The Illuminated Word

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My Musings – Much of the deceptive philosophy can clearly discerned as false or not to be trusted, and we easily dismiss or discard it. Some contradicts what we have grown up believing. Yet many believe in and swear by it with such great passion and credibility, that we can hardly see how it could be wrong. Some are appealing because they have a “form of Godliness” and yet we wonder if it can be trusted. How then do we decide what is truth?

Mark Twain is credited with saying that “in religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a farthing.” We must never be too lazy (or too naïve) to blindly accept every “wind of doctrine” that comes along. In the final analysis, even when the source of information seems trustworthy, like the Bereans, we must lay what is being said alongside the Word of God to see if it is true. However, in order to do this effectively we must be sufficiently familiar with the Bible to know how to use it. Possessing a tool is not much good if we do not know how to use (“rightly divide”) it properly.

Both the Old Testament and the New Testament (the Bible) point us to God’s central truth that brought redemption to mankind – His Son, Jesus Christ. A redemption that was necessary because of the fall. Among other things, the Old Testament was written so that we “might have hope” (Romans 15:4) in the truth that was to come (the Messiah) as it looked forward to Jesus’ first coming. The New Testament was written so that we “may know” (1 John 5:13) and believe in the truth that came (the Savior) so that we might have eternal life, and as we look forward to Jesus’ second coming.

The Scriptures (the Bible), both the Old Testament and the New Testament, form the complete and inerrant Word of God.

While the Bible was written by men (who are prone to error), the truths that the Bible conveys were inspired by God (Who does not make mistakes) to communicate His truths to mankind.

God did this so that we might know, worship and serve Him. In its pages the Bible teaches us how we should live, by the laws God gave us in its words and by the example of His Son that it records. When we stray from these teachings, the Bible’s words of instruction become words of rebuke as the Holy Spirit works to bring correction into our lives. Through all of this (teaching, rebuking and correcting) we are being trained to become (be transformed into) the Godly men and women that God intended for us to be before the fall. He wants us to be thoroughly equipped for every good work as we have the opportunity.

The Bible Is God-Breathed – The Bible is not merely good advice from a group of well-meaning men acting independently of each other. It is God communicating His thoughts and revealing Himself through these men. Each were dependent upon God’s inspiration for the messages that they wrote and were unconsciously acting in concert with each other as the mystery of the Gospel and God’s grace through His Son unfolded in perfect harmony.  “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21, NIV 1978).

The Bible Teaches Us – The Bible is God’s instruction book for our life and conduct. It teaches us about Him and our relationship to Him; how we should worship Him and how we should obey Him.  “It [the Word] is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees.” (Deuteronomy 17:19, NIV 1978).

The Bible Rebukes Us – The word of God cannot help but make us conscious of and reprimand us for the inconsistencies in our daily walk and in our profession of faith. Not just the apparent inconsistencies that are evident from our actions and lifestyle, but also the inconsistencies buried deep within our thoughts and that affect the attitude of our heart.  “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV 1978).

The Bible Corrects Us – The word not only rebukes us, but it brings correction. It causes us to redirect our life and bring it back onto the path that is the way to a fulfilling life with our Lord.  “For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life.” (Proverbs 6:23, NIV 1978).

The Bible Trains Us – The word teaches us what to do. It rebukes us when we stray. It brings us back to the right path. Finally, it trains us on how to stay on the right path. It does that by giving us understanding and by turning our hearts toward God’s word. And as we walk with the Lord the word becomes more than just something we read, and more than something to think about and reflect upon. It becomes who we are. Influencing our thoughts and actions.  “Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; and I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes.” (Psalm 119:33-36, NIV 1978).

The Bible Equips Us – The word that trains us to live our lives consistently in accordance with God’s will is also equipping us and preparing us for active service. Because we do not just live our lives solely for self-improvement, but to be useful to God in service for Him.  “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. An instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” (2 Timothy 2:15, 21, NIV 1978).

The Bible Calls Us To Action – How sad to think that some will be taught, trained, equipped and on the right path, but going nowhere and doing nothing. God did not save us for a life of quiet consent to the truths of His word. He called us to a life of service to Him.  “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22, NIV 1978).

The Bible Is Eternal – What we have learned. What we have been trained in. What we have been equipped with. What has changed our lives and has called us to service will never be superseded, go out of style, or become obsolete. It stands forever. “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18, NIV 1978).

