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067 – For the Love of Obedience Part 2 – Examine Yourself

How to Obey the Gospel
Part 2

In our last podcast we looked at that intense passage of scripture in 1 John Chapter 2 where John challenges us to obey the commandments of Christ and lets us know, in no uncertain terms, that obedience is not optional. Listen to this passage again…

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, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

What Commands Does Jesus Want Us to Obey?

Just think about that one statement, “God’s love is truly made complete in him.” We need to step back and understand, it is possible for God’s love to “not be made complete” in a person! In our last episode, we learned; John’s conditional statement explains that we do not know Christ unless we are walking in obedience to his commands. But, which commands? We asked, “What commands do I need to obey?” That question launched us into a deep survey of “The Great Commission.” 

After that very thorough review, we concluded that if we are not actively involved in obeying the four crisp commands of Christ found in The Great Commission, then we fall short in our obedience. Employing this criteria is a pretty solid, albeit deeply convicting strategy for evaluating our position before God. We are forced by the tenets of The Great Commission to ask ourselves, “Am I going? In other words, “Am I evangelistic?” Am I making disciples? Am I baptizing them? Am I teaching them to make disciples and obey everything Jesus has just taught in The Great Commission and elsewhere? Do you realize; The Great Commission is the only pattern we see for converting souls in the New Testament?

Examining Ourselves

The Great Commissions is the only instruction specifically given by Jesus himself as his unambiguous mission for his followers after his departure. How can we claim to know Him if we are not walking in obedience to these very simple commands? This really puts our walk with God under a microscope, doesn’t it? It’s quite a challenge. Now some folks might object to this exercise of “self evaluation” as unnecessary, legalistic, demotivating, discouraging, perhaps even dangerous. But the Bible corrects that notion and indeed challenges us to dial up our introspection; our self-examination.

2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?

This kind of heart searching and probing might possibly reveal that we are not as secure in our relationship with God as we think. And you know what? That conclusion is not a bad thing! Yeah, it rattles our assurance of salvation; but that’s OK. Listen. If we come to the conclusion that we “fail the test,” and are willing to be honest with ourselves, it just means we are still in the process of conversion. God still has us in his plan.

Are we trusting Him?

Why in the world would we ever think Jesus is going to let us go just because we learned new truth and are convicted that we don’t measure up to the new Biblical standard? Don’t you think that maybe…. just maybe… God is trying to help us get to the place He needs us to be?

God Does Not Give Up on People

I don’t think God gives up on people if they continue pursuing Him with a humble open heart. Only our pride and arrogance keep us from growing to the next level as we point to our spiritual resume and claim, “But I made a commitment to Christ years ago! Look at all I have done for Him!” That may be true and maybe… just maybe, God sees your heart and that’s exactly why He is nudging you higher!

If I “fail the test” as Paul says, Shouldn’t I have an attitude of great humility and gratitude because I realize, I am not saved? And if I come to the conclusion that I am not saved, that does not mean God has rejected me. It means God is not done with me yet. The humble person asks, “Why have I fallen short and how do I move forward in repentance and make the Godly changes I need to make?”

Let’s take a cue from the Apostle Paul. He kept an open mind and a humble heart. Listen to what he said in Philippians 3:12-16 about his own self-evaluation.

Philippians 3:12-16
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

Conversion is a Process. Sometimes a Long One.

Conversion is a process which leads to a very specific point in time when an individual completely surrenders themselves to the will of Christ, obeys the Gospel in water baptism and is saved. Obedience to the commands in The Great Commission is the only authorized method of conversion.

Sometimes this conversion process takes years; especially given the fact that there is such a vast array of seductive false doctrines blurring the clearly defined edges of the narrow path. Actual obedience, however, takes only a moment. If we have settled for the evangelical world’s method of conversion, we fall short of the goal. While folks who have been deeply committed to Christ for years and served him faithfully probably don’t need to repent of some of the “Technicolor” sins a super worldly person may be struggling with, they most certainly need to repent of the “Black and White” sins of doctrinal issues they have held on to. Sometimes we need to repent of bad deeds, sometimes we need to repent of bad beliefs.

