teaching

TruthTalks feature image

TruthTalks (Sermons): Connecting the dots

People who doubt the authenticity of the Old Testament or the divinity of Jesus should listen to this message.

The Lord Jesus connects the dots between His life and key Old Testament events. By doing this He is in effect saying, “Yes, it is true, and I AM the one who did it!”

Click HERE to read the article on which this sermon is based or press play below to listen or download the sermon.

TruthTalks (Sermons): Connecting the dots Read More »

Jesus feature image

What religion says about Jesus

Top Image for What religion says about Jesus

I have found that a good way to determine the integrity and truth of religious, sectarian, or cultic teachings is to first determine what they say about Jesus.

The teachers of many religious systems claim that they worship the same God as the God of the Bible, and that their system of belief is just another way of approaching Him. Now, according to the Bible, Jesus is ‘the image of the invisible God…the exact representation of His being… for in Christ all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form’ (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 2:9). The Lord Jesus is therefore the primary yardstick by which we should measure the validity of all spiritual truth claims. What a belief system teaches concerning His deity, uniqueness, and Lordship is an excellent indication of whether or not their god is our God, and their way of salvation the biblical way of salvation. So, let us have a quick look at what five major religious systems have to say about Jesus.

Islam

In terms of Islamic teaching, Jesus is only a messenger of Allah (and a prophet). Muslims deny that Jesus is both God and man and they also deny that he was crucified. However, they affirm that He was born of a virgin and that He was sinless. Islam has a high view of Jesus, but denies His divinity.

Hinduism

Although there are numerous sects within Hinduism, most of them hold to certain core teachings. For instance, Brahman is the name they apply to what they believe is the divine essence of all that exists. Brahman is impersonal, eternal, and beyond all human comprehension. There are many hundreds of gods and goddesses within Hinduism generally believed to be manifestations of the divine essence (Brahman). An Avatar is the name given to an appearance on earth of one of these deities and some strains of Hinduism claim that Jesus was an Avatar. However, most hold that he was simply an enlightened teacher (a master or guru).

Buddhism

Perhaps the best way to understand Buddhism is as a philosophy of how to live a happy life. Although it does include a concept of reincarnation, each new appearance of life on earth does not represent a specific spiritual entity or being. Because Buddhism predates Christianity by some six hundred years, its basic teachings take no account of Jesus. If they have any view of Jesus at all it would be as an enlightened teacher.

Mormonism

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints claims to be ‘the church of Jesus Christ’ but the big question is, ‘is this Jesus the same of the biblical Jesus of Nazareth or is he the Jesus of the latter day saints?’ Their Jesus was birthed in a pre-earthly existence (on another ‘planet’) by a flesh and bone divine man and his wife. He was the first of many sons and Satan was his younger brother. This alone evidences that the Jesus of Mormonism is not the Jesus revealed in the Bible.

Jehovah’s Witnesses

According to Jehovah’s Witness’ theology, God is a single person, not a Trinity. He does not know all things and he is not everywhere. He first created Michael the Archangel through whom He created all “other things,” including the universe. When the time came for a messiah to redeem humanity Michael the Archangel became a human in the form of Jesus. Jesus was created and was therefore not ‘god’ and he is not part of any supposed trinity. The Jehovah’s Witness doctrine of salvation sets out three requirements for salvation – a proper knowledge of god and Jesus, obedience to god’s law, and membership of and loyalty to the one true church (theirs). This neither the Jesus of the Bible nor the way of salvation it reveals.

It is reasonably clear from all of this that the Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness Jesus is not the Jesus revealed in and through the Bible. Nor is the Jesus acknowledged by Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism the Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus of these religions cannot save anyone in and of himself and cannot be worshipped as God.

Here are links to the source documents of the five religions I have listed, for those of you interested in verifying this information or studying further:
Islam: The Quran
Hinduism: The Vedas
Buddhism: The Dhammapada and others
Mormonism: The Book of Mormon
Jehovah’s Witnesses: New World translation of Holy Scriptures
The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) has a lot of information on these and other religious systems.

