Christianity 201

August 22, 2022

As Ten Commandments Tablets Shatter

There’s a bad Sunday School joke that goes something like, “Who in the Bible broke all ten commandments?” The answer is Moses, when he returned from the mountain and exasperated over the sin of the people sent the tablets crashing to the ground.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

First of all, the giving of the commandments in a physical form does not mean that this is the first time God establishes moral and behavioral boundaries of the people of Israel. The website Life Hope and Truth states,

…The answer is found in a fascinating statement God made about Abraham, recorded in Genesis 26:5: “Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.”

This is significant because Abraham was born hundreds of years before Moses received the law on Mount Sinai!

In order for Abraham to obey God’s commandments, statutes and laws, he had to know what they were. This means that Abraham was taught the laws directly from God or from others (or possibly both). God was not giving Moses a brand-new law on Mount Sinai. He was merely giving a codified, or formal, version of His law so that it could be used to govern the emerging nation of Israel…

The article then goes on to illustrate instances of such laws existing prior to Moses.

Let’s pick up the store in Exodus 19 and Exodus 20

NIV.Ex.19.20 The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up 21 and the Lord said to him, “Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish. 22 Even the priests, who approach the Lord, must consecrate themselves, or the Lord will break out against them.”  …

NIV.Ex.20.1 And God spoke all these words:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before[a] me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.  …

It’s verses 4-6, which we call the second commandment — see the post from last month where we break them up into commandment 2a and 2b — where we want to focus. It’s reiterated in verse 22

22 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: 23 Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.

Then, for nearly a dozen chapters, God gives Moses instructions for worship, and also some amplification of the “big ten” commandments given. But then he tells Moses it’s time “get down to earth” because there’s trouble stirring.

NIV.Ex.32.1  When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”

2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”…

…7 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt…

…15 Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. 16 The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, “There is the sound of war in the camp.”

18 Moses replied:

“It is not the sound of victory,
    it is not the sound of defeat;
    it is the sound of singing that I hear.”

19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain.

Moses returns to see the people breaking the second commandment which was cited above. And he is livid. In his anger and frustration he shatters the “big ten,” which we’re told God Himself engraved.

It’s a very Moses thing to do. In his anger he will later strike a rock he is told to simply speak to, and that particular act of anger costs him entry into the promised land.

But here’s my point.

Before I started writing this, I gave it the title, “As Ten Commandments Tablets Shatter.” I was thinking about Moses and what the people did in his absence. But I was also thinking about pastors and church leaders today.

Depending on whose statistics you read, in North America 1,200 or 1,500 pastors resign (quit) from ministry each month. While conservatives are busy arguing about women in ministry, it’s probably a good thing some of those women are in place, because the mostly-men pastoral workforce is abandoning ministry in droves.

There are a number of reasons, but I’m sure one of them is frustration over the lack of spiritual dedication among the parishioners. Or, as Moses observed, a flagrant disregard for the will of God.

So figuratively, over a thousand each month are throwing the tablets up in the air and letting them crash to the ground while literally, they pack up of their church office library and dust off their resumés and begin to look for another career path.

Vocational ministry life can be frustrating. I write that even as a member of my immediate family prepares to enter into a greater level of vocational pastoral commitment. I am sure that like Moses, I would get exasperated by what I would see and would want to toss the tablets up in the air as well.

In North America, October is designated as “Pastor Appreciation Month,” however if people were serious about appreciating their pastor, they would, to use an archaic word, “harken” more to the things about the ways of God that he or she is trying to teach the congregation. Yes, they should live a certain way because it’s what God desires and what God requires, but there should also be a recognition that the very reason this person has been set apart for career ministry is to teach them such things with the expectation that they will follow.

Otherwise it’s all just empty words and meaningless worship.

Are there “ten commandments” violations that you see that would cause your pastor/rector/priest to want to toss the stone tablets in the air?


Related:

 

 

August 6, 2022

Loving God’s Law

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today, something really different. We’re featuring a writer who is new to some of you, April Box, who writes at Redeemed in Grace, and who we featured briefly in October. 2020.

She is doing a series currently on Psalm 119; and it’s not a short Psalm, plus she’s working on one verse at a time. These are shorter blog posts so we’re sharing each of them with a link where you can read them on her page. The Psalmist is saying that having God’s words (commandments) make him wiser than his enemies, wiser than his teachers, and wiser than his enemies. (Verses 98, 99, and 100; all below.)

To read all of her commentary on this Psalm, again you’re encouraged to click the link to her site.

Blessings of wisdom

“Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me.” -Psalm 119:98

To be wise. Even better is to be wiser than our enemies. This doesn’t imply higher academic marks or a more comprehensive head knowledge of the Bible. Atheists will read God’s Book for merely intellectual purposes, remaining untouched by the deeper truths the Lord has layered in Scripture. The way in which a believer is wiser than an unbeliever is through understanding the spiritual realities that exist. This only comes by faith.

Our purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We see the purpose of our lives through the living and active Word of God. It is not a dead history book. Believers not only take in what we read and hear from the Bible, but digest the truth in meditation, then act accordingly through obedience. Do you believe all of Scripture to be true and trustworthy? Our answer will determine how we approach studying God’s commands, how we live, and how we relate to God Himself. God’s words are spiritual food, nourishment for souls on earth. May God be gracious to bless you with wisdom in thought, speech and action. May our sin nature (our enemy) not rule over us. Let us seek and pray for wisdom like the psalmist.

