Monday, November 30, 2009

Happy 13th Anniversary, Patricia!!

I love you always and forever.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Praise and Thanksgiving to the Lord

This is a video of our church choir. The piece is The Heavens Are Telling from the oratorio The Creation by G.F. Handel. I hope you are blessed.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

II Peter 2:13 False Teachers—Their Conduct Part I

False teachers in the church throughout the ages have one thing in common: their conduct ultimately gives them away. Like Wile E Coyote on the old Looney Tunes cartoons when he would dress up as a sheep to try to steal some young ewe out of the flock, these false teachers can only play dress up for so long before they are found out. Peter, in his second epistle, goes on in his description of these false teachers by describing their conduct.

One adjective we might apply to Peter’s description is shameless. In verse 13, we read that these false teachers “count it as pleasure to revel in the daytime”. Now most bars here in Nashville are packed to overflowing on most weekend nights with some people doing things that most of us would consider inappropriate. But drive by the same places on a Monday or Tuesday at about 10 am and you will likely find them deserted if they’re even open. Most people have jobs or perhaps they’re just sleeping off their weekend activities. However, I suggest the main reason is that some activities are done under the cover of night. Unconsciously, perhaps, people want some sort of cover for their sin. These false teachers, in contrast, don’t even have enough shame to wait for the cover of night to for the “pleasure” they take while they “revel” with others. They are so bold, so proud that they actually do what they do “in the daytime”.

Not only does Peter tell us when they do what they do but he also tells why. These men, instead of being devoted to displaying God’s glory by teaching and preaching God’s word to His people are instead motivated by “pleasure”. The Greek word translated “pleasure” can be used in a positive or negative sense but is most often used in a negative sense to describe people who indulge sinful, selfish desires. Instead of, as Jesus said, taking up their cross daily and following Him, these false teachers have rejected Him and the gospel He preached for a “me first” mentality. However, the pursuit of pleasure is not the aim of the Christian life. In fact, Jesus said in Luke 814 that pleasure can choke the seed of the gospel so that it bears no fruit in a person’s life. The motivation of a person’s life, when that person is truly focused on the gospel, is the glory of God and spreading of His precious gospel. How, then, could these teachers who have claimed to speak for God and teach His word come to the point where they would abandon the gospel message and, in fact, pervert that message?

They consciously make the choice to seek pleasure. Peter says they “count it pleasure to revel in the daytime”. The word translated “count” is the Greek word “hegaomai” (2233). It is a term that means to come to a conclusion or a decision after examining the facts. This verb is also in the present tense so it means that they continuously think about their pleasure and have come to the conclusion that it is right for them to live the way they live. They have as their theme song that classic Bobby Brown track from the 80’s “It’s My Prerogative”. They have examined the evidence of the gospel and have made a fixed decision based on that evidence that they have the right to live in pursuit of their own pleasures and lusts rather than surrendering themselves as slaves of Christ, acknowledging His Lordship over them. In doing so, they have rejected the only Way of salvation
Our lives are not about us, really. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We must be willing to die to ourselves to live as slaves of Christ—slaves with no rights an no freedoms. But slaves who are provided for and loved by their Master who gave Himself for them on Calvary’s cross.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Characteristics of Genuine Saving Faith part 3

The Mentality of Genuine Saving Faith

The reason Jesus is such a touchy subject to non-Christians is because of what He represents. Most people, have been blinded to the truth of the Gospel by the Devil, regard salvation and heaven as something they can earn through their own goodness. They believe either they are capable of attaining righteousness on their own or that they are already righteous. However, Christ’s death on the Cross destroys that theory.

By His death, He affirmed that sin demanded a penalty. He also demonstrated that sin’s penalty was death. Therefore, if I recognize that He paid my debt by His death and His resurrection is true, then I must conclude that He is God and I have to stop doing things my way and submit to Him. To do so, I would have to acknowledge my sin and my inability to make myself right with God. People want to create their own righteousness and earn their way to heaven so they don’t have to submit to God.

However, we who are Christians, have ”no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). We do not believe that our flesh has any power to save us. In fact, we have come to Christ and trusted in Him for just that reason. In Romans 7:18-25, Paul says “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” We submit to God and trust Christ when we have come to the conclusion that we are incapable of producing righteousness.

A true, saving faith is characterized by our mindset and our actions. Ultimately, those who trust Christ for their salvation rather than trusting themselves and those who serve the Lord are the ones who are spiritually circumcised.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ancient Word, Changing Worlds: A Book Review

In the book of Genesis, we find in chapter 3 verse 1 the first recorded words of Satan—“Indeed, has God said…” (NASB) From the beginning, Satan has attempted to cast doubt or even to destroy the word of God. In the past 150 years, the word of God has come under attack as never before. However, the most vicious attacks have not come from outside the church by scientists who sneer at the idea of God creating the world out of nothing or by philosophers who dismiss the Bible as just another book.

In fact, the most sinister attacks have been from those who call themselves “Christians” but who reject the idea that the Bible is the word of God with all the authority that being the word of God entails. The book Ancient Word, Changing Worlds: The Doctrine of Scripture in a Modern Age written by Stephen J. Nichols and Eric T. Brandt seeks to give a solid overview of the fundamental doctrines of scripture (inspiration, inerrancy, and interpretation) by reviewing some of the writings of major theological figures in the debate over these key issues regarding the Bible ranging across denominations from the end of the 19th century through the new millennium. While the book itself is not very long, it does an excellent job of packing quite a bit of information in a concise, accessible format that would be useful for all Christians interested in defending God’s word.

