066 – For the Love of Obedience – Part 1

After nearly 70 podcasts here at A Faith that Obeys, there is one aspect of our topic we have never really studieStudyd deeply. We have skirted around the issue. We have included the notion in a number of our discussions but we have never tackled this topic head-on and let the chips fall where they may.

The issue? The fact that scripture teaches us that; love for Christ is directly linked to obedience to Christ.

Study out the word “Obedience”

This showed up on my radar last week when I was creating a list of scriptures that specifically mention obedience. Now that study is an entire study in and of itself and I would highly encourage you to do a search for the word obey in all its various forms, using your Bible Software or online at BibleGateway.com or BibleStudyTools.com and discover the amazing things revealed by that search. You will be both delighted and challenged.

I wanted to find were scriptures that spoke specifically about obedience being necessary for salvation. In the process, I was struck with how many times obedience is directly connected or associated with love for God and Christ. As I read these passages I was amazed with how dogmatic they are. There is no gray area. We either love God and Jesus through our obedience or we do not.

What we are about to look at we have seen before but never in such a challenging way… never so directly.

A Quick Prayer for a Soft Heart

Lets begin with a prayer because I think we’re gonna need it!

God and Father, please be with us as we look at these challenging scriptures. Help our hearts be soft and receptive to the facts we are about to see. Help us be willing to change anything we need to change in our lives in order to follow you more closely. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

In this podcast, let’s begin by talking about obedience in general and then talk about how it relates to the love of Christ. Here’s probably the most challenging scripture. It is found in 1 John. 

1 John 2:3-6
We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, I know him, but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, Gods love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him:  Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

This is a scripture about salvation. 

Knowing Christ Does Not Mean Christ Knows You!

When John speaks about coming to know him, he is talking about a person’s relationship with Jesus. Implied in his assertion is the fact that not only have we come to know Jesus, but Jesus knows us, too. I point this out because I am recalling those folks back in Matthew 7 who knew Jesus super intimately and were doing amazing things for him but Jesus never knew them. There are two parts to the equation, right?

Now, that is not the case in this 1 John passage. It is clear that we are talking to real disciples of Jesus. John is talking to Christians. We also know this because he is comparing the “we” of the first sentence with “the man” of the second sentence; who is clearly lost. Here it is again for reference.

“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, I know him, but does not do what he commands is a liar and the truth is not in him.”

Without Obedience, We Do Not Know Christ

Now notice something critical. This first sentence is conditional. It contains an if/then statement.

We know that we have come to know him… IF we obey his commands.

That’s a pretty clear delineation isn’t it? We have assurance of a relationship with Christ IF we obey his commands. People who do not obey his command, do not know him.

Verse 4 is wildly intense! “The man who says, I know him, but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

I am not sure I know of any places in the Bible that are more direct an (dare I say) more harsh.

Being called a liar, by anyone is a terrible thing. Being called a liar by the Apostle John and by extension, God is terrifying. In the physical realm, them be “fightin’” words. But spiritually, our arms are far too short to box with God nor would we even dare try. God calls people liars? Yeah, there it is in black and white. A person who says that they know Christ but does not do what he commands is a liar. And he is not just a liar. John says, “the truth is not in him.” A person who is not living in obedience to Christ can not present the truth because he does not have the truth within him. It’s just not there and we can’t argue with that. That’s what God says. The truth is not in him.

But who are we talking about specifically?

Let’s take this a little deeper.

We are talking about a person who is a kin to those folks we have already mentioned way back in Matthew 7. They sincerely believed they had a relationship with Christ. They served him with all their heart and even did miracles but they were not saved. Christ never knew them. They were under a great and magnificent deception that they had a relationship with Jesus… but they did not. If we compare the people in Matthew 7 with this man who says, “I know him,” in 1 John, I think there is a small, subtle difference. “The man,” in 1 John seems to have a bit more boldness and confidence than the folks in Matthew 7.

