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How would you like to take your prayer life and Bible Study to a higher level than you have ever experienced before? How would you like to feel like your time with God was deeper, more intimate, more vibrant, and authentic? That would be awesome, right?
In this lesson, you are going to learn two blow-away secrets that will absolutely change the way you pray and the results you experience! Let’s go!
All good relationships are based on two things; time together and communication. Our relationship with God is no exception. If we want a rich, real relationship with God, then, we spend quality time with Him by reading His Word and Praying. These two specific activities can be a pretty good barometer of how well we are doing spiritually. When someone is not spending time with God in Prayer and Bible Study, they are neglecting the most important relationship a human being can have. To have a great relationship with God, we need to have great QuietTimes!
What is a QuietTime?
As always, let’s begin by defining our terms. What is a QuietTime?
As the name suggests, it is a time which is quiet. There are no noises to distract us, there are no electronic devices incessantly beeping, there are no other people around and the environment is somewhat protected from interruption. It is a time we spend alone, communicating with God in prayer and allowing Him to communicate with us through his word and through the thoughts and ideas which stir our hearts and our imaginations during these times.
Communication flows in two directions; to God and from God. Our communication to God is done through our prayers. We tell Him what is on our heart. We share our hopes, our dreams and our hardships with Him. We let Him know what is going on with us and we offer up adoration, gratitude and requests for ourselves and for others. Basically, we lay our hearts bare before the Creator of the Universe in the hope He will hear us and respond favorably. And, God does respond.
God’s Communication to Us
God communicates to us in a variety of ways. During our time alone with him, He communicates with us through His word and those random thoughts which come to mind… that quiet still voice we all have in our head and heart. At other times, God may use another person to tell us something we need to hear.. Perhaps He may provide an experience, dramatic or mundane, which makes us pause and reflect. So, God uses four channels of communication as He is working with us: The Word, A person, An experience and that little voice in our head and heart. Which one would you place at the top of the list as the most trusted and reliable? Obviously, The Word!
We don’t completely ignore advice we receive from another person, an experience or our inner voice. We take all of these into account; carefully weighting everything in the light of Scripture. Everything must be filtered through that lens. We must never depend solely on our little inner voice! And an experience is not reliable because your interpretation of the experience is just as good as mine. The two interpretations can differ wildly. People’s advice, opinions and teachings are just that…. their opinion and their teaching, not necessarily what God desires. You must make the final evaluation and your conclusions must be in harmony with the scriptures.
So, having a quality time with God is based, primarily on that special alone time where we meet with God in His Word and in prayer; time together and communication.
What is Prayer?
So, what is prayer? What are we doing when we pray? Let’s turn to some scriptures to help us define this term.
“Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.”
Back in the day, the people “met” with God. He appeared to them in a pillar of fire at night and a pillar of smoke by day. This is probably where the term “Holy smokes” originated!
Here’s what King David had to say about meeting with God.
“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”
In prayer, we are literally meeting with God! That is amazing! A lowly human being can speak to the creator of the universe. And guess what? God wants us to do this! Remember? “Ask, Seek and Knock.” Matthew 7:9. And, “This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven,” Matthew 6:9. And how about Luke 18:1 “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Without question, God wants to hear from us. Come to think of it, what loving Father would not want to hear from his kids?
What is Bible Study?
If prayer is how we communicate with God, what is the other half of the activity? What is “Bible Study?”
Just that… a study of the Bible. But what is study? Let’s turn to our old friend Daniel Webster and his amazing 1828 dictionary. Listen to this.
“Study is the literal setting of the mind and thoughts upon a subject for the purpose of learning what was not known before. Study gives strength to the mind, conversations and grace. When we study, we give attention to and meditation on an issue. To study is to fix the mind closely upon a subject, to muse; to dwell upon in thought and endeavor diligently. Studying is done by reading or examining something for the purpose of learning and understanding. It is to consider something attentively and examine it closely.”
So if we couple this with “Bible Study” it imparts to us greater knowledge, understanding and wisdom regarding God’s nature and the nature of his creation… including ourselves.
So, a QuietTime is composed of two deliberate and distinct disciplines; prayer and Bible Study. Our QuietTime is literally a time we meet with God and without question, it will be the most important meeting you will have on any given day! No other meeting can possibly compare to meeting with the creator of the Universe. But there is one little problem with this kind of meeting. We can get super distracted very quickly. Let me explain.
All of those random thoughts tend to make us feel burdened. It feels like they pull us totally off the track. But the feeling of pressure does not come from an overwhelming sense of all the things we have to do. Listen carefully! The pressure we feel, comes from an overwhelming sense of trying to remember everything! A thought pops into our head… which may be very valuable to us… we don’t want to forget it… and… the pressure’s on!
