Christian Conviction by John Stapleton

John Stapleton

Christian Conviction by John Stapleton

Basic Christianity / Apologetics; Incarnation / 1 John 4:1–6

This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a
person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus
Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of
God. But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not
acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not
from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist,
which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is
already here.

1 John 4:2-3 NLT

1) False Teachers

As we have seen the last 2 times we were together, John really is going toe-to-toe with the lies that were taught in his day. You might wonder why it is so important to stand for truth. After all, doesn’t discussing doctrine divide people?

Yes, it does. That’s precisely why we need to preach and teach doctrine! The only thing we have to lose are people who are not genuinely following Jesus.

Dear children, the last hour is here. You have heard that the
Antichrist is coming, and already many such antichrists
have appeared. From this we know that the last hour has
come. These people left our churches, but they never really
belonged with us; otherwise they would have stayed with
us. When they left, it proved that they did not belong with us.

1 John 2:18-19 NLT

People that leave are antichrists. These are false prophets who claim that they’re authority to speak is from God, when they are merely heretics. They are also subversive as they are taking the trust of people who rely on them to point them to God, when in reality they are guiding people away from him.

These people are opposed to Christ. Some people are opposed to him by denying his incarnation.

…If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that
Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit
of God. But if someone claims to be a prophet and does
not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not
from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist…

1 John 4:2-3 NLT

Some people were claiming that Jesus never took on flesh. Today, people who promulgate this are the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons. This has serious implications if it is true Jesus isn’t who the Bible shows he is. That means Jesus never died on the cross or rose from the dead. That leaves us hopeless and still in our sins. There would be no assurance of God’s kindness to us.

2) The True Spirit

But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already
won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who
lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.
Those people belong to this world, so they speak from the
world’s viewpoint, and the world listens to them. But we
belong to God, and those who know God listen to us. If
they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is
how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the
spirit of deception.

1 John 4:4-6 NLT

John is trying to encourage his listeners. Again, it is a very confusing time in the church with all these lies circulating, but we have “already won a victory over those people” because the Holy Spirit lives inside of us and is the best teacher who is not going to steer us wrong.

Not only that, but John gives us a clear system by which to filter out these frauds. He tells us that they have a different perspective or worldview. The ESV renders the Greek as “they speak from the world” (4:5). The world preaches to us too, you know.

Music, TV shows, social media, books and blogs – they are all sermons packaged neatly as “entertainment.” This is an easy concept: if we wrap some ham around the pill, the dog will easily accept the medicine, maybe. Most people don’t realize that the world (as the Bible calls it) is actively preaching that we should be rebellious, ungrateful, sexual deviant and promiscuous, and I could keep the list going.

The World Hates Every Way That God Has Commanded Us To Live.

But John then draws the attention back to where it belongs. What the world is doing and saying isn’t the point. The point is what is true and how God is acting through his church. The point is that these heretics aren’t submitting to apostolic authority, so it doesn’t matter what they say.

But we belong to God, and those who know God listen to
us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us.
That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or
the spirit of deception.

1 John 4:6 NLT

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you have given us a way to spot false
teachers and lies. Not everyone is a heretic but some people
are and it is amazing how some of the same lies are still part
of the conversation today. Thank you that you have given us
the Holy Spirit who always teaches what is true. Amen.

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Christian Community with John Stapleton

John Stapleton

Christian Community With John Stapleton: Basic Christianity- Love- 1 John 2:26-27

I am writing these things to warn you about those who want to
lead you astray. But you have received the Holy Spirit,* and he
lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is
true. For the Spirit* teaches you everything you need to know,
and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has
taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.

1 John 2:26-27 NLT

1). Some People Are Lying To You

Like last time, John is addressing a serious heresy in the church that tried to claim the allegiance of an entirely new generation of Christians. The heresy taught that you can believe in Jesus and never change. You can fellowship with God while still living in your sin. John later reveals that these people are antichrists who have left the church.

Dear children, the last hour is here. You have heard that the
Antichrist is coming, and already many such antichrists have
appeared. From this we know that the last hour has come.
These people left our churches, but they never really belonged
with us; otherwise they would have stayed with us. When they
left, it proved that they did not belong with us.

1 John 2:18-19 NLT

Not only that, these people were also teaching erroneous things about Christ, saying that he wasn’t God and he didn’t take on a physical body.

Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by
the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have
comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the
world. This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a
person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus
Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God.
But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not
acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from
God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you
heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.

1 John 4:1-3 NLT

2) But You Have The Holy Spirit

John reflects back on Jesus’ teaching about the Holy Spirit.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,
who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into
all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking
for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because
he lives with you now and later will be in you.

John 14:16-17 NLT

John is echoing Jesus here and he wants the church to remember two things:

1). The Holy Spirit lives in you
2). “the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know” (2:27).

This is important because of the rise of the Gnostics. They were a group of people who believed in secret knowledge that wasn’t available to the average layperson in church. John’s heart here is similar to fathers of the reformation. If everyone has the Spirit who is also a teacher, nobody has the corner on truth.

These people were operating out of a deep sense of pride that elevated them above those dumb people. But as Paul would point out, knowledge without love just makes a bunch of smug Christians (1 Corinthians 8:1). In the end, it is not about developing fat heads, but huge hearts. It’s not about being the smartest people, but about loving each other like we already have been told.

Prayer

Lord, help us remain with you as individuals and as the church.
Safeguard us from lies both new and old, and continue to remind
us that love is the outward expression of what it is to show Christ
to the world. Amen.

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Christian Conduct (Basic Christianity/ Holiness/ 1 John 1:5-10)

Christian Conduct Week 1

YouTuber John Stapleton shares on Christian Conduct (Basic Christianity/ Holiness/ 1 John 1:5-10). Be sure to subscribe to John’s Weekly Bible Blog.

This video is also available as an Apple podcast below.

1 John 1:5, NLT
This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.

1) God Is Light

I want to introduce you to the Father by looking at who he is and what he does. John reveals him as light and love. Light is significant because this is how John introduced Jesus in John 1:1-4.

John is thematically making the point that whoever has seen Jesus has seen the Father. In John 14:9, one of Jesus’ followers expressed his grief at the thought of not being with Jesus. This was Jesus’ response:

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip,
and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has
seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to
show him to you? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the
Father and the Father is in me?

Also, light is what actively drives out darkness. Darkness is often a euphemism for sin and anything that is anti-God, anti-Jesus. Evil cannot win because “the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining” (2:8). Practically, God is love (1 John 4:8).

1 John 4:9–10 NLT
9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one
and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal
life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved
God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to
take away our sins.

2) God Isn’t Darkness

Since God is light, that means he cannot be darkness. This is important. Some of you have be wrongly taught that God can do everything. But God cannot do anything that is opposed to who he is. God never contradicts his nature. God is never shady and you will never need to worry about finding something in God’s character that is ugly or unrighteous.

1 John 1:6-7, NLT
So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but
go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the
truth. 7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the
light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the
blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

John is combating false teaching in the church that said that you can be a Christian while living in ongoing rebellion against God. He doesn’t name the false teachers, but he alludes to what they taught by the introductory phrase, “if we say/claim” which is contrasted by “if we confess” (1:9).

1 John 1:8-10, NLT
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves
and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to
him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to
cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not
sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word
has no place in our hearts.

There are 3 basic lies being addressed:

  • The first lie is that a person can worship Jesus as our Savior and not our Lord.
  • The second lie is that we are good people who don’t need a savior.
  • The third lie is that we have moral superiority to other people who need a Savior.

The alternative to these false ways of living is to confess our sins so that we can not only be forgiven, but to be healed. We cannot believe the lies about Christian practice because it shows that we are not Christians if we do.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you have made it possible to have
fellowship with you. Help us resist living in darkness and
make us aware of the lies we believe about you, ourselves,
and the church. Amen.

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How To Use The Bible by John Stapleton

How To Use The Bible

YouTuber John Stapleton shares on How To Use The Bible (Acts 8:26-35). Be sure to subscribe to John’s Weekly Bible Blog.

This video is also available as an Apple podcast below.

As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah.

The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.”

Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.

The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter.
And as a lamb is silent before the shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
He was humiliated and received no justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”

The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?” So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.

Acts 8:26-35

Read It

The first step is to read it the text.

Before we can apply it to our lives we need to know what it says. This should be the capstone of your devotional reading. Topical devotions are great, the problem is they tend to select some verses here and half of one over there to in essence say, “Hey, God agrees with me.”

There is nothing wrong with topical studies as long as they are faithful to what is in Scripture. Being overly selective with the Scriptures runs the risk of leaving out something that God had to say on the topic or not explaining it enough.

