CTT | Abominable Practices Still…

CTTSo, last Friday’s post was a departure from my usual anti-halloween posting. With most of what I post here on Faithful Stewardship, there is a battle of sorts, a grappling with the text and with my opinions and biases that rarely makes it into a post. The episode of IssuesETC shared last Friday was good for those seeking to refute the notion that October 31st somehow belonged to pagans and that the Church tried to baptize the date to make it holy. The post points out that the Church already had a holiday on that date (well, the eve of OCT 31 and the day of NOV 01). So, if the goal is to rightly understand the history of the observances of men, then I recommend treating the Church’s observances as separate from whatever pagan/occult customs happen to be at play. However, once we step out of our academic bubble, we have to deal with a real and fallen world that HATES Christ.

Halloween in American Culture

The historicity of All Saint’s Day (or Feast of the Martyrs) is completely foreign to the majority of American Evangelicals. I was clueless, and by evangelical standards, I grew up in the church. We don’t go to Church on Halloween, we go to haunted houses, costume parties, or door-to-door asking for treats (for our kids, naturally). Sadly, our culture is one that doesn’t go door-to-door for anything other than halloween and/or fundraisers. Despite the sizable representation of American adherents to the Roman Catholic Church, very few venerate the saints of old, much less of recent times past. Airborne troops may wear a medallion of the patron saint of Paratroopers, but for the most part we in the US are completely removed from a Christian observance of Oct 31/Nov 1. I think there is plenty of room to discuss the merits of observing All Saint’s Day or Reformation Day as a holiday, that is a conversation that must take place completely separate from Halloween as it is observed in American Culture.

Things that don’t matter. Seriously.

The day. Whatever day is showing on the calendar is irrelevant in the big picture. God is still in charge, Christ still died for our sins, the Holy Spirit still draws us to Him, and Enemy is still defeated. There is no point on any calendar that is any more or less holy than the next. Demons and unclean spirits are no more or less troublesome on any day of any calendar. What matters is whether or not we walk according to the flesh or according to the Spirit by Faith.

Romans 14:5-9 (ESV)

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we 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.

The Food. Again, from the same chapter in Romans, whatever we eat on whichever day is irrelevant in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether candy, pumpkin-spice whatever, or cookies, apples, bacon… chocolate, or bacon (worth mentioning twice), what we eat or abstain from isn’t nearly as important as how we eat or abstain from it.

Romans 14:17 (ESV)

17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

The Party. As Christians, we don’t mourn like the world does, nor do we “party” like the world does. That doesn’t mean we do nothing. We observe funerals and memorial services and we enjoy a wedding reception and feasts. I know it must seem odd that I include funerals in this, but I wanted to cover the whole experience… having a party is fine. NOT having a party is fine. In this sense, the issue of having a party or not having a party is irrelevant as far as the Faith is concerned. Bridal showers, baby showers, bachelor parties, funerals, wakes, birthday’s, harvest, planting, mortgage burning,… if there is a cause for celebration, then have the party… or don’t… totally up to you. Now, having said that, how the party is conducted is still a matter of Law and Gospel. A bachelor party done in celebration of lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, sexual immorality, and debauchery is an abomination.

Costumes. I love a good costume party. I love seeing my kids play “make believe” around the house… but there’s something really cool that happens when you give them a costume that sparks their imagination. That’s why we give them toy weapons, tea party kits, play kitchens, and jungle gyms. Watch and listen to them play… you think that’s a slide? No, it’s a mountain. Costumes are also a great way for adults to set aside the anxieties and frustrations of “everyday life” and just enjoy some good fun. We  wear uniforms when we engage in team sports, some fans go a bit crazy with costumes to cheer on their favorite teams. Even at home sometimes we have set “work clothes” for disconnecting and just doing some gardening/lawn care to forget the weekly 9-to-5. Or maybe it’s our favorite bath robe and fuzzy bunny slippers to let everyone else know “I’m chillin’ for a bit today”. It can be good fun, it can be great for breaking the ice between professionals so they can just be themselves for a bit. But, these can be abused, and generally are abused during Mardi Gras and Halloween. It should come as no surprise that the spirit of Halloween (and Mardi Gras) in America is Lust of the flesh. Recently there was a story on a mom who was upset by the sexualized costumes at Party City… for her 3 year old (NBC’s Today Show). We’ll address this more in a bit. As a fan of costumes and costume parties, I’d like to see more costume parties throughout the year so that it can be further divorced from halloween. My kids don’t need halloween to look forward to a costume party.

