Learning Greek can seem overwhelming to most people, especially if you have a hard time with the language you speak everyday. Here is a video that helped me learn the Greek alphabet with just one view. The only drawback is that it doesn't teach you how to write the actual letters. This comes from just strict repitition and naming the letters as you go.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Sometimes we picture man and his need of salvation as a man who's in prison, desperately seeking a way out. He hates his environment and is constantly searching for a means to get over the fence to freedom. Then, we read a verse like John 6:44, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." Suddenly, we're faced with an either "pictoral" dilemma or a theological dilemma.
Could it be that our "picture" of man in the prison, seeking freedom, is flawed?
Let's examine the picture. Is man in a prison cell of sin desperately seeking a way out and the only thing holding him back are the bars and, of course, the warden? Or is man in a prison cell of sin and he's not looking for a way out at all...is it possible that he likes his bondage?
When we consider John 6:44, we clearly see man's inability to come to Christ on his own. I don't know of anyone in orthodox Christianity who would deny this. However, some will point back to John 5:40 to say that at some point, man is brought to some state of neutrality and actually has the ability to choose either way. "And ye will not come to me that ye might have life." They will then skip over to John 12:32, where it says "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." The Pelagian, the Arminian and the Universalist will interpret this verse along with John 6:44 and John 5:40 to say, "See, He draws all men the same, therefore all men have the ability to come to Christ." This claim is usually made with many "whosoever will" verses in an attempt to solidify their interpretations. I've even heard some preachers interpret John 6:44 to say that "man can not just get saved whenever he wants to." What saith I?...I think Oscar Mayer says it best: B-O-L-O-G-N-A!
So, how do we reconcile and interpret these verses? Well, first, we need to see the difference between ability and permission. Do you ever remember in school when you had to use the restroom and you'd raise your hand, then ask the teacher, "Can I go to the bathroom???" The teacher would then reply, "I don't know, can you?" Then she would immediately correct our grammar by saying "May I please go to the restroom." You see the word "can" is a word of ability and "may" is a word of permission. Many preachers and laymen alike who abhor the doctrines of grace will most often mis-characterize these doctrines by claiming we believe that even though man is desperately trying to get saved, God is holding him back saying, "No, you're not elect, you can't come!" This is either a deliberate lie or just a statement made from ignorance.
The fact is, is that God does give permission for all to come to Him. All who believe will have eternal life. Everyone who believes will not perish. What a beautiful demonstration of grace to hear the Lord Jesus say these words to sinners! So, John 6:44 is not speaking of permission, in fact He uses the word, "can". This is the Greek word "dunamai" which means power or ability. So, man is unable and powerless to come (or "believe" as interpreted by John 6:35) except the Father draw him. This inability is not a physical inability. Men can do all kinds of religious deeds such as praying, altar visits, confessions, etc... Man's inability is a moral inability. His heart is wicked and his flesh is corrupt. Every aspect of his being has been affected by the curse of sin. So, the heart of the problem is a problem with the heart.
This raises the next question: according to John 12:32, doesn't God draw all men, so therefore all can come? Well let's let Scripture interpret Scripture here. If God draws all men, then according to the passages in John 6:35-45, ALL come; and if ALL come, then He will raise them ALL at the last day. Uh oh...by interpreting John 6:44 with John 12:32, we've just entered the heretical theology of universalism.
Notice also in John 12:32 the words that are in italics in the KJV: men. So, the problem lies in the interpretation of one of two words: draw or all. The Greek word for draw (helko) is the same in both verses, which literally means to drag. See it's usage in the other New Test. passages: John 18:10, John 21:6, John 21:11, Acts 16:19, Acts 21:30, and James 2:6. So, there's no problem there unless, of course, you want to say draw means to give some sort of "boost to neutrality" or an "enticement", which is clearly not the case according to its Greek definition.
So, the next word of study would be the word "all". While studying through the Gospel of John (not just a few verses out of context) you'll see a recurring theme: Jesus offers salvation not just to the Jews but to Gentiles or "other sheep" as well. It was prophesied by Caiaphas in John 11:49-52. Jesus also spoke of it in John 10:15-16. So, who will He draw unto Himself? All the Father gives Him, the children of God, the sheep, those that are of the truth, etc...the point being is that it's for believing Jews as well as believing Greeks, believing Romans, believing Americans, etc....