How much should you read?

As little or as much as you want. I don’t have a set opinion on this because I have found that reading the Bible with different methods help me at different times in my life.

For example, I am a huge fan of reading large chunks of Scripture. That’s how the original audience would have received God’s Word. Think of Moses reintroducing the covenant to Israel, which is the entire book of Deuteronomy.

Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount in one sitting. Every letter aimed at a New Testament church was read in one gathering. It’s easier to get the flow of the narrative or the argument if you are looking at larger sections of Scripture.

On the other hand, where I find myself now is reading smaller portions of Scripture and just meditating on that periscope. The point is, there is no one way to do it.

Study It

Once I’ve read the text, I usually allow time for me to “live” in the passage. This is meditation. This doesn’t mean that you sit cross-legged with crossed fingers thinking positive thoughts.

This is mulling over what you have read repeatedly until you’ve internalized it. Now that the passage is familiar, you are ready to dig in and study.

There are several different systems you can adopt.

I’ve tried a few myself:

  • Use a Scripture journal which has the text of the Bible on one page and blank journaling space on the other.
  • Write your prayers down in the journaling space or write down observations.
  • Mark up the text – circling, underlining, or even highlighting key words or phrases.
  • Write down any questions you have and then work to answer those questions with the context around the text you just read. Sometimes, the answer is in the text itself!
  • Compare translations to get a fuller sense of what the passage means. Check out some cross-references.
  • Write down your own summary of the passage. After that, check out some commentaries to see what other people’s conclusions were. Sometimes you might change your mind and sometimes you will disagree, but that’s part of the fun of studying.

Speaking of systems, you can get a paper journal and grab your books from the shelf but there is a more efficient way to study. I recommend getting a Bible software program. They allow you to do word studies, read commentaries and lexicons, mark up your Bible and compare translations.

You can write notes and look at maps.

There are more features I could mention but you get the idea.

There are a few great programs to consider for study in our digital world. Accordance is good, so is Olive Tree, and my
personal favorite is Logos Bible Software.

Apply It

The Bible student lives in two worlds. They live in their present-day reality, but they also visit the ancient world of the Bible when we read and study it. But now that we have studied the text, we should be able to apply it to our life and become better worshippers because we know God a little better than before.

Remember, we don’t just read the Bible for information, but so we can love God more deeply, in a Psalm 119 kind of way.

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How To Trust The Bible by John Stapleton

How To Trust The Bible

YouTuber John Stapleton shares on How To Trust The Bible (Matthew 19:3-6). Be sure to subscribe to John’s Weekly Bible Blog.

This video is also available as an Apple podcast below. (Note that John’s Q&A are available on the Apple Podcast).

Matthew 19:3–6 (NLT)

3 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this
question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for
just any reason?”
4 “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They
record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and
female.’ 5 And he said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his
father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are
united into one.’ 6 Since they are no longer two but one, let
no one split apart what God has joined together.”

This is a passage that is about marriage on the surface, but today we will see how Jesus thought of the Bible. The main
thing I want you to see is that the Bible is God’s Word. Let’s dive in.

1). The Bible Is God’s Word

The Pharisees came up to Jesus and tried to trap him in something he taught. They wanted Jesus to agree with their liberal interpretation of Moses’ teaching on marriage that allowed them to divorce their wife for “any reason” (19:3). Perhaps they wanted Jesus to appear as if he contradicted Moses. Regardless, Jesus wastes no time getting to the scriptures.\

“Haven’t you read?” (19:4) was how Jesus reminded people that his point is going to be made with Scripture and how his listeners need to be biblically serious. He then quotes to them that God made humanity in his image and that God brought them together. This is from Genesis 2:24 where Moses appears to be narrating. This is not a direct quote from God and yet Jesus is saying here that God said “a man shall leave….” (ESV) – in other words, the Bible says what God says and God says what the Bible says. The Bible is God’s Word.

2). You Can Trust God’s Word

So the Bible is God’s Word, good.

But some of you don’t trust God’s Word for a few reasons:

  • Why do we have so many translations?
  • Can we trust that the manuscripts are accurate?
  • Can we trust our interpretation of it?

These are good questions that many people ask.

Here at the Bible Blog, I want to provoke you toward the right answers and so I will be glad to point you to some solid resources.

