Saturday, December 29, 2007
First of all let me say that nothing in life happens by accident. There are no big bang theories at work in our lives. The Lord is an intelligent being that not only has a plan for mankind but plans for each individual. We are God’s creation and we are not cosmic accidents that go through life depending on luck and chance. God touches every aspect of our life. He is a God of reconciliation. The Lord’s number one concern is moving us into a loving relationship with Him. God is not some aloof character in the heavens. God is our father that wants certain things from us: 1. Our worship 2. Our love 3. A relationship with Him. I believe our every step is ordered by the Lord. He even takes our mistakes and uses them to our advantage. He chastens us when we need it and he leads even when we don't realize it.
23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.
24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.
25 I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. (Psalm 37)
3 Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. (Psalm 139)
11 Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.
9 Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty. (Psalm 27)
The Lord is definitely interested in our activities. He wants to lead and guide us in His ways. Some of us grew up in horrible environments, some with a silver spoon. It is the Lord that determines the final outcome. His brothers abused Joseph. Falsely accused and imprisoned. Yet in the final analysis God said the brother did it for evil, but God allowed it for a greater good. Joseph was the reason his family (Israel) was able to survive a famine.
We often question God’s goodness when suffering or trial takes place but we must understand something I call “The Greater Good”. Often blessings come as a result of someone else’s sacrifice. In Hebrews 11 the “Hall of Faith” list those that endured plenty of hardship for Israel and the future church age.
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
13 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son. (Heb.11)
Notice the fact that Abraham was tried. Abraham was handpicked by God to be the Father of a Nation. With any movement or action someone must be the forerunner or leader. It is 1999 and African-Americans take for granted that they could vote, go to any college, and ride on the front of the bus. The truth of the matter is many Black men and women died and suffered so we could have these rights. Just praying that everything would change was not enough, there had to be some action as well. Remember faith should cause works to be birthed in each of us. Name it and claim it is not really scripturally accurate. God is not a cosmic ATM machine. He is a being with feelings and concerns for our lives and well being. He wants us to communicate our thoughts and feelings to Him not just quote some verses and demand His attention.
19 And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass:
20 And your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits.
19 And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins. (Lev.26)
Notice how it says God will break the pride of their power. Sometimes we are full of selfish motivation and our own self will. God will intervene in our lives to turn us in the right direction. This often comes in the form of chastening. The bottom line is this if your walk is contrary to your talk you will get some hands on discipline from God.
16 Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction,
14 That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man. (Job 33)
Our purpose must be hid in His; we are the sheep of His pasture. We have to seek His will for our lives. The Lord will unfold His will as we open our hearts to Him and renew our minds in His Word. God even operates through the lives of non-believers. I call this divine providence or in some cases divine intervention. I’ll give you an example. I was activated for Operation Desert Storm 1 month after the bombing of Baghdad. I was sent to Loring AFB, Me. I stayed there for about 30 days. I was supposed to stay there 6 months. Through some treachery by my superiors my assignment got changed and I was sent to the border of Syria in Turkey. I was angry and upset because I felt like the enemy won. Why did I have to be away from my new wife for 4 ½ months? I’ll tell you why, there were 2 Moslems the Lord wanted me to lead to Him. God has plans for our lives. He allowed a lie to be told in order for my assignment to be changed. The souls of those two Turks were more important than my being home in New Jersey.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?(Romans 8)
In too many of our churches (I am talking mainly to Black folks) we have the ancient slave mentality that says, “I don’t need to go to school to be a preacher, I got the anointing!” Well during the days of slavery and Jim Crow we didn’t have an opportunity to go to Seminary or Bible Colleges. My grandfather was a deacon and his brother was a pastor back in the days when folks only got a grade school education and had to quit because they had to help pick tobacco. My forefathers made it the best they could under harsh circumstances. Now there is NO excuse for a preacher not getting formal training! You may not be able to afford Harvard or Princeton Theological Seminary, but every denomination should have a local Bible school. Most churches today have their own Bible Institutes or Schools. When you accepted the call to preach you also accepted the call to discipleship (training). Jesus spent 3 years training His disciples for ministry. He taught them how to pray, how to cast out devils, how to lay hands on the sick, how to carry themselves, and how to make more disciples. I am disgusted at how easy it is to be ordained in our churches. Just because a brother or sister can testify loud or run their mouth doesn’t mean they are called to preach! If they are called they will be willing to be trained BEFORE being given a piece of paper ordaining them. Remember this, if the preacher is ignorant and unlearned, then the people will be too! The gospel preacher must devote his (or her) life to purity of doctrine. Paul warned Timothy to avoid fables and old wives tales. It’s very easy for preachers to get involved in the “flavor of the month” teachings.
The Bible say's I Tim. 4:4, that in the Last Days SOME shall depart from the faith...WHY? Because of seducing spirits AND DOCTRINES of DEVILS! If you don't know HOW to Dissect the Word and RIGHTLY divide it, you will be a pawn for the devil. Much of what people are taught in church ISN'T scriptural but MAN'S traditions, The Man or Woman of God NEEDS BOTH the Anointing AND an EDUCATION in SCRIPTURE! I highly suggest a Bible College or Institution that is Bible based and Christ centered, there ARE bad Seminaries, however there are a LOT of good ones! Would you let a surgeon that only had a high school education operate on YOU? No you wouldn't, why should you have a Pastor with a high school education? Isn't your Soul and Spirit just as important (if not more) than your physical body!
Chaplain Mark H. Stevens, M.Min
Friday, December 28, 2007
One of the first things I came aware of as a Hospital Chaplain was that men and women grieve differently. Often we assume that every human being should respond the same way to grief. In the Christian community dealing with grief is especially difficult because of preconceived notions and dogma. We often teach people that grief is temporary and individuals should “get over it”. I have witnessed grief up close and personal since 1987 when I started volunteering as a hospital chaplain. Since 2005 I have been a professional chaplain at one of America’s busiest Trauma Centers and at a large state Psychiatric Hospital. I have sat with women that lost twins, Grandparents that lost grandchildren in fires, and victims of drive-by shootings families. Each situation was totally different. In most cases I can honestly say that men deal with grief very differently than woman.
Women tend to be more demonstrative and vocal while men usually sit quietly and internalize their pain. The other factor that makes grief differ is culture. I don’t want to sound stereotypical or racist in my assessments, but people are different. I in no way declare one group or culture is superior to another, but some culture are more demonstrative than other in the realm of grief, while some are more introspective. I am writing this to help a new chaplain or Pastoral Care volunteer better assess the situation he or she may be called to respond to.
I titled this book “Observing Grief” because in many cases the best things one can do is simply observe and be present when someone is grieving. People in grief do NOT need a sermon or a lecture. Just concentrate on listening to the words that are being shared with you. Resist the urge to preach and educate the grieving person. Women will generally vent verbally more than men, allow her to vent! Even if she is screaming and wailing…LET HER! Yes it may make YOU uncomfortable, but YOU are there to COMFORT HER! I have sat with grieving people and said very little, sometimes I simply hold their hand or give them a hug and simple prayer. Our presence means so much because times of grief are lonely times. When a person has lost a love one it is like losing a part of themselves. A woman loses her husband to cancer, but if he was the sole breadwinner she is also looking at possibly losing more. A man on disability loses his wife; he not only lost a wife but a caretaker. No two cases are the same and no two people handle grief the same way. Some people will seem to bounce back from a death swiftly while some carry their grief to their grave. The truth be told grief is never easy as we think it is. Even Jesus grieved over the death of His cousin John the Baptist.
Friends, relatives, and neighbors are usually supportive at the time of a death and during the wake and funeral that follows. Food, flowers, and physical presence are among the thoughtful expressions. But after the funeral, many grieving people wonder where their friends are. In some ways they need support and caring from their friends even more when the reality hits and the long process of grief begins. Ways of helping grieving people are as limitless as your imagination. Some suggestions are:
• Try to understand the grief process rather than be annoyed by it.
• "I'm sorry" or "I care" is all that is necessary to say; a squeeze of the hand, a hug, a kiss can say the words.
• Don't say: "You will get over it in time." They will never stop missing the person who died. Time may soften the hurt, but it will not just go away. There will always be a scar.
• Listen, listen, listen. Talking about the pain slowly lessens its sting. Most bereaved persons need to talk. It is helpful for someone to listen. Try to become an effective listener.
• Don't tell people: "It's God's will." Explanations do not console.
• Encourage expressions of specific feelings: anger, guilt, frustration, confusion, depression, hate.
• Be patient. Mourning takes time. People need you. Stand by them for as long as possible. There is no timetable for grief. Do not give a pep talk or suggest a timetable.
• Talk about the good memories. They help the healing process.
• Suggest that grieving people take part in support groups. Sharing similar experiences helps healing.
• Be there caring, saying "I'm sorry" and helping in practical ways.
