Pastor John Samson
I remember a time (May, 1981) when as a teenager, I was given the privilege of representing my High School in a soccer penalty shoot out competition. I survived the knock out rounds and ended up playing at Anfield, Liverpool’s home ground in England before a crowd of more than 17,000 people. This was a very memorable night for me, to put it mildly – one I still remember with pleasure. At the time, Liverpool were the greatest soccer team in Europe. Three weeks later, they won the European Cup. As a boy I had stood on the terraces and watched my favorite team play so many times. Now it was my turn to play there and my emotions were mixed. I was both very anxious and extremely excited.
On the Sunday before this big event, a Christian brother, knowing what I would face and knowing that I was more than a little nervous to play in front of such a vast crowd told me to focus on the text mentioned above, namely Paul’s words to the Philippians in chapter 4, verse 13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
At the time, the text was a real comfort to me and without doubt it became the object of my focus. But now years on, though I was inspired by the text, I do not believe it was a correct application of the text. Paul was not referring to sporting events in that text.
In our day, we are far too keen to rush to make application of the text. People want “practical” sermons and practical messages. Well there’s nothing wrong with that. The Bible is intensely practical, yet we need to rightly interpret a text before we attempt to apply it. The one thing comes before the other. False interpretations lead inevitably to false applications.
How do we ascertain the meaning or interpretation of a text? The answer comes by applying the rules of hermeneutics, which is the science of biblical interpretation. One of the rules to apply is that of “context.” Simply taking the time to read a text in its context eliminates so many false interpretations.
The words “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” have a context, and this context allows us to ascertain what Paul meant by his words. The whole book of Philippians provides a context, and we could take a lot of time to document it, but if we simply look at the few verses before the one quoted here, we immediately see what the “all things” were that Christ would strengthen Paul to do:
Phil 4:10 – I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
So, what were the “all things” of verse 13 referring to? Running the 100 meter race in less than 9 seconds, perhaps? Breaking the long jump world record? How about swimming the Atlantic in a day? No, the context has nothing to do with sports or human feats of skill. The “all things” refer to the trials of life – the good times and hard times, the times of joy and the times of sorrow; the times of prosperity and the times of lack. And for Paul, this contentment in the face of life’s difficulties or joys was not something that came naturally to him but something that he learned (v. 11, 12).
The application is not that a Christian strengthened by Christ will win a soccer penalty shoot out competition. I scored 2 out of 3 by the way, and while still a notable feat against Liverpool’s goalkeeper Bruce Grobelaar, I still rue the fact that I missed one… I also remember being somewhat disillusioned that I did not win the whole competition because I was expecting Christ to “strengthen me” to do exactly that. My disillusion stemmed from a false interpretation and application of the text.
No matter what comes our way in our lives as Christians, we, like Paul, are to learn contentment and go through each trial knowing that Christ Himself will strengthen us to do so. Paul did not write this as a mere promise, as good as this would be. It is more than a promise, it is a statement of fact.. “I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
It is as if Paul is saying, “I am not going under, for Christ strengthens me.. I will not give up, for Christ strengthens me. Sometimes life is a lot tougher than I would like, and sometimes it seems like I cannot bear its pressures another moment and find myself in deep despair (see his words in 2 Cor 4), yet I know I can endure, because of Christ. Its me.. yes, me, Paul, that does it… and I know I can do and will do it.. but I recognize that its not because of my strength but His. This is not arrogance – this is not some form of puffed up pride in my heart. This is something altogether different. This is a Christ centered confidence – not in myself, but Him. He has not left me alone at any point, nor will He do so now. I am confident, no matter what happens in life, with both its times of severe pressure and its times of euphoric joy, I can handle it all, I can do it all, through Christ, who gives me strength.”
Child of God, no matter what comes your way today, you can go endure it, because first of all, you learn to be content in each circumstance, and secondly, you know that the power that sustains you in such times of great abundance or deep poverty, is Christ’s own power, and He is living in you, and will strengthen you. Of this, you can be sure. You can do all these things because Christ will give you strength.
