Christianity 201

May 13, 2019

Signs and Wonders: A Note of Caution

If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder,  and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,”you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you. – Deuteronomy 13:1-5 NIV

I was really struck by this passage last week listening to a podcast.

So how could this happen?

What follows is from Matthew Henry. I’ve modernized the text in some places, and items in square brackets and lighter typeface are added by myself.

A Strange Premise

How is it possible that any who had so much knowledge of the methods of divine revelation as to be able to impersonate a prophet should yet have so little knowledge of the divine nature and will as to go himself and entice his neighbours after other gods? Could an Israelite ever be guilty of such impiety? Could a man of sense ever be guilty of such absurdity?

We see it in our own day, and therefore may think it the less strange; multitudes that profess both learning and religion yet exciting both themselves and others, not only to worship God by images, but to give divine honor to saints and angels, which is no better than going after other gods to serve them; such is the power of strong delusions.

It is yet more strange that the sign or wonder given for the confirmation of this false doctrine should come to pass. [i.e. that the prayer is answered, or the miracle takes place.] Can it be thought that God himself should give any countenance to such a vile proceeding? Did ever a false prophet work a true miracle?

It is only supposed here for two reasons:

1. To strengthen [could he mean exaggerate?] the warning here given against following such a person. “Though it were possible that he should work a true miracle, yet you must not believe him if he tell you that you must serve other gods, for the divine law against that is certainly perpetual and unalterable.’’ The supposition is like that in Gal. 1:8 , If we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you —which does not prove it possible that an angel should preach another gospel, but strongly expresses the certainty and perpetuity of that which we have received.

 2. It is to fortify them against the danger of impostures and lying wonders (2 Th. 2:9 ): “Suppose the credentials he produces be so artfully counterfeited that you cannot discern the cheat, nor disprove them, yet, if they are intended to draw you to the service of other gods, that alone is sufficient to disprove them; no evidence can be admitted against so clear a truth as that of the unity of the Godhead, and so plain a law as that of worshipping the one only living and true God.’’ We cannot suppose that the God of truth should set his seal of miracles to a lie, to so gross a lie as is supposed in that temptation, Let us go after other gods.

But if it be asked [and it must be asked]: Why is this false prophet permitted to counterfeit this sign/wonder? [why did the miracle work?] then it is answered here (v. 3): The Lord you God is testing you. He allows you to be faced by such a temptation to test the quality of  your faith, that both those that are perfect and those that are false and corrupt may be made made obvious. It is to test [and shape] you; therefore see that you pass the test, and stand your ground.’’

A Necessary Warning

1. Not to yield to the temptation: you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer.

Not only must you not do the thing he [or she] tempts you to, but you should not so much as patiently hear the temptation, but reject it with the utmost disdain and detestation. [i.e. walk away before they are finished talking!] Such a suggestion as this is not open to negotiation, but you should cover your ears! “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Some temptations are so grossly vile that they will not bear a debate, nor may we so much as give them the hearing. What follows (v. 4),

Some temptations are so grossly vile that a discussion isn’t necessary, nor may we so much as give them the time of day. What follows (v. 4), You shall walk after the Lord, may be looked upon,

(a) As prescribing a preservative from the temptation: “Stay focused on your work [sacred and secular], and you keep out of harm’s way. God never leaves us till we leave him.’’ Or,

(b) As providing us with answer to the temptation; by responding, “It is written, Thou shalt walk after the Lord, and cleave unto him; and therefore what have I to do with idols?’’

2. Not to spare the tempter, v. 5. That prophet shall be put to death, both to punish him for the attempt he has made (the seducer must die, though none were seduced by him—a design upon the crown is treason) and to prevent them from doing further mischief. This is called putting away the evil. There is no way of removing the guilt but by removing the guilty; if such a criminal be not punished, those that should punish him make themselves responsible. And you must purge the evil from among you [KJV: “mischief must be put away”] the infection must be kept from spreading by cutting off the gangrened limb, and putting away the mischief-makers. Such dangerous diseases as these must be taken in time.


Matthew Henry as sourced at BibleStudyTools.com

January 12, 2019

Frequently False Prophets

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in
sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves…” – Matthew 7:15 WEB

Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.  – 1 John 4:1 NLT

Just as false prophets rose up in the past among God’s people, false teachers will rise up in the future among you. They will slip in with their destructive opinions, denying the very Master who bought their freedom and dooming themselves to destruction swiftly, but not before they attract others by their unbridled and immoral behavior. Because of them and their ways, others will criticize and condemn the path of truth we walk as seedy and disreputable. These false teachers will follow their greed and exploit you with their fabrications, but be assured that their judgment was pronounced long ago and their destruction does not sleep. – 2 Peter 2: 1-3 The VOICE

This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says to his people: “Do not listen to these prophets when they prophesy to you, filling you with futile hopes. They are making up everything they say. They do not speak for the LORD!
 – Jeremiah 23:16 NLT

I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me. Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophet Noadiah and how she and the rest of the prophets have been trying to intimidate me. – Nehemiah 6: 12-14 NIV

We were due for a return to look at the many writers at Charisma Blogs, and when I clicked the top article was from an author whose name I have been seeing quite frequently, Jennifer Leclaire. This article reflects some experiences that may seem unusual to you if you don’t have contact with Charismatic or Pentecostal people, but trust me, this sort of thing goes on all the time! (I would expect even more so in places like South America and Africa.) We desperately need discernment. Jennifer isn’t being dismissive of the gift — she moves in that circle of people — but of words given as prophetic coming from a person with a religious spirit.

When Religious Spirits Masquerade as Prophets

If you could look at my e-mail inbox, some of what you read would make you cry out in travail for the trauma good people in the body of Christ are suffering. Other messages would make you shout for joy as testimonies of breakthrough roll in. Still others would make you scratch your head and ask, “How can anyone who calls themselves a Christian behave this way?”

I got an email last week that ranks in the top 10 ridiculous category. I’ve left off this person’s last name so he doesn’t get flooded with rebukes. Take a read and judge the spirit thereof and let’s learn some lessons about prophecy along the way.

