Strength Through Weakness - Judges 14-16

In the sermon this morning Pastor Josh talked about Samson's choice of his wife was both from the Lord and yet sinful - can you please reconcile the two? I can fully understand the Lord using our poor choices for our good Rom 8:28 but the idea that God can sin or that our sin can be "ordained" seems inconsistent with His word.

Thanks for your question.  The verse, from my sermon, being referred to is Judges 14:4, which states, “His father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines.  At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel.” (ESV; italics mine)

So first things first.  In some way, Samson’s choice was “from the Lord.”  That’s in the verse.  There’s no way to get around it.  The question is whether or not this was simply a “poor choice” on Samson’s part or sin.

We began our Judges’ series by looking at the end of the book of Joshua, because the two books help us to understand each other.  In Joshua 23, Joshua says, “Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God.12 For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you,13 know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the Lord your God has given you.” (Joshua 23:11-13 ESV; italics mine)

Now there’s no clear commandment here, but there’s an obvious warning that intermarrying with non-Jewish people will result in God turning against His people until they have perished (died).  In the Bible, death is often a consequence for sin.

Earlier in the Bible, Moses recorded, “When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you, 2 and when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction.  You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. 3 You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4 for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods.  Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.” (Deuteronomy 7:1-4 ESV; italics mine)

The land Moses was speaking of is the land in which Samson lives.  And now we have a clear command accompanied with a warning:  “You shall not intermarry with them” and if you do the Lord will “destroy you.” (Deuteronomy 7:3a; 4b ESV)

So we see two things.  1) Samson is breaking a command given by Moses, not just making a poor choice, and 2) His decision is “from the Lord.”

Now what’s making the questioner uncomfortable is a very God honoring desire.  They don’t want God to be seen as sinning or as “ordaining” our sin.  First, God does not sin.  That’s clear in the Bible.  Second, the idea of God “ordaining” our sin isn’t something I said in my sermon.  This is something being inferred from what I did say (Samson’s choice was both sinful and from the Lord).  And this may seem like the logical conclusion, but many times God and His actions defy our logic.

For instance, God sends an evil spirit to torment King Saul...twice! (1 Samuel 16:14; 19:9 ESV).  Now God sends the evil spirit, He doesn’t do the evil Himself, but let’s be honest.  God seems to be a little too close to evil for my logical comfort.

Or what about Old Testament prophecies that are predictions of evil things that must come to fruition?  Prophecy isn’t God looking into the future and telling us what people will choose to do; prophecy is God telling us what the future will be.  God’s prophets predicted the betrayal by Judas, Christ being beaten, and the crucifixion, just to name a few.  Evil things that were destined to happen because God promised they would happen.  Leaving us with two logical conclusions:  1) God promised evil things that must happen in the future or 2) We have to redefine what prophecy is to keep God from getting too close to evil.

So which do we choose?  How about a non-logical conclusion?  A conclusion that says:  God doesn’t sin, yet our choices (even sinful ones) can be from the Lord if they will accomplish His purpose.  This is what the Bible seems to be telling us in Samson’s story.

Does it defy logic?  Yes.  Is it what the Bible teaches?  Based on the verses cited above (and many more)...yes!

Fighting Spiritual Apathy - Judges 13

Will God at some point not use a Christian (put them on a shelf) that is entrenched in apathy and sin and continues to do so year after year? Yet believes they are serving God? Living one life at church and another at home.

So this is a tough one to answer.  Will God ever NOT use a Christian?  If we stop there, my answer is “no.”  God’s never done with His children.

Now continuing with the remainder of your question, I don’t know if a true follower of Christ can be “entrenched in apathy and sin and continue to do so year after year.”  Especially if they think “they are serving God,” but are living in complete hypocrisy (“living one life at church and another at home”).

