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Written by: C. W. Booth

January 8, 2007

Claiming a Verse

A new year has begun.  And what is so important that it ought to be the lead topic in my first 2007 blog?  Not that my blog is "important," for it is only that in so much that I write the truth and endeavor to use my spiritual gift; if God uses it beyond that to encourage a few believers, so much the better.  Rather, the question is, what topic is so important that it deserves a "first of the year" scrutiny?

Discernment to properly interpret the Word.  That topic is quite important.  Consider a passage you likely have read or heard over a dozen times:

But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own [private] interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:20-21)

What is "one's own interpretation"?  In a book I once read, the author "claimed" a passage of Scripture which said, "This sickness is not unto death" (John 11:4, excerpt).  By "claiming" a passage, he meant that the passage had a personal and private interpretation just for him and his family; specifically, that his young daughter would not die from a severe illness.  Sadly, he misunderstood the public interpretation of the passage, for in it, Jesus did not say that Lazarus would not die from his illness, but rather that Lazarus would not stay dead after he died from his illness.  In fact, Jesus delayed his visit to Lazarus just to ensure Lazarus did die.

"Claiming" passages of Scripture is the very essence of the prohibition that Peter imposes on creating private interpretations of Scripture.  If one is inclined to claim any passage of Scripture, it ought to be on the basis of a rigorous study of its public meaning which applies to all men.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)


[Note: the above essay was originally posted as a blog entry which I wrote and put online January 8, 2007. As such, it was subject to public commentary as is customary with blogging. As a practical matter, I normally delete the comments entered on the blog site when building this essay archive. If you wish to read the comments posted by others about the essays, you are invited to go online, read them, or post your own comments.

However, on a few occasions the comments and perhaps my own responses to the comments are so core to understanding the essay, or the implications of the essay, that I have chosen to incorporate them, as I have done below.]

Comments to the January 8, 2007 post entitled: Claiming a Verse

Begin Comment 1:

Sometimes when I read my Bible a verse just seems to pop out at me and I think "that was meant for me today". I don't think there's anything wrong with that but it is best to study the verse and the ones around it to actually see what God's Word is saying and not just what you want it to say. If I pray and ask the Lord to give me a verse and I open my Bible and read one that applies to my life at that moment, then I accept it as what God intended me to hear. Just a thought. God bless you!

Comment One Posted 1/8/2007 at 3:57 PM by girlonaMission24

Begin Comment 2:

Dear girlonamission24:  to study and understand the message of the passage that was given to everyone, and only then to say, "how can I actually do this in my life?" is the safe way to live by the Word.  All of Scripture was written to you.  It can all be claimed by you.  Every passage.  But no one can claim a verse and make it say something that it does not actually say to everyone--that would be making a false claim about a passage.

Thank you so much for sharing!


Comment Two Posted 1/8/2007 at 10:15 PM by C. W. Booth

January 13, 2007

Night at the Museum -- One Christianís Movie Review

Before going to this movie, make it a point to remain uninformed about the details and the gags.  This whimsical movie is refreshingly laugh-out-loud funny.  It is packed with surprise sight and verbal gags, which you don't want to have ruined for you by talking with someone who may reveal them to you.

Purposely written on two levels, silly slap stick humor for children, and clean jokes in an intellectual range that will keep adults laughing, the movie is rated PG and will likely be considered family-friendly by most Christians.  The theatre audience we watched the movie with laughed almost nonstop. 

So, what is the movie about?  It is a whimsical fantasy staged in New York city, and more poignantly, in a natural history museum.  A hard-luck father needs a job, any job, and lands one as the museum's night guard.  Everything that happens after that is funny and should not be shared.  The theme of the film is a blatant appeal for trust, understanding, and cooperation so that world peace and harmony can be ushered in by those who are truly "great."

Most of the jokes are surprises.  Much of the plot, however, is predictable.  And a large number of storyline inconsistencies are readily obvious--but who cares, you're there to laugh, not to find the holes in a light-hearted fiction.  Many comedic celebs populate the flick.  And do be sure to remain seated when the final credits first start scrolling.

After watching the movie, you and your children will never look at T-Rex skeletons the same again.  Uh-oh, there's that fossilized bone again, but now I know what to do.