Treasuring wisdom

“I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on Your statutes.” -Psalm 119:99

This verse nicely follows the previous one on wisdom. The psalmist here speaks of his insight now compared to his teachers. His teachers were first his parents, then the religious leaders. He has learned more than the dutiful Jewish student, diving deeper into God’s storehouse of treasure. Only those with  seeking hearts find what they seek. God gives them eyes of faith to mine the precious jewels found in Scripture. This kind of insight is worth more than all the riches in the world. Earthly wealth will lose its luster one day and eventually burn up in God’s Kingdom. Wisdom from God is eternal for all His students.

The value of Scripture

“I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey Your precepts.” -Psalm 119:100

This verse is similar to the last one except here the psalmist refers to his elders. The elderly were highly respected in this culture. Here he talks of understanding, a synonym to insight and wisdom. God’s commands make him wise, insightful, with understanding because he carries God’s words with him wherever he goes. He meditates on them and obeys what God’s precepts instruct.

It is wise to hide God’s Word in our hearts so we might not sin against Him. This is a way of remembering throughout the day and not forgetting God as we go about our earthly duties. We will gain insight and blessing the more time we spend meditating on what God’s commands mean, then obeying them. Believers who are doers of the Word will obey God’s way and thereby gain understanding in the value of Scripture through experience.

 

July 22, 2022

Honor and Contentment

The person who follows Christ might look to the “household codes” in Paul’s writing or the Sermon on the Mount when seeking a better understanding of the ethical or moral standards implicit in living a Christian life. However, lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the primary behavioral standards in the First Testament, namely the Ten Commandments.

As a friend pointed out to me a few years back, it’s really the Fourteen Commandments, especially if you write them out that way:

1. No other gods except Yahweh
2a. Don’t manufacture objects of worship
2b. If you see such objects, don’t worship them
3. Honor God’s name
4a. Honor God’s day; don’t work
4b. Don’t compel your family, servants (employees), animals to work it, either
4c. For the other six days, you will work
5. Honor your parents (grandparents, heritage, legacy you’ve received)
6. No murder
7. Honor your marriage vows (and those of another)
8. No theft
9. Honor the value of truth
10a. Don’t crave the things that aren’t yours
10b. Don’t crave the spouse that isn’t yours

In addition to the redistribution of the various clauses, you’ll notice that I’ve also picked up on the traditional English rendering of the 5th commandment and imported the word honor (or honour for my UK/Canadian/Aussie readers) into a few other lines. I could have done this with the first one as well, ‘Honor Yahweh above all others.’

The 4th one is interesting in that there is much discussion in Evangelicalism right now about the discipline of Sabbath, but 4c clearly states “Six days shalt thou work.” (KJV) There is a command to get a job. In our world that might be a 5-day week or it might be a combination of two part-time positions, or even several in today’s ‘gig economy.’ Is see commandment 4c as often overlooked, and it’s hard for a pastor to lean into this knowing that there are people listening to the sermon who have been trying to obtain work for many weeks or months, but without success.

I do think that even if one is basically unemployed, there are ways to be productive, through volunteer work or perhaps self-improvement through taking a few courses. I’d argue that in our 5-day work week world, the Christian has an interesting responsibility in terms of what they do with that 6th day. Some might say, well that’s a day to play and relax and enjoy some recreation. But I believe that it’s possible to see recreation as ‘re-creation’ that is perfectly fitting within a view of Sabbath.

Unfortunately, some denominations clouded that viewpoint with rules that prohibited Christians from playing sports or going swimming on Sunday. I realize that organized sports (particularly for children and teens) is contributing to serious attendance losses by churches, but I would want to be convinced that there’s a greater value in simply doing nothing. (Okay, you can read a Christian book; you can pray as a family; you can attend a second church service, but then what?) And how is watching movies on Netflix any more spiritual than a friendly game of baseball or soccer?

I digressed there.
Let’s get back to work.
(Pun intended.)

As I looked at the commandments closer, I saw how integrated three of them were.

4c. For six days you should work
8. Don’t take what belongs to others
10a. Don’t crave what others have.

If you work, you don’t need to steal and you don’t need to be consumed with desire for what other people own.

So finally, at the very end, we come to the verse which motivated me to spell all this out today; a verse that appeared on my NIV Bible App two days ago:

NIV.Deut.8.18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

Thanking the Lord that we have the means to produce wealth, really brings us back to that first commandment about honoring God.

The commandments can all be written in terms of honor and the life that honors God is a life that will be content in whatever situation. (Phil 4:11)


Elsewhere at Christianity 201:

*This one does what we did today expressing the ten in terms of honor, and does it expressing the ten in terms of stealing. There’s a graphic image on this you might want to save, or use on your social media.


Supplement:

If you wish some review, here’s God’s top ten as rendered by Eugene Peterson in The Message Bible.

Ex. 20.1-2 God spoke all these words:

I am God, your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of a life of slavery.

No other gods, only me.

4-6 No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. Don’t bow down to them and don’t serve them because I am God, your God, and I’m a most jealous God, punishing the children for any sins their parents pass on to them to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation of those who hate me. But I’m unswervingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments.

No using the name of God, your God, in curses or silly banter; God won’t put up with the irreverent use of his name.

8-11 Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day.

12 Honor your father and mother so that you’ll live a long time in the land that God, your God, is giving you.

13 No murder.

14 No adultery.

15 No stealing.

16 No lies about your neighbor.

17 No lusting after your neighbor’s house—or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey. Don’t set your heart on anything that is your neighbor’s.


Fun evangelism exercise:

The next time someone says to you, “I’m a good person, I keep the Ten Commandments;” reply, “Okay … name them.”

Most people will start with the “second tablet” of commandments (don’t kill; don’t steal) and may not consider the ones about putting God first.

