The Solution to the Problem

16 03 2010

I really like the way the Contemporary English Version handles verses 3 and 4 in the book of Jude:

“My dear friends, I really wanted to write you about God’s saving power at work in our lives. But instead, I must write and ask you to defend the faith that God has once for all given to his people.  Some godless people have sneaked in among us and are saying, ‘God treats us much better than we deserve, and so it is all right to be immoral.’ They even deny that we must obey Jesus Christ as our only Master and Lord. But long ago the Scriptures warned that these godless people were doomed.”

My Christian background is of the King James Version tradition. Not the King James Only type, but more of the King James First camp. However, over the last several years I’ve become more appreciative of other translations of the scripture. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the King James Bible, but that old King James English can blunt the impact of some very clear statements God has given us.

Take this passage in Jude; it is so simple and strong. We can’t always do the things we might want to do (like write about God’s saving power at work in us) when something more vital needs to be addressed. What could be more vital than God’s saving power? Jude is convinced that at least one thing is: the defense of the faith.

Jude is not speaking of faith in the sense of that living, individual and/or community experience of God in one’s personal life. No, he is talking about “the faith” as that body of truths and teachings which form the foundation and essence of Christianity. He is talking about defending what we know as Christian doctrine.

It was under attack then as it is now. It was important then as it is now. It was defended then as it must be now. Doctrine is not the problem; it is the solution to the problem.


Conditional Acceptance

9 09 2008

          Every Christian is to radiate one great quality… love. We are to love God, our neighbors as ourselves, fellow believers, and even our enemies. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).

          There is a problem, however, in understanding what it really means to love biblically. Surely the best examples of love are to be found in Jesus and God. The Bible says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).

          If God is love (and He is) then everything He does is consistent with love (biblical love). That means God’s judgment and stance against sin and unrighteousness is a loving stance. Think about that for a moment. It is just on this point that many people get confused.

          There is a tendency to equate love with unconditional acceptance these days. In other words, some think that to love means to totally accept a person regardless of what they are or do. But that is not biblical love. That is a worldly twisting of biblical love into a monstrous embrace of paganism. That is surely not what believers are called to do.

          God loves everyone, but He doesn’t accept everyone just as they are. In fact, the Bible is quite clear, if people stay just as they are they will die in their sins and go to hell.

          Turn it round this way, if love meant accepting everyone just as they are then Jesus didn’t have to die on the cross because everyone was already totally and unconditionally accepted by God. Clearly this was not the case.

         In a way, to teach that love means “unconditional acceptance” is to imply that God is less than loving. 

Proper Judging

1 09 2008


          One of Jesus’ most well known statements is found in Matthew chapter seven: “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). What did Jesus mean when He said to judge not?

          Some believe He meant that judging in any form or fashion is always wrong. What is judging? It is expressing a verdict, decision, or opinion based on some process of evaluation. Think of an umpire in baseball. He first must learn the rules of baseball and then carefully observe and impartially judge the game according to them. The umpire is not to make up his own rules or show partiality.

          What Jesus condemns is not all judging but unjust, hypocritical judging (see Matthew 7:5). Unlike the umpire, we are all “in the game” so to speak. The rules are given in the Bible. All Christians are responsible to abide by them. All of us are to be loving, kind, honest, forgiving, and godly. There are no exceptions. What we are not to do is make up our own rules or show partiality between people.

          The Apostle Paul scolded (judged) an entire group of Christians because they did not openly condemn (judge) a sinful situation in their midst. The Corinthian church was not judging and Paul promptly denounced them for it and rendered judgment against the sinning individuals they were tolerating (1 Corinthians chapter 5).



Class begins!

19 08 2008

This is a picture of the first year Bible Analysis class I teach at the Central Arkansas Baptist Bible Institute and Seminary.

It’s going to be fun this year.

Dangerous Assumptions

25 06 2008

There are two broad categories of error Christians need to understand. The first is doctrinal and involves what one believes. The second is practical and involves what one does.

Jesus said, “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). The doctrinal portion of this verse involves the Lordship of Christ and is correct. Jesus is Lord. The Greek word translated “Lord” is kurios and means master, owner, ruler, one who has control. So, to call Jesus “Lord” and yet not “do” what He says is an error in practice not doctrine.

Errors in practice are a serious problem for the local church. We are often not as godly as we ought to be or as forgiving or as committed. Yes, we Christians repeatedly fall short of the great doctrines we affirm, but that in no way invalidates them. On the contrary, it even confirms many of them, like the doctrine of the sinfulness of man. 

The opposite error is much harder to see. In fact, many never see it. It is the error of looking right but being wrong. It is possible to do things that look outwardly consistent with Christian teaching but not be scriptural at all. People see a church that matches their idea of what a church should look like or feel like and then assume it is a scripturally sound church. Big mistake.

What I’m saying is this:

It is a mistake to assume that a zealous and passionate church is a scripturally sound church (Romans 10:2).