January 15, 2007

The Nature of Total Depravity

"This is your sin," said the Christian college psychology professor, holding up an eyedropper containing green food coloring.  "This is man before he sins," he said holding up a clear glass of clean water.  As he permitted a single drop of green dye ("sin") to fall into the water and turn it a faint tinge of green, he said, "And that is how sin pollutes us.  The water has not changed, it is still water, it still fundamentally what it was, but that which has been added to it has contaminated it, it has been slightly tainted by sin."

Such a view of Ephesians 2:1 has permeated modern Christianity.  C. S. Lewis maintained a perspective on Total Depravity similar to that of the college professor's, "Total Depravity, I disbelieve that doctrine, partly on the logical ground that if our depravity were total we should not know ourselves to be depraved, and partly because experience shows us much goodness in human nature" (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, page 61).  He goes on to discuss sin as a simple pollution of man.

These are utterly incorrect understandings of sin's impact on humankind.  Man is not merely tainted by sin, nor even polluted by it.  Adam did not remain essentially the same as his prior sinless self with merely a tincture of sin mixed in to mess him up a little, nor even a lot.  Something far more massive transpired.  Man's spirit died.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1)

For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God. (1 Peter 4:6)

A man is comprised of his body, his soul, and his spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23, 1 Corinthians 15:45, Hebrews 4:12).  The body is man's corporeal self, the muscles, bone, and blood which allow him to exist as a mortal.  A soul is man's character, emotions, thoughts, and heart; the fleeting, airy, nonmaterial essence of who he is as a living being.  But that third part, the spirit, is what allows a man to commune with God, to know he is a moral being; that which seeks the face and heart of God.  Your spirit is what knows the difference between good and evil. 

But a natural man [whose spirit is dead] does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

Your spirit is your "spiritual" center.  It not only discerns the difference between good and evil, it is your living spirit that actually enables you to fellowship with God.

The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, (Romans 8:16)

When Adam first sinned, His spirit simply died.  He could no longer commune with God, nor did he desire to do so, for he became afraid of God.  So he ran and hid from God's presence.  God had to call him out.  God had to slay animals to "cover" that sin for him.  Only then did God restore to Adam spiritual life, such that God and Adam could again commune. 

You were "dead."  Your body lived, certainly, but your ability to commune with God was dead.  God refused to hear even your prayers (Psalm 66:18, Proverbs 28:9, 15:29, Isaiah 59:2).  And everything that you did, everything that you thought were "righteous" deeds, were considered by God to be rotten acts of filthiness because there were selfish and self-pleasing in nature (Isaiah 64:6).  You could not comprehend genuine holiness, that which pleases God, because without a living spirit it seemed like foolishness to your unregenerate mind (1 Corinthians 1:18, 2:14).  That is Total Depravity.

A dead spirit is evidenced by:

My dog was a wonderful animal.  Smart, filled with emotion.  She had a capacity to demonstrate affection.  She was very obedient.  She did have a great lack, however.  She had no eternal spirit. 

Animals do only what please them.  Sometimes that means doing what pleases their owners, because they like the aftereffects of pleasing their owners.  But never do they contemplate taking an action merely because they have discerned which righteous action will please God.  They have no comprehension between moral right and moral wrong.  They act based on social norms, animal instinct, the law of the pack, rewards from their owners, and force of habit.  A human with a dead spirit is in some ways like a dog that has no spirit.  Neither one intentionally succeeds at worshipping God or communing with Him. 

Total Depravity is the death of the spirit, and all its death entails.  The mind absent the spirit has no valid moral compass to tell it what is truly right and truly wrong from God's eternal perspective.  His sense of right and wrong is like an animal's with only a single motive of selfishness, always thinking, "What will bring me maximum personal benefit?" 

All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; (Isaiah 53:6a)

Sin does not taint a man, rather it kills his spirit, and through that death, spoils his very soul; that is, his heart and character become entirely dedicated to pleasing and serving self.  Scripture calls that state (of having a dead spirit) the "old man" or the "old self" which lives only for its "lusts" (Ephesians 4:22).  And selfishness, being the natural state of a man with a dead spirit, causes him to be dominated by "disorder and every evil thing" (James 3:15-16).  By way of contrast, however, those who are saved no longer live for selfish ambitions, but to serve Christ.

