Deny, Take Up, and Follow

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” – Jesus (Matt. 16:24)

The stern, unbending demand of Christ is still true today:

Deny Self; Disown, disdain one’s flesh.

Take up your cross; (Luke adds, “daily.”) We cannot escape suffering, but through Christ, we can endure it.

Follow Jesus; to be in the same way with, accompany Him.

Castor and Pollux

And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux.” – Acts 28:11

What is the point of giving us the ship’s figurehead? It doesn’t further the narrative at all.

The point is: it’s an eyewitness detail. Luke gives it, because he was there (this is one of the “we passages”) and Castor and Pollux were the sign on their ship.

It’d be like me saying, “We drove to Morgantown in a car that had a “Baby on Board” sign on it. Why mention the sign? Because it was there and I included it in my eyewitness report. Maybe other passengers didn’t even see the sign, but it stuck out to me, so I included it in mine.

It is given to cement the Bible’s historicity and veracity.

My Soul Magnifies The Lord

“And Mary said: ‘My soul magnifies the Lord,‘” – Luke 1:46

This is from Mary’s song of praise called The Magnificat in which her young heart spills over in joyous song.

Her soul magnifies the Lord.

Ours do as well. That is why our souls were created in the first place; It’s all about Him.

Go and Do Likewise

And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.‘” – Luke 10:37

This is Jesus’s reply to the lawyers’ question of who’s my neighbor (Good Samaritan, Luke 10:29-37).

This principle is to be our response as well.

If we know anything about the wondrous grace shown to us, it will be a natural outflow of our heart to all.

How do we make Christ known to the lost? By meeting material and spiritual needs.

The Rich Young Ruler

rich young ruler

If someone asked you how to get to Heaven, you’d probably say “by grace through faith in Jesus (Eph. 2:8-9),” right? So why did Jesus give the Law to the rich young ruler when he asked the same question (Mark 10:17-22)?

This passage used to scare me. Will I have to sell all my stuff and give it to the poor?

No, no – that’s not the point.

The point is Jesus was exposing where the young ruler put his faith and it was IN HIS ABILITY TO KEEP THE LAW. (The Law THEN was the 10 commandments, NOW is any human effort or religious tradition). He thought rule-keeping was his ticket. His faith was in himself.

I’m not rich, young, or a ruler – but I identify with this guy, don’t you? Self-righteous, works-based faith is a constant struggle. What would Jesus say to me? “Throw away your device and follow Me.” Abraham was asked to give up Isaac (Gen. 22). What would He say to you?

The Law cannot save (Gal. 4:21). It’s not faith-worthy. It’s a ministry of death bringing God’s wrath ( 2 Cor. 3:7 & Rom. 4:15). Likewise today, putting your faith in your works, only brings God’s wrath. The Law is there to reveal our sin and point us to Jesus (Rom. 6:14). Like a mirror: it reflects you (warts & all), but cannot clean you. No one uses the mirror to clean their face. The mirror just shows you how dirty you are (Rom. 3:20). The Law crushes self-reliance, it is not a reason for it.

Mark 10:21 is a tender moment: Jesus looks at the young ruler and loves him. He’s trying to take him from Sinai to Calvary. He does the same for us. He knows us the best and loves us the most. After all, we’re all little Prodigals and Pharisees.

The young ruler boasted in keeping “all” the Law, so Jesus showed how he had missed the FIRST ONE! (Exd. 20:3) He placed his possessions before God. Look, if you rely on human effort, there will always be cracks (Gal. 3:10). Like a chain holding you over a fire; remove just one link and it all falls apart (James 2:10). Anything you make into a Law and then use to condemn others – will be used to condemn you.

 “Everything that isn’t gospel is law. If its not rooted in the good news of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus is damnable, crushing, despair-breeding , Pharisee-producing law. We’ll get either shallow self-righteousness or blazing rebellion or both.” – Elyse M. Fitzpatrick, Give Them Grace

This passage doesn’t scare me anymore. I am not under the Law. It is obsolete (Heb. 8:13). I am under GRACE (Rom. 8:2). Relying on tradition & religious rituals makes Jesus of no effect (Mark 7:13). It blinds us with a veil that only Jesus can remove (2 Cor. 3:14-16). Jesus came to set us free from this nonsense (Gal. 5:1).

Luke’s account says when the young ruler left, Jesus was saddened (18:24).  Jesus didn’t force anything. It was his choice. Jesus loves us enough to let us reject Him. However, if we do, it grieves Him.

