Posts Tagged ‘christian living’
Posted by Job on October 12, 2014
Posted in Christianity, devotional | Tagged: Adrian Rogers, christian living, contentment, family, marriage, parenting, preaching, sanctification, sermon, spiritual growth, spiritual maturity | 1 Comment »
Posted by Job on October 12, 2014
Posted by Job on October 12, 2014
Posted by Job on January 27, 2012
Posted by Job on March 25, 2011
Though little information about him is recorded in the Bible, Judah is an interesting fellow. The messianic blessing was given to Abraham, and this blessing was fulfilled through the line of Judah. However, this was not due to any special righteousness on the part of Judah. Quite the contrary, the most righteous of Jacob’s son was Joseph. Instead, the blessing on Judah’s line seems to have come almost “by default.” Consider the prophetic blessings of Abraham on his sons in Genesis 49. Reuben, the firstborn, disqualified himself by committing fornication with Jacob’s wife Bilhah. (When you consider the circumstances, the fierce rivalry between Leah and Rachel provoked by Jacob’s severe, blatant sinful mistreatment of Reuben’s mother in favor of Rachel, Reuben likely did so in order to humiliate Rachel, and the act may not have even been consensual on Bilhah’s part … compare this with how Absalom forced himself on David’s concubines – and did so in public – in order to humiliate his father.)
Simeon and Levi, next in line, both disqualified themselves by murdering all the males from the tribe of the prince that forced himself on their sister Dinah. Although their actions ironically prevented Jacob’s faithless and horrible decision to intermarry his clan with this pagan tribe (and the result would have been Jacob’s line becoming pagans and not the other way around, see Genesis 34:20-24) they were judged by the Holy Spirit speaking through Jacob as “instruments of cruelty”, murderers, possessing “selfwill”, and cursed their “anger” and “wrath” because it was “cruel.” Apparently, though it was right of Simeon and Levi to seek justice for their sister’s rape (justice that their father, still acting fearfully and trying to exploit situations by cutting business deals at this time because of a lack of faith, pointedly refused to seek) and to scuttle Jacob’s intentions to disobey the wishes passed down to him by his father Isaac by joining his line with an evil pagan tribe, their taking vengeance on people who had nothing to do with the act – and doing so without consulting YHWH for permission or advice first – is what brought this curse upon them.
So, the blessings of Abraham passed to Judah. Again, it is not because Judah was the most virtuous of Abraham’s sons. Instead, though he was not firstborn, he was the first one born who did not disqualify himself with extremely serious abominations. Yes, Judah committed sexual immorality, but that is not the same as having sex with – and possibly raping – his father’s wife, and it is also not the same as mass murder. The acts of Reuben, Simeon and Levi were particularly offensive in the sight of God, and resulted in their being cursed (Jacob, empowered by the Holy Spirit, said of Reuben “you are unstable as water, and you will not excel”). This should be instructive to the homosexual lobby and their enablers among emergent and theologically liberal “Christians” who falsely claim that “all sins are equal.” That Reuben, Simeon and Levi were disqualified for their sins and Judah was not for his proves that Westminster’s Shorter Catechism is correct in their question and answer 83: “Are all transgression of the law equally heinous?” “Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations are more heinous in the sight of God than others.”
Now make no mistake, though it was not like the transgressions of Reuben, Simeon and Levi, Judah did fall! Yet, the grace of God and the evidence of God’s election, God’s calling of him and his line, were evident when he got up again. So by examining this, Christians can learn a few things about our own Christian living.
1. The Leah contrast.
Why did Judah fall? It honestly looks as if he couldn’t take the pressure. When the heat was on, Judah melted. When the going got rough and tough, Judah crumbled. Understand this important fact of background context: Jacob obviously, sinfully favored Rachel and her children over Leah and her children. Example: when Jacob feared that Esau was going to kill him and his family, he sent Leah and her kids first so that if Esau killed them, Rachel and her kids would have a chance to escape! Jacob was obviously, indefensibly wrong, and it was horrible for Jacob to have his wives and children live in turmoil because of his own behavior, because of his placing his own interests and desires above that of his family, his duty to YHWH, and simply being just. However, as Christians, we must realize that our own situations, whether our family lives, finances, employment situations, churches, and political conditions are not always going to be “good” or “fair.” There are going to be problems in our families. There are going to be financial problems exacerbated by bad jobs and worse bosses and coworkers. There is going to be political oppression and repression, as well as social ostracism, because of our faith. And in our churches, there are going to be Christians who do not act like Christians, as well as actual non-Christians.
The way to respond is not the way that Reuben did, with a form of incest that might have been rape as well. It is not the way that Simeon and Levi did; mass murder. It is not the way that Rachel did, who rather than having compassion on her older sister and working to get Jacob to show love to her sister and ease her heartbreak, actually enjoyed possessing a favored status at her own sister’s expense, and tried to preserve it by giving Bilhah to Abraham in the first place. Instead, it is the way that Leah did, which is to seek God in submission and prayer, and do your best to persevere in a bad situation with grace and upright behavior.
Leah could have responded to Jacob’s grotesque, long-standing mistreatment of her in kind, by becoming a manipulative backstabbing schemer who sought to get back at him and undermine him any way that she could; by taking up the character of the two men in her life that despite being the closest to her and responsible for caring for, loving and protecting her (her father Laban and her husband Jacob), instead neglected, exploited and mistreated her. Laban married her off to increase his own wealth and then stole her dowry; Jacob only put up with her because he was stuck with her because of Laban’s machinations, yet was more than willing to use her as a baby machine to produce heirs for him.
Leah would have been more than justified in a worldly sense for giving Jacob exactly what he deserved, for treating him exactly as he treated her. Instead, Leah responded to the pressure by going to God, oft giving God the praise (Judah means “praise”, and Leah so named him saying “Now I will praise the YHWH” at his birth) and being the wife that God wanted her to be in spite of her low estate in the eyes of her husband and the turmoil that Jacob inflicted on his family; in spite of her circumstances. Leah sought YHWH often in petitions, prayer and praise, so she withstood the pressure. Judah did neither, so he fell. Twice.
2. Judah’s Two Falls
In this context enters Joseph. Now Joseph was not responsible for the evil situation that Jacob created, and was powerless to remedy it. Instead, virtuous Joseph was caught in the middle. He was the eldest son of Jacob’s favorite wife, and was treated as you might expect Jacob to: with a blatant, unjustifiable favoritism that was based solely on pleasing Jacob’s own emotions (Jacob treated Joseph so favorably not because it was in Joseph’s own interests or benefit, but because it gave Jacob pleasure and made him feel good) and not because it was in the best interests of anyone else, whether that someone else was YHWH, Jacob’s other sons and wives, or even Joseph himself.
Instead of going to God over the ill treatment from his earthly father and thereby gaining the strength to stand against the evil influences of his own mistreatment, his own emotions that resulted from this lifetime of mistreatment, and the negative influences of his brothers, Judah went along with the crowd. He allowed his anger, bitterness, envy and jealousy against Joseph (and also his father) to build into a hateful, murderous rage. Judah went along with the other 9 brothers with the initial plot to kill Joseph. This plot was foiled only by Reuben, the oldest and the wisest, who to preserve his brother’s life suggested that they throw him in a pit instead (so that he could later get him out and return him to the protection of Jacob). After the decision not to kill Joseph was already made, Judah then has the idea that profiting off the plot to get rid of Joseph by selling him into slavery was better than murdering him anyway!
So, this is how depraved Judah became. He was willing to murder his own brother and then sell his brother to some unknown fate as a slave. He did not stand up and speak up for righteousness; that was Reuben. It was Reuben who suppressed his own loss at being usurped of his firstborn status – Reuben at this point had lost more to Joseph than had Judah – who stood up and tried to do the right thing. Judah, meanwhile, not only went along with the crowd, went along with the sinful passions of his flesh, but in coming up with the plot to sell Joseph, he was one of the ringleaders! In his dealing with Joseph, he was one of the chief of sinners! And when Judah had a final chance to stand up and do the right thing, to be a just and honest man with regards to this incident, he went along with the cover-up to Jacob in order to escape the consequences of his actions. And that was the first fall.
The second fall was when Judah could no longer deal with his brothers’ conniving and malice – and his own guilt from the consequences over his own actions. Now Judah could have submitted to God, repented of his sins, and told his father the truth. Instead, Judah dealt with his problems by running away from them. How many Christians deal with marital problems that do not rise to the level of sexual immorality (or according to my own belief, domestic violence against spouse and/or children, which justifies at the very least separation for one’s own safety) by simply leaving despite knowing full well that God hates divorce? How many Christians abandon what they know are good churches and ministries simply because they face opposition (despite knowing full well that Satan will oppose such things precisely because he desires to destroy the good ministries, see the bad and un-Biblical ministries prosper, and drive Christians away from good fellowship)? Well, the Christians who pick up and run away from their adversity, from their troubles, lack the virtues of Leah. Instead, they are no better than Judah.
Now when Judah left his father’s house, he rather unsurprisingly fell into a common temptation for males: sexual immorality. Now in one sense, we have to put Judah’s sexual sin into context, because the law of Moses regulating sexual behavior (i.e. no adultery or fornication) was not yet given. Still, Paul told us in Romans that in the absence of the law, because of common grace at the very minimum, people have “a law unto themselves (Romans 2:14-15) that should instruct us concerning righteousness. Note how the pharaoh of Egypt and Abimelech of the Philistines respected the marriages of Abraham and Isaac to Sarah and Rebekah by returning those women to their husbands without touching them. A better comparison: how Joseph, raised in Judah’s own house as his brother, resisted the multiple temptations of sexual immorality by Potiphar’s wife. So, even without the law of Moses, Judah was without excuse.
Judah fell into the common practice of allowing the pressures of life – and the pressures that we face are real – to get him ensnared into sexual sin. (In this way, he was similar to Reuben’s responding to family pressures by resorting to sexual sin, save Reuben’s act exceeding that of Judah because of Reuben’s sinning with his father’s wife.) First, he had a child with a woman of Canaan, Shuah. Then his sons Er and Onan turned out wicked, reflecting the immorality of their father during this period. Next, Judah breaks his promise to the widow of Er, Tamar, by refusing to give her to his son Shelah as a wife. Even when a third child of Judah dies, his daughter, Judah did not consider his own wickedness and turn to YHWH in repentance. Instead, he blamed Tamar, as if she was some bad luck or cursed woman who had brought death to his 2 sons!
So what does Judah do when under the pressure of life? Despite being MARRIED, he goes and gets himself a prostitute (or so he thought, not knowing that it was his daughter-in-law Tamar)! Finally, when finding out that his daughter-in-law was pregnant by him does he (partially) acknowledge the depths of his depravity! Before she showed him his staff and signet ring, he was going to have her executed because of what he believed to be her sexual immorality! Judah was exposed: the sexual morality of a pagan Canaanite woman EXCEEDED that of the son of Jacob, the grandson of Isaac, the great-grandson of Abraham, the line chosen and set apart by YHWH!
And we Christians, who like Judah are also children of Abraham in a spiritual sense, often do the same: fall into sexual sin in response to the pressures of life, and there are an abundance of statistics concerning our involvement in un-Biblical divorce and remarriage, pornography, adultery, abortion, fornication etc. that proves it. And even those of us who do not respond to the pressures of life through sexual sin have other “outlets.” Maybe it is gossip. Maybe it is gambling. Maybe it is excess alcohol or gluttony. Maybe it is an excessive, unhealthy attachment to politics and sports. Maybe we dabble in astrology, yoga, or other “harmless” activities from other religions. Maybe we listen to foul-mouthed comedians or watch movies with all sorts of vile content, deriving pleasure in the sinful speech and acts of others (Romans 1:32). Just like Judah, so many Christians allow the pressures of live to drive them into sin! Now that is the bad news.
The good news: if we confess our sin, God can be counted on to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). All Christians sin. 1 John 1 makes that clear. The problem is our tendencies to wallow in our sins like Judah – who was in this state of affairs for a long time, long enough for him to have at least three children and raise them to adulthood – without repenting. Now I am certainly not apologist for Roman Catholicism, considering it to not be legitimate Christianity, but Catholics do have in their system regular confessions of sin. Of course, their problem (among many others) is that they confess their sins to priests because they reject the doctrine that Christ is the sole mediator between God and man, the truth that Jesus Christ stated Himself as recorded in the Gospel of John and was enlarged by the inspired writer of the epistle to the Hebrews.
But Christians need to confess our sins to God and ask God for forgiveness for our sins and turn away from those sins on a regular basis. For Christians who have a particularly persistent, troublesome area of sin or temptation, well the frequency, urgency and sincerity of the petitions to God in confession, forgiveness and repentance in the Name of Jesus Christ should match the seriousness of the problem! We should not harden our hearts, grieve the Holy Spirit, and let ourselves become so dull, distorted and cold of spirit that it will take something as dramatic and grotesque as Judah’s being confronted by the daughter-in-law that he impregnated to shake us out of our sin stupor! Instead, as Christians, when we fall, we should respond with confession and repentance in the manner described in 1 John as soon as the Holy Spirit convicts us to do so. We should not fall into the temptation of getting too prideful or fearful to do so, that God does not care and will overlook it, or that we need to perform some good works or deeds on our own in order to “make penance” and “get right with God first” before we repent. Instead, we are to turn to God in repentance at the first opportunity that the Holy Spirit gives us!
Please understand: God loves us. God hates sin. Add those two together and you come to this conclusion: God does not want His children, the redeemed bought by His own Son’s precious blood, to remain in sin. Not only does God not want it, He will not allow it. God will not allow you to keep lying in some gutter or alley drenched in urine and vomit. Instead, see Ezekiel 16:6 – “And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live ; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live.” Because He so loves us, and also for the same of His own Name and His own zeal for justice and righteousness, God will bring His elect to righteousness!
