Hating Religion

It seems fashionable nowadays to talk about hating religion but loving Jesus. One young man (Jefferson Bethke) has even made a career out of it, starting with a youtube video of a rap song he created titled ‘Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus.’ It has over 27,546,644 views, so he must know what he’s talking about, right?

Others are writing books, like the

book by Alex Himaya. He’s a pastor of a church that has grown from 120 to over 5,500 people in eight years (by his own testimony), so he must know what he’s talking about, right?

Um. No. Neither are correct, at least from a biblical standpoint.

Why? Because they only offer two choices – religion or no religion for one thing. For another, they confuse (as many people do) Bible teachings. They are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. They both define religion as “following rules,” when they should distinguish between God’s rules (the Law) and man’s rules.

There is good religion and bad religion. Bad religion defined correctly is man reaching for God or trying to get to God on man’s own terms. I prefer to call this “man’s traditions.” Good religion is following God’s rules written on a heart of flesh by the Spirit in love. We can call this “God’s traditions.” Also known as The New Covenant.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31–34, ESV)

Man’s traditions can include some of the Bible, but frequently are way outside what God requires. God’s traditions, however, are always good. We can follow His rules or laws with confidence that they are living oracles, a light to our path, a guide to eternal life, and in every way huge blessings and a beneficial lifestyle.

It is true that God hates man’s efforts, in his own knowledge and pride, to connect with Him. From fig leaves in the Garden to works righteousness by following some laws (even His), He has always discouraged man’s efforts to buy a stairway to heaven. The opposite is to use the free stairway of His Word, the stair steps of His Laws, statues, commands, and charge, a ticket to which has been secured by the blood of His Son our Messiah. Even repentance is a command.

Just because people have a big church (which in my opinion isn’t biblical) or a lot of views on youtube, that doesn’t make them right. Popularity to me is suspicious, because generally people don’t like the truth. Truth is too uncomfortable. Ear tickling is more fun. When the popular kids are poking at you for following His laws, remember that they are only using part of the Bible. We need to fill them in on true religion. God’s religion. The New Covenant. The Law written on a heart of flesh by the Spirit. God’s traditions followed in love.

Shalom
Bruce

The Book of Job

In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. (Job 1:22, ESV)

The book of Job can be puzzling, especially when trying to compare the commentaries with the actual words being spoken. It helps if we realize that these events probably happened around or just before the time of the patriarchs (Job might’ve been a distant neighbor of Abraham or perhaps just before Abraham’s time). For one thing Job lives 140 years after these events (Job 42:16), and he had to have been upwards of perhaps 60 or 80 years or more to have what he had (10 kids, huge flocks and herds). That kind of life span was evident just before the time of Abraham.

The book seems simple enough on the surface. God thinks Job is doing a good job of following God, but Satan says Job worships God only because he is paid (has a hedge of protection). So God gives the okay to test the theory. Of course, true to his nature, the Satan hits Job with every bad thing he can think of. He never hits with good stuff, does he?

Job has his children and possessions taken away, and eventually his health. The verse above is inserted after he loses family and home, but before his health is taken away. After his health is hammered he still keeps his head though.

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:9–10, ESV)

As he’s sitting in misery he has four friends come to visit. They are appalled at his condition and spend some time just sitting with him.
Soon enough, however, they begin a discussion of the causes of the misery. Job’s argument boils down (you should know by now how much I like puns) to a protest that he is righteous and should not be treated this way.

You say, ‘I am pure, without transgression; I am clean, and there is no iniquity in me. Behold, he finds occasions against me, he counts me as his enemy, he puts my feet in the stocks and watches all my paths.’ (Job 33:9–11, ESV)

The first three friends think he must’ve done something wrong against God. Both groups miss the point: there are reasons for suffering other than our lack of righteousness. The fourth friend (Elihu) is younger and stays quiet until towards the end of the book (chapter 32). Then he pops his cork because the three older friends can’t adequately answer Job’s protests of innocence. Elihu’s arguments center around the wisdom of God, and the fact that Job’s wisdom doesn’t even come close.

