Legalistic Libertines

The Pharisees are a hyper-strict sect of Jews, endeavoring to keep the law better than anyone else ever had.

If you read through the OT and then into the Gospels, it’s odd to find a Jew of any stripe following the Law, especially more strictly than intended.

Most of the OT shows Jewish people rebelling, not listening to God and usually worshipping idols. To then flip the page to Matthew and see Pharisees is just odd.

Perhaps the explanation lies in human nature and our leaning to go to extremes. After coming out of such monumental failure, a brand of Jews gets together to be the best Jews ever.

Perhaps this desire to be obedient, better than any other Jew, is what created Pharisaism.

It reminds me of people today who were brought up in legalistic traditions. Often they flip over to hyper-grace churches, or churches where there is an abundance of liberty, often bordering on licentiousness.

On the flip side, many who are brought up in “anything goes” brands of Christianity often gravitate toward legalistic branches.

The reason why there are legalistic branches and license branches of faith is because Christianity is a mix of both. We have liberty in Christ, and yet Paul says to bring your body under subjection.

There are rules, there is a requirement for obedience and submission, and at the same time there is liberty in Christ. We are indeed under the “perfect law of liberty!”

Don’t chuck liberty for law and don’t chuck law for liberty; use em both as they were intended.

Addition, Multiplication and The Gospel

6+4=10

If 6+4=13 for you, you need to examine your definition of 6 and 4.

I don’t have much more to say than what I said this past Sunday. A reflection on a conversation I have had approximately 43 times in the last year.

It is beginning to wear on me. It bothers me how Christ and His cross are trampled under foot by many well-meaning people who believe blasphemous doctrine.

I would like you to listen to this message. I pour my soul out regarding modern Christianity’s despicable version of the Gospel.

Use The Sword or Shut Up

Earlier this week I posted a list of characteristics Martin Luther thought every preacher should have. Last on the list was “be able to accept ridicule from anyone.”

Boy howdy.

I have endeavored to know the Word better so during these ridicule sessions I can merely respond with Scripture. I figure that if they are Spirit-indwelt that will help.

By quoting Scripture I hope to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men and instruct those who oppose themselves.

The 2 Timothy 2:25 verse–instruct those who oppose themselves–is a great verse and a great phrase. Paul had obviously spent some time arguing with “Christian” folk.

There is an amusingness to these conversations. Routinely people will argue a point that they said I made. More often than not, I did not make it, they just heard me make it. They heard a catch phrase or a red flag word and assumed the rest.

So they will argue. I will quote Scripture. They will not go back and deal with my quotation, they will move on to the next point. This will continue indefinitely. They move from one point to the next, I refute each point with Scripture.

In the midst of all this, generally they say my point, because all I’m doing is quoting Scripture. These are great times for me! Ha! You just said my point you’re arguing against! I love that.

I love it because it lets me know they do know the Scripture, and as long as that is true, there is a shot they will acknowledge the truth at some point. That’s all I hope for.

I know my words won’t save anyone, but God’s Word makes people wise unto salvation. Use it effectively as a sharp sword that cuts through foolishness and silences opposers.

To Live–Read The Word

Jesus Christ is called “the Word.” Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. The word of God is quick and powerful. We do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from God’s mouth. The Word makes it clear that The Word is vital to our lives.

It always boggles my mind when a Christian who has “been saved” for a long time admits they have never read a certain book of the Bible. Quite frankly, I’m stunned by that.

I do not understand Christians who don’t read the Word. I’m not trying to be judgmental, it comes naturally. No, seriously, I’m not trying to judge, I’m stating a fact.

How can we live by faith if we don’t hear the Word? It’s not just reading it once either. It’s daily consumed with it. I know we’re busy, etc., don’t care. This is the Word of God. God! God’s Words! How are we not interested in this more?

Reading and rereading God’s Word is crucial to Christian living. Here are several huge benefits of doing it:

1) Decision-making is simplified. You will instinctively know if a choice is Biblical because you will have a foundation for making choices God would approve of.

2) Heresy detection is heightened. When you are consuming God’s Word regularly, things that don’t jive with it will stick out like a poodle at an elephant convention.

3) You will be able to answer questions about your faith. Verses will pop into your mind. Soon you’ll be giving God’s answers instead of your little theories because God’s answers will roll off your tongue.

4) Peace, joy, lack of worry and many other benefits will overtake your mind. The Bible contains the story of God. He lasts a long time. He is in control. You’ll get this point by seeing it so regularly throughout thousands of years of biblical history.

5) Whatever role you are in at the time (boss, worker, husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, etc) will be used to glorify God. You’ll know God’s instructions to these people, you’ll have seen examples lived out in the Word, and you’ll better perform those roles yourself.

The Word of God is what we are to live by. There’s a reason God gave it to you. Get in it, stay in it, get in it again, stay in it again, read it, read it, read it, then read it again. Truly these are the words of life.

Death is Victory

Death is victory for the believer. Not many professed believers seem to know this. Seems they are just as reluctant to die as many unbelievers. That’s too bad.

The dying process is no fun, I have no problem with people being afraid of suffering, even Christ was. But death is the deliverance.

If you do not desire to die and be with your Lord, seems to me another crucial element of Christian doctrine will also take a hit–the desire to mortify the deeds of the body.

Sanctification, using what Christ has given you for godliness, is summed up by Paul in Romans 8 as mortify (keep on putting to death) the deeds of the body.

We are not killing the body or doing harm to it, we are putting to death what the body wants to do–fleshly lusts. Seems to me our desire to kill off our fleshly desires is directly linked to our desire to be absent from the body and present with the Lord.

If we don’t want to leave this earth, why would we bother to limit what our flesh wants to do in this earth? If we want to be in heaven, we would set our minds on things above, not on things of the earth.

Thus, we would want to kill off the deeds of the body that are not consistent with our heavenly desires.

For the believer, death is victory. Consider yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God. When we mortify the deeds of the body, Paul says we will truly live! Death is here already! Enjoy its benefits now!

Luther’s Marks of a Good Preacher

Carl Trueman did a couple posts about Martin Luther and his nine characteristics of a good preacher. You can read his posts (part one and part two) for fuller explanations, but here is the list:

A good preacher must have:

  • an ability to teach
  • a good head.
  • eloquence.
  • clarity of speech.
  • a good memory.
  • know when to stop.
  • be certain and diligent in his subject.
  • put his life, limb, possessions, and honor into his subject.
  • be able to accept ridicule from anyone.
  • I’m still working on a number of these, but I think this is a good summation of what it takes on the human level to be a good preacher.

    Romans 7 and 8

    These two chapters have spawned much discussion throughout Christianity. Is Romans 7 Paul’s experience as an unbeliever? Is Romans 8 Christian nirvana, higher living?

    If we want to do good and yet don’t do good, what does this say about us? What should our response be? Should we just throw up our hands, let sin rip, and yet have our minds in a happy Jesus state?

    Romans 7 and 8 are very practical chapters. There are no mind games, denial of reality or anything else. Faith has always been the same–hear God and do what He says.

    Thank God through Jesus Christ we have an advocate with the Father and we have also been given His Holy Spirit to help us kill off the deeds of the body and be led by the Spirit.

    Here’s my summation of these two chapters. (You’ll need Windows Media Player to listen)

    KJV Vocabulary Lesson #1

    I use the King James Version. I do this because I like it and I memorize in it. I can’t find stuff in other Bibles.

    I get tired of people saying how hard the KJV is to understand. There is a way to redeem that situation: learn.

    Seriously, you could. Just because it uses outdated words doesn’t mean you can’t learn what they mean. A little effort can provide you a great reading experience.  It will also allow you to rock Scrabble, Boggle, WordTwist and many other word-based games.

    In an effort to un-NIV Christendom, allow me to edikate you in a fine piece of KJV Vocabulary.

    Today’s KJV Vocab word is:

    STOMACHER.

    STOMACHER.

    It is found in Isaiah 3:24 in the phrase, “and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth.”

    A stomacher is an expensive robe usually worn at festive occasions. Now you know. And, honestly, that phrase sounds much cooler than the NIV’s bland “instead of fine clothing, sackcloth.”

    BOOOORING.

    KJV rules.

    Ezekiel Lays Around

    Here is my Son reenacting Ezekiel 4. Ezekiel was told to lie on his left side for 390 days facing an iron skillet in front of a map of Jerusalem with bad guys around it, eating bread and drinking water.

    Take it from Jacob, 390 days is a long time. After that, it was 40 days for the sins of Judah on his right side. 40 days is a long time, take it from Jacob.

    Watch out, next summer we reenact Isaiah 20.

    Advocating an Advocate

    We sin.

    Believers sin, too. The Bible says we shouldn’t. It says we should stop it. But it also says that if we do, we have forgiveness through our advocate, Jesus Christ.

    I wonder what it is about Jesus, what attribute of His allows Him to be our advocate we can trust in?

    “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:”
    1 John 2:1

    It is Christ’s righteousness that causes Him to be our advocate. Why would John choose “the righteous” as the defining characteristic of Christ here?

    Seems like if Christ were righteous, we’d want to stay a long way away from Him. Righteous God does not like unrighteous people. Unrighteous people cannot survive before Him.

    Wouldn’t it give us more confidence to say “We have an advocate with Jesus Christ the gracious?” Or perhaps, “Jesus Christ the extremely lenient?”

    But John goes with “the righteous.”

    Here’s my stab at it: Jesus Christ is righteous, we are not. By faith we receive the righteousness of God through Christ. If Christ is not righteous, He has no ability to intercede on our behalf. If He is righteous He has “some pull” with God!

    We need a righteous advocate, no other will work. Your priest, your mother, yourself, no one but a perfectly righteous person can be a secure advocate. We only have one: use Him!

    Sovereignly Decreed Luck

    During my message Sunday I was talking about guys coming to rescue Jeremiah from the muddy pit he was in. I said, “Luckily, or perhaps sovereignly, guys showed up to rescue Jeremiah.”

    Was it luck or was it sovereign decree? Or perhaps sovereign luck. Christians have the idea that luck (favorable chance) or chance is something heathens talk about.

    After we pray before our church softball games, someone inevitably says, “Good luck” to the other team. Often a comment is made to say “we don’t believe in luck, we believe in God.” Then they beat us, so hmm. . .

    I do not claim to know how God’s sovereignty works with our finite knowledge and being bound inside time, etc. Things happen, God is in control, does this eliminate chance?

    If all things are done by God’s sovereign decree, every atom of creation moves as He determines, then there can be no luck and no chance events. That seems all there is to it. Is that what Scripture says?

    “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” Ecclesiastes 9:11

    I suppose “chance” means something else, or can be explained away with semantics, and I suppose there’s  a chance I’m an idiot, or is it a chance? All could be true, just wondering what John Calvin says about this verse.

    Free Range Chicken, Organic Food and God

    There are few things more annoying than people who know about food and dieting. You’re all set to enjoy your Hostess Cupcake and they break in with calorie numbers, fat content, the dangers of trans-fat and blah, blah, blah.

    They munch on their organic carrots while spewing forth the health benefits of free range chicken.

    I mean, God bless em, it’s a free country. Glad you’re able to convince yourself you are happy eating disgusting foods. But here’s the deal: You’re gonna die anyway, might as well eat good food.

    Eat what you want, doesn’t matter to me really. It’s just annoying to be lectured by people on these issues when they die and get sick, too.

    Giving unasked for advice on health and diet, and everything else people enjoy lecturing people on to prolong life, is stupid. It’s not just me who thinks this, God does too.

    “For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?”

    You don’t know what you’re talking about. Best advice for when you don’t know what you’re talking about is to not talk.

    The Fear of God and Stupid Presidents

    The Bible tells us to honor and fear our government leaders. This is not always an easy thing. Most Christians are very loving until you get them on the subject of politics.

    We have a notion in America that since we are a democracy we can be disrespectful to our leaders. I have heard it said many times, “If you don’t vote, you have no right to criticize your leader.”

    What this implies is that if I do vote I can criticize, it’s a right I earned by voting. However, Scripture makes no reference to criticizing government leaders. It says to fear them, and I don’t see how criticism is consistent with fearing.

    So we think we can criticize because “we put him there.” The Bible says the exact opposite.

    “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.”

    We did not put them there, no matter how often you voted. God put them there. We show fear and reverence to the president because God put him there.

    We need to be careful how we speak of our leaders. America is not heaven. Democracy is not Christianity. In fact, Democracy is the exact opposite of what the Bible says. Since when is righteousness defined as “whatever the most people are doing?”

    I do not desire to hear any explanation of “we’re merely pointing out sin, error, etc” Or, “It’s our duty to point out the president’s sin, etc” No it isn’t.

    The Bible says our duty is to submit, honor fear and obey. The only exception is when we must follow God instead. Even then, we do it with humility and respect and take whatever punishments the government dishes out.

    Friendly Reminder

    Christianity is muddled. Muddled almost beyond Biblical recognition. We’ve got systems, programs, plans, theories, systematic theologies, manuals, statements, and many other human devised aids to faith.

    Most of which miss the point and confuse people. Faith is simple. Here it is:

    Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore.

    That’s faith. We live by this. One day you’ll die by it.

    Hope for the Hopeful

    “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”

    How great is that?

    I love the Bible.

    Oh that my desires and satisfactions would be in God. That I would be able to write something about this without pride, arrogance, idiocy and stupid all over it. To awake in His presence. That is hope.

    Preventive Prayer

    “Preventive Care” is a health term referring to stuff you do to prevent getting sick or injured. Rather than treating a disease, it treats the potential of getting a disease in order to prevent getting it.

    Genius.

    Perhaps we should also invest in Preventive Prayer. Most people’s prayer lives pick up steam after problems occur. “Oh no! My leg fell off! Help me Jesus!”

    If your leg falls off, this is indeed a fine time to pray. However, even if your legs are still attached, it’s a fine time to pray. However, I’m not referring to prayer to avoid disease or injury.

    Preventive Prayer goes like this: Deliver me from evil, lead me not into temptation, help me to say what needs saying, help me to love when a need arises out of nowhere, help me be patient when I’m pushed, etc.

    Preparing ourselves beforehand may be all that’s needed to avoid huge disasters. Life going well right now? Pray for the times when it isn’t, because that time is approaching.

    Christian Conspiracies

    I’m currently reading a book called Voodoo Histories. It details the tendency of people to believe conspiracy theories.

    People who hold onto conspiracy theories enjoy the thrill of being in on something big, something less intelligent men don’t see. They’ve become enlightened and “on” to the games being played behind the scenes.

    “Like a joke or gossip, once you know what the secret is, not only do you hold the key to understanding but you can also pass the information on yourself, becoming the storyteller, the wise one.”

    One of the main reasons I am enjoying this book is because it sheds light on much of Christianity. Christians are good at gravitating to their own “secret” thing that unlocks the Bible.

    People look at the Bible as a giant mystery that they can solve and their answer to the mystery need not be yours and yet it should be, you idiot.

    I’ve seen this many times, touching on most doctrinal leanings. Once enlightened with the hidden truth that unlocks it all, the guru then grabs a following and pulls the strings and leads his minions.

    Beware of any man claiming to own a secret key that unlocks all, or a new view of the Bible that reveals what God “really meant.” The Bible says what it says and what it says should be agreed upon by lots of other believers.

    There are no Lone Rangers in Christianity. There are no gurus with hidden knowledge and special insight that you need. There is no secret key that reveals hidden Scriptural truths.

    God says we need the Word and the Spirit: That’s IT!

    Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.

    Faith and Stress

    The narrative voice of the Bible is something I think we miss. When you read the OT the narration is omniscient. It knows what people are doing in all corners, what thoughts they have, what this guy said to that guy when they were the only ones there.

    We also get to see behind the scenes stuff. God stirs up the Amorites and Philistines to attack, sometimes for good sometimes for bad. God is pushing buttons and pulling levers left and right.

    Meanwhile, His people tend to be in a constant state of panic. They never quite seem to get it that God is behind it all, that indeed, “the battle is not your’s, but God’s.”

    We sit back with our omniscient narration and wonder, “How can these guys not get it? Why are they always so stressed out?”

    Funny that.

    God is acting the same way today, it’s just that we don’t have an omniscient narrator filling us in. We walk by faith, knowing that God is sovereign. All enemies that rise up, rise up by God’s command. All victories are won by His power. All defeats are for His purposes.

    Do we trust Him? We know the depth of our trust by the depth of our worry.