What is simply amazing is that just as the pressures of life causes us to sin, God can, will and does use those same pressures of life to drive His children back to Him! Example: Jonah. Being in the belly of that whale three days drove a man filled with self-righteousness, pride, rebellion and vindictiveness to repent, didn’t it? The only surprise is that IT TOOK THREE DAYS! (We should never kid ourselves about the depths of our own sinfulness or the breadth of God’s grace in response.) So God did not allow the partially repentant Judah to stay where he was, which while was an improvement, still wasn’t good enough. Instead, Judah was restored. And it was not because of any virtue or good character within Judah. Quite the contrary: it has been demonstrated that Judah’s main “virtues” were not being as bad a sinner as was Reuben, Simeon and Levi (and even this was only because God prevented him from falling that far into sin!) and being born before the more righteous Joseph! But instead, Judah was restored only because He was God’s elect, and thus it was God’s will for him to be so. How did it happen? Well, God applied the pressure, and then God put righteousness in Judah’s heart.
3. Judah Gets Up
First: the famine. Judah left his father’s house because he could no longer deal with the guilt from his own actions, he could no longer put up with brothers that were just as bad as was he or even worse, and perhaps also because Jacob merely transferred his favoritism to Benjamin, the other child of Rachel. So, Judah went off, left his father’s house, and “became his own man”, and clearly not much of one. In doing this, Judah became the patriarch, and was responsible for providing for his own house: his wives, children, servants and flocks. Just as happened in the parable of the prodigal son as told by Jesus Christ, a famine came, which made Judah unable to care for himself and his house! So this Judah, this prodigal, ended the charade of being “his own man”, ended the mess that he was making of his life and of those around him, and returned home. The threat of starvation made Judah stop playing games. But yet, it wasn’t enough. Why? Because Judah’s father couldn’t feed him either. So, Judah had to go to Egypt to buy grain to save himself and his father.
Once in Egypt, the pressure increases. Joseph deals harshly with them, accusing them of being spies, keeping Simeon while sending the rest back with the demand that they bring Benjamin. Then, having returned from Egypt, the pressure increases still more. Already burdened with the guilt of losing one brother, they have to go back to their father without a second, and demanding that they bring a third, his father’s remaining favorite! Plus, what was the money that they paid for the grain doing in their sacks! And that is when Judah begins to step up. He, of all his brothers, including Reuben the firstborn, promises his own fate as a guarantor for the safety of Benjamin. He had to do this, because otherwise he, his father, his brothers, and his own family would have starved to death. Now this only happened because of God’s Spirit dealing with Judah, but make no mistake: it happened with the threat of death hanging over his head!
Back in Egypt, God turns up the pressure still more. This time, in contrast with the rough treatment that Joseph gave them before – and they were expecting again – he switches tactics. He welcomes them. He throws them a party! He tells them that it was he who put the money in their sacks! He loads them up with food and sends them on their way. Everything is merry! Or so they think. Then, Joseph’s silver cup is found … with Benjamin. The one that Judah pledged his own life and fate for. Now Judah had every right to say “this is a deal-breaker.” He would have been within his right to say “I do not have to go be executed by the king or become his slave because my foolish brother stole a cup! I have nothing to do with this! I am just going to explain what happened to my father, and if he doesn’t understand, then so be it!”
But no. Judah fulfills the promise that he made to his father! He goes back to Joseph, and offers to take the punishment in the place of Benjamin, whom he thought was guilty! And keep in mind: Jesus Christ is the lion of Judah, the descendant of Judah’s line. So just as Jesus Christ took the punishment in the place of God’s elect because it was the will of God the Father (and suffered many things, was tempted at all points just as are we, in the course of doing so in order to remain true to His Father), Judah offered to take the punishment in the place of Benjamin because in order to keep his promise to Jacob! Now it would be a theological stretch to call Judah a type of Jesus Christ, but his actions, stepping up to take the punishment for the (apparently) guilty Benjamin for the sake of his father, certainly strongly parallels and reminds us of what Jesus Christ did for the elect for the sake of His Father!
Now in doing this, Judah prefigured what his descendant, Jesus Christ, would do. But this happened only because God turned up the pressure on Judah. And it happened only because God’s grace was with Judah. God put Judah to the test, and Judah was able to pass it only because God was with Judah and would not let him fall! Why? Because it was God’s will. Judah was God’s chosen. Judah’s getting up from his depravity and stepping into righteousness was God’s doing. Make no mistake: it was the will of God to the glory of God. And just as it was with Judah, so is it with Christians. Salvation is of the Lord. Restoration of backsliders is of the Lord. And the perseverance of the saints until our time of perfection is of the Lord. Just as God keeps His elect angels from falling (1 Timothy 5:21) so He keeps us from staying down, from remaining in sin, when we fall!
So, it is not that just as Judah got up, we can get up. That thinking glorifies man, depicting our restoration as our own good works. Instead, it is that just as Judah got up, we will get up. We will get up because it is God who will get us up, and God will do this for us on our behalf because of His great love for us, and because by doing so He is glorified! Those people who do not get up, who do not endure until the end? They were never God’s elect to begin with. They are the goats that Jesus Christ spoke of in Matthew 25:32-40. They are the seeds that did not fall into good soil that Jesus Christ spoke of in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-23). Do not be deceived. We do not have the ability to save ourselves. We do not have the ability to keep ourselves in the faith. We do not have the ability to restore ourselves when we fall. It is only God who can do these things, and it is only by God’s grace according to His eternal purpose of election and predestination decreed from before the foundation of the world that these things do happen!
So Christian, when you fall like Judah, and when you get up like Judah, know that it is God who gives you the ability to do so, and in this you should rejoice in that same God! Glory be to God for His mercy, His grace and awesome power and love, for He is indeed worthy to be praised! So backslider, restoration is available to you! Soli Deo Gloria!
And to the non-Christian, allow me to ask of you: how long will you continue to despise such a great salvation given by a God who spared not even His own Son for the sake of His elect? Such a gracious loving God who is patient, loving, forgiving and is willing to restore even His Christians who fall into sin? God knows that we are but flesh and during this time of grace is not at war with us (Genesis 6:3) but instead is desiring that we come to repentance in (2 Peter 3:8-9) accordance with His plan and terms. In order to benefit from this great a salvation, one cannot “meet God halfway.” Instead, one can only come to God on God’s terms, and there is no way to God the Father except through God the Son, and there is no salvation other than that worked by God the Spirit. If this is not the case for you, I urge and entreat you to immediately:
Posted in abomination, Bible, Christianity, devotional, Jesus Christ, Y'shua Hamashiach, Y'shua Hamashiach Moshiach, Yeshua Hamashiach | Tagged: backsliders, backsliding, Bilhah, christian living, Christian walk, Judah, restoration, restoration of backsliders, sexual immorality, sexual sin, Zilpah | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Job on December 31, 2010
For a better exposition of this issue, please refer to this post, and play audio track 1.
Legitimate Christian evangelism means a lot of hard sayings. It requires convicting people of their personal sins so that they will turn from them in true repentance. It requires informing people of their total depravity and true helpless condition before God so that they will know that they need to rely totally grace based on what Jesus Christ did for them on the cross and not on works, values, morals, culture, creeds or church affiliation. And it requires telling people what will happen if they do not respond with fear and trembling before the Holy God who is not only Saviour but Lord, Judge and a consuming fire with submission and faith, which is a grotesque eternal punishment.
Now it is no surprise that at this the world stumbles and rejects, for the world is dead to spiritual things, and moreover hates and rejects Jesus Christ, and will continue in their rebellion against Him until all things are fulfilled and they will come before Him not to be redeemed but to be judged for their crimes of wickedness.
Instead, the surprise is that so many people in the church reject this. It is not modern. Market driven. Poll tested. Focus group approved. It is not made to order by folks who want to have it their way. So, they say, we need to find a way to win converts that is more in tune with the times. Don’t change the message, however. No, that would be a different gospel! Instead, alter the packaging. Make it nicer, more sunny and warm, and prettier to look at. Who wants to look at a bloody, gnarled wooden cross, a gruesome method of execution by torture used by the Roman Empire, whose victims often lingered painfully for days before succumbing to dehydration, exhaustion or asphyxiation? Instead, give us a nice shiny pretty golden cross, an icon or idol that kind of represents or points to the real thing, only better!
So, let’s not focus on the negative. Let’s accentuate the positive! Don’t talk about what we are against! Tell them what we are for! Don’t tell them what they are! Tell them what they can be! And once we get them to agree to raise a hand, walk the aisle, sign the card or say a prayer, THEN we can deal with the information that brings down the presentation! We can talk about sin and repentance and eternal punishment and the cross and grace while we rush them through (get them to say) the salvation prayer. Or we can do it when we have them (rote and ritualistically) repeat the apostle’s creed at the start of each church service. Or we can instruct them in it during the new member orientation (that most people don’t attend and the rest daydream through, and that is a good thing because they are often led by people who while well meaning and sincere are incapable of answering any serious doctrinal or scriptural questions anyway).
But have the preacher declare it oft from the pulpit at church? Do that and nobody would come! Train the evangelists to go out declaring it door to door? Do that and nobody would go! Go out and declare it in the streets, in the prisons, in the hospitals, in the homeless shelters, in the highways and byways? Nobody would respond! Or at least … not enough.
So, we have to sweeten the deal a little bit. Talk about family values and strengthening families in the church, not about how Jesus Christ said that we’d often have to forsake our families for the sake of the gospel, not that He came to bring peace but a sword, and that our true brothers and sisters are those who believe in Him and do His word. Talk about Christian money management and wealth accumulation techniques, not about the Jesus Christ who told us not to seek and lay up treasure that rust and moth corrupts and thieves steal. Talk about national renewal and revival and how we can lead our Christian nation back to God, and not how all nations will be judged for their wickedness when Jesus Christ returns. Talk about social action, environmentalism, closing the gap between the rich and the poor and not about the Jesus Christ who said that His kingdom is not of this world, and that our hearts should be on the world that is to come. Talk about our need to stand with Israel and help defend her from her enemies, instead of our need to stand before God and examine ourselves to see if we truly be in the faith, and if we are growing in the faith and bearing fruit the way that Jesus Christ told us to lest our unfruitful branch be pruned off and tossed into the unquenchable fire where the worm never dies and whose smoke from the horrible torment will rise up forever. Talk about the Jesus Christ who is the romantic lover and carousing partying best buddy friend, and not the one who is the Holy God who has existed for eternity, will exist for eternity, performed creation, sustains creation, and one day will judge creation. Talk about the Jesus Christ who said “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone” and “judge not”, and not the Jesus Christ who said “Go and sin no more” and “Woe woe woe” and the Jesus Christ who gave us the most detailed, vivid, graphic and horrifying descriptions of hell and the judgment of sinners that exists in the Bible! Talk about anything, everything but what the Bible actually says!
Why? Because you don’t want to drive the people, the paying customers, away, do you? What’s the matter with you? Are you crazy or something? How are we going to pay the mortgages and utilities on these buildings? How are we going to fund our parachurch organizations? How are we going to pay our salaries?
And if the faith of our believers is challenged because the churches aren’t continually growing and getting bigger, if we aren’t always baptizing more people this year than last year, what will happen to that faith? What will happen if our believers are forced to stop relying on things that they can see and measure, and start trusting in things that they can’t see? And what will happen to our faith? If we have to start living by faith, the faith of Abraham, what will happen to us? What will happen to me? And it is not like we are doing something WRONG. After all, haven’t you heard that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?
Well, yes, that is true. You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. The issue, however, is that Christians are not supposed to be out there trying to catch flies! When Jesus Christ restored Peter after Simon denied Him thrice, Jesus Christ didn’t say “catch my flies.” No, Jesus Christ said “feed my sheep!” Those who are predestined to be born again in Jesus Christ, those that Jesus Christ has been Lord of since the foundation of the world, are not flies! They are sheep! SHEEP! Jesus Christ is the good shepherd, the one who came, loves, died for, resurrected for, and protects the sheep! Jesus Christ was given the sheep by God the Father, was obedient and submissive perfectly to God the Father, and for this reason was glorified by God the Father, and therefore is Lord of the sheep because of God the Father!
So then, what of the flies? Well, they have their lord also. And who is the lord of the flies? Satan! Beelzebub! The word Beelzebub literally means “lord of the flies!” And why? Because flies CORRUPT. They carry GERMS. They lay eggs in food, which hatches into maggots and SPOILS IT! Flies go to things that are pure and good and spoil it, making it loathsome, contemptible, refuse, good for nothing except to be thrown out and burned or used as fertilizer or compost! Put a pile of garbage or excrement on the ground and the flies will head right towards it! To the Jews, flies represented corruption (similar to leaven), corruption represented sin, and Satan, the serpent of old was the ruler of it! So those who are out there attempting to attract flies, as Jesus Christ said as recorded in His gospel, God is not their Father!
Instead, Satan is their father, Satan was a murderer from the beginning, and his children – the ones seeking flies – are deceivers, liars, corruptors and murderers just as is he! They are these things because they withhold the truth, the love, the beauty of God’s Word from people and instead give them things to please the flesh! Things to tickle the ears! Things that sound good to deaf ears, that look good to dull eyes, and feel good to hard, cold dead hearts! You give dogs, swine or flies flesh, rotten corrupt stinking flesh, and they’ll eat it! But God’s children, God’s beloved, precious beautiful children, the ones so precious that God sent His Own Son for, will not eat flesh. They need Spirit! They need the Word of Life! If it is flesh, it is not corrupt, fallen flesh that flies want, but it is the Bread of Life that is Jesus Christ! Those children right now are going hungry, malnourished, wanting for true, good holy spiritual food because oh so many pastors, preachers and teachers are withholding it from them. They are withholding it from them because they are captive to the thinking of this world, and this world esteems a huge towering building full of flies – counting it for success – while despising two or three sheep gathered together in the Name of Jesus Christ, calling it a failed dead church that isn’t growing because what the pastor is preaching is irrelevant!
