Starting to mess with Twitter. If interested in being tweeted upon, click here and follow. Main point is to share good links and my pithy wisdom/stupidity.
In order to learn, a person has to admit they don’t know something. People who “know everything,” or at least act like they do, are destined to become really dumb people, maybe not in their minds, but certainly in the minds of everyone who deals with them.
One of the traits of dumb people is lying to protect their pretend intelligence. If they don’t know the answer, rather than say, “I don’t know,” they will come up with something, or at least bash you for being so stupid as to not know that, “Pssh, everyone knows that,” is the attitude conveyed to avoid showing they really don’t know either.
Christianity, being made up of people, has lots of dumb people in it. I remember in the church I grew up in there was a guy who would always quote verses on Sunday and Wednesday night church service.
When I was older, I mentioned this guy to my dad. “He really seems to know what he’s talking about,” I said, “He’s always quoting verses.”
My dad laughed and said, “If you’ll notice, he knows four verses and will find a way to quote one of them in every conversation.” Oh.
The guy had me fooled!
Often, know-it-all types assume that questions show doubt. If you had faith you wouldn’t doubt and, therefore, you wouldn’t ask questions.
Is faith endangered in asking too many questions?
I have known people who “had faith” who began asking questions. Doubts were put in their head by someone, so they began to question everything. The more they questioned, the more confused they became. They concluded you can’t know anything and Christianity was all a hoax.
Many of these people, while falling away, ask questions of believers and no matter what is said, they will have a problem with it and use it as “more proof” that Christianity is bogus.
It happens. I don’t think this ruined anyone’s faith; I think it merely showed their faith wasn’t true faith, which is also a helpful thing to know.
Honest questions, asked to learn something, not merely to doubt stuff, will only strengthen faith.
Again, the purpose of asking a question is to get an answer. The problem is not asking a question; the problems arise more with your response to the answers!
The absolute, most irritating part of the Bible to me is in Matthew 22:24-28. It drives me crazy. I read the Bible from cover to cover and every time I come across this passage (and it’s repeated) I can’t read these verses.
These snide testers who have no interest in learning but rather in making Jesus Christ look stupid, ask this ridiculous question about a woman with a dead husband and then marries all the deceased guys’ brothers and who will she be married to in heaven.
Oh man. I can hear their tone of voice. I can see their little smirks. I can only imagine what Jesus Christ is thinking in His head. I am always stunned at how calm and composed He is after their dumb question is over.
Jesus calmly says, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” I love that, “You do err.” I believe that is King James for, “That was a really, really stupid question.”
Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, who humbled Himself in the form of a servant to take on Himself the sin of the world and die with that burden. And He has to spend time listening to drivel like this.
It boggles my mind. How would you like it if you were that guy who asked that question and have that be recorded for eternity that you, at the one time in your little life you had a chance to talk to God in the flesh, you opened with that?
It is one thing to ask a dumb question of another human, because we are all dumb in our own way. But asking a dumb question of God does not seem like a good idea.
Now, God has shown Himself to be patient with questions. His patience with “Am I my brother’s keeper” and Jonah’s problems is encouraging for us.
God is big enough to handle questions. He’s big enough to handle your humble admission that you just don’t get it.
Last week’s post about it being OK to have questions inspired comments from several people about wanting more on the subject. Being the accommodating guy I am, I will say some more about questions.
There are good questions and bad questions. It’s not that easy to define the difference. It’s easy to say “Don’t ask entrapment questions like the Pharisees” except that Jesus asks them these kinds of questions of them all the time.
The basic underlying point is that we should ask questions that are asked to make a spiritual point, ones that are helpful for growth from either the questioner or the one being questioned.
The Bible makes it clear that there is such a thing as a stupid question. Scripture contains four warnings about getting caught up in asking stupid questions.
1 Timothy 1:4–“Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions”
1 Timothy 6:4–false teachers are “doting about questions and strifes of words.”
2 Timothy 2:23–“But foolish and unlearned questions avoid,”
Titus 3:9–“avoid foolish questions”
As much as I’m for asking questions and testing the spirits, it also seems like Christians are good at asking all the wrong questions at all the wrong times. They are often phrased as attacks and serve the purpose of trying to make who ever spoke last look immature and heathenish, as well as serve to encamp warring factions.
The Pharisees were great at asking questions and were anything but spiritual people. Their questions consisted of backing people into corners and playing logic tricks on them. Their intent was not to learn, but to prove their intellectual superiority.
This is great fun, I’ve done it many times myself and it is also wrong. The purpose of a question is to gain understanding, not to brag about the supposed understanding you already have.
Asking questions is good and every believer should do it. Believers should make sure, however, that their questions are for the use of edifying rather than arguing.
My son has a poster of Ryan Braun on his door. For those of you from outside the States who read this blog, Ryan Braun is a dominant baseball player from Wisconsin’s Milwaukee Brewers baseball team.
This past week he got suspended for the rest of the season for using Performance Enhancing Drugs. He’s juiced. This comes as no shock to anyone who has been paying attention to Major League Baseball.
It’s a sad thing. My son has lost some faith in people, which I’m not entirely opposed to! My son is a bit more cynical now. Braun got in suspicion for PED’s a couple years ago and got away with it and maintained his innocence.
He lied. Constantly. I knew he was lying. Everyone else knew he was lying. My son wanted to believe him and sort of convinced himself Braun wasn’t lying. But he was, and now everyone knows it, and Braun looks like a fool.
Lies generally work out that way. They make you look really dumb. Truth has a way of surfacing.
There are now two groups of people responding to Ryan Braun’s trouble
1) Those who condemn
2) Those who forgive
The condemners are mostly non-Brewer fans, although there are a number of Brewer fans who want blood right now.
The forgivers are mostly people who like Braun and the Brewers and are willing to be lenient, although there are some who like him who are really hurt now. His contract with Milwaukee is through 2020, so I guess Brewer fans will have to be lenient.
Since Milwaukee is a small market team, pretty much the whole world hates Ryan Braun and wishes him ill.
