Moses’ Seat

Our sixth guideline is to follow leaders only as they lead from the Word. When inquiring about the validity of the Law in a believer’s life, sooner or later this Scripture will pop up.

 

1Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. (Matthew 23:1-3 NASB95)

 

On the surface, it looks like we should do everything the scribes and Pharisees say. But let’s look closer. Notice that the leaders “seated themselves.” This I think is a clear indication of usurping God’s authority. There’s no provision for Pharisees or Sadducees in the Law. Even if we could classify them under the term “elders,” Jesus says they’re hypocrites.

 

Jesus is teaching us to follow the leaders only as long as they follow Moses (the written Law). Deuteronomy 18:9 (NASB95) says not to imitate the “detestable things” of the nations. Paul says “imitate me as I imitate Christ” in 1 Corinthians 11:1 and “imitate God” in Ephesians 5:1. John says something similar.

 

Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. (3 John 11, ESV)

 

Why just the written Law, and not the oral? Because the written is the only standard that we can verify came from God. Some claim the oral law came directly from Moses, but there’s no evidence of this in the record. Plus, we can tell what comes from the Father because it glorifies the Father. If it doesn’t glorify God (and much of the Talmud and church tradition does not) then it’s from men and not from God. This claim is one of those power grabs from the Bible that some religious leaders do.

 

Many times in Israel’s past, the leaders led into idolatry and many horrible practices. Is Jesus saying we are required to follow leaders when they lead off the path? Emphatically not. When they take a left turn, we should keep on going straight. The church is routinely leading away from the Word now too; all we have to do is look at the results. We shouldn’t be blindly following those leaders either.

 

As long as the teaching fits in the framework and on the foundation that Moses laid down (Genesis through Deuteronomy) then we should follow. All other books that were added to the Bible had to pass this muster, and so should every other teaching that claims to be God’s. When a teacher departs from the Word, true believers should depart from the teacher.

 

From the book Whole Bible Christianity chapter 9 Follow Leaders Only as They Follow the Word

Fast Food

A comparison that occurred to me a few years ago is that churches have become like fast food franchises. They only serve certain food a certain way, they replicate only after themselves, and they have a rigid, top-down management structure. If you get tired of the same old food at one franchise, you have to go to another. A burger place doesn’t serve pizza, and a taco stand doesn’t serve burgers. If you want to change something, you can’t. It doesn’t matter how many complaint cards you fill out. The number of outlets is the most important thing to a franchise. The real concern for a franchise is making money. Yep, the more I think about it the more the current crop of churches looks a whole lot like a bunch of fast food stands.

Over 247 billion served.

Fear of God part 2

If you’re going to worship a god, make sure He’s the God who can destroy all other gods. Don’t choose those wimpy gods who cannot see or hear and don’t even have the power to blow their own noses. If more people feared God, we might see more gentle treatment of each other. We might also see a greater interest in what He says.

 

“The rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you.” (Deuteronomy 19:20 NASB95)

 

My son tells me that there were a number of things he didn’t do when he was younger. He avoided them because he was genuinely afraid of what I’d do to him if he misbehaved. “My dad would kill me” was not such a bad motivation for avoiding certain behavior. Especially when there is a lack of understanding in the child, and the big issue is just to avoid harmful behavior. Of course I wasn’t ever going to actually kill (or even injure) him (shhhh!) but it didn’t hurt to be afraid of me at least a little. Enough for him to avoid straying into destructive actions.

 

I love my kids and do not want them to learn the hard way. I want them to avoid natural consequences. So I develop other, perhaps more immediate and painful, artificial consequences to help them learn how to make good choices. A swat on the butt as a reminder to obey Dad is much better than getting run over by a car. The getting run over thing tends to be a one-time only learning experience. God does the same for us.

 

7I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. (Isaiah 45:7 KJV)

 

Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? (Lamentations 3:37–39, ESV)

 

God creates evil in the sense that there are bad things that happen if we don’t listen to Him. He does it because He loves us, and wants us to see the cost of moving away from Him before it’s too late. If a little bit of true terror will help me choose correctly, it is much better than learning too late that my choice was wrong. He wants us to fear Him above any person, teaching, or situation that might tempt us to abandon trust and obedience. It is not a blind fear that He wants, but it is still a fear that is tinged partly with terror as well as respect and reverence.

