Sunday, July 20, 2014

MEEKNESS IS NOT WEAKNESS BUT GREATNESS – PART I of 3



"Late twentieth-century Western culture does not hold meekness to be a virtue, in contrast to the ancient Near East and the Greco-Roman world, which placed a high premium on it. This dramatic shift in values is problematic for contemporary biblical translation. Most modern versions replace the noun 'meekness' by 'gentleness' or 'humility' largely as a result of the pejorative overtones of weakness and effeminacy now associated with meekness. These connotations were not always predominant in the word, for ancient Near-Eastern kings were not reluctant to describe themselves as meek in the same context in which they described themselves as mighty kings. What has prompted the discrepancy between the biblical and contemporary attitudes toward this virtue?
"There are two essential components for this quality to come into play in the Bible: a conflict in which an individual is unable to control or influence circumstances. Typical human responses in such circumstances include frustration, bitterness, or anger, but the one who is guided by God's Spirit accepts God's ability to direct events (Gal 5:23; Eph 4:2; Col 3:12; 1 Tim 6:11; Titus 3:2; James 1:21; 3:13). 
"Meekness is therefore an active and deliberate acceptance of undesirable circumstances that are wisely seen by the individual as only part of a larger picture. Meekness is not a resignation to fate, a passive and reluctant submission to events, for there is little virtue in such a response. Nevertheless, since the two responses, resignation and meekness, are externally often indistinguishable, it is easy to see how what was once perceived as a virtue has become a defect in contemporary society. The patient and hopeful endurance of undesirable circumstances identifies the person as externally vulnerable and weak but inwardly resilient and strong. Meekness does not identify the weak but more precisely the strong who have been placed in a position of weakness where they persevere without giving up. The use of the Greek word when applied to animals makes this clear, for it means "tame" when applied to wild animals. In other words, such animals have not lost their strength but have learned to control the destructive instincts that prevent them from living in harmony with others.
"Therefore, it is quite appropriate for all people, from the poor to ancient Near-Eastern kings, to describe their submission to God by the term "meek" (Moses in Num 12:3). On the other hand, this quality by definition cannot be predicated of God, and therefore constitutes one of the attributes of creatures that they do not share with their Creator. Nevertheless, in the incarnation Jesus is freely described as meek, a concomitant of his submission to suffering and to the will of the Father (Matt 11:29; 21:5; 2 Cor 10:1). The single most frequently attested context in which the meek are mentioned in the Bible is one in which they are vindicated and rewarded for their patient endurance (Psalm 22:26; 25:9; 37: 11;76:9; 147:6; 149:4; Isa 11:4; 29:19; 61:1; Zeph 2:3; Matt 5:5)."
~ Samuel A. Meier
How contrary this conduct is from what we see in the world! This world values assertiveness, even aggression, and boldness. They write books like, “How To Win Through Intimidation”; they have seminars by which participants are trained to believe that “they are winners who will overcome any obstacle by sheer will and power” and climb the ranks of success, trampling on any one who gets in their way! They believe that they are the captain of their own fate and gods of their own worlds. They hold to the ego-centric belief that “Its All About Me!”.
As we have just heard from Samuel Meier, meekness is not weakness, but strength being reined in; its being tame and not wildly out of control. We would see one facet of meekness as being temperance, a nature of steady, consistent mildness that is not given to rashness or outbursts of violent emotions.
We're going to examine this subject of meekness in three parts. First we shall consider what the Old Testament has to say about meekness and then next week we will turn to the New Testament where we shall also focus on the Person of JESUS CHRIST as the paramount example of meekness, itself being a modus operandi of sorts of the King as well as His kingdom.

I believe that in our age and culture of self-gratification and seeking for one's own goals and ambitions, the virtue of meekness is greatly needed. Even among Christians who struggle with this notion of “dying to self” have need of meekness. Even I myself, as a Christian of nearly 34 years now find that I am in need of greater meekness - so, a timely message to be sure!


OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLES AND REFERENCES TO MEEKNESS -
Where is meekness first mentioned in the Bible? One of the biblical rules of study is something called 'The Law of First Mention' and this refers to the first place in Scripture where something is mentioned and that this first reference is in some way significant.
For example 'love' as a word is first mentioned in connection with Abraham where God commanded him to take his son, Isaac, whom he loves to the place that God would show him and there offer him as a sacrifice (GEN. 22:2). Why is that significant? Because it mirrors perfectly JOHN 3:16 where the LORD GOD offered up His own Son that He loves, for a world that He loves and desires to redeem!
First place where 'meekness' is mentioned is in the book of Numbers, referring to Moses:


NUMBERS 12:1-8
And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.
2 And they said, Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the Lord heard it.
3 (Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)
4 And the Lord spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out.
5 And the Lord came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth.
6 And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.
7 My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.
8 With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?