Pastor John Samson
“Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him.” – Matthew 3:13-15
“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.” – 1 Corinthians 1:30-31
CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS, AND LIVED FOR OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS
The Lord Jesus Christ not only died an atoning death for our sins, but He also lived a sinless life that perfectly fulfilled the righteous standards of the law. If all that was necessary for our justification was the death of Jesus on the cross, He could have come down to earth on a parachute on Good Friday, died on the cross for us, and three days later, risen again. But we all know that this is not what happened. Why? Because that would never have been enough.
The good news of the Gospel is certainly that Christ died for our sins.. but it also includes the fact that He lived for our righteousness. For more than 33 years, Christ was tempted in every way like us, yet He was without sin (Heb. 4:15). Christ is the only One who can say that He loved His Father perfectly in life, with all His heart, soul, mind and strength.
At the cross then, all our sins were laid on Him (though of course, He remained the holy and spotless Lamb of God, in and of Himself) and as our sin bearer, He was punished in our place. As the angel declared to Joseph in Matthew 1:21, “you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24).
Isa 53:5, 6 says, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”
But that is far from all of the story. There was a double imputation that took place on the cross. If Christ had merely paid the penalty for our sins, our debt to God would have been cancelled, and no punishment would be due to us, thank God! But that is not nearly enough to gain an entry into heaven. That would simply remove the outstanding debt we owed to God and bring us to zero… and zero is not enough. Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness (positive) exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you shall in no way enter the kingdom of God.” (Matt. 5:20)
We as sinners not only need the removal of the negative (our sin) but the presence of the positive… full and complete righteousness to be able to stand before a holy God just in His sight. So not only were our sins imputed to Christ and He bore their full punishment for us on the cross, but positively, the righteousness of Christ was imputed to us. The punishment due to us because of our sin came upon Him, and the pleasure of God due to Jesus’ complete obedience to every jot and tittle of the law, came upon us. The very righteousness of Jesus Christ is the righteousness imputed to us by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone. This righteousness is one that has perfectly fulfilled the entire demands of the law of God.
The work of Christ is perfect in every respect, and perfect in every aspect. The righteousness now enjoyed by the believer is an alien one (one that comes from outside of himself) for it is the righteousness of Christ Himself. It comes to us as a gift, not something earned (Rom. 5:17), and is the cause of our rejoicing in the direct presence of the Lord. “For He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin, to become sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Cor. 5:21. As believers in Christ, we’ve been made righteous with a righteousness that has never known sin, and has fully complied with all the righteous demands of the law. Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Pastor John Samson
I can well remember hearing a preacher in the course of his sermon asking a series of questions. His first question was “how many of you believe the Bible is the word of God?”
It was a Christian audience and so all raised their hands. Then he asked, “how many of you have read it?”
Many raised their hands until he quickly added, “all of it?”
I could hear audible grumblings around me as many of those with raised hands now slowly lowered them. Some mumbled, “I’ve read most of it”, or “I’ve read all of the New Testament.” One thing became clear, only about 5% of the audience had actually read the Bible through.
He then asked, “how many of you have read any other book?”
All raised their hands once again.
Then the preacher said, “do you see how inconsistent this is? Here you are, having read other books, but the book you claim to believe is inspired by God Himself, is not something you have read. What does this say about your belief in the Bible?”
The silence that ensued was more than a little uncomfortable.
He went on, “If you sincerely believe the Bible is the word of God, should you not have read it?”
Once again, he paused, allowing for the question to make its intended impact.
Finally, he then said, “Here’s my challenge – start today and read three chapters a day and four on Sundays and by this time next year you will have read the Bible through.”
I am sure there are better methods for reading through the Bible but the preacher’s point is a good one. We as Christians need to be “people of the book.” If there is one book we should read or should have read, it is the Bible. All Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16) and it is unlike any other book out there. Job wrote that he loved God’s law more than his necessary food (23:12). He would rather go without food than miss time with the word of God. Can the same be said about us?
