CTT | Be Like Noble Bereans

CTTWe have had a heavy week here at Faithful Stewardship. A few posts blew completely past our intended word limit. I hope that in the future I can do some better planning to keep these posts from getting so long. Today I just want to leave you with an encouragement for this weekend. Some might take this as a challenge of sorts.

This weekend, whether you attend church worship service on Saturday or Sunday, whether you also participate in a Bible study or home/small group study, I’d like to encourage you to be like the Jews in Berea, who Paul described as more noble than the Jews in Thessalonica. Before I break down what I am indeed encouraging each of your to do this weekend, let us first begin by reading the short passage in Acts.

Acts 17:1-15 (ESV)
17 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8 And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. 9 And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.

Think for just a moment about the first underlined portion. Paul’s method of evangelism was to seek out the synagogue of the Jews first and reason with the Jews from the Scriptures explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and die. Remember the Jews were expecting the Messiah, the Son of David, to be a conquering King to re-establish the Throne of David on Earth. Paul reasoned from the Scriptures pointing first to the true purpose that the Messiah would come to fulfill, and then Paul proclaimed that Jesus, who suffered and died according to the Scriptures, is indeed the Messiah, the Christ. You know what I find really cool? Paul reasoned from the Scriptures they had in the Jewish Synagogue… the Law and the Prophets, what we call the “Old Testament”. Paul preached the Gospel from the Law and the Prophets. Today we have been blessed with the New Testament writings to better understand the Law and the Prophets and how they point to and are fulfilled by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This should equip us all-the-more to preach the Gospel from nearly any portion of the Bible with faithfulness to the Word of God.

Some of the Jews, and a great many of devout Greeks were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, and the jealousy of the Jews lead them to act dishonorably. Notice that they couldn’t find fault with them according to the Law of Moses; rather, they appealed to Caesar, the government to take action against Paul and Silas. The brothers sent them away by night to Berea. Here, we see Paul doing the same thing, seeking out the synagogue. Since Luke (the author of Acts) has already told us how Paul preached, we know that Paul was reasoning from the Law and the Prophets. These Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica, they eagerly received the word and examined the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul’s testimony* was true. As a result of this testing of the Scriptures many believed. Paul isn’t saying they were more Noble because they believed. Not all in Berea believed, and there were some who believed in Thessalonica. They were more noble because they eagerly searched the scriptures daily, to see if what Paul said was true. The Jews of Thessalonica pursued Paul and Silas in Berea, still unable to refute their testimony, and riled up the mob to persecute them. The brothers, again, sent Paul and Silas on their way.

Be Like Noble Bereans

This weekend, while sitting in a pew, sanctuary, or auditorium, have your Bible with you. I recommend having your Bible there in a form you are able to make notes in. Sure, you might have a cell phone app that allows you to read the Bible, but can you take notes in it? It’s good to take notes so that the next time you open up to this passage, you can see that you had been there once before and you can see what was on your heart at that time. The point here is that we need to be eager to receive the word spoken by the pastor/elder/teacher while faithfully examining the Scriptures to see if the word spoken is true.

