Tag: salvation

A debate over pierced ears?

I already know that this is going to be a massively popular post. Nothing like the topic of slavery to get everybody jumping up and down and shouting hallelujah.

Deuteronomy 15:12-17:

If a fellow Hebrew, a man or woman, sells himself to you and serves you six years, in the seventh year you must let him go free. And when you release him, do not send him away empty-handed. Supply him liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your wine press. Give to him as the LORD your God has blessed you. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today.

But if your servant says to you, “I do not want to leave you,” because he loves you and your family and is well off with you, then take an awl and push it through his ear lobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life. Do the same for your maidservant.

What do I see in this passage?

  1. No Hebrew could hold another Hebrew as a servant or slave AGAINST THEIR WILL. Servanthood was a business agreement the two parties entered into, with specific expectations and responsibilities on both sides.
  2. After six years the servant was released from the contract, and the Master was expected to send him or her off with adequate payment for their services.
  3. A servant might decide he or she was better off in the Master’s house than on their own, and ask to be a servant for the rest of their life.
  4. In that case, the Master would put the servant’s earlobe against the door and pierce it with an awl, thus sealing a binding contract. From that moment on, the servant belonged to the Master for the rest of his or her life. 
  5. The scar in the earlobe was the tangible proof that this vow had been made. The vow could not be broken, just as the ear could not be un-scarred.  If the servant changed his mind later and said, “I don’t want this anymore; I’m leaving,” it wouldn’t matter. The deed had already been done and walking away was no longer an option. He was owned by the Master. He might end up being a worthless, unproductive, resentful slave, but he was a slave nonetheless, and it was a choice he had made of his own free will.

Paul’s writings in the New Testament cover the topic of eternal salvation in detail but this little passage in Deuteronomy (also in Exodus 21:5-6) keeps nagging at me. How is the servant in these passages any different from a person who surrenders his life to Christ? If we give our lives to Christ we are redeemed from the power of sin and death (hallelujah!) but we are also submitting our will to Christ. We are  no longer the master of our own lives, but He is.

Ephesians 1:13:

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

In Deuteronomy, we see that the servant became the possession of his Master by his own free will, and the deal was sealed by the awl piercing his earlobe.

In Ephesians, we see that Christians become the possession of God by accepting the salvation of Jesus of our own free will, and the deal is sealed by the Holy Spirit.

If, as Christians, we are the possession of God, then the option is no longer ours to say, “I’m sick of this, I’m out of here.” The deed is done. We belong to him whether we eagerly serve him or run away.

“Heart like an awl” by goldsmith Cheryl Burchell. The symbol of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

The only question that remains, then, is if a person actually gave their life to Christ in the first place. Who are any of us to judge that? The mark of the Holy Spirit isn’t as easily visible as a scar in the earlobe. Ultimately, that is something personal between a person and God. But the Bible says that we can know a person by the fruits they produce.

I remember hearing stories about two celebrities from times past, both dead now. One experimented with all kinds of spiritual avenues, and claimed that he “tried Christianity” for awhile but it was a phase that didn’t stick. The other one was vocally anti-Christian for a long time then apparently had a change of heart. He didn’t want to go to Hell and knew he deserved it. He repented and gave his life to Christ and for awhile had great joy, producing creative offerings for the Lord. But the people around him hated what he’d done and did everything in their power to drag him down. As a celebrity he was pretty isolated from the rest of society. He didn’t have a mentor or a fellow body of believers to help strengthen and grow his newfound faith. His joy in Christ eventually withered and he is reported to have said he had a “lucky escape” from that lifestyle. However, in his last few years of life he wasn’t the same person he was before his conversion; not as angry, bitter, or unforgiving as he had been before.

If those stories are even true (who knows with stories of famous people), then both of those men have had their day to defend their lives before the Lord. I doubt either of them heard, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” But one of them treated Christianity as nothing more than the latest pop psychology fad, while the other actually gave himself to the Lord. One of them was free to walk away, and did. The other one had the figurative scar in his ear to prove he wasn’t free to walk away even when he claimed he was done. Which man do you think is happy now with the choice that he made?

None of us, I think, relish the idea of being a slave to anyone. But that is how we were made—remember, we are creatures, not gods. Like Bob Dylan so eloquently put it, “You gotta serve somebody.” We are either a slave to sin (and, therefore, death), or a slave to Christ (and, therefore, eternal life). There is no other option, no other path, no other way. Slavery to Christ is actually freedom from sin, evil, death, pain, worry, fear, sadness, and despair. Jesus is The Great Paradox.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

…If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. …Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. – Romans 10:9-13

God’s Arithmetic

Palm Sunday, 2021

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, 

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

(Matthew 21:1-11)

…Yet just a few days later they were shouting “Crucify him!” ??

I always wondered about this. Did the crowds of people really think he was the Messiah, or were they just swept up in the hype of the moment? 

