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His Master's Voice
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|Written by: C. W. Booth|
Monday, May 03, 2010
Part 4: Testing God, Seeking Signs, and Asking Questions
Demanding a Sign
In the desert at the place called Massah, on the way out of Egypt, the Israelites had no water and feared they would die. They immediately quarreled with Moses and demanded water, accusing God and/or Moses of trying to kill them all. In other words, they cast doubt on the wisdom, holiness, goodness, and intelligent planning of God as executed via Moses. But mostly they questioned the very existence of God as the Lord who is actively involved in the lives of His people. They doubted Him because they could not personally see Him or individually hear Him, except for a handful of prophets like Moses. God called this doubting “testing the Lord” (Exodus 17:1-7).
Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, As in the day of Massah in the wilderness, When your fathers tested Me, They tried Me, though they had seen My work. For forty years I loathed that generation, And said they are a people who err in their heart, And they do not know My ways. Therefore I swore in My anger, Truly they shall not enter into My rest. (Psalms 95:8-11)
When Jesus was in the wilderness Satan tried to get Him to sin (Matthew 4:5-7). On one such attempt Satan said that the Bible “promised” that anyone holy would be protected by God from striking their foot on a stone, from being harmed by poisonous snakes, and from attacks by lions (Psalm 91:9-16). As the Messiah, the most holy man ever to live, surely this “promise” applied most literally to Him than to anyone.
Jesus’ answer is instructive. He did not respond by explaining that Psalm 91 was a metaphor on the endurance of faith, as I might have done. Jesus equated the act of intentionally placing yourself in harm’s way just to hold God responsible to fulfill a generic scriptural principle with the sin of “testing the Lord.” To Jesus, demanding that God fulfill a principle of Scripture just for you, so that you can obtain your own personal sign from God, is the same as doubting God or doubting His good planning.
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; (Matthew 12:38-39)
Demanding God prove Himself or reveal Himself by doing just exactly what we want Him to do, which is most often to give us a supernatural sign via an utterance, is evil and it is “testing the Lord.” To such people God states flatly, “to you no sign will be given.” The only sign we get is that of the written gospel, that Jesus lived, died, and rose from the dead.
Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." (John 20:29)
Asking a Question
Demanding that God act on our behalf, and instructing God to give us utterances of His voice as answers to our prayers, are not the same thing as asking sincere questions of God. Questions must not be of the “prove it to me” variety, which is a lack of faith. Questions must be of the type: “How can I best serve You?” or “Will You give me wisdom?” or “What spiritual gift have You given me that I might help equip Your church?” Such questions do not express doubt in the presence of God or in His holy attributes. They ask for help to serve.
Mary asked the angel how it could be possible that she was to bear the Messiah given that she had not participated in any sexual relations. She did not doubt that God was present or that this was a holy plan. Rather, she was confused as to what was being asked of her, that is, the mechanics of this blessing. So the angel explained in quite specific terms that she was not going to go about conceiving in the ordinary way, and so provided her an answer without treating the question as a doubt or as testing the Lord (Luke 1:35).
By contrast, in Luke chapter one Gabriel told Zacharias that he would have a child in his old age. Zacharias did not ask, “How?” but rather demanded that Gabriel give him a sign to prove it, “How will I know this for certain?” (Luke 1:18b). It was a doubt and a challenge for the angel to establish the integrity of his and God’s word by establishing a supernatural event by which Zacharias would know for certain that in nine months he would have a son. One might wonder how an angel appearing during worship was not enough of a sign, but such was the magnitude of Zacharias’ doubt and arrogant audacity. Gabriel relented and did give Zacharias a sign of sorts, by striking him speechless until the child was actually born!
Jesus said to him, "On the other hand, it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'" (Matthew 4:7)
Not all questions are “testing the Lord.” But questions that insult God, cast doubt on His presence, imply He has less than perfect holiness or wisdom, or demand of Him a tangible sign for our personal benefit, those are “testing the Lord.” To such questions we should always expect to receive no sign, no answer, and to offer back to God an apology for our lack of faith and our sin of audacious arrogance.