July 17, 2022

Boundary Law

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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We’re back for a fifth time at Inspire a Fire, which features a variety of writers, many of whom have been published in books and periodicals, and some who are active on other devotional sites. The writer today is Martin Wiles, an author, English teacher, minister, freelance editor, and founder of Love Lines from God. Clicking the header below will take you to where this first appeared.

Loving the Boundaries

The letters lay in my box—the folds showing evidence of students who had never written letters by hand, never inserted them in envelopes, and never used snail mail.

The day was a typical one. I walked to the teacher’s workroom during my planning period to check my usually empty mailbox. This time, ruffled-looking sheets of paper lay in my cubby. I noticed some in other teachers’ cubbies also. I pulled them out and saw my name hand-scribbled on them. When I opened the top one, I saw a handwritten note from a student. I quickly fumbled through the remaining ones and saw they, too, were from students in the various middle school grades. Not having time to read them, I refolded them and hurried back to my room.

Later in the day, I reopened the letters when I had free time. The elective teacher had asked her students to write letters to teachers, telling them something nice. As I read, some students expressed surprise that I had put up with them for three years, but they appreciated it. One student remarked how amazed she was that I had taught three generations of her siblings. She showed me her appreciation of English by taking a red pen and marking a noticeable mistake. Another said he looked forward to my class every day. Still, another thanked me for being so laid back and for not giving him lunch detention every time he deserved it. A few said I was their favorite teacher. One commented on how much she had learned and grown in my class.

What I hated in school and at home—boundaries—these students seemed to appreciate. I’m sure they understand their parents’ limits on them, although they would never tell them. On most days, I think students hate me for being so hard and pushing them to the limits, but they are intelligent enough to know I do so for their good.

Paul talked about the boundary law when he used the example of agriculture. “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant” (Galatians 6:7 NLT). Whatever a farmer sows, he will harvest. A farmer doesn’t plant corn and harvest soybeans. This is the law of the boundaries.

I didn’t always appreciate the boundaries my parents placed on me—most of which represented God’s boundaries found in the Bible. But like my students, I knew they benefited me. Because of my sinful nature, I would have run wild had limitations been absent. Even with them, I often tested their confinement.

Just as I give much grace to my students when they cross the boundaries, so God does with us. He’s not sitting in heaven waiting for us to mess up so He can crush us. Instead, He establishes the boundaries to keep us on paths that benefit us. When we cross them, He gently guides us back inside the lines.

Boundaries teach us to trust God, determine right from wrong, grow as individuals, establish our identity, show love, and prepare ourselves for the future.

Learn to love the boundaries God places around you, for we find true freedom within them.


So what fruit was produced then from the things you are now ashamed of? The outcome of those things is death. (Romans 6:21 CSB)

Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. (Galatians 6:8 NLT)

June 24, 2022

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

I often wonder, when the New Testament uses the word mirror how sophisticated the manufacturing process was in Bible times. Did those mirrors create a high resolution picture or were their pigments, irregular surfaces, or curvatures which forced a distorted image? We might be surprised at how clear the image was.

What verse comes to mind for you? Perhaps it’s from James:

NIV.Jas.1.23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Could a person look into a mirror and honestly forget what they look like? It’s hard to imagine in a selfie-infatuated world, but remember that in Bible times people didn’t have photo albums. Even a few centuries ago, if you were wealthy, you might have an artist do your portrait, but the degree to which it looked like you would depend on the skill of the painter.

James compares looking in a mirror to looking into the law and forgetting what you’ve heard. It’s part of his overall theme in this section which begins earlier in verse 22: Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 

But a more creative preacher might argue that the law itself is a mirror. We hold ourselves up to the law to see how we compare. 2 Corinthians 13:5 tells us to “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (ESV) Romans 5:13 explains that, “Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. (NLT) The law sets the standard, we see ourselves as we look into it.

Another type of mirror in scripture is found in 1 Corinthians 3:12

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known. (CSB)

This is the passage which, in the KJV talks about ‘seeing through a glass darkly.’ When teaching this years ago, I compared it to waking up in the morning and discovering someone has rubbed something greasy all over your glasses. But again, we have to think about the quality of mirrors they might have had when Paul wrote this verse. The CEV speaks of a “cloudy reflection in a mirror,” which suggests a mirror of inferior quality.  (The ISB uses “indistinct image.”) But other renderings of this verse leave me thinking the contrast is between “reflection” and ‘reality.’ That even the best mirror is not the real thing. (If you’ve studied it, Plato’s “Analogy of the Cave” might come to mind.)

Our best representation is really a shadow of what awaits us in the future. 2 Corinthians 2:9 reminds us that

9 But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (NKJV)

Before we move on, let me reiterate the verse from the NLT:

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

A third use of mirror is also from Corinthians, this time from 2 Corinthians 3:18

But we all, with unveiled faces, looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (NASB)

There’s a lot going on in this verse, so let’s get Eugene Peterson to flesh it out for us a bit more:

Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.

Just as Moses reflected (a mirror-word if ever there was one) God’s glory, we all, looking at God indirectly, cannot help but be changed, and cannot help but copy or duplicate (or mirror!) his glory.

Think about these three mirrors next time you look at one. Allow it to serve as a reminder.


What about that last phrase, “changed from glory to glory?” We looked at that here in this September devotional.

June 6, 2022

Name It and Claim It?

This is only our second (complete article) highlighting of Michael Battle and his site Rooted and Grounded in Christ. We’ve all heard of “name it and claim it” doctrine, but on what understanding of scripture is it based? He looks into that in this article from one month ago. Clicking the header below will let you read it where it first appeared.

Speaking Things Into Existence

There are many unbiblical doctrines that circulate among Christians, especially among American evangelicals. One of those is the claim that we have creative ability with the words of our mouth, thus we are to speak things into existence. Therefore, If we are struggling financially we speak prosperity into existence. If we are sick or have a disease we are to speak healing into existence.

This doctrine has become so prevalent that in some places public prayers are no longer heartfelt requests humbly petitioning God, but “preachy declarations” instead, because we must “declare and decree” and boldly speak them into existence.

How did we get here?

The speaking it into existence doctrine stems from teachings within the Word of Faith movement, which at one time (30 plus years ago) did have a more balanced approach to the teachings of scripture concerning the words that we speak.

The Bible has much to say about our speech, but never once does the Bible teach that we have creative power in our words as God does. The biblical emphasis concerning the importance of wholesome speech has to do with expressions of faith in God, edifying and encourage others, praise and thanksgiving towards God rather than murmuring and complaining, and wholesome speech which is becoming of godliness, purity and good sound doctrine.

Unfortunately, the importance of having wholesome speech has morphed into a belief that we have creative power and thus should speak into existence whatever it may be that we desire. Yet no one in scripture served God in this manner. If we can’t find an example in scripture of any servant of God who held to this practice, why would we think we could? And if we can plainly understand that God’s servants in the scriptures never practiced speaking things into existences, why would we think we could twist some of their writings to justify such practices?

The truth is, the idea of speaking things into existence appeals to our carnality, but wholesome speech which is becoming of godliness requires true spiritual growth and maturity, and therein lies the difference.

One very popular Word of Faith minister who has taught speaking things into existence, claimed that Psalm 119:72 speaks of “the law of the mouth.” He followed up by saying, “the Bible says the law of the mouth is better than silver and gold. Why? Cause that’s how we make it.”

Here is what Psalm 119:72 actually says: The law of THY mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.

This text is not referring to some spiritual law that we put into motion with our words. It is referring to God’s law that came from the mouth of God, and the Psalmist is declaring his desire for God’s law rather than the wealth and riches of this world. In fact, much of Psalm 119 is dedicated to praising God and glorifying his law. Psalm 119 begins by saying, Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. ~ v.1

Consider also these verses from Psalm 119:

Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. ~ v.18

Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy law graciously. ~ v.29

Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. ~ v. 34

The proud have had me greatly in derision: yet have I not declined from thy law.~ v. 51

I have remembered thy name, O Lord, in the night, and have kept thy law. ~ v. 55

Verses 61, 70, 72, 77, 85, 92, 97, 109, 113,126, 136, 142, 150, 153, 163,165, and 174 all make reference to God’s law as Thy law”. Now consider verses 43-45:

And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in thy judgments. So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever. And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.

Speaking God’s word (God’s law, precepts, commands, and instructions) was a practice encouraged in the Old Testament as an expression of love, dedication, and service towards God. It had absolutely nothing to do with speaking things into existence because of having “god-like” creative power.

In Psalm 119, the Psalmist prays, Remove from me the way of lying”. If the Psalmist had believed he had creative power in his words, why wouldn’t he have just removed the way of lying from himself?

And again, therein lies another problem with the speak it into existence doctrine. It plants the idea in the minds and hearts of people that they are somewhat self-sufficient with God-like creative abilities in their words. Yet the Psalmist declares “I am poor and needy” in his seeking after God (Ps 40:17; 70:5).

In the book of the Revelation Jesus rebukes the church of the Laodiceans for saying “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” Jesus then tells them that they do not know that they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. ~ Revelation 3:17

If there were a “law of the mouth” by which we could create with our words as the minister mentioned above has suggested, what then was the problem with the Laodiceans claim to being rich, and why would Jesus give them such a rebuke?

And again, here lies another problem with the speaking it into existence doctrine. It deceives people into thinking they are spiritual when they are not. It deceives them from acknowledging their true spiritual condition before God. It leads them into a false sense of spirituality and gives futile ground to pride, but God hears the desire of the humble (Ps 10:17).

There is so much more I could write on this topic but this will suffice for now. The Bible does have much to say about the importance of our words, but never once does it teach us that we have creative power like God. This belief is not scriptural and is actually akin to sorcery and witchcraft.

July 28, 2021

Are You an Outlaw, A Lawyer, or a Lover?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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At Christianity 201, we’ve had a long relationship with Rev. Kevin Rogers, a pastor in Western Ontario, Canada whose writing appears at The Orphan Age. This is excerpts from a 4-part series. To read the introduction, where he sets up the distinction click this link. He says,

I see three categories of people when it comes to the acceptance and application of God’s law—we are all outlaws, lawyers or lovers.

To read the individual parts in full, click the headers which follow.

Outlaws

Outlaw culture is often glorified, and we all learned it early in life…So what does it mean to be an outlaw?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary says:

1 : a person excluded from the benefit or protection of the law

2a : a lawless person or a fugitive from the law

b : a person or organization under a ban or restriction

c : one that is unconventional or rebellious

Some perceived Jesus to be an outlaw based on his application of God’s Law. He and the disciples picked grain to eat on the Sabbath, brought healing to many on the Sabbath, did not always wash their hands before eating, association with people deemed unclean and a daily myriad of offenses drummed up by the faultfinders.

In spite of what the authorized experts had to say, Jesus was not an outlaw.

Matthew 5:

17 “Do not think I have come to get rid of what is written in the Law or in the Prophets. I have not come to do this. Instead, I have come to fulfill what is written. 18 What I’m about to tell you is true. Heaven and earth will disappear before the smallest letter disappears from the Law. Not even the smallest mark of a pen will disappear from the Law until everything is completed.