  • What is being preached? Not every sermon these days is preached from a passage of Scripture. Too often, they are preached from popular books sold in local “Christian Bookstores”. If the sermon is being preached from a book, you’ll have to take every assertion, every assumption, every prescription, and every declaration to the Scriptures to see if they are sound. That is tedious work, and hopefully the pastor/elder/teacher is doing it from the pulpit with you… then again, if it can be preached from the Word, it should be. If the sermon is being preached from a passage of scripture, be sure to read the portion before the text and continue reading beyond the text. In most cases, there should be a natural break in theme, or thought, or subject. If not, then you’ll need to examine why the text being preached is only a portion of the natural subject. It could just be a part of a series of sermons, or it could be an indication that the portion of scripture is being preached out of its natural context.
  • Who is being preached? We see that Paul entered the Synagogues and reasoned from the Scriptures pointing to Christ. If anyone could have been justified to preach of himself it could be argued that Paul could have. He was a Jew of Jews, a Pharisee of Pharisees, who persecuted the church until Jesus Christ confronted him physically on the road to Damascus. He was a witness to the resurrected Christ. Yet, we see none of this mentioned here. In fact, when we do see Paul speak of himself, he does so sarcastically pointing out the error in listening to self-proclaimed apostles (or super apostles). Now, in some topical sermons, there is room for a pastor/elder/teacher to share some personal stories, but our personal anecdotes are not a replacement for Scripture, nor do they add weight to them (it is the Scripture that adds weight to our anecdotes). It is a means of expressing or relating only so far as it is in keeping with the Truth of God’s Word.
  • Context, context, context. Did the pastor/elder/teacher just throw out a churchy-saying or was he quoting Scripture? Not sure? Look it up. I keep my smartphone handy with the Bible Gateway App specifically for this purpose. I will not hesitate to search a phrase uttered in a sermon in an attempt to find a Scriptural basis. Especially when it comes out in King James English… I don’t read scripture in dated English language, I prefer ESV and NASB. Was what I heard an actual quote or a proof text? What that means is, did the speaker quote a verse or even a complete thought or was it just a portion of the verse or passage? You’d be surprised how the most commonly quoted proof texts are generally taken out of context to validate a point that cannot be plainly taught from a passage of scripture.
    We’ve looked a some of those here in CTT posts of the past:

  • What are the caveats? I can appreciate if on occasion the speaker caveats something he is preaching as something “he’s struggling with” or “just a thought I had and wanted to share” or even “I was really inspired by this so I wanted to share”. Those are fine and I rarely take issue with those caveats unless what is shared is actually in poor taste or scripturally unsound. I so struggle when a sermon starts with repeated appeals to direct-revelation rather than to Scripture. If the speaker starts a sermon with “the Lord showed me” then he should say it once and stand and be tested as a prophet of the Lord God. If he keeps using the caveat, it rings less of a prophetic call and more of a diversion or a deflection of responsibility for what it is he is preaching. The implication is, “hey, this isn’t me talking, it’s the very Word of God; therefore, if you reject what I’m saying you reject Him”. In today’s church, very few would make that statement, and most would appeal to how they were brought up in the church, or that they truly believe that the Holy Spirit is the one who prompted the pastor/elder/teacher to write the message. Here is the problem with such a bold assertion (the Holy Spirit showed me), if in your message you go on to mishandle the Word of God then either the spirit who showed you this message was NOT of God, or you weren’t really hearing from any spirit it was just a thought born of your flesh. In either case, you’ve taken the Name of God in vain. We are told to Preach the Word of God. So do it, knowing that all scripture is God-Breathed.
  • Be willing to ask or even question the pastor/elder/teacher. He is charged of God to shepherd His flock. You must do so in humility and love, don’t ever let anyone dissuade you from asking for clarification, questioning, or even challenging the pastor/elder/teacher on his use of Scripture or on his doctrine. Now, you need to be willing to be corrected, taught, trained, and even rebuked for any sin on your part, but that doesn’t absolve the pastor/elder/teacher of the responsibility to teach and to preach only that which accords with sound doctrine. I recommend going privately first. If you feel the pastor/elder/teacher is in sin, then you must not levy a charge except on the word of two or more witnesses. Hey, sometimes the speaker just makes a mistake. In such cases confession and forgiveness should be a simple fix, and the bond of brotherhood should actually be strengthened by such interaction.

Above all else, do your homework and study God’s word. It’s all well and good if you are a proud Lutheran, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, or Baptist… that’s great that you feel so connected to a denomination of man. But if all you have going into a discussion or confrontation is your church’s doctrine or how your favorite “church father” explained it better than their “church father” did… you’re wrong. Sola Scriptura, if it means anything, means Scripture Alone. The Bereans didn’t search their traditions daily, they sought the Scriptures daily. Let us do likewise, in the bonds of brotherly (and sisterly) love. From time to time, we should all examine the scriptures to see if our church doctrine is true.

Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

May the Lord bless and keep you,
In Him,
Jorge

CTT | Why did Jesus Teach in Parables?

CTTHave you ever heard someone explain that Jesus taught in parables because He was such an awesome teacher that he could explain both simple and deep things at the same time? That He was providing earthly stories with Heavenly meaning, and thus giving us deep spiritual truths in a language that we mere mortals can understand? It all sounds very good and it fits well in the “Jesus was a role model” perspective. However, Jesus was far more than just a role model, and we have an answer in scripture to the question.