First of all, the book is a fairly quick read. Including three appendixes, the book totals only 175 pages. Furthermore, each chapter is laid out logically presenting both the arguments for and against the conservative evangelical position including material from a wide variety of scholars. The book is full of good information without being overly technical. A person could read the book in under a week without having to devote a undue amount of time to reading it.

Second of all, the book does an outstanding job of tracing the development of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy in the modern age, going all the way back to the Princeton Theologians Charles Hodge and B.B. Warfield. While not giving an exhaustive examination of all their writings, the authors do a splendid job of including some of their major writings on the subjects covered while also providing a fair examination of the opinions of dissenting theologians. In short, a person who read this book would come away with a solid foundation of the major points related to the inerrancy, inspiration, and interpretation of the sacred text.

In short, I highly recommend this book. It would make an excellent addition to any Christian’s library and would also work well for a small group study. In a world where the word of God is constantly under attack, it is imperative for all Christians to be able to give solid answers to the hard questions regarding the reliability of the word of God.

Matthew 7:6-Don’t try to teach pigs to sing

I saw a sign once in music school that read “Never try to teach a pig to sing—it frustrates you and annoys the pig”. That has not been easy advice for me to follow. You see, I am like a bulldog chasing a car when I get in an argument. I go as hard as I can, hold on as tight as I can, and don’t know when to give up the chase. This is particularly true related to my core convictions as a Christian. While there are some issues that I can agree to disagree on, there are others that I sometimes, shamefully, get so worked up over I could punch somebody in the nose. As I have studied and meditated on the truths of this verse, I have been convicted of the fact that there are times where we as Christians must be willing to say “Enough is enough” and that I personally need to be willing to forgo the goal of winning a battle so as not to loose the war.

First of all, notice that Jesus here commands discrimination. In this verse, we are told “Do not give” and “Do not throw”. Whether we are giving (didomi [1325]-to give based on the decision or will of the giver) intentionally or throwing (ballo [906]-to throw or let go of something without concern for where it falls) haphazardly, we are not to completely abandon discernment. Much to the chagrin of liberals who love Matthew 7:1 for all the wrong reasons, Christ is, in this verse, calling people to judge. And based upon that judgment using biblical discernment, He calls for His followers to “not give” and “not throw”.

Further, He identifies the distinction that we should make when sharing the precious truth of God’s word. We should recognize first of all that the truth of scripture is “holy” and that it is as valuable as “pearls”. To be holy is to be set apart and biblical truth is certainly set apart by God as His unique revelation of Himself to mankind. It is the antithesis of human wisdom. The Bible reveals not only the character but the supernatural genius of God. It is also precious and valuable. Without the written, inspired, inerrant word of God each man or woman would have to try to figure God out all by themselves using solely subjective means to do so. We would be like Israel in Judges where everyone did what was right in their own eyes.

Not only is biblical truth distinctive, but we must make distinctions as we share the truth. Not everyone is going to be willing to hear and obey the word of God. Some reject it as being wholly true and therefore believe some parts are truer than others. There are those who simply reject the Bible and its truth outright. Certainly we may not know how someone will respond before we have the opportunity to share with them, but we should take their response into account when deciding to further share God’s word with them. This is true not only with unbelievers but also with believers. Hebrews 5:14 tells us that “But solid food (doctrine) is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses rained to discern good and evil.” If we use discernment in how we present doctrine to believers, how much more carefully should we present biblical truth to unbelievers? We should judge, by their reaction, their receptivity to the truth and determine whether they are “dogs” (vicious, potentially dangerous) or “swine” (profane). Dogs were not at the time that Jesus lived, domesticated pets. They roamed the streets and the wild in packs, carried diseases, and scavenged for food. Swine were the filthiest animals a Jewish person could think of. They represented being unclean. As we share the gospel with folks and we observe their reaction, we should be careful to distinguish between those who have an open animosity toward the gospel and those who do not. We are called, upon making this distinction to not “give what is holy” or “throw pearls” before those who have shown themselves to be hostile to the gospel.

There is a very specific reason for the warning Jesus gives in this verse. We discriminate in this manner to avoid placing ourselves in real danger where it can be avoided. Now, there will be times and are times where sharing the word of God will be dangerous. In China, churches have to meet in secret to avoid being arrested. In fact, Christians all over the world are still martyred in various countries. There are times when you are going to have to choose to obey God rather than men and share your faith. However, to simply do so indiscriminately without an awareness of your audience or surroundings is unwise. For instance, if you are at work and a co-worker mentions that he is gay, it may not be the best idea for you to explain to him that homosexuality is a sin and then call him to repent and trust Christ. I would suspect you would likely be fired for that. There is a time, place and manner to share that truth with him. There may be situations where you would be able to share like that during a casual conversation at work. However, I can imagine few scenarios where a situation like that is going to turn out well. It is far more likely that the co worker will “trample” that truth under his feet and “tear” into you verbally before going and filing a complaint with human resources. Certainly, if you know beforehand someone is going to be strongly opposed to the gospel, you should exercise caution when sharing it.

