata și o revizuiești înaintea Domnului, revizuiește-o într-un duh de rugăciune, rugându-L pe Dumnezeu să îți arate adevărurile pe care trebuie să le aplici în viața ta.
7. Vizualizează-ți ascultătorii
Vezi care sunt nevoile lor (fără a deveni personal sau a dezvălui ceva confidențial). Acoperă spectrul situațiilor de viață în care se găsesc ascultătorii tăi (ex. acasă, la muncă, la școală, în cartier) – include-i pe toți! Dă exemple de situații ipotetice pentru toate situațiile de viață. „Poate te confrunți cu lucrul acesta la locul de muncă…” etc. Poate că nu vei vorbi despre situația exactă în care se află fiecare persoană, însă îi vei face să-și amintească alte situații în care aplicația respectivă li se potrivește în mod personal.
8. Ține minte patru principii ale aplicației
#1. Principiul aplicării personale
Conform acestui principiu, predicatorul aplică Scriptura în viața lui personală. Dacă le predici altora ceea ce nu ai aplicat încă în viața ta, nu vei predica cu putere. Nu doar Dumnezeu știe când faci lucrul acesta, ci vor ști și oamenii. Predicatorul trebuie să predice ceea ce crede și trebuie să trăiască ceea ce predică.
#2. Principiul imaginației
Pentru a aplica textul în mod corect, acesta trebuie să devină real pentru tine. Oamenii, locurile și emoțiile trebuie să prindă viață în imaginația ta. Dacă textul este viu în mintea ta, atunci îți va fi mai ușor să vezi cum se aplică și altora.
#3. Principiul extinderii
Predicând oamenilor pentru un timp mai îndelungat și îndrumându-i, predicatorul ajunge să-i cunoască mai bine – să le cunoască temerile și nevoile. Cunoașterea oamenilor, unde trăiesc și cine sunt, ne permite să extindem aplicarea Scripturii în așa fel încât să acoperim cât mai multe domenii. Aceasta nu ne dă dreptul să folosim textul într-un mod nepotrivit sau inexact. Există o singură interpretare a Scripturii, însă există multe aplicații la experiențele și problemele oamenilor.
#4. Principiul clarității
Aplicarea textului trebuie făcută cu autoritate și claritate. Nu trebuie să existe incertitudine cu privire la aplicarea textului. Oamenii vin la biserică pentru o îndrumare clară, pentru a alfa ce spune Dumnezeu, cum trebuie să trăiască și cum pot primi ajutor pentru problemele lor. Așadar, aplicațiile trebuie expuse în mod deschis, astfel încât oamenii să nu rămână nedumeriți, întrebându-se care a fost ideea.
Partea A II-A. Schițe De Predici
Titlu: Scrisori către cele șapte biserici: Efes, dreaptă, dar rece
Tema: Trezirea începe cu pocăință în poporul lui Dumnezeu
Punctul #1: Mai întâi, vestea bună: „Pe dinafară, biserica ta pare să fie sănătoasă din punct de vedere spiritual”
(1) Muncești constant și cu hărnicie (2a)
(2) Judeci răul cu claritate și hotărâre (2b)
(3) Perseverezi cu credincioșie și neobosit (3)
Punctul #2: Acum vestea rea: „Pe dinăuntru, biserica ta are o boală gravă de inimă”
(1) Diagnosticul lui Hristos: „Ți-ai părăsit dragostea dintâi” (4)
(2) Tratamentul lui Hristos:
(a) „Amintește-ți de unde ai căzut” (5a)
(b) „Pocăiește-te și fă faptele pe care le făceai la început” (5b)
(c) Avertizare: „Dacă nu, îți voi muta sfeșnicul de la locul lui” (5c)
(d) Promisiune pentru cei care iau în considerare avertizarea: “Îi voi da să mănânce din pomul vieții, care se află în raiul lui Dumnezeu.” (7)
1 Adaptat după Dave Veerman, How to Apply the Bible [Cum să aplicăm Biblia] (Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers, 1993).
2 John Henry Jowett, The Preacher His Life and Work [Predicatorul, viața și lucrarea sa] (New York: Harper and brothers Publishers, 1912), 172, citat în Handbook of Contemporary Preaching, 211.
Related Topics: Pastors
The Net Pastors Journal, Rus Ed 33, Осеннее издание 2019
Осеннее издание 2019
Служение Института Библейского Проповедования
“Укреплять Церковь через библейскую проповедь и руководство”
В последнем выпуске этого журнала NET для пасторов мы начали обсуждать, как вы можете усилить применение в своих проповедях. В этом выпуске мы продолжим эту тему.