• Sincerely ask, "How are you doing?" Bereaved persons can tell if you want to hear "fine" or if you really want to know.
• Help bereaved to eliminate expectations as to how they should feel and when they will be healed.
• Be approachable, aware, and interested.
• Be accepting of the person, of his/her feelings, his/her confusion.
• Acts of thoughtfulness-a note, visit, plant, helpful book, plate of cookies, phone call, invitation to lunch or to go shopping, coffee.
• Be confidential with what is shared with you.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
The Flesh and Demons
They work together
Many who criticize the deliverance ministry will claim that we tend to blame everything on demons to avoid personal responsibility. That is simply not true in most cases in this type of ministry. I do not intend on ignoring the flesh or overemphasizing the demonic, but I would like to clearly explain how the two work together to carry out Satan's plan in our lives.
The flesh is the gateway to the demonic. Many times (unless it is generational, etc.), it is through the flesh that demons gain entrance into a person's life. We are first tempted by demons (the enemy works through his army of fallen angels) because they are seeking to gain entrance into our lives or carry out a plan to kill, steal or destroy us (see John 10:10), then once we give in, they become welcomed into our lives, and once they enter, they will serve as bad friends who will constantly seek to negatively influence us. Having a spirit of lust will be like working in an adult bookstore... it will work to wear you down and get you to give in. Without having that spirit, it is much easier to resist the temptation. But wait a minute, what about plain old temptation that is thrown our way on regular bases? We are not immune from that, are we? No, unfortunately we will probably be tempted to a certain degree until we leave this earth. But let me illustrate the difference between normal temptation and having a demon which is pressuring you to sin: When you drive down the road and see an adult bookstore alongside the road, you can easily resist thinking about what is inside that store... that is temptation. Now let's say that you had to work in such a store, and have sex videos playing on the TV screens all day long... that is what it's like to have a spirit of lust. There is a VERY big difference! If you simply feel a little temptation once in a while and find it very easy to resist, then you are likely experiencing simple temptation from the enemy and your goal is to resist it and move on. However, if you feel driven to lust or pornography (or other sinful behavior such as anger, hate, rage, etc.), then you likely have a spirit that must be driven out.
As I said earlier, the flesh is the gateway to the demonic. Demons cannot simply walk up to us and enter... they must be welcomed, and our flesh is their tool to get the job done. If they can tempt us to sin, and our flesh opens the door, then they will have 'permission' to access our souls and/or bodies. This is why you cannot effectively minister to a person who is not ready to let go of their bondage. If somebody is not willing to give up lust, then even if you do get them delivered (by casting out all spirits of lust, addiction, etc.), that person will likely (without even knowing it) re-open that door all over again and the demons can come right back.
Sin is a work of the flesh
Is it possible for a demon to take complete control over a person, and cause them to murder, rape, etc.? Yes! But in most situations, that is not the case.
Unless the demon takes complete control over the person, it is the flesh that commits the sin. Take for example a person who has a spirit of lust and then commits adultery... it is their flesh that has sinned, but it was coaxed along (or pressured) by the spirit of lust (or similar spirits). Having a spirit of lust can pressure us to sin, but it cannot force us to sin. This is why the Bible still refers to various sinful acts as 'works of the flesh':
Galatians 5:19-21, "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."
Demons are like bad friends
So what if you have a spirit of rage, and you are driven to violence? Wouldn't at least some of it be the demon's fault if you fell into that type of sin? Having a demon is like having a bad friend who has access to your mind and can sit there and inject thoughts or feelings in your system day after day. If you hang around bad friends all the time, what happens? You begin to become like them... they will wear off on you! That is what happens when a person has a demon; the demon's ways will wear on that person's flesh and break it down... making it hard to resist temptation and sin!
Can a demon take control over a person and use their body to commit gruesome acts of murder, etc.? While it can happen, it is rarely the case. Demons are great at working the flesh up to the point of sin and putting pressure on them that can be very hard to resist. This is usually how they do their dirty work in our lives.
The flesh is the open door to the enemy, and the demons are here to ruin our lives. The two work together to carry out Satan's plan to destroy us!
The flesh must be crucified (or consider ourselves dead to sin - see Romans 6:11), and demons must be cast out. If we try to crucify the demon or cast out the flesh... we are wasting our time! It is vital that we accomplish two things when seeking deliverance:
A) Make sure that our flesh is not joining hands with the demon or giving it any permission
B) Get rid of any unclean spirits that may be working against us
It is pointless to constantly discipline the flesh yet allow the demons to remain, and it is also useless to cast out the demons, but allow the flesh to re-open the doors to them again.
When Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses on the door of the church, he did so not to create a denomination, as some believe. Martin Luther wanted to correct anti-biblical practices being promoted in the church. The main theme revolved around the practice of “selling indulgences”. What the church was doing was convincing people that they could “pay” their family members out of purgatory. The church did this primarily to finance the Popes greed and desire to finance the Cistene Chapel in Rome. Now we Protestants read this stuff in Church History books and we gasp, yet how many of us “enlightened” Spirit-filled Protestants that know of Bishops, Pastors, and Preachers in our Protestant churches that “sell blessings” today.
We have condemned Catholics for centuries, yet we have the same skeletons in our closets. From Reverend Ike, Robert Tildon, or to the pastor in the storefront in the inner city, we too have been guilty of “selling blessings”. Every Protestant denomination (and non-denomination) has had it share of “Greedy Popes”. I really admired Martin Luther’s guts, but where are the Martin Luther’s of today? When Oral Roberts said he would die unless he got 80 million dollars in donations, where was the outrage from Christians? Of course the world ridiculed his nonsense, but there was no moral outrage from any Christian leaders. Why? Well I’ll tell you why! It is a very lonely position when you stand on the truth of scripture. We are quick to condemn Catholics trust in traditions and church doctrine, but we are equally guilty! How often have you seen and heard things done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in your church, but in your gut (spirit) you knew it was against the Bible? And why didn’t you say something is the more disturbing question.
Jim Jones was able to take hundreds of lives in Guyana because someone refused to listen to their gut (spirit). I firmly believe in supporting the local church and helping pastors, I want to make that clear. However there is a real epidemic of spiritually stupid “saints” that don’t study their Bibles and try every spirit by the Spirit. We were given the ability to discern so we WON’T end up giving our money to crooks and drinking poison Kool-Aid! Many of today’s most prominent preachers would be labeled heretics hundreds of years ago because MOST clergymen were devout Theologians and serious students of scripture. Today ordination papers and licenses are given to anyone that say’s they are called to preach. I agree that being Spirit-filled and called is the first priority of being a preacher, but ALSO there has to be training…SERIOUS TRAINING! A lack of understanding of just the basic Bible doctrines of the faith can lead to the types of abuses I am talking about. Martin Luther was able to stand up to the lies of Rome because he was filled with the knowledge of the truth. I am a Pentecostal preacher, I believe in the Charismatic Gifts of the Spirit, but that doesn’t negate the fact that we must have a scholarly approach to the scriptures and its teachings.
I have heard PREACHERS say stupid things like, “I don’t know the Bible that well but I am filled-with the Holy Ghost and fire!” This person is a prime candidate for deception and a good whipping from the devil! The Bible say’s in 1st Timothy 4:4 “In the last days some shall DEPART from the faith giving heed to seducing spirits and DOCTRINES of devils.” The Devil will fill your head with HIS doctrine (teaching) if your head isn’t filled with sound Bible doctrine. Martin Luther unlike other priest actually studied the Bible for truth and not to support a man made lie. We must as individual believers have reformer’s courage to stand up to the church when it strays from the truth of scripture. I know it sounds crazy to say stand up AGAINST the church, I am of course talking about organized denominational/non-denominational institutions that profess to be of Jesus Christ, yet stray away from the truth of Jesus Christ. I have seen enough heresy in the church in the last 25 years of my life to make ones head spin and the majority of it went unchallenged.
We allow “preachers” to say anything in our pulpits and we say AMEN! We are afraid to be attacked for standing up for the truth. In 1980 I was stationed at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea. While there I heard a Baptist preacher (Who was also a Freemason) tell a group in Bible study that “all roads lead to Rome” meaning every religion can get you to heaven. I was a new believer, but I knew this was wrong! I challenged him, because NO ONE else would say a word. He was a popular preacher and I was a new convert so you can imagine whose side everyone lined up on. My point is this, when you hear false preaching or teaching SAY SOMETHING! The Apostle Paul was the new kid on the block (Read Galatians) yet he challenged and corrected the Chief Apostle Peter for treating the Gentile believers wrong.
Ministers are NOT infallible, only the Word of God is! No matter how popular or how powerful a preacher is, they are NOT above reproach!
