CTT | Maturity in Discerment

CTTToday, let us take a some time to consider the idea of Christian Maturity and how it plays out in our discernment. For starters, I’d like to point out that discernment isn’t limited to quality assurance and quality control in theology, or a certain type of blogging that tells everyone that they are wrong. Discernment is both a gift of the Holy Spirit for the edification of the Church and a sign of maturity in a the believer who is walking according to the Spirit. We’ll start with the obvious topic of the Spiritual gift of discernment and work toward the individual responsibility of growing in maturity and how that is reflected in our discernment on a personal level.

Spiritual Gift for the Church

1 Corinthians 12:1-13 (ESV) | Spiritual Gifts

12 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit

When we consider discernment ministry for the common good, we are focused on the gift of discerning what is of the Spirit of Truth against the spirit of error, whose source might be either our fleshly sinfulness or unclean spirits of demons. There is no other option. Notice the focus in Paul’s writing, it isn’t to get smart on all of the spirits of error; rather, it is to anchor everything according to the Spirit of God. The better you know the genuine article, the easier it becomes to identify counterfeits. Not everyone who claims a gift of discernment actually bears it… just as not everyone who claims to preach the Word of the Lord actually does so. It is the Holy Spirit who gives the gifts as He wills. Similarly, I’ve met some who think (or maybe truly desire) they have the gift of hospitality… but end up making others uncomfortable in their attempts at serving in hospitality. It happens. We should all grow in hospitality in loving our neighbors, but not all of us are called to that specific ministry. Discernment ministry is the same way. We are called to be discerning believers, but not all of us should consider it our primary ministry to the Body of Christ. The call of discernment ministry is primarily to identify spirits of error, false doctrines, and doctrines of demons. It falls to Overseers, Elders, Pastors to exercise church discipline for those who reject rebuke, correction, reproof and who refuse to repent. The shepherd drives away the wolves to protect the sheep. The overseer is a steward under the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ. We hope that our pastors are gifted in spiritual discernment, but that doesn’t mean the sheep cannot also be keenly aware of the wolves and alert the shepherd to their presence. The problem comes in when our immaturity and fleshliness leads us to separate wrongly… as we see Paul address next.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31 (ESV) | One Body with Many Members

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

More excellent way that what? Discernment? No. Discernment is a Gift from God. Paul is about to go into a more excellent way of dealing with the other members of the Body of Christ than what was highlighted as wrong. Those of you who are familiar with 1 Cor 13 may know what is coming, but I want to park that train for a moment. We’ll get there, but let’s take a short detour and examine the concept of Spiritual Maturity… what does it look like to be a mature Christian? Before we get to that thought, let us take a quick peek at something Paul wrote to the Corinthians in ch 3.

1 Corinthians 3:1-3 (ESV) | Divisions in the Church

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

Ouch. He’s talking to Christians. They are still Christians… but they are immature, infants in Christ.

Walking in Spiritual Maturity

As individual believers, our biggest struggle isn’t against demons, it is against our own sinful flesh with its corrupted, self-seeking, desires. Paul exhorts us to die to our flesh, to that which is fleshly in us, so that we might live according to the Spirit. There is actually very little mention of the devil beyond resisting him… but we are routinely exhorted to flee lusts and the temptations of the flesh. The truth is that while we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord, our flesh remains and is sinful. The Holy Spirit does work in us, sanctifying us… but the biggest component of that sanctification is that we are literally being put to death. Should the Return of Jesus tarry, you and I will die. There is no way around that. Our fleshly bodies are condemned under sin.

The life of the believing Christian is caught in between sinner and saint, the already(forgiven) and the not yet(sanctified). That means that we live in such a way that our works of the flesh are always sinful, and we must, by faith, remain in humble submission before God in repentance. We sin. Our flesh craves it. There are many who preach advice on how to reduce sin in your life by “avoiding pitfalls” or “following key principles” or … but the danger in this is the implication that if you are “christian enough” you’ll eventually stop sinning and finally be free from sin. That’s a lie. Your flesh is corrupt to its core. Even if Jesus returns today, your current flesh will be done away with, and in Christ those who are of faith will be granted new bodies. It has to happen. Only then will you be truly sanctified in the flesh… when He has given you a new body.