Irrelevant. Relevant. Did you know that there is actually a “Christian” magazine called “Relevant.” Isn’t that something? Go check it out to see what I am talking about. It’s a magazine for flies. They’re far from the only ones. Charisma? Flies. Christianity Today? Flies. Focus On The Family? Flies. Christian Coalition? Moral Majority? Traditional Values Coalition? Family Research Council? Flies. Civil rights movement? Flies. Sojourners? Flies. All who are after the things of this world, who are after the leaven and not the bread … flies.
You know what is real good at getting after flies. Venus flytraps. But do you know what happens? THE FLY DIES! And why are we surprised? The same lord of the flies is the one whose only mission is to steal, kill and destroy. Do not be satisfied with ministries and works that are of the lord of the flies. Instead, seek Jesus Christ’s true ministry. Go, and do it quickly.
Posted in Bible, Christianity, devotional, evangelism, false doctrine, false teaching, Jesus Christ | Tagged: Beelzebub, christian living, faith, relevant, religious left, religious right, seeker sensitive, worldliness | 5 Comments »
Posted by Job on December 25, 2010
In Bible-based Christianity today, there are two major camps. The largest camp by far is evangelical Christianity, and then there is fundamentalist Christianity. In terms of doctrine, it is fair to say that Bible-based evangelicals and Bible-based fundamentalists are indistinguishable. Instead, the core difference between is their approach to “the world”, or the larger culture. Fundamentalists believe in remaining separate from the larger culture however and whenever possible. Evangelicals believe in fully engaging the larger culture however and whenever possible. Evangelicals fear what happens to the larger culture when the influence of the church is removed. Fundamentalists fear what happens to the church when the influence of the culture is present.
Both groups have a large body of Bible verses on their side. For instance, in the Old Testament, fundamentalists point to how Israel was called to be separate from the other nations, and how they fell into apostasy when they refused to do so and wound up adopting the evil practices and false religions of the pagans. Evangelicals mention how Israel was called to be a light to the other nations (and some even claim that Israel erred in failing to try to convert the other nations) and of course speak of how the priests and prophets were integral to Israel’s government and culture. In the New Testament, evangelicals speak of the mandate to be salt and light to the nations, and of Jesus Christ’s prayer that the church not be taken out of the world. Fundamentalists counter with the Biblical admonitions of how we should not love the world or be conformed to it.
It comes down to fundamentalists and evangelicals’ having different views on how to interpret and live out the “in the world but not of it” not only for the individual Christian’s daily life, but for the mission of the church in the world as a whole. Is our role of the church to preserve itself as Christ’s spotless bride (and to ward against apostasy) or to restrain evil in – and possibly even help reform – the world?
Now the New Testament appears to provide more evidence to the evangelicals, if one uses the number of Bible verses as a gauge. However, when one understands that many of the Bible verses that appear to endorse “taking on the culture” were actually in the context of liberating Christians from dead Jewish practices (i.e. the words of Jesus Christ to the Pharisees and the writings of Paul to Gentiles), and still more were meant to warn Christians against becoming monastics (which was a common practice of both certain Jewish sects and of zealous Gentile pagans). Also, consider the judgments of Jesus Christ of the church in Revelation 2 and 3 – and especially to the Laodicean church – was over their failure to keep themselves pure, and not over their failure to take on, influence and change the world.
Now the evangelical arguments for engaging the culture are many, and most of them are supported with very sound theological foundations that have excellent Biblical support. The problem is that the witness of both the Bible and of church history is consistent: whenever the church takes on the culture, the culture wins. And whenever the church engages the culture, the result is never the culture becoming more like the church, but the church becoming more like the culture. It has been this way ever since Lot pitched his tent towards Sodom (and the disastrous consequences that resulted).
The reason is that when we take on the culture, we move outside of what we are called to do. We go from God’s mission, God’s mandate, God’s territory and into our own. So, we do not have God’s resources at our disposal for the “culture-changing” mission. Instead, we have our own resources. Now these resources may be considerable, especially in wealthy, powerful cultures where a large percentage of the population adheres to or respects some of Christianity. For instance, lots of money can be raised, lots of manpower can be marshaled, and things ranging from moving oratorical skills, inspiring artistic talents, and cunning organizational or strategic abilities can be dedicated.
And it is because of all this great human ability united towards a common purpose, it is possible to win a few battles. And when those battles are won, it does honestly appear as if God is on their side, especially if one’s approach to Christianity is numbers-driven, results-driven, outcome-driven etc. … anything that allows you to evaluate your success based on something that comes to fruition relatively quickly and is easy to measure.
But the truth is that it is all illusory. Gains made are turned back; battles may be won but the war is lost. The reason: Christians are not the only ones with great human abilities at their disposal. Non-Christians have the same. Not only that, they have superior numbers and resources, plus the god of this world, Satan, on their side.
With these “facts on the ground”, to employ a military term, the only way for a Christian to be able to claim victory in culture wars is to become so compromised and worldly, to become so dispirited by a series of defeats, surrenders and capitulations that a lesser defeat seems like a victory. It is like a sports team who goes winless for 10 straight years, then posts a season where they win a single game (or maybe 2), lose the rest, and celebrate it as progress. Or the situation of a school where 95% of its students are performing under grade level, and when “only” 75% of the students are performing under grade level, the principal and teachers are rewarded with promotions and bonuses, and a party is thrown for the parents. Or when a military goes into war with great aspirations i.e. to force a complete surrender and a peace treaty according to the terms of the invading army, but instead finds itself beaten, driven back and humbled, and winds up having to “declare victory” based on a much more modest set of “goals” that do not come close to justifying the invasion in the first place, and withdrawing while leaving the enemy regime and military in an even stronger position than they were before. So, evangelical theology – doctrine and practice – must contort itself in ways to contrive failures as successes so that both past endeavors that did fail and future efforts that will fail can be justified.
Now this should not be viewed in terms of fundamentalists’ possessing any sort of virtue for refusing to involve themselves in this folly. Quite the contrary, fundamentalists have a different set of problems of their own. Instead, all virtue and wisdom – all credit – belongs to the God who inspired the very Bible that is to be our guide on this matter and all others. And it is to this Bible that we can turn to for clear evidence that the church is not to fight for the culture, because the culture is not worth fighting for.
The Bible text in question: Genesis 4:16-24. Why? Because this text deals with man’s increasing in number and a culture forming as a result. It is true: God did create and give to mankind certain foundations or building blocks of culture. For instance, God created the institutions of marriage and family by joining together Adam and Eve and telling them to procreate. God also created occupations (work or labor) by making Adam the keeper of the garden of Eden, and by commanding Adam to till the ground to support himself and his family after the fall. So, it is safe to proceed from there with the position that marriage, family and labor were given by God to man through special, divine revelation and that they therefore are to be promoted and nurtured by the church among Christians in order to have marriages, families and labor that glorifies God. (Working to somehow sanctify the marriage/family/work habits of non-Christians is not part of our Biblical mandate.)
But in Genesis 4:16-24, we see other cultural developments taking place wholly outside of God’s involvement. We know this because this passage deals with the lineage of Cain, who was driven from God’s presence for murdering righteous Abel, and not with the Godly line of Seth. Now the Bible doesn’t deal much with Cain’s seed (or with people outside of God’s covenant in general except when they interact with or take actions that effect God’s covenant people) so we can take the position that this information was included for a reason, so that we can draw lessons from it. And what do we learn?
First, we learn that Cain built a city. So, civilization, or a more advanced and orderly structured human society, was a development that came from human invention and not as a result of divine command or revelation. Second, we learn that one of Cain’s progeny, Lamech, corrupted the institution of marriage by taking two wives. Further, this same Lamech created the beginnings of false religion by making authoritative claims – based on himself as the sole authority and source of power – and compelling other humans to hear and heed his claims. Also, Lamech’s claims – that if Cain would be avenged sevenfold, that he would be avenged seventy sevenfold – were designed specifically to emulate, challenge, magnify himself against, and rise above God’s power and revelation. This has been the purpose and goal of all false religions and ideologies ever since. Further, Lamech’s involving his wives in his religious pronouncements gave an organization to it, so Lamech then was not the originator of some self-styled individualized spirituality system internal to himself, but false organized religion observed and shared by other people.
Then there was Lamech’s own children. One began the practice of living in tents and also of cattle ranching, which was higher, more advanced and organized socioeconomic based lifestyle, a key cultural component of civilized societies. Another, Jubal, created music, and another still, Tubalcain, created metallurgy. Both of these are vital to both the arts and commerce, and necessary elements to the formation of higher culture and of civilization.
Add it all up, and you have cities, God-dishonoring marriages (marriage quickly became merely arrangements for economic and tribal purposes), false religion, advanced economics (and a lifestyle centered around it), the creative arts and advancing technology. What do you have? Civilization. Culture. And with all the norms, morals and values that go with it. Again, while God did give basic, lower forms or building blocks of culture as part of divine command and revelation, the higher forms, the cultural advancements, came from the line of Cain. They did not come from the Godly line of Seth, or of any of God’s covenant people.
Now this does not mean that culture is wholly, inherently evil. Quite the contrary, the Bible is filled with examples of God using culture and guiding or establishing cultural norms when dealing with His covenant people, including the fact that God organized Old Testament Israel along tribal lines. And Jesus Christ Himself was born in a Jewish culture that He loved, adhered to and respected. It is clear from Romans 13 and other places that Christians are not to be anarchists, subversives or other elements that debase and marginalize culture, because God uses some elements of culture to restrain evil. Amazingly, this actually does include false religion: consider that murder, adultery, theft etc. are considered sinful by Islam. These things are evidence of common grace, of God’s general revelation to all people. We have a merciful God who causes it to rain for the just and the unjust so that both can have water to drink and food to eat, and for that we rejoice!
However, the unjust are the unjust still. The Biblical record is clear: culture – or at least higher culture beyond marriage, family and work – was an innovation of the seed of Cain acting apart from God’s special revelation or direct command. And Revelation tells us that Babylon, the result of Cain’s work (human civilization), will be judged for its wickedness, which include acts defiance against God and of persecution of God’s people throughout all of human history beginning with Cain’s murder of righteous Abel.
So, human culture is not to be engaged and reformed by the church. Instead, human culture’s fate is to be judged and destroyed by God, and replaced by New Jerusalem. New Jerusalem is not a human city built by fallen human efforts (which describes Cain’s city and all since) but a city built by God. A city or civilization built by humans will have a fallen human culture that is not worth fighting for. But New Jerusalem will have a redeemed Godly culture that we will not have to fight for, and that is what the church should set its eyes in anticipation for. Instead of loving and fighting for that which is corrupt, fallen and will be destroyed (this world), we should love and fight for that which is redeemed and will last forever (the world to come).
Christians have no part in Cain’s city, and should not even desire or aspire to, for the very idea of being a stakeholder in something that is wicked and will be destroyed is folly. It is worse than buying stock in a company that you know will go bankrupt and be shut down. It is worse because the money that you invest in that stock is temporary, but investing your heart and labor into Babylon will have eternal consequences. That is why instead of loving and laboring for what man has built, Christians should instead labor for and love what GOD is building.
Before you ask about Old Jerusalem – which is of special interests to dispensational Christians and many others – realize that while that city was given an exalted status in the Bible for old covenant Jews, please realize that Jerusalem was not built by Israelites. Instead, the first reference to Jerusalem in the Bible has the city being ruled by a wicked pagan king, and associated with the Jebusites. Similar is true of Bethlehem: it was not built by Israelites, but was a pre-existing village built by pagans that Israel assumed control of. Please note that God did not have Israel build a new nation from scratch, but rather had them take possession of a nation that already had cities, villages, economic infrastructure etc. in place.
From this, we can deduce that God wanted to build His own permanent city for His own people, and that Jerusalem and Israel were to be the temporary schoolmasters. And we see evidence of this even in the Old Testament scriptures from Old Testament Israel, as even with them, the emphasis began to shift from Old Testament Israel and its physical temple to the eschatological Zion. Let us recall that in Acts, Stephen bore witness of the fact that with the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, this shift had in fact taken place. The result: Stephen became the first Christian martyr, murdered by Jews in love with the temple built by human hands (including the very evil Herod!) and the physical city built by pagans.
Make no mistake, Stephen, who rejected the world, was martyred at the hands of those who were unwilling to separate from the culture, from the world. In this manner, Christians are to be as Stephen, and not as those who stoned him.
Please keep in mind: all those born again in Christ Jesus will have their portion in New Jerusalem. Those who do not will spend eternity with the lost in the lake of fire. If you are not born again in Christ Jesus, you will have no part in New Jerusalem. To be in Christ Jesus and have a part in New Jerusalem:
Posted in Bible, Christianity | Tagged: christian living, common grace, culture wars, economics, evangelical Christianity, evangelicalism, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, general revelation, Genesis 4:16-24, Jabal, Jubal, marriage, orthodoxy, orthopraxy, Tubalcain, work | 4 Comments »
Posted by Job on December 7, 2010
While driving around this morning, I listened to the Michael Youssef radio broadcast. It was primarily from the book of Jude, and was on the subject of how apathy on the part of Christians allow abominable heresies and sins to gain creeping acceptance first into the church and then in the culture. (Though he did not mention it explicitly, the subtext of Youssef’s presentation had to do with homosexuality.) However, something that Youssef stated as an illustrative point in his larger presentation captured my attention because it reminded me of the long string of ecclesiastical scandals that are occurring both locally and nationally.