Matthew 13:10-17 (ESV)
10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Jesus explains that He teaches in parables specifically so that they will not understand. The disciples themselves did not understand all of the parables, and they did not understand the parable of the sower. Regardless of their lack of understanding, they had already believed in Him and His Word. Therefore, to those who had, more was given in abundance. The masses were not in the same place as the disciples were. Unless they are ready to accept Jesus as the Christ, son of the Living God, they simply are not ready to understand the kingdom of heaven. Nevertheless, Jesus DID teach, and He taught in parables and explained several of the parables to His disciples directly. When Jesus promised them He would send the Holy Spirit, John 14:25-26 (ESV) 25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you…” Though His time on this earth was short, He did not leave us as orphans, and we who believe on Him have both His Word and His Spirit. We can now teach His parables, having been equipped with the understanding of their meaning by the Grace of God.

If you remember the confrontations, the miracles, and testimony of the Christ presented to the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 12, we see (before the parable of the sower and before Jesus explaining why He teaches in parables) the point where Jesus rebukes their unbelief. After they attack Him for healing on the Sabbath, and accusing Him of performing signs via Satan. We see Jesus draw the line for them beginning in Matthew 12.

Matthew 12:30-42 (ESV)
30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. 33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” 38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

Jesus did proclaim the kingdom to all, and those who had an ear to hear, heard and accepted/believed (good soil). He did not pre-judge those who would not believe; rather, he sought them out and shared the Word of God with them. They rejected Him, and so the wrath of God remained on them.

John 15:18-27 (ESV)
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

As we study God’s Word, we will invariably encounter portions of Scripture (not just parables) that escape our understanding. As long as our faith remains firmly rooted in Jesus Christ, and the Word of God we can turn to God and ask for wisdom from the Holy Spirit. Accept what is written as the Word of God, and pray to the Lord for understanding. We have also been given Elders, Pastors, and Teachers to whom we can turn for guidance, instruction, and correction, in the Name of Jesus.  I urge you, brothers and sisters, that when you approach your church leadership with questions regarding scripture, take your Bible with you. Ask that they demonstrate in the Word of God the answer to the question. In doing so, you will not only receive an answer, but you will gain valuable insight/training in how we can turn to the Word of God for answers.

Hebrews 13:7-9 (ESV)
7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.

Hebrews 13:17 (ESV)
17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

May the Lord bless and keep you,
In Him,
Jorge

CTT | You do not have, because you do not ask…

CTTToday, I’d like to address a verse that is often used to encourage us to pray. I do feel that as a Church, we have largely neglected biblical teaching on prayer in favor of many unbiblical forms of prayer. Whenever this portion of scripture is quoted, even in solid churches, problems can arise. I believe that this verse is used incorrectly, even by solid churches who are simply trying to encourage congregants to pray, because James isn’t directly teaching about prayer, he is addressing a sin issue of worldliness. Jesus taught directly on prayer, as did John, and Paul… if you want to teach the congregation about prayer, pull from one of the many teaching texts on prayer (we will cover a few at the end). James is addressing something different here. Though this portion is a complete sentence (a big improvement over other CTT verses addressed), this sentence is only one of three found in this verse.

James 4:2 (ESV) 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.

So, let’s take a look at where we find this often quoted scripture within the greater context of the Epistle of James. Normally, I like to go back to the start of the immediate section or the beginning of the chapter, but for today’s topic I’d like to reach back to the previous chapter.