In general, you need to know that the manuscripts are accurate and are the most attested documents of antiquity. Not only can we trust the manuscripts but we can trust the translations we have. We have a number of translations on a spectrum ranging from versions that seek to reflect the words of the biblical authors, while others seek to reflect the sense of meaning that the biblical authors perhaps had. Both are wonderful options that have significant pros and cons.

3). You Can Trust God’s Word

Practically

We have so far covered that you can trust the academics of the Bible, but what about spiritually? Peter reminds us that
God has given us everything we need to live a godly life.

2 Peter 1:3 NLT
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need
for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming
to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of
his marvelous glory and excellence.

4). Scripture Will Never Fail

But what about all the ways the Bible has been abused? That might be the heaviest question on your mind and heart. I want to point you to something fascinating in the Gospel of John. One day as Jesus was walking through the temple, the people who have heard Jesus teach for a while step to him and demand him to clearly claim that he is God’s chosen one. And Jesus does. This turns to the crowd into a bloodthirsty mob. Jesus mentions that he has miraculously helped them many times and asks why they are trying to kill him. Their response points out the fact that they see Jesus as a mere man who thinks he’s God.

John 10:34–36 (NLT)
34 Jesus replied, “It is written in your own Scriptures that God said to certain leaders of the people, ‘I say, you are gods!’ 35 And you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered. So if those people who received God’s message were called ‘gods,’ 36 why do you call it blasphemy when I say, ‘I am the Son of God’? After all, the Father set me apart and sent me into the world.

Jesus decided to use Psalm 82, an obscure Psalm, to prove his point. God sarcastically called proud kings “gods” because that’s how they considered themselves (much like Pharaoh). Jesus’ point is if God uses the term “gods,” sarcastically applying them to the rulers of the nations, why is everyone so upset that Jesus called himself God? The people’s understanding of the scriptures was wrong, but Scripture is never wrong! To quote Jesus, “Scripture cannot be altered” (10:35).

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The Parables Revisited- S1E11- John Stapleton

YouTuber John Stapleton continues with the Gospel of Mark 12 – The Parables Revisited.

Be sure to subscribe. Also, if you’re on the go or in the car, click on the podcast play button to listen to the audio just below the YouTube video.

The Parable of the Vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-7)

Owner and tenants (Mark 12:1-2) represent God and Israel.  Tenants and servants (Mark 12:2-5) represent how Israel treated the prophets. The beloved Son and the tenants (Mark 12:6-9) represents Jesus (Mark 1:11; 9:7).

The Owners Response (Mark 12:9-12). Why let these violent tenants manage? We can tell more about ourselves by noticing what question we ask: 1) Why did God destroy the tenants? or 2). Why did the tenants destroy God’s servants? The response is appropriate since they chose not to honor his messengers (verse 4).

The chief priests and scribes were trying to kill Jesus because he turned the tables over (Mark 11:18). They returned to challenge and trap him (Mark 11:27).

Traps For Jesus (Honor Games)

Taxes (Mark 12:13-17). If Jesus says yes, he loses popularity. If he says no, he commits treason against Rome. Jesus doesn’t fall into the political trap; he points reverence where it should be. Why are they hypocrites (verse 15)?

Resurrection (Mark 12:18-27). If Jesus answers them, he’s affirming the resurrection and polygamy (of course, affirming the resurrection would be laughable in their group). Jesus corrects their ignorance (verses 24-27) by showing them that God continues to have relationships with the patriarchs who have long been dead. If this is possible, that would make resurrection possible. (It’s also interesting that Jesus proves his point from the books of Moses, the only books the Sadducees consider inspired by God.

Law of Moses (Mark 12:28-34). There were 613 laws. Which one is most important? Many teachers would try to pick one law as an umbrella that summarizes the others. (One popular suggestion was honoring your parents.)

Jesus’ Question: Who Is David’s Son? (Mark 12:35-37). There is no way David is talking about his own sons. The only conclusion to draw from this passage is that David was calling one of his own descendants ‘Lord.’ The only conclusion is that Jesus is the true descendant of David, but they don’t want to admit it.

