Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word.
My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes.
My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right.
Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.
I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight.
Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me.
I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
The following is an argument against the “transcendental argument for the non-existence of God” (TANG).
The primary problem with the TANG argument is that Dr. Martin begins his discussion several logical steps after those presenting the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God (TAG) have presented their case and sat down.
The TAG argument says that everything we think, do, and say presupposes the Christian God. What this means is that to even talk about logic, science, and morality presupposes God. Logic would not be logic, science would not be science, morality makes no sense in a world where the Christian God is not God.
Dr. Martin’s begins the first section of his argument by saying, “Logic presupposes that its principles are necessarily true.” But, from where did logic come? How can logic think at all? Who says logic presupposes its principles are true? In a world without God, or in a world with a god that is not the Christian God, there is no reason to believe anything is true or will be true tomorrow (whatever we mean by truth or error, which may change in 30 seconds).
The Christian says we can talk about the truth of the logical principles because they are expressions of God, who is logical, and we know that they will still be true tomorrow because the Christian God does not change. So, logic will still be true now, 30 seconds from now, three thousand years from now ad infinitum.
The problem with starting where Dr. Martin starts is that he does not begin with the source of logic, as the TAG argument does, but assumes logic and goes from there. Dr. Martin hasn’t gone far enough back in the discussion.
Another mistake Dr. Martin makes is that he thinks TAG teaches that God created logic. This is not true; instead it teaches that logic is a characteristic or attribute of God, who created mankind in his image. This, among many other things, means means people can know and use logic to communicate with one another.
Dr. Martin is correct in the whole rest of his argument about logic. But since the first several steps don’t apply, the rest of his argument is moot.
In his section on science, Dr. Martin assumes things that he is supposed to be proving. For example, he assumes the world is the way it is, which God has created to be this way, without realizing the presuppositions on which he is standing. Where did science come from? Who says it has laws? Where do the laws come from? Who enforces those laws? The thing to ask according to the TANG argument is, “What would science look like if there were no Christian God?” The things we observe in science only repeat because that’s the way God made the world. It is an expression of who God is: beautiful, consistent, orderly, logical, etc. However, because God made the world and makes things appear to happen the same way over and over again, we label them laws (the laws of science). Moreover, in the world, miracles happen. The world in which the God of Christianity doesn’t exist would not have laws at all. Nothing would be consistent nor could anything be expected to repeat itself, and so nothing would be a law. Miracles only make sense when there are principles on which people count enough to notice if there is a “violation” of a given one. Without the God of Christianity, everything would be out of order, so nothing would be unexpected.
Again, in a transcendental argument, the goal is to prove or show why science exists or why we assume science exists in a world where the Christian God does not exist. This means we can assume that science exists, but must show that it can exist in a world where the Christian God does not. Dr. Martin has assumed science, but has not shown in any way whatever that we could have what we have without the Christian God having given it to us.
Dr. Martin goes on to assert something called “objective morality.” Where did that come from? If the God of Christianity does not exist, how can anyone talk about “objective” anything? Even “morality” is a silly concept. Acknowledging that morality exists assumes that God exists. Again, Dr. Martin has jumped ahead of what he’s trying to prove. The TAG argument says that right and wrong exist. We know that; we see it all the time. The TAG argument goes on to say that this morality would/could only exist in a world that the Christian God created. It exists, and therefore God exists.
What Dr. Martin needs to do is to explain how there can be “objective morality” in a world that exists independently from the Christian God. Instead Dr. Martin assumes morality, therefore using God’s created world to try to prove that God does not exist.
One last point that I think is somewhat funny. Dr. Martin says, “On the other hand, determining the will of God is impossible since there are different alleged sources of this will (The Bible, the Koran, The Book of Mormon, etc) and different interpretations of what these sources say; moreover, there is no rational way to reconcile these differences.” But the TAG argument takes into account the fact that false gods and false religions exist and that false gods try to control morality. TAG only says the world we live in can only be this way if the God of Christianity exists and created it this way. An appeal to various religions proves TAG; it does not disprove it. The problem is that Dr. Martin’s position is in the same grouping as the Mormons and Islam. It is a competing god trying to use the world God created to “have it its way,” but to do so, assumes and uses God’s world.
You can also see Dr. John Frame’s argument with Dr. Martin at: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/martin-frame/
Also Doug Jones carried on a debate on this subject. You can find it here: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/jones-parsons-martin/
Finally, you can read the debate Douglas Wilson had with Dr. Theodore Drange here: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/theodore_drange/drange-wilson/index.shtml
I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.