We have to use our heads if we’re going to honor God in our efforts to evangelize people and share the truth of God’s word. Sometimes as one of the character Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus says, we’re going to have to “take chances, get messy, and make mistakes”. However, we need not check common sense at the door. There are some battles that should be left to the Holy Spirit. It is not our job to convert souls, but to speak the truth in love.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Characteristics of Genuine Saving Faith part 2

The Activity of Genuine Saving Faith

Christianity is not a spectator sport. We, when we gather as the body of Christ for worship, are not an audience being treated to a free show. As Christians, we are called to service. Paul teaches the Philippians this when he tells them that they are the circumcision “who worship God in the Spirit”.

The English word worship is used to translate several Greek words in the New Testament. Sometimes, worship is used to translate the Greek word proskuneo (4352) means to prostrate oneself or fall on your knees and touch the ground with your forehead in reverence. In other words, it means to bow. For instance, in 1 Corinthians 14:25, Paul writes “…falling down on his face, he will worship God…” Also, in Matthew chapter 2, when the wise men came from the East, they stated they had come to worship (proskuneo) Jesus. However, the word translated worship here is the Greek word latreuo. The root word of this word is the word latris which means “a hired servant”. The word latreuo is usually translated as serve. In fact, Jesus Himself uses this word when being tempted by Satan. In Matthew 4:10, He says “Away with you Satan! For it is written ‘You shall worship (proskuneo) the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve (latreuo)’.” Certainly, worshipping our God corporately and singing praises to Him is proper and edifying. Corporate worship is important and God certainly deserves the praise of our lips. I was personally drawn into the church through children’s choir and youth choir. However, if that is the only way we worship our God, something is missing. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that true saving faith will change the way we live and give us a desire to serve our God. Romans 12:1 tells us that presenting our bodies as living sacrifices to God is our “reasonable service”. The word service is the translation of the Greek word latreia (2999) which is similar to latreuo. In the NASB, this verse calls our sacrifice our “spiritual act of worship”. We do not serve in order to obtain salvation. Rather, we serve because we are so thankful for what Christ has done for us.

Our worship as service comes from heart that is thankful. The power that enables us to serve is spiritual. In the New King James version, the text reads that we “worship God in the spirit.” Other versions read that we “worship in the Spirit of God.” In either case, our service is not just something we do but it is rather action that is the overflow of the effect of the Holy Spirits presence in our lives. The action of service is physical but the motivation behind it is spiritual. In fact, Jesus said in John 4:24 that the worship of God must be in “spirit and in truth”.

Paul says in Philippians 3:3 that true believers “rejoice in Christ Jesus”. The word that is translated rejoice is the Greek word kauchaomai (2744). The word means to boast or to glory. Therefore, Paul is saying that Christians should boast in Christ. Why? Obviously it is because we have nothing to do with our salvation. Romans 8:29-30 tells us that He foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and glorified us. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that even the faith we have to believe was not ours but that it was the gift of God. Boasting in Christ Jesus and recognizing the miracle of salvation is a humbling activity. It is also exclusive in the sense that proclaiming salvation through Christ alone means that there is no salvation available anywhere else. In this day and time, people don’t like absolutes. Even people who call themselves Christians appear squeamish when faced with the possibility of proclaiming Jesus as the only way. Our culture of “tolerance” loves to talk about spirituality and even God. However, when you bring up Jesus people are ready to argue that point to the end.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

II Peter 2:12-13 False Teachers-Their Condemnation

I have very little tolerance for false doctrine. I do understand that there are some things about which men and women of good conscience can disagree on because they are not central to the gospel. However, in a recent blog thread, I was responding to someone who made the claim that homosexuality is not a sin because Jesus never called it a sin. This individual went on to make other claims such as parts of the Bible are not inspired or that Paul’s writings reveal his own personal agenda and prejudice. Now, I’m no pugilist but I have to admit, when I hear stuff like that and then I refute it with the truth but the person still won’t back down, I want to pop them in the mouth. However, I’d settle for a good ol’ fashioned round of Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots.

When my God and His precious word are slandered, it gets my blood boiling. However, one day there will be a payday for all those who presume to speak for God but spread falsehood. Those people who pretend to be true teachers of the word will have their day in the court of heaven with the Judge who can’t be fooled or bribed. They will be justly condemned and eternally punished.

First of all, their condemnation will come because divine judgment will come on this sinful world. In Genesis, we read how the serpent, Satan, will have his head crushed. In Revelation, we read how Christ will come on a white horse with a sword to exact vengeance on this sinful world, thereby crushing Satan’s head. Peter tells us, continuing his description of these false teachers, that just as the animals he compares them to will be destroyed, these false teachers will also suffer destruction in divine judgment. The word translated “destruction” is a Greek word that describes something that is rotting. Just as the Pharisees in the time Jesus lived were called white washed tombs full of dead men’s bones, these false teachers put up a good front on the outside but on the inside rotting. The spiritual cancer of sin is eating them up slowly because they have rejected Jesus Christ. Someone diagnosed with cancer often times is given a pronouncement of how long they can expect to live. This world is rotting in sinful filth. All of creation is tainted by sin and will be destroyed. In that destruction, which has been predicted, these false teachers will also suffer personal divine judgment.