Justin Taylor wrote the following: “I really believe in the value of not just reading, but hearing, God’s Word… In listening to an old lecture recently by J. I. Packer, he made the comment that it was not until after the 17th century (as far as he could tell) that people started doing silent prayers and reading as opposed to praying and reading out loud. For most evangelicals, silence represents the vast majority of our reading and praying. But I wonder if that’s to our detriment. One of the great enemies to Bible reading and praying is a wandering mind—and one of the great ways to make your mind wander is to do everything in your mind without involving your voice and ears! . . . Here’s something else to consider: the entire Bible on audio is usually about 75 hours (or 4500 minutes). If you commute to work 5 days a week, that’s about 260 days a year. And if it takes you, say, 17 minutes to commute each way to work—and if you listen to the Bible on audio during your drive each way—you’ll get through the entire Bible twice in a year.”
There are many good daily Bible reading plans. For those who would like the convenience of an online source there are now many options. New technology allows not only the reading of the Bible, but hearing it too. If you enjoy the ESV here are six different plans to choose from – each of which allow for each daily segment to be sent to your e-mail address or as a podcast here.
Some might like to add to their Bible reading by going through reformed confessions each day. You can do so here.
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Saturday, September 18, 2010 is Yom Kippur on the Jewish calendar, the Day of Atonement. Here is a very interesting video (introduced by Todd Bolen) on the significance of the sacrificial lamb in Jewish thought, pointing us to the atonement of Christ.
The Sacrificial Lamb from
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Pastor John Samson
Jesus gave His disciples the following warning: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves…” (Matt. 7:15). He warned that these wolves dress themselves in sheep’s clothes, but their intention is very clear; hungry for blood, they seek to devour God’s people. He then said that we would recognize them by their fruit.
Using the same kind of imagery, the Apostle Paul said, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Acts 20:29-32
Paul makes it clear that a hallmark of the wolves is that they speak “twisted things” with the intention of drawing away Christ’s true sheep from the fold. The “twisted things” here (other translations speak of “perverse things” or distortions of the truth) is a reference to the false teaching of these wolves. It is a clear warning to be vigilant and on our guard against false doctrine.
There are many wolves seeking to devour Christ’s sheep, and it is true to say that many of the cults or false prophets of our day fill their ranks with many who once professed orthodox views of the Christian faith. The false teachers use very subtle deception, often using the same exact words as Christians, but are using a very different dictionary with a very distorted meaning.
The Jesus of these false teachers is not the Jesus of the Bible, and of course, it is only the real Jesus, the Jesus found in Scripture who can actualy save. That’s because the other Jesus’ do not actually exist in reality.
We are not talking here about minor disagreements, but fundamental big picture issues. The “God” of these false prophets is not the same as that of the Bible; “salvation” means something entirely different and the means to be saved often makes some reference to Christ (which is why it is so deceptive), but it is never Christ alone who saves, but Christ plus the contribution we are all supposed to make to the cause.
In contrast, biblical salvation is by grace alone, received through faith in Christ alone, all to the glory of God alone, and works (the things we do) play no part, except that they are the fruit of a life transformed by Christ. The Scripture in Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” The things we do (works) are the fruit, not the root of our salvation.
It is not our job to try to judge the motives in people’s hearts. That is something God knows for sure, but often times, the wolves look a lot like sheep, because they act and dress like the true sheep in order to draw away their followers. What we can do is pay attention to their teachings and compare it to the Scriptures and see if they measure up.
Scientology, Unification Church, Christian Science, Christadelphianism, Oneness Pentecostalism, Open Theism, Universalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, New Age, Wicca and Occult teachings are so prevalent today, spreading their false doctrines far and wide (The Watchtower organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS or Mormonism) are discussed further below). For those with questions about these groups, I recommend the Watchman Fellowship website here and the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry site here.
You might be surprised to see Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism listed above especially in that on many major doctrines including the Trinity and the full humanity and Deity of Christ they are perfectly sound. However, the issue of the Gospel is what seperates them from biblical Christianity.
The material principle of the Protestant Reformation was Sola Fide, meaning “by Faith alone.” This was the material or substance of the preaching of the Reformers. Sola fide then was the belief that faith alone is the instrument of justification without any meritorious works of man added to it.
The formal principle “Scripture alone” was the principle that Scripture alone (and not Church tradition) is the sole infallible rule of faith for the Church. This was the principle by which “Faith Alone” is affirmed, as well as the other solas. That is because these doctrines are the doctrines of the Bible.
Against the background of a Europe filled with the traditions of men, including priestly absolution, penances, indulgences, pilgrimages, prayer to the saints, etc., Martin Luther and the Reformers made the bold cry of “Faith alone.” This did not mean faith in isolation, or a dead faith that produced no works. This referred to a vibrant, living faith, for only a living and not a dead faith would result in justification. Faith without works is dead, and a dead faith will not save anyone (James 2:17).
Rome believed (then as it does now) that justification is by grace, through faith and because of Christ. What Rome does not believe is that justification is by faith alone, or by grace alone, or by Christ alone. For Rome, justification is by grace plus merit, through faith plus works; by Christ plus the sinner’s contribution of inherent righteousness. In contrast, the Reformers called the Church back to the one true Biblical Gospel: Salvation is by God’s grace alone, received through faith alone, because of Christ alone, based on the Scriptures alone, to the Glory of God alone. I have written an article on the Five Solas here.
In Romans 3:28 the Apostle Paul declared, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”
Romans 4:4-5 says, “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.”
Here (offsite) is a link to further study materials on Mormonism from Dr. James White.
Also recommended are two articles “The Book of Mormon: Fact or Fiction?” found here, and “Mormonism and the Gospel” found here.
In a related article, “How are we to respond when a Jehovah’s Witness arrives on our porch?” Dr. R. C. Sproul Jr writes the following:
One strange blessing of living in a relativistic and secular culture is that while we are continually being seduced into such a worldview, we are not often being directly evangelized into it. That is, the culture assumes a relativistic perspective. Its sundry media presuppose it. And we are pilloried for our “arrogance” for believing there is a truth that can be known. But there aren’t many prophets out there trying to persuade us of the truth that there is no truth.
There are, however, others who are eager to evangelize for their folly, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons to list but two examples. We ought to be impressed by their zeal, and ashamed of our own lack of zeal. How we respond, however, may well depend on how we see them. Are these cultic evangelists deluded souls who are lost and in need of the good news? Or are they emissaries of the devil, seeking to seduce us with fables? They are both, and we need to forget neither.
First, beware the folly that sees these groups as mere denominations under the umbrella of the Christian faith. Jehovah’s Witnesses concede this. Mormons once did, but now are taking a different tack. These are people caught up in a false religion who will certainly suffer eternally unless they repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. They are, from a certain perspective, coming to our homes to talk about spiritual things. Why not take the opportunity provided to speak the truth, to perhaps be used to bring in the elect from the four corners? Proclaiming the Good News is a good thing.
On the other hand, we need to be careful with our own souls and those under our care. These evangelists are not coming to our homes to find answers, but to persuade others of their own folly. They are smooth, polished, and well-equipped often with slick answers to our objections. Those who too proudly determine that they are immune from the wiles of these folks are in the end most likely to fall.
The answer then likely depends upon who you are, and how those who come respond. That is, if they seem to be open to actually considering the errors that have ensnared them, by all means speak life to them. If, on the other hand, you find yourself drawn in, or if God’s Word seems to be falling on deaf ears, by all means and with all speed, back away from the conversation. Do not risk your soul by being more pious than God, continuing to cast your pearls before swine, and failing to shake the dust off your feet.
We must beware the temptations to see these conversations as a kind of parlor game, or the temptation to keep score, to boast either in how many we have “won” or even how many we have scared away. Humility is the key. We need to be humble enough to have the kind of compassion that remembers when we see them at the door, “There but for the grace of God go I.” We need to be humble about ourselves enough to have the kind of caution that remembers when we see them at the door, “There, if I do not rest in His grace and His power, will I go.” We must, in short, repent and believe, calling all those around us to repent and believe.