Part 4: Summary Statement
When anyone doubts that God is actively governing all things, or doubts that God’s governance is perfectly wise and holy, and then demands of God that He tangibly prove Himself righteous and powerful, it is “testing the Lord.” Likewise, petitioning God for a sign instead of relying only on His written Scriptures is also “testing the Lord.”
The next article in this series is Part 5: Elijah’s Experience with a Gentle Breeze and Hearing Voices, found here: Elijah's Experience with a Gentle Breeze and Hearing Voices
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Part 5: Elijah’s Experience with a Gentle Breeze and Hearing Voices
What Man Knows Changes Nothing
Almost no one has been permitted to know the future in any age. A few prophets were given glimpses of the future, though not to serve their own purposes or their own decision making needs, but to serve us who would come later as we would ask about the credentials of the Messiah (1 Peter 1:10-12). Amos once famously noted that God said He would reveal only to the prophets the impending destruction of Israel as a warning (like a lion’s distant roar) for that nation to repent (Amos 3:1-8). At any time in all of Israel and throughout its history (with few exceptions) there were only ever between about one and five genuine prophets of God recorded.
Prophets have always been rare. Not even the prophets always saw or foretold the future. Prophets told of God’s plans (God’s will) for humanity. Those plans are not alterable. Sometimes God gave humanity a choice, disobey and die or obey and live. Nonetheless, God’s plan is not changed by mankind’s choices. And if mankind knew all the details of God’s plans well in advance, humanity could still change nothing of what God intends to accomplish. Joy will come as will suffering, and Christ’s kingdom will never fail.
A Small Still Voice for All
Many people have asserted that God does indeed reveal His secret foreknowledge, not to prophets alone, but to all believers. They say God reveals His detailed plans to each of us through a “small still voice.”
Actually, they say that, but they do not mean that at all. They do not mean the voice is audible. They do not mean that the voice is even a voice. Rather the voice is not still and small but utterly inaudible. More than that, it is not even an inaudible voice (which would make it an oxymoron) but it is an inaudible feeling, a sensation, a gut intuition, and inner thought.
Oddly, to bolster the piety of this oxymoron (God talking in an inaudible voice) most mystics refer not to any doctrine of Christ but to an Old Testament encounter that Elijah the prophet had with God. A misuse and misunderstanding of Elijah’s encounter has misled uncounted Christians and non-Christians into error, paganism, and superstition.
A Cautionary Anecdote from the Founder of Mormonism
Before examining Elijah’s adventure, an anecdote is in order. I am not a fan of using anecdotes as “evidence” in any biblical debate or investigation. This one, however, is highly instructive given that the nature of all “inner voices” and “sensed feeling” experiences are themselves little more than individual anecdotes. Therefore, the following anecdote seems both apropos and helpful.
At the inception of the Mormon religion the church’s founder and first President, Joseph Smith, was also its only prophet, and he alone heard his god’s voice. When he was jailed for having his militia destroy a local newspaper office and smash its printing press he was assassinated by a local angry pro-free-press mob. This caused his friend, Brigham Young, to become President of the church in his stead. Brigham Young was distraught because he had never heard his god’s voice and did not consider himself a prophet of the Mormon god.
One night he dreamed that Joseph Smith had visited him. Young asked Smith how he too could become a genuine prophet. The deceased Smith replied, giving him this simple secret, “Just listen to the small still voice within you, it speaks for god.” Young then began interpreting his sensed feelings and gut intuitions, those small inner voices, as if they were prophecies from God and soon became the second great “prophet” of the Mormon religion.
Through even to this day every Mormon recruit is taught to search for that inner voice, that gut feeling of emotion, as the confirmation that they have become a Mormon convert. They are told that such a feeling is literally one of their gods speaking to them, reassuring them that the convert has entered the fold. In the same way the entirety of the Buddhist religion is dedicated to assisting the disciple to be able to tap into and hear those inner voices and sensed feelings so as to access enlightenment.
