The link between wealth and salvation

Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.”

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” – Luke 19:8-10

Both this passage and Luke 18:18-27 mention a link between wealth, what you do with that wealth, and your salvation. What is this link, and what does it tell us about our salvation?

Two noticeable events take place in this passage. The first is Zaccheus declaring that he is giving away over half his money, and the other is that Jesus announces that he is saved. At first glance appears like a cause and effect, the cause being that Zaccheus gives away his wealth, and the effect is that Jesus declares that he is saved.

This idea also looks to be backed up by the passage in Luke 18 where a rich man asks Jesus how he can have salvation and Jesus replies saying to give away all of his wealth. The rich man then walks away sad and Jesus says to his disciples that it is impossible for the rich to get into heaven.

There is something you have to remember about reading the Bible though. You cannot take certain passages in the Bible and base doctrines on those passages, you have to take the Bible as a whole. A lot of times concepts are explained and then later on they are refined or more detail is given.

So then how do we reconcile this with verses such as Ephesians 2:8-9?

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

The passage in James 2 ties these two concepts together perfectly and clears any cloud of confusion that some may have. James says “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? … Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14,17)

A person is not saved by any work they do, no matter what it is, because our sin is so great to God that no amount of our “good works” could make up for it. It is only through our faith in Jesus Christ that we can have salvation, and by nothing else. But when you have faith, you will have good works as a response to your faith. It is not something you have to make yourself do, it is out of an act of love.

I love my wife, and because I love her I do things for her, help her out around the house when she isn’t feeling well, or buy her her favorite chocolate as a surprise when I am at the store.  These acts do not make her love, the acts do not make her my wife, they are just acts of kindness that I do in response to my love for her.  Faith in Christ works the same way.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. – James 2:21-26

Abraham was not saved because of his actions. Abraham took action because of his faith, they work hand in hand. If Abraham did not have faith, then he would not have acted.

Zaccheus was saved that day, but not because he gave away his wealth, but because he had faith in Christ. Once Zaccheus had faith his wealth was meaningless to him because he had Jesus. Zaccheus acted out of response to his faith in Christ. Jesus then announced that he was saved because Zaccheus had faith, and he also had evidence of faith in his works.

The rich ruler in Luke 18 wanted Jesus, but he wanted his riches more. He did not have faith or he would not have cared about his riches.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. – Matthew 13:44

When you are saved through your faith in Christ you have a heart for God, and a heart for others. At that point the things of this world should seem meaningless as you pursue Christ and the kingdom.

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. – James 1:27

If you have wealth, how are you using that for the kingdom of God? Are you just spoiling yourself? Are you staying “unspotted from the world”? As a professing follower of Christ you should be pursuing the things God wants you to pursue, and if you are not then why not? Do you put Christ before your family even? (Luke 14:26)

Are you really putting Christ first in your life?

If Jesus confronted you today, would he say “today salvation has come to this house” or would he say “how hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God”?

The choice is yours.

Did Jesus exist in the beginning with God?

I have been a follower of Jesus for years and have spent a lot of time reading His Word, so I sometimes forget that not everybody knows the basic beleifs of Christianity. I take it for granted that people just believe the stuff every Christian should know.

Take for example this simple question, “Did Jesus exist in the beginning with God?” Before anything was created, before time, did Jesus exist in the beginning? I asked sixteen professing believers I work with this question, and was shocked at how few knew the answer.  Twelve of those sixteen did not believe that Jesus existed in the beginning, and was just the first created thing.

Did Jesus exist in the beginning?

John 1:1-2 simply states this when it says

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

And who was the Word? Just a few verses later John clearly tells us

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’” (John 1:14-15)

Who was it that became flesh to dwell among us, the only begotten of the Father (John 3:16)? Who was it that John bore witness to? It was Jesus. Jesus existed in the beginning with God, and not just existing with God, but Jesus was God in the beginning! (He is still God today of course. 🙂 )

Isaiah the prophet heard a message from God where God the Father said

Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘ I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God. (Isaiah 44:6)

God is the First and the Last, nothing existed before God and nothing will exist after Him, He is it, the first and the last. In Revelation Jesus identifies himself as ” I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” (Revelation 22:13) The Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the greek alphabet, in English it would be the A and the Z. There are no letters before A, and none after Z. Jesus is the first and last, the beginning, and the end.

