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

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“‘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)

Tell No One About Jesus

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Yep.  Don’t tell anyone.  These are direct orders from the top – Jesus Himself.   Wait, aren’t we ALWAYS supposed to be telling people about Jesus?  Well, apparently not always.  When should we and shouldn’t we?  When is it not right or best?

Join us at TD this Friday as I teach from Luke 5:12-16 and address this issue.  The message is titled, “‘Tell No One About Me’ – Jesus”  We’ll have a great time uncovering the truth and sifting through the various thoughts about this, as well-intentioned as they may be.

We’ll see you there! – Arthur

What Will You Give Jesus? Day 11

Well, it’s Christmas Eve and some families are already opening their gifts.  I opened this gift to Jesus last night and couldn’t wait to share it with you!  You TD girls got to hear this live already, but we boys didn’t 😦  Well, now we can 🙂  Thanks Mel, Catherine, and Katherine!  It’s a blessing!

“Gift to Jesus” by Melody Hung, Catherine Wei, and Katherine Tao

Snowflakes falling, children smiling, a waft of apple pie
Families gathering, stars a twinkling, in the cozy night
Warm feelings fill our lonely hearts and we wonder why
Only through the blood of Jesus, we can know this light

(Chorus)
It’s Christmas time, gifts are given and received
But the greatest gift is your love for me
All that I can offer to you is my life
Jesus, this is my gift to you

Dear Lord Jesus, lying in the hay
A midst the hopelessness of this life
God of wonders beyond all that I can say
Love amazing, forever mine

Lord of all creation we have come to praise your name
God you are wonderful, so very great
Thank you fro the cross Lord, bearing all my sin and shame
You are so good to me, everyday

What Will You Give Jesus? Day 9

During our small group time at “A TD Christmas” Michael shared his “gift” to Jesus – reflections on his past, and how to “do Christmas better” going forward.  I thought it would be really useful and helpful for us to keep in mind in these final days before Christmas … and for the rest of the holiday season!  Thanks, Michael! – Arthur

What I Would Have Told My Younger Self

Knowing that I’ll be spending my last (ever!) semester of school at home in the coming months, I reflected on what advice I would give to myself at the beginning of high school, when I still felt I had life figured all out. Turns out I didn’t, and hopefully you can relate.

Here are seven things I would have done differently during the holiday season:

1. Appreciate what you normally can’t or don’t

Go outdoors (your computer can wait)! Or enjoy a moment of silence – reflect on your year, pray knowing that your innermost feelings can be trusted to God, and ponder life’s intriguing mysteries.

2. Don’t let possessions possess you

This year, I was shocked to find that shops were opening on Thanksgiving night to attract customers before Black Friday normally starts. As a result, people were sacrificing valuable family time and cutting off their dinners early to line up for bargains; but when you think about it, are the “benefits” really worth the cost?

Within the context of gift-giving, exchanging expensive presents is one way to show someone you care, but not the only way. Time is money, too! What about treating that friend to dinner and hiking on a trail that overlooks the magnificent Los Angeles nighttime cityscape?

3. A positive attitude brings good cheer

Even if you’re not a big fan of this season, there’s no need to ruin it for others. For the past few years, I’ve thought that I was too old for the fun of Christmas, so I spent my time working and studying at the expense of the rest of my family’s experience. Looking back, I realize how big of a difference a small change in attitude could have made.

4. Take the time to decorate yourself

The tree is in the living room, the lights are up, the fireplace is lit…but remember that as Christ’s temple, you could use some decoration too! Consider how you could clean up bad habits and patch the holes (the inconsistencies) of your life. Then, when others look at you, you’ll be representing the body of Christ as best you can!

5. Give others the gift of…you!

Whether it’s volunteering, caroling at the convalescent home, or just lending an ear to listen, there are so many valuable contributions you can make to your community. Be proactive in finding these opportunities, and you’ll be blessed in return. Read Luke 14:13 if you need some inspiration.

6. Do yourself a favor and set some goals

Make a list, check it twice. If you’ve been naughty, resolve to be nice. Stick to your goal, no matter the price. Talk to a counselor, should you need some advice.

7. Remember Romans 14:8

Paul kindly reminds us that “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.” In every situation that you’re in, make decisions that reflect who and what you live for!

