Passion Week Podcasts: Day 2 – “Why the Atonement?”

(“Why the Atonement?” – mp3)

Hey TD!

The word “holy” means to be set apart.  That’s what holidays are; they are “holy days,” days set apart from the others.  Passion week is often referred to as Holy Week. We’re excited that you’ve joined us in making this week separate from the other weeks in our lives by focusing on what it is that Jesus really accomplished on the cross through these Passion Week podcasts.

Today’s teaching, “Why the Atonement?” is especially rich and helpful in explaining why an atonement was necessary.  Philippians 2:12 charges us to “work out our salvation with fear and treambling.”  This will help you do just that. Again, spend some time in appreciative prayer after listening.  Until tomorrow! – Arthur

(the audio player is embedded on the blog, but below is a link for those who can’t access it on the blog)

“Why the Atonement?” link

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“Christmas: Celebrate the Humble King” (Robert)

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Merry Christmas, TD!

On this Christmas Day, Robert shares an article he wrote for a local paper.  It’s an appropriate read for this special day.  Thanks, Robert!

Christmas: Celebrate the Humble King by Robert Chan

Last year in our home we celebrated our first Christmas together as a family of three. Our baby daughter had just turned four months old. She couldn’t do much except let out gas and look adorable, and yet her presence during that special season opened our eyes in a fresh way to the wonder of Christmas.

It wasn’t because the piece of real estate underneath our Christmas tree was much more crowded than usual; and, no, it wasn’t because our daughter received the most gifts out of anyone in our family. (She received toys and clothes that she probably won’t be able to wear or really enjoy until after this year’s Christmas celebration.) The fresh wonder came as we held in our arms a living reminder of the heart of this holy day. Beyond the lights, trees, songs, and scents—even beyond the shepherds, angels, and animals—the heart of Christmas was laid in a feeding trough two thousand years ago as a baby boy in Bethlehem.

Now this wasn’t what many expected when they were waiting for the fulfillment of God’s Word from the prophet Isaiah: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.” (Isaiah 9:6-7, ESV) With those credentials, shouldn’t this king be born in the palace of the greatest existing empire? Instead, he was born in a feeding trough in a very small town of Israel, which in turn was a conquered nation under the rule of the Roman Empire. The all-powerful God did not send His Son to overwhelm the world with might and glory; instead He sent his Son in the weakest form of humanity: a baby. My wife and I could only catch our breath in wonder when we fed our daughter so that she would not starve, changed her so that she would not rot, and carefully bathed her so that she would not drown.  She was totally dependent on us; and it floored us to think of why someone who is used to having everyone dependent on him would willingly place himself in such a position.

The Bible tells us why God humbled himself to such a point: Jesus became human like us in order to stand in our place before God. We all have sinned against our Maker and no amount of sacrifice or penance we can make on our own would overrule the rightful justice we deserve. And so Jesus “emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:7-8) He took no shortcuts in living the life we could never live—from birth to death, Jesus lived in perfect obedience and with perfect love for God the Father. He used his human eyes to see needy; he used his feet to move toward the hurting; he used his hands to lift the lowly; and he used his lips to praise his Lord.

But his body was not formed only to do good in our place; it was also formed to be broken for our evil. “When Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me.” (Hebrews 10:5) Jesus himself would be the perfect sacrifice. The hands that God the Father fashioned in the womb of Mary were made to be pierced. God made that heart knowing that it would stop beating for the salvation of many. He breathed air into those lungs so that they would one day collapse under the weight of Jesus’ body hanging on the cross. He wove that skin knowing it would be wrapped in grave cloths only to burst out from them in the triumphant defeat of death. Truly, “God so loved the world that He gave His Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) This Christmas, take time to marvel at this humble King and the costly peace bought by the sacrifice of the Prince of Peace

Suffering and Jesus (a must see)

Hi TD,

Suffering as a Christian is an integral part of being a Christian.  Period.  Nabeel Quereshi (former Muslim, author of the multi-award winning book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus) is no stranger to this, as he endured emotional and relational suffering after leaving Islam and surrendering to Christ, a cost he knew he would have to pay to come to the Truth. The above testimony/lecture and Q&A, Suffering and Jesus, is valuable teaching, perspective aligning, and very insightful.

The sub-title is “How Suffering Transformed My Life”  and was given earlier this year. imagesLittle did he know at the time  what other suffering God had in His plans for him.This week Nabeel announced a new suffering that God has placed in his life: advanced stomach cancer.  We just saw Nabeel, Michelle, and their new baby girl in June.  The thought of her possibly growing up without her dad is quite sobering:

Dear Friends and Family,

This is an announcement that I never expected to make, but God in His infinite and sovereign wisdom has chosen me for this refining, and I pray He will be glorified through my body and my spirit. My family and I have received the news that I have advanced stomach cancer, and the clinical prognosis is quite grim. Nonetheless, we are going to pursue healing aggressively, both medical and miraculous, relying on God and the fact that He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

In the past few days my spirits have soared and sank as I pursue the Lord’s will and consider what the future might look like, but never once have I doubted this: that Jesus is Lord, His blood has paid my ransom, and by His wounds I am healed. I have firm faith that my soul is saved by the grace and mercy of the Triune God, and not by any accomplishment or merit of my own. I am so thankful that I am a child of the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sealed in the Spirit. No, in the midst of the storm, I do not have to worry about my salvation, and for that I praise you, God.