I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law.
Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.
Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.
I hope for your salvation, O LORD, and I do your commandments.
My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly.
I keep your precepts and testimonies, for all my ways are before you.
Friday, April 21, 2006
Thursday, April 20, 2006
I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies.
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.
My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.
Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O LORD, according to your justice give me life.
They draw near who persecute me with evil purpose; they are far from your law.
But you are near, O LORD, and all your commandments are true.
Long have I known from your testimonies that you have founded them forever.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
There are several interesting points in this passage that we don’t often notice that need to be taken seriously. First is the assumption that fights and quarrels are common. Have there ever been a people, a church, or a nation among whom fights and quarrels are not common? Have you ever gone even for a whole day without coming into conflict with at least one person? (Okay, so you work alone, but don’t you quarrel or fight with God?) Everyone fights and quarrels with others, but each of us is tempted to let himself off the hook by saying, “What’s the big deal, everyone does it. If everyone fights, then it can’t be so bad. It must be part of my being human.” However, this ignores the fact that while mankind is innately sinful, God does not allow sin to remain. God sent his son to die so that sin would not remain the master over men. It is important to God that we not fight and quarrel with one another, and what is important to God should be important to us. We need to get it through our heads that fights and quarrels, while part of sinful human makeup, are not okay and are not allowed.
If then fighting and quarrelling are a part of what it means to be human, and God does not allow them, how can we live the way he requires? How do we do what God tells us to do when we by nature do the opposite? To answer this question, we need to look at the reason this passage gives for why we live the way we do. Why do we fight with one another? According to James, we fight, quarrel, and even murder because we have passions and desires within us that drag us off and entice us to reach out, demand, and take what is not ours (cf. Jas 1:13-17), what God has not given to us. Notice that it tells us in verse 3 that we “covet and cannot obtain.” Does this word ‘covet’ ring any bells in your mind? Yes, the 10th commandment tells us to not covet, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's" (Exodus 20:17). You see that your neighbor has something, you want one too, can’t get it, so you envy him, and soon a fight breaks out.
Here is a sample situation: Suppose the guy next door makes a lot of money (much more than you) and buys a boat, but doesn’t take you out in it. So, you think to yourself, “I’ll get back at him,” and you don’t give him any slack on his leaves blowing in your yard. Then that begins to irritate you, and now you hate him for his leaves. Then, when he asks to borrow your leaf blower, you blow up at him. It started with you feeling ripped off because he has a job he enjoys, which pays well, has a prettier wife, nicer kids, is more spiritual, has better and bigger toys, etc. and it ends with you grumbling about him and not talking any more because his wife “looked” at your wife funny at the neighborhood picnic. What started out to be the “innocent” envy of your neighbor’s boat turned into a lifelong blood feud with your neighbor.
Okay, the fights and quarrels are a normal part of life, but we’re not supposed to have them. They happen because we break the 10th commandment and covet one another’s’ stuff. We envy, lust, have lively passions. How can we stop it? What’s the solution?
First, you need to know (know in your bones) that you aren’t the center of the universe, that that position is already filled by God, that life is not about you and what you want or who you are, but it is about God and who he is and what he wants. You exist for his glory, not yours.
Second, you need to know (again, in your bones) that you exist in order to live in relationship with God, who created you, who sent his son to pay the penalty of your sin, to redeem you from sin, to set you free from sin, to change you from the inside out so that you might have a holy, sanctified, relationship with him. You exist for God’s good pleasure and for your relationship with him. Everything in your life is about your relationship with him and his with you.
Third, this all means that since life is not about you and you are here to live in community with God, you don’t have time (or the right) to have passions and desires that ruin or destroy your relationship with God.
Fourth, since this life is not about you or your desires and passions, living a holy life is also not about your strength or will. It is true that the Bible tells us to obey the commands of God, but it also says that it is God working in us that brings about his will in our lives. What this means is that living in communion with God is about our obedience, but this is more about our faith than about our will power. James basically says that you ask, but do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives (v. 3); you want to receive so that you can feed your passions. But the Bible also says that if you ask anything in the Name of Jesus, you will receive it (Jn 15:16). “In the name of Jesus” means asking in accord with his will, with right motives, for God’s kingdom and for God’s glory.
