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Month: December 2014
The Simplicity of Simplicity is Simple
I read this sentence, which struck me as one of the most ironical sentences I’ve ever read.
“The Evangelical Commitment to a Simple Lifestyle is a lengthy document.”
How is that not funny? People wrote a lengthy document on how to live simple. People who live simple don’t write lengthy documents about how to live simple. That’s called an oxy-moron, among other things.
Besides being “radical,” perhaps the latest fad word about following Christ is “simplicity.”
I’m a guy who is all for simplicity. I hate stuff. Simplicity is my middle name. I love keeping things simple. I was simplistic before simplicity was cool. I know simplicity when I see it.
That’s why this new call to simplicity strikes me as funny. Almost 8,000 books show up on Amazon about simplicity. This stupid piece of kitsch is a perfect example.
Anyone who believed this would never buy this!
You don’t need a book to tell you how to be simple. You don’t. Just stop doing most stuff, quit buying stuff, throw stuff away, and boom, you’re left with simple!
Some people call this obedience to Christ; I call it garbage day.
There is a simplicity in following Christ. If we truly did it, all we’d do is do what He said. That’s it. You don’t need a book on that, besides the one He wrote.
Beware of the theology that over-explains the simple. You are being fed human philosophy, not biblical discipleship.
In the lengthy document, The Evangelical Commitment to a Simple Lifestyle, there is very little of the Bible and much of fitting in with a hip version of Christianesque philosophy.
Radical Faith is Faith Without Anything Radical
There are many books out about radically following of Jesus. They always make me nervous.
What bugs me most about these “radical” books is how little in the way of radical they contain.
In fact, most pretty much say the same old stuff.
A recent one I read said part of radically following Christ was to do all we can to stop global warming. Really? That’s radical? That’s following Christ?
Of course, this radically following Jesus book, with a whole chapter on environmental stewardship, quoted exactly zero verses from Christ about it.
That’s fine if you want to sustain your environment, Jesus certainly doesn’t say not to. But He also never puts it as a prime area of faith, or even mentions it.
Unless “radical” means “stupid,” I fail to see how any of these books capture radical discipleship.
Although we like to use extreme terms, attention grabbing titles, and adrenaline pumping rah-rah stuff, God steers away from it.
Jesus does not seem radical to me. He seems quiet, going about His business, doing what His Father told Him with the full expectation He would be rejected.
In fact, one of the most radical aspects of discipleship is the total absence of radicalness.
Christianity is day-to-day. Choice after choice. Step by step. Typically it is made up of mundane obedience minus excitement.
We are running a very long race with patience, not radical effort here and there when we feel emotionally pumped up enough.
We’re in it for the long haul, not the short sprint.
Want to be radical? Then have a faith that does not resemble the world and its interests, its desire to be attention grabbing and radical, rather than peaceful, quiet, and obedient.
The Virgin Birth And You
The virgin birth of Christ is one of those things Christians affirm, the world mocks, and everyone is confused by.
Christ was born in the flesh, as a baby. Unlike all other babies, He was not created from the natural reproductive process. He had no physical father.
Rather, somehow or another, God placed within Mary the fetus that was Christ. This does not mean God had sex with Mary, please don’t go there.
God brings things into existence by His Word and His Spirit. That’s what happened, and then Jesus was born.
The virgin birth isn’t just a doctrine, it’s also a very cool explanation of spiritual life.
Jesus told Nicodemus he had to be born again. Nicodemus was confused, “Do I have to re-enter my mother’s womb and be born again?” Typical natural person’s response.
Jesus was, of course, talking about spiritual birth, being born as a child of God. Spiritual rebirth.
Here’s our linkage:
Just as the spiritual Jesus Christ was born through spiritual means to be physical; we physical people are born again through spiritual means to be spiritual.
You must be born again. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.
Christ was made like us so we would be made like Him. It is through the Spirit that Christ was made like us, and it’s through the Spirit we are made like Him.
Just as Christ had a virgin birth, so to do believers have a rebirth that is of divine means, not normal physical means.
When we are born after the same manner of Christ–by spiritual means–Christ is not ashamed to call us “brothers” since we now have the same Father.
There is coolness here. Enjoy the coolness.
Justified In The Spirit
1 Timothy 3:16 says that Jesus was “justified in the Spirit.”
That is a confusing idea to us because of how we typically define “justified.”
Repeatedly we have been told that “justified” means “To be declared righteous.” This is fine, since that’s what it means.
Unfortunately, what comes next in people’s explanation of “justified” undermines that definition!
Typically, what comes nest is, “You were a sinner, but God changed His mind about you and now thinks you are righteous. You’ve been taken out of the sinner column and placed into the righteous column. God is really happy with you now!”
“Justified” then seems to have its place in God’s head. Justification is a cosmic mind-game. Yes, you are a sinner, but God decides to ignore that and think of you as righteous anyway.
This is where it all falls apart.