In 1 John, the man who says, I know him, is not just excused as unenlightened, or confused. This is a person who is confidently boasting to others that he has a relationship with Christ when he does not. Have you ever been in a situation where you were dead certain of a thing… absolutely convinced of something… only to find out later you were wrong? That’s a tough thing to go through but if we are humble, it can lead to the discovery of the info we were missing.

This man who so confidently professes that he knows Christ is not in a position of humble correctable ignorance. This person is confronted face to face by John and told, You are a liar. Wow! That’s really intense. This man is a liar and the truth is not in him.

An Encouraging Olive Branch

The next sentence is the antithesis of the first and brings a sense of hope and encouragement.

Verse 5. “But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him.”

This is not only an olive branch to the braggart we see in the second sentence, it sure sounds like a place I want to be. I want to be in a place where God’s love is truly made complete in me. That is endearing, comforting and full of assurance. And what leads to this amazing comfort and assurance? Obedience to God’s word. It’s that simple.

While the fist part of this passage is dramatic in its condemnation for those who are disobedient, it offers incredible encouragement as it closes.

“This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”

To walk as Jesus did provides absolute assurance that we have a true and correct relationship with him, and you know what? That’s a pretty tall order! Walking as Jesus did… does that mean, no home, no possessions, no place to lay your head? Maybe for some. But why not just try the mission of Christ, first. 

How to Begin Walking as Jesus Did – Four Things

You know, there are some pretty solid commands we can follow if we want to walk as Jesus did but, we must start that walk on the right foot. Are we walking as Christ did by obeying and teaching The Great Commission? Those are starting gun instructions and a great place to test our claim of obedience.

In those instructions, Jesus told us how he wanted his followers to advance his mission after his departure. Are we doing that?

He told us to go. There’s no reason to be thick or confused about the intention in this command. He wants us to not stay home but to reach out to people outside our spiritual community. He wants us to say something about Him. This is implied by the next command to: Make disciples.

Evangelism is a Matter of Salvation

We need to take a deep breath and agree on something very specific here. Listen carefully. If we are not evangelistic (Going), we are not obeying Christ’s commands. Let that sink in. If we are not evangelistic, we are not obeying Christ’s commands. 

Do we really understand this. We are not obeying. We may claim we love Christ, but without obedience to this very first command we are, in the words of John, a liar. Now, let’s not deny it! Let’s not make an excuse for our lack of obedience to go. And certainly, don’t take offense at me. I’m just reporting the truth with the greatest possible love and concern I can. If we are not evangelic we are walking in disobedience to Christ. That’s what the “Go” of The Great Commission is all about.

Making Disciples

Second, are we making disciples? Making disciples is a process. It takes work. What kind of work? Well, in our modern church era we have a challenge of breaking up, digging out and clearing away an unholy ton of religious tradition. People are deeply committed to church and family traditions which have no basis in scripture. Our job is to help people understand what’s really in the scriptures and abandon their religious traditions and practices because these are a massive stumbling block for the modern believer.

I suppose there should be no surprise. That is exactly what Jesus faced. Do you realize that for the most part, Jesus entire message was presented to the religious lost? Think about it. Most of the people he reached out to were solidly committed to their own traditional form of religion. Which, by the way, was a false and empty religion! It saved nobody. When Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened,” in Matthew 11:28, He was not talking about the burdens of their marital problems or their soul-sucking careers. He was talking about their empty religious system which was getting them no where yet oppressed them with impossible rules.

Making disciples is the single greatest spiritual motivator and inspiring activity a Christian will ever do. When you sit down and open the scriptures, especially with a religious person, and they see the truth for the very first time and you watch their eyes light up with understanding well, there is no greater thrill in the entire world. There is no greater joy than planting the seed of scripture in a humble open heart and watching it blossom into full compliance and obedience to the scriptures. And why is this true?

No Greater Joy than Planting and Watering

Think about this for a moment. There is absolutely nothing… NOTHING you will ever do in your life that is greater or more important that moving a person from the power of Satan to the Kingdom of God. NOTHING! You may be the greatest brain surgeon who ever lived and save hundreds of lives but they will still eventually die. Or you may be the person who finds the cure for every form of cancer but another death still awaits the cured. Those accomplishments pale in comparison to saving just one soul for an eternity. The sad thing is most believers never have the experience of planting the seed of God’s word and watching it grow. 