Because, as you may know, Ryan Braun is the only sinner out there who lies to make his appearance look better than it is.
I like Ryan Braun and I’ll give him forgiveness. I did not like Barry Bonds and have a tough time granting him forgiveness!
I’m glad God is the judge! God is the one who grants forgiveness and shows no respect of persons. God will not be more lenient on Braun because God is a Brewers fan, nor more harsh on Bonds because He can’t stand teams from California.
God will take care of it. Let the system dole out its punishments in the meanwhile. Judge nothing before the time when God sorts it all out and every single one of our mouths will be shut. This goes for David, Rahab, Braun, Bonds, me, you and everyone.
Messy people are used by God. It is very easy for us to judge David, Rahab, Eve, Jonah, Job’s friends and anyone else who doesn’t do what we think they should. It is easy for us to forget our sin and our foibles and assume if our lives were recorded in the Bible they’d look so much better.
My initial post on all this got a rise, one I knew would come. I even hesitated doing the post knowing the rise would ensue. In one sense, I’m glad there was a rise because it meant thinking was occurring. In another sense, I think this is why the Church has been so devoid of logic. People like things clean, straightforward, no fuss no muss.
We are uncomfortable with the brutal truth of Biblical history, we’re so uncomfortable thinking about it, we’d like others to quit thinking about it too.
One of the comforts of organized religion is that you never have to think. If you are indoctrinated with how people think, you become a follower of “your guys,” all questions are answered and you can skate through life with much assurance.
If you crack the covers of your Bible, however, and begin to read, you’re going to be confronted with stuff. Stuff that will inspire questions. Stuff that will make you have thoughts some will condemn you for ever thinking. When the boat begins to rock, the rockers will get tossed into the drink!
God does not mind people thinking. God even seems lenient to those who think wrongly as long as they respond correctly when shown the right way to think (Then there’s Jonah who never quite seemed to think right and I have no idea what to do with him, but I’m glad he’s in there!).
Christian liberty is a fine thing. We love talking about it. We’re all for it, until someone thinks a thought that we don’t like. Do we have the patience and love to help each other grow and learn? Or will we shoot down those who question?
Do we have the patience and love to deal with fellow sinners sinning in ways we don’t sin because our sins are so much less-sinny?
We stand in Christ. All else is a sinful, confusing mass of destruction.
Facts are facts and they are best dealt with honestly. There are liars all over the Old Testament. Lying is sin. Therefore, we must conclude that there are lying sinners all over the Old Testament!
Is this a shocking revelation?
I shouldn’t think so. David, who lied to protect his life a number of times, also committed adultery and murder, and yet was blessed by God and is a constant picture of the Messiah. Let’s not forget that Rahab who lied was a prostitute!
David did get busted for his sins a number of times. The Old Testament is not an exhaustive history. We are not told everything that happened. It is conceivable that every sin ever committed in the OT had a judgment come with it.
That’s how your life has gone, right?
Nope, not really! I’ve “gotten away” with all sorts of sins without divine judgment dropping on my head. I imagine at some point I lied yesterday. Perhaps right after someone asked “How ya doing?” I embellish the truth all the time. Hey, sarcasm pretty much dies without exaggerating the truth.
Without sarcasm, I’d have little else to say in life.
People are sinners. This is one of the main points of Scripture. Sinners are used by God to do His will. This is another main point of Scripture.
We can all rejoice in that! We must, however, be careful. This does not mean sin is good. I often wonder how many more miracles God could have done in the OT if people truly did have faith in Him and didn’t lie.
What would God have done if Rahab hadn’t lied? If David hadn’t acted like a crazy guy drooling in his beard? What amazing thing could He have done to demonstrate His glory and power?
We’ll never know cuz liars took matters into their own hands.
God says in Genesis 2:17, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
Satan picks up on this statement, “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die.”
Satan was right! Satan knew something was “off” about that statement by God. Sure enough, the day they ate of the tree they did not die.
Now, let’s consider what is going on here, since we have liberty to do so! Here are some options:
1) God meant spiritual death; Satan meant physical death. If you’ve ever read the Gospel of John, Jesus is continually saying things about spiritual birth, spiritual water, spiritual bread and yet people hear physical stuff all the time. This is a constant point of confusion in Scripture–God being spiritually minded and humans being physically minded. I’m guessing Adam and Eve understood this as physical death, but then again, they might have been entirely clueless what “die” meant either way!
2) God changed His mind. It is possible that God was going to kill them right off after eating the forbidden fruit and then relented, being gracious as He is. Jonah thought of this when he refused to go to Nineveh. “I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.” God has changed His mind (repented) of judgment several times in the OT. Perhaps He meant immediate, physical death, but out of His grace He relented.
3) God lied. This is a poor choice, one I’d omit from the start. God doesn’t lie. Whatever is going on here, God is not lying.
4) “Die” meant “the process of death entered.” In other words, He meant, “in the day you eat of it you will begin to die.” The NIV, in it’s highly offensive habit of interpreting while “translating,” says “for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Making it sound like you will die because you ate of it, but not necessarily that day. The New Living Translation, one step below the NIV, says “If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” They will die because they ate from The Tree, this is true, but God certainly seems to be saying you will die that day you eat it.
I think the best option, and there may be others I am unaware of, is option one. God meant spiritual death and people/Satan heard physical death.
What we do know is that Satan used this point to cast doubt in Eve’s mind and it worked quite well. As a result of this doubt, Eve ate from the tree and death came.
The Bible is filled with tough words. Faith is what God is looking for and the only mindset that will allow you to understand what God is talking about. Some of the words divide between believers and unbelievers. Some of the words are to test believers to make sure they are genuine.
They aint all easy but I do believe that what has been revealed belongs to us and we need to do the work to find out what is going on.
Israel escaping from Egypt is a common story, one we all know. Generally the discussion is about the Passover or the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. But there’s an issue in this story that has always bothered me: Moses lies at the direction of God!
Observe the answers Moses gives to Pharaoh when asked where the people are going:
Exodus 3:18–“let us go, we beseech thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.”
