What is Truth? Part Three

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In this “What is Truth?” series, we have seen how vital it is to know sufficient information about the identity and history of Yahweh in order for a person (or ourselves!) to have confidence in God and his Word.

Many presentations of the gospel focus mainly on Jesus’ work on the cross. But then comes the question, “Who is Jesus?” It is not sufficient to say, “He is God,” because then you must explain what God is like. In this series, we’ve seen that it is vital to explain God’s identity and history if we expect people to trust him.

The same principle extends to trusting Jesus for our personal salvation. We need to know the identity and history of Jesus before we will trust him. We sort of intuitively know this but we often skip to the story of the cross without really nailing down the identity of Jesus. The identity of Jesus is that he is the Creator God. We simply cannot assume a person knows or believes that to be the case.

It is no coincidence that the identity of Jesus is the one area that cults and other religions most commonly assault.

It is no coincidence that the identity of Jesus is the one area that cults and other religions most commonly assault. They make Jesus out to be a lesser god, a prophet or maybe a good man, but not the Creator God of the Bible. It is also no coincidence that the Apostle John began his gospel with the clear statement that Jesus was the Creator God. He then reinforces that identity with eight miracles that confirm his deity. Only once that is nailed down can we really explain the historical reality of Christ.

The history of Jesus Christ centres around the events of the cross and tomb, but here, too, we benefit immensely from having a little background. Many ask, “Why did Jesus need to die on the cross? Why didn’t he just pronounce forgiveness on our sins? Did he have to die the way he did?” Those kinds of questions, gone unanswered, have been often cited as reasons why people leave the faith. They simply didn’t understand the identity and history of Christ and so begin to question their own faith. Clearly it is vital that we have a firm grip on the identity and history of Christ.

Those kinds of questions, gone unanswered, have been often cited as reasons why people have left the faith.

Dr. Andy Woods, author and teacher, says the whole reason for the necessity of the cross and tomb can be found in Genesis 3, where God gives his first promise of a Messiah to the newly fallen Adam and Eve. Dr. Woods quotes W.H. Griffith Thomas when he says, “[Genesis 3] is the pivot on which the whole Bible turns.” (1)

“[Genesis 3] is the pivot on which the whole Bible turns.”

W.H. Griffith Thomas

There in Genesis 3, we read of the sad history of mankind. We learn of the choice to trust Satan instead of God, the first human sin. We also learn about the shared identity of all humanity – our sin nature – and the consequence of that sin – eternal death. In Genesis 3, we also learn the early history of the Promised Messiah when God says to Satan, “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring [the Messiah]. He [the Messiah] will strike your head [a fatal blow], and you will strike his heel [a temporary wound].” (2) This then becomes the first of many prophecies pointing to a coming Saviour.

“If you don’t understand what happened in Genesis 3, you have no idea what the rest of the Bible is really talking about.”

Dr. Andy Woods

Dr. Woods goes on to say, “If you don’t understand what happened in Genesis 3, you have no idea what the rest of the Bible is really talking about. You have no idea why Jesus had to come into this world to die on a cross if you don’t understand Genesis chapter 3.” (1)

Let’s be sure we take sufficient time and care in our gospel presentations to ensure our listeners grasp the identity and history of their Saviour. Doing so can make all the difference in the faith walk of a believer.

  1. “Revelation 072-Identification Through Omission,” last modified February 23, 2020, accessed June 22, 2020, https://slbc.org/sermon/revelation-072-identification-through-absence/#transcriptlink.
  1. Genesis 3:15.

What is Truth? Part One

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A surprising answer to an ancient question

(Part One of Two)

Never in history has there been a greater flow of information and never before have so many questioned what is actually the “truth.” We find ourselves swamped with experts, many of whom contradict each other. As debates rage over the pros and cons of various approaches in this pandemic, many more wonder which “expert” is actually telling us “the truth.” I mean, after all, who really knows? People are left mired in doubt and justifiably full of suspicion to any truth claims.

Then the Bible believer shows up claiming to have The Truth. In its defence, we often start with the absolute reliability of the Bible. This can be very appropriate, as any truth claim is only as good as its source. In fact, it is very good to know how to defend the uniqueness of the Bible. We even wrote a booklet about that subject!

In communicating our beliefs to others, especially the skeptical, it seems reasonable to look to Scripture and see how it approaches evangelism.

“…it seems reasonable to look to Scripture and see how it approaches evangelism.”