“Justified” means “to be declared or shown righteous.” Jesus Christ was never a sinner. The phrase about Jesus being “justified in the Spirit” means that God has declared that His Son is righteous, and through the Spirit He shows this righteousness through all He said and did.
“Justified” for us should mean the same thing. In other words, we should think of our justification along the same lines as the justification of Jesus Christ.
The issue isn’t one of “you used to be a sinner but now God thinks you are righteous,” but rather who you are in Christ declares and shows that you are righteous.
In other words, Christ, by His Spirit, mortifies the deeds of the flesh, makes you the righteousness of God, and equips you to do the righteousness of God.
Being a justified person means that you now have part in declaring and showing the righteousness of God.
“That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.“
When we walk in the Spirit, we are showing and declaring God’s righteousness. It is then that we realize the full extent of justification.
Being Justified is not a mind trick, nor is it a legal declaration in some heavenly courtroom, nor an accounting device in God’s ledger.
It is much more than that. It is bodily taking part in the righteousness of God and declaring it loud and clear. This is all done by the Spirit at work in us and our being exercised by His doings.
Don’t minimize these great Biblical words. Especially don’t do this to justify your sin. You cannot live in sin, walk in the flesh and declare God’s righteousness. You can’t, doesn’t happen that way.
Justification is a huge deal. Yes, it is what makes us right with God, but it is also what equips us to declare His righteousness. God won’t leave you alone, He will have you declare His righteousness!
“In Him we have redemption through His blood…” (Ephesians 1:7). To identify with the death of Jesus Christ means that we must die to everything that was never a part of Him.
“God is just in saving bad people only as He makes them good. Our Lord does not pretend we are all right when we are all wrong.”
Curiosity, Dead Cats, and Faith
Curiosity is what did in humanity. I heard someone say the serpent in the Garden of Eden had the easiest job ever.
Humanity was going to eat that fruit. This is our assumption, of course, being born into a race of people who have already eaten the fruit!
I think Adam and Eve were pretty cool with things until that idea sprang up. It took another creature to spur the thought.
Curiosity is usually seen as a bad thing.
“Curiosity killed the cat” is the old saying. So, clearly we can learn from this that curiosity can be a good thing. Clearly it has redeeming qualities, amen?
Curiosity is generally frowned upon by those in authority. Much of religion that people have a problem with, is human power enforced with fear.
Human power fears curiosity. Curiosity might throw back the curtain revealing the tiny man back there running the show. It’s why the Church burned scientists.
God does not seem to mind curiosity. He’s big enough to handle it. He seems fairly thrilled to have people who have the guts to ask the impossible. He frowns upon group thinking, and even warns us not to go on the broad road.
However, curiosity can still be dangerous, it did lead to Adam and Eve’s sin–I wonder what would happen if we ate that fruit?
There is a curiosity that is contrary to faith. A curiosity that is testing God rather than wonderment.
When curiosity says “I wonder if I can get away with not listening?” Then you’re in bad curiosity.
Curiosity and faith are linked. Curiosity and sin are linked. “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Curiosity has a place, but one must also be careful.
Knowing when to be curious and when to shut up and do what you’re told is part of the fight of faith. Choose wisely.
I believe this is one reason why faith isn’t about knowing rules, but knowing the Rule Giver. If you don’t know the character of God, you’ll have a hard time discerning between faith and testing God.
You won’t know when to be curious and when not to be. Know God. Know when to be curious.
When “I Don’t Know” is Good and Bad
My kids began playing a trivia game with friends at school. In an effort to make sure my kids are doing good things, I began playing it as well.
Through playing this game, it has become clear to me that there are certain things I know and other things I have no clue. I have gotten many questions wrong about actresses and actors, the TV show Friends, and stuff about the periodic table.
I have been on this planet for over 40 years. I have now had plenty of time to learn what I wanted.
Therefore, I must conclude that the stuff I don’t know at this point in life, I don’t know simply because I didn’t want to know it.
I will grant the point that there are many things that are beyond our knowing: unrevealed wisdom of God, truly how life is created in the womb, where life was before that, how everything has not yet flown apart, why women think the way they do, etc.
There are subjects where “I don’t know” has to be the definitive word. I am not speaking about those things.
I am speaking of stuff that could be learned.
Trivia games also reveal to me how much completely stupid stuff I know. Why do I know who sings “Free Falling” and all the lyrics? Why do I know that Michael Jackson’s Thriller album is the top-selling album of all time?
I almost feel dumber having known these things.
Especially in light of the fact that I can’t quote many verses, or remember where they are found.
If I have time to play a stupid trivia game, do I not have the time to learn things in the trivia game? Do I not then also clearly demonstrate I have time to learn things that God would have me to learn?
I believe entertainment will be one of the big things used against us on the Day of Judgment. “You had 1,300 hours on Candy Crush, yet you don’t know the Beatitudes? According to spell-check, you didn’t even know how to spell Beatitudes right the first time. Seriously?”