But we will continue to devote ourselves steadfastly to prayer and the ministry of the Word. (Acts 6:4 Amp)
This is one of the key verses in the Bible to help a novice minister be a successful tool for the Master. Preaching has nothing to do with popularity, titles, or position. The successful minister is the one that realizes that sharing God’s Word is a divine call and privilege that can’t be done in one’s own strength.
The Apostles took this charge so seriously that they knew total devotion to prayer and study was paramount. A preacher that doesn’t devote his life to prayer and study is a potential false prophet. Satan loves preachers that say “I’m to busy to study” or “I don’t think preachers need formal Bible training.”
The gospel preacher must devote his (or her) life to purity of doctrine. Paul warned Timothy to avoid fables and old wives tales. It’s very easy for preachers to get involved in the “flavor of the month” teachings. In last 20 years we have been bombarded with the “faith” message, “prosperity gospel”, “Spiritual Warfare”, and “Prophecy”. Every one is an “Apostle” or “Bishop”; no one is simply a Gospel preacher. Don’t get caught up in trends and hype. Be lead by the Holy Ghost and walk in your calling. I have been preaching 23 years. I have done the work of an evangelist, and served in pastoral capacities, but I am called to teach. My anointing is that of a teacher. It would be foolish to try and be anything else. I live to study and teach the Word of God. We need more “Martin Luther’s” in the church today. Too much of our teaching today is unbalanced. We have churches teaching crazy things like you have to speak in tongues to be saved, Christians should never get sick, or you can only be saved in MY church! Wake up saints and speak out against false teaching! There are churches that teach everyone has a demon, yes some people need demons cast out! However some problems are not demon powered but human error! Teaching the truth can solve more problems in the church than by casting out a “demon”.
(Note: I am not picking on any particular denomination, there is enough heresy in every Protestant denomination)
Chaplain Mark H. Stevens, M.Min
"And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it" (Matt. 16:18).
The Roman Catholic Church puts a great deal of emphasis on Peter and claims that Jesus said he would build his church on him.
Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve; Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Our Lord then declared to him: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it." Christ, the "living Stone," thus assures his Church, built on Peter, will have victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed, Peter will remain the unshakable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 552).
"By the word "rock" the Saviour cannot have meant Himself, but only Peter, as is so much more apparent in Aramaic in which the same word (Kipha) is used for "Peter" and "rock." His statement then admits of but one explanation, namely, that He wishes to make Peter the head of the whole community of those who believed in Him as the true Messias; that through this foundation (Peter) the Kingdom of Christ would be unconquerable; that the spiritual guidance of the faithful was placed in the hands of Peter, as the special representative of Christ." (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11744a.htm).
The scripture reference to which the Roman Catholic Church attempts to substantiate its position is found in Matt. 16:18. Here it is in context.
"Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He began asking His disciples, saying, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" 14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. 15 He *said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 And Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it. 19 "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." 20 Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ" (Matt. 16:15-20).
There are problems with the Roman Catholic position. First of all, when we look at the Greek of Matthew 16:18 we see something that is not obvious in the English. "...you are Peter (πέτρος, petros) and upon this rock (πέτρα, petra) I will build My church..." In Greek, nouns have gender. It is similar to the English words actor and actress. The first is masculine and the second is feminine. Likewise, the Greek word "petros" is masculine; "petra" is feminine. Peter, the man, is appropriately referred to as Petros. But Jesus said that the rock he would build his church on was not the masculine "petros" but the feminine "petra." Let me illustrate by using the words "actor" and "actress": "You are the actor and with this actress I will make my movie." Do see how the gender influences how a sentence is understood? Jesus was not saying that the church will be built upon Peter, but upon something else. What, then, does petra, the feminine noun, refer to?
The feminine "petra" occurs four times in the Greek New Testament:
Matt. 16:18, "And I also say to you that you are Peter (petros), and upon this rock (petra) I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it."
Matt. 27:60, "and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock (petra); and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away."
1 Cor. 10:4, "and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock (petras) which followed them; and the rock (petra) was Christ."
1 Pet. 2:8, speaking of Jesus says that he is "A stone of stumbling and a rock (petra) of offense"; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed."
We can clearly see that in the three other uses of the Greek word petra (nominative singular; "petras" in 1 Cor. 10:4 is genitive singular) we find it referred to as a large immovable mass of rock in which a tomb is carved out (Matt. 27:60) and in reference to Christ (1 Cor. 10:4; 1 Pet. 2:8). Note that Peter himself in the last verse referred to petra as being Jesus! If Peter uses the word as a reference to Jesus, then shouldn't we?
In addition, Greek dictionaries and lexicons give us further insight into the two Greek words under discussion.
Source: Liddell, H. (1996). A Lexicon : Abridged from Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon (636). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Petros: "πέτρος, a stone, distinguished from πέτρα
Petra: πέτρα , Ion. and Ep. πέτρη, , a rock, a ledge or shelf of rock, Od. 2. a rock, i.e. a rocky peak or ridge...Properly, πέτρα is a fixed rock, πέτρος a stone."
Source: Vine, W., & Bruce, F. (1981; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996). Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (2:302). Old Tappan NJ: Revell.
PETRA πέτρα , (4073)) denotes a mass of rock, as distinct from petros, a detached stone or boulder, or a stone that might be thrown or easily moved.
A stone is movable, unstable and this is exactly what we see with Peter who doubted when he walked on water, who denied Jesus, and who was rebuked by Paul at Antioch:
Matt. 14:29-30, "And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, 'Lord, save me!'"
Luke 22:57-58, "But he denied it, saying, 'Woman, I do not know Him.' 58 And a little later, another saw him and said, 'You are one of them too!' But Peter said, 'Man, I am not!'"
Gal. 2:11,14 "But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned...14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, 'If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?'"
Jesus, who knew the heart of Peter, was not saying that Peter, the movable stone, would be the immovable rock upon which the Church would be built. Rather, it would be built upon Jesus, and it was this truth that Peter had affirmed when he said to Jesus, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16). This is consistent with Scripture elsewhere where the term rock is sometimes used in reference of God, but never of a man.
Deut. 32:3, "The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice."
1 Sam. 22:2, "The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; 3 My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge."
Psalm 18:31, "And who is a rock, except our God?"
Isaiah 44:8, "Is there any God besides Me, or is there any other Rock? I know of none."
Rom. 9:33, "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed."
It should be obvious from the Word of God that the rock Jesus was referring to was not Peter, but himself.
The Aramaic Kepha
In contrast to this, in paragraph #2 at the beginning of this article, the Roman Catholic Church says that the rock cannot refer to Jesus, "but only Peter, as is so much more apparent in Aramaic in which the same word (Kipha) is used for 'Peter' and 'rock'." The problem is that the text is not in Aramaic, but Greek. Since we do not have the Aramaic text, it is not proper to refer to it as proof of the Roman Catholic position.
Furthermore, in John 1:42 it says, "He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, "You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas," (which is translated Peter)." The word "Peter" here is petros, not petra. It is used to elucidate the Aramaic kephas, which is not a name in Aramaic.
"Except in Jn. 1:42, where it is used to elucidate Aramaic kēphás, Pétros is used in the NT only as a name for Simon Peter....The translation supports the view that Kēphás is not a proper name, since one does not usually translate proper names."1
Jesus is the rock on which the church is built
The truth is that the only foundation is Jesus. The only rock of truth is Jesus Christ and that we, as his redeemed, need to keep our eyes on him. We are to look to no one else as the foundation, the source, or the hope in which the church is built. The Church is built upon Jesus, not Peter.
"For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 3:11).
1. Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1995, c1985). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Translation of: Theologisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament. (835). Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans.
The Apocrypha (απόκρυφα means "hidden") is a set of books written between approximately 400 B.C. and the time of Christ that is rejected by the Protestants and officially accepted by the Roman Catholic Church in 1546 as being inspired. These books are Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (also known as Ecclesiasticus), and Baruch.
But if the Apocrypha is Scripture, then it should not have any errors. But since it does have errors, as will be demonstrated below, this puts into question whether or not the Roman Catholic Church has properly used its self-proclaimed position as the teaching authority of the Christian Church. If it can error in such an important manner as defining what is Scripture, can it be trusted to properly teach the Christian Church? The following references can be verified at http://www.newadvent.org/bible.
Problems in the Apocrypha
When we look into the Apocrypha itself, we find numerous problems. For example, we see it advocating magic, where the smoke of a fish heart on a fire drives away devils.
Tobit 6:5-7, "Then the angel said to him: Take out the entrails of this fish, and lay up his heart, and his gall, and his liver for thee: for these are necessary for useful medicines. 6 And when he had done so, he roasted the flesh thereof, and they took it with them in the way: the rest they salted as much as might serve them, till they came to Rages the city of the Medes. 7 Then Tobias asked the angel, and said to him: I beseech thee, brother Azarias, tell me what remedies are these things good for, which thou hast bid me keep of the fish? 8 And the angel, answering, said to him: If thou put a little piece of its heart upon coals, the smoke thereof driveth away all kind of devils, either from man or from woman, so that they come no more to them."
Is it true that the smoke from a fish's heart, when burned, drives away evil spirits? Of course not. Such a superstitious teaching has no place in the word of God.
The Apocrypha also teaches that forgiveness of sins is by human effort.
Salvation by works:
Tobit 4:11, "For alms deliver from all sin, and from death, and will not suffer the soul to go into darkness."
Tobit 12:9, "For alms delivereth from death, and the same is that which purgeth away sins, and maketh to find mercy and life everlasting."
We know from Scripture that alms (money or food, given to the poor or needy as charity) does not purge our sins. The blood of Christ is what cleanses us, not money or food given to poor people. "but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).
Money as an offering for the sins of the dead:
2 Maccabees 12:43, "And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection."
Can anyone truly accept that money isn't an offering for the sins of dead people? Such a superstitious and unbiblical concept has no place in Scripture.
Wrong historical facts:
Judith 1:5, "Now in the twelfth year of his reign, Nabuchodonosor king of the Assyrians, who reigned in Ninive the great city, fought against Arphaxad and overcame him."
Baruch 6:2, "And when you are come into Babylon, you shall be there many years, and for a long time, even to seven generations: and after that I will bring you away from thence with peace."
The book of Judith incorrectly says that Nebuchadnezzar was the king of the Assyrians when he was the king of the Babylonians.1
Baruch 6:2 says the Jews would serve in Babylon for seven generations where Jer. 25:11 says it was for 70 years. "And this whole land shall be a desolation and a horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years."
Obviously the Apocrypha has serious problems. From magic, to salvation by works, to money as an offering for the sins of the dead, and blatantly incorrect historical facts, it is full of false and unbiblical teachings. It isn't inspired. Likewise, neither is the Roman Catholic Church, which has stated the Apocrypha is inspired. This shows the Roman Catholic Church is not the means by which God is communicating his truth to his people, that the Magisterium has erred greatly, and that it is infested with man's false tradition, rather than God's absolute truth.
1. "Nebuchadnezzar II was the most powerful and longest reigning king of the Neo-Babylonian (625-539 b.c.)" Achtemeier, Paul J., Th.D. Harper’s Bible Dictionary. (San Francisco: Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc.) 1985.
Oneness Pentecostal theology maintains that baptism must be by immersion using the formula "in Jesus name" and not the formula "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" as is found in Matt. 28:19. They reject the Trinitarian formula because they reject the Trinity. To support their method they cite various Bible verses that reference baptizing in Jesus' name and claim that this is proof for their doctrine. Following are some of the Bible references they quote.
Acts 2:38," Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
Acts 8:16, "For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus."
Acts 10:48, "And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days."
Acts 19:5, "When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus."
Acts 22:16, "And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’
Let's take a look at what is going on in the verses. The phrase, "in the name of the Lord" is not a reference to a baptismal formula, but a reference to authority. It is similar to hearing someone say, "Stop in the name of the Law!". We understand that the "name of the Law" means by the authority of the Law. It is the same with baptism "in Jesus' name." To baptise in Jesus' name is to baptize in the authority of Jesus. Consider the following:
"And when they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, "By what power, or in what name, have you done this?" 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers and elders of the people, 9 if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, 10 let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead — by this name this man stands here before you in good health" (Acts 4:7-10). See also the following verses:
Acts 4:17-18, "But in order that it may not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to any man in this name. 18 And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus."
Acts 5:28, "We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us."
Acts 5:40, "And they took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them to speak no more in the name of Jesus, and then released them."
Acts 8:12, "But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike."
Acts 9:27-28, "But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 And he was with them moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord."
Acts 16:18, "And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour."
We can see that the phrase is used in the Bible as an expression of authority. This is particularly clarified Acts 16:18 above. Let's look at it again. "And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour." We also see that when people were being baptized that they did it calling on Jesus' name (Acts 22:16); that is, they were calling upon Jesus who has all authority in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18). The church is supposed to "call upon the name of the Lord Jesus" (1 Cor. 1:2) because it is by His authority (John 1:12) that we Christians have the hope and right of forgiveness of sins and adoption as His children (Rom. 8:15).
Therefore, the Oneness Pentecostal people are simply in error by demanding that baptism be done with the formula "In Jesus name." Instead, it should be done as Jesus commanded:
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," (Matt. 28:19).
The proper way to baptize in Jesus' name is to say, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
My heart goes out to those who have thoughts of ending their own lives through suicide. If that is you right now, it may speak of many emotions, such as feelings of hopelessness and despair. You may feel like you are in the deepest pit, and you doubt there is a ray of hope that things can get better. No one seems to care or understand where you're coming from. Life just isn't worth living...or is it?
Debilitating emotions are experienced by many at some time or another. Questions brought to my mind when I was in an emotional pit were, "Could this ever be the will of God, who created me?" "Is God too small to help me?" "Are my problems too big for Him?"
I am happy to tell you that if you will take a few moments to consider letting God truly be God in your life right now, He will prove just how big He really is! "For nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). Perhaps scars from past hurts have resulted in an overwhelming sense of rejection or abandonment. That may lead to self-pity, anger, bitterness, vengeful thoughts or ways, unhealthy fears, etc., that have caused problems in some of your most important relationships. However, suicide would only serve to bring devastation to loved ones you never intend to hurt; emotional scars that will have to be dealt with the rest of their lives.
Why should you not commit suicide? Friend, no matter how bad things are in your life, there is a God of love who is waiting for you to let Him guide you through your tunnel of despair, and out into His marvelous light. He is your sure hope. His name is Jesus.
This Jesus, the sinless Son of God, identifies with you in your time of rejection and humiliation. The prophet, Isaiah, wrote of Him, "He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him. Nor appearance, that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men. A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely your griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His stripes (whipping) we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him" (Isaiah 53:2-6).
Friend, all this Jesus Christ endured in order that you might have all your sins forgiven! Whatever weight of guilt you carry around with you, know that He will forgive you if you humbly repent (turn from your sins, to God). "Call upon Me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you (set you free), and you will glorify Me (Psalm 50:15). Nothing you have ever done is too bad for Jesus to forgive. Some of His choicest servants in the Bible committed gross sins, like, murder (Moses), adultery (King David), and physical and emotional abuse (the Apostle Paul). Yet, they found forgiveness and a new abundant life in the Lord. "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin" (Psalm 51:2). "Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things are passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Why should you not commit suicide? Friend, God stands ready to repair what is "broken"... namely, the life you have now, that you want to end by suicide. The prophet Isaiah wrote: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners...to comfort all who mourn; To grant those who mourn...Giving them a garland (crown of beauty) instead of ashes; The oil of gladness instead of mourning; The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified" (Isaiah 61:1-3).
Come to Jesus, and let Him restore your joy and usefulness as you trust Him to begin a new work in your life. "Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit. "O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Thy praise. For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise" (Psalm 51:12, 15-17).
Sunday, December 23, 2007
The Believer and Positive Confession
Occasionally throughout church history people have taken extreme positions concerning great Biblical truths. Sometimes teachers have advocated these extremes. On other occasions followers have gone beyond the teachings and reflected adversely on the cause of Christ.
Positive and negative confession are expressions which in recent years have received acceptance in an extreme form in some circles. Both the definition in writing and the pattern of usage give some insight into the implications of these terms.
The fact that extremes are brought into focus does not imply rejection of the doctrine of confession. It is an important truth. The Bible teaches people are to confess their sin (1 John 1:9). They are to confess Christ (Matthew 10:32; Romans 10:9, 10). They are to maintain a good confession (Hebrews 4:14; 10:23, ASV).
But when people, in emphasizing a doctrine, go beyond or contrary to the teaching of Scripture, they do not honor that doctrine. Conversely, they bring reproach upon it and the work of the Lord. For this reason it is important to call attention to these excesses and show how they are in conflict with the Word of God.
Some Positions of the Positive Confession Teaching
The positive confession teaching relies on an English dictionary definition of the word confess: "to acknowledge, or to own; to acknowledge faith in." Confession is also described as affirming something which is believed, testifying to something known, and witnessing for a truth which has been embraced.
This view goes a step further and divides confession into negative and positive aspects. The negative is acknowledging sin, sickness, poverty, or other undesirable situations. Positive confession is acknowledging or owning desirable situations.
While there are variations of interpretation and emphasis concerning this teaching, a conclusion seems to be that the unpleasant can be avoided by refraining from negative confessions. The pleasant can be enjoyed by making positive confessions.
According to this view, as expressed in various publications, the believer who refrains from acknowledging the negative and continues to affirm the positive will assure for himself pleasant circumstances. He will be able to rule over poverty, disease, and sickness. He will be sick only if he confesses he is sick. Some make a distinction between acknowledging the symptoms of an illness and the illness itself.