James 3:13-18 (ESV) 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
James 4:1-10 (ESV) 1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Notice the focus of James is on the heart (passions) of the people. We see here James is challenging the reader to demonstrate his/her wisdom and understanding by his good conduct and works in meekness of wisdom. In the very next verse he has moved from the outward works and is now addressing our heart condition. He is addressing motive. He is exposing the fact that the quarrels and fights among the brothers and sisters are rooted in their sinful hearts and in their worldliness. It is in this regard that any attempt to set up a contradiction between James and Paul’s letter to the Ephesians to be vain and fruitless. The flesh is incapable of accomplishing good works on its own, because its passions (such as bitter jealousy and selfish ambition) are earthly, unspiritual, and even demonic. Where these heart conditions exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. There is a specific train of thought here beginning in James 4:1 whose climax is in verse 4, “…whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God”. James isn’t teaching that God is waiting up in heaven with all sorts of goodies that are piling up because His people just aren’t asking for them. James is pointing out that the worldliness of the brethren is putting them at odds with God and with each other. There is sin in the camp. At this point (verse 6) James transitions to provide the corrective measure. Let’s look at it again:

James 4:6-10 (ESV) 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Praise God. No, James does not circle around and say that all of the things they were desiring would be handed over to them… he was pointing out their sinful hearts. Does this mean that we should not teach our Brothers and Sisters to ask God for things? Absolutely not! We should, however, focus on clearer passages of scripture whose focus is indeed on prayer. Let us examine some solid teaching on prayer, with particular focus on making our petitions to God.

1 John 5:1-15 (ESV) 1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 6 This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

John isn’t just equating prayer to the rubbing of a magic lamp, he is summarizing well the Gospel of Jesus Christ and clearly stating how in Him (by faith) we have overcome the world. The Gospel of Jesus Christ IS our eternal life, and our victory. We dare not cheapen this testimony by making it a spring-board to some false gospel of prosperous, earthly living. Now, before we close, I’d like to return back to the Gospel of Matthew to see some of what Jesus taught regarding prayer and asking God to meet our needs.

Matthew 6:19-33 (ESV) 19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Notice the section between verse 22 and verse 24 and how it lines up with what James was discussing in chapter 4:1-4. If your eye is dark (jealousy, covetousness) then the whole body will be full of darkness (disorder and every vile practice).
Verse 33 is often used as a blanket “ask God anything” verse, but I believe that “these things” is referring back to what Jesus was saying NOT to be anxious about in verse 25 (food, drink, clothing). God will provide for those who humbly seek Him. Amen! Let us look at some more in chapter 7, in light of what we have discussed thus far:

Matthew 7:7-14 (ESV) 7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. 13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

God is not a piñata, and prayer is not a stick and a blindfold. We are promised that our Father in heaven hears our prayer and gives good gifts to His children. Ask and you will receive what is in accordance with His Will. You will receive, not necessarily what you ask for, but that which is good and beneficial for His children. Sometimes it will be hardship. Did you know that for an apple tree to bear springtime fruit it requires a cold winter? A mediocre winter will leave the tree dormant and unprepared to bear fruit at its proper time. Keep your eyes on Jesus Christ. Humble yourselves before God, and make your prayers known to Him, and leave it to Him to exalt or lift you up. He knows your needs, better than you do. He gives good gifts. But He also opposes the proud (James 4:6) and He reproves and disciplines those He loves (Rev 3:19).

We are to pray at all times, not just when we think we need something. Prayer is the means by which we can follow Paul’s encouragement in Galatians 5 to “walk in the Spirit”.

Galatians 5:16-25 (ESV) 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

May the Lord bless and keep you,
In Him,
Jorge

CTT | Let him who is without sin…

CTTMy family has been sailing along rough seas of late. Recent conflicts regarding personal relationships, biblical discernment, and major life changing decisions have weight heavily on us all. As I was praying over some of the recent events and decisions, the biggest question that troubled my mind had to do with whether or not I should have spoken up, or rocked the boat. I was reminded of a story found in the book of John.

By this time in Jesus Ministry, the Pharisees have already sought to arrest Jesus. Jesus is now being much more blunt about who He is, the Mana from heaven, and the promise of the Holy Spirit. Many were seriously considering whether Jesus was the Prophet or even the Christ. Still others plotted against Him. So the end of Ch 7 we have the final day of the Feast of Booths.

John 7:53 (ESV) They went each to his own house,

John 8:1-11 (ESV)

1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

This is such a beautiful picture of the Gospel of Christ. Notice that Jesus isn’t saying they were wrong to point out her sin. Jesus didn’t say they were falsely accusing her of her sin. Jesus first established that He alone was worthy of condemning this woman. Let him who is without sin among you… Only Jesus fit that description. According to the Law, these men were correct. The Law identifies sin which brings death. Let’s see how Paul explains this in Romans:

Romans 7:4-13 (ESV) 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. 7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

So then, does this mean that we who have sin in our lives should never call out sin in our brothers/sisters lives? Not at all. For it wasn’t the identification of sin that Jesus challenged; rather, it was the condemnation of the woman, or to put it in another way, her judgment. Jesus was establishing that only He who is without sin is fit to Judge or Condemn sin. Jesus showed her mercy, and then told her to go and sin no more. Christ came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it in Himself, to then lay down His life as the atoning sacrifice for all sin, so that He could extend Grace and Mercy to those who believe in Him and obtain the gift of everlasting life.

She knew she was caught, and she no-doubt expected to be stoned to death that very hour. There was no escaping her sin, nor the just punishment for her sin as outlined in the Law. She stood convicted, before the Son of God. It was only by His Grace and Mercy, out of His love for her, that she was forgiven of her sin and granted mercy rather than wrath. Jesus took upon Himself, the punishment for her sin… and He extends the very same offer of atonement to you and me.

You know, often times you will hear someone throw out a “don’t judge” as an attempt to silence those who are calling out sin. The purpose of the Law is to identify sin, and as such the Law is Holy. However, we are not sit in judgement, condemning our brother/sister for his/her sin, lest we be judged similarly. Let’s look at a couple of passages of scripture.

Matthew 7:1-5 (ESV) 7 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:12 (ESV) “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

None of us is without sin. We are justified through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, not by our righteousness. Therefore, none of us is worthy of casting the first stone of condemnation or judgement. But we are still to hold firmly to the Law for the identification of sin, to rebuke false doctrine and sinful living. However, once the sin has been identified and rebuked, we must quickly return to the Gospel of Grace of Jesus Christ.

James 5:13-20 (ESV) 13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. 19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Matthew 6:14 (ESV) 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

It is imperative that we rightly identify sin, both in ourselves so that we might confess and in our brothers/sisters that we might bring him/her back into the faith. We must also forgive one another of their sins against us, lest we be judged by God in the same manner that we judge our brother/sister.  The world that does not know Jesus is incapable of understanding this concept, because it is beyond our flesh to forgive and love our brothers in this way. Only by the Grace of God can we walk in the Spirit and forgive and love as we are commanded to do in Scripture.  Once again, I’d like to close with the final prayer in Jude:

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

May the Lord bless and keep you,
In Him,
Jorge

CTT | There Will be Scoffers…

CTTSo it seems that lately there has been a resurgence of biblical discernment, which is absolutely awesome.  The response to much of the correction has been the typical ad hominem attack of accusing anyone who disagrees or voices any concern as being basement-dwelling haters. Stephen Furtick has recently released a book about it (Crash the Chatterbox) and preached sermons promoting it. Having listened to 3 of these sermons, this book has nothing to do with sound biblical doctrine; rather, it is Furtick sermonizing his struggle with “the voices of haters” that are countering his vision. Recently, Beth Moore spoke at the awaken conference and spent a great deal of time “preparing” the audience for some big change that was coming, but rather than talk about the change directly, she spent the whole time giving a pep-talk about “scoffers”. (YouTube clip from 2/20/14). For today’s CTT, I want to focus on her introduction to the scoffers.

I believe that God placed it on my heart to tell you that as it comes, and it will if we’ll own our thirst, it will, if we’ll be willing to stop telling him what it has to look like, it’s coming, it’s coming. But we must be prepared in advance for scoffers . I will say that again. We must be prepared in advance for scoffers. I want you to look at one another and say, “Be prepared for scoffers.”
And here’s the thing. The unbelieving world scoffing is not going to bother us that much. We’ re used to them thinking that we are idiots. Can we just own that one? We’re used to it. Of course, they think that. We’ve got that one down. That’s not what’s going to bother us so much. What’s going to bother us, and I believe God is saying, “Get prepared for it so you know in advance it is coming” so when it does happen you’re not all disturbed and all rocked by it because it is going to come from some in our own Christian realm — our own brothers and sisters.
We’re going to have people that are honestly going to want to debate and argue with us about awakening and downpours. What do you want here? They’re going to say, that’s not the way it should look. You know what, dude? I’m just asking you, are you thirsty?