Как проповедники, мы должны помнить, что богословие - очень практично и, следовательно, должно иметь практическое назначение в наших проповедях. Истина не предназначена только для того, чтобы быть интеллектуальной, она также должна быть практичной. Следовательно, применение истины должно составлять значительную часть наших проповедей. Вот, что мы подразумеваем под применением.
Многим проповедникам часто трудно определить, как применять истину, которую они проповедуют, чтобы она соответствовала для сегодняшней аудитории и в то же время соответствовала тексту. Итак, вот несколько идей, которые помогут вам сделать соответствующие применения в ваших проповедях.
A. Полезные Советы Для Обнаружения Хорошего Применения 1
В начале рассмотрим ситуацию в тексте библии. Задайте такие вопросы, как ...
1: В чем состоит проблема, ситуация или какие были тогда обстоятельства?
- Кому писал библейский автор?
- Почему автор писал этим людям в то время?
- В чем заключалась проблема, какие были там обстоятельства, сложности или испытания, которые необходимо было преодолевать?
- Каков был характер упрека, исправления, наставления или объяснения автором?
2: Каким было библейское решение или требуемое действие?
- Как автор решил проблему? Какой совет он дал людям того времени?
- Обратился ли Бог к ним напрямую? Если так, что Бог велел им делать или как быть?
3: Какова была реакция людей?
- Какую реакцию, ответ библейский автор ожидал или требовал?
- Как люди относились к посланию автора и как отвечали на решение?
- Какое отношение они выражали к совету автора?
Во-вторых, изучите ситуацию сегодня. Задайте такие вопросы, как ...
1. Насколько схожи потребности и проблемы людей сегодня?
- Как мы похожи на людей в библейском тексте?
- Чем их жизненная ситуация похожа на нашу сегодняшнюю? Быть конкретными.
2. Какое библейское решение нужно принять сегодня?
- Что Писание говорит нам об этом вопросе?
- Какие библейские принципы мы можем применить к себе?
3. Какой должна быть наша реакция сегодня?
- Как христианин должен реагировать на указания Писания по этому вопросу
- Что нам нужно сделать, чтобы исправить эту проблему в наши дни? Нужно ли нам что-то исправлять в нашем отношении, наших убеждениях, наших приоритетах, наших ценностях, нашей воле, наших отношениях?
- Что мы должны сделать, чтобы быть послушными Божьему слову?
В-третьих, будьте конкретны для конкретных применений, которые вы будете выявлять
- Как люди в моем собрании встречаются с подобными проблемами в своей жизни?
- Есть ли сходство с людьми в отрывке из Писания?
- Какую реакцию я должен ожидать от своего собрания - убеждение, покаяние, послушание, сомнение, отвержение, гнев, вопросы, возражения, принятие, подчинение?
Задавая эти вопросы, попробуйте ответить на них, конкретно назвав типы ситуаций, которые являются современными эквивалентами. Попробуйте дать конкретные указания относительно того, как они могут применять истину Божью в своей жизни.
Будьте конкретны, реальны в сегодняшних ситуациях жизни ваших людей. Придумайте достоверные, практичные примеры, хотя, возможно, вы не можете назвать реальные ситуации из-за конфиденциальности. В этом случае вы можете, если это будет уместно, попросить кого-то дать личное свидетельство, касающееся этой темы.
Итак, подготовьте свои собственные ответы на свои вопросы и ваши вызовы, рассматривая практическое применение истины в тексте. Что Бог хочет, чтобы это собрание и эти люди индивидуально делали, кому верили или как изменяли свою жизнь? Какими людьми Бог хочет, чтобы они стали?
И всегда старайтесь, например, надеяться, что Святой Дух находится внутри нас, чтобы мы могли быть послушными истине; что наша судьба безопасна и решена, и в конечном итоге мы будем спасены от испытаний; что мы можем иметь радость благодаря нашей вере и будущей надежде на Христа.
Наконец, расскажите, что вы предлагаете сделать своим людям. Быть конкретными. Приведите примеры. Какие действия они должны предпринять, чтобы применить истину в своей жизни, чтобы жить так, как должен жить народ Божий? Какие конкретные шаги они должны предпринять? И предложите помочь им в этом процессе. Как пастор, вы несете ответственность не только за то, чтобы рассказать им, что делать, основываясь на истине Писания, но и за то, чтобы помочь им практически достичь этой цели.
