The Equipping Word

the blog of Dr. Benjamin M. Foxworth
pastor, Bethel Baptist Church, Vandalia, IL

The purpose of this blog is to equip the saints for the work of service (Eph. 4:12). This will not be a digital soap box in which I will offer political rants or hammer home personal opinions about topics in the news. This blog’s whole purpose is to use the word of God and personal reflections to encourage, equip, and edify the body of Christ – the church. Anything other would be to waste an opportunity afforded to me by the grace of God. May you be equipped to serve the Lord for His glory!

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Who Is the Jesus You Are Looking For?

April 24, 2019  ●  19-26

Mark 16:6: And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.”

Several years ago when we were living in Jacksonville, FL, I went with a deacon to visit the home of someone who had recently visited the church I was a member of. The guest card that had been filled out indicated this visitor was a first-time guest in his 20s. We found the home, walked up on the front porch and rang the doorbell. When the door opened we were greeted by an older gentleman. We introduced ourselves and why we were there. The older gentleman laughed and said we were looking for his son who did not live there. He told us his son knew that many Baptist churches would pay him a visit because he filled out a guest card, so he put his dad’s home address on the guest card (why he even filled one out I have no idea!). We went looking for the guest that had visited and found his father instead.

In the three years of His earthly ministry, Jesus had many people following Him and looking for Him:
Some wanted to be healed so they were looking for the healing Jesus;
Some wanted to be fed so they were looking for the providing Jesus;
Some wanted a mighty warrior to kick the Romans out of Israel so they were looking for the conquering Jesus;
Some wanted a miracle so they were looking for the miracle working Jesus.
But what they found was the Jesus who ministered to those society would have nothing to do with;

They found the Jesus who said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31);
They found the Jesus who said, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44);
They found the Jesus who said, “go and sell all you possess and give to the poor . . . and come, follow Me.” (Mark 10:21)
The Jesus they found was not the Jesus they were looking for.

The women who came to the tomb early on the first day of the week were looking for the crucified, dead, and buried Jesus.
The angel in the tomb told them what they wanted to hear, “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified.”
The other gospels record the experience at the tomb this way:

Matthew: “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here.” (Matt. 28:5-6a)

Luke: “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but He is risen.” (Luke 24.5b-6a)

In the Gospel of John, Mary Magdalene is confronted by the risen Lord Himself whom she did not recognize. Jesus asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping,? Whom are you seeking?” (John 15a)

The women who came to the tomb expected to find the body of Jesus just as it had been laid in the tomb by Joseph and Nicodemus, wrapped in funeral cloths.
They expected to be able to anoint the body of Jesus with spices;
They were not sure how the stone was going to be moved from the entrance of the tomb, but they had come expecting to see the crucified and dead Jesus.
And what they found was what they did not expect: THE EMPTY TOMB!

What about today, who is the Jesus you are looking for?

Are you looking for the Jesus who will tell you that if your faith is strong enough you will never have any problems in life?
Are you looking for the Jesus who will tell you that it really doesn’t matter what kind of life you live, just be a good person and everything will be ok?
Are you looking for the Jesus who understands how you are and that it’s ok to be a casual follower of Him if you can fit it into your schedule?
Are you looking for the Jesus who, in all reality, does not really let anyone go to a place of torment called hell?
Is this the kind of Jesus you are looking for?
If that’s the Jesus you are looking for, then you are not looking for the Jesus of the Bible.

The Jesus of the Bible said, “whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 15:27)
The Jesus of the Bible said, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)
The Jesus of the Bible said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 4:17)
The Jesus of the Bible said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matt. 7:21)
The Jesus of the Bible said, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33)
The Jesus of the Bible said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

Regardless of who the Jesus is you are looking for, when you place your faith and trust in Him, you will find:
The Jesus who forgives without condition;
The Jesus who loves without exception;
The Jesus who saves for all eternity;
The Jesus who holds you in His hands securely;
The Jesus who will never leave you;
The Jesus who has already prepared a place for you in heaven

The Jesus of the Bible is the Jesus of today:
He is alive and is right now seated at the right hand of God the Father;
He is the Jesus who is the Savior of the world;
He is not the Jesus of religion, He is the Jesus of a personal relationship with God Himself;
He is the Jesus who is returning one day with power and in great glory.
This is the Jesus who walked out of that tomb on the first day of the week;
The conquering king;
The living savior;
This is the Jesus we celebrate on Easter Sunday morning and every day of the year.
This is the Jesus you are invited to trust and believe in for the salvation of your soul
This is the Jesus who forgives and gives life, life everlasting, and life more abundantly
This is the Jesus who paid your sin debt on the cross through His shed blood.
Trust this Jesus, believe in this Jesus, celebrate this Jesus.
THE JESUS YOU ARE LOOKING FOR IS THE JESUS WHO LIVES.

