Category Archives: Apologetics

WHO IS THE HIRELING OF JOHN 10?

WHO IS THE HIRELING OF JOHN 10?

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. my purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10

Times without number, I have heard preachers, teachers, and every other category of believer in Jesus, refer to the devil as the one who comes to “kill, steal, and destroy”. Never once, in all my Christian experience, have I ever heard or read a query to this interpretation.

Yet, when I read Jesus’ words in John 10, nowhere does He refer to Satan in His teaching about the hireling and the Good Shepherd. His debate was not with the devil whom He could vanquish with the Word, but with the religious leaders who twisted the Word to suit their own purposes.

In His teaching on the Good Shepherd, Jesus contrasted Himself with the “hireling” who had no interest in the sheep but in what he could gain from shepherding them. When danger or difficulty came, the hireling abandoned the sheep to save his own skin. No mention of the devil here!

By contrast, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, not only takes good care of the sheep whom He knows by name, but He also sacrificed His own life for His flock.

Who, then, was the hireling? Surely, Jesus was referring to the religious leaders, with whom He continually contended because they cared more about themselves than about God’s people. He called them “hypocrites”, play-actors who played the role of “shepherd” to impress their audience.

Matthew 23:2-7; 13-36 is a painful exposure of those who masquerade as shepherds but behave as hirelings. On many occasions, Jesus pointed out their dishonest use of the Law.

“For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’  But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’  In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents.  And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.” Mark 7:10-13 NLT

These religious leaders were so dishonest that they refused to weigh all the evidence that Jesus was the Messiah and the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy. They rejected His claim that His authority came from God. Instead, they crucified Him as a blasphemer because He claimed (and proved by the Word, His works, and the witness of the Father) that He was the Son of God.

Yes, Satan was behind their attitudes and behaviour but, in the end, they made their choices and were the greatest threat to Jesus’ mission. They influenced the people against Jesus despite all the miracles He did for them. Although they made the decision to crucify Jesus, they were ultimately accountable to God, the highest authority, for what they had done.

“Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death.” Matthew 27:20 NLT

‘Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!” And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!” Matthew 27:24-25 NLT

Peter laid the guilt for Jesus’ death squarely at the door of the Jews, including all those, led by the religious leaders, who had clamoured for His death.

“People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him.” Acts of the Apostles 2:22-23 NLT

Nowhere did Peter on the day of Pentecost, give credit to the devil for having Jesus crucified. It was the human will by human hands that killed Him. What of today?

There are many “hirelings” in places of leadership in churches across the world today, people who are filthy rich at the expense of the  “sheep” who depend on them for care and guidance. These are the ones who kill, steal and destroy since those who follow them are robbed of money, wisdom and life itself.

Unfortunately, these hirelings are often difficult to identify because they masquerade as shepherds or, as Jesus said, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. We can identify them by their fruit.

I am very wary of those who get people to give either by offering them a reward or by making them feel guilty if they don’t give. Many great so-called compassion ministries are built on the money the big names get out of their followers while they gather wealth for themselves. Some even claim that their wealth is their “reward” for their service. Really! Where do they find that in Scripture?

Three things motivate the hireling that contradict what Jesus taught about the way of God’s kingdom; fame, power and money. Look for these “fruits” in the lives of false shepherds and stay away from them and their teachings.

The tragedy is that, though these false shepherds will take the rap for what they have done, the sheep who blindly follow them will also be lost because they have exchanged the truth for lies.

God holds every individual responsible for what he/she believes and how his/her belief system directs their lives. He has given us the New Covenant in His Word to show us how and provide everything we need to live godly lives.

“For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” 2 Corinthians 5:10 NLT

No one can hide behind ignorance as an excuse. We are told to test everything and hold fast to what is good.

“Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 NLT

Jesus warned us that deception will be the greatest threat to believers as time draws to an end. Fear and deception are the devil’s most effective tools, and hirelings his most efficient allies in his quest to draw people away from simple faith in Jesus.