How this works out practically is this: suppose you’ve been a Christian for several years and you discover a church in another part of the country that is doing things the way you think Christian things ought to be done. So you decide to pack up your family and move to where that church is so you can participate in their life with God. Suppose when you get there that you discover that the leadership in the new church are all much older than you and they tell you that in order to become a leader, you’ve got to live in the community for several years and by your life and ministry show yourself to be qualified to lead. Suppose that you agree to that, even though you think you have the gifts and abilities far above most of the current leaders. Now suppose 10 years have passed and the leaders don’t seem to be noticing your godliness in the way you think they ought and so you begin to ask God to have them notice you. In what appears to be an answer to your prayers, the church leaders ask you to write a few things and to begin attending their leadership training school. Then, however, another 2 years go by, and still they don’t mention you for an actual leadership position.
Notice in my example there are several places where a man might be tempted to protest, to go it his own way, to rise up and demand that others notice him. But what does the man of God do? How can a man live by faith in God in this situation? Know this: another word for faith is trust. If you have faith in God, you will trust him. If you ask and he doesn’t give you what you ask for, your faith will cause you to say, “I trust God and will assume that if he didn’t give me what I asked for, he is either saying, ‘Wait, you’re not ready,’ or ‘No, this isn’t for you,’ or ‘No, I have something else in mind for you.’” The one living by faith says, “I trust God for what I have and am receiving and will praise him for it.” If a person has strong desires for something that God says ‘no’ about, the one having faith in God says, “I submit my desires to your will and will rejoice in what you have given me rather than get disappointed in what you haven’t given me.”
In the situation above, the worldly way to respond would be to get bitter, increase in envy, criticize the leadership (maybe even in public), run away, cause a stink. This is not of faith. It is exactly what James was talking about: what causes wars and quarrels among you? Your unbridled lusts which rule your life, cause you to do things that are antithetical to the Gospel of love and peace with God and consequently with your fellow man. This is sin and is a travesty to the Kingdom of God. The fortunate thing is that James had to spell it out for the first century Christian and therefore he has also spelled it out for the 21st century Christian for the same reasons. The sinful, quarrelsome man thinks he is in the right. He might even think God is happy with him. Unless the hand of God comes down hard upon him, he believes that he is the victim because “those other guys wouldn’t recognize my intellectual abilities and godliness and now I’m showing them.” But what he’s really showing them and all the world is that he was motivated from the beginning by his own passions and desires to be noticed by man rather than God.
In this example, the godly way to respond would be to continue to walk with God, trusting that the Father was giving what he deemed best for the man and his family. If he thought the elders were overlooking him, he would ask God to help in the situation and he would continue to shine like a light in the midst of the congregation and let his good deeds show his godly qualities. He would love his wife, love his children, get along with the church leadership, and he would glorify God in every way he could while waiting for God to give him what God wanted to give. Walking by faith means trusting that what God has given you is what God wants for you to have, and that makes you happy and content.
I hope this helps.
You have appointed your testimonies in righteousness and in all faithfulness.
My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your words.
Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it.
I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your precepts.
Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true.
Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight.
Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.
I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments.
Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name.
Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.
Redeem me from man's oppression, that I may keep your precepts.
Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes.
My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Give your servant a pledge of good; let not the insolent oppress me.
My eyes long for your salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise.
Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your statutes.
I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your testimonies!
It is time for the LORD to act, for your law has been broken.
Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.
Therefore I consider all your precepts to be right; I hate every false way.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Most members of the church are members “in good standing.” A few might be suspended from the table for various kinds of sins. They are members not in good standing, but they are still members. The other option is to have been excommunicated and in that case they are not members at all.
Suppose a member in good standing was gossiping about her neighbors all over town, and refuses to stop. Several things (not necessarily in this order) might happen to help restore her fellowship: (1) nothing might happen, in the hopes that love will cover a multitude of sins (God will intervene and convict her of sin). (2) A friend might approach her and discuss the issue kindly and bring her to the place where she acknowledges her sin. (3) Several people will confront her about her gossip and will convince her to repent and love her neighbors. (4) The elders might suspend her from the Lord’s Supper for a time, as a preliminary action, so that she will understand the severity of her sin. (5) She might be taken before the whole church as a witness against her that she is not acting in faith like Christians are called to do. (6) And finally, if she still persists in her sin, she will be put out of the church and proclaimed to be a non-Christian. The goal is always to restore fellowship between the member and God and the member and the other members.
In all of these situations until number 4 she would be a member in good standing. After that she would be a member, not in good standing.
It is important to remember that we are all sinners and we all sin. There are many sins that a member in good standing might commit, and right in front of everybody. It might be the kind of sin that is being covered by love (where the church is waiting for God to deal with the sinner), or it might be the kind where he is being restored gently and it hasn’t gotten to the point of discipline—yet. But because fellowship is the goal, and God is longsuffering, we must be slow to act and careful to not make the situation worse in our acting.