Resurrection Reality, Part 2

April 20, 2019  ●  19-25

The apostle Paul wrote probably the best defense of the resurrection that can be found anywhere in the Bible. Paul’s writing on the resurrection can be found throughout 1 Cor. 15. Imbedded in 1 Cor. 15 are some verses that speak to the core of why the resurrection is fundamental to our faith as Christians. Failure to believe in the resurrection results in five effects on our faith:

1. Questionable faith
1 Cor. 15:12. Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

Claiming to be a Christian and yet questioning the resurrection of Jesus is to call your very
faith into question. Our faith rests solely on the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

2. Vain faith
1 Cor. 15:13. But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised;
1 Cor. 15:14. and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, your faith also is vain.

If Jesus was not raised, we are preaching a faith that goes nowhere and preaching is useless. True biblical preaching is giving the Word of God a voice, and without the resurrection of Jesus that voice is hollow.

3. False faith
1 Cor. 15:15. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.

The resurrection of Jesus, and the resurrection of the dead, are part of the Word of God. To disbelieve the resurrection is to disbelieve the Word of God and we become false witnesses.

4. Worthless faith
1 Cor. 15:16. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised;
1 Cor. 15:17. and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless, you are still in your sins.

What’s the point of believing in a faith that cannot deliver us from the power of death?

5. Empty faith
1 Cor. 15:18. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
1 Cor. 15:19. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

Failure to believe in the resurrection is to simply understand life as: you are born, you live, you die – that’s it. But that is not the biblical witness to the power of the resurrection.

John 21:27-29 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen me, have you believed? Blessed are they who dd not see, and yet  believed.’

Resurrection Reality, Part 1

April 19, 2019  ●  19-24

Sunday, April 21, is Easter Sunday. On Easter Sunday we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave. The next two blog posts will be focused on the resurrection. Part I is the basics of resurrection; Part II will deal with the impact of the resurrection for our faith.

Why is this discussion on the resurrection so important? Believing in the resurrection is key to our salvation, key to our faith, key to our belief in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world.

THE BASICS OF THE RESURRECTION:

1. The FOUNDATION of our belief in the resurrection is the Word of God.

2 TIM. 3:16-17: All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

God’s Word is our authority on all matters concerning faith and life. We will either take the Bible as a whole or not take it all. The Bible is not like some buffet in a restaurant, only taking what we like and discarding what we don’t like.

2. The FUNDAMENTALS about resurrection is belief in the general teaching from the Word of God.

In Mark 12:18-27, Jesus was asked a question about personal relationships in the resurrection of the dead. The question was from a group of religious leaders who did not believe in the resurrection nor did they believe parts of the Old Testament. Jesus taught those questioning Him that personal relationships in the resurrection will be different, there will be no husbands and wives. In the resurrection, Jesus taught, we will know each other, but not as husbands and wives. Jesus also taught that marriage was not a reality in the resurrection. Jesus taught that just as angels are a special creation of God as His messengers, so too will the resurrected person be a special work of God.

ISA. 26:19: Your dead will live; their corpses will rise, you who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, for your dew is as the dew of the dawn, and the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.

EZE. 37:12-14: Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, my people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, my people. I will put My spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken and done it,” declares the Lord.

Read also: Job 14:14-15; 19:25-27 / Ps. 16:10; 17:15; 49:15 / Daniel 12:1-4

3. The FORCE of Jesus’ teaching about the resurrection is to believe in Him.

On at least three occasions as recorded in the Bible, Jesus taught He would be arrested, betrayed, crucified and then raised on the third day. Jesus told His disciples He would be resurrected, and He was.

