Obey God Rather Than Men

20 10 2013

SpurgeonDiscernment

Acts 5:27-29 – “And when they had brought them, they set [them] before the council.  And the high priest asked them, saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” But Peter and the apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

We seem to have a “he said, she said” issue in American Christianity.  I am sure, though, it’s not just here in America.  Some might label me as a “Protestant” or even a “Reformed Protestant” (I hate labels….I’m a follower of Christ) and I tend to enjoy some of the writings of the great preachers and “reformers” of the past.  What they seemed to write and want to tell others seems so much more deeper and filled with truth than many of the things offered in our current place in time.

One of my favorite things to read is just about anything written or preached from Charles H. Spurgeon.  He was from England in the mid-1800’s and converted at the age of 15.  He became a pastor of a church at 17.  He then went on to lead a congregation of 6,000, have most of his sermons published in the local paper, help others into gospel ministry in his Pastor’s College, among many other things.  He is a joy to read.  He spoke truth simply and with conviction and humility.

However, he is not God.  His words have not become God’s Word.

There are those of you that are of other parts of Christianity.  You may not consider yourself “Protestant”.  Maybe you’re Catholic or Orthodox and enjoy reading some of the writings of the “saints”.  (I put quotes because I know my non-protestant brethren would call Augustine – Saint Augustine.  I have read some of his work as well in study.)

However, they are not God.  Their words have not become God’s Word.

What do I mean by that?  Just as today, if Pastor so-and-so says something, it doesn’t mean it’s true.  How do you know it’s true?  Does what he say line up with what the Bible says or is he trying to grab verses out of context to conform them to what he’s saying?  If God’s Word is truth, everything else anyone says must be subject to it.  What if what he says is not according to the Bible?  What if he writes a book and someone reads it 200 years from now.  Does it make it truth 200 years from now just because it’s old?

As I said, I love reading the writings of Charles Spurgeon.  However, I need to know what the Bible says for myself so that I can discern if what he has written is true. Spurgeon’s words should compliment the Bible and help us to understand it.  They do not become truth just because he quotes a verse or two and says, “This is what it means”.

A great biblical example of this is the preaching of Paul.  Imagine, if you will, sitting in a room filled with other people hearing the words of the great Apostle Paul (or St. Paul).  He speaks with authority and seems to know the Scriptures inside and out.  But, are his words right just because he sounds like he knows what he’s talking about?  After he speaks, the group gets together to see if what Paul was saying was right.  They are known as the Bereans.

Acts 17:10-12 – “The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue.  Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.  Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.”

Can you imagine that?  They didn’t just take Paul’s word for it.  They looked it up for themselves.  For that reason they were given the title of being more noble for it.  What if we did the same?  What if we could discern what was truth and almost-truth?  Would we know when error was taught and would we speak against it?

Today, there is a problem with culture, psychology, and “worldly wisdom” being mixed in with the truth of Scripture.  I am sure that this is nothing new and has happened in much of Church history.  However, it is hurting the Church in so many ways in our day:

1.) The “Gospel” comes in so many flavors that many can’t discern the true from the false.

Having a hard time?  We have a gospel for that.  Diagnosed with a terminal illness? We have a gospel for that.  Need more money?  Need a spouse?  Need a divoece?  Need your husband to better?  We have a gospel for all of those, too.  You can hear preaching on just about anything you can think of.  How do you know which one is true?  One pastor says the more you give to his church, the more you or your family members, dead or alive, will be blessed.  How do you know that’s right?  Just because a pastor said it?  Somebody says all you need to do to go to Heaven is ask Jesus into your heart.  How do you know?  Where is that said?  What is the “good news”?  Is there any bad news?  Where do we find it?  Someone else states that God is all for you and if you just believe, you will have the life you’ve always wanted. Can someone please line that up with Scripture…the whole Scripture.  You can make a doctrine out of just about anything if you just take one verse out of its context.  What is taught most likely cannot be taught by one verse.  It has to line up with the rest of the Scriptures.

2.) Many hold on to certain “ism’s” (Calvinism, Preterism, Dispensationalism, etc.) so tightly, that they shun those they disagree with, though they may just not have proper understanding of such issues.

