Article IV, part 2

Truth or Dare (Article 4)

In our last post we began to look at the three largest religions: Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. We quickly looked at the ideals, philosophies, and theologies of these three dominant belief systems. In this article we will examine why no other religion, but Christianity, is one-hundred percent truth. robe & thorns

It’s obvious that this blog, as others on this site, are focused on the truths of Christ. I’ve made no attempts to state otherwise. So, how is it that I am so confident that the teachings of Christ are true? For many reasons, actually, but for the purpose of this article we will focus on the person, character, and deity of Jesus Christ. Why? Because, if Jesus didn’t exist, and wasn’t perfect, and wasn’t God, then Christianity is all a lie. All three have to be true.

History never doubts the existence of Jesus of Nazareth, so I’ll not linger on this point, and as far as His perfection is concerned — well, there is not a single religion that doubts Jesus’ good and perfect nature, and Scripture is full of statements concerning His spotless character (Leviticus 22:19; John 1:19; 1 Peter 1:18-19). Even “non-believers” will tell you Jesus was a good man, but was Jesus of Nazareth deity? Was Jesus Christ, God? Yes, Jesus is God incarnate, and there is plenty of evidence to back this statement up.

Before doing so, though, I must reiterate the fact that humanity is flawed. All religions agree on this very key point. The “non-religious” even know that people are in need of improvement; that mankind lacks perfection. However, it’s only Christianity that proclaims time-and-again that humanity cannot save its self (Romans 5:12). It’s this teaching, found only in Christianity, that people need a savior to help them reconnect to God, that causes all aspects of Jesus to be so vital (Romans 5:15). For if mankind can save its self, as all the other religions teach, then Christ’s existence and death was for nothing, and God wasted His time and effort.

Would an all-knowing, always existing, deity of perfection allow Himself to be caught in an act of waste, and futility? After all, this all-powerful being created all that we can behold, and experience, and more. Right? Would this deity not have the intelligence, and understanding to know that sacrificing a being of perfection is unnecessary, if people can just cycle through the reincarnation process and work their imperfections out on their own, as the Hindus believe? Would this super-being allow His flawed creation to just flounder around pursuing “jihad,” giving them only a fifty percent chance of working their way back to Himself and into His presence, as the Muslims teach?

God is indeed the maker of heaven and earth (Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 48:13; Colossians 1:16), and He is truly the only being that is all-knowing (Psalm 147:5b; 1 Samuel 2:3b; Isaiah 55:9), self existing (Exodus 3:14-15; Isaiah 48:12; Revelation 4:8b), perfect (Deuteronomy 32:3-4; Psalms 5:4; 1 John 1:5), and all-powerful (Psalm 62:11b,89:8, 147:5a). Nothing can escape God’s sight — nothing (Psalm 139). It’s because of God’s perfection that He cannot allow within us imperfection. Just as darkness flees from light, so too will our sinfulness keep us from God’s perfection.

You see, laws exist to expose what is wrong with humanity. Anarchy allows all kinds of activity to go unpunished, but laws do not. Religion exposes us to a higher law; a higher morality. God’s law, the Ten Commandments, was given to mankind to expose our unrighteous acts, and guide us to know that we cannot escape our just punishment without divine help (Romans 6:23; Galatians 3:10; James 2:10). God cannot help but demand perfection, as He is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Therefore, all aspirations of perfection that any other religious faith may wish to achieve can never be reached. All that remains for mankind is the hope of Christ, the only perfect person to have ever lived and offer Himself up as a sacrifice for our sins (Romans 8:3-4). So now that we have laid out the reasoning behind why humanity needs Jesus to be its savior, let’s examine the proof of His deity.

First, Jesus Christ knew His purpose and understood His destiny from the beginning. clouds 6 You see, unlike any other religious founder that ever lived, it’s only Jesus of Nazareth who possessed a clear vision of His calling. You can see God’s calling being exhibited in the life of Christ as early as twelve years of age (Luke 2:41-52) in Scripture. All other religious founders painfully sought to know their purpose and calling, in life. This evidence can be found in a book, by Robert E. Hume, entitled: The World’s Living Religions.

Second, Jesus of Nazareth claimed to be the exclusive “door way” to eternal life (John 10:7-9, 14:6). No other religious founder ever made such a bold, and selective, statement. Hindus don’t have any one founder for which to enter into enlightenment. Their teachings refuse to say that any one way is the only way into eternity, but Jesus taught: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” (Matthew 7:13)

Islam doesn’t teach that heaven is obtained through their founder, either. They see the prophet Muhammad as an example for how to live a life that is pleasing to Allah, but the Apostle Paul, after encountering the resurrected Jesus, taught that: “He [Jesus] saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.” (Titus 3:5) If Jesus was not God, then He could not state that: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Third, Jesus Christ claimed that He could make right the flaws of humanity, by forgiving the sins of mankind. No Brahman avatar ever made this claim, and the prophet Muhammad refrained from such statements, as well. Jesus, however, never avoided the subject (Matthew 9:1-8; Luke 23:39-43).

Fourth, Jesus of Nazareth over came death. No other religious founder has ever raised the dead (Matthew 27:52; Luke 7: 11-16, 8:41-56; John 11:1-44), and certainly none of the religious founders from history has ever died, been buried, and then three days later returned to life (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-10; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18). Only a deity could accomplish such a task. Skeptics will claim the resurrection story is fictitious and part of Christian folklore, and lacks evidence, but that isn’t so.

