Temptation to Give Up His Law

Accepting the whole of God’s Word as a lifestyle and discipleship method has its drawbacks. On the one hand I’ve got everything I need to pursue His living oracles and achieve perfection as Jesus directs in Matthew 5:48. In fact, since “perfect” means mature or lacking in nothing, then I am already perfect. On the other hand I find myself falling short on a regular basis. On any given hour or day or week I’ll do 98% of what I think God requires, working hard at trying not to do what I think is okay and instead doing what He thinks is okay. I wear my tassels. I rest on Sabbath. Pork is a distant memory. I don’t react in anger when insulted or cut off in traffic. Or at least not as angry as I used to be.

But there’s that 2% (my wife or kids might say it’s a little higher than that) where I blow it. I have patience 29 times out of 30, but at the 30th I falter and lose it. (It used to be perhaps 15 out of 30, but the improvement doesn’t seem to matter.) Or I might have to do a little work on the Sabbath. I get closer to actually living out the perfection for which God equips me day by day and minute by minute, only to fold at the weakest bluff from the enemy at the oddest times. It’s like dialing a phone number that is a hundred digits long only to enter the wrong value on the last one.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. (Romans 7:21–23, ESV)

This is, I think, one of the things that make people re-interpret the Word to downplay the importance of most of the Law. His Law looks like a mountain that is hard to climb, and one misstep will send you into the abyss. The temptation is to comfort ourselves with the “nobody’s perfect” mantra and not even try. We change His Word to mean something different so we don’t really look like we’re not doing what He says. After all,” the enemy whispers, “why try if you can never get it right? Just give up and do what you want. Jesus covers all your sins, so you’ll be fine.” It’s definitely tempting to reduce the standard so it doesn’t challenge me as much. I start to reason that the usual church teaching of “we can’t be perfect” is very attractive. I almost succumb at times to the siren song.

In athletics, we practice and practice and practice. We might lose a game, but the following day we are right back at practice trying to correct mistakes and get better for the next game. We study hard for an employment test, or certification, and if we don’t pass we go back to studying and take the test again. A musician learns her instrument, conditions her body to form the notes in time and arrange them so they make an appealing song. If the song does not come together right away she keeps trying until her thoughts and feelings flow out as she wishes.

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. (1 Corinthians 9:25–26, ESV)

The athlete has everything he needs for athleticism (arms, legs, brain). He is “perfect” in the physical sense. He doesn’t need more arms or legs. Or more brains. He has everything he needs to get the job done. Same with a job seeker or musician. Does he hit every single pitch? Catch every pass? Throw right on the mark every time? Does the musician write hit songs with every stroke of the pencil, or a job seeker pass an employment test the first time? No, they don’t. But they don’t give up or stop trying. Why is a walk with God any different?

An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. (2 Timothy 2:5, ESV)

How come a life with Him and His Law as the center is the only place where we get a steady diet of people telling us we “can’t be perfect?” The coach or band director or employer who wouldn’t accept less than perfect practice goes to church and calmly buys the idea that in his walk with God he won’t ever measure up? Can you imagine a coach who tells the pole vault athlete “You’ll never get over the rail?” A teacher of music who tells the student “You’ll never play that note perfect?” How frustrating that would be! How depressing! How much like slavery!

In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. (Galatians 4:3, ESV)

We wouldn’t put up with it in the fields of athletics or music or anywhere else, but the church gets away with it on a regular basis. And directly against what the Bible teaches, too. No wonder the church has the same suicide, divorce, and drug use rates as those outside the church. Whole Bible Christians try to avoid the two extremes of making up tons of new laws or deciding that the blood of Jesus covers everything so I can do whatever I want.

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:11–12, ESV)

When I falter, or am less than 100% doing what God wants, it’s because I do it on my own. It’s not that I lack something, or cannot be perfect. God has given me all I need. I have a new heart of flesh, the Holy Spirit, and His Word. I am perfect (complete, mature), though I don’t do everything perfectly. When I choose my own way, I don’t have to go very far down that path before I realize that I don’t want to keep going, either. I may have made a misstep, but God has granted me grace to try, try again, as opposed to sitting on my hands afraid to do anything or become better. Temporarily I might feel bad that I chose to go my own way, but as long as the bad feelings move me to repentance and renewed effort they don’t have to be permanent. I don’t have to get rid of the Law to help me feel better. It’s the other way around. Practice, practice, practice. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Though I choose wrongly on occasion, His Word will perfect me.

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 2:4–6, ESV)

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

It’s Our House

So if “it’s our house we can do what we want to,” why is it that we choose sexual immorality and perversion over what is right and good and clean?

If we have “free will” or “freedom in Christ,” why do we choose disobedience to God over obedience? Why do we choose to abide in our own knowledge instead of abiding in every word from God’s mouth?

I know what it was like to live in downtown Sodom. I’ve got a pretty good idea of what pop culture (and we use the term “culture” here very loosely) looked like in the middle of Canaan 3,000 years ago. It’s obvious what was happening just before the flood that caused God to say “every thought was only evil continually.” We don’t even have to use our imaginations. We get it in living color and high definition beamed into every corner of our communication receivers every minute of every day. We’ve got freedom, but look what we’ve done with it.

We cut ourselves loose from God, and this is the best we can come up with? Spiraling down and down to ever slimier, more perverted, unrestrained destructive and sterile wickedness? We refuse a drink from the wellspring of the living God, but don’t mind at all drinking from the toilet of modern culture? No wonder pagans were considered dogs. Running around focused on genitals and sensory satisfaction to the exclusion of all else, modern dogs show us what it means to live with no anchor, no boundaries and no life. Dressed up with sparkling lights, neon colors, gyrating dance moves and electric sounds there is the appearance of life, but for those who can see it still looks like horrifying death. Thank God we don’t have smell-vision yet. Audiences worship at the altar of American idols to self-will, making sacrifices and offerings of souls, refusing to repent of their pride, choosing instead lifeless manikins of plastic and makeup.

Even when they try to be good the idols fall short, because their good is merely a harsh echo of God’s and no more than a hand wave on the departing Titanic. Like whitewash on a tomb are the bright spotlights and gaudy clothes of the stage and screen. Feelings are no substitute for the energy and dynamic life of the holy Spirit, which only flows from a heart of flesh tuned to God’s Word.

Rating the Pastors

Back to the chart showing how pastors think about the job they are doing.

A more accurate rating should be: How well does your flock know the Bible, and how well do they live it?

Is your divorce rate, like so many churches, the same as the world’s?

Is your suicide rate, again as with so many churches, the same as the world’s?

Do your congregants use anti-anxiety drugs like the bread of communion?

Do the people with money have more influence and power than the poorer members?

Do you follow the whole of the Word, observing His holy days, His dietary guidelines, and His instructions for cleanliness? If not, why not? Have you instead been taken captive by philosophy and empty deceit according to human tradition, precepts and teachings and elemental spirits of the world and not according to Christ? (Colossians 2)

Are the discipline instructions in Matthew 18:15-20 followed in your church? Why not?

Jesus said that those who hear His words and do not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. How do we know our house is on sand? When the rain falls, floods come and winds blow and beat against the house, it falls down.

How many times has your “house fallen down” in upheaval and turmoil because of a pastor change? How many pastors do you know have fallen into transgression such as adultery and drug abuse?

Which is more common in your church, the fruit of the Spirit or works of the flesh? (Galatians 5:16-26)

Does your church look anything like the first century church?

Now how high does your pastor rate?

Do you think there’s a deeper meaning to the fact that diplomas are called “sheepskins?” As in, “wolves in sheep’s clothing?

Salvation by Love Through Love

One of the mainstays of whole Bible Christianity is the theology of salvation by love, through love. This is a slightly different way of looking at the twin opposing arguments of salvation by faith through grace and salvation by grace plus works. Salvation is by faith through grace for certain. The problem is defining “grace” and “faith.” So our version covers it from more of a whole Bible perspective. It includes grace and faith, and frames them and suffuses them with Love. He loved us by doing something (sending His Son) and we love Him by doing something (anything He says). Our love is more than sentiment or emotion, just as His was “more than a feeling.” Love gave the Law; love lives it.

God’s Acceptance

There are a number of ways that God indicates His acceptance. In Leviticus 9, fire comes out from before the Lord and consumes the first offering in front of the Tabernacle. God approves of the presentation, and His fire consumes it. People made an offering to God, and God seals the deal with approving fire. There are many other sacrifices after this that do not get the same treatment, but this sets the pattern of acceptance. So as long as the others are done the same way they are also acceptable.

There are at least five times mentioned in the Word where fire from the Lord consumes a sacrifice. The other four are in Judges 6 (Gideon), 1 Kings 18 (Elijah and the prophets of Baal) 1 Chronicles 21 (David’s sacrifice) and 2 Chronicles 7 (Solomon’s sacrifice). These examples illustrate for us what happens when God approves. When God disapproves, fire destroys the person rather than the offering.

Fire from God can show acceptance, or rejection, and it doesn’t have to be in connection with an animal sacrifice. When fire rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah, it was a rather obvious rejection of their behavior. Moses calls down fire on the Egyptians (Exodus 9). Fire from heaven also destroyed two captains of fifty and their men when trying to arrest Elijah (2 Kings 1). Fire pours from the mouth of God’s two prophets or witnesses of Revelation 11 if anyone tries to harm them. The second beast of Revelation 13 fakes a fire that looks like it comes from heaven, but it’s not from God. Not like the final fireworks that fall on the armies of Satan in Revelation 20.

If Nadab and Abihu had stayed within the Law, depending on God’s grace and doing exactly what He said when He said it, then there would’ve been no reason for the fire from God to consume them. Grace, in the Law, would’ve saved them. Just like it saved all the other priests who followed the rules. The grace was in telling them how to approach and be acceptable. Love, in following what God said, is the other way to look at, and observe, the Law.

Nadab and Abihu get toasted right after the accepted sacrifice of Leviticus 9. It was not only that they did the process wrong, it was also their hearts. They were willfully doing something they knew to be wrong. This is called a high-handed sin. When you’ve been told, warned, cautioned, and seen others punished for wrongdoing, and you do it too, there is no excuse. The sons of Aaron stepped out of God’s boundaries and tried to demand acceptance based on their own actions. Paul calls this “works of the Law” in Galatians.

From Berea at Whole Bible dot com – Manna, 26 Shemini

Salvation by Love through Love

‘Whole Bible Christianity’ chapter 1 section on ‘Salvation by Love’

There are people who argue over ‘salvation by grace through faith’ as opposed to ‘salvation by faith plus works.’ ‘Salvation by faith’ focuses on man. Then you get into all kinds of debates about whether the will of man is “free” or whether it is too depraved to do anything. ‘Salvation by faith plus works’ puts the focus on merit. Then you get into all kinds of debates about which ‘works’ are going to get the job done, or what is a work of the flesh, or legalism versus God’s grace and the cross.

I propose what I think is the biblical alternative – ‘salvation by love.’ Perhaps we can even say salvation by love through love. Salvation by love means that God loved us and acted on it, and we love Him and act on His Word. It’s that simple. Debates ended. (Well, the debates aren’t ended, but it leaves a lot of people without a biblical basis for arguing). If we just read the Word (and do it) we would easily solve a lot of these types of theological issues.

Works of Law

Chapter 6 – Whole Bible Objections, ‘Whole Bible Christianity’

Still another excuse some use to ignore the Law is the claim that “works of the Law” are bad. A section of this group even goes so far as to say actions done without “feeling like we are led by the Spirit” are “works of the Law.” They discourage any activity if it isn’t “felt” – the church version of “if it feels good, do it.” If they do something, such as work in a soup kitchen, without “feeling” it, then it must be a “work of the flesh” or by association one of those terrible “works of the Law.” So they avoid doing what God plainly commands because they don’t “feel led.” Feelings become king, and simple obedience to the whole of the Word is reduced to a sin.

On the surface it does look like parts of the Bible teach that works of the Law are not “from the Spirit,” that they don’t belong in a believer’s walk, and should be avoided. The NASB (and others) translates words from Paul in Romans 3, Galatians 2 and Galatians 3 as ‘works of the Law’ (capital L and with the added definite article ‘the’). Paul is made to look very negative about “works of the Law” at first glance.

Yet the translation is not correct according to the Greek. It also doesn’t stand up to a balanced scrutiny from the whole of the Word. The word ‘Law’ in those references should be lowercase and without the article, as in, ‘works of law.’ ‘Works of the Law’ is an attempt to limit works to the Mosaic Law. It castes obedience as wrong. The more accurate statement, ‘works of law,’ includes any legal relationship, any ‘work of the flesh,’ or any try at trading merit for grace. It includes the Law but isn’t limited to The Law. ‘Works of law’ isn’t the same as the anti-Law statement ‘works of the Law.’

‘Works of law’ describes a legal relationship. A legal relationship is where I do things that I get paid for, and I only do them if I get paid. This was the basis of the Satan’s accusation against Job. He said that Job only worshiped God because he got paid (Job 1:9-11). He thought that if God took away the pay or the “hedge” (God’s protection) that Job would falter.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego weren’t interested in pay for following God’s Word (Daniel 3). They were threatened with death by furnace, but even if God wouldn’t ‘pay off’ with a rescue they were still going to stick with Him.
17 “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 “But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”(Daniel 3:17-18 NASB95)