Looking at the Bible evangelistically, Scripture does not begin with arguments addressing the reliability of Scripture. You don’t find passages on archaeology or manuscript evidence. No time is dedicated to the intricate detail and carefulness with which scribes copied and recopied the autographs. Much could have been written on these topics, but nothing is said.

The Apostle Paul, when dealing with the scholars in Athens, did not start his evangelistic message with a defence of Scripture. Nor did the Apostle John begin his evangelistic gospel with an argument for the reliability of God’s Word. And the book of Genesis simply starts with, “In the beginning God”–the ultimate Source of truth. (1) Over and over again we find that Scripture takes us directly to two spheres of information necessary to trust God: his Identity and his History. In this first of a two-part article, we will look at that first sphere of information, the issue of identity.

“Knowing the basics of God’s identity is key to grasping the Gospel.”

The issue of identity looks at who God is and what he is like. Knowing the basics of God’s identity is key to grasping the Gospel.

Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” The answer to that question is the ultimate statement on truth. One might respond, “Jesus is God,” and think that communicates sufficiently. But think again. Who or what is God? If a person’s idea of God is something like, “Let the force be with you,” or is mingled with other gods including oneself, then it becomes very important to take a few steps back and allow the Bible to fill in one’s understanding. But is that how evangelism is commonly done? Not usually. 

Most of our gospel presentations are based on 40-year old methods. Back then, assumptions were safely made that people knew who the God of the Bible was. We could say, “God loves you,” and people immediately thought of the God of the Bible. They clearly understood the basics of his identity. But that is not the case today. Today we still say “God loves you,” and we still assume people know what God is like, but more often than not, they don’t. I need not quote statistics to show what we all know from our own experience: that people today have a very garbled perspective of God’s identity. It is a problem in every aspect of our culture and society. 

In such situations we need to imitate what Scripture itself does: take the time to build a picture in people’s minds regarding the identity of God. We must recognize that a big chunk of Scripture is dedicated to defining the character of God. And how does it do that? Not with a dry list of attributes, but through stories that reveal God’s nature. 

“…we need to imitate what Scripture itself does: take the time to build a picture in people’s minds regarding the identity of God.”

That is where the Bible starts, declaring the power and knowledge of God through creation. That is where the Apostle John begins his book, declaring the God who is the creator. It is where Paul began with his esteemed crowd in Athens. As ambassadors of the gospel, we need to make sure people know a little bit about the identity of the God of the Bible before we leap to the events of the cross and tomb. Otherwise we may find that our “convert” is not trusting the biblical God, but rather an impersonal force or a very corrupt concept of Jesus. (2)

“What I believe in my heart must make sense in my mind.”

Ravi Zacharias

Sharing the gospel in the context of the biblical story line, from creation to the cross, declares a personal, supernatural God at work in history. It clearly defines who God is and what he is like—his identity. More often than not, in today’s world, that is where we must start.
With the passing of our brother in the Lord, Ravi Zacharias, we are reminded of the importance of knowing not only what we believe, but why we believe it. Ravi spoke again and again to the importance of bringing reason to what we believe: “What I believe in my heart must make sense in my mind.” (3)

It is only when we have the nature of the biblical God clear in our minds that we can make sense of the world around us and understand what Scripture has to say to mankind. We will look at that in our next post.

(1) In the Bible, the truth of what is written is assumed and taught as such. Only prophecy seems to be used as an apology for the reliability of Scripture (Isaiah 42:8-9).

(2) For example, Islam, Hinduism and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormonism) all speak of Jesus, but the Jesus they present is not the Jesus of the Bible.

(3)”Bridging the Heart and Mind”. Interview with Danielle DuRant, rzim.org. July 28, 2011

20th Anniversary of The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus

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It’s amazing the sort of impact one book can have. 20 years ago, in 1997, the book The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus was published. At the time, author John R. Cross and the men working with him had no idea that it would be the catalyst for a global ministry and how many people would come to faith in Christ through it. It was just one book with a simple message: a straightforward, systematic presentation of the gospel from creation to the cross.

The writing of The Stranger was drawn from decades of missionary experience of those working among tribal people in Papua New Guinea and elsewhere. These tribes, previously unevangelised and ignorant of the Bible’s message, responded well to a chronological presentation of the gospel. So well, in fact, that whole villages were putting their faith in Christ, without the age-old problems of syncretism and “rice Christians.” When the Bible was presented from creation to Christ, it made profound sense. The people would understand and believe. Lives were transformed.

But was it only tribal groups who responded so well to the creation-to-Christ method? What about the Western world? As John and his colleagues interacted with people back home in North America and around the world, they realized that some of these people were just as ignorant of the Bible as the tribal people. They knew nothing about God. They didn’t understand who Jesus was and why he came. We live, for the most part, in a post-Christian culture.

