DiM | “Prodigal” by Sidewalk Prophets

Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).

September 1, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Prodigal” by Sidewalk Prophets which currently sits at #16 on 20theCountdownMagazine’s top 20.

I thought I was going to love this song. I love the parable of the Prodigal son, the message of forgiveness and restoration. I really wanted to love this song. Sadly, this song completely misses the parable… even missing the definition of prodigal. This song gets a disapproval rating from me, not because its message is particularly aberrant, but because of the way it mishandled/misrepresented the parable of the prodigal son. I’m sure some will disagree with that decision, but after watching the video, I can come to no other conclusion. The song mishandled the text.

Official Music Video

I’m going to take a moment to do something I normally don’t do and that is to discuss the video itself. On the one hand, I find it interesting and potentially helpful when a band makes a theatrical music video with the intent of portraying the meaning of the song. Sadly, this video actually confuses the message of the song in some key ways that aren’t reflected in the lyric. The video took a “tugging on the heart-strings” approach rather than an “expound on the Scriptural meaning” one.

Prodigal ≠ Lost Runaway. It’s frustrating, really, that the writers of the song and the video would just assume they knew what prodigal means. Since the chorus is “running like a prodigal”, the noun definition is: a person who spends, or has spent, his or her money or substance with wasteful extravagance; spendthrift. The video doesn’t show a prodigal, it shows a runaway lost in the woods.

Prodigal daughter? No, this isn’t about sexism… the parable (we’ll look at it below) is of a son who demanded his inheritance from his father prematurely, and then squandered it in extravagant living. I’m not saying that the illustration cannot apply to a woman in our culture, but greater care must be given to clearly demonstrate the parable being referenced to achieve that goal. In seeking to make the emotional connection to a daughter, the video has diluted what the parable conveys, leaving a thought that would be better conveyed by the parable of the lost sheep.

Single Father? In the parable, the father is our Heavenly Father. This video presents a single father, no mother, not even a picture of one. There is no sibling, and some of the dramatization even suggests a panicked worry or anxiety on the part of the father. The video skips over the sin (the prodigal part of the story) with a mere fading away of the daughter from her bed. Again, the message has been diluted to simply convey a message of reconciliation. The message of reconciliation is a good one, but there is far more to the parable of the prodigal son.

On a good note, I really like how they captured her return on the long road to the house, and the embrace of the father. That was warming. There is much more to the story.

Lyrics (via KLove)

Prodigal

It’s been a long time since you felt peace
In the valley you made where you’re not meant to be
Where the shame throws shadows on you
But don’t you forget

That you’re headed to more
But you’ve settled for less
Don’t buy the lie “it’s as good as it gets”
The same feet that left you lost and alone
Are the very same feet that can bring you back home

Wherever you are, whatever you did
It’s a page in your book, but it isn’t the end
Your Father will meet you with arms open wide
This is where your heart belongs
Come running like a prodigal

There will be nights, when you hear whispers
Of the life you once knew, don’t let it linger
Cause there’s a grace that falls upon you
Don’t you forget
In the places your weak
He is very strong
Don’t ever believe “you don’t deserve love”
The same God that protects you when you’re lost and alone
Is the very same God that is calling you home

Wherever you are, whatever you did
It’s a page in your book, but it isn’t the end

Your Father will meet you with arms open wide
This is where your heart belongs
Come running like a prodigal

Oh…
Let your life be made new
Oh…
As you come into view
Your Father’s not waiting, no he’s running too
He’s running straight to you

Wherever you are, whatever you did
It’s a page in your book, but it isn’t the end

Your Father will meet you with arms open wide
This is where your heart belongs
Come running like a prodigal

Publishing: © 2015 Dayspring Music Publishing, LLC, Run Run Milo, Pencil Prophet Publishing (BMI) / CentricSongs, 2 Hour Songs (SESAC) (Adm. by Music Services) Produced by Seth Mosley for Full Circle Music
Writer(s): Dave Frey, Ben McDonald, Seth Mosley

Discussion

We’ve already covered the problem of using the prodigal incorrectly. But seriously… that’s a problem.

