The Spiritual Covenant

Under the Old Covenant, God promised to keep covenant with those who kept His commandments. If the commandments are not kept, God no longer has to keep covenant with you.

Again, we rejoice we are not under the Old Covenant because of this. But again, let us note carefully why this is so. Here is how the reality of the New Covenant is described in Ezekiel 36:27:

“And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”

With the Spirit we fulfill the righteousness of the Law. The Law is not burdensome, it does not inspire sin and death. On the contrary, it is the evidence of true spiritual life.

Keeping the Law consists of loving the Lord your God and loving your neighbor as yourself. Love is the fulfilling of the Law. Christ is our example. The Gospel, the greatest demonstration of love, is our life.

Those who have the Spirit are those who are in true covenant with God. We meet our end because the Spirit is in us, working through us, stirring up gifts, producing fruit, etc.

The New Covenant is a better covenant because it meets all the conditions that God desires to be met. How great our God. How great His gracious provision received by faith.

New Covenant Life

Jeremiah 7:23 says, “obey me and I will be your God.” We rejoice that we are not under the old covenant with this one! “Praise God, He’s my God whether I obey Him or not! Amen.”

Here’s the deal, that’s not exactly accurate.

The Old Covenant was not sufficient so a better covenant was brought in, according to Hebrews. “Obey me and I will be your God” is a fine Old Covenant statement. But let’s note carefully the nature of the New Covenant!

“I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

The Old Covenant had a letter written in stone, the New Covenant has a letter written in the heart. God makes us be who He wants us to be–we be His people, He be our God.

This isn’t because disobedience is suddenly fine. It’s because God’s provision is so wonderful and complete. There is not an external law of judgment but an internal operation of the Spirit to lead us into doing God’s will.

Obedience is literally second nature–the fruit of the new nature from regeneration. This is life, peace, freedom and happiness.

“Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”

The ministry of death is removed and replaced with the ministry of righteousness and life. This is who God’s people are.

Fast Talking Lazy People

It’s amazing to me how resistant modern Christian ears are to hearing that they should do good. It’s puzzling how we’ve turned doing good, doing what God wants us to do, into sheer evilness.

Rather than doing good, we much prefer getting away with just saying nice stuff, having good intentions. As long as we say sweet things about Jesus what we do is irrelevant.

This is nothing new to human nature. It’s an ages old battle. People resist personal responsibility in every form. Jeremiah 7 contains a great passage about this subject. Here is the progression:

7:3–“Thus saith the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings
7:5–“throughly amend your ways and your doings
7:8–“Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit.”
7:9-10–“Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?”

Israel went to their destruction singing the wonders of their great salvation, they had been delivered and were now free to sin, sin, sin! They trusted words over actions.

Granted, there’s another error on the other side which trumps doing good over faith. The answer is not to flip out to extremes.

The answer is to quit playing games with our words and start hearing God’s Words, which implies doing what He says. It is only by faith that a man is capable of pleasing God.

I fear for many who are caught up in word games, appeasing their conscience with happy Christian platitudes while their deeds deny they know anything about God.

The OT history of Israel shows that this attitude didn’t work for them and there should be absolutely no expectation it will work for us either. These things were written for our learning.

Changing God

Man is made in the image of God. This aspect of man has been used by free-will advocates as proof that man has free-will. God has free-will; we are made in God’s image; therefore we have free-will.

I like this argument. Calvinists do not. Therefore, I have seen Calvinists say, “God cannot do what is contrary to His nature, therefore He does not have free-will.”

In order to back up their doctrine, they change the nature of God, making God a slave to His own nature, which is odd to me.

God chooses to limit Himself, to not do things He does not like doing. This is not a restriction of free-will, but an exercise of free-will.

It bothers me to see people change Scripture so they might maintain a pet doctrine. Changing God’s nature to continue to hold a doctrine is just as alarming, and yet, actually it’s the same thing.

Those who change Scripture will have no problems changing God to fit their preferences. I like many aspects of Calvin’s doctrine; I dislike many as well. I like all aspects of God’s Word, so I try to go with that.

Grieving the Holy Spirit

Grieving the Holy Spirit is a biblical phrase that may evoke incorrect images. Exactly what does it mean? How does one grieve the Holy Spirit?