This view advocates that God wants believers to wear the best clothing, drive the best cars, and have the best of everything. Believers need not suffer financial setbacks. All they need to do is to tell Satan to take his hands off their money. The believer can have whatever he says whether the need is spiritual, physical, or financial. It is taught that faith compels God's action.
According to this position, what a person says determines what he will receive and what he will become. Thus people are instructed to start confessing even though what they want may not have been realized. If a person wants money, he is to confess he has it even if it is not true. If a person wants healing, he is to confess it even though it is obviously not the case. People are told they can have whatever they say, and for this reason great significance is attached to the spoken word. It is claimed the spoken word, if repeated often enough, will eventually result in faith which procures the desired blessing.
It is understandable that some people would like to accept the positive confession teaching. It promises a life free from problems, and its advocates seem to support it with passages of Scripture. Problems develop, however, when Bible statements are isolated from their context and from what the rest of Scripture has to say concerning the subject. Extremes result which distort truth and eventually hurt believers as individuals and the cause of Christ in general.
When believers study the life of faith and victory God has for His people, it is important, as in all doctrine, to seek for the balanced emphasis of Scripture. This will help to avoid the extremes which eventually frustrate rather than help believers in their walk with God.
Believers Should Consider the Total Teaching of Scripture.
The apostle Paul gave an important principle of interpreting Scripture which calls for "comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (1 Corinthians 2:13). The basic thrust of this principle is to consider everything God's Word has to say on a given subject in establishing doctrine. Only doctrine based on a holistic view of Scripture conforms to this Biblical rule of interpretation.
When the positive confession teaching indicates that to admit weakness is to accept defeat, to admit financial need is to accept poverty, and to admit sickness is to preclude healing, it is going beyond and is contrary to the harmony of Scripture.
For instance, King Jehoshaphat admitted he had no might against an enemy alliance, but God gave him a marvelous victory (2 Chronicles 20). Paul admitted weakness and then stated that when he was weak, he was strong because God's strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9,10).
It was after the disciples recognized they did not have enough to feed the multitudes and admitted it that Christ marvelously provided a more than adequate supply (Luke 9:12, 13). It was after the disciples admitted they had caught no fish that Jesus directed them to a most successful endeavor (John 21:3-6).
These people were not told to replace negative confessions with positive confessions which were contrary to fact. They stated conditions exactly as they were rather than pretending they were something else. Yet God marvelously intervened even though they made what some would call negative confessions.
Comparing Scripture with Scripture makes it clear that positive verbal expressions do not always produce happy effects nor do negative statements always result in unhappy effects. To teach that leaders in the early days of the Church such as Paul, Stephen, and Trophimus did not live in a constant state of affluence and health because they did not have the light on this teaching is going beyond and contrary to the Word of God. Doctrine will be sound only as it is developed within the framework of the total teaching of Scripture.
The Greek word translated "confess" means "to speak the same thing." When people confess Christ, it is to say the same thing as Scripture does concerning Christ. When people confess sin, it is to say the same as Scripture does concerning sin. And when people confess some promise of Scripture, they must be sure they are saying the same thing about that promise as the total teaching of Scripture on that subject.
The words of Augustine are appropriate in this regard: "If you believe what you like in the gospel and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself."
Believers Should Consider Adequately the Will of God.
When the positive confession doctrine indicates a person can have whatever he says, it fails to emphasize adequately that God's will must be considered. David had the best intentions when he indicated his desire to build a temple for the Lord, but it was not God's will (1 Chronicles 17:4). David was permitted to gather materials, but Solomon was to build the temple.
Paul prayed that the thorn in his flesh might be removed, but it was not God's will. Instead of removing the thorn, God gave Paul sufficient grace (2 Corinthians 12:9).
God's will can be known and claimed by faith, but the desire of the heart is not always the criterion by which the will of God is determined. There are times when the enjoyable or pleasurable may not be the will of God. James alluded to this when he wrote, "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (James 4:3). The word translated "lusts" does not refer to perverted desire but to pleasure or enjoyment; that which the heart desires. Several translations use the word "pleasure" rather than "lust."
In Gethsemane Jesus asked that if it were possible the cup might be removed. That was His desire, but in His prayer He recognized the will of God. He said, "Nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42).
The Bible recognizes there will be times when a believer will not know what to pray for. He will not know what the will of God is. He may even be perplexed as Paul sometimes was (2 Corinthians 4:8). Then, rather than simply making a positive confession based on the desires of the heart, the believer needs to recognize the Holy Spirit makes intercession for him according to the will of God (Romans 8:26, 27).
God's will always must have priority over the believer's plans or desires. The words of James should be kept constantly in view: "Ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that" (James 4:15).
Getting what the believer wants is not as simple as repeating a positive confession. Pleasant things might be out of the will of God; and, conversely, unpleasant things might be in the will of God. It is important for the believer to say as Paul's friends did, "The will of the Lord be done" (Acts 21:14)--more important than to demand a life free from suffering.
Believers Should Recognize the Importance of Importunate Prayer.
When the positive confession view teaches that believers are to confess rather than to pray for things which God has promised, it overlooks the teaching of God's Word concerning importunate prayer. According to some who hold this view of positive confession, God's promises are in the area of material, physical, and spiritual blessings; believers are to claim or confess these blessings and not to pray for them.
The instruction not to pray for promised blessings is contrary to the teaching of God's Word. Food is one of God's promised blessings, yet Jesus taught His disciples to pray: "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11). Wisdom is a promised blessing of God, yet Scripture states, if any man "lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not" (James 1:5). Jesus called the Holy Spirit the promise of the Father (Luke 24:49), and yet He also taught that God would give the Holy Spirit to them that ask (Luke 11:13).
While there were times God told people not to pray, as in the case of Moses at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:15), there are many Scriptures reminding believers to pray, and that, without ceasing (Romans 12:12; Philippians 4:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Jesus emphasized the importance of importunity in prayer. The illustration of the persistent friend who came at midnight asking for bread to set before his guests became the basis for Christ's statement, "Ask, and it shall be given you" (Luke 11:5-10). The parable of the widow and the unjust judge became the occasion for our Lord to emphasize importunity in prayer (Luke 18:1-8). These people were commended for importunity and not for prayerless positive confession.
While God's ways are above man's ways, and we cannot understand the reason for every command in Scripture, we do know that in His wisdom God has ordained prayer as part of the process included in meeting a need. Rather than an indication of doubt, importunate prayer can be an indication of obedience and faith.
Believers Should Recognize They Can Expect Suffering in This Life.
The positive confession teaching advocates reigning as kings in this life. It teaches that believers are to dominate and not be dominated by circumstances. Poverty and sickness are usually mentioned among the circumstances over which believers are to have dominion.
If believers choose the kings of this world as models, it is true they will seek the trouble-free life (although even kings of this world are not free from problems). They will be more concerned with physical and material prosperity than with spiritual growth.
When believers choose the King of kings as their model, however, their desires will be completely different. They will be transformed by His teaching and example. They will recognize the truth of Romans 8:17 which is written concerning joint-heirs with Christ: "If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." Paul even went so far as to glory in his infirmities instead of denying them (2 Corinthians 12:5-10).
Though Christ was rich, for our sakes He became poor (2 Corinthians 8:9). He could say, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head" (Matthew 8:20).
While God in His providence has endowed some with the ability to accumulate greater wealth than others, something is tragically lacking if there is not a willingness to do the will of God and surrender all, if need be, including creature comforts.
Jesus never ceased to be God, and through the power of the Holy Spirit performed many miracles; yet He was not free from suffering. He knew He must suffer many things of the elders (Matthew 16:21; 17:12). He desired to eat the Passover with the disciples before He suffered (Luke 22:15). After His death, the disciples recognized that Christ's suffering was a fulfillment of prophecy (Luke 24:25, 26, 32).
When believers realize that reigning as kings in this life is to take Christ as the model of a king, they will recognize suffering can be involved; that sometimes it is more kingly to stay with unpleasant circumstances than to try to make all circumstances pleasant.
Paul had been shown he would suffer (Acts 9:16). Later he rejoiced in his sufferings for the Colossians. He saw his suffering as filling up "that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church" (Colossians 1:24).
God promises to supply the needs of believers, and He knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation; but reigning in life as Christ did may also include suffering. The committed believer will accept this. He will not be disillusioned if life is not a continual series of pleasant experiences. He will not become cynical if he does not have all the desires of his heart.
He will recognize the servant is not greater than his Master. To follow Christ requires denying ourselves (Luke 9:23). This includes denying our selfish desires and may include admitting our problems.
Problems are not always an indication of lack of faith. To the contrary, they can be a tribute to faith. This is the great emphasis of Hebrews 11:32-40:
And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy: they wandered in deserts, and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth.
