Imago Dei, the image of God. Michelangelo’s image of God reaching His hand across (not down, not up) to a man – God’s hand no larger and no different than that of the man – has molded much of society’s image of God for centuries. The images are both of flesh, as though Imago Dei is flesh, and yet the Bible consistently refutes that image. Continue reading Imago Dei
I know it’s Christmas Eve and everyone will be wanting to read something jolly today. If so, please save this for the new year as your thoughts turn to the condition of our world.
In my last podcast I shared a bit about the humanistic and atheistic arrogance of our medical community and as usual I continued to research the statements I made afterward to be sure that I did not mislead. Unlike edits and retractions that I may have to sometimes post, in this case, my mistake was to understate the problem and rather than continue to discuss our nation’s vaccination tower of Babel, I’d like to point out an even bigger lie that some of this is based on. The claim that medical science is to thank for “longer life expectancy.” Continue reading The Life Expectancy Lie
Jesus only said the word Ekklēsia translated as “church” twice in all of the New Testament. Once in Matthew 16:15-19 and again in Matthew 18:17. These discourses should be concerning considering how much stock Christians put in the building and politics of their local “church”.
Before going further it’s important to note that the word “church” itself is derived from a different Greek word, “kuriakos” which only appears itself twice in the New Testament, in 1 Corinthians 11:20 and Revelation 1:10. It means “the Lord’s”. Ekklēsia on the other hand appears more than 100 times, and NOT just in the New Testament. How could it appear earlier than Christ Himself? Well, that’s the problem. Ekklēsia may not mean what you’ve been led to believe that it means. Instead, it means any formal assembly.
In Matthew 18:16-17 Jesus says: “But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.“
Translating the word Ekklēsia to mean “Christian body of believers” may be technically correct in this context, but only because of the context not because of the word itself. He is simply stating that rather than “one or two others” escalate it to the larger group. He was most likely not endorsing yet another Sanhedrin type of hierarchy. The Sanhedrin was an “Ekklēsia” as well.
The word can be used to represent any assembly, especially civil assemblies of elected officials. In fact, in Matthew 16:18 – the only other time Jesus uses the word – he establishes more specific context for this very purpose: “on this rock I will build my church“. Note the word “my” in there. He does not say “the church” in this instance. Remember that word “kuriakos”? He has essentially specified that the assembly Peter will build is His (“The Lord’s”) because Ekklēsia does not imply it alone.
Translators and the neo-Sanhedrin found it convenient to translate the word as though all mentions of “assembly” meant Jesus’ assembly and then went further to insinuate that the entire “body” of believers could also be defined as such. As you probably already know, it’s this same convenient decision that leads to the Catholic establishment of the Pope as the “only” fleshly “head” of the entire body of believers. The “body” and each “church” were different things in Jesus’ words, yet later people changed them to synonyms.
We’ve discussed before the importance of the later verses of Matthew 20: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” to the proper understanding of what Jesus was establishing. If we must choose just one passage to hang our hierarchical hat on, then Matthew 20 is the less self-aggrandizing of them. Of course, properly interpreted, these scriptures are not in conflict. Jesus did establish an assembly, a flat assembly of brothers of which He is one of us, and God is our Father. This culminates in His being “The King of Kings”, yet our King is also our brother. It’s truly the greatest story ever told.
Later in the New testament as “Ekklēsia” gets repeated in different contexts, Paul does establish designations based around the gifts that Christ doles out (Ephesians 4:11). However, even that is not modeled by institutional assemblies today & did not appear to be hierarchical in Paul’s view. Where are all of the roles? Apostles? Who even knows what that is? Prophets? A large portion of professing believers reject the existence of Prophets at all (of course they do, what modern pastor could tolerate a modern prophet?). The fact is plain to see. If Jesus were actually establishing “church” as we know it today, He would certainly have mentioned it more than twice and He wouldn’t have directly commanded His followers not to establish hierarchies.
What Jesus mentions many more than two times is “Kingdom”. In fact before Pilate He explicitly states: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” – John 18:36
What kind of madness, idolatry, and abomination have we perpetuated at the behest of power hungry neo-Sadducees? Perhaps an abomination that causes desolation? Have we really watched idly as all of the sins of the Pharisees have been imitated in what we now refer to as “church”? Even Tyndale chose the word “congregation” over “church” because of the danger he foresaw. Please dear brothers and sisters, please consider this last part very carefully.
