Creeping and Drifting…

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From the Preacher’s Pen… I once heard of a mayor who firmly believed that traffic warnings were overdone. He was elected just because he felt it excessive to always be telling people how to run their lives and what not to do. So, his solution was to get rid of all the traffic control in his city. No more stop lights, no more stop signs, no more yield signs, no more signs preventing people from driving however they wanted.

As you might expect, things didn’t go well in that town. As traffic snarled and accidents abounded, pedestrians were increasingly run down and people eventually became so angry that they replaced their mayor with one that promised to put the rules back in place and restore order.

Hopefully, you realize the lesson has important parallels for us in God’s word. Let’s look a moment at…

Creeping and Drifting

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about the salvation we share, I felt the necessity to write to you urging you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 3-4)

Jude presents an important reminder of the fact that sin does not appear to us dressed up with horns and a pitchfork. Satan and his false-teaching followers know how to creep in without our notice. The warning from God is clear; we must always be on the alert, watchful lest the Devil and his ungodly companions sneak in and cause us to also do wrong.

The NIV renders verse 4 like this: For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Watch out for the dangerous, unnoticed, secretly slipping in ungodly people who are perverting God’s will! Do we get the point?

What is amazing in light of God’s clear teaching is how often someone will suggest that we “let them talk and have their say. After all, won’t everyone recognize false teaching?” Do we really have a God-given responsibility to protect those babes and immature ones in Christ? Let’s check with God on that: Reject a factious [divisive, Paul literally calls them a heretic] person after a first and second warning, knowing that such a person is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11) Paul also warned the elders of the Ephesian church that savage wolves were going to be a threat to the church and that they would be leading people away from salvation (cf. Acts 20:25-30).

God’s lesson for us is important: There is danger out there and it will sneak in and destroy our lives and the Lord’s church if we let it. Be careful, always watchful, always devoted to the truth in God’s word! Okay, as soon as we observe the big bad wolf huffing and puffing at our door, we will immediately stop him and never allow ourselves to be led astray!

The problem with this boast is that God also warns us of another danger… that of drifting. The Hebrew writer warns: …  we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? (Hebrews 2:1-3a)

Danger does not always come with a sign and a warning. Indeed, it is especially deadly when it creeps in. We miss the signs when they are almost unnoticeable. We drift ever so slowly away. It is dangerous simply because it is insidious, easily missed until it is too late.

All the warnings in the world are useless without us first knowing God’s will. Reading your Bible daily is a beginning. Studying intently on your own and with your fellow Christians will help even more. James puts it like this: Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:22–25)

Be careful not to allow either creeping or drifting into your life for the Savior!

— Lester P. Bagley

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low either creeping or drifting into your life for the Savior!

— Lester P. Bagley

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9/16/18 ~ Serious Bible Study

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

One of the greatest failures of many so-called Christians is their failure to seriously read and study God’s word. A number of preachers ask how many have read their Bibles daily at the beginning of their sermons. Perhaps an even more pointed question would involve how many actually study and understand God’s word.

Bible Study: The Text Matters!

Understanding what you read, just like the man from Ethiopia in Acts 8:26-39, is VITAL to our salvation. And an important place to begin your reading is found in the front of most Bibles!

Since we read a translation made by fallible humans we are responsible to God for knowing the limits of their work. Don’t bother arguing with that since God never, ever promised that the denominational translators of any century and of any translation into any language would be inspired by God. If they were actually inspired by God they would have forsaken the erroneous teachings of their denomination!

All this leads us to a serious error intentionally promoted by the King James translators and perpetuated by most English translators since. The translators did NOT translate a word used by God in the same way every time God says it. What they did do is to make the Bible more interesting (their concept) to read by varying the words in the original inspired text, or by adding words or thoughts to better explain the original meaning. That goal, that attitude (actually stated in the original preface of the KJV translators to the reader) can seriously obstruct and obscure what God is saying and makes at least part of the translation a commentary rather than an accurate copy of the text.