Dr. Youssef recalled the story of the children of Israel’s first – and abortive – attempt to enter into Canaan, the land that God had promised to them. The pastor put an interesting spin on this narrative that highlighted the importance of leadership of God’s people, and the exceedingly negative consequences that are borne not only by the leaders themselves but also the flock, the ekklesia, those being led, when the leaders of God’s people fail to live up to their responsibilities. According to his exposition of events, Israel could have – and should have – marched right on in and possessed the land, but instead, according to his words “first they had a planning meeting, appointed a committee, and conducted a feasibility study.” Now I won’t get into the larger issues raised by his somewhat creative exposition, for instance whether Moses himself was at least partly to blame for this failure, or whether contemporary Christians should simply “go by faith” instead of relying on prudent human planning and such; instead I treated his remarks as being “self-contained” within the sermon with no further or wider application. But even in that limited scope of reference, one thing can be drawn from it that does have a wider application: that the twelve spies appointed by Moses (the pastor) were placed in positions of leadership (let us call them deacons) over Israel (the church).
And keep in mind, deacons and other spiritual leaders are supposed to be chosen because of their qualifications and fitness. They are supposed to have a knowledge of the word of God, faith in God, spiritual maturity, stable lives, good families, well-run households, and excellent reputations all maintained over a long period of time. Why? Because if someone is placed into spiritual leadership unqualified, that greatly increases the chance of their failure, and as the failure of the spies, or deacons, in this matter of the people of God standing at the crossroads between receiving fulfillment of the promise and reaping death because of their faithless forbearance in the desert, illustrates, the failure of such leaders has very negative consequences for the church, God’s elect.
How? Because TEN OF THE TWELVE SPIES FAILED. They rejected their knowledge of God that had been given to their people and handed down through the generations. They doubted the witness of this same God after He crushed Egypt and delivered them. They suppressed the belief in this God that gave them water and manna in the desert. They abrogated the covenant that God had made with them at Sinai, and they despised the very same God who showed them mercy and spared them at the intercession of Moses after their sin with the golden calf. These ten spies came back with a false, lying report that the promise of God was a lie, the word of God was to no effect, and that they should turn and go back from the promise of salvation and return the way that they had come back into sin lest they be destroyed by the obstacles and trials in their way! And that is the irony. Egypt and Babylon in the Bible are often used to represent sin. And the wilderness that they were wandering in? It was called the wilderness of Sin, named after the very same moon god that Muslims worship to this day. Israel appropriated the name of this false deity and made it into a generic term that applies to all acts of rebellion against God’s word, or “sin”. So, these ten deacons told Israel that the way to safety was to go back into sin! They came back with the common thinking of our time, which is to choose “the devil we know” to the unknown, to stick with the distorted sense of happiness in the past and the false sense of security in the present to pressing on to what God has promised us in the future!
So, these ten failed deacons, in a very real way, were among the first false teachers or false preachers dispensing spiritual error. Like worldly wise man in Pilgrim’s Progress, they were telling the faithful to depart from the path that God has commanded and to turn aside to another one, one that according to human thinking is preferable, more easy, more rational, more sensible. It is the path that allows us to reject the promise of a better eternity in favor of riches and other pleasures or desires now. Or maybe it is the path that encourages us to reject salvation by faith in a God that we cannot see or comprehend in favor of some system of false faith plus works that we can tangibly grasp, count and measure. Or perhaps it is a path that teaches us that we have to be part of the world so that we can influence it, change it for the better, and be more effective ministers and evangelists in it instead of accepting the consistent commandment of Scripture that we are to be holy, that is separate from the world and its evil and carnal things, as our God is holy. Or maybe it is yet another path that teaches us that the way to be holy is to be monastics and thereby reject Jesus Christ’s commandments that we are to be IN the world but not of it.
And what happened? The children of Israel LISTENED to the ten deacons. They rejected the two faithful deacons who gave the good report and urged them to believe God’s promise, to stay obedient to God’s word, and that though the way may be dangerous and difficult and require many sacrifices and much hard work, that ultimately their God would prevail on their behalf. Instead, they went after the bad deacons who gave them information that sounded logical, rational and sensible to their human thinking and conformed to their own experience of failure before sin, of failing to live up to God’s standard and pretending that there is saving virtue in compromising with “second best.” They convinced themselves that God’s way was too hard, and that God would understand. After all, “we tried.” We “gave it our best shot.” They were utterly convinced that either God would give them some sort of accommodation for their weakness, or that they would find a new, better “god” who would! And that is precisely what the false teachers and preachers are offering today: a more accommodating deity that is utterly false, the invention of man’s wicked hands and corrupt faithless hearts.
And you know the result of their listening to the ten deacons. Not only was the receipt of the promise given to God’s people delayed by 40 more years, but every single one of those people – or at least the adult people – who listened to those failed deacons perished in the desert of Sin. Realize this: in a true, explicit and real sense, not merely in a spiritualized metaphorical or allegorical one, THE PEOPLE WHO LISTENED TO THE BAD SPIRITUAL LEADERS DIED IN SIN! And as those who listened to false teachers died in sin in that time, so will happen to those who listen to false teachers today. But that is the warning to the followers. What about the responsibility of the leaders?
Now I do not wish to acquit the followers of their responsibility. They too had been handed down the oracles of God by their forefathers. They too had seen the might of God in Egypt and His provision in the desert, and they too had been made God’s covenant people at Sinai. And also, they too had heard the report of the two good spies, the two faithful deacons! So what of them? I suppose that the free will Christian will say that the assembly made a free will choice to disobey God. I suppose that the Calvinist will say that the assembly made such a choice because they did not receive the necessary faith from God that was required to obey His Word. Whichever option (or any other) that suits your theological system, it begs the question: WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED HAD THE BAD DEACONS INSTEAD BEEN GOOD SPIRITUAL LEADERS AND DELIVERED A GOOD REPORT AS DID THE OTHER TWO?
The answer: we really do not know. It is easy to presume that the children of Israel would have at least made a foray into Canaan (but even that is not definite) but who knows what would have happened when these faithless, stiff-necked people encountered the first bit of difficulty. It is possible, and indeed likely, that the national failure caused by these ten wicked leaders only delayed an inevitable later failure. (The Exodus narrative does hint at this, incidentally, as when the children of Israel first left Egypt, God was careful not to lead them into battle against other nations because He knew their hearts and didn’t want them to give up.)
But this is what we do know: if nothing more than on an external, superficial and surface level, the assembly stumbled because the failure of the ten deacons who gave the bad report. The ten deacons, appointed in their positions as they were, failed in their positions, and as a result caused people to stumble. And what does Jesus Christ say about those who cause people to stumble? “It would be better for them if a millstone were hung around their necks and they were thrown into the sea!” And keep in mind: Jesus Christ in His statement did not make any equivocations. There were no allowances for the Calvinist who says “well, that person who stumbled wasn’t predestined anyway.” There are no allowances for the Arminian who says “well, that person had a free will choice between right and wrong and chose to follow that false teacher.” Instead, regardless of the individual responsibility of the person who follows the Christian leader into error and falls, the Christian leader who fails is still responsible for his failure, and for leading others into failure!
And that should be a sobering thought, for we know the great punishments that the Bible declares for Christians who lead other Christians into error. (For those who know not of what I write, please first familiarize yourself with the dire judgments of Jesus Christ in the gospels against the Pharisees and scribes, and then please familiarize yourself with the pastoral epistles: 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus.) And because of this, Christians not yet in leadership should be careful and faithful. Do not offer yourself for positions of leadership – or accept any leadership offer made – if you do not meet the requirements set forth in the Bible (said requirements can be found in the pastoral epistles). If you are already in a position of leadership but do not fit the requirements, resign immediately. Do not view it as a failure, but instead as a spiritual success: evidence that you love the commandments of God more than you love the power and privileges of your position. Instead of being satisfied with your rewards on earth for serving in a position for which you do not merit, you are setting your sights on your rewards in heaven for obeying God’s word, and will prosper in your way and works all the more!
And for those who are legitimately in leadership: stay vigilant. Resist temptation so that Satan will flee from you. You must both be faithful and true in exercising the duties of your leadership position so that you do not cause people to stumble AND remain vigilant so that you will continue to remain qualified to be a leader. The evil one attacks both and does not care whether he is able to undermine one or the other. By taking a discerning look at the Christian landscape today, it is self-evident that as much confusion and harm results from sound teaching and good works emanating from Christians occupying leadership positions that they are Biblically unqualified for as it does from Christians purveying false teachings. Also, it should be said that the unqualified Christian leader who initially adheres from the truth will – as a result of the combination of his lack of fitness for his office and the increased temptations that come as a result of his inhabiting the office – will at some point succumb to error.
Also, if you are a pastor or head pastor: be careful who you put into positions of leadership. Through prayer first and then with all other resources you have at your disposal, only fill offices for people that are fit for them. Also, do not hesitate to remove people from their positions once they prove unfit. Again, go back to Moses in this example. While being careful not to draw firm or deep conclusions – for instance something that would firmly or specifically accuse Moses with error in this matter when the Bible itself does not – what would have happened if Moses had appointed 12 good deacons in this matter? Or what if he had sent only the 2 good deacons and not elevated the other 10? (Yes, it is better to be “understaffed” with fit people only than it is to be “adequately staffed” with a mixture of fit and unfit church officers, as the narrative of Gideon, specifically when his tiny band defeated a large army of Midianites, demonstrates … compare Gideon’s victory in that matter to the defeat of Israel’s army due the sin of ONE MAN, Achan!) Please recall: as a result of the failure of the ten bad spies that Moses sent, that Moses had to spend 40 years in the desert with those wicked people. And as a result of the provocations of those wicked people, Moses himself sinned, and himself never entered the land of promise. Though his not being allowed to enter the Promised Land should not be viewed in the same context as those who perished in the wilderness, we can still take from the example of Moses that when Christian pastors appoint unfit people, or when they allow unfit people to remain in their positions, it is not without consequences!
Be not deceived: God holds His pastors accountable for the leadership that they provide. It is impossible for a pastor to try to distance himself from or “pass the buck” concerning an unfit leader that he either appointed or refused to remove from office: far be it from a pastor to attempt the same sort of “buck passing” that Adam attempted when confronted by God for Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden.
In conclusion, being in a position of leadership in the church is no light matter. One only needs to take a look at our Christian landscape, and then refer back to the warnings to several of the churches given by Jesus Christ in Revelation 2 and 3, to see what happens when the issue of church leadership is taken in such a trifling manner. Christian leaders – and followers – should take the corrective measures given by Jesus Christ in Revelation 2 and 3 and also given elsewhere in scripture to heart and also apply them in our own practice. In this matter, we are not to deceive ourselves in being hearers of the Word of God only and thinking that our hearing is suffice, but instead we must be doers of the Word of God, keepers of what the Word of God says. For God’s judgment begins not in the world but in the church, and in the awesome, terrible day of God’s judgment, who will be able to stand? Let us take heed of what God’s Word commands concerning what He requires of His leaders so that when the day of God’s judgment comes, we will not be found wanting with regards to this matter.
Prayer point 1: Please pray that our pastors are called by God, that they execute their own offices and affairs wisely and Biblically, and that they appoint and retain deacons that are fit to serve.
Prayer point 2: Please pray that our brothers and sisters who receive offers to serve would pray, examine themselves according to the Bible, and only accept if they meet God’s standard. Please pray that those who are presently serving while unfit would obey God and cease serving. Please pray that those who are serving while fit will continue in their fitness and their faithful service, and that God would protect them from the snares and devices of the evil one.
Prayer point 3: Please pray that our brothers and sisters in Christ that are not leaders will – in a Godly, Biblically faithful manner – reject and refuse to follow leaders that are unfit, and pastors who knowingly appoint unfit leaders, and refuse to remove unfit leaders from their posts.
Posted by Job on July 3, 2010
And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a [certain] man, kneeling down to him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. Matthew 17:14-21
Much has been written in the area of spiritual warfare and deliverance. Some of it is based on scripture, some on experience, some on things taught and handed down, some on what purports to be revelation, some on conjecture, and usually the final product is some combination of these things. I do not deny that these techniques cannot yield results, because that would be denying what I have seen with my own eyes and borne witness to with my own testimony. However, “whatever works” cannot be the basis of sound Christian belief and practice. A good reason for this is simple: “results may vary!” In the scientific community, one of the major tests used to establish and verify a theory using experiments or observation is repeatable results. Since the results of the various spiritual warfare techniques, strategies and methods do in fact vary – a fact that the teachers and proponents of these methods freely admit – we cannot rely on unreliable experientialism for our Christian doctrine and practice. Instead, we must rely on the Bible. The Bible is God’s unique, Holy Spirit inspired revelation that is inerrant, infallible and the final authority in all things. So, even though the varying results is enough to justify being suspect of a lot of the spiritual warfare and deliverance teachings, the truth is that the doctrine of scripture means that Christians should not rely on practices and beliefs not supported in scripture even if they did work every time. So even if it does work, then what profit is it if the “work” is not of God and does not glorify God? The purpose of Christian living is to serve and glorify God, not to do the things that we want to do and believe that should be done ourselves. As the Bible is the final authority and is 100% infallible, then the Bible gives us perfect instructions on how to live to serve and glorify God in all areas. The Bible is what teaches us, and the Bible is what we must use to teach others.
So, based on the revelation of Jesus Christ as given to us in the Bible – and the purpose of the entirety of scripture is to reveal Jesus Christ – the best, surest way and the starting point for all spiritual warfare and deliverance is prayer. Prayer is the first and best weapon against the evil one and his forces. Consider, for instance, the Lord’s prayer.