5:3–“three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice
This sacrifice thing is used a number of times. Now, everyone, including God and Moses, know that they are not going to go three-days journey to do a sacrifice. Pharaoh even knew this was a lie, he knew they were going to escape.
Now, I will grant the point that Israel did do some sacrifices in the wilderness eventually, but there is no honest reading of these words that makes Moses not lying.
Is this a problem? Scripture says, “God is not a man, that he should lie.” Yet lies show up all over the place in the Bible.
What about in the Garden of Eden when God says the day they eat of the tree they will die. Even Satan knows this one isn’t true. The Serpent says to Eve, “Ye shall not surely die.” And, lo and behold, she doesn’t!
Now, I know, I know, “die” here supposedly means spiritual separation from God or at least means that the process of death has begun. But seriously, this is playing a little loose with words here!
These are the issues of Scripture we like to dismiss quickly lest our Book appear questionable. I rather enjoy seeing these things and thinking of implications.
1) Lying to save your life aint always bad. David lies to get to eat the shewbread. Lies take place all the time that are seemingly rewarded. David acts like a mad man to save his life and writes a psalm about trusting God! If he trusts God so much, why does he lie to save his skin?
2) Lying to save other people’s lives aint always bad. Rahab lies to hide the spies and she is listed in Hebrews 11 as a great woman of faith! If she had faith, why not just tell the bad guys where the spies are and really show her trust?
3) Half-truths seem OK in certain circumstances. God, although not a liar, sure plays loose with words. At best some of His statements are misleading or so obscure He could be saying any number of things. Ever read Revelation?
4) Lying, even if it is to glorify God, is still sin. Wait, what? Yup, that’s what Paul says. Lying is a sin, even if it is done expediently to save life or glorify God.
The Ten Commandments contain no commandment against lying. I know many think there is, but there isn’t. What it says is “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” That certainly would include some lies, but not sure it applies to all lies.
Bearing false witness means you lie about what someone else has done, specifically to make someone else look worse than they are.
Perhaps, under the Old Covenant, lying about what you are going to do is ok! I really have no idea, other than to point out the truth that the OT is filled with people lying to save their skin and they don’t get in trouble for it, in fact, many are praised for their faith in doing so.
Just thought I’d mention it.
Freedom demands lack of control. Freedom sounds good, even Christian liberty sounds good, even great, until you understand what that means.
Christian Liberty and freedom, as I’ve been trying to show, has to do with release from a need of physical things and a dependence upon the Spirit and using physical things for spiritual edification not for fleshly purposes.
Even this sounds really good.
Then I have my kids.
My kids are physical things. I am their physical dad.
I have seen many Christian, church-going folk raise kids. I have seen the people who demand their kids win the Bible memorization contests, never miss church, do all the church stuff and do it all fantastically.
I’ve seen many of those same kids leave the church and faith. Here is a recent example to read that clearly shows what I’m talking about. It’s heart breaking on many levels. It’s a failure of parents and the church. It’s a failure of all our appearance-driven Christianity.
Many Christian parents believe it is their duty to beat their kids over the head with the Bible, figuratively if not literally. Mandatory Bible study, mandatory prayer, and all manner of religious obligation shoved down their throat.
Kids get used to jumping through parental hoops, but the resentment builds. As soon as they are on their own they realize they don’t believe this stuff and have more resentment than joy when it comes to God.
Then there are those kids who never break away, the guilt and pressure keep them from venturing out and they remain “good kids” their whole life, while staying far from any real dealings with God.
I am trying to figure this out with my own kids. I let them take a certain amount of initiative when it comes to spiritual things (and other things). I do my bit to throw stuff in all the time and I take my responsibility to be their spiritual teacher very seriously. I am by no means “hands off.”
But I’m also not controlling their faith. I am not forcing religion down their throat or convincing them they are saved or anything else that smacks of parental soothing rather than godly training.
I’m not claiming to be right on this, I’m merely talking. Freedom means I (a physical person) am not supposed to be God for someone. There has to be room for the individual to get to God. If I step in and answer all the questions, remove all the problems and be the religious bucker-upper, I believe I am treading on holy ground where only God should tread.
It’s a difficult balance, one every parent should be concerned with. I’ve seen too many “good kids” walk away. Do we trust the Spirit enough to let Him do His work? It is vital we know what our part is and what His part is.
In line with that, I’m not going to tell you what that balance is! You need to go to God and figure it out yourself! You’ll stand before Him, not me, on Judgment Day.
With all this talk about liberty lately here, what was up with yesterday’s guilt-ridden post about being rich, fat Americans?
Don’t we have liberty? Isn’t being rich and fat merely an expression of our freedom? I thought physical stuff didn’t matter, now I’m in trouble for having cable television?
No one is in trouble, we need to be careful with what we mean by liberty though. There are generally four misconceptions about liberty we must overcome to get the right view of it. When people hear “liberty,” usually one of these four ideas springs to mind.
1) Political Liberty. What America is all about–the rights to pursue life, liberty and happiness. Although these are fine political ideals based on humanism, they have nothing to do with Christian Liberty.
2) I have Liberty to Sin. Many think Christian Liberty means sin is fine. When God looks at me He only sees Jesus, not my sin, so I can sin with impunity. This is turning liberty into licentiousness and is not Christian Liberty.
3) I Have Liberty so I Don’t Have to Listen to You. Others think liberty is the right to ignore everyone and do what I want. It’s sort of an anti-authoritarian mindset. The Church has no authority, so I can do what I want, get off my back. Again, this is not Christian Liberty and flies in the face of all passages concerning church discipline.
4) I Have Liberty to do what is Right. This is an attempt to be unique in defining Christian Liberty. It’s the idea that before I could only sin and now that I am saved I can choose to do what is right. I had no choice before, but now I do. I find this to be a cute attempt, but falls short of what Christian Liberty is.
