Archive for the ‘Bible’ Category

Welcome to another edition of, “Does the Bible really say THAT?”

Has this ever happened to you? I’ll be sitting in Sunday School or in Church service and the teacher or pastor refers to a passage of scripture to support his or her teaching and I’ll cringe a little. Not out of conviction from the Holy Spirit, but because I know that the passage does not teach the principle stated and that everyone within hearing is missing the truth.

Now any teacher, myself included, is guilty of making this mistake. It is often an innocent mistake motivated by pure intentions, but it can lead others astray nonetheless. It is often caused by careless preparation and mishandling of the text. And the errant teaching is often a regurgitation of popular Christian sayings or traditions. It is the sin of prooftexting.

I’ll give you an example.

You have heard it said, “Don’t go to bed angry.” It is a popular Christian principle to resolve conflict before you go to bed. While this may be a great principle to live by, it is not a principle taught by this passage. This is a prooftext of Ephesians 4:26-27 (NAS)

“BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”

What does the text say?

The NAS translation is very true to the original language except it adds “yet”.  The Greek says, “Be angry and do not sin.” Also the translators took liberty with the word translated “opportunity.” The word means “place” as in “foothold”, but the meaning of the phrase is a warning against giving the devil an opportunity to tempt a believer into unrighteous behavior. The phrase “do not let the sun go down on your anger” means “do not let your anger end.”  

What does the text mean?

The context of the passage is Paul’s call for the believers in Ephesus to live holy lives, remain righteous and to not grieve the Holy Spirit. Righteous anger toward sin is not permitted, it is commanded. “Be angry.” Because you and I are sealed with the Holy Spirit, we have a new relationship with sin. The sin we once loved, we now hate.  We are commanded to not relax that relationship, for if we do we will give the enemy a foothold. Paul contrasts righteous behavior with unrighteous behavior throughout this passage and the entirety of the letter. He warns us to no longer walk as we once did, depraved, callous and greedy. He calls this our former life. We have been taught in Christ to put on the likeness of God in holiness and truth. We are commanded to guard our hearts by remaining angry with sin and not let down our guard.

What is the application?

You have heard it said, “Don’t go to bed angry.” But I tell you, “Go to bed angry and do not sin.” Guarding our hearts and minds requires a diligent and tireless commitment to righteousness. Speaking truth is often not the most popular thing to do, but speaking the truth with gentleness and respect is always the right thing to do.

Jesus often taught the Israelites by quoting a popular Pharisaical teaching and correcting that teaching. It was necessary for him to do that because many of his hearers did not know the word of God and so they were ill-prepared to challenge the teaching of their leaders. Paul commended the Bereans because they did not just take his word when he gave them the gospel. They tested his words against the truth they were already given in the Hebrew Scriptures. Unfortunately, in a country where the Bible can be readily accessed with a touch of a button this is the most biblically illiterate generation since the founding of our country. We now gain our theology from popular Christian sound bites rather than engaging scripture for ourselves. When the church is content with being told what to believe without testing the spirits, we not only give Satan a foothold, we give him command of the house.

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“Be perfect as I am perfect.”

Our Sunday school teacher said we need to be perfect as Jesus was perfect. But is that true? What does it mean to be perfect? Surely Jesus does not expect us to be as perfect as God? If so, then we have all been set up for failure. What did Jesus mean?

First of all, the teacher quoted scripture blending two passages:

Matthew 5:48 “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Leviticus 19:2  “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.”

Secondly, the context of the passage in Matthew is a comparison of the righteous versus the unrighteous (Mt. 5:45), but it is not limited to behavior. He is correcting traditional pharisaical teachings throughout chapter 5. Verse 48 is the summarizing statement of Jesus’ discourse. To gain an accurate interpretation, we need to consider not only the context of Matthew, but also the context of the Leviticus passage. When a New Testament writer quotes from another source, he is not just invoking the semantic text, he is invoking the context of the passage as well. When we consider the context of Lev. 19 we see that the Lord is expressing His wholehearted covenantal devotion to His people. He loves us completely, never wavering, always steadfast. It is to this covenantal devotion that Jesus is calling his disciples to as they gathered around him listening to his teaching.