The First Secret
Here’s the first secret to having an amazing time with God. What would happen if we took some paper and a pen into our meeting with the Lord? It’s obviously a pretty important meeting, right? If your boss called you into a meeting, what would you do? How would you prepare? Well, you’d probably take a pen, some paper for taking notes, right?
When we take that note pad and pen with us into our meeting with God we have just armed ourselves with an incredibly powerful tool. Every time a random thought comes into your head, jot it down and tell God “Thank you for reminding me. I will take care of that for you!”
All of a sudden, random thoughts become reminders from God. By taking notes like this, we literally begin building a divinely inspired to-do list of sorts! Instead of struggling to remember stuff, we write it down. God knows your schedule before you do and reminds you of all the cool things he wants you to accomplish today. You respectfully jot it down and thank God for the reminder.
This one little action does something amazing. I earns you the right and ability to forget about it. You no longer need to worry about trying to remember all the things you have on your mind. Once you commit a thought to paper, the pressure is gone! This is an absolutely liberating life hack. And after all, isn’t that what prayer is all about; God giving you information and reminding you to do things he is concerned about, probably more that you are? I cannot tell you how absolutely liberating it is to have a note pad and pen next to me while I am on my knees praying. All of those seeming crazy random thoughts are processed down into a wonderful task list making my relationship with God even more personal, real and vibrant. Try it! It will set you free!
The Second Secret
Obviously, the best time to do this activity is in the morning. Let’s get our day started on the right foot; meet with God and get our marching orders for the day.
So, does the Bible say anything about having a QuietTime in the morning? Yep, in a huge way. And this is our Second Secret! Wait until you hear this!
Now, before we get there, let me pave the path with a Biblical concept which will be important to this part of the lesson. I want to talk about an interesting Biblical principle called, “foreshadowing.”
What is Foreshadowing?
Foreshadow means “to have a warning or indication of a future event.” The Bible is full of these things. Here’s an example.
The Foreshadow of Baptism
1 Peter 3:17-22
Talking about Jesus, Peter writes, “He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also…”
So, God saved some people in the days of Noah when the Ark was being built. The Bible says, “In it,” meaning the Ark, “only a few people were saved.” What happened? People were saved. By what? By the Ark. Yes, but also by the water. What did the Ark do? It saved the people who obeyed God and got in it from the deadly waters of the flood.
Peter identifies the water of the flood as a “foreshadow.” He says, “This water symbolizes baptism.” Which water? The water of the flood. Is baptism a symbol of the flood? No, the flood is a pre-symbol or a foreshadow of baptism. What did the water of the flood do? It wiped out all human life but it also did something quite amazing of which it foreshadows even more, it wiped away the sin of the world! What happens during Baptism? God wipes away sin. Why does He do this? Because we have heard the Gospel and made that final decision to obey it by being baptized. We are saved when we obey just as the people who obeyed Noah were saved.
Noah’s flood illustrates what would come in the future.
The Foreshadow of the Church
Here’s another one. I recently heard this one from my Pastor friend, Tom. In the Garden, God gives Adam an amazing and wonderful gift, a beautiful wife! How did he do this? He put the man into a deep sleep, opened his side, removed something, closed the wound and woke Adam to experience his wonderful new bride. In the New Testament, God puts Christ into a deep sleep (Death}, opens his side, removes something and wakes him up three days later to experience his amazing bride, the church! The Old Testament was rigid like bone, The Law; The New Testament is put into effect with Water and Blood. Cool!
Ok, now that we understand what foreshadowing is, here’s the foreshadowing that relates to the subject of QuietTimes… our daily time with God. This is a long passage but there is a huge pay off… wait for it!
The Foreshadow of the Manna
“The LORD said to Moses, ‘I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.’
That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was.
Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’ The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little.
And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed. Then Moses said to them, ‘No one is to keep any of it until morning.’ However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.”
So, here’s what was happening. Each morning everyone gathered as much food as he needed for the day. When the sun grew hot, this “Food from God” melted away. It was no longer available. If you tried to hoard it, it would rot by the next morning. As the KJV says, “It stinkith.” These then were the rules you had to follow if you were hungry:
1 – God provided the food in the morning.
2 – The food from God had to be collected daily.
3 – Manna had to be collected before the sun grew hot.
4 – The food was spoiled and unusable if it was held over until the next day.
Now, flash forward and watch this closely as Jesus makes a stunning claim…
Jesus is the Foreshadowed Manna
“So they asked him, ‘What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’
Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’
‘Sir,’ they said, ‘from now on give us this bread.’
Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life.’”
(Wow, Jesus just identified himself as manna!)
If Jesus is the manna we should probably assume the pattern for enjoying it is the same:
1 – God provides the food in the morning.
2 – It should be collected daily, if you are hungry.
3 – We must collect this food in the morning before the sun grows hot.
4 – Don’t try to be sustained the second day by yesterday’s food.