We are not proposing that everyone quit going to “churches” on Sunday. Only God can guide one to that decision. The world is very confused and opposed to anything that would please God. So God may well call you to work within the “congregations” or as we call them “clubs” to see the gospel preached. Even if you attend the best club you could imagine we simply ask that you do not enter those doors with the belief that you are no longer in the world, rather enter those doors as a way to face the world. Enter those places as “salt & light” and as an opportunity to be such in a place that should encourage such.
When you find that they do not encourage such, take joy in knowing that Jesus’ Kingdom transcends the walls of any building. Remember what Jesus told the Samaritan woman 2000 years ago, and take this to heart. Even if those at your local church oppose you, it doesn’t mean that God opposes you. Persecution comes in many forms, even inside of Christian clubs. The truth has been whittled down century-after-century, so speaking the whole truth today will not be popular, even in “church”. Yet buildings aren’t where Kingdom worship happens. No, Jesus told the Samaritan woman, 2000 years ago:
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” – John 4:23
Be the kind of worshipers our Father seeks despite what people do. Modern churches are imitation kingdoms. Often built to appear like castles themselves they amount to a man-made idol. The imitation kingdom is complete with little kings, little queens, and even court jesters. Many convinced that they are serving God by lording over people. The imitation is meaningless compared to “Spirit and Truth”.
So go out as “sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” This is not truth that those attending religiously will want to hear. Yet if we are patient and shrewd the chains of religion can fall away and better yet, we can assist new believers in avoiding those chains. You will have enemies, many are invested far too deeply in their model of Christianity to admit these problems. They won’t want people set free after all that’s been invested in installing those chains. We ourselves often don’t want to be set free once we’ve “tried so hard” to be “part of something“. Yet the only thing we are part of that matters is Christ, we cannot add anything to that but lies.
“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” – James 4:4
Western Christians have become dangerously accustomed to comfort. So accustomed that many are ashamed to say much even in a church Bible study. At some point, somewhere, many a theology gets skewed by incorporating a lie that persecution, trials, and storms in a Christian’s life means that Christian has done something wrong. The Bible seems to say the exact opposite; that trials are a hallmark of Christian life and persecution a badge of honor:
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:11-12
So why do so many Christians avoid conflict like the plague? Is such a thing compatible with Christianity at all? Can we follow Christ without taking up our own cross? I contend that it’s not likely.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23
“But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” – Matthew 10:33
Being the sort myself that doesn’t shy away from charged topics I’ve heard the: “you’re not Jesus” line enough times to realize that a lot of people are waiting around until they become perfect to begin to be willing to speak up for Christ. Which really only means they’ll never speak up. Where does this “you’re not Jesus” line come from anyway? Sure, plenty of Bible writers recognized that “He must become greater, and I must become less…” but those are the same writers that were preaching Christ regardless of the consequences.
Even while Stephen was stoned in the street after saying things that those people did not want to hear, Stephen was not perfect. Nor was anyone but Jesus Himself. So the idea that someone must be completely blameless and perfect to experience Matthew 5:11 persecution is silly. We humans are clumsy (a great song about this) and terribly flawed. Our hearts are consistently deceitful. This flesh and blood “bag of bones” that God gave us for a short time is as corrupt as the dust it was made from, but that doesn’t change the fact that within this “temple” is a “lamp-stand” that is the image of God that He shared with His children. Our Heavenly Father loves us anyway.
He loves us and He expects us to follow in Christ’s footsteps to Holiness. That means speaking truth, being willing to be disliked, perhaps even mocked, or maybe even sued? What are these threats compared to the stonings, beheadings, and crucifixions that our brothers & sisters have faced? Here in Western Christianity some are more afraid of someone rolling their eyes at them than Daniel was afraid of the lions’ den, or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who faced the fiery furnace. What happened!!!!?????
Well, firstly we are just too comfortable. We have thermostats, indoor plumbing, cars… We live daily face-to-face with deceptions that tell us that life is supposed to be comfortable and easy. It’s not, especially for Christians. If everyone who call themselves “Christian” were speaking up for Christ’s commands in the face of today’s threats, our nation would be a different place. Instead, for the sake of comfort, Christians cower. Where are the Davids or Josephs of the 21st Century?
“Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.” – 1 Samuel 17:34-36
Where is that kind of courage? I sure can’t claim to have it. I may not cower at church meetings but in society I’m afraid. I’m afraid that my finances, freedom, even my family will be threatened if I share “too much” about Jesus. Even when I don’t cower at a church meeting, that doesn’t mean I’m not afraid of all of the emotional heartache I’ll be strapped with for a long period after. That sadness stinks, but despite the doubts we should remember that we’re in good company. Even Elijah lamented the outcome of bravely proclaiming the word of the Lord, and Joseph suffered for it too…
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” – Genesis 50:20
Who doesn’t think that Joseph was persecuted by his brothers? Put yourself in his shoes, sitting at the bottom of a well, or chained to a wagon train headed into slavery. Having bragged to his brothers about how they would all bow down to him. “Why did I say something so stupid? Just because God gives me a dream doesn’t mean I have to go announcing it to everyone within earshot. Especially not my older brothers… especially not about them bowing down to me…”
Oh, but it gets worse. Now he’s being carried off in shackles for having not been willing to sleep with his master’s wife. “How terribly unjust that I’m a slave in the first place, how could God love me or care about me at all? Now this lady wants me to do something like this? I could have gotten some revenge but instead I ran away and now I’m arrested for ‘rape’? Why do I even try?”
I hope you’re starting to see my point. Nobody told us that we need to wait until we’re perfect and blameless to face our own Goliaths. In fact, waiting around only means that we’re missing the point. Life is short. Even as the King of Israel, with all of the wealth and luxury that went with it, David laments throughout the Psalms of the enemies, trials, and pain that he lived with daily:
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. – Psalm 32:3-4
My prayer for any that may read this is that we’d all be willing to face giants. Not sitting in front of the TV on Sunday afternoon watching highly paid athletes imitate battle. Instead that we’d get in the fray of real-life. It can and will be every bit as grueling as an NFL line of scrimmage. In fact more-so, because there are no safety nets, helmets, or pads in the battle against principalities and powers. Even the referees are usually our enemies. Just ask Joseph, or David, or pretty much any of the writers of the Bible. Can you name one whose life consisted of constant comfort? The reason you cannot, is because a Christian without persecution is like a bird without wings.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
I’ve had many reasons lately to consider carefully my motives and behavior. I have been diagnosed as suffering from an anxiety disorder. While several traumatic events have contributed to this, and exacerbated it, I’ve only recently accepted that it’s been there all along.
That being said, and with full appreciation of the science that goes into defining these “disorders” I’d like to take it apart from a practical and then spiritual perspective. In short, I’ll stick with the anecdotal.
Symptom Set 1: Physical hot flashes, racing pulse, unclear thoughts.
Symptom Set 2: Hopeless dread. An expectation and imagination of the worst-case-scenario.
Symptom Set 3: Rambling speech, incoherent thoughts, and over-reaction.
The first set is relatively scary, especially when it appears to control me. However, after a few misfires in otherwise trivial scenarios it can actually be quite entertaining. “What’s this? A hot-flash and tingling lips because Google sent me 1 minute off course on a day that I’m in absolutely no hurry? Now that’s funny. What? A half tank of gas isn’t enough to backtrack 1 minute? Oh silly skin, don’t you have other things to do?”
On the spiritual side this is the “roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” from 1 Peter 5:8. It goes on to say: “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” It’s times like this that the full profoundness of the Bible truly resonates. “same kind of sufferings” – isn’t that just what you’re led to reject? That somehow you’re alone in this and “strange”? It’s as simple as that, resist him just like the rest of the believers do.
The second one is what keeps tripping me up, and that is the point that would nearly keep me from writing this. It’s tough to keep moving forward when I don’t really have an answer. Yet here I go anyway, using my same advice from the previous paragraph and resisting the urge to quit (this time).
For me there’s a fine line between “hopeless dread” and “plan for the worst and hope for the best”. In fact, I have a certain “edge” that has always kept me recognized as very good at my occupation. I’m notorious for being tenacious. Further evidence of an uncommon “edge”. I do things that other people can’t. You see where I’m going here? My identity is tied up with my anxiety. Who would I be if I weren’t already mitigating the result of carelessness on the part of others? Well for starters, I’d probably be happier!