For not one [Christian] lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (Romans 14:7-9)

When the spirit dies, that is to say, when a man is totally depraved, it does not mean he has lost his ability to reason, nor is it the death of his intellect.  A man is still human, even without a living spirit.  Nonetheless, without the ability to correctly judge right from wrong, and without the desire to do what is right (being motivated instead by his own lusts), the man's best logic will always come to an improper conclusion (1 Corinthians 1:20).  Logic and intellect alone are insufficient to achieve righteous thinking for that requires a living spirit that is in communion with God's own Spirit, and His Spirit renews our spirit, our hearts, and our minds (Psalm 51:10, Ephesians 4:23, Titus 3:5).

Our spirits are endowed with life by God when we believe on Christ.  And the faith to believe is given us as a gift, for we do not own within ourselves that faith, having no living spirit in which it would reside.  So faith and believing are gifts of grace from God by which He makes our dead spirits to come alive.

What can the dead do?  A dead thing can do nothing.  If a spirit's function is to enable us to commune and fellowship with God, then when it is dead it has no communion with God, and therefore, we no longer have access to God.  Like a cell phone with a dead battery, there is no ability to communicate with God.  We are dead to the God of living eternal spirits and so turn our attention to living our mortal lives only for ourselves.

For the dead to live again, that is a miracle.  For the dead spirit to be made alive again from out of the depths of total depravity, that is the miracle of salvation.  We have been made alive to God and have finally died to ourselves!

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10)

January 28, 2007

When I was a Child -- Celebrating Life

This past weekend several of us took the 5th and 6th graders to Winter Camp.  We spent Friday night and most of Saturday in cabins, running (ok, in my case, walking) the frozen and wooded trails, playing carpet bowling, praying, singing, and having chapels on "friendship."

Children at this age are an amazing mix of immaturity and sobriety.  Hints of adulthood show up, and just when you think you're dealing with a smaller version of an adult, they surprise you with potty humor while they wrap toilet paper around your neck.

When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:11-13)

Children please themselves more often than they please others.  Their understanding of love and giving are just being developed.  That is why Paul imbeds this discussion of childish behavior into a chapter on the loving use of spiritual gifts.  Spiritual gifts, like all else, must be used to serve others, not childishly and selfishly, but maturely and selflessly. 

During evening devotions we read from the Scriptures and then talked about the last chapel.  It was about how an acquaintance of the speaker had been wounded in Iraq.  The three Iraqi regulars he was training witnessed the shooting and ran out of cover into the fire, surrounding him like a human shield while returning covering fire, and dragged him to safety.  "Sometimes," said the speaker, "love requires training and intent along with affection, for how else will you know what to do?"

"This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. "You are My friends if you do what I command you. (John 15:12-14)

During the devotion, they sat quietly (for the first and last time that weekend) while I told them this story: When I was dating the woman who would become my wife, we were walking on a frozen street by an icy lake, the sidewalks were under five feet of plowed snow.  A speeding car came around a blind turn, and not having time to scream a warning to move to the side, I grabbed her by the arm and tossed her into the snow bank as I anticipated the car's impact.  It swerved and sped on.  To this day my wife swears she saw and heard no car (she was apparently busy falling into a snow bank at the time), but does not hold it against me that I threw her into the pile of wet cold snow.

What are we prepared to do for Christ and for each other if we claim to love Him?  Love one another.  That means be willing to die for one another and also to live to serve one another.  At Winter Camp it might mean doing as the Youth Pastor did, showing enormous patience as he listened to endless stories about video games, body functions, and toilet paper raids so as to be able to share the gospel.  During the week it might mean trying to pick up after oneself so that one's wife has less of a burden.  To the Lord it might mean swallowing one's fear of ridicule and giving the good news to a neighbor. 

My ability to love is boundless as that is supplied by Christ, but my willingness to love is sadly deficit as I often prefer my own self interests.  Oh for a heart to love in deed--to do what Christ commanded.

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Page Originally Posted: March 19, 2007
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