True followers of Jesus are not comfortable with their sin.  They don’t justify it.  Their sin bothers them.  It grieves their heart.  So to go on in the same apathy and sin year after year without any struggle, without any attempt--by God’s grace--to defeat the sin, and to do so all while thinking that you’re serving God...sounds more like the religious Pharisees that Jesus rebuked in the Scripture.  These men were completely unaware of their sin and hypocrisy all while thinking that they were serving God as they had Christ murdered.

So does God give up on using a Christian for His glory?  Never.  Are some people deceived into believing that God looks at their apathy and sin and thinks, “No big deal?” Absolutely.  

We Will Serve the Lord

Do you believe that in our current day in this country that some of the things that are happening are a result of our disobedience and as a country, us collectively turning our backs on God?

Two things. I (Josh) wouldn’t be quick to connect our country, the USA, with a special relationship with God. So the morality and ethical demise of our nation and the consequences we will experience isn’t because our nation has turned its back on God. Our situation is simply a result of what happens when people rebel against God (nation or not).

Now the second I want to mention is something the Bible often refers to, but rarely do we Christians like to think about: Often God brings punishment upon a nation not because of the sin of unbelievers, but because of the sin of believers in that nation. Just like in the first two chapters of Judges, Israel’s disobedience is what led to their punishment. They didn’t obey the Lord and instead tried to live half-heartedly for Him, which resulted in severe consequences.

So...might what we’re experiencing in our nation be more because of our (Christians) half-hearted faith than the disobedience of our nation as a whole? It’s easy to blame others for our demise, but what if we took a long hard look in the mirror? If our nation is going spiritually dark, maybe it’s because we Christians have hidden our light under a basket instead of letting it shine brightly. If our nation is losing its spiritual saltiness, maybe it’s because we Christians have stopped being salt to the world. If our nation is losing its moral compass, maybe it’s because we Christians have lost our moral bearings.

It’s hard to blame unbelievers for living as unbelievers and turning their backs on God. But what’s not hard, is to look to ourselves (Christians) and question whether we’ve been really living as followers of Christ or if what we’re experiencing as a nation is because we’ve turned our backs on God.  

What kinds of gods did the Canaanites serve? How similar are those gods to some of the idols we have now?

It’s hard to know all of the gods that the Canaanites worshipped. The head god was “El,” who was considered the “father of man.” Other gods (and goddesses) include Hadad, Asherah, Ashtaroth, and Anath. These were gods of things like sex, war, and weather as they were an agricultural society.

So common idols between us and them would be sex, power (war), prosperity (praying to gods so their crops would be abundant), etc...Something quite fascinating, as it exposes the sinful nature of the human condition, is how these same idols appear in nearly all cultures in all time periods.

Citizenship in Heaven

I feel God measures a church not so much by what happens in its four walls but by the impact it makes in the local community. At the end of the day, we need to ask the question, would we be missed if we were gone? Can you tell me what Gateway is doing with its GO campaign?

Acts 2.42-47 is one of the best portraits of what a church should look like -inside and outside.  What you see is a church that makes a difference for God in its four walls and in the community.  Our worship gatherings, teaching of the Word, training disciples, praying together, biblical counseling etc. is the inside work that God uses in changing lives.And Gateway works hard to please God with our inside ministry.  Sometimes, however, a church can forget the “go” side of being the church.  So Gateway has tried to have a vital “outside the four walls” impact. The dedication of 350,000 dollars to missions is one big step in that direction - that’s money that supports Gospel- based missions locally and all across the world.

You can also see that commitment in our many mission trips, Celebrate Recovery, a huge college work and our plans for our North Main campus that will touch the lives of a whole new community. Additionally, we are attempting to do all things with our mission to “connect people to Jesus Christ and to one another.”

I am not new. So how do I buy Danville’s reggae gospel cd?

You should be able to purchase one this Sunday at the Connection area.

That They Should Set Their Hope in God

What does it look like to set your hope in God?

According to Psalm 78:7, setting your hope in God consists of knowing His works and keeping His commandments. Both ot these steps are heart-felt. When you truly know God’s saving work your heart melts. And when you keep His commandments because He first loved you, your obedience flows from a grateful heart.