There are many things I didn’t know, that I now know. The reason I know them is because I wanted to know them. I really did.
Yes, there are many things I’d like to know that I don’t know, but apparently I really didn’t want to learn them, otherwise I’d know them.
It might be priorities, that’s the best spin. But it’s probably more laziness and apathy. Satan is an artist at distraction.
You will stand before the Lord one day, what ought you to learn before that point? Not the cast of Friends, I can tell you that.
There are many things I want to know. I will prove how much I want to know them by the test of whether I learn them or not.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.“
Christmas Sermon: 1 Timothy 3:16
Good and Bad Church Bashing
I was reading a theology guy from the early 1900’s. He bemoaned the “feebleness of the church.”
As I read theology from various centuries, it is fun to notice consistencies over the years. At no point has any theologian said, “Hey, cool, look how awesome the church is doing! We’re really nailing it!”
The church has always been failing.
Yes, we like to point to Acts and how “they had all things in common” and how awesome it was. But notice very shortly thereafter, Ananias and Sapphira totally mess it up.
If the Church ever had a glory day, it was more like a glory half-hour.
The earliest written epistles were written to fix error that was in the church. The New Testament is a constant cry to wake up, fight the fight, watch, be sober, etc.
The Church had already fallen asleep and were bogged down in apathy and false doctrine, and the Bible wasn’t even done yet!
I think we miss that point in our modern-day angst over the poor church.
There is a fun involved with bashing the church. If I can point out how bad “the church” is, obviously I am assuming I don’t have this problem. It’s a great way of saying “Hey, just follow my awesomeness, church!”
I like to bash on the church. Jesus bashed on the religious elites of His day. I think it’s natural and necessary. But it can also just be self-righteous boasting.
Most church bashing is done by those too lazy to go. Another large part is done by those trying to get you to buy their book, product, or church building system. Other church bashing is done by those hurt by a twisted church. Some church bashing is done by those who sincerely care for its future. We should discern between these.
The Church doesn’t “work,” just like theocratic Israel didn’t “work.”
Nothing works until Christ comes to clean house and establish righteousness.
No, this doesn’t mean we chill and wait. It means we take care of ourselves. Judgment begins with the house of God. If each of us took our responsibility in the Body of Christ–the exercise of our spiritual gifts–our individual churches would be better.
Not perfect, but better.
Instead, we like to compare ourselves to Joel Osteen, Rob Bell, and the latest manifestations of antichrist, and relax that we’re not as bad as those guys.
Look to Christ. Do your part as a member of His Body. Fight the fight. Wake up. There’s never been a time when that wasn’t vital to spiritual health.
In the end, the Church works just fine as it is the pillar and ground of the truth. Those in the Truth benefit from the church just fine. The Church was never intended to “change the world;” it was intended to build up the believer into the perfect man Christ Jesus.
I am one believer who has been built up by the Church, and I am forever grateful.
Why Does God Give Grace?
I saw this on the beloved internets:
“God pours out his grace on us because of something in Him, not because of something He sees in us.”
OK, on the surface that sounds lovely. Is it true though?
I can’t find any Bible verse that says it, so that is one knock against it. I always perk up my theological ears when I hear a pithy statement that does not have the ring of Scripture to it.
Yes, there are a couple verses in the OT about God doing things for Israel for His “name’s sake.” But this was done for the covenant people of Israel who were to show off the glories of God. God was going to show glory regardless of their failings. I think it’s a unique situation–see last few posts about how all who were in the Old Covenant were not saved, etc.
So, let’s think about it, what is grace? Grace is one who is in the position to show favor to one who is out of favor.
Therefore, God has to see something in us that demonstrates we need grace. So, there’s at least that! He at least sees our need.
We also must remember that humans are made in the image of God. There is something in us that makes God love us–He did make us after all. Are we suggesting God makes things He doesn’t like?
If you are a hyper-Calvinist, I suppose you would say that. Total Depravity has been taken too far. But I don’t see the Bible saying that.
“For God so loved the world,” there has to be something there.
I am not saying we deserve God’s grace, nor that humanity is so super duper God had to have us. Nor am I saying that we are self-redeemable.
I am merely saying that God still loves us and He did make us. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Why did Christ cry over rebellious Jerusalem if He saw nothing in them anyway? Wouldn’t God desire some to perish if we were as worthless as some say? Yet God does not desire that any should perish.
Without amping up humanity’s self-esteem, I still think God “sees something” in us that makes Him want to show us grace. I really do. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. He “sees in us” if we are humble or not.
I’m sure this means I’m a heretic to many, but alas, I believe you are taking my point too far from what I intend. I believe the quote above takes the point too far in the opposite direction.
It doesn’t hurt to think. When things sound too cut and dry, think on those things, more than likely, the one who said it hasn’t.
The Main Difference Between the Old and New Covenant
One huge thing to remember when thinking about the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is this:
Not all members of the Old Covenant were saved.
Whereas, all members of the New Covenant, are saved.
Did you get that? Because that’s important!
The Old Covenant was made with a genetic race of people–Jews.
The New Covenant is made of all those who are born again in Christ.
The Old Covenant has to do with family (that’s why there are genealogies all over it), an exact geographic Promised Land, a temple with priests and sacrifices, and external, written in stone theocratic law.
The New Covenant has to do with born again members of God’s family (no difference between Jew and Gentile), a call to heaven (the better country), those with the Spirit are the temple, Christ is the High Priest and the sacrifice, and the law is written in our hearts by the presence of God’s Spirit in all members.
The difference between the two covenants is night and day. Hebrews tells us the New Covenant is better, and boy howdy is it!
The Old Covenant was between God and racial Israel, you have to see that point. Violating that covenant meant they’d be kicked out of the Land and dispersed. They violated it and they were dispersed.
The basic summation of Israel’s responsibility is the Ten Commandments along with the other commands, and particularly the commands about their religious service–sacrifices, temple, priests, etc.
New Covenant people don’t need a rock to tell us what to do. We have Christ in us. Christ is the revelation of the righteousness of God apart from the Law and Prophets.
Believers today are in the New Covenant. We are under the Law of Christ, the perfect law of liberty. Where that is in step with the Mosaic Law, that’s fine, but we are not called to follow Moses’ Law, particularly not the religious aspects of it that were all fulfilled in Christ.
This is a big deal. There is much confusion over this issue. It should be handled correctly. Think on it.
3 Facts to Help Make Sense of the Old Testament
Christians have a tough time understanding the Old Testament. We focus on Jesus and the Epistles, and view the OT as tacked on background information. It’s the prequel that really adds nothing to the story.
There are a couple things to keep in mind when reading the OT that I think really help. Here they are, for your convenience:
1) The Law is not about salvation.
Most of the OT is made up of what is called The Law. From Exodus 20 through Malachi is the reign of The Law. The Law, as given by Moses, was not a system to get people saved.
The Law was given as the covenant responsibilities to Israel. Read Deuteronomy and notice how often it says keep this Law to stay in the land. The punishment for breaking the Covenant is not hell; the penalty was getting kicked out of the Promised Land.
People have always been saved by grace through faith, there is no other way. Saved people in the OT would desire to keep The Law, since that is what God said He wanted done–faith comes by hearing the word of God–but keeping The Law is not what saves, never has, never will.
2) Most people under The Law were not saved.
Since The Law was given as the covenant responsibility of Israel to stay in the Land and not as a means of being saved, you should not assume you are reading about saved people in the OT.
As the kings of Israel demonstrate–the OT is a mixed bag. When God judges people in the OT, He is not judging believers–He is judging rebellious violators of the covenant between God and Israel. As Paul later explains, “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.”
3) Israel thought they were saved.
Since Israel had the Law, the covenants, the prophets, and so much more, they were “God’s chosen people,” they assumed they were in automatically.
This lead them to believe that since they were circumcised, kept the Sabbath, and killed an animal here and there that God was happy to have them. This mindset lead to the Pharisee mentality. It leads to what Paul explains in Romans 10, “being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”
They followed the traditions of men more than God’s commands. They self-righteously assumed they were IN because they were of Israel. Not the case. Just as it’s not the case that you sitting your hinder in the right church gets you to heaven today.
Those three points are key in understanding what’s going on back there in the OT. It helps to have other things figured out too, but I’ve seen these three things misunderstood many times by Christians.
Remember, there is a reason all that stuff is back there. Israel is a warning to us. One-time religious acts don’t save. Religious works don’t save. Self-righteousness leads to judgment. Following The Group is a broad path to destruction. Each person must come to a point of faith.
Be careful out there; we’re messing up the exact same way Israel did, much of this is due to the fact that we don’t understand what Israel did.
“Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.“
Why Grace Makes Sin a Big Deal
There is no doubt that God is gracious. He has always said so, even under the Law, “The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.”
Jonah did not want to warn Nineveh, not because he was scared of them, but because he knew God was gracious and would forgive them!
Yes, God did judge people in spectacular fashion from time to time back then, but He also put up with a lot. God knew people would not keep His law. Even when Israel insisted they would keep it, He told them they wouldn’t.
God knew it was impossible, thus didn’t get as fed up as He could have.
Now that we are in the New Covenant, what is often called “The Age of Grace,” we assume God is more OK with sin. He’s not doing any judging at all, therefore, we conclude, the edge must have been taken off His wrath.
Since we’re under grace and not law, the thinking goes, sin isn’t that big of a deal.
In fact, the exact opposite is true.
Not only do we now have the full revelation of what God’s standard is, we have also been shown the righteousness of God in human form, and we’ve also been told that Christ’s work has completely equipped us for obedience.
Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Sin is doing the opposite of what God said.
God has told us what to do and God has told us we are equipped in Christ to obey. When we disobey, not only are we not doing what God said, we’re also not reckoning the truth of what God has said about us in Christ.
