Sunday, May 23 2021
GOD IS NOT FAR FROM ANYONE
Scott J Shifferd
Because God is not far from anyone, no one has an excuse for not knowing God. Believers should not think that people are in a fair or neutral condition when they do not know God, because they are overlooking God who created everything and gave them life, breath, and everything. They do not know God because they do not seek God. The Bible explains this with sound reasoning.
"God is not far from each one of us" comes from the apostle Paul's speech in Athens at Mars Hill, the Areopagus (Acts 17:27). The apostle Paul spoke by reasoning from an inscription to the "unknown God" that the Athenians admitted not to know God by their worship of the unknown God (17:22–23). Paul taught the God whom they did not know. The apostle built on the truth that God who made everything does not need anything from man (17:24–25a). God gives life, breath, and everything to humanity (17:25b). God has made every nation and ethnicity having determined their times and boundaries to seek Him and find Him because God is not far from anyone (17:26–27). Everyone can find God because God is not far from anyone (17:27b).
God is not far from His offspring, humanity, whom He created (Acts 17:28). Furthermore, God does not conform to the imaginations of men (17:29). Therefore, God no longer overlooks ignorance of who He is and commands all people to repent (17:30). God will judge the world by righteousness that is by a man (17:31). God has given assurance of this by resurrecting that man from the dead (17:31).
The apostle Paul reasoned by the God who created everything. The apostle did not reason to God but by God. The apostle took the high ground on Mars Hill and transcended all other excuses and destroyed every stronghold raised against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:3–6). Paul did not start with evidence of God's existence because the evidence is found by those who sincerely seek and denied by those who do not seek. The God who created everything and gave humanity life, breath, and everything cannot be far from those made as His offspring in His likeness.
The Bible offers evidence of God for those seeking Him and not for those not seeking. God has made His attributes plain and clear for everyone to see (Romans 1:18–21; cf. Genesis 1:1). The evidence for God is apparent to those who will seek and accept what they find. The faithful see evidence of God everywhere (Psalm 16:11). God's existence is not the debate. God has given more than enough evidence but not so much to overcome one's choice to recognize and follow God.
Paul reasoned from God to Christ and His resurrection. The response to Paul's speech was mostly positive. Some mocked Paul's conclusion of Jesus's resurrection from the dead. Some wanted to hear more again. Some believed and joined Paul (Acts 17:32–34). Paul's reasoning was persuasive all over the world from nation to nation to whom he proclaimed God and the gospel of Christ. Christians would be foolish to overlook Paul’s reasoning and apply it today.
No adult can claim ignorance as an excuse for not knowing God. Paul's speech on Mars Hill gives wisdom on how to speak about God and Christ in a world denying God — an atheistic world, a pagan world, a new age world, a philosophical world. The wisdom of God from the apostle is to recognize that God is not far from anyone and to reason upon this essential truth. Christians always have an evangelism starter by talking about God, who gave everyone life, breath, and everything, so God is not far from anyone (Acts 17:27). For this, Paul instructed the faithful, "Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person" (Colossians 4:5–6).
Tuesday, March 09 2021
Does God’s grace have limits? Is God’s forgiving grace conditional upon one’s faith and obedience? The writer of Hebrews revealed, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26–27 ESV).
In contrast to what the Bible teaches, many claim, “Once saved, always saved,” which in other words means for many, “Once that I was saved by God’s grace, then I cannot fall from grace, so I can continue in sin that grace may abound.” Again, the biblical writer revealed that one can fall from grace when he wrote, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4). Likewise, Galatians 5:19–21 gives a list of sins that "those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." Furthermore, the biblical writer observed, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1–2).
Many ask, “What joy and assurance can anyone have of God’s saving grace if someone can fall from grace?” The condition of God’s forgiveness is a living faith that produces repentance and obedience. When the faithful repent and are baptized, God does the work of forgiving sin and giving life to the faithful as Paul revealed in Colossians 2:12–13.
Grace is truly God's “unmerited favor,” but this does not imply as some believe that grace is “unconditional” forgiveness. Salvation is conditional upon continuing in the faith. Paul revealed that Jesus would present the faithful as holy and blameless before God “if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard” (Colossians 1:23a).
