Christ, the Only

The cultural and religious mantra of “pluralism” in which we live declares that every “ism” has its own independent validity and an equal right to our respect. It therefore rejects Christianity’s claim to exclusiveness and uniqueness and condemns as sheer arrogance the attempt to convert anybody (let alone everybody) to what it sees as merely our opinion.

How then should we respond to this spirit of pluralism? Hopefully with great humility and without a hint of personal or spiritual superiority. However, we must continue to affirm the uniqueness and finality of Jesus Christ.

He is unique in His incarnation – the one and only God-man.

He is unique in His atonement – only He died for the sins of the world.

He is unique in His resurrection – only He has conquered death.

And since in no other person but Jesus of Nazareth did God first become human (in His birth), then bear our sins (in His death), and then triumph over death (in His resurrection), He is uniquely qualified to save sinners. Nobody else possesses His qualifications.

We may talk about Alexander, the Great, Charles, the Great, or Napoleon, the Great, but never Jesus, the Great. He is not Great – He is the Only! There is nobody like Him. He has no rival and no successor. Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the only begotten Son of God.

John Stott, The Radical Disciple, pp. 19-20

 

The Back Page 3/19/2017

In Our Prayers

 

Shut-ins: Mildred Meyers in the Manor, Sue Jackson in Sunrise Heights, and Harold Brunswick (Deb Bartlett’s dad) in Hester Memorial Home in Benkelman.

Request for Prayers: Maxine Smith, the sister of Marla Smith, is very ill after undergoing extensive stomach surgery in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Marla has gone to Cheyenne to be with her in the hospital.

Thanks: The Bryans are thankful for a safe trip and glad to be back home. They spent time with family in Montgomery, Nashville, and Jackson, TN, and had good visits at Faulkner, Freed-Hardeman and Harding. They were unable to visit York, as it was spring break there.

For Westside, that we will “be devoted to one another in brotherly love, giving preference to one another in honor, not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:10-11).

On the Calendar

Thursday, March 23: Women’s Bible study will resume, 10:45 to noon at Sunset Apartments, with a study of 1 Timothy.

 

The Baptism of Jesus

“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’… Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him” (Matthew 3.1, 13).

John the Baptist’s ministry created a sensation. He found himself at the center of a great spiritual revival. Large crowds converged on the lower reaches of the River Jordan, both to listen to his call to repentance and to be baptized.

John had already spoken of Jesus as one mightier than he, the thongs of whose sandals he was not worthy to undo. It is not surprising that when Jesus presented Himself to John for baptism, John demurred. It would seem more appropriate for Jesus to baptize John than for John to baptize Jesus. But Jesus insisted.

It also seems strange that Jesus asked for baptism. John’s was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus was without sin.  But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3.15) and John consented.

As Jesus emerged from the waters of baptism “lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him; and lo, a voice out of the heavens, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3.16-17).

Those words united two Old Testament scriptures. First, “this is My Son” echoes Psalm 2.7 where God declared the Davidic king to be His son. Second, “in whom I am well pleased” echoes Isaiah 42.1 where God declared His pleasure in His servant. Thus at His baptism, Jesus was declared both Son and Servant of God.

 – John Stott, Through the Bible, Through the Year

 

The Back Page 2/26/2017

In Our Prayers

Shut-ins: Mildred Meyers in the Manor, Sue Jackson in Sunrise Heights, and Harold Brunswick (Deb Bartlett’s dad) in Hester Memorial Home in Benkelman.

For the Westside church, that, like John the Baptizer, we can say of Christ, “He must increase, but we must decrease” (John 3:30).

On the Calendar

Thursday, March 23: Women’s Bible study will resume, 10:45 to noon, with a study of 1 Timothy. Venue to be decided.

March 3-4: Ladies Day at Kearney Church of Christ.

 

The Universal Appeal of Jesus

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, Wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we saw His star in the east, and are come to worship Him” (Matthew 2.1-2).

The Magi (“Wise-men”) seem to have been astrologer-priests from the ancient Persian Empire. Their visit to Jesus complements that of
the shepherds. The two groups could not have been more different. Racially, the shepherds were Jews, the Magi were Gentiles. Intellectually, the shepherds were simple, the Magi were scholars. Socially, the shepherds belonged to the world’s have-nots, the Magi, in light of the expensive gifts they brought, appear to have been wealthy.

Yet despite these barriers which normally separate people from one another, both the Magi and shepherds were united in their desire to worship the Christ Child.

As pluralism spreads, it becomes increasingly evident that other religions are ethnic, limited to a particular people and culture. Only Christianity is not. Nearly 80 percent of the people claiming to be Christians today are non-white and non-Western.

This is the universal appeal of Jesus, irrespective of ethnicity, nationality, or culture. It brought the shepherds from the fields and the Magi from the East. It still acts like a magnet, attracting people from all regions of the world. It is one of the most convincing evidences that Jesus of Nazareth is the Savior of the world.

 – John Stott, Through the Bible, Through the Year

 

The Back Page 2-19-2017

In Our Prayers

Shut-ins: Mildred Meyers in the Manor, Sue Jackson in Sunrise Heights, and Harold Brunswick (Deb Bartlett’s dad) in Hester Memorial Home in Benkelman.

Medical Issues: Lois Silvester has moved to Kearney to stay with her daughter. She was in the hospital early in the week with an infection; Randy Hayes is fighting a weeks-old chronic cough he has as the result of the flu.

For the Westside church, that, like the wise men, we may earnestly seek Jesus, for “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

On the Calendar

Thursday, February 23: Women’s Bible study, 10:45 to noon in Cheryl’s home, studying Philippians 4.

March 3-4: Ladies Day at Kearney Church of Christ. Special Guest: Jackie Halstead, PhD, Human Development and Family Studies with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy. See bulletin board for more details.

 

Grace and the Gospel

Grace

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2.11-14).

Grace and the Gospel

♦ We stand in grace –

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5.1-2).

♦ We stand in the gospel –

 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand  (1 Corinthians 15.1).

♦ We are saved by grace –

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2.8).

♦ We are saved by the gospel –

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15.1-2).

 

The Back Page 2-12-2017

In Our Prayers

Shut-ins: Mildred Meyers in the Manor, Sue Jackson in Sunrise Heights, and Harold Brunswick (Deb Bartlett’s dad) in Hester Memorial Home in Benkelman.

Medical Issues: Don Hamm is recovering from foot surgery; Lois Silvester was in the hospital this week with an elevated white count; Don Brown is at home;

Community Issues: Pray that Imperial can attract good medical professionals to take the places of Drs. Jonathan and Rachell Richman.

For the Westside church, that, being saved by grace and by the gospel, we will “hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15.2).

On the Calendar

Today: Potluck, with Men’s Business Meeting to follow

Thursday, February 16: Women’s Bible study, 10:45 to noon at Sunset Apartment, finishing Philippians 3.

March 3-4: Ladies Day at Kearney Church of Christ. Special Guest: Jackie Halstead, PhD, Human Development and Family Studies with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy.

 

Matthew’s Names for Jesus

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham…

Matthew begins his gospel with three descriptive titles for Jesus of Nazareth. First, He is “Christ.” “Christos” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Messiah,” the “LORD’s anointed one” who would be savior and redeemer bringing salvation to all mankind.

The earliest “messianic” prophecy occurs shortly after the fall with God addressing both Satan, the serpent, and Eve,

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel” (Genesis 3.15).

Second, the son of David connects Jesus with the prophecy Nathan gave king David that the messianic prophecy would be realized through the Davidic house,

“When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom” (2 Samuel 7.12).

Third, the genealogy traces Jesus’ lineage all the way back to Abraham to whom God promised,

“And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed… In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed…” (Genesis 12.2-3; 22.18).

The purpose of Matthew’s gospel is to show that Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of all Old Testament messianic prophecy; the opening statement of his gospel connects Jesus with that messianic expectation.