So, our second secret, in taking our time with God to the next level, is found in the time of day we meet with God. Without question, the Bible specifically and in no uncertain terms, claims there is a best time for this activity. Let me show you even more!
The Reasons for a Morning QuietTime
Why should we have a QuietTime in the morning? Here are seven solid reasons.
1 – Because that’s when Jesus did it.
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
2 – “First Fruits!”
These were an essential part of worshiping God in the Old Testament. When you collected your harvest, you gave God the very first part of it. Since many things in the Old Testament foreshadow the realities of the New Testament, compare the Old Testament first fruits as “worship of God” to your daily worship of God. Give God the first part of your day. Give God the best part of your day. Now, don’t tell me you are not a morning person. You’ll see why in a moment. Here’s a passage regarding “First Fruits.”
Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.
This scripture teach us to enter the land with first fruits, not leftovers. Your time with the Lord is like entering holy ground. Don’t squeeze it in to your day. Make it a priority!
3 – Morning is God’s time to examine you!
“What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention, that you examine him every morning and test him every moment?
4 – David set an example for us.
Morning is when David laid his requests to God and God listened.
“In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”
“But I cry to you for help, O LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you.”
“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”
You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning–though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered.
Like I said, don’t tell me you are not a morning person. The Bible says you are! Everything is fresh and new in the morning. The Bible says, “Men are like grass.” it is dried by evening. If we are honest with ourselves, we know this to be true. How you feel when you get home from work? When do you get tired? There is a difference between being sleepy and being tired. Most folks sleep at night. Regardless of when we sleep, after sleep we are refreshed. That is the purpose of sleep! Don’t confuse the sleepy eyed feeling of the morning with being tired. Get that first cup of coffee, if you need it, and get your day going with God.
If you still don’t think you are a morning person, perhaps there is another issue you have not considered. Maybe there is nothing that really excites you about getting out of bed in the morning. If that’s the case, this lesson is exactly what you needed. You need to stoke your relationship with God and boost it to a level you have never done before! If meeting with the Creator of the Universe, one on one, in the morning does not excite you, nothing will. Folks, Jesus rose from the dead but you can’t get out of bed? Something is wrong! Sometimes it’s just that we are not desperate… we don’t see our need for help!
Here’s a guy who clearly understood his need and wanted to do anything to gain victory….
“I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope on your word.”
If you are not currently a “morning person,” it can change. Your relationship with God is renewed every morning.
“Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
And of course, let’s make sure we are not confusing plain ol’ laziness with the struggle to keep our eyes open in the morning. Make the effort to push through. Start going to bed earlier.
5 – The fifth reason for having a morning QuietTime is that it forces us to deny ourselves.
Think about this one. Could saying, “I’m not a morning person.” just be another way of saying, “I don’t want to deny myself.”
“Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
One of the greatest struggles in following Christ is the struggle to deny ourselves. Yet, if we truly want to be a disciple of Jesus, it is an absolute requirement that we put Him first, regardless of how we feel.
6 – Morning is God’s time to teach you.
The LORD has given Me the tongue of disciples, That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.
7 – Make seeking God your first priority. Don’t let distractions… well, er… distract you.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
So there you have it, seven sound reasons to have a QuietTime in the morning and two amazing secrets designed to take your QuietTimes to the next level. Let’s give God the priority He should have by meeting with Him the first thing every morning and let’s make sure we are taking notes when we pray. Try these things, even for a couple of days and see what happens. You will never be sorry or have an ounce of regret that you took even some small action which might bring you closer to God. I have a feeling He is always looking forward to blessing a Faith that Obeys!Enjoy!
Editor’s Note: This is the audio from the second lesson about The Biblical Plan of Salvation . You may view the entire video series by starting HERE.
Thanks so much for taking the next step. You obviously have a desire to learn more about this important topic. As we begin, I wanted to say that the things we will look at are really challenging. I know because I have felt some pretty strong feelings as I learned the things you’re about to learn. Please understand that I am submitting these ideas to you with the utmost love and respect. I hope you will feel like that comes through as I make my case.
In the last video, we talked about a Biblical Plan of Salvation. I said that this plan was hidden in the Bible, and in plain sight. I said, even the most learned scholars miss it and, even explained why they miss it… they do not have the heart of a child.
I’m about to show you that Biblical plan of salvation, but before we begin, let’s lock down some of the basic Bible grammar used to define the plan. You probably know most of this but let’s take a minute to lock it down carefully. This way, there will be no confusion or disagreement about terms and definitions.
Bible Names for Bible Things
Let’s take a look at this phrase, “God’s Plan of Salvation.”
First, let’s be clear. This is God’s plan, not man’s plan. Man did not create the plan and man can not change the plan. The plan was clearly established in the Bible 2000 years ago and is the same today as it was in the first century. What is a plan? Well, Webster’s dictionary defines the word “Plan,” as a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something. So our plan will contain some sort of ordered actions aimed at achieving the goal, which God has laid before us, salvation. The Biblical plan of salvation may be depicted like a series of stair steps.