Again, so we’re clear, Christian Liberty, as defined by the Bible, has to do with freedom from physical things. We are now spiritual creations, not minding things of this earth but setting our affections on things above. We are set free from burdensome worry about death and how we’ll eat tomorrow, setting us free to use our stuff for others.
So, you can have cable television, be fat and rich, have air conditioned homes all you want. Government won’t stop ya, the church won’t stop ya, go for it. But if you are a Spiritual creation, the Spirit might stop you!
“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”
Liberty is where we are to be. Liberty has a restriction! Remember, we have to serve somebody! A couple verses later Paul says, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.”
The Spirit is what helps you fight off the flesh’s desires to manipulate liberty. Liberty is in check by the Spirit. Liberty is walking in the Spirit–where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty, remember.
1) The Spirit will keep you in subjection to the government, so liberty cannot be political liberty.
2) The Spirit will never lead you into sin, so liberty is not freedom to sin.
3) The Spirit will keep you in mutual-submission to fellow believers acting in love and honor to others, so liberty is not freedom to ignore everyone.
4) The Spirit will always lead you to do what is right, so this one is close to being right!
That being the case, the Spirit may help you see your priorities in spending money and He may lead you to make some changes. This should not be fought. It should not be done because I said so. It should be done because the Spirit led you to do it.
Perhaps my words can help you think, give the Spirit a little something to work with. That’s all I can ask! I write for me as well!
I get nervous when I hear people excited about “last days” talk. There is very little fear for the souls of those about to be judged, and much happy talk about how great it will be to eat dinner with Jesus.
Now, granted, I am looking forward to my dinner reservations with Jesus, it just seems odd to speak about it without a tinge of sorrow for the rejection of our Savior by so many when there is still time to pull souls out of the fire.
It also seems a little off to me since everyone and their mother assumes they won’t be going through any sort of judgment. Judgment seemingly has lost its terror and is now just a speed bump on the oh so crowded highway to heaven.
It’s almost as if Paul’s phrase “in the last days perilous times shall come” really said “in the last days totally awesomely fun times shall come.”
One of the phrases Paul uses to describe the heathen scum as we build toward The End is that they are “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.”
So, when people quote the latest news story out of Israel they saw on cable tv in their air-conditioned homes on their easy chairs during commercials of the football game after spending a week working and making more money than most people in the world make in a month, it seems odd to me.
Now, air-conditioned, cable news watching, easy chair sitters are not necessarily those guilty in Paul’s phrase, I just thought I’d mention it though as another cynical observation by me.
I suppose I could be accused of loving pleasure with my internet connection and cool basement and whatnot, which is fine, but I also refrain from giddy talk about judgment day. Makes you wonder how perilous times are filled with lovers of pleasure though don’t it? (HINT: pleasure is perilous)
Anyway, I’ve veered from my original point I was going to make. What is fascinating to me about the Bible is the way it describes heathen scum people. If they are indeed “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God,” doesn’t it then imply that believers are lovers of God more than lovers of pleasure?
I believe it does. And I think that should make all of us fat, rich Americans sober up a second and think about some stuff.
Stuff like that new Bear Grylls show on NBC! AWESOME! Woot! Love me some Grylls.
Remember, all the verses about bondage refer to physical things. The World around us is in bondage to physical stuff. They are all stuck in the earn/spend cycle, bound to it with no freedom, joy or peace, except for very brief, all too fast moments.
Christians, on the other hand, have had their eyes illumined to the realities of life. They see that all created things are dying, falling apart and not worth living for. Christians have seen the permanence of eternity and have set their affections there, not here.
This brings about liberty which a worldly minded person will never understand. Being free has everything to do with the Holy Spirit, being a spiritual creation, not just a physical creation bound to physical stuff to keep its physical life alive.
The Bible tells us that God is spirit, not flesh, and “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” If God is there, freedom is there too! The freedom of the Spirit is based on the fact that we are being changed from our image to the image of Christ.
Again, this has to do with death to self and fleshly lusts and coming alive to spiritual desires–our seeking of God, who is spirit. We are given all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, where thief, rust, or decay cannot touch it.
This is our freedom! We live for heaven; not for here. We live for what is eternal; not for what is temporal. We live for true value held in store for us; not for passing value that will fade away.
The world, made up of dirt. clamors for more piles of dirt. But Believers look for spiritual substance that is held for us for eternity. This is truly life-changing if we can wrap our heads around it. The Bible can’t stop talking about it. Amazing how we miss it.
Freedom brings responsibility, which few like! If I am not free, if all I do is what someone tells me to do, I am not responsible for anything that happens due to my obedience. This is comfy.
Freedom, however, means I am accountable for what I do. This is a scary thing, but it is also a relief! I can finally do what I want. I don’t have to keep serving what someone else says to do. I can eat what I want for supper and go to bed when I want, more importantly, I can get up when I want.
If my free choice of what I eat makes me obese and unhealthy, I’m to blame though. If my sleep habits keep me from daily work, I’m to blame. This is where freedom can’t truly be good until someone knows how to use it.
Jesus tells us that when we know the truth (and He describes Himself as “the Truth”), we will be free, as the truth makes us free.
When we serve sin, we pretty much know what we’re going to get–vanity and death. But your flesh will enjoy itself until right before the death-bed. Christ wants to set us free from self and sin, bring us into true life and joy.
This is cool, sounds wonderful, until you realize the uncertainty of it all.
“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
I have quoted this verse many times, it’s one of my favorites. It was a life-changing day when I truly saw this verse for the first time. Who is like the wind? I have asked this question many times after reading this verse and the answer I get 90% of the time is “The Holy Spirit.”
But read it again. Who is like the wind? “Every one that is born of the Spirit.” All believers are like the wind–you don’t know where you came from or where you are going.
If that isn’t a definition of freedom, I don’t know what is! Poets use the wind as a metaphor for freedom. This is what we are in Christ. Free. We no longer live for ourselves, which means I have no idea what I’m doing!
This may be scary except that we know we serve a good God. We know we must live within this paradox of servile-freedom, which makes no sense, except it does. We no longer live for the temporal, the seen, the physical and fleshly. We now live for the eternal, unseen and spiritual. This sets us free from what the world around us is enslaved to. Enjoy this.