But the assumption that a member in good standing is therefore not sinning, is a mistaken assumption. And as an observation, the one shouting, “I’m a member in good standing!” is often not really a member in good standing with regard to his actual standing before God.
Wood: There are two ways that people tend to apply this passage in a wooden way. First, when they come to a passage like this they read it totally literally so that they understand that no Christian should take any other Christian to court. The emphasis being court. So, the wooden Christian understands this passage to have nothing whatever to do with newspapers, or blogging, or any other sort of public broadcasting.
The other wooden way that people tend to take this passage is to say that no Christian should take another Christian who is a member of my church to court. Of course if the Christian is not a member of my church, or if I am simply not a member of his church, I can take him to court and sue his socks off.
There are other ways to take this passage woodenly (e.g. we don’t live in Corinth therefore it doesn’t apply to me.) but for now I’ll only point out these two.
Principles: The Bible is written primarily in story or narrative form. This means that in order to know what God is telling us, instead of looking at the surface of a story, we must go below that to the principles being taught in the story. This passage appears to come from a didactic letter, but it is a letter written to someone else. This means that it is part of the story and is actually a piece of teaching that comes from a narrative text. The point being that the argument that it was written to Corinthians has valid weight against those who want to make it didactic only. But it doesn’t carry any weight at all when you realize that it is a text of teaching inside a narrative context.
What this means is that instead of reading the text woodenly, we must read it like any other story and ask ourselves, “What is the principle being taught? In this particular passage the main principle is that Christians must not blaspheme Christ by airing their dirty laundry in front of the non-Christian world. The issue is Christ and his glory. It has nothing to do with which church you are a member. If you are a Christian, you are a member of Christ. The point is that Christ is being slandered amongst the pagans because you are taking your problems to them instead of dealing with them in the church. In Corinth the place not to air it was the courtroom. In our day, it includes the courtrooms, but because of electronics there are lots of other places we are not deny the one who died in our place (i.e. blogs, internet web sites, newspapers, TV, etc.).
Some like to think they are better Christians than the folks in Corinth. Who would ever think of getting drunk at the Lord’s Supper or having our father’s wife. But do you take your brothers and sisters in Christ to the court of the pagans in the form of your internet sites? Once you do this, it is amazing how many new friends you suddenly pick up. You may lose most of your Christian friends but a whole new ministry of evangelism opens up. Suddenly the enemies of Christ are your best buddies. You think we are so very godly because the non-Christians around you tolerate you and hang out with you; just like they did with Jesus. But here’s a test of your godliness, oh proud and arrogant man, how many of your pagan friends would hang with you if you told them that if they want to follow Jesus they have to deny themselves and follow him? How many of your non-Christian friends would be your friends if you stood for Biblical righteousness instead of pretending that God condones things he explicitly calls people out of (cf. 1 Co. 6:11)?
It is true that Jesus hung out with sinners, but he never left them in their sin. He didn’t allow them to continue in their sin. And, it was because of his hard line against sin that they came to him—for forgiveness and cleansing. Are the non-Christians that you’ve gathered around you there because you offer forgiveness through Christ? Or are they there because you the things they and stand for the things they stand for?
I was a philosophy major in college. One of the interesting things I noticed while taking philosophy courses is that people generally fall into 4 different classes.
- There are those who hear an argument or philosophy and embrace it depending on whether they like the person espousing it or not. If they like the person telling them whatever it is, they go for it. If they don’t, they don’t. The Cults are full of this kind of person. And the Cults know it. How many times have you seen Mormon missionaries smiling and talking and then actually listened to what they are saying? The Mormon theology and history make no sense, even to them. But Mormons are really nice people.
- Another class of people hears an argument and knows that there is something wrong with it, but they don’t know what it is. They avoid the dangers of the discussion, but they can’t articulate why. These folks tend to be very emotional about why they are avoiding things. The hard thing about witnessing to these folks is that because they react emotionally to things they don’t understand, the evangelist must be much more patient with them until God opens their eyes. Because the Gospel makes no logical sense to the unbeliever, our arguments won’t help very much.
- The third group of folks can see that there is something wrong with the argument and they can even tell you what it is that is wrong, but they can’t refute the argument and tell others what the right argument ought to be. Most of my fellow philosophy students fell into this group. I’m not sure how much of this was due to the fact that they were non-Christians and didn’t know the truth, or that they simply couldn’t correct an error in thinking, or living. I suspect a bit of both. Many people can see what is wrong, but can’t correct the error.