I manage to make a lot of enemies by not being willing to quit or “let something go” after someone else has already decided to. Again, career-wise, this has always worked out for me. Even a broken clock is right twice a day and I’m right much more often than that. However, especially in the I.T. world, there’s no shortage of shirked responsibilities. Much of what we do is redundant by design. Computer hardware can be unpredictable and can fail at the worst moments costing organizations tons in lost productivity. In my current field, lost productivity is a gray area that isn’t tracked as carefully as it could be, so many opt to take the easy route of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” Then deal with the failures as they arise. The lost productivity is written off as “plausibly deniable”. Yet I seldom find deniability “plausible”. If you’re down to your last lug nut on your wheel can you really be “innocent” of the damage done when the tire comes off?
Tires coming off – So herein lies the real laugh of all of my “hopeless dread”. Believe it or not my 11 year old daughter DID have the tire come off of her ATV. Why? Because the lugs had fallen off! Whose responsibility was it? MINE!!! Thank God she wasn’t hurt.
Yet see what happened here? I’m so frustrated with battling those that won’t listen that I failed in my only jurisdiction to protect those relying on me. I never even looked at those wheels. I just let her ride off.
Expecting the worst can get really out of hand. Especially when ones mind is so consumed with it that they can’t keep up with all of the possibilities. Suddenly we find ourselves more negligent than those that frustrated us so. I suspect that I would have fit well on a team of engineers designing deep space probes. Once launched those things are what they are. Failure to tighten all of those lugs will cost the mission! Yet what about home life? Have any of them managed to separate the two? Or are they doomed to torture everyone around them like Sheldon Cooper?
There really is a fine line between “dread” and “vigilance”; there’s also a fine line between “hope” and “hopelessness”. For both the border is faith. For the non-believer and believer alike faith in other people, for the believer, it’s ultimately faith in God. This is where the sharp claws of cynicism can really cause harm. They slash away hope under the guise of “lessons learned”. It goes something like this: “I’ve been burned by other people far too many times to trust them this time.” And therein “hope for the best” becomes “hope-less-ness”.
The spiritual dimension of this one is very challenging. At some point you may even hear something like this: “Didn’t God say it was bad to put your trust in other people? Then don’t go disappointing God and being all ‘hopeful’. In fact, maybe cynicism should be a fruit of the Spirit!” Well, Ecclesiastes 4:12 tells us that “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” So that’s a lie, God isn’t cynical and we shouldn’t be either, even if we still have trouble believing it.
That last one – incoherence – isn’t really a problem at all right? I mean of course I sound incoherent to someone less acquainted with the details of this situation. Of course it sounds like “rambling” when the other person doesn’t recognized the seriousness of the situation?!?!
Well whatever it “sounds like” there’s an old saying – or maybe I’m just rambling – that perception is 9/10ths of reality. So frankly it doesn’t really matter how relevant some information is. If the recipient is not willing or able to hear and recognize that connection, then for them it does not exist. Once they write you off as “incoherent” and “rambling” then your only choice is silence. If they are determined enough to work out the scenario then they’ll ask questions and we need to be careful to slow down the flow of information to a pace that does not seem so “incoherent”. The fact is, some degree of coherence is a subjective thing. My computer techno-babble could be rightly considered incoherent to non-techies. However the fallacious rants of a progressive defending the murder of babies for the good of society should rightly be considered universally incoherent.
The spiritual dynamic of this sets people in opposition to each other. Sure, sometimes they should be in opposition, as is the case with baby humans and the abortion issue. At other times the confusion is meant to harm. While I’m wrestling to get someone’s brain to fathom whatever concept I’m trying to convey I’m wrestling with the wrong thing:
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” – Ephesians 6:12
Perhaps the fact is that God has given us a talent, maybe it’s discernment, maybe it’s outright prophesy. Maybe we’re doomed to be hated and contended with:
“If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” – Luke 16:31
Or maybe we’re just wrong? Whatever the case there comes a time when one should just “shake off the dust”:
“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” – Matthew 10:14
Otherwise we may find ourselves suffering unnecessarily from “kicking against the goads”:
“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” – Acts 26:14
So to sum up, consider that last point. “Goads” are spiked sticks used to guide livestock. Consider this to be similar to a Shepherd’s staff, but with a point on it. If the animal kicks against it, then it will cause more pain than intended by the Shepherd. Or in this case God Himself.