April 19 Q&A 

1. Where in the Bible does it speak about praying to Mary so our prayers can be heard?

Praying to Mary is not a biblical injunction. In general, Catholics almost deify Mary while Protestants ignore her unless it is Christmas. The truth is, while we are not instructed to pray for Mary, we are encouraged to learn from her example of great faith, which we see as she prays in the gospels:

  • Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:38)
  • And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:46–49)

She wasn’t anybody important, but she honored God and submitted to him as a servant. Therefore, God has elevated her status. That’s why we all call her blessed!

2. Matthew 5:3 Says, “Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit.” How Do I Become Poor In Spirit So That I Can Be Blessed?

First we need to understand what Jesus means when he says ‘poor in spirit.’ What’s that mean? It means we desperately realize our need for God. By default, we tend to be proud people who think we are basically good and don’t need God’s help or saving from anything. But its only the people who are poor in spirit who can draw closer to God. Jesus said in another place, “I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners” (Matthew 9:13). 

3. Did Obeying The Law of Moses Always Lead To Warfare and Turmoil?

You have to understand the context of the law of Moses before you can critique it. Before the law was the promise that God made to Abraham to grow his family to global size and bless him. Even though the deepest meaning is a spiritual one, we see this start to unravel in his own family who becomes the 12 Tribes of Israel. As former slaves from Egypt, they don’t know how to fight or defend themselves, so as God sends them out to conquer lands that he already promised to Abraham, he miraculously assists them at times. Secondarily, the people who they conquered burned their children to false demon gods and were abhor-able people. They had it coming.

4. Why Did Hotel Owners Stop Putting Bibles In Hotel Rooms?

The reason they stopped is because we are becoming an increasingly more secular society. We are not losing anything important, only the pointless formalities of religious culture. Here’s the reason Google gave:

“In 2006, almost every single hotel (95 percent) put a Bible in their bedside drawer. … When Marriott opened its new Moxy and Edition hotels, they decided they wouldn’t put religious books in the room because the “books don’t fit the personality of the brands,” a spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times.”

5. What’s The Most Historically Accurate Writing In The Bible?

This is a difficult question to answer because the proven historicity of the Bible is throughout its pages. I really want you to trust the Bible from Genesis to Revelation because it is all equally true and accurate. Not only has it been proven several times by archaeology, but it is the most attested document in antiquity. Once you start digging into the evidence, it is very compelling! As far as your question, I want you to know that the Biblical writers have a similar attitude as Luke did:

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:1–4).

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Jesus and the Temple- S1E10- John Stapleton

Mark 14 Faithfulness

YouTuber John Stapleton continues with the Gospel of Mark 11 – Jesus and the Temple.

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Jesus is the reality behind all the signs in the Old Testament.

This passage deals with Jesus’ conflict with the religious leaders in the temple. Jerusalem has been a sign of conflict throughout this gospel. At times, the religious leaders would seek out Jesus to harass him. 

Mark 11 shows us a few key things.

The first being that the temple is as deceptive as a barren fig tree. This is the most intense conflict that Jesus had with the religious leaders. Moreover, the religious leaders have no basis for judging Jesus. Lastly, faith in Jesus can accomplish the impossible.

We’ll pick it up in verse 11: “He entered Jerusalem and went into the temple.” This may seem like a throwaway line, but it’s packed with significance.

Malachi 3:1-5 predicts the Lord coming to his temple to purify it.

Jesus “had looked around at everything” to see if the temple was truly serving its purpose and he didn’t find it the way he had hoped. That’s why the next day, he curses the fig tree. Jesus isn’t having a freak-out moment. Jesus is showing a parable, much like the Old Testament prophets.

The Fig Tree and The Dead Temple

The fig tree was full of leaves which means it was ripe with fruit, so it looked. Likewise, the temple seemed very lively,  filled with the traffic of pilgrims visiting for Passover, but the temple is dead. It has replaced the worship of God with commerce.

The way it worked was you had to bring an animal to sacrifice to pay for your sins (Leviticus 1:14; 5:7). The law even considered poor people that couldn’t afford lambs, which were more expensive. God’s intention was that nobody would be hindered from coming to his courts empty-handed. But the religious leaders were blinded by dollar signs and decided not only to set up shop inside the temple, but also to charge.

Guess who got excluded? The Poor.

This is why Jesus was so upset. This is why Jesus came to refine his temple, because the religious leaders “made it a den of robbers” (verse 17). Rather than repenting (which has been the heart behind everything Jesus has ever taught), they decide they want him dead, but they are politicians at heart, so they can’t act on their plans (verse 18).