How is it that both God the Father and Jesus can be the first and the last? This is only possible because Jesus is God. Remember what John 1:1 said, “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Both are God, both are one being, one diety, even though they are individual.

I Am

In the Old Testament God would refer to himself as simply “I Am” (Exodus 3:14). That in itself is an awesome statement, which I will cover in a future article. Jesus later when talking to the Jews told them “Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”” (John 8:58). Jesus is not only saying that he existed since before his physical birth on earth, but he is identifying himself as being God, as being the I Am. Jesus again identified himself as the I am when he was being arrested in the garden. The soldiers asked if Jesus was “Jesus of Nazareth” and Jesus replied in such away that the soldiers fell to the ground. “Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.” (John 18:6)

Jesus is the Creator

When God is creating man He says “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;” (Genesis 1:26). Who is God talking to here? Who is God refereing to by saying “Us” and “Our”? God is not a single being but three, completely seperate beings, three deities that are the same. The Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1). This is an example of how Jesus did exist in the beginning.

Not only was Jesus with God in the beginning, before creation, but Jesus is the creator. John 1:3 says “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” Jesus did not come to die for his Father’s creation, but his own. Isn’t this amazing? Jesus knew what he would have to go through, he knew all of the suffering he would face before he created us, yet he still choose to do so!

Why is this important?

The final question I want to look at is why is it important that Jesus existed in the beginning with God?
If Jesus did not exist in the beginning with God, then you must conclude that Jesus was not God and therefor could not live a perfect life and die for our sins, or you must conclude that God can make other gods. If God could make other gods then it makes God a lot less unique in the universe and we could claim that there are other gods to follow and Jesus isn’t the only way.

No, Jesus had to be God, part of the Trinity, One God.  As we read and study the Bible, and as we get to know Jesus closer, we cannot help but conclude that Jesus did indeed exist in the beginning with God.

Extreme Faith

Extreme is becoming a fairly common word in today’s society. There are extreme sports where people have the mentality of “No Fear” to do incredible stunts and actions. They do it for various reasons, an adrenaline rush, to be popular, or they just lost their mind. But these people constantly risk their life to be extreme, even after seeing others be paralyzed or killed in motorcycle accidents or parachuting. Still the risk for them is worth the adrenaline rush or popularity.

The definition of extreme: “Being very far from the center of public opinion”

Similar words to extreme: extremist, fanatic (or fanatical), rabid, radical, revolutionary, revolutionist, ultra

Opposite words: conservative, moderate, temperate; conventional, orthodox, traditional; liberal, progressive

So now I’m asking you a question, in your relationship with Christ, do you have a “No Fear” extreme faith? Or are you a “middle-of-the-road” Christian?

Let’s take a look at what extreme faith is.

Genesis 22:2-3

He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”

So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.

God made a huge demand here, one that none of us would take lightly. And what was Abraham’s response? Did he plead with God and beg that something else be done? No, Abraham had such an extreme faith in God, that he would do ANYTHING that God told him to do, no matter how bad. Of course we all know that this was a test that Abraham passed, but he passed only because of his faith in God.

Our faith is what allows us to follow God. Without faith, we would not believe and would not follow him. Especially when it gets hard to follow.

We need to have an extreme faith in God and reveal it in many ways. Do you have enough faith to know that if you pay tithes that God will provide for you? Do you have enough faith to live your life for God more than for “stuff”? Stuff will always fail you. Your car will break down, no matter how cool or expensive it is. Your clothes will wear out, and your friends will fail you. But God will never break down and will NEVER fail you! He is actually worthy of putting faith into, but still it seems hard soemtimes.

Do you have such an extreme faith that you would tell others about Him? What’s the worst that is going to happen if you ask others if they believe in Jesus, and if they don’t then lead them through the importance of it? Let’s look at Acts 16:23-25

When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely;

and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them;

Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into jail and still they could not be silenced. Not only that, they started to praise God! How little faith or devotion do we have today where we stop talking about Jesus if someone looks at us funny? Stop cowering in a room surrounded by other Christians and get out there and spread the Word!

A word of warning here. Hearing this will make a lot of people feel bad about themselves, like you have failed God or feel like you are a coward. God choose you like you are, so don’t feel that way. You can’t fail God because He already knows what’s going to happen; He already knows what you will and will not do.

Beating yourself up for what you have or have not done in the past will only hinder your work in the Lord. Get over the past and get busy. We have too much work to do to feel bad for ourselves.