Part 5: Summary Statement
Experiencing inner voices, sensed feelings, and gut intuitions is a fleshly event common to every human and does not require the Holy Spirit to be present or that the human be spiritual in any biblical way. Treating sensed feelings and gut intuition as if they were God’s voice is a certain means of being deceived and deceiving others. It is the very bedrock and foundation of false religion and superstition. Such imagination springs not from God but from the heart and mind of all people, “They speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:16b).
Part 6 will continue the detailed investigation into Elijah’s encounter with a “small still voice” and the modern myth that has been assumed into the event.
The next article in this series is Part 6: Continued--Elijah’s Experience with a Gentle Breeze and Hearing Voices, found here: Continued: Elijah's Experience with a Gentle Breeze and Hearing Voices
Sunday, May 09, 2010
Part 6: Continued--Elijah’s Experience with a Gentle Breeze and Hearing Voices
Feelings and Intuitions are Not Supernatural in Origin but Are Common Human Traits
In the previous article of this series the biblical and worldly evidences were explored regarding the fact that experiencing inner voices, sensed feelings, and gut intuitions is a fleshly event common to every human and does not require the Holy Spirit to be present or that the human be spiritual in any biblical way. Treating sensed feelings and gut intuition as if they were God’s voice is a certain means of being deceived and deceiving others. It is the very bedrock and foundation of false religion and superstition. Such imagination springs not from God but from the heart and mind of all people, “They speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:16b).
Everyone from godless atheists to the holiest saints have gut emotions, sensed feelings, and inner voices. It is the nature of the human mind as it wrestles with questions, heartaches, puzzles, and choices. One does not need to be a saved Christian, a Mormon prophet, or a native American on a spirit quest to experience inner voices and intuitions. Inner voices are our own thoughts, doubts, misperceptions, dreams, nightmares, desires, wishful thinking, plans, delusions, and conclusions constantly being examined by our ever-tasked mind, “…even at night his mind does not rest…” (Ecclesiastes 2:23b).
Though books by Christian mystics such as Richard Foster, Henry Blackaby, and Claude King have popularized the notion that inner voices and intuition are God’s usual means of leading all Christians, there is no biblical basis for such a dogma. Transforming our inner private musings into prophetic commandments or into a mysterious communion with the supernatural realm is the root of virtually all false religions, paganism, ancestor worship, superstitions, and Christian mysticism. Every person experiences such phenomena and it is vanity to attribute it any specific “god.”
Elijah’s Small Still Voice
It becomes a dangerous thing to begin to attribute your own common thoughts and your own ordinary human conclusions to being the very voice of God, as Brigham Young ended up doing. Our own thoughts must never be repackaged into “the voice of God.”
When Elijah heard God’s voice as a gentle wind (some translations call it a “still small breath”) it was still an entirely audible voice to Elijah’s literal sense of hearing. Elijah engaged God in a question and answer conversation where God spoke quietly but audibly. Elijah never said the still small voice was unhearable. To assume that the still small voice was inaudible is a doctrinal error made by those who are careless in their reading of 1 Kings 19. Elijah was a genuine prophet and when he heard the small still voice of God, it meant he had a literal voice-to-voice conversation with God, as only a prophet can do.
God’s hearable voice told Elijah to go to Damascus and anoint a king. Then the voice gave Elijah a future-telling revelation (1 Kings 19:15-18). By contrast, the unheard still small voices of inaudible sensed feelings and gut intuition of mystics do not yield hearable commandments to anoint kings, nor do they grant anyone accurate detailed future-telling prophecies. John’s end-times prophecies (the book of Revelation) were awash in assertions that he heard literal voices.
Elijah’s “small still voice” is neither an example of, nor an oblique Bible teaching on, being receptive to inaudible voices and sensed feelings. It was a grand object lesson that sometimes God works in our lives through massive public events (fires, earthquakes, and the mass slaughter false prophets) and sometimes God works in our lives privately through the penniless starving widow who needs our help. God used the metaphors of fire, wind, and earthquake to paint a picture to the fear-ridden Elijah that the big showy miracles were completed, behind him, and in the past, and that now he would see God working more discretely, more quietly, like listening to the calm gentle voice of a patient teacher instructing an overwhelmed student.