It is when we determine that laws are unfair, unattainable or illegitimate that we are tempted by outlawry. It’s easy enough to find reasons to minimize or defy human laws, but what about God’s Law? There are many outlaws that choose to live in opposition or resignation to what they perceive to be an unrealistic or impossible standard.

The Greek word for sin is hamartia. It is an archery term that means your arrow did not land on the target. When we recognize that we are sinners, we admit that our arrow went astray or dropped to the ground before the ideal target that God gives us to aim for.

Jesus came to hit the bullseye and inspire us to have an improved aim. We are to learn from the ways that fall short and allow God to perfect our aim. You may have given up on basketball or piano lessons, but the reason to learn God’s ways are not trivial options. God’s ways are a matter of life and death in a very real cosmic and earthly sense.

Every outlaw must live by a code that supports their values and will be deemed heroic by those sharing those values. But you cannot love God and at the same time have a complete disregard for the things God says. To know and disregard the law of God is to be truly lawless.

1 John 3:

Everyone who sins breaks the law. In fact, breaking the law is sin. But you know that Christ came to take our sins away. And there is no sin in him. No one who remains joined to him keeps on sinning. No one who keeps on sinning has seen him or known him.

Dear children, don’t let anyone lead you astray. The person who does what is right is holy, just as Christ is holy. The person who does what is sinful belongs to the devil. That’s because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the devil’s work.

In recognizing that your aim is off, the key remedy is remaining joined to Jesus. As we  understand what Christ is doing, we find that he is taking away our lawless instincts. He is mending our broken bow and showing us how to aim true and hit the target. It is in our mimicry and imitation of Christ’s ways that we see through the fog and shoot for the bullseye. The apostle Paul understood this implicitly when he said,

1 Corinthians 11:

Follow my example, just as I follow the example of Christ.

Lawyers

If the outlaw faces judgment, he is going to need a good defence lawyer. A lawyer will endeavour to prove that his client is not guilty, or at least not maliciously intent on breaking a law. The problem is that there will also be a prosecuting lawyer whose aim it is to prove that you are guilty.

There is an interesting phenomenon that happens to people trying to live up to God’s standards. If they are not rightly motivated inwardly, they will get obsessive about hacking their aim and telling others that they are the masters that can teach others how to achieve their spiritual aims.

It’s exactly the old adage that those who can’t, teach.

Matthew 23:

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples. “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat,” he said. “So you must be careful to do everything they say. But don’t do what they do. They don’t practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry. Then they put them on other people’s shoulders. But they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them.

Watch out for people that try to load you down with high expectations but don’t offer any understanding or relief for the burden they lay on you. They may be legalistic in their passion for definition, but inwardly lack the law of God. They may have the authority to wield the law, but are more interested in winning their case than being personally answerable for the consequences that ensue.

Matthew 7:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Lawyers are often great communicators and can weave a story line that will either condemn or excuse a lawbreaker.

Watch my life carefully. I may appear to be a masterful persuader and still have a lawless heart. Fortunately, you will not have to answer for me. I stand before the one true judge that can truly condemn me or save me. Don’t be naïve and do look out for the Pharisaical lawyer in me and for the one in you.

Fortunately, God has mercy for outlaws and for self-righteous lawyers. Otherwise, we would be surely doomed.

Romans 9:

30 What should we say then? Gentiles did not look for a way to be right with God. But they found it by having faith. 31 The people of Israel tried to obey the law to make themselves right with God. But they didn’t reach their goal of being right with God. 32 Why not? Because they tried to do it without faith. They tried to be right with God by what they did. They tripped over the stone that causes people to trip and fall. 33 It is written,

“Look! In Zion I am laying a stone that causes people to trip.
    It is a rock that makes them fall.
    The one who believes in him will never be put to shame.”

Imagine that. Your faith in the goodness and mercy of God is the bullseye. Jesus died to save outlaws and lawyers and we are both.

Lovers

In essence, you become what you love. When it comes to the Law of God, are you a lover of His Law? You will not become Christlike if you do not love God.

If it’s true that we all fail to hit the target, there must be something that Jesus wants to teach us. When you are being coached in some ability, it is easy to get overwhelmed and distracted. So what will keep us in the game, so to speak? What is it about God’s Law that we can learn to keep us from becoming an outlaw or a lawyer?

That is a great question and one asked by an expert in law.

Mark 12:

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard the Sadducees arguing. He noticed that Jesus had given the Sadducees a good answer. So he asked him, “Which is the most important of all the commandments?”

29 Jesus answered, “Here is the most important one. Moses said, ‘Israel, listen to me. The Lord is our God. The Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 And here is the second one. ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ There is no commandment more important than these.”

32 “You have spoken well, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one. There is no other God but him. 33 To love God with all your heart and mind and strength is very important. So is loving your neighbor as you love yourself. These things are more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

34 Jesus saw that the man had answered wisely. He said to him, “You are not far from God’s kingdom.” From then on, no one dared to ask Jesus any more questions.     NIRV

Your aim always improves when you love from the core of your being. Loving God means loving the wisdom and perfection of what he is teaching us. Loving your neighbour and loving yourself flows from the love you find in God.

Jesus says that all law is grounded in love. Until you know that and agree to it, you will resist the true nature of God. Jesus is the highest expression of God’s Law. He fulfills the law of God.

Are you convinced by the Holy Spirit that the ways of God are desirable? Listen to this ancient song of praise for the ways of God. Listen to effect that the love of God has on the fabric of our life.

Psalm 19:

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can understand his errors?
Cleanse me from secret faults.
13 Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be innocent of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.
NKJV

Talk about exactly hitting the target… love will do all of these things to establish your heart, mind and soul. We are taught by perfect love and changed from outlaws and lawyers. We are lovers of God’s Law.