The LORD becomes angry with and rebukes Aaron and Miriam for their words, and judges Miriam with leprosy! He defends Moses and declares how he bears the authority of no mere prophet who receives dreams and visions, but one with whom the LORD speaks “mouth to mouth” and one who can actually behold “the similitude of the LORD”! These are some of the aspects of meekness: faithfulness, not defending one's own honor or reputation and allowing the LORD to defend; meekness doesn't get offended or retaliate. Meekness is willing to forgive those that offend us: Moses was asked by Aaron to pray to the LORD on her behalf and he does (NUMBERS 12:13).
** It should be noted that Moses revealed to Israel that the LORD God would raise up a Prophet “like unto himself” (DEUT. 18:15), and this is of course in reference to the LORD Jesus Christ in Whom we have the paramount example of meekness, bar none. We will look into in the upcoming segment of this article . . .



Another couple examples of meekness in the Old Testament: King David of the Psalms and the prophet Jeremiah:



David at this point in time had already assumed the Kingdom of Israel according to the will of God (but was suffering hardships as a result of his sin with Bathsheeba – his own house was in disarray and his son Absalom was challenging him for the throne); King Saul had been slain in battle previously (mortally wounded by the enemy, then slain by his own hand, with a little assistance from his shield bearer) and one of his offspring has come to insult the reigning king:



2 SAM. 16:5-12
5 And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera: he came forth, and cursed still as he came.
6 And he cast stones at David, and at all the servants of king David: and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left.
7 And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial:
8 The Lord hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the Lord hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and, behold, thou art taken in thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man.
9 Then said Abishai the son of Zeruiah unto the king, Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head.
10 And the king said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so?
11 And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him.
12 It may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day.



Again, like with Moses, we see no retaliation from David against his enemies. No answer to the false accusation that David murdered his predecessor (though as we know, David was guilty of 'murdering' Uriah, husband of Bathsheeba); only a trust in the LORD that He would “requite me good for his cursing this day.” Such meekness forgives personal wrongs while looking to the LORD Who will judge and to the day of Judgment when all such wrongs will be dealt with.
An interesting side note from the New Testament: Peter asked the LORD how often he should forgive his brother, providing an answer already of “seven times”; probably feeling pretty good about such a generous number and perhaps hoping for commendation from the LORD for it. The LORD's answer no doubt shocked him! Not until 7 times but 70 x 7! (MATT. 18:21-22)
Where have we heard this multiplication before? In Daniel Chapter 9 we read about “the seventy weeks that are determined upon Israel” (verse 24), and at the conclusion of those 70 'weeks' (shabuwahs in the Hebrew, meaning weeks of days, or weeks, or months or years; in this case its years or 70 x 7 = 490 years). It's the last week, or as prophecy experts call it the 70th week of Daniel that the LORD Jesus returns to establish His reign and judge the people.
And then immediately after the LORD's response to Peter, we see Him giving a parable about a returning Lord, who proceeds to judge his stewards.
King David relented then of any revenge upon the Benjamite that cursed him, surrendering justice to the greater King of Israel when He arrives! That is meekness!
Then we have Jeremiah -
JEREMIAH 26:8-15
8 Now it came to pass, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak unto all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die.
9 Why hast thou prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without an inhabitant? And all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.
10 When the princes of Judah heard these things, then they came up from the king's house unto the house of the Lord, and sat down in the entry of the new gate of the Lord's house.
11 Then spake the priests and the prophets unto the princes and to all the people, saying, This man is worthy to die; for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your ears.
12 Then spake Jeremiah unto all the princes and to all the people, saying, The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard.
13 Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God; and the Lord will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you.
14 As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you.
15 But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the Lord hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears.


We see the same attitude, the same heart of meekness in the prophet with no intent of retaliation against their threats. Some might see vs. 15 as a threat, but really its a warning borne out of compassion, the prophet not wanting to see them with more innocent blood on their hands and incurring an even more severe judgment!
Some more about meekness from the Old Testament Scriptures:
ISAIAH 29:18-19
18 And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.
19 The meek also shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.


Again, another passage speaking of the ministry of the LORD in healing during His earthly ministry and healing the sick, but this shall be realized on the grandest scale when once He returns (on “that Day”) to take up the throne of His father David and establishes the kingdom. Here the blind can do nothing to bring sight to themselves nor can the deaf help themselves to hear, neither can the meek do anything to increase their joy or the poor, but their joy shall be increased at the arrival of “the Holy One of Israel”. That is the legacy of the meek – not the proud of this world – the increase of joy when the Messiah returns!
Here's one reference from the book of Zephaniah:
ZEPH. 2:1-3
Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired [Israel];
2 Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you, before the day of the Lord's anger come upon you.
3 Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger.


The meek will not be judged and condemned by the LORD, but hidden “in the Day of the LORD's anger.” Those who are meek are not prone to a life of sin and rebellion, are not self-willed and obstinate – they are tender towards and obedient to the will of the LORD, seeking to please Him and not concerned with pleasing any one else (GAL. 1:10): even if by refusing to please and obey others, they incur their wrath. Meekness is not weakness but a strong determination to please the LORD regardless of personal endangerment (Consider Stephen's conduct before the Sanhedrin in Acts 7; regardless of their power to hurt and destroy, he remains faithful and pleasing to the LORD).