Does God give forgiveness to believers who neglect some of His commands? All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Everyone needs God’s grace (Romans 3:24; 5:1–2). While no one is sinless other than Christ, God’s grace does not exempt believers from observing all that Jesus commanded. In Matthew 28:19–20, Jesus gave the commission to make disciples and instruct them to observe all things that Jesus commanded. Mature Christians should be able to teach all things having the Scriptures as an all-sufficient guide (2 Timothy 3:16–17).
What happens if we strive to observe everything Jesus instructed and yet sin? John wrote of the expanse and extent of God's forgiveness in 1 John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Christians walk in the light when we live by God and His revelation as seen in 1 John 1:5. The word “if” in 1 John 1:7 shows that God's grace for forgiveness is conditional. Continuing in sin is walking in darkness as 1 John 1:6 says, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”
Does every act of sin separate the faithful from God’s forgiveness? Believers are not lost every time one sins. John wrote in verse 8, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” and in verse 10, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” These passages reveal that God does not require sinless perfection when one becomes a Christian but God wants confession of sins. Furthermore, John taught, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Thank God for the great expanse of His forgiving grace. God forgives us of all our sins as we continue in the faith and confess our sins to God the Father. Let encourage one another everyday not to be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:12–13).
Thursday, March 04 2021
At death, the dead are separated from their bodies (James 2:26). The rebellious who ignore God pass through Hades into Hell, the Lake of Fire. The rebellious are in torment before Judgment Day, on Judgement Day, and after (Revelation 19:20; 20:10, 14-15; 21:8). They choose to separate themselves from God who is the source of all goodness and comfort, so they choose to endure eternal separation from God.
The difference on Judgement Day will be a change of bodily existence. On that day, Jesus taught that He will bodily resurrect the dead (John 5:28–29; 6:39–40). At Judgement, those who are rebellious and agnostic against God will resurrect bodily and be cast into the fire of Hell (Matthew 10:28; John 5:28–29; 2 Thessalonians 1:7–9). The resurrection of bodies is thus physical because physical means bodily. Hell will also become a physical reality for the people of those who rebelled and ignored God when they unite in bodies again.
When the faithful die, they enter into the peace of God in the afterlife. Jesus depicted angels taking Lazarus's spirit to the heavenly paradise (Luke 16:22). The faithful go to be with Christ who is in Heaven (Philippians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 5:8). Jesus is in Heaven at the right hand of God and not in another world of the dead (Acts 2:33–34; 5:31; 7:55–56; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3, 12; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22; cf. Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:63).
On Judgement Day, the faithful will come to life again. The Holy Spirit will give life to the mortal bodies of the faithful (Romans 8:11). What kind of life? This is eternal life. Faithful Christians await the redemption of their bodies (Romans 8:23). That is the hope that Christians defend (Romans 8:24–25; 1 Peter 3:15). Paul promised that the faithful will transform from a lowly body to a glorious body like Jesus (Philippians 3:21). The apostle revealed, "And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power" (1 Corinthians 6:14; cf. 4:14). At the resurrection, bodies will rise and put on the immortal nature for eternal life. Paul taught, "For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:53). Despite what happens to one's remains, God will recreate and restore the bodies of the dead (Job 19:25–27; Isaiah 29:16; Revelation 20:13; cf. Ezekiel 37:1–14). Jesus resurrected as flesh and bones, yet He rose never to die as His body became immortal (Luke 24:39). He is the fullness of Deity bodily (Colossians 2:9). When Jesus resurrected, the bodies of saints resurrected, they came from the tombs, and they appeared to many (Matthew 27:52–53).
God's grace and judgment are just. Christians rejoice for the hope of the redemption of bodies to rise to immortality. Knowing the fear of the Lord, the faithful persuade others to turn to God (2 Corinthians 5:10–11). For the hope of the resurrection, believers unite in Jesus's death, burial, and resurrection through baptism in hope of resurrecting like Christ (Romans 6:3–5; Colossians 2:12–13). This is the hope that we defend (1 Peter 3:15).
Tuesday, March 02 2021
"Happy wife, happy life." Most men know this saying and want to believe it. Most husbands want to make their wives happy. However, many wives think their husbands do not care, and many husbands struggle to cherish their wives because they do not know how.