A Long False Prophecy That Carries a Curse

My name is Robert and I am a Prophet here in McKinney, Texas. I moved here about 7 months ago with my wife and children from Miramar, there in South Florida. Holy Spirit led me to one of your YouTube videos and told me to contact you and give you this word.

For the past 9 months the Lord Jesus has been using me to give words to many of the saints about moving. Many of these saints are Apostles, Prophets, and Pastors with large ministries. As you may or may not know, judgment is here for America. Catastrophic events are going to start happening soon so God is moving his saints into specific safe areas and assignments.

The word that I have been told to give you is that Jesus is calling you to move your family and ministry to the Dallas, Texas area as soon as possible. 1 Peter 4:17 says judgment must begin at the house of God. Every believers [sic] obedience is being tested right now. Jesus says to whom much is given, much is required.

Let me pause on the prophecy right there. This is your textbook doom-and-gloom judgment prophet. Most doom-and-gloom judgment prophets have a religious spirit. There are true words of warning and God is a God of judgment, but this is not one of them. The Lord is not speaking to me to move.

I have had prophetic words from well-known, credible prophets about laboring for a great revival in my region. This religious doomsayer was sent by the devil in a feeble attempt to get me off the wall, just as false prophets were sent to Nehemiah to get him off the wall (Neh. 6:12-14).

Prophetic Presumption Exemplified

The false prophecy continues: “God is up to something big here in the Dallas area and I believe part of it has to do with TV because a lot of the saints that he told me to contact are or have been on television. I have also received a few prophetic words myself last year about being on TV which is not something I ever even thought about or wanted.”

Here’s a great example of prophetic presumption. We don’t need to have opinions about prophetic words. We need to have God’s mind on what God is saying. Presumption can be deadly, as I’ve said many times before. Notice also the emphasis on self here. If he’s supposed to be delivering a life-saving word to me, why does he talk about how God wants to put him on TV?

When the Religious Spirit Manifests

The false prophecy continues:

Also The Lord is bringing true biblical holiness back to the church. Jesus says he wants you to stop cutting your hair short. 1 Corinthians 11:15, “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

Jesus is also saying to all his women no more fake hair, painted or fake nails, and no more makeup which as we read in the Bible was used by wicked women. Also no more earrings or jewelry, which were associated with idolatry in the Bible. A watch and wedding ring are all Jesus wants his women and men to wear. We have to be the example of what holiness looks and acts like. 1 Timothy 2:9, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.”

Also read 1 Peter 3:1-5. Jesus says he is coming for a church without spot or wrinkle and he made women perfect without these foolish things … Will be praying for you sister and God bless!

I don’t have room in this column to teach about the religious spirit. I believe in holiness, but holiness is a matter of the heart, not the hairstyle. Esther was a godly woman, and she wore jewelry, makeup and expensive clothing. I agree with the modesty message and have championed it. But I don’t agree with this prophetic word came from the Lord because neither the message nor the messenger is lining up with the character of God.

January 24, 2018

Watch Out: There Are Wolves Online

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Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

 

Today we’re paying a return visit to the website Before the Cross. The writer this time is Erica Boutwell. This is not a recent article but their #2 most popular post at what is very busy site. You are strongly encouraged to click the title below if you wish to read the full article, as this version was slightly edited for length.

Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing

…I have felt so weighed down by this issue for some time now because we are walking around in a day and age where new false teachers are popping up every day and they are getting more and more clever yet brazen. The main reason being that it’s so easy for anyone to have a platform, thanks to the wonder of blogging and social media…

…The vast majority of these posts are about completely innocent topics such as the latest fashion trends on a budget, recipes for the best pot roast on the planet, and current movie reviews. To all of you, keep up the good work. You’ve saved many a buck for my family and plenty of meals at my house. But this is not who I’m talking about. The ones that we are to be wary of are those who dive into topics of the spiritual realm. Too many times now, this same scenario has played out in front of us . . .

Someone starts a blog targeting a specific demographic of people (i.e. moms of young children, people passionate about health and fitness, all the oilies). They find that their following is growing leaps and bounds. People are coming to them in droves telling them how funny, relatable, and real they are. They start delving into topics a little outside of their original subject matter. The affirmation continues pouring in and suddenly they’re being asked about topics a little deeper than they’re used to. But they feel obligated to respond to their devoted readers. A few months later, we no longer have a wit-filled instruction manual on how to handle a crazy toddler or which exercises will target belly fat after the holidays. Suddenly we have someone picking apart passages of scripture and tackling spiritual topics, as though they are a well-studied scholar, in front of an audience of tens of thousands of followers who cling to every word they say, as though they are gospel.

Now this is where things get tricky. In some cases, the person of influence turns out to be quite well-versed in their knowledge of the Bible and its application to our lives. Or they at least do a good job of making sure that their readers understand that what they write is their opinion and that they are just opening up discussion. However, we are seeing more and more of these unintentional spiritual leaders creating confusion over issues that God was abundantly clear about in His Word.

Sometimes it’s these accidental philosophers that are misguiding people. Other times it’s well educated people who are dangerously misguided in their teaching…

…Some are bold and obvious. But some of them are just like Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount – wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). 95% of what they teach and share is spot on and easy to get on board with. But there’s that sneaky 5% that’s just off enough to fool those who don’t know the Bible well. On the surface it sounds right, but if you take a closer look, you find that it directly opposes the character of God or goes against His Word.

So what does this mean for us as Christians? Just a few chapters over, in Matthew 10, Jesus is preparing the disciples for ministry. He tells them in verse 16 that they are to be “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Why is that? Because they would be called upon to defend the gospel. They would be forced to answer for themselves. They would have to come against people who were ready to fight, and Jesus knew that the only way they’d be ready is if they knew their stuff. He also knew that in many cases, they would be the minority. So they needed to be prepared.

Paul says in 2 Timothy 4 that the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

The Bible also says in 2 Peter 2, that “there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.