Were the Psalms written before Jesus was born? Psalm 78 seems to be a foretelling for the people of Israel. Israel continues to rebel against God.

The Psalms were written hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, and although there are prophetic elements in the psalms, Psalm 78 is a fairly straightforward narrative of what had already happened.  But it is also a picture of our story - rebellion and God’s grace.

If Gateway is a biblical church why do we disregard God's law by not worshipping on the Sabbath (Saturday?)

The early church made the change from the seventh to the the first day for worship because it was the day that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead.  The seventh day marked the completion of God’s work in the first creation (Genesis 2.1-3). The first day of the week marked the victory of the new creation with the resurrection of Jesus (Mt. 28.1, Mark 16.2, Luke 24.1, John 20.1).  For further study you may want to read D.A. Carson “From Sabbath To The Lord’s Day: A Biblical, Historical And Theological Investigation.”

Families Love God Together

What version of Bible is most used for service Sunday morning?

The ESV (English Standard Version) and NIV (New International Version) are two versions of the Bible that are used on Sunday mornings at Gateway. Another great version is the HCSB (Holman Christian Standard Bible), but we do not tend to use it on Sundays.

How does baptism work at Gateway?

Baptism is a continuation of God’s covenant with his people, which is expressed as a sign and a seal of the covenant. If a child’s parents are Christ-followers and members of Gateway, they may request to have their child baptized. Also, those of any age who profess faith in Christ are encouraged to be baptized. Baptisms generally take place a couple times each year on Sunday mornings at Gateway. People who would like to be baptized can contact the church office (419-423-5947) or sign up for the next baptism class (TBA).

Don't Waste Your Summer

Vs 46 says they were with one mind in the temple. What temple? I thought they gathered in homes, as in house churches. What church leaders at the time would allow Christians to worship in their temples of Judaism?

The early Christians didn't think of themselves as "Christians" in the sense that we do. They saw themselves as Jews whose Messiah had come. They were Jews who had experienced the fulfillment of God's promised Savior. So they continued worshipping in the Jewish Temple on the Sabbath. In addition, they gathered in homes, as you mentioned. But the hoe groups didn't replace the corporate worship that took place in the Temple.

With the recent attack on Orlando, what is Gateway doing to show God's love to the LGBT community? Is it wrong to want to support and love them? If so, why?

Pastor Ben preached a sermon that may be helpful in answering your questions during out #TrendingNow series. Here's a link to his sermon: www.vimeo.com/139942782

We Believe in the Holy Spirit

I'VE BEEN GIVEN THE GIFT OF SPEAKING IN TONGUES? SHOULD I ALSO PRAY FOR THE GIFT OF INTERPRETATION?

Absolutely pray for the gift of interpretation.  Paul did tell the Corinthians to “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts…” (1 Corinthians 14:1b ESV) and that to speak in tongues without interpretation is not helpful in building up the church (see v5).  

But…

Don’t neglect pursuing love. What most Christ-followers miss is that between the two chapters on the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12 and 14) is the “love” chapter (1 Corinthians 13). Now weddings have hijacked chapter 13, so it’s easy to miss Paul’s point.

His point is that gifts are great, they’re necessary in growing a church towards spiritual maturity, but...without love even our gifts are nothing more than clanging cymbals. That’s why Paul tells us to “Pursue love” before he tells us to “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts.” (1 Corinthians 14:1a ESV).

So pray for the gift of interpretation, so your gift can be used to build up the body of Christ, but pursue love no matter what gifts God has given you. For the greatest of these is love.

IF YOU ARE A CHRIST FOLLOWER, HOW DO YOU REACH FAMILY AND FRIENDS THAT ARE UPSET YOU LEFT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH?

Let me begin by saying that I sympathize with your situation. Upset family and close friends are among the hardest people to reach. So here are some ideas on how to best reach them. First, show them that Jesus is your joy and that your hope is found solely in Him. They will pick up on inconsistencies between what you say you believe and how you live. No one is perfect, but they will (and probably are) evaluating the sincerity of your belief based on how you live.