I may tend to agree with certain things because I see them in Scripture, but am I fully right?  Do I have perfect understanding?  Do we see clearly yet?  Even if I am right, does that give me reason to say those that don’t think I’m right are not Christians?  In some cases, yes, but there is a difference in denying concrete biblical doctrines and not understanding something that is not so clear.   There is a difference between denying that Jesus is the only way to God and denying that tongues is a prayer language.  One is concrete and shouldn’t ever be questionable, the other is questionable and could be debated until Jesus comes back and isn’t worth splitting the Body of Christ over.  That is what is supposed to be the wonderful dynamic of the Body of Christ.  We all have different backgrounds, traits, understandings, gifts, talents, struggles, strengths, and weaknesses and, yet, we use them together to build each other up.  At least, that would be the ideal.  However, the common practice is to think that someone else’s weakness or misunderstanding disqualifies them from the grace of Christ.  The thought becomes that because they don’t believe everything that I do on a certain subject, they are therefore “heretics” or “apostate” when nothing is said about it in Scripture, but someone may have spoken or written, even hundreds of years ago, that it was so.

3.) Biblical marriage roles are not understood or tossed out altogether

A leading, authoritative, and loving husband and a submissive, respectful wife is like sour milk to the world.  They cannot understand such a concept, nor should we expect them to.  However, this is what marriages within the Church should be like for that is what God in His Word calls us to in Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3, and Collisions 3.  But, instead, we water it down or argue with it.  Our marriages, therefore, look hardly any different with the world.  Not only that, but the divorce rate among Christians is at about the same as the world.  How are we any different? How are we an example to the world?  It’s no wonder nobody wants to get married. It’s no wonder homosexuality is becoming more common.  What do they have else to look to for an example of what is right?

And the list can go on and on.

The point is in all of this is:  Where do we turn to for truth, to men or to God? Yes, I understand that God gives pastors and teachers to equip the Church for ministry (Eph 4:11-13).  However, not all pastors and teachers are correct, as Scripture clearly warns us of false teachers who will not spare the flock (Acts 20:28-30).  Not only that, but even those that seek to be true to the Word of God are not correct on everything.   So, it is also the job of the hearers to read the Scriptures for themselves to be able to judge all things.  That being said, nobody, including you and I, will ever be able to understand every little truth in Scripture.  That is where the Body comes in to encourage each other in what we know is true, not beat each other up over misunderstandings.  That is why God inspired the Apostle Paul to write Romans 14:1-15:7.  That is why we are called to be humble, not thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought, and bearing with the weak if you think you are strong.

Finally, do not at all think that I am advocating an ecumenical-kumbaya-we’re-all-the-same attitude.  By no means.  If I thought that, I would be denying the very Word of God that I want to uphold.  There are certainly false teachers, false gospels, and false theology that must be refused and brought to light.  There are black-and-white issues that some want to make trivial.  We need to point to the Scriptures to make it known that they are not trivial.  However, there are also trivial things that some make into black-and-white issues that you cannot backup with Scripture.  How do you know if it’s black-and-white or trivial?  You can ask a godly friend or pastor, but ultimately you can ask God.  It is his Word and He knows perfectly, better than any man, what He meant by it.  He has given us the Holy Spirit to teach us His truth and lead us in it.  Trust in Him.

John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”

John 16:13-14 – “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”

1 John 2:26-27 – “These things I have written to you concerning those who deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.”

Jesus said to follow Him.

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Jesus said to Follow Him!

5 10 2012

At the bottom of every post I write I make it my aim to put some form of “Jesus said to follow Him”.  It seems so simple and obvious.  Yet, it seems not many understand it.

In the midst of Christianity there seems to be a sub-genre called Churchianity.  This is where people “play church”.  Church is their idea of being a Christian.  Whatever any speaker, preacher, or teacher says, that is what they do.  Whatever Focus on the Family agrees with, they agree with.  If a new movie or book comes out and it mentions a Bible verse or moral issue, whether it is out of context or not, they are all over it.  Fellowship is considered a Christian form of “hanging out”, even though conversation isn’t much different than talking with unbelievers.  “Worship” songs are often sung with passion without even understanding what messages are coming out of the songs.  (Some make Jesus into more of a boyfriend or lover instead of the God to be feared and the Lord (Master) who rules.)  Above all else, they cannot discern what is true from the Bible for themselves.  A pastor, bishop, shepherd, priest, etc. can say just about anything and the Churchians will listen, agree, and follow him (or, nowadays, maybe her) without truly digging in the Bible to make sure what the pastor says is right.

I have been in that place myself.  Then I came a point in time where I began questioning a lot of things that seem common among Christianity.  Many of those questions I have dealt with on this blog including the common Christian attitude toward gay marriage, making issues from the Bible that aren’t really there, making ourselves look better than we really are, and why there is not unity in the Church (the Body of Christ, not “church”).