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as [it is] in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. Matthew 6:9-13 and also Luke 11:2-4
How many of you knew that this was a spiritual warfare and deliverance prayer? It is. For one thing, it deals with forgiveness of sin, as it asks that our own sins be forgiven by God AND that we forgive the sins of others. Failure to forgive the sins of others, especially against us, leads to anger and resentment that Ephesians 4:26-27 tells us “gives a place to the devil.” For another, it asks that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, and it is certainly God’s will for evil spirits and their influence to be bound, hindered, cast out and defeated (Matthew 12:28, Luke 11:20). But there is also a more direct reference. “Deliver us from evil” in the Lord’s prayer not only means “keep us from sin” (with all the spiritual warfare things that go along with sinning) but many expert theologians and Bible scholars follow Martin Luther in asserting that “deliver us from evil” should read “deliver us from the evil one”, which is Satan.
Now Martin Luther was not one to deny that Christians in our time need to directly confront unclean spirits. Quite the contrary, Luther claimed to have seen Satan and thrown a bottle of ink at him! (Small wonder that a current popular trend – or evil spirit – of deception moving through modern Christianity is to attack Martin Luther and claim that the Reformation, the exodus from the darkness of Roman Catholicism, was a mistake!) So, the Lord’s Prayer is quite literally and unquestionably a direct, powerful spiritual warfare and deliverance prayer. It petitions that God would overcome the presence and effects of sin and evil spirits in our lives. It even addresses the area most often neglected by spiritual warfare teachers, which is the flesh or the old man which still exerts a negative influence on born again Christians as described in Romans 5-7 when asking God to help us to forgive others, and in particular not to view the transgressions of others against us personally more prominently than we view our own transgressions against God. What stronger impulses of the flesh are there than hypocrisy and self-centeredness? And this prayer also explicitly directly asks for protection from all evil spirits through a reference to their leader, Satan. And as Jesus Christ explained in Matthew 12:24-30, being protected from Satan means being protected from all evil spirits.
However, the importance and primacy of prayer in spiritual warfare is often overlooked. Instead, the commonly advised and emulated strategy is to imitate the actions of Jesus Christ and His apostles during their spectacular encounters with evil spirits, and also to mix in things learned from other teachings and our own experiences. In doing so, we ignore that the most repeated and striking thing concerning the ministry of Jesus Christ was His prayer life. His ministry began with 40 days of fasting and prayer in the wilderness, and the gospels make it clear that seeking the will of God the Father in prayer was far more prominent in the ministry of Jesus Christ than all the sermons, exorcisms and miracles put together. To put it better, Jesus Christ came not so much to preach and perform miracles and exorcisms as He did to do the will of God the Father, and so Jesus Christ only preached, performed miracles and did exorcisms when it was the will of God the Father that He do so. When it was not the will of God the Father for Him to do so, Jesus Christ did no sermons, miracles or exorcisms, because even being God in the flesh with power and being deserving of praise and glory Himself, had Jesus Christ done those things of His own accord or on His own initiative, God the Father would not have been glorified, and Jesus Christ would have thereby sinned. (Of course, we know that Jesus Christ, being God, cannot sin.) And this was how Satan tempted Jesus Christ during His time of fast … by attempting to get Jesus Christ to take an action apart from the will and direction of God. It was the same temptation that Satan gave to Adam. Where Adam failed, Jesus Christ succeeded. And Christians are to follow Jesus Christ’s success and not Adam’s failure. Follow Adam, and man is glorified. Follow Jesus Christ and God is glorified. To God alone be the glory!
That is why spiritual warfare and deliverance must begin with and be dominated by prayer. We cannot take initiative or authority upon ourselves. We cannot presume to know, for instance, if the issue that we are addressing is motivated by evil spirits in the first place. We also cannot presume the manner and time in which God desires the evil spirit to be cast out. Further, we cannot even presume that God wants the evil spirit to be driven off in the first place! A powerful example of this is the thorn in the flesh described by Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Now there has been a lot of needless conjecture as to what exactly the “thorn in the flesh” was, but this is only because people have such difficulty believing what the text plainly says, often for doctrinal reasons. But it is clear: “the messenger of Satan” is clearly in the Greek “the angel of Satan”, and we all know that angels of Satan are evil, unclean spirits, or demons. Now for some people, the idea that a born again Christian, an apostle no less, would be tormented by a demon is doctrinally troublesome. For others, the wording of the passage makes it appear as “there was given to me” means that God gave the demon to Paul, which would seem to charge God with being responsible for temptation or evil where scripture tells us that God cannot be the author of evil. However, this stunning passage does recall how God allowed and used Satan in His dealings with Job in the Old Testament. Just as God allowed Satan to attack Job in the Old Testament for purposes that glorified God and ultimately were a blessing to Job, God allowed one of Satan’s demons to do the same regarding the apostle of Jesus Christ Paul. So then, it would not have been to the will of God or glory of God to drive this evil spirit from oppressing or tormenting Paul. Please recall: the evil spirit could not possess Paul because Christians are possessed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. So, the demon could only afflict Paul.
And please note that Paul first sought the Lord in prayer concerning the evil spirit. Scripture does not record failed attempts at spiritual warfare and deliverance by Paul concerning the demon, and we cannot presume that these failed attempts existed because the Bible does not record them. Instead, it records Paul’s asking God three times for permission to drive the demon away, and God denying this permission for His own sovereign, God-glorifying purposes which were in service to God’s plan to conform Paul into the image of Jesus Christ! So let us not be deceived. These are not matters to be trifled with. Christians in the spiritual warfare and deliverance ministries must not act according to presumption, self-will and self-initiative. Instead, we must be guided and directed by God’s Holy Spirit. Being Holy Spirit-led and Holy Spirit-filled requires much preparation in ways that include prayer, Bible study, fellowship and good works which are conducive to spiritual maturity in advance (Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting) and also seeking God’s will during the necessary time. Note that I did not say during the time of spiritual confrontation with the forces of evil, for God must permit and instruct us when and whether He wants us to participate in such spiritual confrontations to begin with. Again, it is God’s will that is being done, not ours. It is God that is being glorified, not us. And we are acting in accordance to God’s sovereign will and not our own desires or feelings. This is why we must rely on prayer. We must humble ourselves and submit ourselves to God’s design, God’s plan, and God’s actions through prayer. Otherwise, we take rash actions of self-interest and self-will as did King Saul, who failed to wait on the Lord and found his kingdom and life – and those of his sons – taken from him.
Returning to apostle Paul, spiritual warfare and deliverance ministers have centered on the Ephesians 6:10-17 as one of their favorites for study and practice.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places]. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
Regrettably, one of the reasons for this is that this passage, when taken incautiously, can invite the flesh to imagine oneself in the manner of this strong, mighty righteous and powerful HUMAN warrior image against the forces of evil, an image that we have seen reinforced time and time again in secular Hollywood movies and TV shows. Incautious and out of contexts readings and applications of this passage may cause us to think that in the Name of Jesus Christ WE have the power, WE have the authority, WE have the dominion, WE can challenge and take over strongholds and defeat the enemy, and that in doing so God’s will shall be done and He shall be glorified. This is indeed the doctrines of many popular spiritual warfare and deliverance teachers. However, such self-seeking presumption is not coming in the Name of Jesus Christ at all, but instead coming in our own name. It is so tempting to reject the counsel of those who actually do come in the Name of Jesus Christ and instead come in their own names (see John 5:43), but reject it we must. For Jesus Christ said that all who call on His Name, even all who cast out devils and do great works using His Name are not truly His. People who use the Name of Jesus Christ in accordance with self-seeking are not Jesus Christ’s sheep, because though they call on the Name of God, like Adam they are following after their own hearts. Instead, Jesus Christ’s sheep will be people who are after God’s heart, so they will seek direction from God and patiently wait on God before they act. The identifying fruit of the spiritual warfare and deliverance minister who is God’s sheep is one who exhibits patience, humility and submission in seeking the will of God lest he sin and lead others into sin, and not one who rushes in according to his own human desires and limited knowledge and misuses and misappropriates the Name of Jesus Christ carelessly, recklessly, proudly and selfishly. Instead of seeking to take authority and power after the manner of human rulers, we should be seeking to submit ourselves to, rely upon and glorify God after the manner of God’s humble servants, including the one Jesus Christ who emptied Himself, came to earth as a man, suffered humiliation and rejection, and was slain for our sins in our place on the cross, and was raised for our justification. It is the manner of the humble Jesus Christ who was raised from the dead and is blessed forever that we should emulate and identify with, and not the manner of proud, presumptive, arrogant and self-willed humanity, or for that manner of the tempter and deceiver of humanity Satan, who in his presumption decided that he would be like the Most High (Isaiah 14:14). Make no mistake, but in doing anything, including spiritual warfare, without first making certain that we are doing God’s will and not man’s, we are emulating not Jesus Christ in His submission and sacrifice to the glory of God, but Satan in his mad and failed attempt at being a usurper of God’s glory. From such, spiritual warfare and deliverance minister, turn away!
Instead, turn your attention to the oft-neglected end of the “put on the whole armor of God” passage, which is verse 18, which reads “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” It clearly shows that the primary and main ingredient to spiritual warfare, to putting on the whole armor of God for confrontations against the enemy, is “praying always in asking to the Holy Spirit.” We are to always pray so that we can ask of the Holy Spirit that indwells all Christians concerning the Will of God. Without receiving and submitting to the will of God in spiritual warfare (or anything else) we aren’t performing spiritual warfare at all, but instead proud, self-seeking and harmful bombast that resists the Holy Spirit, misuses the Name of Jesus Christ, dishonors His sacrifice on the cross and refuses to glorify God the Father. Thus, so-called spiritual warfare that rejects prayer in supplication to the Holy Spirit before, during and after is nothing more than an abomination against the Holy Trinity in clear, explicit ways.
One should note that the primacy of prayer in spiritual warfare is given at the end of both Matthew 17:14-21 and of Ephesians 6:10-18. One also notes that no explicit references to prayer seem to be made in many of the New Testament exorcism narrative accounts and references. That is indeed curious, as one would think that in Matthew 17:14-21 and Ephesians 6:10-18 that the most important thing would come first as a lead instead of coming last, and also that there would be a stronger correlation depicted between prayer and spiritual warfare. This is still more evidence of how spiritual things often do not conform to our human expectations. It is a test of our faith, of our faithfulness, of our humility and submission to see if we will study the whole counsel of God as revealed in scripture. To see if we will seek God in spirit and in truth as He commanded us to so. To answer the door of our hearts when He stands and knocks so that He will come in, sup with us, and teach us the truth. Those of us truly interested in knowing and serving God will search, notice and find these things so that we can go about performing spiritual warfare and deliverance ministry – and please recall that ministry means service, and that it is service to God first and then to man – God’s way. Those who are not will cut corners, interpret passages out of context and selectively, and do whatever we can in order to claim to be serving God in God’s way when they will really be serving themselves in their own way.
So I ask and challenge you spiritual deliverance and warfare minister. In what way have you been serving in your ministry before now? And in what way will you serve in your ministry in the future?
Posted in Bible, Christianity, discernment, Jesus Christ, prayer, spiritual deliverance, spiritual deliverance techniques, spiritual warfare | Tagged: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, casting out devils, christian living, Christian walk, demon, doctrine, dominionism, Ephesians 4:26-27, Ephesians 6:10-17, Ephesians 6:18, evil spirit, faith, faithfulness, fasting, Isaiah 14:14, John 5:43, Luke 11:2-4, Luke 11:20, Matthew 12:24-30, Matthew 12:28, Matthew 17:14-21, Matthew 6:9-13, orthodoxy, orthopraxy, practice, Romans 5-7, spiritual maturity, the Lord's Prayer | 26 Comments »
Posted by Job on January 27, 2010
Sometimes, we try to put conditions on God. Or sometimes, we try to get God to prove Himself to us. We try to establish parameters or ground rules concerning our relationship with God. Or, we simply try to bargain with Him. We say to ourselves (or others) things like “God, give me a sign.” “God, if this happens then I know that it means that you want me to do that.” “God, if you do this for me, I will follow you.” Attempts to bribe God, manipulate God, make God our debtor or servant, even attempts to figure God out are common for many Christians. This behavior is very understandable. Often it is the result of confusion, frustration, fear or uncertainty, for instance. But in many cases, it is simply an attempt to deal with God in the same less than ideal way – i.e. manipulative, controlling, fearful – way that we deal with people, including ourselves. We are accustomed to using people. We are accustomed to being used by people. We do things this way to get what we want and to protect ourselves, and we may even tell ourselves that having interactions of this sort is a check on our own behavior, a way to keep US from exploiting others! Conducting relationships as business transactions is common to human behavior, and it is to the detriment of many husband-wife, child-parent, employer-employee, friendship and even church relationships.
Now not only are we generally not supposed to treat people that way, but we absolutely should not attempt this behavior with God. God is not human like us. Instead, God is sovereign. Attempting to either lower God or elevate ourselves to the point where we can deal with Him as if we and He are equals is sin. It ignores the fact that God is all-powerful, unique and Creator. It denies the fact that, as the Psalms say, we are the mere sheep of His pasture. It rejects the truth that God owns us, has complete and unchallenged control over our destinies, and pretends as if we are God’s business partners.
By treating God as a business partner, we give ourselves the delusion that we have a fallback option, or a safe way out. This way, we do not have to come to complete trusting faith and total reliance on God to meet our every need, or for God to be the One to determine what our needs are, the One who defines the difference between a need and a want for instance. We think that so long as we can ask for signs or set conditions, that if the sign does not come or the condition is not met, then we have the ability to walk away from the whole deal. In this way, instead of completely surrendering to God through faith and submission, we retain some control. We retain some influence. We retain some PRIDE. Or at least wo we think.