Если тема связана, например, с продолжительными трудностями христианина, постарайтесь дать им конкретные предложения по борьбе (физической, духовной, эмоциональной и т. д.), которые проверят их веру. Например, 1) они могли бы запомнить уместные, ободряющие места Писания; 2) они могли бы начать молиться с друзьями христианами, которые смогут оказать им взаимную поддержку; 3) они могли бы поделиться своей борьбой с консультантом или пастором или со своей группой по изучению Библии. Дайте им место Писание о том, почему это по-библейски для нас носить бремена друг друга.
Помните, что не каждый отрывок из Писания передает нам, как его применить в жизни. Другими словами, вы не можете предполагать, что то, что произошло тогда в библейском тексте, имеет свой точный эквивалент сейчас, или что то, как люди того времени отреагировали тогда, - это то, как мы должны реагировать сейчас. То, как вы перейдете к сегодняшнему применению, будет продиктовано отрывком Писания. Вот, где вы должны быть верны замыслу библейского автора.
1. Хорошее применение подчеркнет срочность сообщения
Должно быть ощущение срочности, что это должно быть сделано сейчас - то есть, верить Евангелию, подчиниться воле Божьей, прекратить греховные привычки и ассоциации и т. д.
2. Хорошее применение будет отражать интенсивность послания
Под интенсивностью я подразумеваю акцент в проповеди, который поощряет позитивные действия в ответ на убеждение Слова и проповедника. Это - не приятный чат у камина, а вызов. Притчи Иисуса всегда призывали к какому-то действию - например, добрый Самарянин: «Иди и поступай так же» (Лк. 10:37).
3. Хорошее применение будет соответствовать цели послания
Применение должно напрямую относиться к цели проповеди. Оно должно выйти и соответствовать цели проповеди. Какую бы цель вы не определили для своей проповеди, применение должно выполнять эту цель, существенно изменив жизнь людей.
4. Хорошее применение пробудит мотивацию послания
Одна из целей каждой проповеди - побудить слушателей к каким-либо действиям. Мотивация, которую вы хотите вызвать, - это то, что затрагивает сердце, наставляет ум, обличает совесть и направляет волю к действию - не путем манипуляций или угроз, а посредством вызванного Духом, пробужденного правдой ответа на Слово. «Наша конечная цель состоит в том, чтобы двигать волю, направлять ее в другое русло, увеличивать ее темп и заставлять ее петь «путями Божьих заповедей»2
5. Хорошее применение побудит к конфронтации послания
Применение - это когда конфронтация послания становится личностной и прямой (не безличной или косвенной) по отношению к аудитории. Они могут столкнуться с «принципом» истины и не реагировать, потому что он звучит безлично и/или косвенно. Но когда сталкиваешься с «практикой» истины, реакция неизбежна и необходима.
Объективная проповедь носит обличающий характер по прямому или косвенному принципу. У большинства применений проповеди есть два типа обличения. Например, противостояние пророка Нафана Давиду (2 Цар. 12), он начал с косвенного обличения, с истории, но в итоге он сразу же напрямую его обличил: «Ты - тот человек». Иисус обычно был прямым в том, как он применял истину.
Будучи прямым, вы не рискуете пойти по головам людей, как вы могли бы с косвенным применением, когда они вообще упускают суть того, как они должны реагировать. 2 Тим. 3: 16-17, по-видимому, указывает на то, что применение библейской истины должно быть 1) конкретным и явным, а не косвенным и неявным; и 2) убедительным и обличающим, а не наводящим на размышления и приспосабливающимся (ср. с апостольской проповедью в Деяниях).
6. Хорошее применение создаст убедительность послания
Основным объектом применения является убеждение слушателей соответствовать истине, независимо от того, произнесено ли это в проповеди, в конце ее или и там, и там. Проповедуемое объяснение предшествует применению, которому необходимо следовать. Таким образом, проповедь является информативной и преобразующей.
Сила убеждения исходит из Слова Божьего, применяемого Духом Божьим в сердце, уме, воле и совести. Средство убеждения - это проповедник, связывающий истину с жизнью таким образом, что слушатели видят необходимость изменяться и убеждены, в том, что что-то им надо с этим сделать.
Когда Дух Божий открывает понимание Слова Божьего и демонстрирует его реальность через применение проповедника, это является мощным катализатором для перемен.
Чтобы применение было убедительным, представление истины и ее применение должно быть представлено правильно, аккуратно и смиренно, чтобы слушатели были восприимчивы к нему.
7. Хорошее применение появится из объяснения послания
Применение должно руководствоваться текстом так же, как и объяснение текста. Не используйте текст, чтобы прыгнуть резко в любое применение, которое вы хотите. Это будет отсутствием целостности для вашей аудитории и самого текста. Убедитесь, что вы извлекаете ваше применение из текста, что ваши применения соответствуют замыслу библейского автора, и что основная направленность вашего применения совпадает с основной мыслью текста.
Не используйте текст для достижения своих собственных целей. Это - неправильное использование Писания. Применение не должно никоим образом искажать значение текста, поскольку оно относится к жизни. Оно применяет текст целостно. Это требует большой дисциплины. Очень важно выяснить библейское применение, как и выяснить сам библейский смысл текста.
Обратите внимание, что, хотя применение должно быть получено из текста, область применения может быть «растянутой», так как значение текста для жизни может распространиться на разные сферы жизни. Таким образом, один текст с одним значением дает несколько вариантов применения.
8. Хорошее применение разоблачит пасторскую направленность послания
Хорошее применение приведет людей туда, куда им следует прийти. Оно будет заботиться о людях, когда им больно. Оно будет осуждать людей, когда они непослушны. Оно будет кормить людей, когда они голодны. Оно защитит людей, когда они в опасности.
9. Хорошее применение конкретизирует абстрактные идеи послания
Не беспокойтесь о том, что, делая ваши конкретные примеры конкретными, вы можете позволить некоторым своим слушателям сорваться с крючка - то есть они могут прийти к выводу, что, поскольку вы не назвали что-то, что относится к ним, им не нужно к вам прислушиваться. Здесь Святой Дух заполняет пустое место. Он использует примеры, которые вы приводите, чтобы вспомнить в умах и совести слушателей то, что им нужно исправить, изменить и т. д.
Будьте определенны и конкретны. Вот что такое применение. Соотнести истину с жизнью. Чтобы сделать это эффективно, вы должны сосредоточиться на жизненных ситуациях, в которых эта конкретная истина может быть применима особым образом. Ваша задача, как проповедника, состоит в том, чтобы прояснить это и призвать к послушанию. Не оставляйте это на концептуальном уровне. Это то, что делают многие проповедники. Им трудно спуститься с абстрактного уровня богословия на конкретную жизненную ситуацию.
Не пренебрегайте применением. Перед тем, как проповедовать, просмотрите свою проповедь, чтобы оценить, сколько различных применений вы включили. Этого достаточно? Применяется ли каждый основной принцип? Мой наставник, профессор Стивен Олфорд, обычно призывал нас сделать применение на 50% проповеди!
В. Руководство, Как Найти Применение
1. Ищите истину, обещания, заповеди и примеры
Обещания, заповеди и примеры приводятся не только для убеждений или интеллектуального согласия. Они должны быть внедрены в жизнь. Библия содержит истины, в которые важно верить и быть послушным.
Единственным приемлемым ответом на библейские истины является вера, о чем свидетельствует не только пассивное принятие этого принципа, но и понимание его последствий для жизни и их воплощение в жизнь (т.е. применение). Обратите внимание, что истины и примеры могут быть явными или неявными.
Например, явный принцип таков: «люби ближнего твоего, как самого себя» (Левит 19:18). Хотя нет никаких сомнений в том, что такое явный принцип, и что он означает, его реализация в жизни может варьироваться от культуры к культуре. Наша задача - найти применение явного принципа нашей жизни в нашей культуре сегодня.
Неявным принципом могут быть принципы, значение которых для жизни достигается посредством логического вывода. Например, «не прелюбодействуй» подразумевает необходимость в чистоте, верности, любви.
Ищите принципы и затем двигайтесь вверх по лестнице абстракции, чтобы определить их самый широкий смысл. Затем примените их к жизни, как это должно быть в нашем обществе в наше время
2. Научитесь герменевтическим вызовам применения Ветхого Завета
Для более четкого понимания почитайте на эту тему - я бы порекомендовал вам главу “Как христианин должен применять Ветхий Завет к жизни” в книге «Осмысление Ветхого Завета», автор - Тремпер Лонгман III (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), с. 103- 136.
3. Будьте в курсе, какая культура окружает вас
Таким образом, вы можете использовать Слово в реальных ситуациях реальных людей. Применение, которое непонятное и бессмысленное или является «выходом», будет иметь небольшое влияние.
Принципы истины в Библии говорят ко всем народам всех времен. Наша задача в проповеди состоит в том, чтобы применить это к нашим людям в наше время - это актуально.