Here we will end part One of this three part series; we shall continue with Part II next time! In the meanwhile, if you would like to view this video on which this teaching was based you can do so here, courtesy of The HOUSE of TRUTH Fellowship, where I attend service.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

JEWELS from the GOSPEL of JOHN - 1:4-11, 19-23 "The LIGHT and The VOICE"

The following is a series of short exhortations, brief commentary and writings to convey thoughtful meditation on God's Word. I have chosen the Gospel of John as the subject. These articles will not run contiguously on this blog but peppered throughout and in the midst of other articles (though some might be posted consecutively). I pray that these will be a blessing and an edification for the saints.

JOHN 1:4-11
In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

Scripture declares that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). One characteristic of light is that it manifests things for what they really are. Light brings knowledge while darkness conceals it. Light provides direction. In a darkened room, one has only to turn on a light and the eye is immediately drawn to it. Light, in particular sun light is a requirement for the sustainment of life. Light inhibits the growth of germs and bacteria. A child may be afraid of the dark, but turn on a night light and all is well.

God is light and He reveals truth, knowledge, understanding; He provides guidance, and comfort. In the glorious Light of God, we can see Him for Who He is and any who love the truth are drawn to Him. God is the only true life source and His light dispels spiritual darkness and decay.

It's interesting that light cannot be heard, but it can be seen. God is a glorious Creator and His majesty can be seen in His creation (though fallen it is) as well as in His Word. The words on the pages of our Bibles are silent, but the truth that they reveal can be seen by any who chooses to open that Book, and seek God diligently (Heb. 11:6). 

Just as darkness can never invade a room that is full of light, this present darkness that has invaded our fallen world can never overcome the Light of the LORD, and for those who bear witness of this Holy Light, they shall be heard!

Such was John the Baptist, and his witness of the LORD brought many of the people of Israel to repentance and believing faith. Whereas the LIGHT is silent but readily seen, the Voice is heard, but not seen. In a very real sense, John the Baptist's ministry parallels that of the Holy Spirit. Both never testified of themselves nor sought attention; both were intent and content to simply point to and exalt Jesus; both were unseen in this sense of desiring to remain 'behind the scene' as it were, so that Jesus remained the primary focus.

Yet this world of darkness that has such souls in it, didn't know the Light and didn't receive the Light; thus the darkness that they were in became all the more powerful in ensnaring them and prevented them from approaching that Light.
Light spiritually speaking being truth is a blessing, but it can also have deadly ramifications if rejected. 
This Light has shown on every person in this world to one degree or another (see vs. 9), and being granted, God looks to see what each of us will do with this Light. For those who receive it, they shall be given more light; but those who reject it, will have what little light they have been given, taken away! The god of this world would have it so, who ever seeks to blind souls to this Light (2 Cor. 4:4).

JOHN 1:19-23


19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?
20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.
22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?
23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

Often times when Kings or Generals or dignitaries of various kinds were planning on visiting a particular city, the citizens were notified and began to busily repair the roadways that fell into ruin; removing rocks and debris uprooting any vegetation, filling in holes and leveling out rises in the way - they wanted to bless the visiting dignitary with an easy passage.

This was the ministry of John the Baptist: by making the way straight - not the roads leading to any city, but the roads that led to the hearts of a spiritually dead people, whereupon the LORD of LIFE would approach and bring vitality of the sort that only God can! 

We see many of the religious officials coming and asking about the Baptist, wondering who and what he was; all too often the religious are blind to what the LORD is doing and who He is using to accomplish His purposes. They are so caught up in their own traditions and rituals and dogma that they are actually more blind to spiritual truth than your 'common variety sinner on the street'. The LORD Jesus had some very choice words to say to such religious leaders in Matthew Ch. 25, who for all their religious hypocrisy never even perceived their own spiritual needs and further, imposed their religious convictions on others who would seek for truth, but were instead in bondage to dead religion. This was one of the things that made the LORD very angry! Yet the LORD would accomplish His work through others rather than such "white washed sepulchers" - even those garbed in camels hair and ate bugs and honey!
John the Baptist knew his calling: he was not the Christ, and he was not Elijah ("Elias") or "that Prophet" (Deut. 18:15) but plainly declared that he was "...the voice of one crying in the wilderness..." leading people to the LIGHT of LIFE, away from the darkness of religious deception and ruin!

We also are voices crying in the wilderness of this world, depraved at heart and deprived of spiritual life, seeking and longing (like John the Baptist) to draw people to the LIGHT of the LORD Who is our Salvation (Psalm 27:1).

For more on John the Baptist, the one deemed by the LORD Himself as the greatest prophet, see the following article FROM the MIND of FIRE.

May we likewise not be seen, but heard; allowing the LORD to be seen in and through us so that people may be drawn to Him and the simplicity of His Gospel - and not drawn in by gimmickry or eloquence or intelligentsia or any such thing! May we prepare the WAY of the LORD for those who have yet to know Him!

