The “One Another” Life

July 7, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

Our society is becoming increasingly more isolated.  Modern technology has played a huge role in our relational disconnect. Garages protect us from having to see and speak to our neighbors. Air conditioners keep us behind closed doors. And television and social media keep us occupied. Quite frankly, we can literally live years without actually meeting the people that live next door to us.  We no longer feel as if we need so much human interaction.

If we are not careful, it is easy to bring that same mentality into the Church. Many love the anonymity of a large congregation. They shy away from small groups. To arrive late and leave early is the “MO” of many believers. Yet, that is not the way that God created us.

From the very beginning God designed man with the need to be in the company of others.   That truth is first seen in Genesis 2:18 when God says, “It is not good for man to be alone.”   It is in the fellowship with other believers that we find the encouragement, accountability and support that we desperately need.

The phrase that Paul uses to describe the believer’s mutual relationship is “one another”. Although “one another” is two words in English, it is only one word in Greek (ἀλλήλων). It is found 100 times in 94 New Testament verses.  One third of the time it speaks of unity and one third of the time it speaks of the believer’s love for one another.   15% of the time it speaks of humility and deference to one another.  The simple truth that Paul understood and communicated to his readers is that the Christian life must be lived with ONE ANOTHER.

  • Be patient with one another (Mark 9:50)
  • Love one another (John 13:34; 15:12; Romans 13:8)
  • Welcome one another (Romans 15:7)
  • Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
  • Confess your sins to one another (James 5:16)

Honestly, it is hard to practice the ONE ANOTHER life in a church our size. It is impossible to have a conversation with 600 people. Statistics show that no matter how large the church, the average member only knows a little more than 50 people. Thus, our challenge is to make a big church small. That is why LIFE GROUPS are so important. It is in LIFE GROUPS that the ONE ANOTHER principle is lived out.

At HCC our LIFE GROUPS have three goals.

  • Life Groups facilitate Christian fellowship

The simple truth is that you don’t have to know everyone in the church as long as you know somebody in the church.  LIFE GROUPS provide friendship, camaraderie and accountability. They connect you with people that are struggling with the same battles that you face and rejoice in similar victories.   In short, LIFE GROUPS provide you with Christian friends that will encourage you in your walk with the Lord.

  • Life Groups facilitate spiritual growth

In other words, spiritual growth takes place in small groups. There is something unique and powerful about studying God’s Word in a small group setting. In the worship service you sit and listen to the Pastor, while in small groups you sit and share with each other. Small groups allow for biblical truth to come alive in a way that is powerfully different than the worship experience.   Both are necessary for spiritual growth.

  • Life Groups facilitate Christian Service

LIFE GROUPS spur one another to service. It makes perfect sense to do ministry with the same group of people with whom you are growing in your spiritual walk.   Such ministry opportunities provide the perfect environment to put into practice the spiritual truths that you are learning.   Not only that, but it makes Christian service fun. It is so much fun to be able to serve the Lord and others with those whom you know and love the best.

So, are you involved in a LIFE GROUP? If not, you are missing out on a HUGE blessing. Don’t be an anonymous, isolated believer. Let me challenge you to find a LIFE GROUP with believers who can pour into your life. I promise your life will never be the same.

Let Your Light Shine!

June 18, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

God is never left without a witness. He never abandons the world to complete darkness without someone to shine the light of truth. He always has His remnant, His prophet, His apostle, or His preacher to declare and demonstrate God’s goodness in a world filled with wickedness, rebellion and perversion.

I Kings chapters twelve and thirteen describe a low point in Israel’s history. Solomon had died and Rehoboam through his imprudent leadership had divided the Kingdom.  He reigned over the Southern Kingdom (Tribes of Judah and Benjamin) and Jeroboam ruled over the Northern Kingdom (the remaining 10 Tribes of Israel).

Unfortunately, Jeroboam’s leadership over the northern kingdom drove Israel away from God instead of towards Him. Fearing that the yearly religious pilgrimages to Jerusalem would change the people’s loyalty back to Rehoboam, Jeroboam constructed golden calves in the cities Dan and Bethel and encouraged the people to worship there.  In I Kings 12:28 Jeroboam states…

“You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out at of the land of Egypt.   And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.