For all of the symptoms listed above, there are vices and virtues. I cannot tell you what God expects from you. People cannot either, because as we know:
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” – John 15:18
Our motivating principle cannot be fellowship with the world (James 4:4), but that being said we should face our battles with prayer. God does sometimes call us to move on, to “give up” (for lack of a better word). Being overly assertive can become an attempt to do things in our own power and an act of pride.
So my anti-anxiety solution? Faith and wisdom. The faith to trust God with the things we cannot control, and the wisdom to know that we are imperfect and will fail on our own. Allowing Him to teach us with His “goad” instead of stubbornly marching forward on our own accord. There’s no sure thing here, no formula, but rest assured God will make Himself heard when we are careful enough to listen.
When anger=sin it becomes utmostly important to never appear frustrated so…
When anger=sin we only speak about sin to others and not the one we accuse because…
When anger=sin gossip is necessary to avoid “sinful” confrontations. The problem is…
ANGER DOES NOT EQUAL SIN!
There are some questions in the Bible that are not clearly answered, but this is not one of them, not only was Paul quite clear in: Ephesians 4:26 “In your anger do not sin”; but Jesus Himself demonstrated anger and frustration regularly and quite publicly:
“So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” -John 2:13
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” – Matthew 23:27
“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” – Matthew 23:33
Ironically in Romans 1 Paul makes a pretty comprehensive list of sins and while anger is not in there another sin is:
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…”
“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
While anger is clearly not in the list there are a few terms that are associated with anger that are: “insolent, arrogant and boastful”. These are worth discussing:
Matthew 16:23: “Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’”
showing a rude and arrogant lack of respect.
In true Paulian translated to English form, there is a degree of redundancy here. However, a word-study – especially useful in such situations – makes it fairly clear that the Greek communciated more than the English translation. The Greek word is “hybristḗs” and Strong’s defines it this way: “This kind of individual delights in wrong-doing – finding pleasure in hurting others.” As is often the case the English definition comes far short of describing this properly. By the English definition Jesus was “insolent” toward Peter in Matthew 16:23 above, but by the Greek definition He lacked important characteristics to qualify for such an adjective. 1. He clearly did not “delight in wrong-doing”. 2. He clearly did not “find pleasure in hurting others.” Perhaps this is why alternate definitions and English synonyms of the word “insolent” includes “boldness” and “a very confident attitude or way of behaving that is shocking”.
having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities.
There does not appear to be any reason to look any further into this term. To assume that one is demonstrating such a characteristic one must also assume to know how important or unimportant another is. In short, one must demonstrate arrogance to judge another as arrogant.
showing excessive pride and self-satisfaction in one’s achievements, possessions, or abilities.
Similar to arrogant above, this is a value judgment. What constitutes “excessive”? However, the Greek again doesn’t humor such a simplistic definition. “alazoneía” in Strong’s is specifically “empty” and quite similarly to “arrogant” in this context one would have to be pretty arrogant to determine whether someone’s claim is “empty” or not. For it’s only the empty sort that would be sinful and that because it’s a form of deception, lying.
casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.
At this point it is only fair that we look at what the Greek has to say about “gossip” as well: “psithyristḗs” means “whisperer”. “Quietly (secretly) destroying another person’s character. – i.e. covertly, not out in the open, but rather operating ‘in a corner.'”
As with most things spiritual there is no formula for flagging gossip either. The English definition does work, but whether or not the conversation is about details “confirmed as being true” or “destroying another person’s character” are often points of debate. One thing that is certain, any person overly concerned with their own image would choose “whispering” over “a very confident attitude or way of behaving that is shocking.”
I hope it is clear that I’m not trying to give you a formula, but Strong’s numbers and scripture are good ways to test your discernment. Exercising discernment is more of a leap of faith than a hard and fast formula. However, we get some pretty good clues along the way. Concerning gossip, while my suspicions may be heightened during a private conversation when someone shows an overt willingness to discuss other people’s inadequacies while beating around the bush about their/my own, I also find most do this to some degree. In fact there are sadly VERY few that will criticize the person in front of them and even fewer that appreciate such things.