And here we are! You don’t have to look long or far to find a “Biblical” teacher, speaker, or author who is willing to tickle your ears regarding just about any subject matter. It’s almost absurd. They will skew and twist scriptures to mean something they were never intended to mean. And all to make themselves and you feel better about making a choice that does not line up with God’s Word.

So what are we supposed to do?

It has to start by being smack dab in the middle of the primary source of our defense – the Bible. The more you know the Word, the easier it will be to spot false teaching when you hear it or see it. If something comes up that seems fishy, test it against the Spirit and against scripture. And if it doesn’t add up, run!

Paul says in Romans 16 to “watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.”

Maybe you’re feeling some reservations about someone but you don’t think you have enough Biblical knowledge to really tell if what they’re teaching is legit. Ask your pastor or someone you believe knows the Word well. Trust that the stirring in your gut is not just that late night bowl of ice cream talking. There’s a good chance it’s the Holy Spirit prompting you to research something a little more – either to further your own knowledge of scripture or to help you point out false teaching.

I believe the biggest thing believers need to learn from the tricky spot we find ourselves in today is to never take something at face value. The enemy is cunning and he is patient enough to creep in just a little at a time, even through someone you feel like you’ve been able to trust up until now. We have to stop blindly following the teachings of 3rd party resources, and start holding up the information we’re being handed against the lens of scripture. When all is said and done, we don’t get to use the excuse of “but he said . . .” or “but she told me . . .” Rest assured, the day will come when they will be held accountable, but not for your choices.

As we continue growing in our faith, we are to become more and more responsible for who we let teach us and what teachings we trust. So as the different teachers in our faith increase in number and influence, especially outside of the church, let’s make it a priority to know the Word of God well enough to be aware when we are being fed real meat and when we are having the wool pulled over our eyes. Too many hearts are at stake for us to not be ready.

What safeguards have you put in place to make sure the people you allow to influence your faith are solid?


Click the link for other articles by Erica at Before the Cross.

November 15, 2016

Prophecy: From God or Made Up?

This weekend at church we heard a message on visions and dreams. Not surprisingly, the word prophecy came up a few times. The following verse was quoted:

NLT Jeremiah 23:16 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says to his people:

“Do not listen to these prophets when they prophesy to you,
    filling you with futile hopes.
They are making up everything they say.
    They do not speak for the Lord!

But immediately my thoughts ran to this verse:

NLT 2 Peter 1:20 Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, 21 or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.

So which is right?

Context immediately solves the problem, the Jeremiah passage is dealing with false prophets. (Most Bible discrepancies and apparent contradictions are resolved when context is considered.) If there’s any doubt, God disowns these prophets a few verses later:

21 “I have not sent these prophets,
    yet they run around claiming to speak for me.
I have given them no message,
    yet they go on prophesying.

Does that seem like God has lost control over the situation? No, his affirmation of sovereignty and omniscience follows:

23 Am I a God who is only close at hand?” says the Lord.
    “No, I am far away at the same time.
24 Can anyone hide from me in a secret place?
    Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?”
    says the Lord.

Similarly, the 2 Peter passage has a context, and that context is recorded prophecy in scripture.  The Bible Panorama commentary notes that, “…there is a surer prophetic Word, the Bible, which guides us into God’s truth. Someone may mistakenly think he has heard a voice from heaven, but the Word of God can readily be seen and examined. God revealed His Word in the Bible by moving holy men, by His Holy Spirit, to record His infallible truth.”

Peter is writing about the prophecies concerning the coming of Jesus (and in a sense, the entire thread of Israel’s history leading up to that point.) The Biblical prophets spoke of things Peter and The Twelve had heard with their own ears and saw with their own eyes.

NLT 16 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes 17 when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” 18 We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.

19 Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place…

The challenge for the Christian in today’s world is that sometimes the lines are blurred. A modern day prophet may well quote scripture. They may speak of things which relate to the overall arc of the Bible story. Then, out of the blue, they might interject something which rings of truth because of everything said to that point, but is actually the starting point for a message that is heading off the rails.

On the weekend at Thinking Out Loud we spoke about discernment, which is key to untangling all of this. We ended with some verses I want to share here which mention this much needed gift. As we said there, in an internet-influenced world, so many voices are talking at once, and we need to be able to discern the difference between prophecy which is of human origin and prophetic words which are from God.

Here’s the first four of 71 verses on discernment from openBible.info:

1 John 4:1

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.                     (all ESV)

 

October 4, 2016

Avoiding Deception

This is from Annie at the blog Eyes Wide Open which came recommended to us. Click the title to read at source, and then navigate the site to find other articles.

Look Each Time You Bite

worm-inside-appleIt may be hard to recognize false fruits for what they are, especially in these confusing times. But one of the reasons Jesus tells us to constantly be in communion, relationship and prayer with Him is because the more we know Jesus, the easier it is to discern truth from lies.

Satan is very deceitful. He knows that the Lord tells us we will recognize truth and those who follow Him “by their fruits.” He wants to confuse us and throw us off base. He is a counterfeit of Christ, friends. And he has refined his fake products and fruity, luscious goodies to the point it is very hard to see that they aren’t the real thing – the truly GOOD thing – unless we go deep below the surface and we seek the truth in the Lord.
Seek the truth in the Lord ~ 

  • Diligently.
  • Regularly.
  • And with a heart and desire to know JESUS.

In the process we can recognize our real enemy much easier. He is the antithesis of Christ and the fruit he provides for us to consume is rotten ~ to the core.

Do we really think that the enemy does not know what the Word of God says? Do we really think the enemy forgets that he needs to counterfeit GOOD fruit as well?

He is formidable, make no mistake about it.

BUT GOD!

God tells us clearly in His word that the more we press in to Him and our relationship with Him, the more we can see the real truth ~ HIS truth, for what it is.

We need that. We need discerning eyes and hearts and minds all the more at this juncture on planet earth.

So is it true? Pretty is what pretty does? Yes – if we are pure inside, it will shine through ~ it is true.