Verse 1. So with the reference to being lost in a valley we made but don’t belong, I almost think the writer(s) have read the parable. That feeling is gone when we get to the next line saying we’re headed for more but have settled for less… huh? Repentance is a change of direction… the prodigal isn’t headed for more before repentance… the prodigal is headed for stealing the pods of food from swine. That isn’t settling for less… that is the wages of sin. That is what we deserve, by the way, what our sin has earned us. However, the message of repentance and trusting in the One who has paid the full price of our sin by His finished work on the cross, is that we can find forgiveness at the foot of the cross and be made whole. When we refuse to address repentance properly, clearly, biblically… we muddle the message in emotional platitudes.

Chorus. It is true that no matter the sin, the offense, the transgression, God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness is sufficient. The parable includes betrayal of the son demanding his inheritance prematurely and squandering it all on selfish, sinful living… he earned his place among the swine… the song glosses over all of that. And… again… don’t come running like a prodigal. Instead, come running in humble repentance. Now, some will argue “but that’s what the song is saying… run back like the prodigal son did”… well, I’d agree if there weren’t already so many compromises on the parable. I take issue with the hook of the song being a call to be anything like the prodigal side of the son… he left his father a prodigal, he came home penitent, hoping to live as a servant.

Verse 2. Are we even in the same parable anymore? I hate to beat a dead horse, but the further we get away from the parable of the prodigal son, the less I’m okay with the misuse of the word prodigal.

Bridge. Your father’s not waiting, he’s running too. Well, yes and no. This is the line that makes me want to sit down with the writers and say, “don’t you think there’s a better parable to convey this message without butchering it just for a clever hook?”. The parable of the lost sheep wonderfully conveys this notion. I mean… it’s in the same chapter of the Gospel According to Luke. Now, in the parable of the prodigal son, the Father is waiting. Watching and waiting for His son to come home. Our Heavenly Father knows exactly when that will be, and He is eternal and exists outside of time (which He created)… but He also acts within time for our benefit and His Glory. Upon seeing his son, the father in the story runs out to greet his son. Our heavenly Father celebrates more over the return of one sheep that was lost than He does over the 99 that never left the fold. Again, that would have been a better parable to leverage for what this song is trying to convey. This song is a classic example of choosing form over function.

Luke 15:11-32 (ESV) | The Parable of the Prodigal Son

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

Sin, repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. This is such a wonderful parable… what this song did to this parable is horrible. What the video does to this parable truly upsets me.

Conclusion

As much as I wanted to like this song, I simply cannot. The danger here isn’t so much that the song conveys a bad message, it’s that so much damage is done to the parable it claims to reflect. How often does your Pastor preach through the parable of the Prodigal son? How often is it covered in your children’s church? Even if you are on a solid “read through the Bible in a year” programs, how often do you read this parable? Once. Now, how often will this song be played in a week on Christian radio? Given its placement on the Top20 chart, I’d say dozens of times. If it breaks into the top 10 it will likely play at least every other hour during the day. The truth is that what we listen to routinely affects how we think, and when we are listening to a Christian radio station and we hear a song that repeats the word “prodigal” we let down our guards because we think we know the parable and can trust what is being sung. Stay alert, brothers and sisters, and be on guard.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “First” by Lauren Daigle

Presentation1Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).

August 25, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “First” by Lauren Daigle which currently sits at #15 on 20theCountdownMagazine’s top 20 and at #8 on the KLove top 10.

Let me begin by first acknowledging just how powerful and mesmerizing Lauren’s voice… particularly in the chorus of this song. To make the jump from the verse to the high note of “First” in the chorus is difficult, and she absolutely nails it. I get chills during the chorus, her voice is that awesome. I am also a fan of the break-beat techno feel. But we are here to discuss the lyrics. The song is vague, and the best construction we can put on it is a song of expressing a desire to feel a certain way about (we assume) God. Let’s listen to the song, read through the lyrics, and discuss.

