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

What If God Were A Linebacker?

Hey there sports fans, time for a reprint of an article I wrote a while back thinking about God as a linebacker. Definitely wouldn’t get picked last!

Can you imagine if God was a linebacker on an opposing football team you were playing? If you were a quarterback, would you want to try and pump fake? You certainly couldn’t fake a hand off, and you couldn’t fool Him with misdirection or a man in motion. You could never check off on the line and audible a change in the play. No matter what you changed it to, He would know. Maybe you could hand off to the running back, but where would he go? How would you pass to the dump-off receiver if the other receivers were covered? Even if the receivers had moves that made a ballerina cry, wherever they went God would be standing there in front of them waiting for the ball. You wouldn’t want to try a long snap for a punt or a field goal because He would probably be fast enough to intercept that, too.

Blocking would be a problem, to say the least. Even if He stood still long enough or slowed Himself down so you could get a hand on Him, you wouldn’t stand a chance of stopping Him. He’d be in the backfield holding the quarterback up by the legs quicker than you could say, “make a wish.” Facing Him across the line of scrimmage would be no picnic. He wouldn’t even have to insult your mother or cast aspersions on your ancestry to intimidate you. If He just smiled at you you’d have to change your shorts (again). He’d always know the snap count, and could beat you off the ball like you had roots. He’d plug any hole you opened for the running back, if He felt like letting the running back get that far. If He were to hit you, you might even live to tell about it after all the bells stopped ringing.

What would His stats be? Ten feet tall, weighing 600 pounds and running the 40 in “we didn’t even get the stopwatch started?” Would He be able to bench press His own weight? With each hand? Each finger? Without even breaking a sweat? Would He even sweat? Would His cleats leave marks you could plant trees in? But He wouldn’t need cleats, because wherever the ball went He’d already be there. He’d give a whole new meaning to the saying “He got skills.”

Or maybe He’d just be an undersized rabbi, not much to look at. Maybe He wouldn’t even “hit” very hard, especially if you were having a bad day. He’d just somehow manage to “move through the crowd” and be wherever the ball was, frustrating you to no end. You might wonder how He moved so fast in those robes He wore, but you wouldn’t even think about making fun of Him for wearing a dress. You’d probably want to knock that silly little cap off His head, but He wouldn’t hold still long enough to let you. He’d just smile and pat you on the back and say, “Keep on trying, my son!”

How would His contract be structured? Would He even need the money? Shoot, the team owner probably wouldn’t need all those other high priced defensive players, so you could give Him at least all the money for the other ten guys that used to be on defense. He would never get an injury (like anybody could hit Him hard enough!), so He wouldn’t need backups, and you could give Him all that money too. The other teams might even chip in money if they didn’t have to play against Him!

If He played “iron man” (iron God?) football (both offense and defense) all that money could go to His salary too. You wouldn’t need trainers, medical supplies, equipment to cool Him off, or equipment to warm Him up. He could probably play without pads or a helmet. You wouldn’t need coaches, front office personnel, or draft picks to be named later. You wouldn’t even need the draft because He lives forever!

Really though, who would play against Him? Would you have to draft Satan and all his demons? I bet they wouldn’t even enter the draft. They know better; they played against Him in college and got hammered. He made a show of them openly, and since then they haven’t been able to show their faces in public. And that was when they had the game rigged, the officials bought and paid for, and God was playing with injuries. No way would they attempt a contest where He didn’t have a sizeable handicap. But even if He looked handicapped they would still be suspicious, because of the beating they took before when they thought they had Him nailed.

Maybe He would only have to play one game a season. Would we just hand Him the Super Bowl trophy (and all the money) at the beginning of the season? Or would the other teams play each other, with the “winner” having to play the team with God on it? Wouldn’t that make the games more interesting! Imagine how desperate your team would be to lose! Ow, ow, ow, my hamstring suddenly acted up! To heck with the money, just don’t make me play against God in the Super Bowl! Or any Bowl for that matter!

How would the gamblers handicap the games? Who would bet? Even Satan wouldn’t be that stupid. The whole gambling industry for football would be wiped out. Not a dollar to be made anywhere, nobody going to the poor house for making sucker bets. Louie the leg breaker would be out of a job because nobody would need to be “encouraged” to pay gambling debts. Sports related crime would evaporate. No games to fix, no referees to buy, no players to corrupt. The television contract would be worthless, nobody would bid on it. The advertising dollars would have to be spent somewhere else.

Baseball would be shut down too, because God would have enough energy and skills to play both sports. Heck, He could probably play four or five sports every year and still not get tired. All that money would be His for the taking, that is, until people quit going to the games. Who would pay hundreds of dollars to see a game with their families when they already know who would win? We wouldn’t need to build stadiums or maintain them, and billions of dollars could be saved on freeway modifications to handle all the traffic. There would be more open space and we could plant more trees (in His cleat marks if He had cleats).