But not all outward beauty is inwardly beautiful and true. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

Many are pretending, friends. Many say all the right things and give us exactly what our itchy little ears want to hear. Many are also deceived – I know I find that I have been often. Usually I find out such things about myself only as the Lord helps me to see it – as I spend time in relationship with Him, He reveals such things to me.

I think it is so important to remember that all the time; that we can be deceived and that many others who are deceived may lead us down the wrong path if we are not careful.

Hint: It’s about more than politics. It’s a spiritual conspiracy.

So it is good to keep in mind that sometimes we still see what we think is good fruit, but if we dig a little deeper, we often see that it is rotten inside.

Again I say – But God!

We truly can trust in the Lord that He will guide us and lead us, friends. But we have to do our part as well. We must be active participants in our time spent with Him, in nurturing our relationship with Him, and in KNOWING JESUS.

Knowing Jesus makes things that are not of Him, all the more clear.

Just some thoughts that I had today as I did my devotions, and I wanted to share them with you.

Maybe we should check out the fruit – especially before we take a bite.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every tree bears GOOD fruit, but the bad tree bears BAD fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Matthew 7:15-18

March 9, 2015

Discernment Versus Judgmentalism

One short article, and an excerpt from a longer one:

What is the difference between discernment and being judgmental?

 It is important to understand the difference between being judgmental and discerning truth from error. In Matt. 7:1, the Lord said, “Do not judge lest you be judged.” Then, in verses 2-5 he warns against trying to correct others without first correcting what is wrong in our own lives. If we deal honestly deal with our own hearts, etc., then we have the responsibility to help others. But there is also a warning in verse 6. He said, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine” (vs. 6). How can we know that someone, in their spiritual condition, is like a dog or a pig (i.e., someone who is incapable of appreciating the truth—apathetic, cold, indifferent), unless you judge, discern their character or their spiritual condition?

This passage does not teach that judgments should never be made. In fact, Matthew 7:5 specifically speaks of removing the speck from your brother’s eye. But the Lord’s point is that no one is qualified nor able to do that if they are habitually critical or condemnatory of the specks in someone else’s eye when they themselves have a plank—a hyperbole for effect—in their own eye. Such are not truly interested in righteousness, only in playing spiritual king of the mountain.

So, as in selecting elders and deacons for office (1 Tim. 3), judgment is sometimes needed, but those making the distinctions (krino„, judge, means “to distinguish” and thus “to decide”) must first be certain of their own lives and their motives. We need to ask questions like, Am I doing this to show how much I know? Am I trying to play spiritual king of the mountain? Do I think I am better than they are because I know something they do not know? These are some of the logs that we must remove from our own eyes (hearts). We are not judging people when we discern behavior or beliefs that are clearly unbiblical. For an excellent passage on having a judgmental spirit versus a discerning spirit, read Paul’s teaching on the problem of doubtful or questionable things in Romans 14.

Furthermore when seeking to help others, we must exercise care to discern their spiritual appetites and do what would be appreciated and beneficial. We need to test the waters, so to speak. Ask a question in a non-threatening way to see if they might be open to discussion. “Would you be interested in what the Bible has to say about astrology?” We do this because one should never entrust holy things (what is sacred) to unholy people (dogs; cf. “dogs” in Phil. 3:2) or throw … pearls to pigs. Dogs and pigs were despised in those days. This is one of the reasons the Lord spoke in parables. He did so to hide truth from the indifferent and to reveal it to those who were hungry and prepared.

Finally, remember that the ultimate issue is not seeking to get people to change their behavior, but come to know and believe in Christ. This includes biblical repentance, but in a salvation context, that means recognizing their sinful condition and need and turning from their sources of trust (religion, human will power, cultism, astrology, etc.) to trust in Jesus and His death for their sin. It does not mean cleaning up their lives and then trusting in Christ. Only Christ can change lives in a way that is significant.

For this one complete, you need to click the header below; this is just a representative sample of three general paragraphs, but the article distinguishes between judging non-believers versus judging fellow-Christians:

Does the Bible Tell Christians to Judge Not?

…As Christians, we should be living godly lives so that we can first concentrate on our own repentance of sin. Sanctification is a lifelong process of being transformed every day into the image of Christ. Without this, we have no place in helping another brother or sister. What Christ teaches His believers in Matthew 7 is that if we ourselves are not personally repenting of our sins, we are in no place to tell others how sinful they are acting. But the Bible does tell us to preach the gospel—and part of the gospel message is that people are sinners in need of salvation…

…Are we being loving if we allow our fellow brethren to remain in error and even deceive others? Of course not. Loving others requires that we graciously correct them when they fall into error (Matthew 18; 1 Corinthians 1:11; Galatians 6:1). Those who err do not necessarily know they are in error; they are possibly  deceived or ignorant. So we gently and carefully correct the error in regard to teaching, no matter what the situation. After all, this is one of the responsibilities of the church: to teach sound doctrine and correct erroneous teaching (2 Timothy 2:25, 3:16; Titus 2:1). For example, we have to use discernment (judging between right and wrong) if we are to obey verses like 1 Corinthians 5:11–13; 6:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 1 Timothy 6:20; and Titus 3:9, just to name a few…

…Those people who call for tolerance and quote “judge not” out of context are not using sound thinking. Their call for tolerance is impossible because as Christians, we are called to judge righteously, and judging between right and wrong is something we do every day—and it should be a part of biblical discernment in every believer’s thinking. But it is God’s Word that makes the judgment on morality and truth, not our own opinions or theories…


Every once in awhile we encounter articles that won’t fit here due to length, but which we think C201 readers might have some interest. Today we have two for you:

  • From Genesis 3’s garden narrative to being “clothed with the righteousness of Christ” this article covers (no pun intended) it all. Check out A Biblical Theology of Clothing.
  • Who did Jesus have in mind in Matthew 25, when he spoke of “the least of these?” This article focuses on how scholars view this passage, and it is a different result than what we pick up from casual reading. Check out What You Probably Don’t Know About ‘The Least of These.’