So, my beloved friends, beware of the hirelings who are everywhere and out to lure you away by their smooth-tongued and convincing words that twist God’s Word, pander to your flesh and set you on the path to destruction.

Remain “in Christ”, abide in Him and in His Word. He is your only place of truth and safety.

 

 

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – WHEN YOU PRAY, SAY…

WHEN YOU PRAY, SAY…

Then He said to them, “When you pray, say, ‘Father, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'” Luke 11:2-4.

I wonder how well the disciples understood what Jesus was teaching them about prayer. Did they grasp the underlying truth of God as their Father?

Unlike Matthew 6, there is no preamble to this version of the prayer. Although Jesus taught them that prayer is not about words, words are used to express the thoughts and emotions of the heart. What a world of meaning is wrapped up in the word ‘Father’! There is no prayer outside of this relationship which was made possible through Jesus.

“Yet to all who received Him, to all who believed in His name, He gave the right to be called children of God…” John 1:12.

Prayer is the way sons communicate with their heavenly Father. Prayer is the conscious turning of the attention away from self to the One who is our source and sustainer, changing the focus of our attention from self and our issues to God and His attributes. Whatever words it might take to do this, they are only the vehicle through which this change of awareness happens. Therefore, when a son focuses his attention on Father God, he is praying.

This Father with whom human beings are privileged to have a relationship because of Jesus, is not outside our realm of existence and experience. Heaven is not a place up there or out there but a dimension that completely saturates the physical realm as air saturates the earth. God is everywhere and He is therefore as near to us as our breath.

Prayer is therefore, firstly, a change from my environment to the environment of God, of His presence and nearness. Secondly, it is an awareness of who He is. To hallow His name is to concentrate on His glory, “the sum of His magnificent attributes and the eternal fame of His mysterious works”.  Where my attention was taken up by the issues of my life, I deliberately change my focus to the greatness of the God with whom I am engaging in love and trust as a son.

To engage with Him in this way is to put my personal concerns into the context of the bigger picture of His kingdom and will. It is also to put my failures into the context of His mercy. Since He has dealt with my load of guilt and the barrier of sin that separated me from Him, I dare not hang onto the offences that separate me from my fellow man.

Just as I am dependent upon Him for every crumb that passes my lips as a little child, I too, I depend on Him for the “bread” of heaven that nourishes my soul. And, knowing how tainted I am with the self-centred greed that has infiltrated my soul from birth, I look to Him to save me from my self-destructive ways that would ensnare and destroy me without the grace of His Spirit who is constantly at work in me.

This simple pattern prayer teaches me the essence of the attitude and disposition of a son to the Father, submitting to Him and being involved in the things that are on His heart. This is not about putting God first. This is about putting Him in the centre of my thinking and living.

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – SELECTIVE DEAFNESS

SELECTIVE DEAFNESS

“John spoke up, ‘Master, we saw a man using your name to expel demons and we stopped Him because he wasn’t of our group.’  Jesus said, ‘Don’t stop him. If he’s not an enemy, he’s an ally.’

“When it came close to the time for His Ascension, He gathered up His courage and steeled Himself for the journey to Jerusalem. He sent messengers on ahead. They came to a Samaritan village to make arrangements for His hospitality. But when the Samaritans learned that His destination was Jerusalem, they refused hospitality.

“When the disciples James and John learned of it, they said, ‘Master, do you want us to call a bolt of lightning down out of the sky and incinerate them?’ Jesus turned on them: ‘Of course not!’ And they travelled on to another village.”  Luke 9:49-55.

Talk about selective hearing! James and John’s attitude was proof that they had not taken in a word Jesus had said about true greatness.

What had these men learned from their association with Jesus? From non-religious guys who were part of the “out” group as far as their religious leaders were concerned, they had developed the idea that they were now part of a new “in” group!