What Really Matters… Seriously.

The god of Halloween in America is Self-Gratification. Lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. Our culture seeks to pleasure itself in whichever way it wills in the moment, and demands that everyone not only allow it, but celebrate it with them. Everything is about sex and pleasure. Halloween (and Mardi Gras) are the pinnacle of the self-indulgence when it comes to the spirit of Lust. Gluttony has largely been normalized in our culture, so the diabetic nightmare that is Halloween is generally limited to children and their parents. Once the kids are tweens, they are encouraged to explore every imaginable sexual immorality and blood lust imaginable in the name of “harmless fun”. I’ve known many who look to Halloween to play out their cross-dressing fantasies long before “coming out” as homosexual, or suffering from gender dysphoria. Vampires and even zombies have become sexualized in our culture. Mysticism has taken on a very sensual and even sexual nature in stuff we sell year-round in so-called Christian book stores (Theological Erotica).

Even if we manage to strip away the eroticism and sexual immorality, there is the issue of practices that were Abominable to God in the Old Testament… and remain so today (yes, even in 2015).

Deuteronomy 18:9-12 (ESV) | Abominable Practices

“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you.

Acts 19:11-20 (ESV) | The Sons of Sceva

11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. 18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

I decided to include the reference to the Sons of Sceva to indicate that the practice of magic arts is something to be repented from and gotten rid of. What these believers turned in and burned was valued at 50,000 pieces of silver. If the reference to “piece of silver” is a denarius, we know from the New Testament that a denarius was a day’s wage for laborers. That should help approximate the monetary value of what was collected, repented of, and burned. My point here is that whatever Scripture declares to be an abomination, doesn’t stop being an abomination simply because we are under a New Covenant. Throughout the Scriptures sexual immorality and idolatry are tied together. So, when we have modern-day evangelicals participating in a unholiday that is rife with both idolatry (witchcraft, spiritism, sorcery, divination, etc.) and sexual immorality intertwined there is much cause for concern and a need for repentance. I don’t care about what day any of this activity falls on a calendar (whether Halloween, Mardi Gras, or April 25th), where there is sin it must be rebuked and the sinner called to repentance.

Conclusion

If you choose to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve, or Reformation Day, or even American Halloween, be very careful about what it is you are honoring and for what reasons. The concern isn’t a day on the calendar, nor is it some over-realized sense of “spiritual warfare”; rather, it is about how we are living out our lives as Christians. We are encouraged to walk according to the Spirit, no matter the day, or the hour, or the social environment.

Galatians 5:13-26 (ESV) | Keep in Step with the Spirit

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 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. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

I highlighted those works of the flesh that reign over American observances of Halloween. In the Spiritual, these things are no more or less destructive on Halloween or Mardi Gras , but in the natural, they tend to take more Christian casualties because the worldly society actively seeks out the pure and innocent to engage in these activities on these days.

Therefore, let us encourage one another in Christ to walk in a manner worthy of Him and His Gospel. Let us build each other up in the faith and inspire one another to keep step with the Spirit.

Jude 24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 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, 25 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.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | Stand Firm and Hold onto the Traditions…

CTTToday’s Completing The Thought (CTT) post is a bit of reflection on the traditions we hold in our local churches. Let us begin with the passage supporting Traditions in the Church followed by some discussion of traditions we see today. I think the greater context of this passage coming immediately after Paul reminds the church of Christ’s return and the man of lawlessness is important to understanding the implications of having a right understanding of keeping traditions.

2 Thessalonians 2 (ESV)
The Man of Lawlessness

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Stand Firm

13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

Now, we do not have the spoken word of the Apostles, what we have is the written words of the Apostles (or spoken words that have been written and preserved by God the Holy Spirit). The pastoral epistles serve as our blueprint and guidance for church leadership, for offices within the church, and the call to preach Law and Gospel. We are taught how to pray, the importance of confession and repentance, forgiving our brothers in Christ, dealing with the unbelieving world. We are clearly instructed in baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Yet in all of these things and in many more, we run into some serious differences in the traditions observed by denominations and local church bodies.

Evaluate Traditions Objectively in God’s Word

Not all traditions are good. How do we determine which traditions are good and which are not? The first step is to identify origins… and they should originate in God’s Word. There is some bad teaching out there that suggests that the Gospel can redeem pagan practices and make them fitting for Worship. God eliminated such rationale in Deuteronomy 12, which was recently the topic of a sermon by Dr. James White.

Deuteronomy 12:29-32 (ESV) | Warning Against Idolatry

29 “When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 30 take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. 32  “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.

There are also traditions that have a form of godliness, and come from a seemingly historically pious origins, but are merely the commandments of men.

Mark 7:1-13 (ESV) | Traditions and Commandments

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders,and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash.And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing ofcups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

The Pharisees added to the Law their own explications, claiming it was a parallel oral Law given to Moses but meant only for the Priests to understand and to pass on, creating an elite class of enlightened God’s chosen ones. Jesus rebuked them strongly, plainly, and repeatedly for this error. But these traditions didn’t simply disappear after the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. Paul had to address such commandments of men in his letter to the Colossians.

Colossians 2:16-23 (ESV) | Let No One Disqualify You

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. 20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Colossians 3:1-6 (ESV) | Put On the New Self

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.

So, you see that when the occasion arises where the traditions of men start to undermine the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we have a problem. Even if these traditions come from the former things: questions of food and drink, festival, new moon, or Sabbath. Now, is observing these former statues a sin of itself? No, just like ritual washing of the hands before a meal isn’t a sin. Undermining the Gospel for the sake of these is the sin. What shall we say about traditions that are not commandments? In as much as the one observing the tradition is encouraged in the faith once delivered to the saints, as long as he/she is doing so for the Glory of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, it is an act of worship done in faith and pleasing to God.

When Our Faith-Based Traditions Don’t Blend

As long as the traditions being observed are not objectively sinful or undermining the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then we have clear instruction from the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans.

Romans 14 (ESV) | Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, andlet not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we 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.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall confess to God.”

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Do Not Cause Another to Stumble

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Conclusion

I know it’s an academic no-no to bring in a new topic in a “conclusion” paragraph, but I’d like to challenge those of you who attend non-denominational churches to reevaluate your position on traditions. You have them, too. In some cases, inventing new traditions is itself a tradition… all too often these “new” traditions simple come from whatever can be found in the end-cap of your local “Christian bookstore”. We all have traditions. The traditions taught in the New Testament are essential for the Church to stand firm in the last days and guard against the man of lawlessness and the great apostasy. But whenever and wherever the topic of Church tradition arises… it must ever and always be submitted to the teaching of God-Breathed and all-sufficient Scriptures.

Romans 15:1-7 (ESV) | The Example of Christ

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Friday Sermon | Laws for Proper Worship by Dr. James White

AOMToday’s “Friday Sermon” comes from Dr. James White.

Dr. James White is the director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the author of more than twenty books, a professor, an accomplished debater, and an elder of the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church.

Today’s sermon isn’t from Alpha & Omega Ministry; rather, it comes from the sermon he preached at Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church on Sunday, August 30, 2015.

Morning Sermon Audio

Morning Sermon Text

Deuteronomy 12 (ESV) | The Lord‘s Chosen Place of Worship

12 “These are the statutes and rules that you shall be careful to do in the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. You shall tear down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire. You shall chop down the carved images of their gods and destroy their name out of that place.You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way. But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.

“You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes, for you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that the Lord your God is giving you. 10 But when you go over the Jordan and live in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and when he gives you rest from all your enemies around, so that you live in safety, 11 then to the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, and all your finest vow offerings that you vow to the Lord. 12 And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male servants and your female servants, and the Levite that is within your towns, since he has no portion or inheritance with you. 13 Take care that you do not offer your burnt offerings at any place that you see, 14 but at the place that the Lord will choose in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I am commanding you.