It has been wrongly stated that God is never in the wind, the fire, or the earthquake. That is poor biblical interpretation. God lives in the fire and is surrounded by unapproachable light where lightning continuously flashes from His throne. God is Himself a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24, Exodus 4:17). It was via fire and wind that the Holy Spirit visited the apostles on the day of Pentecost. God appeared to Job in the whirlwind to rebuke him for doubting the holiness of God. God’s voice is frequently called a booming thunder (2 Samuel 22:14, Psalm 18:13). Scripture often tells of God acting via earthquakes, such as freeing Peter from prison (Acts 16:26) and at the resurrection and crucifixion of Jesus (Matthew 28:2, 27:54). In fact, it is expected that the earth quakes at God’s very presence (Nahum 1:5).
What God did for Elijah was not to give him a doctrine contradicting what all the other Scriptures explain about God being in the wind, fire, and earthquakes. Rather God was rebuking the prophet for running away for his life and hiding even after God had done such grand miracles in front of him. God would no longer “be in” or be seen by Elijah in such big things in the future. Now it was time for Elijah to live by faith and to encounter God’s power in comparatively more subtle ways. God’s presence would no longer be for Elijah as a shout and a roar, but as a calm conversation which one conducts with a friend. God did not tell Elijah that the voice of God would become inaudible.
Part 6: Summary Statement
To twist Elijah’s story into some kind of teaching that all people are prophets who can hear God’s voice if they listen hard enough is to mock God’s explicit teachings on that very subject (Numbers 12:6, 1 Corinthians 12:29). To misinterpret 1 Kings 19 is to demonstrate one’s misguided passion for Christian mysticism as a higher priority than disciplined Bible study and the hard work of contextual exegesis.
ADDENDUM to Article
I am aware that it is far more common than not today to assume that the "small still voice" was unheard. But that is a biblical error. I strongly encourage everyone to read 1 Kings 19 for themselves while asking the question, "What clues are there in the text that indicate whether the voice was audible or entirely silent?"
Part 7 will explain how the quiet voice gives the greater impact.
The next article in this series is Part 7: Why God Spoke in a Quieter Voice to Elijah, found here: Part 7: Why God Spoke in a Quieter Voice to Elijah
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Faith, Hope, and Love: What’s the Difference?
Faith is the belief system we hold in our mind and heart. Belief is the result of hearing the Word (Romans 10:17) and becoming convinced of its truth via reasoning (Isaiah 1:18), logic (Acts 17:17-34), evidence (Acts 1:3), and the gifting of faith from God (Ephesians 2:8). In short, it is a rational act of will and intent.
Hope is reasoned assurance that our belief, faith, and salvation are true even though we have no tangible visible proof this is so (Hebrews 6:11-12, 11:1). Hope, like faith, is an intentional mental engagement.
Since faith and hope are intentional actions and conclusions of our mind and will, why would we ever expect love to be a mere emotion instead of a rational action? In other essays I have argued from Scripture that biblical love is the purposeful labor to benefit other people (and to benefit God and His Kingdom) regardless of the temporal costs to the one showing love through their actions (http://thefaithfulword.org/2006juneblogarchives.html#28 ). Love, like faith and hope, is an act of the mind and will.
Because love is intentional and reasoned action (more so than it is an emotion), it can be learned (Titus 2:3-4), commanded (Mark 12:28-31), and lavishly bestowed on those that are our enemies (Luke 6:35). Ordinary emotions ready our physical frames to take action via physiological and biochemical reactions in our bodies. Faith, hope, and love, as reasoned intents of the mind motivate and intelligently direct those actions so that they result in holy works in service to Christ.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Part 7: Why God Spoke in a Quieter Voice to Elijah--Grand Miracles v. The Spoken Word
Where is God’s Greatest Power?
