We No Longer Live in Christendom

Baltimore Sun October 23, 2017

Article: Churches merge, close: “We no longer live in Christendom. We really have to accept that it’s a thing of the past”

The quote above is from Reverend Daniel Webster, canon for evangelism and media for the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. He’s studied the trend of churches closing and merging for 20 years. The article presents his point of view, as well as documenting the decline in church attendance which occasions the closing and merging.

Jonathan Pitts, the writer of the article, offers Mr. Webster’s opinion of one of the most important factors in declining church numbers.

While it’s hard to pinpoint a single most important factor, Webster says, it’s impossible to ignore the repeal of most of the old state blue laws, regulations that had long placed restrictions on commercial activity on Sundays, starting in the mid-20th century.

Today’s faith leaders must compete with everything from youth soccer and pro football games to shopping at the mall.

Mr. Pitts doesn’t really spend much time on causes. He just assumes that competition from the world is the cause and details a number of church’s efforts to merge or close.

However, I do not agree that competition from the world is the cause of church closings and mergers.The world has always been in hostile competition with the Kingdom of God. Believers have been in a fight since the Garden of Eden with those who oppose God and His plans. Perhaps you’ll be surprised at my opinion that the church has also been in hostile competition with the Kingdom. The church (in general) and the world are not much different from each other. Churches claim to follow Jesus, but when we compare their beliefs and practices with the Bible we can see that they don’t have much in common. On the other hand, compare churches with the world and we can see that the real merging has already taken place.

Just because the church has some trappings that look Christian, does not mean a church is automatically part of the Kingdom of God or the body of believers. Much of what the church has done is to merge some stories and tradition borrowed from the Bible with self-seeking behavior. Way back in 325 A. D. when the Roman emperor Constantine took a fancy to some of the Christian concepts the merger with the world got a big boost. For centuries the visible church has been in a tug-of-war with the world sometimes holding to God’s Word better than at other times. But in modern times it has mostly been tugged in the wrong direction.

The church merged with the world a long time ago, and the loss of some people or buildings is not the biggest hurt. It is the loss of God’s Spirit due the refusal to do what God says that has really sunk the church. Churches might be shrinking or merging, but the body of Christ has been steady and growing because we hold tight to the Word of God, living and teaching it to all who would listen.

I don’t even agree that “we no longer live in Christendom.” Believers have never lived in Christendom. We are salted throughout the world, and even throughout the church or churches. A church member is not the same thing as a believer although there are believers who might be church members. The world has always been hostile to God and the body of believers, and we’ve never had a Christendom. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we no longer live in Churchdom.

Shalom

Bruce

Of Pigs and Men

Jesus meets a demon possessed man near a herd of pigs in the country of the Gadarenes or Gerasenes as recorded for us in Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8. He commands the demons, who call themselves Legion, to leave the man, and Legion’s last request is that Jesus allow them to go into the nearby pigs. Granting Legion’s request, they leave the man and enter the herd of about 2,000 which immediately rushes downhill and drowns itself in the Sea of Galilee.

Whenever I read these accounts, one of the first things that puzzles me is that the people ask Jesus to leave the area. Why, I wonder, would they send away such a powerful miracle worker, one who had returned one of their brothers to them? Why would they not rejoice that a local travel hazard was removed? What if the demons left that man and infected others?

Some teachers say that the expense of the pigs was a factor. Jesus had just cost someone (or maybe several someone’s) a lot of money. Others say that these people weren’t supposed to be growing pigs for market because pork was not to be eaten according to the Mosaic Law. I get that these were possibilities, and perhaps they can stay in the mix for explaining the incident. But they just are not that satisfactory to me. Wouldn’t the loss of the pigs be worth removing a hazard like a man who could break chains and attack people? I’d think so. Were the citizens Jews, who would care about the Law, or were they gentiles, who wouldn’t? The ESV study Bible says that they were Gentiles, but there must’ve been some Jews around too. And Jews aren’t exactly known for always sticking with all of the Law anyway.