This divine judgment will deliver to these false teachers what they finally deserve. As Psalm 1 describes the wicked, they will be driven like straw in the wind—just blown all over the place. They will be helpless and hopeless in the face of almighty God. It will, in face, be exactly what they deserve. They will, as Peter writes in verse 13, find themselves “suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong”. They will have sowed into their life evil and rejected God and His word. They thought they could con people out of their money and gain fame and applause for themselves. They had positions of power and prestige. People looked up to them and they were for a time famous. However, this life is short and eternity isn’t. When it’s all said and done, they will know what Romans 6:23 means by “the wages of sin” because they will receive the wages they have earned. The harm and pain their false teaching caused will come back to them. They may have mocked God and His word for a time but He will have the last laugh in the end.

One life lesson I constantly try to reinforce with my children is that “Choices have consequences”. When false teachers choose to reject the truth and teach what they want they may have success for a while. The money may flow into their coffers and for a while, at least, they may live “high on the hog”. In the end, however, they will be judged. Their condemnation is certain and they will get exactly what’s coming to them.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Characterisitics of Genuine Saving Faith Part 1

The Identity of Genuine Saving Faith

Paul, in verse 3 of chapter 3 in the book of Philippians, tells the believers that “we are the circumcision”. The emphasis in the phrase is on the word we in the Greek. Paul wants to stress to the believers that it is they who are the true circumcision as opposed to the Jewish legalizers who are in fact the false circumcision or “mutilation” as he calls them in the previous verse. As we noted last week, the Jews were proud of their circumcision and felt that it gave them a spiritual advantage before God. However, scripture has a different testimony regarding circumcision.

First of all, we should realize that circumcision itself was not a Jewish invention. It was actually practiced by other people before Abraham was told to do it as the sign of the covenant. The spiritual significance of the procedure was totally missed by the Jews. God required a spiritual purity. No physical procedure could provide that. However, the physical here is used to point to a spiritual truth. In fact, the Old Testament records that God in fact revealed this truth about circumcision to the Jewish people. For instance, in Deuteronomy 30:6, scripture records that “the Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your children to love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul, that you may live.”

Also, Moses called the people to “circumcise the foreskin” of their hearts in Deuteronomy 10:16. To have their hearts circumcised means to have their sin nature put off so that they would be clean before God and able to serve Him with a pure heart. Paul also wrote about this truth in the New Testament. In Colossians 2:11, Paul refers to this spiritual circumcision as “putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.”

Finally, in Romans 2:28-29, Paul writes, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is in the outward flesh but he is a Jew who is one inwardly and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter, whose praise is not from men but from God.” Therefore, the title Jews claimed for themselves in a prideful way actually belonged to Christians because the Jews missed the true spiritual application.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Matthew 7:3-5 Judgment—Where to begin

As we have seen in our study of this chapter thus far, not to mention the whole Sermon on the Mount, Jesus does not forbid Christians in all instances from judging. However, He does tell us how not to judge. We are not to use human wisdom or our own personal preferences. The judging we do should be based on God’s word and the truth’s it contains. If we are going to proclaim something (a law, for instance) to be sinful like legalized abortion or if we are going to come alongside a fellow believer and exhort them to repent of their sin, we should look to these verses so that we do so in a God honoring manner.

First of all, Jesus asks a question that my mother might have summed up this way “Rake around your own door and keep it clean before you come raking around mine.” The Lord asks us, basically, to consider our perspective. In short, the question asks why we are focused on someone else’s condition while not evaluating our own. The terms used in verse 3 (“speck” “log”) are metaphors that reflect a spiritual truth. If we take the time to “look at the speck that’s in [our] brother’s eye” then we have missed the point of our responsibility to speak the truth of God in love. The verb “look” is in the present tense in Greek which means the act of constantly looking at something—in this case a speck in our brother’s eye. This isn’t a passing glance but rather we are constantly directing our attention to the speck. We are actively examining this problem. However our Lord says that is not the first thing we should do.

He chides us for paying such close attention to this speck while not giving much needed attention to the “log” in our eye. I would submit, based on the context, that the log represents the sin of pride. Here, Jesus shows someone assuming that their poor brother needs help. He has seen the speck in his brother’s eye and knows the he can help him remove it. The problem is he has not examined himself first. He sees his brother’s needed to be cleansed of sin but does not recognize his own need. We will never, while living in the world, be free from sin. We will all have specks in our eye with which we need godly men and women to come alongside us and help us remove. But we cannot help anyone without examining ourselves first. As Paul says in Romans 1, we cannot go to someone who is dealing with sexual sin if we’re dealing with that as well. The church’s witness to the world regarding sexual morality would be much less hypocritical if we didn’t say “Homosexuality is sin” with the same mouth that we say “I want a divorce” just because we’ve decided that our spouse gets on our nerves or we fell “out of love”.

This does not preclude us from proclaiming biblical morality. It does put a high standard in front of us that we must reflect upon because, brothers and sisters, we are called to live holy lives. If we are going to witness to the world that God calls men and women everywhere to repent and believe in Jesus Christ, we must live lives consistent with our proclamation that we have done just that. We have a huge responsibility to live what we believe. If we do not examine ourselves in the light of scripture and, as David said, pray that God would show us any of our faults, there is no way we can say to the world or our fellow Christians “Let me take the speck out of your eye” when, as Jesus says in verse 4, we have a big, honkin’ huge log stuck in our eye. That log says “My sin is not as bad as your sin”. Without dealing with that self righteous attitude, we will be of no help to anyone.