PS: Listen to my forthcoming TruthTalk and the Q&A that follows it if you want to know what I think of Roman Catholicism’s take on Jesus and His saving work.
Save

What religion says about Jesus Read More »

TruthTalks Sermons

Inverting Rejection

All of us have experienced rejection in one form or another, but for some people rejection can be devastating. Unless we deal with it in a healthy manner, feelings of rejection can blight our lives and can even result in depression or a total breakdown of our sense of worth.

1 Peter 2:4-10 contains three antidotes to the negative effects of rejection:

1. Develop a biblical understanding of our identity in Christ Jesus
2. Forgive those who have rejected us
3. Receive God’s mercy so that our wounds can be healed

Listen to this encouraging sermon and then share it with others.

Inverting Rejection Read More »

Forty days feature image

Forty days of Kingdom teaching

Top Image for Forty Days of Kingdom teaching

If you knew that you only had 40 days left on this planet, what would you do with them? Well, Jesus used His 40 days to prepare His disciples for the task of building His church and extending the Kingdom of God.

Have you noticed the significance of the number 40 in scripture? For instance, Moses was on Mt Sinai for 40 days when he went up to receive the 10 commandments from the hand of God; The 12 spies were in the Promised Land to prepare for its occupation by the Israelites, and so on.

Periods of 40 days were also significant in Jesus’ life: He was presented in the Temple 40 days after His birth, He was in the wilderness for 40 days before the start of His public ministry, and there were 40 days between His resurrection and ascension.

We commonly think of 40 as representing ‘testing’ but more accurately it represents Preparation. In the period between resurrection and ascension, Jesus was preparing His disciples for their key ministry. Acts 1:3 ‘After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave them many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the Kingdom of God.’

The question is of course, what did He teach them? Surely that which was most important for the establishment of the church and the extension of the Kingdom of God.

Imagine the following – you feeling strange and go to your doctor who then refers you a specialist who eventually says to you, “You have just 40 days left before you die?” What would you do with those 40 days? The glib answer would be that you would try to do all the things on your Bucket List. But how silly this would be for a Christian. Would we really think that anything we could experience now would even come close to the glory we will experience in heaven? Perhaps you would prepare for eternity by ensuring that you mended any broken relationships and put right any wrongs you had committed. Perhaps you would prepare your loved ones financially and spend quality time with them. Hopefully, you would also want to leave a legacy of what you felt was the most important truth you could pass on. And this is what I believe Jesus did in His last days with His disciples.
There have been many attempts to ‘reveal’ what Jesus taught over the 40 days in question. Some have claimed that certain Apocryphal books contain true accounts of Jesus’ teachings concerning the underworld and the realms of heaven. Other say that He passed on secret teachings orally to special initiates, who in turn passed them down through the ages. The Roman Catholic church contends that Jesus taught on church hierarchy and the 7 sacraments. But, how could we test the validity of any of these claims if not against the revelation of scripture? Surely it is better to piece together from the Bible itself what Jesus taught during this period.

Now this is not just of intellectual interest; it is important to us for WE are today’s disciples and we need to know what Jesus regarded as most important for His church and Kingdom so that WE can live by them.

The Lord Jesus’ teaching during those critical 40 days can be presented in four sections. The first group is found in Acts 1:4-8 ‘So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The ‘kingdom’ to which the disciples were referring was a socio-political concept. The Jews of that time hoped that they would be restored to their former glory, but Jesus swept this notion away with a few words. Earlier He had told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). In His prayer for His disciples, recorded in John 17, Jesus said, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.”. In addition, Peter in his letters, calls Christians ‘Aliens and strangers in the world’. Over the years the church has distilled these teachings into the saying, ‘we are in the world but not of the world’

Of course, we Christians influence the kingdoms of the world with the Gospel, with truth, and with Kingdom of God values, but we don’t set ourselves up as Christian governments, companies, or armies. Christians can, of course, serve in government, business, and the armed forces as individuals responding to the call of God on their lives, but no more than this.
Dominionism is raising its head again in our age in the form of the New Apostolic Reformation and, as usual, distracts us from our true mission in this world. Our mission is not to replace the institutions of the world but rather to come to know Jesus, become like Him, and help others to do likewise. After Jesus had swept aside the disciples’ question he told them rather that they would receive power from on high to be His witnesses – witnesses to the person of Jesus, His truth, and His kingdom. Nothing has changed in this regard and we too are called to be Spirit-empowered witnesses in the world.

A second group of teachings can be derived from John 20:21-23 and Luke 24:45-49.  ‘Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:21-23).

As the Father has sent me – we are the extension of Jesus ministry to the world His presence wherever we are.

Receive the Spirit –  points to the fundamental importance of a metaphysical rebirth of the spirit rather than just knowledge, or actions, or commitment.

Forgiveness of sin – not the Roman Catholic confessional system, but authority to pronounce those who repent and believe as forgiven by God for their rebellion and wrongdoing. This assurance of forgiveness frees from guilt and recrimination and sets new believers free to experience the wonder of new life in Christ.

The conditions of forgiveness are repentance and belief. Luke 24:45-49; ‘Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.  He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.  I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.Mark 1:15 has ‘The Kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the good news. Acts 2:3, ‘Repent and be baptised every one of you, for the forgiveness of your sins.’ And in Acts 26:20 Paul is recorded as saying, ‘I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds’. The evidence of true repentance starts with a willingness to be baptised in water.

Repentance is a change of heart, mind and behaviour, and certainly not simply a formula statement as part of a recited ‘sinner’s prayer’.
When I was a new believer I was asked to teach the meaning of repentance to a group of young children.  In order to simplify and illustrate I composed a little song – “You’ve got to stop, turn around, and walk towards Lord Jesus; got to stop, turn around, and walk towards the light. You’ve got to stop, turn around, and walk towards Lord Jesus; got to turn around and walk towards the light’’. I then explained to them that when we walk according to our own ‘light’ we get further and further away from the true light. With every step in the wrong direction, the shadows before us get longer and longer until we are completely lost in darkness. To change this, we need to stop walking in that direction. Then we need to turn around so that we face back towards Jesus. Then we have to walk towards Him. As we do this the shadows are behind us and grow shorter and shorter with every step. This wasn’t designed to be a description of how salvation occurs but simply to explain the nature of ‘repentance’. We know that The Holy Spirit reveals Jesus and draws us to Him, and we know that salvation is by the grace of God and not the product of our own ‘steps’. However, in this context, if we repent and believe then we will be forgiven and receive a new spiritual life.

The third group of teachings is found in Mark 16:15-20 and Matthew 28:18-20 and is so well-known that I will simply state it with just one brief comment. The Great Commission as per Mark’s gospel reads ‘He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well“.’ The signs of the Kingdom of God are not meant to be a source of entertainment for the gathered church, but to authenticate the proclamation of the Gospel. If we want to witness genuine miracles, best we get out into the world with the Good News on our lips.

The better-known version in Matthew’s gospel reads, ‘Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

The last teaching was by way of Jesus’ interaction with Peter as the first leader of the church and is recorded for us in John 21:15-19. We know it so well  – Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him and then tells him that if he truly does love Him he will demonstrate this by taking care of the Christians comprising the church. This is the primary task of church leadership – not to hatch, match, and dispatch; not to manage, or organise, but to take care of the people. To care for them is to know them, heal them, encourage them, instruct them in the good ways of God, to protect them, and to equip them to be fellow disciples. In short, it to LOVE them… as Jesus loves them.

[blockquote align=center]

So, what then were the things that Jesus thought were of such importance to His disciples, the church, and us?

One – The Kingdom of God is not political or material. It is not of this world, and our job is to witness to this as ambassadors of Jesus, the king of the unseen but eternally real Kingdom of God.

Two – We will be empowered by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses.

Three – We are sent into the world as Jesus was sent into the world to proclaim the Kingdom of God, its truth, and  its reality… to represent Jesus in the world.

Four – Rebirth of the spirit is required to enter the Kingdom of God and to be Jesus witnesses… not just commitment, but new spiritual life.

Five – We can proclaim forgiveness to all who truly repent and believe in Jesus.

Six – Miraculous empowerment and signs accompany the proclamation of the Good news.

Seven – The primary duty of church leaders is to care for Jesus’ people.

If Jesus regarded these things as so important that He needed to take His few remaining hours on Earth to emphasis them, then should we not take them seriously?

[/blockquote]

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Forty days of Kingdom teaching Read More »

Understanding the Bible

Three steps to understanding the Bible

It is one thing for us to claim that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and quite another to assert that we are interpreting it correctly.