Verses 20-25 explain the fig tree incident from the other day. His disciples wonder why it withered so quickly and Jesus uses this as a teaching moment. Moving mountains is a metaphor in the Bible for accomplishing the impossible and that’s all possible with faith in God, not in the temple, or religion, or their religious leaders. We can no longer look at the temple as the sign of God’s active saving power, its found in Jesus and in what he’s about to do on the cross.

The Confrontation

Verses 27-33 gives us the confrontation we’ve been waiting for. The entire religious system has ganged up against Jesus – the text says, “the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him” (verse 27). They aren’t approaching him in smaller numbers like they had before; they are scared of Jesus and the crowd, so they assume safety in numbers. Proceeding to question what right Jesus has to not only clear out the temple, bringing the day’s commerce to a halt, but also the right to teach and preach in general. In other words, Jesus’ entire ministry was in question.

But Jesus is infinitely wiser than the wisest scholar or philosopher, so he asks them a question in turn, like any good teacher in his day would do. “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” (verse 30). If they say yes, they are inditing themselves for not believing John (verse 31), if they say no, they will lose popularity and possibly their own lives (verse 32). If they can’t answer (and they can’t), they show that they have no right to critique Jesus’ ministry. This was an honor game and the religious leaders lost!

All we need is Jesus. That’s the point. Everything else are pathetic substitutes for Jesus. We don’t need a temple and animal sacrifices because Jesus is the one who brings us to God by his own sacrifice on the cross.

Q&A

1) Is the Bible overestimated in its ability to establish faith in God?

There are two slogans that frame my answer sola scriptura and solo scriptura. One slogan teaches that Scripture sits on the highest shelf authority and it speaks with authority directly into our lives, answering the deepest questions about what it means to be human. The other slogan teaches that no truth can be found outside of the Bible.

I believe the first slogan. This means the Bible is not overestimated to establish faith in God. There is slight caution, however. Some people are like Pharisees who read the Bible because they think by knowing it better, they will inherit eternal life (John 5:39). More Bible knowledge doesn’t equal more power in life, it is only as good as what you apply (James 1:19; Hebrews 4:2).

If the Bible is used because we want to learn more about God, it’s power cannot be overestimated. Luther spoke of the Bible as the window by which the Holy Spirit can enter your life and interact with you. Without the Bible, we have our own guesses and whims, nothing concrete. Praise be to God for his Word!

2) What does “forgiving one another” mean in Ephesians 4:32?

The Greek word for “forgiving” has also been translated in other places in the Bible as showing favor, or giving freely, or canceling (in the context of debt). Here are a couple examples:

  • “When he could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both.” (Luke 7:42).
  • “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

Forgiveness is therefore cancelling the debt that people have against us. When teaching us how to pray, Jesus said it this way: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). This is Paul instructing us to “not keep a record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5, CSB). This is reminiscent of what Joseph told his brothers: “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 50:19). To not forgive is to play god, acting like you rule over a small purgatory that the person has wronged you must suffer in until you consider them to be paid up. Joseph realizes he’s not God, therefore it is not his position to make those calls.

Forgiving is not only cancelling wrongs, but it gives something as well. It not only throws away the sin, but it gives grace. Another word for grace is favor or kindness. So forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean we are friends with those who wronged us, but that we are kind to them. That means we don’t hold any grudges.

3) Why do so many biblical pastors believe that the end times are imminent instead of just soon? Has society reached the end of Christ’s Olivet discourse that he taught the disciples?

Biblical prophecy works in such a way that it has a “far and near” application. The near application was the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. The far application is the story of what happens to nations that reject God’s rule.

Another thing to keep in mind is when the Bible speaks of “the last days.” I’d encourage you to do a study on the phrase. Here are some verses that lead people to believe that we are in the last days:

  • “Understand this, that in the last days there will be times of difficulty” (2 Timothy 3:1).
  • “Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires” (2 Peter 3:3).
  • “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:2).

These three facts are true today, which means we are in the last days. The last days simply mean the time from Jesus until the last day (which is the day of judgment; it’s the day that all the last days lead up to).

4) Where can the song of Moses be found in the Bible, and what does it mean? Should we learn it before we pass on so that we will be able to sing it too?

The song of Moses is mentioned in Revelation 15:3 and is from Exodus 15. This song praises God for being a warrior for the Israelites. God went to battle against the Pharaoh (an arrogant man who considered himself a god) by splitting the Red Sea for them to walk on dry ground to the other side while the Egyptians who pursued them were drowned.