Of course such worship violated God’s commands and eventually drove the Israelites to idolatry. As a matter of fact, Jeroboam’s sin was so great that throughout the Old Testament the wickedness of Israel’s kings was often attributed to and compared with the gravity of Jeroboam’s sin (I Kings 15:34; 16:19, 26; II Kings 14:24; 15:24).

Yet, in the midst of spiritual darkness, God had a light. One person who demonstrated God’s grace and God’s goodness even though he was surrounded by rebellion and idolatry. Remarkably, that person was none other than Jeroboam’s son Abijah. We see his story and testimony in I Kings 14.

We know nothing of Abijah’s age, his personality or his accomplishments. One simple phrase sets him apart from the wickedness that surrounded him:

I Kings 14:13 – And all Israel shall mourn for him and bury him, for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found something pleasing to the Lord, the God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam.

What a extraordinary statement! “In him there is found something pleasing to the Lord.” As I read through I Kings 14, those words seemed to leap from the page. My mind immediately was filled with questions: What did Abijah do? What was it about him that pleased the Lord? Where can I find out more information about this guy?

Surprisingly, the Bible gives very little additional information.  As a matter of fact, everything that we know about him is found in I Kings 14. He is not mentioned anywhere else in Scripture.

Jewish tradition states that Abijah grew to become a godly young man who encouraged the Northern Tribes to forsake their idolatrous ways and return to Judaism.   Others believe that he died in infancy.   The simple truth is that we do not know anymore about him than is found in the biblical record.

As I meditated on Abijah and the Bible’s commendation of him, I was reminded of the fact that many of God’s brightest lights shine in human obscurity. They are not people of significance; their accomplishments never appear in the public record, and many are even anonymous. Yet God knows who they are. Like Abijah, they may never reign over a kingdom or live long enough to achieve human success, but there is something about them that pleases God.

Yes, like Abijah, we live in a world filled with darkness. Let’s strive not to live in the limelight but rather to reflect God’s light; to reject the praise of others and to long for the praise of God. May God help us to shine as brightly as he did.

Real Disciples Make Disciples

June 3, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

I must confess that we were wrong.  For the past five years at HCC we have taught, preached and ministered with an imperfect objective. Now, please don’t get too alarmed! We haven’t promoted anything unbiblical, carnal or self-serving. We faithfully taught God’s Word and challenged our people to become disciples. We even dared them to become disciples. You may ask, “What is wrong with that? That certainly sounds biblical enough?” Our error was not in what we taught, but where we concluded.

Let me explain what I mean. In the process of systematically teaching Scripture and pushing our people towards biblical discipleship, we mistakenly concluded that Bible knowledge, personal holiness and spiritual maturity were the culmination of the believer’s journey. Now, don’t get me wrong, those three ingredients are extremely important. BUT, there is one significant factor that we missed – Real disciples make disciples.   To say it a different way, we emphasized the first part of Great Commandment (love God i.e. Bible knowledge, spiritual maturity) and sacrificed the second part of the great commandment and the great commission (love neighbor/make disciples). Jesus said it this way…

Matthew 6:19 – Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.

John 15:2 – Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes that it may bear more fruit.

John 15:8 – By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Paul taught the same truth…

II Timothy 2:2 – And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

With those verses in mind, we are going to refocus what we do. We will still systematically teach the Bible, push people towards discipleship and emphasize holiness and spiritual maturity, but with the purpose of making disciples who will reproduce what Jesus is doing in them, in the lives of others.

Here are a few simple thoughts…

  1. The command to make disciples is for everyone

Please remember that the Lord’s final command was to go and “make disciples of all nations,” (Matthew 28:19).   Too often, the Great Commission is treated as if it were a mandate exclusively for pastors, missionaries or believers with the gift of evangelism. That simply is not the case. EVERY believer has been called to make disciples.

David Platt in the introduction to the book Multiply by Francis Chan echoed that thought saying, “From the start, God’s design has been for every single disciple of Jesus to make disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples.”  No believer is excluded from this task.

  1. Disciple making is not complicated

Sadly, I am afraid that we have understood making disciples to be biblical instruction or some type of systematic discipleship class. Such and interpretation naturally eliminates many who do not have the gift of teaching or do not have a deep understanding of Scripture. Although, biblical understanding is necessary for one to become a believer and a disciple (Romans 10:17), a disciple maker does not have to be a Bible teacher. As a matter of fact, often the best disciplers are just ordinary believers.

  1. You can make disciples!

As we stated above, disciple making doesn’t require a theological degree or an ordination certificate. Anyone can be a disciple maker. Here are few simple steps that you can follow to help you fulfill God’s disciple making plan.

  • Begin with the people you know

Often we view evangelism and discipleship as awkwardly reaching out to someone we do not know.   Obviously, there are times that we should share our faith with strangers, but the greatest opportunity for disciple making is with those who we know the best.   God has placed you in a family, in a job environment and with friends for a purpose. They are potential disciples of Jesus.

  • Spend time with them

Simply speaking, one of the best tools for discipleship is companionship. By that I mean that spending time with the person you are discipling is one of the best ways to influence their life with the Gospel. Jesus understood this principle. Mark 3:14 states, “And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach.” In other words, Jesus selected the Twelve Disciples to spend time with Him.

For 3 1/2 years Jesus and His disciples spent an incredible amount of time together. They traveled together, ate together, relaxed together, conversed together and ministered together. It was their time with Jesus that confirmed their faith in His person and mission.   The truth is that you and I can only influence a person’s life in direct proportion to the amount of time that we spend with them.

  • Live out the principles of the Gospel

In I Corinthians 11:1 Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Paul’s godly demeanor, patient reactions, and persistent faith were a powerful example to all around him. Therefore, he could encourage others to imitate the changes that the Holy Spirit was producing in him. That, my friends, is the best way to disciple.

How about you? Are you living in a way that points others to Jesus? Do your vocabulary, attitude and actions naturally demonstrate the truths of the Gospel? Who do you know that you can begin to spend time with, prayer with and encourage in their spiritual walk?   Let’s not only be passionate followers of Jesus, but let’s be committed to be disciples that make disciples.

HCC Theological Survey: Is Church Attendance Essential for Spiritual Growth

May 5, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

The final question in our HCC Theological survey involves church attendance. Is it really necessary to attend church services? In previous generations such a question would not have been asked, as faithful participation in Sunday services was the norm. In today’s post-modern generation, though, everything, even religious norms are up for grabs.

Thom Rainer from Lifeway addressed this point in a recent podcast. He said, “Stated simply, the number one reason for the decline in church attendance is that members attend with less frequency than they did just a few years ago.” In other words there are not less people attending church, rather church members are attending less.

Obviously, many believers have come to the conclusion that church attendance is not necessary. They believe they can worship the Lord and be faithful in their walk whether they attend worship services or not. Is that true, though? Is worship essential for your spiritual growth?

My answer is, “Yes!” I believe that faithful church attendance is not only important, but also necessary for the individual as well as for the body of believers.   Here are several biblical reasons.

  • Church attendance is commanded in Scripture – Hebrews 10:25a

The writer of the Hebrew epistle tells us to “not neglect meeting together.” Apparently, some of the believers had been absenting themselves from the church fellowship. Yet, this letter gives a clear response to such unfaithfulness. Yes, Church attendance is vital, not only for us, but for others as well.

  • Church attendance results in a special manifestation of the Lord’s presence – Matthew 18:20

Whenever believers gather together and Jesus is the object of prayer, worship, praise, preaching, Communion, etc., He honors such an assembly with His divine presence. In such a gathering, Christ is able to do things in hearts that He may not do at any other time. The Bible says in Psalm 22:3 that God inhabits the praises of His people. Why would you want to miss a gathering where God was going to show up?

  • Church attendance demonstrates our love for Jesus – Psalm 22:22

Going to church is a tangible expression of our love and worship to our Lord Jesus Christ. The local assembly is where we can gather with other believers to publicly bear witness of our faith. In Psalm 22:22 the psalmist wrote, “I will tell of Your name to my brothers; In the midst of the congregation I will praise You.”

  • Church attendance honors the Lord’s Day – I Cor. 16:2

Unfortunately, many view Sunday as their day, their opportunity to get things done, have family activities or catch up on their rest.   I believe, though, that it is very important to have a day that is dedicated to the Lord. In the fourth commandment of the Old Testament law God set aside the seventh day of the week, Saturday, as a holy day to the Lord. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8). This was, and will always remain, the official Sabbath. However, after Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday, the early Christians began meeting together on Sunday as well as on Saturday. History demonstrates that due to the conflict that existed between orthodox Jews and Christian Jews, the Jewish Christians were eventually ostracized. They came to view Sunday as a combined observance of the Sabbath and the resurrection day of Jesus (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor. 16:2). This day of Christian worship came to be called the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10), a day to fellowship in celebration of the resurrection, to worship, pray and study the God’s Word together.

  • Church attendance benefits others – Hebrews 10:25b

Often we view church attendance from the wrong angle. We emphasize that we don’t need it; we are strong enough to go without it. The emphasis on this verse, though, is not on what the believer gets from the assembly, but rather on what he/she can contribute to the assembly.  You might not need church, but there are church attenders that need you. How many opportunities for encouragement and for prayer do we miss because of unfaithfulness?   This verse states that your faithful attendance encourages others and provokes them to good works. We attend because of others!

  • Church attendance provides accountability to spiritual leaders – Hebrews 13:7

One final piece of evidence that proves that we’re to be a part of a church fellowship is that we’re told to submit to the authority of spiritual leaders (Of course, they are subject to God’s Word). “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will one day have to give an account…” God graciously designed this system of accountability for the growth and protection of His flock.

Quite frankly, many Christians are asking the wrong question. The question should not be “is church attendance necessary, but rather, how often can I get together with my faith family?”   As we approach the Second Coming of Jesus our motivation should be to meet with fellow believers as often as possible. He is worthy of our worship!

HCC Theological Survey: What does the Bible say about Hell?

April 21, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

The question of the future state of the wicked has caused considerable debate and controversy through the years.   Such discussion not only exists between Christians and nonbelievers, but surprisingly, there is considerable difference of opinion even within the evangelical community.   There are basically five major opinions. Let me clarify each position and give a biblical response.

  1. Annihilation

This belief proposes that the unsaved are punished in Hell for an established period of time. The duration of one’s sentence is determined by the seriousness and frequency of one’s sins while on earth. The individual then experiences the “second death” and ceases to exist at all in any form.

The simple truth is that there is no clear Bible verse that teaches that man will one day cease to exist. To the contrary, man’s soul was made to exist forever. Man’s choice to rebel against God did not condemn Him to a temporary existence, but rather to an eternal existence separated from God.   The same words that are used to describe the believer’s eternal existence in heaven are used to describe man’s eternal existence in Hell (Compare John 3:15 with Hebrews 6:2).

  1. Universalism

Universalism is the belief that all men will eventually be saved.   This belief was first proposed by Origin who taught that the unsaved would be tortured in Hell until they are sufficiently cleansed and then accepted into heaven.   This belief was condemned as heretical in the Fifth Ecumenical Council in 553 AD. Most importantly, though, the Bible clearly refutes this belief.

Ezekiel 18:4 – Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.

II Thessalonians 1:9 – They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might.

Revelation 20:15 – And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

  1. Purgatory

A view that is similar to Origin’s is the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory, which basically teaches the reality of a temporary Hell. Proponents of this view believe that some are so wicked that they will be sent directly to eternal condemnation. Many, though, are allowed into heaven after a period of punishment.

There is not a clear biblical passage that supports this view.  If not interpreted correctly passages such as Matthew 5:26; Luke 12:59, I Corinthians 3:12-15 could be understood to teach the existence of purgatory. But in each case the context clearly shows that is not the truth that is being conveyed.   Additionally, the Bible teaches the fact that at death the believer is immediately transported into the presence of the Lord (II Corinthians 5:8).

  1. Metaphorical View

The metaphorical view teaches that Hell is a real place, but that the pain and the horrific conditions are not to be interpreted literally. In other words, the biblical descriptions of heat, bondage, darkness, thirst, worms, pain, flogging, fire, etc. are all symbolic and do not refer to literal suffering.

For many pastors and Bible teachers this is a much more palatable view. Billy Graham once said, “I have often wondered if Hell is a terrible burning in our hearts for God, a fellowship with God, a fire that can never be quenched.” Many, myself included, would love for the biblical descriptions of Hell to be symbolic. Unfortunately though, there is way too much evidence for a literal interpretation.

  1. Literal View

John MacArthur says, “Though every New Testament author acknowledges the doctrine of hell, Jesus has the most to say about it. The existence of Hell wasn’t something He questioned, debated, or defended, and He certainly didn’t apologize for it. He assumed the reality of hell just as much as He did the resurrection (John 5:28, 29). Jesus viewed hell as a real place, a certainty, and so should you.”

According to Jesus, Hell is a place of unquenchable fires (Mark 9:48,49), of complete darkness (Matthew 22:13) and of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12).   Jesus further describes it as a place of never-ending torment (Luke 16:23, 24).   Jesus’ teaching about Hell is frequent and clear. He had no reason to exaggerate and He had plenty of opportunities to clarify His teaching if He felt that it was unclear. Yet, His message remained the same – Hell is a horrific place where tormenting conditions exist.

That truth should be a challenge to us. Who do you know that is not a Christ follower? Let me challenge you to do everything that you can to share the Gospel with them.   Quite frankly, the reality of Hell should drive us to share the love of Jesus with everyone!

HCC Theological Survey: With whom does salvation begin, God or us?

March 24, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

Of the ten questions in our theological survey, this one proved to be one of the most misunderstood.  The statement read: “A person obtains salvation by first taking the initiative to seek God and then God responds with grace.” A surprising 56% of the respondents agreed with that statement.

In reality, the question is with whom does salvation begin? Does it begin with God or us?   Does God respond to our movement of faith, or do we respond by faith to Him drawing us to Himself?

Quite frankly, we believe that the Bible is very clear on the subject. Salvation does not begin with us. God is the Author and the Finisher of our salvation. This foundational doctrine is founded upon several biblical truths.

  • The depravity of man

What does that mean? The doctrine simply means that man was so deeply and utterly affected by the Fall that he is totally incapable of doing good; he is totally incapable of reaching out to God on his own. This belief is not new or contemporary. To the contrary, as far back as Augustine, we see the majority of Church Fathers and Church leaders embracing this truth.   It also is clearly seen in Scripture.

Psalm 51:5 – Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Jeremiah 17:9 – The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Romans 3:10-12 – As it is written, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Ephesians 2:1 – and you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.

Each of these verses point to the same basic truth: man is totally corrupt, degenerate and wicked. He is dead in his sins. His depravity keeps him from taking even the smallest step towards God.

  • The drawing of the Father

In John 6 Jesus gives the beautiful Bread of Life discourse. The response by His Jewish listeners was not positive. They grumbled against Him, questioning how could Jesus, the son of Joseph the Carpenter, come down from heaven? Jesus’ reply is powerful and to the point…

John 6:44 – No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise Him up on the last day.

Later in the chapter He states,

John 6:65 – That is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.

What is Jesus saying? There was a reason the Jews could not believe in Him. They were incapable of coming to God on their own. God must draw them.

Ephesians 2:8, 9 – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is gift of God.

Many believe that the antecedent to the gift of God in this verse is faith. In other words, faith is not something that we produce. It is something that God graciously gives to us. Our faith, our ability to believe comes directly from Him.

What a blessed truth! The salvation process begins with God, not us. He is the One that initiates. He is the One that takes the first step. Without His drawing, our depravity keeps us in our sins. Without His drawing we would never move towards Him.   He draws us, and then we respond to Him by faith.

Paul reiterates that important truth in Philippians 1:6 – And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ. It is of extreme comfort and consolation to know that our salvation begins and ends with God. He began the good work and He will complete it. Earlier in John 6 Jesus stated – All that the Father gives to me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out (John 6:37)

How should we respond to such a profound truth? We ought to cry out in thanks to God for His unmerited and incomprehensible gift! Salvation truly belongs to our God. (Revelation 7:10)

HCC Theological Survey: Are there many roads that lead to Heaven?

March 17, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

Surprisingly, American Christians are becoming increasingly more tolerant in their views on salvation. A 2007 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life surveyed 35,000 Americans, and found that 70% of respondents agreed with the statement “Many religions can lead to eternal life.” Even more remarkable was the fact that 57% of Evangelical Christians were willing to accept theirs might not be the only path to salvation. Even as mainline churches had become more tolerant, the exclusivity of Christianity’s path to heaven has long been one of the Evangelicals’ fundamental tenets. The new poll suggests a major shift, at least in the pews.

Thankfully, HCC Theological Survey produced completely different results. 98% of those that responded to our internal survey disagreed with the statement: There are many ways to get to heaven. Woo Hoo! Way to go HCC family!   I am proud of the fact that the great majority of our church family got this one right.

In a country that is becoming increasingly more pluralistic, it is important for us to recognize the exclusivity of the Gospel.   By exclusivity, we mean there is only one way to heaven. Let us be clear – that is not something Evangelical Churches made up; it is the teaching of Jesus. In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” That certainly doesn’t sound very inclusive, does it?

  • The exclusivity of the Gospel recognizes the severity of sin.

Unfortunately, many religions today ignore, minimize or even condone the practice of sin. Adherents are not challenged to change their sinful ways, to reject sinful attitudes and leave behind a life that does not glorify God. It is only the Gospel that sees the gravity, the depravity and the fatality of sin.   Sin is not an alternate lifestyle; it is a road that leads to death.

Romans 5:12 – Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.

Romans 6:24 – For the wages of sin is death…  

  • The exclusivity of the Gospel magnifies the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

If, as many promote, there are many ways that lead to heaven, then the death of Jesus is irrelevant. Why would Jesus have gone through the physical suffering if one could travel the road to the Sun as expressed in the Bhagavad – Gita and reach heaven? Why would Jesus have experienced the shame of public execution if one can reach Nirvana by escaping the Karmic cycle? Why would Jesus have endured separation from the Father if a person just needed to practice the Five Pillars of Islam? If any of these paths lead to eternal life, then the death of Jesus was pointless. He died in vain.

I Corinthians 15:20, 21 – But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

  • The exclusivity of the Gospel gives glory and honor to God alone.

If we can reach Nirvana, Moksha, Paradise or heaven through our own self-improvement, the Karmic Cycle, obedience to the Five Pillars or any other means, then such an accomplishment is based upon human merit.   Man has elevated himself. He reached the eternal goal. He, then, is worthy of praise, honor and glory.

However, we know that is not the case. Man cannot make it on his own. It is only the Gospel that recognizes man’s inability to save himself. It is the Gospel that recognizes man’s desperate need for God.   The Gospel alone provides salvation in a way that only God is glorified.

Ephesians 1:12-14 – So that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation and believed in Him, were sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.

Yes, God’s Word is clear, there is only one road that leads to heaven. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Salvation is through Jesus and Jesus alone!

HCC Theological Survey: The Bible is 100% Accurate

March 9, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

In recent years, the Bible and Christianity as a whole have come under attack. It seems as if there is a renewed effort on the part of those who lean towards agnosticism and atheism to give foundation to their unbelief. If they can disprove the authenticity of Scripture then they, of course, do not need to recognize or submit to its authority.

Unfortunately for them, though, the accuracy and the authenticity of Scripture have not been affected by their attacks. The Bible has proven to be more historically and archaeologically accurate than any other ancient book. It has been subjected to the most rigorous scientific and textual analysis possible and has been proven to be authentic in every way. Not one archeological discovery has disproven any portion of the Bible. To the contrary, science and archeology continue to prove the authenticity of Scripture.

Looking at just the books of Luke and Acts, here are a few examples of the specificity and the accuracy with which the Bible speaks:

  • In the book of Acts, Luke mentions 32 countries, 54 cities, and 9 Mediterranean islands. He also lists 95 people by name, 62 of which are not named elsewhere in the New Testament. (Bruce Metzger, The New Testament: Its Background, Growth, Content, 171).
  • Sir William Ramsey, who initially doubted Luke’s reliability, did many years of “on site” study of these matters; he eventually classified “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14) as one of “the very greatest of historians” who ever lived (Luke the Physician, 222).
  • Noted scholar Philip Schaff once observed that the final two chapters of Acts have provided more information about the details of ancient sea navigation than any other document of antiquity (Theological Propaeduetic, 132-133).

These are just a few of the countless examples that we could give that prove the veracity of the Bible. In addition, we could mention the amount of surviving manuscripts, the precision of how the Bible was preserved as well as the accuracy of today’s translations to the ancient texts.   All of this “unparalleled accuracy” elevates the Bible above all other books. Even the best historians cannot avoid an occasional mistake. Yet, the writers of Scripture, guided by the Spirit of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17), were protected from the inclusion of error into their works; thus making the Bible completely accurate and authoritative, regardless of the topic that it addresses.

  1. The Bible claims to be true

The theological term that is used to describe the Bible’s accuracy is “inerrant,” which means the impossibility of any error. Although the term “inerrant” is not found in Scripture, the principle of  accuracy, perfection and truth is clearly seen.   Here are a few verses that emphasize the infallibility of the Bible:

Psalm 19: 7-9 – The law of the Lord is perfect… the testimonies of the Lord are sure…the precepts of the Lord are right… the commandment of the Lord is clean, enduring forever… the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.

Psalm 119:43 – “…the word of truth”

Psalm 119:160 —“The sum of your word is true.”

John 17:17 —“Your word is truth.”

  1. The Bible must be true

The simple truth is that an inaccurate Bible would undermine the authority of Scripture. If the Bible were not true about things that are tangible (history, genealogies, science, etc.), how could we trust it for things that are intangible (the character of God heaven, hell, the forgiveness of sins, etc.).   No, the Bible must be true or God is a liar and our faith is in vain.

Titus 1:2 – In the hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.

Hebrews 6:18 – So that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.

So, believer have confidence in the fact that the Bible that you hold in your hands is 100% accurate.  It contains no errors, untruths or exaggerations. It is worthy of your confidence, your trust and your obedience.

The Holy Spirit is a Person

March 3, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

How do you view the Holy Spirit? Do you see Him as a person with whom you can relate or as a force that can be felt? Surprisingly, many Christians view the Holy Spirit as merely a force, an impersonal Spirit with whom they can have no interaction. That belief was supported by a recent Hollywood Community Church theological survey. 35% of the respondents said that the Holy Spirit was a force and not a personal being.

The belief in the personality of the Holy Spirit is an important one. This point is especially true because of the influence of Eastern religions, which tend to depersonalize the person of God. By being a person we do not mean that He has a physical body, but that He possesses all the qualities of personhood.

  1. The Holy Spirit is described using masculine pronouns.

Many writers attempt to describe the Holy Spirit as genderless.   Admittedly, the Greek word pnuema is neuter. Nevertheless, when Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit He does not refer to Him as a genderless phenomenon. He specifically uses the masculine pronoun.

John 16:13, 14 – When the Spirit of truth comes, HE will guide you into all truth, for HE will not speak on HIS own authority, but whatever HE hears HE will speak, and HE will declare to you the things that are to come. HE will glorify me, for HE will take what is mine and declare to you.

Did you notice how many personal pronouns Jesus uses in speaking of the Holy Spirit? It is clear that Jesus does not view him as just a force.   He is clearly spoken of as a person.

  1. The Holy Spirit is described like Jesus

In John 14, Jesus is telling the disciples He must depart to His Father. His departure, though, will not leave them alone.   He will send them the Holy Spirit to comfort them.

John 14:16 – And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.

The word “another” means “another of the same kind.”   “This means the Spirit is a replacement for Jesus and will carry on the same role. The similarity in their function is an indication that the Holy Spirit, like Jesus, must be a person.” (Christian Theology, Millard Erickson, p. 876)

  1. The Holy Spirit is grouped with the Father and the Son

Whenever the members of the Trinity are mentioned, they are listed in the same way. By that I mean there is no distinction made as to the essence of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not described or labeled differently. All three are revealed in a way that pictures them as persons.