Now, I need to stop right here and make sure we understand something important. These steps I am describing are not actions we take in order to be saved but they are observable, verifiable things that happen with us as we move through the plan. We are not talking about some kind of “works salvation” here. You’ll understand this clearly as we move forward. Ok, this brings us to our next term… salvation.Click here to read the rest of this post.
When I am producing my Podcast, I am typically sitting in front of an iMac, speaking into a mic and recording everything on a piece of software called “Sound Studio.” It is super easy to use and is great for editing. Recently it occurred to me that maybe I should be recording the video of my sessions as well.
When I am recording, there are lots of goofs, pauses, hiccups and all manner of things which make editing absolutely essential. You never sit down and just record a perfect first take. I began to wonder if I could edit as easily in Final Cut Pro as I do in Sound Studio. The answer is, “Yeah… pretty much.” And not only that, but I can drop the scriptures into the edited video with ease since they already exist in the script I have been reading from.
Today, I am introducing my first video version of A Faith that Obeys Podcast!
It’s not particularly flashy or heavily edited but it came out pretty good. I added a little background filter, some lighting effects and sweetened the audio just a bit. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the result. The huge bonus is that, I can now toss these up onto YouTube where viewers can watch with Closed Captions and hopefully I can gain a bit more exposure. Drop me a line and let me know what you think. I will embed the videos on the blog so you will have access to them right here without the need to jump over to YouTube, but please go there at least once and subscribe to the channel and hit the “Thumbs Up” button.Enjoy!
When someone first hears about The Biblical Plan of Salvation they often express shock because they never knew there was anything different from what they had been taught and they think all of Christendom teaches the same thing. I tell them, “Yes. People really need to study the Bible in order to become a Christian!”
And when they hear this, it is not uncommon for them to go back to their denominational pastor and ask, “Do I really need to study the Bible to be saved?”
“No, of course not.” Comes the reply. “That’s ridiculous. Look no further than the 3000 who were baptized on the day of Pentecost. Do you think they studied the Bible? No, there was no time. They simply heard Peter’s sermon and accepted Christ!” Now, this reasoning sounds good but let’s think it through.
You Might Not Need to Study the Bible if…
If you have never heard of Jesus, it is true; the simple Gospel message can be accepted and obeyed.
But given our current religious climate it would be highly unlikely. Let me explain.
Three thousand people did indeed become Christians on the day of Pentecost and it is unlikely that any of them opened a scroll to study it. Even the Apostle Paul, by the time Romans was written could say, “Faith comes from hearing the word…” Romans 10:17. So what’s changed? Why would studying the Bible to become a Christian be so important today?
A Lot Has Changed in 2000 Years!
Unlike the day of Pentecost, Christianity has been here for 2000 years and has had ample time to become incredibly perverted. Grab a phone book… if you can still find one… and look up “Churches” in the Yellow Pages. Under that category, you will find a huge number of different sub-headings for all the various denominations and within those denominational divisions a plethora of divided churches. They all teach slightly, and sometimes vastly, different things. That’s why they became divided. The goal and purpose of solid Bible study is to address and correct the denominational aberrations and bias which have been introduced over the last two millennia and bring spiritual thinking and reasoning back under the authority of scripture; since it is the source of our faith. It is, after all, our founder’s book.
This may sound really strange but based on my experience, the first battle I face teaching my religious friends, will be their acceptance of the authority of scripture. One would think this situation would be reversed. A religious person should, by nature, accept the authority of scripture and a person without any formal religion would be less ready to accept scriptural authority. But this is not the case.Click here to read the rest of this post.
In our last two podcasts, we dove into the possibility that the Apostle Paul is the Rich Young Ruler. In this podcast, I want to take what we have discovered so far and apply some analysis and logic.
If you are like me, for some reason we have a little blind spot regarding the Apostle Paul. I have always seen Paul’s life as sorta-kinda beginning at the stoning of Stephen. I have never really spent much time considering the glaring fact of his existence prior to his dramatic appearance at Stephen’s death. When we play the timeline of Paul’s life backward, we begin to see his place in a historical context of that day. He did not just poof into existence at the martyrdom of Stephen. He had a life before that time and I think, during that time, we call him The Rich Young Ruler. Let’s review the astonishing similarities which lead us to that conclusion.
Both Paul and The Rich Young Ruler are men. Both were young at the time we first meet them. Both are Jewish. Both are rulers. Both knew the commandments. Both kept all the commandments from birth. Both claim a faultless and blameless life. Both were zealous for the law. Both were wealthy. Both struggled with covetousness. Both were loved by Christ. Both were told to “come follow me.” It took a direct intervention by God to make it all happen, just as Jesus said it would regarding the Rich Young Ruler, and we see that miraculous event happen to Saul on the road to Damascus. We also have the statement by Jesus that the Rich Young Ruler would be in a position of “last” compared to the Apostles and Paul is the last Apostle appointed by Christ.
