Archive for the 'Holy Scripture' Category

What Did Jesus Say About……?

May 20th, 2012

It’s interesting to see people misquote Jesus who claim to be Christian. What’s not interesting is to see the millions of biblically illiterate folks follow along with them without even once opening their bible to see if what was said was:

1.  Actually in the Bible

2. Actually said by Jesus

3. Said in the same context as they mean it

4. Means the same thing as they mean.

So, this series is going to start off pretty simple and straightforward. The words of Jesus on particular topics that people say ‘Jesus never said anything about that’.  We’re also going to see if the rest of scripture agrees with this or if the apostles introduce something ‘new’ to the mix along the way (for the benefit of our ‘red letter Bible’ friends who think the only things that matter in the NT are the words of Jesus).

So here’s my basic topic list – What Did Jesus Say About (WDJSA):

  1. Who He is
  2. Repentance and Faith
  3. Homosexuality, Marriage, Adultery and Pre-marital Sex
  4. The Bible
  5. The Poor
  6. Election and Predestination
  7. Education
  8. Parenting
  9. Hell
  10. Heaven
  11. Church Leadership
  12. Social Justice

I’m more than willing to expand the list, so feel free to add some possible topics in the comments below or on Facebook.

*edit: Just added a few more to the list.

Bible Interpretation Basics: What Are You Reading ?

January 25th, 2012

Scripture was written in different genres.

Most people miss this fact when they approach it, which is why some of them have such a hard time trying to understand what scripture is teaching or attempting to communicate at different places.

That is to say, there are some parts that are written as instructional literature (Leviticus, Colossians) where step-by-step directions were given, or direct commands to do one thing and not another. Some were written as narrative (1 & 2 Samuel, Acts, the Gospels) where a story was being told to the reader and events were being related.

There is also prophetic language (Isaiah 40 and forward, Daniel 7, 9-12, Revelation) where images and symbols were used (in some cases) to represent actual things, people and events.  Sometimes, the images used were literal; other times, they were/are figurative (i.e. the woman in Rev. 12 who gives birth to the man child that will rule the nations with a rod of iron). Other times (Isaiah 46 for example), simple direct statements on what will happen are given (no illustrations or images necessary).

There is wisdom literature (James, Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes) where the reader is taught truth via illustration, narrative and long-form arguments. A ‘long-form’ argument can be a number of illustrations, stories and logical statements all ‘piled up’ over time to point to one particular point or truth. They  require a longer attention span,  more reading and/or listening and more attention to detail.  For example, Proverbs 1:20-33 takes wisdom (which is defined for us in Proverbs 1:1-7) and personifies it and then explains how wisdom will ‘mock’ when calamity strikes those who choose to ignore its’ counsel. The book of Job is a masterful piece of wisdom literature, as all of Job’s friends, Job himself and God Himself all go into extended long-form arguments and illustrations to make their cases.

Occasionally, we also see poetic literature (Psalms, Job, Song of Solomon). Poetic scripture, like wisdom literature (and in some cases, some books are both) may use illustrations and analogies to teach a particular point, or, like prophetic literature, it may also simply come straight out and say what it means (example, Psalm 150).

Understanding scripture entails that we take the time to understand first and foremost what it is that we are reading.

One blessing of the modern age in western society is that we have any number of biblical resources available to help us realize what it is we’re reading so that no believer has to be left wondering ‘what does scripture mean by this’ ? A responsibility in an age of much is that much is also required of us (Luke 12:48).  The responsibility to handle scripture accurately (2 Tim. 2:15) is not just the job of the preacher, but of all believers (just like the qualifications for deacon and elder are applicable to all believers, not just those seeking the office).

So I recommend checking out sites like bible.orgcarm.orgbiblestudytools.netreformed.orggraceonlinelibrary.orgligonier.orggty.org and others that support and encourage believers to engage in serious study of the scriptures for the purpose of knowing what you believe, why you should believe it, how to live it and what to proclaim to others.

Once we figure out what it is we’re reading, some rules begin to come into play to guide our interpreting.

For example, Acts is not a theological manual. It’s a narrative.  Is there theology in Acts ? Definitely. There is theology (and by that word, we simply mean teaching about God, man and salvation that must be believed) in all of scripture. But was Acts written to teach us what is to be considered normative for every believer in every age or is it describing what happened  in history (specifically in the early history of the church) ?

From this, we can deduce that taking a passage or event in Acts and saying ‘this happens to every believer in every age and was not just a one-time event’ is an error.  Examples of this error can be readily found in the pentecostal movements’ use of Acts 2 as ‘normative’ (every believer must speak in tongues as a sign of the Holy Spirit indwelling them). Even in the book of Acts, every believer didn’t speak in tongues at conversion (Acts 16 for example).

On the other hand, books like 1 Thessalonians were written as direct instructions to believers.  Is there theology here ? You better believe it. Is there narrative here ?  Some. Paul makes references in both letters to the church at Thessalonica to when he and Timothy came and spent time among them, how the word of their Christian love has spread throughout other churches and more. But the primary focus of both letters (1 and 2 Thessalonians) is instruction, not narrative.  Questions on the return of Christ and the coming final judgement are answered (1 Thess. 4, 5) , how to conduct ourselves in relation to other believers (1 Thess. 4:3-8), how to conduct ourselves in the church (1 Thess. 5:18 and forward) and more.

In the next installments, I’ll write for a bit on how to deal with some of the other genres of scripture and a bit more detail on what to ‘expect’ when you approach scripture and what you should expect so that your expectations don’t lead you to false conclusions regarding scripture.