 

14I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him. (Ecclesiastes 3:14 KJV)

 

12“You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’ In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy, And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. 13“It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, And He shall be your dread. (Isaiah 8:12-13 NASB95)

 

Fear of Him should override fear of anything else. If we are His kids, we do not fear destruction or rejection. But it’s good to be afraid of what He can and will do if we are not on His good side. If you are not His kid, you have every right to be terrified when He comes for you in judgment. One way or the other, sooner or later, fear of Him will impress itself on everyone. Better to feel it now and move closer to Him than to feel it when it’s too late.

 

From Whole Bible Christianity chapter 2 Fear

The Word is a Mirror

Some try to peddle the falsehood that because there is some “bad stuff” in the Bible that it is God who is promoting or responsible for it. Bad stuff is different for different people. Some don’t like God’s judging of homosexuals. Some think that because bad people did bad things like rape or murder it must be God’s fault because He didn’t stop it. But every person who makes this kind of judgment gets it wrong. They blame God when they should be blaming people for not following what God, the source of life and love, commands.

If a person thinks God is hard, or mean, or unjust, or approves evil, it’s because those things are in their own hearts. The Bible merely reflects what is inside. Since God doesn’t sit or roll over or jump through hoops or bark on command like a circus dog for them, they pass judgment on His methods and motives as if they were in His place. Secretly they buy into Satan’s vision of “be like God,” and judging Him is one way of trying to get there.

People have one of two reactions when they read His Word – humility or pride. The prideful heart looks in the mirror, rejects the reflection of his own heart, judges God and says, “I will not accept what you are saying about me.” The humble heart sees his evil reflected and says, “Father, have mercy on me a sinner. Forgive me for the sake of your Son’s sacrifice.”

All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:2, ESV)

Adopted Into Salvation

God has given us space to “choose this day whom we will serve” as Joshua says (Joshua 24:15). But those who are born naturally also have to be adopted into God’s family no matter their family tree. As Jesus says in John chapter 3, everyone must be “born again” to enter God’s kingdom. This spiritual birth or adoption is much more binding than natural birth.
I was adopted at 14 by my own request. I asked my natural parents to relinquish their parental rights and signed my own adoption papers with my new family. So I understand the concept very well. Adoption means that the former family is not yours anymore. You have a new one. Even your birth certificate is changed to reflect the change in families.
I don’t agree with people who were adopted young and later search for their birth parents. Birth parents that let go of their offspring are just egg donors and sperm donors to me. They have nothing to do with the blood, sweat and tears of raising a child. So in my view they are not really the parents. Adoption is permanent, and at the age I was adopted I had the privilege of choosing a new family. They are more than merely genetic influences for me.
When we are adopted into God’s family, it is the same. We make the choice, and it’s permanent. God takes us as His children, with all of our faults and failures. He chooses us even if we are not the model child. Like my adoptive parents, He sticks with us through our teenage years when we know everything but are still dumber than rocks. He is patient, loving, and kind, and requires that we live by the rules of His household. We are treated just like any other son or daughter, protected and nourished and disciplined to stay on the right path.

From Whole Bible Christianity chapter 2 Salvation

Can’t Do the Law?

Another mask for rich biblical truth is the teaching that we “can’t do the law” as in “we are unable.” You’ve heard it said that if you follow the Law you have to follow it perfectly (citing Galatians 5:3 or James 2:10). Since that is impossible, goes the theory, then the Law must be replaced by the righteousness of Jesus. Again, the Scriptures tell a different story. God tells His people at Sinai that the Law He is proclaiming is not out of reach.

11“For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. 12“It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 13“Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 14“But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14 NASB95)

Paul echoes this principle in Romans 10:1-11. In another place Paul agrees with Moses yet again, and tells us that with Christ all things are possible. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NASB95.) Jesus wouldn’t have told us we could be perfect (before the resurrection even) unless it was within our grasp.