And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
To hold that all suffering results from negative confessions and indicates a lack of faith contradicts the Scripture. Some heroes of faith suffered greatly, some even died through faith, and they were commended for it.
Believers Should Recognize the Sovereignty of God.
The positive confession emphasis has a tendency to include statements which make it appear that man is sovereign and God is the servant. Statements are made about compelling God to act, implying He has surrendered His sovereignty; that He is no longer in a position to act according to His wisdom and purpose. Reference is made to true prosperity being the ability to use God's ability and power to meet needs regardless of what the needs are. This puts man in the position of using God rather than man surrendering himself to be used of God.
In this view there is very little consideration given to communion with God in order to discover His will. There is very little appeal to search the Scriptures for the framework of the will of God. There is little emphasis on the kind of discussion with fellow believers which results in two or three agreeing what the will of God might be. Instead, the desire of the heart is viewed as a binding mandate on God. It is seen as constituting the authority of the believer.
It is true that Jesus said, "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:13). But Scripture also teaches that the asking must be in harmony with the will of God. "This is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him" (1 John 5:14, 15).
"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10) is still an important injunction today. God is God. He will not surrender His glory or sovereignty to anyone. No one will compel God to action.
The authority of the believer exists only in the will of God, and it is the believer's responsibility to discover and conform to the will of the sovereign God even in the things he desires. Paul's words are still applicable: "Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:17).
When believers recognize the sovereignty of God and properly become concerned with the will of God, they will not talk in terms of compelling God or using God's power. They will speak of becoming obedient servants. They will desire to become yielded instruments in the hands of God.
Believers Should Apply the Practical Test.
In reviewing the efforts of those who advocate this positive confession teaching it is evident that the basic appeal is to those who are already Christians living in an affluent society. They encourage a spiritual elitism in which adherents say, "We believe the same things you do. The difference is that we practice what we believe."
A practical test of a belief is whether it has a universal application. Does the teaching have meaning only for those living in an affluent society? Or does it also work among the refugees of the world? What application does the teaching have for believers imprisoned for their faith by atheistic governments? Are those believers substandard who suffer martyrdom or grave physical injury at the hands of cruel, ruthless dictators?
The truth of God's Word has a universal application. It is as effective in the slums as in suburbia. It is as effective in the jungle as in the city. It is as effective in foreign countries as in our own nation. It is as effective among deprived nations as among the affluent. The test of fruit is still one way of determining whether a teacher or teaching is of God or of man. "By their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20).
Believers Should Accurately Deal With the Word Rhema.
Because there is very little literature among those who espouse the positive confession teaching concerning the Greek word rhema, it is necessary to consider it as used primarily in oral communication.
A distinction is generally made by proponents of this view between the words logos and rhema. The first, it is claimed, refers to the written word. The second, to that which is presently spoken by faith. According to this view whatever is spoken by faith becomes inspired and takes on the creative power of God.
There are two major problems with this distinction. First, the distinction is not justified by usage either in the Greek New Testament or in the Septuagint (Greek version of the Old Testament). The words are used synonymously in both.
In the case of the Septuagint both rhema and logos are used to translate the one Hebrew word dabar which is used in various ways relative to communication. For instance, the word dabar (translated, word of God) is used in both Jeremiah 1:1 and 2. Yet in the Septuagint it is translated rhema in verse 1 and logos in verse 2.
In the New Testament the words rhema and logos are also used interchangeably. This can be seen in passages such as 1 Peter 1:23 and 25. In verse 23, it is "the logos of God which . . . abideth for ever." In verse 25, "the rhema of the Lord endureth for ever." Again in Ephesians 5:26 believers are cleansed "with the washing of water by the rhema." In John 15:3 believers are "clean through the logos."
The distinctions between logos and rhema cannot be sustained by Biblical evidence. The Word of God, whether referred to as logos or rhema, is inspired, eternal, dynamic, and miraculous. Whether the Word is written or spoken does not alter its essential character. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
A second problem also exists among those who make a distinction between the words logos and rhema. Passages of Scripture are sometimes selected without regard to context or analogy of faith which they claim to speak by faith. In this kind of application of the so-called rhema principle, adherents are more concerned with making the Word mean what they want it to mean than in becoming what the Word wants them to become. In some instances it becomes obvious they love God more for what He does than for who He is.
It is important for believers to avoid any form of Christian existentialism which isolates passages of Scripture from the context or makes some passages eternal and others contemporary.
In considering any doctrine it is always necessary to ask whether it is in harmony with the total teaching of Scripture. Doctrine based on less than a holistic view of Biblical truth can only do harm to the cause of Christ. It can often be more detrimental than views which reject Scripture altogether. Some people will more likely accept something as truth if it is referred to in the Word of God, even if the teaching is an extreme emphasis or contradicts other principles of Scripture.
God's Word does teach great truths such as healing, provision for need, faith, and the authority of believers. The Bible does teach that a disciplined mind is an important factor in victorious living. But these truths must always be considered in the framework of the total teaching of Scripture.
When abuses occur, there is sometimes a temptation to draw back from these great truths of God's Word. In some cases people even lose out with God altogether when they discover that exaggerated emphases do not always meet their expectations or result in freedom from problems.
The fact that doctrinal aberrations develop, however, is not a reason for rejecting or remaining silent concerning them. The existence of differences of opinion is all the more reason why believers should continue diligently to search the Scriptures. It is why servants of God must faithfully declare the whole counsel of God.
Luke 16:13 (NIV) "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."
Mat 6:19-21 (TEB) "Do not save riches for yourselves here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and robbers break in and steal. Instead, save riches for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and robbers cannot break in and steal. For your heart will always be where your riches are."
It is easy enough to "explain away" one or two verses to come to the conclusion we want. But what you are about to read is more than one or two verses: Scriptural teaching about money is clear, consistent, and radical. All is required, and the flesh must die to obey.
Be Content With Your Needs Being Met - Beware Of Materialism
Heb 13:5 (RSV) "Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have."
Ps 37:7,16 (NAS) Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way... Better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked.
Prov 23:4-5 (NIV) Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.
The Test of Riches and The Test of Poverty
1 Sam 2:7 (NIV) The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts.
Prov 30:8-9 (NIV) ...Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, "Who is the Lord?" Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
If poverty is accompanied by physical dangers, prosperity is accompanied by spiritual dangers. God will often move us through both for the purpose of testing us.
Phil 4:11-13 (Phi) ...For I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be. I know now how to live when things are difficult and I know how to live when things are prosperous. In general and in particular I have learned the secret of eating well or going hungry--of facing either plenty or poverty. I am ready for anything through the strength of the One who lives within me.
Phil 4:12 (NAS) I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.
Phil 4:12-13 (Jer) I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich, too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty. There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength.
Will We Follow if Jesus Asks Us to Enter Poverty For a Season?
Mark 10:21-27,31 (Jer) Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, "There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!" The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, "My children," he said to them, "how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." They were more astonished than ever. "In that case," they said to one another, "who can be saved?" Jesus gazed at them. "For men," he said, "it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God... Many who are first will be last, and the last first."
Is it likely, with all of his contacts and experience, that this man would have remained poor for long? And yet he was unwilling to obey Christ with all these advantages, even temporarily.
Loosening Your Grip
Acts 2:44-45 (Phi) All the believers joined together and shared everything in common; they sold their possessions and goods and divided the proceeds among the fellowship according to individual need.
Acts 4:32,34-35 (NIV) All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had... There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
God is calling all of us to let go of our possessions. We may even get to use them in the future if we "loosen our grip". If we do not do this willingly ourselves, God will. It is a sure sign that we are sons. We should thank the Lord when He wrenches a dangerous thing from our hands. Maybe we could even cooperate a little! If we don't, moths, rust, and thieves will do their job.
A.W. Tozer: "Never Own Anything--Get Rid Of The Sense Of Possessing!"
Luke 14:33 (Phi) "Only the man who says goodbye to all his possessions can be my disciple."
Luke 14:33 (TEB) Concluded Jesus, "none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up everything he has."
Luke 14:33 (RSV) "Whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple."
Luke 3:11 (NIV) John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same."
Luke 6:30 (Jer) "Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you."
Jesus Gives Investment Advice...
Luke 16:9-11 (Phi) "Now my advice to you is to use 'money', tainted as it is, to make yourselves friends, so that when it comes to an end, they may welcome you into the houses of eternity. The man who is faithful in the little things will be faithful in the big things. So that if you are not fit to be trusted to deal with the wicked wealth of this world, who will trust you with true riches?"
Luke 16:9-12 (NIV) "I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings... If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?"
Luke 14:12-14 (NIV) "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
Mat 6:24 (NIV) "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."
Luke 12:33 (NIV) "Sell your possessions and give to the poor... "
He Who Dies With The Most Toys... Loses!