The song of Moses appears again in Revelation (which already uses a ton of imagery from Exodus) to show how Jesus has conquered the beast (which is any government that opposes God).

5) If we already had the Bible, why did we need the Quran?

We don’t need the Quran for our holy book, but it is useful to understand the teachings of Islam better. Just like people disagree on what the Bible says, it’s best to just read the Bible. The same is true about the Quran.

I remember coming home from school one day (I was probably 13), and I saw a copy of the Quran sitting in front of everyone of my neighbor’s apartments. I took my copy and kept it for sometime to read it. My mom was scared I would convert so she wanted me to burn it, but it has always been my philosophy that you should never be scared of where the truth leads you; and I believe Christianity is exclusively true, so I’m going with that. Try to change my mind.

But it did give me a little bit more understanding of my Muslim friends.

6) Is the changing from glory to glory in II Corinthians 3:18 synonymous with “the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith” mentioned in Romans 1:17?

Yes! When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he spoke of “being transformed into the same image” that we are beholding (which is Christ)… “from one degree of glory to the next.” Paul in Romans 1 speaks of God’s righteousness being from “faith to faith.” (Some translations say, “from start to finish.”). This is like the writer of Hebrews when he says that Jesus is the “founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

The idea in all 3 of those verses is that we are to look to Jesus (who he was, what he taught, how he lived) and as we do, we become a little more like Jesus.

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Belief- S1E5: Mark 5- by John Stapleton

Belief- S1E5 by John Stapleton’s Weekly Bible Lab. Be sure to subscribe to John Stapleton’s channel by clicking on the icon on the YouTube video below. Also, if you’re on the go or in the car, click on the podcast play button to listen to the audio just below the YouTube video.

Belief

BIG IDEA: We fight fear with faith. Based on Mark 5. 

1. The Story

When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. (5:21-29)

2. Comparison of Jairus and the Woman 

3. Responses to Jesus: Fear and Faith.

Jesus switches the two, raising the status of the woman by making her the one to emulate. The woman was afraid, but she professed her faith. “Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just believe.’” (5:36).

Jesus goes and raises the girl and the witnesses still don’t believe. “They were completely astonished.” (5:42). The root of unbelief is fear. Fear is a lack of faith and this is a theme that serves as an undercurrent of this gospel. 

  • The disciples were afraid when Jesus calmed the sea (4:40). 
  • The townspeople were afraid when they saw the demoniac healed (5:15).
  • Peter was afraid at the transfiguration (9:6).
  • The disciples were afraid of thinking about Jesus dying (9:32).
  • The disciples were afraid of going up to Jerusalem (10:32).
  • The women were afraid at the tomb (16:8)

CONCLUSION: “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” (5:36)

March 1, Q&A

1). Is it possible to witness the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation slowly coming to fruition in the modern world?

Prophecy tends to have a “near and far” application. The near application is how the text applied to the original hearers. The far application is how that text ripples out to future generations.

John 17 is a good example of this; Jesus starts praying for his followers and then for future believers (verse 20). Matthew 24 is another example. The near fulfillment was 70 AD when the Romans destroyed the Jewish temple. It was the end of the world to a Jew as it would be difficult to imagine life relating to God without a temple. The far application is the return of Christ at the final chapter of human history.

I say that to say this: Daniel and Revelation (to some point) has already been fulfilled. However, since the Bible speaks to the deepest needs of humanity, the struggles and such that is the human experience will repeat from generation to generation. So maybe we aren’t dealing with the beast empires of Daniel or Rome in Paul’s day, but we know what it is like to be a marginalized group under a godless government – like Paul and Daniel.

2). Which character of the Bible has the most personal relationship with God?

It is hard to pick just one person because the Bible is intentional about reminding us of many men and women who were close to God. However, if I had to pick one person, it would be Abraham. He is called “God’s friend” in James 2:23).

I love how the Bible reminds all of us that we can be friends of God too if we place our trust in God, taking him at his word.

3). Is the Book of Daniel a book of folk tales?

The short answer is no. Daniel is essentially 2 genres in one book. The first 6 chapters are historical and the last 6 are apocalyptic. The book of Daniel tracks the life of a teenage Israeli captive that got taken to Babylon and he is a ripe old age by the end of chapter 6.

Daniel is a great example of how to live faithfully to God while serving a pagan government. He outlives the reign of 3 Babylonian kings and has unwavering faith in God.

Apocalypse serves the purpose of peeling back the curtain to see the spiritual realities and how they affect physically present situations; this includes foresight into the future. This is the intent behind all the weirdness in the book of Daniel.

4). What is the meaning of ‘one day’s burden is not enough for one day’ that’s been mentioned in the Bible?

That’s not in the Bible. However, Jesus did say that “each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:44, NIV).

In the passage, Jesus was preaching on why we shouldn’t live our lives worrying about things we cannot control. Why carry the burden of worry when we cannot control the outcome? Why worry if it doesn’t make us any healthier or live longer?

By now we should be on the same page, right? If I’m not able to change this situation and I’m in the middle of it, I’m going to trust God as I keep going. Worry is not an option because it is too expensive, yielding negative results on our body and soul.

5). Why does the Bible say that nobody is beyond the grace of God but in another part it says that God will harden people’s hearts?

From the start, I admit that I don’t have a concrete answer, but I’ll give the best answer I presently have.

First, we need to know the heart of God. He is not playing games with people’s lives, playing a divine game of Duck, Duck, Damn. God “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4, NIV).

Second, the Bible doesn’t directly say that nobody is beyond the grace of God, but that’s the conclusion we draw after reading about the character of God. There are two main passages of Scripture that I would like to draw from; the story of Pharaoh in Exodus 5–12 and Romans 9–11.

What’s curious about Pharaoh is that he hardens his heart and then it later says that God hardened his heart. I believe this is the same thing. Since God gives us the ability to choose or reject him, we have the ability to harden our hearts against God; we can be stubborn. The other side of the coin is that God’s hands aren’t tied; nothing happens without God allowing it to happen.

That’s the mystery of free will and God’s treatment of our rebellion.

6). What are your favorite things to read in the Bible?

I love the gospels! I don’t have a favorite because they are all so wonderfully unique.

I also love the book of Romans as it the place to go for deep theology. The Proverbs are useful for practical living. I guess I have a lot of favorites; it depends on what I need at a given time.

The more I read it, the harder it is to have a favorite part.

7). Do you think Leviticus 20:15 is considered ‘too harsh’ or would you consider it to be fair?

It’s not my call to judge how ‘harsh’ this law is. All I know is God calls it perversion and as the Creator of the universe, he gets the right to make whatever laws he wants over his creation.

Matthew Henry says this about the verse: “What praises we owe to God that he has taught the evil of sin, and the sure way of deliverance from it! May we have grace to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things; may we have no fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness, but reprove them.”

Instead of critiquing God’s law, we need to let it critique us. The standard is God’s holiness. He commanded us in the previous chapter to “be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2 NIV). Even in the chapter above that, we see that God wants his people to be different (which means holy) from their neighbors that did deplorable things like burning children as sacrifices to demon gods.

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 18:1–5 NIV).

In closing, we need to thank God for his high standard of living, because when people follow God’s laws, society flourishes.

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Out of the Wilderness by Steve Stroble

Out of the Wilderness
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Out of the Wilderness

Sam Smaltz just wants to be left alone.

But being sandwiched between the Greatest Generation and Gen X and the Millenials offers him no such comfort.

As a Baby Boomer, he does not get to be a respected hero by fighting German and Japanese warriors during WW II or North Koreans invading South Korea, but instead leaves behind a stepson who is sucked into the nebulous world of present day international terrorism, where everyone is suspect and no one can be trusted.’

Life is not easy as it requires his stepson Jack Smaltz to be just one more nameless, faceless hero whose story gets lost in the shuffle even as it makes his generation shine.

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Short Stories Book 5 (Short Stories Series) by Steve Stroble

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Short Stories Book 5 (Short Stories Series)

A collection of short stories:

  1. “The Fixer” — Vacation to Mount Rushmore is ruined by protestors
  2. “If It’s Thursday, It Must Be Jordan” — Son tries to convince ex-pat parents to move back to America
  3. “Earth, This Is Mars Base 3” — A case of space psychosis upends Mars Base 3
  4. “The Case of the Lost Child” — P. I. Bobbi Heck takes on a case as a favor to a crush of hers from high school days

This is Book 5 in the Short Stories Series.

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