We’re guilty not only of sin, but of trampling underfoot the Son of God.
To whom much is given, much is required. I imagine this means something, and, if it does, it means we who have the Spirit, the full revelation of God’s righteousness, the Gospel, the testimony of Christ, the completed Word, and oh so much more, are unbelievably required of many things.
But, no doubt, our happy notion of grace and sin not being a big deal will win out, and we will continue to heap up wrath for ourselves in the Day of Wrath.
She Shall be Saved in Childbearing if They Continue
In a list of Bible verses that no one knows what to do with, 1 Timothy 2:15 has to rank near the top!
“Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.“
There are three predominant theories about this verse that go a little something like this:
-Some see this as saying women who have faith won’t die in childbirth. The challenge here is that many women without faith don’t die either, and some of faith have, at least by our judgment.
-Some see that Paul says women who have kids are automatically saved. The only person I’ve heard seriously back this view was someone who was trying to prove how dumb Paul was. This verse was used to show that Paul doesn’t even understand salvation, why should we trust him on anything else?
-Some see the difference in pronouns (she and they) to mean the individual will be saved by women in general carrying out their childbearing until the Messiah came and salvation is available to all now through the child, Christ, who was born of a woman. This is an intriguing theory, but seems to resort to gymnastics.
To me, I would lean toward the simplest reading of the text, which would make me then lean toward the first option.
However, “nevertheless” begins the verse, which is a word used to tie in the following statement with what went before.
Before that, Paul was talking about Eve and her transgression. Right after talking about that, Paul says “nevertheless she shall be saved in childbearing.”
Taking just that part, it seems as though Paul is saying, “Eve messed up big time, but God was gracious to her and allowed her to live and even to go on and have children.”
God could have ended the humanity experiment right there, but He didn’t. He allowed humanity to multiply.
This I am cool with and really like that explanation.
However, Paul goes on to say “she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”
Who are “they,” is the big question. My simple answer to that is: I have no idea. But, Adam and Eve are the last two people he talks about. I have no idea if they continued “in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety,” but I do know they had kids.
Perhaps he’s not talking about women in general. Maybe he limited it to Eve specifically. When God judges the world and burns it all, it is because He will not find faith on the earth.
In other words, no one will have kids anymore if there is no faith anymore. Humanity will be gone. God will be done with them and their rebellion.
I like this explanation, but will refrain from saying it is definitive. But I’ll stick to it and try it out for a while and see how it holds up.
Sermon: 1 Timothy 3
When Christianity Supported Abortion
It is my contention that the degree to which you are easily offended, is the degree to which you don’t know truth.
Ultimately, truth is God’s Word. When we know the Truth, we will not be carried about with every wind of doctrine, but will be grounded and settled, unmoved, standing sure on the foundation and pillar of the Truth.
Church should be a place of grace, a place where a person can think about God and not be afraid to ask questions. It should also be a place to find truth that answers many of those questions. And The Truth should be spoken in love.
Needless to say, the Church has not always been good at that. As we find the truth, we will no doubt stumble across some pretty stupid theories!
Here’s a test to see how easily you are offended, but also a great illustration to see how much stupid comes along the way to finding truth.
I am reading a book that touches on medical history in America, particularly during the 19th century. I read this:
“Oftentimes, the earliest moment a woman could be certain she was pregnant was the first time she could feel the baby stirring in her womb–an event called the quickening.
“The importance of the concept of the quickening during this era can not be overstated. Nineteenth-century philosophers and theologians who followed the beliefs of the Christian West accepted the concept of ‘delayed animation’ as the absolute truth about conception.
“It was a common and widely accepted belief that the unborn were not fully alive, or at least not fully human, until several months after conception, when those first movements were felt.
“Therefore, the quickening was not just the unborn child becoming animated, but the moment the unborn child received it’s ‘rational soul.’
Because of this widespread notion, fetuses were seen as nothing more than moles or tumors. Mothers were not morally responsible for the fetus until after the quickening.
Since both your pastor and your doctor did not view the early months of pregnancy as actually having a human life in the womb, “an estimated one in thirty pregnancies was terminated during the nineteenth century.” And by “terminated,” the author means humanly inflicted, not natural child death.
Yes, it was faulty science and faulty theology that lead to widespread occurrences of abortion and/or self-inflicted termination of births.
Christianity, at one time, had no problem with abortion.
If you are easily offendable, this will no doubt easily offend you. However, all I told you was historical fact. It’s the truth of the situation. Just as Christianity at one time had no problem tying people to stakes and setting them on fire for believing different views about theology.
Things change. Truth does not change. What changes is our understanding of truth. Church History teaches us to calm down. Don’t be so adamant about your view of Scripture. Certainly don’t light people on fire for disagreeing with you.
Learning and conforming to truth takes some time. Use some humility and grace. Watch out for majority-held beliefs! They are often the ones that look the most foolish as the years go by.