Saul has a life history. We miss that.
Through Paul’s own testimony, we know that he was raised in Jerusalem and studied under Gamaliel. His studies led him to his commission as a Pharisee. He was a star pupil! He advanced quicker and better than young men of his own age. He was a super achiever. We know he was in Jerusalem growing up, and we know he was in Jerusalem at the time of Stephen’s death. Where would he have been between those times? The same place! He would have been completing his studies and fulfilling his new duties as a Pharisee!
This means, Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee, was most certainly aware of the ministry of Christ. He had to be! There is no reason to think that he was somehow sequestered in a back room of the temple writing a blog, or separated from the Jerusalem leadership in a foreign nation—completely unaware of what was happening back in Jerusalem. He was there!
Saul was there!
Regarding the activities and thinking of the Sadducees and Pharisees about Jesus, we have quite a bit of information. We know Caiaphas, Ananias, Nicodemus, Gamaliel and all the Sanhedrin kept a close watch on Christ’s activities. As a Pharisee, Saul was part of the in crowd. Yet, we never hear Saul mentioned in the Gospels… but then again, we never see Gamaliel mentioned in the Gospels either; and he was a man of great influence during the days of Jesus ministry and into the church era. So Gamaliel was there too. After all, he could not have taught Saul if he was not in Jerusalem in the years prior to Acts 7 where we first meet Saul!
What’s a “ruler?”
We noted that Luke is the only writer who identifies the rich man as a “ruler.” What kind of ruler would this be? Given all the other facts of the case, we know this had to be a Jewish ruler. It would not have been a gentile ruler. Remember, the Rich Young Man had known from birth and kept all of the commandments. Gentiles don’t do that.
Being a ruler means you rule over something. What would RYR rule over? He ruled over Jewish people. Perhaps the young man was a synagogue leader or a junior scribe of some sort. Regardless, he was a Pharisee and as such, he would have been considered a “ruler” living under the authority of the Chief Priests and Elders. In the scriptures, these leaders are often referred to as “rulers and teachers of the law.” Let me provide some examples. Jairus in Mark 5:22 is referred to as a “synagogue ruler.” In Luke 12:11 Jesus told the disciples not to worry about what to say when they are “brought before the synagogue rulers.” In Luke 23:13, Pilate calls together the “Chief Priests and rulers of the people.” And, on the Emmaus Road, Cleopas identifies the Jewish leaders as “rulers.”
The point is, Luke identifies the Rich Young Man as a “ruler,” who has a burning question about his future in the Kingdom of God.
This Rich Young Ruler approaches Jesus and falls on his knees. I believe this is a sincere effort to humble himself before what he truly believes may be the Christ, the Messiah. Jesus looks at him and loves him. There is no other person in all of scripture of whom it is said, “Jesus loved him.” Why do we have that pronouncement? And why does Jesus make the comparative statement about the apostles who were with him being first and the Rich Young Ruler being last? Why does he say it will take the power of God to change the man?
An Apostle’s Call
Therein lies another powerful testimony indicating this man may be the Apostle Paul. When Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler to give up everything, he added that faith filled statement, “then come follow me.” Remember, that command is never issued to any other person in the Gospels other than an apostle. (There is one possible exception but it was a really just a general call to the man Jesus told to “let the dead bury the dead” in Matthew 8:22.) This is huge! That specific call was only issued to Apostles! This explains why Jesus talks about a “last position” and “only God can make some things happen.”
What changed Saul?
So, what turned Saul into a murderous monster? If he sat at the feet of Gamaliel, shouldn’t he have a spirit of tolerance and patience imitating the faith of his teacher? Remember, it was Gamaliel who told the Pharisees that they might be fighting God, in Acts 5:33 and following, if they did not let the Christians be. What happened to Saul causing him to tragically lose the ability to imitate his patient and wise teacher? I think it was his encounter with Christ that drove him over the edge of reason. If Paul is the Rich Young Ruler, we might have the historical turning point of his life which lead him down the destructive dark path. Let me explain.
The Rich Young Ruler had a burning desire to know the truth and he believed, with all his heart, that Jesus had the answer he was looking for regarding his eternal destiny. He approaches, falls on his knees, asks his question and is given an answer he did not expect or want to hear! Instead of addressing his question, Jesus addressed his sin in a devastatingly painful way. “Sell everything you have and give to the poor.” With this statement, the young man’s world comes crashing down around him. Next, we note his reaction. He does not protest. He does not complain. He is caught red handed. His sin is laid bare before a gathering crowd and the God of the universe. He realizes, in an instant, he has hit an insurmountable wall. His quest comes to a screeching halt and his eyes fill with tears. He is deeply and desperately saddened by Jesus answer.