Luke 12:15-21 (Phi) ..."Be on your guard against covetousness in any shape or form. For a man's real life in no way depends upon the number of his possessions... A rich man's farmland produced heavy crops. So he said to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have no room to store this harvest of mine?' Then he said, 'I know what I'll do. I'll pull down my barns and build bigger ones where I can store all my grain and my goods and I can say to my soul, Soul, you have plenty of good things stored up there for years to come. Relax! Eat, drink, and have a good time!' But God said to him, 'You fool, this very night you will be asked for YOUR SOUL!...' That is what happens to the man who hoards things for himself and is not rich in the eyes of God."
Luke 16:19-31 (NIV) "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus... The beggar died and angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died... In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up... 'I am in agony in this fire.' But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony...' 'Then I beg you... I have five brothers... warn them so that they will not come to this place of torment.' 'They have Moses and the Prophets, let them listen to them.'"
Ps 49:16-19 (NIV) Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him. Though while he lived he counted himself blessed--and men praise you when you prosper--he will join the generation of his fathers, who will never see the light of life.
Ecc 5:10-15 (NIV) Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them? The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep. I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner, or wealth lost through some misfortune... Naked a man comes from his mothers womb, and as he comes, so he departs...
Prov 11:4,28 (NIV) Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death... Whoever trusts in his riches will fall...
Money as An Insulation From God
Christians hope in eternal security, and God would have us give up "carnal security" to get it. The flesh wants the security of money. It wants to be in control, to be master, to "be god". So we dream of and cling to money because we don't want to be totally dependent on God...
Job 31:24-25,28 (NIV) [Job:] "If I have put my trust in gold or said to pure gold, 'You are my security,' if I have rejoiced over my great wealth, the fortune my hands had gained... then these also would be sins to be judged, for I would have been unfaithful to God on high."
C.S. Lewis writes in Perelandra, "This itch to have things over again, as if life were a film that could be unrolled twice or even made to work backwards... was it possibly the root of all evil? No: of course the love of money was called that. But money itself--perhaps one valued it chiefly as a defense against chance, a security for being able to have things over again, a means of arresting the unrolling of the film."
Eze 28:2-10 (NAS) ..."Thus says the Lord God, 'Because your heart is lifted up and you have said, 'I am a God...' yet you are a man and not God, although you make your heart like the heart of God... You have acquired riches for yourself... and your heart is lifted up because of your riches--Therefore, behold, I will bring strangers upon you... and they will draw their swords... and defile your splendor... and you will die... Will you still say, 'I am a god,' in the presence of your slayer, although you are a man and not God, in the hands of those who wound you?'"
What in The World is Wrong With The Televangelists?
1 Thes 2:5 (Jer) ...Never at any time have our speeches been simply flattery or a cover for trying to get money.
2 Cor 2:17 (NEB) At least we do not go hawking the word of God about, as so many do...
2 Cor 2:17 (NIV) Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit.
2 Cor 2:17 (LB) We are not like those hucksters--and there are many of them--whose idea in getting out the Gospel is to make a good living out of it.
1 Tim 6:5 (Phi) ...among men of warped minds who have lost their real hold on the truth but hope to make some profit out of the Christian religion.
1 Tim 6:5 (TEB) ...They think religion is a way to become rich.
1 Tim 6:5-9 (NIV) ...men, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.
1 Tim 6:10-12 (NIV) For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves through with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
The Nobility of Poverty?
James 1:9-11 (Jer) It is right for the poor brother to be proud of his high rank, and the rich one to be thankful that he has been humbled, because riches last no longer than the flowers in the grass; the scorching sun comes up, and the grass withers, the flower falls; what looked so beautiful now disappears. It is the same with the rich man: his business goes on; he himself perishes.
James 1:9-11 (Phi) The brother who is in need may be proud because God has raised him to the true riches. The rich may be proud that God has shown him his spiritual poverty... Just as surely will the rich man and his ways fall into the blight of decay.
The Risks Of Wealth...
Mark 4:18-19 (Phi) "Then there are the seeds which were sown among the thorn bushes. These are the people who hear the message, but the worries of this world and the false glamour of riches and all sorts of other ambitions creep in and choke the life out of what they have heard, and it produces no crop in their lives."
Luke 8:14 (Phi) "And the seed sown among the thorns represents the people who hear the message and go on their way, and with the worries and riches and pleasures of living, the life is choked out of them, and in the end they produce nothing."
Luke 9:25 (NIV) "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet lose or forfeit his very self?"
The Prosperity "Fat Cats" Bite The Dust...
Many of us have been fervently praying that God would turn the church upside down and vigorously shake it (Heb 12:25-29). When this happens, those who love money and have lost their grip on the truth will be the first to fall.
1 Cor 4:8-21 (NIV) Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings--and that without us! How I wish you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you!.. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless... Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world. I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children... I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with punishment, or in love and with a gentle spirit?
James 5:1-3,5 (TEB) And now, you rich people [see James 2:2-7], listen to me! Weep and wail over the miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches have rotted away, and your clothes have been eaten by moths. Your gold and silver are covered with rust, and this rust will be a witness against you, and eat up your flesh like fire. You have piled up riches in these last days... Your life here on earth has been full of luxury and pleasure. You have made yourselves fat for the day of slaughter.
Jer 5:27-29 (NIV) ..."They have become rich and powerful and have grown fat and sleek... they do not plead the case of the fatherless to win it, they do not defend the rights of the poor. Should I not punish them for this?" declares the Lord.
Advice on Security Investing
1 Tim 6:17-19 (Phi) Tell those who are rich in this present world not to be contemptuous of others, and not to rest the weight of their confidence on the transitory power of wealth but on the living God, who generously gives us everything for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in kindly actions, to be ready to give to others and to sympathize with those in distress. Their security should be invested in the life to come, so that they may be sure of holding a share in the life which is real and permanent.
Luke 12:29-34 (Phi) "You must not set your heart on what you eat or drink, nor must you live in a state of anxiety. The whole heathen world is busy about getting food and drink, and your Father knows well enough that you need such things. No, set your heart on his kingdom, and your food and drink will come as a matter of course... Sell your possessions and give the money away to those in need. Get yourselves purses that never grow old, inexhaustible treasure in Heaven, where no thief can ever reach it, or moth destroy it. For where your treasure is, you may be certain that your heart will be there too!"
1 Tim 6:8-10 (Phi) Surely then, as far as physical things are concerned, it is sufficient for us to keep our bodies fed and clothed. For men who set their hearts on being wealthy expose themselves to temptation. They fall into a trap and lay themselves open to all sorts of silly and wicked desires, which are quite capable of utterly ruining and destroying their souls. For loving money leads to all kinds of evil, and some men in the struggle to be rich have lost their faith and caused themselves untold agonies of mind.
Jer 9:23-24 (NAS) Thus says the Lord, "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom... let not a rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this, that he understands and knows Me... "
Now You Know...
1 Jn 3:16-18 (Phi) We know what love is because Christ laid down his life for us. We must in turn lay down our lives for our brothers. But as for the well-to-do man who sees his brother in want but shuts his heart against him, how could anyone believe that the love of God lives in him? My Children, let us love not merely in theory or in words--let us love in sincerity and in practice! (2 Cor 8:9)
Luke 12:47-48 (NIV) "That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."
Prov 28:20 (NIV) The faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.
Rev 3:17-19 (Phi) [Jesus] "While you say, 'I am rich, I have prospered, and there is nothing that I need,' you have no eyes to see that you are wretched, pitiable, poverty-stricken, blind and naked. My advice to you is to buy from me that gold which is refined in the furnace so that you may be rich, and white garments to wear so that you may hide the shame of your nakedness, and salve to put on your eyes to make you see. All those whom I love I correct and discipline. Therefore, shake off your complacency and repent."
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Luke 18:8b (NIV) When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?
Believing The Truth
Faith is believing in what is true. Faith has two elements: 1) being convinced of the truth, being certain of reality, having evidence of unseen things, and 2) believing, hoping in, embracing, seizing the truth.
Heb 11:1 (KJV) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Heb 11:1 (NIV) Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Heb 11:1 (NEB) Faith... makes us certain of realities we do not see.
Heb 11:1 (Mof) Now faith means that we are confident of what we hope for, convinced of what we do not see.
Heb 11:1 (Wey) Now faith is a well-grounded assurance of that for which we hope, and a conviction of the reality of things which we do not see.
While faith requires being convinced that what we believe in is true, just knowing the truth is only half of faith. God's word must be hoped for, embraced, seized!
Luke 17:5 (NIV) The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you."
Believing is not exactly the same as faith. For belief to be faith, it must light on what is certainly true. Yet Scripture gives examples of situations where belief alone is required, even commanded. There's no time for evidence collection, to wait, to hear, for certainty. Just believe. Like Peter walking on the water--don't think, act! God even requires us to believe in him when, temporarily, the evidence looks bad: to trust. [We will study belief and trust separately.] God requires belief and trust in moments of human weakness, but faith is what makes us strong. Faith is the state of being convinced about what we hope for.
How To Get More Faith
Contrary to popular teaching, faith is not mental delusion, presumption or self-deception, but a work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
Rom 10:17 (NIV) Faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Rom 10:17 (Phi) Faith, you see, can only come from hearing the message, and the message is the word of Christ.
Rom 10:17 (Wey) And this proves that faith comes from a Message heard, and that the Message comes through having been spoken by Christ.
Eze 13:6 (NIV) ... they expect their words to be fulfilled.
C.S. Lewis: "We must not encourage in ourselves or others any tendency to work up a subjective state which, if we succeeded, we should describe as "faith", with the idea that this will somehow insure the granting of our prayer.... The state of mind which desperate desire working on a strong imagination can manufacture is not faith in the Christian sense. It is a feat of psychological gymnastics."
Websters: CREDULITY \ kri-du-let-ee, CREDULOUS \ krej-u-les 1) Naive, not critical, believing on slight or uncertain evidence. 2) A tendency to believe too readily, especially with little or no proof.
Belief detached from the truth is not faith. Believing in what is not from God, not true, believing in "the word of your own imagination", or even the "word of Satan", is deception pure and simple. Calling this deception "faith" does not make it so.
A.W. Tozer: "I do not recall another period when "faith" was as popular as it is today. If only we believe hard enough we'll make it somehow. So goes the popular chant. What you believe is not important. Only believe... What is overlooked in all this is that faith is good only when it engages truth; when it is made to rest upon falsehood it can and often does lead to eternal tragedy. For it is not enough that we believe; we must believe the right thing about the right One.
2 Thes 2:10b-11 (NIV) They perish because they refuse to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie.
"It is no sin to doubt some things... it may be fatal to believe everything. Faith never means gullibility. Credulity never honors God. The healthy soul, like the healthy blood system, has it's proper proportion of white and red blood cells. The red corpuscles are like faith: they carry the life giving oxygen to every part of the body. The white cells are like discernment: they pounce upon dead and toxic matter and carry it out to the drain. In the healthy heart there must be provision for keeping dead and poisonous matter out of the life stream. This the credulous person never suspects. He is all for "faith".
The Way Of Faith For Thomas... And Us
Rom 14:5b (NIV) Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.
Mat 24:4-5 (NIV) Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many."
Mark 13:5-6 (Phi) "Be very careful that no one deceives you. Many are going to come in my name and say, 'I am he', and will lead many astray.
Luke 21:8 (Jer) He said, "Take care that you are not misled. For many will come claiming my name and saying 'I am he'."
John 20:25-28 (NIV) When the other disciples told him [Thomas] that they had seen the Lord, he declared, "... I will not believe it." A week later... Jesus... said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
John 20:31 (NIV) These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Believing The Gospel Truth
Col 1:5b-6 (Phi) ... that hope that first became yours when you heard the message of truth. This is the Gospel itself, which has reached you as it spreads out all over the world. Wherever that gospel goes, it produces Christian character, and develops it, as it has done in your own case from the time you first heard and realized the truth of God's grace.
Col 1:23 (Phi) This reconciliation assumes that you maintain a firm position in the faith, and do not allow yourselves to be shifted away from the hope of the gospel, which you have heard....
C.S. Lewis: "The battle is between faith and reason on one side and emotions and imagination on the other.... Supposing a man's reason once decides that weight of evidence is for Christianity. I can tell that man what is going to happen to him in the next few weeks. There will come a moment when there is bad news, or he is in trouble, or is living among a lot of other people who do not believe it, and all at once his emotions will rise up and carry out a sort of blitz on his belief. Or else there will come a moment when he wants a woman, or wants to tell a lie, or feels very pleased with himself, or sees a chance of making a little money in some way that is not perfectly fair: some moment, in fact, at which it would be very convenient if Christianity were not true.
"Now faith... is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.... Make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious reading and churchgoing are necessary parts of the Christian life....
"If you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?"
Heb 2:1-3 (Phi) We ought, therefore, to pay the greatest attention to the truth that we have heard and not allow ourselves to drift away from it. For if the message given through angels proved authentic, so that defiance of it and disobedience to it received appropriate retribution, how shall we escape if we refuse to pay proper attention to that greater salvation which is offered us? For this salvation came first through the words of the Lord himself.
2 Tim 2:15-17 (Phi) For yourself, concentrate on winning God's approval, on being a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, and who knows how to use the word of truth to the best advantage. But steer clear of these unchristian babblings, which in practice lead further and further away from Christian living. For their teachings are as dangerous as blood-poisoning to the body, and spread like sepsis from a wound. Hymenaeus and Philetus are responsible for this sort of thing, and they are palpable traitors to the truth...
2 Tim 1:12b-14 (NIV) I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you, guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit that lives in us.
Abraham, an Example of Faith
Rom 4:18-21 (Phi) Abraham, when hope was dead within him, went on hoping in faith, believing that he would become "the father of many nations". He relied on the word of God which definitely referred to "thy seed". With undaunted faith he looked at the facts--his own impotence (he was practically a hundred years old at the time) and his wife Sarah's apparent barrenness. Yet he refused to allow any distrust of a definite pronouncement of God to make him waver. He drew strength from his faith, and, while giving the glory to God, remained absolutely convinced that God was able to implement his own promise.
Rom 4:22-25 (Phi) This was the "faith" which was counted unto him for righteousness. Now this counting of faith for righteousness was not recorded simply for Abraham's credit, but as a divine principle which should apply to us as well. Faith is to be reckoned as righteousness to us also, who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered to death for our sins and raised again to secure our justification.
Faith To Crucify The Flesh
A.W. Tozer: "The Word of God well understood and religiously obeyed is the shortest route to spiritual perfection. And we must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others. Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian.
"True faith requires that we believe everything God has said about Himself, but also that we believe everything he has said about US. Until we believe that we are really as bad as God says we are, we can never believe that He will do for us what He says He will do. Right here is where popular religion breaks down."
Luke 9:23-24 (NIV) Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it."
John 11:25-26 (NIV) Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
Gal 5:24 (Jer) You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires.
As God calls each Christian to "die to self" and promises "new life", the flesh protests: "What if it doesn't work? What if I'm left empty-handed? What if God isn't faithful?" But we have the gripping example of Jesus's faith--when He let the life drain out of Him on the cross--with the attitude, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" And about that much easier thing His Spirit is convicting you to give up now, this same Jesus says from the cross: "Follow me!"
Heb 12:1-3 (Phi) Surrounded as we are by these serried ranks of witnesses, let us strip off everything that hinders us, as well as the sin that dogs our feet, and let us run the race that we have to run with patience, our eyes fixed on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. For he himself endured a cross and thought nothing of its shame because of the joy he knew would follow his suffering; and he is now seated at the right hand of God's throne. Think constantly of his enduring all that sinful men could say against him and you will not lose your purpose or your courage.
A Life Of Faith
Heb 11:6 (NIV) Without faith it is impossible to please God....
Heb 11:24-27 (Phi) By faith... Moses... refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He preferred sharing the burden of God's people to enjoying the temporary advantages of sin. He considered the "reproach of Christ" more precious than all the wealth of Egypt, for he looked steadily at the ultimate reward. By faith he left Egypt; he defied the king's anger with the strength that comes from obedience to the invisible king.
Heb 10:32,35-39 (NIV) ... in the face of suffering... do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him." But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.
2 Cor 4:8-10 (Phi) We are hard-pressed on all sides, but never in despair. We are persecuted, but are never deserted; we may be knocked down but we are never knocked out! Everyday we experience something of the death of Jesus, so that we may also show the power of the life of Jesus in these bodies of ours. Yes, we who are living are always being exposed to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be plainly seen in our mortal lives.
2 Cor 4:16-18 (Phi) This is the reason we never lose heart. The outward man does indeed suffer wear and tear, but every day the inward man receives fresh strength. These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain. For we are looking all the time not at the visible things but at the invisible. The visible things are transitory: it is the invisible things that are really permanent.
1 Pet 1:6-7 (Phi) This means tremendous joy to you, even though at present you may be temporarily harassed by all kinds of trials. This is no accident--it happens to prove your faith, which is infinitely more valuable than gold, and gold, as you know, even though it is ultimately perishable, must be purified by fire.
Eph 6:16 (Phi) Above all be sure you take faith as your shield, for it can quench every burning missile the enemy hurls at you.
Heb 11:1 (Phi) Faith means that we have full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see.
Rom 4:16 (Phi) The whole thing, then, is a matter of faith on man's part and generosity on God's. He gives the security of his own promise to all men....
Job 13:15 (NAS) Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him....
Job 19:25 (NAS) I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!