So, back to the original question...why won't men come to Christ? Is it because God won't let them? Or, is it because men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil and therefore, no man seeks after God? Men won't come to Christ simply because they dont want to. They're unable and powerless to come because their will is in bondage to their sinful nature. Christ offers the gospel and salvation freely, but man in his rebellion does not want to come. The only solution is for God to overcome their rebellious nature, changing their wills by shining His light into their darkened hearts. Thank God for His power to save effectually! In conclusion, it's man's fault that he does not believe. Man holds himself back.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Last night was totally not what I had expected. Last week, I was invited to attend the Randolph Co. Tea Party meeting that was held at "The Exchange" in Asheboro, NC. My brother and I decided to go, not having a clue what to expect. I had envisioned a big group of white supremist redneck guys and gals driving jacked up trucks, carrying a bible in one hand, gun in their pockets, mouth full of chaw, while spitting, cussing, and quoting "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD" all at the same time. However, I was pleasantly surprised.
Where did I get this crazy concept from? Hmmm...could it be a biased media? Maybe. Or maybe, I just have a vivid imagination. What I saw and heard were people just like me, my neighbors, my church family and friends. They were just concerned citizens with a desire to give the power back to the people. Was it a shouting, cussing, fist pumping, rebellious mob? No, not at all. It was a very well organised assembly of intelligent, polite, diversity of people from all over Randolph Co. They even opened with prayer (gasp!) in Jesus name (double gasp!). And, I say halelujah to that.
The speakers were very knowledgable and inspiring. Did I understand everything that was going on and being said? Honestly, no, I'm not as politically savvy as I should be. But, it was not so far above a lay-person's head that one would be totally clueless. If nothing else, it does give you inspiration to learn more so you can do more. I'm thinking I need to paint a patriotic painting to inspire people to turn back to God, and take control of their country. Isn't it amazing that ordinary people can do extraordinary things?
Monday, September 13, 2010
Well, it's another Monday...we're recuperating from an exciting weekend. This past Saturday, we enjoyed ourselves as a family at the Bush Hill Festival in Archdale, NC. I took this year off from having an art booth there and it actually turned out to be a God-given decision. That afternoon, it poured down rain which would have ruined my artwork. So, thank the Lord for inspiring us to take a day off.
However, we did have the opportunity to pass out some million dollar bill gospel tracts from Living Waters. At the end of the day, we were soaked to the bone and my whole family looked like a family of wet rats...what a pitiful site, I'm sure. But, it sure was nice to go back to a warm dry home, take a nap, then feast on some home made shepherd's pie...delicious!
On Sunday, we were invited to Grace Memorial Baptist Church , the church of our friends Ryan and Jennifer Brigman. I had the honor to speak at their Homecoming service. You can see some of their talents and life at http://thenonconformistmom.blogspot.com/ . I was priviledged to present the Gospel message through painting and speaking, along with special singing from my wife, Crystal. (The picture above is the final image that was painted during the message) Did I do the Gospel justice? No...I don't know that anyone ever does. We take so lightly spiritual truths that even angels look into with awe.
On a side note, I learned that my daughter wants to be a performer...she put on quite a show while I was preaching, painting and my wife was singing. (Note to self...bring a big paddle next time)
Visit http://www.jeremysams.com/ to see more paintings.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Thursday, September 9, 2010
In John 6:1-15, we see the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 men with five barley loaves and two fish. Most people read that and think, "Wow, look what Jesus did in the bible almost 2,000 years ago! He sure did some crazy miracles back then!" But, does this same God still work in miraculous ways today?
God has blessed me for some 13 years now to make a living as an artist. In today's economy, let's just be honest...art is not a necessity. If I had to choose between feeding my family and purchasing a painting, the painting had better be digestable, come with plates and forks, and cost under $9.95. Yet, somehow, even in this horrible economy, I still have food in my pantry and diesel fuel in my car. How does this happen?
