Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

Obedience is evidence of faith. God’s call to the Israelite nation to trust and obey permeates the book of Joshua. To receive the promise, they must trust and obey; they must exhibit evidence of faith. When Israel trusts Yahweh, she triumphs regardless of the circumstances or however formidable the foe. God established Israel as a testament to the nations of His power and faithfulness.

“For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the Lord your God had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; that all of the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” Joshua 4:23-24

Whether we war against physical enemies of life and well-being, or we war with sin in a spiritual battle; the battle belongs to God. The victory is His. It is in the area of spiritual warfare that the book of Joshua is applicable for the church today.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

Peter Kreeft wrote, “The life-or-death battles in the Old Testament, especially in this most warlike book, are apt symbols of the no less life-or-death spiritual warfare of the New.” While God gives us promises, He does not relinquish His people of responsibility. We are called to obey as evidence of our faith. God ties obedience to success in warfare. We learn much from this handbook of warfare:

1. The church has received a promise and a responsibility to partner with God in His Kingdom work to fight the good fight. Joshua 1:6 and 1 Timothy 6:12

2. Our enemies are defeated before us and God will cause Satan to flee as we resist him.. Joshua 1:5 and James 4:7

3. The Lord will be ever present for us and will never forsake us. Joshua 1:5 and Matthew 28:20

4. All who receive salvation are called to obedience. Joshua 1:8 and Hebrews 5:9

5. We receive blessings by grace through faith, including the blessing of salvation. Joshua 8:33 and Romans 4:16

Indeed, it was the call to trust and obey that were the last words of our savior before he ascended to the right hand of the Father.

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in Heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

As believers we cross over from death (the Jordan) into life (the land of Promise). The Book of Joshua is a handbook of warfare to guide us as we continue to battle the enemy until we are called home. The book’s geographical and historical background show us how even as we live life, it is not our own. This is God’s story. Yahweh is salvation. As we imitate Joshua in his commitment to faithful obedience we too can experience victory in life as we are transformed into the likeness of the glory of Christ.

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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.

“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.

  14     What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15     If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16     and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17     Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. 18     But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” Jas 2:14-18.

One cannot have faith without works anymore than one can have love without mercy. Why do you get up in the morning?  Because the baby is crying? Because someone has to pay the bills?  Because you have a “to-do” list the length of your arm? When love motivates me, my whole attitude changes. The day is no longer about what I have to do, but what I get to do. I get to serve my family, I get to provide for my family, I get to breathe another day.  Faith and works, mercy and love all produced by grace bring glory to God. Make Lamentations 3:22-24 your prayer today and let Him be the reason you get up in the morning.

  22     The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. 23     They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 24     “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” La 3:22-24.

 The doctrine of the Trinity or the Triune God of Christianity is revealed in the New Testament. The Old Testament is clear that there is one God, not many as Mormons believe. The Jewish shema in Deuteronomy 6:4 states, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” The Christian Godhead possesses omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence—attributes denied by the Mormon godhead. In addition to these qualities, both the Old and New Testaments recognizes a plurality of persons in God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in. The use of the Greek word trias to describe this doctrine was first employed by Theophilus (A.D. 168-183) indicating that the understanding of a plurality within the Godhead was recognized from the onset of the Christian faith.1 An examination of the essence of the one true God of scripture indicates that God the Father is God, God the Son is God, and God the Holy Spirit is God—three persons with one essence. Scripture is clear that God the Father is all powerful, not confined to one space in time, and all knowing.

 The Hebrew name Elohim is used for God the Creator in Genises 1:1. The plural term itself allows for a multiplicity within the Godhead, however, only in persons, not in essence, for there can be only one essence which is infinite, all powerful, or one all knowing. Jesus taught his disciples to pray to the first person of the Tri-unity calling Him “Father”in Matthew 6:9. The Father is omnipotent, “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:2. The Father is omnipresent, “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” 1 Kings 8:27. And the Father is omniscient, “then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act; deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart (for you alone know the hearts of all men),” 1 Kings 8:39. A Being who is all powerful, all knowing and omnipresent cannot be a mere man as Mormons believe of the Father. Scriptures reveal that the Son shares the same essence as the Father.

 Jesus, the Son of God, claimed to be Yahweh in John 8:58 when he stated, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!” prompting the Jews to pick up stones to kill him for such blasphemy. The gospels testify to the truth of Christ’s statement. Luke 5:22 refers to Jesus’s omniscience when he recorded, “Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?” Jesus referred to his omnipresence in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” And Paul testified to Christ’s omnipotence in Colossians 1:15-17:

 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

 Jesus is obviously not a glorified man as the Mormons suggest, nor is he a spirit-child conceived through sexual relations between Elohim and Mary, nor is he Michael the archangel. Jesus claimed to be God and demonstrated his authority and power through his incarnation on earth. Jesus clearly stated the purpose of his incarnation in John 3:16-17:

 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Salvation is found by grace through faith in Christ, not by works as Joseph Smith taught. Christians are eternally sealed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity.
Just as the Father is called God and the Son is called God, the Holy Spirit is also called God. Luke records in Acts 5:3 that Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, then he restates this in verse 4 saying, “You have not lied to men but to God.” The Spirit of God embodies the same attributes of the Godhead as the Father and the Son. He is omniscient in Corinthians 2:10-12:

 “but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”

 In addition, the Holy Spirit is omnipotent as seen in Job 33:4, “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”  David expresses the omnipresence of God’s Spirit in Psalm 139 in that the presence of the God’s Spirit is everywhere such that he cannot hide from him. In John 14:16-17 Jesus tells his followers regarding salvation, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” God’s Spirit is very much immaterial in nature and can occupy all places in time and space contrary to the teachings of the Mormon Elder Talmage.

THE ONE TRUE GOD

 The Mormon teachings of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit is polytheistic and contrary to Orthodox Christian teachings. The Bible refutes any teachings that God is a glorified man incapable of occupying more than one place in time. The Triune God of Christianity is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient—qualities not shared with man. The current campaign to identify the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a Christian church is doomed to fail because the writings of their own prophets contradict biblical doctrines. The doctrine of the trinity may be explained as three subsistances properly identified in God, “though each possesses the same intelligence and will. Each of the Persons of the Trinity has a divine nature with all the attributes of God. Though the Trinity has three subsistences, they have but one and the same divine nature as one God.” 2 Mormon theology diverges from Christianity in denying the one true God of Scripture. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not only deceiving in name, but also in theology.

1. M. G. Easton, Easton’s Bible Dictionary (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), “Trinity” entry.

2. Lewis Chafer, Systematic Theology, Volume 1 (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press, 1988), 181.