- The last group is made up of folks who can listen to an argument, identify what is wrong, refute it, and then correct it. The Bible tells us that we are to have leaders in the church who fit into this last category. Paul tells us that an overseer “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). When a young man comes into the congregation all full of himself and the new ideas he learned at the university, the elder must be able to identify the error, and gently correct the young man (cf. Gal. 6:1).
The question might arise as to the hardness of the boundaries of these four classes. I don’t think they are hard and fast. A person who is an expert in electrical things might be in the fourth class with regard to things electrical, but in the first class with regard to things philosophical and theological. While I do think some of it has to do with gifting in the body of Christ it also has a lot to do with wisdom and experience. This is one reason why young men are excluded from ministry. It isn’t that they don’t have the giftedness to be in the fourth class, but that they don’t have the life experience that needs to be there in order to correct many sins.
This is also why having a plurality of elders is a necessary ingredient in the life of the church. If one elder is in the fourth class in most cases, but isn’t in a particular one, another elder who is weaker in other places might be right on top of the current dilemma.
It’s amazing what you can learn in philosophy courses.
You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.
Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God.
Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope!
Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your statutes continually!
You spurn all who go astray from your statutes, for their cunning is in vain.
All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies.
My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments.
Keep looking around. You can find the exaltation of feelings everywhere. For example, you can find it in the way we have revised our idea of shame. Shame was originally viewed as the result of a problem between God and ourselves. Now it is reduced to whatever prevents us from feeling good about ourselves.
[Edward T. Welch, When People Are Big (Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 1999), p. 83]
Monday, April 10, 2006
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules.
I am severely afflicted; give me life, O LORD, according to your word!
Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O LORD, and teach me your rules.
I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law.
The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts.
Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.
I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.
This is a glorious section of the Bible. It tells that your kingdom is coming to earth in power and great glory. It tells us of your promise to live with your people as you are doing and as we are experiencing today.
In another place, the bible tells us that you have placed the governing authorities over us for our good. It tells us that they are your servants used by you for our good. We therefore pray for them, asking that you would bless the U.S. congress, and our state and local authorities with great blessing. We pray that they would govern in such a way that your kingdom would come even more quickly and with great force throughout the world.
We know that government is not our savior. Jesus is our only savior, and government will only accomplish your purposes as you pour out revival in the land and reformation in the church. So, we beseech you to grant grand revival and wonderful reformation, as souls are saved, and lives are changed into the wonderful image of your glorious son Jesus Christ. And we pray that you would use us as winsome agents in accomplishing these ends.
Because we know that one of the ways you are bringing your kingdom to earth is through covenant children, we ask that you would bless the efforts of our parents as we seek to bring our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We pray that you would grant your servants diligence and self-control as we educate our children to be all that you have made them to be for your glory.
Finally, Father, there are enemies within and enemies without. The text, we began with, continues by telling us that people who are “cowardly, faithless, detestable, ers (including those who their neighbors and call them vile names), ually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, will be thrown into the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second ." But the Bible also tells us to bless those who curse us and to pray for those who persecute us. And so we do. We ask that you would bless our enemies by turning them from falsehood and lies, hatred and bigotry, from faithlessness and cowardice, from ual immorality and improper usage, idolatry and self-worship to allegiance to your glorious Son, the Lord Jesus.
But the Bible also gives example after example of how you deal with those who refuse to turn in humble repentance to embrace your mercy. Therefore, in addition to asking for our enemies to be blessed, we ask that you would deal with those who in their arrogance and pride continue to thumb their noses at you and your wonderful gift. We pray that you would give them what they desire for us and that you would do it swiftly, making it obvious to all that it is your doing and has nothing to do with us.
We pray this in the name of your wonderful gift, Jesus Christ the righteous one. Amen.
Friday, April 07, 2006
The first thing we need to do is to put the whole issue into a Biblical context. Apart from the charges, what is the man claiming about himself? Usually the person who claims to speak for God is making some sort of prophetic claim. In Charismatic circles it might be that he is explicitly claiming to be a prophet. In non-Charismatic circles he might simply be claiming to be someone with wisdom sharing what God has revealed to him about you and your situation. Of course, as with most things, there is a spectrum of claims. But at the base, this man is claiming to have some sort of special giftedness to know something about your church, and about God, that you don’t have.