In fact, Jesus commands us to drop our self righteous act (“You hypocrite”) and examine ourselves. Where are we falling short of living as God has called us to live? Is it at home? At work? We can put up a good front some of the time but there is no one who can keep it up all of the time. Our hypocritical mask of being Super-Christian is just that—a mask like a child might wear on Halloween. We are commanded to take out this log immediately. The tense of the verb gives the sense of “Do it now. Don’t delay. Quickly!” When we have done that, we are in a position to go to our brother and help him. When we have allowed God’s Holy Spirit to lead us in self examination and we have confessed our sins we are able to help others deal with theirs.

Does this sound like a tall order? I think it should. I don’t think nearly as many Christians are spiritually mature enough to help others as this verse instructs us to do. We certainly have a responsibility to speak biblical truth to people, but we must be sure that we are doing so with the proper perspective. It is imperative for us to seek to be right with God before we can help others do that.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Reliability of the New Testament

On a blog comment some time back, an individual alleged that the canon of the New Testament was not agreed upon until very late in church history and that the Bible was little more than a collection of human documents written by men. His allegation further suggested that there was little agreement as to what books were in the Old and New Testaments and some people left books such as the Apocrypha out of the canon in some cases but not in all and therefore the canon could not be relied upon as authoritative. It was as much chance as anything else that led us to getting the books in the Bible that we have now. In the case of the Old Testament, we have a statement from the Jewish historian Josephus. He lived at the time of Christ and said

“We have not a countless number of books, discordant and arrayed against each other; but only 22 books, containing the history of every age, which are justly accredited as divine. Of these, FIVE BELONG TO MOSES, which contain both the laws and the history of the generations of men until his death. This period lacks but little of 3000 years. From the death of Moses, moreover, until the time of Artaxerxes, king of the Persians after Xerxes [to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah], THE PROPHETS, who followed Moses, wrote down what was done during the age of each one respectively, in thirteen books. The remaining four contain HYMNS TO GOD, and RULES OF LIFE for men. From the time of Artaxerxes, moreover, until our present period, all occurrences have been written down but they are not regarded as entitled to the like credit with those which precede them, because there was no certain succession of prophets. Fact has shown what confidence we place in our own writings. For although so many ages have passed away, no one has dared to add to them, nor to take anything from, nor to make alterations. In all Jews it is implanted, even from their birth, to regard them as being the instructions of God, and to abide steadfastly by them, and if it be necessary, to die gladly for them.”

Now, these days we have 39 books in our Old Testament. Josephus mentions 22 because, at that time, some of them were combined together. For instance, Joshua and Judges were one book and the twelve minor prophets were collected in one book called the Twelve. Therefore, on the witness of a recognized historian from the time that Jesus lived on this earth, I’ll go on record as saying the OT canon was fixed as of the time of Jesus’ birth.

Now, as to the New Testament cannon, I did a little analysis. Examining a list of 16 early sources on the development of the New Testament Canon spanning from about 110 AD to the compilation of the Latin Vulgate Bible in 400 AD revealed some pretty interesting facts.

1) The average percentage of acceptance for the 27 books of the New Testament used today between these 16 sources was 73.84%. Oh, what did you expect from me, a ROUND number? Hello. I am an accountant. To have agreement on an average of almost 12 of the 16 people surveyed is pretty decisive.

2) Of the 27 books, 19 of them (70.3%) were accepted as inspired scripture by 11 of the 16 sources. Again, pretty convincing numbers.

3) Of the 27 books of the NT, only 4 of them (14.8%) were accepted by fewer than 8 of the 16 sources. So, 23 of the books of the NT (85%) were accepted by 8 of the 16 sources over a span of nearly 300 hundred years.

Needless to say, it is pretty obvious that most of the NT books were overwhelmingly recognized as inspired by God. Now, the other gospels and books written that some tried to add to the word of God (see here for a list of NT books and pseudographical books that were not part of the New Testament) there was little support at all among the sources.

1) The average acceptance of the 19 false gospels and epistles among the sources was 6.58%.

2) The highest level of acceptance among any of the 19 was 25% (Shepherd of Hermas).

3) 9 of them were not accepted by any of the sources. A big fat goose egg is a pretty poor score.

Now, bear in mind that these were men who were independent of each other and came to these conclusions. The weight of their evidence seems pretty convincing. The New Testament as we know it was overwhelming affirmed as authentic. The pseudographical books were soundly rejected as not inspired.

Now, you have the evidence. You make the call.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

II Peter 2:12 False Teachers-Their Communication

I remember taking French in high school as a foreign language. While in class, one of my classmates astutely asked the teacher “Are you going to teach us to cuss in French?” I’m sure he expected a giggle from his classmates, which he got. But we were all somewhat surprised by the teacher’s response—she said she wanted us to know those sorts of things. She explained that knowing stuff like that about the French language would you us gauge the character of people we were around if we were ever in a French speaking area. It’s true that you can tell a lot about someone by the kind of language they use and the topics they bring up in a conversation. As we study this verse, we see Peter describe the false teachers who had infiltrated the church by telling us about their communication.

First of all, he tells us about the quality of their communication. Peter writes in verse 12 that these false teachers spend time “reviling”. The word that is translated “reviling” is the root of the English word “blasphemy” (blasphemo-987). The verb is in the present tense and therefore indicates this is a continuous activity of these false teachers. This is the quality of speech that characterizes these men. We all know or have known someone about whom we could say “They can’t say a nice word about anything.” They grumble. They complain. These men, who purported to be leaders in the church and teachers of God’s word, spend their time not leading or teaching but rather speaking evil. This should be a red alert for any Christians to take note of in a person’s life. All Christians, but especially Christian teachers, are called to speak truth for the purpose of building others up in Christ. As Paul writes in Colossians 3:8 “But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander (blasphemian-988), and abusive speech from your mouth.” In other words, these men are known, as a pattern and habit of their lives, to speak in a manner directly opposite of the way Paul says we as believers are called to speak. Also, he writes in chapter 4 verse 6 of that book “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” Clearly, the quality of speech of these false teachers is in stark contrast to the kind of speech a believer is called to be known for in their lives.

However, it’s not just the quality of their speech that characterizes these false teachers, but also the substance of what they say. In short, they make a lot of noise and presume to speak for God. In the end, though, they “have no knowledge” of what they’re talking about. The word used here can mean not only that they are ignorant and don’t know what they’re talking about, which is most certainly true, it can also mean they refuse to think about something as if they ignore it. I suspect Peter had both views in mind. These false teachers are ignorant of what the scriptures truly teach and they refuse to study the scriptures so they could see what it really says. The pastor of America’s largest church has said something along the lines of “There are a lot of people who know more about the Bible than me and can teach it better”. I believe this gentleman is saying that he disdains to study the Bible—he doesn’t really believe it has a lot to offer people and he thinks his advice on becoming a better you or being a champion in your life (whatever that is supposed to mean) is more useful and edifying than the life giving, powerful, word of God. In like manner, these false teachers that Peter speaks about have a habit of beating their gums together and making sounds come out of their mouths, but in the end they haven’t said a thing. Their words are useless.

As Christians, we should make sure we speak the truth. The Bible is God’s revealed word and should be the substance of our teaching and preaching—not our own ideas or whims. We must study to know the truth. Then we must speak the truth in love with the goal in mind of building others up in the faith and proclaiming the good news Jesus Christ to all men and women.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Matthew 7:2 To Judge or Not To Judge

As we have seen in the study of this chapter in Matthew, Jesus did not intend in chapter 7 verse 1 to forbid Christians from all judging. The immediate context demonstrates this pretty clearly. The broader context of the New Testament also proves this unquestionably. We are left then with the question “How are we to judge?” I believe, as we look at chapter 7 verse 2, we can see a clearer picture of the kind of judging Jesus is talking about.

First of all, observe that Jesus tell us that we will be judged. He says in this verse “…you will be judged…” and “…it will be measured to you.” Now, He doesn’t say who is going to do this judging. Obviously, He may have had two things in mind—the judgment of God and the judgment of man. Perhaps He intended both here.

Now, He further clarifies not only that we will be judged but how we will be judged and in so doing gives us our parameters for judging, if you will. We see here that the kind of judgment we will have applied to us is the same kind of judgment that we use. Now, the question then becomes “What kind of judgment do we want applied to us?” Let’s look at some examples from scripture and see.

  • Psalm 139:23- Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
  • Job 31:6- Let Him weigh me with accurate scales, And let God know my integrity.
  • Psalm 26:2--Examine me, Lord, and try me. Test my mind and my heart.

I could go on, but I think we see a pattern developing here. If our desire is to live a life that pleases the Lord, we invite the judgment of our heavenly Father. When He judges, He does so according to perfect righteousness and that perfect righteousness is revealed in scripture. Therefore, when we judge, it should be according to scripture. However, we must be humble and bear in mind that we are not omniscient (we don’t know the minds and hearts of people) and therefore must be cautious in any judging that we do.

Jesus is not issuing a blanket prohibition on judgment by Christians but rather giving us guidelines in exercising that judgment. As we apply those guidelines, we should bear in mind that it is God alone that judges perfectly and while we should never bend or waver on defending the truth of scripture and of the gospel, we must remember that there are some battles worth fighting and some where we must agree to disagree.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Can Someone Be Too "Edu-ma-cated"??

Gerd Lüdemann, Professor of History and Literature of Early Christianity at University of Göttingen and a visiting professor at Vanderbilt University, wrote an article called Liberated from the Christological Madhouse where he postulates that Christians today try to read too much into the Old Testament regarding Christ. Now, I'd personally like to challenge him to a fight with Nerf N-Force swords even though that wouldn't do anything.

He offers up this little jewel though related to Matthew and his use of Isaiah 7:14-

The evangelist Matthew would have us believe that Isaiah 7:14 foretold the virgin birth of Jesus; but since the announcement of this forthcoming birth refers to an event during the reign of king Ahaz (741-725 BCE), Jesus cannot have the child referred to.

Would have us believe indeed?? Yeah, because surely God couldn't have meant for it to say that and mean that. I mean, He just INSPIRED the text to be written the way it was written. I am not nearly as learned (pronouned "learn" "ed"--two seperate words) as the distinuguished professor but I am just foolish enough to believe that when a New Testament author interprets the Old Testament that the New Testament writer got it exactly right because God inspired him to do just that. I guess I'm kinda silly that way.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

II Peter 2:12 False Teachers—Their Classification

Did you ever use an acrostic to try to remember something for a test? I’ve always found those to be helpful. For instance, in 8th grade science, we learned the scientific classification for living things: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. I still remember it like it was yesterday because of a simple acrostic my teacher taught us—Keep people clean or forget good smells. Anyway, as we begin to look at this verse, we will see that Peter teaches us what class the false teachers of the day should be listed under.