The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus was, in a sense, an experiment. It was a book that used the same method that had proven so effective with tribal groups—a chronological approach to explaining the gospel—except this time for the Western world. It was designed so that it could be given away or used to guide people to a clear understanding of the Bible. But would it be relevant and effective?

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This study brought it all together!

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It is always such an encouragement to hear how believers are strengthened in their faith and understanding of the Bible through chronological resources. Janie’s* testimony is an example of this. She was a participant in a recent Worldview Rethink study led by two of our staff and wrote the following email to express her thanks.

It is with great pleasure that I look back to our study, By This Name… Raised in the church, my whole life revolved around Christian activities. I was well taught all the Old Testament stories, believed in the authenticity of the Bible, had accepted Jesus as my Saviour, and knew the presence of God in my life.

There were years when I did not live my faith, and was ashamed of my behavior, but I was never ashamed of the gospel of Christ. Never did I feel abandoned by God, rather that I had abandoned Him, or tried to. We know how He draws us back.

I entered this study with many precious gems of Biblical knowledge knocking around loose in my head. This study brought them together as gems in a single piece, pointing our way to eternity.

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To give or to guide… that is the question

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ladies-studyKayla* has three friends who aren’t believers. Because she desired to share the gospel with them, Kayla attended a TERM Seminar to be better equipped. After the seminar, Kayla knew she wanted to use GoodSeed resources with her friends. But should she give them each a book and leave it at that? Or should she offer to guide them through a study?

We encourage believers to share the good news through two primary ways: give and guide. To elaborate, give means to take one of our books, audiobooks or videobooks and give it to a friend. Guide means to take the resources and lead a gospel Bible study. Both methods work. We have numerous testimonies of how people have come to faith in Christ because a friend gave them a book or guided them through a study. But in Kayla’s situation, which option would be better?

Let’s explore the merits of each option in turn.

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The best weekend of my entire life!

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church-378654_1280It’s an idyllic village nestled in an out-of-the-way corner along the north Atlantic coast. On this early spring evening, a group of about 15 people, ranging from teenagers to middle-aged, have just completed a weekend retreat. They are eagerly anticipating an upcoming missions trip to Central America. The weekend has proven to be pivotal in their preparation as they have spent two and a half days together, getting to know each other and being established in the message of the gospel.

“I wanted to join the mission team to increase my faith in God. This weekend has done that for me.” This comes from Vicky, one of the teenaged participants who is typically very reticent about expressing herself in public.

Samuel, a man in his 50s, is even more enthusiastic: “This weekend was literally the best weekend of my entire life.”

What made this weekend so special? For one thing, it was a great group of people. It was also a well-planned event. But the backbone of the weekend—and the highlight for everyone—was what they studied together: the gospel itself, from creation right through to the Cross.

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I don’t want to be a Christian

group-gardeningThe voice on the phone had a note of concern. “Mom, before you come, I want to let you know that Mei Ling* is coming over shortly. She’s really hurting and she wants to talk.”

After her daughter hung up, Haley paused for a moment. She had been about to leave for Stephanie’s home to see her new grandson for the first time when the call had come. Mei Ling was Stephanie’s neighbour and Haley had met her almost three years earlier. They had become well acquainted with each other as they both shared a passion for gardening. Mei Ling had shared a little about herself over the course of their friendship. Her parents were believers but Mei Ling had never shown any interest in her parents’ faith. Though her parents had tried to take her and her siblings to church, Mei Ling had turned down their offers. Since she had been a child, she was more interested in herself. Now Haley wondered what was causing Mei Ling so much grief. All of a sudden, she felt the very strong urge to take along a copy of By This Name.

Haley arrived at Stephanie’s home which was some distance away. It wasn’t long before Mei Ling knocked on the door. Over coffee, Mei Ling poured her heart out to Haley and Stephanie. Her life was full of trouble.

As Haley listened, she knew she didn’t want to give her friend words of empty comfort. She knew that trite cliches had no value. “I wanted to offer her real hope.” Haley wanted to share with Mei Ling the true hope found in the God of the Bible.

She decided to lay it on the line. She said to Mei Ling, “This world is full of trouble and we don’t have a lot of hope in this world.”

Mei Ling’s eyes flickered. She piped up, “That’s me. I have no hope! You are so lucky, you have hope. You have your God, you got your religion.”

Haley gave a measured response. “We’re not lucky… It’s just that we’ve chosen to put our hope in the living God.”