They should have known he was the Messiah. The book of Daniel, Chapter 9, is very specific. It states that the time from when the issue is decreed to rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One comes, will be 483 years (69 “sevens”). I’ve heard a few people over the years go over this, including the late Chuck Missler, and Jack Hibbs (senior pastor of Calvary Chapel, Chino Hills, California) just talked about it this morning. They think they know the exact date the issue to rebuild Jerusalem was decreed — March 14, 445 B.C.  Fast forward 483 years (reckoned by the 360-day Babylonian calendar, accounting for leap years) and you arrive at April 6, 32 A.D., as the exact date that Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. I’m far too stupid and lazy to try to do the math myself, but even a rough calculation of 483 years from what we know from history as the time Jerusalem was rebuilt takes us into the lifetime of Jesus.

The Pharisees should have known this. They spent their entire lives poring over every minutia of the Bible, and most of them probably had large portions of scripture entirely committed to memory. Yet they treated Jesus as an interloper at best, and a blasphemer at worst. While supposedly waiting for the Messiah, they completely missed him when he showed up. 

I don’t know how literate the average Jewish people of that day were. I think few people would have had the opportunity to study the actual scrolls for themselves, since books were an expensive commodity in those days, but if they at least heard the scriptures read then they would have learned them fairly well. How many people, then, understood Daniel and knew that they were living in the very time when the Messiah was supposed to come? There must have been some people who did the math, but it sure looks like most people blew it.

It makes me wonder how many people will completely blow it at the second coming of Christ. We know from scripture that the antichrist is someone who will affirm some kind of covenant with Israel for seven years. In the middle of that seven years he desecrates the temple in Jerusalem, declares himself to be God, and from that day there will be exactly 1,260 days (three and a half years) until Christ returns as King of King and Lord of Lords. (Daniel 9:27, Daniel 12:11-12, Revelation 12:14).

So as soon as people see the desecration of the temple, they should know to the very day how long until Jesus comes back. But instead of trusting in Him and waiting for Him, they go running around like idiots for three and a half years, getting the mark of the beast (i.e., selling their souls to Satan), and crying for the rocks and mountains to fall on them to hide them from the wrath of God instead of crying out to God to forgive them (Revelation 6:15-17).

Many people blew it with the first coming of Christ, and many will blow it with the second — to their eternal misery and torment. Nobody needs to go through the great tribulation, nobody has to try to remember to do the math and remember the day Jesus comes back. If we belong to Christ then we will be saved out of the wrath to come.

And it’s so easy to get saved!  Romans 10:9-13:  If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. …For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

Jesus is calling out to you today. Answer him, call on his name and be saved! Then read the Bible, pray, get into a good Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church and start growing in your faith. Growing up in Christ is the journey of a lifetime but getting saved is so easy and you can do it right this very minute. Don’t be like the Pharisee in this cartoon. Don’t be too cool, too smart, or too busy for God and then miss out on the best thing that could possibly ever happen to you.  

Jesus loves you, and he wants you. Yes, YOU.

Yet to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.  – John 1:12

BELIEVE + RECEIVE = BECOME

Nothing more important.

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No man can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for him —The ransom for a life is costly,
No payment is ever enough—
that he should live on forever and not see decay.
– Psalm 49:7-9

But God will redeem my life from the grave;
He will surely take me to himself.
– Psalm 49:15

It’s been weeks now since I found myself stuck on John 3:3 where Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” As I mentioned in an earlier post, I believe the reason I kept coming back to this verse is because being born again is the most important thing of all. For each and every one of us. There is not, there can never be, anything more important. Our lives on this earth will be over before we know it — it is our eternity that matters most. Where will we spend it? It is one of the three most important questions anyone can ask themselves: 1) How did I get here? 2) What is my purpose? and  3) What happens to me after I die?

So, painfully slowly, over the past few weeks I’ve tried to glean from Scripture the basic points of being born again:

  • What does it mean to be born again?
  • Why do I need to be “saved”? Saved from what?
  • I’m a moral person. Why can’t I just do good deeds and make things right with God?
  • Who is Jesus?
  • What is Jesus?
  • How can one man pay for the sin of everyone who ever lived?

And the truth is, I’m overwhelmed. After all, I’m just a secretary. I’m not a biblical scholar, I’m no one special, and certainly not someone others ever listen to about anything important. People far more educated than I am have devoted volumes on these topics; people who know the Bible backward and forward. I have to Google most verses that come to my mind because I can never remember what book or chapter they were in. 

But then I remember that this is not about me. I know in my heart of hearts that there is nothing more important than being saved. Than being washed clean by the blood of Jesus through his sacrifice on the cross. I know who and what I am without Christ, and I don’t like that person very much. I also know who and what I am IN Christ, and that nothing is better or more fulfilling and beautiful than belonging to Him. Governments come and go, fads come and go, but Jesus is forever. He said, ‘Before Abraham was, I AM!” (John 8:58)

I am also overwhelmed with how to write out these points, because the Bible is a bottomless well of information and it is all about Jesus. From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, every verse in one way or another tells its portion of the greater story of Jesus, our Lord. 