We live in a culture (at least, in the United States) that is drowning in religious overtones.  In other words, there are plenty that are “Christians” or believe in a god or two, whoever they might be, but have no real understanding or way of life that backs up their profession.  While some Christians might freak out about someone being a Muslim, there are many who are Muslim in name only.  It can probably be said about any religion.  They go through the motions and “do their time” at church, synagogue, mosque, or other “place of worship”.  If I’m not mistaken, studies have shown that over half of the U.S. population say that they are “Christian”.  Yet, where are the fruits of that?  There is no fruit because, to most, it is just a name to call themselves.

Being a “Christian” is NOT a game, it is serious stuff.

That’s because God is serious.  He is not this fluffy grandfather deity that is just waiting for you to just “acknowledge” or “accept him into your heart” as is commonly portrayed.  He is a holy God.  He is your creator and has authority over you.  Yes, He is a just God as well, and as many as think it is not fair (which is oxymoronic because those that have that argument don’t understand fairness), He inflicts punishment for sin.  He has given rules to follow and everyone has broken them.  He makes it very clear what we deserve because of our rebellion and disobedience.  Yet, because of His love, compassion, mercy, grace, and kindness, He not only give us opportunity to live and enjoy life, but He also gives us what we need in life.  The very breath that we breathe we don’t deserve.   His ultimate gift was the gift of His Son Jesus, who opened up more of God’s ways to us.  He then walked innocently before God and gave His life for us.  When He went to the cross, it showed God was infinitely serious about sin and showed His infinite love for us.  At the cross, Jesus took upon Himself our sin and God punished Him in our place.  God CANNOT let sin go unpunished.  One cannot simply say “I’m sorry” or “forgive me” without a basis for that forgiveness.  Therefore, since God punished Christ on our behalf, there is a basis for that forgiveness.  That forgiveness is not automatic, though.  There are strings attached to that sin/forgiveness transaction.  It is not given to everybody who ever lived.  It is given to those that follow Jesus.  The Bible makes that very clear.

Being a Christian means you follow after Jesus, who is the promised Messiah to the Jews and the Savior to those who trust Him.  He is the one God promised in times past who would be innocent before God, take upon Himself our sins, and die in our place.  Being a Christian means you believe that and what the Bible says about Him.  You read or listen to what He says in the Bible and you strive to do it, asking for help knowing you can’t do it in your own power.  Being a Christian means you die to yourself, humble yourself, take up your cross, be willing to die for truth, live in a way that pleases and glorifies God, and follow after Christ.  Being a Cristian means that this world is not your home, you go against the natural flow of this world, you will be hated as they hated Christ, and that you keep going, not because people like you, but because of your trust in what God has said about it all.

Being a Christian also means that you are to love as God loves as described in the Bible.  That love isn’t necessarily an emotional feel-good love.  It is an action as described in 1 Corinthians 13.  You realize that you are a sinner just like everyone else.  Therefore, you love others, including homosexuals, abortionists, democrats, and everyone else, by treating them how you’d like to be treated if you were in their shoes without glossing over their sin.

Ultimately, being a Christian means you believe what the Bible says, old and new testaments.  If you don’t, then what is your basis of calling yourself a Christian?  The Bible is the foundation for which we believe who God is and what He says.  It is the ultimate source where we find truth because God IS truth.  All other sources of truth MUST have their basis on the correct understanding of God’s Word.  If it doesn’t, then the other sources are not truth.  If psychology or philosophy is mixed with God’s Word, they must agree with His Word.  They cannot change the meaning it.  God knows our psyche perfectly and tells us how we should live.  He did not forget to tell us anything.  We have His Word.  His Word is truth.

The Bible is where Jesus calls us to follow Him and be His disciples, that we may be forgiven of our offenses against God and be able to know Him, love Him, honor Him, and make Him known.  Yet, if we don’t know what He says, how can we ever know Him and know what pleases Him?  How can we know if what others say about Him is actually true?

Christian, if you have a Bible, the Word of God, it is essential that you get to know and understand it.  Do you want to please God?  God tells you how to in His Word.  Do you want to know how to act and react to others?  He tells you that too.  Do you not understand His Word?  He tells you what to do about it.

Before I get off into a million “rabbit trails”, let me make my point:  Do not take what your pastor, counselor, or any other Christian says for granted.  Their words are not truth.  God’s Word is truth and what they say MUST line up with it.  Their words do not become God’s truth, but must reflect His truth.  God is the one that established His Word and He is more than capable of giving you wisdom to understand it if you ask for it.  The Bible speak about God’s Word and His Spirit as being “spiritually understood”.  The natural man cannot understand it.  God is the One who gives wisdom and understanding.  Seek after it because then you will be able to discern between what is true and false.

May your heart be devoted to Christ and not to “church”.  Do not follow a pastor, bishop, etc., but follow Christ.  Do not take what others, including myself, say for granted as being true.  Judge them according to God’s Word.  His Word is truth!

Yes, I did just write a  long post about a few words I put at the end of my posts.  I feel I did a horrible job explaining what those few important words mean.  Sorry about that.  There probably will be a part two someday to give references to my claims.

Just remember, Jesus said to follow Him!!!





Remember Where You Came From

5 08 2012

There is always the temptation to “think of ourselves higher than we ought to think” (Romans 12:3), especially as Christians.  We understand sin a little better than those who do not know God.  God says He hates sin and so should we.  The problem comes when we lift ourselves up above others because we don’t do THAT particular sin.

There was a time in life when you did not know anything about God.  You followed after your own lusts and desires, doing whatever you wanted as long as other people or the law didn’t find out.  I was there too.  Actually, every Christian was there at some point.

“Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor those who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  –  1 Corinthians 6:9-11

You were dead in trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…” Ephesians 2:5

I write this post because it’s easy to get caught up in looking down at people who do “that” sin, whatever that may be.  Have we forgotten where we were at one time?

If you have never smoked a cigarette in your life, can you still see yourself conversing with someone who hasn’t been able to give it up yet, even if it’s disgusting to you?

Can you understand that people sin by nature, even you?

The big “sin” today seems to be homosexuality.  Can you start and keep a conversation with a homosexual and treat them as a human being?  Or are you better than they because you would never do “that”?

Can you go beyond the “sin” of others and consider that they are a human being just like you?

Can you understand that all sin is against God, even the one that you still commit and hold on to?

Once again, when I post these things, it is not to push a certain agenda.  I write to challenge you to live for Christ.  Jesus had every right to point to others and say, “I’m better than you.  I know God.  You don’t.”  (Well, He did say that, but not in a derogatory way.)  He ate and hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners telling the them the truth about God and their sin.  He had compassion on them, yet resisted those that resisted Him.

My point in all this scattered thought is this:  There was a time you did not know God and was living is sin just like everyone else.  If a “Christian” had come up to you in those days and said some of the things you say today, would you have been drawn to Christ?  If a Christian would have just said, “God doesn’t like that.  That’s wrong!  Your going to hell because of that”, would you immediately be drawn to a Savior?  Probably not.

Homosexuals are real people that have real histories, emotion, cares, likes and dislikes, jobs, and whatever else that we have.  You know what?  So do atheists, agnostics, murderers, rapists, liars, thieves, gossipers,  those filled with hate, lust, anger, and the like.  Such were some of you, my friends!  Don’t forget that.

I wish I could put all this into better terms.  I guess this is where I need to just let the Holy Spirit work.  He doesn’t need me to be eloquent to convict.  I just get a little tired of Christians talking like other people’s sin is so beyond them.  Either they have forgotten where they came from or have never really understood their sin to begin with.

No matter where your at, never think that because you have never struggled with a certain sin that  1.) other people don’t,  2.) other people do but you can’t help them, or 3.) you are ever beyond struggling with it sometime in your life.

“Let anyone who thinks that he stands be careful lest he fall.” – 1 Corinthians 10:12

So, remember where you came from.  You were, still are, and will always be a sinner…just like everyone else is.  If not, you no long need a Savior…just like everyone else needs a Savior.

Also, remember that Jesus said to follow Him!





Straining Gnats and Swallowing Camels

24 06 2012

I have been privileged to be able to talk to a woman at work about the things of God recently.  She is a professing believer and it has been a blast being able to answer questions or just talk about how good God is when the opportunity arises.  I feel more fellowship with her when we talk in such a way than I have at church in a while.

Well, a question came up that just put a little smirk on my face.  I didn’t smirk because it was funny or cute, but because I have had to deal with such stupidity in the past.  (Don’t get me wrong – not stupidity because she asked the question, but because such small, non-important things have become big issues in the Church.)

The question:  Something to the effect of, “Are people supposed to get baptized the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit or in Jesus name only?”

Sigh.

Unfortunately, this is just one of many, many issues that people like to pull from the Bible and make a huge doctrinal issue over.  There are churches that split over silly little things like this.  There are also those who are weak in the faith who, like little children, gravitate to every word that a “leader” says.  However, if the “leader” can’t rightly divide the Word of God, those under him (or, nowadays, her) won’t be able to either.

So what to we do with topics like:

Communion: Wine or grape juice?
Music: Hymns or modern?
Marriage:  Requirement of God or stay single?
Wives:  Submit to husband?
Speaking in tongues:  Prayer language, just a sign, for today or not?
The Bible:  KJV only, NIV, ESV, ABC, and 123?

This is no doubt something the enemy loves – Christians who will argue constantly about tiny trivial things.  When they do so, they are not doing what they are called to do.  The enemy is winning.

If I took the time, I could probably list a whole lot more.  My purpose is not to answer all of them because I am right.  No, God is right and He is the One who inspired His own Word.  Ask Him what is right.  Does not the scriptures tell us that the Holy Spirit will teach us? (John 14:26)

My point is this: The Bible is not a mystical, magical puzzle that only the elite can understand.  We have the privilege of having it so widespread in our country.  Yet, we seem to be so scatter-brained with it.  Ask God for wisdom in understanding it.  He is the author.  He is THE BEST one to tell you what it means.

Also, while you are called to honor your Pastor, Bishop, etc., he is also not all knowing.  God is.  You job is not to take what your Pastor says for granted.   He is a human and not God.  It is God’s Word and you need to line what he says with God’s Word, not the other way around.

Imagine the Apostle Paul for a moment – major conversion, missionary, building churches, preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit, writing most of the New Testament, used by God in a might way.  He comes to a place where he preaches the gospel.  He is using the Old Testament as the New Testament is now a work in progress.  He preaches, but the people don’t take his word for granted.  No, they take what he says and line it up with the Scriptures.  Maybe you’ve read about them in Acts 17.  They were from Berea and were considered more noble because they searched the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul was saying was true.

So what about those that bring up such trivial issues?  Look at what the Bible says.  Take the arguments and line it up with the Bible.  Are their arguments what is really being said in the texts they bring up?  Was that the purpose of what was written?  Look at it for yourself.  If they are right, then you need to change.  If they are wrong, let them know.  If they will not listen to what the Word says, you just need to let them go into their merry delusion.  You cannot change them, only God can.

In the end, you need to know the Word for yourself.  Don’t follow me, your church, your Pastor, or anyone who seems to know the Bible better than you.  Because…

Jesus said to follow HIM.





Quit Playing Church

12 02 2012

I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for some time now to share some frustrations, encouragements, and to challenge others.  It is my desire to make people who go to church, who consider themselves Christians, to think about the faith that they profess.  What is it?  What is it about?  Is it for real in our lives?  What about what we call “church”?  How are we to live?  I probably won’t answer those questions themselves but may challenge you to answer them within my posts.  I am not the sole authority on how you or others should live their lives, but God is.  The Bible is the way that God has told us how to live our lives and live toward each other.

It is not my intend to offend.  However, God is offensive to many.  The gospel is offensive to many.  The Bible is offensive to many.  I may lose some Facebook “friends”.  I really don’t care.  I hope I may be able to make someone think about their faith, why they believe it, and what they are doing about it, even if they don’t agree with me.  The last thing I want is to have this blog read by only those who may agree.  I don’t want to be “followed”, I want to encourage and challenge others to follow, not people, pastors, or churches, but Christ.  He told us to follow Him.

Unfortunately, something is not right with the American church.  In the last ten years, I have seen or heard about:

-Pastors have affairs and end their marriages
-The Gospel watered down so that nobody gets offended yet nobody really hears truth
-Church services that seemed more like a concert or just plain entertainment than anything else
-People in church having their own “cliques” and not caring about others
-A lack of being proactive
-“Fellowship” that consists of talking about sports, news, the latest movie, etc… things I can talk to people at work about who are not Christians

That is just a small list of the many things I have come across in the last ten years.  Something is wrong.  Has the American church gone to sleep?  Does it care anymore about what Jesus taught us?  Does it only care about those who are exactly like them?

There are people who don’t go to church or don’t want to because of bad experiences they have had.  There are those that go to church to be social.  There are also those who practice “Churchianity” and pay their “weekly dues”.  That is not what church or Jesus Christ is all about.  He said to follow Him.

Again, I hope to encourage and challenge.  By all means, encourage and challenge me as well.  If you are a follower of Christ, we are on this faith journey together.  We are not called to tear each other apart, but to build each other up.