Mei Ling shook her head as if to preempt Haley’s invitation. “I don’t want to be a Christian. But,” she added with an edge to her voice, “I’ve got some big questions for your God.”

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You don’t need to be a rocket scientist in evangelism to do this!

space-shuttle-launchWhen Barry* called the GoodSeed office to order resources, he asked if he could pop in for a visit. “I want to share with you what I’ve been doing since the TERM Seminar,” he said.

A short time later, he dropped by at lunch time. He had driven for over two hours but was eager to tell his story. Barry was a busy businessman but with a big heart for evangelism. He had been looking for a simple way to share the gospel but struggled to find the time to train himself to be an effective teacher. But after attending TERM, he realized that the Dynamic Leading-Reading-Modelling method that had been taught was something he could do.

“The first impact [of the seminar] was how it helped me. I’ve been a Christian for many years but never seen it put together like this. The whole concept of atonement, the tabernacle, Adam and Eve, the covering, all coming together is remarkable,” Barry shared with the GoodSeed staff around the lunch table.

He went on to say that, as he sat through the three days of TERM, his level of enthusiasm grew. He saw how easy it was to lead a group with the leader’s guide and after the seminar wrapped up, he asked to buy the curriculum.

Unfortunately at that time, the By This Name leader’s guide had not yet gone to press. So he waited. And waited. In the meantime, he bought copies of By This Name to give to others. When his first case of books arrived at his doorstep, he pulled them out of the box and started handing them out. He ran out before long. When he called to order more books, it happened that our proof copy of the By This Name leader’s guide had just arrived that day. When he learned that there was a physical copy in the office he asked, “Can I buy that one?”

Our office staff sold him the one copy we had. When he received it, Barry wasted no time in organizing groups to teach.

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Looking for curriculum for small groups? Here are three suggestions

If you are starting a new season of small group meetings and are looking for a possible curriculum to use, here are three that you can consider.

1. Worldview Rethink with By This Name

DESCRIPTION: What is the main message of the Bible? Who is Jesus? What are the cross and the tomb all about? How is the Old Testament relevant to our understanding of the New Testament? This study takes you on a journey from creation to the cross to explain the core message of the Bible.

AUDIENCE: For people who want a solid biblical foundation, including those who want to learn or be refreshed in the message of the gospel.

TIME NEEDED: 16 hours (e.g., 8 sessions of 2 hours each)

RESOURCES: Leader’s guide, coursebook, workbook, DVD or online videos, visual aids

FORMAT OF STUDY: Dynamic reading. Leaders read the course book narrative. Group reads the Scripture verses. Reading is interspersed with video clips and visual aids. The group also uses the workbook together. Learn more about Dynamic Reading-Leading-Modelling.

REVIEW: “This book and the DVD series and workbook that accompany it are by far the best, most clearly stated overview of the Bible I’ve seen. It is an excellent foundational base that can be used with new Christians, mature Christians, and non-Christians. I used it to start a neighbourhood ladies’ Bible study with ladies from several different faiths. It was so well-received that once we finished it, we were then able to start studying one of the books of the Bible (Mark). I highly recommend this for use by an individual, small group, or large group, or anyone seeking to understand the Bible as a whole.” – Melissa

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Skyping the gospel

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skype_study_2“Is there life on other planets? Are there other universes?”

“How do you hear from God? Does he have a voice I can hear?”

“What can I do to be safe from the devil?”

The questions came thick and fast. The Chinese man sitting on the couch across from Jon* and his wife Denise was sincere—and confused. He so wanted to know everything there was to know about God. But Jon and Denise knew that before they could delve into the answers to his questions, they would need to bring him back to the basics. He needed a foundation in who God was and what Jesus had accomplished on the cross.

They had first met Mingfang at a Bible study and were struck not only with his earnest desire to know God but also with his complete biblical illiteracy. The group was just wrapping up a study on the book of Job. Within minutes, it became obvious that the young Chinese man was floundering in his attempt to follow the discussion.

Jon and Denise approached Mingfang and asked if he would be interested in going through a study that would give him the whole story of the Bible and increase his understanding of God. Mingfang was beyond excited at the idea. So Jon and Denise began going to his apartment on a weekly basis to go through the Worldview Rethink curriculum with him and his wife.

Mingfang considered himself a Christian. That’s why he had come to church and then to the small group Bible study in the first place. But his “Christianity” was a blend of Eastern thought and his own efforts to be good enough for God. He was constantly asking what he had to do. His desire in life was to be a good person.

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