We have no indication of how much time it took The Rich Young Ruler to rise from his prostrate position… he just gets up and “goes away sad.” Unlike the frantic father of Mark 9 who exclaims, “help me overcome my unbelief,” RYR asks for no help and no clarification. The matter is over! There is no recourse… no redress. He just goes away sad. It is a devastating and crushing blow!
How not to handle a spiritual challenge
So, what do you think happened with this young man next. Do you think he went home to lick his wounds, thought about it real well, repented and returned to Jesus? Do you think he went immediately and actually sold all his stuff? Or, like me, do you think he went home and let a rebuke by the Lord fester and boil until it became a seething pot of bitterness and hatred? For three or more years, he would watch that band of despicable disciples grow their new and dangerous religion, while in his heart, he could see the power of his cherished Jewish leadership slipping away. All the while, his rage and hatred festered and grew.
When someone does something to us which causes great injury, we don’t, in our natural self, think very highly of the person who caused the injury. It is not difficult to understand how the sadness of The Rich Young Ruler could morph into deep bitterness, hatred and a seething rage, baking an idea to get even! “Who does he think he is telling me I should get rid of all my stuff?”
When we are confronted with our sin, it hurts. Even if it is a trusted friend who confronts us, it is often a bitter pill to swallow. Thankfully, if we trust God enough to consider the possibility that the person could be right, we prayerfully consider it and God grants us repentance. Sometimes, it is quite difficult to detect or hate our own sin and it is not until we really blow it in a major way, injuring someone we care about, that we truly begin to see how wretched we actually are. This is what happened to Saul on the road to Damascus.
Whatever filled Saul’s heart with such hatred for Christians, he is brought to his knees, once again, by Jesus, on that dusty Damascus road. He is blinded. He is once again humbled. He is once again crushed. The humiliation of Saul of Tarsus, is the result of direct and prophesied intervention by God to make his repentance possible. It’s exactly what Jesus said would happen. “Some things can only happen with God.”
And… this is how the Rich Young Ruler became the Apostle Paul.
We may never know for sure. But…
Well, this is all a bunch of fine fancy speculation, right? We will never know for sure about all this… at least, not until we get to heaven. But, our little exegetical exercise raises a good question. Why would the Bible not just come out and tell us that the Rich Young Ruler is Paul? Why all the mystery? Why is it hidden?
First, there are the practical reasons. Remember, Luke wrote The Gospel of Luke and Acts and he had no qualms about giving us all the dirt on Paul before his conversion. He held nothing back. Remember too, Luke and Paul were very close. They travelled together for years and went through many trials together. Perhaps there was some reason not to expose Paul as the ruler to protect someone else or maybe even Paul himself. Maybe Luke simply did not know. Perhaps Paul asked Luke not to tell the story. Maybe Paul felt embarrassed by it or maybe he just wanted to “not be reminded of his life before Christ.” Those reasons seem pretty lame. In the Gospel of Luke, Luke just identifies the Rich Young Ruler as “a certain ruler.” That’s pretty evasive isn’t it? It almost sounds like Luke knew but deliberately withheld details. Why would he do that? I have an answer which may delight you in a special way.
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
I think the connection between these seemingly separate people is hidden by God so that we can experience and enjoy the hunt! There are so many treasures in the Bible waiting to be discovered. Not everything is plain and simple. Remember what Jesus said?
“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.’”
I don’t know about you, but the little tidbits I discover in scripture sort of make me want to grab the seat of my pants and giggle. I love those little things God has hidden for us to discover. I feel like a little kid opening a present. It’s all done to provoke us to look deeply into God’s word.
So, there you have it, my ramblings about why I think The Rich Young Ruler is Saul of Tarsus, better known as the Apostle Paul.
But… there is one more thing. This one is just for fun.
An Epic Rebuke
Do you remember that time in Matthew 23 when Jesus directly takes the Pharisees and Sadducees to task in a scathing rebuke of their hypocritical religious practices? If you are not familiar with it, you should really stop the podcast right now and go read it, seriously. What you are about to hear will captivate your imagination all the more if you have the whole story fresh in your mind. Go read Matthew 23 right now. Make it fresh.
Matthew 23 begins with Jesus taking his case to the general public, warning them about their hypocritical religious leaders. He quickly turns the tables to address the leaders themselves and addresses them directly.
In verse 13, his epic rebuke begins.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”
By the way, this was not presented as if Mr. Rogers was speaking, this was a fiery, blazing, powerful rebuke! For 25 more verses, he addresses the Pharisees and teachers of the law, condemning their practices and their oppressive ways. It is a tirade unlike anything else in all of scripture… a monumental, exposing, stinging rebuke.
Now, I imagine, in the crowd; is one particular Pharisee, the Pharisee we have been discussing, Saul of Tarsus. It would not be unreasonable to think he was there and because of this, my imagination is ignited once again.
As you read through all of Matthew 23, did you notice everything you read is in the plural? Yeah, Jesus addresses the entire group in the plural until… he spots one young man in the crowd and in verse 26 drops out of the plural and jumps into the singular for that one young man he absolutely loves, points his finger directly at him and says…
“Blind Pharisee!. First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”
Jesus tells the Rich Young Pharisee how to fix his life.
Not long after, that young injured student of Gamaliel found himself on a mission to Damascus where he would indeed become blind! His entire life is in crescendo as he stops for three days and considers what it all has meant up to this point in time. This time he reasons it all out with humility… “Who does he think he is to tell me to get rid of all my stuff? He’s the Lord! He really is the Lord! I have been so wrong for all these years. God forgive me! Forgive me for all I have done to your saints!”
The inside of the cup is clean. God has granted repentance. He now has a faith that can obey and that is exactly what he does. His sight and heart are restored and he goes on to become the second most influential man in the entirety of Christendom.
I am convinced Saul of Tarsus is the Rich Young Ruler. I hope I have given you a little food for thought, tickled your imagination and provoked you to deeper study of God’s amazing word.Enjoy!
In our last Podcast, we talked about the secrets in a resume. Because the Bible contains so much information about certain people, it is pretty easy to metaphorically build a resume for a Biblical character. This exercise can reveal things we may have never really considered. Let’s look at the Apostle Paul. There is a lot written about him personally.
Paul is Amazing
The Apostle Paul is probably the most amazing disciple in the entire New Testament. Not only does he go from being the number one persecutor of the church to the number one promoter of the church, he goes on to pen three quarters of the the New Testament scripture. He is the author of no less than 13 letters to various people and churches.
Paul was pretty prolific! So too were others who accompanied him such John Mark; who goes on to write the Gospel of Mark, and Luke, a physician. Luke is the writer of both the Book of Acts and the Gospel of Luke. Both these men were close associates of Paul and accompanied him on many of his missionary journeys. Beginning with Luke’s writings, let’s gather information about Paul’s life with which we can build a handsome and respectable resume for Paul.
The first time we ever meet Paul is at the end of Acts 7. It’a not a great first meeting. It occurs during the stoning of Stephen where Paul was still known as the Pharisee, Saul. We join the assault just after the crowd has been whipped into a frenzy by the preaching of Stephen.
Acts 7:57 – 8:1
“At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.”
A Young Man
In terms of church history, theologians tell us the stoning of Stephen happened about 35 AD. This would put it roughly three years after the birth of the church. This passage tells us, Saul was still a young man. He has some type of authority because he is “giving approval” to the stoning of Stephen and the murderers are laying their clothes at the feet of this “young man” as he stands back giving approval.
Saul is obviously filled with a deep hatred and bitter contempt for this new religion. It’s difficult to imagine a hatred so intense and so evil that it compels someone to actually participate in an organized effort to kill, murder and destroy a people who’s entire motivation is love. Have you ever wondered what drove Saul to this breaking point? Why was he compelled to do such a thing?
The Good News is, the next time we meet Saul, he has a little “come to Jesus” moment! On a dusty Damascus road, Jesus appears to him in brilliant light and knocks some sense into him. In fact, Jesus knocks the Saul out of him so far, he changes his name to Paul… and the rest is history!
Paul’s Conversion Three Times
Luke tells the story of Saul’s conversion in the book of Acts, three times. Let’s glean some details about Paul’s life from each of these then move on to discovering some other nuggets about Paul from the epistles. Our first conversion story is told in Acts 9.Click here to read the rest of this post.
If you were asked to boil down the Gospel message into just one word, what would that word be? Most people would probably say, “The heart of the Gospel is love!”
In fact, the word love and its derivatives is one of the most used words in the entire Bible. And, there is no greater persons in whom we see love demonstrated than Jesus Christ and God the Father. Jesus laid down his life for us well before we ever knew him, and “God is love,” according to the apostle John. Having someone to love and being loved are two of mankind’s greatest needs and God graciously provides His love for us on us in a variety of ways. And of course, love is a two way street.
If you are a disciple of Christ, you have returned the love God gives by obeying his commands and dedicating your life to the cause of Christ. Christians love Christ! When we look through the Gospels we find many other people who loved Jesus too. Mary and Martha come to mind; Mary Magdalene for sure. When we look for the people Jesus loved, we might recall the intensely emotional event at Lazarus’ tomb. Everyone saw his love for Lazarus because, “Jesus wept.” The Bible says, “Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus.” We also have the humorous veiled references John makes about himself in his Gospel as “the one whom Jesus loved.” We also have abundant societal references to Christ’s love. “Jesus loves the little children,” as the song goes. And of course let’s not forget, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” Without question, Jesus has a heart of love.