Finally, to love the Lord completely means that we must love our enemies, just as Christ loved those who spat on him, those who cursed him, and those who drove the nails into his hands. We must remember that we were once enemies of God, worthy of His wrath. It is easy to love those who love us back, but what of those who want to destroy us, those who hate us, and those who wish that we would just shut up and die? I don’t know about you, but the closer I draw to the Lord the more the world hates me. Members of my own family detest when I speak about God, what He is doing in my life, His Word, or pray for them accusing me of “advertising” my faith. What a compliment from someone who wishes I would just shut up!

Dorothy Day once wrote, “I really only love God as much as the person I love the least.” Who do you love the least? Commit today to love completely as Christ with wholehearted devotion, perfectly. I am so in awe that God loves such an imperfect mess such as me. I am so grateful He is not willing to leave me this way. For as long as God allows me to breathe, I pray I have the courage to advertise my faith in this broken vessel.

This is in reponse to more “God Questions.”  If you are seeking answers, forward your questions. Let’s find the answers together.

Did Judas go to hell because he committed suicide?

Also, do you go to hell if you commit suicide?

 Matthew 27:3–5 (NIV) 3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” 5 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

Ephesians 2:8–9 (NIV) 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

First, it is important for us to recognize how it is possible for any of us to escape eternal separation from God (hell) and that is by faith. We did nothing to earn our salvation therefore we can do nothing to lose it. How are we condemned? We all sin because we are sinners, I am not a sinner because I sin. A sinner is who I am and I am condemned on those grounds. I am saved because of who God is, not because of who I am.

So the question might be, was Judas saved by faith?

John 6:64 (NIV) 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.

The answer is clearly no. And I think it is worthy to note here that Judas was not a mere pawn in God’s plan. All that he did, he did willingly. Even Judas recognized his own guilt. The word used here for remorse in Mt. 27:3 indicates a change of mind, not a change of heart. It is an intellectual remorse not spiritual repentance.

You and I cannot see Judas’ heart, but we can judge his fruit. Did Judas’ fruit demonstrate a saving faith?

John 12:4–6 (NIV) 4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

Judas’ character as revealed by the scriptures showed him to be miserly and a thief void of compassion clear up until his betrayal of Christ. So it is that Judas died a condemned man because he did not believe Christ, not because he violated the sixth commandment.

Does a person go to hell because they commit suicide?

Suicide does not damn a man although murder, even committing one’s own murder, is still a sin even if it can be forgiven. We are condemned because that is who we are without Christ.

The next question that might follow is: Can someone be a believer and still commit suicide?

To that I would answer with a question, “Are you as a believer without sin?” People commit acts of sin throughout their entire lives, even believers. And people commit suicide for many reasons, including chemical imbalances in the brain.

1 John 1:8–10 (NIV) 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

The Christian faith is unique in that it is not a works based righteousness that saves a man from the condemnation of hell. We are saved apart from our deeds, thereafter our deeds reveal our faith. James 2:24 (NIV) “24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” We are justified before men by our deeds because how we live betrays what we truly believe.

As believers we are secure in our salvation because of the way God saves us.

Ephesians 1:13–14 (NIV) 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Romans 8:37–39 (NIV) 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In conclusion, if one goes to hell it is because they died apart from Christ, not because of their deeds. Suicide can no more cancel the seal of the Holy Spirit or the finished work on the cross than lying, gossiping or sexual immorality. But if we are living like we do not believe God exists or like we do not fear God, then we would be wise to examine our selves to determine if we are in the faith.

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV) 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

2 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV) 5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?

Deep Waters

Posted: February 4, 2010 in Bible, Christian, faith, Religion
Tags: , , , ,

16    He reached down from on high and took hold of me;

he drew me out of deep waters.

17    He rescued me from my powerful enemy,

from my foes, who were too strong for me.

18    They confronted me in the day of my disaster,

but the Lord was my support.

19    He brought me out into a spacious place;

he rescued me because he delighted in me. Psalm 18:16-19

6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Heb. 11:6

Are you beaten down? Fed up? Closed in?

Is the weight of debt bearing down?

Is the certainty of separation terrifying?