What happens after the “whispering” is what is most telling. Are they willing to stand by their private words in public? Does their posture match their accusations? Do they seek out those people they slandered and try to resolve their conviction? Do they – do I – get to the man-to-man of it? If I’m not willing to speak my opinion to someone’s face then I should not be willing to “whisper” it either. I’m not sure I’d suggest this for everyone, but a trick I use is to warn folks that I have a “tough time remembering what’s a secret and what isn’t” and caution that: “if this is such a problem, I’ll probably talk to them about this pretty soon.” Trustworthy people don’t mind this so much, but deceptive people see all kinds of red flags with such warnings. Some will go so far as to accuse me of being untrustworthy, or claim that it is gossip to share with the person what was being said about them. It requires a fantastic stretch to claim that one can gossip to another about that very same person. Though deception is not characterized by its adherence to logic.
So hopefully there is a lot to take away here:
1. Anger is not sin by itself.
2. Several words mentioned above are insufficient in the English to represent the concepts from the Greek.
3. Gossip sucks.
4. Cowards suck.
5. Saying “suck” is not sinful. (definition: is bad, is rubbish)
6. We should all be more willing to discus ourselves and the person before us when meeting and less willing to discuss others.
7. If you’re really brave perhaps you should warn people upfront that you don’t keep secrets, especially about other people.
Next week I’ll discuss how deceptive posturing leads to self-inflicted wounds.
It’s now the 21st century and still we continue to fall for the same old schemes of the tempter. Let’s read from Matthew 4:3-10:
The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
This scripture represents an important piece of strategic intelligence for the army of God. It demonstrates the process that the tempter goes through in his attacks on our character. His first pitch is to attack our carnal desires. Food: “tell these stones to become bread“, comfort, sex. This is entry level Army-of-God 101. Sadly many never get beyond this point. Their flesh rules them, and so the tempter rules them. However, overcome 101 and prepare for 201:
Putting God to the test: “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down.” God is not a dog-and-pony show, or as the current Pope recently said He’s not: “A magician, with a magic wand.” Yet the tempter’s next strategy for those that overcome the flesh is to try to convince us that God needs to be tested. The tempter is cunning, and he’ll even use the words of other believers to try to convince you that God wants you to test him. “Jump off a cliff”, “walk on water”, …
“An evangelist who tried replicating Jesus’ miracle of walking on water has reportedly drowned off the western coast of Africa. Pastor Franck Kabele, 35, told his congregation he could repeat the biblical miracle, and he attempted it from a beach in Gabon’s capital of Libreville. ‘He told churchgoers he’d had a revelation that if he had enough faith, he could walk on water like Jesus,’ an eyewitness told the Glasgow Daily Record.
…or perhaps more subtly, he may say: “go start your own church, this one isn’t good enough.” If he does he may be preparing to initiate Army-of-God 301:
“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
That liar and thief, destroyer and murderer couldn’t convince you to follow him into a life ruled by your stomach. He ultimately lost you when he tried to get you to tell God to roll over, sit, and stay. So now for the big one. He will entice you with authority. Perhaps it’s fame, or wealth, control, a revival (or movement or emergence or whatever our trends mandate we call this today)… and perhaps he’ll even offer you your own church! “Psst… hey Christian… didn’t God say He has big plans for you? How about these plans… they sound big enough for someone as ‘special’ as you…”
The title of today’s message is “Revival or Bust” because some are so determined to realize a “great revival” or awakening or incarnation (I really can’t keep up with all of the buzzwords) that they’re willing to destroy good things on the off chance that their ambitions could come true. That perhaps “All this” will be given to them. They are so determined to be more & better than those around them that they will even speak with contempt about things that are bearing fruit, even going so far as to ridicule those things as trivial. In Jesus’ last-will-be-first model we get “better” by helping those around us to be “better”. As John the Baptist said: “He must become greater; I must become less.”