Relax out there. Wisdom will not die with you. God’s Word is eternal and will never fade away. Center your thoughts on that. Hold the Word tightly and your theories loosely.
The Bible and Getting Offended at Words
I was listening to an interview with an entertainer who said he wouldn’t perform at college campuses anymore because they have become “too conservative.”
My ears perked up at that. Not heard colleges referred to as “too conservative” before!
He went on to explain that he gets in trouble too much there by people getting offended at stuff he can say pretty much everywhere else.
I found this interesting. Colleges are liberal in ideology, don’t think there’s much argument there. They are the centers of political correctness. Thus, they get offended at every possible hint of offensiveness in thought, word, or deed.
For instance, a college president has recently apologized for an email she sent to all her students. She, get this, “is sorry for saying ‘All Lives Matter.'”
Yup, that’s right, college students got upset because she said “All lives matter” instead of “Black Lives Matter.” So, she has apologized.
This would be the conservatism charge in action.
We are seeing this more and more in our age of social media. People are wired to go into an absolute frenzy over the speech of another person.
In the old days, we used to say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Today we don’t even need sticks or stones. Someone says something and we feel obligated to be outraged.
This is evidence of a blazing insecurity in our world. There is no security because, in general, we have abandoned truth.
Colleges have attacked truth for years, leading to the academic notion of postmodernity. Everyone’s experience is their own truth, drivel.
Since each individual’s experience is their truth, they will get offended if you challenge their experience. Never mind their experience is one of a moron, how dare you challenge it!
This hypersensitivity to the words of others is greatly eliminated when we rest all our hope, security, identity, and peace upon the One who speaks Truth, the One who is called “The Way, the Truth and the Life.”
Simplistic analyzation? Maybe. But I think there is truth in it.
“I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.“
Don’t be offended at the words of people. Words mean little. Opinions mean little. Relax. There is only one Word you need concern yourself with.
“He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.“
Worry about that. Ignore the rest.
Though He Slay Me, Yet Will I Trust In Him
Earthly people are earthly minded. Following Jesus Christ, who is in heaven, makes no earthly sense. It’s the foolishness of being a fool for following Christ.
Unfortunately, The Church has not had the earthly success they were hoping for. We need more people and more money, and since people are not motivated by heavenly reward, we must offer them earthly reward to attract them.
So The Church says if you follow Jesus you will get lots of money, your boundaries will expand (not bodily boundaries incidentally, but property), your health care issues will be healed, your marriage will be constant sex and romantic dates, your kids will graduate at the top of their class and win awards in all sporting events, and you’ll just be all around successful in earthly endeavors.
This is awesomeness! Christianity, unfortunately, loses its heavenly character and becomes one more in a long line of earthly self-help systems.
Who needs Jesus though, when Oprah and Dr. Phil can give you the same results?
But Jesus did not come to earth so your earthly life would be successful. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
Yes, the believer can have inner peace, but externally, life might be a disaster. As Paul says, “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
Yet, somehow, The Church has translated this is as “All who live in Jesus will have awesome experiences throughout their earthly existence and then heaven will be awesome earthly experiences times infinity, baby!”
I really don’t understand how we’ve done this.
Job was nailed, sitting in a pile of ashes scratching his diseased skin with a shard of pottery and he was able to say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”
The Church today says, “Unless He gives me everything I want, I will not trust in Him.” If you are following Jesus for temporal benefit, you are not truly following Him.
“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”
I fear The Church is unable to produce this sort of faith anymore.
Don’t Work for the Meat that Perishes
Much talk about following Jesus I find amusing.
Most are referring to following their particular happy opinion of Christ, rather than following the actual Jesus Christ.
Happy Opinion of Jesus says that Jesus is just love and happy, man. Just love people and be happy. Mostly just be happy and hope someone feels loved while you are happy.
The real Jesus tends to say things that, quite frankly, I’ve never seen anyone actually do.
Including me. I’d like to, but quite honestly, He says so many impossible things, I fail to see how I’d be able to do it.
Take John 6:27 as a recent example I was thinking about.
“Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.“
Catch what He said there?
Don’t work for food. Now, hang on! God originally told Adam he was cursed to have to work for food. The Apostle Paul says that people who don’t work shouldn’t eat!
So, God says work and eat. Paul says work and eat. Jesus says don’t work for food.
Obviously, Jesus didn’t really mean this then, so oh well! Go back to being happy!
No, He meant something. Perhaps don’t work for perishable food means, only work for non-perishable food, like the McRib. Probably not.
The context shows that Jesus is lecturing people who were working very hard to keep up with Him. They got to eat free food from Him the day before, so they hunted Him down for more.
Right before John 6:27, don’t work for perishable food, Jesus says, “Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.”
The work they were doing was following Jesus for temporal benefit. Jesus wants people to follow Him for spiritual benefit. Follow for faith and hearing His word, not for getting free food and free health care.
Why do you follow Jesus? Just want Him to make your dreams come true? Just want Him to heal your bum knee?
Or do you actually want to know Him?
Jesus has no time for people who do Christianity for temporal benefit. He wants those who live by faith, living for a better country to come, not for a comfy spot in this world.
Sermon: 1 Timothy 2
When Intervention Goes Wrong
We are to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.
We are to bear one another’s burdens. We’re supposed to be nice and give things to people. Right?
Unfortunately, we can often step in and take care of other people’s burdens so well, the other people never learn to go to the Lord.
We all know the parable of the prodigal son who went and wasted his early inheritance with riotous living. Famine strikes the land and the prodigal son is out feeding pigs. Note this verse:
“And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.“
The very next verse says he begins to think of his dad and how he takes care of servants, surely he’ll take care of his son. So he goes to the Father and lives happily ever after.
Did you see it?
“No man gave unto him.”
What would have happened if some guy had stepped in and gave him a new job, a promise of food and shelter every day? Would he have returned to the father?
I think Satan steps in right at the spot many times for people. He puts something there to “fill the need,” even if only seemingly so. He puts stuff there to keep you from going to the Father.
I have often wondered, when it comes to loving people, how often love would keep something back.
Then again, I’m an idiot, and the odds of me choosing the right moment for that is slim to none. Our job is to love and give. If you see someone in need and have stuff to give and you don’t, you’re not in a good spot.
More than likely, if someone needs to hit rock bottom to run to God the Father, God will make sure no one is there. If someone is there, God the Father probably put them there for you to intervene with love. Do so.
But still, it is interesting, no one gave him anything so he went to the father. Perhaps there are times not to give. Think on it.
Works of Faith Don’t Need Praise
Faith without works is dead. Faith works by love.
That being the case, many look at their lives and say, “Works? Yup, got those, therefore I must have faith.”
Doesn’t always work that way.
Pharisees illustrate this point best. Before Jesus talks about the parable of the Pharisee who thanks God he isn’t like the publican, Luke says “he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.”
Trusting in your works is not the point. Works flow out of faith. Works don’t create faith, nor do they substitute for faith.
Works that come from faith don’t lead to arrogance or pride. They are not done for recognition. They don’t result in the worker needing to be praised or even thanked.
Jesus tells another parable about a guy with a servant. They work in the field. After work the master tells the servant to go make supper. Does the master “thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not.”
Jesus then makes this application to His followers:
“So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”
When you do what you are supposed to do, you shouldn’t expect a celebratory parade. This is one of the downfalls of the self-esteem movement, where everyone is a “hero” for doing their job and everyone gets a ribbon for showing up.
Obedience is a much under-served topic in Christianity today. We don’t like to view ourselves as slaves of Christ. We like our freedom lingo much better. When free people take the time to do something for someone else, they think it’s something special and worthy of reward.
Slaves don’t think that way. Slaves know their duty and do it. Then they make the Master lunch, and then go home and sleep.
The difference between our slavery to Christ and the negative view of slavery often on display in the world, is that our Master loves us and only commands what is good for us and Him anyway. There really is no drudgery to serve Him. It’s easy and light, in fact.
It’s a beautiful thing. Works out of faith don’t look for recognition and pats on the back. It was our joy to do them to begin with. In the end, our efforts are so pitiful in light of what He has done for us, we hardly think on them further.
Detecting Morons in The Church Part 2
Yesterday we covered four signs you are talking to a church-going moron: they fixate on fables, genealogies, raising questions, and things that do not edify.
Paul goes on in the same chapter of 1 Timothy to mention other signs you are dealing with a moron.
“some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.”
Here are two more signs that a moron is talking:
5) They use vain jangling.
“Vain jangling” is an awesome KJV phrase that means “empty talk.” They’re just saying stuff. This is a hard one to define, but I know it when I hear it. In my opinion, you have God’s “words of life,” and all else is vain jangling. God’s Word is eternal; vain things are very temporal and worthless.
Vain jangling is the verbal expression of stupid thoughts. Here’s an example I saw the other day.
Wow, if that isn’t “vain jangling,” I do not know what is. Empty words signifying nothing. Try to put as much of God’s Words into your conversations about God as possible. People who “put things in their own words” to improve upon what God said, or simply to avoid what God said, are evil.
6) They speak with confidence yet have no idea what they are saying.
To “affirm” means to speak with boldness and confidence. You want your teacher to know what he’s talking about, and there should be a level of confidence a teacher should have. At the same time, arrogance and cock-sure awesomeness is dangerous.
Typically, the more forceful someone puts something, the more you can know this person has no idea what they’re talking about.
In Paul’s day, people used the Law to do this. This isn’t typically our deal today, since pretty much no one talks about the Law anymore. But most Bible pontificators are one trick ponies. There is one main issue they hope to cram down your throat. Calvinism, Arminianism, Free Grace, Covenant Theology, Dispensational Theology, or any other such thing can be used this way. Usually they rely on some external, verifiable thing, code word, or object they cling to as proof you are in or out.
