Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Many Ways are the Broad Way

One of the pieces of misinformation that has been going around ever since I can remember, and I suspect longer, is this: “There are many ways to Heaven.” There is a parallel piece of misinformation that says, “It does not matter what you believe, as long as you believe.”

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV)

Peter said about Jesus,

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12 NIV)

Before the believers were called “Christians” in derision in Antioch, they were called “followers of the way.” Jesus said, “I am the way….” He also said, “…I am the truth.” If what Jesus said was true, then the “many ways” and “it does not matter” statements are false. On the other hand if the “many ways to Heaven” are true, then Jesus is not one of them. Here is why!

All of the “many ways” (except the way, the narrow way) have a requirement to be good to go to Heaven. If this is true, then no one will go to Heaven. Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone.” Here are two corollaries from the Old Testament.

There is no one who does good, not even one. (Psalm 53:3 NIV)

There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins. (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NIV)

The “many ways” are really the one “broad way” that leads to destruction. It has a wide gate. The many who enter it are people who try to be good and others who do not try to be good.

The narrow way is not by being good nor is it by being bad.

My recommendations this week for seekers or believers are By Searching—My Journey through Doubt into Faith by Isobel Kuhn and Peace Child by Don Richardson, a Reader’s Digest selection—more than 315,000 copies are in print. For the thinker I recommend None of These Diseases by S.I. McMillen, M.D.

You can contact me by calling (208) 883-0997 or by sending an email to ccm@moscow.com. Our website address is http://ccmbooks.org/.

(From Good News/Bad News)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Genocide, Massacre, Ethnic Cleansing

We can understand that national pride in any nation has a propensity to deny, minimize, or ignore sins in that nation’s history. The United States is no exception. A nation with a Christian heritage has a greater conscience. The nation does not know how to get forgiven so it may deny that the sin ever happened. In early history the murder, rape and pillage that took place was recognized, accepted, and bragged about. Timur would take a city and tell each soldier to enter the city and bring back a head. A pyramid of 75,000 heads was then made outside the city.

In the 20th century Stalin, Mao, and Hitler all murdered people of their own nation in the tens of millions. Japan also committed great atrocities in Korea, China, and Southeast Asia. In recent years Japan came up with new school books for their children saying that these atrocities never happened. China and Korea strongly objected to the rewriting of history. As I understand it, Japan backed down.

These are facts of recent history and anyone who wishes to know the details they are very available. In recent years there has been mass murder in Cambodia 1978, in Rwanda 1994, Serbia in Bosnia and now in Darfur and Northern Uganda.

There is an ancient nation and people which has been Christian in name since the third century A.D. They have not converted to Islam from the Arabs nor from the invasion of Turks from Central Asia. The nation was Armenia. The language, the culture and people are called Armenians. Their culture is more distinct than Jewish cultures.

In 1894 the Sultan Abdul Hamid II ruler of the Ottoman Empire from 1876 to 1908 was responsible for the massacre of about 200,000 Armenians.

In 1909 20,000 Armenians were killed by Turks in Cilicia in south eastern Turkey.

In 1915 under the Young Turks, Talaat Pasha and Enver Pasha official genocide with great barbarity took place.

“It is estimated that out of the total Armenian population (about 1,800,000) about one-third escaped deportation, one-third was deported and one-third massacred.” Encyclopedia Britannia.

Mass murder, massacre, and genocide are good words to describe all of these events. “Ethnic cleansing” is a euphemism for genocide. Although there was a great world outcry by people, newspapers, and world leaders, no nation took action to stop the atrocities. It seems that nations take action only when the genocide is against them.

It is noteworthy that the perpetrators of these evil acts, leaders and participants, were Communists, Muslims, Fascists, and pagans. None of them were Christian. It is also noteworthy that relief came from the Christians but the “Christian” nations did not participate in trying to stop the massacre.
Recently, the Congress of the United States endeavored to declare that this genocide happened. It did not pass. For almost 100 years Turkey has taught their people that this did not happen or it was caused by the Armenians

We can rewrite history, but we cannot rewrite what is written in the books at the great white throne judgment.

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:11-15

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” Revelation 22:14-15

For further reading read The Burning Tigris by Peter Balakian and Henry Morgenthau’s diary of his three years as U.S. Ambassador to Turkey 1913-16.

You are permitted to relay this to your mailing list.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I Just Can't Forgive Myself

Recently we received an order for How to be Free from Bitterness. With the order was a relayed request for including in a future edition an essay on “I just can’t forgive myself.” I cannot now guarantee such a teaching in the booklet but I will attempt to give a short one here.

First, to my knowledge the Bible does not speak of the need or of the “how” if there was such a need to forgive oneself.

What does it speak of?

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Verse 5 speaks of absolute light.

Verse 7 speaks of walking in that absolute light with two results:

1. fellowship with one another
2. continued purifying from all sin by the blood of Christ

Verse 9 speaks of the faithfulness of God in:

1. forgiveness of our sins
2. purifying from all unrighteousness

What are our responsibilities?

1. Walk in the light
2. Confess our sins

What are the results?

1. Fellowship
2. purifying from all sin
3. Forgiveness of our sins
4. purifying from all unrighteousness

The above is true! That is why forgiving ourselves is not mentioned.

1. All sin is a violation of God’s holiness
2. Sin is never against ourselves. It is against God.
3. We are the sinners, not the ones sinned against.
4. We are the confessors. We are not the forgivers. To think that is true we have believed the lie of the devil.
5. To not forgive ourselves makes us senior to God. Who do we think we are?
6. To think we have the prerogative to forgive or not forgive ourselves is a great sin against God.
7. The thought itself is a sin against God.
8. Even if it were our responsibility to forgive ourselves it should be by grace.
9. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10

There are two types of sorrow:

1. Godly sorrow
2. Worldly sorrow

The first leaves “no regret.”

The second leads to death.

If you are not forgiving yourself it means you have regret which means your sorrow is not godly, which means you have not been forgiven by God either.

To say you know God has forgiven you but you “cannot forgive yourself” is also saying that God has not forgiven you because you have worldly sorrow.

Thank God for His forgiveness and rejoice in that forgiveness. That is godly sorrow.

One last word, it is not that “you cannot forgive yourself”, it is that you will not forgive yourself.

Do not look on “not forgiving yourself’ as some sort of virtue. It is an awful sin.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Holy Spirit: Assurance

“Set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” 2 Corinthians 1:22

“He” anointed us, 2. Set His seal of ownership on us, and 3. Put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” Maybe this is saying the same thing three times. Or it may be three different acts of the Holy Spirit.

“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.” Ephesians 1:13, 14

“Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Romans 8:14

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8:16-17

First and foremost the Holy Spirit assures us of our present and future salvation.

(From Day & Night)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Mathematics of "Quality"

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Ephesians 4:31

God is not into fractions.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things at all times having all that you need you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8

Jesus is not a partial savior for a partial sinner.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Satan is the Master Terrorist

Dear Jo,

Thank you for your question. Yes, awful, fearful things happen to Christians. Sometimes the Christian may know it in advance. If he knows it in advance and is terrorized by the advance information then he is immobilized and has compromised his witness. The purpose of the terrorist is not to kill lots of people; it is to instill terror in those who are still alive so that they are ineffective. Satan is the master terrorist. If he can keep any Christian from witnessing, out of fear of what might happen, then he does not have to make it happen. The fear is there whether it does or does not happen.

Satan is the father of all lies and he is the source of most fear. They go together.

“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” Hebrews 12:4

This is a key verse. Christians give in to sin long before death is a consequence. We give in because of fear. The enemy does not have to use death. Lies and threats will do it. This may be one of the reasons there are no martyrs in this century in this country.

In the Lord Jesus Christ,

Jim Wilson

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Natural Man III

Here are three more descriptions of the natural man.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:18-32)

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. (1 Timothy 4:1, 2)

(From Good News/Bad News)

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Natural Man II

Here are three descriptions of the natural man.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. (Titus 3:3)

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. (Galatians 5:19-21)

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

(From Good News/Bad News)

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Natural Man I

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment (1 Corinthians 2:14-15)

This is a normal thing to the natural man. He thinks that spiritual truths are foolishness. It does not occur to him that his lack of understanding makes him the fool.

(From Good News/Bad News)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Your Repentance has an Effect on the Soon Return of Jesus Christ

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that out Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.” 2 Peter 3:9-15

In some way your repentance has an effect on the soon return of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Repentance Speeds God's Coming

“But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.” Acts 3:18-21

Notice the results of repentance and turning to God.

1. your sins may be wiped out
2. times of refreshing may come from the Lord
3. the return of Jesus Christ

(From Good News/Bad News by Jim Wilson)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. (Psalm 14:1)

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good. (Psalm 53:1)

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools. (Romans 1:20-22)

Men are born ignorant, but are not born fools. Men become fools.

Sent out on Jim Wilson's Good News/Bad News. E-mail ccm@moscow.com to sign up for the online newsletter, Day & Night and Good News/Bad News.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Pray for Fathers

Recently, I was struck by the spiritual needs of three fathers in the New Testament and how their needs were met by Jesus Christ.

-The first was a nobleman whose son was at the point of death. (John 4:46:54)·

-The second was the Philippian jailer who was about to take his own life because his jail had fallen apart. (Acts 16:22-40)·

-The third was Cornelius, a Roman army officer, who was searching for God. (Acts 10)

All of their needs were urgent, desperate needs. So urgent that in each case the man sought help and got the help he wanted, and more, in a wonderful way.

Here is something extra that blessed me in reading these paragraphs:

Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed. (John 4:53 NIV)

The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God‑‑he and his whole family. (Acts 16:34 NIV)

He [Cornelius] and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly…The following day [Peter] arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends…While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. (Acts 10:2, 24, 44 NIV)

When the father found the answer, the family found the answer. If the wife and children are not doing well, it is very likely because the father has needs that he is not urgent about. In each instance when the father believed, the family believed. Let us pray for fathers of families.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Friday, October 12, 2007


There are several clear texts that describe the world’s ways with an attached imperative that says “No” to that kind of conduct.

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. (Ephesians 4:17-19 NIV)

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 3:9, 10 NIV)

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (Romans 6:15-18 NIV)

If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another—and this in front of unbelievers! The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers. (1 Corinthians 6:1-8 NIV)

Are these texts true or false? Is there provision to obey them? Is there a desire to obey them?

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Thursday, October 11, 2007


And when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. (Acts 11:26 NIV)

So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. (Nehemiah 8:2, 3 NIV)

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way. (1 Corinthians 12:27-31 NIV)

The list is in order of importance: “First of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers…” Being a teacher is one of the greater gifts. “Are all teachers?” That is one of the rhetorical questions. The answer is “No.” “But eagerly desire the greater gifts.” We are told to desire, and desire eagerly the greater gifts. A teacher is one of these greater gifts.

Over the years I have listened to many people who have wanted to be in “full-time Christian service.” Very few have wanted to be in evangelism. They say that they do not have the gift of evangelism. They want to be teachers, disciplers. However, they do not say that they do not have the gift of being a teacher. But they might not have it. They are going to be trained to teach, and they are going to learn what to teach. They are going to sidestep the desire for the gift and get trained instead.

It is amazing. Evangelism requires the gift, and teaching requires only training. Ungifted teachers is one of the major hindrances in the church today.

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. (James 3:1 NIV)

“Eagerly desire the greater gifts.”

“Not many of you should presume to be teachers.”

Contradiction? No! One is a desire for a gift from God. The other is a presumption.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Quotations Out of Context

Quotations float from generation to generation, sometimes misquoted, but still recognizable. Most quoters do not know the origin of the quotation.

Here is one from Tennyson you might recognize.

“More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of”

It is said by King Arthur in Morte D’ Arthur right before he dies. It is preceded by, “If thou shouldst never see my face again, pray for my soul.” In other words we use the quotation outside of the context. It means what we want it to mean not what it meant when it was first written.

We see the same sort of thing with Bible quotations.

The best example is the “golden rule.” It occurs in Luke 6:31.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31

It is strong, but not as strong as the context.

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:27-36

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Our Freedom

One of the freedoms that man has received from the Lord is the ability to refuse to listen to the Lord. Man has exercised that freedom many times. Here is an account of one of those times.

But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts [as] an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts. (Zechariah 7:11-12 KJV)

But God has the same kind of freedom that He has given man. Here is His response:

Therefore it is come to pass, [that] as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the LORD of hosts… (Zechariah 7:13 KJV)

This is a dreadful statement. He had said, “I will not listen” 200 years earlier and 100 years earlier in Isaiah 1:15 and Jeremiah 11:11. There is something He will listen to, though. God will listen to a prayer of repentance. But repentance is more than the words “I’m sorry.” Repentance is a change of heart, mind, and action. Look at the conditions for repentance in Isaiah 1:16-18:

Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (KJV)

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Who Will Enter the Kingdom?

When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” (Luke 14:15-24 NIV)

There are three stages of invitation to the great supper. The first is the formal invitation to people who are used to great suppers. They are wealthy; they are not hungry. (“I have bought a piece of ground,” “I have bought five yoke of oxen.”) The second is to the people in extreme poverty, or the helpless. There is no danger that they will refuse a great supper. They are hungry. The third is to everyone else. They were not invited; they were compelled to come to the supper. This parable is about the kingdom. How do we know? It is a response to a statement made to Jesus when Jesus was at a formal dinner where He also told a story about lunches, dinners, and banquets.

“Blessed is [he] who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” The first group of people invited thought they had no need and had greater priorities. The second had much need, knew it and had no other priorities. The third may or may not have known they had a need and may have thought they had greater priorities. But it made no difference. The greater priority was that the house be filled. They were forced to come to the dinner. I believe this process is going on in every generation in every nation.

In Jesus’ time on earth, the first group was the Jewish people.

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive Him. (John 1:11 NIV)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. (Romans 1:16 NIV)

Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.” (Acts 13:46 NIV)

We do not know how those three groups are determined today. It may be that in our time the Jews still should be the first to be invited. They have the right of first reception or first rejection. The other possibility are those who have grown up in Christian families or in Christian churches, in name if not in fact. They may think that they have no need or have greater priorities. The second group should be the Gentiles who are destitute and know it. This group normally will be glad to hear the good news and will respond to the gospel. These are the prisoners, the orphans, the widows, the alcoholics, the aliens in the land and people outside the normal hearing of the gospel, like aborigines in remote parts of the world.

I do not know what to think of the third group. It may be all or some of those not previously invited. It encompasses the majority of the people in the world. How God will coerce them to come in I do not know. That he will is certain.

We, though, are the proclaimers, the inviters.

In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:30, 31 NIV)

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:20, 21 NIV)

People who refuse the invitation will not make it to the feast in the kingdom.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Friday, October 05, 2007

His Energy or Ours?

We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. (Colossians 1:28, 29 NIV)

Paul labored and struggled to accomplish the task assigned to him. He did not, however, labor and struggle with his own energy. It was God’s energy which powerfully worked in him. It is like working all day digging ditches or stacking hay and using someone else’s calories and blood sugar. The someone else would get tired while you would do the labor. We would like to do it that way. We want to labor and struggle using God’s calories and blood sugar—“all His energy which so powerfully works in me.”

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

You Died with Christ

Since you died with Christ… (Colossians 2:20 NIV)

Since then you have been raised with Christ… (Colossians 3:1 NIV)

For you died… (Colossians 3:3 NIV)

Although these sentences were written to the church at Colossae, we believe they apply to all Christians, if the statements are true. They are either true or false. If true, they are past-tense certainties. They are not future, or conditional, or perhaps or maybe. They describe something that has already happened in us, and the commands that follow are predicated on those certainties. If Christians have trouble with the commands, it may be because they have trouble believing that they have died with Christ, or it may be because they have not died with Christ. In other words, they are not Christians. All future obedience is based upon the complete work of Christ that has taken place in us. Read Romans 6 a few times.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Obeying Immoderate Commands

There are two benedictions at the end of letters in the Bible. I am placing them here at the beginning of this article.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. (2 Thessalonians 3:16 NIV)

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20, 21 NIV)

Please look at every phrase, for I will not comment on all of them. Notice “at all times and in every way” and “everything good for doing his will.” The God of peace does a thorough work in us.

Recently I have been conscious of the lack of moderate commands in the Scriptures. During the same period of time, I have noticed many Christians moderating these commands. The commands are so extreme that we think we have to run them through a transformer or a reduction gear to bring them down to our size, so we can consider the possibility of obeying them. This is neither honest nor necessary.

There are also immoderate promises like the ones quoted above. Believing the immoderate promises is the means of obeying the immoderate commands.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

God's Grace and Our Faith

If you check the many occurrences of the word “grace” in the Bible you will find expressions like these:

Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. (Acts 6:8 NIV)

When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God. (Acts 13:43 NIV)

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:3 NIV)

Continue your search and you find that grace belongs to God. Now do the same with the word “faith.” Here are a few examples:

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints… (Ephesians 1:15 NIV)

I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. (Acts 20:21 NIV)

So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. (Acts 27:25 NIV)

As you continue your search you will find that faith belongs to man to be placed in God. I am not saying that faith is not a gift from God. I am saying that the Bible says that faith is something that man can have and that it is placed in God. Grace is something that God has that He gives to man.

Here are two verses, Romans 5:1 and 2a, to meditate on.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. (NIV)

When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. (Acts 18:27 NIV)

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Bad Words and Good Words

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:1-5 NIV)

Our speech is to be with thanksgiving and for the encouragement of others. On the other hand, our speech should not contain unwholesome talk: “obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking.”

There is no definition of unwholesome talk, obscenity, foolish talk and coarse joking in the Bible. The Apostle Paul seems to know that the people he is writing to know what he is talking about. The words commonly understood to be obscene or filthy in the English language cannot be found in most English dictionaries. They have a definition understood by constant usage. They have contextual definitions. (It is like the Supreme Court of the United States’ refusal to define pornography when it said that pornography had to be defined by local communities.) Here we have a command to be carried out with no written definitions. We understand what those definitions are. People have used obscene language for centuries, not because they did not know that it was filthy, but because they did know it was filthy. There was, and is, a delight in the use of something vulgar, dirty and unclean.

However, there are people who wish to quibble about definitions, assuring us that the words they use are not obscene, their definition is different, or it’s just colorful, or poetic, or it is the hearer who has the problem or who has the dirty mind.

There are also people who would not think of saying something dirty. They would like to use exclamations which are not dirty but are euphemisms for the dirty words. They think that they can be innocent and expressive at the same time. Examples of these euphemisms are “Shucks!,” “Heck!,” “Shoot!” and “Dang it!” There are others that I do not have the freedom to write. There are also euphemisms for using the Lord’s name in vain such as “Dog-gone it!,” “Golly!,” “Gosh!,” “Gee Whiz!” and “Dag Nab it!” We can also use another name for deity such as “by Jove.” Innocent? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Jesus made a very strong statement concerning the words we use:

But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:36, 37 NIV)

Do I have to walk around in total fear, unable to function normally because of this clear teaching about careless words? No, there is a preventative that allows us to be normal:

...and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5b NIV)

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)