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.

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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.

CHOOSE THIS DAY…..

hermannewticks

“Choose this day whom you will serve”

There’s an important saying in Biblical hermeneutics and it’s, “Context, context, context!”  I’m going to try and do this some justice because it’s based off a sermon I heard a few weeks back by my husband’s former pastor, Jim McClarty, who pastors a small church in Smyrna, TN, called Grace Christian Assembly (http://salvationbygrace.org).  I can’t for the life of me remember what sermon it was that I was listening to but when he used this verse as an example of how people take verses out of context, my ears perked up a little more.  Folks who oppose the teaching of predestination and election point to this verse and say, “SEE!!!  It says right here that WE choose whom we will serve!”  Not so fast, young grasshopper!

The problem with people using this is that they leave out what comes before it and after it.  This comes from a “speech”, if you will, made by Joshua to the Israelites just before his death.  We all know how fickle those Hebrew children were.  We all know how easily they turned away from God and turned to idols.  So, in Joshua 24 just before Joshua died, he summoned the people of Israel together one last time to encourage them, so to speak.  In verses 14-15, he says this to the Israelites:

(14) “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.  (15) And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Notice in verse 15 it says, “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Based on past experiences, Joshua already knew that the Israelites would not be faithful and serve God, so he was basically telling them, “You’ve already proven you can’t serve the Lord, so choose right now whom you’d rather serve, the gods beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.  But, me and my household will serve the Lord.”  Leaving out what came before and after that phrase is taking Scripture out of context.

We must be careful how we use Scripture.  To just say “Choose this day whom you will serve” definitely gives it a different meaning than what it was originally intended in the passage it’s being used in.  We have to be diligent to read Scripture passages as a whole and not pick out phrases here and there just to suit our purposes.

CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT!

SPIRITUAL ADULTERY

rondiciani

In the book of Hosea, we read how God commanded the prophet, Hosea, to take the prostitute, Gomer, to be his wife.  I’m sure Hosea had some questions as to the validity of this request.  But, he did as God commanded and married Gomer.  She bore him 3 children and after a time, she left Hosea and began prostituting herself.  After a period of time, God told Hosea to go find Gomer, and buy her back and take her home.  Many use this story of Hosea and Gomer to talk about faithfulness in marriage, but God used this story to show how Israel (represented by Gomer) had been unfaithful to God (represented by Hosea) and how God was going to redeem Israel (through the death of Jesus Christ).  Ironically, the origin of the name Hosea comes from the same name that Joshua comes from and both of those mean, “Savior” or “Salvation”.

When we hear the term “adultery”, our minds automatically think of one spouse cheating on another.  But, just as the story of Hosea reveals, there is another kind of adultery and that is spiritual adultery.  Every single one of us has committed some form of spiritual adultery.  Remember how it used to be when you first came to know Christ?  You read your Bible, you prayed, you were at church every time the doors opened.  But, somewhere along the way, something caught your attention away from all that.  At one time, you couldn’t get enough of God’s Word.  Now, your Bible is gathering dust on your nightstand or you tossed it in the backseat of your car and hasn’t been touched in weeks or months.  You can’t even remember the last time you prayed.  And now attending church is just one more thing to check off your weekly list instead of something you feel privileged to do.  We have all done it.  Why is that?  Because we are like Gomer.  We are unfaithful.  It doesn’t matter what it is that draws us away from God, the root problem is self-centeredness.  Just as Gomer thought she could do better than Hosea and went out looking to satisfy her needs through other men, we, too, go out looking for something other than God to satisfy us.  It could be a job.  It could be a hobby.  Sometimes, it’s just ourselves that we’re worshipping.  We’d rather live our lives the way WE want to instead of how God wants us to.  We have made ourselves to be an idol and are living in spiritual adultery.

But, thankfully, because we belong to God, He will only let us hang out so long in that state and He will bring us back to Himself.  We may have to hit rock bottom before we realize that the idol of our own making was leaving us unfulfilled and wanting, and that God, who redeemed us through His Son Jesus, is all we need.  God is and will always be faithful, no matter how unfaithful we are to Him.

CARTOON CHRISTIANITY

Looneytunes

I’ll probably get hate mail for this but it’s just the way I feel.  I cannot stand seeing Christian quotes and Facebook memes using cartoon characters.  Years ago, I wouldn’t have had a problem with it, but as I’ve gotten older and a bit deeper in my knowledge and understanding of God’s Word, doctrine, and theology, I see them as juvenile, foolish, and very irreverent.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m no “stick in the mud”.  I don’t mind passing some time away watching the old Looney Tunes or Scooby-Doo cartoons.  Heck, it’s what I grew up on!  My favorite comic strips are Peanuts, B.C., Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes, and the old Bloom County.  They’re entertaining.  But, when I see cartoon characters being used to spread the gospel, it just rubs me the wrong way.  God is no cartoon character (although atheists would disagree).  He’s the Almighty Creator of the universe.  He deserves our upmost reverence in how we live and how we worship Him.  To me, it belittles God when we reduce His message of mercy, love, grace, and forgiveness down to a cartoon character.

But, that’s just me.

HAVE WE FORGOTTEN ABOUT GRACE?

grace

GRACE–the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

PATIENCE–the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting upset or angry

Over the years since the gospel has become more man-centered, we have seen the slow, painful demise of showing grace to those around us.  It’s everywhere.  “It’s all about me!!”  Or, “How dare he be late.  Doesn’t he know how valuable my time is?”  Driving a car?  Oh boy, talk about your lack of patience and grace!!  Oh sure, we talk about the grace that God showed us when He sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.  We’re ALL about that grace!  Why wouldn’t we be?  I mean, there we were, filthy, vile, wretched sinners, but God, because of His love for us, sent His only Begotten Son to take the punishment for our sins.  We did not deserve one ounce of that grace.  Not one.  But yet, we are so thankful that He did that instead of leaving us where we were.

Sadly, we aren’t so quick to show grace to our fellow believers.  I know how I used to be.  Very low on patience and just as low on grace.  I think those two go hand in hand.  If we’re low on patience, we certainly can’t be gracious.  And I still have those moments where I’m not practicing either one.  Believers should be the poster children of patience and grace, but sometimes, I think we get so wrapped up in ourselves that we forget to extend those to our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Why?  Are our needs, wants, and desires that much more important that those around us should cater to them instead of remembering that we, too, aren’t any better than they are?  Is our time that much more valuable than theirs?  Do we think we are more deserving of God’s grace than they are?  We tend to make excuses and justify our lack of patience and grace.  We point out how that “stupid driver cut us off!”  We get frustrated when people don’t seem to do things our way.  “Yeah, but……”  Yeah, but, nothing.  Again…..NONE of us deserved the free grace God gave us but He gave it anyway.  We are to follow Christ’s example in how we treat our fellow believers even if we think they don’t deserve it.

If God saw fit in His love to extend to us and our other brothers and sisters in Christ free grace through Jesus Christ, why are we less willing to show grace to each other?  Do we think so much more highly of ourselves that they aren’t worthy of our grace?  We sure love and appreciate the grace God showed to us, but to have to show it to our fellow Christians??  Well, that’s just asking a little too much……according to some people.  If we take our focus off ourselves and onto Christ, we would find it easier to be gracious and kind and patient.

JESUS WIELDS A SWORD

The-Sword-of-the-Spirit

 

There is a verse in Matthew 10:34 in which Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  Some people may read that and think, “Well, wait a minute….doesn’t the Bible say in the Old Testament that the Messiah will be called the Prince of Peace?  Why is He referring to a weapon of war?”  The peace they are referring to is only for those who are in Christ.  But, the subject of this blog isn’t about peace.  It’s about the sword spoken of in this verse.

When people think about a sword, they have the image of a long, steel blade with a handle on one end.  But, the sword that is spoken of here is the sword that is mentioned in Ephesians 6:17, the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.  In Hebrews 4:12, it describes the Word of God as being “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  Something else the Word does?  It divides families.  It divides friends.  It divides even one denomination from another.  Many religious leaders are sending out the rallying cry for “unity” among the different denominations.  But there is a reason why there are different denominations.  Contrary to popular belief, churches don’t split just over trivial matters such as the color of carpet or what color upholstery to put on the pews, or even what kind of songs to sing.  Martin Luther, the Catholic monk who took on the Pope and the RCC church, started the Protestant Reformation because he realized that the RCC was erroneous in their teachings.  They were teaching that salvation was obtained through works of man instead of the work of Christ.  Then from there, other splits took place within the Protestant movement because some believed in infant baptism, while others believed that baptism is only for those who make a profession of faith in Christ.  Then others disagreed on the proper eschatology.  And on and on and on.

God’s Word causes division.  Families have been divided, friendships have fallen apart, and churches have split because of disagreements over doctrine.  Matthew 10:34 says, “For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”  Why would Christ want to do that?  Because correct doctrine MATTERS!  Churches have become lax in doctrinal discernment and now we see all kinds of questionable teachings creeping in.  And when folks start pointing out in God’s Word that something being taught in the church is unbiblical, or they call out popular “Bible” teachers for their doctrinal errors, people tend to get like a cat on the defensive…..they hunch their backs and start hissing.  Our focus should be on the Word of God, NOT on the one bringing the Word.  We tend to put the messenger on the pedestal instead of the Bible.  It is by the Word of God that the posers will be separated from the real.  The sheep will be separated from the goats.  Those who believe the whole counsel of God will be separated from those who pick and choose what they believe, or twist and distort and take Scripture out of context.

Revelation 1:16 describes Jesus as coming back with a “sharp two-edged sword” coming out of His mouth.  This is not a literal sword.  This is referring to Him speaking the Word of God.  It will be on that day that He will destroy His enemies with the words from His mouth.  It is a weapon of war because we are in a spiritual battle for truth.  And truth divides.