It is a mistake to assume that a growing church is a scripturally sound church (Matthew 23:15).

It is a mistake to assume that a church with exciting worship services is a scripturally sound church (Exodus 32:6-7).

It is even a mistake to assume that a church which does many wonderful things in “Jesus name” is a scripturally sound church (Matthew 7:22-23).

Be careful not to judge a church by mere outward appearance. It may “feel” right and “look” right but be dead wrong.

Strebloo – to wrench or pervert

18 06 2008

Have you noticed the increase in warning labels over the years? Some of them are a bit ridiculous. But others, especially in relation to inherently dangerous things, are vital. Think of a chain saw. The first thing you’ll see upon opening the box is a warning label (probably in bold red letters) that says something like, “Stop! Read the owners manual and all warnings before operating.” It makes sense to read the warnings first. When you think about it, that’s pretty good advice for Bible study as well.

With all the confusion and false teachings out there one would do well to begin by reading the warnings found in the Bible. After all, errors and misrepresentations have been around since Jesus’ day.

You may remember the touching scene after Christ’s resurrection where Jesus told Peter to feed His sheep (a metaphor for followers). After that Jesus spoke about Peter’s death and how it would glorify God. Peter then asked what plans the Lord had for John. Jesus answered, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me” (John 21:22). In other words, Jesus told Peter to stay focused on his own responsibilities and not worry about John.

Somehow Jesus’ words got turned around and people began teaching that John would remain alive until the Second Coming.  

The same thing often happens today and not only to the words of Jesus. One interesting passage written by the Apostle Peter warns of those who were perverting the words of Paul. Peter knew Paul’s teachings well enough to realize that they were being twisted and misinterpreted. In 2 Peter 3:16 he refers to those who do so as unlearned and unstable because they “wrest” (Greek strebloo – to wrench or pervert) the scriptures.

That passage also stands as a reminder that Peter and Paul were in agreement about Jesus and His great work of redemption.

Be warned, there are still those who would pervert the gospel. They turn Paul’s words against Peter’s and even the Lord’s. Skillfully they stack and shuffle scriptures until they “prove” their unorthodox views. It’s so dire these days that one can even find those who teach that the Christian church and Christian gospel did not even begin with Christ but with one of the apostles. Amazing.

Make no mistake, the Bible teaches that Peter and Paul willingly gave their lives proclaiming the singular message of Christ crucified, risen, and coming again.        

Watch out for False Prophets

11 06 2008

Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Regrettably people settle for less. Many are entertained but not free. Sincere but not free. Passionate but not free. Spiritual but not free. Without truth there is no freedom.

One task of proper Bible study is to replace misbeliefs with truth – truth that is firm and fixed because it is grounded in the God who does not lie (Titus 1:2).

The Scriptures teach that we do not have to be content with relative notions about the truth. We can actually know the truth. We can even have a personal relationship with God Himself through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

          Unfortunately, the Bible also tells that there are false teachers out there who twist and misrepresent the truth. Jesus, Paul, and Peter all warn of them.    

The Apostle Peter: “But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach their destructive heresies about God and even turn against their Master who bought them. Theirs will be a swift and terrible end.  Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of them, Christ and his true way will be slandered.  In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money. But God condemned them long ago, and their destruction is on the way” (2 Peter 2:1-3 NLT).

The Apostle Paul: I know that after I am gone, others will come like fierce wolves to attack you. Some of your own people will tell lies to win over the Lord’s followers. Be on your guard! Remember how day and night for three years I kept warning you with tears in my eyes” (Acts 20:29-31 CEV).

          The Lord Jesus Christ: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15 NIV).

In light of these warnings every student of the Word needs to proceed with extreme caution. Distortions, misrepresentations, and half-truths cause many to lose their way. As it turns out, careful Bible study requires two things that modern Christians find difficult – patience and discernment.

Patience is the ability and capacity to wait, to allow time to pass, to submit to God’s timing and process. It takes time to read and study the Bible. There are no short-cuts. The popular “group-talk” Bible study guides are a sad by-product of an impatient generation. You know the drill, read some passage from the Bible and then answer questions like: “What are your first impressions?” “How does it make you feel?” “What is God saying to you?” and on and on. That’s not Bible study. At best it is a benign form of talk therapy that allows everyone to participate and anyone to “facilitate” (compare with Acts 8:30-31).   

Discernment, on the other hand, is the ability to rightly apply the biblical judgment acquired through patient study. The two main Greek words associated with discernment are anakrino, meaning to examine or judge closely, and diakrino, to separate out, to investigate, to examine. The Bible teaches that Christians must learn to discern. They must be able to properly test all teachings and actions against the Biblical standard. They must know the fit and function of the various truths presented in order to rationally apply them with confidence. Of course this ought to be done sparingly in the beginning stages. Until one has actually read the Bible and established a foundation of familiarity with it, discernment is next to impossible (Matthew 22:29).