Avast There and Listen Up! I Got Some’at To Say!

think outside the box

Image by smemon87 via Flickr

“God is wrong.”

“God Never Forgets.”

“What are the differences between being anxious to please God, and being anxious to please a man?”

“God never has an opinion about anything.”

“Is miserable. * cheerily *”

“Is cannibalism wrong?”

“Is polygamy wrong?”

Those are just a few of the controversial statuses that I have propagated over my networks recently, sparking an astonishing variety of responses. And that doesn’t count all the controversial posts I have written on here over the course of my blog’s lifetime, and all the fascinating responses those have incurred as well.

Almost every time I post one, though, at least one person voices some confusion over why I write them.

Good question. A very good question.

And so I am doing it again in order to answer! Isn’t that dandy? 😀

First off, I must admit, it is a lot of fun to rile people up, make them guess, and tease them. ‘Tis true, and I humbly acknowledge the fact.

But that isn’t really the whole reason why I do it. It is actually only a small part of it. The main reason is much bigger.

See, there are two kinds of motives that I use alternately, depending on the medium, space, and time available. The first is to stir up people to help them think about something in a way they hadn’t before. I’ll get to why I believe that is important in a bit. The second is to present my own belief on a subject in order to give people more options in their beliefs and aid their understanding of that subject.

If I only have room for a quick question or a startling statement (like a status), I will go for the first one. I will rarely give my own position on these sorts of conversations, at least not right up front, but will instead focus on guiding the conversations of the people who comment.

That is because my goal is not to teach a piece of knowledge, but to teach a skill. A skill.

That skill is a way of thinking. I am trying to exercise a system of learning that people rarely use anymore, as a way to help my friends. Right, I am not just being mean, I am actually giving you something.

And it isn’t just thinking outside the box. This is a special type of thinking outside the box.

See, I want to help you analyze your lexicological assumptions, even at the very heart of your worldview. A lot of people are willing to think outside the box when it comes to things like design, or writing style, and artistic things like that, or even with things like engineering problems. But very few people are willing to go out on a limb and consider alternative explanations for facts (or even new facts that might conflict with the explanations they hold to be true) when they are directly relevant to their fundamental worldview.

People might even consider looking at alternative definitions if they are about peripheral things, but never about foundational things.

Why?

Because it is scary! A lexicological shift that deep can have massive repercussions throughout your life. You could even become a completely different person. I know. It’s happened several times to me. The power of changing lexicological assumptions at the foundational level is real, very real. But that also means it is important, extremely important, that you get those lexicological assumptions correct.

What if they are wrong, and changing them to something that is more right would change your life drastically… for the better?

What if you are missing out on loads of God’s blessings because you were too scared to even consider the possibility that they might be out there for you?

Right. The consequences of not looking are more scary than looking!

And so I help people consider alternative ways of looking at their own beliefs. I force them out of their little bubbles of complacency. I give them little nudges, giving them little glimpses of other ways of looking at things. And then they get the choice to examine their assumptions and possibly choose one that is better than the one they had before.

Even if I don’t give them what I think is the right answer, and even if they don’t change their minds about anything, I can still succeed. Because my goal is to get them to think about it in a certain way. If I succeed in that, I am happy.

But what about when I actually do make the effort to put across my own perspective on a subject? Like this blog post? Why am I writing it?

It isn’t to make you agree with me.

Honest. I’m not here to make everyone in the world agree with me. Or all the people who read my stuff. Or even to make all my friends agree with me. In fact, I don’t want that. Because that would mean I wouldn’t learn anything! I’m not right about everything. In fact, I am probably wrong about almost everything. And what I know is piddling compared to what is out there. People disagreeing with me is not a threat, and I don’t see it that way.

The goal is to provide a different perspective on a subject that you may not have seen or considered before.

My brain-tweaking statuses are there to help you learn to look at different perspectives, and my blog posts are there to provide you with a different perspective to look at. You really don’t understand a subject until you have seen multiple explanations for the relevant facts. Plain and simple.

That is also why I don’t debate, in either the conversations from my statuses, or in the comments on my blog posts. Debating removes learning, and learning is my goal: not convincing.

Would I like it if people changed their minds because of what I write? And if because of it they draw closer to God and are able to serve Him better? Yes! But that can only happen after these other two goals are met, and I can only achieve it by aiming at these two goals.

So there you are. That is why I write these weird things. And also why I avoid debating them. I’m not hear to preach. I’m here to reveal.

Advertisements

And So All Israel Shall Be Saved

Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur

Image via Wikipedia

For some reason over the past couple years, people have found it incumbent upon them to ask what my views were on Israel. Yeah, right, as if you really wanted to know. * shakes head *

But evidently, they do. And they aren’t talking about my fascinating views on biblical government and Old Testament Israel (though there are a few nice people who listen to me ramble on about that), they want to know about what my views are on Israel as a nation in the current day scheme of things and in the future. * sigh *

This is one of the topics that I honestly avoid, actually, mainly because I haven’t found hardly anyone who agrees with me. 😛 But then, if I don’t talk about it… how do I know? Right.

So here I am, prodded at last into posting my views on this gnarly subject.

Before I launch in, though, I would like to establish a bit of common ground…

We all believe that anyone can be saved, right? That to do so, we call on the name of God? (You know what I mean by that.) Whether or not you are Calvinist, you should be able to agree with that on some level, since the Bible says so.

So we would all agree that no one will be saved merely because they have a specific ancestry, right?

Good. 🙂

(If you don’t, you probably won’t get much out of this article, but you can send me an email explaining why you think that if you want, though I might not answer with anything more than an “interesting,” haha.)

There are tons of places in the Bible that deal with this issue, and I can’t go through them all. Far from it. I won’t even be able to scrutinize the ones I do bring up in any great depth. Simply too much there, and too little time.

I would like to start off by quoting three passages that have a common phrase:

Acts 15:8-9 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

Romans 3:22-24 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
Romans 10:11-13 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

These are only representative samples of a crucial theme throughout the Bible, because this is the heart of what the New Testament is. The New Testament’s glory is in its all embracing invitation: God’s kingdom is no longer a nation on earth – it now transcends national borders and lineages.

But what is Israel right now?

Matthew 3:9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

It isn’t necessarily that nation over in Palestine or even descendants of Abraham… at least not fleshly.

Galatians 3:29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Now, there are two passages that are key to this subject, and they must be taken together. I would love to do a verse by verse commentary on them, but that will have to wait (I do actually plan on doing that someday, though). The first is Romans 10-11, and the other is Hebrews 8.

Romans 10:1-3 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

Paul is talking about the Israel everyone thinks of: the Israel of his fleshly kinsmen. This is made obvious by the context: they aren’t saved.

And then Paul explains what they are missing: they have a false trust.

Romans 10:11-13 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

They are trusting in their own righteousness that they have in and of themselves as Jews, rather than the righteousness of God through faith.

Romans 10:17-21 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
18 But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.
19 But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.
20 But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.
21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.

They were told, they knew, it was made clear to them, but they rejected it, and now, have lost it. They are no longer the nation of God.

Now here we get into some fascinating stuff.

Romans 11:1a I say then, Hath God cast away his people?

Paul asks a natural question: does this mean that now Jews can’t be saved (as some believe)?

Romans 11:1b God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

Obviously God didn’t make it so that Jews can’t be saved… Paul is one!

Romans 11:2-5 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying,
3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.
4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

There is a remnant of Jews who are saved… by grace through faith. Not just Paul. They are not a lost cause: they just need to change the object of their faith. Being a Jew doesn’t make them saved.

Romans 11:13-15 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:
14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.
15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles is actually also a ministry to the Jews: he hopes that by preaching to the Gentiles, he will provoke the Jews into listening to the Gospel. A Jew being saved is like life from the dead in a whole new way.

Romans 11:17-24 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.
20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.
24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?

What is this tree? Well, obviously it isn’t the nation of the Jews, because we don’t become a part of the Jewish nation when we are saved… we become a part of Christ. And the Jews who aren’t saved don’t stop being a part of their lineage… they simply are not a part of God’s family.