‘Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth’. 2 Timothy 2:15-16 (HCSB)

I have written on this subject before but it is so important that it warrants repeating.

I am currently helping a colleague develop a two-day workshop on Bible interpretation for church leaders who have English as a second or third language. Most of them have a low level of formal education, and a further challenge is that many of them have only been exposed to topical or allegorical preaching.

Those who do not interpret the Bible allegorically, have been taught to take everything at face value and very literally.
Interpreting the biblePerhaps I should give an example of these two types of ‘interpretation’: The story that Jesus told of the good Samaritan has often been interpreted allegorically. Some  teachers have claimed that the two coins given to the innkeeper to provide for the injured man’s board and lodging stand for baptism and holy communion. The idea being that these are the two ordained church provisions for the ‘sinner’. But there is no end to what the two coins could be taken to represent; Old and New Testaments, Apostles and Prophets, and so on. The problem is, of course, that the original context of the passage plays little role in this form of interpretation, and nor does the first intended meaning.

A couple of years ago I came across a rather extreme yet nevertheless real-life example of literalistic interpretation. One of our preaching team members was ministering at a church in a nearby informal settlement. During the service, a young woman started to manifest signs of demonic interference, so… the church leaders immediately tied her up with ropes! The visiting preacher demanded that they release her and asked why they had tied her up. They answered that the Bible said they should because “Jesus said in Matthew 12:29 that they should ‘bind the strongman’.” Once again, the context and first intended meaning of the scripture in question had been ignored.

So, what are the most fundamental processes for interpreting the Bible? For me, there are just three – Context, Christocentricity, and Exhaustive Reference.

Understanding the bible imageIn the majority of cases, the context of a text yields its fundamental meaning, in other words;

  • Look at the verse’s position within the larger portion of scripture in which the text is set.
  • Observe the literary type or style of the passage. Is it poetic, or prophetic, a parable, or a historical account? For instance, we get into all sorts of trouble when we read the book of Revelation as a chronological history.
  • Finally, note the cultural, geographic, and historic setting.

Determining the context of a passage helps us answer the key question, ‘what is the first intended meaning of this portion of scripture?’ A helpful way of getting to an answer to this question is to consider what the first listeners or readers would have understood as the meaning.

Where the meaning of a passage is still not clear, even when considered within its various contexts, then we need to ask a further question; ‘what light does the life and teaching of the Lord Jesus shed on my understanding of this passage?’ Did Jesus teach this? Did Jesus do what the text appears to teach? Is what Jesus presented as the nature, character, and values of the Triune God consistent with what this text appears to be saying? Jesus Christ is the full manifestation of the Godhead (Colossians 2:9) and we can be sure that His life and teachings constitute the primary key to understanding the Bible. One of the most dramatic examples of the need for this Christocentric principle is the sad story of Ananias and Sapphira who appear to have been struck down by God for not fully disclosing their donation to the church (Acts 5:1-11). The question that must be asked of this difficult passage is, ‘would Jesus have killed two of His disciples for this or any reason?’ The answer is a resounding “No!” There must be another way of understanding this historical account, and if we cannot settle on it then we should simply say “I don’t know what happened here, but I am not convinced that God killed them”.

The first procedure in interpreting a biblical text is to determine its context, the second is to apply the Christocentric Principle, and the third is to see if other parts of the Bible have a bearing on the text in question; I call this Exhaustive Reference.
We are so blessed in our day to have access to fine commentaries, comprehensive concordances, Topical Bibles, Study Bibles, and so on. Many of these resources are available for free on the internet and can be accessed even through a small smartphone.

My recommendation is to stay away from allegorical interpretations… but if you do venture into this tricky area, please always ensure that what you arrive at is consistent with the text’s first intended meaning. In other words, ensure that what you claim the text teaches lines up with what the first readers would have understood the meaning to be.

There are parts of the Bible which are hard to understand, and that is why God has given the church it’s teachers. However, if you follow the three simple processes which I have briefly outlined, then most of the scriptures will be open to you. At very least, you will be able to identify the real problems texts and know to call on an experienced and trained teacher who can help you.

 

 

 

Save

Three steps to understanding the Bible Read More »

About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.