They were very protective of their status as followers of Jesus – disciples of the newest and most popular rabbi in Israel. Although He had many followers on the fringe, Jesus had not invited anyone else to be part of the “in” group and they wanted to be sure that no one gate-crashed their party.

Anyone of the “them” group who happened to “get” what Jesus had been teaching and act on it was frowned on, not encouraged, because he was not one of “us”. They proudly announced to Jesus that they had put a stop to a man’s enthusiastic participation in doing the “kingdom stuff” by casting out demons, thinking that He would applaud them for their loyalty to Him. They were not anticipating the surprising rebuke they received for their trouble! ‘Don’t stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘If he’s not an enemy, then he’s a friend.’

James and John were such fiery characters that they had earned the nickname, “sons of thunder”. To protect their inner circle they were prepared to use their new-found authority to incinerate people who dared to oppose them, especially the hated Samaritans! Thinking that Jesus would applaud their outrage for the snub they had received, they wanted His approval for their plan to wipe out the village.

What did Jesus think of these goings-on from His disciples? For all their response to His teaching and demonstrating His yoke, they were still thinking and acting in exactly the same way as they did before they met Him. It seems that everything He taught them bounced off them like a ball off a wall. In fact, an “outsider” had caught on to what they, the “insiders” had missed. To cast out demons “in His name” meant that the unknown man, who was not a disciple, was doing what their rabbi did, in the disposition of their rabbi.

How sad that many of Jesus’ self-proclaimed “followers” today have just as much of a “we – they” mentality as the disciples had. Being a Christian is being part of an exclusive “club” and to be a Christian minister is to have an elevated position in this club.

To get the real picture, let’s go back to Jesus’ visual aid on greatness. He insisted that to be truly great, one must use one’s position to elevate others, not to put them down or lord it over them. Get down to the level of the lowest and treat them with dignity and respect.

Jesus was the greatest and truest model of what He taught, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:6-8 (NIV).

Are you as selectively deaf as the disciples were?

THE BOOK OF ACTS – JOINED TO CHRIST

JOINED TO CHRIST

“Putting out from the harbour at Troas, we made a straight run for Samothrace. The next day we tied up at New City and walked from there to Philippi, the main city in that part of Macedonia and, even more importantly, a Roman colony. We lingered there several days.

“On the Sabbath we left the city and went along the river where we had heard there was to be a prayer meeting. We took our place with the women who had gathered there and talked with them. One woman, Lydia, was from Thyatira and a dealer in expensive textiles, known to be a God-fearing woman. As she listened with intensity to what was being said, the Master gave her a trusting heart — and she believed.” Acts 16:11-14 (The Message).

These were the moments that made it worthwhile — all the persecution, all the suffering, all the weariness and hardship were irrelevant when it came to the joy of leading a soul to Jesus. Lydia was their first convert on European soil. Unlike Jewish women who were by-and-large nonentities, Lydia was wealthy and influential, a successful business woman and also a thinking person.

She had turned from the irrational worship of Roman gods to the God of the Jews, one of those in the category of “God-fearers”, attached to, but not part of the Jewish religion. She had come to realise that the Jewish faith had something that attracted and satisfied her much more than the pantheon of gods that pandered to human wickedness.

It’s no wonder, then, that she was ripe for the picking when Paul and Silas sat down with the women to bring them the full revelation of God in His Son Jesus. All she needed to complete her faith was the good news of what the God of the Jews had done to rescue mankind from its plight through rebellion and sin. It all made sense to her and, without hesitation, she put her faith in the One of whom Paul and Silas spoke.

“After she was baptized, along with everyone in her household, she said, in a surge of hospitality, ‘If you’re confident that I’m in this with you, and believe in the Master truly, come home with me and be my guests.’ We hesitated but she wouldn’t take no for an answer.” Acts 16:15 (The Message).

For the good news of Jesus to be authentic, it must produce something more than intellectual assent. You have to put your money where your mouth is. For Paul it meant burying old prejudices and setting aside old taboos. Both Paul and Silas, proud Jewish men, had to drop their attitude to women, and a Gentile woman at that. Lydia wanted to express her gratitude and generosity by opening her home to them.

These are the realities of the new life that Jesus offers to those who put their faith in Him. It’s not only about recognising that He is who He says He is, the One who has power and authority above all others, but it’s also about entrusting ourselves to Him so that He produces life changes in us so radical that we begin, more and more, to think and act like He does.

These are the fruit of His life and the evidence of our change of allegiance, from self to God, a paradigm shift so powerful that it actually alters the entire core and direction of our lives. No religion can do that. All religion can do is entrench more deeply what is already in us — every kind of self-driven effort, accomplishment and indulgence that cut us off from God’s grace.

Lydia was joined to Christ and, for her, a new life had begun.

Did You Know (13)?

DID YOU KNOW (13)

…That the theory of evolution is a lie?

If evolution, and not the Bible is the truth, there are many implications for the human race and many unanswered questions. I cannot raise them all here and I cannot raise them in sequence but let’s get going.

  1. Why is there death in the world? From where did death come?

Without the record in the book of Genesis, of man’s fall from fellowship with his Creator to estrangement and separation ending in physical death, we have no way of knowing why everything on earth is subject to death and decay.

  1. Why do humans have a free will and are responsible for their behaviour when the apes from which we are supposed to have evolved are not morally responsible?

We do law enforcers not arrest and try animals that prey on other animals and yet people are held accountable for killing people but not for killing animals. How did this transition happen if man evolved from apes?

  1. Why is the human race inherently selfish and greedy?

If humans became better than apes through evolution, why did they not become better than animals morally? We do not condemn animals when they behave in what we consider to be selfish or cruel ways because they function by instinct. Why do people not function by instinct alone?

  1. From where does our conscience come? Why do we feel guilty when we have done wrong according to our conscience?

Without the Biblical explanation for the origin and nature of man – that God created man in His own image, to resemble Him and to have fellowship with Him, we have no authoritative way of knowing who we really are and what is right and wrong. God wrote His law on our hearts whether we like it or not. Our conscience alerts us when we transgress God’s standards of right and wrong.

  1. Why do people feel empty and restless until they have reconnected with God through His Son and realise that He is both their Creator and Father?
  2. Tied to the above question is the next: why are we here and where are we going?

Life has no meaning, no anchor, and no hope until we understand that we were created by God, that He gives meaning to our lives, that He made us to have fellowship with Him, and that our destiny is to be with Him forever. Death is not the end but the beginning and completion of our journey. Until we reconnect with God, we are lost and we will never find the way to the Father without Jesus.

What are the implications of believing in evolution and denying the existence of a Creator?

  1. We make God and the Bible out to be liars.
  2. If the Bible is wrong about God being the Creator of the universe, then it must be wrong about everything else He said and did.
  3. If there is no God, no Bible, and no truth, then we have no hope.
  4. If there is no God, there can be no moral absolutes. Everyone is free to make his own rules and do as he pleases. There can be no justice because justice is based on what is universally accepted objective standards.
  5. Without objective standards, there can be no such thing as a crime if everyone is free to make his own rules.
  6. We have no reason to complain if people behave worse than animals, since they evolved from animals, and if the world is in chaos because there is no one to fix it.
  7. Evolution disproves itself because evolution claims that everything is evolving upwards when our observation tells us that the world is running down. If everything is evolving into something better, why does every living thing eventually die? Why do our gardens, left to themselves, become overrun with weeds?

And we can go on. Belief in evolution rather than in a Designer and Creator raises more questions than answers.

There is only one solution to the chaotic mess we have made of the world over the last few thousand years – Jesus.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17).

He dealt with sin on the cross, unmasked the devil for the liar he is and promised to make everything new.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away (Rev. 21:1-4).

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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