Liberty is tough for everyone. Even most believers who speak of liberty, including me, fall into bondage to fleshly things. Bondage, in the Bible, is always related to physical things.
There are many ways that Christians put themselves in bondage. A recent book I read said:
“The only thing we must do in life is the will of God. . . . There is freedom in this simplicity , but it is rarely attained. We inevitably end up striving and straining to achieve a host of elusive goals in life that God never put before us. We take these goals on ourselves, and they become the objects of the worship of our lives.”
We are so good at inventing burdens, we even invent ones that sound like good Christian virtues. What are some of the burdens that we lay on ourselves that sure sound spiritual?
1) Having “good” kids. I know what mom and dad think about things by watching and listening to the kids. Kids reflect the parents. That being the case, parents want their kids to be “respectable.” Christian parents put immense pressure on themselves to have “good” kids. Kids that don’t sin, make mistakes, say dumb things or basically be kids. There is also pressure that a “good kid” will go into full-time ministry as an adult. This is driven, not by love for the child, but concern for what others will think. All this is ridiculous and has ruined many a parent-child relationship.
2) Doing church “service.” People feel guilty about going to church and “serving” in church. Much of what passes for service in church is merely busy work with no point. I never understand why people do Christmas pageants and Easter cantatas when all anyone who is in them does is whine for two months before that they have to go to practice and how busy they are, etc. Most of what passes as “church activity” is pointless as far as anything spiritual goes.
3) Saving the world. We take the “Great Commission” about going to all the nations and assume that means me and not the Church. We feel burdened that we aren’t going to exotic locales to spread the Gospel. All I do is walk around my little town. There is not one person in all the world whom the entire weight of saving the world rests on. We are called to love our neighbor. You can do this anywhere.
4) Conformity to the Group. Most churches replace transformation into Christ with conformity to the group. Whatever odd rules, fashions, habits, quirks or legalistic checklist of behaviors the group invents becomes the all in all. If you don’t measure up; you will feel the pain.
5) No fun. Although I’ve rarely heard it expressed so bluntly, most Christians think “if it’s fun; it’s sin.” As soon as someone is seen smiling and enjoying themselves, others will pounce to make sure you aren’t having too much fun. There is no joy in Mudville cuz Mighty Casey can’t even play baseball, let alone strikeout.
6) Spiritual disciplines. Spiritual disciplines are things like prayer, tithing, fasting, etc. I’m all for these things if a person wants to do them voluntarily and as part of their own growth process. Go for it. What I don’t like is the peer pressure approach to these things. When groups have “40-days of fasting” type things to raise money for some pointless church project or whatever, that really bugs me. Sermon on the Mount talks about these things–If you do them, do them quietly without anyone knowing. Don’t burden everyone with your self-important role as spiritual guru guiding everyone to spiritual discipline just like you, you special you, you. Give it a rest.
7) Being Happy. The notion that spiritual health is associated with being happy is destructive and leads to a fixation on external circumstances. In my 31 years of living in a pastor’s home I can attest to two huge facts. 1) Life isn’t happy when you actually pay attention to the pain going on in people’s lives. 2) All happy people are liars, they may not know it yet, but it’s still true. This world stinks. Covering up pain to put on the happy facade helps no one. Spiritual health is not evidenced by smiling bigger in the face of disaster.
These are just some of the spiritual sounding burdens Christians have invented to carry around. I understand all of them, they may all have a basis in sincerity, but I have also seen the absolute disaster by overdoing any of them.
Life is burden enough. Let us come to Christ and take His easy yoke and give each other a break. Jesus described Pharisees as “they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” Don’t do that to people. It’s not nice.
Everybody just chill.
The antithesis of being a liberty-enjoying servant of the Good Shepherd, is to be on your own. Now, you probably don’t think so in your natural mind. In fact, what I just said in that first sentence makes no sense at all to the fleshly mind.
A main thing that keeps people from coming to faith in Christ is knowing that I have to do what He says. Now, many Christians have attempted to prove that obedience to Christ is somehow optional, but ask any unbeliever and they’ll tell you straight up they don’t want to quit their sin and do righteousness.
People would rather revel in their notion of freedom than enjoy true freedom.
The essence of the Christian Faith is to melt into the identity of Christ. No longer I but Christ. I must decrease; He must increase. There are many ways it is said, but it all boils down to–lose your identity, it’s not about you or your will but about doing God’s will.
Again, this sounds horrible to those outside the faith, to those taught that they are to be all they can be, that life is about being self-actualized. Nope, life is about dying. Die now to truly live.
Those who want to save their lives must lose their lives.
The seed goes into the ground and dies and then life springs forth.
Before God dropped judgment on the folks building the “Tower of Babel,” they said, “let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name.”
Their pride was demonstrated on making a name for themselves, which is what our life is all about. Marketing is about making a name for yourself. Everyone is clamoring for your attention. “PAY ATTENTION TO ME!!!!!!!!!!” is the cry of our world.
The freedom of Christianity lets you know that even if you were all by yourself and completely isolated from all others, God is there. We lose ourselves in Him and let the world go do what it wants. Let em fight for their piles of dirt.
These are your choices: 1) Make a name for yourself, constantly having to sell, sell, sell and live up to your lies or 2) lose yourself in Christ.
Option 1 will leave you in a constant state of junior high, trying to fit in, being consumed with what others think of you. Option 2 releases you into maturity where you know priorities and you know the only opinion that matters.
I know the one I prefer.
“He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.”
One of the contradictions of Scripture (and there are many) is that with all this talk of liberty and freedom we are often called servants or slaves! This is a contradiction if there ever was one! How can one be a slave and free at the same time?
America prides itself on being the home of the free. We have the happy notion that we are the only country on earth that kn0ws what liberty is, as if Australia doesn’t even exist.
What can be said is that there used to be more freedom in America than there is now. When politicians take the “right to liberty” and turn around and regulate how big a serving of soda (pop) is supposed to be, you know liberty has taken a shot.
What is it about people that we find liberty so distressing? Why do laws always reproduce?
Freedom is downright scary. Kids have a great life. They don’t worry about a thing. The freest person I know is my son. He just wanders about doing whatever all day and then he sleeps and then wanders about the next day. Doesn’t have to pay for anything. No worries. Just free wandering about.
But there’s a downside to his freedom: he has to eat what I provide. He has to go to bed when I say so. He has to do chores. But, go ahead, ask him how his life is. It’s pretty good.
Freedom is actually overrated when freedom means “you can do what you want.” Because doing what you want is only truly possible if you are able to choose and afford your choices.
Bob Dylan, during his “Christian phase,” did a song entitled “You Gotta Serve Somebody.” Tis true. How can you doubt the guy who knows the answers are blowing in the wind? You can’t. You might want to, but you can’t.
True freedom is resting in knowing someone else has your back! Seriously. Ever read Psalm 23?
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. When I have someone providing all my needs, that is when I am truly free.
“But, but, you’re a dumb sheep having to do what the shepherd tells you. What if I want to be a donkey or a smart person? That’s not freedom, I have to be a sheep following a shepherd?!”
Psalm 23 sounds to me like a sheep who is chilling. He’s got no worries. Valley of Death? Aint nothing but a thing. I got me a Good Shepherd.
Most rich people are constantly worried about their stuff and who is going to take advantage of them. Fame and riches give people mental problems.
Being the captain of your own ship sounds really nice, until you realize you are on your own in a sea of turmoil. Being the Master of your Fate sounds real cheery, until you realize your fate ends in death.
Liberty is being enslaved to a great Master. You gotta serve somebody, might as well serve the most benevolent, good, gracious and kind Shepherd!
Hebrews tells us that we are under a new covenant and that this new one is different from the old as well as being better. Most of Hebrews is taken up explaining how the external rites of the old covenant illustrated spiritual reality made clear in Christ.
We now no longer need physical priests; we have the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. We don’t need a temple; we are the temple where God resides. We don’t need physical sacrifices; Christ did that already, once for all. We don’t need a law written on stone; we have it written in our hearts.
Israel’s covenant stressed the physical. As they kept the physical aspects of their covenant they were able to live in their physical land and enjoy physical prosperity. Today our promises are not mainly physical but spiritual. Our reward is not a physical land with dead enemies, but a home reserved in heaven for us.
The new covenant, and let me say it again, “which is better” and has “better promises,” is not tied to physical blessings, but rather to spiritual blessings, the better promises.
American Christianity has done a fine job of chucking this distinction. The Health and Wealth “Gospel” is the pinnacle of this failure, but most Christians have chucked it more subtly.
We fully believe that Jesus wants us to live the American Dream. We rarely consider how we spend our money, yet the New Testament can’t stop talking about how you spend your money. We assume the stuff we have are “blessings from God.”
I can’t tell ya how many times I’ve heard people buy outrageously expensive houses that put them in debt for the rest of their lives, some of which are now foreclosed, and yet the owners thanked God for providing the house.
Did God provide it, or did your fleshly lusts make you work insane amounts to afford it? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: God didn’t give you all the things you are thanking Him for.
There is no liberty or freedom if you are depending on physical things to maintain or prove your relationship with God. Note that the old covenant that stressed the physical, didn’t work! Notice that Israel ended up in bondage!
Perhaps all those stories back there in the dusty part of your Bible are there for a reason, no?
Christian liberty sets us free from bondage to earthly stuff. The Health and Wealth Gospel puts you back in bondage. American Dream Christianity is bondage and not what Christ died to give you.
Christ did not die so you could achieve your dreams, reach your goals, get promoted, or to help you get out of debt. No, Christ died so that you might die with Him.
Do you want liberty or do you want stuff?
Patrick Henry was wrong, it is not “give me liberty or give me death.” It is rather–give me liberty by giving me death. Eternity is a long time.
Christian liberty is being set free from the things of this world. Our primary concern in life is not about maintaining our physical life with our physical stuff. Instead, we trust that our Maker will provide for us as He promised He would.
This is risky business. It flies in the face of planning and logical approaches to finances. Nerves will freak just reading about it, let alone actually acting on it. (By the way, I wrote a book about it if you want your nerves freaked, which I sell at no profit, by the way!)
The question behind it all is: Do you trust God?
Probably the verse most often quoted to buck us up in how great God is to His people is from Hebrews 13, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”
Oh, amen and amen, brother! Preach! Those are the words we love to hear! We love to know that while we’re out buying ridiculously priced houses and cars and entertainments that God is cheerily sitting on our shoulder nodding along with us, smiling at our smiles!
What a lovely scene!
And what an entirely un-biblical scene!
Allow me to quote the entire verse from Hebrews 13 that we love so dearly but only hear the end of.
“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”
Wonder why we only hear the last part? These verses, always brought up in a context of trusting God, great verses about faith and liberty, begin with a command to depart from covetousness and be content with what you have. Again, being free from worldly stuff is what liberty is all about. It’s really, really consistent.
The idea is not that we stop wanting stuff and convince ourselves to be content with our ratty old couch. The idea is to begin with trusting God. Do you have faith? Do you trust that God cares for His people? Then being content and not being in bondage to covetousness are natural results.
Unfortunately, the Church has chucked this teaching. I’d be willing to bet you’ve never heard liberty being tied to physical things before. The reason why is because the Church is the leading organization wanting physical stuff.
Church buildings, in many towns, are the nicest buildings. We need our Powerpoint, and our cool instruments and audio equipment. We need our stuff! We need to be “respectable.” We have to “fit in.”
As we join in the world, trying to get our piece of the pie, we forget we have a giant dessert bar in heaven that is far better.
Next time you hear “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” see if it is in a context of not wanting stuff. That’s the context God put it in.
Liberty is a doctrine in confusion. Many think “liberty” means we are free to sin. There is the notion that God does not see our sin as believers. Perhaps you’ve heard “When God looks at me He only sees Christ.” This is a fine-sounding notion but not exactly biblical.
Liberty never means sin is OK. Galatians tells us not to use our liberty as an occasion to the flesh but rather use it to love others. One who is at liberty is no longer bound. Since nothing is binding me and I am bound to nothing, I can use all things for the Gospel’s sake and the benefit of others.
Think of it this way: if a guy is addicted to cocaine he uses all his resources to get cocaine. In fact, the worse he is bound to it, the more he will infringe upon your resources to aid him in getting his cocaine. His bondage keeps him self-centered and thus completely unable to help anyone. All sin is addictive and all sin has this result.
To understand what we have liberty for, it is vital we know what God thinks we are in bondage to. Here is a brief list, which mayor may not be comprehensive:
Romans 8:21–the bondage of corruption. You’re going to die. Your body will fall apart. Most are kept in a vicious bondage to stay young and fear age.
Galatians 4:3–bondage to the elements of the world. The basic, childish wisdom and religion of the world emphasizing external, physical things rather than spiritual reality.
Galatians 5:1–yoke of bondage to external law rituals that replaced faith.
Hebrews 2:15–bondage to the fear of death. First in with Romans 8:21 above.
2 Peter 2:18-20–bound to fleshly lusts that pull away from righteousness and Gospel-living.
The consistency of the list is that bondage is always to external things–Maintaining our physical life with our physical stuff. We fear losing our physical life and thus fear losing, or not getting, our physical stuff.
The liberty of Christ frees us from these concerns. Jesus tells believers that in order to gain life one must lose it. Deny yourself. As Paul puts it, “It is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me.” Or “I die daily.”
If I’m already dead, how could I be worried about maintaining my physical life?!
Christian liberty frees us from this world and fleshly desires for things of this world. We are now possessed with the mind of Christ, setting our affections on things above. Faith looks to the unseen, the eternal, we walk by faith, not by sight.
This is our liberty! We are told that God will meet our needs. He does this by 1) Changing what our needs are and 2) meeting those! Most people don’t trust God here and chalk this up as impractical idealism.
The Bible tends to call it “faith.” Do you have the guts to be free?
Obedience is not a popular word. We are used to self-determination, pulling ourselves up by our boot straps. We are the captain of our ship. I bow to none.
Our self-focused pursuit of liberty and happiness sure seems like it would lead to liberty and happiness. Funny how it doesn’t.
True liberty and happiness are only found in obedience to God.
Obedience does not lead to thoughts of liberty or happiness for most. Unfortunately, this is an admission to disobedience. For truly obedient people know better.
We do not use or get liberty by serving ourselves, but by lovingly serving others.
Obedience to God allows us to be relaxed. We don’t have to remember when to lie and who to lie to. We don’t have to waste energy putting on a show. We don’t have to waste time explaining how even though we saw that commercial we “really don’t watch much tv.” We don’t have to expend energy jumping through the hoops the hoop-holders are propping up. We don’t have to quiver in fear about who will blow our cover as there is no cover to blow.
Ah, bask in the liberty of obedience. It allows you to sleep well at night and redeem the time. Enjoy.
Spiritual growth is a sign of spiritual life. When you get saved a big “S” doesn’t appear on your forehead so you know you’re “in.” The way to know you are saved is that salvation manifests itself in your life.
There are substitutes for spiritual growth. Substitutes exist because spiritual growth is hard and not very much fun (particularly to your flesh). Some of Satan’s false proofs of spiritual growth are:
1. Fixation on “spiritual gifts.” It’s easy to do some gift looking stuff in front of some people occasionally rather than avoid sin in your head, heart and in private. The fact that you speak in tongues, have visions, or teach kids about Jonah, is no substitute for spiritual growth.
2. Fixation on “spiritual words.” It’s easy to say nice sounding God-ish things when people are listening than it is to tame the tongue all day. The fact that you pray in King James English and make the word “God” have four syllables is no substitute for spiritual growth.
3. Fixation on “spiritual beliefs.” It’s easy to believe happy thoughts about spiritualesque things. “Oh, I’ve fond my peace with God.” “God and I are on the same page.” The fact that you believe happy things is no substitute for spiritual growth.
4. Fixation on “spiritual doctrines.” It’s easy to bunker up in a theological camp and tell all others outside the walls that they “don’t know the Gospel and one day you’ll be free if you join us.” The fact that you have a group you fit in with is no substitute for spiritual growth.
The one true test of spiritual growth is not whether you used a gift, speak fine words, believe happy things or know pure doctrine. The one and only test of spiritual growth is whether there is spiritual fruit.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
I was at our local Fourth of July festivities in town yesterday, taking in a water ski show, when I heard an obnoxious pop song on the loudspeakers.
The song wasn’t real deep. It was a female singing about her life and her partying and how the rhythm of the night is the rhythm of her life. Whoo, whoo, yeah yeah. Etc. At one point the song said,
“I don’t wanna face the world in tears
Please think again
I’m on my knees
Sing that song for me
No reason to repent”
And my immediate thought was, “Wow, she must be a Christian.” Yup, even my thoughts I keep to myself are cynical.
This seems to be most people’s approach to their faith–I carry on, do my thing, feeling bad is for legalists. I just wanna be happy in my sin, so sing some happy songs and call it a day, so I don’t have to worry about it.
Kids grow up in this environment where the world is telling them sin isn’t wrong, why repent over what aint wrong? Then they go to church and pretty much hear the same thing. “Jesus loves you just the way you are. No reason to repent.”
Then we act shocked when so many kids walk away from the church (most of the rest hang around singing happy songs and carrying on in their sin).
The interesting thing about this song lyric is there is some self-loathing in the celebratory anthem of her life. Why is she bringing up repenting in the first place? Why is she on her knees worried about crying?
She knows the emptiness. She knows repentance is an option, she just wants to sing more so she doesn’t.
Christianity likes to have its sin and sin it too, just like the world. We both have inane songs telling us this is OK. We both know it isn’t, but we both are really good at keeping distracted so we don’t have to think about it.