Old Testament scholars Walvoord and Zuck (page 528-529, The Bible Knowledge Commentary) state that the experience God gave to Elijah on the mountain with the strong wind, massive fire, earthquake, and quieter voice was to illustrate that the grand public episodes of God’s miracles were going to give way to more private subtle ones. Why? Is not the bigger, showier, more dramatic miracle all the better and greater in effectiveness?
According to author Janie Cheaney, who wrote specifically on 1 Kings 19 (Age of Miracles, World, April 10, 2010), such big events have virtually no enduring impact on the people who witness them, “Even among God’s people, spectacular confrontations [as between Elijah and Baal] had no lasting effect.” God only performs such miracles to confirm the message that His prophets bring, but these miracles do little to provide permanent conviction of God’s existence or power.
In other words, such big miracles do not build faith. So what really does impart faith? The very message that the prophets speak with their lips is what builds faith, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
Miracles may validate that a prophet is a genuine spokesperson from God; and miracles may even cause people to stop their daily activities long enough to give attention to the prophet’s message. However, miracles are not the message and miracles rarely promote believing faith. Believing faith comes from the seeming foolishness and apparent impotence of preaching the Word of God.
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18).
And there it is written by God, the power of God for salvation is not in miracles. The power of God for salvation is the spoken Word of God in the form of the gospel message. The word of the cross is the “power of god” for salvation.
Therefore, when Elijah was told by the voice of God (which was quieter than roaring wind, raging fire, and a violent earthquake) that God was going to scale back the magnitude of His miracles, He was showing Elijah that the message and the duty of delivering the message was of equal value or even of more value in promoting God’s kingdom. It has always been true that the power to change lives was in the message of God and not in the explosive miracles.
Part 7: Summary Statement
Miracles do not change lives or build lasting saving faith in people the way that the message of the gospel can and does. God is in the message of the gospel. The message of the cross is the real power of God for salvation.
Part 8 will deal with why each of us no longer hears the voice of God.
The next article in this series is Part 8: When Humanity Stopped Hearing God’s Voice , found here: Part 8: When Humanity Stopped Hearing God’s Voice
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Part 8: When Humanity Stopped Hearing God’s Voice
It's the Word that Changes Lives...Not the Miracles
Miracles do not change lives or build lasting saving faith in people the way that the message of the gospel can and does. God is in the message of the gospel. The message of the cross is the real power of God for salvation.
Jealousy and Envy: the Root Desire to be like Elijah and Moses
There are no Old Testament or New Testament passages teaching believers to search their feelings or to listen to their gut intuitions and then presume those feelings into being the genuine voice of God. Ironically, there is such a passage that addresses this issue, but it actually forbids presuming that one’s intuition is God’s utterance, and that will be dealt with in a later part of this series.
There is also no Scripture providing instructions on how to interpret inner voices. None. As Satan inspired Joseph Smith and Brigham Young to elevate their imaginings to the status of prophetic utterances, so Satan desires to do the same with Christians today.
How does Satan convince Christians that their own inner thoughts are actually revelations from God? Via jealousy and envy, Satan’s usual tools. For example, Miriam, who was actually a prophetess (Exodus 15:20) was jealous of how close Moses and God were, and complained, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses, has He not spoken through us as well?" (Numbers 12:2a) Due to her jealous complaint about the extraordinary status of Moses as God’s mouthpiece to all the Jews, God temporarily punished her with leprosy (Numbers 12:1-16). So Satan convinces Christians that they too, just like Elijah, have a right and an ability to hear God’s very own words every day.
Even worse than making Christians envious of the old time prophets, Satan accuses us of being unspiritual and lacking in the Holy Spirit if we do not hear God’s voice. Some Christian writers have succumbed and also attempt to make us feel guilty or cause us to feel like unholy drop-outs and spiritual derelicts if we never claim to hear God’s voice, “If you have trouble hearing God speak, you are in trouble at the very heart of your Christian experience" (Henry Blackaby, page 87, Experiencing God).