May 22, 2014

Gatekeepers

Nehemiah 7:1

After the wall had been rebuilt and I had set the doors in place, the gatekeepers, the musicians and the Levites were appointed.

1 Chronicles 9:26

But the four principal gatekeepers, who were Levites, were entrusted with the responsibility for the rooms and treasuries in the house of God.

Ezra 2:70

The priests, the Levites, the musicians, the gatekeepers and the temple servants settled in their own towns, along with some of the other people, and the rest of the Israelites settled in their towns.
The dictionary of Bible themes tells us that two primary meanings for the term gatekeepers.
Levite temple servants, responsible for protecting the palace and the temple from those who would desecrate it or steal its treasures. City gatekeepers also existed.
In other translators the words doorkeepers, porters, watchmen, and guards are used.
In modern times, especially here in the world of Christian blogs, we have many “watch” ministries who keep an eye on ministry leaders and organizations lest they fall astray.  This type of role is the theme of a lengthy article on this subject at The Christian Gazette  which begins:

Gatekeepers have three primary roles

  1. To protect the Lord’s house.  This means they defend the gospel, the truth of the Word and Protect the holiness of God’s house. Their hearts are on fire with the Fear of the Lord. They want the Lord’s house to be a house of Prayer and they are not content until they see the Lord’s will come to place. The gatekeeper protects the House. They know the scriptures well and are full of understanding. They are bold to speak out against the sins of the church- even if it means they will be mocked, hated or even kicked out of the church. They stay close to the House of the Lord
  2. They keep the Lord’s people on the right path, keeping them from drifting from the Lord. As a staff or sheepdog would keep the sheep together from straying, so the role of gatekeeper is the same. He is responsible to oversee the people, gently guide the drifter back and keep those on the threshold of evil paths from taking another step in the wrong direction. They are bold and not afraid to tell the truth of God;s word, knowing full well they are saving many from the fires of eternal hell.They are prayer warriors and intercessors for the people
  3. They keep watch for the master’s return; ready to usher in the King of Glory

There is also an interesting article at Supplication International which compares the role of gatekeepers and watchmen to the roles of apostles and prophets.

Apostles and prophets are the foundation of the church, they are to lay the foundation of the apostles and prophets, they are to lay the foundation of reformation, and reformation will lay the foundations for lasting revivals. –(Eph. 2:20)

Apostles are sent, and prophets are send, apostles come with divine works, and prophets come with divine messengers, apostles are call to be gatekeepers and to open the gates, and prophets are to be watchmen over the gates and to guide the people of the Lord through those gates. Apostles are leaders of leaders, and prophets are called to lead the church through divine guidance. Apostles are first, and prophets are second in the order of church government. –(1 Cor. 12:28)

Apostles and prophets are foundational ministry, revelational ministry, and impartational ministry to the church. Apostles and prophets are reformational, revival, social transformation, and harvest ministry, and restoration ministry to the church. Apostles and prophets are supernatural ministry to the body of Christ. –(Eph. 2:20,3:5)

Apostles and prophets are gate ministry to the church, the apostles are gatekeepers at the gates, and prophets are watchmen at the gates, both are called to stand together at the gates. –(Rev. 21:9-21, Matt. 16:18-19, Jn. 4:1-26,Ezek. 3:17-21)

Apostles and prophets have gate ministry, they are gate ministry of the church, they have 12-gate ministry of the church. Each of these 12 gates is apostle and prophet gate ministry, only apostles and prophets can seat at these gates, as gatekeepers and watchmen. –(Isa. 1:26)

This article then goes on to describe the specific ministry of the watchmen at each of the twelve gates in Nehemiah.

watchman-on-the-wallIn our work at the Christian bookstore, a local pastor once described us as gatekeepers. I had never really thought about our work in those terms — in the spiritual warfare metaphor I saw us more as running the supply lines — but I can see both the necessity and how we were already fulfilling the doorkeeping role in many ways and didn’t realize it.

Perhaps there is some area where, although you don’t have authoritative oversight, you can, using the gift of discernment serve as a watch-person or a gatekeeper who can alert ministry leaders in your community to situations that might be of concern.

Read more: Daily Encouragement covers this same theme today in a different way at this post.

 

 

April 27, 2014

Teacher Trouble

This morning, the sermon I heard included these two scriptures:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we will be judged more strictly. ~James 3:1 NET

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! ~Matthew 18:6-7 NIV

As I listened, I was reminded of a something that happened many years ago. The church secretary’s ten-year-old son announced at lunch that his Sunday School teacher believed in reincarnation. There’s a family mealtime conversation for which I would love to have been a fly on the wall.

Needless to say, an investigation ensued, the child’s report was accurate, and the teacher was relieved of responsibilities.

I’ve probably shared this story about a dozen times in the twenty years since it happened, but only today did I ask myself, “I wonder if anybody ever set the woman straight?” Obviously, removing the teacher from the classroom was the first thing that needed to happen, but someone also needed to set her straight on why Christians don’t see themselves as having existed before in another form and then, at the end of this life, returning to earth in another life-form.

About a year ago, I discovered something I had previously overlooked; namely, that in the various doctrines which join together to form a systematic theology (or as I prefer, a cohesive theology) there is a doctrine of man and for that the term used is anthropology, the same term we normally use to describe a particular discipline in the social sciences alongside things like psychology or sociology or philosophy. Perhaps you took ‘anthro’ in school but never thought of it in a doctrinal sense.1  In the list of branches of theology at Wikipedia, it’s listed as “Theological Anthropology”

  • Bible – the nature and means of its inspiration, etc.; including hermeneutics (the development and study of theories of the interpretation and understanding of texts and the topic of Biblical law in Christianity)
  • Eschatology – the study of the last things, or end times. Covers subjects such as death and the afterlife, the end of history, the end of the world, the last judgment, the nature of hope and progress, etc.
  • Christology – the study of Jesus Christ, of his nature(s), and of the relationship between his divinity and humanity;
  • Creation myths
  • Divine providence – the study of sovereignty, superintendence, or agency of God over events in people’s lives and throughout history.
  • Ecclesiology (sometimes a subsection of missiology)—the study of the Christian Church, including the institutional structure, sacraments and practices (especially the worship of God) thereof
  • Mariology – area of theology concerned with Mary…
  • Missiology (sometimes a subsection of ecclesiology)—God’s will in the world, missions, evangelism, etc.
  • Pneumatology – the study of the Holy Spirit, sometimes also ‘geist’ as in Hegelianism and other philosophico-theological systems
  • Soteriology – the study of the nature and means of salvation. May include Hamartiology (the study of sin), Law and Gospel (the study of the relationship between Divine Law and Divine Grace, justification, sanctification
  • Theological anthropology – the study of humanity, especially as it relates to the divine
  • Theology Proper – the study of God’s attributes, nature, and relation to the world. May include:
    • Theodicy – attempts at reconciling the existence of evil and suffering in the world with the nature and justice of God
    • Apophatic theology – negative theology which seeks to describe God by negation (e.g., immutable, impassible ). It is the discussion of what God is not, or the investigation of how language about God breaks down (see the nature of God in Western theology). Apophatic theology often is contrasted with “Cataphatic theology.”

But we’re digressing from our Sunday School teacher. I’m not sure at this point that it would be helpful to revisit a 20-year old discussion, nor to reveal I was party to something that might have been considered confidential at the time.2 But I am reminded of this verse:

My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness… (Galatians 6:1 NRSV)

Brothers and sisters, if someone in your group does something wrong, you who are spiritual should go to that person and gently help make him right again. (same vs. NCV)

 

The context is more overt sin and wrongdoing, but the principle is the same: To gently guide that person to the right path, using scripture.  (See my treatment of II Timothy 3:16, especially the final paraphrase.)

The chorus of the old hymn, “Brighten the Corner” describes this. While you might not fully understand all the nautical imagery, it’s easy to see the gist of the sentiment:

Brighten the corner where you are!
Brighten the corner where you are!
Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar;
Brighten the corner where you are!

Our responsibility is threefold:

  1. To identify (discern) false teaching
  2. To remove the person caught in error from public ministry3
  3. To try to restore that person to sound doctrine

1Not having engaged in this study formally, I would suspect that at the most elementary level, it would entail some notion of the teaching that “It is appointed onto man once to die, and after that the judgement” Hebrews 9:27 KJV, italics added. A Christian theological understanding of man would assert that we don’t come back in some other form as taught in Spiritism or Hinduism.

2I have however in my limited contact with this person over the years encouraged them along the lines of deeper Bible study. It grieves me to think that someone could be in church for so many years and hold to views that are so far from orthodox. However, there are times when spiritual confrontation is appropriate.

3This is for their benefit (to avoid being under judgement, as in today’s opening verses) and to prevent them from causing “little ones”(which can be literal in terms of children, or figurative in terms of people new to the faith) to stumble.

April 13, 2014

Mental Images End Sermon on the Mount

Today our pastor wrapped up an extended series of messages on the Sermon on the Mount, reading the last half of the last chapter, Matthew 7: 13-27.  We normally put scriptures here in green, because scripture has life. But because every word below is from Jesus — we’ll remove the NLT subheadings — we’ll follow the common convention of putting the entire text in red.

13 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell[*] is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”


*or road that leads to destruction

There are three primary images in this section:

  • a gate
  • a fruit tree
  • a house (or if you prefer, a foundation)

However, there are five actual word pictures created in this text.

The Gate

There are many entry points that lead to destruction. You’ve heard people say, “there are many roads that lead to God,” but it’s more accurate to say, “there are many roads that don’t lead to God.” (Tweet that!) Our pastor took this one step beyond the text, but I believe you would agree that this works. He drew a funnel and pointed out that if your entry point is the broad one, as you dig down, that life becomes increasingly constricting. Then he drew an upside-down funnel and pointed out that the entry point is narrow, but as you move down, there is increasing freedom. Extra-Biblical visual, but true. Do I correct people when they say, “all roads lead to God,” or do I let the comment pass unchallenged?

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

This only appears in one verse, and the NLT subtitles consider it part of the fruit tree analogy. Still, it’s an excellent bridge from the section before to what follows and the visual image would be quite laughable were it not taking place all around us. There are many false teachers out there seeing who they can deceive by dressing up false doctrine to look authentic. Is my discernment meter on so I can identify false teachers? Have I ever through carelessness said something that might lead someone astray?

The Fruit Tree

Most tree trunks look the same to me, and since I’m not an expert on leaves — nor can you see distinguishing detail from a distance — it’s ultimately the fruit that makes you say, “apple orchard” at one scene and “orange grove” looking at another. Our lives will be marked by fruit — love, and eight other fruit of the spirit — and marked by an attitude of humility. Our testimony will be, “I once was lost, but now am found.” The source of our joy will be what Christ has done for us. And yes, spiritual fruit can also be interpreted to represent those we lead to faith; spiritual children. When people look at me, do they see a trunk and leaves that make me hard to distinguish from anyone else, or is spiritual fruit evident in my life?

False Disciples

This is really the core of the teaching, but it does produce a visual image. Our pastor used lips. The passage describes people who do not possess what they profess. This should arrest us in our tracks. Am I giving lip service to a faith that is not real inside me?

The House / The Foundations

The houses in this section are actually identical, but one stands because its foundation is sure, while the other caves in because it’s foundation is shaky. This challenges me because you really don’t know what your response will be until you are in the middle of the situation. Jeremiah 12:5 (GW) asks, “If you have raced against others on foot, and they have tired you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in open country, how can you live in the jungle along the Jordan River?” We need to not only have a solid foundation, but we need to watch for cracks in that foundation. When the rain and winds beat down is my foundation Christ, or am I trusting in some other external, or my own abilities?

 

 

April 14, 2013

Controversy in the New Testament

I ran this yesterday at TOL, but wanted it here as well, even though it doesn’t have a specific scripture reference.  The author is popular Christian counselor and author Jay Adams.  Click here to read at source.