My Advice – Jesus’ sheep listen to His voice because they know His voice. They know His voice because they are familiar with it. They are familiar with His voice because they have stayed close to Him and spent time with Him. Because of this, His sheep are able to distinguish the voice of the imposter (deceiver) who comes only to “steal, kill and destroy.” They will not “believe every spirit.” They will not be taken “captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy” that so easily ensnares those who are not familiar enough with the Master’s voice. They will not “turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Knowing His voice is so very important because the imposter is very crafty. We see his craftiness in how he deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden. When confronting them doing (listening and following) what God had told them, he did not start with outright contradiction. First, he caused them to begin doubting the Word of God (“did God really say?”) by distorting the Word of God (“you must not eat from any tree?”). That made God’s Word seem unreasonable. Eventually, this allowed him to take things where he wanted them all along – disputing God’s Word altogether (“you will not”). This ultimately led them into disobeying God’s Word and with God calling out – “Adam, where are you?” They had hid themselves because they were no longer following Him.

So how do we guard against making this same mistake? While Jesus no longer walks this earth we can still know His voice by spending time in His Word. But we need to do more than just “hear” what it says; we need to “listen” to what it says. We must make the effort to process what it says so that we can capture its meaning and message. Without this effort we are merely going through a mechanical process and hearing background noise. But if we make this effort we will be able to see through the craftiness of the imposter. When he says “did God really say” we can reply yes He did, “it is written.”

So how are you doing? Are you merely hearing without listening? Are you listening without following?

Not Of The World

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My Musings –  Just because we must be in the World (“not that you take them out of the World“), does not mean that we must be of the World.  Christians are not people of the World, they are people of the Word. For this reason, it is imperative that we regularly spend time in the Word (“protect them from the evil one“).

As you sent me into the World –  Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”  (John 18:37, NIV 1984).

I have sent them into the World“You will be my witnesses [to the truth] in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Our testimony to what is truth will not be credible if we are not familiar enough with the truth (in the Word).  We will not be credible witnesses to the truth if we are of the World.  Will you be a person of the Word or of the World?  Get the “L” out of the World.

“Set your minds on things above [the Word], not on earthly [Worldly] things.  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived [Worldly]. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these.”  (Colossians 3:2, 7-8, NIV 1984).

 

 

Hanging Out In The Shadows

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My Musings – Michael Jordan just may be the greatest all-around basketball player of all time.  But the one who played in his shadow, Scottie Pippin was no slouch either.  Babe Ruth is a baseball legend, but playing somewhat in his shadow was a pretty good baseball player in his own right, Lou Gehrig.  For several years, Aaron Rodgers stood patiently on the sidelines as back-up quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, waiting his turn to come out from the shadow of Brett Favre.  Many people (Barnabas, Titus, Silas, Timothy) labored alongside the Apostle Paul, largely in his shadow.  But for the person casting the shadow, many of these shadow dwellers may have shined brighter.

There are examples in the scriptures too. Verses that “hang-out” in the shadow of the better verse we all love to quote.  Here are three examples.

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. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”  (John 3:16-18, NIV 1984).

Standing in the shadows of that great promise for all who believe, is the condemnation for those who do not.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  (Ephesians 2:8-10, NIV 1984).

Standing in the shadows of astounding proclamation of salvation by grace through faith alone is what God has prepared for those who take that step of faith.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  (Philippians 4:6-8, NIV 1984)

Standing in the shadows of  that precious promise of peace and guarded hearts and minds, are the instructions on how they are obtained.

There are, I am sure, many other examples I could cite.  But the point is, let’s not be satisfied with quotable “sound bites,” as marvelous as they are.  There is so much more we can learn in the surrounding context.  In many cases, what is obscured in the shadowy context, may reveal we’ve been applying the more well known verse improperly.

My Advice – We need to correctly handle the Word of truth.  For “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  By the way, that last phrase (“so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.“) sometimes gets overlooked in the shadows.

 

Sheep’s Clothing

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My Musings – In banking, tellers are taught the best way to spot a counterfeit – you study the genuine article.  By being familiar with the “real deal” you can more readily spot the fake.  This similar principle can be applied to identifying false teachers.  You look to what they are saying and doing, and you place it alongside what is truth – God’s Word.

Feed Only Themselves – We’ve all seen them, enriching themselves while the flock is starving for the truth.

Clouds Without Rain – They look and sound impressive, but in reality lack the substance of the truth.

Autumn Trees Without Fruit – You expect the fruit in the Autumn, and you would expect spiritual leaders to bear real fruit.  Yet the false ones pander to big crowds in this age of “consumer Christianity.”  Give them what they want to hear, not what they need to hear.