Unfortunately this means I am no longer able to engage in traveling ministry for the time being. I am canceling almost all my speaking events, with a few exceptions. From this point on until such a time as the Lord might choose to heal me, I intend to blog or vlog about my journey with cancer, transparently offering my heart, thoughts, and struggles in case they might encourage others and glorify God. I will no longer be with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, though it has been an absolute privilege to be on the team for the past 3 years. My third book, No God But One: Allah or Jesus?, launched today, and I still intend to write my next book, 20 Questions Muslims Ask and the Answers that Convert Them. Beyond that, the Lord knows.

Friends and family, may I ask you to fast and pray fervently for my healing? I do not profess to know the will of the Lord, but many of my close friends and confidants are convinced that this is a trial through which the Lord intends to bring me alive and refined. May His will be done, and may I invite you to seek Him in earnest, on your knees, fasting on my behalf, asking our Yahweh Rapha for healing in Jesus’ name.

And as you pray and fast, “I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:18-20)

For His Glory,
-Nabeel

Would you please join us in praying for Nabeel and his family?  Thank you. – Arthur

Loving Jesus More Than Life This Thanksgiving

Hey TD,

During this Thanksgiving week, I would like to ask … no … I would like to urge and plea with you to take your normal Thanksgiving routine and up it, deepen it, transform it,  … whatever you want to call it; but in some way, shape, or form, I would like to challenge you to make a concerted effort to give your thanks to our Lord with more than words.  Let Him receive your effusive words of thanks, for sure, but let Him receive thanks that are so thankful, that it results in some action that you joyfully and whole-heartedly do that honors Him and helps Him feel closer to YOU.

“… have we ever given thought as to how close God feels to us?”

 

I know that we always gauge the level of our relationship with God by how close we feel to the Lord, but have we ever given thought as to how close He feels to us?  Let’s spend some extra effort this Thanksgiving drawing nearer to the Lord and giving Him the gift of time.

Some suggestions for this include:

  • Planning a time for a more special time with the Lord during your personal devotions/Bible study, preparing for and treating your time with Him like you do when you meet with someone special.  Perhaps dress up for the occasion or meet with Him at a special place.  Special things often happen at special places and events!
  • Write Him a letter of gratitude and appreciation (not the same as journaling)
  • Serve someone in a way you normally wouldn’t/don’t in Jesus’ Name – on His behalf, with His flavor, essence, generosity, and warmth.
  • Share of His goodness and beauty to friends/people who haven’t yet seen or beheld Him as good and beautiful yet.
  • Create something for Him that highlights and honors Him – poetry, music, art, crafts, etc.
  • Commit to extra diligent study and understanding of Him and His things – i.e. review TD material (messages, studies, blog essays/videos/podcasts), review SS material, read a book, listen to a message or teaching series, etc.

In this spirit, I offer you the 12-minute video above from one of my favorite Bible teachers, John Piper,  on “Loving Jesus More Than Life.”  Enjoy.

Arthur

TD’er, Have You Repented From Your Life of Sin?

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Hi TD’ers,

The fact is, you are not a follower of Christ if you have not repented from your sin.  That is not only proper theology, but it is rooted in just plain fact.  You cannot be going north and south at the same time.  In order to go north, you must turn around from going south and head in the opposite direction.

And yet that’s exactly the attempt many church people, many TD’ers, and many self-proclaimed “Christians” make in trying to “follow Christ” while following the world and fulfill their self-centered desires.  They are factually in direct opposition to one another!  You cannot head north and south at the same time.  Jesus made it clear, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” Matt. 16:24

Could Jesus be any clearer?  If you want to follow Jesus (north), you must cease walking in the direction you are heading (south), turn around, and head the opposite direction towards Him.  And if you do not, you are not following Jesus.  This isn’t being narrow-minded, judgmental, legalistic, elitist, etc.  It’s just plain un-religious common sense.  You can’t go up and down and the same time.

The word “repent” means to change one’s mind  and turn and head the opposite direction. Have you repented from your sin?  Or have you “accepted Christ” and tried to just add Him on to your life?  To the direction you are already heading?  Hoping that adding Him on will result in Him blessing you as you walk in the direction you’ve decided to walk?

If that’s you, you need to truly repent from your life of sin (walking away from the Lord) and follow Him.  It’s the objectively right thing to do.  It’s the smart thing to do.  It’s the loving thing to do.  It’s the moral thing to do.  It’s the best thing to do.  And … it’s the hardest thing to do. You cannot do it in your own power.

