04 Jan

The Word In The Old Testament by Sam Hight

Under the Old Covenant, which was started during Israel’s Exodus from Egypt, the High Priest would enter into the tent of meeting (the most holy place) to meet with the Lord. God’s visible presence marked the tent as holy, either by falling on that location as a cloud or as fire.

It is impossible to know just how the people of Israel would have felt when witnessing this, but we can be sure that a holy fear or terror would have been a part of the experience. Imagine for a moment that you are standing in front of a bonfire which is raging as it burns a pile of wood. Or maybe you’ve experienced the fear of being in the path of a furious bush fire – out of your control and heading right for you…

Consider the fear, but also consider the privilege of being able to enter that tent without being consumed by the fire.

In that tent there were a number of items. Some were man made and some were made by the hand of God himself. The elaborate garments, utensils, etc. were man made – his best efforts to produce an offering that was acceptable to God, and worshipping him how he said he wanted them to worship. All of these things were made from the matter which God had already made in Creation. And from God there was his law, written by his own hand, and the miraculous bread from heaven.

There was bread made by man and bread made by God in that place. I think that this was the only item which both brought there. Is there symbolism in a shared meal, fellowship over potluck food? I think so. Now we have Jesus though, the Bread of Life, from whom we will never need to eat again once he has fed us of himself.

Also in that place of God’s presence was the law of God. This shows that his presence is there when we read the Bible today. This is one of the most privileged positions, in the presence of the Word of God, and now blasted wide open, beyond the bounds of a mere tent and veil, for all to partake of freely if they care to do so.

Do we value the Word as we should? Do we treat every detail as a deliberate part of the message from God? Do we enter into his presence often to hear from him in the sure word of Scripture? Do we?

I urge you… Please do.

01 Jan

Why Does A Christian Have To Read Their Bible Regularly? by Sam Hight

I am a person who loves to read. If I had the time and money for books I would read about a thousand times more than I do. I realise that not everyone is a natural and passionate reader like I am.

Even for me, it is sometimes a battle to make sure that I read my Bible. However, I am always of the mind that it is essential to read it regularly and I discipline myself to do so.

I am continually shocked, not by the staggering number of Christians who fail to read their Bibles regularly but, by the many Christians who don’t feel bad about their failure in this duty. Some are professing Christians who are not really Christians, some are trying to justify themselves because that is their pattern of behaviour when confronted with their sin, and some genuinely (but foolishly) think that the little they pick up from occasional reading is sufficient.

Here are a few quick reasons for reading the Bible regularly:

It is God’s Word to man – God is important and he determines your eternal fate. Listen to what he has to say, take it seriously, live by it.

It is an amazing read and will make your heart sing and your mind expand.

If other things in your life are more important than the Bible, these things will guide your thinking and your decisions. Do you watch TV more than you read the Bible? Do you play video games or spend more time on Facebook? If you do then the odds are you don’t even know how much influence these worldly things have on you. What should influence you more?

Psalm One says that you will be blessed and you will prosper if you meditate at all times on the Word of God.

Psalm 119 says that you can overcome sin in your life by taking the Word of God into your heart.

Jesus said in John 8 that the truth of his words will set you free.

At the end of the day, what you value is what defines you. And what you truly value is what you keep coming back to regularly. If you don’t value the Words of God graciously given to you, then you are definitely not a Christian.

Why not take the time to refocus your life on Jesus and his Word this year? Show the world who you follow and be a better advocate for the truth which can save the world.

What other reasons for reading your Bible are particularly important to you?

Further resources:
Daily Verse Project
A 2 Year Bible Reading Plan (article and helpful suggestions)
YouVersion Bible Software – free audio options available (Bible app available on iTunes and Play Store)
Logos Bible Software (iTunes app and Play Store app also available)

25 Dec

The Unforgivable Sin and Losing Your Salvation by Sam Hight

Some truths in the Bible are not obvious. Some truths seem obvious at first, but then when you read more you find what seems to contradict.

The Christian who trusts God and is convinced that His Word is true will feel caught between a rock and a hard place at these times. The rock is their conviction that scripture is without error. The hard place is that such a contradiction seems to be an error. Yet you can ease your mind and trust that your faith is well placed if you have years of interaction with the Bible and know that the contradiction is no contradiction – just that there is some key information lacking.

You can also ease your mind by doing some research, and thinking, and find a solution which deals fairly with the contradiction.

I want to share one example of these sorts of difficulties which branches into two, and I’ll share a solution. I’ll present the dilemma in the form of a question: Can a Christian lose their salvation?

On the one hand we have 1 John 5:13

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”

This seems to show that we can know, for sure, that we have eternal life. That sounds like assurance to me! But then we have Hebrews 6:4-6

“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.”

This seems to show that a person can “fall away” after being “enlightened” and having “tasted the heavenly gift” which seems like a person can lose their salvation.

So what is going on, and what does this have to do with the unforgivable sin? We’ll get to that, but first I want to share two ways how some would wrongly deal with this.

The first wrong way to deal with a contradiction is to ignore it. Ignoring a problem may make you feel better but it is for the wrong reasons. The goal is not to just feel better. The goal is to have confidence in the Word, given to us by God. And not only that, we also want to help others to trust the Bible and God and be saved. Ignoring is not the same as setting it aside for later consideration, but make a note and keep coming back to it until you are satisfied.

The second wrong way is to come up with some vaguely correct interpretation which seems plausible. Again, this gives you a good feeling so that you can at least suggest something to show that there might be a solution. But again, this is unsatisfying and ultimately does nothing to help develop a lasting confidence in God and His Word. Think about how a non-believer will deal with the situation: they raise an objection to Christianity saying that the Bible is full of contradictions and provide an example, you suggest a possible solution, they then tear it apart. How would you feel if you have been clinging to that possibility for decades without a deeper consideration of the issue? I think the non-believer will have done more for ruining your faith than you will have done to grow their confidence in God’s Word!

Some have dealt with this specific example by saying something like this: “There is no doubt that we can fall away from Hebrews 6, so 1 John 5 must be talking about something else. Maybe it’s saying that you can have assurance for that moment only? That sounds plausible because I know people who have seemed to be Christians but have then left their faith to do drugs and stuff and have never returned.”

The plausible attempt in this case will favour the Hebrews 6 verses, possibly because they seem clearer and possibly because they come first in the Bible so that’s the bit read first which sticks in our minds. And it might even have a good result for the person who believes that they can lose their salvation because they will be diligent to make sure that they don’t lose it.

The problem with this plausible interpretation is that you don’t really have assurance of being saved if you can lose your salvation. Think about it. And think about this: Where does that assurance come from? From yourself or from God’s Spirit? If it comes from yourself, or from a friend, then what happens if you change your mind or uncover evidence that you might not be saved? People are changeable, God is not. And God knows the beginning from the end so he knows whether you will be saved or not in the end. Not only that, but He actively predestined your salvation before the foundation of the world, if you are born again.

How can you lose your salvation if God has given it to you before you were born? In fact, a gift can be returned, but God has made us to be a vessel of salvation so that we would not want to return the gift ever. That is, if we are born again and truly a Christian.

So what is the solution? How do we convince the Atheist who says that the Bible contradicts here?

Let’s take a look at Matthew 12:22-32

“Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

This may seem like a random passage, which has nothing to do with assurance of salvation at first, but please bear with me.

At first, it may seem that this is showing that you can lose your salvation because all you have to do is speak against the Holy Spirit. So anyone who says, for example, that Pentecostal “healings” and “miracles” are not always (or not often, if at all) a work of the Holy Spirit are potentially losing their salvation and can never be saved again.

But lets dig a little deeper.

The first idea to tease out of this passage from Matthew 12 is the concept of “The Kingdom”. Jesus, as Messiah (the Son of David in verse 23) was to demonstrate victory over Satan, and he did this convincingly, plundering Satan’s kingdom (in verse 26 “his” kingdom is Satan’s kingdom). Jesus doesn’t only bind the strong man (Satan) and plunder his goods, causing his kingdom to fall. Jesus also replaces Satan’s kingdom with his own Kingdom of Heaven (the Kingdom of God which has come already, at least in part, in verse 28).

By denying Jesus and his Kingdom, people are clearly not saved, or are not a part of that Kingdom. If they are not a part of the Kingdom of God in “this age” (verse 32) they will also not be a part of the Kingdom of God in the “age to come”.

So what is unforgivable about not being in the Kingdom of God? Everyone starts out that way from birth and must be saved to come into the Kingdom. It can’t be unforgivable then, at least not in the sense that everyone starts outside the Kingdom. Otherwise nobody would ever be saved.

But when Jesus brought the gifts of the Kingdom of God to those around him, which included victory over Satanic powers, healings, food to ease hunger, and the truth to set people free from Satan’s kingdom of worldly lies; those who “tasted” (Hebrews 6) this, experiencing the enlightenment and tasting “the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,” – those who then fall away from participating in the Kingdom this way will remain in Satan’s kingdom and be unsaved.

If you die, having tasted it but not joining it by being born again into the Kingdom, you will not be forgiven in The Judgement which precedes the eternal age to come, and your eternal state in that eternal age will be to remain in Satan’s kingdom which is to receive punishment in hell that was prepared for Satan and his fallen angels.

Heavy.

That’s why we need Jesus, to share in his Kingdom and to enter in by forsaking ourselves and our lives which are dominated by Satan and Satan’s world. And to trust Jesus that his Holy Spirit will cause us to be born again into the Kingdom of Heaven.

And our contradiction is resolved, because we see that Hebrews chapter 6 is speaking of those who are never saved in the first place. They have experienced the fruit of the Kingdom of Heaven and have even been enlightened by someone sharing the truth of the Kingdom with them – as I have done with you here and now – but they have not taken the step of joining the Kingdom, which by implication is to deny that it is good and that these gifts from the work of the Holy Spirit are worth taking up.

To taste of the Kingdom and then deny it in this life – never committing to Christ as Lord of your Kingdom – is to commit the Unforgivable Sin of denying that the work of the Holy Spirit is holy and good and worthy of your praise.

Those Christians around who who have shared of themselves and have demonstrated the Kingdom to you, providing gifts and benefits which have profited your well-being, they are also showing the work of the Spirit in their lives for you to taste. Their salvation may be certain, but if you turn from their example and pass it off as “just another one of those annoying do-good-ers” then you are denying the Spirit of Truth.

Sure, there are pretenders who give Christianity a bad name, but they are also denying the work of God by serving their own selfish desires and will get a nasty shock at The Judgement when Jesus says to them that he never knew them. Instead of using pretenders as an excuse to deny the goodness which comes through God’s genuine people, why not join them and have confidence in your eternity, and in God’s Word.

15 Dec

How I Included The Gospel In My Leaving Speech by Sam Hight

After being at Hillcrest High School for ten years, I am leaving to go to Hamilton Christian School. The following is an excerpt from my leaving speech to the staff there.

I began by sharing some memories of my involvement, then some personal things about myself that they might not know, leading in to why I was leaving if I thought Hillcrest was so great. I shared that it was for faith reasons and simplifying my life by merging two strands of involvement (faith/ministry and work) into one.

Then I said this. Some parts are not full sentences but bullet points which I expanded upon:


“Many of you come from faith backgrounds yourselves, so I’d like to quickly share a little about how my own faith adds into this:

As I said, I don’t come from a Christian family.
– Converted as an adult
– At a Christian friends prompting, I pretty much just read the NT of the Bible and believed it.
– What I read didn’t seem that nice to me, for instance finding out that I wasn’t as good a person as I thought I was, and that I was in need of Jesus to take the eternal punishment that I deserve.
– But even though I didn’t totally like what I read, I couldn’t ignore the growing conviction that it was truth, and the longer I’ve studied the Bible, alongside science, philosophy, observations of the world, human nature, etc. the stronger that conviction has grown. I’ve made it a habit to engage with the strongest arguments against my faith to be sure that what I believe is grounded in truth.

I think, every person needs to make a reasoned choice about two very important things regarding spirituality:

The first is whether God exists or not – and I want to emphasise that it needs to be a reasoned choice, not just what feels right or tickles our emotions in a particular way – there is a true reality one way or another, and what we believe with regard to this will affect our lives in some profound ways…

The second is that, if God exists, what is He saying to you and how can you trust it as truth? And I’m talking about why a religious text, such as the Bible or Koran, or a self proclaimed prophet should be trusted as speaking for God.”

I then moved on to thanking a bunch of people for specific things during my time there and wished everyone all the best for the future.

19 Nov

How Do You Think When Encountering Scripture? by Sam Hight

In one sense, this is THE defining characteristic of a Christian. The ability to think properly about, and therefore apply properly to one’s life, the Holy Scriptures.

I’m toying with the idea of a regular blog post about Scripture reading and sanctification. More specifically, an open journal of sorts where I share some of the questions and ideas which I consider when reading the Bible. The intention would be to model a skill that is lacking in many Christians today, even in those who actually read their Bible daily.

Here’s a taster of the sorts of questions we should ask our self:

How does my life compare to each of the people I’m reading about?
Are the people I’m reading about good or bad (saved or unsaved)?
If they are saved, and a model of good, what can I learn from them?
If they are saved and are being sinful, what can I learn from them?
If they are unsaved, are there things they do which I do and which would confuse people who think I am a Christian?
What can I pray about right now with regard to the questions I’ve just asked?
What does the Bible say about how I can overcome specific situations mentioned which relate to me?

Let’s put that to use in a passage:
“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them…” – Matthew 5:1-2

This is Jesus right at the beginning of the sermon on the mount. Even before the sermon we can learn lessons for our sanctification.

There are two people/groups here, Jesus and his disciples. Let’s look at Jesus first.

As I grow in character I become more like Jesus so maybe there is a goal to aim for here? Jesus is about to teach people the truth about spiritual things (the Kingdom of Heaven) which is for the purpose of their growth in understanding and godliness. Is this something I need to do? Thinking across all of scripture I think yes because we are expected to follow the great commission and to teach with doctrine. So how am I doing this? Am I doing this? I run a bible study at work and teach those students who want to know spiritual truth so that’s one example. And I talk about spiritual truth with my wife and we try to grow in knowledge and Christian character together so I think I’m doing this.

But while I’m thinking about this, can I do it better? Yes, I’m sure I can. That’s something to pray about and ask God for wisdom in what to do.

Now what about the disciples? They’ve gone to Jesus to hear from him and to learn from him. A non-christian wouldn’t do this, would they? I guess they would if they were interested in moralising and being boastful of their deeds because Jesus is clearly to most morally righteous person to learn from and to be like. So I have to be careful that I come to Jesus without great ideas of becoming great through him.

07 Nov

101 Questions for Christians by Sam Hight

I don’t think these questions should be unfamiliar to Christians. The answers and conversations surrounding these questions should be common amongst both new believers and mature believers, and both adult converts and those who grew up in Christian homes.

You might like to share these questions at a study group. Also, if any of the questions presents you with particular difficulty in answering then I urge you to start a conversation with other Christians about that question, and seek the answers together.

If you are not a Christian, but have Christian friends, you might like to challenge them to reply to some of these!

Additionally: These questions are not in any particular order and are not meant to make up a Catechism or curriculum. They are merely written off the top of my head as a creative exercise. There is no reason, other than for readability/reference-ability, why I have written every tenth entry in bold.

  1. Why do you believe that God exists?
  2. Why do you believe that the God of the bible is this God?
  3. Why do you believe there is only one God?
  4. Why do you believe that the bible is true and trustworthy?
  5. Why would God make such a terrible world with disease and pain?
  6. Why should anyone follow a God who lets bad things happen to good people?
  7. Why should someone who is basically a good person be punished in hell for not believing in your God?
  8. Why is it important to believe in the Trinity?
  9. What is the meaning of life?
  10. What if it doesn’t make me happy to follow God?
  11. How come there are so many denominations?
  12. How do we know that we can trust the bible when there are so many different interpretations?
  13. What about Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc?
  14. There is no absolute truth! (Isn’t there?)
  15. What causes division in the church?
  16. Is division in the church ever a good thing? Why?
  17. Have the gifts of the Spirit ceased?
  18. What was the biblical form for the gifts? (What did they look like in practice?)
  19. Do Christians have to give 10%?
  20. What about “prosperity preaching” – doesn’t this prove Christianity is a scam to make money?
  21. Are all homosexuals going to hell? 
  22. Hell is going to be better than heaven! (Isn’t it?)
  23. Do babies and children that die go to heaven?
  24. What about people who never get the chance to hear the gospel – do they go to hell? (This doesn’t seem fair)
  25. What is the gospel?
  26. How does the gospel save people?
  27. Does this mean everyone will eventually be saved?
  28. Why eternal punishment? (and not just a short time)
  29. What does it mean to be born again?
  30. How does a person become born again?
  31. How should we read the bible?
  32. What is a study bible?
  33. What is a bible commentary?
  34. How does a Christian “hear” from God?
  35. Why pray if God already knows what we will pray?
  36. What is worship?
  37. What is discipleship?
  38. What is the difference between general and special revelation?
  39. Does God know what I’m thinking? Explain
  40. What is a miracle?
  41. What is God’s purpose in miracles?
  42. Can miracles be from the devil?
  43. Can we make God bring a miracle by praying hard enough?
  44. What does it mean to be holy and how does this apply to us and to God?
  45. Do miracles depend upon our purity and sinlessness?
  46. Do blessings depend upon whether we are sinful? (or have sinned)
  47. Can we be perfect in this life (completely free from sin)?
  48. How were people saved in the Old Testament?
  49. What qualities should Christian leaders possess?
  50. Why are there different versions of the bible?
  51. What is the best version of the bible for me? (and why)
  52. What is the difference between the Old and New Testaments?
  53. Are the books of the bible in chronological order? Explain
  54. What does the future hold?
  55. When do/did the “last days” begin?
  56. What is God’s purpose in the suffering of his people?
  57. What is the purpose of hell?
  58. Who goes to hell?
  59. What will hell be like?
  60. What is the purpose of heaven?
  61. Who goes to heaven?
  62. What will heaven be like?
  63. Is there any place other than heaven or hell where people might go when they die?
  64. Do animals go to heaven?
  65. What is the difference between Roman Catholicism and Protestant Christianity?
  66. Why is Roman Catholicism wrong?
  67. What was The Reformation?
  68. What is the best way to know error or untruth when you see it?
  69. What should you do if you find out you are wrong?
  70. How do people identify their gifts from God?
  71. How do they use their gifts from God?
  72. What is the best form of church governance?
  73. What is the difference between a biblical pastor and a biblical teacher?
  74. Can we know for certain that we are saved?
  75. How do we reach assurance?
  76. Can we say if someone else is saved or not? Explain
  77. Can we lose salvation having once had it? Explain
  78. What does it mean that God is sovereign?
  79. Do we have free will? Explain
  80. If we don’t have free will, does that make us robots? Explain
  81. If we do have free will, does our decision to follow Jesus mean we are smarter than those who choose not to? Explain
  82. Why is it important to have assurance of salvation as a Christian?
  83. What is discipleship?
  84. When is Jesus coming back?
  85. What should help Christians to get through hard times?
  86. What does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth?
  87. What does Israel have to do with Christianity (both past and present Israel)?
  88. Why did they sacrifice animals in Israel in the Old Testament?
  89. Why has the sacrifice of animals ended and will never be needed again?
  90. What does it mean to glorify God?
  91. How should marriage glorify God?
  92. What does it mean to be made in the image of God?
  93. How does ‘being made in the image of God’ inform our stance on abortion, war, and euthanasia?
  94. Can we earn our salvation? (Why/why not?)
  95. What is the fall?
  96. How does the fall explain so much of the imperfect world we live in?
  97. How does creation demonstrate the existence of a Creator?
  98. How does creation show the glory of the Creator?
  99. Should we read all of the bible literally? Explain
  100. How should Christians seek to make converts? (Methods, attitudes towards God, attitudes towards men)
  101. How do we examine ourselves to see whether we are Christians or not?

This was is a repost from my old blog:

http://sambooksandthoughts.blogspot.co.nz/2012/12/101-questions-for-christians-can-you.html