– Bill

 

Having the Mind of Christ

My intention was to begin the year with a series of sermons entitled “Back to Basics,” addressing the foundational tenants of Christianity. I still think such a series is necessary. But taking a page from our brother Jude, who also changed his mind, “Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints… (v3). I, too, feel constrained to pursue another line of investigative study.

For anything to have any value it must be relevant to the times it purports to address. I believe Christianity is timeless. It’s consistently relevant because it addresses the basic human condition, and that’s not something that’s governed by the calendar.

As we make our pilgrimage through this life, we’re confronted with a constant variety of circumstances. As Christians, we are called to meet those circumstances in a way that reflects the Lordship of Christ in our lives. We don’t have a choice in this matter. Christianity isn’t an optional extra. It’s not something we adopt depending on the situation. We either are, or we are not. Jesus put it this way: “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters” (Matthew 12.30).

The Political Climate Now

Currently, a circumstance which seems to be occupying much of our nation’s energy and creating a great deal of anxiety, is the present political turmoil. Americans are energized, to say the least, taking to the streets demonstrating in vast numbers for a variety of causes and issues.

I too have a moral and social conscience. I’m alarmed at what’s happening in our country. So how am I supposed to frame my response to what I see as immoral and irresponsible leadership and behavior?

To wrestle with that challenge I’m embarking on a new series of sermons entitled, “Having the Mind of Christ. The title for the series is borrowed from Paul, “Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2.5). In order to do that, we must return to the source – to the story of Jesus Himself – His life, His work, His words. Peter said He left us an example that we should “follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2.21). That will be the focus of these coming lessons, to let the life of Christ, as recorded in the Gospels, guide us through the uncertainty and turmoil that surround us.

The Political Climate Then

As we begin, I think it’s important we keep this in mind, too – Christianity was born in the midst of a corrupt secular environment (not unlike ours). Political position was bought and bartered by unscrupulous people who would stop at nothing to gain advantage. Gross immorality characterized the culture. The poor and underprivileged were exploited. Unwanted babies were literally thrown away as garbage. Christians were mocked and hounded and finally viciously persecuted. They were accused of being atheists by idolatrous pagans who bowed before a pantheon of false gods. When they observed the “Lord’s Supper,” they were slandered as cannibals for “eating His flesh and drinking His blood.” Married couples were charged with incest because they called each other “brother” and “sister.”

It was into that cultural chaos that Jesus called His first disciples to be “the light of the world.” They had no political rights; no voice in selecting who would govern them; and no forum for redress of their grievances.

We’re fortunate we don’t live in such a world – but make no mistake, we do live in a world that’s hostile to our faith and values. The warnings Jesus gave His early disciples ring just as true today as then: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake…You will be hated by all because of My name” (Matthew 10.16-23).

The principle of government is ordained by God as necessary for the function of an ordered society. Modern politics is a vicious game. Even the best candidates will say or do nearly anything to get elected. Rhetoric is cheap; promises made and positions espoused during a campaign are seldom kept once the candidate assumes office.

To become so invested in a particular candidate or political party’s promise to restore our values and morals only to be devastated when the election is lost is, in my view, naïve. Ours is a progressively secular nation. A gradual but definite culture shift has occurred over the last half century. While we hope and pray our government officials will honor and respect Biblical (Christian) morals and values, it’s a mistake to place our confidence in them to actually do it. “God Bless America” coming from the lips of most politicians these days is a hollow phrase.

The Mind of Christ: Timeless

Christianity is a personal religion, not a national religion. When Jesus said, “you are the light of the world,” He literally meant you, me, us. Whether or not our nation values the life of the unborn, the sanctity of marriage, or the natural role of gender is really beside the point – those are God’s immutable values, and that’s the only thing that matters. When Christianity turned the first century pagan world “upside down” it wasn’t because of an election, because they put the “right guy” in office. It was because Christian men and women refused to yield their faith, morals, and values to the surrounding culture regardless of the cost to themselves. They paid a high price – but they changed the world, one person at a time.

In order for us to be faithful to our calling, to have any influence in the world about us, it’s essential we “have the mind of Christ” in our daily conduct.


– Bill

 

Westside Church of Christ Imperial, Nebraska

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