But, if you sincerely plead to the Lord for forgiveness of your life of sin, surrender your life to the Lord Jesus and His will, and plead with Him to help sinful, broken you to turn around and follow Him … He will grant that to you and will help you to do so through THE gift of the Holy Spirit.  Acts 2:38 says, “… Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Let your small group leaders know if you want to discuss this and begin walking North. – Arthur

Are the Red Letters More Important?

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Hey TD,

Does your Bible contain red letters highlighting Jesus’ own words in the New Testament?  Most do, but some don’t.  Those that don’t are that way for a reason.  Here’s a recent thought from our friend, radio apologist and author, Greg Koukl, from Stand to Reason, about this, about how to use and NOT use the red letters in our evangelism and apologetics.  Something to think about. – Arthur

Are the Red Letters More Important?

Twice recently I’ve noticed people making a theological point based on what Jesus, allegedly, did not say. In both instances I have the same questions: So what? Why should it matter what Jesus did not say?

I have three points in mind with these questions. They have to do with a tactical maneuver, a misstep in thinking, and a misunderstanding about the Bible that so-called “red letter” Christians seem to fall into.

First, notice the tactic being employed here: appeal to authority. The person making the comment is trying to bolster her point of view by enlisting Jesus as her ally, as a person whose views must be reckoned with.

Now, on this point I completely agree. What’s odd, though, is that this appeal is often made by people who seem completely unconcerned with Jesus’ opinion until it appears He sides with them. This looks suspiciously like special pleading. If, for example, Jesus had condemned the behavior in question, would that make a difference to the challenger? If not, then why bring Jesus into the discussion at all?

So, first I want to point out that if Jesus’ opinion on any one issue matters, maybe we should take His counsel on other things for the same reason.

For example, even if we have no record of Jesus’ thoughts on, say homosexuality, did He weigh in on the closely related issue of marriage? He did, it turns out: From the beginning, God designed, endorsed, and intended marriage and sex (“one flesh”) solely for long term, monogamous, heterosexual unions (Matt. 19:4-5). Shouldn’t this teaching of Jesus’ have a legitimate bearing on the debate, if His opinion really matters?

Now to the logical misstep. Nothing meaningful can be concluded from Jesus’ reticence on any issue because it’s a mistake to assume Christ must favor whatever He doesn’t explicitly condemn.

There’s a deeper theological concern here regarding Scripture, especially when the “Jesus never said anything about that” comment comes from a Christian. The mistake is thinking that the verses in red letters (the actual words of Jesus) have more authority than the rest of the Bible.

Our doctrine of Scripture entails that all the holy writings are “God breathed” (called verbal plenary inspiration). Therefore, Jesus’ words have no more authority than Jude’s, and Paul’s words have no less authority than Christ’s. In fact, since Jesus is God—the same God who inspired all of Scripture—in a very real sense, Titus’s words and Paul’s words are Jesus’ words.

Since the same doctrine supporting Jesus’ words endorses every other biblical writer, singling out Jesus as a special authority undermines the doctrine of inspiration for all of Scripture. Consequently, Jesus’ own words fall under the cloud, especially since He wrote nothing Himself, but entrusted that task to His followers.

No, nothing helpful follows from Jesus’ apparent silence on any issue. Don’t make this mistake yourself. And don’t let others slip it by you, either. Simply say, “Jesus never said anything about that? So what? Let’s look at what the Bible does say.”

Thoughtfully yours,

Greg Koukl

“‘Tell No One About Me’ – Jesus” Bible Study – Start Now!

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Hey TD’ers,

All year, you’ve had a chance to dine on the rich spiritual meals that our fine biblical “chefs” have devotedly prepared for you, using their extensive experience, study, preparation, prayer, and TLC.  During our small group Bible studies, we have been working together to get you acclimated to get a good feel of basic Bible study habits and skills by

– cross referencing Scripture and looking up various passages to let the Bible speak for itself and give us answers

– learning for what things to look for and for the types of questions to ask when studying the Bible

– researching what others have said on the passage or topic

– studying for application and action

In our small groups over the last two months, the counselors have taken a step back to allow you to work with the message notes, just giving you starter questions and some resources to begin allowing your study to have a greater influence on our small group studies.  And it’s been great.

This week, we’re going to go one step further in having our small group study be “cooked” upon a totally new passage – not one developed from the a message/meal that has already been prepared for you.  We’re going to put you in the kitchen, give you the ingredients; and based on the skills and experience you’ve developed through the years,  we’re going to  have you pretty much prepare your own meal to bring to our small group Bible study “potluck” this Friday.  The topic is “‘Tell No One About Me’ – Jesus” and the passage is Luke 5:14-16.

Now let’s be frank, if you don’t prepare well, our small group times this Friday are going to  … well … basically, they’re going to stink.  So, please bring your skill, creativity, and heart to your preparation, bathe it in prayer and diligent and careful study,  and have a GREAT time! – Arthur

Here’s the mp3 for last Friday’s message:

“Full of Leprosy” Luke 5:12-13 (message – Arthur)