“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
I wonder if He becomes a father to those who don’t separate themselves from unclean things? You won’t hear many songs about this truth, but it’s certainly in the Bible. Take some undistracted time to think this one over.
Most professed Christians base their salvation on some event that happened in the past, either saying the sinner’s prayer, or perhaps more formally through baptism or catechism.
Once the hoop-jump of faith is done, most assume God keeps their faith and they are good to go. No worries. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we’re in heaven where we can eat, drink and be merry for eternity!
The Apostle Paul puts a different spin on it. When he approaches the end of his life he says, “I have fought a good fight.” Many hijack this phrase to describe a losing battle with cancer or Alzheimers, but Paul is clearly speaking about the fight of faith.
It is odd Paul would consider something that was one-and-done as a fight. Why can’t he be released from his bondage and enjoy the liberty we have in our faith? Hard to tell.
Then he says, “I have finished my course.” Again, this is more “I made it to death with Jesus” application. The course has to do with a race, an event we extend ourselves for. It’s not an easy thing, which you know if you’ve ever competed in a race. It’s serious business requiring the whole self.
Then Paul goes over the top and says, “I have kept the faith.” Paul sees his faith as something he must guard and protect. He is in charge of it. It’s his precious possession that he will secure for himself.
Paul sees himself very much involved with his salvation, with his perseverance. Paul never views his faith as something he is not responsible for. Now, Paul also knows that our faith is in Christ, Paul does not see himself as the object of his faith. Paul speaks very highly of Christ’s role in his perseverance. It is Christ’s power that works mightily in him.
But never once does Paul refer to this as an excuse to take it easy. “Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” See how Paul does that? I labor and strive by Christ’s working in Paul. If Christ’s power is in you, you work with it!
This is eternity at stake. Does faith matter? Are we fighting for it? Are we guarding it? Are we running to win? Paul is. Be followers of Paul as he was of Christ.
One of the theological traps leading to the idea that spiritual growth is optional, or that spiritual growth requires no work, is the doctrine of perseverance of the saints, also known as OSAS (Once Saved Always Saved).
Let me start by saying I believe OSAS. Let me rephrase it so there is no confusion: I believe that once a person is saved they will remain saved. If you’re in the Son’s hands, who is in the Father’s hands, no one can pluck you out. The Holy Spirit is the seal until the day of redemption. Just two verses to lay the foundation.
However, OSAS has come to mean, “If you said the prayer you are saved and always saved.” Or along the Calvinist line, “If you are the elect you are saved apart from anything you did, are doing, or will do.”
If you think perseverance of the saints or OSAS means either of these things, you are out to lunch at 3am.
I have heard people console those with doubts about their salvation by saying, “Do you remember when you asked Jesus into your heart? Then stop worrying! You’re saved!”
This is tragic logic that has led many an assured person straight to hell. It is vital to know that assurance and security are two different things. There are many with eternal security who feel no assurance, and there are many who feel assured who have no eternal security.
Don’t assume that doubt=no salvation, and don’t assume no doubt=salvation.
Paul says “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”
We are to examine and see if Christ is in us. There is no reason to examine unless there is doubt. Paul seems to be saying, “Doubt yourself, check.” Remember, the heart is deceitful, one of Satan’s plans is to make you feel safe so you don’t worry about danger.
“But you just freak everyone out then! Do you really want people to doubt their salvation?”
Yes, yes I do. The state of the Gospel is horrendous. People’s understanding of the Bible is awful. Just because you asked Jesus into your heart as a six-year-old means absolutely, positively nothing.
A judgment is coming on your salvation. Paul encourages us to test ourselves before the real deal to make sure we pass. What’s the test we give ourselves? Is Christ in you? How do I know that?
—you are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge
—you don’t walk after the flesh but after the Spirit
—you die daily for Christ, not living like hedonistic drunks
—you evidence the power of God in your way of life
—you know the love of Christ, the fulness of God and have His power at work in you
—you have the humble, servant mindset of Christ
—you are moving toward perfection
—you desire heaven and heavenly things, not earthly stuff
—you do God’s will
This is a brief list of stuff the Bible says happens to a person who is in Christ. If little of that rings true for you, have absolutely no security at all whatsoever that you are going to heaven and are saved.
I’d rather you hear it from me while there is still time than to hear it from your Creator when it is too late.
After convincing a professed Christian that growth takes work, you will probably then have to convince them that spiritual growth is necessary.
Necessary for what? For salvation. If there is no spiritual growth there is no salvation.
Now, here is again where most Christian types will flip out, “Are you saying that in order to be saved I have to grow? Are only mature people in heaven? I have to fix myself before God will save me, is that what you’re saying?”
Nope, it’s not. What I said was: “If there is no spiritual growth there is no salvation.”
Spiritual growth does not save a person. You cannot have spiritual growth unless you are a spiritual creation. Being saved will result in spiritual growth.
“But wait, you just got done saying yesterday that “spiritual growth is not automatic, that I have to work at it.” Make up your mind bozo.”
Exactly! Physical maturity takes work. Little babies have to eat and use their little muscles to learn to get around and figure out life. You gotta do something. Babies don’t just pop out and grow to maturity without doing anything.
“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”
If we do not desire the word we won’t grow. Growth takes some effort. If you aren’t reading the Word, you probably aren’t saved, this is the believer’s lifeblood of spiritual health. If you aren’t being transformed by the Word you probably aren’t saved.
Pretty harsh words. I imagine the works-righteousness accusation is about to be flung at me again. So I’ll let Paul say it instead, “the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.”
The Word of God has power with the believer. If there is no demonstration of power from the Word in a person, that person should doubt they are saved.
Claiming to be spiritually alive and yet having no growth makes as much sense as a person who claims to be a runner who doesn’t run. A piano player who never plays piano. A carpenter who has never touched wood.
We are not saved by growth; we are saved by faith. The result of being saved, every single time, is that there will be spiritual growth. No growth? Then there’s no life.