Difficulties in Translating Word for Word

Now, to be fair, it must be noted that ALL translations into ANY language have some difficulties in exactly translating every word and/or thought from the original texts. Three examples illustrate this difficulty and help us appreciate the difficulties involved in translating the Bible:

First, the word order is often different with different languages. Thus a statement that is very clear in the original requires some modification (or even the addition of some words) to convey the same meaning in the translation. For example: John 1:1 in a word–for–word translation ends with the phrase and God was the Word. But the subject has the article and the predicate does not, thus the English meaning is the Word was God.

Also, notice a word-for-word translation of Acts 2:36 would say: Assuredly, therefore, let know all [the] house of Israel that both Lord him and Christ made God, this Jesus whom you crucified. The meaning is NOT that Christ made God but rather that God designated Jesus as THE one; both sovereign, ultimate or supreme ruler and savior, messiah, anointed one.

Second, sometimes a literal translation makes no sense to someone outside the original culture. For example, The philosophers in Athens asked about Paul, “What would this spermologos [literally ‘seed–picker’] say?” The meaning of their sarcastic term used in the query in modern English is better rendered as “babbler” or “gossiper” (Acts 17:18), and even then we may be missing the force of the insult.

Third, one cannot always translate the same word uniformly in each occurrence. For example, the Greek word splanchnon literally means “intestines, bowels, entrails.” Acts 1:18 is easily understood when it says the body of Judas fell and “his bowels gushed out.” But Philippians 1:8 talks of Paul longing for you “in the bowels of Christ.” Only when we understand that the Greeks used splanchnon for the seat of the emotions (the heart to English speaking peoples) can we really translate the meaning of the words into English.

The choices that translators use to move from one language to another can help or hinder our understanding of the inspired writer’s words. And all this reminds us of the importance of continued diligent study and digging into God’s word rather than just a quick and simplistic reading!

Can We Trust the Bible?

If the text as conveyed by God Himself, and our making a great effort to study and understand exactly what the Holy Spirit said is so important, then the real question becomes can we trust our Bibles? Let’s look at a few facts about the text itself.

People questioning the accuracy of the New Testament may quote a figure of some 200,000 errors in the text. This large number is obtained by counting all the variations in all of the manuscripts. Thus, if a given word is misspelled in 4,000 different manuscripts, it counts as 4,000 “errors.” In reality, it was only one slight error that was copied 4,000 times!

Such error counting is a ridiculous attempt to undermine our faith in the Word of God. Indeed, our large number of “errors” is in direct proportion to our large number of manuscripts and, in the end, increases (not decreases) our certainty of what the New Testament says. Even a brief examination of a work such as Metzger’s A Textual Commentary On The Greek New Testament shows that we have 100% certainty of every doctrine and major teaching and, what’s more, nearly that same degree of certainty of the minutest details of the entire text of God’s Word!

Accuracy? The total textual variations (does not include such things as Greek vs Roman spelling of names, etc. which are of no consequence) exist for only 40 lines out of about 20,000 lines (about 400 words). None affecting any doctrine or teaching not duplicated elsewhere.

The facts say that God has delivered His inspired word to us. It is there for us to learn from and obey. But, and this is the important lesson, we must study and work to understand and handle correctly what God has said. No simple, easy solution without diligent effort will substitute. The question for us is…

What do we do with it?

Do we read our Bibles to begin with? Do we go to our Bible to learn God’s will for us? Do we accept what God says and obey Him? Or do we learn just enough “proof texts” to get by? Do we abide in the word or are we just passing through?

If we DO diligently read our Bibles do we understand it? Apparently from the example of that man of Ethiopia some more serious effort for learning and study is necessary.

If that is true (and God says it is!) then how serious is our study? Could the Ethiopian have learned as much studying with, say, one of the Sadducees? If not, how do we ever imagine that some denominational false teacher is just as good as a New Testament believing and obeying Christian teacher?

If we are diligent, conscientious, hard-working students of God’s word like Paul challenged Timothy to be (2 Timothy 2:15), then we are right with God. Anything less means that we stand before God as embarrassed by our failure.

Reading and seriously studying your Bible, God’s inspired word, CANNOT be done by attending one or two Bible studies a week. It cannot be achieved by briefly remembering your favorite verse or letting your Bible fall open to read an occasional verse.

The question comes from God: Are you seriously in the Word, studying, learning and talking with the author (in prayer to God) every day? If not, your Heavenly Father is offended so don’t bother being offended at the question. Why not begin seriously reading and studying God’s word today?

— Lester P. Bagley

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9/2/18 ~ Who Will Go?

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From the Preacher’s Pen… One of the important lessons that parents are supposed to teach their children is to grow up, get a job and stand on your own two feet. If we fail in teaching them to mature and be able to go out on their own, we have failed them in the worst possible way as they will never attain that independence necessary to survive in this world.

In much the same way God teaches us to do likewise. Paul explained this concept to Timothy this way: You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:1-2)

Because this is true, evangelism or sharing the Good News of Jesus is the defining characteristic of every mature Christian. God should never have to ask the question…

Who Will Go?

While many of the prophets were given glimpses of the coming of the great King and His Kingdom, few were shown as much detail as the prophet Isaiah. Like the other messianic prophets, Isaiah would be shown practical comparisons between the people and the events of his day and the fulfillment of those lessons in Christ. Consider one such lesson of Isaiah 6:1-11:

In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. (2) Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. (3) And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” (4) And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. (5) Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

(6) Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. (7) He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” (8) Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

(9) He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.’ (10) Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.”

(11) Then I said, “Lord, how long?” And He answered, “Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, houses are without people and the land is utterly desolate.

Isaiah both learned and taught us several lessons that day. First, when we really begin to comprehend who God is and compare that to who we are we are not just in awe, but we are humbled. Our failure and unworthiness before the Lord leave us without hope.

Second, it is the Lord who extends the offer of salvation to us. Forgiveness of sins seems so trivial until we measure it to with eternity. Only God can change eternal death as our earned wage (Romans 6:23) into eternal life.

Third, while God many times uses the unrighteous to accomplish His will, the job of sharing the Gospel is reserved for the cleansed, the saved. No one else can carry the truth but God’s own people (note 1 Corinthians 1:21).

Fourth, for those unwilling to be saved, God will utterly reject them and even help them to be lost. As severe as this sounds, God repeats the same lesson today. Read 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 and realize that God means what He says!

Fifth, how long will God let this all go on? Isaiah shows the negative side of the answer: until all the lost that want to be lost have lost everything. The Apostle Peter would remind us of the positive side of that same answer in 2 Peter 3:9: The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Jesus, in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20, would complete the circle. No one can carry the truth of salvation but the saved! The Apostles were to go proclaim the message, to teach and then to baptize those who would accept the gift of forgiveness of sin. Then the forgiven are to be taught everything that their teachers knew; they are to be trained to do the same that others may hear and live.

So, who will go? Only the saved! Only those that understand and appreciate the gift will seek others to share in it.

The lost are going to reject God, fail God and keep on being the losers that they have chosen to be. They will never share the Good News because they are ignorant and proud of it.

The question for us is simple: Which one are you? Who will go?

— Lester P. Bagley

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8/26/18 ~ Misuse of the Bible

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Have you ever noticed and read those warning labels on things? There is a national center for poison control that tells people what to do if they’ve not read or obeyed the poison warning labels. Likewise, there is a center known as CHEMTREC that handles emergency information for hazardous materials in general. Unless you are a parent, a person who fails to read warning labels or a HAZMAT specialist you may not show much concern for such labels.

While your Bible may not have a big warning label on the outside, it does have a lot of warning labels inside. Why? Like all those other warnings one of the primary reasons is to help us avoid…

Misuse of the Bible

Hopefully, we appreciate the danger of NOT using the Bible. If we make ourselves God and feel we have the right to make the rules to live by we become nothing less than a fool (Proverbs 12:15). When God’s people tried it (Deuteronomy 12:8) God told them that it was forbidden. Sadly, years later during the time of the Judges, it became the norm, the standard of failure by which God’s people were known (Judges 17:6 and 21:25).

When everyone does what is right in their own eyes, everyone is wrong. Okay, so ignoring the Bible, ignoring God’s word is always wrong, but what if we just misuse or twist or pervert something God says. Is that also wrong?

Peter gave some instructions about such things in 2 Peter 3:14-18: (14) Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, (15) and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, (16) as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. (17) You, therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, (18) but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

From the beginnings of the New Testament church, some people have attempted to twist what God says into their own way. In changing what God says we fail the tests of peace, spotlessness, and blamelessness.