In John 6:1-4, we see the Faithless Crowd. These people were motivated to follow Christ because they saw Him as some side-show, miracle worker. They were just looking for a cheap thrill. How many today only want Jesus if He'll show them some sign or wonder? John 2:23-25 tells of this type. They believed on Him because of the things they saw Him do, but Jesus did not believe in them because He knew their motives.
John 6:5-9 tells us of the Failed Test of the disciples. With the approaching crowd, and being so late in the day, Jesus tested His disciples with an impossible task. "Where can we buy bread to feed these people?" My first reaction is reflected in Philip's response: "Who cares where we'll buy bread...we don't have the funds!" So Philip, like me, when faced with the impossible, looks toward his starving wallet.
Andrew does a little better; he at least puts forth an effort to find the goods. He finds the material that could be used (five loaves and two fish). However, like me, he says, "But what are they among so many." So, his response is "We don't have enough material!"
If you look at this same story in Matthew 14:15, some of the disciples made the suggestion to just send the crowd away. So, their response, also like mine at times, is to just ignore the problem...and make it go away.
So often I fail the tests of life and trusting God by looking toward money, material, and making the problem go away.
However, in v.10-13, we see a Fulfilling Christ. Notice also in v. 5 that Jesus lifted up His eyes and saw... He knew the problem before the disciples did. We can take great comfort in knowing that Jesus already knew of our problem before it ever was one. In v.10, He takes control of the situation. How great it is when God takes control of our impossibilities! In v. 11, He creates the solution. He supernaturally defies the laws of nature to multiply the food. Then, as if that wasn't enough, He uses those same doubting disciples to distribute to the crowd. How often has God done this in our lives? He will miraculously provide and then use us, who doubted and were faithless, to distribute blessings to others. Then, in v.12, He left nothing to be wasted. He always provides enough; He completely satisfies. What a great, fulfilling, compassionate, and graceful God!
Lastly, in v.13-14, we see the crowd's reaction. They wanted to take Him by force to make Him king. Is that all that bad? At first glance, one wouldn't think so. But Jesus leaves them. So, the reaction of Jesus is very telling. Their motives was one of "make Him king, so He can feed us all the time!" They were lovers of Christ because He filled their bellies. He met their physical needs and fulfilled their fleshly desires and they stopped there. They didn't see the miracle as a sign pointing to the supremecy of Christ. They saw Him as a means to fulfill their physical desires. This sounds a lot like the prosperity gospel being preached today...Come to Jesus so He can make you rich...come to Jesus to fix your marriage...come to Jesus to fix your physical problems! However, you'll not use Jesus as some way to fulfill your carnal desires. If we come to Him, we'll come to Him on His terms, not our selfish terms.
To see this painting, visit http://www.jeremysams.com/
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Finally, the painting is complete. I'll probably still fine-tune it, but overall, I believe it's done.
The question is now, did I accomplish the message I was hoping to convey? What is the message? you may ask. The message is God's grace bestowed, overcoming the absolute inability of man.
My intentions were to paint a portrait of God's grace. What would grace look like? Contemplating this, my thoughts kept returning to the lost sheep who Jesus came to find and bring home. I hope we'll see several key doctrines in this painting:
1. The Absolute Helplessness of the Sheep. Notice the sheep is on a narrow protruding rock with a deep chasm between him and the Shepherd. By the looks of his setting, he is completely unable to help himself. This is also man's plight. Man is absolutely unable to save himself, "with man this is impossible" Mat. 19:26.
Every aspect of his being whether his mind, will, heart, etc...has been affected by sin and he is a slave to his own sin and devices. "Whosoever committeth sin is a slave to sin" John 8:34. He is controlled by his fleshly and carnal nature and is void of any spiritual comprehension (1 Cor. 2:14).
2. The Direction of the Sheep. Notice the direction the sheep is facing. He is not looking toward his only Savior. This is also like man. "There is none that seeketh after God.", Romans 3:11. Man's natural tendency, while an unregenerate sinner, is to run from the Light (John 3:19). Man seeks after God the same way a thief seeks a cop...it doesn't happen. Darkness has no fellowship with light and the sinner seeks to hide from God in his own sin rather than come to the Light to expose his wickedness.