In other words, what are these people who have crept into the church and begun teaching false doctrine? Peter says in verse 12 that they are “animals”. Now the Greek word for animals basically means something that is alive and doesn’t really have any sort of negative connotation. Without taking this into context, someone might say “Well, man is just an animal”. Peter goes on to clarify then what kind of animal these false teachers are by calling them “unreasoning”. The Greek word (alogos-249) comes from “a” which means “without” and “logos” which means “reason” and is the root of a good deal of words in English that will help us understand what Peter is saying here: logarithm, and logic just to name a few. Therefore, Peter is not talking about someone who looks at information, analyzes it, and is able to come to an appropriate conclusion (Romans 12:1-where Paul calls a believer’s sacrificial worship “reasonable (logikos) service”). These animals are not driven by thought or the rational, logical exercise of their mental faculties. It’s like the old joke “Where does an 800 pound gorilla sit? Anywhere he wants.”

In fact, Peter further drives this point home by indicating how these false teachers live. He describes them as “creatures of instinct”. The word translated “instinct” is the Greek word “phusikos” (5446) and it basically means to do something by nature. Like the Buck Owens song, the word describes someone who will just “act naturally:” In scripture, the same word is used in Romans 1:26 and 27 to describe natural function with regards to human intimacy. Now, we can train ourselves to do things by nature. I played saxophone for many years and I did not have to pull out a chart every time I played a piece of music to see how to position my fingers. I had “muscle memory”—I had trained myself or developed an instinct to be able to do something (look at symbols on a piece of paper and translate that into muscle movements and control of my breathing) to produce music. Now, that didn’t happen overnight. When I started in 5th grade, it was not instinct for me to play the saxophone. However, by the time I was in college a few years I could almost play the thing in my sleep. However, these false teachers did not practice this pattern being described but rather they were “born as creatures of instinct”. They didn’t develop the sinful instincts they follow. They are simply following the nature the inherited from their spiritual father—Satan.

So where does this path of sinful disobedience to God lead these false teachers? Peter has said these men were dangerous to the people of God bringing in “destructive heresies” and he reinforces that point here by saying the path they follow leads them to be “captured and killed”. Now, the word translated “killed” doesn’t mean that Bubba walks up with his Remington pump and says “I got you now, varmint”. It really has the idea of decay or rotting. I think the idea is more that they are captured and then they rot in their own filth. The fact that Peter says they would be captured and killed reminds us once again that false teachers are dangerous and cannot be allowed to spread their false doctrine.

We could picture a tiger roaming a stage. Now, you can have a tiger and you can think you’ve tamed it and got it under control. However, all it takes is one time for that bad boy to say “I got you where I want you” and to get hold of you by the neck, drag you off of that stage (just ask Siegfried and Roy) and end up telling his friends something like “It was great. No fur. No claws. Just soft and pink. I would have preferred it with a mango salsa, but you can’t always get what you want, right?” The fact that Peter stresses here and other places is that these false teachers are depraved (following their own sinful lusts) and dangerous (like wild animals) and are to be avoided at all costs.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Security of Sound Doctrine Part 3

Paul’s Caution

Paul, when writing to these believers, gives them a word of caution in verse 2. Even with the safety provided by his God inspired epistle, Paul instructs the believers to “Beware” three times. As Christians, we should beware of false doctrine. It promotes disunity, causes confusion, and undermines evangelism. Quite frankly, it is a spiritual poison and must be avoided along with anyone who teaches it. The Greek word Paul uses which is translated here as “Beware” is blepo (991), which is translated elsewhere as take heed (Mark 4:24, Luke 21:8). In Greek, the sense of the verb is that the believers should keep being aware. They should be vigilant and always on guard. There is no room for middle ground. False doctrine cannot be tolerated or permitted in the church. Compromise is not an option.

In identifying those who would corrupt the church and lead people astray with false doctrine, Paul uses three different terms. First of all, Paul calls these people “Dogs” which is kind of funny because Jews used this term for Gentiles. Here, Paul takes their own slur and turns it around on them to describe their character. We must remember that these are not cute little furry pets that sleep at your feet at night and play fetch with you when you’re playing in the front yard. These are snarling, vicious, carnivorous, disease ridden, filthy, nasty, mean creatures. They were quite dangerous. In Vincent’s Word Studies, the author writes about these animals that “[t]hey lie about the streets in such numbers as to render it difficult and often dangerous to pick one's way over and amongst them - a lean, hungry, and sinister brood. They have no owners, but upon some principle known only to themselves, they combine into gangs, each of which assumes jurisdiction over a particular street; and they attack with the utmost ferocity all canine intruders into their territory. In those contests, and especially during the night, they keep up an incessant barking and howling, such as is rarely heard in any European city.” They roamed in packs and were guided by their own hungers. In much the same way, a false teacher is more dangerous than any foamy mouthed dog. The false teaching they spread is worse than any disease spread by these mangy mutts, and they also follow their own lusts. As Peter notes in 2 Peter 2:12, these false teachers are “like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption.” These people lead others astray for their own selfish gain. They truly are vicious “dogs”.