Evaluating Out Life and Our Doctrine

There can be no argument. God wants us to continually and confidently evaluate our walk with him and strive to do our very best every day. Paul said it this way to Timothy.

1 Timothy 4:16
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Paul tells Timothy, and by extension… us, to evaluate the way we are living our lives and the things we are teaching in a careful and sober manner. Why? Because the way we live and the things we believe (and teach) are matters of salvation. We can’t live like the dickens and claim to be saved; nor can we teach unbiblical doctrines and expect them to have the power to save ourselves or those who hear us!

Connecting Love for Christ with Obedience to Christ

So, let’s talk about the motivation behind our obedience in the first place. Why in the world should we obey Christ? The bottom line answer to that question is, “Because we love him,” and that might seem pretty obvious. But there are incredible riches in this idea if we are willing to dig just a little bit.

As I told you in the last podcast, I was stunned when I saw the connection between salvation, love and obedience. Listen to these passages and think about this connection. It’s pretty challenging.

This is in John 14 beginning in verse 15.

John 14:15-17
“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– the Spirit of truth.

This passage presents a simple if / then conditional statement and connects it to salvation. Now, this connection to salvation might not be obvious. Let’s take a closer look. If we love Jesus then we will obey Jesus. When the first part of this if / then statement becomes true, then the second part is fulfilled. What is the first part of the equation? Loving and obeying Jesus. What is the second part of the equation? God gives us His Holy Spirit.

If the first part of our equation is not true… if we do not love and obey, then the second part never happens. If we do not love and obey Jesus, God never gives us His Holy Spirit. Remember, God does not give His Holy Spirit to unsaved people! Right? All saved people have the Holy Spirit; therefore all saved people have loved and have obeyed Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is Given Upon Our Obedience

Let’s dive a little deeper. Look at the timing. When does Jesus ask the Father to give us the Spirit? Is it before we obey or after we obey? Clearly, the Father is not even asked to send the Holy Spirit until we obey.

Wow! That’s pretty intense. Does the Bible say anything else that connects love and obedience to salvation? Yep… a bunch. Look at John 14:21.

John 14:21
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”

In this passage, the first thing we see is that someone must “have” the commands of God. This infers someone must have told them about the commands… someone must have obviously preached the word to them. It also implies, they accepted the word. After they hear and accept the word, these people obeyed the word. God does not love or show himself… reveal himself… to the disobedient. Obviously God loves all people but all people are not saved, are they? Only those who hear the commands and obey the commands will be loved by the Father. Why? Because they develop a saving faith… the faith that obeys.

But wait, there’s more. John continues in verse 23 and 24…

John 14:23-24
Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

This passage is about God giving people his Holy Spirt. Right here, we find that God comes and makes his home in a person who loves Him and obeys His teaching. We see that this is a person whom God loves back. And just so the message is clear, Jesus flips things over and shows us the inverse truth. A person who does not love God will not obey his teaching. Now, let’s remember, the Holy Spirt only indwells a house which has been swept clean. 

In other words, the Holy Spirit does not come and live within us until our sins have been forgiven by God. He does not live in a believer whose sins are still intact. And make no mistake… sins are only forgiven by God when we complete our faith and obey the Gospel in water baptism. Water baptism is the only Biblically ordained response to the Good News. This stands in wild contrast to the evangelical world’s method of conversion by simply accepting Christ or saying a prayer for salvation. That is NOT obedience to Christ’s commands.

We Do Not Love Christ If We Will Not Obey Christ

All three of the passages we’ve just discussed indicate that God’s Love and His gift of the Holy Spirit are predicated on our obedience to Christ’s commands. If we do not love we do not obey and if we do not obey how on earth can we claim that we really do love? And to really drive it home, Jesus tells us, these are not just His words but the Father’s words and there is no wiggle room around them.

These conditionals present a choice between two options. You take the blue pill or the red pill. There is no purple pill. We either love Christ as demonstrated by our obedience to The Great Commission, or we do not. Tragically, I think many people experience a form of delusion where they have never truly obeyed the Biblical Plan of Salvation, but still firmly insist they really really do love Christ. These passages tell us that this can’t be true.

If / then statements present a condition, they tell us what the result is if the condition is met and what the condition is if it is not met. These particular if / then statements have been crafted by and presented by the God of the universe. And you know what? We don’t get to pick the result any more than we get to debate the conditions. The conditions are non negotiable without discussion or apology and a truly humble person simply surrenders to them.

70% of America is Christian?

You know, the world is full of people who call themselves Christians. In fact, that great arbiter of truth, Wikipedia says…

Christianity is the most prevalent religion in the United States. The Public Religion Research Institute‘s “2020 Census of American Religion”, carried out between 2014 and 2020, showed that 70% of Americans identified as Christian during this seven-year interval.”

Wikipedia

Isn’t that an interesting statistic? 70% of America is Christian! There’s just one big problem with the claim; nobody is defining the term “Christian.” These surveys, and the world in general, use a very loose goosey definition of “Christian.” When the world says “Christian,” they mean people who believe in Jesus or go to a Catholic, Protestant or Non-Denomination church which uses the New Testament scriptures. Since we are not Jewish, Muslim or Buddhists, etc. we are Christians. The Bible defies that notion.

What is a Christian?

A Christian is someone who not only believes in Jesus but is walking in obedience to Jesus commands. This is not a person who races out the church doors after a 50 minute church service, having done their “religious due diligence” for the week. A Christian is a person who lives their entire week, all seven days, all waking hours, trying to imitate Christ and live their lives as He did and for His sake. That’s a Christian.

Some may say, “That’s a pretty narrow view. Aren’t you being a bit critical?” I don’t think so. Listen to Jesus.

Matthew 7:13-14
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

At a Faith that Obeys, we use the term “believer” to identify that group of folks who practice their faith at a level which falls short of the Biblical standard but are committed to Christ to the best of their understanding. This is not to disparage them or to look down in any way on their sincerity or dedication. Salvation can sometimes be a very long road of progress before the seed of faith blossoms into full repentance and obedience. 

I believe there are many, many really sincere and dedicated people who simply have never been aware of what the Bible actually teaches regarding a genuine relationship with Christ. For that very reason, A Faith that Obeys was created. I believe that any truly sincere heart will accept and obey Christ’s commands once they are made aware of them. 

Once again, this is not just an arbitrary idea Jesus came up with. He made sure we understood the critical nature of this teaching when he said, “These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”

The Connection Between Love, Obedience and Salvation

For me, seeing this connection between love, salvation and obedience is pretty stunning. I think it gets to me because I know so many people who sincerely care about and are devoted to Jesus to the best of their understanding; but are still lost because they believe and teach an unbiblical method for salvation. 

Millions and millions of people claim Christ as their savior but so very few walk as Jesus did and in doing so, make Him their Lord. If we sincerely love Christ, we have no choice but to adjust our course to follow him in the way scripture requires. As I have declared before, “We can’t have a savior if we will not have a Lord.”

When we love someone, we have a go anywhere and do anything attitude which kindles the fire of that love into amazing flames. That’s a real relationship with Christ!

Folks, what we are learning today should serve to convince us; there is a lot more to a relationship with Christ than punching a time clock at church on Sunday. Our life and our doctrine are matters of our salvation. The Holy Spirit is never given to a believer anywhere in the Bible prior to obedience so we must never teach or believe that we are saved sometime before the final prescribed step in the Biblical Plan of Salvation which is water baptism.

Well, so far, we have looked at some of the most intense passages which relate obedience, salvation and love for Christ. Next, let’s take a look at the “nature of obedience” as it appears in the scriptures. Let’s see what else we might learn as we pursue our Faith that Obeys.

Enjoy!


Dana Haynes

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Listen Now – Podcast 067 – For the Love of Obedience Part 2

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 studied deeply. We’ve skirted around the issue, we’ve 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. 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.

In my study, I wanted to find scriptures that spoke specifically about obedience being necessary for salvation. In the process, I was struck when I saw 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 Me!

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?

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.

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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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