You may be surprised that grieving the Holy Spirit is not some recent New Testament thing. Isaiah 63:10 says that the people who Moses delivered “vexed the Holy Spirit.” Vexing the Holy Spirit means to grieve Him. It does, look it up.

It is rather self-explanatory how the people of Israel vexed the Holy Spirit in the wilderness–they rebelled against God, became stubborn and whiney and the Holy Spirit began working against them to their destruction.

Ephesians 4 tells us not to grieve the Holy Spirit and this little phrase is stuck in a section of Paul’s commands for believers. Apparently, not doing these commands grieves the Spirit.

Not doing what God wants us to do is what grieves the Holy Spirit. So, on top of disobeying God, we also grieve the Holy Spirit when we disobey, making our offense double at least.

Those who are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. There is no condemnation to those who walk in the Spirit. Following the Spirit is a big deal with God. Don’t blow it like Israel did.

Whore of Babylon, Catholics and Protestants

Revelation 17 reveals the whore of Babylon riding on a beast with ten horns. The beast represents the one world government under a confederacy of ten kings. The whore represents the apostate church.

Revelation scholars have often seen the one world government as the Roman Empire and the whore representing the Roman Catholic Church.

Martin Luther strongly believed that the Catholic Church was the whore of Babylon to the extent he wrote a whole book about it.

Luther makes some valid points, the Catholic Church was indeed getting rich off people, providing certain spiritual services (forgiveness of sins, time off from purgatory, etc) for money like a whore.

Unfortunately, many protestants have come away thinking that the Whore of Babylon has everything to do with Catholicism and nothing to do with Protestantism.

Thus, we are not bothered by having huge churches with lots of money and highly paid church professionals. We assume only Catholics will be used by antichrist, certainly not our church.

I think we do ourselves a disservice to assume that all warnings of the Bible apply to “other people.” No matter how many theological frameworks you can devise to prove you are perfect to the extent you no longer need to “take heed lest ye fall,” you still need to take heed lest ye fall.

The Church, regardless of denomination, is a tool of Antichrist. Bank on it. Revelation starts with three chapters of warnings to churches. Funny how we’ve relegated them to past churches and not us as well isn’t it? Yup.

I Am Second

Are you aware of the “I Am Second” campaign? It’s a series of video interviews giving people’s testimonies of Jesus Christ. In many respects, the interviews are good, many are heartfelt, honest and inspiring.

Others are a tad humorous to my twisted brain. Some are just cool, angsty guys talking about “what God has been teaching me, man.” The camera work and the setting is hip. It’s cool stuff, and would be fun to make fun of.

So I did. Here is my new video campaign, “I Am Forty Second.”

Apostate Church and Our Church

I am aware that my views of The End Times are not everyone else’s. This is fine, you are entitled to be wrong.

Regardless of your views of The End, we need to be aware of Satan’s ploys regarding institutional church. Money and power are always the influence that warps churches’ doctrinal integrity.

Sunday I spoke on Daniel 7, the antichrist, Revelation 17 and the role of the apostate church and how we are setting ourselves up for disaster in the church. If you don’t want to hear the whole thing, the last 25 minutes will do ya.

Problems With Prophets

About ten years ago I began preaching through the Bible starting in Genesis. I am now half way through Daniel. I’ve totally enjoyed it. What an education!

When I began preaching through the Old Testament and people began to catch on to what I was doing, several folks warned me about preaching through the prophets.

“You’re not going to preach through all the prophets are you? It’s all about judgment and the Kingdom. It’s so repetitive, you’ll bore people to death.”

Indeed, boring people to death is always a concern when I open my mouth, however no more so when my mouth speaks of the prophets.

I think the true aversion to the prophets is their continual warning that all who claim to be God’s people are not God’s people. They poke holes in religion. They see right through false professions. There’s a reason why prophets got killed.

In short, they keeps it real. Keeping it real is nothing most church-goers want to do. They would rather be pumped with happy thoughts. They want to leave feeling “encouraged.”

Well, don’t expect too much in the way of encouragement from the prophets unless you’re truly a spiritual person.