The fact that the resurrection story was included in the New Testament writings, and the fact that these writings were taken down within a few years from the actual event (which was widely accepted as fact) is significant evidence for the authenticity of this happening. Why? Because the witnesses in and around Jerusalem, at the time of the resurrection, would still have been alive when these writings began to circulate. Any one of the over 500 witnesses could have began to discredit the accounts, had there been any ounce of falsehood recorded.

And what of these 500 plus witnesses? Could they not have all made this event up or shared in an elaborate mass hallucination? Well, if these 500 plus individuals were to share a hallucination they would have to have experienced it at the same time and in the same way, but that was not the case. There was the woman who saw Jesus at the tomb (Mark 16:9-10; John 20:11-18). Christ’s disciples saw Him in the upper room, where they had been hiding (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-31). Two men saw Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-35). Several hundred saw Christ resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:3-6). The Apostle Paul saw the resurrected Lord on the road to Damascus, well after Christ’s ascension (Acts 9:1-20). This theory of a shared hallucination is absolutely ludicrous.

Then there’s the devotion of Jesus’ disciples. These timid men went from hiding in the shadows to dying for their Lord. If they had been a party to any type of lie, they would have abandoned it at the first threat made against them. These were not brave warriors out to perpetrate a lie, for a false god. James, the half brother of Jesus, abandoned his belief that his brother was crazy and died preaching Christ’s Gospel message. The Apostle Paul had once been a persecutor of the Christian fanatics, and was considered a Jew-of-Jews. Why would he have abandoned his duties to the Synagogue, and his faith, had he not really experienced an encounter of a divinely kind? None of the apostles abandoned their Lord, when death came knocking — none. And all of them died very painful deaths, according to documented historical accounts.

There’s also the fact that Jesus’ tomb was found empty, Empty Tomb 1 and history records this to be true (Matthew 28:5-6; Mark 16:1-6; Luke 24:1-3; John 20:1-9). The disciples could not have stolen the body from a tomb guarded by Roman soldiers, as the Jews claim happened (Matthew 27:62-66, 28:2-4 & 11-15). Again, these eleven men were timid, scared, and hiding. They were in no frame of mind to understand what had just happened to Jesus, much less take on a dozen or more Roman guards in a fight for Christ’s body. Besides none of these eleven men had military training, and none of them really even paid attention to the fact that Jesus told them He was going to have to die, and return from the grave to accomplish His mission. These were simple, uneducated fishermen, for the most part, and they weren’t clever enough to create a lie of this magnitude in the midst of such grief.

Then there’s the “swoon” theory, that claims Jesus never died but passed out and later awoke from within the grave. This theory states that this nearly dead Jesus, somehow loosed Himself from His death-wrappings and pushed away an extremely heavy rock. There by enabling this horrifically wounded man the chance to walk past the dozen or so Roman guards and into the night air a free religious rabbi. This one is so ridiculous I’m not even going to take the time to explain the medical reasons that prove just how absurd it is, but again — just as with the previous theories — it would have been up to the “witnesses” to maintain the story or abandon it. No one will die for a lie, not knowingly. Jesus of Nazareth’s tomb is empty because Jesus Christ, is the living Creator.

Jesus also promised to one day return to earth and judge its inhabitants (Mark 13:23-26; John 5:20-30, 14:1-3), our fifth proof of His divinity. Only a madman would make such a claim. Only God, Himself, could promise it. No other religious founder has ever attempted to make such a promise. No Hindu Vishnu ever made this claim, the prophet Muhammad didn’t, nor did Buddha, or any other religious leader. Only Christ made such a vow. Which brings us to point number six — Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh.

You see, no religious founder ever had the audacity to claim to be God in the flesh, except for Jesus of Nazareth. Brahman’s many Vishnu’s never claimed to be the actual “Universal Spirit.” The prophet Muhammad never claimed to be Allah, incarnate. It’s only in the person of Jesus Christ that we find the Creator of heaven and earth existing in human form, by His own admission (Matthew 26:63-64; Mark 2:1-12; John 8:56-58, 10:11-18 & 24-30, 18:33-37) — Jesus is God.

If Jesus had simply come to earth as a good man who taught us a better way to enlightenment, or if He had simply modeled a better way to live for God, then Christianity would have never lasted past the first few followers. Again, as the death threats would have increased the followers would have certainly decreased. But Christ’s claim to deity, and His proof by way of His miracles and the resurrection account, gave strength and veracity to His followers, as does His Holy Spirit (John 14:15-20). This is why Christianity grew and why Christianity gives a sure path to restoring mankind to God.

Author, and former atheist turned theologian, C.S. Lewis explains Christ’s account this way:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the real foolish thing that people often say about Him [Jesus]: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say.

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a mad man or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, You can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

What kind of good, moral man would live a life teaching of truth, and yet lead people to put their faith in a lie? What kind of good, moral man teaches about peace and love, and yet allows people to be slaughtered in his name because he lied about being God? No! Jesus had to be the promised Messiah. He had to be the perfect “Son of Man,” come to sacrifice Himself for our sins. Christ had to be Immanuel, God with us — the incarnate Word [Davar] of God — the one, the only begotten Son of God, or else nothing moral and good would have existed in His name. It’s all a devilish lie unless Jesus is Yahweh, and over four-hundred fulfilled prophecies prove that Jesus IS.

I’ll close with this thought from author, teacher, and former agnostic Josh McDowell. Josh McDowell 1 In this post from TRYJESUS.COM Mr. McDowell tells of a group of people hiking into a forest, but after a while they became lost. Fearful for their lives, these people begin to look for a way out. In the distance some of them spot a split in the trail, and at the edge of the split there appears to be two human forms. The group makes a run towards these two people, in hopes of receiving their help. As they draw near they come to realize that one is alive and wearing a park ranger’s uniform, the other man is dead. Josh McDowell writes: “Now which of these two are we going to ask about the way out? Obviously, the one who is living.

When it comes to eternal matters, we are going to ask the one who is alive the way out of the predicament. This is not Muhammad, not Confucius, but Jesus Christ. Jesus is unique. He came back from the dead. This demonstrates He is the one whom He claimed to be (Romans 1:4), the unique Son of God and the only way by which a person can have a personal relationship with the true and living God.”

Truth or Dare by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jasonmin.wordpress.com.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

“The World’s Living Religions” © 1997 by Robert E. Hume

All rights reserved. Published by MacMillan Publishers, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010; www.us.macmillan.com.

Josh McDowell‘s study entitled “Why is Jesus the Only Way to Get to God?,” Copyright © 1993 by Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, from the book “Answers To Tough Questions,” can be found at: http://www.tryjesus.com/QandA/questionJ3-print.htm

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

Article IV, part 1

Truth or Dare (Article 4)

We have discussed the dangers of worshiping wealth, power, and pleasure as Satan, and the world, would have us do. We have also looked at how drinking from the cup of Christ gives us access to real wealth, true power, Religion 1 and deeply satisfying pleasure, but we haven’t really discussed why the cup of Christ is the only drink that will satisfy our minds, bodies, and souls. We haven’t really analyzed why Christ’s cup is right and Satan’s, and the world’s, chalices are wrong. So, allow me to restate the premise of this series and to delve deeper into why the cup of Christ is the only choice for consuming and knowing the truth.

In our introductory article, we stated that we would be examining the various chalices that mankind may choose to drink from while searching out eternal life. We noted that each of these chalices would be full of deadly lies, save for one. You see, truth (contrary to popular opinion) is not relative, but very definite. It’s in this one single cup of absolute truth that, if found, will lead humanity to abundant, and eternal, life. Christ’s cup is the vessel we have to drink from for this truth, and in this article we will divulge how you can know this is so.

Mankind, since the fall, has been worshiping various deities in a whole variety of ways. This practice of worshiping an infinite higher power, or even just worshiping another person with a supreme importance, has always been apart of humanity. We call this practice of worship “religion.” Religion is what has developed from our primary reason for existence — worship. The fact that mankind, and all of creation, was made to glorify and worship our Creator (Colossians 1:16) is the reason religion is such a huge part of the human experience. Satan, knows this too.

Lucifer was, himself, made for this same reason. Yes, the Devil was made to worship and glorify God, but he has not only refused to worship his Creator — he has also been an intricate part of seeing mankind embrace atheism or some other religious belief system. But, before we get any further into this truth, let’s take a moment to examine three of the largest religious belief systems in the world, today. Religion 2 These three religions are identified as:

Christianity — which makes up about thirty-three percent of the world’s population.
Islam — which makes up approximately twenty-one percent of the world’s population.
Hinduism — which makes up close to thirteen percent of the world’s population.

Hinduism actually comes in behind a slightly larger group of people identified as “non-religious,” but as we will be dealing with this “non-religious” group in another article (Article Six) I have chosen to exclude them for the time being.

Hinduism, one of the oldest existing religious belief systems, was established in about 1300 B.C. God, or Brahman, to a Hindu is an eternal being; he is the one supreme and universal spirit who created all things. Brahman is infinite, devoid of form, impersonal, and everything is Brahman. For a Hindu to be able to approach the impersonal, divine creator, other forms of Brahman have been created. One such divine form of Brahman is Vishnu.

Brahman’s avatar, Vishnu, comes to earth from time-to-time as a wise teacher. This human form of the divine brings to humanity enlightenment. A Hindu recognizes Buddha, Rama, Krishna, and even Jesus Christ as avatars of Brahman. You see, Hinduism accepts a broad belief system for reaching out to, and becoming one with, the divine. The holy writings of Hinduism teach of this broad road which can lead to humanity’s enlightenment and salvation. These holy writings are partly known as the <em>Vedas, and the Upanishads.

The Vedas, and the Upanishads, are vast and consist of several documents that teach the Hindu about their rituals, mantras, history, philosophies, and spiritual disciplines. The Hindu’s religious teachings tell them that humanity’s goal in life is to realize its own connection to Brahman. This divine connection will allow mankind to detach from worldly desires and allow them to gain freedom from reincarnation. Reincarnation occurs when enlightenment and salvation are missed and the soul must remain on earth in other forms until enlightenment and salvation are achieved.

With Hinduism you have no one founder, no one theological structure, and no central religious organization. Most Hindus are polytheists, worshiping many gods, but they are pantheists according to their doctrines. In other words Brahman, the “universal spirit,” manifests himself as many gods and in all things.