Matthew 28:19 – Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

II Corinthians 13:14 – The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

  1. The Holy Spirit possesses personal characteristics.
  • He has intelligence, will, and emotions

John 14:26 – But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

I Corinthians 12:11 – All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each individually as He wills.

  • He can be affected as a person

Throughout the New Testament we see it is possible to lie to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3, 4), grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), and quench the Spirit (I Thess. 5:19). Those are all characteristics of personality.

  • He fulfills actions that can only be done by a person

Once again, throughout the New Testament we see Him speaking, commanding, testifying, revealing, illuminating, regenerating and teaching.

Romans 8:26 – Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

All of these arguments lead to one simple conclusion: “The Holy Spirit is a person, not a force, and that person is God, just as fully and in the same way as are the Father and the Son.”  (Christian Theology, Millard Erickson, p. 878)

Is God the Father more divine than Jesus?

February 10, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

The second question in our theological survey proved to be confusing to some of our Church family. Surprisingly, more than 25% of those that responded stated God the Father is more divine than Jesus. Now, I certainly do not believe they doubt the deity of Jesus Christ. Rather, I tend to think there are certain complicated truths of Scripture and the Godhead that confuse many believers. For example…

  • The biblical names of “God the Father” and “God the Son” often cause people to think in terms of a Patriarchal structure.

By that I mean they view the position of father as being of more significance than the position of son. Thus, in their minds, God the Father is of more importance and carries more authority than God the Son. Without intending to do so, they minimize the deity of Jesus.

  • The declarations of Jesus tend to indicate that He was subservient to the Father.

Verses such as John 10:29; John 14:28 and Philippians 2:6 seem to indicate that Jesus is inferior to the Father.   After all He does say, “My Father is greater than I.” Is Jesus indicating that the Father is greater than Him?   Is there a scale of divinity that makes one Member of the Godhead more divine than the others?

The question is not whether Jesus is God. Almost everyone would agree with His divinity. Rather, the point of debate is whether or not He is as much God as the Father.   Here are a few thoughts…

1. Jesus as the Son did not make Him less God

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is repeatedly described as the Son of God…

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…

John 17:1 – When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,

John 20:31 – But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Let us not confuse the Trinitarian relationship with our human relationships. The designations of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are not hierarchal like our family structures. Since they both existed from eternity past, the Father is not older or more experienced than the Son. He never had to train, correct, discipline, counsel or guide Him. Those familial designations simply help us to understand the complexity of the divine relationship.

2. Jesus’ incarnation did not make Him less God

Many would use the previously mentioned verses to prove that when Jesus became man, He somehow became less God.   In other words, His humanity negatively affected His divinity. Yet, we would argue that Jesus never lost any of His divine essence.   While on earth He was still 100% God.

John 10:30 – I am the Father are one.

Colossians 2:9 – For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.

3. Jesus’ earthly work did not make Him less God.

Often as Jesus carried out His earthly ministry, He described His functions and His role in a way that made Him sound subservient to the Father.

John 5:30 – I can do nothing on my own…

John 6:38 – For I have come down from heaven, not do to my own will but the will of Him who sent Me.

Luke 22:42 – Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.

Admittedly, those phrases make it sound as if Jesus was submissive to and was dependent upon a Higher Power. Is that true? A.W. Tozer in his book The Knowledge of the Holy explains how Jesus’ work on earth did not affect, in any way, His deity.

In His incarnation, the Son veiled His deity, but did not void it. The unity of the Godhead made it impossible that He should surrender anything of His deity. When He took upon Him the nature of man, He did not degrade Himself or become even for a time less than He had been before. God can never become less than Himself. For God to become anything that He has not been is unthinkable. (Knowledge of the Holy, p. 22).

To conclude, it is important for us to understand that Jesus is no less God than God the Father. His eternal Sonship does not minimize His deity; it strengthens it. In taking on human flesh, He never became “less God.” To the contrary, His incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection only served to confirm that He was very God in the flesh, the Eternal Son who humbled Himself so that we might become the sons of God.   As a result we echo the words of the Apostle Paul…

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.