Sometimes it may seem that we spend too much time refuting falsehood. All of us are chagrined at the preponderance of error both within and without the Church. We may write off those who attempt to combat it and set forth the truth in clarity over against it as “heresy hunters.” The term is used pejoratively; but should it be? Take a quick look at the Books of the New Testament, merely scratching the surface, and see what you think.

  • In the Gospels Jesus warns against false teachers, speaks of wolves in sheep’s clothing and the “leaven of the Pharisees.” The record of His ministry is one of conflict with those who refused to accept the teaching He set forth.
  • Acts contains the record of the church’s first major controversy over whether or not a person must become a Jew before he could qualify as a Christian. A church council was called to settle the matter. Paul goes to lengths to warn the Ephesian elders about wolves who would devour the flock and schismatically draw away disciples to themselves.
  • Romans is an entire doctrinal treatise about justification by faith alone in contrast to salvation by works, and how sanctification follows thereafter. In it, Paul also takes up the rejection of the Jewish church.
  • I Corinthians is loaded with problems; schism, misuse of gifts, church discipline, marriage and divorce, and on, and on, on.
  • II Corinthians takes on false apostles who had invaded the church and charged him with pretending to be an apostle. The place of apostolic authority is set forth, along with the qualifications of an apostle.
  • Galatians is a sterling defense of Justification by faith alone over against those who taught otherwise, and were upsetting the church by Judaistic legalism.
  • Ephesians is less controversial, being a universal epistle rather than directed to the adverse circumstances of an individual or a congregation
  • Philippians deals with a split in an otherwise good church. But it has to do with self-centeredness and sets forth a key Christological passage.
  • Colossians is consumed with fighting Judaistic Gnosticism.
  • I & II Thessalonians take up false teaching about the Lord’s coming and eschatology.
  • I & II Timothy & Titus teach “healthy” doctrine over against many false ideas. And, in them, Paul doesn’t hesitate to name specific heretical individuals.
  • Philemon is a welcome exception.
  • Hebrews, in its entirety, combats all influences that would cause Jewish Christians to revert to Judaism.
  • James utterly destroys the idea that one can have genuine faith that does not result in good works.
  • I Peter explains how the New Testament church is no longer a physical political entity, but that the church is now the spiritual people of God, the new Israel.
  • II Peter warns against scoffers and libertines unsettling the church and reveals the true picture of final things.
  • I John argues quite effectively throughout the book against Gnosticism of a Cerenthian sort.
  • II John warns against hospitality for heretics.
  • III John deals with church discipline gone so far astray as to virtually destroy a church.
  • Jude throughout its entirety is an exhortation to contend against the libertines who invaded the church that failed to listen to the warnings in II Peter.
  • Revelation speaks of the warfare of God against apostate Judaism, the first persecutor of the church, and Rome, the second persecutor, and predicts the fall. It also mentions cults like the Nicolatians.

Now, in light of the above, if you can, tell me, why we should not be prepared to detect and refute falsehood in the Church?

 

June 13, 2012

Guardians of Truth

The last twenty-four hours have been rather stressful here, so today I clicked over to Daily Encouragement because I knew that their devotional ministry is reliable.  I think it’s important that certain kinds of blogs, and all churches and small group meetings be consistent.  People need to know they can depend on you to be there.  And Stephen and Brooksyne embody all that: Dependability, reliability and consistency.

Their message on Tuesday was titled “To avoid being pulled into error, keep a firm grip on the truth!” That is certainly needed these days. Because we operate the only Christian bookstore in our county, one local pastor referred to us “gatekeepers.” I hadn’t thought about that aspect of our role until he said that, but I now see what he meant. Certainly every book or CD or DVD had to pass through our filter in order to get stocked in the store. (And a few times that judgment got criticized by people who wanted to nitpick over the inclusion of a title they personally disagreed with!)

Anyway, I encourage you to read what follows, or better yet, click here to read today’s thoughts.

“Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings” (Hebrews 13:9). “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:14,15).

The daily texts describe the volatility of those who fail to grow and mature in Christ and become properly grounded. They become unstable like “infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” The writer of Hebrews warned, “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines”.

Today we see a departure from the course of Biblical faith and standards that our forefathers could hardly have imagined. Even in my own lifetime who would have predicted just thirty years ago that something as foundational as the basic constitution of holy marriage between a man and a woman would be a serious issue of departure?

Some of our readers have been forced by biblical conviction to leave their church due to leadership that has deviated from God’s Holy Word. Tragically, some pastors are basing their teaching more on the popularity of opinion polls than the unwavering truths presented by our Creator. I am very wary of “evolving views” based on current opinion polls and the views of popular entertainers and supposedly elite academics.

False teaching is a perpetual danger for God’s people. It was a concern in the New Testament age, all through church history and certainly abounds in our own day

1) I call on my pastor peers to “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2) and “Teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Resist the temptation to preach so you will be loved by the world or following after the fads that flood the church.

2) I call on dedicated followers of Christ to implement the God-ordained means to stability and health in your spiritual lives. Through our unwavering commitment to read God’s Word and through the practice of other spiritual disciplines the character of Christ is developed in us as we are rooted and grounded in Him who is the Head, which results in long-term spiritual stability.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
(click this link for the main site and bookmark it in your computer)

Daily prayer:  Father, Your warnings regarding the deluge of deceitful tactics from the enemy is evidenced all around us – through the media, books, false prophets and even well-meaning but confused individuals. Your Word is the stabilizing and authoritative doctrinal manual for all that we need for life and godliness. Help us to be wise, studied, and vigilant so that we correctly discern good from bad, truth from error.

In Your holy name we pray, Amen

September 22, 2010

Speaking on God’s Behalf

Today’s post is from Keith Brenton who has been writing at Blog in my Own Eye since 2004.  This first appeared in August under the title, Speaking for God.

“We speak where the Bible speaks, and are silent where the Bible is silent.” ~ unofficial motto of (most) churches of Christ.

“Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff – and nudge me when I’ve said enough!” ~ prayer of the probably mythical old preacher

“If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.” ~ 1 Peter 4:11a

Isn’t this one of the heaviest burdens carried by those who truly desire to speak for the Lord? Whether preaching, teaching, writing a blog, or just conversing about matters religious with a friend?

How do we know when we’ve stopped speaking for Him and started rattling off our own perceptions about what He’s said?

Isn’t it pretty important to stick to what He’s said?

And after all, aren’t there plenty of powerful speakers with advanced degrees in biblical studies who don’t agree on what He’s said?

I wonder from time to time if this doubt isn’t one of the most powerful tools Satan has in shutting us up about the Savior. I wonder if it’s one of the un-discussed root causes for preacher burnout and parishoner abandonment of evangelism.

I wonder if we’ve made the gospel more complex than it is.

Would you like to know what gives me hope when I try to write or speak on the Lord’s behalf – however imperfectly, humbly, and haltingly?

“Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:3

“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people!’” ~ Acts 4:8

” … for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” ~ Matthew 10:20

The Spirit of our Father speaks through us. We just leave it to Him. It happened just as Jesus described it to His followers. And Paul writes to Corinth that it still works that way. It’s a simple message (“Jesus is Lord!”), delivered in a simple manner, through simple people like you and me. No advanced degrees required; just the Holy Spirit speaking through us.

And all we need do is ask for His help.

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” ~ Luke 11:13

You can even ask for that help to be given to others:

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” ~ Ephesians 1:17

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” ~ Colossians 1:9

I have resolved to take a new approach when disagreeing with others about scripture, or when trying to argue toward a common understanding of God’s message, or whenever I feel compelled to speak for God. I’ve resolved to pray for the Holy Spirit’s discernment for all parties involved, including (especially!) myself.

I can be as opinionated and pig-headed and closed-minded as anyone else I know. I need to be more open-minded … no; not so much that my brains fall out, but so much that His Spirit can fall upon me. I need to make room for God’s understanding, even if it pushes my understanding out through my nose and ears.

So I’m asking you to pray the same thing for me.

~Keith Brenton

June 20, 2010

Sin Has Its Consequences

History doesn’t tell us who first came up with the notion that if you masturbate you will go blind. Neither I am aware of any scientific corroboration of this connection, though I am sure that it has acted as a deterrent to many a young man, especially in less-informed times.

Sometimes, though, there are times when, if we give into our lusts, cravings or desires, there are definite consequences.

Heather was the friend of a friend. I met her at least once, maybe twice. She was an extremely attractive girl in her late teens at a time before people said, as we now do, that “the girl is hot.” She got swept up by an older guy — some said he was in his 30s — and we don’t whether or not she was aware that he had AIDS before they had unprotected sex.

This was at a time — nearly three decades ago — before drugs could prolong the life of people diagnosed HIV positive and Heather’s life and beauty wasted away very quickly, and before much time had passed, my friend was suddenly telling me about “visiting Heather’s mom at her home the day after the funeral.” Consequences. Unavoidable consequences.

I don’t believe that today thousands of people have started down the road to blindness because of masturbation anymore than I believe that every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings. But I do know of one instance where the Bible makes very clear the possibility of physical penalty for something which is obviously sinful.

It’s the passage that is often read at The Lord’s Supper, aka The Breaking of Bread, aka The Eucharist, aka Communion. Perhaps you were raised with I Cor. 11: 28-30 in the King James:

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

Okay, I know. But for some of you-eth, the KJV script is all too familiar. Let’s try the dynamic-equivalence translation extreme of the NLT, adding vs. 27:

So if anyone eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily, that person is guilty of sinning against the body and the blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking from the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup unworthily, not honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died.

Wow! It does seem a bit unmistakable, doesn’t it. [At this point I paused to check out the verses in four different commentaries, but there was no convenient opt-out at this point, none of the writers suggested the language was figurative.]

It all raises the possibility of consequences. I think the view would be of God striking someone with something, that the agency of disease or even death would be external.

But I have a whole other direction for our thoughts today.

I’m wondering if perhaps it is not the case that for some people — not all — willful sin creates a physical disconnect between the body and the mind, or between the body and the spirit. Perhaps it creates a tension that puts us in conflict between our actions and that for which we were created, or, in the case of believer, a conflict between our actions and the way we are expected to be living.

We already know that many diseases are brought on by stress. Is not the conflict between right living and wrong living a major internal stress, even for those who are not pledged to follow Christ? It can weaken the autoimmune system, or conversely, overstimulate it. And for the Christ-committed, would the stress not be greater since the internal conflict is greater?

I had a story cross my desk this week about a person who I knew was involved in something that I considered a lifestyle conflict. (Whatever you’re thinking, it’s not that one; this was rather obscure.) This person was also involved with a ministry organization, so the degree of conflict would be more intensive, wouldn’t it?

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. (James 3:1 NIV)

Today, this person is fighting a rather intense physical disease. I can’t help but wonder if there was so much tension between what he knew and taught to be God’s best versus what he was caught up in, that it some how manifested itself internally as a kind of stress. But I know what you are thinking:

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. (John 9: 2-3 NIV)

Not all affliction is the consequence of wrongdoing. But the I Cor 11 passage allows for the possibility of affliction as direct consequences of sin.

Do you ever find yourself internally conflicted? Paul said,

What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise… I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. t happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. (Romans 7: 15, 17-23, The Message)

The inner conflict is going to be there. The tension is going to exist. The question is whether or not it is going to absorb us into something that becomes a lifestyle with all its attendant consequences, including physical consequences.

You can disagree with this of course, but you don’t want to go blind, do you?


Today’s blog post is a combined post with Thinking Out Loud (Monday, June 21) and Christianity 201.

Photo credit (upper) http://www.lookinguntoJesus.net
Photo credit (lower) product available at http://www.zazzle.co.uk
Read more: Sin: It’s Kind of a Big Deal