November 13, 2012

To Whom Did Paul Say, “For What I Want to Do I Do not Do”?

While we recognize that Romans 7 is New Testament, we often over-Christianize it and miss out on the Old Testament world that shaped the times of the apostles. Scott Lencke at the blog The Prodigal Thought works through this thought, you’re encouraged to read this at source where it appeared (sans soundtrack) as De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.

Everyone know The Police song, De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da? If not, you can have a listen and watch here.

Now Romans 7 is difficult enough just on its own terms. But add in the distraction of Sting belting out one of his great hits, well, it’s simply all over (especially after watching the video!).

Why Romans 7 and The Police?

Romans 7 is that chapter where Paul uses the word do so many times. Yes, that chapter! I count 20 times in vs15-20! There we find the famed words,

‘I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.’

Actually, did you know Romans 7 causes difficulty? Not because of The Police, but rather because people have been debating for a very long time whether Paul is describing the normal life of a Christian or non-Christian.

The popular belief today, at least amongst evangelicals, is that Paul is describing a Christian. For starters, it is argued, if Paul says, ‘For in my inner being I delight in God’s law,’ this cannot be reality for an unregenerate, depraved human. Not only that, but what I think happens even more is that we look at our own lives, evaluate our daily living, and concur that vs15 and vs19 speak very truly about us – ‘I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.’

Now, while some might loathe the idea of utilizing our experience to understand Scripture, I wouldn’t say it’s completely terrible. I’m an advocate of something like the Wesleyan quadrilateral that recognizes we have more than Scripture alone in helping us understand God’s revelation. Rather this perspective takes a more holistic approach, identifying a) Scripture, b) tradition (there is such things as good tradition), c) reason (not ‘objective rationalism’) and d) experience as important in grasping the revelation of God.

So, my point is that understanding Scripture is not completely devoid of our human experience and encounter with God and his truth.

Thus, having said that, those 2 well-known verses (Rom 7:15, 19) might parallel something going on in our own lives. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it was given to describe our situation. You see, this banter about whether Paul is describing the Christian or non-Christian life, I think it might just bring us on an adventure of missing the point. Well, I would concede it’s part of the point. But I don’t believe it’s the greater point of Paul in what is our ch.7 (you know Paul didn’t have chapter and verse divides in his letter).

What I think happens is that we gloss over a vital statement. And I suppose we miss the larger context of the letter and the sweeping thought of chapters 6-8. So maybe we start there.

What in the world is going on in Rome? For this letter was written to a particular church in Rome.

Paul is writing to a church that is extremely divided. Why?

Some 6 to 8 years before Paul wrote to the church, the emperor Claudius had expelled all Jews from the area of Italy (see Acts 18:1-2). Thus, the church became strongly Gentile. But the successor to Claudius, emperor Nero, allowed the Jews to make their way back into this area of the Roman empire. So we have a church situation that has become mainly Gentile over a number of years, which means you have a strong group of people mainly disconnected from the Abrahamic faith of Israel. Mix in a strong group of Jews desiring to see their great heritage fall to the wayside and you’ve got a bit of a challenge.

So here is a man with wisdom and pastoral compassion trying to help both Jews and Gentiles. You can sense it right throughout the letter.

But what about the difficulty of Romans 7? How does this fit into the Roman context?

Well, we could work through chs.6 and 8, but let’s come back to that. This is where 7:1 becomes all-important.

Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives?

Who is Paul speaking to?

Jews! Those who know the law.

Yes, Paul does tell us early on in the letter that even those who do not have the Jewish Torah have a law for themselves (see Rom 2:14-15). But, looking at this statement in 7:1, I think it quite clear Paul is speaking to those who know Yahweh’s Torah, as summed up in the Law of Moses.

When you realize that Paul is mainly speaking to Jews, in this little interlude between chapters 6 and 8, I believe it opens up the passage quite a lot.

It’s not so much about whether Paul is describing a Christian or non-Christian, though we can talk about that, and I will. Rather it’s primarily about one who is trying to live under the law.

And so I do believe we can ascribe to a Jew, a good Jew in the context of the first century, these words of Paul: For in my inner being I delight in God’s law (7:22).

Paul’s not really caught up in our debates about prevenient or irresistible grace. He is describing a good Jew like himself based right in the tension of the first century as things were strongly evolving into the light of the new covenant in Christ. For someone who delights in the law but tries to live under the reign of the law, that person is going to find herself or himself in quite a pickle. Such a Jew might end up arguing with themselves, like Gollum and Smeagol, as seen here. Such a major internal war!

This is why the preceding words of chapter 6 become extremely important. Especially statements like these: For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace (Rom 6:14).

The one joined to Christ has been freed from the reign of both sin and law. Law + sin = a jumbled mixture of problems in a Jew. But living under the reign of grace, as seen and expressed in the faithfulness of Jesus, releases one to ‘serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code’ (Rom 7:6). And Paul reminds us of the delivery that takes place in Jesus Christ (7:24-25). Not only that, but ‘through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death’ (8:2).

‘Ok, then. But what about 7:25, part b,’ one may ask?! It says: So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Yes, a good Jew will want to be a slave (or obedient) to the torah-law. But that person living in light of their sinful nature, the flesh, will become a slave to the law of sin. It’s reality for Paul, for any Jew. Again, Law + sin = a jumbled mixture of problems in a Jew. This is why Paul could give his list of achievements for being best Jew of the century, but at the same time list his persecution of Christians (see Phil 3:4-6). Living under the reign and lordship of the law is ludicrous, even making one proud of their accomplishments that are contrary to the will of God (and for Paul, that was watching Christians be murdered!). A proper Jew needs releasing from such a view, being drown in the reign of the grace of God in the faithfulness of Jesus.

Now, there is no doubt we could think about the application of chapter 7 for us, Gentiles, some 2000 years later. Though let me remark that I don’t think it completely possible to think like a Jew, even more a Jew from some 2000 years ago like Paul. Still, we can consider the ease of making our own law (not in a Rom. 2 sense, but from an extreme moralistic framework). And, thus, we try and live an overly controlled life under this law, which really ends up wrecking our own hearts and lives, as well as others’. We have to grapple with the practicalities of living under the reign of law rather than the reign of grace.

But Paul is talking about those who know the law, the Mosaic torah. In this extremely divided Roman church, he is taking time to address his brothers and sisters in the fleshly heritage.

And, so, in a sense, Paul is creating a before and after situation. Jews would have once been driven by their commitment to the precious rule of the law (or maybe they still were). But now it was time to live under the reign of grace, under the new way of the Spirit, under the rule of Christ Jesus. That was the glories of which Paul was proclaiming.

This is what Romans 7 is all about, tucked into the middle of a letter to the church in Rome, tucked in between two very telling chapters, that being chapters 6 and 8. I think if we remember this, it will help us continue to understand what God has done for us and in us through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And it will release us to live more and more under the reign of grace, the Jew first and also the Gentile.

~Scott Lencke

August 25, 2012

The Spice Tithe: Selective Righteousness

 

Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

Tithe [tahyth] noun

1.

Sometimes, tithes. the tenth part of agricultural produce or personal income set apart as an offering to God or for works of mercy, or the same amount regarded as an obligation or tax for the support of the church, priesthood, or the like…
Word Origin & History

Old English: teogoþa (Anglian), teoþa (W.Saxon) “tenth,” from P.Gmc. *tegunthon, *tekhunthon. Retained in ecclesiastical sense while the form was replaced in ordinal use by tenth (influenced by ten). The verb is O.E. teoþian.

~dictionary.com

We live in times where an increasing number of Bible teachers are proclaiming that the “tithe” — the giving of ten percent to the Lord’s work — no longer applies to us under the New Covenant; while at the same time a vocal number of Bible teachers are reminding their flock that the tithe is a command that God has not revoked.

Tithing on your spice harvest might require some rather precise measurement. You would only grow what you needed, and in some of these cases you would not need to devote much land to these spices.  A little dill or mint or cumin goes a long way. So in a sense it would “cost you nothing” to give out of a surplus that you had no intention of consuming. But then you could boast of your righteousness in the matter of tithing. “Look,” you could say, “I tithe right down to the smallest crop in my field.”

Matthew Henry writes:

They observed smaller duties, but omitted greater; they were very exact in paying tithes, till it came to mint, anise, and cumin, their exactness in tithing of which would not cost them much, but would be cried up, and they should buy reputation cheap. The Pharisee boasted of this, I give tithes of all that I possess, Luke 18:12. But it is probable that they had ends of their own to serve, and would find their own account in it; for the priests and Levites, to whom the tithes were paid, were in their interests, and knew how to return their kindness. Paying tithes was their duty, and what the law required; Christ tells them they ought not to leave it undone. Note, All ought in their places to contribute to the support and maintenance of a standing ministry: withholding tithes is called robbing God, Mal. 2:8-10. They that are taught in the word, and do not communicate to them that teach them that love a cheap gospel, come short of the Pharisee.

But that which Christ here condemns them for, is, that they omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith; and their niceness in paying tithes, was, if not to atone before God, yet at least to excuse end palliate to men the omission of those. All the things of God’s law are weighty, but those are most weighty, which are most expressive of inward holiness in the heart; the instances of self-denial, contempt of the world, and resignation to God, in which lies the life of religion. Judgment and mercy toward men, and faith toward God, are the weightier matters of the law, the good things which the Lord our God requires (Mic. 6:8); to do justly, and love mercy, and humble ourselves by faith to walk with God. This is the obedience which is better than sacrifice or tithe; judgment is preferred before sacrifice, Isa. 1:11. To be just to the priests in their tithe, and yet to cheat and defraud every body else, is but to mock God, and deceive ourselves. Mercy also is preferred before sacrifice, Hos. 6:6. To feed those who made themselves fat with the offering of the Lord, and at the same time to shut up the bowels of compassion from a brother or a sister that is naked, and destitute of daily food, to pay tithe-mint to the priest, and to deny a crumb to Lazarus, is to lie open to that judgment without mercy, which is awarded to those who pretended to judgment, and showed no mercy; nor will judgment and mercy serve without faith in divine revelation; for God will be honored in his truths as well as in his laws.

Are there areas where I am precise and exact in doing what I feel God requires while completely missing the point on larger, more important issues? I’m sure there are. I call this selective righteousness and we can use this brand of righteous behavior to cover over other areas in our lives where we are not doing so well in terms of what we know God requires.

I wanted to end this with the same passage from The Message Bible, where Eugene Peterson loses the agricultural reference in verse 23 to something more recognizable in a balance-sheet world. But then I felt the entire passage bears repeating:

Matthew 23:13“I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won’t let anyone else in either.

 15“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned.

 16-22“You’re hopeless! What arrogant stupidity! You say, ‘If someone makes a promise with his fingers crossed, that’s nothing; but if he swears with his hand on the Bible, that’s serious.’ What ignorance! Does the leather on the Bible carry more weight than the skin on your hands? And what about this piece of trivia: ‘If you shake hands on a promise, that’s nothing; but if you raise your hand that God is your witness, that’s serious’? What ridiculous hairsplitting! What difference does it make whether you shake hands or raise hands? A promise is a promise. What difference does it make if you make your promise inside or outside a house of worship? A promise is a promise. God is present, watching and holding you to account regardless.