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48, NASB95)

Our faith (trust and obedience) is counted as righteousness (Romans 4) but we must continue in faith, abiding in every Word from His mouth. It’s not the Law that can’t be done. God’s Word can easily be “done,” or He would not have given it to us. The Law is an easy yoke and a light burden (Matthew 11:25-30). What cannot be done is to earn God’s salvation through following some rules (or Laws). We can’t trade our own righteousness (it is “filthy rags” according to Isaiah 64:6) for salvation. No one can earn enough merit before God to claim any sort of righteous standing sufficient for salvation. Let me say it again: you can’t earn salvation by following the Law. Faith saves; Law pursued as works doesn’t.

Obviously, though, there are Laws we cannot observe. Some of them involve a Temple or a priesthood, which we do not have on earth at the moment. Others involve the administering of penalties. This is mostly impossible now because His body is not a sovereign state recognized by all the other states. At the present time, our kingdom is like leaven working its way through a lump of dough (the earth, Matthew 13:33). We don’t yet have a separate state, with borders and a capital city.

One of the side effects of teaching “we can’t do the law” is that it makes God out to be a sadist. That’s the conclusion if God actually does give us a code we can’t follow. Or we make God out to be a liar, because we create two different teachings that contradict but are supposed to come from God. What we’ve really done with this teaching is to mix truth and error.

Just because there are some things in the Law we can’t do today, or some things we can’t do with the Law, that doesn’t mean what we can do should be left by the wayside. We can take His holidays as our own and forsake the pagan ones. We can go on His diet, which doesn’t include pork and shellfish. We can share His Word and exercise mercy, justice and compassion as much as we are able. In short, there are more things we can do than can’t.

Church Dysfunction

I’ve had folks tell me that they and their churches are functioning well without parts of the Bible (or Law). They still don’t look like the first century church, but apparently that’s okay and, well, the missing laws don’t really matter. I’m told any dysfunction I see (or people measure) is a good thing due to welcoming all types with open arms. So of course this book is off base to them; they don’t see anything wrong.

I don’t agree. The mere fact that the whole of the Word is not taught or practiced by the church in general is by itself a huge indicator of building on sand. The facts that discipleship is not effective and the fruit of the Spirit is in short supply are signs that something is not right. If the dysfunction was just from welcoming any sinner, you’d think after a while the old hands would not be as dysfunctional. The fruit of the Spirit would be popping out all over. We’d easily be able to make new Bible disciples, too. But the dysfunction affects long-time attendees the same as new ones. It affects old-line denominations just like newer ones. Based on observation, education, personal experience, other people’s testimony, and professional surveys we need a lot of improvement. We need to repent and get back to the first century church whole Bible practice.

How could anyone be happy with what we’ve got? The church in Acts was full of the fire of the Spirit, growing in love and power and community. The church of today is, um, not so much. The difference is in a whole Bible belief and practice. We still have a little fire, and there are good things being accomplished. We do a good job attracting people with a rock concert or revival, and not so good keeping them going in the faith. We’re great at making decisions for Christ; not so great at making disciples. The people who think everything’s okay are either not paying attention or are like the proverbial frog in a pot of water being slowly brought up to boil (they won’t jump out and will die if you do it slowly enough). I’m sure the people before the flood thought everything was fine. Israel ignored or outright killed prophets for suggesting that all was not right in Jerusalem. The skies were clear over Sodom and Gomorrah the day it rained fire and brimstone too. Some won’t know they’ve got a sandy foundation until the storm hits.

‘Whole Bible Christianity’ chapter 1 A Part Bible Church

Bad Shepherds

We can learn a lot about leaders or shepherds from Bible examples (Jeremiah 12:10, 23:1; Ezekiel 34; Zechariah 11). The good shepherds are good because they stick with what God says no matter what. Jesus of course is the pattern for all good shepherds everywhere. They care for the flock so much they are willing to forego fame or compensation. They stand up to the bad shepherds; endure beatings and all manner of ill treatment. They deliver God’s Word unadulterated and straight with no bending and no pragmatism. The good shepherd cares for the sheep so much he directs them always to the safe pastures of God’s Word.