I was able to make a great deal of progress understanding this situation as I read further in Mark and got to the rich young man of Mark 10, and the question on the authority of Jesus in Mark 11. Now how, you may ask, did I connect the people of Gennesaret unwilling to allow Jesus to stay in the area with a rich man unwilling to give up his riches and the unwillingness of the chief priests to answer Jesus about whether the baptism of John was from heaven or from man? I’m glad you asked that. (You might be guessing at the same conclusion as I because of the way I phrased the question.)

The chief priests could not answer a simple question, because they refused to acknowledge that the authority of Jesus was from God. If they did it would mean that their authority was from man, and they would have had to give up their cushy positions. The rich man knew that Jesus was a “good teacher,” but not so much that he was willing to suffer economic harm to follow Him. The Gennesaret people knew Jesus was at the very least a holy man of God, but were not willing to suffer further economic harm in order for Him to have stayed in the area.

In other words, none of these people wanted to go all the way. They saw the miracles done by Jesus, acknowledged His power and authority, recognized that He was from God, but didn’t take the next step of risking everything to follow Him.

In modern times we find the same sorts of attitudes. We hear people saying “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” all the time, in song and prayer and sermons. We see regular attendance at a church service, with many an “Amen” during the preaching. There are bumper stickers and hats and T-shirts proclaiming that the wearers “know Jesus.” Mega-churches abound, pastors have carved out positions with nice paychecks claiming to speak for God, and television stars rake in the bucks while hawking their latest books and trinkets.

Very few will see the Kingdom of God because the ticket into the Kingdom costs a lot more than simply raising a hand and “going forward.” Faith is putting your money where your mouth is, like the rich young man refused to do. It is the willingness to give up possibly everything you have to follow Him, like the people of Gennesaret could have done. It is submitting your will to His, and giving everything to welcome Him into your heart unlike the chief priests, Pharisees, and other religious leaders then and now.

Jesus obviously had authority from God because He did what God told Him to do and taught what God wanted Him to teach. Everything Jesus did or said was right from the written Word, and could easily be checked if one wanted to do so. But we don’t want. We fear to give up our position, our money, our reputations or our lives because the short term suffering is not worth the long term gain.

Like Frank Sinatra or Cain, we want to do it our way. We want to retain parts of the world system and try to merge them into the Kingdom. We say “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing,” not realizing that we are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. We want to patch the garment with unshrunk cloth because we don’t want the work of making it right. We try to fit new wine and old wineskins together when they are just not compatible.

We refuse to accept a message from the Christ because it will cause us too much trouble and might wreck the nice little corner of the world we have made for ourselves. It might cause us some discomfort. It might make us change. It might make us realize that even with the talisman of the name of Jesus we are still far short of what God requires of us.

Shalom

Bruce

The Demise of Christian Bookstores

Publishing a book is not an easy task. Traditional publishers want you to get a literary agent and won’t accept manuscripts if you don’t. A literary agent can be good or bad, but mostly they are limited by their own perspective on what will sell. What sells is frequently not really connected with the Bible or good Bible teaching but more likely something based on feelings only loosely connected with the Bible. If you write a book, as I think I have, that is not only biblical but comes from an unexpected direction then you are pretty much out of luck with traditional publishing. You won’t even get a second look.

Another huge problem in publishing is the Christian bookstore. My wife and I are getting ready to take another trip to see family in San Diego. So I thought perhaps it would be a good idea to buy some copies of my book and take them around to the bookstores there and see if they would like to carry some copies. I started researching on the web to find the stores and got a shock. One chain calling themselves Family Christian had just closed (something like 240 stores) after filing for bankruptcy a couple years previous. Another chain calling themselves Lifeway tells me on their website that they don’t accept Product that is self-published. The “Product” must come from a traditional publisher or a literary agent. A third option I remembered in San Diego was the Evangelical Bible Bookstore which was famous for a long time because they carried a lot of serious theology books, were very knowledgeable and helpful, and discounted their books. To my surprise they had gone the way of many independents and closed their doors too after 40 years in business.