Paul also tells these believers to “beware of evil workers”. If you were to look at the website for the National Council of Churches, you would find that they have lots of activities going on. They work to feed starving children. They work to bring disaster relief to storm damaged areas. These are worthwhile activities. Certainly meeting people physical needs is one way to minister to them. I would have to imagine if you asked most of the people involved in these activities why they were doing them, their answer would be something like “For Jesus, of course.” However, the NCC represents churches that deny the virgin birth of our Lord, the inspiration of the Word of God, and they allow homosexuals and women to serve in pastoral roles. These people are doing things that they call ministry. They are quite active and work hard at what they do. However, since their heart is not right with God, they are not good workers but “evil workers”. The word “evil” translates the Greek word kakos (2556) which can mean worthless, injurious, or evil. The Greek word ergates is translated “workers” and literally means a toiler. When Jesus Himself spoke of these people in Matthew 7:22 that “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” In much the same manner, Paul reminds the Philippian church that these people, because of the wrong condition of their heart, are not actually performing good works but evil works. We must remember, as Paul here warns these Christians, that activity is never a substitute for a relationship.

Finally, Paul tells the Philippians to “beware the mutilation”. Jewish people placed great spiritual significance on circumcision. They are even called the Circumcision by Paul in Ephesians 2:11. According to rabbinical tradition, for a Jew to go to hell, his circumcision would have to be undone as John MacArthur notes in his commentary on the book of Romans. Some false teachers taught that a Christian had to convert to Judaism before they could become a Christian. Therefore, these Jewish legalizers taught that Christians had to agree to become circumcised. However, they failed to see that the circumcision that God would perform would be a circumcision of the heart (Deu 30:6). Paul uses a Greek term here katatome (2699) that is translated as mutilation. The same word is used in the Septuagint in Leviticus 21:5 when the nation of Israel is forbidden to make any cuttings in their flesh. Paul was probably using a play on words here by calling them the mutilation (katatome) and in the next verse referring to those who are truly saved as peritome (the circumcision). Paul realized by attempting to require these believers to be circumcised, the false teachers were actually trying to force them to submit to their legalistic observance of Mosaic code and their tradition rather then relying on faith in Jesus Christ to save them and transform them. In Galatians 4:10, Paul writes that those Christians were attempting to follow Jewish law in regards to feasts. Paul admonishes them that they were leaving their faith in Christ to turn to “weak and beggarly elements” in order to be saved (Galatians 4:9). Paul says they should not do this. In fact, in the book of Galatians, Paul goes further and says he wishes that those false teachers who troubled those believers with their insistence on ritual circumcision for salvation would simply go ahead and cut themselves off (Galatians 5:12). These false teachers had completely misrepresented the truth of salvation and were attempting to compel others to follow their legalistic standard of righteousness.

Even as they did in Paul’s day, we still encounter false teaching today. The only sure defense that we have against false teaching and false teachers is the truth. The only source we have for divine truth is the Word of God. Let us faithfully and boldly proclaim God’s powerful truth in this dark, perverse world.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc Used by permission All rights reserved

Monday, November 2, 2009

Matthew 7:1 This verse ain’t just for libs Pt III

We have seen in the previous two posts on this verse what it does not mean—namely, that it does not mean a Christian is forbidden from judging. We’ve seen that in the immediate context it does not mean that a Christian cannot judge. Further, the larger context of scripture shows that it doesn’t mean that a Christian is forbidden from judging. So, we have established from scripture beyond the shadow of a doubt what this verse does not mean. Therefore, since it does not mean we are categorically forbidden from judging ever, but it does say “Do not judge” we are left with the question “What kind of judging is it talking about?”

The kinds of judging that we saw in the previous two posts (Matthew 7:3-6, Matthew 7:16, I Corinthians 5:3, 5, 9-12) have something in common. They all involve a Christian judging using biblical criteria. Those who pronounced religious judgments during the time when Christ walked the earth did so using their own doctrines, not scripture. That is why they could say “Well, yeah sure, I’ve never committed adultery” but they had lusted after a woman in their heart. That was the criteria they used—man made, powerless, hypocritical, easily manipulated measuring sticks that they could measure up to very easily but suddenly use to make other people feel very small because they weren’t as good as the Pharisee’s were. However, as the scriptures above indicate, when we judge we are to use God’s standard—not ours. We are to use the scriptures as the criteria by which we determine if something is sinful or if someone is committing sin. Then, just like a doctor would diagnose a patient, we are to loving call fellow Christians to repent of their sins and call unbelievers to repent of their sins and trust Christ. Sin is a spiritual cancer and we are commanded to share the truth of what scripture says about it. However, we must never judge with a hypocritical, unbiblical standard as the religious leaders of the day did. That is the kind of judging that is being prohibited.

We can see that Jesus had this kind of judging in mind when He says “so that you will not be judged”. The purpose, then, of abstaining from a hypocritical type of judging is that we avoid that kind of judgment from men. The world is very quick to point fingers at the church and accuse of us being narrow minded, prejudiced, and uncaring. May I suggest to you that one reason the world is so quick to judge us is because some in the church have lived contrary to their professed faith but have been very vocal in calling the world to account for its sin. The sad fact is, brothers and sisters, we have judged not with the Bible but too often with our own standards. We must lovingly confront sin where we find it, be it in the church or in the world, but we must always be mindful that if we want to avoid being judged in a harsh and unjust manner we must be willing to judge using the standard God has given—His word.