Be Renewed in the Spirit of Your Mind

November 26th, 2010

and be renewed in the spirit of your mind…Ephesians 4:23

Paul told us in Ephesians 4 that we are not to walk like “the Gentiles” (ie. those without Christ) walk but are instead to walk in a manner that is fitting for saints. We are to walk like we have heard and learned the truth from Jesus. This means that as we come to faith in Christ we must first repent. We must put off our former way of life, turning from our sin and turning to Christ in faith.

Continuing on with that theme here in verse 23, Paul tells us that after we put off that former conduct, our “old man” that only grows more and more corrupt, then we are to “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” This is a rich verse so we will take a few minutes today to take it apart, looking at the two phrases he uses.

Be Renewed

Notice he does not say “act renewed.” It is not a command to learn about renewal or to start a renewal ministry or to find the secret of renewal. No. He says, be renenwed. And the way he says it the reader should already know how to be renewed and that their duty then is to actually “be renewed.”

When the Holy Spirit regenerates us we are indeed “born again.” Now we understand that when we repent and believe in Christ it is because we have been made a new creation. There is renewal. But being renewed in the spirit of our mind is not a one time act of renewal as when we are born again. This word means that from the time we repent and put on the new man (Eph 4:24), continuing through the rest of our life we are being renewed. It is the renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) as an ongoing part of the new walk of the new man in this new life.

So the Holy Spirit continually renews and refreshes us. But how? The Word of God read, heard, obeyed, memorized, and meditated upon is the tool that the Holy Spirit uses to renew us and conform us to the image of Christ. As we are renewed we are indeed transformed (Rom 12:1-2) and as we are transformed our lives prove that God’s will is perfect, acceptable, and holy.

Do you need reviving? Do you need to rekindle your love for Christ? Do you need to grow in grace and get beyond a dry stagnant place in your walk with Christ?

Get into the Word!

Is it that simple? Yes. It really is.

At times when things are dry and it seems as though God does not hear our prayers or care about us – during those times we often are fooled and deceived into thinking that the Word of God is dry we do not pick it up and read it. We fail to understand that the Word of God is alive, active, powerful, effective, and sufficient. Don’t believe me? Try me! The next time you find yourself in that place of spiritual barrenness – read your Bible. Anywhere. Just pick a book or chapter and read it. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your mind to the truth and just read.

The truth is that we cannot read the Word of God and remain the same. The Word in the hands of the Spirit is used to bring about a continuing renewal. And we all know that we need renewal as often as the Spirit will renew us.

In the Spirit of Your Mind

The second phrase in verse 23 tells us where we are to continually be renewed. In the spirit of our mind. Okay. What is that? Our spirit? Our soul? Our mind? What exactly is “the spirit of your mind.”

This is a phrase that refers to the inner man, the very deepest part of who we are that determines how we think and what we do. This is our heart of hearts. And this is what is renewed day by day through the power of the Spirit applying the Word to our lives.

This deepest part of who we are must be renewed. True saving faith and repentance will be followed with this ongoing renewal which in fact began when we put on the new man. It must continue, for who we are, the spirit of our mind, is still embodied in this fallen flesh. And while the spirit wars against the flesh and the flesh against the spirit it is here in the spirit of our mind that we will win or lose the battle. For the spirit of our mind is that inner man, that part of us that determines what it is that we want (desire) and therefore what we do. Our motives and desires flow from the spirit of our mind.

How interesting then that the contrast here in these verses is that of the difference between how those with and without Christ walk. The lost man walks in the futility of his mind. The repenter walks with the spirit of his mind being renewed over and over again!

Where before we were unable to desire and do what was pleasing to God, now with the Spirit’s help we are in our very inner man motivated and empowered to both want to do what is right, and to do it. We now have a moral capability that before we did not. Whereas we were dead in sin now we are alive to God. Where we were ambivalently apathetic toward righteousness now righteousness is what we crave as though it were as necessary for life as hunger or thirst.

Interesting also that the very thing that the Spirit uses to call us to this new life is what He uses to continually renew us in our inner man. The “gospel” is “the power of God to salvation.” The Word of God cleanses us, sanctifies us, renews us, transforms us, convicts us, breaks us, motivates us, and empowers us. The Word never returns void. It always accomplishes the purposes for which God sends it forth. The written Word of God presents and reveals to us the Living Word of God.

Jesus once rebuked the Pharisees saying that they searched the Scriptures for law after law to obey so that they might be saved, but He said of the Scriptures, “they testify of Me” (John 5:39). The Word does not give us eternal life through a system of obedience and good works. No. It is used by the Spirit to prove that we cannot save ourselves, that we need a Savior, and that that Savior is Jesus Christ! The Word in the hands of the Spirit calls us to Christ.

No wonder then that the devil started in the garden by casting doubt on the Word of God. “Did God really say?” Do not underestimate the Word of God!

So as we repent and believe in Him we enter that continuing process of being renewed over and over again until the final redemption of our bodies at our glorification. This renewal continues until our salvation is complete. Of course, in God’s eyes it is complete, for Jesus declared from the cross, “It is finished.” He even refers to glorification in the past tense in Romans 8:30. But for us this must be worked out in time. And the way that it is worked out is through our sanctification. It is through the Spirit renewing and transforming us daily to the image of Christ.

So the secret is out – if we want to be renewed we must only pick up and read our Bibles, with the mindset to hear and do what it says. How many self help books can we toss out now? Is it really that simple? Yes it is. Paul tells us as simply as he is able by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind.”

Carblogging with BlackCalvinist

February 8th, 2010

Something new I’ve been thinkin’ on for a few months and finally decided to DO:

Expository preaching vs Topical Preaching…..a few thoughts.