Locally, the three or four independent Christian bookstores we used to have are also out of business. The only stores around here are a Barnes and Noble (not exactly a Christian hotspot) and a couple of church bookstores. We used to have a Borders also, but they bit the dust some years ago. You would think we could maybe try the church bookstores and see if they would carry our book. But the problem with the church bookstores is if you have a book that is not “church friendly,” such as our book Whole Bible Christianity, or you are not one of their own famous people or pastors, you are not going to get a fair hearing from them. They only carry stuff with which they agree, usually written by their own people.

The church bookstore does okay because the overhead is paid by the church, and they don’t have to meet sales goals. They are present just to push the publications and music of the particular church or denomination. Catholic bookstores sell Catholic books, Calvary Chapel sells books by Chuck Smith or others of their pastors, Christian Science sells their own teachings, and so on. Since Whole Bible Christianity just teaches the Bible, and we don’t push a particular church teaching, we are out of luck.

So why is the Christian bookstore (or even just bookstores in general) disappearing from the landscape? Many people jump to blame the internet, and Amazon in particular. They have a point. Amazon has a tremendous selection, fast shipping, discounted prices, and are open 24/7. But did the rise of Amazon kill the bookstore, or did Amazon and others like them come into existence because the bookstore wasn’t getting the job done in the first place? Did Amazon kill the bookstore, or did the bookstore help create Amazon?

In my estimation, Amazon or the internet in general has not killed the bookstore. It is also not the main factor hammering the traditional publisher either (traditional publisher sales, Christian and otherwise, are also slumping). Two things I think are doing it. One is the lack of vision; the ability to discern what people need and would want, or if you will, the ability to tell the difference between a good product and a bad one. The second is the church itself.

Publishers and bookstores have to make money. Printing is expensive, and carrying space in stores costs money. If a publisher prints a bunch of copies of a book and they don’t sell, it can get costly. A bookstore has limited space, so if a book doesn’t sell it is a double whammy because the space could’ve been used by a book that did sell. So the industry is forced to gear all of their decisions around what will sell. If they make a mistake it can get real expensive real quick. So the nature of the market causes them to be super cautious. The publishers use literary agents to sift the writers material, which helps a little, but the literary agents work off of commission and tend to be extra cautious also. They have reputations to protect too, because if they keep recommending books that bomb then they will not be able to continue in the field. Everything is driven by money, which is not necessarily a bad thing (costs have to be paid somehow) but it tends to make people in the industry want to find the guaranteed “sure thing” and stay away from stuff they simply don’t have the vision, skill, imagination or judgment to evaluate properly.

A couple of cases in point. The first Harry Potter book was universally turned down by every publisher by the account of J. K. Rowling. A book called The Shack which has become a multi-million bestseller (although I think it is a piece of trash) was also turned down by everyone. Many more examples could be listed, but I think you get it. People in the book industry have purposefully become dumber than a sack full of hammers, too afraid to take a chance because of the dollars involved and reputations that could suffer.

The same problem afflicts the Christian book industry. But another problem serves to double the damage, and that is the church. I will go out on a limb here and say that the church doesn’t teach the Bible anymore. They just teach opinions about the Bible. Pastors, priests and rabbis have (in general) made themselves into champion ear-ticklers. They have convinced themselves that no one wants the truth, because the truth may not fill the pew or the offering plate. The lure of a bigger paycheck, a mega-church or a spot on late night talk shows is too strong for most of them.

Obviously, the Bible is the champion bestseller in history, so why would we back away from teaching it? Money and ego, again. It is easier to write and sell a book catering to the latest fad or to sentiment than it is to take the time to learn and teach the Bible or anything from it. You also don’t (seemingly or immediately) get very far with Bible teachings because those require humility to learn and teach.