This is not to say that if we don’t like the conditions or if we think that the conditions change, we turn aside from Christianity. Oh no! Instead, if we don’t receive the sign or if the condition is not met, then we tell ourselves “it wasn’t God’s will.” If God does not respond in the way that we want Him to, we then take it upon ourselves to decide for ourselves what God’s will is. By this, we stop practicing Christianity, which is a faith of revelation (God’s gracious self disclosure of His existence, will and nature to us) and start practicing divination. Now with revelation, we get a picture of God that is accurate, the one that He wants us to have. But with divination, a false religious practice, we get a picture that is false, the picture that WE want to have or see, and not surrisingly it looks a lot like us! By setting a bunch of conditions and believing in and serving God, the result is serving ourselves.
Now a lot of us may use some Bible examples to justify the practices of setting conditions or asking for signs, such as Gideon and the fleece, Jepthath’s vow to make a sacrifice if he received victory in battle, or Jacob’s promise to serve God after he had his “Jacob’s ladder” dream. Well, just because a Bible character, even a Godly one, does something doesn’t make it OK. Witness Peter denying Jesus Christ or David’s incident with Uriah and Bathsheba. First, note that Gideon, Jacob and Jepthath acted before the giving of the law of Moses. More on that later. Next, note that all three had a tenuous, uncertain knowledge of or relationship with God at that point in their lives. Gideon and Jepthath were acting in the dark period of Israel during the time of the Judges, and Jacob was still a wheeling dealing conniver who was out only for himself. So, their actions reflected a lack of a knowledge of God’s requirements and character on their part, not the appropriate way for dealing with God, and God in His mercy and grace forgave them. However, the negative consequences of this type of behavior and of not knowing God’s nature or having a relationship with Him were still in view in the lives of these men, with the primary example being Jepthath’s offering his daughter as a human sacrifice.
The thing to remember is that when we try to set our own little rules or conditions for how we deal with God, we violate a direct commandment of scripture, which is Deuteronomy 6:16’s “Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.” Massah was a reference to how the children of Israel made continual demands of God in the wilderness to prove His power, faithfulness and goodness to them. By continually demanding through Moses that God provide them with food, meat, water and other things when they wanted them, it was not so much that they were challenging God’s power, God’s ability to lead and deliver them, even though they certainly were doing so. Instead, they were challenging God’s sovereignty. They were putting their own collective self-will up against the will of God, and insisting that God had no right to behave towards them as they pleased. Instead of submitting to the reality that they were God’s people and that they were to serve Him, Israel insisted that God serve them instead. This is a classic mindset of the false pagan and animistic religions of the time and place that Israel was living in. God was calling Israel out of that false religious mindset, out of the world (the term “ekklesia” which implies a group that is called out or set apart from the rest and was in the New Testament translated to be “church” was also applied to Israel), and commanding them to respond to the true and living God, but Israel’s uncircumcised, unredeemed and faithless hearts refused to do so. It got to the point where the Israelites actually complained about the lack of variety in their diet, as if the wilderness was some all you can eat buffet and God was their busboy and short order cook! As a result of their refusal to acknowledge God’s sovereignty and their status before God, that entire generation save Joshua and Caleb perished, sometimes in the most horrible of manners, without ever setting foot in the Promised Land.
We probably know Deuteronomy 6:16 better from the lips of Jesus Christ, as He quoted it to rebuke Satan in response to Satan’s temptations of Christ in the wilderness. Another way of rendering this passage can be (and I am borrowing this from the movie “The Miracle Maker”) is “you shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” Yet that is precisely what was done to Jesus Christ over and over again by the Pharisees, Saduccees, scribes, those who saw Jesus Christ, saw or heard of His mighty deeds but refused to acknowledge who He was. They kept trying to trick Him with questions, such as when the Sadducees’ questions about the resurrection. They tried to entrap Him with devices, such as the woman caught in adultery and whether to pay taxes to Caesar (attempts to place Him in no-win situations). And they asked Him to perform signs and miracles. It was not because they doubted His righteousness, because no one had observed or heard of His sinning. It was not because they doubted His wisdom and knowledge, for they had heard His teachings. And it was not because they doubted His ability to perform signs and miracles, because they had seen Him do so.
But the issue was that Jesus Christ did all those things on his own volition. He did it in His own Name for the Will of God the Father. In doing so, Jesus Christ was giving a revelation of Himself and of God the Father. However, these people were not interested in a revelation of Jesus Christ. They were not interested in a revelation of Jesus Christ. Instead, they wanted Jesus Christ to do THEIR bidding, NOT God’s Will. They wanted Jesus Christ to perform FOR THEM, and if He met THEIR CONDITIONS, then they would believe. If Jesus Christ met THEIR expectations, satisfied THEIR demands, fulfilled THEIR curiosities, catered to THEIR PRIDE AND EGO, THEN they would believe. Why? Because they were interested in serving themselves and their own ideas and lusts and not God. They did not want a revelation of God. They wanted Jesus Christ to reveal THEMSELVES, or a false god that believed like themselves and had their same desires, aspirations, prides, unclean thoughts and sins. In other words, they wanted an idol, an image of themselves to worship in the place of God. Why? Because the true God gives you want God wants you to have according to His sovereign will. A false god, an idol, gives you what you want.
So the people tempting Jesus Christ in this fashion were literally an example of Paul was describing in Romans 1:21-25. “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified [him] not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.”
These people literally knew God. They saw Jesus Christ, the Word of God in the Trinity, face to face. Further, to see Jesus Christ was to see God the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus Christ (and of the Father)! So those who heard, saw and touched Jesus Christ KNEW GOD! But they did not believe. They did not trust. They did not obey. They KNEW GOD but like the children of Israel in the desert, they did not have saving faith in Him. So they rejected Him because He would not bow to them, worship them, and give them the desires of their idolatrous hearts. Please recall that Satan asked Jesus Christ to bow and worship Him in the wilderness. Realize that the tempters of Jesus Christ were asking the very same thing. Give US a sign. Show US a miracle. Get down off the cross. Do what WE want you to do, THEN we will believe you and follow you. In doing so, they reject the truth, which is that we are but the sheep of God’s pasture (Psalm 100:3), and concoct this insane delusion that to serve God is to do God a FAVOR! These people felt that they would be doing Jesus Christ A FAVOR by believing in Him and following them! The One holy sovereign God, creator, ruler, master and sustainer of the universe! They believed that it would have been a privilege FOR JESUS CHRIST for them to believe and follow HIM!
Why? Well, because they were so special. They were the sons of Abraham, the people of the kings and prophets to whom the oracles of God were given. Well, when we act the same way as they did by believing that merely because we are Christians, God is obligated to lead us, guide us, or treat us in a certain way and if He doesn’t, well then we will just take our toys and go home, or go wherever we think that some “sign” is telling us to go! But do not be deceived. God is not mocked. Whatever we sow, we will reap (Galatians 6:7). If we keep playing with God as if He is a toy or some other thing of amusement to be trifled with, we will get more than what we bargained for.
Consider Matthew 22:41-45. “While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, [The Son] of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?” They were asking Jesus Christ to tell them, to prove to them who He was. Well Jesus Christ did it. “If David called the Christ Lord, then how is Christ David’s son!” That was all the information that they needed to be saved right there. But because they received this information by way of mocking, tempting and testing Jesus Christ, they weren’t ready for it! Instead of falling down and worshiping Jesus Christ and becoming His disciples, what was their response? “And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any [man] from that day forth ask him any more [questions].” Silence. God is not mocked. By provoking Jesus Christ, they received more than what they bargained for, and because they were faithless and not ready to receive the response, they only wound up reaping still more condemnation on their heads.
So please, do not build your Christian life on tests, conditions, vows, oaths, pledges, “earning points”, works or signs with God. That is treating God as if He is a merchant, a business partner that you can conduct mutually beneficial transactions with. If the transaction is mutually beneficial, then what is the role of unearned loving grace? More to the point, when Jesus Christ went to the cross to pay the debt for sins that He never committed, was that a transaction that conferrred mutual benefits on Jesus Christ and the sinner? God forbid! Instead the cross was entirely of grace done entirely and only for the sinner’s benefit. If the relationship with Jesus Christ began with grace on the cross, it cannot go to being a religious or business transaction, whether of works or of conditions. Instead, it begins with grace and remains of grace forevermore!
For we are not God’s equals. God is not lucky or fortunate to have our belief and service. Further, basing things on conditions is not faith. Instead of following God by faith, it is taking one step, testing it out AND IF YOU FIND IT AGREEABLE TO YOU taking another. That is like Peter when he attempted to walk on water. He took a few steps, got a little scared, got a little wet, and began to sink. Peter’s ability to walk on water was not based on his total belief, trust and obedience to Jesus Christ, but instead based on doing so under conditions where he felt safe and secure, that he wouldn’t be hurt. Jesus Christ said walk to me, and were Peter walking by actual faith, which is belief and trust that leads to obedience, he would have just kept walking no matter what happened. But since he was only willing to walk so long as he felt good about it, what happened? Simple: HE SANK. He was in the presence of God Himself and still sank!
Our relationship with God is to be one of trust, submission and obedience. Anything less is not truly a relationship with God, but rather an idolatrous affair with our own wicked hearts.
Posted in Bible, Christianity, devotional, Jesus Christ | Tagged: christian living, Deuteronomy 6:16, faith, Galatians 6:7, Luke 4:12, Massah, Mat 22:46, Matthew 22:41-46, Matthew 4:7, obedience, Psalm 100:3, Romans 1:21-25, sovereignty, sovereignty of God, submission | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Job on January 26, 2010
The issue of Jesus Christ’s baptism at times provokes some debate. For example, why was Jesus Christ, God in the flesh with all that entails, baptized in the first place? Many good theories are proposed, among them the idea that Jesus Christ was announcing to the world His identity and the beginning of His earthly ministry. However, the simple explanation given in Matthew 3:15 by Jesus Christ Himself: “And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer [it to be so] now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” This means that Jesus Christ regarded participating in John’s baptism to be a good act, and it was His duty to do everything that is good. And please note that Jesus Christ did not only put this requirement upon Himself. This is not something to be performed by Jesus Christ on our behalf as our substitute, as was Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. Instead, when Jesus Christ stated “it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness”, He was including John the Baptist and every other believer. Therefore, there is no such thing as a partial Christian or a mostly Christian. Instead, to be a Christian, one must do all that God instructs and requires us, what is called “the whole counsel of God” (see Acts 20).
But what is particularly interesting about the baptism of Jesus Christ as it is recorded by Matthew is that John the Baptist initially refused to baptize Jesus Christ! It was not because John the Baptist regarded Jesus Christ as some grotesque, unworthy sinner, or that He was coming insincerely out of curiosity or as some show of false piety. Quite the contrary, the grotesque unworthy sinners were precisely whom John the Baptist (and Jesus Christ after Him) were calling to repentance, and John the Baptist did not address Jesus Christ after the manner of the Pharisees and Sadducees who came (o generation of vipers, and demanding that their repentance be sincere). Instead, John the Baptist objected to baptizing Jesus Christ because he saw himself as unworthy to baptize Jesus Christ! Instead, John the Baptist stated that Jesus Christ should be baptizing HIM!
Of course, looking back on this incident, we see this as a logical conclusion of John the Baptist, with Jesus Christ being God in the flesh. However, John the Baptist did not have the benefit of our hindsight! For the gospel of John, verses 1:29-34, states that John did not know that Jesus Christ was the Messiah until AFTER he baptized Him, for it was at that point that John saw the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus Christ. We also surmise from Matthew 11:1-6 that John, upon his being cast into prison, seemed to doubt Jesus Christ’s identity as the Messiah and challenged Jesus Christ to prove Himself. So it is safe to propose that John the Baptist’s reasons for not wanting to baptize Jesus Christ had nothing to do with his having any idea that his younger cousin Jesus was in fact the Christ, and with that John the Baptist’s statement that he himself needed to be baptized by his cousin!
So then, what was the reason? It is the difference between the baptism of John and the baptism of Jesus Christ, which John himself stated was a greater baptism. The baptism of John was a sinner’s baptism. By contrast, the baptism of Jesus Christ is a BELIEVER’S baptism. Thus, the reason why John attempted to restrain Jesus Christ from being baptized was because John was performing a baptism for penitent sinners, a baptism for the righteous, AND HE HAD NEVER OBSERVED OR HEARD OF JESUS CHRIST SINNING AT ANY TIME! So why did John state that Jesus Christ should baptize him? BECAUSE HE KNEW THAT JESUS CHRIST’S RIGHTEOUSNESS EXCEEDED HIS OWN!
Of course, Jesus Christ’s submission to the baptism should not be taken as a denial of the doctrine that Jesus Christ was sinless (for Jesus Christ declared Himself to be sinless in a very direct and challenging manner in John 8:46) or that he was lesser than John the Baptist (for Jesus Christ publicly declared Himself to be greater in Matthew 11:11), but again according to His own words, Jesus Christ submitted to John’s baptism because it was His duty to do all that was righteous. Please recall: just as Jesus Christ did not need to be baptized for His own sake because of His sinlessness, He also did not need to go to the cross for His own sake for that same reason. So, just as Jesus Christ went to the cross for our sakes, it can be surmised that He was baptized for that reason also.