Bad shepherds (or prophets) care more for themselves than for the flock. God gave us the method for identifying them in Deuteronomy 13:1-5, Isaiah 8:20 and the like. If they tell us to go after other gods, they are false. If they do something that seems right or good (like a prophecy that comes true, a healing or a rising from the dead) but then tell us to go after other gods they are also bad. Going after other gods doesn’t mean just statues in the living room. It means to stop doing what God says and do something else. This is why Adam and Eve got kicked out of the Garden – they “went after other gods” when they departed from abiding in God’s Word.

Some bad shepherds are so bad they are referred to as wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). The better the wool suit, the better they are at leading the sheep astray. The more they use terms in teaching that sound as if they come from the Bible the better their disguise. All they need is to mix just a little bit of error in with a lot of truth.

The bad shepherd slips up when he or she tells us in the midst of a convincing monologue or right after an amazing healing not to obey the commands of God. Or they don’t tell us TO obey the commands and instead direct us elsewhere. The better false teachers or shepherds are the ones who appear impeccable in their outward appearance.

The Word Reveals

God’s Word is intended by Him to reveal His character, will, plan and purpose to us. It was not written to conceal Him or what He intends for man.

29“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29 NASB95)

13For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind And declares to man what are His thoughts, He who makes dawn into darkness And treads on the high places of the earth, The Lord God of hosts is His name. (Amos 4:13 NASB95)

It would be somewhat nonsensical for Him to cause His words to be recorded, and no one could figure them out. God lets us in on what He is doing and will do, and what He expects from man. We have no excuse to be ignorant of what God requires. The Bible is preserved for us so that we can read it and learn about God. He made sure the words were written down so other generations would have information they could use to find Him.

16“Come near to Me, listen to this: From the first I have not spoken in secret, From the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit.” 17Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, Who leads you in the way you should go. 18“If only you had paid attention to My commandments! Then your well-being would have been like a river, And your righteousness like the waves of the sea. (Isaiah 48:16-18 NASB95)

7Surely the Lord God does nothing Unless He reveals His secret counsel To His servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7 NASB95)

One of the big reasons that the Reformation was so effective is that the Bible was translated into common languages. Everyone could compare the existing church with the one in the book of Acts. They didn’t match up too well, and reform was demanded. God meant the Bible to be understood, and to reveal His works and character and power to all generations, at least to those of the generations searching for Him.

‘Whole Bible Christianity’ chapter 4 section on It Reveals

Judge with Righteous Judgment

The tenth, and perhaps not the last, guideline is about weights and measures. The verses we’re going to look at are about scales or measuring sticks. But the principles apply to all of our dealings with each other, especially in the field of justice and discernment. We are to be honest and fair in all of our dealings, not just the merchant transactions. Everyone who doesn’t is an “abomination to the Lord.” Not being honest and fair is an abomination to God, right up there with homosexuality and eating pork.

13“You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a large and a small. 14“You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. 15“You shall have a full and just weight; you shall have a full and just measure, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you. 16“For everyone who does these things, everyone who acts unjustly is an abomination to the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 25:13-16 NASB95)

God is always concerned about honesty and fairness. Accurate weights and measures are just one aspect of His desire for what is right and true. His Word is the standard, and we are supposed to use it without cheating. We don’t want take a tiny verse out of context and make a big doctrine with it while ignoring other, larger parts of the Word. Like this verse on judging, frequently used by people to avoid responsibility or say they shouldn’t answer for their behavior.

37“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. (Luke 6:37 NASB95)

Jesus seems to be saying we should avoid judging. But let’s add another verse on the same subject to our measuring stick.

24“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24 NASB95)

It might appear on the surface that Jesus is contradicting Himself. But of course, that’s not the case. It might help to realize that judging has several different meanings. Sometimes we can think of judging as condemning and sometimes as discernment.

‘Whole Bible Christianity’ chapter 9 section on Judge with Righteous Judgment