Opening the scriptures for the purpose of converting a soul is relegated off to the pastor, or some other leader in the church. The average believer never opens the word with a nonbeliever to show them the truth. They never feel the thrill of victory. And yet, isn’t that what The Great Commission is all about? Every disciple should be involved in this process so every disciple ought to know and be thrilled when it happens. There is no greater thrill in this life than sharing the Scriptures and helping another soul discover Christ.

It’s the Great Commission, Not the Great Suggestion

“Making disciples” is not the second thing in The Great Suggestion. It is not an optional exercise of a believer who enjoys a modicum of joy because they know a little bit about Jesus. Making disciples is a command and by definition, every disciple makes disciples. There is no other kind of disciple. We must never claim we are disciples of Jesus if we are not actively involved in making other disciples. If we claim to be in him but do not do what he commands… we are liars.

Baptize ‘Em

Once we have introduced someone to Christ, what on earth do we do next? Well, what’s the next command? What did Jesus tell us to do? It’s in your bible. We baptize them!

Once again, this is not some optional suggestion. It is a direct and clear command of Jesus. It is simple and unambiguous. Elsewhere, the scriptures are full of the mode, method and meaning of water baptism. It is a complete immersion in water, in obedience to this Great Commission command. It is by absolutely no stretch of the imagination, a work of man. It is an act of faith instigated by this command. If you have ever argued that baptism is a work of men, then you’ve never understood that a command of Christ cannot be… at the very same time… a work of man. Is it a work or a command? The two are mutually exclusive. Baptism is not something you do to yourself anyway. It is something you submit to. In baptism a person is buried with Christ, they are raised to a new life. Also, people are not saved at some point in time before their obedience in water baptism. They are not saved when they first believe and accept. They are not saved when they repent. It is in the commanded process of baptism that a person is Born Again. It is during baptism that God washes away sin and sends the Holy Spirit as a seal of sonship. Baptism is our pledge to keep our conscience clean for the rest of our life and it is how and when we call on the name of the Lord to be saved. This is a work of the Holy Spirit as He baptizes the believer into the body of Christ during physical baptism. Without obedience to this Great Commission command there is no saving experience. We do not have a relationship with Christ if we refuse to obey Christ.

There is not other plan of salvation.

Folks, Jesus gave us no other authorized method of obedience. The “Sinners Prayer” is a deception. Accepting Christ and repenting as a prelude to conversion is a fine first step but without obedience in baptism, this leaves a person in a very excited but lost state. Without obedience in baptism, the Holy Spirit never indwells them, they must rely on their own power to eke out their life in Christ for the next 50 (or however many) years. Erroneous methods of conversion leave a believer powerless and empty. This leads to a quick exit from the faith and maybe even a bitterness over the failed promises of “life to the full.” Christianity becomes a joke because people begin to build but do not have the power to finish. It’s pretty difficult to deal with addictions for example without the Holy Spirit indwelling you. People fall flat on their faces and 90% of them leave the church where they were introduced to Jesus. When we humbly obey Christ’s commands, he comes and lives in us as our helper.

Obedience to Baptism seals the deal. It is the final step in conversion. If I reject baptism, I reject the commission. Listen, would a true disciple of Jesus refuse to baptize someone? Would a true disciple of Jesus delay the command to be baptized until the bi-annual baptism service? I don’t want the potential guilt of that weighing on may soul! First century New Testament baptism was immediate because they understood people were not saved until they obeyed The Great Commission.