And the endorsements! Would you see His picture on a box of Wheaties? Would Mormon-owned Coke and secular Pepsi play “Can you top this?” until a new monetary record was reached? Or would He be shunned because He was pro-life, anti-gay, and didn’t celebrate Christmas? Do you think He could be induced to allow beer and automobile makers the rights to use His image for Budweiser or Ford? I can’t imagine Him leaping in the air for joy at the thought of owning a Toyota. Who would argue against Him if He said it was less filling? What would happen if He merely said He preferred not to drink beer? Would the beer industry immediately go out of business because no one would buy it? He certainly wouldn’t need money, so what else would they use to get Him to sign?

Maybe kids would idolize Him by plastering His posters all over their bedrooms. Would they want to play the same position? Would they even play sports knowing they could never beat Him or beat Him out of His position? Maybe they would start to walk like Him, dress like Him, and talk like Him. They would probably want to know what He ate and what His favorite TV shows were so they could be “just like” Him. Perhaps the whole kid’s sports structure would disappear. Soccer Moms would be a thing of the past. Parents wouldn’t have to pay all that money, scream, or kill each other over a child’s game. Test scores would go up, and athletes would have to actually work for their grades and plan on a productive career in something useful, like say, teaching.

Maybe, if He were here in physical form, playing linebacker, a lot of things would change. Maybe, the world would be a better place, with money spent on more important things. Maybe, we would see the folly of our ways. Maybe, just maybe………nya-a-a-ah.

Shalom
Bruce Scott Bertram

A Whole Bible Look At: Romans 5 through 8

Did you know there are seven different laws listed in Romans? Did you know the English word law is used 78 times from chapter 2 to chapter 8? Did you also know that love is mentioned 15 times, not counting “beloved?” The most important are the 13 in 5:5, 8; 8:28, 35, 37, 39; 12:9, 10; 13:8, 9, 10; 14:15; and 15:30. Did you know Paul’s main subject is living the Law with love and the Spirit rather than in a self-seeking attempt to earn our own salvation righteousness?

That information with much else is covered in our Romans video series. Got the second video up now. It took a while to start posting these mostly because I was learning how to do multi-camera editing. Plus I have to do about 40 slides, place them in the video, edit the sound, add titles and make sure everything is ready to go.


This series is mostly to help the whole Bible believer explain Paul’s writings in context with the rest of Scripture (including the Law). Many (many, many) people calling themselves believers use this book along with Galatians and selected other sections of Paul’s writings to remove the Law from a believer’s life. Not only does this not do justice to Paul’s writings, but removing the Law is like removing the most nutritious parts of food, then wondering why we still seem to be starving to death.

And the church IS starving. We started starving when we began sitting in judgment on His living oracles, approving behavior that is specifically listed for us as harmful. Paul specifically says that the law is good, righteous, holy and spiritual. He “delights in the Law of God” but “I see in my members another law waging war.” This law is the law of sin, not the Law of God. The law of sin is the one where we try to earn salvation righteousness from God by following some rules (without the heart or the Spirit). View the video to see how this is explained by Paul.

Shalom
Bruce

New Series On Romans

One of the things that has turned us off of the Messianic movement is the inability of many to explain Paul’s writings in context with the Law. Few can do it, if at all. So much of the Bible in general has been so covered over with traditions of men and deliberate misinterpretation, that even if a believer manages to work his way through to the understanding of the Law as a valid lifestyle and discipleship method Paul’s writings still seem to contradict (although we know instinctively that they don’t).

Usually the Messianic person will simply revert to throwing out Paul’s writings. A big tool for doing this is to claim that there must’ve been a (lost) Hebrew New Testament that was translated into Greek and in so doing much of the meaning was corrupted by the time we translate to English. So the easy answer for this crowd is to declare the Greek null and void.

Somewhere along the way this nutcase crowd decides to throw out the virgin birth of Jesus along with the claims that Jesus is God. Next this crowd just moves to throw out the whole New Testament. What the heck. It’s all mistranslated anyway, right? Anything they can’t understand or explain must be the fault of the text! Much of the throwing starts with Paul’s writings because they cannot explain properly what he is talking about.

So we decided to do some videos with our own explanations. It’s not that hard, really. All you have to do is read the text. The plain meaning is right there in front of us. It’s not the text that’s the problem. It is either an agenda or a fault in our own understanding. The message is repeated enough throughout the Word (including Paul’s writings) that it is extremely easy to figure out the meaning. If we are going to throw anything out it should be the traditions of men that clutter up the text in the first place.

First in the series is Romans chapters 1 through 4, just put up on our Youtube channel. It’s about an hour. Three future videos will cover four chapters each and hopefully end up at about an hour each.

There is a list of time marks in the description so you can jump to particular parts if you want. There are also links to other videos from us explaining different words or concepts further. We hope this series (along with other videos such as our Book of Galatians effort) will help the seeker of truth figure out how to explain their faith easily and biblically to the many (many, many, many) skeptics he or she will encounter.

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.

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 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

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

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