“Behold, in this you are not right. I will answer you, for God is greater than man. Why do you contend against him, saying, ‘He will answer none of man’s words’? For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. (Job 33:12–14, ESV)

This dovetails with God’s response which at it’s root says the same thing. God has reasons for doing things that usually go way past what we know. He formed everything, and many of His plans for it we can only guess at. The main point of the book (and many other exchanges between man and God) is that God doesn’t do anything wrong (as our verse at the start of this article states so eloquently).

Of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice. (Job 34:12, ESV)

As Elihu speaks, a storm moves in and he uses some of the visuals to make his point. Pretty quickly we see that God is in the storm and speaks to Job from a whirlwind. Job (and the three friends) are rebuked quite strongly, with God telling them that all they know is not all there is. He shuts them all down with a series of questions the answers of which demonstrate His unequaled wisdom, power, and love. Job hastens to repent.

‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:3–6, ESV)

As I said, the key to this book is that we don’t charge God with wrong. Sometimes we suffer because we did something wrong. Sometimes we suffer because we did something right. And sometimes we suffer for reasons that go beyond our knowledge to fathom. In all things we do not question the wisdom of God to order things as He sees fit. He is good, there is no shadow of turning in Him, and all things work together for good to them that love Him back. We turned from Him in the Garden and our counsel is darkened without Him to shed light. We might be saved, but we are still under the curse until He makes all things right. In the meantime we do not charge Him with wrongdoing, instead accepting His wisdom in both good and bad events of our lives. We look forward to the revelation of more of His wisdom and love in our final redemption at the establishment of His throne on earth through His Son our Messiah Jesus the Christ.

Shalom,
Bruce

A Whole Bible: The Acts 15 Council

A favorite tool for part Bible Christians to hammer God’s Law back into insignificance is Acts 15. It is claimed that this council met to eliminate the Law once and for all. We have a choice: we can listen to the rhetoric, or we can read it to see what God really says. Wow, what a concept, huh?

If the Law was eliminated, then why give us four laws right from The Law? And if only the “moral” laws were passed through, then why give us three laws that are ceremonial and a fourth that could be related to ceremonial? Why does James say that Moses is taught in the synagogues every Sabbath, showing that the Law is still going to be taught, that it is going to be taught on the Sabbath, and it will be taught in synagogues?

Nothing about the modern teaching makes any biblical sense. What does make sense is our video that discusses the actual contents of Acts 15 and the biblical context. Instead of eliminating the Law, the Acts 15 council unquestionably reaffirms and establishes it.

Shalom
Bruce

The Testing of Jesus

At the stoning of the woman caught in adultery, did Jesus teach that the Law was gone, or did He criticize because the Law was not followed? Did Jesus eliminate the Law as popular church teaching suggests, or did He disapprove of the mishandling of God’s living oracles? I think in each question it is the latter. When Jesus was tested, He stayed with the Law while His opponents stuck with their own interpretations and traditions. His opponents were wrong in nearly every case.

Jesus never tells us that “we all sin” so none of us can judge. What He tells us is that to judge properly we need to stay within the whole of His Law. The people testing Jesus wanted permission to sin. They wanted certification for their self-appointed authority. But they didn’t want God’s Law. See the video for more details.

Shalom
Bruce

Video ‘The Second Sermon on the Mount’

Did you know that the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6 and 7 was actually the second that Jesus gave on a mount? The first sermon on the mount was back a ways, when Israel came out of Egypt. You’ll find that the two are very similar if you compare them with an open mind. Check out our video for more.

Shalom
Bruce

Deadly Affirmation

Six times greater chance of suicide.

Average life expectancy 8 to 20 years shorter.

Nearly 100% cheating ratio.

Eight times more likely to contract hepatitis.

Fourteen times more likely to contract syphilis.

5,000 times more likely to contract AIDS.

Above average alcoholism and drub abuse rates.

Almost 100% regression into steadily increasing violent actions including sadism, masochism, pedophilia and murder.

These are some of the statistics. They are the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the truth about the homosexual lifestyle. When we “affirm” this choice, either by remaining silent or openly supporting the choice of a friend or relative, we literally condemn the person to vastly increased torture, pain and suffering.

I know. I’m not supposed to say things like this in a blog post. I’m supposed to write stuff that makes you feel good. Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. God will make everything better. There’s nothing really wrong with you – it’s the environment or your parents or your pastor or that pork you ate in your burrito last night. I’m supposed to continue making comfortable, soothing, encouraging music like those guys did on the deck of the Titanic, playing my heart out like there is nothing wrong, all while people are hanging on railings by their fingernails or clawing at the deck to avoid plunging into the icy embrace of death. But hey, as long as you can hum a tune as you’re going down it’s okay, right?

While only 2% of the population, homosexuals have much greater incidences of pedophilia, abuse, and murder. About 30% have had over 1,000 partners, about half of which they are with only once. A little fewer than half have had over 500 partners. This induces much callousness and indifference to the treatment of others. It hardens the heart and makes repentance extremely difficult. It also makes a mockery of marriage.

The reason more people don’t condemn the homosexual lifestyle choice and would rather “affirm” it? Because generally the behavior is a result of sexual abuse, physical and mental abuse, divorce and other sins coming from heterosexuals. We are the ones creating the homosexuals with our own hateful behavior. But we don’t want to renounce our sins, and we don’t want to be identified as the source of further evil. So we “affirm” the fruits of our own destructive lifestyle choices which in turn affirms our own sin.

The church has been the leader in backing away from God’s Word in order to “affirm” our own lifestyle choices. We have been giving ourselves permission to sin since sin entered the world. We don’t like the Law, and we call it “old” or “ceremonial” or at best for Israel only, so we can merrily indulge ourselves in whatever makes us feel better.

The gospel is not “God loves you” (though He does). It’s not primarily a message about you, it is about Him. The gospel is “God with us.” When God is with us so is His Word. We can’t have His love without also making the choice to affirm His lifestyle by living His Word. When we refuse to affirm the homosexual lifestyle, we affirm His lifestyle. We also affirm the fact that we are the ones responsible. We are the ones who divorce at the drop of a hat and will usually drop it ourselves. We are the ones abusing our children in hatred and thus encouraging them to turn to even more hateful lifestyle choices than our own. We are the ones who have abandoned His lifestyle. We have cut ourselves loose from the anchor of His Word in the bay of His love to drift out onto a sea of hate.

For the day of the LORD is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head. (Obadiah 15, ESV)

We are the ones who have to examine our own choices, confess and repent of the wrong ones, and affirm His ways over ours. There is hope and restoration available, but only in repentance, not affirmation of death.

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. (Micah 7:18, ESV)

Shalom
Bruce

New video A Whole Heart: What About the Temple?

So you think the temple was destroyed. We say it wasn’t. The people who say it was destroyed think the Law was destroyed with the Temple. We say that it’s not about the Temple, but if it was then since the Temple is still intact so is the Law. Who is right?

The Bible.

Our video discussing the fact that the Temple is still around, and so is the Law.

Shalom,
Bruce

Jeff Durbin on Street Level Apologetics

A pastor at Apologia Church in Tempe, Arizona, Jeff Durbin gives a great presentation on some general apologetic approaches. I like his energy, his use of Scripture, and his willingness to be bold. He’s also got a lot of excellent points you could incorporate into your own conversations. Even if you are not as bold as he.

I don’t agree with all his positions. He misses the point of the Law, and tends to question Christian orthodoxy while holding on to many of it’s tenets with “closed hand.” But he still seems to have a great deal good to say; worth listening.

Shalom,
Bruce

New Video – A Whole Heart: Inherit Eternal Life

Well, we’re up to 55 videos now, with about 10 more in the works. This one is about the instructions of Jesus to inherit eternal life in Mark 10, Luke 10 and Luke 18. Did you know that Jesus wasn’t kidding around when He told the man/lawyer/ruler that they could inherit eternal life by following the Law? Do you know why He wasn’t kidding? Watch the video and find out!

Shalom,
Bruce