LaurenDaigleVEVO Lyric Video

Lyrics (via KLove)

First by Lauren Daigle

Before I bring my need
I will bring my heart
Before I lift my cares
I will lift my arms
I wanna know You
I wanna find You
In every season
In every moment
Before I bring my need
I will bring my heart
And seek You

(chorus)
First
I want to seek You
I want to seek You
First
I want to keep You
I want to keep You
First
More than anything I want, I want You
First

Before I speak a word
Let me hear Your voice
And in the midst of pain
Let me feel Your joy
I wanna know You
I wanna find You
In every season
In every moment
Before I speak a word
I will bring my heart
And seek You

(chorus)
First
I want to seek You
I want to seek You
First
I want to keep You
I want to keep You
First
More than anything I want, I want You
First

(bridge)
You are my treasure and my reward
Let nothing ever come before
You are my treasure and my reward
Let nothing ever come before
I seek You

(chorus)
First
First
I want to seek You
I want to seek You
First
I want to keep You
I want to keep You
First
More than anything I want, I want You
First
First

Publishing: © 2014 CentricSongs (SESAC) / Sony ATV Timber Publishing (SESAC) / Sony ATV Timber Publishing & Open Hands Music (SESAC) / Sony/ATV Tree Publishing & Upside Down Under (BMI) / Sony/ATV Cross Keys Publishing & Bentley Street Songs (ASCAP)
Writer(s): Words and Music by Lauren Daigle, Paul Mabury, Jason Ingram, Mia Fieldes and Hank Bentley

Discussion

The song does not clearly identify who the “You” is. Sure, most would assume the God of the Bible, but why do we make that assumption? Because of the station that is playing the song, or because of what we think we know about Lauren Delaigle… but there is nothing in this song pointing there. In truth, there isn’t anything in this song that would distinguish between the Mormon god and the God of the Bible.

Even when we assume the audience of the song to be the One True God of the Bible, the focus of the lyric is not the audience; rather, the focus is on the singer. The entire song is a chain of vocalized desire. The desire is to want/seek the right things, namely to keep God (assumed) first in the singer’s life. It is a desire to keep the Law.

Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

 Now, the song’s hook comes more from a different passage of scripture.

Matthew 6:25-33 (ESV) | Do Not Be Anxious

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.

This is the Law of God, seek Him first. As sinful, fleshly beings, we cannot in our own strength/zeal fulfill or keep this Law. It is by Grace through Faith that we are justified in Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:10-20 (ESV)

10 as it is written:

None is righteous, no, not one;
11  no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

We sin, we fall short, even as believers. The unbelieving world is lost and bears the guilt of their sin fully. We pray that they might hear the Word of Christ and have their ears opened by the Holy Spirit so that they might come to penitent faith in Christ. For those who believe, we understand that while we desire to keep the Law, we must daily seek forgiveness for falling short of it.

Luke 9:18-23 (ESV)

18 Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 And they answered,“John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” 20 Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” 21 And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying,“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” 23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Romans 6:1-11 (ESV) | Dead to Sin, Alive to God

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.For one who has died has been set free from sin.Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

1 John 1:5-10 (ESV) | Walking in the Light

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Amen. Now we have clearly explored the Law of seeking God first, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ that grants us forgiveness and Grace to walk in newness of life. Within this context, the song can serve as a motivational cheerleader of sorts… kind of like “B-E Aggressive” motivates football players on the field.

Conclusion

The song is vague and doesn’t remotely stand on its own. It doesn’t bring Glory to God, it’s a bit pious and empty without infusing a lot of Biblical context. I hope we’ve been able to provide some for the listener. In its best light, the song is an appeal to Law… don’t lose sight of the Gospel.

Romans 15:13 (ESV) 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “Impossible” by Building 429

Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).

May 07, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Impossible” by Building 429 which is currently being praised for having broken some airplay records.

Provident Label Group pop/rock band Building 429 has officially broken a radio record. Their brand new single, “Impossible”, received an astounding 95 radio adds on add date, making this an all time first for the band. This is also the highest number of adds its first week ever for a Provident Label Group artist. This radio feat hasn’t been achieved since “Free To Be Me” by Fancesca Battistelli in 2008.

“Everyone has that story of when something out of the ordinary happened in their career,” shares Andrew Patton, VP of Promotions, Provident Label Group. “The minute I heard ‘Impossible’ I knew it could be one of those moments. And as exciting as this record-breaking add date has been, I’m looking forward to even more exciting things ahead with this song and with Building 429.”

The GRAMMY-nominated and Dove Award-winning band debuted “Impossible” during the WinterJam Tour this past winter and spring playing to a record-breaking 600,000 fans over 47 dates. “Impossible” is the first single from their upcoming album slated to release September 25th. [ref CCMMagazine.com]

Since this song has yet to appear on the Top20 chart we currently use for DiM Tuesday, I thought we’d take a look at it today. With this much promotion behind this thing, it is only a matter of time before it appears on our charts. Is this song worthy of so much attention? No. This song is a fraudulent promise based on proof-text, vision-casting, and word-of-faith theology. This is going to be another long post, because we are addressing a major theological error. Making promises on God’s behalf, that He did not promise is blasphemy. It is one thing to have a “vision” or a “dream” of what YOU would like to see happen in your life, but quite another to claim that the vision or dream is from God. Dangerous, even. Let’s discuss this.

Official VEVO Lyric Video

Lyrics (via KLOVE)

Impossible
by Building 429

You got a vision
You got a dream
But it feels a million miles away
You got your passion
You got to believe
That this is why you were made

It takes a little time
Takes a little time
It takes a little time to see
I said it takes a little time
Takes a little time
It takes a little time to believe

We can rise above the typical
And be anything but usual
We know
We know
We know
That there’s no such thing as impossible

And nothing is unreachable
When we trust the God of miracles
We know
We know
We know
That there’s no such thing as impossible

We’re never given the spirit of fear
Only the power of love
We’ll keep on running and not grow weak
His strength is more than enough

It takes a little time
Takes a little time
It takes a little time to see
I said it takes a little time
Takes a little time
It takes a little time to believe

Rise above the typical
And be anything but usual
We know
We know
We know
That there is no such thing as impossible

That nothing is unreachable
When we trust the God of miracles
We know
We know
We know
That there is no such thing as impossible

There is no such, no such thing
There is no such, no such thing
There is no such, no such thing as impossible
Impossible

There is no such, no such thing
There is no such, no such thing
There is no such, no such thing as impossible

Rise above the typical
And be anything but usual
We know
We know
We know
That there is no such thing as impossible

Nothing is unreachable
When you trust the God of miracles
We know
We know
We know
That there is no such thing as impossible
Publishing: © 2014 Sony/ATV Tree Publishing / Havery Publishing / Jord A Lil Music (BMI) / Sony/ATV Timber Publishing / Not Just Another Song Publishing (SESAC) All rights admin. by Sony/ATV.
Writer(s): Jason Roy, Chuck Butler, Casey Brown

Discussion

Well, folks, what we have here is a Vision-Casting / Word-of-Faith anthem of empty promise cloaked in what seems to be truth (truism). This could very well be a CTT post. The phrase “with God all things are possible” occurs several times in the New Testament. When isolated, pulled from its context, it gives the notion that “nothing is impossible for God” is a valid ultimate truth. However, this isn’t the case. This isn’t a mathematical equation or Greek philosophy of possibility, the realm of possibility is defined by God. He has clearly stated certain things are impossible, such that we might have full assurance in His Promise.

Hebrews 6:13-20 (ESV) | The Certainty of God’s Promise

13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

All Scripture is God-Breathed. Some take this Truth to mean that if you can find any phrase in the Bible and apply a meaning to it, then it is infallible. That’s not how it works. You see, God’s Word is defined by God’s Word. One cannot simply pluck out a phrase from the Scriptures and apply it in whichever way seems beneficial and expect God to honor it. This song’s assertion that as long as you believe in God your “vision” or “dreams” will all come true is complete bunk. Let’s do a quick survey of the Scriptures to flesh out the limits of “possibility” for mankind.

With Man it is Impossible

Let’s look at what Jesus was teaching when He said, but with God all things are possible.

Mark 10:23-27 (ESV)

23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

Matthew 19:23-26 (ESV)

23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Luke 18:24-27 (ESV)

24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But he said,“What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

Salvation. It is impossible for man to save himself. Salvation is a work of God, so that no one should boast (Eph 2:1-10 ESV).  It is also impossible for man to please God without faith.

Hebrews 11:5-7 (ESV)

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

Now, let’s look at what Scripture tells us of the nature of man after the fall. Let’s look back to the days of Noah.

Genesis 6:5-8 (ESV)

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

God chose to spare Noah to keep His promise to Adam and Eve, and He cannot lie. Nevertheless, all mankind is wicked and sinful. In fact, dead in their sins and trespasses (Eph 2). God spoke to Noah, and Noah believed God and became an heir of righteousness that comes by faith (Hebrews 11). Notice, we are using the New Testament to better understand the Old. Noah didn’t merit God’s favor, it was for His sake, for His Name’s sake alone that God spared Noah. We know this because Scripture has made it clear, but it can also be inferred from what took place after Noah.

Genesis 11:1-9 (ESV) | The Tower of Babel

11 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

Where they seeking after God? No. Were they seeking to honor God? No. They sought to make a name for themselves in the heavens, and that was only the beginning of what they would do. Salvation is impossible for them, we know this. They are dead in sins and trespasses. They do not yet have the Law, this is before the Abrahamic Covenant. Without God, it is impossible for man to do the right thing, to be righteous. Righteousness requires faith, and that faith comes from God. We aren’t “born with it”. Faith comes to us through hearing the Words of Christ. When God spoke to men, they were afforded an opportunity for faith, as we see articulated in Hebrews 11. Even Adam, who saw all of Creation in its perfection, and knew God, was expected to obey His word by faith, that he was not to eat of the fruit of that one tree. Adam lacked faith, and so he sinned, and by one man’s sin, death entered the earth. Only God could provide a way of atonement sufficient for man’s salvation. The Law was temporary, a guardian for the people of the Promise, until Christ could come and establish a New Covenant with mankind.

Hebrews 10:1-14 (ESV) | Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
    as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

And Now that We’ve Been Saved…

Okay, but once we’ve been saved by Grace through Faith, can’t we assume all things are possible for us? Is the promise of Salvation temporal or eternal? Who decides what miracle God is going to perform, man or God? Who decided to part the Red Sea, Moses or God? God did. He led Moses to that place, to that shore, and He instructed Moses to act, and He parted the Red Sea, and He saved Israel with His Mighty Hand, and He destroyed Pharaoh’s army when He closed the sea on them. Indeed, nothing is impossible with God… for He is the one who is Sovereign over all of Creation. This goes back to Soli Deo Gloria: to God Alone be the Glory.

You see, the biggest problem with this song that invalidates all of it, is that it begins not with a Promise that God’s Word makes; rather, it begins with the dreams/ideas/visions of mankind, the listener. Bruce Jenner has a vision of being a woman… that’s not God’s Will for him. Mankind will manipulate language, biology, chemistry, and religion to reinforce the illusion that it is possible for him to become a woman… but that simply isn’t possible. Man doesn’t have that power, and never will.

What About the Faith of a Mustard Seed

Let’s take a look at His teaching on faith.

Matthew 17:14-20 (ESV) | Jesus Heals a Boy with a Demon

14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.

Is faith an emotion to be stirred up or some heightened state of consciousness to be reached through meditation or asceticism? No. Faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ. This isn’t a question of quantity of faith, but on the object of their faith. The Scripture doesn’t specify where their doubt had crept in, just that if they had the faith of a mustard seed to believe the Word of God they could do the Will of God by His Grace through Faith. With man, it is impossible to cast out demons… it is also impossible to walk on water. Let us look there for a moment because that is where I’m drawing some of my conclusions for this understanding.

Matthew 14:28-32 (ESV)

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

By faith Peter walked on water in obedience to Jesus’s call. Yes, Peter prayed the Lord to issue the command, as we should pray for those things which are impossible with men. Jesus did issue the command, and Peter walked by faith… until he doubted. Notice the rebuke, O you of little faith, why did you doubt? 

Does scripture record anyone else walking on the water after this? No. The point was not to promise Christians water-walking powers, but to point to the deity of Christ. Does scripture (or history) record anyone literally commanding a mountain to be moved and it moving by faith? No. The point is to rest in the Word of God by Faith. Jesus came to set the captives free from the Kingdom of darkness, by faith. There is no worthy opponent or impediment to the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not even demon possession. The Word of God is mightier than any 2-edged sword, preach the Word, say to the mountain “be moved” that the Name of the Lord will be lifted up in praise. Let us not cheapen this truth with false gospels of prosperity or worse, turning the bible into some sort of spell book. The Apostle Paul faced many hardships, trials, tribulation, and was mightily used of God to spread the Gospel and build up His Church among the Gentiles. Notice the introduction of his letter to the Romans.

Romans 1:1-17 (ESV) | The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Amen. In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Christmas Gospel | What Mary Knew

Truthinator's Blog: Humor, Satire, and Opinion of a Theological Nature

Truthinator’s Blog: Humor, Satire, and Opinion of a Theological Nature

We’ll continue our study of the Gospel According to Matthew in a few weeks. For now, we feel it is important to remain fixed on the topic of Advent, when the Word became flesh, Jesus the Son of God. One very popular Christmas song explores the question of “Mary, did you know” who Jesus would become and what He would do? Recently the Truthinator’s Blog Facebook page shared this graphic, which solidified my desire to explore what it was that Mary knew, by faith.

What Gabriel Told Mary

Luke 1:26-38 (ESV)

Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Wow. She was told a lot. Mary knew that Jesus was the Son of God. She knew that He would be given David’s throne, and that He would be great, and His reign would be eternal. Only God can have such a reign. By faith, Mary knew that the child would be the Son of the Most High God. Now, after the angel departed from her, Mary went to visit Elizabeth. Let’s continue in the text.

Luke 1:39-80 (ESV)

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

I get emotional every time I read this passage. No doubt Mary was still concerned by her encounter with the angel Gabriel and what his message meant. God is so good that the moment Mary greeted her, the Holy Spirit prophetically confirmed for Mary all that the angel had told her regarding her pregnancy. Let us continue.

Luke 1 | Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat

46 And Mary said,

My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

Mary rightly understood her place, a humble servant, and knew that all generations would caller her blessed. Not by her merit, simply by what God had done for her, to the Glory of His Name. Mary knew a great deal of who Jesus was and His significance for all of mankind. However, there is more… let’s continue reading.

Luke 1 | The Birth of John the Baptist

57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 Andfear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.

Zechariah’s Prophecy

67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
    and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74     that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
    in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

Mary likely heard these stories, and this prophecy, and knew that John would prepare the way for Jesus. Shortly after His birth, the shepherds came to worship him as they were told by the Angels, the Heavenly Host. Let’s turn to Luke chapter 2.

Luke 2:8-20 (ESV) | The Shepherds and the Angels

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Now the shepherds relayed what they had been told by the angel of the Lord, that Jesus is the Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. She knew who Jesus was. Where there things she didn’t know? Sure… she and the disciples never quite understood that Jesus had to die for the sin of all mankind, despite how often He taught them and told them it would be. She and Joseph did receive a prophetic message concerning this… but it didn’t become clear until the events transpired. Let’s continue in the text.

Luke 2:22-38 (ESV) | Jesus Presented at the Temple

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

As we learn in the Gospel according to Matthew, some time after this Herod sought to kill Jesus, and the Holy Spirit warned Joseph in a dream and they fled to Egypt (Matthew 2).

Did Mary anticipate each individual miracle He performed? Probably not, but Mary knew who Jesus was. She and the disciples didn’t understand how dying on the cross could be part of God’s plan, but in His Grace and Mercy He spent time teaching them what it all meant. In closing, I’d like to share my favorite rendition of this Christmas song, “Mary did you know”. I think it is fitting that my favorite version is sung by one who is probably not a Christian… though he might consider himself from “Gospel roots”. Please pray for Cee Lo Green, that he may come to know the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

[youtube http://youtu.be/D1ptNwE7K8o]

Whenever you hear this song this season, know that Mary would likely answer “yes” to most of the lines in this song. The truly important question, is do you know who Jesus is? Do you know that He is returning?

Jude 1:24-25 (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.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | Jesus Friend of Sinners?

jesus_eats_with_publicans_and_sinners_bidaDid Jesus walk this earth to befriend sinners? Does this partial quote justify hanging out with sinners without preaching Law and Gospel? Does this justify abandoning the purpose of the church found in Scripture (maturing the saints) in favor of creating a cool place for “unchurched” people to hang out, be entertained, and be encouraged regardless of whether or not they believe in the Son of God and what He did as a payment for what their sin deserves? Let’s look at the text.

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

The partial quote “Jesus friend of sinners” is found in the tail end of the account where disciples of John the Baptist come to Jesus on John’s behalf to ask if He was in-fact the Messiah. John had been thrown in jail shortly after Jesus’s ministry began, and he wanted encouragement. This account is recorded nearly verbatim in Matthew 11 and in Luke 7. Luke records a reaction from the crowd that I think is important for understanding the message, so we will begin in Luke.

Luke 7:18-35 (ESV) | Messengers from John the Baptist
18 The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, 19 calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 20 And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” 21 In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. 22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” 24 When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. 26 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is he of whom it is written,

“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’

28 I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” 29 (When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, 30 but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)

31 “To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like?32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,

“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
    we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’

33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”

Interesting. After such a powerful testimony of John the Baptist, Jesus then declares that the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. Why would the tax collectors resonate with this statement? In that day, the top rung of the social ladder was the chief priests and elders, and the lowest were the prostitutes and tax collectors. The tax collectors were equated with prostitutes in that they, being Jews, took money from Jews to pay tribute to Rome. Remember when we discussed in an earlier post, we saw that John’s baptism was one of Repentance. Let’s revisit how Jesus ended one of His parables to the chief priests and elders of the Temple.

Matthew 21:28-32 (ESV) | The Parable of the Two Sons
28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

John the Baptist Preached Repentance

Luke records the reaction of the people, specifying that tax collectors were present, demonstrates that Jesus wasn’t talking about John the Baptist to those who were completely ignorant of who he was. These people whom Jesus addressed had gone out to John the Baptist, and Jesus was reminding them of who they saw. Jesus was also explaining John’s significance. The least in the kingdom of Israel had gone out to John the Baptist, confessing their sins and repenting. The religious leaders, the Pharisees and Sadducees rejected the purpose of God for themselves… they did not believe in John’s baptism. John the Baptist was greater than all mankind (except Jesus because He is the Son of God), but the least in the Kingdom of God was greater than John. How? Because their entry into the Kingdom of God is by the Blood of Jesus, not by their own.

The People of This Generation

Getting back to our text, in Luke 7:32 Jesus transitions to describing the people of this generation. Notice how He chose to describe them, as children sitting in the marketplace calling to one another. Are the children encouraging each other? Are they celebrating each other? No… they are frustrated with each other for when they played the flute no one danced, so when they sang a dirge no one wept (a dirge being a mournful song, piece of music, or poem).  Jesus is setting up the next point He is going to make about the religious leaders and their whining excuses for rejecting the Kingdom of God.

Luke 7:33-35 (ESV) 33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”

John the Baptist came as a Nazirite from birth, eating no bread (locusts and honey) and drinking no wine or strong drink, and the religious leaders rejected him and his prophecy and told the people he had a demon (sang a dirge) . Now that Jesus, the Son of Man, had come eating and drinking, the religious leaders continue to reject Him and His Testimony while telling the people, “Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (played the flute).