They’re one issue people. When they read the Bible, all they see is the stuff that backs up their point. They see nothing else. Ever. Since they ignore everything else, in the end, they end up having no idea what they are talking about.
In Paul’s day, people were so fixated on a couple of Law issues–circumcision and Sabbath keeping were the main ones–that nothing else mattered. By so doing, they ended up missing the whole point of the law:
“Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:“
In the end, watch out for over-confident purveyors of one niche area of theology. They aren’t giving you the whole council of Scripture; they are giving you their inflated opinion of their own opinion of their opinionated theology that trumps all other opinions. They like to hear themselves talk, and appear to be pleased the most at what came out of their dear, half-smiling mouth.
They help none at all. Avoid them like the plague.
How to Detect Morons in The Church
The Apostle Paul is worried about morons taking over the church. He had reason to fear: several morons had already influenced churches he had started, and he wasn’t even dead yet!
Paul has constant warnings about paying attention, being sober, thinking, testing, be on guard for false teaching. He tells us specific things to watch out for to help us detect erroneous morons. Here’s one example:
“Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying“
Here are several indicators a moron is talking to you:
1) You’re being taught fables.
Fables is the Greek word for “myth.” This could indicate a couple of things:
A. Jewish rabbinic stories. You can find these in what is called the Talmud. These are humanly devised explanations and elaborations of the Hebrew Scripture, some more fablish than others.
B. Gentile illustrations. Pastors and authors have been telling stories for years, many of these have been repeated so often we’re not sure if they are in the Bible or not. I generally refrain from using stock sermon illustrations for this very reason: most of them aren’t true.
C. Greek mythology. Lots of false religion influences have fashioned our Christianity. Much of our modern “holidays” are pagan in origin, for instance.
D. Stupid stuff stupid people say. “Fables” can just mean “made up stuff.” There is plenty of spiritual sounding verbiage floating around out there that has nothing to do with anything. If that’s all you’re hearing, some guy’s opinion rather than a constant return to Scripture, be on guard.
2) Endless Genealogies.
Genealogies are in your Bible for a reason. I have no idea what that reason is, but they’re there for a reason. You should be familiar with them, because they are there. But people who fixate on these things and see hidden meanings, clues, and secret codes to decipher indecipherable things, are loonies and should be avoided.
3) They minister questions.
False teaching typically begins with casting doubt. “How can you be sure that what you have is the truth?” Along the lines of Satan’s “Hath God said?” testing question to Eve. They want to engender doubt in you by asking you questions. However, mostly what they do is just stir up other questions, which they don’t answer but respond with more questions, and then you just have a giant hubbub of debate and clamor. This is a dangerous sign. Beware of those who exist to cause trouble all the time. People who stir up debate everywhere they go are handing out false doctrine. Count on it.
4) No godly edifying.
Edification is why the Church exists. The Church is a group of people who desire to grow into the perfect man Christ Jesus. It’s why we’re here. Ephesians four explains the whole process. False teachers want something from you, not something for you. False teachers want to feed their belly and take your money. The Church exists to hand out the free bread of life. Not to manipulate, but to bring you to Christ. He is the Head. The whole Body follows Him. If you meet a supposed member of the body who isn’t leading you to follow the head, you aren’t with a member of the Body!
In the end, avoid people who are always raising doubts, causing debate, arguing, fighting, ridiculing, and taking by force what ought to be given with liberality. Beware of those who know this secret thing no one has seen before. Beware the “us vs. them” mentality that we are the hidden minority the whole world is aligned against to defeat our cause. Beware those who are constantly telling stories and pontificating out of their own supposed genius. Let them write philosophy and leave theology alone.
Be careful out there.
Oswald Chambers on Why Your Faith Doesn’t Have to be Radical or Spectacular
I like to read Oswald Chambers. He has many thought-provoking things to say. I was going to rephrase one of his articles, but he said it so well, I’m just going to quote it. I’ll highlight my favorite lines.
There was nothing either of the nature of impulse or of cold-bloodedness about Our Lord, but only a calm strength that never got into panic. Most of us develop our Christianity along the line of our temperament, not along the line of God.
Impulse is a trait in natural life, but Our Lord always ignores it, because it hinders the development of the life of a disciple. Watch how the Spirit of God checks impulse, His checks bring a rush of self-conscious foolishness which makes us instantly want to vindicate ourselves.
Impulse is all right in a child, but it is disastrous in a man or woman; an impulsive man is always a petted man. Impulse has to be trained into intuition by discipline.
Discipleship is built entirely on the supernatural grace of God. Walking on the water is easy to impulsive pluck, but walking on dry land as a disciple of Jesus Christ is a different thing. Peter walked on the water to go to Jesus, but he followed Him afar off on the land.
We do not need the grace of God to stand crises, human nature and pride are sufficient, we can face the strain magnificently; but it does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours in every day as a saint, to go through drudgery as a disciple, to live an ordinary, unobserved, ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus.
It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God; but we have not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in five minutes.