Fortunately, God doesn’t need the world’s systems (including the worldly church) to get His Word out. One way or another He gets the job done. His Spirit is causing all sorts of people all over the world to wake up and embrace the pure, plain, soul-saving teachings of the Lord of Life. We may or may not be able to sell a single book, but His work goes on and on for eternity. His holy, just and life giving will is being done, and you can come along for the ride if you want. A bookstore could find that the difference between bankruptcy and success lies in the radical marketing concept of the Book that beats all others. Publishers would see fewer reverses if they would just commit to serving up the meat of the Word instead of the bland, nutrition-less saccharine they insist on providing at the present time. If we submit to His Word we find that judgment for finding what really matters comes roaring back.

The bookstore, the publisher, and the church/synagogue are sowing the seeds of their own demise. Blame Amazon if you want and it makes you feel better. But you might want to look in the mirror instead.

Shalom
Bruce

Granddaughter’s ASL Song

I can’t help it. I really like this for some reason. So I’m posting it everywhere I can. If you’ve already seen it, thanks for watching. If you haven’t you are really missing out. Even if I am a proud grandpa. Raine puts so much expression into her signing.

Off her left shoulder is her brother Isaiah, and the next spot further to Raine’s left (blond hair) is her sister Keira. So we got a bonus of all three in one song.

Of course, I absolutely do not approve of the person who wrote and sang the song – a guy by the name of Ray Boltz. After a long career as a “Christian” musician he recently declared he was gay. He is now divorced from a wife of several decades. Typically, this is modern Christianity. The church does not teach the Bible, only opinions about the Bible, and this is one of the results. I’m sure he was encouraged to sin this way by all the “affirmation” homosexuals are receiving in the church. This is the fruit of the anti-christ. The guy sings nicely, and composes some nice songs. The sentiment is nice. But all the singing about Jesus doesn’t mean a thing if it is only coming from the lips. If it is not in line with God’s Word, it doesn’t matter how much sentiment you put into it – sincere lawlessness is still lawlessness. And Jesus will still declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:23)

I don’t like mixing these two things – my granddaughter’s excellent work in ASL and a singer who has chosen a destructive lifestyle change. But something needs to be said, even if it is not pleasant. As far as “affirming” the homosexual lifestyle choice, people who do so are just as destructive as the lifestyle itself. See our video ‘Am I A Homophobe?’ for just a start on the facts, statistics, and quotes from homosexual authors concerning the awfulness of this high-handed sin.

Shalom,
Bruce

Opposite Day

I was thinking about what to call today. For pagans, it’s Easter Sunday. I know that’ll get me in trouble. I know I’m not supposed to actually connect people’s behavior directly with something that is not biblical. I usually don’t; I try to teach the truth and let people make up their own minds. But it’s tough in some cases to be neutral. Some people just make themselves an easy target.

So I was thinking we could call today “Ham Sunday.” But then we’d have to call Christmas, Ham (whatever day it falls on), but this might cause some confusion. Then I was thinking we could call it pagan Day but there isn’t enough discrimination there between days. All the other so-called Christian holidays are also pagan. We generally say “Merry Pagan Holiday” which is pretty good, but lacks a little oomph. Naw, I needed something more fitting. Something more descriptive. Something more flexible. Because after all that is the name of the Christian game they are playing. After considering several other names, I settled on Opposite Day.

Opposite Day is where we do whatever is opposite of what God wants. Does He want us to stay away from unclean meat? Well, let’s make it part of our tradition. Does He want us not to have images that might lead people to worship gods other than Him? No problem. We just use our freedom in Christ as well as the cosmic eraser of Christ to sanctify unholy things.

I know that the name Opposite Day is not particularly discriminating. All the standard Christian holidays, heck, every day, is Opposite Day when you have freedom in Christ to rub God’s face in our disobedience. But I capitalize the term so that we know that today is a SPECIAL opposite day where we deliberately pick opposites of God’s desires. Then we coat them in sentiment and tradition which we call “love” but are the opposite of God’s love, and comfort ourselves that our “intentions” are good though opposite of God’s. As long as we “think” it’s okay and as long as we don’t “intend” to do opposite, we can coat our perversions with the opposite of God’s intent and still call it good.

We do it all the time anyway. Immorality takes many different forms, but we can use the techniques we learn in Opposite Day to cover all the other opposites we do too. Sexual immorality becomes an alternate lifestyle. Marriage vows become marriage promises. Sentiment is substituted for love. We’ll just wash some feet to make up for all the theft, adultery, and other opposites we’ve accepted and confirmed.

Happy Opposite Day.

Shalom,
Bruce

Perfect

Not long ago I had an exchange on Facebook with a man who posted this little tidbit.

“WWJD. We can’t be perfect like Jesus so in addition to ‘What Would Jesus Do,’ we need to be like ‘what would Jesus have me do given my current situation and given what He did for on the cross'”.

It’s a fairly typical comment coming from a fairly typical church educated person. Not unusual at all, really. But I have a little different view of the subject so I asked him, “So what then do you do with the words of Jesus?”

“Your therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48, ESV).

His response was “We strive to be perfect like Him but never can because of sin. At least not here and now.”

It went on from there with him getting typically more and more upset as I presented more and more biblical evidence to support Jesus’ statement, and equally typically ended with him removing me as a friend. This happens a lot when church Christians are confronted with the Bible they claim to follow. Give ’em some truth and they fold up their tents and run away. Instead of practicing the love they claim, they practice anger and pride and cut themselves off from the truth.

The standard church teaching is that we cannot be perfect. The Bible teaching is that we can. How do we resolve this conflict? Either Jesus was telling us to do something well within our grasp, or He is a harsh taskmaster asking us to do something beyond our ability. He clearly tells us to be perfect like God. There is no ambiguity. Seemingly it’s a tall order. But perhaps not so hard when we realize exactly what biblical perfection really means.

The word perfect literally means lacking in nothing. It also means “complete.” (Compare 2 Timothy 3:17 in both the AV and the ESV for instance.) Sometimes it can mean mature (compare Ephesians 4:13 in the AV and ESV). So when Jesus says be perfect as God is perfect, He means exactly what He says. We have the Word, the Spirit, and a new heart of flesh. What else do we lack? We are complete, lacking in nothing.

“And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:4, ESV)

So here’s the difference. The church says we cannot be perfect, which is a hopeless state of affairs. According to this teaching, we are locked into permanently displeasing God. They are saying that we cannot do better. We will never be able to please God. It is a subtle difference, and depressing, but it is also counter to what the Bible teaches. Jesus says that we certainly can do better. He is optimistic and encouraging. We have power in the Spirit. We have a love of God, and His Word to guide us. We can confess and repent and be forgiven. We can indeed be perfect.

We may not be “mature” all the time, but it is not because we CANNOT be mature. It is because we WILL NOT. We have it within our ability to perfectly follow everything God says, but we do not always choose to follow. This is the big difference. If we do not do something perfect, it is because we choose not to. We don’t like this, because our pride gets in the way.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:7–10, ESV)

But it really isn’t a big deal, because we can rectify it as soon as we realize what we did. We can humble ourselves, confess and repent. We also keep working on taking in God’s Words and moving toward greater maturity. The standard church teaching of “cannot” robs us of motivation. It is a hopeless teaching. Jesus on the other hand is hopeful. His teaching encourages us; His Word provides all that we need. Thank Him that we have what we need to be “perfect,” and can get out of the rat race of imperfection easily. We just have to want it with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (Philippians 3:12, ESV)

This is a sobering thought. It doesn’t make the average human very happy, because instead of sitting in our comfortable mud pen of complacency we have to move out of the pen and wash ourselves clean with His Word. We “cannot” use the excuse of “cannot” to stay comfortable and complacent. Well we CAN, it’s just not really an excuse that God will buy. We have a goal. We can do better. We can bear more fruit, and practice the fruit of the Spirit better than we do. It is not comfortable, but it is doable. Of course it is doable. Jesus said we could do it.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:20–23, ESV)

Shalom
Bruce

Passover 2014

We are getting ready for our lamb barbecue tomorrow night, looking forward to spending time showing love for God by doing as He commands His people to do. We touch God and touch each other in an intimate fellowship that goes way past the physical markers and deep into a spiritual connection. His love flows to us, and our love flows back and between. We remember what God has done for His people, is doing, and will do. Remember means to speak or act on behalf of someone, which is why we can “remember” the future promises of God.

Some are speaking of the “blood moons” that will appear on this Passover and the Tabernacles celebration this year, as well as the same two holidays next year. I’m not big into that stuff, but it probably has some significance. Coupled with the increase in earthquakes, volcanic activity, and cultural degradation, we can definitely see that labor pains for the world are increasing. Maintaining our love for God through His commands is coming under attack at a greater intensity, but He said a “falling away” would happen before the end. Therefore be encouraged and keep your faith strong, standing on the Rock of His Word and our Savior Jesus the Christ.

I feel sorry for those who do not participate in God’s holidays, either because they just don’t follow God or because they classify His living oracles as “old” or “outdated” or for another group besides believers. Paradise awaits a change from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh, sensitive and trembling at His Word. All it takes is humble obedience to find out the nature of real love and spiritual renewal and refreshment. I feel sorry for those who choose their own way, like Cain, substituting their own understanding for God’s Word and offering slovenly disobedience through physical symbols such as ham and bunnies. The symbols show the disobedience in the balance of their lives, corrupt and unclean and spurning the love that is waiting. Compromise shows its fruit in sexual immorality and unfruitfulness through acceptance of behavior God said would cause death. No wonder they are known for hypocrisy. One cannot practice hate for God in trashing His commands and expect God to accept the resulting uncleanness using the cosmic eraser of Jesus. If we harbor iniquity in our hearts, our offerings mean nothing. “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7)

Rejoice, children of God. Look up for our redemption draweth nigh. Stand strong in the Lord and the power of His might. Pursue righteousness through humble submission to every word of His glorious instructions. Hold fast to the hope He has given, practicing as best we can every tiny utterance from our loving God and Savior Jesus our Messiah. Eat His body and drink His blood, taking in every breath from God through His Word and breathing it back to Him. Rejoice as our meager offerings of obedience gain His regard and we find acceptance in Him because of our love and practice of His Word.

Shalom
Bruce

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

Religious leaders demand a sign (Matthew 16:1; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16) from Jesus. They wanted a “sign” because Moses used some. The Prophet that was to come, which Moses spoke about, was supposed to be like him (Deuteronomy 18:15-19). So they reasoned that if Jesus were the Prophet He would use similar signs. They should’ve reasoned that the Prophet would be humble and hold to God’s Law completely. This would in fact be more “like Moses.” Remember that Israel wanted signs from Moses too, but were never satisfied with them. They were not really interested in signs, ever. Except maybe as a substitute for TV.

 

Signs don’t do anything to convert anybody. They sure didn’t work with Israel, nor do they work now. How can a sign do anything for those who refuse to see? Worse, who see and refuse to obey? It’s like a fireworks show where everybody oohs and ahhs. But the end of the show is also the end of the impact.

 

Jesus skillfully goes to the heart of the matter. First, He says they couldn’t properly interpret or obey a sign from God anyway. This is a biblical equivalent of “blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other” as my dad used to say. Second, He said that only the sign of Jonah would be given (Matthew 12:39, 16:4; Luke 11:29). Make a note for yourself here that the people of Nineveh repented at the mere preaching of Jonah. He didn’t use any signs.