Is the pain of suffering exhausting?

Is your resolve evaporating?

Are you wounded? Weary? Worried?

Then you know deep waters.

This Psalm was part of my reading today and it was very timely. You see, someone I love is suffering and has only days to live. The joy I feel for him that soon he will enter into the glory of heaven and the presence of our heavenly Father (whom my friend loves deeply) is tempered by the despair from the inevitable void that will be created when he is separated from us. My friend Bob is like a father to so many fatherless. He is a strong anchor to which we tether our weaker crafts keeping us from drifting into the darkness. And now we must find our way relying on the truth he so laboriously invested in us.

Grief can sometimes engulf us leaving us floundering in the dark, drifting, sinking. King David wrote Psalm 18 after he was delivered from Saul’s hand. He had been driven out to the wilderness by someone who wanted him dead. He was hiding like a criminal in a cave: cold, desperate and alone. David knew despair, he knew deep waters.

Our Savior was no stranger to suffering and sorrow either. But as compassionate as he was about our temporal sufferings, Jesus was most concerned about our eternity. “Christ reached down and took hold of me, He drew me out of deep waters.” Just as air is most precious to a drowning man, the grace of God is most precious to a depraved man. Yet, He rescued me because he delighted in me? Faith delights the Lord. He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. And seek Him we must, lest we drown in our own depravity.

Are you in deep waters right now? Tether yourself to Christ. Even if your circumstances do not improve to your liking, the condition of your heart will. We cannot seek something we believe does not exist. When the heart is pure, the mind is willing to submit, to endure, to overcome. Christ said we would suffer; he did not rescue us from pain. He gives purpose to the pain and in doing so, He gives us hope. After the recent earthquake in Haiti it was reported that the people (80% of which are Christians) were singing in the streets. A pure heart knows hope. When a believer is stripped of all that identifies him as self, then he sees clearly to grasp the only hand that can draw him out of the deep waters.

Update 2/4/2010: Bob went to be with the Lord today. We will miss him terribly, but assuradly we will honor the investment he made in us. Bob, you loved the Lord well and it has been one of the greatest priveleges of my life to call you “friend.”

This is a response to a “God Question” from a friend. I hope you are blessed as we examine scripture together.

#2) Does anyone know the scripture reference that says “God does not bring a desire to your heart that he will not fulfill”

This is a teaching that has emerged from Psalm 20:4 “May he give you the desire of our heart and make all your plans succeed.” An honest look at the context reveals that the promise you quoted is not supported by the text. The text does not say anything about God creating desires in someone heart. We must be very careful not to spiritualize the text such that we apply a meaning that was never intended lest we embrace a false teaching and miss the intended blessing.

This Psalm is a prayer for Israel’s king when he is called to defend himself and the nation in battle. And insomuch as David is a typecast for Christ we are justified in extending the application of the meaning to the church and the triumph of our Savior over his enemies. Setting the stage for this text we see that the king has been called into battle, that a prayer or song is composed to be presented at a sanctuary service on his behalf. After sacrifices were offered and accepted by God, the Levites (singers) and the congregation would join in the prayer of supplication for the king before he left for battle.

In applying this text to the church, it is the duty of all believers to gather together and intercede for the interests of Kingdom. We all experience distress and appeal to the power of our loving Father to protect us, rescue us and help us overcome the enemy whomever or whatever that may be. A final note, a man’s desires reveal his character. If a man loves the Lord, then his desires will reveal it. Righteous desires are always in agreement with God’s will as revealed in His Word, so we can be confident that when we contend for the faith, success is inevitable.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” 1 John 5:14

The errant teaching occurs when we make man the center of scripture; for instance, some teach that if I have a desire, because I am a Christian and I claim that “God gave me this desire”, God will make it happen. We all have evil and righteous desires, believers included. Am I to assume that because I claim the blood of Christ that God can be manipulated to achieve my will?! Of course not! God does not serve us, it is the other way around! Secondly, how do you know that God gave you that desire? Our faith is not based on arbitrary indulgences; we have an objective standard by which we can determine truth. The degree to which we know God and surrender to His will as revealed in Scripture, is the degree to which we will experience victory in our lives.