Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Is the God of the Old Testament the same God as the God of the New Testament?

At first this question might sound silly since it is one Bible, but many feel that the Old Testament and New Testament describe different Gods. The usual reference is to how God seems to be more vengeful and less loving in the Old Testament, and more loving and less vengeful in the New Testament. But, if you look closely you will see this is not true.
            While there are many rules given in the Old Testament, and many limitations given to God’s people, this is not at all vengeful or mean. God knows that His people need strict guidelines to keep them from the sinful ways of Israel’s neighbors. There is also punishment associated with breaking the laws, but this is actually a loving thing to do. I say this because our nature is to break laws, and the threat of punishment actually helps us to seek to do right.
            In the Old Testament there is much to be seen of God’s love. The Israelites are regularly turning away from God and seeking their own way, and God consistently is giving them the opportunity to come back to Him and receive forgiveness. God’s grace is given abundantly in the Old Testament.
            In the New Testament the focus is on Jesus Christ (the Son of God, God in the flesh) and His bringing the light of God to the world. Jesus brings the truth of God’s love and forgiveness in His teaching, but even more in His sacrifice on the cross. Yet, Jesus regularly teaches about the punishment that will be received for those who reject Him. Jesus talks about the existence of hell for all who choose to not believe in Him. So there is vengeance and punishment mentioned in the New Testament as well.
            We see that God is consistent throughout history described to us in the Old Testament and the New Testament. In fact, many of the scriptures of the Old Testament are prophecies that explain what will come about in the New Testament. He has established laws to govern us, and punishment for those who fail to abide. God gives us many opportunities to be forgiven if and when we turn from our sinful ways and seek Him out. He regularly shows His love, care, and concern for His followers.
            While there could be much more said about this topic, my intent here was to give a simple synopsis on the constancy of scripture and the God of the scriptures. As we are told in Hebrews 13:8, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Jesus, being God in the flesh, expresses to us how God is the same forever as well. Blessings.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What We Have is a Failure to Communicate

            The other night I was trying to explain my sermon to Tami by telling her that Jesus came DOWN from heaven and then went OUT into the world. Thus, my sermon was entitled “Down and Out.” As I was telling her this, Tami kept asking, “You mean when he was a baby?” “No,” I said, “when he was older.” We went back and forth for a couple of minutes until I realized that we were having a failure to communicate. Tami thought I was talking about Jesus coming again (which was confusing her), but I was just trying to explain why Jesus came into the world.
            It is easy to have trouble communicating with others even though we have the wonderful ability to speak and hear and understand. Sometimes we know what we are saying, but don’t say it clearly enough for others to understand. This happened to me when I first started to preach regularly. I knew what I wanted to say in my sermon, but it didn’t always come out that way to the listener. So now I preach my sermon to Tami on Saturday night to get feedback on anything that might be confusing or unclear!
            I have also noticed that when I try and speak to people about Jesus Christ and Christianity that there can be a failure to understand what is said. This often comes from people not having the biblical background to understand biblical truths. It also can come from me expecting them to understand spiritual concepts that might be beyond them.
            So, what are we to do? I think the best way to communicate the message of Jesus with others is to talk about who Jesus is to us, and what He has done in our lives. I like to talk about how I was selfish in nature and sarcastic in my speech. But then I met Jesus and realized that I need to care about others, not just about myself. Or as the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 2:3-4, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
            I also memorized Ephesians 4:29, which says: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  
            Through the touch of Jesus on my life, the forgiveness of my sins, and the realization that my words were important, I began to change who I was and become more the person I was created to be. Hopefully now, through my story and my actions, I don’t have a failure to communicate, but communicate well the love of Jesus! Blessings.