God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD Almighty is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress.

– Psalm 46:1-7

Only God knows if anybody even reads this, but if you do my prayer is that you will be encouraged if you are a believer in Christ, and that you will come to know him and be made alive in him if you are not. There is nothing more important.

So from here on out, until I’m done with the nagging issues that John 3:3 put on my heart, I will basically just write out Bible verses that I found on the various topics. Please read them and ask God to show you if they are true. No matter what religion you are, or even if you are an atheist, if you ask the God who created the universe to guide you to truth, you WILL find what is true. For it is written:

“ASK and it will be given to you; SEEK and you will find; KNOCK and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)

Jesus said those words. He also said,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

I waited patiently for the LORD;
He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
Out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
And gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
A hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear
And put their trust in the LORD.

– Psalm 40:1-3

All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version of the Bible.

Born Again? Why?

John 3:3: Jesus said: “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” 

My last four journal entries were just reprinting the book of Ruth. It’s a good story, and I wanted anyone who might not have access to a Bible, or who might not take the time to go look it up, to be able to read it in its entirety. In it we see people who were lost and then were found, who were as good as dead and then made alive again, who were empty and then made full. And, overall, it is a story about love. That in a nutshell is the story of the entire Bible.

Jesus said no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. He describes that further in John 3:5: No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but Spirit gives birth to spirit.

Okay, so it makes sense that flesh gives birth to flesh. We came from our parents, they came from their parents, and so it goes back through the millennia until the very beginning. What happened then?

According to Genesis, all human beings on the planet are descended from the same two people, Adam and Eve. (Adam means “man” and Eve probably means “living”, according to my NIV text notes.) So if flesh gives birth to flesh, then we are all in a sense born of Adam. So far, so good. So why do we need to be born again?

Genesis chapter 3 describes how man sinned against God and the world fell. Everything that was made beautiful and perfect and eternal, was now under a curse and the penalty was death. 

Eve sinned first, but Adam is held to blame. I’ve heard different takes on this, but the most reasonable reason is that, as the head of the house, he could have stopped Eve but didn’t. He could have ordered the serpent to be quiet, for he was given authority over all the animals (Genesis 1:28), but didn’t. He listened. The serpent (Satan) tempted him with the same temptation that led to the devil’s own fall, “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5), which echoes Satan in Isaiah 14:14, “I will make myself like the Most High.”  

For whatever reason, the first man thought it was a good idea to want to be like God himself. He wasn’t content with living in a breathtakingly beautiful, fruitful, peaceful, happy place as long as he had to be subject to God. He wanted to take God’s place, even if he didn’t fully understand at the time exactly what he was doing. (Maybe he did? I don’t know. Scripture gives us the bare facts here, not the inner workings of Adam’s mind.) 

But on that day, instead of becoming a god himself, man became cut off from God because of sin. Physically, he began the process of dying that day, and since he was a spirit being as well as a physical being, then apparently his spirit was as dead as his body. That became his nature. And since we all descended from him, we all inherited that nature. If we just take a look at the world around us, or take an honest look into our own hearts, we can see how painfully true that is. The desire to dominate others (in essence, be a god over them), has infected every government that has ever been on this planet, from the ancient Mesopotamians until today.

Galatians 5:19-21 says: The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality; impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  If any one of us has indulged in any one of these, even if just for a moment and in our own minds, then we have demonstrated that we have the sin nature we inherited from Adam. And, therefore, we are cut off from God, in our spirits as well as our decaying bodies. God is perfect. In his kingdom is not even the slightest hint of imperfection or sin. If he allowed one speck in, then what would stop his kingdom from becoming the cesspool that we have turned planet Earth into? We are cut off from God; there is an unbreachable chasm between us and God. Read the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31: “…between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.” – Luke 16:26.  I take one of the meanings of that to be that no amount of good deed-doing can ever bridge that chasm, since it says NO ONE can cross it.

That leaves us dead, lost, forsaken. Hopeless. We’re cut off from God. We sin and we can’t stop sinning no matter how much we want to. We can’t make it right. We deserve to die and we deserve to be right where the rich man found himself after death.

BUT WAIT . . . God said to the serpent in the garden, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15).  Hmmm, interesting! Adam isn’t a part of this scenario, it is between Eve and the snake. Her seed will be bruised, but will crush the head of the serpent. That means to kill it, to defeat it. How can Eve have a seed that doesn’t come from Adam?

… And that is where Jesus comes into the picture. 

… “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” What’s that all about?

I love this stuff! The greatest story ever told, for sure. And it is OUR story. See you next time!

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved . . . For, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  – Romans 10:9-13

Good Bible/Bible Study Resources (English language):

educatingourworld.com

answersingenesis.org

blueletterbible.org

biblegateway.com