God does not leave us in the dark concerning these things. The Bible gives us several tests of a man and of his teaching that help us wade through this testing/tempting dilemma. There are a couple of ways this should be handled: the tests of a prophet and the tests of church leadership.
Tests of a prophet
There are essentially three: First, Deuteronomy 13:1-3 says, “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, 'Let us go after other gods,' which you have not known, 'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams."
Suppose a man comes to you and says, I’m a prophet and to prove it I’m going to heal that man over there who is sitting in his wheel chair. Then suppose he calls the gentleman to the front of the church and says, "In the Name of Jesus, I tell you to rise up and walk." Then, in response to the command the formerly crippled fellow jumps to his feet praising God. So far so good according to Deuteronomy 13, but the next part is yet to come. What does the "prophet" say next? If he tells you that the Mormon god are the god you should worship, he is asking you to worship a false god and you should not follow him. He is a false prophet—a false leader.
But the world is not as straightforward and simple as this example makes it seem to be. The young men who ride around on their Bicycles smiling and waving at the passing traffic are not who we really need to worry about in this context. Those guys are clearly false teachers. We know not need to listen to them.
Our false men of God (prophets) are much more subtle than this. They come to us performing acts of kindness and charity. They schmooze us. They charm us. They enter our lives and make grandiose claims to importance. They quote the Bible left and right, making “religious” sounds. Their signs and wonders are much more subtle and much less “spectacular,” but at the same time they are just as convincing.
Now suppose this same “wonder worker” tells you that God never really meant that we should do what he did, say what he said, or be what he said for us to be. Suppose he says that God really wanted us to “feel” Christ within our hearts rather than do what Christ specifically said. Suppose he says that we shouldn’t imitate Christ by talking about Hell as much as he did, or by challenging the enemies of God (inside the church and outside). This god, the prophet is trying to get us to follow has the same name as the God of the Bible, but he is clearly not the same God of the Bible. This is the same kind of thing as the Mormon missionary, who talks about loving Jesus, but his Jesus is not the Jesus of the Bible, the lie is much more subtle.
We know what the test looks like, but what are we responsible for in order to perform the test? Just as in any examination the one giving the test must know the answers. This test it isn’t any different. If you don’t know God well enough, the charismatic (in the attractive sense) false prophet will “snow” you and will convince you that the god he is trying to get you to follow is the true God. And in the end you will worshiping a golden calf called YHWH (cf. Ex. 32:4, 5).
So the solution is to know God. But lest you despair of ever knowing God well enough, you should know that God has given you a remedy for this problem. You are not alone. You are members of Christ, his church. You are to make sure your church leaders are qualified to lead and one of the requirements in this regard is to be able to recognize and refute false teaching in all its subtleties and intricacies (cf. Tit. 1:9-11). When we have leaders who know their Bibles and their God, we can trust them to “deal” with these false teachers. We don’t all need to know our Bibles inside out, but collectively our leaders do.
The interesting thing about this test of a false spokesman for God is that God goes on to say, “For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst (Deut. 13:3-5). The false teacher was sent by God to test our faith. God wants to know if we will do what he says (cf. 1 Jn. 5:3). Will we love him with all of our hearts and souls? Do we know him well enough even to know that a false teacher is amongst us? Are we going to stand up for what we believe, or are we going to follow after the glitz and glory? Notice too how important identifying the man as a false prophet is. God required the Jews to kill him. Certainly, that we put him out of our midst. It is pretty serious stuff to claim to speak for God.
Notice the implications of such blame-shifting. We are saying that other people control our behavior. Isn’t that the fear of man?
[Edward T. Welch, When People Are Big (Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 1999), p. 74]
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.
I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.
I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
[Adapted from Edward T. Welch, When People Are Big (Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 1999), p. 69]
Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants.
If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.
I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.
I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts.
The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your testimonies.
I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
anticipation, dread, and so on. They are usually provoked
by some circumstance in our lives, but they are
your responses to and your interpretations of that event.
In other words, they reveal you. For example, if you get
an unexpected bill, it can provoke financial concerns.
But if you obsess and are chronically fearful about your
financial future, that fear reveals where you have put
your trust: you have put it in yourself rather than your
God. Your emotions reveal you.
Words of Hope for Those Who Struggle with Depression found in
The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Vol 18, No 2, Winter 2000
My eyes long for your promise; I ask, "When will you comfort me?"
For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your statutes.
How long must your servant endure? When will you judge those who persecute me?
The insolent have dug pitfalls for me; they do not live according to your law.
All your commandments are sure; they persecute me with falsehood; help me!
They have almost made an end of me on earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts.