These false accusations against God’s elect and the whole push toward envy can come from the most unexpected sources and wholesome people, yet the doctrine itself originates as a doctrine of demons (1 Timothy 4:1). God does not desire us to be envious of Moses and Elijah. Nor does God spiritually shortchange those believers to whom He has given a gift other than prophecy.
When Humanity Stopped Hearing God’s Voice
Our jealousy, envy, and fear of being called unspiritual make us forget that when there were only two people in all the world, Adam and Eve, rather than continue to speak with God face-to-face, they voluntarily sinned and shattered that relationship. They became afraid of God, ran away, and hid from God (Genesis 3:8). Later in history, when the newly freed Jews spoke with God “face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire” similar to what Adam and Eve once did (Deuteronomy 5:4a), for fear of God they begged Him to never speak to them personally again.
And when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders. You said, 'Behold, the LORD our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire; we have seen today that God speaks with man, yet he lives. Now then why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any longer, then we will die. For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?’ (Deuteronomy 5:23-26)
The majority of humanity, particularly unrepentant sinful humanity, simply cannot tolerate hearing the literal and holy voice of God when He speaks audibly. They fear that hearing God’s holy voice will kill them. In response to man’s ongoing fear of actually hearing God speak, God relented and appointed that all His conversations with humanity go through a tiny number of select prophets.
The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. This is according to all that you asked of the LORD your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, 'Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.' The LORD said to me, 'They have spoken well. 'I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.’(Deuteronomy 18:15-18)
Today we have become arrogant in our high standing as adopted sons of Christ. Without respect for God we demand He reveal the future to us, for our benefit, so that we can make personally advantageous decisions. We ignore the fact that He has revealed, even in the New Testament, that not all believers are prophets, and so not all will hear the literal voice of God (1 Corinthians 12:29). Those of us who are not prophets must continue to rely on the written Bible, the revealed Word of God that endures forever, to understand the will of God.
What Disadvantage Silence?
Are those of us who are not prophets, who do not hear the literal voice of God, at a disadvantage or is our Christian experience in trouble? I say, “Not at all!” Prophets serve the non-prophet, they do not serve themselves (1 Peter 1:10-12). The Holy Spirit selects only a tiny number of individuals to be prophets, lavishly giving the non-prophets an abundance of other spiritual gifts.
God tells prophets, “I command you to say only this specific message to the rest of the church…” and they speak those messages to us. We lose nothing by not hearing God’s voice ourselves! We have all the Word of God, complete before us on paper, on computer hard drives, and on handheld computing devices electronically indexed and instantly accessible. If anything were to be lacking in the Scriptures (I speak this sentence only as a silly hypothetical), God need not make each of us into a prophet through sensed feelings and gut intuitions, He need only send us one genuine prophet who has heard the audible voice of God and can repair the gap.
Has not God already told us He will not make every one of us into prophets? Has He not explicitly said that humanity will no longer receive the voice of God except via a prophet? Is it not the hard-hearted and the unbeliever who rejects what is written in the Word of God? Did not Jesus call them evil who demand a supernatural sign directly from the Father? Why then do we tolerate Satan’s use of envy and fear against us?
Part 8: Summary Statement
In the Scriptures God has told believers that He will no longer directly speak to anyone except a few prophets. He has also stated that not everyone will be gifted as prophets. It is Satan’s tactic to make the non-prophet feel inadequate and jealous, as if only those who hear God’s voice are spiritual and vital in faith. Yet, God has revealed the sum total of everything that any Christian needs to know in His holy and complete Word.
In the next segment emotions, random thoughts, and the active work of the conscience will be examined to determine if any of these are actually God’s inerrant voice.
The next article in this series is Part 9: Misinterpreted “Prophetic” Words and Inerrancy, found here: Part 9: Misinterpreted “Prophetic” Words and Inerrancy
[Note: The above essay was originally posted as a blog. As such, it was open to public commentary. Below are select comments from the public and by the author which are considered helpful in bringing comprehension to the topic or in advancing the dialogue.]
Thank you for reading the blog and considering the Scriptures it discusses.
First, it is true that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit Who convicts us of our sins, renews our spirits, and reminds our spirits that God is Abba, Father. With this I agree.