For instance, the reason for this site is that we suspect that some things need to change, but we’re not willing to destroy what exists. We realize that while we’re convinced that mainstream Christianity still clings to earth-is-the-center-of-the-universe type superstitions, the timing may not be now for everyone to immediately see this. It may not even be within our lifetimes. So we are faithful to not hide our convictions but we are also careful not to damage what exists in an all-or-nothing bid to realize our vision because we accept that we may not have the whole picture. If the body unscrupulously reroutes blood flow from the hand to the foot in hopes of strengthening the foot not only may it lose its hand, but it may damage the foot too!
The caution raised in this message is the danger of discontentment. Paul talked a lot about being content and faithful, even if the days drag on and we don’t think the Holy Spirit is moving fast enough for us. When Jesus was tempted for the third time – in the satanic endgame – the tempter was looking for discontentment. He was trying to find a place in Jesus’ desires to sink his hook. Maybe Jesus didn’t want to do what God called Him to. Maybe it wasn’t glamorous enough, or maybe He just wanted something a bit more “cushy”. Whatever the vulnerability that satan thought he saw, Jesus had no such vulnerability.
Do I? Do you? Is it enough to just do well with what God gave you? Not to say we shouldn’t stretch and try to get a return for our Master. Returns are great! Just not at the cost of what was entrusted to us. “OR BUST” is a terrible mindset. Jesus was content with 12 disciples. Are you content to mentor 1 or 2? Can you pursue a 3rd or 4th without wrecking what has already been accomplished? Ambition for the Glory of God is a beautiful thing, but ambition for ones own glory is a pathetic and destructive thing.
Which is it? Revival or bust? What if God’s plan is not a revival? Does that make His plan “bust”? I think not. God help me to be content to be whatever my You made me to be. Common or special… no matter what other people say about me.
Romans 9:21: “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?”
Final thought, you may consider Matthew 25:14-30 and the parable of the talents. Unfortunately while the master was clearly livid about what happens when we are lazy and don’t make the most of what God gave us, we can only guess what he would have said if the servant had nothing left for being reckless and losing His money. The above is not a suggestion that we all be lazy. It’s a suggestion that we check our ambitions with humility. So long as our motives are just I believe we’ll see good return for our labor. When they aren’t, we become complicit with the one who destroys. In that case we fail somewhere between testing God and seeking personal glory. We sin.
Matthew West has a real cool song called “Hello, My Name Is”; the chorus begins with this: “Hello, my name is child of the one true King”.
It’s a great song, but it exemplifies a poor choice in interpretation. It would be better to say: “Hello, my name is brother of the one true King” and here’s why:
Romans 8:29 (ESV) – “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
If you’re familiar with the R2 site you know that we tend to recommend against elevating Paul’s letters to equivalence with the very words of Jesus, Despite that we also tend to advocate for recognizing that Paul’s teachings are incredibly important and here is a prime example of why. While Jesus consistently said that He was one with God (the Father) He never referred to Himself as father, but kept God’s role as Father distinct. He instead referred to Himself as son (Mark 2:10, Matt 22:42, 24:30… many many more). This is a very fine line, but the Bible is full of fine lines. So whether you prefer the orthodox all-scripture-is-God-breathed-including-the-letters-Paul-wrote-in-which-he-states-such or take a similar approach to myself, you should probably land on the same conclusion. Jesus does not want us to refer to ourselves as His sons, but rather as His brothers.
It is also orthodox that Jesus is the King of Kings. Yet He insists on calling us brothers. This is an important aspect of the existence of R2. We believe that we are taught by Jesus that we are to grow into a confidence similar to what C.S. Lewis communicates in his Narnia series. That we are “kings and queens” not worms! Worm theology has gotten old even in orthodox circles.
1 John 2:27 (NIV) – “As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him.”
Again, I love this song and the point Matt is making, however we really should move away from the false humility that led orthodox teaching to this point. It is GOOD Pride that leads us to proclaim that Jesus is our Brother and our King!
Jesus is our King and eldest brother but that doesn’t change the fact that we are all His cherished siblings. So next time you hear that song please take it a little further and realize that in this lifetime we lay claim to brotherhood with Christ. If it were arrogant to say such would Paul have really said this?:
2 Corinthians 10:8 – “So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it.”
Well, given that Paul isn’t Jesus then perhaps it could be arrogance, but I think it’s just good pride. Confidence that is given to us by our Brother King Jesus! Please read the Bible and decide for yourself this matter, because there is a lot of evidence that we have been misled by tradition in an attempt to appear humble.