Acts 8:26-27a

But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.)

So he got up and went;…..

God told Philip to go, and what did he do? He got up and went. The result was that he happened to meet a eunuch on the road and witnessed to him. He witnessed to the eunuch “And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.”

The Eunuch was saved because Philip had faith, heard the call and answered it.

The point is don’t feel ashamed or bad for your past, even if you have been a bad witness. Instead, have an extreme faith and get up and go. Don’t feel bad for not going in the past, go now! Even if you don’t witness to every person you meet (which is highly unlikely) just witness! Everyday make sure that you are living a life that is a witness to others. You are an ambasador to God, act like it. Represent Him.

And have an extreme faith, not extreme faith in your motorcycle jumping across a canyon, but faith that God will save those who follow Him and the faith that says “I will stand up for God, even to the death.”

Carry your cross, every day. Everyday ask yourself, do you have extreme faith?

YHWH: The Name of the Lord

YHWH: The Name of the Lord
By Matt

One constant in the language of the Old Testament that makes it different from the New Testament is that we notice that “LORD” is in all capital letters. Some may wonder why this is. In the original Hebrew language, LORD is translated YHWH, God’s name. From this we get the anglicization “Jehovah.” As the O.T. writers penned the Word inspired by God Himself, they used many compound Hebrew names for God. These names reflect God’s character– His faithfulness, His unchangeableness, His truth. Let us explore some of these. This article is written based off a list of names for God in the Old Testament found in the MacArthur Study Bible.

Jehovah
“The LORD,” Genesis 2:4-6

“This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.”
The original Hebrew here for “LORD” is “Yehovah,” which stresses God’s self-existence and eternality. The Lord has always existed, in the past, in the present, and in the future. Isaiah 46:9-10 says, “‘Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.”‘” God is self-existent– He created the end and the beginning themselves! We see God’s eternality affirmed again in Deuteronomy 33:27: “‘The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms…'”. The Lord is eternal– He is everlasting, forever!

Jehovah-Jireh
“The LORD Will Provide”, Genesis 22:14

“And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, ‘In the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.'”
Jehovah-Jireh: the LORD will provide. When we start to panic over not having enough of something– like not having enough money, time, patience, energy, or other things– how often we forget that God is the God who provides for our every need. And indeed, God has provided for us. He has provided the resources we need to preach His Word to a lost and dying world. He has provided our necessities, as Jesus affirmed in Matthew 6:32, when He assured us that the Father knows what we need. And perhaps the most hard-hitting provision of all was prophesied by Abraham on that mountain– that the Lord would provide His one and only Son to suffer and die on a cross to take away our sin and shame.

Jehovah-Maccaddeshem
“The LORD Your Sanctifier”, Exodus 31:12-13

“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: “Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you.”‘”
The Sabbath is spoken of here as a sign between God and His people, Israel. God had set Israel apart from other nations. They were always different, from the time that Abraham left his homeland in Ur. When we give our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ, He sets us apart from the world, just like He did His people in the Old Testament. The apostle John wrote: “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15) We are separate from the world as believers– we are in the world, but not of the world. God has set us apart for good works, which He prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

Jehovah-Nissi
“The LORD Our Banner”, Exodus 17:14-15

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.’ And Moses built an altar and called its name, The-LORD-Is-My-Banner; for he said, ‘Because the LORD has sworn: the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.'”
John MacArthur says regarding this, “By titling the altar with this designation for the Lord, Yahweh-Nissi, Moses declared the Lord Himself to be the standard for His people.” The Amalekites were a corrupt people who did not worship the one true God. On the other hand, God declared His standard throughout the Old Testament, calling His people to holy living and to honor Him. The Lord is our banner– He is our standard. It is His flag that we carry with us and display to the people we meet. If we’re living a fruitful Christian life, other people will notice it in us– they’ll see our banner flying high.

Jehovah-Tsidkenu
“The Lord Our Righteousness,” Jeremiah 23:6

“‘In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.'”
Jesus Himself is our righteousness– for only God gives us righteousness. The Bible tells us that there is none righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10). How can we become righteous? There is only one way, and that way is by trusting the Lord Jesus Christ and accepting His atoning sacrifice for us at Calvary. Without Him, we can never be righteous. Our righteousness as believers is not our own– it comes only from the one true Lord God.