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

Whole Bible Christianity, The Book

Our book Whole Bible Christianity has finally been published! It is on Amazon at this link:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0997501413/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=1DQVER67Q2HMX&coliid=I1RPTLB6JQO1FI

There is a Look Inside feature, you can flip between the front and back cover, and it is only $19.50. If you would prefer, we will have the entire text on a web page when we update our website so you can read it online.

The book has about 800 direct quotes from the Word, around 1,500 entries in the Scripture Index, and is about 340 pages. One of the many uses of the book is as a handbook for whole Bible Christians everywhere who need a reference to help counter attacks against a whole Bible lifestyle. Chapter 7 deals with a bunch of the objections to following God’s living oracles, and chapter 8 has a list of blessings from doing what Jesus says.

Let us know what you think, and make sure to post a review on Amazon if you would be so kind.

Shalom
Bruce

A Whole Bible Look At Romans 9 through 12

The third video in our Romans series is up, and I’ll bet you’ve never heard Romans this way!

Shalom
Bruce

A Whole Bible Look at the Book of Galatians

Just posted. New video looking at the book of Galatians using mostly just the book itself in simple, plain language. It’s a little long (1 and a quarter hours), but there is an outline in the notes with time marks so you can skip to particular sections as needed. We show you how easy it is to understand the book the way Paul intended, in keeping with the teachings of the whole of the Word. Three times Paul gives us the subject: 2:6; 3:11; and 5:4. Tutors and guardians are explained, as well as “under the law” and “works of the law.”

Enjoy.
Shalom.

A Whole Bible, Paul’s Teachings: Stepmother, Passover, Circumcision

We are now up to 87 videos on our Youtube channel and over 1,000 views (total) covering nine chapters of our book Whole Bible Christianity and a few other topics. Yay! We’re working on the tenth chapter scripts now, which will be longer than just what is in the book and include more helpful biblical information on application of the Word to daily living. In the meantime, take a look at this video we are highlighting today.

Usually we hear that Paul converted to Christianity, except there was no Christianity such as we know it today in his time. He was a model of a Law-following Jew. He never stopped abiding in His Messiah’s Word. He taught the Law, filled with the Spirit and love, as it was intended – a lifestyle and discipleship method. See our video Whole Bible Objections: Paul Says It’s Okay, Can’t Do, It’s A Curse. Many of his teachings have been sliced and diced and taught differently. But when we just read the Word, we can see he held to the ancient, unified message of the Father and Jesus.

Paul doesn’t make up any new commandment for stepmoms in 1 Corinthians 5:1-2. He certainly doesn’t cherry-pick nor does he apply only the law he chooses. Not only does he say that the Corinthians should be following this Law, he implies it is a natural fact everyone (even the non-believing Gentiles) knows. In other words, God’s people should at least have the sense God gave a pagan. He also gives the punishment for the sin outlined in Torah – “purge the evil from among you.” (Deuteronomy 13:5, 17:7, 12, 21:21, 22:21). Later, it looks like they were “obedient in all things” (2 Corinthians 2:1-11) although they didn’t stone the guy with the stepmom wife because we don’t have the power of capital punishment. Our alternative is from Matthew 18 – confront for repentance and cast out if we have to.

In 1 Corinthians 11:23-34 it is obvious that the meal is the Passover (verse 23 “the night (our Lord) was betrayed”). The misnamed “Lord’s Supper” is in reality the Passover before His crucifixion (Matthew 17:7; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:8, 15). It is not communion. This is a problem for those who insist on separating the Law into civil, ceremonial, and moral sections. The Passover is clearly ceremonial in their view. But the Corinthians (and probably the rest of the “church”) are celebrating the feast. The reason we don’t spot this is because it is taught wrongly that they are celebrating some sort of “communion” ceremony.

The issue with circumcision is the same as other places, which is that circumcision doesn’t save anyone. Never has, never will. Becoming a Jew or following some Laws does not save a person and never has. A person follows the Laws because they are saved. In other words, a person following God by faith is justified. Circumcision is a sign after the fact (as in Genesis 17).

Keep three things firmly in mind as you are reading Paul’s writings. One is that he doesn’t downgrade or speak negatively about God’s Law. Ever. But like his Messiah he’s not so fond of man’s laws. Two is that the Law was never meant to save anyone. Law was added as a guidepost because of transgressions increasing (see our video A Whole Faith: Continuous through Generations). Israel was “saved” first then given instruction on living a saved life. Three is that the word “law” can mean any law including natural law, Roman law, God’s Law, man’s traditions especially Jewish ones, and physical laws. Law is improperly thought of as a legal relationship to earn merit which can be traded for salvation.

If you don’t like the Law and have been trained to reject it, then Paul’s writings will look anti-Law. However, if you have a heart of flesh with His Law written on it, then Paul’s writings are easy to understand and completely fit in with the rest of Scripture.

Shalom,
Bruce

Freedom from Sabbath Keeping

Hey All,

Just spent a few days writing a new article which is a point-by-point response to an article by Ray Comfort that he titled Freedom From Sabbath Keeping. It took a while, because the article is filled with a lot of, shall we say, less than biblical information.

Ray is a good guy as far as I know, and has a lot of good teaching. I have quoted from him, and use some of his material in my conversations with atheists. However, there are a number of areas where he falls short of biblical truth, and a bunch of them are in this article. So I went through it and inserted my comments directly into his text. I included Bible verses and commentary all with a whole Bible perspective. You’ll find a nicely organized selection of responses to what are also typical Christian arguments against observing the Sabbath. Why people would reject a day off from God is beyond me, but they do. So this article should help you with standard Christian objections to observing the whole of the Word, not just the Sabbath.

An excerpt from Point by Point through the Ray Comfort article Freedom from Sabbath Keeping. His words are in red, my comments are in square brackets and in blue (on the web page they are just in a different font).

Let’s briefly look at their arguments. First, nowhere does the Fourth Commandment say that we are to “worship” on the Sabbath Day. [True. Worship was every day. The act of resting on the Sabbath is worship. Worship has taken on an inadequate meaning in the intervening centuries, and it used to be that worship included sacrifices. But worship has always been obedience at its root.] It commands that we rest on that day: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11). [Notice that he does not answer the issue he raises: why does the church not “rest” on the Sabbath?] Sabbath-keepers worship on the Saturday. [No. Sabbath keepers might MEET on Saturday, but worship is obedience and for every day.] Do they know where the word “Saturday” comes from? It’s from the Latin word “Saturnus–Saturn + Old English dæg day.” Obviously Saturday is from the pagan day of worship of the planet Saturn (astrology). [In spite of the attempt at sarcasm, I can agree here. However, Saturday is also the seventh day, and therefore the Sabbath. The name of the day is not important. But the Sabbath is.

And another excerpt.

The Scriptures tell us that at one point, the Apostles especially gathered to discuss the attitude of the Christian to the Law of Moses. [This is biblically incorrect. The council in Acts 15 met mainly to discuss salvation by circumcision (verse 1). This was proved to be wrong. Salvation was coming to Gentiles without circumcision and by grace through faith just as Abraham and JUST AS THE JEWS (who had the Law). Verse 5 also asks a question about following the Law, which was answered in verse 21 (Moses is read in the synagogue every Sabbath.) This meant 1) Moses is read. 2) Moses is read in the synagogue where all believers met at the time. 3) They met every Sabbath.] Acts 15:10-11, 24-29 was God’s opportunity to make His will clear to His children. [Biblically incorrect. God had been making His will clear to His children for a long, long time.] All He had to do to save millions from damnation was say, “Remember to keep the Sabbath holy,” and millions of Christ-centered, God-loving, Bible-believing Christians would have gladly kept it. [Not so. He already said many times to remember the Sabbath, and just about as many times was ignored. He is still being ignored today as is evidenced by this article by Ray. Many Christians do not want to obey God’s commands. Mostly because we do not want an objective, absolute standard. We want to give ourselves permission to sin.

Enjoy the article.
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

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

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

The Bible TV Series Review

I just got done watching the first two episodes of the series made for TV last year called The Bible. There is only about 40 minutes worth of viewing in each episode, and 10 episodes total. The first five cover the Old Testament, and the second five cover the New Testament. They are pretty abbreviated in their story telling, but given the light budget, the standard Christian (wrong) viewpoint, and the amount of ground they are trying to cover they don’t do too bad. It’s kind of like a condensed version of a Reader’s Digest condensed version.

Some of the scenes are funny (to me). Like the two angels that visit Sodom and Gomorrah – one is black and one is Asian. Trying to be politically correct I guess, but I also guess it could’ve been that way. The funny part is when the Asian guy goes all martial arts on the inhabitants of Sodom with two swords. It’s hilarious that Satan looks just like Obama in a robe.

Some of the details are just wrong. Noah’s kids are way too young. Lot’s daughters are way too young. Instead of a ram caught by its horns in a thicket as a substitute for Isaac, it’s a lamb caught by its foot. Pharaoh doesn’t die in the Red Sea with his army as he’s supposed to. Lots of minor details are wrong too. For instance Abraham doesn’t wander in a desert. It’s a good land with plenty of room for him and his family, and grazing for his flocks and herds. Probably would’ve cost too much in CGI money to make the land look as good as it was.

All in all, it’s not half bad. The producer’s standard Christian viewpoint is evident in the liberties taken with the text. They over dramatize some things and under-report others. On the good side they imply that the third angel talking with Abraham is Jesus (blurry shots, shots from the back). The not-so-good is seen in the skipping over of the Passover details. It’s as if it was made by someone with a knowledge of the key points of the Bible story, but little understanding. Which is why I say it’s standard Christian. Most Christians know the outlines of the stories, but very few have a real understanding coming from intimate reading and doing.

It’s not intended as a substitute for Bible reading. We should be so familiar with the real thing that we can easily identify where they went wrong. If this is all people will want to know of the Bible, then it is woefully inadequate. But hopefully it will encourage people to dig in to get the right of it. The book is much better than the movie in this instance. With all of the shortcomings at least the basics of the story are being told. A solid message that comes through loud and clear is “trust God.” For that at least the producers are to be commended.

Shalom
Bruce