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Christian Life and Doctrine

  July 2004, No7

Hello [first name], here is this months newsletter with items selected especially for you.

GEOGRAPHY


Out of Ephesus

Ephesus, the most important city in Asia Minor at the time, was a natural choice as the starting point for Paul's third missionary journey. At the mouth of the Cayster River, the city provided easy access to the inner regions of Asia Minor. In addition, a natural harbor connected it to major sea routes to the north, east and west of the city.

Because of it's location, the city had become an important hub for trade, as well as an ethnic melting pot and a center for a variety of religions. Principal among its religions in Paul's time was the fertility cult associated with the Greek goddess Artemis (called Diana by the Romans). The Temple of Diana at Ephesus, considered on of the Seven Wonders of the World, was the largest building in the Hellenistic world.

In a theatre was the scene of Demetrius' speech protesting Paul's evangelizing activity. Because of Paul's work, Demetrius and others who created images of Diana had experienced a sharp decrease in business (Act 19:23-29). Under Emperor Claudius (A.D. 41-54), the Romans adapted the 24,000-seat theatre for contests between animals, as well as between animals and humans.

Paul may have alluded to this practice in his first letter to the Corinthian church, written from Ephesus: "If I fought wild beasts for merely human reasons, what have I gained?" (1 Corinthians 15:32).

THIS MONTH'S INTERESTING AND SOMETIMES AMUSING SMALL STORY


Dennis Kimbo writes about a young woman who wanted to go to college. But her heart sank when she read the application form, that asked: 'Are you a leader?'. Being honest and conscientious, she answered 'No', and returned the application, expecting to be rejected.

To her surprise, she received this reply from the college: ' Dear applicant, a study of the applications forms reveals that this year our college will have 1452 new leaders, we are accepting you because we feel it is necessary that they have at least one follower.'

A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR SUCCESSFUL LIVING

YES! YOU CAN SAY NO


Most teens have a harder time saying no to the beckoning of their peer group than to anyone else.

Sharon Scott, author of How To Say No and Keep Your Friends, suggests 10 ways a teen can say no to trouble and still save face with peers:

1) Say no with confidence. Say it firmly but not arrogantly. Teens respect other teens who have confidence.

2) Leave. Sometimes it's just easiest to leave conversations and groups that are heading for trouble.

3) Change the subject. Teens can show positive leadership by directing conversation toward different and exciting topics.

4) Return the challenge. Peer pressure can be a way of getting approval for wrong behavior. Especially in a one-to-one situation, a teen can say something like, "Are you afraid to do this by yourself?"

5) Offer a better idea. There are plenty of things in life that are more fun and constructive than abusing drugs and taking part in other harmful activities.

6) Joke your way out. Teens with a good sense of humour might be able to laugh their way of tight spots and still remain steadfast. This is also a way of relieving stressful situations.

7) Show it if you are shocked. A bit of melodrama can underline the potential dangers of a situation and subtly chide those who suggest such things.

8) Ignore the suggestion. Teens can convey they're too busy to get into trouble and just ignore suggestions that lead them to it.

9) Show you disappointment. Teens can tell troublemakers: "I always thought you were smart. You're really too intelligent for a bonehead maneuver like this."

10) Give an excuse. Deceit need never be used. There are plenty of good reasons a teen can use to avoid trouble. Homework, lack of money or fatigue are all effective excuses.

THE BIBLE

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

QUESTION: Is sin the transgression of the law?

ANSWER: The King James Version of 1 John 3:4 calls sin "the transgression of the law." But sin is much larger than merely breaking the Ten Commandments. Sin is the universal rebellion, pride and enmity of humanity toward God----our contrariness to God's will (Romans 3:9-23; 1 John 1:8-10; Psalm 51:5).

The apostle Paul showed us that sin encompasses much more than individual acts of commandment breaking (Romans 5:12-13). It is a condition, a state of being, not merely an action.

Notice how other major English versions of the Bible translate this verse: "Sin is lawlessness." (See the New King James Version, Revised Standard Version, New Revised Standard Version, New American Standard Bible and New International Version.)

To sin is to be in a state of lawlessness. Sin puts the sinner in a lawless condition. Major modern English translations differ with the King James. This is because the Greek text of 1 John 3:4 has only a single word for what the King James translates as an entire phrase----"the transgression of the law."

That word is anomia. Lexicographers define this word as "lawlessness." The words for "the law" and "transgression" do not appear in the Greek text. In 1 John 3:4, sin is anomia, meaning lawlessness.

The point John is making is that Christians should not be lawless. While they are under no obligation to the law of Moses (Acts 15:5, 9-11), they do obey the law of God. But the law they obey is defined by Christ and the new covenant, not by Moses and the old covenant.

When we read 1 John 3:4 in context, we find John saying we should keep the commands of Christ. "This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another" (verse 11). John admonishes us not to be like Cain, the murderer who hated righteousness. He says, "Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer" (verse 12,15).

How do we know if we are obeying the law of love? John tells us that, as Jesus laid down his life for us, "we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers" (verse 16).

Throughout 1 John we are pointed to Christ, not Moses, as our teacher and example. John concludes: "This is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them" (verse 23-24).



BOOK REVIEW

Why I am a Christian, by John Stott

If someone asks you if you are a Christian you probably find it easy to say 'yes!' But if you are then asked 'why?' it isn't so easy, is it?

The veteran writer, teacher an pastor John Stott has written a book that may help. Why I am a Christian' is a short and easy to read book, in which Dr. Stott explains his personal reasons for his faith in Jesus Christ. He realised the need for something that went beyond an over-simplified and superficial introduction, but at the same time was not too heavy for a genuine enquirer who wanted to think through the implications of becoming a Christian.

Each of the seven chapters introduces the reader to a different aspect of faith. Dr. Stott begins by telling the story of several people who abandoned their scepticism and atheism and became committed to the Christian faith. He then explores the claims of Jesus and shows how they cannot be easily dismissed. He faces up to the awkward questions, and never blinds the readers with theology. 'Why I am a Christian' explains the Gospel message in the words that ordinary people use.

John Stott, although internationally respected as a scholar, remains at heart a very ordinary an straightforward man. Many times in this book I found myself (the reviewer of the book) saying 'Yes, that's exactly how I feel', bit I had never thought of explaining it like that.

This is a thoughtful and considerate book, written for people who genuinely want to know the answers. As such it is very useful for those of us who have already made the decision, but need help in explaining why.



Why I am a Christian by John Stott; Inter-Varsity Press, 2003 ISBN 0-85111-407-5

Stop Press: Winner of the 2004 UK Christian Book awards



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