But let us not lose sight of the fact that John the Baptist initially attempted to prevent Jesus Christ from partcipating in his baptism – saying that it was a thing not suitable for Him (just as Simon Peter later claimed that Jesus Christ was not meant to be crucified in Matthew 16:21-23!) – because John the Baptist knew that there was something different about Jesus Christ. John knew that Jesus Christ was different, even from himself! And how did John know this? Again, not from revelation, for the revelation of Jesus Christ’s identity to John did not come until the baptism itself. And it wasn’t because of Jesus Christ’s station or position in life. Rather than being born in Herod’s palace as a member of his family (and Herod was the legally recognized king of the Jews by the Roman empire and the Jewish province), Jesus Christ was born in a manger. Rather than being in the religious or political elite, Jesus Christ was a member of the Jewish underclass, a common laborer with no formal religious training or position. Thus, Jesus Christ in terms of his human socioeconomic state was no different from John the Baptist himself, and also lower than some of the people (Pharisees and Saducees) that John stated were most in need of baptizing! Instead, John knew that there was something different, something special about his cousin, this Jesus of Nazareth, that separated Him from everyone else that he had baptized, and indeed from the Baptist himself!
What was it? From the context and evidence given, it had to have been the life that Jesus Christ lived. Before John the Baptist and before the world, Jesus Christ lived a righteous, exemplary life, blameless before God and man. THAT is why John the Baptist initially refused to baptize Jesus Christ. THAT is why John the Baptist stated that Jesus Christ should instead baptize him! And perhaps that is even why John the Baptist abandoned his refusal to baptize Jesus Christ upon Jesus Christ’s request! After all, this man is more righteous than me? What right do I have to deny his request? If I follow this man in his righteousness, I might become more righteous also! And so John the Baptist did what Jesus Christ requested of him, and as a result the identity of Jesus Christ to John and the world was confirmed by a visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
And Christian, this is the important of being righteous. This is the importance of being blameless, Christian. This is the importance of being holy, Christian. Of course, we cannot achieve Jesus Christ’s standard of perfection, for we are not God. However, let us not in our desire to avoid what is commonly termed legalism, Phariseeism, self-righteousness, holier than thou, etc. cause us to veer into antinomianism and worldliness. Instead, just as there was a difference in Jesus Christ such that not only John the Baptist but Jesus Christ’s false accusers (note that none of them took him up on His challenge in John 8:46!) and the very people who sent Him to the cross (i.e. Judas Iscariot the betrayer and Pontius Pilate), there needs to be a difference in Christians so that we are easily, readily distinguishable from those who are not Christians.
Now this is where the “legalism” or “Phariseeism” becomes relevant. It is not supposed to be a difference that is outward. It is not supposed to be a superficial difference, a difference “of the flesh.” For the Judaizers, the difference of the flesh was the circumcision and the law of Moses. Perhaps a more contemporary issue is a certain artificial or affected attitude or behavior, maybe of rote adherence to rules, affiliations, religiosities, or standards of men of how Christians ought to conduct themselves. That is legalism. Instead, this difference should be inward, a change of the heart that comes from being born again of water and of Spirit. As those who are born again of water and of Spirit love Jesus Christ by keeping His commandments (John 14:21) as they are contained within scripture and taught to us by those who precede us in the faith (pastors, evangelists, teachers, prophets, deacons, Godly parents etc.) that produces a sincere – not affected or legalistic and self serving – change in behavior.
When this change of heart and behavior that comes by virtue of living faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ comes about, that is how we become living stones, living witnesses, living examples that reveal Jesus Christ and His gospel to others. Of course, such living witnesses must also verbally share the gospel, for how can the lost sheep hear the gospel without a preacher (Romans 10:14)? However, if you are a living witness of Jesus Christ through your sincere and consistent (save the fact that all sin 1 John 1:7-9) then the living witness of Jesus Christ to the lost makes your verbal witness of Jesus Christ all the more effective, all the more powerful.
There is also the effect on the found. We are not to be islands, lone wolves in the faith. Instead, we are to assemble together and strengthen each other with joyful fellowship, praying for one another, provoking one another to good works, and confessing our sins to one another so that the brothers and sisters may pray for us and we be healed. If we Christians give ourselves over to lukewarm worldliness and carnality, how can such a thing happen? And what examples are we setting for those who follow after us in the faith? Shall the old women teach the young women to be silly and vain? Shall the elder men teach the young men to be brutish and greedy? God forbid! Such behavior causes little ones to stumble, and we know from Jesus Christ Himself that whoever does that to one of His little ones (whether children or those new in faith), it would be better for them were a millstone tied around their necks and they be cast into the sea!
So, this day I encourage you. Follow the example of Jesus Christ by seeking to fulfill all righteousness. Some say that the secret of doing this is more about the “do’s” than the “don’ts”. Others say that while the “do’s” are vital, the “don’ts” cannot be neglected. Of such things, I am not qualified to be the arbiter. However, I can say that if you seek the Lord in this matter through prayer, Bible study, and good works of obedience to His Word that the Holy Spirit will take you where He wants you to go! For it is a core principle of Christian living that it is not what you can do, but what God Himself does for and through you. You are not righteous in and of yourself, but instead you are made righteous through your identification with the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, your being part of Jesus Christ’s own Body, your being washed clean with His blood, your being cleansed and healed by and with His stripes, and your being indwelled by Jesus Christ’s Spirit. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and if you sincerely rely and trust completely on God, then God will make sure that the temple of His Spirit is undefiled!
Posted in Bible, Christianity, Jesus Christ | Tagged: 1 John 1:7-9, baptism, christian living, holiness, jesus christ baptism, John 14:21, John 1:29-34, John 8:46, john the baptist, Matthew 11:1-6, Matthew 16:21-23, Matthew 3:13-15, Righteousness, Romans 10:14, sanctification | 5 Comments »
Posted by Job on December 27, 2009
Matthew 10:22 – And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
Ecclesiastes 9:11 – I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
Sometimes we Christians, especially in the west, get caught up into the modern worldly mindset. We have to rush, rush, rush. There are tasks at hand, problems to be solved, lands to be conquered and it needs to be done NOW. And yes, it needs results that are measurable to the human eye, and in a big way. The idea of planting a seed and letting it grow and produce one tree that will bear fruit (a process that takes 20 years) whose seeds will produce 100 more trees (a process that takes 20 more years) is lost on people. Yet, that is often the way that God chooses to work.
Case in point: a young missionary couple assigned to evangelize the Maasai people of Kenya in the 1920s. The cultural barriers were huge and the progress was very slow. Just when it appeared that this couple was on the verge of making a breakthrough, two things happened. First, the missionary couple made the mistake of opposing a local practice that is abhorrent to westerners but is not forbidden in the Bible and was very important to the local rulers who held almost total influence over the tribe, which gave the rulers the excuse that they needed to reject the missionaries and continue in their prior religion. Even worse, the colonial government forcibly relocated the Maasai off their land, and the Maasai considered the missionaries – and their new religion – to be part of the same evil forces that was bringing misfortune on them. So, after decades of hard work with this tribe, the missionaries wound up with few converts. Other missionaries had warned this couple that the Maasai were a lost cause, that others had come before them and had similarly poor results and not to even try, and it appeared that their warnings were true. Right? Wrong.
It so happened that even as the vast majority of the Maasai rejected the missionaries, a young boy who was allowed to learn English from the missionaries’ wife (the Maasai greatly valued the importance of education) believed the gospel of Jesus Christ and ultimately left to receive a university education. He returned to the tribe and was given the responsibility of advocating that the tribe’s children receive the educational opportunities that the tribal leaders so valued, and thereby earned the trust and favor of the tribal leaders that for decades had worked against the evangelization of their tribe. This fellow’s trust and favor with the tribal leaders increased still more when A. he became a lower tribal leader himself and B. his successful response and handling of a famine saved many of his people from starving to death (an incident that somewhat reminds one of Joseph in Egypt).
These events allowed the very same young boy, John Mpaayei, who believed the gospel of Jesus Christ that was preached to him by the wife of a missionary couple whose efforts were regarded to be failures to lead a very successful evangelism effort among his tribe which resulted in Christian churches and schools being founded in many tribal villages and the conversion of many of the very influential village elders, and this Mpaayei himself becoming a prominent pastor. So clearly the efforts of the missionaries John and Florence Stauffacher did not fail, even if they did not themselves live to see most of the growth in Christianity among the Maasai (as John died in 1944 and his wife in 1959).
Examples like these are many. Yet we so often reject them and along with it everything the Bible says about perseverance, patience, long-suffering, wisdom, knowledge, self-control and the faith that ties it all together (and please note that several of those are fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit of Christ) in order to justify our own senses of urgency and our own needs to see our labors verified with big, impressive looking and easily verifiable results. And yes, we contrive or use doctrines and methods to justify this un-Biblical thinking. Consider, for instance, the premillennial dispensational rapture associated doctrines that world evangelism must be done NOW because the return of Jesus Christ was IMMINENT and thus the rapture could happen at any time. Or the original goal of William Seymour, founder of the Azusa Street revival that created the modern Pentecostal movement, which was to use tongues to unify the church NOW to fulfill the Great Commission NOW so that the return of Jesus Christ would happen DURING WILLIAM SEYMOUR’S LIFETIME.
It also explains the continual “crisis mode” urgency of so many Christians, on the religious right and left. Roe v. Wade must be overturned NOW and the homosexual agenda must be defeated NOW or God will smite our nation with diseases, floods, hurricanes, wars and economic collapse! The fact that it took 300 years for Christianity to defeat the Roman Empire? And what of the over 1000 years for various Protestant movements to overcome the darkness of Catholicism? While Catholics would certainly desire to have you believe that the whole thing started with Luther nailing his theses on the door, which makes the Reformation much easier to discredit, the truth is that Luther was only a part of a long line of Bible-believing dissenters, a fact which Luther himself freely and gladly stated. Yet plenty of others had attempted the same only to have their efforts frustrated, hindered and even crushed by the Catholic church-states. So where were their “measurable results” that every church-growth expert insists must occur in order for a ministry to justify and demonstrate that it is Godly and led by God-appointed leaders that are “doing things right?”
So many of us have conformed our ways of thinking to that of government leaders who must show speedy results or be toppled, or corporations who must do the same or go bankrupt. And it goes faster and faster. In times past, a king or emperor would likely be given a lifetime, or perhaps three lifetimes through his successors, before the people would become agitated enough to overthrow his ruling dynasty. But now, thanks to democracy, a president or prime minister only gets 4 years before he is thrown out of office! And in the time before full bore modern technology-driven capitalism, a company could take years, even decades, before its products or strategies came to fruition, i.e. before a new line of merchandise or a new group of retail stores were expected to become profitable. Now, two or three bad quarterly earnings reports sends stock prices tumbling and causes people to get fired and new projects that could preserve and create jobs and wealth in the future to be canceled. So, not only are so many Christians abandoning a Biblical model that demands patience and faith for an earthly model that is temporal, but even the earthly model is becoming more time-driven, results-oriented, and instant gratification-centered.
The truth is that this model is not only earthly, but it is also SATANIC. Revelation 12:12 – Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. So obviously the devil is in a hurry to put his plans into place and see them take effect because he is a defeated foe and knows it. He knows that he only has a short time, so he is under pressure to pack as much evil works into that short time as he can.
Christians, meanwhile, are not under any pressure at all. We have not been defeated. We are also not locked into some precarious pitched battle of good versus evil where at every step the outcome is at stake, and time is of the essence if God is to prevail. While virtually all Christians give mental assent to the former fact, that we have not been defeated, we still carry on as if the latter fact – that the outcome is still in doubt and our own crafty speedy efforts are needed to save the day – is the situation. We act this way because – especially in the west – we perceive that this is the way that the world works. However, the world does not work the same way as does God’s kingdom, which is eternal. Also, even the way that we perceive the world to work is wrong, because God is the ruler of the earth. God controls history, and things happen according to His divine providence and plan. So even in our human affairs, we are not to take the worldly view, which is Satanic and a deception, but take the Godly view, which is the eternal one.
So Christians are not defeated, but victorious in Jesus Christ. Our time is not short, but instead time – indeed eternity – is on our side. So what is the hurry? What is the stress? Why the impatience? Why the expectations based on human standards? Why the need to evaluate ourselves and produce results based on human standards? If the victory is already won, why do we not act as victors confident in that fact, instead of sailors in the midst of a war scurrying and scrambling to patch the holes in the flagship that came as the result of enemy cannon and torpedo fire, knowing that if the flagship continues to take on water and sink that all is lost?
Why do we act as if we are defeated, or as if the fate is unknown and has not yet been secured, which means that defeat is still a possible outcome? Why do we call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ if we are going to have Satan’s mindset and use Satan’s methods? Even if we use artful systematic theological systems to “Christianize” it and come up with elegant, right-sounding doctrines, the mindset and methods are still SATANIC. So instead of doing things the worldly way to achieve results that appear right in our own eyes, why not take the time, be patient and do things God’s way?
For instance, say that you have been called to be a a pastor or bishop. If that is your calling, then it is your calling. It is immutable, unchanging and will not fail. So if it takes you until the age of 70 to actually meet the requirements of a pastor, to actually become above reproach, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, a good teacher, gentle, nonviolent, not a lover of money or wine, non-argumentative, holy, disciplined, not a recent convert, and thought of well by the church and outsiders and from that point are able to give “only” 15 years of pastoral service before God calls you home at the age of 85, what’s the problem? If you are on God’s time and not man’s time, is not 15 years of Godly, effectual service far better than 50 years of chaotic, inconsistent, flesh-driven service that is marked by scandal? And even if you received your call at the age of 15, what better do you have to spend your time doing for the next 45 years of your life than waiting until you can actually attain 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 until you step into a pulpit? After all, a common term for pastor in the New Testament is “elder”, or in a more common vernacular “male of old or advanced age that is respected for wisdom and character”, so it can be presumed that most men are going to need decades to qualify for the office of pastor. Yet we are taking 21 year old Bible college and seminary graduates and putting them out into the field, something that is not even accepted even in certain secular professions like medicine, architecture or university professor.