4. Признайте, что нет двух проповедников, которые будут применять текст одинаково
Это не значит, что один прав, а другой не прав. Это просто означает, что их стили отличаются, или они выявляют разные аспекты одной и той же истины, или их собрания получат пользу от другого варианта применения.
5. Не потеряйте страсть во время объяснения применения
Сохраняйте свою убежденность и страсть к истине во время применения. Это критическое время для интенсивности, когда вы конкретизируете и персонализируете его.
6. Говорите так, как будто эта истина уже применяется вами лично
Это не означает, что вы не должны использовать «мы». Иногда вы можете это сделать, но лучше используйте «вы», чтобы сделать применение личностным и убежденным. Но вы должны быть уверены, что сначала применили эту истину к своей собственной жизни, прежде чем сможете убедить других делать тоже самое.
Всегда делайте эту часть в вашем процессе подготовки. Когда ваша проповедь готова и вы просматриваете ее с Господом, просматривайте ее “молитвенно”, прося Бога показать вам истины, которые вам нужно применить к себе.
7. Визуализируйте свою аудиторию
Обратите внимание на их потребности (не будучи личностными или нарушая уверенность). Охватите спектр жизненных ситуаций, представленных в вашей аудитории (например, дома, на работе, в школе, в вашем районе) - включите всех.
Используйте «возможно» ситуации для каждой жизненной ситуации. «Возможно, вы сталкиваетесь с этим на своем рабочем месте ...» и т. д. Вы можете не указывать конкретную ситуацию, с которой сталкивается каждый человек, но вы будете вызывать в их сознании другие ситуации, в которых это применение относится к ним лично.
8. Запомните четыре принципа применения
№ 1. Личный принцип
Это принцип проповедника, применяющего Писание к своей жизни. Если вы будете проповедовать другим то, что не применили к своей собственной жизни, вы не будете проповедовать с силой. Не только Бог знает, когда вы это делаете, но и люди тоже. Проповедник должен проповедовать то, во что он верит, и он должен жить этим.
№ 2. Принцип воображения
Чтобы правильно применить текст, он должен стать для вас реальностью. Люди, места и эмоции должны оживать в вашем собственном воображении. Если текст живой для проповедника, тогда вам будет легче увидеть, как его можно применить к другим людям.
№ 3. Принцип растяжения
Когда мы проповедуем людям в течение определенного периода времени и направляем их, проповедник узнает их лучше - их страхи и потребности. Наш опыт с людьми, где они живут и кем они являются, позволяет нам расширить применение Писаний, чтобы охватить как можно больше разных сфер жизни. Это не дает нам права на использование текста не по назначению или не точно. Существует только одно толкование Писания, но есть много применений к человеческому опыту и его проблемам.
№ 4. Принцип провозглашения
Применение текста должно быть заявлено с достаточной полнотой и ясностью. Не должно быть никакой неопределенности относительно применения текста. Люди приходят в церковь за четким указанием, чтобы узнать, что говорит Бог, как они должны жить и как они могут получить помощь в решении своих проблем. Следовательно, применение должно быть четко сказано, чтобы люди не оставались “зависшими” и не задавались вопросом, в чем был смысл проповеди.
Часть II. План Проповеди
Название: Письма семи церквям: Ефесской, православной, но холодной
Тема: Пробуждение начинается с покаяния среди Божьих людей.
Пункт № 1: Во-первых, хорошая новость: «Внешне ваша церковь имеет хорошее духовное здоровье»
(1) Вы работаете постоянно и усердно (2а)
(2) Вы осуждаете зло ясно и решительно (2б)
(3) Вы продолжаете идти за Ним добросовестно и без устали (3)
Пункт № 2: Теперь плохая новость: «Внутренне у вашей церкви серьезное заболевание сердца»
(1) Диагноз Христа: «Ты оставил твою первую любовь» (4)
(2) Обращение Христа:
а) «Помни, откуда ты ниспал» (5а)
б) «Покайся и твори прежние дела» (5б)
в) Предупреждение: «Если ты этого не сделаешь, я сдвину светильник твой с места его» (5c)
г) Обещайте тем, кто прислушается к предупреждению: «Я дам (вам) есть с дерева жизни, которое находится в раю Божьем»
1 Адаптировано из Dave Veerman, “Как применять Библию” (Уитон, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers, г. 1993).
2 Джон Генри Джоветт, «Проповедник, его жизнь и работа» (Нью-Йорк: Издательство «Харпер и братья», г. 1912), стр. 172, цитируется в «Руководстве по современной проповеди», стр. 211.
Related Topics: Pastors