Think about that for a moment. In trying to hold fast to the truth that God has revealed we are often accused of being the ones who disrupt the “peace” in not accepting what is wrong. Yet God says just the opposite! Those who fail to hold fast to God’s way upset God’s peace and are described by God as ignorant, unstable and headed for destruction. That really does NOT sound like a good alternative!

God’s word is our only real authority. Paul reminded Timothy: (15) and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (16) All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; (17) so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)

Once again it is only in God’s word that we find wisdom and salvation. Scripture is what is both inspired by God and useful for us in every way.

Consider a further statement from Peter: (19) So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. (20) But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, (21) for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

Pay attention! Make certain that you follow what is right by God’s definition! Peter’s statement that no prophecy, no Scripture is a matter of singular interpretation actually implies two points. First, you are not allowed to interpret what God says in the way you want! The old accusation of, “That’s just the way YOU see it but I see it in my own way” is nonsense. There is a right way to understand what God says without putting our own spin on it! Second, no Scripture is to be spun and “interpreted” out of the context of the whole of God’s word. Making God contradict Himself or finding your favorite Scripture to believe in while ignoring the rest is mishandling God’s word!

Distortion of what God says has long been a popular technique of Satan. Remember what he did with God’s words to Eve in the Garden of Eden? Doing this is just as dangerous as ignoring God’s word completely.

God’s lesson to us is to remember that many people twist the Scriptures to make them fit some opinion, some idea, some doctrine of their own. After all, making something sound Biblical is the basis of most false and erroneous teaching. Jesus quoted Isaiah as evident of the ongoing truth that: (8) This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. (9) But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men. (Matthew 15:8-9)

While some seek to pervert, misapply or mis-teach what God says, others would claim to have received a new revelation, a new command from God. Again, this is something that God anticipated and forbids. Deuteronomy 4:2 is a direct warning against this: You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.

Proverbs 30:6 provides a similar reminder while many of the Old Testament prophets pronounced God’s curses on those who falsely claimed to speak for the Lord. In much the same way, it seems appropriate that the final book of the New Testament would conclude with a similar warning: (18) I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; (19) and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book (Revelation 22:18-19). Given that this has always been God’s position on changing His words, the prophetic warnings seem to apply to all of the Bible.

One final case should be considered. What about a new revelation, a new prophet, a new way of salvation? Couldn’t God make another change? Actually, God has already addressed that question. The New Testament refers to this current time of Christ’s law as the LAST days. This is the end, the final plan of God. The Hebrew writer says it like this: (1) God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, (2) in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (Hebrews 1:1-2).

So, NO, there is no other way to see it. There is no other way to obey, please and serve God and there never will be another way for people here on this earth. We either do it God’s way, see things the way He says to see them or we are wrong.

Our faithfulness is measured by our obedience to God’s word without any room for our own opinions. Failure to believe and follow this pattern results in us being carried away by error, losing our faithfulness and thus our salvation. Don’t be a loser and misuse or mishandle God’s word!

— Lester P. Bagley

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4/22/18 ~ Spiritual Ugliness

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Beauty is something we all appreciate. A gorgeous sunset will cause us to whip out our cameras or call others to see. And how can anyone fail to appreciate a beautiful baby?

But what of our spiritual souls and lives? Are we beautiful before our Heavenly Father or are we covered in…

Spiritual Ugliness

Matthew 23 is Jesus’ vicious attack on false religion. Consider verses 27 and 28: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Today the word hypocrite usually means someone who pretends to be good and yet is inwardly or secretly bad. Our English word hypocrite is not an original word in our language. Rather, it is simply an anglicized word just like baptism. It only exists at all in English because of Jesus. He used the word some 18 times in the Gospel accounts and translators simply borrow the Greek word.

Just as people misuse baptism by pretending it has an English meaning apart from the Greek biblical usage, so, too, do we misuse hypocrite by taking it out of context and attempting to give it our own meaning.

The word Jesus uses is the Greek word for a stage actor. But to appreciate what He is telling us we must appreciate, like all statements in scripture, the context. In the old Greek world, actors had been respected. But by Roman times they were considered to have the same social status as a criminal or prostitutes. They were often foreigners, captives or slaves whose job was to entertain. While they performed some “classical” Greek plays and poetry, much of the stage was devoted to rude, vulgar and tasteless.

It appears that in New Testament times there was little or no “clean” comedy or theater. Much was essentially what we today would consider the lowest “X” rated kind of entertainment. It is accurate to say that Jesus is labeling people as the modern equivalent of a porn star!

With that ugly picture in mind, re-read Jesus’ words above. The degree of spiritual ugliness is important in seeing how God sees sin. Sin is never just a minor flaw or a tiny blemish on our character. It is always a fatal ugliness that God cannot ignore.

There is something disconcerting about us missing true ugliness and mistaking it for beauty. Have you ever picked up something without knowing what it was only to find out or realize that it was something truly disgustingly awful?

God gives us many examples. Solomon would illustrate it like this on one occasion, As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion (Proverbs 11:22). It’s not the beauty that appears on the outside, it’s the ugliness hidden within. Samuel was taught the lesson by God like this, God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but YHWH looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

Hypocrisy and iniquity, sin or lawlessness are identified by Jesus as attributes of the utmost ugliness. When we are unclean before God we are ugly! When we use sin to deceive others as a false teacher we achieve God’s ultimate in spiritual ugliness!

Recall that the Pharisees were often admired as some of the most sincerely religious of the Jewish people and many times were among the most “conservative.” Yet God demands much more than sincerity and outward conservatism.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus would say it like this: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)

Paul would tell Titus: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:11–14).

With all the love, forgiveness, grace, mercy and hope that God provides to us, we should be the most beautiful people; fit to be the bride of Christ. Whatever you do, do not allow spiritual ugliness to ever be seen in you!

— Lester P. Bagley

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2/25/18 ~ Playing Legal Games With God

 

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

I guess we’ve all noticed that there are some games we like to play and others that really don’t interest us. One of those games that many play and enjoy is the “game” of perverting God’s word.

Recently in a conversation, I was told that God will save even those that are disobedient to His will, so we have nothing to worry about. I quickly checked my Bible to see if God had perhaps changed His will. But, no, 2 Thessalonians 1:8 (and a host of other similar scriptures!) was still there. When Jesus comes again He will come taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So how is it that people can twist and pervert God’s word like that? Let’s consider the subject of…

Playing Legal Games with God

Back in 2012 an 81-year-old woman with a sore jaw died just weeks after a hospital in Detroit mistakenly performed brain surgery on her. A jury awarded her family $20 million. But appeals courts and the state Supreme Court reversed the decision claiming that it was simple medical malpractice and not negligence. Yet the hospital had admitted that the surgery was an error of negligence!

What was shocking to nearly everyone involved in this case is that, in an amazing display of legal gamesmanship, the courts reversed the actual evidence and facts. What the judges did allowed a crime to be committed and the criminals to be declared innocent with no hope of any future justice in the case.

As appalling as this case is, it has become relatively commonplace in the American legal system. Right and wrong are no longer decided by facts and laws but by who can play the best game.

Again, as appalling as all this is in the world, it is also a favorite game for people to play with God, His word, and His laws. For, you see, in spite of all the nonsense we attempt to use to cover the facts, God has clearly defined right and wrong and people have felt free to play legal games!

Solomon faced the problem in his day and declared, He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 17:15).

Many years later this same legal game was being played in Isaiah’s time and caused God to comment: Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight! (Isaiah 5:20-21)  Do we disobey God, commit some sin, then either declare that it’s okay or imagine that God has to forgive us so we are free to do wrong? Even under the Old Law God recognized and forbade His people from playing legal games. The word He often used for this sin of playing legal games with sin is presumptuousness.

Many translations use this same English word but some translate it as

  • premeditated
  • contempt
  • arrogance
  • willful
  • flagrant

Do you see God’s word pictures of His view of our legal games?

Consider some specific examples: The man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the Lord your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel. Then all the people will hear and be afraid, and will not act presumptuously again. (Deuteronomy 17:12-13) Paul would echo this command to Timothy in dealing with elders (or any other Christian by implication) who sin like this (read 1 Timothy 5:19-20).

The term false teachers (or prophets) is used for those teaching or advocating playing legal games with God, and they deserve the same treatment by those faithful to God: But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die (Deuteronomy 18:20). Again the New Testament echoes this lesson (cf. 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; 2 Peter 3:14-18; 1 John 4:1-6, etc.)

 David, even as he wrote of his praise to God, would also remember to ask, Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I will be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression (Psalm 19:13).

We as Christians face a world that loves to play legal games, even with God’s own words and commands.

  • You will be told that God doesn’t care how you worship and serve Him.
  • You will be told that all you have to do to be saved is pray a “sinners prayer” that’s never found in the Bible.
  • You will be told that God has nothing against homosexual behavior or that sex outside of marriage is okay.
  • You will be told a million things by those playing legal games with God.

And they will all still be lies that will cost you your soul if you believe them for God still says that the soul that sins will die (cf. Ezekiel 18:20).

So how about it? Are you smart enough NOT to play legal games with God? Are you smart enough to actually obey what God says? It is a choice we need to make right now!

— Lester P. Bagley

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2/18/18 ~ Drawing Near to God

Image result for bible glasses pen paper coffee cup

 

From the Preacher’s Pen…

One of the great failures of many Christians is their failure to seriously read and study God’s word. Several preachers ask how many have read their Bibles daily at the beginning of their sermons. While that offends some people (apparently, we think it is okay to take offense at someone pointing out our sins!), perhaps an even more pointed question would involve how many actually study and understand God’s word.

Understanding what you read, just like the man from Ethiopia in Acts 8:26-39, is VITAL to our salvation. One of the helpful ways of studying the Bible is to follow God’s use of words, how He chooses to communicate important lessons to us.

To study like that requires more effort than simply reading. Putting more effort into an actual understanding of both what is read and how that fits the context of all God says is exactly what brought salvation to the man of Ethiopia. And that same effort will bring understanding and salvation to us.

So let’s do a little digging, a little bit of serious study into one of God’s lessons that will help us come closer to Him and to understanding what He says to us.

Drawing Near to God

One of the many rich lessons of the book of Hebrews involves a word picture that the author repeats seven times. The word is proserchomai and, especially in relation to coming to God, is translated as draw near or approach or come to (cf. Hebrews 4:16; 7:25; 10:1, 22; 11:6; 12:18, 22). This same Greek word is usually used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew qērab, which means come near or approach but also includes the idea of closeness to what or who is being approached.

Outside of the Bible, Greek writers use this word with more force than simply going somewhere. It is sometimes used in a hostile sense as going to a fight or battle, but usually in the sense of being concerned about someone and going to someone or something of great importance. It was also used in the religious sense of going to or before a deity. Just as in our world a word might be reserved for a deeper meaning rather than just being a simple synonym, so, too, the New Testament writers and the Holy Spirit chose words with richer meaning for special lessons.

This is the word that Matthew uses (Matthew 4:3) for Satan coming near to Jesus in order to tempt Him. It is also the word chosen later for the angels as they came to minister to Jesus. Both uses portray an incredible lesson for us. First, that Satan would dare to come so close and appear so intimate with Jesus. Isn’t that also a warning to us about how the Devil will try to get close to us? And second, the important job of angels in providing aid and comfort to Jesus. They did for Him just as they are sent out to be “ministering spirits… to render service” to God’s people (Hebrews 1:14).

On many other occasions, God reminds us of both the closeness of the wrong things and the intimacy of our right relationship with Him. Paul commands that we reject those and withdraw ourselves from those that (literally) do not draw near to the words of Jesus and godly doctrine (1 Timothy 6:3-5). Contrast this with Peter’s command that we come to Jesus as our living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 2:4).

Clearly, God calls His people to be more than just friendly with both God and His godly people! Just as we are never to be intimate with sin, wickedness and the worldly, so are we called to draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Why? Simply because He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him since He always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25). We draw near to God, become intimate with Him and our family in Him here on earth so that we will be a part of the family for eternity in Heaven.

Will you draw near to God and His family here on earth so that you will be together as family for eternity? The choice really is up to you. Choose wisely!

— Lester P. Bagley

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