John 15:1-2, 5 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

The tree here is the True Israel. The Kingdom of God, that is not of this world. We, being Gentiles, have become a part of it by faith, and those who were of it, who did not stand in faith, but instead stood on their lineage, were cast out (as a whole). They can still stand by faith, though, and become a part of the true Israel again.

Romans 11:26a And so all Israel shall be saved…

Ah, but some say in the future, the nation of of the Jews will turn en masse to God and be saved. And then in that future, God will work with them as a nation on Earth. They generally point to this phrase right here for their support of this idea.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), this is saying just the opposite.

Romans 11:26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

What is this covenant? What covenant did God make with Israel in which He said He would take away their sins? Now we turn to Hebrews 8 for the answer:

Hebrews 8:6-13 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.
8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

I highlighted some key phrases there, but the whole thing is one cohesive whole that needs to be read over and over and over again. Powerful and amazing passage, that.

Paul is looking back at a promise that God made with the Jews in the Old Testament. He said that the Jews would reject the covenant that they had, and that God would replace it with a new one… with a whole new system. In this system, the Kingdom of God is no longer based on lineage, but on faith. Everyone in the Kingdom of God, in the New Israel, will be righteous, made righteous by God himself, not by sacrifices and lineage.

And so… all Israel will be saved. Is saved, actually, because he is talking about now. He is talking about the New Testament. This is the New Covenant!

Romans 11:30-32 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.
32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

The Jews as a nation rejected God and His covenant, as prophesied. And because of that unbelief, God brought in the New Testament, bringing mercy upon the Gentiles. Upon us. He rejected lineage as a criteria for His kingdom, so that He could have mercy on everyone.

Romans 11:33-36 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

God Never Forgets

Scroll of the Psalms

Image via Wikipedia

I recently posted the above title as a status on Facebook, and several people immediately proved that it was a controversial statement.

Why?

Because it is commonly believed that when God forgives our sins, He remembers them no more, thus forgetting them, meaning that He blots them from His knowledge. So if you ask for forgiveness for something, and then ask again, He doesn’t know what you are talking about.

There are many variations of this belief, but the above summary is close enough to be representative, and is at least internally consistent.

I wasn’t able to respond at once, as I was completely busy that day, but the following morning I sat down and wrote out a Bible study on the issue, demonstrating my view on the matter. Here it is below, only slightly edited.

First off, someone mentioned Psalm 103:12 , which says:

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

This says nothing about God removing the knowledge of our sins from himself, it only says that He has removed them from us: He will not hold them against us in the eternal judgment of heaven or hell.

The problem is that people equivocate remembering something against someone, and forgetting the knowledge of something. Two very different things. If you try to say they are the same thing, then you are making a grave error about the nature of God.

God cannot choose to violate His own nature. He cannot contradict Himself. Either He is all-knowing or He is not. Either He is the judge of the Earth or He is not. Now examine these passages talking about this subject:

Psalms 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:

24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Proverbs 3:11-12 My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction:

12 For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

Hebrews 12:5-8 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

Galatians 6:7-8 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

If we do wrong, ours sins are covered by the blood and do not condemn us to hell. However, they still bear us fruit: we have consequences still on Earth and in Heaven. We cannot escape them: they are inevitable, incalculable, and up to God. God is our judge, and He teaches us and trains us, punishing us in love for our sins and rewarding us in joy for our obedience. He cannot do this blindly: He must know our sins and weigh them justly.

If you say that those passages are all referring to God knowing about our sins before we ask for forgiveness for them, and not after, then you are saying that we have to confess every sin to God to be forgiven for them, and thus if we do not have perfect memories and complete knowledge of our hearts (something impossible for us to have) we cannot be saved. Once we are saved, God forgives us for all sins, past, present, and future, covering them in the blood. If that means to blot them from His knowledge, then the Scripture is lying in the above passages, for they say that He knows about the sins of His children.

Genesis 8:1 And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters asswaged;

Genesis 9:15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.

Genesis 9:16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.

Does God need a memory aid? Is He in danger of forgetting about us? No! Far from it! When God talks about remembering things, He is not talking about keeping from losing the knowledge of them. He is talking about something very different.

Psalms 25:6 Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.

Does God forget Himself? Does He ever lose track of the grand and glorious fact that He is merciful and loving above everything else in existence? No! God forbid!

Hebrews 8:12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

Hebrews 10:17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

Revelation 18:5 For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.

Ah, here we go, this is where people get the idea that God has blotted out His own knowledge of our sins to such a degree that He doesn’t know what we are talking about if we ask Him to forgive us twice. But what is God talking about when He says ‘remember’?

Look it up! What does remember mean?

There are 15 definitions of remember in Webster’s 1828 dictionary. Only two have any connection with forgetfulness, and they aren’t even the first definitions. Almost all the ones that he drew from the Bible (over ten of the fifteen) have no connection at all with forgetfulness, but rather with priority, respect, esteem, obedience, and things like that.

The idea that to ‘not remember’ something is to blot it from your knowledge is completely fallacious and contrary to Scripture. Look at this definition, specifically referenced to Scripture:

To bear in mind with intent to reward or punish. 3 John 10. Jer. 31.

What are those passages? Here they are:

3 John 1:10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

Jeremiah 31:34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Nothing to do with forgetting, everything to do with bringing to judgment.

If you look at the list of definitions for remember and then go look at all the mentions in the Bible of the word, you will be awed at the power and depth of the word, when used properly. Without its true definition (which you can discern without a dictionary, just from looking at the Scriptures themselves), you end up with a very very wrong doctrine.

God never forgets.

God does not bring the remembrance of our sins before us to condemn us to hell.

God remembers His mercy and love to think on our sins and guide us out of them, showing them to us and chastening us for them.

In other words: God never forgets what He forgives.

I am interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments. I didn’t, of course, go through all the passages that mention this subject, so if you want you can bring up other ones that seem to support one or other view of the subject. The comment was long enough as it is, haha. 😉

Oh No! A Disagreement!

What do you want me to do? LEAVE? Then they'll keep being wrong!

What do you want me to do? LEAVE? Then they'll keep being wrong!

Laugh. 🙂

That comic is funny, but it is also very true.

How many times do we get bent out of shape, and spend precious moments of our time (and every moment is precious), trying to convince someone just because they are wrong?

Think about it: there are over six and a half billion people on this planet. That is a lot. But that number pales to insignificance when you consider the amount of knowledge available in the universe. Every detail of every action of all time; every fact of every attribute of every event and every object that ever occurred or existed; every thought of every human in response to every stimulus in history.

That still blows me away.

When you consider the vastness of total knowledge, the amount you think you know becomes a tiny spot, indistinguishable in a lake of ink that spreads as far as the horizon.

And then when you look at what you know, with an honest mind, how much do you really know? How many times have you held something with absolute conviction, yet only to renounce it as complete foolishness a few short years later? Hopefully many, many times. There is very little we can be sure of. I won’t say, like many, that there is nothing that we can be sure of, which is foolishness. But the vast majority of our knowledge is on very shaky ground.

So when you couple these two considerations together, you must realize the self-evident fact that the huge, vast majority of people in the world are just simply wrong about almost everything, including yourself. (By the way, no one is wrong about everything: each person has a certain measure of absolute truth in their keeping.)

This is a humbling, and a daunting prospect. Only God is absolutely right, with absolute knowledge. And it is insufferable arrogance to assume that we are anywhere close to Him in that regard.

So what do we do when we find out that someone * gasp * is wrong?

Well most of the time we can simply pass on. We have other things to do. At least, hopefully we do. There are only a very few, very rare situations in which it is appropriate and helpful to address someone’s perceived error.

And even then, first make sure that you are really in disagreement. The vast, vast majority of perceived disagreements are just that, perceived. It is extremely easy to mistake someone’s point of view. And it is even easier to assume that they believe things that they really don’t: you might be in agreement on everything they say except for one small point.

Then, don’t attack. Being mistaken is never a sin in itself, even in matters of doctrine, and it is rarely very bad either. It can be dangerous, though, which should motivate us to be as kind and unselfish as possible in helping the other person.

And above all…

Don’t lose sleep over it. 😉

Don’t You Hate Being Wrong?

It is no calumny to be mistaken. Indeed, it is not even a very great fault. And although it is preferable to be correct, other matters of far greater importance ought to pull rank on any division over a matter of correctness.

There are, of course, matters in which correctness is of vital, nay, crucial importance, but this import is not derived from the correctness itself, but from other matters and considerations. Salvation is a prime example. For to be perfectly accurate (though not necessarily precise) on the matters upon which our eternal souls depend is a matter of eternal import. Yet it is evident that this importance is due to the immeasurable stakes which are upon this belief, and not to the details of the belief itself. Thus we must be perfectly accurate in this, not for its own sake, but for the sake of the consequences of that belief.

You will say that God is Truth, that He values truth, that He abhors false witnesses, that He is Holy (and thus no fault or mistake is in His nature), and that we ought to be like Him. You will moreover assert that God commands us to hold to those standards, so to neglect to seek Truth would be to sin against Him. I do not contest these assertions.

I do, however, contend that these truths to not make mistakes in accuracy sins themselves, but merely the neglect to pursue the eradication of these errors. I still further contend that there are other duties held so much higher in God’s esteem that when these come in conflict with out quest for truth, we must relinquish said quest for their sakes.

This philosophy has two manifestations in practical life, insofar as I know. Each of these are sadly quite common, and ought to be solidly addressed.

The first is where you find yourself in a situation in which another person is mistaken, and because of this difference in belief between the two of you, there is potential for discord and other undesirables. The Biblical example is eating food. Some people mistakenly believe it is sinful to eat certain foods, others do not have this misunderstanding of the Bible. Paul says that it is more important to avoid conflict with the person than it is to confront them. We ought to, as far as reason allows, trick them into thinking we agree with them, more or less. It is more important to help keep them from feeling like they are sinning than to help them see their mistake. (Of course we still ought not to avoid preaching and teaching the truth. (Paul didn’t)) This conclusion is clear to anyone who has read Romans 14-15 honestly.

The second is where you find yourself in a situation in which another person is mistaken, and that person is in significant authority over you. This is something that has a lot more emotional charge than the last, and I do not expect many of you to agree with me. But here ’tis. There are situations in which we ought to submit certain beliefs of ours to another in the cause of obedience, submission, and creating a good witness.

What kinds of situations? Well the most solid one is that of husbands and wives. If a husband believes that a wife ought to wear headcoverings, and she doesn’t believe that, it is her duty to submit to her husband’s belief and wear them. Same thing with other topics like eating certain foods, going to church, etc. This is being a witness to her husband, and God will bless that, possible even turning her husband to the truth. Mistakes in minor doctrines like these are so unimportant that they are hardly worth mentioning, especially if doing so would be an act of rebellion, disrespect, or conflict. This principle is not so obvious, but just as strong. Study 1 Peter 3:1-6 in coordination with Romans 14-15 if you want to see it.

This principle also applies to children who are under their father’s authority. (Don’t ask me when they go out from under his authority, that is another post entirely.)

The basic principle is that seeking truth is good and profitable, as long as it doesn’t conflict with other, more important things like submission and charity.

What are your thoughts on this concept? This is a hot topic, but I would like to see what you think.

Rebellion and You

Torah inside of the former Glockengasse synago...
Image via Wikipedia

What is rebellion?

First, why do we care? That question is easily dealt with:

1 Samuel 15:23 For rebellion [is as] the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness [is as] iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from [being] king.

Proverbs 17:11 An evil [man] seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.

Jeremiah 28:16 Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the LORD.

Remember that both rebellion and witchcraft were punished by stoning in OT Israel. Ouch. So… what is rebellion then?

Of course you know where I am going to go to find out, don’t you? 🙂

Yup, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary.

Open resistance to lawful authority.”

That is the short bit, and all we really need here, but the rest is very cool too, so check it out if you are interested. [http://1828.sorabji.com/1828/words/r/rebellion.html]

The only proper (meaning ‘approved by Jay’) shift of meaning that has transpired since Webster’s writing of this cogent definition is a variation of use which allows for rebellion to occur covertly, rather than openly. One may have a rebellious attitude that remains sequestered within your breast, and never sees the light of day, and yet remains truly rebellious in the sight of God.