Islam, is one of the newer religious belief systems. It has only been in existence since about 622 A.D., and the name “Islam” means “submission to Allah’s will.” Allah, is Islam’s supreme and eternal spirit. Allah is unimaginable and unapproachable; he is distinctively individual and cannot be revealed to humanity. Thus, Allah cannot be known personally by mankind.

Abū al-Qāsim Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib ibn Hāshim, also known as the prophet Muhammad, is credited as the founder of Islam. The prophet Muhammed, was a pious, political, and military leader who unified Arabia into a single religious belief system when he claimed to have received revelations from Allah. The prophet Muhammed recorded these revelations into a book, known as the Qur’an.

The Qur’an, is the very words of Allah given to mankind through the prophet Muhammed. In these writings Muslims are commanded to spend their entire lives in “jihad.” Jihad is the struggle all Muslims are commanded to actively pursue, as they strive to live in the ways of Allah. This “faith by human deeds” is the only hope of salvation for Muslims, and consequently is also the reason they have no assurance of their salvation.

There are two primary sects that comprise Islam, the Sunnis and the Shiites. The Sunnis live under a more liberal interpretation of the Qur’an, and believe that a “greater jihad” should be pursued by Muslims. They seek the greater struggles of life from within the human soul, and choose to eradicate evil from within themselves. The Shiites, however, are traditionally the more militant. These Muslims have interpreted jihad as being a literal “holy war.” A war in which every Muslim is called to destroy all of Allah’s enemies. Their goal is to establish Islamic theocracies throughout the world.

Christianity, is the largest religious belief system in the world, today. It is also the oldest, and yet relatively one of the newer, religious belief systems in existence, too. How is that? I’ll explain. Christianity, which simply means “one who follows the teachings of Christ,” was recognized by the world as a religion in approximately the year 33 A.D., but these teachings of Christ, for which the Christian adheres to, are based upon the teachings of the Creator of heaven and earth, Yahweh, and are found in the writings of the Holy Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments.

In Article One, of the series His Name Is . . . , we learned that Yahweh’s name means “I AM,” or the “Self-Existing One.” By declaring this name to Moses, in Exodus chapter three, verses thirteen and fourteen, God was establishing the fact that He was, and is, the always existent deity that created the heaven’s and the earth. Then in Article Seven, of the same series, we learned that Yahweh made all things by His Word — Davar — and that holy Word became a man, and lived, and died for man’s evil deeds (John 1:1-14). That man is Jesus Christ, and by this teaching Jesus, and Yahweh, are established to be the same God. Therefore, the teachings of Christ are not a newer religious belief system, but rather the original religious belief system. One that the Hebrews lost sight of, and moved away from (theologically) in about the year 200 B. C.

Christianity teaches that because mankind sinned against Yahweh, in the beginning (Genesis 3:1-19), they could no longer hope to approach the presence of their Creator for all of eternity (Romans 6:23a). Yahweh, out of the loving kindness of His divine character, shows grace to all of humanity by sending His incarnate Word, in human form, to be the sacrifice that would restore mankind to Himself (John 3:16-17). It’s this unique message of redemptive hope, through Christ’s sacrifice, that makes Christianity unlike any other religion. All other faiths teach that mankind can become righteous by his own efforts, but not Christianity (Romans 3:10). All a person must do to become a Christian (a true worshiper of Christ) is to simply confess Christ, and believe (Romans 10:9-10).

We have examined the basic religious belief systems connected to the three largest religious groups. In part two of our study, we will reveal the truths of Christ’s teachings and expose the false doctrines connected to the other religious belief systems.

Truth or Dare by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jasonmin.wordpress.com.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

Article III, part 1

Truth or Dare (Article 3)

The Adventures of Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi, an Italian author from Florence, has been told in many different ways since it was first printed in book form in 1883. Though the story began, in 1881, as a series of children’s stories being printed for a newspaper in Rome, it has since been translated into several languages, and has become a play, television show, musical, and movie. Pleasure 3 Of these variations, none have been as well received world wide as the 1940 motion picture, animated feature, from Walt Disney Studios.

Released to theaters by RKO Radio Pictures, this children’s story, now simply known as Pinocchio, became Walt Disney’s second full length animated film to receive an Academy Award. In fact, Pinocchio received two Oscar’s and was only Disney’s second attempt at a full length animation. It will be Disney’s version of this popular story that I will use to illustrate why it is important to consider the “cup of Christ” before giving into the “chalice” of hedonistic pleasure.

Pinocchio was a wooden marionette carved by a poor, lonely wood carver named Geppetto, and brought to life by a compassionate, blue fairy. The blue fairy, upon bringing Pinocchio to life, tells the puppet that he can become a real boy if he proves to be “brave, truthful, and unselfish.”

To help Pinocchio along in his quest, the blue fairy appoints a cricket to be the puppet’s official conscience. The cricket, named Jiminy, is eager to oblige, but it doesn’t take long before Pinocchio is ignoring his friendly conscience and following a whole host of unsavory characters right into trouble. Two of the most dangerous, and reoccurring, tempters in Pinocchio’s life were the fox and the cat.