Please don’t make the same mistake as the rich young ruler. Put your faith totally in Jesus today.

 

Joy Triggers the Holy Spirit

jumper-cables-926308_1920When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth both were unexpectedly and miraculously pregnant (Mary as a virgin and Elizabeth because… she was old. Forgive me Elizabeth, but that’s what the Good Book says). When they greet each other for the first time, something extraordinary happens: John leaps for joy… in the womb! And not only that; Elizabeth is immediately “filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 1:41)

Now, this raises 2 interesting points:

1. Luke (a doctor, mind you) considered the fetus to be a “babe.” We know this because he used the same Greek word (“brephos“) in 2:12, 16 – “You will find a baby lying in a manger.” [More on this subject Sunday Dec. 17th!]

2. John’s JOY triggered Elizabeth’s filling of the Holy Spirit. Let that sink in. John (who was given a full dose of the Holy Spirit in the womb, Luke 1:15) “leaped for joy” and THEN Elizabeth was filled.

Could it be that joy sparks the Holy Spirit? Does it help activate Him? Is joy a catalyst? Could it be that those who have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit can help ignite others by being joyful? It would appear so. After all, joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, is it not (Gal. 5:22-23)?

In this manner, joy can be like jumper cables infusing a dead car battery with life and energy! It does so by sharing that life and energy. We do likewise by sharing the joy that the Holy Spirit gives us to those who are dead (spiritually-speaking)!

Let us then be joyful. Who knows who we may vicariously jump-start in the process?

Who wrote Acts?

Who wrote Acts?

A Defense for Lukan Authorship of Acts

Who wrote Acts? Did you ever wonder? Because it doesn’t say. What’s the difference—Does it even matter? Well, yeah – I’d say it kind of matters. So, here’s a 1,950 year old spoiler alert: Luke most likely wrote Acts. Not only that, but he wrote Acts as a follow-up to the longest of the canonical Gospels; The Gospel of Luke. But, how did scholars arrive at this conclusion? How do we know? Here are some factors that we can use to determine the authorship of Acts. Will the real author please stand up?

Evidence to support Lukan authorship comes in two forms, external evidence and internal evidence.[1] The external evidence is what scholars have said about the document’s author and the internal evidence are what clues we can get from the document itself.

As far as the external evidence goes, at the top of the list is the testimony of the early Church Fathers. They fully supported Lukan authorship. This testimony is both early and unchallenged. Moving on, The Muratorian Canon (AD 180) affirms Lukan authorship, as does Irenaeus in his work, “Against Heresies” (ca. AD 180). Also the Anti-Marcionite Prologues, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian in “Against Marcion” all in the late 2nd Century unanimously support Lukan authorship.

When we come to the internal evidence the case is a little harder to establish, but still pretty clear. First of all, if you look at the formal literary introduction of the prologues of Luke and Acts, both mention that the recipient as “Theophilus” (which means, “Friend of God” [whether this was an actual person or a generic term for any Christian reader is debatable]). The author also mentions his “first book” in Acts, which would indicate that Acts was a second book (or what we might call today, a sequel). The sophisticated writing styles of Luke and Acts are extraordinarily similar: Hellenistic Greek used, vocabulary, common themes, and literary devices (such as the travel narrative). Both authors have knowledge of Roman law, nautical terms, and Greek society… which points to Luke.

 The “We” Passages of Acts

If Luke wasn’t there then how did he write about it? Here is where it gets interesting. First and foremost let’s not belittle the Holy Spirit’s work in all of this. “All Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16).” However that process looks, the Holy Spirit was absolutely vital to the writing of Acts. Amen! Secondly, this privileged information that Luke mentions in Acts can be explained by the “We” Passages.

In Acts 23:25-30, 25:14-22, and 26:30-32, the author switches from the regular third person narrative (he, she, they) to a first person plural (we). This denotes someone who was actually there as an eyewitness. Some believe this portion to be copied from “an itinerary or diary that he himself wrote.”[2] This is intriguing for several reasons. The author obviously recognizes himself as a traveling “companion of Paul.”[3] We learn in Col 4:14 that Luke was one such traveling companion. Secondly, since the author uses “we,” he would not use his name in these instances and anyone mentioned in these passages cannot be the author. Thirdly, since this person is mentioned with Paul in chapter 27-28 as going with Paul to Rome, it is reasonable to assume that the author was with Paul as he was imprisoned.[4] While Paul was in prison he wrote many letters and mentions people by name that were there too. Luke is on that list. So if we take the names of the people mentioned in the “we” passages and subtract them from the people listed in the prison epistles, the only person is—Luke.