Second, don’t bash the Roman Catholic Church. Do we agree with them on everything? No. Are there major points of disagreement between us and them? Yes. But will you win over your family members by critiquing their church? No. Be gracious and generous to them. Find things you can honestly celebrate about the Catholic Church and leave disagreements for another time.

Finally, love your family and friends more deeply than ever before. Love them when they disagree with you. Love them when they try to guilt you in coming back to their church. Love them even when they are upset with you. If you display Christ’s love to them, they may not ever agree with you, but they will know with certainty that they have been loved by you.

HELP ME CONTRAST ACTS 2:21 WITH MATTHEW 7:21. TRYING TO UNDERSTAND THE UNIQUENESS OF CALLING ON THE NAME OF THE LORD. ACTS USES "ALL", MATTHEW "NOT ALL"

For reference, here are the two scripture passages mentioned:

Acts 2:21 “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

These two verses are contrasting true faith with false faith. In the Acts passage we read of the great hope of our Christian faith. Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord--in repentance and faith--will be saved. This is a true turning from your sin, selfishness, and self-justification and turning to Jesus Christ for the salvation of your soul.

The Matthew verse shows us that there will always be false converts among us. There will be people who seem to have repented and put their faith in Jesus, yet, they will hear from Him, “I never knew you” (“You never really believed in Me.”). Throughout the Bible we see that the church on earth is always a mix of believers and unbelievers. Sheep and wolves. Wheat and chaff.

The question we must all wrestle with is: Which “everyone” am I part of? And we should never answer this question on our own, but in the context of Christian community. People who love God and us and who are willing to reveal to us areas in our life that have yet to be fully submitted to Christ.

We Believe Because Jesus Died

Does Gateway believe that Jesus died for everyone or just some people?

Gateway believes what the Bible teaches about Jesus’ death. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, ESV). This means that God sent Jesus to be a sacrifice (Or, as the ESV states in Romans 3:25, a “propitiation”—a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath so that God’s favor rests upon us) for us. The theological term for the work of salvation through Jesus’ death is atonement. Atonement can be understood by two basic, foundational truths: (1) Christ’s perfect obedience of the law for us, and (2) Christ’s sufferings for us, in which he took upon himself the penalty for our sin. As John 3:16 states, “…whoever believes in him…” has eternal life.

Therefore, Jesus’ death or atoning work is sufficient for all people, but it is only applied to those who believe by faith.

I am confused why we are spending so much time on something that is not actually in the Bible.

Although I am not 100% sure to what you are referring, I assume your comment alludes to the fact that Gateway is teaching about the Apostle’s Creed. 

If I misunderstood and you are not referring to the Apostle’s Creed, please send me an e-mail (MBarnhart@gatewayepc.org) to clarify because one of the things we are passionate about at Gateway is teaching the Bible. We want to be very careful to teach what the Bible says, instead of simply stating opinions, ideas, or cultural norms. 

If you are referring to the Apostle’s Creed, there are several things I can say:

  1. The Apostle’s Creed is a statement of faith that came directly from Scripture. As I mentioned in the sermon on May 15, “The Apostle’s Creed is a simple reflection of what Scripture says, just like the moon reflects the light of the sun.” All good doctrine is a summation of Scripture. We, as Gateway Church, believe that the Apostle’s Creed is not Scripture, but it is a reflection of Scripture. Therefore, it is a launching point to discuss some core truths that are in Scripture.
  2. During each week of the Apostle’s Creed sermon series, we have sought to teach directly from the Bible. Our desire is that the people of Gateway Church see how the Apostle’s Creed came to be directly from Scripture, not the other way around. Therefore, we have taught from specific Scripture texts that helped form the creed.
  3. The Apostle’s Creed is not Scripture, and we are not treating it as Scripture. Again, it reflects Scripture in a memorable way. For many, the Apostle’s Creed has been a way of remembering key Bible truths from generation to generation. We want people to understand the value of the creed and where it came from.