Now, here is where we get to the point of Christian Maturity… your greatest good work performed for your neighbor while on this earth, is stained by the sin of your flesh. Praise be to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, that our forgiveness, our adoption as sons and daughters of the Most High is in no way contingent upon the righteousness of our good works, but on His. So, when an opportunity to serve your neighbor arises, God is using you to bless your neighbor… but at the same time your flesh is involved so there will be sin at some level. Christian maturity is dying to the flesh to minimize the impact of your fleshliness on your neighbor, as well as learning to discern the good work from the sin of your neighbor and forgiving their sin as your sins are forgiven.

Galatians 5:13-25 (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.

This is the war that wages in our bodies while we walk as sojourners in this life. By faith we know that our home is not of this world, but until we are finally set free from these corrupted bodies of sin, we must daily contend with the flesh and its corruption. But Paul isn’t just directing this teaching to one group of believers. He isn’t just addressing “discernment bloggers” or “pastors”… he’s addressing the body of Christ, brothers and sisters in the household of faith. We often come to this passage for the rundown of the fruit of the Spirit and set that as some positive goal for “becoming a mature Christian” by working on the fruits. But I think that is missing the bigger part of this section… we need to discern the works of the flesh (within the church) and see them for what they are and crucify the flesh with its passions and desires through repentance. Notice the wording of keep in step with the Spirit. We stumble and fall in sin. Repentance and forgiveness is how we are to keep in step. You are not sinless. You sin. I sin. For us to keep in step with the Spirit, by faith we humbly ask forgiveness and repent from sin. Daily. It’s in the Lord’s prayer. And we forgive others. Daily. That’s also in the same prayer. Reflecting back to Paul’s rebuke to the immature Corinthians above, their conduct was fleshly, and were not yet ready for meat, so they had to continue feeding on milk.

A Call to Maturity

Recently, my wife and I threw a big party for my daughter. The whole day was dedicated to her, starting with having her grandparents in town to watch her in gymnastics and swim class, followed by costume party at the house with a huge bounce-house and actors pretending to be Disney characters who sang songs and played games with her and a bunch of her friends. There was a fire pit with s’mores afterwards… it was an awesome day. When it came bed time, I let my son lead the bedtime prayer because he volunteered first, and you’d have thought the entire day was ruined by my daughter’s response… oh the waterworks, fat bottom lip, and hurt feelings. My daughter just turned 4… and she was beyond tired. As a child, she lives emotionally in the moment. As an adult, I know that the entire day wasn’t wasted simply because she took offense at the end of the day for not being chosen to pray. She had a wonderful day. She’s 4. As she matures, I will expect more from her… I will expect her to weigh the events of the day against the single disappointment at the end… to consider how excited her brother was for her throughout the day that was planned for her, and not for him. But for now, she’s 4… and she was super tired and delirious.

Our culture isn’t fond of maturity. In every way it seems to insist on living the Peter Pan in Neverland fantasy where we never grow old, grown-ups are the enemy, and we can all fly and have fanciful adventures if only we hold onto our one happy thought. “Grow up” is hate speech and to uphold God’s Written Word as an objective standard is bigotry. And the church hasn’t done a good job of remaining set apart. The visible church in modern-times needs to grow up.

2 Timothy 4:1-4 (ESV) | Preach the Word

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Reprove and rebuke with complete patience and teaching. We are still both sinner and saint… even our pastors. Their good works will be tainted by their flesh. As they submit to the Spirit, so we must acknowledge the work of the Spirit in them and in His Word that they are preaching. Sure, we may cry like children and scream, and pitch a fit to punish our pastor for DARING to rebuke us in an imperfect manner, in what we deem to be less than patient teaching. Children live in that emotional space. Infants employ the same scream for every desire, and it falls to parents to discern the true need of the infant. However, as they grow and mature, we teach them to discern needs from desires and right from wrong. Paul is warning Timothy that the church will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. He is charging Timothy to preach the Word, reprove, rebuke, and exhort. A mature Christian hears the Word of the Lord being preached and humbles himself in repentance to the Word… even when the preacher’s flesh causes an offense. It’s going to happen. We are sinful creatures saved by grace. Know that your pastor is held accountable to God at a higher standard than those who are not called to the teaching ministry. Communicate with your pastor, point out the offense or error in love, being ready to forgive him as your sins are being forgiven you by God.

More Excellent Way

1 Corinthians 13 (ESV) | The Way of Love

13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Don’t confuse Love with the selfish emotion your flesh conjures up in its sinful desires and passions. Love is a fruit of the Spirit of God.

Conclusion

Whether you are exercising biblical discernment in speaking/writing a word of rebuke do what you can to remain substantive, rooted and grounded in the Word of God, and filled with love. Do not let your fleshly tone or word-choice be a stumbling block to your brother. When not speaking, be ready to discern substantive rebuke and correction even when delivered in an offensive tone. Learn to address tone without using it to overturn a substantive rebuke. Do not let your childish offendedness become a stumbling block to your own repentance. We will spend the rest of our earthly days maturing until at last we are set free from these mortal bonds, and born again into the Promise of the Resurrection.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus,the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Friday Sermon | “Christ, the Door” by Phil Johnson

PhilJohnson-GraceLifeFor today’s good sermon, we’ll be visiting Grace Life Church’s online ministry the Grace Life Pulpit. Our sermon for today is delivered by Phil Johnson and was preached on Sunday, August 2, 2015. This is an excellent sermon, one that was brought to my attention by Chris Rosebrough of Fighting for the Faith.

If you’d rather just listen to this sermon click the below:

The sermon text is John 10:7-10.

John 10:1-21 (ESV) | I Am the Good Shepherd

10 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them andscatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | Discernment or Critical Spirit?

A recent radio segment by Beth Moore called “A Word with Beth Moore” was entirely dedicated to an ad hominem attack on discernment ministries. She began with a caveat of, “now spiritual discernment is important but…” and then she launched into her diatribe that people cloak their critical and judgmental spirits behind discernment and that it just makes her sick to her stomach. She didn’t differentiate between the sin of being mean and the practice of discernment. She ended her segment demanding that everyone should be loving leaving the trailing implication that discernment (broad stroke) is the opposite of love.

More recently, I was accused of being “too critical” and “judgmental” myself for bringing up questionable memes taken as memes in a Facebook forum I created specifically to practice discussing matters Biblically. It is interesting to me how long and hard some will fight to defend an unbiblical statement/meme/concept as “maybe having some value to someone” without ever opening up the Scriptures to see what God has to say in His Word. That’s the result of our post-modern society influencing the church, being conformed to this world’s rationale and philosophy. So let’s talk about this “critical spirit” thing, shall we?

Critical Spirit?

There is no “critical spirit” in the sense of a particular demon whose job it is to make people mean and overly critical. What makes us mean and overly critical is sin. Don’t look to blame demons for sin, we do that all on our own. Demons practice deception, false teaching, temptation, and pose as angels of light. We sin when we follow our own fleshly desires. Sometimes the enemy tempts us, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we sin plenty on our own.

Galatians 5:16-26 (ESV) | Keep in Step with the Spirit

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.

Discernment and Sin

The major problem with Moore’s ad hominem is the conflation of discernment with sin. Discernment is differentiating between Truth and error. It can (and should) be done in love. Is it possible to sin while practicing discernment? Yes. We are all sinful creatures in need of a Savior. Does that mean that we should avoid practicing discernment? That’s ridiculous. It simply means we need to be humble in our approach and ready to confess and repent from sin. We repent from the sin, not the Truth of the discernment. For example, the Apostle Paul issued the following command to exercise discernment in love without compromising the truth:

Galatians 1:6-9 (ESV) | No Other Gospel

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Those are strong, direct, and harsh words… and they are spoken in love, and there is no sin in this. Paul did not have to repent of these words. The church would be out of line to rebuke Paul for disguising a “critical spirit” behind discernment. Later in the same letter, Paul also makes the following statement:

Galatians 5:7-12 (ESV)

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

The context of Galatians is that they were being told that in order to be a true Christian, Gentiles had to become Jews (circumcision). Therefore, Paul is saying that in this case he wishes the individual who is forcing them to be circumcised would just go ahead and remove his own member. Very harsh words… because the error is so great. The error here hindered the Galatians from obeying the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is loving, and the rebuke was warranted and ordained by God the Holy Spirit. Ms Moore may not like it, but discernment isn’t just avoiding pitfalls, but calling out the charlatans.

Now, having established that discernment can be simultaneously harsh and loving (hence discipline), where men are involved there is always room for sin. We’ll be looking at the Sermon on the Mount later this week, but let’s look at how Jesus taught on Anger (since it can burn both the one practicing discernment and the one being rebuked).

Matthew 5:21-26 (ESV) | Anger

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

So, you see, if the motive is wrong in the one pointing out error, there is sin in his heart. That sin is separate from whether or not the error is in-fact an error. If what he is speaking is Truth, the sin in his heart has no bearing on the Truthfulness of God’s Word. He needs to repent and be reconciled to his brother, but the Truth remains the Truth. Similarly, if in being offended one chooses to reject the Truth of God’s word and refuses to repent from wrong doing or false teaching, their guilt remains on their heads. It’s not like you get a bye on your false teaching simply because you found the other person “offensive”. Ms Moore twists scripture and has been joining with many a popular false teacher of late, as she enjoys much notoriety, fame, and honor of women in the public square. While it remains our duty to speak in the Truth in love at all times, it is also incumbent upon ourselves to remain humble and receive rebuke and correction as noble Bereans.

Stop Straining at Gnats and Focus on Essentials

This is one of those times when I really want to open up the scripture and point out how someone is misusing a passage. The average evangelical would probably not know where to find this reference, and would most likely assert that the problem of the Pharisees is that they were too busy fussing about unimportant things… just like some Discernment bloggers myopically focus on the unimportant things in order to disparage their favorite “anointed” ones. This comes from Jesus’s 7 Woes to the Pharisees, recorded in Matthew 23. I’ll make a quick list and then point out what this passage is really about.

  1. But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.
  2. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
  3. Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.
  4. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
  5. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
  6. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
  7. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.

So, is this passage about fussing over inconsequential matters? No. It’s about hypocrisy. Notice in the 23rd verse the clause, without neglecting the others. All of the Law is important, and the sin of the Pharisee was his hypocrisy and rejection of Jesus Christ.

Discernment in the Little Things

In closing, I’d like to address the notion that there is such a thing as discernment wasted on “the little things”. The idea that one should wait until something is important to speak up and exercise Biblical discernment. Rather than spell out my objection to this thought, let’s look to one of Jesus’ teachings as He closes out one of the tougher parables and expounds upon it to call out the Pharisees.

Luke 16:10-17 (ESV)

10 One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. 17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.

Is this only about money? I don’t think it is limited to money.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV)

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present youblameless 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.

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

CTT | As Long as the Principle is True?

nopememeGood Monday Morning! This season has been quite busy for us lately, and I have a few projects in the works that haven’t gotten the kind of attention they require, sadly. Today’s CTT post will be a quick look at what transpired last week when I tried to address falsehood from a well-known and liked Christian artist’s Facebook page.

On November 7th, the team that manages the TobyMac Facebook Page posted a custom-made Christian Meme making the following claim:

THE PHRASE “DO NOT BE AFRAID” IS WRITTEN IN THE BIBLE 365 TIMES

This meme popped up on my feed and at first I thought, “well that’s kinda cool”… but then I thought… “that number seems awfully high”. I opened up Bible Gateway and searched for the phrase “do not be afraid” and got the following results:

So, not even close to 365… not even if you add up the results from the 4 common translations. The meme has no other information apart from this assertion. The assertion is false… significantly false. There is no truth in this meme whatsoever. In other words, this is a lie. The intent might be   to convey an idea that there isn’t a day of the year where we should be afraid. However, that is not what it actually says… it’s hoping to infer that message when someone associates the number “365” with the number of days in a non-leap-year.

My first reaction was to post a comment “My search only came up with 33” and a link to the 33 hits in ESV via BibleGateway.com. My comment didn’t get a lot of response, but here is the conversation that ensued:

  • (another poster) – You get more if you allow for variations on the phrase, but still nowhere close to 365. Kudos for using your head and not “going with the flow” on an Internet meme. (See also my other post in this thread.)
  • Jorge (me) – Agreed. I opted out of a fuzzy search because the meme actually specifies this phrasing in quotes. The Word of God does not need embellishments to be encouraging… in fact, embellishments are always detractors to the Word of God
  • TobyMac – Jorge–Goodness guys! No one is trying to decieve or embellish! We took an OFTEN used quote–but we did not double check it. our bad. Team toby
  • Jorge (me) – Not ascribing malice here, just pointing out that it is false. We all fall victim to passing along an incorrect quote. This one already has over 6700 shares. (comment posted Nov 7 at 2:30pm)
  • TobyMac – Jorge–we are so very glad that the PRINCIPLE is TRUE. Nothing incorrect about that. Glad for the accountability. Team toby
  • Jorge (me) – What about the principle of putting away falsehood (Eph 4:29)? God is not honored by the lie in this meme, nor is the church edified by it. Now shared over 13,000 times and “liked” by over 43,000 people. The meme is false and rather than repent and remove it, Team Toby seems keen to justify it. That’s unfortunate. (comment posted Nov 7 at 5:06pm)

What principle? I took a screen capture of the image this morning

Capture

While reading through the short interchange, one might get the idea that TeamToby indeed acknowledged the lie of the meme and that they were truly grateful for being held accountable. However, it is now November 10th, and the image has garnered 116,154+ “Likes” and has been “shared” 68,076+ times (the number is still climbing). Does this demonstrate repentance or accountability? No.

The photo has 1,600+ comments. Most of them are the expected response along the lines of “one for every day of the year”, but there are several calling out the lie in the meme. TeamToby replies to most of them along the lines of “our bad” and “at least the Principle is True”. In Facebook, those comments aren’t seen unless someone is interested in reading the replies to those correcting the meme. So these concessions are not a public sign of repentance or repudiation of the lie; rather, they are an attempt to calm or quiet the rebuke. Let’s look at some Scripture.

Ephesians 4:17-32 (ESV) | The New Life

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!—21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

John 7:14-18 (ESV)

14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.

John 8:44 (ESV)

44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

I know this is coming very strongly, but there are no “harmless lies”. There is no falsehood in God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit and there is no truth in the father of lies. One cannot rightfully assert that any truth by any measure might be obtained by perpetuating a lie of any degree.

Repentance is in order. TobyMac has been given a large platform with a lot of followers. This is no small thing.

2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

In closing, let’s look at how Paul addressed the resolution of his rebuke from his first letter to the Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 7:6-13 (ESV)

But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.

10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. 12 So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. 13 Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.

Pray for  TobyMac and TeamToby and pray for the tens of thousands of people who were mislead by the lie of that meme.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Temptation, Rebuke, Repentance, & Forgiveness

Suffer the Children - Anthony van DyckWe’ve been spending a great deal of time discussing discernment matters and pointing out false teaching (and even some false teachers). While this is exceedingly important I don’t want to overlook the need for Christians to understand their call to forgive is just as strong as the call to repent. Today, let’s look at what Jesus taught concerning temptation, rebuke, repentance, and forgiveness.

In researching a couple of rather heavy blogs that are in the works, I came across a passage that really caught my attention and I thought it would be an excellent way to pause some of the other research for a bit. Our primary text will be short, but we will explore other texts to better understand how this passage works out in our day-to-day lives.

Luke 17:1-4 (ESV) | Temptations to Sin
1 And [Jesus] said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. 3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents,forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

This portion in Luke is part of a series of parables and lessons taught by Jesus beginning roughly in Luke 15. Before we dive into the individual elements of this text, I want to reference Matthew 18 for clarity on who the “one of these little ones” was.

Matthew 18:1-7 (ESV) | Who Is the Greatest?
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said,“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!

The two passages capture the same event, but in neither case do we have a verbatim account of all that Jesus said and did on that day (John 21:25 (ESV) “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”); rather, what we have in Scripture is that the Holy Spirit recalled in the minds of the writers and inspired them to record for our eternal benefit.

Temptation to Sin

Jesus makes absolutely clear here that temptations to sin are going to come. In Matthew, we see Jesus add that in-fact the temptations to sin are necessary. It was necessary even in Jesus’s case where we see that immediately following His baptism the Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness to be tempted.

Matthew 4:1-3 (ESV) | The Temptation of Jesus
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”…

Jesus faithfully resists the devil (the tempter) and remains free of sin. I bring this up because while Jesus clearly teaches that temptation is bound to come, and is in-fact necessary, the sin is not. Why is the temptation necessary? I believe the answer to that question can be found in the first and greatest commandment:

Matthew 22:36-38 (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.

The temptation to sin, once faithfully resisted, becomes a demonstration of a love for the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Jesus is the only person who fulfilled the Law, to include the first and greatest commandment. He never wavered, He never faltered. In His perfection, He offered Himself as the Lamb of God, the ultimate sacrifice as payment for our sin. And in Him, by His Grace, a way was made for us to demonstrate our love for Him whenever we resist a temptation to sin. When we succumb to temptation and sin, then we are guilty of sin and must confess the sin and repent from it and ask for forgiveness in the Name of Jesus Christ.

Woe to the one…

The problem of sin is not limited to the one committing the sin. The one through whom the temptation to sin manifests itself bears extra responsibility. When Christ pronounces a “Woe” it’s no small matter.

Matthew 11:20-22 (ESV) | Woe to Unrepentant Cities
20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.

Tyre and Sidon will fare better on the day of judgment than Chorazin and Bethsaida… that is indeed a case for woe. Similarly, the one through whom temptation comes, causing one of the little ones to sin, is indeed woefully damned. The Sovereignty of God means that God’s Will shall be done in the earth, and He can use anyone, even those who don’t know Him to accomplish His will. We’ve seen that God used Balaam (an unbelieving practitioner of divination) to turn what would have been a curse against Israel into blessings, and we’ve also seen God bless and use King Cyrus to restore Israel and Jerusalem after the Exile into Babylon. However, Jesus makes clear that while temptation to sin will take place, the tempter is never doing the Will of God and bears a heavy burden of guilt. God does not compel men to tempt other men; rather, He knows the hearts of men and uses their actions and deeds to bring about His Will, and punishes those who reject God in the process. Balaam and Cyrus did not follow God, they continued in their sin and were rightfully judged by God. Jesus warns that it would be better to die than to be the cause for temptation for another believer’s sin. This thought is carried throughout the rest of the New Testament as we see time and time again the warnings against false teachers, false prophets, and doctrines of demons. We can see this concept fully in the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 3:9-13 (ESV) 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.

In the punishment that followed, none were spared. Woe to the tempter who causes the little ones to sin. Though all of Creation was fully mature, it was yet extremely young when Adam fell.

This past Monday, we looked at the problem of placing a stumbling block in front of our brethren. It didn’t fit in that topic, but I want to look at how Paul taught this concept in his letter to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 8 (ESV) | Food Offered to Idols
8 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. 7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

Wow. So while we who are in Christ, built up in the knowledge of the Scriptures and Maturing in the faith know that since there are no other gods but the One True God, are free to eat any food without it being a sin if we willfully exercise that “right” in such a manner that causes a less mature Christian to stumble then we have now sinned against our brother and against Christ. For Christ died for the weaker brother in the same way that He died for us. Anchoring this in the Luke text, even if our actions in-and-of themselves are not sinful, if they are done to tempt another to sin, then we have sinned. In today’s culture, we may struggle a bit with connecting to the matter of food, but what about drink? How about in clothing or entertainment? Take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.

Rebuke, Repent, & Forgive

Let’s take a look at the closing portion of our text in Luke.

Luke 17:3-4 (ESV) 3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Now, today the warning, “Pay attention to yourselves”, seems to fit more as an end to verse 2 rather than the start of verse 3. But it could fit just as well at the end of verse 4. Jesus says very plainly that if your brother sins, rebuke him. That’s a command, a prescription, if you will. Rebuke him, out of love. The world would have you believe that a rebuke is the opposite of love. That is patently false. The only way a failure to rebuke sin could be a loving act is if there is no sin, or if there is no consequence for the sin. But we know that sin is clearly defined (the Law) and we know that no sin goes unpunished.

Romans 6:22-23 (ESV) 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Therefore, since we know that the wages of sin is death, we rebuke our brother who sins out of love for him and obedience to Christ. But the rebuke does not mark the limit of our responsibility. Jesus goes right on to say that if he repents, forgive him. Forgive him when he repents. He then says that if your brother sins against you (makes it personal) seven times a day and repents seven times, you must forgive him. While the Luke account records the commandment of Jesus, the Matthew 18 account sheds some light on what Jesus was addressing.

Matthew 18:21-35 (ESV) | The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.

Once again, we see Jesus flipping things around on us. At the start, Peter thought he was being generous in his guess at a 7 times a day limit for forgiving a brother who sins against us. In the end, Jesus not only declares that there be no such limit, but also stipulates that to the one who will not forgive, his own sin will not be forgiven. We know this to be a common theme since Jesus also taught of the connection between our receiving forgiveness in how we grant forgiveness when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us”.

Conclusion

As we grow in God’s Word, we will undoubtedly be faced with many temptations. Temptations to sin, temptations to tempt others to sin, and temptations to despise rebuke for our sin. We will also be tempted to be unmerciful, unforgiving… essentially we will be tempted to walk according to the flesh. The truth of the parable of the unforgiving servant is that it is a daily thing for us. For our flesh isn’t just susceptible to sin, it craves it, for it is utterly depraved and fallen. Our flesh wages war against the Spirit. That is why it is so important that we remain in the Word and submit to the Spirit of God rather than our own flesh. We live in God’s Grace every day, and with that truth fully in mind, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to move us to forgive our brother from our hearts every time he repents, regardless of how often or how grievous we perceive his sin to be, for such a sin is minuscule when compared to the mercy and grace we have received from Jesus Christ on the cross.  But we must also not allow our freedom in Christ to become an occasion (or a snare, trap, stumbling block, temptation) for the young/weak in the faith to sin. Knowledge puffs up, but Love builds up.

2 Peter 1:5-8 (ESV)5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen. May the Lord bless you and keep you firmly in His will,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge