ARE YOU A PHARISEE?

pharisees

It’s getting tiresome looking on social media and seeing Christians bashing one another.  No wonder the world points their fingers and laughs at us.  The sad thing is, Christians are fighting each other over trivial matters.  They’ll argue over the most minute things but when it comes to defending God’s Word and how to properly interpret Scripture, they’re silent.  Jesus accused the Pharisees of “straining a gnat but swallowing a camel”.  This comment was made because they concentrated too much on one aspect of the law but ignored a more important part (https://www.studylight.org/language-studies/difficult-sayings/index.cgi?a=419)

I just finished reading the comments to a post where a member of the Christian band, Third Day, went to see a friend of his who is in the band Tesla and they were in concert with Poison and Def Leppard.  This friend he went to see is also a professing Christian.  The majority of the people commenting were saying how they were glad he got to hang out with his friend, some were saying how they would love to see those three bands in concert together, and one woman jumps in and criticizes the guy for being at “secular, heavy metal concert” because if he’s a Christian, he shouldn’t be there.  He needs to be in the world not OF the world.  Mind you, if she understood the context of that verse, being “of the world” means he would have been partaking in the stuff that went on at the concert such as drinking, doing drugs, and all the other things some band members and concert goers partake in.  But, I’m guessing he was not.  He was just there to see his friend and hear the music.  Now, in her case, she may have an issue going to concerts like that and that’s FINE!!  It may be that her conscience doesn’t allow her to go to concerts like that.  But, the Bible speaks against us imposing OUR conscience on someone else on matters that the Bible doesn’t not address specifically.

Most good ol’ southern Christians will tell you that you can’t drink alcohol.  “It’s a SIN!!!”, they say.  No, the Bible doesn’t forbid alcohol.  It forbids getting drunk with alcohol because it comes with serious consequences.  Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding in Cana.  The Apostle Paul instructs Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach because apparently he had health issues.  Now, there are people who cannot drink alcohol in moderation.  To them, they can’t stop at one or two.  “Go big or go home!” is their motto.  In cases like that, it IS a sin because it shows lack of self-control.  Some people abstain from alcohol just because they believe it will harm their witness.  And that’s FINE!  But, I know some Christians who drink a glass of wine or two or have some sort of alcoholic drink IN MODERATION because they like it and that’s fine, too!  It’s called self-control.  Just because Jim Bob Billy Frank can’t exercise self-control, doesn’t mean that we have to tell everyone that they can’t drink.  And, in reality, there’s nothing more hypocritical than an overweight preacher who can’t limit his trips to the buffet bar trying to tell people to abstain from alcohol when he can’t control how much food he puts in his mouth.  Again, it’s called lack of self-control.

The same goes for movies, television, and music.  At this point in my life, I’m getting very picky about what I watch just because there’s things being portrayed on the screen that make me uncomfortable as a Christian.  But, I’m not going to force my conscience on someone else just because they have no problem with watching it.  I still listen to the music I grew up with and the sad thing is, I’d rather listen to that than most of the Christian music that’s put out today because it’s man-centered and void of any good, sound theology.  It’s too sugary and bubble gum for me.  Thankfully, there’s a few Christian artists out there that put out some good music but it’s very few.  But, if I choose to listen to a particular group/musician or watch a certain movie/TV show, it’s not someone’s place to impose their conscience on me just because they feel convicted by it.

The purpose of this rant, if you will, is to point out that the Holy Spirit deals with each person’s conscience differently when it comes to matters such as these.  A Christian who can exercise self-control in areas such as alcohol sees no problem with having one or two drinks, but to one who cannot exercise that same self-control, it IS a sin because they are NOT exercising self-control, one of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit.  The same goes for all the other subjects I covered.  If you, as a Christian, refrain from watching a certain movie or TV show, or listening to or going to a concert of a secular band because your conscience tells you to, it is not your place to tell someone else they can’t because now you’re imposing your conscience on them when the Holy Spirit has not put any conviction upon them about it.  You are now exercising legalism and acting like a Pharisee.

ELECTION vs. FREE WILL, PT. 3

salvation

In these blogs I have been discussing the Doctrine of Election.  People have many objections to the Doctrine of Election–“man was born with free will and salvation is their choice” or “if God already knows who will be saved, then there’s no reason to evangelize.”  Another question people may ask is, “Well if God has already chosen those who will be saved, then doesn’t that mean that they are saved against their will?”  No!!!  God is not going to drag people into His Kingdom kicking and screaming.  But I do believe that when the Holy Spirit begins to draw and convict people of their sin, I believe that He also conforms their will to God’s.  Their desires change.  Instead of being satisfied with living in the state of their sin, they realize how unsatisfying and empty that life is, and they desire to give their life to Christ because only He can satisfy and give them eternal life.  That’s not to say that life will be problem-free and everything goes their way, but it means that no matter what life throws at them, they have immeasurable peace through Christ and that they can depend on Him in all things.  What about those who reject Christ?  Why do they reject Him?  They reject Christ because their minds have not been opened to the truth of the Gospel.  There has been no drawing or conviction of the Holy Spirit.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit to illuminate their minds and to conform their will to God’s.  Because when you think about it, whose will is stronger, ours or God’s?  God, in His Sovereignty, has chosen whom He will save.  Look back at Acts 13:48 where it says “as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed”.  What God has predestined from before the foundation of the world, will come to pass.
There is a term used in the Bible, “born-again”.  This means that a person is re-born spiritually.  When we are born into this world physically, we are spiritually dead.  We come into this world sinners.  But God made a way for us to be “born again” spiritually and that is through the death of Christ on the cross and His gift of salvation.  How many of us were given a choice as to what family we’re born into?  None.  We didn’t pick who our parents would be.  Ephesians 1:5 says, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.”   In cases of adoption, the child isn’t the one who chooses the parents, the parents choose the child, just as in the case of natural birth, we didn’t choose who our parents would be.  This is the same with spiritual birth and adoption.  There are countless people who are walking around  professing to be Christians, but I believe they are not.  They’ve been sold a bill of goods.  They’ve been told “just walk the aisle, say this prayer, sign this card, get baptized and you are saved.”  I don’t think this is done intentionally, but I believe many have bought into the teaching that all it takes is to say a little prayer, get baptized, and they’re safe.  Matthew 7:21 says “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” There will be a lot of sad people who will stand before God and realize that they were never saved.
I guess after reading these three blogs, people would label me a Calvinist.  But my intention isn’t to gain a label.  The only label I want is that of Christian.  My intention is to study and dig and learn what the Scriptures say.  And I believe that it is the duty of every Christian to interpret and understand the Scriptures correctly!!!  I don’t want to be labeled a Calvinist but I guess that will happen whether I want it to or not.  All I want is to know and understand the Scriptures the way they were intended.  People will disagree with what was said here, but they aren’t disagreeing with me, they’re disagreeing with Scripture.  And I hope that this will begin to stir up questions in their minds and cause them to look closer and deeper at what the Bible says.  I heard a saying once, “Question everything”.  In this particular instance, don’t question Scripture, but question what you’ve been taught and see if it lines up with Scripture.

ELECTION vs. FREE WILL, PT. 2

election

As I had said in my previous article, I grew up being taught about the free will of man; how it’s our decision whether we choose salvation or not.  But even though I accepted that teaching, there were always questions that bugged me, especially when I ran across verses in the Bible that spoke about election and the Elect.  Anyone who knows anything about going to the polls to vote in an election knows that to “elect” a person means that you CHOOSE one whom you believe to be the right candidate for the office in which they’re running for.  The definition of elect is “to select or to choose”.  If the Bible says that we are the Elect, then that means that we were selected or chosen.  And, if we are selected or chosen, then that means that someone had to do the choosing.  And that someone is God himself.  The Bible says that He chose us before the foundation of the world.  Think about it, before God even spoke the first words of Creation, He already had in mind who would be the Elect.  So, if it is God who selects or chooses the Elect, how is it that it’s our decision to choose salvation?
I was baptized at the age of 8 and I thought that I was set.  That was it, I did my “Christian” duty and I was safe.  But 10 years later I began to sense in my heart that my conversion wasn’t a true conversion.  People would say, “you’re just having doubts”.  Well, yeah!!!  I believe that 10 years after I had walked the aisle and was baptized, the Holy Spirit began convicting me of my sins.  I kept thinking “but I walked the aisle.  I was baptized.  I AM saved”.  But still that conviction would never go away.  I began to think back to that night during revival and why I had walked the aisle and I realized that it wasn’t because I was being convicted of sin, it was because my friends did it so I went up there, too.  Then I realized that I had no sense of peace about my salvation.  But now that I faced the reality that I wasn’t saved, I began to make excuses.  What would people say about me?  I had been living a lie all this time, what would they think?  I finally couldn’t take the conviction and unsettledness in my heart any longer and I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior.
People may say “well what’s the difference between the two experiences?”  The difference is that the first time there was no conviction of the Holy Spirit.  A person is not saved just because they walk the aisle, say a prayer, sign a card, and get dunked in water.  There has to be that drawing of the Holy Spirit.  There has to be the convicting of our sins by the Holy Spirit.  I realized in the first case that I wasn’t being drawn by the Holy Spirit; I did it because I chose to.  People may say “But you said the sinner’s prayer!”  There is no magic prayer that a person can pray that will make them saved.  A person is saved when the Holy Spirit draws them, convicts them of their sin, and they surrender their heart and life to Christ.  This is where election comes in.  In John 6:65 it says, “And He was saying ‘For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”  Notice the last part of the verse….”no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”  So this tells me that it doesn’t matter what prayer a person prays, or how many times they pray it, if they are not the Elect of God, then they can’t be saved.  Look at what John 12:39-40 says, “For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again “HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM.”  Let me remind you of Romans 9:18 that I mentioned in Part 1, “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.”  How much clearer can it get?
And here’s a hard reality to face.  We can go witness to people and get them to say “The Sinner’s Prayer” (who came up with that anyway????) but if there hasn’t been that drawing of the Holy Spirit and that conviction of their sins, then all they’re doing is repeating words.  We walk away thinking we’ve added another soul to the Kingdom of God, but in reality, we’ve just added another name to the long list of false converts.
People then ask the question, “Since God has already chosen those whom He wants to save, then we don’t have to evangelize?”  If there is to be no evangelism, why does God still call pastors today?  If we are not to evangelize, why did Jesus give us The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20?  There are those who hold to the Doctrine of Election that believe there’s no sense in sending out missionaries to spread the Gospel, but that’s in disobedience to God’s Word.  God knows who the Elect are, we don’t.

ELECTION vs. FREE WILL, PT. 1

hands-in-shackles

For centuries there has been a debate between the Doctrine of Election and man’s free will.  I grew up being taught about the free will of man in regards to salvation.  And although something about the teaching of free will just didn’t make sense to me, I still accepted it because it was all I was taught.  So which is it?  Are we saved through our own free will or were we chosen for salvation?  You can go into any number of American churches today and you’ll hear the preacher say something like, “You have a decision to make:  heaven or hell.  It’s your choice.”  Yet in John 15:16 Jesus says, “You did not choose me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in my name He may give to you.”  Notice the first few words in that verse:  “You did not choose me but I chose you, and appointed you…” so now which is it?  Did Jesus choose us or did we choose him?  See the contradiction?  What about this verse, Acts 13:48, “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” What is being taught in churches today doesn’t line up with Scripture.  There are several other verses which use the words election, choose, chosen, or any word synonymous with that:

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world

John 15:19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own.  Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Mark 13:20 “And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved, but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days.”

1 Thessalonians 1:4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that He has chosen you.

These are just a few examples found throughout the Word of God how we are chosen by God.

Need more convincing?  Ephesians 2:1 says “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins”.  Here’s something to contemplate.  When Lazarus died (Mary and Martha’s brother) he lay in the tomb four days.  He was dead…..until Jesus called him to come forth from the grave.  He didn’t just decide four days later through his own will to get up off that slab of rock and walk out of the tomb.  Jesus called him by name and it was through that calling that Lazarus was made alive.  This story not only shows how through Jesus can the dead in body be made alive, but also only through Jesus is the dead in spirit made alive.

Here’s something else.  The Bible says in Romans 6:6, 6:16, 6:17, and 6:20 that we were “slaves to sin”.  If the Bible says we are “slaves to sin”, how is it that we have free will?  As a “slave to sin”, apart from Christ, our master is sin.  We are bound by our fleshly nature and we obey the desires of the flesh.  Through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the elect are redeemed.  We are set free from the bondage of sin.  Now instead of being held captive to sin and dead in our trespasses, we are made alive in Christ and we become His bond-servants living to please Him and to do His will.

In Romans 9:17-18 it says, “(17) For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.”
(18) So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.”
People will say that this is not fair.  Why would God have mercy on some and harden the hearts of others?  I heard a message a few weeks back and the pastor preaching addressed this same issue.  He stressed that if we want “fair”, then God will give us all what we deserve and we all deserve death and punishment for our sins.  None of us are worthy of the mercy and grace He gives to us.  But God demonstrates His love to us by giving us what we do not deserve.  God is Sovereign and He has a divine plan and whether we like it or not, there are those people like Pharaoh and Judas Iscariot who each played a role in His divine plan.  Judas was chosen as a disciple, not for salvation, but to hand Jesus over to the authorities to be crucified.  But some may say “what if a person doesn’t believe in God’s existence, how can they reject what they don’t believe in?  In Romans 1:18-20 Paul writes, “18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. “
All humankind are born with a knowledge of God because as verse 19 says, “that which is known about God is evident within them” They are without excuse.

INTELLECT vs. EMOTIONALISM

maryatchristsfeet

As a Christian woman I am offended by the so-called women’s Bible studies and teachers that are available to us.  The landscape is littered with many women’s teachers whose studies and conferences are geared toward our emotions and not our intellect.  I realize that we are the more emotional gender, but to ignore our intellect is just downright offensive.  It’s as if they’re saying we’re not smart enough to understand theology.

In the past I went through a few Beth Moore studies and conferences, and each time, I came away thinking something was wrong with me because I got nothing out of them.  Her worship services were emotionally charged and her studies didn’t explain biblical text at all.  She found a way to make the stories and scriptures about us.  I don’t do emotional fluff.  I’m not saying I’m not an emotional person.  I can get pretty emotional at times.  But when it comes to studying the Bible, I don’t want emotional fluff.  I don’t want someone to tell me what THEY think the scripture means about us.  I want to know what GOD meant when He gave us His Word.  That is why I got nothing out of Beth Moore.  I went in wanting to learn the truth of God’s Word but instead got emotional goo.  Once we know and understand what scripture teaches, once we understand why God did what He did, and why Jesus had to die on the cross for our sins, then we can respond with the proper emotion.

The number of true women’s Bible teachers are very small.  Two that come to mind are Nancy Guthrie (http://www.nancyguthrie.com/) and Susan Heck (http://www.withthemaster.com/).  These two women go through the Bible and explain what the verses mean (God’s interpretation), not what they think they mean.  If you’re interested in their studies, they both have podcasts you can listen to.  Nancy’s is “Help Me Teach The Bible” and Susan’s is “With The Master”.  No emotional goo, just straight up Bible study.

So, I’ll pass on the ladies conferences.  If I want emotional, I’ll find some chick flick to watch.  When it comes to Bible studies, I prefer those that challenge me to increase my knowledge of the Bible.  Give me the Greek and Hebrew words and what they mean so that I can understand it better.  You can keep the Kleenex.

TRUSTING GOD

anxiety

Change is inevitable.  Some change is good.  Some change is not so good.  Some change is painful in that we may go through periods of doubt, uncertainty, and fear before real change is brought about and in the end we see that the change was good, but it sure hurt getting there.

We see changes in circumstances or changes in people.  Which ever the case may be, we know that for us who are believers in Christ, any and all change we experience is for our benefit.  But it is never promised that it would all be easy.

This is where our trust in God needs to be revealed.  We may go through times of doubt in our job situation, or we may experience a health crisis, or we experience a devastating loss through natural disasters or some other means.  In and through all of this, we must keep our trust in God knowing that He will get us through whatever changes come our way.  He will never abandon us.

A dear friend of mine posted this sermon series on Trusting God.  I’ve only heard the first sermon, but I hope the next ones are just as good as the first.

Trusting God Series, Pastor Don Green, Truth Community Church, Cinncinnati, OH