They are thick, and it’s hard to follow some of the obscure prophecies regarding Egypt and Tyre, etc. But their theology, their passion to awaken spiritually sleeping people is awesome.

MAIN POINT: If you have a problem with the prophets, it may have more to do with you than with them.

Sacrifices and Taking God for Granted

There is a notion that Old Testament guys were saved by doing sacrifices. When they broke the law, they killed an animal and all was right with God again.

The problem with this thinking is that there are many verses expressing God’s frustration with Israel’s sacrifices. Jeremiah 14:12 is a good example.

“When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence.”

God has had enough and will no longer accept their sacrifices. The problem is not that Israel is sinning and not sacrificing. The problem is that they are sinning, then sacrificing, then going back to their sin, repeatedly, without concern, to the point of stubborn, hard-headed rebellion.

They were taking God for granted. They went through the motions of faith and yet removed faith entirely.

Israel is not alone in this error. Repeatedly Christians spout out platitudes toward the cross and Christ and the blood He shed. Praises for Christ’s deliverance are on our lips continually.

Sometimes it seems the ones who make the most mention of Christ’s provision are the ones who are sinning the most. They know enough to know their sin and that they need a sacrifice, but there’s not a chance repentance is going to enter the picture.

Why stop sin when I can sin, throw God a bone by mentioning Christ and His sacrifice, and then return to my sin? It’s a sweet deal.

Except it’s wrong and God will get tired of hearing your vain words as well. God has always looked for faith, not empty words or ritual. True faith results in true sanctification, turning from sin to righteousness.

Always. Don’t want to stop sinning? Then don’t play games with God, be a heathen scum and live it up. Hell will be hotter for those who play games with God’s provision.

Our Aversion to God’s Law

Many times I’ve heard Christian types say something like this: “Israel couldn’t keep the Law. They showed it was impossible, therefore there’s no point in us doing what God says either.”

Here are several problems with this reasoning:

1) This undermines the provision of Christ. Christ kept the Law and we are now instructed to keep the true nature of the Law–LOVE. He gave us another Comforter to lead us into this.

2) This undermines the power of God’s Word. The Word of God is quick and powerful, able to teach, admonish, instruct and correct. We’ve got more of God’s Word today than Israel ever did.

3) This undermines the doctrine of salvation. Not all Israel kept the Law, but there were still many who were saved. Even when they sinned, they used the provision of the Law to be forgiven (sacrifices). To say that no one kept the Law is true and yet many were saved under the Law.

People are saved the same way today as they were then. The Law shows us what sin is, often inspires sin in our corrupt natures. Yet the Law also brings us to Christ for forgiveness and new life.

No flesh is justified by deeds of the Law; but all flesh can be justified by the provision of the Law–the sacrifices that were ultimately fulfilled in Christ. No sacrifice was good apart from faith in the offerer.

MAIN POINT–Israel’s failure to keep the Law is not a reason for us to deny doing God’s will. If anything, all that we have now after Christ allows us to live by the Law of God

“That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

The righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in us when we walk in the Spirit, which is something we can now do.

Obedience, Sacrifice and Jesus Christ

New Testament doctrine is the same thing as Old Testament doctrine. The main difference is in the depth of explanation and clarity due to progressive revelation.

Any New Testament doctrine can be seen, at least in shadow, in the OT. This is particularly true of the “big” doctrines, things like sin and grace and forgiveness and salvation.

Here are two verses that my mind recently linked together:

“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” With “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?”

Both verses are saying the same thing. Sacrifices for Israel were never intended to be license to sin. “Hey, I got plenty of rams to kill, let’s party in sin!”

Nor are we, after Christ’s sacrifice, to think, “Hey, I got Christ’s perfect sacrifice, let’s party in sin!”

However, many people in Israel did view sacrifices like this, “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.”

Israel was sacrificing all kinds of animals but God was not pleased with dead animals, He wanted them to knock off the sin. These sacrifices were a type of Christ.

It should not surprise us that many view Christ’s sacrifice just as flippantly. People have been doing that for thousands of years. Israel was judged because of this, wonder if God still feels the same way?

“For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.”

Hebrews 5:9 and Exploding Heads

“And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.”

This is Hebrews 5:9. It’s a fine theologically consternating verse.

First there’s the argument about what is meant by Jesus Christ becoming “perfect.” Many have used this to say that Jesus was just a man who behaved really, really well to impress God enough to save people.

My view is that Jesus was made perfect in obedience, His perfection was made complete by His complete obedience–He did everything set out for Him to do. He did it perfectly. That wasn’t true until it was done.

Second issue is one I didn’t even think much of until I was reading a commentary on it. Then my mind exploded all over. Here is the sentence I read that caused my mind to explode:

“It [eternal salvation] should not be confused with the acquisition of eternal life which is conditioned not on obedience but on faith.”


Wow. There is no other way to simply and literally read this verse than to understand that Christ perfectly accomplished the spiritual requirements for salvation. It’s talking about being saved, acquiring salvation through Christ.

Salvation comes on people who obey God. It is ridiculous, and I’d even go so far as to say blasphemous, to change scripture so you can maintain a doctrine.

Faith is obedience. Paul calls it the obedience of faith. Faith is nothing less than doing what you’re told, doing what you’ve heard. Faith without works is dead. Many profess to believe but deny God by their works and show themselves to be reprobate.

I hate this kind of stuff. I hate it, hate it, hate it. It makes me want to go Nehemiah on people and yank their hair out, “What are you doing?”

We’ve played around with doctrine so much, established so many commonly held views that are not consistent with Scripture. Rather than amend our false doctrine, we attempt to prove that Scripture doesn’t mean what it says. This is dangerous and deserving of hell fire.

I have nothing more to say on it.

Wild Animals and Stupid People

I live in Northern Wisconsin where there isn’t much in the way of urban living. I can go on a walk in the woods for hours without seeing anyone. I love this.

Frequently, urban people will visit our house and express anxiety about being in the woods, all alone, so isolated from the securities of civilization. “Aren’t you afraid of animals eating on you?”

My typical response is, “I would much rather take my chances with wild animals than with stupid people.”

I like this argument. I have had a few meetings with bears, porcupines, skunks, even coyotes yet I’ve never had any problems with them whatsoever. We look at each other and both decide to walk away.

People, on the other hand, are unpredictable. Most of the problems in my life have been caused by people. None have been caused by ravenous bears.

It is always a lovely thing when your wisdom happens to be God’s wisdom.

“Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man,
rather than a fool in his folly.”
–Proverbs 17:12

P.S. As a result of this post I will no doubt be mauled by a bear within the day. It’s been nice knowing you. I love you all. OK, maybe not all. I love most of you. Even you, Frank.

Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Change and God

The recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan did major damage. It moved the whole country of Japan 8 feet and shifted the earth’s axis by four inches! I find this incredible.

This movement of Japan and the whole earth occurred in a matter of minutes. There was no need for billions or even millions of years to do this “erosion.” Imagine if there was a worldwide flood with earthquakes what damage would happen quickly?

Another note, God promised Noah that there would be seasons on a regular basis after the flood was over. Seasons are based on the earth’s axis. Perhaps the flood shifted the earth’s axis just like this event to create seasons.

Another note, check out Psalm 104:5,6, which seems to point to the earth’s position in relation to water.

“He established the earth upon its foundations,
         So that it will not totter forever and ever.
    6You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
         The waters were standing above the mountains.”

In times like these I’m glad God is in control. How little He would have to do to make this place end. That being the case, what manner of lives ought we to live?

Faith, Humility and Submission

Romans 10 says that faith comes by hearing. We are also told that believers walk by faith. Seems we ought to know what “hearing” is all about.

Allow a couple verses from Psalm 81 to enlighten us as to what God means when He talks about hearing.

“My people did not listen to My voice,
         And Israel did not obey Me.”

Hearing God’s voice means obeying God. Two verses later He says:

“Oh that My people would listen to Me,
         That Israel would walk in My ways!”

Hearing means walking in His ways. The alternative to not obeying and walking God’s way, is that we obey ourselves and walk in our way. According to the verse that comes between these two, this is called stubborn pride.

Pride is our big problem in life. Pride is a main root of sin. It tripped up Satan, Eve and every created being since except Jesus Christ–who, by the way, obeyed His Father perfectly–the very definition of humility.

Faith and humility go together because they are both necessary for proper submission and obedience. I think that’s why Paul in Romans a few times refers to “the faith of obedience.”

And let’s not forget that God gives grace to the humble and we’re saved by grace through faith. Faith is obedience; obedience is hearing; hearing is faith.

Advantages of Dumb

I often wish I could just shut up. To let stuff I disagree with slip on by.

The wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God, yet I do find, from Scripture, that there are times when confrontation is necessary. I just wish I knew when.

There is an element of arguing or pointing out error that is lack of faith. God needs me to correct idiots, you know. God won’t do it, or He will at least take forever to get around to it. Much easier if I step in and deal with it.

“But I, as a deaf man, heard not;
and I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth.
Thus I was as a man that heareth not,
and in whose mouth are no reproofs.
For in thee, O LORD, do I hope:
thou wilt hear, O Lord my God.”

Being deaf and mute would have its advantages. If I didn’t hear error I wouldn’t have to correct it! I would be in total submission to God to take care of it all.

But, alas, I can hear quite well. In conclusion, all I can say is: it’s a good thing I am legally blind otherwise I’d probably never shut up.

Christ’s Obedience and Justification

“It is only Christ’s keeping the commandments that entitles me to enter life.”

This is a quote from Spurgeon and I have a problem with it. If Christ’s keeping of the Law is what gives me life then I am justified by deeds of the Law, which Paul tells me is not possible.

I am not justified by my keeping the Law nor am I justified by someone else keeping the Law. I am justified by the blood of Christ and His resurrection.

Scripture does not teach that Christ keeping the Law justifies anyone. The closest you may get is, “by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”

It does a disservice to this verse to make “obedience” apply merely to Christ’s keeping of the Law. Christ’s obedience extended to His death, even death on the cross.

Christ did need to keep the Law in order to be a proper sacrifice, but His obedience to the Law saved no one apart from His death and Resurrection. Christ’s proper Sabbath keeping does not justify me; it showed He was the perfect sacrifice and made His subsequent death and resurrection satisfying to God.

This is a fine line of theology many have argued over. I will not end the argument. I will defend the point that no flesh is justified by the Law, “for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.”

Spurgeon is better than I in many ways, but I think he is wrong here.

The Miracle of Christian Love

Love is the main characteristic of true Christian faith, and more precisely–love of enemies. Loving those who love you involves little in the way of virtue.

Old Testament history shows God’s people being used as a tool of His vengeance. Unfortunately, many of God’s people began thinking they could decide who to take vengeance on.

When Israel moved without God, they got beat. The wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God.

When Jesus, the supposed conquering Messiah, shows up telling these guys to love their enemies, their heads exploded, figuratively, of course.

They were disappointed that they couldn’t kill guys anymore. Which, after awhile does become a fine form of entertainment, especially in the creative ways God decided to use.

Where do we see God’s power on display today, if not by seeing the earth open up and swallow transgressors and fiery serpents roaming the land?

God’s power is on display in God’s people when they love their enemies. This is unhuman strength and power. Loving those who hate you is just as miraculous, maybe even more so, than the sun stopping so Israel could kill more bad guys.

Believing the Gospel

Believing the Gospel does not mean

1) That you’ve read the Gospel
2) That you’ve understood the Gospel
3) That you can repeat the Gospel

Believing, of course, does require that you have heard, understood and can repeat the Gospel, but none of these, not even all of these things, imply that you believe the Gospel.

Believing the Gospel means you understand and have accepted not only Christ’s part in the Gospel, but your own part, and you’re good with that.

What is the believer’s part in the Gospel? It’s seeing yourself so closely linked with Christ and what He did in the Gospel–His death and resurrection–that you see yourself as having died and risen with Him.

There is a death to you. You die to self and the lusts and affections of your flesh. You are crucified with Christ. The believer then puts to death the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit.

On top of that, there is resurrection to new life in Christ. A life not driven by the flesh but by the Spirit that pursues what Christ pursued–God’s will. It produces Spiritual fruit.

At the base, the Gospel takes you away and replaces you with Christ. This process will not be received kindly by your flesh. No one enjoys the process of dying. But after death is when true life begins, whether we’re speaking spiritually or physically.

If you understand that the Gospel turns your life into a living sacrifice, a cross-bearing reality, dead with Christ and then makes you alive to spiritual reality that the fleshly world around you will despise and hate, and if you’re good with that and continue in the Gospel anyway, then you know you truly believe the Gospel.

Tozer on the Dead Church

“The church itself has changed.

“A little self-examination will reveal that it and its members have become fallow. It has lived through its early travails and has now come to accept an easier way of life. It is content to carry on its painless program with enough money to pay its bills and a membership large enough to assure its future.

“Its members now look to it for security rather than for guidance in the battle between good and evil. It has become a school instead of a barracks. Its members are students, not soldiers. They study the experiences of others instead of seeking new experiences of their own.”
A W Tozer, Paths to Power

Literally Awkward Passage

Speaking of awkward passages we don’t want to take literally, how about James 5:14-16?

This is a beauty for fans of being literal. Dispensationalism prides itself on being literal and dispensationalists typically chuck all of James and especially this passage.

Ironically, J N Darby, oft said to be the father of dispensational theology, applied this passage literally. Allow me to quote Mr. Harry Ironside on James 5:

“Mr. J N Darby and Mr. J G Bellet were called into many sick rooms in Dublin, where they acted literally upon the directions given here. Many remarkable healings were vouchsafed in answer to the prayer of faith; so much so that attention began to be centered upon these two brothers as special instruments used of God.”

Apparently, Mr Darby was the first and last dispensationalist to literally use James 5. Literalness is handy until it makes us feel awkward, then it is rather embarrassing.

Literalness and Awkward Passages

Being literal is the best way to read Scripture. Even when Scripture is being figurative, you can literally tell, usually. I say “usually” because when you watch the NT interpret OT passages, there are enough strange interpretations to keep an interpreter humble (Matthew 2:23 for instance).

Many people pride themselves on their Biblical literalness. The problem with this is that no one is. Literalness ceases as soon as we’re met with an inconvenient truth.

Literalness flies out the window as we find a handy justification to believe that the verse in question could mean many things, but certainly does not mean what it says.

1 Corinthians 11 about head coverings is a great example. There is much debate as to what it means. Some take it literally and those women cover their heads. Some don’t think it’s literal and so don’t. Others take it literally, but find excuses to dismiss it so as not to be troubled by its literalness.

–Paul’s point is not based on culture, it’s based on creation–the woman was made for the man.
–Paul’s point is not that the covering is long hair–if a woman is not covered she should have her hair cut, which would be redundant.

Paul’s point seems to be this–if a woman takes part in a speaking role in church her head should be covered. That’s what it literally means.

The fact that we don’t take it literally does not change this fact.

A W Tozer on Powerless Grace

“That breed of mild, harmless Christian grown in our generation is but a poor sample of what the grace of God can do when it operates in power in a human heart.

“The emotionless act of ‘accepting the Lord’ practiced among us bears little resemblance to the whirlwind conversions of the past.

“We have many today theological saints who can (and must) be proved to be saints by an appeal to the Greek original.

“We need saints whose lives proclaim their sainthood, and who need not run to the concordance for authentication.”
A. W. Tozer, Paths to Power

The Literal Usage of Convenience

My problem with many of my fellow brethren who interpret the Bible literally is that usually their literalness stops at a point where being literal is inconvenient to maintain a pet doctrine.

Many of my literal brethren will balk at being literal with certain passages. Allow me to illustrate with 1 Corinthians 9:27, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

My literal brethren’s commentaries all interpret the word “castaway” to refer to Paul losing reward for service.

However, if a fellar were to look up the Greek word for “castaway” and how it is used in the rest of the NT (allowing Scripture to tell us what Paul meant with this word) you will notice that every other time the word is used it refers to a nonbeliever. (Romans 1:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5-7; 2 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:16; Hebrews 6:7,8). It is never used to merely describe losing a reward.

If a guy were interpreting Scripture with Scripture one would have to conclude that Paul is worried about being called an unbeliever. The obvious problems with this arise. Is Paul saying he could lose his salvation? Is eternal security out the window?