15 “However, you may slaughter and eat meat within any of your towns, as much as you desire, according to the blessing of the Lord your God that he has given you. The unclean and the clean may eat of it, as of the gazelle and as of the deer. 16 Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it out on the earth like water. 17 You may not eat within your towns the tithe of your grain or of your wine or of your oil, or the firstborn of your herd or of your flock, or any of your vow offerings that you vow, or your freewill offerings or the contribution that you present, 18 but you shall eat them before the Lord your God in the place that the Lord your God will choose, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your towns. And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all that you undertake.19 Take care that you do not neglect the Levite as long as you live in your land.

20 “When the Lord your God enlarges your territory, as he has promised you, and you say, ‘I will eat meat,’ because you crave meat, you may eat meat whenever you desire. 21 If the place that the Lord your God will choose to put his name there is too far from you, then you may kill any of your herd or your flock, which the Lord has given you, as I have commanded you, and you may eat within your towns whenever you desire. 22 Just as the gazelle or the deer is eaten, so you may eat of it. The unclean and the clean alike may eat of it.23 Only be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh. 24 You shall not eat it; you shall pour it out on the earth like water. 25 You shall not eat it, that all may go well with you and with your children after you, when you do what is right in the sight of the Lord.26 But the holy things that are due from you, and your vow offerings, you shall take, and you shall go to the place that the Lord will choose, 27 and offer your burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, on the altar of the Lord your God. The blood of your sacrifices shall be poured out on the altar of the Lord your God, but the flesh you may eat. 28 Be careful to obey all these words that I command you, that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God.

Warning Against Idolatry

29 “When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 30 take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.

32  “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.

Have a Blessed Weekend

I pray each of you attends church this week that faithfully preaches the Word of God, both Law and Gospel. Pray for your elders.  Pray for our leaders. Pray for repentance and forgiveness daily.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV)  24 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, 25 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.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Discernment | Prophecy or Apostasy?

The primary goal of Faithful Stewardship is to study the Word of God. Knowing what the Word of God says as the standard of Truth will preserve you from false doctrine. However, there is a great need in this present day to understand that there are false prophets, false teachers, and even false christs leading away the saints away from the faith, from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I’d like to borrow an exhortation from Christ Rosebrough at Fighting for the Faith, “please, don’t come with an open mind; rather, come with an open Bible”. We really can’t rely on our feelings or emotions to warn us of false teaching or false doctrine, we really need to hold every teacher, writer, speaker to the Word of God. Today, I just want to look at the basis for why it is so important to practice discernment and not to just “go with it” in the name of “not being a thorn in someone’s side”.

Remembering that Jesus Christ didn’t come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it, let us look at what the Law says about false prophets.

Deuteronomy 13 (ESV)  1 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. 6 “If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known, 7 some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, 8 you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. 9 But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. 10 You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 11 And all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do any such wickedness as this among you. 12 “If you hear in one of your cities, which the Lord your God is giving you to dwell there, 13 that certain worthless fellows have gone out among you and have drawn away the inhabitants of their city, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which you have not known, 14 then you shall inquire and make search and ask diligently. And behold, if it be true and certain that such an abomination has been done among you, 15 you shall surely put the inhabitants of that city to the sword, devoting it to destruction, all who are in it and its cattle, with the edge of the sword. 16 You shall gather all its spoil into the midst of its open square and burn the city and all its spoil with fire, as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. It shall be a heap forever. It shall not be built again. 17 None of the devoted things shall stick to your hand, that the Lord may turn from the fierceness of his anger and show you mercy and have compassion on you and multiply you, as he swore to your fathers, 18 if you obey the voice of the Lord your God, keeping all his commandments that I am commanding you today, and doing what is right in the sight of the Lord your God.