Okay, so we have a couple of things going on here. First, we have a direct personal revelation of some future move of the Holy Spirit that we still don’t quite know what it is. In her warning, its safe to assume she would classify this thing as either an “awakening” or a “downpour” of the Holy Spirit. This is already shaky ground, because God the Holy Spirit was poured out on all believers (one of the reasons Jesus had to ascend into heaven, so He could send the Holy Spirit to dwell in us). If God the Holy Spirit dwells in all who believe and have been baptized in the Name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit…and that same Holy Spirit inspired the writing of the New Testament. What more do we need? Since she hasn’t actually said what is coming, there’s little more that can be discerned in regarding the particulars of the alleged move of God the Holy Spirit. However, notice she also claims that God is warning her to be prepared for “scoffers”.  But she’s not worried about unbelieving scoffers, she’s worried about Christian scoffers, our own brothers and sisters. Why the special warning against Christian scoffers, and is that a fair characterization of those who question the biblical soundness of whatever Beth claims is coming “if we own their thirst” (whatever that means)? Let’s look at what the Apostles had to say about scoffers.

Acts 13:36-43 (ESV) 36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, 37 but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. 38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. 40 Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about:
41 “‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish;
for I am doing a work in your days,
a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’”
42 As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. 43 And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.

Here, we have Paul and Barnabas speaking in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia. They are preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here, the scoffer is the one who rejects the Gospel and perishes. It is not a direct quote from Habakkuk 1, and I’m very curious about the deeper meaning here. First, it seems the Chaldeans are the scoffers. Habakkuk’s response is interesting, for he recognizes that God has raised up the Chaldeans as judgment. The full response from God is in chapter 2, and I think what Paul is doing is not merely quoting a few lines; rather, he is summarizing the entire theme of Habakkuk 1 and 2. For this post, however, the point I’d like to make is that this isn’t really the kind of thing that can be ascribed fairly to Christians. But lets look for other references.

2 Peter 3:1-7 (ESV) 1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

Notice here that the context of the scoffers remains the same, and that Peter is also referencing the holy prophets. Here, they are specifically scoffing at the second coming of Christ, the fulfillment of His Promise. Let us look at one more reference to scoffers.

Jude 1:17-22 (ESV) 17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

I encourage you to read the complete book of Jude (one chapter), a warning concerning false teachers. Here, again, the scoffers are unbelievers, following ungodly passions, worldly people devoid of the Spirit of God. Clearly, not Christians… not our brothers and sisters.

It’s a dangerous thing, to try to silence people before you’ve actually shared what you claim to be divinely revealed truth. Even worse when you focus your ire not on the unbelieving and ungodly, but on Christians, those who are indwelt by the same Holy Spirit who is responsible for any valid prophetic Word. The same Holy Spirit that warned us through the Apostles and writers of Scripture time and time again to keep to the faith, preach sound doctrine, rebuke false teachers and even to test the spirits. If you are speaking a Word from God, then let it be tested against Scripture. If the word you heard comes from God the Holy Spirit, it will not falter and it will not waver in light of Scriptures.  We have no need of any special warning against scoffers, as defined by the Apostle Paul, Apostle Peter, and Jude; however, if one comes, it should fall in line with the warnings that already exist in Scripture.

One final thought, God the Holy Spirit doesn’t need a hype-man. God’s people don’t need to be preconditioned for a Word of God, if indeed it is God speaking. For we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19; 1 Peter 2:1-10). It doesn’t mean that everyone is right, but the same Holy Spirit works in us to teach us and to grow us into the fullness of the knowledge of Christ. So, if you are speaking on God’s behalf, and a fellow believer (who is filled with the Holy Spirit) exercises biblical discernment, do not malign him and reject him as a scoffer. If you are caught in sin, it would do you well to be restored by a brother or sister. If the Holy Spirit is truly at work in you, then He will guide your conversation and search of the Scriptures in the Spirit of Truth. False teaching is to be called out, rebuked, and silenced, for it does not come from God.

I’d like to close this post with the final verses from Jude:

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

May the Lord bless and keep you,
In Him,
Jorge