Women have great power in their marriages. The American Sociological Association reports that women initiate 70–90% of divorces, and that increases as one’s level of education increases (Rosenfeld, 2015). Today, women are the most willing to walk away from their marriages. Why? In the book The Empowered Wife (2017), Laura Doyle offers a simple test for wives to think about who has more power in their marriage by asking: "Who loves who more? Do you love him more? Or does he love you more?" (p. 16). Doyle reports that most women answer that he loves her more. Wives often want to improve their marriages but they think it is dependent on their husbands. Doyle finds that women have the power to change their marriages. Is that true? According to the Bible, wives do have God-given power to affect unresponsive husbands with their conduct (1 Peter 3:1–2).
Wives can do at least one thing to improve their marriage greatly. Doyle reports that women often have a list of complaints for not feeling loved by their husbands, yet husbands have one thing they want from their wives that makes them feel loved and that is respect (The Empowered Wife, p. 105–6). Doyle explains that respect will change men almost instantly. She finds that most women do not know how to respect their husbands or know when they are disrespecting their husbands. She noted that wives do not realize they are disrespecting their husbands when they try to control their husbands by setting their responsibilities, telling them what they should be doing, or instructing how things are to be done. Instead, Doyle coaches wives to comment what they need, what they like, what they cannot do, and what problem they would like solved, and watch their husbands meet those needs. Doyle finds that disrespect drives husbands away from their wives until wives give up on the marriage. Furthermore, Doyle observes that disrespect discourages men from becoming better in various ways. Is she right? Doyle has challenged thousands of women to test her by showing respect to their husbands and see if he changes in as little as 2 weeks.
The Bible emphatically teaches wives to respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:33). Why should women respect their husbands? Is not respect for someone of authority like a judge, an employer, or a teacher? The biblical command seems to imply that men need respect from their wives to take the initiative and lead by example.
The apostle Peter gives excellent instruction to wives about how they can win their husbands by “respectful and pure conduct” (1 Peter 3:1–2). This command comes with a promise that wives can affect change in their husbands by their behavior. Peter expanded on respect teaching wives to be clothed with the hidden person of the heart with the beauty of a gentle and peaceful spirit as God values (3:3–4). Peter further observed how Sarah respected her husband, even obeyed him, and recognized him as "lord" (3:5–6). Abraham was "lord" and leader over 318 men and the whole of his camp. One could argue that Abraham merited his wife's respect for his leadership. However, Sarah could have listed reasons not to respect her husband for not standing up to Pharaoh and later to Abimelech and letting her go with another man or agreeing to take Hagar as another wife to raise a son from her. However, the wife who is faithful to God can look past faults and find good reasons to respect her husband again.
Both the husband and the wife are responsible for their marriage. The Bible does not command husbands to demand respect of their wives as wives cannot demand love. The Scriptures command husbands to love sacrificially, cherish, and nourish their wives and instructs wives to respect by being subject to their husbands (Ephesians 5:25–31). Most husbands want to make their wives happy, and they will keep trying as long as their wives respect their efforts. How can Christians improve their marriages? "Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband" (Ephesians 5:33).
Thursday, February 25 2021
Here are 5 useful truths that most people can recognize:
1. Everything began and came from a more powerful cause.
2. People do not perfectly keep their moral codes.
3. Constant moral values exist beyond what people agree and accept.
4. Life can have no ultimate meaning and purpose without God.
5. Humanity needs saving from degrading one another and denying a constant value for every person.
These truths align with what we experience and with what the Bible reveals. The Bible presents this reality and leads us to realize and infer more. One comment that will instantly improve evangelism is "We were made... for this purpose, to enjoy this, to love others, for more." We may follow up by recognizing that "We all need help in life." For this, consider the title and remember that we were "Made for More."
Most people think about their lives and think about whether there is a greater purpose. We might ask, "Why is everything here?" Some have thought of this and they do not like the answers, so they ignore these evidences of God. However, "Why is everything here?" and "Why is there something rather than nothing?" These are questions that we should use to encourage others to keep asking because the answer is that we were made for more.
We also say, "No one is perfect;" in other words, that no one is morally perfect. This is true as the Bible confirms that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Rebellion separates humanity from the Creator of everything. That rebellion from the Creator of life results in a separation of death and the result is suffering. Now, we see that "We need help. We need a savior."