Mark 10:33-34: saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him ad spit on Him and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again.”

4. The FACT of the resurrection is belief in the reality of the risen Lord.

Mark 16:6-7: And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.”

Paul wrote that after Jesus had been resurrected, there were over 500 people who saw Him (1 Cor. 15:5-8).

5. The FUTURE effect of believing in the resurrection is Jesus’ return one day.

1 Cor. 15:20: But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.

The “first fruits” that Paul was referring to was those who would be resurrected on the day Jesus returns in power and with great glory.

1 COR. 15:52: In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

1 THES. 4:16: For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead will rise first.

The resurrection of the dead is a fact that both the Old and New Testaments give witness to. I want to encourage you, this Easter weekend, to allow the Word of God to equip you to fully understand the power of God in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

1 COR. 2:9: but just as it is written, “things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him.’

The Christian and Tax Day

April 15, 2019  ●  19-23

Mark 12:17 And Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at Him.

Phil. 3:20: for our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Pet. 2:17. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.

Taxes; it’s a sore subject. We don’t like to pay taxes, we drag our feet every year the closer we get to April 15. We always have this fear that we will wind up owing more than we paid.

Before I got married I used to simply take the 1040ez form, sign the bottom, and send it in with my pay information and it always worked out – except for one year. One year I signed the form and sent it in. About three weeks or so later I received a letter from the IRS that simply stated they had completed my taxes and I owed them thousands of dollars! Of course I almost fell over! I called the IRS immediately, and through several phone conversations it was discovered my tax forms had been incorrectly prepared. Can I just say this: duh!

Yes, taxes can be a sore subject for many people. Taxes are nothing new, even in Jesus’ day there were taxes and tax collectors. One of the twelve disciples, Matthew, was found by Jesus at the tax collector’s booth when Jesus called him to follow (Matt. 9:9). Matthew was in a tough spot—the Romans did not like him because he was a Jew, the Jews did not like him because he was doing Rome’s work.

In Mark 12, there is a series of conversations between various groups of religious leaders and Jesus. Their main purpose in all these conversations was to find something they could charge Jesus with and have Him arrested because they disliked Him so. In Mark 12:13-17 these religious leaders asked Jesus about the legality of paying taxes. Very simply stated, if Christ legitimized the payment of taxes, He would have seemed to abandon Israel’s hope; but if He had denied Rome the right to collect taxes, He would have been guilty of treason1.  Jesus’ solution was simple: because Caesar’s image was on the coin, give the coin to Caesar, and what belonged to God was to be given to God. It is this last statement the religious leaders may have missed, or refused to acknowledge. Just as Caesar’s image was on the coin, God’s image is on us as His special creation (Gen. 1:26-27).

The moment God saves us, He adopts us into His family of faith. And because we are part of God’s family of faith, we are also citizens of the kingdom of God, so all Christians have a dual citizenship. Being a good citizen means we follow the rules and laws of the place, country, city, or state where we are a citizen. Being a good citizen of the kingdom of God means we have the Word of God as our guide in how to be a good citizen of our heavenly kingdom. Our actions reflect on both kingdoms; if we break the laws of our earthly kingdom we give a poor testimony as children of God who are supposed to be models of obedience. If we don’t follow God’s Word as His children, we call our testimony into question as obedient children of our heavenly Father.

Taxes make us mad, give us fits, and are always good fodder for dinnertime conversations. However, taxes are part of our lives, part of what the government can legally do. The 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives the government the right to impose taxes on us. We may not agree with taxes but we have a legal obligation as citizens to pay them. We also have obligations as citizens of God’s kingdom by faith in Jesus Christ. Our obligations in this kingdom are far greater than paying taxes; for in this kingdom we are to give what is most precious to God – ourselves – for His glory.

I want to encourage you to allow God’s Word to equip you to understand the importance of being both a citizen of this world and a citizen of the kingdom of God. Use the following scriptures to help you understand your dual citizenship and how God is honored in both:

Romans 13:1-14 / Col. 3:22-25 / 1 Pet. 3:16

A man’s Christianity should make him a better citizen than any other man2.

_______________________

1 J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation, 1981), 388.
2 William Barclay, The Gospel of Mark, The Daily Study Bible Series, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), 288.

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®. Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.