Obey Everything

Finally, Jesus told his disciples, and us, to obey everything. Do we really need to say more? He had just given three commands, but just in case we think we can somehow skate around any one of them, he nails it down and puts it into a nice little wrapper, teach them to obey everything. This means that beginning with the first generation of disciples who were made on the day of Pentecost, until this very moment, as you listen to this podcast, every single person who has ever become a true disciple of Jesus has been presented The Great Commission, obeyed all of it and continues to plant it in the hearts of the people they meet and share the Gospel with. All true disciples of Jesus understand that it is their responsibility to Go, Make Disciples, Baptize them and teach them to obey these four things. Folks, we can not get around this and this is just the start of obedience. There are many other things Christ told us to obey.

The icing on the cake the cherry on top of everything Jesus gave us in The Great Commission, is that he would be with us always. That’s awesome! But to be sure that promise follows the commands. Without obedience to ALL the commands, there is no promise. Folks, let’s make every effort to keep in step with God’s Spirit and commands.

And in conclusion….

Ok. That’s enough for now. We’ll have more in the next podcast.

What we are looking at is how love for Christ is connected to obedience to Christ in the scriptures. The scriptures teach in a variety of ways, in no uncertain terms and in a number of places that if we do not obey, we do not love. I am just discovering this bold and terrifying truth anew. This study is pretty deep. I hope you can accept it.

For me, this teaching is tough but doable if I have a Faith that Obeys.

Enjoy!


Dana Haynes

Join the discussion here. Listen Now – Podcast 066 – For the Love of Obedience – Part 1

065 – The Modern Plan of Salvation

This is the third lesson from our eleven part video series called, “A Faith that Obeys.” You can find the original video and transcript HERE. We are dropping this lesson into our regular podcast feed so that the information can reach a wider audience. In this lesson, we will review the Modern Plan of Salvation which includes practices like “The Sinner’s Prayer” and “Accepting Christ for Salvation.”

Learning about Jesus

The Sinner's Prayer is not in the Bible.
Rethink this very tempting and easy Plan of Salvation!

In this world of ours today the scriptures span the globe. There are very few places left, if any, where the name of Jesus has not been proclaimed. Millions of people have put their faith in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. At some point in the past, you perhaps made a personal commitment to Jesus because of something you either read or heard. Somebody, sometime, somehow told you about Jesus

The story about Jesus, his death and resurrection is called the Gospel. And hearing the Gospel message is the first step everyone takes in the Biblical plan of salvation. I am unaware of any Christian group which does not recognize that there is a process one goes through on the way to salvation. Sometimes we illustrate this process using clever metaphors. These wonderful illustrations are designed to help us understand the plan of salvation clearly. One popular metaphor is called “The Romans Road.”

The Roman’s Road

You may have heard of it. Using the book of Romans, in the Bible, we can trace out a pathway which leads to salvation. The metaphor we will use to illustrate the Biblical Plan of Salvation, is not a pathway but a staircase, as I mentioned in the last lesson. Just as there are steps we travel on the Roman Road, there are several steps on our staircase which every person takes on their journey to salvation, or the forgiveness of sins. Here’s the illustration of our metaphor. 

The Steps to Salvation

We have already identified the first step, so let’s label this first step, “Hearing the Message.” Every person in the history of the world, who has ever come to know Jesus, has taken this first step. This should be pretty obvious! If you consider yourself a Christian, that means you heard the Gospel, you made a conscious decision to respond positively. Perhaps you were in a church, listening to the radio, watching the TV or a friend brought the message to you. You decided to make Jesus, Lord of your life. You may remember that day clearly. You made a decision. You accepted the message; you didn’t reject the message. And guess what, that would be the second step in the Biblical plan of salvation. 

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064 – Do I need to be baptized again?

Have you ever considered our tagline here at A Faith that Obeys? It reads, “Rethinking the Traditional Plan of Salvation.” Now, I must admit, this does sound a bit presumptuous doesn’t it? Hopefully the tagline provides a crisp clarity to the issue we are debating and anyone piqued enough to investigate this apparent arrogance, discovers a warm and welcoming place to explore the age old debate regarding water baptism.

Now, you know me. I gotta pick apart a term! After all, we need to agree on what a word means. Let’s begin with, “Rethinking.” Why are we “rethinking” anything? Well, because we think we might have gotten something wrong or we need to review our understanding of a thing; in this case, The Traditional Plan of Salvation. 