[1] Robert Wayne Stacy, TheDocinabox, “Lukan Authorship of Acts,” accessed January 14, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35FfvIyIZcw.

[2] D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 292.

[3] Ibid., 296.

[4] Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament: Its Background and Message, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2003), 283.


Bibliography

Carson, D A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2005.

Lea, Thomas D., and David Alan Black. The New Testament: Its Background and             Message, 2nd ed. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2003.

Stacy, Robert Wayne. 2012. “Lukan Authorship of Acts,” TheDocinabox, January 3, 2013. Accessed January 14, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35FfvIyIZcw.


Submitted to Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of the course NBST 520 New Testament Orientation II

Get to Know

John 17:25-26
John 17:25-26

How do you know you know someone? You get to know them. “Get” meaning, spend time with them, talk with them, and develop a relationship.

Jesus put it this way, “O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:25-26 (NASB)

There are only two things worth doing: To know Christ and to make Him known.

How can I introduce someone I don’t even know? I can’t. By introducing someone, I am implying there is a relationship there, right? I at least know their name. Most likely, I know more than that; I know who that person is, what they are like, and what they are about.

Get to know Jesus.
“Get,” meaning spend time with Him, talk with Him, and develop a relationship.

Get to know Jesus.
“Get,” meaning you are allowed to and you are excited to. It’s as if it’s a reward. We get to know Jesus! It is a reward!

Knowing Jesus wasn’t always the case. Old Testament folks would have been ecstatic to get to know Him. We don’t have to wonder about the mysteries of the future like they did. We don’t have to guess. It’s all laid out for us and it is beautiful.

We get to know Jesus, so get to know Jesus.

May God’s Love be with you

Oh, my tree!

Oh My TreeWhy is it that people who don’t even believe in Jesus use His name as an expletive? We’ve all heard a non-Christian say: “Oh my God! God! Jesus! Jesus Christ! Or any of the popular variations: Jeez! Gosh! OMG!”

If you think this whole existence is random and that there is no Creator, why use His name at all? Why not use some other word or name?

If you worship science, why not shout: “Galileo! or Oh my Newton! or Nikola Tesla!”

If you worship nature, why not shout: “Kingdom & Phylum! or Galapagos! or Oh my tree!”

Silly, isn’t it? But why?

Could it be that none of these name have even an inkling of power? Could it be that you use the name of the Son of God because He is the only name from which every knee shall bow and every tongue confess? And doesn’t it stand to reason that by using His name, you acknowledge His existence anyhow?

It puzzles me to no end.

It also offends me (especially GD).

The obvious go-to verse here is Exodus 20:7, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name. (NIV)”

 

The NIV says “misuse” but most Bibles say, “in vain.” The Hebrew word for vain here is, “shav.” It means “emptiness, vanity, falsehood, nothingness, lying, worthlessness.” Do you really want to lift up God’s name and attach it to emptiness? It’s disrespectful. It’s dishonorable.

Since Exodus 20 is the Old Covenant under the Law, I would also like to look at an example from the New Covenant of Grace, Matt. 6:9. “Hallowed be Your name.”

Hallowed: respected, revered, honored! Not to be used trivially and definitely not to be used as an everyday run of the mill curse word.

Sadly, Christians are just as guilty of this as non-Christians, myself included. We need to guard ourselves! James will tell you how hard the tongue is to tame! It’s a never-ending battle. Surrender to Jesus. Revere His name!

May God’s Love be with you

Self Entitlement

Luke 17:7-10
Luke 17:7-10

Ever take your car to the mechanic and he fixed it? Did he ask for a tip? Did he want your praise and adoration?

Of course not. He was just doing his job. He was supposed to fix it. He was not going above and beyond.

Teachers and business owners will tell you that the biggest problem they face today is the self-entitled student or worker. The people who feel they are owed something for just showing up!

“Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’” Luke 17:7-10 

Luke is not attacking obedience itself, but the obedient servant who is self entitled. Whether it be praying, reading, preaching, or witnessing – these are all things we are supposed to do. The NASB translates it, “that which we ought.” We ought to be doing them! These acts are not extra. There isn’t any extra credit. If there were extra credit then men could boast, right?

The joke is that you cannot spell “entitlement” without I and Me. The focus should never be on us. It’s about what God has done, not what man is doing. We are unworthy even after doing what’s expected of us. I thank God for his long-suffering patience with me and my self-serving self entitlement!

May God’s Love be with you