When Jesus told the apostles that the Holy Spirit would bring back to THEM the MEMORIES of what they had studied under Christ for 3 years, I do not think it was universally transferable to other Christians. They had to teach the unwritten words of Jesus to others, like Mark and Luke, so that the Scriptures could be penned; we no longer have that task as Jesus' words are now recorded for eternity. In the same way it was not transferable to all other Christians when Jesus told the 70 and the 12 apostles that they could and should heal all diseases as they went out two-by-two to the towns where Jesus was yet going to preach.
Also notice that the Spirit would spark their memories, not give them supernatural communications via feelings and intuition.
Finally, we modern Christians so often forget that the Bible is a book of God's letters from heaven to us. Many a long distance relationship has been conducted via letters alone. We have the advantage of knowing that we pray to a listening and active God so we do not need to write letters to Him, simply to pray. His first answer is always via the Scriptures. Simply because there is no audible voice, sensed feeling, or gut intuition as responses to our prayers in no way contradicts the Scriptures or Jesus when He tells us He is listening and intervening for us in our lives.
Ours is a fellowship based on faith, not based on sight and hearing. If it were based on sight and hearing, it would no longer be faith.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
You Are Being Judgmental
A Little Fun Irony
Jesus said, "…As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 5:30b)
Jesus also said, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)
But then Jesus said further, “I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you..." (John 8:26a)
And then Jesus said, "If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” (John 12:47)
Of course, Jesus also said, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." (John 7:24)
Jesus judged the Pharisees guilty of sin, “And Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.’ Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, ‘We are not blind too, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, 'We see,' your sin remains.’”(John 9:39-41)
And the Pharisees judged Jesus guilty of sin, “So Pilate said to them, ‘Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.’ The Jews said to him, ‘We are not permitted to put anyone to death,’ to fulfill the word of Jesus which He spoke, signifying by what kind of death He was about to die.”(John 18:31-32)
What Did You Say You Said?
“To judge” has many meanings in both English and in the Greek. Your theology will get hopelessly muddled if you attempt to reconcile the above passages using but one notion of what “judge” might mean.
It is my opinion that the church at large has adopted a pet phrase for which it does not understand a valid meaning. “Do not judge” or “You are being judgmental” is the phrase tossed about freely, but for which those who use it do not understand what they mean and are unaware of the evil they have unleashed with their tongue.
What people think they mean when they say, “You are being judgmental,” is, “Jesus said no one is authorized to point out sin in my life or anyone else’s life.” That is what they think they mean. But what they are actually saying is, “I have judged you guilty of the sin of judging others.” Irony. Hypocrisy. Faulty logic.
A Meaning Found -- Keeping It Simple Saints
Truths I have found in the Bible regarding “judging:”
The right kind of judging is essential. Those who claim to be born again Christians and who display visible sinful behaviors (only as the Bible defines certain behaviors as sinful) must be confronted, corrected, and held accountable by the church to change. That is proper judging.
Judgmental-ism is telling another Christian to change something about themselves which the Bible does not define as a sin at all. This usually takes the form of condemning someone’s personal preferences instead of a real observable sin.
Sadly, many Christians who have just been confronted for a genuine overt public sin counter-attack by calling the confronter “judgmental.” That accusation is satanically false, is itself another sin, and is a thinly veiled evasion tactic employed by a sinner to avoid having to admit or face their sin problem.
Paul rebuked the Corinthian church for their sin of not judging an incestuous man guilty of flaunting his public sin. He told them it was their responsibility to judge sinful behavior and to correct their errant fellow believers. Judging is necessary.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Rewards, Gifts, and Bribes: What Is the Difference?
Staggering in its implications is the great truth, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Salvation, and even the faith by which salvation is communicated, is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8). Wages and payments are earned because one works hard by contract to accrue the favor of being paid. Salvation and faith are unearned and cannot be bought, bargained for, or its terms mutually negotiated into a contract.