These JEWELS from the GOSPEL of JOHN will continue with "All God's Children" John 1:12-13.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

JEWELS from the GOSPEL of JOHN - 1:1-2, 14 "WORD"

The following is a series of short exhortations, brief commentary and writings to convey thoughtful meditation on God's Word. I have chosen the Gospel of John as the subject. These articles will not run contiguously on this blog but peppered throughout and in the midst of other articles (though some might be posted consecutively). I pray that these will be a blessing and an edification for the saints.

Websters 1828 Dictionary defines 'word' in its first definition as the following:

"An articulate or vocal sound, or a combination of articulate and vocal sounds, uttered by the human voice, and by custom expressing an idea or ideas; a single component part of human speech or language. Thus a in English is a word; but few words consist of one letter only. Most words consist of tow or more letters, as go, do, shall, called monosyllables, or of two or more syllables, as honor, goodness, amiable."

We have at the very beginning of John's Gospel such an introduction of "the Word" or in the Greek, 'logos'. This is the word, logic, order, thought, mind and declared Word of God.

JOHN 1:1-2, 14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Any word seen by human eye is immediately translated to a related thought. One cannot see the word "house" without then thinking of the corresponding object that this word belongs to, that is, a structure with a roof, walls, floor, and windows and doors.

When we see "the Word" we immediately think of the One that this title belongs to (Rev. 19:13). What strikes me is that "In the beginning was the Word..."
The Word already was when there was a beginning. This tells us that the Word pre-existed everything in creation (John 1:3). 

Just as all words have definition, this One Who is eternal is self-defining (for in eternity there existed no one else but God to define Him). He is the Word, and just as all words have definite meaning and parameters of significance that do not extend beyond those parameters, Jesus Christ the Word is immutable and eternal - beyond being re-defined or re-imagined or re-made according to the proclivities and perogatives of mere (and foolish) mortals.

As He is the Word Incarnate, the Scriptures written by the prophets and apostles are also referred to the Word of God, but as the Inspired (God-breathed) Word of God (2 Peter 1:21). Just as the written Word was communicated to us by God's prophets, so also the Living Word who is God became flesh and communicated with us as well (Heb. 1:1-2); He spoke with clarity, with truth, with confrontational assertions that would brook no neutral position, and with grace.

To understand that the Word was with God means that God had someone else besides Himself dwelling with Him, and yet who could dwell with God as one "with Him" but One who is His equal? 
Thus we the following words: "...and the Word was God." Three Persons in One Godhead is what we know as the Tri-unity of God. Think of Three Persons so exactly identical that its impossible to tell them apart: they are entirely equal in power, authority, character, attributes, abilities, knowledge and wisdom and love. So identical that it would seem that you are seeing One - in triplicate form.

This opening of John is similar to the opening in Genesis:

Genesis 1:1
1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

God [Eloheim, a plural form that also reveals to us the tri-une nature of God] created time ("in the beginning") and space ("the heavens") and matter ("the earth"). We understand that time is as much a physical property of this universe as is space and matter (space tells matter how to move, matter tells space how to bend; time tells both how to transpire) - all created by the Almighty. In order to create "all things" He would by necessity be All-mighty (omnipotent) to do so. Since we call such a One "Abba" we as His children have no cause for anxiety or feelings of being overwhelmed by circumstances.

Incidently the Bible is the only Holy Book that proclaims that God exists outside of time (Isaiah 57:15); every other book that claims Divine authorship places God within the time domain of this universe.

His name (that is a defining characteristic which 'names' most often alluded to in biblical times) is Emmanuel - God with us. Indeed He dwelt among us, and so dwelling we were exposed to His wondrous nature, His glorious truth, His insurmountable grace, His indisputable wisdom, His unfailing insights into mankind and we were bound then to confess that He is truly the "only begotten of the Father" - which is to say, God the Son and not just the Son of God.

Not only is the Word God Almighty, but He is the Word made flesh (1 Timothy 3:16); thus He is the Second Person of the Trinity and also 100% God and 100% Man - a profound and deeply awesome truth that is a mystery. Just as His Person was fully Deity and fully Humanity, the Word is also full of grace and truth in perfect and balanced proportion. The Truth made flesh spoke with perfect grace towards all that approached Him.

We can be assured that as we, His children approach Him as He is seated in the heavenlies at the right hand of the Father on His throne, He will address us with blessed and steadfast truth and speak grace to us to sustain and empower us.

For more on "the Word" read the following exposition from StudyLight ministries (www.studylight.org):


For more on the DEITY of JESUS CHRIST, read this article from The TRUTH Under FIRE.

Thus ends this first installment to JEWELS from the GOSPEL of JOHN. Next we will look at John 1:3-11, 19-23 in The LIGHT and the VOICE.

Monday, March 17, 2014

SHERLOCK HOLMES - A BIBLICAL CHRISTIAN?

OK, I thought I’d write an attention grabbing title to pique the curiosity of you readers. I think it worked because here you are! Obviously Sherlock Holmes is a fictitious character, and was never portrayed as a Christian of any kind, much less a biblical one (as opposed to a religious, philosophical or social ‘Christian’ – in name only).

“So what gives?” you might ask; “Why the title?”

There are many stories that I’ve read and loved as a child; in my lack of many friends, books were my company and the characters in those stories were like dear companions. Whether you talked about Frodo Baggins from The LORD of the RINGS or Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, I felt a strong connection to them all.
Maybe because I’m getting older now and prone to nostalgia, but after watching some made for television films in the BBC series called SHERLOCK (Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman), I got my Collective Works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle off the shelf and started reading some of those old stories.

As I noticed the “method” of the renowned consulting detective, I realized something rather interesting. Let me first explain this ‘method’ to you as Holmes himself describes it:

”You see (he says to Watson) but you do not observe.” This is true of so many of us; we see things without really looking and observing them – our minds are so cluttered and busy, we don’t stop and really scrutinize and think about things we commonly see.
Proper deduction, so Holmes says, can only come about with proper observation and the only proper action can come about once the only proper deductions have been made.

It is this method that is used by the careful student of the Bible as well! Proper and insightful biblical study can only come about when such methods as the following are employed: observation, interpretation and application.

Observational – What does the Bible actually say; not what we think it says from any prejudicial perspective of our own because of the denomination we were raised in, or because of how we’ve been instructed by various teachers, but what does the text of Scripture actually say? In order to extract from Holy Writ what any particular passage says, we use these words of inquiry: who, what, where, when, how and why.
As we read Scripture we ask:
Who is speaking? Who is being addressed?
What is being said? What is the context of this passage? What are the biblical truths being expounded upon?
Where does this passage take place geographically? Where does the truth expounded upon fit in with other Scripture?
When did this declaration in Scripture take place historically? When does the truth of this passage have validity or when is its application suitable?
How does our understanding of truth benefit from this passage? How does this verse fit in with all the counsel of God? How do we conduct ourselves in light of this Scripture?
Why is this verse important? Why did the LORD see fit to include this truth for us so that we may glean its truth?

Just like the Super Sleuth Sherlock Holmes goes on a fact finding mission in order to solve the mystery at hand, we Christians are seeking truth in the pages of Scripture so that we may understand the mystery that is the LORD.

ISAIAH 55:8-9
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Just as no human can really know the thoughts of another human being, but only one’s own thoughts that emanate from one’s own mind, no one can know the thoughts of God except they know His mind (or Spirit actually) and only those who are partakers of His Spirit via the new birth can understand the mind of the LORD – as the Spirit grants us understanding (See 1 COR. 2:10-12).

So whereas Sherlock would use his keen, highly and proficiently trained mind along with his magnifying lens to ferret out clues that are stubbornly hidden from sight, we employ the Spirit of God that indwells us believers along with the wisdom of God which He imparts (and none of our own wisdom, intellect or understanding) and the Scriptures to understand the mystery of God (1 COR. 2:7; COL. 2:2; REV. 10:7).

Just as Sherlock would explore a crime scene, we explore the many biblical ‘scenes’ of various passages, carefully observing the many ‘clues’ found in key phrases, words, idioms and cross references. Both detective and disciple desire to form a coalescing picture that forms the truth of the matter, one that can be readily perceived and understood, so that the truth may be revealed. Once careful observation has been concluded, all the facts extracted that may be, one must make the proper deductions or in the case of the Christian specifically, the proper interpretations from which we derive certain deductions.


Interpretational – The largest aspect of interpretational exercise in the study of Scripture is inductive, which is to say, one must resort to the whole of Scripture in search of all places and references that deal with the subject at hand in the context of the passage of Scripture being examined.
For example, if one is studying the Gospel of John, chapter 3 and the phrase “born again” is being examined, one would seek out all other passages that relate to spiritual rebirth, such as JER 31:33; EZEKIEL 11:19; 36:26; JHN 1:12-13; 2 COR. 5:17; EPHESIANS 2:15; 4:24; COL. 3:10; TITUS 3:5; 1 PETER 1:23; 1 JHN 5:1. Once such a composite is constructed by accessing all the verses that deal with any particular subject, and careful observation has been made, one may reasonably (guided by the Spirit) begin to compose the summary understanding of all these verses. What the new birth is, how it is acquired, what is its purpose and benefits and results, etc.

Holmes would sometimes form a theory that would seem right until further information came to light that contradicted it, and thereupon dismiss said theory in favor of another in which all the facts are in harmony.
Interpretation of any single verse must be in alignment with the rest of Scripture that deals with whatever doctrinal truth you are studying; if any interpretation does violence with any of all the related truth of Scripture, it is unsound and must be re-examined on an observational level and a reassessment of interpretation is required until the understanding is in unity with the whole body of truth which is the Bible.

Just as Holmes was sometimes confronted with conflicting data that would initially mystify him, so too the Christian may find apparent contradictions in Scripture. Please note this: I said apparent contradictions because sometimes verses may appear to contradict each other*. The reality is, that it’s our own understanding that is in error; we must prayerfully seek the LORD and His wisdom (and let us not ‘cheat’ by consulting others for an answer, and by so doing deprive ourselves of the precious opportunity of being tutored by the LORD Himself!). In time, as we patiently seek the LORD, He will impart the understanding, whether it takes 2 hours, 2 days or 2 weeks or even months!
* A good example of this is the apparent contradiction between Paul’s declaration that we are saved by faith alone and what James says, which is faith without works is dead (See ROM. 4:1-5 and JAMES 2:17-26).

Application – Once the Great Detective made the proper observations and deductions, he was able to make the proper judgments based on the conclusive evidence; so too the humble disciple can approach the application of his study of God’s Word having made the correct observations and interpretation; that is, he now can properly apply the truth of God’s Word to his life once he understands what Scripture instructs him to do.
It’s been said before, but the study of doctrine alone is insufficient for the Christian. There must be a practice of what has been learned. The first two letters of doctrine are “do”.
What we must remember is that the “doing of the doctrine” is not left up to our own resolve or power; we must surrender to Christ, and allow His grace to work in us that which is pleasing to the Father as we yield our members to righteousness (ROM. 6:13, 19).

Let us remember the words of our LORD Jesus Christ:

MATTHEW 7:24-27
24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
It’s a sobering thought indeed when we consider that we can only understand the depths of Scripture by the Spirit of God, and yet in the above passage, in verse 26 we see the example of one who “heareth”, that is, understands the sayings of Jesus, i.e., the Word of God – and yet because he doesn’t obey, his house is not on the Rock, but rather on the shifting, unstable sand and it will inevitably fall.

In almost every story of Sherlock Holmes, the title begins with “The Adventure of . . .” and so it is in our study of God’s most Holy Word! It is truly an adventure of grand proportions to explore this Book, whose Author dwells in Eternity and whose knowledge and wisdom are everlasting.
You and I are privileged and honored to open these sacred pages of Scripture and with the magnifying lens of the Spirit and with the mind of Christ we venture into its territories to explore the beauty of holiness and profound truth of the One Who loves us enough to send His very best: the LORD JESUS Who died for our sins, rose again from the dead in absolute and incontestable victory and has granted us His Spirit, producing in us everlasting life!

Just as Watson accompanied Holmes who would instruct the good doctor in how he arrived at his amazing conclusions via such successful deductions he was prone to make, we have our Blessed Companion who accompanies us as we journey the length and breadth of Scripture, and Who instructs us in this grand adventure. Let us walk with Him and become the Scriptural and saintly sleuths that He may enable us to be (GALATIANS 1:12; EPHESIANS 4:21). THE GAME IS AFOOT, INDEED!

EPHESIANS 4:1-3

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
.

See also Secrets Among Friends 

Monday, February 24, 2014

FAITH vs. LOGIC: Compatible or Contrary? Part Three

Skeptics and cynics, atheists and agnostics, and countless others throughout history have proclaimed that the Bible is an illogical book, full of errors and irrational assertions. Yet in part 2 we saw that there are no irrationalities to what the Bible plainly declares in its tenets of truth.

That somehow faith and logic are not at all compatible is the idea conveyed by humanists and evolutionists in our day; but as we showed previously, faith doesn’t go against reason so much as it merely goes above it:

Logic and the Mysteries of Faith – Some object that the great Christian mysteries, such as the Trinity, the Incarnation and predestination violate laws of human reason. There is a difference between propositions that go beyond reason, such as the mysteries of faith, and those that go against reason. Those that go beyond human ability to reason do not go against reason. Human understanding unaided by special revelation cannot reach them. They can only be known by special revelation. Once these truths are known, their premises do not contradict other revealed truth.”

Logic and reason that proves the Word of God to be reliable can lead a person to expressing faith in the Word, and through faith that person can be led to the Savior and to salvation.

As Peter stated in his first epistle:

1 PETER 3:15

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

If it were not possible to present reasonable and rational evidences for believing the Bible, which alone contains the hope we as Christians possess, Peter under the anointing of the Holy Spirit would have never given us this admonition. “Reason” here in the Greek is apologia, which is where we get the discipline of apologetics from. Obviously Christian apologetic ministries abound and they clearly have an impact on the thinking of those who are lost.

Ray Comfort is an able apologist and evangelist and by reasoning with ‘the man on the street’ has had a profound impact on the thinking of lost souls; for such an example, consider his film entitled 180.

God is a rational being, thus He created us as such; however – we are finite and sentient creatures – our minds have a limitation in awareness, perceptions, reasoning and knowledge. God is not limited in any of these things for He is omniscient (knowing all things).
So while logic can be a viable tool to prove that which we are able to understand about the Bible; faith is the means by which we trust in God and what He has said in His Word for that which we cannot understand (apart from revelation granted to us by His Spirit).

Any born again Christian can attest to the fact that prior to salvation, there were things about the Bible (certainly not everything) that didn’t make sense to them; and that once they received Christ Jesus as LORD and Savior (JN. 1:12) and indwelt by the Spirit of God (JN. 14:17) they could suddenly understand passages of Scripture that were once a mystery to them. Even after years of Bible study, passages that proved enigmatic suddenly sprang into a bursting light of understanding – as the Spirit of God teaches the seeking believer (JN. 16:13).

A small child may understand that Daddy and Mommy cook food on top of that immense, square shaped thing with lots of dials on the front, and that they produce all kinds of delicious and hot food from it. What they may not understand is that if they touch that stove, they may get burned.
Mommy and Daddy implore their little one to stay away from that stove. The child knows logically that his meals come from that huge box-like device, but may not understand that he will get burned by it. His understanding is based upon his experiences. He has had the experience of eating food that was prepared on the stove; but he has never had the experience of getting burned by it. For this, he must trust his parents that what they are saying is true (until such a time that he does touch the stove and receives a burn from it, whereupon he will discover that what his parents told him was true).
The parents have a greater awareness than the little child and know as a fact, that if their child touches that hot stove, they will get burned. They understand the rationality of this fact even if the child does not.

God understands all things, and though He will often give human beings instruction that they either don’t understand or believe to be nonsensical, they are nonetheless true.

There was a time when hygiene was practically unheard of among humans; the washing of hands before eating and burying excrement, etc. yet these things were recorded in Scripture for Israel to follow. Though seen as unnecessary or preposterous by neighboring nations, we understand all about germs, bacteria and diseases today. Israel accepted and practiced by faith, what we understand by reason and science today.

The science of centuries gone by as well as the common belief among people was that the Earth was flat, and yet the Bible speaks exactingly about the Earth being a globe (IS. 40:22); Scripture even tells us that the Earth is hung upon “nothing” whereas ancient man believed it rested on the backs of four supremely giant elephants that themselves stood on the shell of a universal tortoise (JOB 26:7). What ancient man would have scoffed at back then because of a lack of understanding, we know as a scientific fact today. Yet the Scriptures themselves (written by men under the anointing of the Holy Spirit) declare what science only relatively recently has informed us of.

So we see that reason and faith are not adversarial or contrary to one another, but rather they are compatible and complementary.

From ANSWERS In GENESIS we have the following article by Dr. Jason Lisle (Dr. Jason Lisle holds a PhD in astrophysics from University of Colorado at Boulder and is a popular speaker and researcher for Answers in Genesis–USA. Dr. Lisle uses his knowledge of the heavens and his biblical perspective to proclaim the handiwork of God in lectures, including Distant Starlight and Creation Astronomy.):

FAITH vs. REASON by Dr. Jason Lisle

Some Christians have the idea that faith and reason are in conflict, divided by some unbridgeable chasm. They think that one takes over where the other leaves off. In reality, faith and reason work together seamlessly to help us know and love our Maker.

 Many Christians perceive a conflict between reason and faith. On the one hand, God tells us to reason (Isaiah 1:18). We are to have a good reason for what we believe, and we are to be always ready to share that reason with other people (1 Peter 3:15). So we attempt to show unbelievers that our belief in the Scriptures is reasonable, justified, and logically defensible. The Bible makes sense.
On the other hand, we are supposed to have faith. We are supposed to trust God and not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). The Bible tells us that the “just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11). It seems that we are supposed to trust God regardless of whether His words make sense to our understanding.
So, which is it? Are we to live by reason or by faith? Are we supposed to rely upon our intellect, drawing rational conclusions, rejecting those things that don’t make sense? Or are we to accept the teachings of Scripture without regard to logic and reason, even if it does not make any sense?
This apparent conflict troubles many people. But it stems from a critical misconception about the meaning of both faith and reason. When both terms are properly defined in their biblical context, any apparent conflict disappears. Yes, we are to have good reasons for what we believe, and we are also to have faith. In fact, without the latter, we could not have the former.

Misconceptions of Faith

Mark Twain once defined faith as “believing what you know ain’t so.” Perhaps this is what many people have in mind when they think of the word faith. Indeed some people seem to pride themselves in their belief in the irrational—thinking that such “faith” is very pious. “Why do I believe in the Bible? Well, I guess I just have faith.”
But is this what the Bible means when it uses the word faith? Not at all. The Bible does not promote a belief in the irrational or any type of unwarranted “blind faith.”
Some people have said, “Faith takes over where reason leaves off.” Taken this way, rationality is seen as a bridge that reaches only partway across a great chasm; faith is needed to complete the bridge and reach the other side.
People who take this view would say that Christianity cannot be proven, that reason leads us most of the way to God and then we must make a “leap of faith” in order to say that Jesus is Lord. This is a very common view among Christians. But this is not what God’s Word teaches about faith.

Biblical Faith

The Bible itself tells us what faith is. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. So biblical faith is not blind but is strongly warranted confidence. The phrase “hoped for” does not imply a mere wishful thinking as in “I sure hope the weather is nice next week.” Rather, the Greek word (ελπιζω) indicates a confident expectation: the kind of confidence we have when we have a good reason to believe something.
Biblically, faith is having confidence in something you have not experienced with your senses. Biblical faith is not “blind”; it’s not the act of “believing without a reason.” Just the opposite; biblical faith is the act of believing in something unseen for which we do have a good reason.
For example, when we believe that God will keep a promise, this constitutes faith because we cannot “see” it and yet we have a good reason for it: God has demonstrated that He keeps His promises.

 The Place of Reason

As many people have misunderstandings of faith, they also have misunderstandings of reason. Reason is a tool that God has given us that allows us to draw conclusions and inferences from other information, such as the information He has given us in His Word. Reason is an essential part of Christianity; God tells us to reason (Isaiah 1:18) as the apostle Paul did (Acts 17:17).
In fact, I could not know that I am saved apart from using reason. After all, the Bible nowhere says that “Dr. Lisle is saved.” Instead it tells me that “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). I have genuinely acknowledged that Jesus is Lord, and I believe that God raised Him from the dead. Therefore, I am saved. I must use logical reasoning to draw this conclusion.
This is perfectly appropriate and is the kind of reasoning God expects us to use. We are to reason from the principles of God’s Word.
People misuse reason when they frame their worldview apart from God’s Word. This can involve either treating reason as its own ultimate standard (in other words, a replacement for God’s Word) or tossing it aside as irrelevant to faith.
Neither of these positions is biblical. We are never to attempt to reason in opposition to the Word of God. That is to say we are not to treat God’s Word as a mere hypothesis that is subject to our fallible understanding of the universe.
This, after all, was Eve’s mistake. She attempted to use her mind and senses to judge God’s Word (Genesis 3:6). This was sinful and irrational; she was trying to use a fallible standard to judge an infallible one.
We are never to “reason” in such an absurd, sinful way. Instead, we are supposed to reason from God’s Word, taking it as our ultimate unquestionable starting point. Any alternative is arbitrary and self-refuting. Reason is not a substitute for God; rather, it is a gift from God.
On the other hand, we are not to reject reason. God is rational, and so we should be, too (Ephesians 5:1). We are commanded to seek wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 4:5, 7). God wants us to use the mind He has given us. But He wants us to use our minds properly, in a way that is honoring to Him.

 Faith Is Necessary for Reason

Biblical faith and biblical reasoning actually work very well together. In fact, faith is a prerequisite for reason. In order to reason about anything we must have faith that there are laws of logic which correctly prescribe the correct chain of reasoning. Since laws of logic cannot be observed with the senses, our confidence in them is a type of faith.
For the Christian, it is a reasonable, justified faith. The Christian would expect to find a standard of reasoning that reflects the thinking of the biblical God; that’s what laws of logic are. On the other hand, the unbeliever cannot account for laws of logic with his or her own worldview.
Since laws of logic are necessary for reasoning, and since the Christian faith is the only faith system that can make sense of them, it follows that the Christian faith is the logical foundation for all reasoning (Proverbs 1:7; Colossians 2:3). This isn’t to say, of course, that non-Christians cannot reason. Rather, it simply means they are being inconsistent when they reason; they are borrowing from a worldview contrary to the one they profess.
Since reason would be impossible without laws of logic, which stem from the Christian faith, we have a very good reason for our faith: without our faith we could not reason. Even unbelievers (inconsistently) rely upon Christian principles, such as logic, whenever they reason about anything. So the Christian has a good reason for his or her faith. In fact, the Christian faith system makes reason possible.

Can We “Reason” Someone to Heaven?

Although reasoning from the Scriptures is an important part of the Christian’s life, reason alone is not sufficient to lead us to Christ.

After the fall of Adam, human beings no longer possessed the ability to correctly understand spiritual matters (1 Corinthians 2:14). It is our nature to distort the truth (2 Peter 3:16). So we need the help of the Holy Spirit even to understand and accept the fact that Jesus is Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3).
This explains why it is impossible to “reason someone into heaven.” Salvation is accomplished by God’s grace received through faith in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8; Romans 3:24; Titus 3:5). It is ultimately the Holy Spirit who convinces people and enables them to receive Christ (John 16:8–15).
Some may ask, “Why then should we do apologetics? Why should we try to reason with people if it is the Holy Spirit who will ultimately convince them?”
There are two reasons.
First, God tells us to. We are to be ready at all times to give a good reason for our faith (1 Peter 3:15). So it is our duty as followers of Christ to preach the gospel (2 Timothy 4:2) and reason with unbelievers (Acts 17:17).
Second, God can bless our discussions with unbelievers and use them as part of the process by which He brings people to Himself (Romans 10:13–14). Although salvation is accomplished by Christ alone, God has given us the privilege of telling others about this good news and making a reasoned defense of it.
Reasoning is a crucial part of defending the faith. But we must always keep in mind that conversion is up to God alone. It is not our job to “convince” the unbeliever—nor can we. It is our job to make a good case; it is the Holy Spirit’s prerogative alone to bring repentance.
One Christian may plant a seed, and another, water it but God alone brings the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6–7). This concludes the article by Dr. Lisle.
 For your consideration, here is a debate that took place between the founder of Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham and Bill Nye, “the Science Guy”. At this site, you can purchase this debate in various formats including downloads and dvds.

This concludes the article FROM the MIND of FIRE and this three part series!