Defining Our Terms

A “plan” is an ordered succession of smaller events leading to a specific goal and our plan leads to salvation.

“Salvation” means, a person receives the forgiveness of sins, from God; is moved from a lost state to a saved state and will enjoy the benefits of the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit and the promise of eternal life with God in heaven. 

“Traditional” means; the plan is something which has been used and reused for a very long time and is assumed to be correct.

Our process of rethinking, leads us to probe, poke holes in and otherwise scrutinize the assertions made by the traditional plan. At A Faith that Obeys, we’ve discovered the primary and most glaring difference between the Traditional Plan and the Biblical Plan is this small, seemingly insignificant fact. Listen carefully. The only difference between the two plans is that the declaration of salvation is made at different points along the same common path. Let me explain because this issue can be a little hard to see.

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063 – Awesome QuietTimes

How would you like to take your prayer life and Bible Study to a higher level than you have ever experienced before? How would you like to feel like your time with God was deeper, more intimate, more vibrant, and authentic? That would be awesome, right?

In this lesson, you are going to learn two blow-away secrets that will absolutely change the way you pray and the results you experience! Let’s go!

All good relationships are based on two things; time together and communication. Our relationship with God is no exception. If we want a rich, real relationship with God, then, we spend quality time with Him by reading His Word and Praying. These two specific activities can be a pretty good barometer of how well we are doing spiritually. When someone is not spending time with God in Prayer and Bible Study, they are neglecting the most important relationship a human being can have. To have a great relationship with God, we need to have great QuietTimes!

What is a QuietTime?

As always, let’s begin by defining our terms. What is a QuietTime?

As the name suggests, it is a time which is quiet. There are no noises to distract us, there are no electronic devices incessantly beeping, there are no other people around and the environment is somewhat protected from interruption. It is a time we spend alone, communicating with God in prayer and allowing Him to communicate with us through his word and through the thoughts and ideas which stir our hearts and our imaginations during these times.

Communication flows in two directions; to God and from God. Our communication to God is done through our prayers. We tell Him what is on our heart. We share our hopes, our dreams and our hardships with Him. We let Him know what is going on with us and we offer up adoration, gratitude and requests for ourselves and for others. Basically, we lay our hearts bare before the Creator of the Universe in the hope He will hear us and respond favorably. And, God does respond.

God’s Communication to Us

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062 – The Grammar of the Plan

Editor’s Note: This is the audio from the second lesson about The Biblical Plan of Salvation . You may view the entire video series by starting HERE.

Ben White via UnSplash.com

Thanks so much for taking the next step. You obviously have a desire to learn more about this important topic. As we begin, I wanted to say that the things we will look at are really challenging. I know because I have felt some pretty strong feelings as I learned the things you’re about to learn. Please understand that I am submitting these ideas to you with the utmost love and respect. I hope you will feel like that comes through as I make my case.

In the last video, we talked about a Biblical Plan of Salvation. I said that this plan was hidden in the Bible, and in plain sight. I said, even the most learned scholars miss it and, even explained why they miss it… they do not have the heart of a child.

I’m about to show you that Biblical plan of salvation, but before we begin, let’s lock down some of the basic Bible grammar used to define the plan. You probably know most of this but let’s take a minute to lock it down carefully. This way, there will be no confusion or disagreement about terms and definitions.

Bible Names for Bible Things

Let’s take a look at this phrase, “God’s Plan of Salvation.”

First, let’s be clear. This is God’s plan, not man’s plan. Man did not create the plan and man can not change the plan. The plan was clearly established in the Bible 2000 years ago and is the same today as it was in the first century. What is a plan? Well, Webster’s dictionary defines the word “Plan,” as a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something. So our plan will contain some sort of ordered actions aimed at achieving the goal, which God has laid before us, salvation. The Biblical plan of salvation may be depicted like a series of stair steps.

Now, I need to stop right here and make sure we understand something important. These steps I am describing are not actions we take in order to be saved but they are observable, verifiable things that happen with us as we move through the plan. We are not talking about some kind of “works salvation” here. You’ll understand this clearly as we move forward. Ok, this brings us to our next term… salvation.

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New Video Version Available

When I am producing my Podcast, I am typically sitting in front of an iMac, speaking into a mic and recording everything on a piece of software called “Sound Studio.” It is super easy to use and is great for editing. Recently it occurred to me that maybe I should be recording the video of my sessions as well.

When I am recording, there are lots of goofs, pauses, hiccups and all manner of things which make editing absolutely essential. You never sit down and just record a perfect first take. I began to wonder if I could edit as easily in Final Cut Pro as I do in Sound Studio. The answer is, “Yeah… pretty much.” And not only that, but I can drop the scriptures into the edited video with ease since they already exist in the script I have been reading from.

Today, I am introducing my first video version of A Faith that Obeys Podcast!

It’s not particularly flashy or heavily edited but it came out pretty good. I added a little background filter, some lighting effects and sweetened the audio just a bit. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the result. The huge bonus is that, I can now toss these up onto YouTube where viewers can watch with Closed Captions and hopefully I can gain a bit more exposure. Drop me a line and let me know what you think. I will embed the videos on the blog so you will have access to them right here without the need to jump over to YouTube, but please go there at least once and subscribe to the channel and hit the “Thumbs Up” button.

Enjoy!

Dana Haynes

061 – Why Study the Bible?

When someone first hears about The Biblical Plan of Salvation they often express shock because they never knew there was anything different from what they had been taught and they think all of Christendom teaches the same thing. I tell them, “Yes. People really need to study the Bible in order to become a Christian!”

Photo by Ben White via Unsplash

And when they hear this, it is not uncommon for them to go back to their denominational pastor and ask, “Do I really need to study the Bible to be saved?”

“No, of course not.” Comes the reply. “That’s ridiculous. Look no further than the 3000 who were baptized on the day of Pentecost. Do you think they studied the Bible? No, there was no time. They simply heard Peter’s sermon and accepted Christ!” Now, this reasoning sounds good but let’s think it through.

You Might Not Need to Study the Bible if…

If you have never heard of Jesus, it is true; the simple Gospel message can be accepted and obeyed.
But given our current religious climate it would be highly unlikely. Let me explain.

Three thousand people did indeed become Christians on the day of Pentecost and it is unlikely that any of them opened a scroll to study it. Even the Apostle Paul, by the time Romans was written could say, “Faith comes from hearing the word…” Romans 10:17. So what’s changed? Why would studying the Bible to become a Christian be so important today?

A Lot Has Changed in 2000 Years!

Unlike the day of Pentecost, Christianity has been here for 2000 years and has had ample time to become incredibly perverted. Grab a phone book… if you can still find one… and look up “Churches” in the Yellow Pages. Under that category, you will find a huge number of different sub-headings for all the various denominations and within those denominational divisions a plethora of divided churches. They all teach slightly, and sometimes vastly, different things. That’s why they became divided. The goal and purpose of solid Bible study is to address and correct the denominational aberrations and bias which have been introduced over the last two millennia and bring spiritual thinking and reasoning back under the authority of scripture; since it is the source of our faith. It is, after all, our founder’s book.

This may sound really strange but based on my experience, the first battle I face teaching my religious friends, will be their acceptance of the authority of scripture. One would think this situation would be reversed. A religious person should, by nature, accept the authority of scripture and a person without any formal religion would be less ready to accept scriptural authority. But this is not the case.

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060 – The Rich Young Ruler is Paul!

Important Note:
Don’t miss the first two articles leading up to this one for a much deeper study. Read the first one HERE and read the second one HERE.

The Apostle Paul is the Rich Young Ruler.
The Apostle Paul – El Greco

In our last two podcasts, we dove into the possibility that the Apostle Paul is the Rich Young Ruler. In this podcast, I want to take what we have discovered so far and apply some analysis and logic.

If you are like me, for some reason we have a little blind spot regarding the Apostle Paul. I have always seen Paul’s life as sorta-kinda beginning at the stoning of Stephen. I have never really spent much time considering the glaring fact of his existence prior to his dramatic appearance at Stephen’s death. When we play the timeline of Paul’s life backward, we begin to see his place in a historical context of that day. He did not just poof into existence at the martyrdom of Stephen. He had a life before that time and I think, during that time, we call him The Rich Young Ruler. Let’s review the astonishing similarities which lead us to that conclusion.

Incredible Similarities

Both Paul and The Rich Young Ruler are men. Both were young at the time we first meet them. Both are Jewish. Both are rulers. Both knew the commandments. Both kept all the commandments from birth. Both claim a faultless and blameless life. Both were zealous for the law. Both were wealthy. Both struggled with covetousness. Both were loved by Christ. Both were told to “come follow me.” It took a direct intervention by God to make it all happen, just as Jesus said it would regarding the Rich Young Ruler, and we see that miraculous event happen to Saul on the road to Damascus. We also have the statement by Jesus that the Rich Young Ruler would be in a position of “last” compared to the Apostles and Paul is the last Apostle appointed by Christ.

Saul has a life history. We miss that.

Through Paul’s own testimony, we know that he was raised in Jerusalem and studied under Gamaliel. His studies led him to his commission as a Pharisee. He was a star pupil! He advanced quicker and better than young men of his own age. He was a super achiever. We know he was in Jerusalem growing up, and we know he was in Jerusalem at the time of Stephen’s death. Where would he have been between those times? The same place! He would have been completing his studies and fulfilling his new duties as a Pharisee!

This means, Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee, was most certainly aware of the ministry of Christ. He had to be! There is no reason to think that he was somehow sequestered in a back room of the temple writing a blog, or separated from the Jerusalem leadership in a foreign nation—completely unaware of what was happening back in Jerusalem. He was there!

Saul was there!

Regarding the activities and thinking of the Sadducees and Pharisees about Jesus, we have quite a bit of information. We know Caiaphas, Ananias, Nicodemus, Gamaliel and all the Sanhedrin kept a close watch on Christ’s activities. As a Pharisee, Saul was part of the in crowd. Yet, we never hear Saul mentioned in the Gospels… but then again, we never see Gamaliel mentioned in the Gospels either; and he was a man of great influence during the days of Jesus ministry and into the church era. So Gamaliel was there too. After all, he could not have taught Saul if he was not in Jerusalem in the years prior to Acts 7 where we first meet Saul!

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059 – The Resume of Paul

Paul with Agrippa – Vasily Surikov – Circa 1875

In our last Podcast, we talked about the secrets in a resume. Because the Bible contains so much information about certain people, it is pretty easy to metaphorically build a resume for a Biblical character. This exercise can reveal things we may have never really considered. Let’s look at the Apostle Paul. There is a lot written about him personally.

Paul is Amazing

The Apostle Paul is probably the most amazing disciple in the entire New Testament. Not only does he go from being the number one persecutor of the church to the number one promoter of the church, he goes on to pen three quarters of the the New Testament scripture. He is the author of no less than 13 letters to various people and churches.

Paul was pretty prolific! So too were others who accompanied him such John Mark; who goes on to write the Gospel of Mark, and Luke, a physician. Luke is the writer of both the Book of Acts and the Gospel of Luke. Both these men were close associates of Paul and accompanied him on many of his missionary journeys. Beginning with Luke’s writings, let’s gather information about Paul’s life with which we can build a handsome and respectable resume for Paul.

First Contact

The first time we ever meet Paul is at the end of Acts 7. It’a not a great first meeting. It occurs during the stoning of Stephen where Paul was still known as the Pharisee, Saul. We join the assault just after the crowd has been whipped into a frenzy by the preaching of Stephen.

Acts 7:57 – 8:1
“At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.”

A Young Man

In terms of church history, theologians tell us the stoning of Stephen happened about 35 AD. This would put it roughly three years after the birth of the church. This passage tells us, Saul was still a young man. He has some type of authority because he is “giving approval” to the stoning of Stephen and the murderers are laying their clothes at the feet of this “young man” as he stands back giving approval.

Saul is obviously filled with a deep hatred and bitter contempt for this new religion. It’s difficult to imagine a hatred so intense and so evil that it compels someone to actually participate in an organized effort to kill, murder and destroy a people who’s entire motivation is love. Have you ever wondered what drove Saul to this breaking point? Why was he compelled to do such a thing?

The Good News is, the next time we meet Saul, he has a little “come to Jesus” moment! On a dusty Damascus road, Jesus appears to him in brilliant light and knocks some sense into him. In fact, Jesus knocks the Saul out of him so far, he changes his name to Paul… and the rest is history!

Paul’s Conversion Three Times

Luke tells the story of Saul’s conversion in the book of Acts, three times. Let’s glean some details about Paul’s life from each of these then move on to discovering some other nuggets about Paul from the epistles. Our first conversion story is told in Acts 9.

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058 – The Secrets in a Resume

If you were asked to boil down the Gospel message into just one word, what would that word be? Most people would probably say, “The heart of the Gospel is love!”

In fact, the word love and its derivatives is one of the most used words in the entire Bible. And, there is no greater persons in whom we see love demonstrated than Jesus Christ and God the Father. Jesus laid down his life for us well before we ever knew him, and “God is love,” according to the apostle John. Having someone to love and being loved are two of mankind’s greatest needs and God graciously provides His love for us on us in a variety of ways. And of course, love is a two way street.

Loving Christ

If you are a disciple of Christ, you have returned the love God gives by obeying his commands and dedicating your life to the cause of Christ. Christians love Christ! When we look through the Gospels we find many other people who loved Jesus too. Mary and Martha come to mind; Mary Magdalene for sure. When we look for the people Jesus loved, we might recall the intensely emotional event at Lazarus’ tomb. Everyone saw his love for Lazarus because, “Jesus wept.” The Bible says, “Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus.” We also have the humorous veiled references John makes about himself in his Gospel as “the one whom Jesus loved.” We also have abundant societal references to Christ’s love. “Jesus loves the little children,” as the song goes. And of course let’s not forget, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” Without question, Jesus has a heart of love.

But, did you know there is only one specific individual in the entire Bible where it explicitly says, “Jesus loved him?” Who’s that and how would you like to be that guy? Only one individual… in all of scripture… is singled out as being the specific object of Christ’s love! Do you know who that was? It’s not Lazarus!

Introducing the Rich Young Ruler

This is one of my favorite characters in all the Bible – The Rich Young Ruler. So, why does the Bible say in Mark 10:21, “Jesus looked at him and loved him?” The answer is found in this young man’s resume. You know, there’s a lot of information in a resume. So, let’s do a little review of this fellows’.

We meet this guy in no less than three Gospels and as it turns out, there are a ton of interesting facts established which eventually point to a stunning revelation. By the end of this podcast, I think you will agree, this is a most impressive resume indeed.

The story of The Rich Young Ruler appears in Matthew 19, Mark 10 and Luke 18. God evidently wants us to notice this guy. Let’s read about him from the Mark 10 account.

Mark 10:17-23
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

A Tragic Beginning?

What a seemingly sad story; a man runs up to Jesus and falls on his knees. His heart is obviously burning with a question. It’s the same question you and I should probably ask if we could meet with Jesus for just one minute. “Lord, will I get to go to Heaven?” Truth be told, there is absolutely no other question which is more important to every human heart. Everyone, from the depths of their soul, wants to know if they will be “OK” when everything is over and the final curtain falls. We all long to know that someday, somehow, everything will be all right and we will be counted worthy of heaven. All other questions we might want to ask the Son of God, pale in comparison to this one vital question. This question speaks to the entire purpose of the Bible, the entire purpose of the Christian faith and the very reason for Christ’s sojourn to the earth. He loves us and wants all men to be saved.

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