Wild Waves Foaming Up – Stirring the pot, when they should be building up the body in unity of the Spirit.

Wandering Stars – Abandoning the flock that they have been entrusted with, seeking greener pastures for themselves, while their sheep are left shepherd less.

For Whom Blackest Darkness Has Been Reserved Forever – Their just reward.

My Advice – Stay in the Word.  You’ll know who measures up and who does not.  Here are a few pointers.

1. Is the teaching from a well-known and trusted source?

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures.” (2 Timothy 3:14, 15)

2. Is the teaching consistent with what you have learned from the well-known and trusted sources?

“I urge you brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.” (Romans 16:17)

3. Is the teaching clear from the texts or is the interpretation strained?

You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” (Matthew 23:24)

4. Is the teaching exclusive or nearly exclusive?

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:20)

5. Is the teaching necessary to support a questionable position or lifestyle?

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3)

6. Does the teaching direct society to follow God’s moral standards or does the teaching encourage others to follow the world’s social mores?

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

7. Is the teaching’s emphasis on grace and freedom too permissive?

You my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.” (Galatians 5:13)

8. Is the teaching’s emphasis on morality and obedience too repressive?

Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by the oath.’ You blind fools!” (Matthew 23:16, 17)

9. Does the teaching deny the power of God to enable His children to overcome sin and temptation?

And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)

10. Does the teaching follow Satan’s pattern of masquerading as an angel of light?

For such men are false apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.” (1 Corinthians11:13, 14)

11. Does the teaching follow Satan’s pattern of deceit by calling God’s Word into question?

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say….” (Genesis 3:1)

12. Does the teaching call right wrong and wrong right?

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20)

Mark Twain is credited with saying that “in religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a farthing.” We must never be too lazy (or too naïve) to blindly accept every “wind of doctrine” that comes along. In the final analysis, even when the source of information seems trustworthy, like the Bereans, we must lay what is being said alongside the Word of God to see if it is true. However, in order to do this effectively we must be sufficiently familiar with the Bible to know how to use it. Possessing a tool is not much good if we do not know how to use (“rightly divide”) it properly.

 

The Word – Special Delivery

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My Musings – Years ago, the Christian worldview, based upon the Word of God, was nearly universally accepted as the absolute truth in the Western world.  This worldview has eroded over the years to the point that truth is largely considered to be relative to the person or circumstances.  Pontius Pilate once asked Jesus “What is truth.”  Nowadays, many (most) would answer question with “it depends.”  But Jesus said then, and would still say today, “I am the truth,” or “my words are truth.”  Jesus is able to say that because He is the Word that was with God in the beginning.

In revelation God unveils truth; by interpretation man understands that truth.  The link that connects God proclaiming (revelation) and man perceiving (interpretation) is the inspiration of Holy Scriptures.  The inspired Word of God.

Revelation – The divine or supernatural disclosure to humans of things (the facts of Divine communication) that were previously secret or unknown.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17, NIV 1978)

Inspiration – A divine influence or action (the means of Divine communication) on a person to enable him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation.

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20, 21, NIV 1978)

Interpretation – The apprehension and understanding (the process of Divine communication) of God’s revelation to man.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15, NIV 1978)

My Advice – The first two parts (revelation and inspiration) have been done for you.  Do your best to apprehend and understand what God is saying through His Word. through His Son.

 

Litmus Test Theology

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My Musings – In recent years, we’ve heard a lot about litmus test – a test in which a single factor (such as an attitude, event, or fact) is decisive. If there is a God, then His Word (the Bible) should be decisive in all matters of faith, conduct and morality.  It’s a living (not dead or obsolete), active (not deactivated) document.  It can determine the finest points of contention, penetrating to the heart of the matter, exposing what might not be so evident on the surface (inner thoughts and attitudes behind outward words and actions).

My Advice – When the issue to be considered is important, you want resources that are authoritative.  Opinions are a dime a dozen and there are a multitude of self-appointed “authorities.”  Consult the God’s Word on matters great and small in all questions concerning faith, conduct and morality.  It is the only authoritative source document that is above reproach.

The Word Lives In You

1 John 2:14I write to you young men, because you are strong, and the Word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – We overcame the devil when we accepted Christ. We no longer need to submit to his temptations. That does not stop him from trying. But we have the strength to resist because God’s Word lives in us.

My Advice – Continue to be strong in the Lord, because His Word lives in you.