 

Of course, signs were on display all around the leaders. Jesus was healing, casting out demons and raising people from the dead left and right. However, they refused to act on the signs. They were like children sitting in the market place, singing to each other in the wisdom of the world. They wanted Him to dance to their music. But Jesus doesn’t dance like that for beans.
31“To what then shall I compare the men of this generation, and what are they like? 32“They are like children who sit in the market place and call to one another, and they say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’ 33“For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon!’ 34“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35“Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” (Luke 7:31-35 NASB95)

 

Jesus wasn’t going to give them the dog and pony show they wanted (Matthew 11:16; Luke 7:32). His wisdom, especially in the proper use of the Law, was proven by all of His actions. If the leaders really wanted confirmation that Jesus was the Prophet there was plenty of evidence to go around. The refusal to jump when they said jump went a long way towards His arrest and false conviction. No, signs have about as much chance of making hard-hearted people “see” as the United States Marine Band playing “Stars and Stripes Forever” has of making deaf people hear.

 

Doing a miracle is related to asking for a sign. People want their senses stimulated with signs and miracles, but this is not the same as a softened heart. Is it better to do miracles, or just do what God says? The false prophet (coming soon to a government near you) will do all sorts of miracles to get people to worship the beast. He will be very successful, for a while, because there are those who want any miracle except the miracle of changing a heart of stone to a heart of flesh.

 

According to Jesus, many people who merely do miracles (or “signs”) will not enter His Kingdom. The person acting on His Word will (this could include miracles, properly done).
22“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ 24“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Matthew 7:22-24 NASB95)

 

The one who performs a miracle, but is “lawless,” will have to depart. The one who did no miracles but does the will of God gets to enter. Later, Jesus will tell Thomas that a person who does not see, yet believes (acts on His Word) is more blessed than the one needing a sign.
27Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” (John 20:27-29 NASB95)

 

A miracle or sign is a piece of cake. What’s really hard is taking the small steps of obedience to God on a daily basis, even when no one is looking.

 

Shalom

 

From the book, Whole Bible Christianity

Judas, Compassionate Betrayer

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. (John 12:4–6, ESV)

Lots of people are trying to make Jesus into some kind of social worker concerned with redistribution of wealth like any good liberal. However, if you want a biblical picture of a liberal, look no further than Judas Iscariot.

It appears on the surface as if Judas is very compassionate. He is compassionate about the poor. He is compassionate about redistributing money and a fair share. But mostly he is compassionate about Judas. He is like today’s liberal politician or Christian – he is very compassionate about other people’s money. Mostly so he can get his cut. He looks at the pure nard perfume as a cash windfall, and wants to use compassion for the poor as a cover for getting his fingers on it. He tries to lay a guilt trip on Mary about the waste and the expense so he can slip a few coins into his own pocket, and makes himself look holier-than-thou in the process.

The bottom line is he is the one who is guilty of theft, betrayal and hypocrisy. Interesting how those tend to go together. He looks like a believer but underneath his whitewash the love of money drives him to steal and eventually sell out our Messiah Jesus. So many today are spiritual descendants of this man. On the surface they look holy and spout biblical one-liners like they really mean them. Yet they betray Jesus with every dollar pinched and every selfish agenda pushed. Hands are in the cookie jar or held out for a 30-piece “fair share” payoff while pious lips stridently preach concern for others. They have no intention of practicing what they preach. Secretly they sell Jesus out by trading His precious Word for the kingdoms of the world. And look good doing it too.

Funny how Jesus didn’t do anything about it at the time. He just kept feeding Judas rope until he had enough to hang himself.

Relating to People in the Bible

There are different Bible people I identify with at different times. But probably the one I most identify with is John the Baptist. He was “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” and called out for repentance saying “prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Matthew 3; Mark 1; Isaiah 40). There is no record of him healing anyone, or raising the dead, making blind people see or casting out demons. All he did was preach the Word and baptize. Out in the desert. With funky garments and a slim diet of grasshoppers and wild honey (imagine arguing with killer bees for THAT). I could stand to go on a diet, but grasshoppers and wild honey?

I might not be eating the same stuff or wearing the same clothes, but I definitely feel I’m out in the desert preaching repentance to rocks. But the message needs to go out. And Jesus is coming, and I think coming soon. The church I think is by and large succumbing to philosophies of men so somebody has to do it.

So which biblical figure do you relate to, and why?