But, did you know there is only one specific individual in the entire Bible where it explicitly says, “Jesus loved him?” Who’s that and how would you like to be that guy? Only one individual… in all of scripture… is singled out as being the specific object of Christ’s love! Do you know who that was? It’s not Lazarus!
Introducing the Rich Young Ruler
This is one of my favorite characters in all the Bible – The Rich Young Ruler. So, why does the Bible say in Mark 10:21, “Jesus looked at him and loved him?” The answer is found in this young man’s resume. You know, there’s a lot of information in a resume. So, let’s do a little review of this fellows’.
We meet this guy in no less than three Gospels and as it turns out, there are a ton of interesting facts established which eventually point to a stunning revelation. By the end of this podcast, I think you will agree, this is a most impressive resume indeed.
The story of The Rich Young Ruler appears in Matthew 19, Mark 10 and Luke 18. God evidently wants us to notice this guy. Let’s read about him from the Mark 10 account.
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
A Tragic Beginning?
What a seemingly sad story; a man runs up to Jesus and falls on his knees. His heart is obviously burning with a question. It’s the same question you and I should probably ask if we could meet with Jesus for just one minute. “Lord, will I get to go to Heaven?” Truth be told, there is absolutely no other question which is more important to every human heart. Everyone, from the depths of their soul, wants to know if they will be “OK” when everything is over and the final curtain falls. We all long to know that someday, somehow, everything will be all right and we will be counted worthy of heaven. All other questions we might want to ask the Son of God, pale in comparison to this one vital question. This question speaks to the entire purpose of the Bible, the entire purpose of the Christian faith and the very reason for Christ’s sojourn to the earth. He loves us and wants all men to be saved.Click here to read the rest of this post.
Now, let’s look at… possibly… the most neglected statement of The Great Commission. After Jesus issues his four crisp commands, comes the magnificent and stunning conclusion.
Let’s read the entirety of The Great Commission again… it’s been a while since we’ve heard it.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The Greatest Promise Ever Made
Jesus concludes his commission with an amazing and wonderful promise… “And surely I am with you always until the very end of the age.”
There are no words to adequately describe the implications and impact of these final words. Jesus’ promise permeates through the rest of the New Testament. For the last two millennia, The Promise has changed millions of hearts and lives and will continue to do so until the very end of time. Majestic and marvelous, The Promise secures a Christian’s future in the eternal Kingdom of God. It is a promise of comfort and a bond of sonship. It is intimate and loving. It is truly beyond earthly comprehension. Jesus promises to be with us always, until the very end of the age.
The Promise was Predicted
And, by the way, this is exactly what he said he would do, way back in John 14. This came at the time of The Last Supper, as he shares his heart with the apostles he loves. Let’s listen in….Click here to read the rest of this post.
The fourth command of The Great Commission is, in its complete sentence form, “Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” In my mind, this is the most amazing part of the Great Commission. It is absolutely brilliant.
In adding this fourth command to the other three commands of The Great Commission, Jesus has just insured that the Biblical Plan of Salvation will continue on throughout all generations. Let’s break it down and see what else we can discover.
The first word is, “teach.” This means sending information, passing knowledge, communicating enlightenment. It’s a drawing toward knowledge and wisdom.
Now, carefully notice. The apostles were not told to “teach the people everything.” They were told, “Teach them to ‘obey’ everything.” This is interesting. Jesus introduces obedience. Obedience is a response and it is always intrinsically linked to a command. Without a command, there is nothing to obey. This is why we say, “The Great Commission must be obeyed.” There are a series of commands contained in it. As a result, obedience becomes a critical part of the salvation experience because, the scriptures elsewhere teach us that we can not have a relationship with God, if we are unwilling to obey him. More about that in a moment.
Now, obviously… the things Jesus is commanding us to obey extend way beyond the first three commands of The Great Commission. He said, “Teach them to obey everything, I have commanded you.”
That’s a mighty tall order, wouldn’t you say. What was he talking about? “Love your enemies?” “Love your neighbor as yourself?” “Seek first the Kingdom?” “Give?” Yes, yes, yes and yes. But, in the context of The Great Commission, we must ask, “What has he just taught the apostles to obey?” Well… the first three commands! Go, make and baptize!
When Jesus says, “Teach them to obey everything,” that by definition, includes everything he has just finished saying. And, they should teach it exactly the same way he taught them. No one has ever been given a license or the authority to change anything in the Biblical Plan of Salvation.
Have you ever played the game “Telephone?” It’s a fun game, even for adults. The game is played by getting 15 or 20 other people together. The leader whispers a fairly complex sentence into the first person’s ear. The first person then whispers it into the second person’s ear and the message gets passed on from mouth to ear for twenty generations. It can be quite hilarious when we hear the final presentation of the original sentence. Things can really change and get messed up! When a message gets passed down from generation to generation people have a tendency to change things. But this process can’t happen with The Great Commission because we have the instructions… the original message… clearly presented in the New Testament.Click here to read the rest of this post.