In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
If we understand family problems as covenantal problems, which they are, we will see that the problem of a wife who is tempted to despair because you don't love her very well is more your problem than her’s. What this means is that, when a wife is in sin, you are in sin as well. God holds her responsible for her sin, but he also holds you responsible for her sin.
What this means is that if your wife wants you to tell her you love her more often, it is not only her problem, it is yours. The way to solve this problem in your home has several facets.
The most obvious thing to do is to tell your wife you love her. If you want a happy home you should not wait for your wife to get upset about it, you need to tell her before she has a chance to get upset and nag. If there are other things around the home that upset her (like your sitting on the couch watching TV while she “slaves away” in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner), you need to attend to them before they become a problem. You should anticipate the kinds of things that require love and attention.
Am I saying that you should let your wife run the home? No, I’m saying that the Bible tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church when he died and gave himself up for her (Eph. 5:25).
Here are a few suggestions:
- The first thing is to know that marriage is about relationship. It is relationship between 3 people: You, your wife, and God. If you haven’t been practicing confession of sin, you have some confessing to do. As the husband, you need to lead in this. In fact, you should confess to your wife, but do not expect her to confess in return. You need to confess your sin and resolve to repent from it. This means that you are committed to turning away from the sin and turning to the things God would have you do as the leader in your home. This first point is that you need to “fix” all the damage you have done with respect to your wife and family.
- As the damage is being repaired, begin to lead your wife and family in Bible study and spiritual things. This doesn’t mean that you have to be Mr. Theology wonk. It only means you need to initiate and lead regular family worship. Does this mean that you have to be a seminary professor? No. It does mean that you might need to confess your sin of not leading in the past, not knowing what in the world you are doing, and the fact that you’ve spent the majority of time during the past several years learning more about fly fishing than either your God or your wife. What if no one trusts your confession and they don’t want to join you in Bible study? This might happen. Consider it all joy and let your godliness show itself in your example to your family rather than actual application. Instead of leading a worship time, simply pick up your bible or a good book and read it instead of watching TV. Let your family see the changes in you and want what you have before you try to "impose" anything on them.
- Once things settle down, or if they are already settled down, have a conversation with your wife about what kinds of things you might do for her that would tell her you love her. You might think working hard all day and bringing home a pay check says, “I love you.” But she might think picking up your wet towel after your shower (or taking a shower every day) might say “I love you.” This doesn’t mean you won’t need to tell her you love her, but you need to immerse your wife in love. You need to do everything in your power to let her know you love her and care for her and that she is the most wonderful person in your life.
- Study your wife. What are her favorite colors? Does she dislike any particular colors? If you she abhors orange, don’t buy her an orange dress for her birthday. What kind of music does she like? Where does she get her hair done? Do you like her hair? Do you notice when she gets it done? Notice! Is your wife an intellectual? Does she like a particular kind of wine, movies, books, etc. Study her and make kind comments on the things she likes and enjoys.
- Date your wife. Most of us dated our wives before we were married. You won her then, win her again. And do it until you’re both old and wrinkled. Take her on weekly dates, take her on special dates that require weeks of planning. Take her on cheap dates (tour Cosco or Home Depot), take her on expensive dates (to the opera). Take her on overnight dates. Wine her, dine her. Flirt with her. Make passionate love to her. Do the things you did in the beginning to convince her to become your wife. She should be getting what you promised and more so.
- Finally, love her children. Study the Bible to see how you should be bringing up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Lead your family in discipline. Don’t make your wife be the heavy all the time. Discipline, by the way, comes in two ways: the negative kind where they are punished for their sins and indiscretions, and the positive kind where they are trained to live as responsible human beings and s. You are the head of your household. Take responsibility for how things in your house are run and operate. The Bible says, fathers do not exasperate your children (Eph 6:4), but to do this you have to be in contact with your children in ways that might exasperate them, but don’t.
Good question Austin.
It is important to remember that it isn’t just wives who suffer in this way. Everyone who is in a position of humble estate is in this same situation. In my previous post I mentioned young men who did think they were being recognized for their hard work or for their potential for future work. There are many people who are in situations where the person over them never mentions that they appreciate what they do, or appreciate them as people.
First, people in low estate need to turn their eyes upon Jesus. In First Peter the apostle tells wives whose husbands are in sin to focus on Jesus who went before them. He said, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:21-23). Shortly after, he said, “Likewise you wives…” What this tells us is that Jesus lived a life of neglect, loneliness, suffering, even reviling but reacted to it in a certain way—he entrusted himself to the Father, knowing that God would vindicate him and lift him up at the right time. Women who are not loved, need to imitate Jesus, turn to God and entrust themselves to the one who will judge rightly.
Second, James tells us that when we encounter various trials we are to view it with great joy (Jas 1:2; Cf. Heb. 12:2). This means that instead of dreading these times in our lives when we are tempted to throw in the towel and give up on our spouses, employers, etc., we are look to anticipate the situation and embrace it with joy. This, James goes on to say, is because the testing of our faith produces “steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (1:3-4). So instead of complaining that your boss doesn’t recognize what an integral member of his organization you are, you should recognize the temptation to grumble as a testing of your faith and rejoice that you were found worthy of that kind of temptation.
Third, in the command to wives whose husband’s are in sin Peter tells wives to serve their husbands as the Lord, even to the point where they call them lord. The way I would translate that for this situation and for the others that we are dealing with here is to say that folks who think they are being neglected should pour it on. Instead of grumbling, work harder. If the boss wants coffee every day at 8:30 and tells you about it, make sure that he never needs to mention it again. In everything that you can, anticipate his every desire and fulfill it before he asks. The temptation is to draw back and “show them.” In this situation, however (especially if you are doing #1 and #2 above) grumbling will get you noticed, but it won’t be a good kind of notice. Instead go the extra mile, work harder, learn more, work faster, give everyone around you a boost in what they are doing, and be a joy to everyone around you.
Finally, in going the extra mile, however, do it for the sake of the Lord, or it will be in vain. If you are serving so that you will get what you want, you will not have the patience to wait for God to work in the situation. Instead work for God and for his glory. Then his joy will be evident in you and your service for him will be recognized by him. As Christians he is the one we care about pleasing anyway. If the husband, boss, or friend notices that’s good, but if he doesn’t you’ve pleased God and are being blessed by him anyway.
I hope this helps,
Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word.
I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.
Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.
Let the insolent be put to shame, because they have wronged me with falsehood; as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.
Let those who fear you turn to me, that they may know your testimonies.
May my heart be blameless in your statutes, that I may not be put to shame!
What is the result of this people-idolatry? As in all idolatry, the idol we choose to worship soon owns us. The object we fear overcomes us. Although insignificant in itself, the idol becomes huge and rules us. It tells us how to think, what to feel, and how to act. It tells us what to wear, it tells us to laugh at the dirty joke, and it tells us to be frightened to death what we might have to get up in front of a group and say something. The whole strategy backfires. We never expect that using people to meet our desires leaves us enslaved to them. [Edward T. Welch, When People Are Big (Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 1999), p. 46]
Monday, April 03, 2006
Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.
You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.
The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;
their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law.
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.
The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Those are the short answers.
The longer answers are that a Christian legislator cannot enact God’s Law in the land without the positive participation of the majority of the people. He cannot pass a law, for instance, that says everyone has to go to his church on Sundays. This is not because it wouldn’t be a good law, but because no one would obey it. This is why prohibition was repealed.
What the legislator would have to do in order to pass a law about where folks should go to church is to have the vast majority of folks become Christians and want to go to his church. In the period where many people go to his church but not most, until the vast majority are interested in attending his church there will be great turmoil and strife in the land.
We see this happening with homosexuality right now. The sodomite coalition is gaining influence and power and is working hard to “convert” the American people to their views. Until they do, there will be strife and battles of every kind. And, because the sodomites are vile, nasty people they will use any weapon at their disposal to bully, cajole, and wrangle what they want, until they get it.
The problem is that they don’t really know what they want. But the Bible says they want chaos and every form of evil. But this destroys a nation and never builds it up. But I digress.
With regard to sodomite marriage (and beyond) the current law says that it is illegal for two homosexual men or women to marry. The real question is should the Christians vote to overturn that law? The answer is no! But we need to remember that because we are in a war, simply voting against it every year will not solve the problem. As long as the sodomites continue to preach and the Christians continue to flirt with and commit spiritual adultery with the world (even if it is in every area other than homosexuality), they will eventually join with the pagans and vote to overturn the laws. This is because unless Christians repent and turn to God themselves, down to the bone, they are as bad as the pagans and really worse because they know better. Their condemnation is justified.
So the answer to your question is “yes.” Christians should vote against laws that make evil more palatable and successful, but they need to know that politics cannot and will not save. Jesus saves and only as Christians preach the Gospel, by word and deed, praying that God would grant repentance to those experiencing the good news will society really be transformed.
I hope this helps,