Immediate Context of the Quote

So, normally, I like to start with the immediate context of a CTT quote, but this time I really felt it necessary to begin with the full context. The immediate context is highly questionable… this “Jesus friend of sinners” is a quote of what the unbelieving Pharisees are saying about Jesus, but it doesn’t stand alone. The Pharisees are lining it up with declaring Jesus a glutton and a drunkard! This is levied as an insult to Jesus. They aren’t complimenting Him, nor is Jesus declaring this accusation to be true, because He also quoted their accusation of John the Baptist having a demon. The immediate context of this quote completely destroys the emergent, seeker-sensitive twist of this passage as somehow proclaim traditional Church to be Pharisaical and contrary to the ministry of Jesus. The greater context also draws that out, when we see that those in attendance knew and acknowledged the message of John the Baptist, who definitely hadn’t “befriended”, ate, and drank with them; rather, he called them to repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

To Seek and to Save the Lost

To call Jesus a “friend of sinners” is to misunderstand either who the “sinners” are or to confuse why Jesus walked the earth. Unless you are acknowledging that we are all sinners, equally dead in our trespasses and sins, you are missing the point of who it was that Jesus befriended. Everyone Jesus spoke to, ate with, walked with, and met was a sinner. Everyone. The Pharisees didn’t get it, they didn’t understand that the call to repent was to them in equal measure as it was to the prostitutes and the tax collectors. Though pointing this out to a seeker-mergent ministry will get an emphatic “amen” it actually destroys their argument that Church needed to be re-envisioned for holding the attention of unbelievers because we are all sinners. We all need to repent and be forgiven every day we live on this Earth. So this partial quote cannot be “properly clarified” and still support the notion that Church that seeks to mature the saints are Pharisaical.

The more dangerous road this can take, is to minimize the work and ministry of Jesus Christ by suggesting that we should seek out sinful living and become a part of it as a form of befriending the sinner. That isn’t what Jesus did, that is what the Pharisees accused Him of doing (gluttony, drunkard, befriending, etc.). Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets on our behalf (for no one else could do it perfectly) and then lay down His life to suffer the wrath of God that we deserve so that the payment for our sin was made (substitutionary atonement) on our behalf. Let’s look at what Jesus did when He visited the home of Zacchaeus, the tax collector.

Luke 19:1-10 (ESV) | Jesus and Zacchaeus
1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him,“Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

What did Zacchaeus do when Jesus came to his home? Confessed and repented of his sin. Jesus responded by forgiving him and then declaring that salvation had come to Zacchaeus’s home. You see, brothers and sisters, it is a false dichotomy to assert that we need to act out the Gospel before or even instead of preaching it. By God’s Grace we should endeavor to live in step with the Holy Spirit, but we are all sinners in need of Grace.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only power to save, not our own examples or interpretations. Zacchaeus knew who Jesus was, and wanted to see Him. We do need to go and preach Law and Gospel to the lost in this world, but that doesn’t require abandoning the feeding of God’s sheep for the maturing of the saints.

Who Did Jesus call His Friends?

We know that Jesus came, the first time, not to judge the world but to save it. The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost, from every nation, both Jew and Gentile. He will return again and when He does it will be to Judge both the Living and the Dead. Jesus left us with our marching orders, and gave the Church the Holy Spirit and the Apostles to build her up on the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with Christ as its corner-stone.

John 15:12-17 (ESV) 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Jesus didn’t call the sinner living in sin a friend. Make no mistake in what I am saying here, I am not saying Jesus didn’t die for the sinners (all of us) or that He didn’t minister to them or seek out the lost. I’m saying that when Jesus speaks of friendship, it is an upgrade from servant. For those who live in sin are enemies of God, that is what sin did to us in the Fall.

James 4:1-5 (ESV) | Warning Against Worldliness
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”?

Jesus Christ came to save the world, to redeem Mankind from sin… not to befriend the world. The most loving thing you can do is to love your brothers and sisters in Christ, and preach the Gospel. The Gospel is the only means of salvation for those who are perishing in their sin. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his own soul? You can pour out good works on your neighbor, giving him everything he ever thought he could ever need, but if he does not hear the Word of God, he cannot gain faith, and without faith he cannot be saved. If you are going err, err on the side of preaching, so that the Word of God might work on the hearts of the lost and might grant them faith.

Galatians 6:1-10 (ESV) | Bear One Another’s Burdens
1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load. 6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

May the Grace of God be with you always,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge