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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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.

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.

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.

PASSOVER

Passover

 

In the book of Exodus, the Bible tells us the story of how God delivered the Hebrew children out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt.  God, through his servant Moses, showed Pharaoh His power by sending many plagues–frogs, locusts, turning water into blood, darkness–just to name a few.  Each time, Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to release the Hebrews so that they could go out and serve God in the wilderness.  The tenth and last plague was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” so to speak.  God told Moses that He would send the Angel of Death and kill the first born of every living being, human and animal.  This was God pouring out His wrath upon Pharaoh and the people of Egypt.
God also told Moses what to do to prevent the Angel of Death from killing any of the Hebrews.  They were to take a male lamb that was a year old and without any imperfections, and bring it into their home.  The lamb was to live with the family for four days.  After four days, they were to kill the lamb, take it’s blood and cover the 2 door posts and the lintel of the house in which the Passover meal would be eaten.  Then they would cook the meat and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.  This meal would be observed every year after that.
In the middle of the night, the Angel of Death swept through the land of Egypt killing the first born of every household that was not covered by the blood of the lamb.  When the Angel saw the blood covering the lintel and door posts, he passed over that house, thus giving this meal the name Passover.  Those who were covered by the blood were spared.
This event was a shadow of what Christ would do for those who are born again.  Jesus, the only Begotten Son, came to earth to be the Sacrificial Lamb because He was without imperfection (sinless).  He voluntarily went to the cross to die for our sins.  His shed blood covered over our sins so that we would not taste spiritual death.  Just as when the Angel saw the blood on the lintel and door posts and passed over, God looks upon us and sees the blood of Jesus and we are saved from His wrath.
The beauty of the Old Testament is that we can see the foreshadowing of Christ and what He did on the cross.  Because He was the ultimate sacrifice, He paid the debt for sin ONCE and FOR ALL which means we no longer needed to sacrifice every year.  His sacrifice saves us from God’s wrath.

A Needy Jesus

Lion of JudahWe’ve all seen the old paintings of Jesus where He looks pale and frail.  While it’s true that He says of himself in Matthew 11:29 that He is “meek and lowly of heart”, that doesn’t or rather SHOULDN’T translate to how He is portrayed in art.  But, it’s easy to see why people view him that way because meekness is mistaken for weakness.  Newer translations us the words “gentle and humble”.  Biblical meekness is defined as “power under control”, but I’m veering off on another rabbit trail here so I want to get back to the point of my blog.

Over the decades it seems as if Jesus has been diminished to a “needy” boyfriend.  If you listen to some of the music put out by some so-called “Christian” worship bands, you’d think that someone is singing about their boyfriend and not the Savior and Creator of the universe.  Some of these songs really make me cringe.  It’s disgusting.

And how about the way pastors portray Jesus.  The way they stand in front of their congregation and plead with them to “just open the door of your heart and let Him in” makes it seem as if Jesus is standing off in a corner, wringing His hands thinking, “Oh, please, let me come in and be your Savior and Lord.”  The song “The Savior Is Waiting” is one of those songs that was definitely written by someone who had that view in mind when they penned it.  If you want to know what Jesus is really like, listen to a men’s choir sing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God!”.  That is the Jesus that needs to be preached about in our churches, not the hipster-looking, wimpy,needy Jesus.  Or the surfer-looking Jesus portrayed in Roma Downey’s mini-series “The Bible”.  Or the pale and frail Jesus portrayed in paintings from centuries past.  According to the Book of Revelation, Jesus is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and He will return riding a white horse carrying a sword ready to strike down His enemies.  That doesn’t sound like a wimpy, needy Jesus to me.

Pastors/teachers, stop preaching a needy Jesus, and start preaching a strong, mighty, powerful Jesus who is coming back in great glory to destroy evil and usher in His Kingdom.  If you want to hear a great sermon on this particular subject, look up Voddie Baucham, Jr’s video on YouTube called “A Sissified, Needy Jesus”.  He really drives home the point about how the church has diminished the view of Jesus and how we need to get back to who He truly is.