Honest John (the fox) and Gideon (the cat) weren’t the most dangerous because they were the most evil and vengeful — No. The fox and the cat were most dangerous because, unlike the other characters, they had convinced Pinocchio that they were trust worthy friends. Strong confidants. Friends that only wanted to give Pinocchio the best advice and counsel that any one could give, and they were so good at their con that they were able to get the little marionette to ignore his appointed conscience, Jiminy.

One of Honest John’s, and Gideon’s, most fiendish lies came about from a deal they had struck with a sinister Coachman, in a local tavern. The Coachman tells the fox, and the cat, about a side business of his. You see, the Coachman went about “collecting stupid little boys” and taking them to a place called Pleasure Island. The Coachman then offers Honest John, and Gideon, a cash reward for every boy they bring to him. Well, it’s not long before they set their target on Pinocchio, and trick him into a trip to Pleasure Island.

So, what is so very bad about a place called Pleasure Island? Nothing at first. Pleasure Island was simply a place where little boys could enjoy a carnival-like atmosphere. It was a place where there were no adults to supervise, or discipline. A place where little boys were encouraged to enjoy all the pleasures that their little hearts could contend with. Even if it was something like gambling, smoking, getting drunk, fighting, or wanton destruction. What ever they wished to do, they could do. Sounds pretty incredible. Do what you wish — no “strings” attached. Well, no strings that they were able to see.

It seems that once on the island, and once these little boys had partaken in their wanton hedonism, these little boys, including Pinocchio, would partake in a dastardly transformation. A transformation that would begin from within and continue until it had over taken them completely. You see, as these little boys began to behave like little proverbial “jackasses,” they actually — magically — transformed into real jackasses. Yes! Long ears, wiry, fur-covered skin, buckteeth, hooves — the works — and once transformed, they were sold either to work in the salt mines or as exhibits in the side shows, with the circus.

How many of us can relate to this puppet’s plight? We want to do right by our Creator, but we constantly choose to listen to the Devil’s lies, rather than the Holy Spirit’s still, small voice of truth. We choose to allow our desire to be happy today — now — this instant to rule our every thought. We so want to be gratified, mentally and physically, that we forget about the needs of the spirit. We sacrifice the eternal for the temporal, and then awaken one day as slaves in Satan’s “salt mines” or “circus side shows.” We cry for help, but our plight is only heard by the physical world as nothing more than the brays of a jackass.

Pleasure, in and of itself, is not the real issue. Pleasure, alone, didn’t trap Pinocchio and the other little boys. No, the real issue for us, Pinocchio, and the little boys in the story, is our lust for self gratification. Self gratification says, “You’ve worked hard for this money, and they didn’t pay you what you deserve. Go ahead and steal the money — you’ve earned it.” Self gratification will tell someone, “This person’s been flirting with you long enough. You know they like you, so go ahead and do with them what you wish. They’ll appreciate your having made the decision for them.” The gratification of one’s self always — ALWAYS, mind you — comes with a consequence to both others and yourself. Those consequences can never be avoided.

When we live to please ourselves, without thought of others or the ramifications that will transpire, then we leave ourselves open to the sweet, yet dangerous, enticements of hedonistic pleasure. We like pleasure. We want to trust that pleasure is our friend, that it only wants what is best for our well being. But it’s only when pleasure is contained in the eternal truths of God’s Word, Jesus Christ, that it can be to our benefit. Pleasure, achieved by way of self gratification, is simply going to cause hurt, pain, and possibly even death. Sure, it may be sweet ambrosia at it’s climax, but you will come down from that peak and step into a valley of disappointment or even fall into a chasm of destruction.

The dangers of pleasing one’s self is a lot like how Eskimos supposedly rid themselves of wolves. It’s said that Eskimos will create a “pop-cycle,” from frozen animal’s blood, and a large, sharp hunting knife. Once the blood has been frozen onto the knife’s blade, the handle of the knife is frozen into the ground. This leaves the savory, yet dangerous, treat exposed above the icy turf.

Wolf 1 Wolves, passing by, will smell the blood and begin to lick at the sumptuous goodie, never realizing the danger at it’s center. By the time a wolf’s tongue meets the sharp blade of the knife, its too numb to know that it is no longer licking the blood of some other animal — no — the blood it is now feverishly enjoying is the very blood from its own sliced and mangled mouth. The more the blood streams onto the blade the more excited the wolf gets until nothing remains but a severely maimed mouth and a very dead wolf.

Satan uses physical pleasure much in this way. Each of us are hunted by him (1 Peter 5:8). The Devil watches us and learns of our enjoyments. Then Satan sets up a customized “pop-cycle” of deadly pleasures, just for us. We smell it, and look it over, but if we pursue the consumption of it, before listening to the council of God, we will certainly bear the pain of it. We may even die while trying to enjoy it.

Pinocchio learned his lesson the hard way, but through a selfless act, and the kindness of the blue fairy, he was able to receive redemption and became the real boy he was purposed to be. You and I can’t sacrifice enough to receive redemption (Romans 6:23a), nor do we have a kind, blue fairy waiting to help us, but we do have a benevolent Creator, one Who became as one of us (John 1:1-18). Our Creator over came the temptations of Satan (Matthew 4:1-11). God, in human form, endured pain and suffering for us. God suffered and sacrificed Himself for our redemption (John 3:16-17). All we need do is believe in the LORD, Jesus Christ, and we too can become the true worshipers of God, we were purposed to be.

In part two, of our study, we will look at several types of pleasure. We will discuss both the good and the bad that revolves around sexual pleasure, in particular, and we will reveal what King Solomon discovered after he drank heavily from the chalice of pleasure.

Truth or Dare by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jasonmin.wordpress.com.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Pinocchio © 1940, 2009 Buena Vista and Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved.

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

Article II, part 2

Truth or Dare (Article 2)

In Article II, part one, we began looking into the choice we have in life to embrace the chalice of power or the cup of Christ. In this introductory article we saw how power, apart from God’s intent, is raw, roguish, and destructive; very much like a cancer cell is to a healthy cell. Grace 1 We also ended the article by naming the cure for this cancerous force, and that cure is God’s grace. But, what is grace, really?

The word “grace” holds a variety of meanings. Sometimes grace is an attitude of refinement, politeness, and other times it’s a reference to ones apparent flawless muscular coordination. From a financial perspective it’s a time in which a delinquent payment can be paid without penalties being accrued; politically it can become a title. From a perspective of spirituality the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines grace as both a noun and a verb:

(noun) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings//a divinely given talent or blessing: the graces of the Holy Spirit//the condition or fact of being favored by someone: he fell from grace because of drug use at the Olympics.

(verb) do honor or credit to (someone or something) by one’s presence: she bowed out from the sport she has graced for two decades.

In the book entitled Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine, by Max Lucado, the word “grace” get’s this description:

Grace is simply another word for God’s reservoir of strength and protection. Not occasionally or miserly but constantly and aggressively, wave upon wave. We barely regain our balance from one breaker, and then, bam, here comes another!”

Grace, real godly grace, is strength. God’s grace is power! That is why grace is both a noun (person, place, or thing) and a verb (being and doing). Grace is free, and can only be acquired from God. Grace is a divine blessing from God and mankind can honor Him, and others, with godly grace just as He has honored us with it. Grace truly is God’s chemotherapy for Satan’s cancerous perversion of power.

I have discovered that humanity will meet with three types of power, while living here on earth. These three types of power are very closely connected, and are as follows:

– Physical: anything involving the human body, its senses, and its sexuality.
– Mental: anything involving the human mind.
– Spiritual: anything involving the human spirit/soul; things of a religious nature.

Physical power can be manifested in several ways, but these three particular forms are most prevalent. First, it can appear to us as political power (governmental affairs of a given country), second is monetary power (financial affairs involving currency), and third is emotional or sexual power (affairs relating to the most basic of human instincts, physiological processes, and activities connected with physical attraction or intimate physical contact).

Mental power is exhibited when someone manages to gain influence or control over someone else’s thought processes. Advertisers use mental influences to sell products. Politicians use aspects of mental control to gain your support. Men and women, alike, use this type of sway to connect with one another and mate. Psychologists utilize this type of power to help heal their patients. Hypnotherapists do the same, all be it in a more invasive way.

Spiritual power, just as these other two-forms of power, are used for the soul purpose of controlling the unseen. Satan attempts to stay in power over mankind by influencing our spirits to rebel against following God’s statutes. Religious leaders make use of this power to attract people to their churches, mosques, temples, and synagogues, and to promote their belief systems. God uses His powers over the unseen to restore humanity to Himself, through the gift of His divine grace, and to make us the true worshipers that He originally created us to be.

Power, both perverse and pure, exists all around us. No one form of power is ever initiated without the use of the other forms. Though we see ourselves as physical beings we still use mental and spiritual powers, either for good or for bad. Though we conceive ourselves as mentally superior, we still tap into the body and soul to achieve virtue or malice. Whether you believe in the power of the spirit of mankind, or not, the mind and body play a part in the power of the righteous spirit or the evil spirit. Power is everywhere, but apart from God’s purpose it becomes rogue — out of control — cancerous.

The world received yet another horrible display of this rogue power, all too recently, in Newtown, Connecticut, USA. For what ever reason, a deranged young man decided to go on a killing spree and attempt to destroy countless lives. Newton-CT 1 This wasn’t just physical brutality on display, or mental issues too long undealt with. This was a cold reminder of what can happen when God’s power is removed from the spirit of humanity.

All too often, when a tragedy like the Sandy Hook massacre occurs, people want to analyze the symptoms they think are at the core of the incident without really diagnosing the problem. They want to attack the tools used during the offense, and help promote some political agenda, while yet again avoiding to understand the real issue involved. It’s only when we open ourselves up to understanding why power has become so corrupt that we can hope to overcome such tragedies as this one in Connecticut, USA.

Mankind has to embrace an understanding of its fallen nature, and in turn give its corrupt nature to its Creator to correct. Only through God’s grace can we ever hope in a brighter tomorrow. Without embracing God’s grace in our lives, we can never overcome Satan and his demonic power. Only by returning our lives to God’s holy influence can humanity escape being nothing more than puppets in the hand of an evil puppet master.

Even Jesus, the very begotten Son of God, had to overcome the powers of Satan before He could become our pure and holy sacrifice. Look with me at Matthew, chapter 4, verses 1-11: “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. The tempter came to Him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’’ Then the devil took Him to the holy city and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command His angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’’ Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’’ Then the devil left Him, and angels came and attended Him.”

Did you pay attention to the process that Satan followed to draw God the Son away from God the Father? The Devil first attacks Jesus’ humanity. This is an attempt to split the flesh away from the spirit. Mental power is being used by Satan to get Jesus to focus on the fleshly things (namely Christ’s physical need for nourishment) in order to remove His focus from His purpose. Christ quotes a Scripture verse (Deuteronomy 8:3) and Satan loses this first attempt to dethrone the Prince of heaven.

The next temptation confronts Christ’s spirituality. Satan couldn’t get Jesus to focus on the flesh, so he tries to use Christ’s deity against Himself, even quoting Scripture (Psalm 91:11-12) to the incarnate Word of God. In doing this, the devil is wanting Jesus to use His godly powers for His own personal gain. After all, Jesus is God’s only begotten Son, and the Father would never let anything bad happen to His own child. This attack didn’t work either, and after Jesus completes another Scripture quote (Deuteronomy 6:16), Satan has to attempt a third attack.

The final temptation, was a last ditch effort to lure Christ from His Father’s purpose. Satan offers Jesus all of creation. Yes — all of creation! The Devil couldn’t get Jesus to focus on His physical needs. Satan couldn’t get Jesus to abuse His spiritual powers, so now he offers Christ the only thing he had left to bargain with — the very thing he stole from humanity — the rule of creation.

Oh, the audacity of this demon king. Satan lost out on being God’s most cherished cherub just because he thought he could rule over God and the heavens. Losing at that, the silly serpent then steals the dominion of earth from mankind and turns around and offers it up to Jesus, but only if Christ will bow down and worship him. Satan was willing to give up his last chance at ruling something God created for the chance at having God’s own Son worship him — it was all about the power he longed for from the beginning. If Satan couldn’t be over the entire triune God, then at least he could rule over the second of the three — Immanuel.

You see, Lucifer couldn’t defeat the triune God, all at once, for the rule of the heavens. Maybe though, Satan could defeat God the Son, alone, and get Him to worship him. Are you following this? Satan was still sulking over his loss of station and power. Sure he was ruler here, but he knew (and knows) that rule was (and still is) temporal, and only because the triune God had allowed it. Satan also knew he was offering up stolen goods to the very one who created it and who technically still owned it, and yet that did not detour him from trying. “Oh to have at the very least, Jesus — the Son of God — worship me,” the Devil must have thought. Satan thought wrong, for with a final quote of Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:13) the battle was lost, and upon Christ’s final rejection of the Devil, Satan left Him and angels came to attend to His needs. Righteous power will always win over the forces of unrighteousness.

Did you happen to notice how Satan was so quickly defeated? Scripture. God’s Word really is a mighty two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), and even though Satan knows of God’s Word he cannot wield it as a weapon against us, or God, because he doesn’t know God’s Word personally. Only we can, because God’s grace has allowed us to have a personal relationship with His very Word made into flesh. That godly Word, come to life, is Jesus. Jesus is the weapon we can wield against Satan. Jesus is the power of God’s grace, come to life.

I will leave you with a simple lyric about great power. It’s from a simple children’s song, that most of you will know. The words are as follows:

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong; they are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me; yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.

Selah (Pause/Reflect).

Truth or Dare by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jasonmin.wordpress.com.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine © 2012 by Max Lucado

All rights reserved. The brief information quoted from this book appears in this article with the permission granted per the copyright statement which appears in the first edition publication, September 2012.

Published by Thomas Nelson, 501 Nelson Place, Nashville, TN 37214 — (615) 889-9000; www.thomasnelson.com/.

Jesus Loves Me, words by Anna Bartlett Warner and William Batchelder Bradbury and music by William Batchelder Bradbury, pub.: Unknown, Copyright: Public Domain

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

Article II, part 1

Truth or Dare (Article 2)

Power. That ever elusive ability to absolutely direct, or wholly influence, life’s course of events or, more importantly, the behavior of others. Deep in our soul’s, we know that we can never really have it. DNA 1 We don’t understand why such power eludes us, but the truth of our inability to rule our destinies, and the destinies of others, does not detour us from chasing after it. Power — one of humanity’s most addictive vices.

So, why is power so attractive to us? What is it about the human spirit that makes mankind pursue it so vigorously? I honestly believe it’s because God has placed that desire in each person, but because of mankind’s being disconnected from Him that desire has gone amuck and causes us to act in a cancerous manner. Cancerous? Yes, cancerous — allow me to explain.

The human body is made up of trillions of cells, all of them growing and dividing in a controlled way to produce more cells as they are needed to keep the body healthy. When cells become old or damaged, they simply die off and are replaced with new cells. Scientists have tried to confirm an exact number, regarding just how many cells make up the human body, but to date they cannot confirm an exact count.

Now, each cell has a specific coding programed into them, known as DNA (Deoxyribo Nucleic Acid). A cell’s DNA defines what it will do, or accomplish. However, if any of our cells DNA becomes damaged or mutates, then the result is a cancerous cell. Cancerous cells do not die when they should and do not allow new cells to form when the body needs them. Essentially these cancerous cells are rogue cells behaving in a faulty, or unpredictable way. A cancerous cell, is really a cell gone mad.

As these cancerous cells group together, they form tumors. Some of these tumors are malignant and some are not, but all are a result of cells acting outside of their normal coding. By the way, there are approximately one-hundred different types of cancerous diseases, each named for the organ for which they originated (ex.: colon cancer begins in the colon, lymphoma begins in the lymph nodes, etc.), but all cancerous diseases begin at the cellular level.

So, what does a cancerous cell have to do with our addiction to, and the pursuit of, power? To answer I must first explain one other statement made earlier. I must explain why I said God has placed into humanity a desire for power.

Read with me from the first chapter of Genesis, verse twenty-six, which states: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’” According to Scripture humanity was created to rule, to have power over, to dominate all the earth and its inhabitants, but we were to do so corporately, together, and do so under the perfect guidance of our Creator.

So, what happened? What went wrong? Two things. First, sin entered into an angel’s heart. Lucifer (a.k.a. Satan, or the Devil), God’s most wise and most beautiful cherub (Ezekiel 28:12b), decided he could rule over all of creation better than the great I AM (Isaiah 14:13-14). The result was a revolt, led by Lucifer, and when that short lived rebellion was done he, and one-third of heaven’s angelic hosts, was hurled to earth (Isaiah 14:12; Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:3-4 & 7-9). Lucifer was no longer a cherished guardian cherub (Ezekiel 28:14a), he was now Satan, the chief demon of demons.

Satan, who no longer had any authority in heaven, now saw the chance to gain authority in another kingdom. Sure, it wasn’t as grand as heaven, nor did it have the breadth of all of God’s creation, but it was convenient. This kingdom was where Satan was forced to begin his punishment, apart from God, and it was home to one of Yahweh’s most cherished creatures — humanity. This kingdom was earth, and Satan could only take over if mankind (Adam and Eve) relented their authority. So Satan devised a plan.

The Devil decided that he would trick humanity into abdicating their rule of earth to him. Satan, having the power to make himself appear as anything he wished, decided to become as a serpent. Serpents were common on earth and humanity would not question its being there with them. So, making himself as a serpent, Satan began working out this diabolical scheme.

This master demon chose to work his scam on the female of the species, known as Eve. I would guess that Satan did so, because the female was created by God, from a rib of the male of the species (a.k.a. Adam or “Man”), and learned most of what she knew from Adam concerning their purpose — sort of secondhand knowledge, if you will. Not to mention the fact that Eve’s name meant “Life,” and by attacking humanity through her Satan would bring death to her, and mankind’s future generations. Also, if the Devil tried to deceive the male (who was created by God, Himself, and directly taught concerning His statutes), he might have been met with more complications. These complications could have resulted in failure. Satan, knowing this, goes to work on Eve and begins to get her to reexamine the powers she, and Adam, were told they had, by God.

Mankind’s powers, to recap, were to rule over the earth and its living creatures, but another inferred power was that humanity had been given power over death. This ability to avoid death was only available to them as long as they refused to eat from a particular tree; a tree that existed in the very center of the garden that God had placed them in. This plot of land was known as the Garden of Eden, and that became the stage for Satan’s attack and the tree at its center would be his bait.

While Adam and Eve were in the garden, foraging from tree-to-tree, enjoying all the fruits that God had given them. Satan, now disguised as a serpent, awaited his chance to confront Eve. Patiently the serpent hid and watched for Eve to walk far enough away from Adam to begin his con. With all the skills of a master predator, Satan finally gets his opportunity and he launched his sneak attack. Before Eve even knows what hit her, Satan has her eating from the forbidden tree; the tree which gives humanity the ability to be “like God.” The tree of knowledge; the knowledge of what is good and evil. Eve soon has Adam eating from it too, and the result is the second thing that went wrong — sin entered into mankind. (You can read the entire story in the third chapter of Genesis.)

You see, sin is what disconnects us from God. Sin keeps us from fulfilling God’s original intention. Sin causes our spiritual “DNA” to get recoded and go mad. Sin is why Satan, and a third of the angels, thought they could conquer God. Really!? Talk about somebody going mad! But less we forget, sin is what caused us to doubt God’s promises and abdicate our rule of earth to Satan and his minions, once they came after our home. Sin is the reason power has become the addictive vice that it is, for both demons and humanity. Sin reprogrammed Lucifer’s, a third of the angel’s, and mankind’s purpose from God’s original design.

This is why I related mankind’s seeking after power to that of a cancerous cell. Just as a cancerous cell is out of control, devouring healthy cells and preventing itself from fulfilling its purpose, so too are we out of control when power becomes our god. When we, the human race, care more about power than we do our own planet, our own food and water resources, even ourselves, then madness has indeed set in.

When we can devour our earth and its creatures with a veracious appetite of death and destruction, when we can allow humanity to do the same to its self, then insanity has become our motivation. God never intended such perversions from our rule. Mankind was to be responsible stewards of earth and its creatures. A perverse appetite cannot be satisfied. A perverse appetite, fed by death and destruction, is an appetite that must be contented no matter the cost, but never can be. We, just like Satan and his demons, have become cancerous cells willing to destroy ourselves to obtain this ever elusive thing known as power, and only God has the cure — grace!

In our next post we will look more deeply at God’s grace, and at varied forms of this madness known as power.

Truth or Dare by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jasonmin.wordpress.com.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.