Gifts are given free of charge, without benefit of labor, and without any need for the recipient to meet the terms and conditions of a signed agreement. Gifts are bestowed by the grace, affection, goodwill, and courtesy of the giver without reference to the work or merit of the recipient.
A gift that is earned, bought, or deserved is not a gift at all, it is a reward. Rewards are handed out for a deed well done. It is a form of restitution for what has been accomplished. A high school diploma is a reward for successful academic effort. A bag of gold given to the hero for rescuing the damsel in distress is a reward. A new car bestowed by doting parents on the college graduate is a reward. Rewards are earned or deserved, if not entirely expected. When something of value is given for a reason, it is a reward or a payment, “This trophy is for winning…This cash award is for the great achievement…This statue is a token of our appreciation for all that was done…”
Like rewards, bribes are payment for action delivered. However, bribes are generally illicit compensation for dishonest endeavors. Though often called gifts, bribes are not given freely but are withheld until the giver extracts a desired result or work from the recipient. Bribes frequently carry implied threats of loss along with a promise of gain. Parents often use bribes to entice children to cooperate, “Johnnie, if you eat your vegetables I will buy you a new bicycle.” Children use bribes to manipulate parents, “I will run away from home and never speak to you again if you don’t let me date Shaun.”
Salvation is not a payment because we can do nothing of sufficient value as to earn it. Eternal life is not a reward because we were chosen by God as recipients before the world was created and before we were born and so we had done nothing by which to have garnered God’s favor. Redemption is not a bribe because we can do nothing of value, illicit or otherwise, to genuinely add to God’s riches.
Becoming born again, regenerated, graced with faith and salvation is a gift to undeserving people who could never afford it and would be unwilling to pay the real price even if they could. It is a gift beyond conceivable value and cannot be acquired by meritorious heroism or deserving effort. It cannot be manufactured in facsimile at home by the hands of an industrious self-sufficient do-it-yourselfer. God chooses whom to give it to, freely, and only He knows why.
All we can do is receive with gratitude the gift of salvation and all the blessings of being a citizen in Christ’s eternal kingdom. After we accept the gift we become forgiven ones, children of the King, heirs forever, unshakable inheritors, sons and daughters secure in an irrevocable adoption.
Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28-29)
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29)
Monday, May 31, 2010
My Marriage Stinks
My wife is a hooker. She does not love me, and she ran off with yet another pimp. We have had three children together, and now I have to go pay off her pimp for the ‘privilege’ of bringing her back home again. Adulteress does not even come close to describing this woman. Why do I still love her so? -- Hosea
Hosea was a prophet to the divided kingdom of Israel / Judah (the northern and southern kingdoms respectively). God commanded him to marry a harlot (hooker) and to repeatedly buy her back from the various sex slavers to whom she kept selling herself. Yet, Hosea still loved this woman! Incredible!
Then the LORD said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes." (Hosea 3:1)
Love is more than a shallow emotion of affection, it is a choice, a decision, an intentional act of the will. If Hosea could love a hooker, and he did, and if God can love capricious creatures like us, and He does, we husbands are without excuse to love our wives.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. (Ephesians 5:25-30)
If anyone had a “right” to complain about their marriage and to seek a way out, it was Hosea. Yet, he stayed faithful and loved his wife. What a man! What an example! What love!
To read a 10 part series of short posts on real love, go here: http://thefaithfulword.org/2006juneblogarchives.html#28
To read an online book on marriage, divorce, and remarriage, go here: http://thefaithfulword.org/divbkintro.html
To ease any possible tension or misunderstanding, my first statement was meant to be a fictional "quotation" by Hosea, as if he were the speaker! LOL
It is a rare thing that people appreciate their spouses. It is even rarer that people realize that a little difficulty in a relationship is to be endured instead of the marriage ended. Sacrificial love is selfless love, which means saying and doing, "My love for you will cause me to not seek my own satisfaction in this relationship but to seek to do what is best for you." Not even Christ sought to please Himself (Romans 15:3), and He is our model of husbandly sacrificial love.
For the record, my wife and I love each other and will be celebrating our 33rd anniversary this week. :)
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