3.The Initiative of the Shepherd. Even while the sheep is completely helpless and not looking for a Savior, yet in grace, the Shepherd seeks the sheep. Had it not been for the seeking Shepherd, the sheep would never have been delivered. The only reason we love God is because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Even while we were dead in sins, Christ made us alive together with Him (Eph. 2:4-5). He came to seek and to save the lost, even though the lost were never seeking Him.
4. The Effectual Work of the Shepherd. Notice the Shepherd is reaching out His staff to draw the sheep to Himself. He will accomplish His work. "Thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He SHALL save His people from their sins.", Mat. 1:21. Notice there is no "maybe's" or "hope-so's". No, He SHALL save His people. John 6:37 and 6:39 make it very clear that all that the Father gives Him SHALL come and He will lose NOTHING. If John 6 isn't clear enough, Paul reiterates this security in Romans 8:30. Those whom He predestinates, He calls...Those He calls, He justifies...and those He justifies, He will glorify. There is no room for man to thwart God's sovereign plan in any of these verses or to break this golden chain of redemption. To say that you can, is to simply and erroneously add to God's Word.
Some say, "God's done all He can do, the rest is up to you!" Can you imagine the Shepherd coming up to the sheep with staff in hand, while looking at the helpless ruined sheep, proclaiming, "I've come this far and found you, but it's up to you now to jump on my shoulders!, I've done all I can do!" This is absolutely absurd and degrading to the sovereign power of God. No, He came to seek and to save that which was lost. If you're relying on anything you've done to save you (repeating prayers, altar visits, "asking Jesus into your heart", or going through any ritual or good deed as a means of regeneration and justification) then, you're not relying on God's grace through faith. Salvation is not based upon a prayer or a magic phrase, it's based upon a Person, Jesus Christ. Many evangelicals incuding baptists have become almost catholic in their extra-biblical traditions...so much so that they have adopted these traditions as church doctrine. May we examine and adhere to the preaching of Jesus and the apostles and stay with biblical terminology to avoid these damnable errors.
5. The Means of the Shepherd's Work. The Shepherd is lovingly using His staff to draw the sheep to Himself. In Psalm 23, David mentions thy rod and thy staff, they "comfort" me. In the New Testament, Jesus promises a "Comforter" who is the Holy Spirit. In order for any to be born again, it is by a supernatural union of Spirit and water. The water is typical of the Word of God (Ezekiel 36:25-27, John 3:5, Eph. 5:26) and is used in accordance with the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit germinates the seed of the Word of God and produces a "new birth" or regeneration (Titus 3:5, 1 Peter 1:23). This, of course, is all a work of the Spirit and His will according to John 3:8, John 1:13, Rom. 9:16 and James 1:18. God's gift and His Gospel is freely offered to every man. However, only those who are thirsty and hungry will come to Him. The only way this sheep will come to Christ is through the drawing power of the Shepherd using His staff.
Notice also the horn hanging from the Shepherd. This is His oil that is used for anointing and healing of the sick or wounded sheep. Oil, also typical of the Holy Spirit will be poured out on the sheep. So, not only does the Shepherd deliver us from our place of bondage and ruin, but He gives us His Spirit to seal us, heal us, and grow us in santification.
6.The Place He Leads Us. Notice the area to which the Shepherd is drawing the sheep. It's a place of lush grass, flowers, trees, and springs of water. It's a place of the living. This is what it means to walk the Christian walk. It is a place of true satisfaction, where we no longer care for the lies and false pleasures of the corrupt world system. Even though the sheep own nothing, yet the Shepherd owns them and provides all that they need.
So, what is man's responsibility in this whole scheme of salvation? You must repent and believe the Gospel. Has God performed a work in your heart that you now hate the sin that you once indulged in? Do you now see the Savior as your only hope? Has the God you once ran from made Himself beautiful to you and a source of your all satisfaction? If this is you, come to Him, He will never cast you out (John 6:37) He has paid the penalty and taken the wrath of all who will believe (Romans 3:24-26). He offers you life, receive Him today.
To see more of Jeremy's work visit http://www.jeremysams.com/