I’d like to make a couple of notes here. Firstly, according to the old covenant, they were to be put to death. Under the new covenant, we are not to physically put them to death, but death is still what is required for this sin. According Romans Chapter 6, we know that we must die to sin, die to our flesh, by joining in Christ’s death, so that we might be made alive in Him. Repentance, Atonement, Returning to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The false teachers are to repent of their idolatry! That is why we still have the Law and the Prophets. The letter of the law kills, so that those of us who have died to sin might be made alive in Christ before we die in the flesh and face Judgement. This is real. If you ascribe to the secessionist view, then you probably believe the office of the Prophet to be closed. I do not hold to that view, because I don’t see any support for it in the Bible. Neither do I see anything in Scripture that modified the office of Prophet; therefore, the standard for a Prophet of God remains unchanged. God promised His people to send Prophets, because Israel begged Moses to speak to them the Words of God, for they were too scared to hear God’s voice for themselves (Exodus 20:18-21). In this present day, for anyone who claims to be a Prophet, even if their signs/wonders come true, if they preach themselves, or a god that is not the One True God of the Bible (pantheism, gnosticism, humanism, etc.) they are to be put to death (called to repentance and cut off from the people until such repentance according to the Law) and we are NOT to listen to them. As Paul told Titus, “they are to be silenced” (Titus 1:11). I would also argue that this same test be applied to anyone claiming to be a present-day Apostle. Again, even if the signs/wonders come true, if what they preach is not in keeping with sound doctrine (Titus 2) they are to be silenced and “put to death” (called to repent). Now, we also run into some abuses in the current charismatic/evangelical circles where they are wise enough not to claim for themselves the office of Prophet or Apostle, yet they feel completely free to claim to speak on God’s behalf via a gift of the prophecy, knowledge, understanding from God the Holy Spirit. For some reason, in this community they think it’s okay to “prophecy” in the Name of God things that do not come to pass. Is that okay? There is also a test for that in the Law as well.

Deuteronomy 18:9-22 (ESV) 9 “When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, 14 for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this. 15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— 16 just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

Here, we see that false prophets are not to be feared. So then, the bigger sin here, even in the Law, is anchored in the teaching of the one who claims to be speaking the Words of God. If their teaching leads the Children of God astray, they are to be silenced and put to death (again, we understand this now in the New Covenant to be a call to repentance, that they might die to their sin and repent and turn back to God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ). It is one thing to falsely prophecy signs and wonders that don’t come true… for the Law identifies that the prophet has spoken presumptuously, and they need not be feared. Do not fear these individuals, they are speaking of their own. I think this happens when young Christians are poorly discipled in the Word of God and out of their zeal try to “operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit” and end up speaking from themselves rather than from the Holy Spirit”. This is not a “safe zone” because if they take the next step to preach/teach/or lead to a false gospel, false spirits, false teachings, then there is a major problem. For according to the old covenant, this false teaching and leading astray from the One True God bore the penalty of death. This is Sin.

Even more troubling, is that false teachers often buy their own lie first, even before leading away others after gods they have not known (borrowing from the passages in Exodus above). We understand that only the work of the Holy Spirit is capable of opening the hearts of sinners to the Gospel of Grace… how much more then does the Hand of God have to fall on those who once professed a faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, only to have let themselves be led astray by spirits of error or by pride/presumptuous assertions? The Apostles spoke strongly against false teachers, false prophets, and false christs. That is because when Jesus was asked about the end times (Matthew 24), He warned strongly against false christs even leading astray the elect. Being deceived is a worse state than being lost.

2 Peter 2:17-22 (ESV) 17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

I encourage you, brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, to hold firmly to the Word of God. Scrutinize heavily anything extra-biblical (outside of scripture) being presented as the Word of God. Test the spirits (1 John 4), for God the Holy Spirit will never object to His Spoken Word being measured by His Written Word, for He is One God. Silence the false teachers and issue a rebuke and a call to repentance, burn up the false doctrines and do not return to them. Preach the Word of God and teach in accordance with sound doctrine. For we are stewards of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is His Gospel, entrusted to us as His stewards. And do not fear the false prophet, false teacher, even the false christ. Fear and love the Lord God.

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 you and keep you,
In Him,
Jorge