We Believe in Jesus Christ

Q1. Can you address the heresy of God entering Jesus after His birth?

I have not heard of this particular heresy before, but I do see the problem that you’re addressing.  Was Jesus conceived, developed in the womb, and born as solely a human baby.  Then, only later, unite Himself with the human baby to become the God-man.  

This would go against the clear teaching of Scripture as found in both Matthew and Luke’s gospels.  In Luke chapter one we read, “The angel replied, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.’” (Luke 2:35 NLT)

This is teaching that Joseph, Jesus’ adoptive father, had nothing to do with Mary’s pregnancy.  God’s Spirit came upon her and caused her to become pregnant.  Thus from conception, Jesus was both fully God and fully man in one person.

Q2. Is God with non-believers in the same way he is with Christ-followers? How do we explain God's presence to non-believers?

Yes and no.  Yes, in the sense that God is with both unbelievers and believers as their Provider.  In Matthew chapter five we read, “For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” (Matthew 5:45b NLT)

God is with unbelievers in the sense of the compassion, love, and justice He displays through His people as they act on His behalf.

Yet God is not with unbelievers in some other ways as He is with believers.  One primary difference is God’s Spirit which indwells in all believers.  This is something that an unbeliever does not get to experience.  And obviously, in eternity, God will be with His followers, yet everyone who does not believe in Him will experience God’s absence for all eternity.

Q3. Is there a bible verse that say Jesus went to Hell for three day after he died?

Mike Barnhart is going to address this in his sermon on May 15th.

Q4. Is there a difference between soul and spirit?  Are these interchangeable or are they different?  I realize this is a non-essential, but I thought I’d ask.

First, thanks for recognizing that this is a non-essential issue.  So is there a difference between the soul and spirit?  Depend on who you ask!  In theology, there are two primary positions.  Dichotomy, which believes the soul and spirit are the same, and trichotomy, which believes they are distinct from one another.  

I tend to lean towards trichotomy, even though people I know and authors I love to read would disagree with me.  There’s much evidence in the Bible that soul and spirit are used interchangeably.  Making it seem as if they are the same.  But there are many other verses in Scripture that seem to show that the two are different.  Here are a few verses to show you what I mean.

One day an expert in religious law asked Jesus about eternal life and Jesus responded by asking him, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” 27 The man answered, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”” (Luke 10:26-28 NLT)

We’re to love the LORD with our heart, our soul, our strength, and our mind.  Now many dichotomists equate the spirit/soul with the heart/mind and many trichotomists equate the soul with the mind and the spirit with the heart.  The problem is that in these verses we have heart, soul, and mind as three distinct ways we are to love God.  And, oh by the way, Jesus tells the guy, “Great answer.  You’re right!”  

Here’s a second verse.  In Hebrews chapter four we read, “For the word of God is alive and powerful.  It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow.  It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (Hebrews 4:12 NLT)

So there’s a comparison here.  Just as a joint can be separated from marrow, so to, it seems, that the soul and spirit can be separated.

Now here’s the deal.  What’s the difference between the soul, spirit, mind, heart, etc…?  I don’t know.  All I know is that if you’re loving God with all of who you are and repenting regularly of all the countless ways you fail to love Him with all of who you are, you’re on the right track to hear, “Great answer.  You’re right!,” from Jesus.

Q5. Am I on the right track if I wonder how Jesus could be born to the Virgin Mary…how can that be when we are school so differently…but never was there a doubt in my that is happened.

It really depends on what you mean by “wonder.”  If you mean “I’m in awe of, mystified by, etc…” then, yes, wonder all you want about the virgin birth.  It truly is a marvelous truth!  But if by wonder, you mean, “I wonder if I can believe this since science proves a virgin birth impossible,” then you’re playing with fire.  I think you mean the first kind of wonder as you close with “never was there a doubt in my that is happened.”