– Michael Ruan

What Will You Give Jesus? Day 6

What will you give Jesus?  How about the gift of true acceptance?  Accepting Jesus as He really is and not a Jesus fashioned the way we want Him to be?  I know He’d love that.  During this Christmas season, we need to objectively assess whether the One we celebrate is Jesus Christ … or Santa Christ.  Please read this re-post from the Ligonier web site and talk with Him about it.  – Arthur

Do You Believe in a Santa Christ?

from Dec 18, 2013Category: Articles

In Sinclair Ferguson’s book, In Christ Alone, he shares the sad reality that many Christians have a Christology that is more informed by Santa Claus than Scripture. For them, the message of the incarnation has been so twisted or diluted that they have in fact created for themselves a savior who is nothing more than a Santa Christ.

As you prayerfully read Sinclair Ferguson’s words, ask yourself the following question this Christmas season: “Do I believe in a Santa Christ?”


1. A Pelagian Jesus is a Santa Christ

Santa Christ is sometimes a Pelagian Jesus. Like Santa, he simply asks us whether we have been good. More exactly, since the assumption is that we are all naturally good, Santa Christ asks us whether we have been “good enough.” So just as Christmas dinner is simply the better dinner we really deserve, Jesus becomes a kind of added bonus who makes a good life even better. He is not seen as the Savior of helpless sinners.

2. A Semi-Pelagian Jesus is a Santa Christ

Or Santa Christ may be a Semi-Pelagian Jesus — a slightly more sophisticated Jesus who, Santa-like, gives gifts to those who have already done the best they could! Thus, Jesus’ hand, like Santa’s sack, opens only when we can give an upper-percentile answer to the none-too-weighty probe, “Have you done your best this year?” The only difference from medieval theology here is that we do not use its Latin phraseology: facere quod in se est (to do what one is capable of doing on one’s own, or, in common parlance, “Heaven helps those who help themselves”).

3. A Mystical Jesus is a Santa Christ

Then again, Santa Christ may be a mystical Jesus, who, like Santa Claus, is important because of the good experiences we have when we think about him, irrespective of his historical reality. It doesn’t really matter whether the story is true or not; the important thing is the spirit of Santa Christ. For that matter, while it would spoil things to tell the children this, everyone can make up his or her own Santa Christ. As long as we have the right spirit of Santa Christ, all is well.

But Jesus is not to be identified with Santa Claus; worldly thinking — however much it employs Jesus-language — is not to be confused with biblical truth.

Who is the Biblical Christ of Christmas?

The Scriptures systematically strip away the veneer that covers the real truth of the Christmas story. Jesus did not come to add to our comforts. He did not come to help those who were already helping themselves or to fill life with more pleasant experiences. He came on a deliverance mission, to save sinners, and to do so He had to destroy the works of the Devil (Matt. 1:21; 1 John 3:8b).

  • Those whose lives were bound up with the events of the first Christmas did not find His coming an easy and pleasurable experience.
  • Mary and Joseph’s lives were turned upside down.
  • The shepherds’ night was frighteningly interrupted, and their futures potentially radically changed.
  • The magi faced all kinds of inconvenience and family separation.
  • Our Lord Himself, conceived before wedlock, born probably in a cave, would spend His early days as a refugee from the bloodthirsty and vindictive Herod (Matt. 2:13-21).

There is, therefore, an element in the Gospel narratives that stresses that the coming of Jesus is a disturbing event of the deepest proportions. It had to be thus, for He did not come merely to add something extra to life, but to deal with our spiritual insolvency and the debt of our sin. He was not conceived in the womb of Mary for those who have done their best, but for those who know that their best is “like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6)—far from good enough—and that in their flesh there dwells no good thing (Rom. 7:18). He was not sent to be the source of good experiences, but to suffer the pangs of hell in order to be our Savior.

Adapted from In Christ Alone by Sinclair Ferguson.

What Will You Give Jesus? Day 5

Hello TD!  We hope you’re enjoying our daily gifts to help you love Jesus more this Christmas!

Well, gift #5 may be familiar to some of you, but it is so fun and heart warming … and a perfect way to model for us the enthusiasm, energy, and heart we need to have when we go Christmas caroling at the convalescent home this Friday as part of “A TD Christmas.”  I love it and tear up watching it.  Enjoy and be prepared to “bring it” on Friday! – Arthur