 23-24“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God’s Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that’s wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?

 25-26“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You burnish the surface of your cups and bowls so they sparkle in the sun, while the insides are maggoty with your greed and gluttony. Stupid Pharisee! Scour the insides, and then the gleaming surface will mean something.

 27-28“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds.

 29-32“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You build granite tombs for your prophets and marble monuments for your saints. And you say that if you had lived in the days of your ancestors, no blood would have been on your hands. You protest too much! You’re cut from the same cloth as those murderers, and daily add to the death count.

 33-34“Snakes! Reptilian sneaks! Do you think you can worm your way out of this? Never have to pay the piper? It’s on account of people like you that I send prophets and wise guides and scholars generation after generation—and generation after generation you treat them like dirt, greeting them with lynch mobs, hounding them with abuse.

 35-36“You can’t squirm out of this: Every drop of righteous blood ever spilled on this earth, beginning with the blood of that good man Abel right down to the blood of Zechariah, Barachiah’s son, whom you murdered at his prayers, is on your head. All this, I’m telling you, is coming down on you, on your generation.

April 3, 2011

Jesus’ Attitude Toward the Divorced, Remarried and Those Guilty of Adultery

I “borrow” a lot of things to keep this blog running, but today I’m sure to get caught (again!) because Pastor Kevin Rogers is a regular reader.   This appeared on his blog, The Orphan Age, under the title, Hope for Damaged Divorcees. So much of what we read online consists of our opinions on this subject and we forget how Jesus handled things…

So, what are we to understand about Jesus’ attitude toward the divorced, remarried and those guilty of adultery? His encounters with the guilty help us understand his attitude toward us. The Samaritan woman at the well is a great example of Jesus’ message to lawbreakers.

We find the Lord in a mutually vulnerable situation. He is a Jewish man alone in a conversation with a Samaritan woman. Cultural taboos would suggest that this was inappropriate on many levels. Still, Jesus is not bound by what the neighbors think.

The love of God reaches far beyond the protective limitations of religious people. To the pure all things are pure. Jesus was not about to take advantage of this woman.

The ensuing conversation is loaded with new thought about God’s Kingdom. Jesus is offering her something that will satisfy her at the deepest level, like a drink that has a permanent quenching effect. The offer of God’s life is appealing, but who can be good enough to earn it? Could this woman be respectable enough to merit God’s blessing?

John 4:
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.

We see here a woman who had been betrayed and polluted by many. It’s not a question of whether she is the victim or the manipulator, but a recognition of the brokenness. Could it be that every new relationship came with a weak promise of lasting commitment and security? Men were not her answer.

Is the Law of God about adultery applicable to this woman? Indeed it is. The Law condemns her actions. But Jesus does not sound accusatory or judgmental here. Instead he invites her to bring his message of hope to the damaged remnants of relationship. Multiple failed marriages and adultery were not standing in God’s way of bringing lasting satisfaction to her. The impact of this woman’s life would be incredible.

John 4:
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.
42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Having been known as the town slut, she now becomes God’s messenger of hope. God took the irreparable damage of her life and gave her a contagious satisfaction. The story never addresses what became of the man she was living with at the time, but we can know with certainty that her newfound belief in Jesus would have a rippling effect that would stay with her for life. The central issue was not how bad she had been, but how loved she would be. God would love her with an everlasting love that would purify her.

It made so much sense that many of her neighbors would want it, too. The question is not how many divorces or adulterous affairs have you had, but are you open to being loved by the King of Heaven. Love covers a multitude of sins and purifies the polluted.

Do you struggle with guilt and condemnation from past failures? Christ’s love and grace is ready to heal you.

Jesus offers great hope of satisfaction to the castaways of broken marriage. You will find the fidelity and contentment you long for. It will come in receiving God’s Kingdom into your life—in receiving the King of Heaven as your satisfaction.

~Kevin Rogers

 

Read a previous Kevin Rogers post at this blog here.

October 20, 2010

A Three-Dimensional Understanding of Sin

Mark Batterson is the pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC, and the author of In A Pit With A Lion on a Snowy Day, Wild Goose Chase and Primal. This is from his blog, Evotional

In Jewish thought, there was a more nuanced understanding of sin. I think we have a one-dimensional understanding. Sin is sin. But the Jewish people had a three-dimensional understanding of sin. According to tradition, when the priest confessed the sins of Israel over the head of the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement, it was a confession of three kinds of wrongdoing: iniquities, transgressions, and sins. The difference? Iniquities were willful. Transgressions were rebellious. And sins were unintentional.

I think our confessions are too vague. We pray: “Lord, forgive me for everything I’ve ever done wrong.” I’m sorry, but that’s weak! We don’t even let our kids get by with that. You need to know what you’re sorry for or you’ll make the same mistake over and over again. A vague confession results in vague forgiveness. You’re not really sure if you’re forgiven because you’re not really sure if you’ve confessed.

Did you know the High Priest was removed from his house and “quarantined” in the cell of the counselors for seven days before the Day of Atonement. Confession was a week long process. I wonder if we’ve ever spent an hour in confession? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about languishing in forgiven sin. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. But confession is like cleaning a wound. If you don’t clean it completely, it often festers! Here’s what I’m getting at: the more nuanced our confession, the more nuanced our forgiveness. I think our confessions would be healthier and holier if we specified the sins we’re asking forgiveness for: the words, the thoughts, the motivations, the actions, the reactions.