You may add some other basic truths that people admit. The initial list should get us thinking about how we can encourage others to think about the Creator because there is more to life. The universe is intelligible so that intelligent human beings can perceive the intelligible universe. The only explanations for the cause of the universe is that the cause is either intelligent or not. The best explanation is that the cause is the intelligent Creator and not an unintelligent generator. By the way, asserting multiple creators who contradict each other would not constantly agree on one uniform reality and perception of the world. Because people are intelligent like the Creator, then we are evidently made in the Creator's likeness just as the Bible also attests (Genesis 1:26–27).
How can these deep thoughts come up in everyday conservations? We might talk about the weather and why it is the way that it is: "It is a beautiful day that keeps reminding me that this world was made for us." When good things happen, thank God before others because "We were made for more." When someone does you wrong, do not reserve forgiveness when they repent because God has forgiven you. Christians must stand for what is right and wrong upon the basis that there is a constant standard, because "We were made for more." We can make comments in other subtle ways by noting, "We were not created to treat each other this way" and "We are created to be compassionate." Our actions help others to look at the world and perceive reality. That new perspective will help them to seek, find, and trust in God.
Tuesday, February 23 2021
If there were universal attributes of God in the creation, then Christians could use these characteristics to observe and note God's existence and His actions. This would be the strongest evidence for perceiving God via His creative works and identifying who He is. The Bible consents that humanity can see God’s attributes as the cause of everything (Romans 1:19–20).
If you want to skip to how to use this in everyday life, then go to the last paragraph. However, if you want to think about the basis for how we can observe God's characteristics in nature, keep reading until we get to how this helps us share a reasonable faith.
One can clearly perceive and reason that the characteristics of the uncaused cause of the intelligible universe that allows intelligent moral beings to observe it are that the cause must be:
intelligent, creative, all-knowing,
life-preserving, liberating, moral,
loving, gracious, merciful,
and therefore holy (being unique in character unlike any other).
All of this defines the first cause as God and aligns perfectly with the Bible's description of the Creator God, the "I AM THAT I AM," the God of Jesus of Nazareth.
The Bible's description of God aligns with these attributes of the Creator that set the foundation of natural theology — the study of God as displayed and inferred from nature. As the Bible begins, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). From Genesis, God is the Creator of everything and He is the basis of reality. God must be the Creator of all good who is thus morally good and gracious. Those who rebel against God's moral righteousness also reject His grace and do not accept what is evident of God's character.
The Bible's alignment with natural theology is one of the great evidences of the Christian faith. Furthermore, the character of Jesus of Nazareth aligns with the necessary characteristics of the Creator as perceived and inferred from nature. The apostle Paul proclaimed before the thinkers of Athens the attributes of God by negating false assumptions (Acts 17:22–31). His argument was convincing to some and convicting for others who wanted to hear more. The attributes of God led Paul to note God's moral judgment over humanity and a specific man as the standard for judgment. Furthermore, the man died and overcame death demonstrating his own divine nature.
How can Christians use these observations about God from nature in everyday conversations? Bringing up God and Jesus in small talk can often seem abrupt and forced. However, as students of God, we should have a subtle and reasonable recognition of God. Christians can recognize and note the creative power behind the weather and nature's beauty. Believers should openly thank God for what He provides in our lives such as a new job, a new house, or a newborn. Believers should make a moral stand for what is right in the workplace and community because there is a constant standard of right and wrong. Followers of Christ must demonstrate the love, grace, and mercy that is constant because God is and Jesus lives. We want to put a new perspective before the eyes of our family and peers that begs them to see a greater purpose and meaning to everything and so come to seek out and worship God.
Thursday, February 18 2021
These questions are to encourage personal thought and discussions with family and others about how we love others and recognize when we are not very loving (Colossians 4:2–6). Here are 5 discussions to discuss with other believers:
1. How can someone say, "I love everyone, but I can tell by how he presents himself that he will not amount to much in life?"
2. Is the person, who cruelly criticizes you and degrades you behind your back, someone who respects and loves you?
3. How can someone say his moral standard is "Do no harm" when he degrades, slanders, and speaks profanely before others?
4. Can you show someone that you love that person when you are passively hinting at what you dislike about them and how you want the person to change?
5. Is it worth risking one's life for liberty and justice for all people when so many live immoral and unjust lives?
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