It is only in the eyes of man that waiting 45 years in order to be God’s best for 15 years is inferior and despised in favor of stepping forward now and being your best for 45 years only to retire at age 70. The former is an Abel offering of faith. The latter is a Cain offering of the flesh. We know from the Bible that the world loves the Cain offering and hates and persecutes the Abel offering, but God only has respect for the Abel offering and rejects the Cain offering.
Yet so much of contemporary Christianity asserts the Cain offering as to be the right one. Like the Pharisees condemned by Jesus Christ in John 8:15, they are content to evaluate and manage things according to the flesh, or by human standards. Not because they are wicked, evil or have wrong intentions, but rather because it is simply more natural to do so. It is, for lack of a better word, easier. It is precisely because of our zeal to be righteous and to perform good works that the natural path seems to be the best, because the natural path seems less risky, more sure, more proven. Doing God’s work is so important to us that we really want to succeed, get it right, avoid mistakes, avoid failure, avoid results that challenge the faith of ourselves and those who follow us as we follow Christ that taking the action that appears to be the best way TO US seems to be the right thing, so we convince ourselves that it is the right thing.
But it is not about us. It is about God. When we lose sight of that, we become as Moses who in his frustration sought results by striking the rock – his way – rather than speaking to it – God’s way. (And this was after Moses had earlier killed an Egyptian, thinking that he could lead the Israelites by his own power.) And Moses was a righteous man! Or we become as David, who out of his concern for defending Israel, ordered a census to evaluate his military might in order to compare it to Israel’s enemies. It was a logical, sensible human action. But it was not God’s way. And David was a righteous man! Or we become as Peter, who in an attempt to preserve his standing among the Jewish Christians withdrew from table fellowship with Gentile Christians. Now Peter was the generally acknowledged leader of the Jewish arm of the Christian church, and his actions may have been the logical, sensible one of a man trying to avoid dissension, resist challenges to his authority, keep the fragile Jewish church from splintering into factions, and do what was necessary to continue to be able to evangelize other Jews. (Keep in mind: these were not minor issues, as Paul circumcised Timothy, took a Nazirite vow, and raised an offering for the Jewish Christians from the Gentile Christians, and went to the temple for precisely these considerations!) So, Peter was engaging in good church politics according to good HUMAN sense. And Peter was a righteous man!
In life’s circumstances, we cannot rely on our understanding. We must rely on God, and that means submitting to the fact that God is sovereign who controls history. Things are not going to happen the way that we want them to at the time that we believe that they should for our own comprehension, but rather according to God’s design at God’s time and to God’s glory. So if the key to obedience and true faithful maturity is patience, then patient we must be. God equips us with the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit required to endure until the end and to serve God His way and at His time, so why don’t we use them? Why do we listen to doctrines or follow practices that tell us otherwise?
Of course, there are times when the Bible tells us to move with haste, especially in areas that deal with heeding the gospel of Jesus Christ and repenting of sin. But the general principle remains that we are to do things on God’s time and not try to push things according to our own, because we move not by sight but rather by faith, which according to Hebrews 11:1 is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Therefore, by 2 Corinthians 4:13-18
We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
So be steadfast, patient and faithful until our Lord Jesus Christ comes!
Posted by Job on October 30, 2009
Pastor Foster’s outstanding efforts for justice on behalf of victims of church sexual abuse reminds me of 1 Corinthians 6:18. “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.” This is relevant because sexual sin is rarely committed at the drop of a hat, almost at random. Going out and committing adultery, fornication, or homosexuality is not like tripping and falling down the stairs. It isn’t something that you do suddenly when you “snap”, “crack under the pressure”, or somehow lose control of your faculties, your ability to think and reason clearly or restrain yourself. It is rarely a sin that “just happens on the spur of the moment”, the result of a situation that rapidly spiral out of control.
Now perhaps there are sins that probably can happen that way, maybe including even murder, but they DO NOT include sexual sins. Instead, the idea that “it just happened” or “it was beyond my control” is a convenient reassuring lie that we often find refuge in after the fact. Truthfully, the only time that this explanation is even plausible is when abuse of alcohol or drugs are involved, and in those cases, rather than being excuses for sinful sexual behavior, drug and alcohol abuse are sins themselves. Instead, sexual sins are almost always sins committed after a time or incident of temptation, and the comission of said sin is thus the result of the failure of the Christian to remove himself from the temptation.
Let us be honest here. We aren’t simply walking down the street minding our own business when some unclean spirit seizes us and unwillingly forces us to do dishonor our bodies and abuse the bodies of others with this type of sinful behavior. And we also aren’t these naive souls that find ourselves manipulated and overcome by the wiles of a tempter or seductress. Plainly speaking, if it isn’t rape, then it is sexual sin. If it isn’t violent coercion, then it is sexual sin.
So why does it happen so often, even amongst the clergy? The reason is that we are like David as opposed to being like Joseph. Now consider Joseph. When Potiphar’s wife made her advance and grabbed hold of him, he didn’t trust his ability to resist the temptation or negotiate the situation. No, Joseph got out of there, leaving his clothes behind! And Joseph, being a very wise person, almost certainly knew that his running naked away from Potiphar’s wife and leaving her holding his clothes would leave him with absolutely no defense whatsoever. He knew that running off in that manner would result in any charge made against him being believed, and that any legal standing or credibility that he might have had – and being a Hebrew slave in Egypt he really had none to begin with – would have been forfeited. So in leaving his clothes behind, he was really abandoning all that he had. He was giving up every right, every privilege, every consideration that the world had to offer him. And why did he do so? Because obedience to God’s law was worth all the rights, privileges and recourses that the world had to offer. Joseph was going to obey YHWH even if it cost him everything, including his very life! Make no mistake, either way Joseph was going to be in a hard position. He either had to put himself in the position where he had to resist the seducing charms of Potiphar’s wife, or put himself in a position where he would have no defense against a false charge of attempted sexual assault by that same wife. As the Bible narrative tells us, Joseph chose the latter, and willingly bore the consequences! As was evident from the time that Cain slew Abel and was made manifest in the most supreme and extreme example by the rejection and death of the SINLESS Jesus Christ on the cross, true righteousness in this wicked world always comes at a price, and it was a price that Joseph was willing to pay.
But instead of being like Joseph, we are like David. David watched Bathsheba bathe. He could have easily avoided doing so. Some blame this on David’s not going out to battle, but one doesn’t even have to go that far. David could have simply closed or averted his eyes and gotten away from there as fast as he could; gone back inside his house. Instead, he allowed viewing the body of another man’s wife to please him, and from there it was simply James 1:14-15, which reads “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” So where Joseph fled fornication, David gave a place to the devil, and with the latter you saw the result. David “took Bathsheba and laid with her”, and it is still my opinion that the Bible does not state that David’s relations with Bathsheba were consensual on her part, but instead used language similar to Absalom’s rape of Tamar and Shechem’s rape of Dinah. In that light the contrast between Joseph and David becomes even more stark: where the former fled consensual sin with Potiphar’s wife, the latter appears to have forced himself on Uriah’s wife.
So why are we so often more likely to choose the path of David over the path of Joseph? It appears to be a misunderstanding or misapplication of another verse from James, that being 4:7’s “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Actually, that is 4:7b. 4:7a, which reads “Submit yourselves therefore to God” is often ignored and omitted, and 4:7b is often quoted in isolation, usually as sort of a “Christian cliche'”, which of course increases its potential to be misunderstood and misapplied.
We often interpret “resisting Satan” to placing ourselves in compromising and sinful situations. We think of ourselves as spiritual athletes or superheroes. We tell ourselves that there is some great merit in putting temptation before our face and resisting it, that it is some mark of spiritual maturity and upright character. We think that because we are Christians indwelt by the Holy Spirit, that it means that we can trust ourselves and that we can be trusted. And the feelings of attraction or tension that we might have? We tell ourselves that they don’t exist because we are born again, and born again Christians don’t have those problems! Or we tell ourselves that because we are so strong and mature and are experiencing such victory that we can handle them without acting on them. We can just sweep them under our emotional, mental and physical rugs, we tell us, and we further deceive ourselves by telling ourselves that God will make it stay there. After all, we delude ourselves because of bad theology and teachings: it’s His job! It is one of His promises! To be able to stare temptation right in the face hour after hour, day after day, week after week and year after year without falling is one of the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit!
And Christians who reject this form of (let us call it what it is) NEEDLESS SELF-TORTURE, SELF-ABUSE AND SELF-ENDANGERMENT? We call them “legalists.” We call them “fundamentalists.” We even question their own salvation and Bible knowledge. We say “if they were REALLY saved, if they REALLY UNDERSTOOD GRACE, if they REALLY UNDERSTOOD VICTORIOUS CHRISTIAN LIVING, if they REALLY HAD THE SELF-CONTROL THAT CHRISTIANS ARE SUPPOSED TO HAVE, then they wouldn’t need all these legalistic rules. They’d just trust themselves and each other, and above all trust God. Right?
Well, we see the result of this thinking. Having cast aside the rules designed to keep Christians pure as “old-fashioned”, “legalistic”, “impediments to church growth” and “sexist”, we see that teen pregnancy, illegitimacy, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, divorce and pornography are huge problems in our churches, in some cases surpassing that of the general population, and that speaks nothing of the sex scandals among the clergy and other church leaders. And despite all this, we deceive ourselves as to the reasons why. Instead of separating from worldly practices and ideas, we tell ourselves that we can partake of those same practices, implement those same ideas and still not sin because we are Christians.
This is particularly absurd when the Bible itself explicitly calls it a lie. In a general sense, 1 John 1:8 says that any Christian who denies his capacity for sin deceives himself and rejects God’s truth. And in a specific sense, Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 promotes marriage as a way for Christians to avoid sexual sins. Again, 1 Corinthians 7 IS NOT DIRECTED AT UNBELIEVERS. Paul WAS NOT telling unbelievers to get married to avoid sexual sin! Paul was telling baptized, born again, Holy Spirit filled BELIEVERS to get married to avoid sexual sin! And of course, if avoiding fornication is an issue for single Christians, avoiding adultery is an issue for married ones. So if that was an issue for Christians in Paul’s time, what makes us think that it isn’t now? Is it because society has advanced? If so, in what way? Because we are so much more civilized thanks to our humanistic, rationalistic mindset that we are capable of more self-control than we could in Paul’s repressed, misogynistic social location? Such ideas are nonsense, a strong delusion.
So then, the mark of true Christian maturity is not to put temptation in your face so you can brag about how holy and righteous you are for not giving into it. Instead, the mark of true Christian maturity is to do whatever you can to avoid the temptation, and being willing to suffer the consequences. Again, consider Joseph. He was willing to go to prison – and he may well have been executed – over running away naked. But how many contemporary Christians are just as willing to turn down a situation at school, at work, or even at church that requires them to work long hours alone with an attractive member of the opposite sex? Or what about shunning the raunchy and prurient movies, TV shows and Internet websites, including those that may be harmless themselves but have racy advertiser content?
Again, that may sound anti-modern, antedeluvian, medieval, old-fashioned, legalistic, fundamentalist or whatever you want to call it. I call it not giving a place to the devil (Ephesians 4:27) and submitting yourself to God, of being more like Joseph and less like David. After all, what merit is there to imperiling yourself with temptation for its own sake? Does it make you a better witness for the gospel? Even if that were the case, when you contrast the high number of evangelical Christians who commit sexual sin (at least 60% and very likely higher) and the low number of Christians who actually evangelize (less than 10%) and being a better evangelist clearly isn’t the reason. Instead, being more like the world is the reason.
Also, let us have some consistency. Those of you who believe that you are such powerful, faithful bold victorious Christians that you can resist all this temptation, why limit it to that area? Expand your horizons. Go handle poisonous spiders and scorpions. Grab a rattlesnake by the tail. Make yourself a cocktail of household cleaners and drink it. Stand out in the middle of a freeway. Or take a boat out into deep water, the ocean or the middle of a swirling river, and step out and walk on water. You have faith, don’t you? You are a mature, strong Holy Spirit-filled Christian, aren’t you? Isn’t avoiding that behavior legalism? Fundamentalism? Old-fashioned? Is refusing to pick up a rattlesnake misunderstanding grace?
Of course, you won’t do that. Why? Because you value your life and health. And that is precisely the issue. You value your own safety and security over avoiding sin. You are much more willing to risk the chance that you might sin than you are to risk the chance that you might die. Therefore, you are willing to take a chance that you might sin and tell you that God will keep you from sinning, but you are unwilling to take the same chance with your life under the idea that God will save you from poison, drowning, or getting crushed by a car. But you might say “there’s no reason for doing those things.” Well, there was no reason for David to watch Bathsheba bathe, was it? The truth is that there is also no reason, no reason that will advance the kingdom of God, for Christians to sit around and unnecessarily tempt themselves with sin, and that is not just sexual sin but a great many other sins. But we actually have a Christian mainstream, an evangelical mainstream, that regards trying to separate from wickedness as sinful, hypocritical and Pharisaical, and the results are plainly exhibited before all. Many of the things that we tempt ourselves with we do so for no reason other than our own entertainment or to be like everyone else, and other times we do so because we are unwilling to make a real sacrifice to our lifestyles, to our comfort, to our aspirations. We don’t want to go to prison like Joseph. We don’t even want to miss out on a promotion, become a laughingstock at school, or be considered “extremist” by other churches. As a result of this carnality, this selfishness, we are much more willing to pollute our minds and bodies and offend God with our sin than we would ever be willing to put ourselves in harm’s way, and yes that does include put ourselves in harm’s way to actually spread the gospel. And the result is the Christian landscape in America that we see today.
Paul Washer does an excellent job of addressing this precise topic in the video below, which I really hope that you will view. In it he gives added emphasis to pastors who unnecessarily expose themselves to sexual sin, and that goes back to some of the topics that Pastor Foster regularly deals with on his site.