(One could argue that this sense still retains the quality of openness, since all things are open to God. But if you take that into consideration you might as well strike it out of the definition anyways since all things are open and thus it ceases to be a defining factor.)

On to the next word.

What does it mean to resist?

To stand against; to withstand.”

To set yourself against something means that you are out from under it. You cannot be submissive and rebellious simultaneously. Thus rebellion is a rejection of authority.

Ah, but not just any authority.

Lawful authority.

I think that little word there, Lawful, is the most important word in that definition. I believe that is so because of this simple fact that it makes true:

You cannot rebel against unlawful authority. It simply cannot be done.

This ties directly into Romans 13:1-2.

Romans 13:1-2 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

The message of this passage is very clear and simple: Authority only comes from God. And so to resist lawful authority (rebellion) is indeed resisting God just as much as if you spit in His holy face or committed witchcraft.

Because of this powerful fact, we must be very careful. Why? People claim to have authority over us constantly, and by thereby demanding obedience of us they are claiming to be the ministers of God. Whether or not they think they are claiming this is irrelevant.

The Bible is very very clear that we are all equal, and equally at liberty from the control of others, except where God has specifically delineated an authority figure to perform a specific function.

These authority figures are defined and instituted by God for our good. That is His created order: for us to submit ourselves to these authority figures. I cannot go into all of the different ones here (that is a matter for many books), but I do want to point something out:

If an authority figure steps outside of his jurisdiction and exerts control that was not given him by God, he is sinning. And by definition, he is sinning against someone (or more than one someone). This does not mean that we ought to revolt (notice my word choice: we can’t rebel against him, since he isn’t exerting lawful authority, we can only revolt) against him, though. Generally we ought to merely yield (give up your cloak, turn the other cheek, etc.). There are very few situations in which the Bible commands us to revolt, resist, and overthrow unlawful authority. Most of the time we ought to pass it by.

Realize this though: your parents are your lawful authority, and their jurisdiction is far reaching. Their authority surpasses and supersedes the authority of every other ordination of God. That means that if your pastor tells you to do one thing, and your father tells you to do another, you obey your father. Period. Full stop. No questions, no buts, no hesitations, no qualms.

Realize also that even if your parents tell you to do something that you consider to be sin (like for example not going to church, or not wearing a headcovering, or going to public school, or reading a secular book on the ‘Sabbath’ day (I am looking at you Elsie Dinsmore)) in the vast majority of cases, you ought to obey. Even if they are not saved. (Especially if they are not saved, depending on how you look at it.) This passes the responsibility for that action onto them, and God will bless you in that deed.

Why do I say this? Wouldn’t God say that you aren’t rebelling since it isn’t their jurisdiction?

Because God commanded us to do it. Do a study of 1 Peter 3:1-6 and ask me about it in the comments if you don’t see it.

Controversial issue, I know. But those who know me know that I don’t shy from those. * smile * There are a lot of facets that I haven’t covered (such as when parental authority ceases to be binding), but I will save those for another time and another post.

What do you think? How do you think you should change your life in light of this study? In particular, what do you think about how you are treating (and thinking about) your parents? Are you rebelling against them in your heart or in your actions by simply not yielding to them with all your heart?

4 Appetites that Change Your Life

Doesn't that make you hungry?I have been thinking about appetites lately. It started back when I listened to the Reformer’s Unanimous message on Principle # 4 again: “You cannot satisfy a fleshly appetite by indulging in it,” a couple weeks or so ago.

It is really a very good principle. There is a lot of truth packed into it.

Let me unwrap a little bit of it for you. It is what I have been pondering on, and putting into practice for the last couple weeks, and I am really excited about it.

There are a few different kinds of appetites, and you can classify them in a few different ways.

If you classify them by the object of desire, for example, you have basically two kinds: good and bad. An example of a good appetite would be reading God’s Word, or righteousness. God clearly commands us to desire and hunger after these things over and over in the Bible. And example of a bad appetite would be sinful sexual lust, drugs, and stuff like that.

Those are obvious examples, but it gets harder to categorize things when you start trying to classify things like healthy food. Is that a fleshly appetite? Is that a godly appetite? Is that an appetite that could grow to be a consuming appetite? It is actually all of those, which makes it tough to see whether it is good or bad. I mean, think about it. If it is kept under control, and it doesn’t become an idol (that is, your appetite for it becomes overwhelming), it is good and right, and should be encouraged. So it seems almost like….

A gradient! Oh no!

You have black (bad appetites) and white (good appetites) and gray (appetites that are… um middly). Gray areas are not good, are they? They just smell of compromise and wishy-washy-ness and relative morality and… bleagch.

So that is why I was thinking about this, and I discovered another way to categorize appetites: by the nature of the appetite.

Let’s illustrate with food, because it is near to our hearts and easy to apply.

Did you know that if you consistently eat food that satisfies your nutritional needs (yes, that is what food is for), you won’t fill your stomach up? It actually isn’t good for you to eat until your stomach is full: you are supposed to eat until your nutritional requirements are met for that meal. If you do it right, your appetite actually turns off and you can’t eat another bite.

Of course if you aren’t eating food that satisfies those needs, you won’t have that effect, and the only way you can feel sort of ‘satisfied’ is to eat until your stomach is full of food. The problem with that is that your stomach isn’t really made to handle that, and it will expand and stretch to hold it all. And your appetite will grow with it. So you will gradually eat more and more at each meal.

What happens then is that you start to eat to satisfy your mouth. You eat because it tastes good going through your mouth, and you keep on sending food through until either your mouth says it is enough, or your stomach begins to complain that it is overloaded, and you stop because you don’t want to face the consequences of overeating.

Unfortunately if you keep going in that direction you will get to the point where it doesn’t matter any more. You begin to despise your food, and your body is screaming in misery at you because it is being abused, but you can’t stop eating. You are eating to satisfy, not your needs, not your stomach, not your mouth, but your appetite itself. You are a slave to your … addiction.

So we have four kinds of appetites there, and the progression between them. Notice that you don’t start down this slippery slope unless you change your intake to something that doesn’t have safeguards to protect you from abusing it.

Here is where it gets exciting.

Our spiritual life has this same division of appetites!

When you are doing something for God, something that God wants you to do, by definition it won’t take control of your life. That is how it is designed to work. You can’t spend too much time reading God’s Word, if you are doing it for the right reasons, because it will drive you to get out and take action on what it is talking about. The same thing goes for prayer or any other spiritual discipline. This also applies to things that God calls you to do, like spending time with your family, having a successful job, resting, or recreation. Each of these things, when done with the right motivation, will fall into place in God’s big picture of your life and will never take over more room than they need.

But if you start focusing on anything for its own sake, it starts to grow, and you begin to toe the line of it beginning to encroach on your other tasks and duties in life. The problem with toeing the line, though, is that it moves. It moves farther and farther out (in your eyes, not in God’s), until you are far away from where God wants you to be, and that thing has become a stronghold in your life.

When that happens you start doing it just for the pleasure of doing it. Pleasure is not a bad thing: God designed many of things purely for our pleasure with no ‘practical’ benefits other than just that. But when the pleasure becomes centered on our flesh, rather than on God, bad things begin to happen. You do it as much as possible, and only stop when you fear the consequences. You sleep until you fear losing your job. You work until you fear losing your sleep or your family. You read your Bible (as a self-righteous hypocrite) until you fear losing other things that might be important to you.

But living like that is like playing Russian Roulette. Every day you take a shot at your head, and the cylinder moves the bullet one place closer to you. You don’t know when the day of reckoning will come, but be assured that it will if you don’t change your course. The closer you get the less and less you care about consequences, and you begin to recklessly throw yourself into it. You begin to hate your life; you hate your passion; you hate your appetite; and you hate everything that tries to drag you from it.

You become like Gollum in Lord of the Rings.

And at the end of that road is death. No hope or way of escape is in that direction.

You have to turn around and run for God, casting out all things that feed the wrong appetites: the ones that are not for His glory. You need to seek out those things that satisfy your righteous appetites: the ones that bring God glory. You need to starve those appetites which are displeasing to God.

And if you don’t.

Hell awaits you.