Perhaps the context includes Paul talking about rewards or perhaps about losing his apostleship, a subject he defends in this epistle. Then again, he uses dying Israelites as his object lesson (1 Corinthians 10).

One thing I do know: if many of us were around to hear Paul talking about severely disciplining his body so as not to be thought of as a reprobate heathen scum, I bet many of us would tell him he doesn’t know what “grace” is.

Doctrine, History and Giving a Rip

“Once money masters us, it will harden, paralyze, scorch, freeze, blight, and wither our souls. It overthrew an apostle of Christ. Let us take heed that it does not overthrow us.”
~ J.C. Ryle

The Bible contains history and biography. We like the Epistles because they deal with doctrine, which is fun to debate. We can argue about words and theories and big doctrinal concepts. It’s good entertainment.

But people balk when we start touching practical applications to life. It’s easier to discuss doctrinal minutia of predestination than it is to discuss being called by God to be separate.

So, we avoid the history and biography in the Bible because it’s too cut and dry, can’t argue over conclusions when the conclusions of these lives are pretty obvious. Better go back and argue about theories of justification.

Wanting stuff kills people and destroys faith. I can explain that to you doctrinally, or I can point you to Judas, Ananias and Saphira, Belshazar, Nebuchadnezzar, and many, many more.

Doctrine is important. It is critical that we have proper understandings of predestination and justification. But let’s not sever the practical outworkings of these and other doctrines from how we live day-to-day.

These things are written for our learning. Do we give a rip?

Mr. Rogers and the Holy Spirit

Christianity’s conception of the Holy Spirit reminds me more of Mr. Rogers than it does the God of the universe. Believers are indwelt by the Spirit so we can be extra, super-duper nice and stuff.

But when you compare what the Spirit does to people in the Bible with our conception of Him, there are few similarities.

We have the idea that the Holy Spirit merely adds a different component to life. The stuff we couldn’t do before, like be patient, we can now still not do, but we can joke that “the Spirit is still working on me!”

That whole “love thing” sure sounds nice too, and it would be nice to love people, it’s just so hard when you’re with people to actually do it, “The Spirit’s not done with me yet I guess!”

There’s this notion that the Spirit doesn’t really change anything in me, He doesn’t make me inherently different. No, He works with what I got. He smooths the edges, takes a little off the top, but essentially I’m still me. “He’ll finish me someday!”

This bothers me. When the Spirit came on people in the Bible they changed. They weren’t the same. Samson, Saul, David, the apostles, and all these men were different after the Spirit came on them.

We’re the same, we just know we’re not supposed to be. To the degree we are the same, we blame it on the Spirit’s poor work ethic in making me different.

Not sure what my point is yet. It just bothers me. It just does. The fact that I used the word “just” twice there proves it.

Spirit Shmirit

According to my understanding, the Holy Spirit did not indwell OT believers as He does in the post-pentecost believers. In the OT He came on people for specific purposes and sometimes left, as in King Saul.

In the NT we rejoice that we have the Spirit, that we are born of the Spirit, that the Spirit seals us to the day of redemption. We know that what we have now seems much better than the OT workings of the Spirit.

Yet the OT presence of the Spirit sure seemed to change the people He came upon. Guys could do amazing things in His power–kill people, be great, valiant kings, create the intricate work of the Ark of the Covenant and so on.

In the NT, with the fuller, greater demonstration of the Spirit, we’re left with His “gifts,” which seem more like work, and His fruits, which seem more like Mr. Rogers than it does valiant kings.

Did we get the short end of the stick here, or do we maybe not have a clue about the power of the Holy Spirit in the regenerate man?

Eating Wind

“My brethren, the reason why you have not got contentment in the things of the world is not because you have not got enough of them.  That is not the reason.  But the reason is because they are not things proportionable to that immortal soul of yours that is capable of God himself.  Many men think that when they are troubled and have not got contentment, it is because they have but a little in the world, and if they had more then they would be content. 

“That is just as if a man were hungry, and to satisfy his craving stomach he should gape and hold open his mouth to take in the wind, and then should think that the reason why he is not satisfied is because he has not got enough of the wind.  No, the reason is because the thing is not suitable to a craving stomach.”

Jeremiah Burroughs

%d bloggers like this: