Sunday, February 28, 2010

Who is the Owner of the Universe?

Who is the Owner of the Universe?
Is The World Controlled by the Devil?

"He rules the world, with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness..."

When error comes, it always rides in on the wings of the skin of the truth.

Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971), Premier of the former Soviet Union, described a time in the Communist republic’s history when a wave of petty theft was sweeping through the government-owned plants. To curtail the stealing, guards were placed at factory entrances to watch the laborers as they entered and departed. At the Leningrad timberworks, one of the guards spotted Pyotr Petrovich leaving the yard with a wheelbarrow filled with a bulky sack. A guard became dutifully suspicious.

“Come on, Petrovich,” said the guard. “What have you got there?”
“Just sawdust and shavings,” Petrovich replied.
“Come on,” the guard said, “I wasn’t born yesterday. Tip it out.” Out it came—nothing but sawdust and shavings. So he was allowed to put it all back again and go home.
The same thing happened every night all week, and the guard was getting extremely frustrated. Finally, his curiosity overcame his frustration.
“Petrovich,” he said, “I know you. Tell me what you’re smuggling out of here, and I’ll let you go.”
“Wheelbarrows,” said Petrovich.

Error has been smuggled into the church under the pretense of truth since the beginning of time (Gen 3:1-7). Jesus warned His disciples not to be led astray by traditions that have the effect of setting “aside the commandment of God” (Mark 7:9). Paul cautioned the “elders of the church” at Ephesus that after his departure “savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:17, 29-30). It’s no less true today than in John’s day that “many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1), many of whom “went out from us” (2:19).

Keep in mind that false doctrines most often arise from within the church, “from among your own selves,” as Paul admonishes us. Jesus saved his harshest criticism for the religious leaders of Israel for the simple reason that they are religious leaders who carry the weight of authority (Matt. 21:23-46; 23:2-3). While a false doctrine has the outward appearance of orthodoxy, in terms of what the Bible actually tells us, it is rotten to the core (23:25-28). Heresy most often enters the church under the cover of some orthodox position that in reality is either a biblical misperception or half-truth. Irenaeus, a second-century Christian writer, describes the insidious nature of error wrapped in a veneer of truth:
Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to be inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than truth itself. [3]

The World is off limits

The claim is often made by some well-meaning Christians that the world and the things in the world are off limits to Christians; that the best way to live the Christian life is not to get involved in “the world.” Holiness is defined as an escape from this world, if not physically through some cataclysmic eschatological event like a pretribulational rapture, [4] then certainly by being separated from the affairs of this world in an unwillingness to acknowledge that God has made us stewards of His good creation of which one day He will demand an accounting (Matt. 25:14-30). Instead of following the directive of Abraham Kuyper who said, “there is not one inch of creation of which Christ doesn’t say ‘Mine,’” [5] we often choose, “there is not one inch of creation of which Satan doesn’t say ‘Mine.’”

The church shouldn't divide the world into two opposing realms, consisting of sacred/secular, spiritual/material

Historically, the church did not divide the world into two opposing realms, consisting of sacred/secular, spiritual/material. More importantly, the Bible does not divide the world this way. The Bible is concerned about the distinction between good and evil, right and wrong, moral and immoral wherever such distinctions can be made. The biblical doctrine of creation tells us that the created order is an arena for Christian activity and ministry. God put Adam and Eve in the midst of the garden to “cultivate it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). Rulership/stewardship was also given to mankind. While God reserves ultimate rulership and sovereignty for Himself, He delegates a subordinate lordship and sovereignty to mankind as a vice-regent over the created order. God also sets the rules by which man is to exercise that delegated stewardship and sovereignty. In fact, it was the breaking of these established creation laws that got Adam and Eve exiled from the garden. Even so, they were still called upon to live and work in what is now a fallen world (3:22-24).

The opening line of the Apostles’ Creed tells us that God is the “Maker of Heaven and Earth,” of a creation that Scripture describes as being “very good” (Gen. 1:31). God is not the world as in pantheism, nor is He indifferent to or distant from the world as with deism. Neither is the world an emanation from God as in New Age humanism. “The creed confesses a living God; no detached spectator on the world and its fate, God is the leading actor. All powerful, he retains and exercises the initiative. This is the most basic theme in the Christian world view.” [6]

Sin has affected the world. Even so, God has not forsaken it. His redeeming work in and over this world has a transforming effect on all aspects of our fallen domain. God was pleased to dwell in Christ “and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through His blood; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Col. 1:20). We learn through Scripture that “whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith” (1 John 5:4). “The Christian’s responsibility on earth is to transform the world that ‘thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’ (Matt. 6:10).” [7]

Because God is the One who brought “heaven and earth” into existence and “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3), this alone should be enough to convince all Christians who recite the opening line to the Apostles’ Creed that this world should count for something. While evil may exist in this world because of man’s sin, the world in and of itself is not evil. “Whatsoever is evil, is not so by the Creator’s action, but by the creature’s defection.” [8] Therefore, we should be skeptical of any theology that defames any part of God’s good creation. “There is no nature originally sinful, no substance in itself evil, no being, therefore, which may not come from the same fountain of goodness.” [9]

The Anti-world worldview

Some Christians have forsaken the doctrine of creation, not as a belief, but as a practical application of a belief. They contend that while God created the physical heavens and earth, the created order is an encumbrance, a temporary inconvenience this side of the afterlife. Such beliefs have more in common with pagan religions than with the Bible. For example, animists are anti-world. They believe that nature is governed by sprites, spirits, and multiple gods and goddesses. This has the effect of turning nature into a living essence that is to be feared and placated rather than examined, developed, and probed. The result is that science and technology never developed in cultures where animist beliefs prevailed. “Nor could science have originated in India among the Hindus, nor in China among the Buddhists, for both Hinduism and Buddhism teach that the physical world is unreal and that the only reality is that of the world’s soul and that the greatest thing anyone has to learn is that the physical world is not real. Therefore, there would have been no point in spending one’s life fooling with that which had no reality in the first place.” [10]

While Christians certainly don’t share the worldviews of animists, Buddhists, and Hindus, many who hold an anti-world worldview, as the result of misguided theological beliefs, have the same anti-cultural effect. The development of culture, art, music, science, literature, medicine would never have developed if Christians had followed an anti-world theology. [11]

Gary DeMar
Notes [1] A. Wilson Phillips, “Seeing the Future Clearly,” Hidden Manna (March 2002), 6. [2] Os Guinness, “The Christian and Society,” in James M. Boice, ed., Transforming Our World: A Call to Action (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1988), 52. [3] Irenaeus, Against Heresies (1.2). Cited in Harold O. J. Brown, Heresies: The Image of Christ in the Mirror of Heresy and Orthodoxy from the Apostles to the Present (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984), 6. [4] See Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church, 4th ed. (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1999) and End Times Fiction: A Biblical Consideration of the Left Behind Theology (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2001). [5] Douglas Groothuis, “Revolutionizing our Worldview,” The Reformed Journal (November, 1982), 23. [6] Arthur F. Holmes, Contours of a World View (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1983), 57. [7] Robert E. Webber, Common Roots: A Call to Evangelical Maturity (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1978), 205. [8] John Pearson, An Exposition of the Creed, 2 vols. 3rd ed. (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1847), 1:79. [9] John Eyre Yonge, An Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1887), 27. [10] D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994), 95. [11] Alvin J. Schmidt, Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization (Grand

A Review of "SoyouDon'tWanttogotoChurchAnymore"

A review of the book written by Jake Colsen,
"So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore"

Does the book bring a renewal or a new type of Christianity?
Is Grace being redefined or updated to fix what is wrong? So this book is about either a discovery of new ideas, ideas which are in harmony with the original authors or a bit of both. Oh my, because ideas have consequences.

Q: Why is the desire to want people transformed, which is a very good motive, met with their answer of degrading the whole church enterprise as it relates to transformation. Here is a book that intends to imply that church systems are negative, deleterious to God and spiritual growth, and to be avoided as far as wisdom serves them.

The book is what it is, in trying to describe a little piece of truth in a fictional book that addresses issues, in a roundabout way, in having a relationship with the Lord. One would think that Paul and others were clear in their letters that knowing the Lord is about His nature being illumined in us. It is not delivered via a spiritual inner communication systems (voices telling us who god is). Does this book illumine us on who God is? The book is beneficial when it considers why people become entrenched in the institutional church system. The book also helps readers to understand that the most important relationship one can have is the one with God Himself, and if a church system interferes with that relationship in a negative way, it may be time to move on. But on who God is, I think this book mangles the way in which the Triune God and Creator works. I don't think these experienced authors are dishonest or ignorant. So what gives? Well, below is some of the assertions of truths that they convey in the book and what I have to counter them with. John, the player in the book, gives curious expressions that are decadently deceptive, to me, like the Onion website or a candid camera fake survey spoof. I felt like I was taking a Master's program course and the professor was giving me a faked contemporary Montanist book and seeing if I could decipher and spot if John and Jake were pulling my leg. I thought this character in the book must be kidding. Wasn't he joking, jesting, fomenting a little discord but he couldn't be really believing his own fables could he? Doesn't he know that there is a 1,976 year narrative of facts that can't, or shouldn't, be falsified? If he wants another Jesus then he should start a new religion. But don't negate and disparage the historical record of what Jesus' 'church' has said and done.

What is the difference between divine revelation and divine illumination?

Who is John really?

Principles this book tries to convey are from quotes from the two authors at a video interview they did:
· you will give up control when you preach this freedom
· you will not be cogs and structures in the 'institution'
· you are scared of the real thing
· the success of the 'inst' breeds the dependence on the system
· It will open up your eyes as to see thru God's eyes and not your need to control it. Who He really is
· don't have to win other peoples approval
· you may relax from all devotional work
· He found it sweet to free some people from the 'institution'
· They want you to think of Jesus as brother and the Father who brought him
· if you follow this plan, the original plan, you won't have to go thru the hoola-hoops that dependency brings
· pastors are nice guys but they build a partial structure and they want you to help sustain it
· from the bondage of religion to the liberty of a transforming life, the heart of the gospel
· you serve and try to be pleasing to the Lord but, somewhere in the course of that journey, you can't sustain it for the ache of the loneliness, and pleasing God is not enough. It doesn't work. When you read what comes out of "John's" mouth is what should be what comes out of your experience. Engage Jesus the way John describes
· this is about hand-grenades blowing up preconceived notions
· taking the hand-cuffs off which you allowed the 'system' to put on you
· the authors say that what this church was teaching, what they were saying, just didn't work for real followers.

What will be the expected responses of those who love this new bit of doctrine and wish to shun the old ways? What will they say about me?

They will say of me that I am the dog in dogmatic, the cat in caterwalling, non-emotional in not being swayed, non-intuitive in personal messages of change, unspiritual to new ideas, puts God in a box, an exegete of the text, objectivist in what meaning is, doesn't read between the lines, Colossians 3 means just one thing, context is king, John 8:32 has specific context to unlocking it's continuing and obeying - there is truth that sets free, the laws of God are still in effect, I.e. causality and non-contradiction and use of language and sense perception to name a few, ...

Excellent insights:

1) page 17-18; "He told me he often wonders if God is even real or if this whole Christianity thing is just a crock.”
“What did you tell him?”
“I tried to encourage him. I told him we couldn’t live by sight but by faith; that he’s done a lot of wonderful things for God and he’ll honor that someday. We just have to be faithful and not trust our feelings.”
“So you told him he didn’t have the right to his feelings, or his questions?”
“No, that’s not what I said.”
“Are you sure?” The question was gentle, not accusing.
Taken back, I replayed what I had said to him.
“Understand something, Jake, this life in Jesus is a real thing. It’s not a game. When people sense something’s wrong, you know what I’ve discovered? Something usually is.” “Do you think you helped him?”

2) page 44, “Jake, if you listen to anything else I say, listen to this: Don’t use our conversations to try to change others.

3) Pastors are 'nice people' but when they help build an institution then they are in conflict between building the body of believers and the needs that the institution has. Therefore the authors see an unbridgeable conflict. Whether your are a performer or an attender you will have to respond to this new shift. How do you relate to that institution? What is real discipleship?

4) "Most people live by their illusions. Never let mere appearances become your reality." "The hardest thing you'll learn in this journey is to give up the illusion of controlling your own life" Page: 59, 78

Poor insights:

1) The illusion of John being, perhaps, 2,ooo years old and posturing it in the book even if it is a book of fiction. Make it John from Mosul or John from Cincinnati. That is fiction.
I hope he is not the disciple of Jesus and the one who wrote a few of the books that came to be the new testament, because that John had a problem with faulty information being disseminated to others capriciously.

2) The book said that Jesus hoped or hopes for people. He (Jesus) is "hoping somehow they would find a way out of their self-inflicted souls to recognize who stood among them." This speaks of people being in charge of their destiny and Jesus acquiescing to his creations actions and will.

3) John speaks of Ephesus being excellent in everyway except they didn't have their first love. “I’m not talking about what you’re doing. Are you filled with the love of Jesus like you were the first day you believed in him?”
My take is this is poor theology. Shallow understanding of this passage. Love is not a feeling of your first Jesus experience in this example in Revelation. The passage seeks to remind the 'church' that it is to remember who is Sovereign. Always to the one in whom all things are in control of.

4) this is what the whole thing is about (page 19).
"This life is not some philosophical thought you can conjure up through meditation or some kind of theological abstraction to be debated. It is fullness. It is freedom. It is joy and peace no matter what happens—even if your doctor uses the ‘C’ word when he gives you the results of your MRI. This is the kind of life that he came to share with everyone who will give up trying to control their own lives and embrace his agenda."

5) The mocking regard for who John is in the beginning of the third chapter. Not believably written.
Jake is a rather dense person. Tries to examine himself but seems unskillful at self-examination (what an incisive comment, Bruce.) Prays some and gets angry because nothing happens. Are there people like him? You bet? But I'm getting the strong inclination that this is via the examples of...the family in the hallway at church...that they are embarrassed...yes, this is, maybe, a church of immature church pleasers and wussies but this is not a lampstand dowser. (page 25-26). Page 20 there is more Jake denseness. And on and on it seems.

6) If A equals an accounting and openness person to person; B=accounting and openness to God; scripture has no A but only B according to John in this book.
Answering accountability: Is this true that it is a detriment to God's place of ownership (page 40)? Or a most bogus and fraudulent answer that was given by John? Who said,
"All the accountability in Scripture is linked to God, not to other brothers and sisters. When we hold each other accountable we are really usurping God’s place." (page 40) John's conclusion in the next lines: if it isn't working perfectly groups should be jettisoned entirely; group think is anti God.

Well, below are some refutations of this silliness.

* judges are accountable to the constitution, state statute's and the people and likewise the Christian has obligations and connections to others, culturally, socially, spiritually and not to be subject only to God.
* Scripture gives us guidelines to keep from getting "way out there"; which includes accounting and connecting to, amazingly, people.
* If all moral accountings are ultimately relative to only each individuals discretion and to God which he can’t see -- if there is no objective accountability to others -- John makes it is a most solitary affair and a most deconstructionist attack on Christian basics. For this is not the history of normative doctrine.
* Stewardship concepts: When it can be observed that a whole lot of folks are going spiritually weird; you are supposed to do what?... Well, these folks found themselves unequipped to deal with the hardship and tribulation that inevitably faces every believer. They become ineffectual and disenchanted Christians. But they should look to God only.
* Some are not sunk by hardship, but by success. At the pinnacle of their ministries they get involved in sexual immorality, misappropriate funds, or simply turn into jerks and numbskulls (Jake.) But nothing should be done to stop it, only God -- John says. Reductio ad absurdum.
* boundary makers and keepers are deliberated thru others. * Concerning the ability of checking the weirdness meter; who checks it for you? You have to be visible to another person. One has to be available for disclosure of their moral habits and challenges.
* Paul said to Ephesus that we were to be subject, mutually, one to the other.
* if you have a healthy sense of vulnerability you will be aware of the need to be accountable. You are then transparent about your liabilities and limitations as a human being. Vulnerability takes courage. As well as a humbleness.
* This is a dangerous allegation to not be real to men but only to Jesus. They are espousing ‘spirituality’ as an icon of self contained power. (Though I like Johns idea and would prefer it in my own life I have come to know that it is a lie.)
* Confess your sins to each other to be healed.
* an immune system and the wisdom of a firewall are both analogies of giving an account for your life to others by virtue of God being at work in you.
* [Jake's definition on being accountable and having standards] -- “it helps people try to live better, doesn’t it?” “It looks like that,” John shook his head and let out a deep sigh. “But it doesn’t work. We’re not changed by the promises we make to God, but by the promises he makes to us." (40)
* Retreats, by the way, are not the answer or are they effective for most people in attaining any measure of freedom or a means of moral convictions lived well. These are the conclusions of what John says.

7) Does this quote make a bit of sense?
“That’s the worst part of religious thinking. It takes our best ambitions and uses them against us. People who are trying to be more godly actually become more captive to their appetites and desires. That’s exactly what happened to Eve. She just wanted to be like God, which is also exactly what God wants for us. It wasn’t what she wanted that got her in trouble, but that she relied on her own strength to get her there." I'm still thinking about this, but I think John jumped the shark and has gone into the ridiculous. It has nothing to do with just relying on God's strength. But a boundary marker not being crossed.

8) The authors here give Paul (the New Testament guy) new additional information for his portfolio in how to know God. New doctrine, so to say. Here John opens the back door to let the new ooze of freedom flow thru. John addresses the idea that their is no fallen nature to mankind now. If we trust Him we will be like Him. John makes no distinction between Paul’s pre-salvation and post-redemptive stages he writes about. He implies that Paul was anti-law (all law) and sought to tell his fledgling 'church' that ethical transcendent values have nothing to do with God and his attributes for us today.

“Paul recognized there are three roads in this life, when most of us only recognize two. We tend to think of our lives as a choice between doing bad and doing good. Paul saw two different ways we could try to do good—one makes us work hard to submit to God’s rules. That one fails every time. Even when he described himself as following all of God’s rules externally, he also called himself the worst sinner alive because of the hate and anger in his heart. Sure he could conform his outward behavior to fit the rules, but it only pushed his problems deeper. He was, you remember, out killing God’s people in God’s name.”
“Paul is talking about religion—man’s effort to appease God by his own work. If we do what he wants he will be good to us, and if we don’t then bad things will happen in our lives. On its best day, this approach will allow us to be smugly self-righteous which is a trap all its own. On its worst days it will heap guilt upon us greater than we can bear. Your ‘New Testament principles’ are just another way of living to the law. You’re still caught up in the process of trying to get God to reward you for doing good.”
“So trying to do good can be a bad thing?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“If you go about it that way, yes. But Paul saw another way to live in God’s life that was so engaging it transformed his entire life. He knew that our failures all result from the fact that we just don’t trust God to take care of us. As Paul grew to know God better, he discovered that he could trust God’s love for him. The more he grew to trust God’s love, the freer he was from those desires that consumed him. Only by trusting Jesus can anyone experience this kind of freedom and those who know him do. It is real freedom.”
“Won’t people just use that for an excuse to do whatever feels good and ignore what God wants?”
“Sure some will. Many already have. But those who really know who God is will want to be like him.”
(that, I’m afraid to say, is the bogyman Gnosticism raising it‘s fateful head again.)

9) The authors establish here that God has no standards and systems that we need to comply with. No ethics for man and no justice required by God. God gave away his justice and there is a newer and more improved God acting and transmitting His information today. The book makes Jake a naive dufous.. But stating that him doesn't make what he understands about Gods eternal attributes to be nonsense. Jake might be slow to apprehend his deeper growth potential but he still may know right from wrong and these verities never change.

“[Jake] We have to have a standard, though, so people can know what that is.” That’s when he dropped the bombshell that exploded every remaining preconception I had of this Christian life.
“Jake, when are you going to get past the mistaken notion that Christianity is about ethics?”
What? "I looked up at him and could not get one coherent thought from my brain to my mouth. If it isn’t about ethics, what is it about? I had been raised all of my life to believe that Christianity was an ethic for life that would earn me a place in God’s heart (only half true). I didn’t even know where to put this last statement, but he seemed content just to let it hang there."
Finally I found something to say. “I don’t even know how to respond to that. I’ve lived my whole life in Christ thinking this was all about ethics.”
Jake may not quite get what ethics is but John should. A strong moral compass is what you get when you are born a second time and continue in the disciplining process of Christ. Why does man always prefer to change Him from what He is into a more similar representation of what we wish Him to be?

10) The authors say everything you learned about Christian disciplines is wrong and is the opposite of what you should be doing. Sort of a 'doing-nondoing' duality. You' all have it backwards. John must be very wise. But his assertions are utterly without evidence.
“That’s where you have it backward, Jake. We don’t get his love by living up to his standards. We find his love in the most broken place of our lives. As we let him love us there and discover how to love him in return, we’ll find our lives changing in that relationship.” “How can that be?” Don’t we have to walk away from sin to know him?” “Walking toward him is walking away from sin. The better you know him the freer from it you will be. But you can’t walk away from sin, Jake. Not in your own strength! Everything he wants to do in you will get done as you learn to live in his love. “It sounds so easy when you say it, John. But learning to live that way would be the opposite of everything I’ve been taught.”

11) You guys and gals are missing it entirely John says.
“And that is why you’re missing it. You’re so caught up in a system of reward and punishment that you’re missing the simple relationship he wants to have with you.”

12) The authors new definition of sin and how to be free from it.

"Every act of sin results from your mistrust of his love and intentions for you. We sin to fill up broken places, to try to fight for what we think is best for us, or by reacting to our guilt and shame. Once you discover how much he loves you, all that changes. As you grow in trusting him, you will find yourself increasingly free from sin.”

(Is there any more the authors can say and pile on about the muddled and depressing nature of this church in Kingston.)

13) John who said that standards of ethics don't matter (Ch. 7,8,9,10) and that even practicing good can be bad. There are no ethics in Christianity therefore no truths which matter. So...why would he say this? Oops, John shouldn't be bothered with ethics as he trusted Jesus.
But he said, in page 51, “Or just tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may. It seems to me you’re not being asked to choose between Jim or Ben but between the truth and a lie.” Would you betray the truth just to hold onto a paycheck?”

If standards and ethics are not about Christianity, as John said, then why the need for an ethical decision here? John jumped the shark. Which is becoming the case about every other page.

some of my standards: you must keep yourself learning, teachable, firm on convictions, precise, accurate, integrating, virtues growing, lovely, truthful, meek (controlled strength), ...

14) More erroneous derivatives of the whole truth:

· “Scripture doesn’t use the language of need when talking about the vital connection God establishes between believers. Our dependency is in Jesus alone!" 53
· "Religion survives by telling us we need to fall in line or some horrible fate will befall us." 53
· "And that life isn’t fighting over control of the institution, but simply helping each other learn to live deeply in him."
· John says we even use things like ‘doctrinal unity’ to control people by stifling any disagreement. [Would John say that Jesus was having a bad day when he said to the Sanhedrin's leaders that they "...were not the children of Abraham." To much doctrinal judgmentalism and saber rattling for John's taste, I would assume.]

15) John talks of just loving, that is all you need. He talks of this selfish controlling institution and those church people who sustain the system. But he tells Jake that it is just fine if you are selfish but to learn from the messes you make. If you hurt people, no one is perfect. Carry on.
“Whether or not you make a mess of things really isn’t the issue, is it? Neither is being certain. You can only be responsible to do what you think is best. If you make a mistake you will see it in time and learn from it. At least you’ll learn to be more dependent on him than on this thing you call church. No one is perfect, Jake, and when you give up trying to look like you are, then you’ll be free to follow him." 54

16) The authors contend in the book that Jesus “became sin itself.” I feel like I'm harping endlessly and am quite discouraged by the waves of ‘new truths in this book. But this statement is crucial to the very nature of who God is. Can He, God, become sinful? Well, He can pay the penalty for it, He can step in and take the place of another but can He be the sin? No. No. No. God is not now or never has been sin stained, as if he were the actual doer of the deed; god sins. You could say, He "became" the punishment so we would not have to become the punished. (Is my test this professor is giving me over yet?)

17) John is failing to understand the fallacy of the false dilemma or excluded middle. Love or justice is John's seeming choice and he chooses love. That naughty old testament god is gone for good in Jesus. Nice try but John would be cast off the 'who-is-God' game show, for the answer John gives is not right. It is both. God is not one or the other but are both a part of His very being. Jesus dealt with questions like these in the 4 gospels that the questioner made it seem like there were only choices between two options. Jesus said to them, no, there was another choice they hadn't thought of or brought to the dialogue.
Another example would be the conundrum of the biblical notions of freedom or determinism. Many would say there are just these two choices. But not so fast. There are not just two but more distinctions that must be brought into play. And so on.
If I was to say that all manufacturing jobs are going to China would I be correct? No, I wouldn't.


This book wars against both, common and spiritual sense.

This book gives us a place called "The Stepford Church of Kingston" where unconscious slavish automatons go about their daily lives in a haze of constrained tyranny and hidden fascistic tendencies.

Chuck Colson said, "Human beings have an infinite capacity for self-deception." That my friend, is a real Colson.

Bruce Harkins

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Power or Truth?

2 pieces in this series

1. Chimera's and looking for demons in India - is it about Power or Truth?
2. What does subtle, crafty, cunning, sensible, shrewd and prudent mean?

When I was listening to someone who spent time in India he described a lot about what I would consider well-meaning but overly zealous Christians from America looking for demons in India. As a matter of fact, the local Christians in India were concerned because it bothered them, that Americans thought they knew where they were. Certainly there is demonic activity there and it needs to be dealt with, but there isn't a demon under every bush even in India. Some of the team would come back from the field and tell how they cast out demons. The speaker asked how they knew the person was demonized and they said they "could see it in their eyes." Maybe a person is demonized, but it seems to me that it's very difficult to know what to look for in a person's eyes to know if there's a demon in there. Were their eyes big? Were they wild-eyed? Is it possible to have wild eyes and big eyes without being demonized?

What is an unclean spirit?

Now a very easy way to resolve this problem and find out what a demonized person looks like is to go through the Gospels and the book of Acts. There are a number of illustrations where we see demons being cast out. In the process we are given details of what that person looked like. Some were mutilating themselves. Others were living in a bizarre fashion, like living in the tombs. Others were speaking with strange voices or were clairvoyant and had supernatural information. Others were called unclean spirits which referred to their foul sexual references and filthy language. Others were being thrown down into the fire in epileptic fits. There was one case where one person was mute because of the demon. What you can do by simply going through the text and finding these illustrations is make a simple list of the characteristics of demon possession. I'm not suggesting that this is exhaustive, there may be other characteristics. But at least it gives you something biblical to begin working with before you start claiming that people are filled with demons.

Our operations manual

Most of the times that people tell me that they think someone is demon possessed it usually means that this person was just basically weird so they assume that there is a demon living inside them. My appeal is to simply judge these things with biblical criteria. If we have a guideline and have listed eight or twelve things and see somebody with one of those things it may not mean that they're demon possessed; but if we see someone with five or six or seven of these characteristics, well it's a pretty safe call that there's a demon in them and we'll know what to do. My conviction is that most people who are weird are not demon possessed, they're just weird. Christians throughout history have not dealt with spiritual warfare in this fashion.

I'm not contending that there is no spiritual warfare; there's intense conflict in the heavenlies. The issue is how do we fulfill our soldierly duties; how do we take part in the battle? For that we must go back to the text, to our operations manual. It's hard to imagine a time of history that was more demonic than the Third Reich. During the Third Reich two Christians who stood out more than anyone else were Dietrich Bonhoffer and Martin Niemuller. These men stood in the gap and proclaimed the truth. They didn't bind and loose. They didn't cast out demons. They didn't plead the blood over the nation of Germany or over the guns of the Allies. They spoke the truth.

Truth encounter or power encounter?

I am convinced in my assessment of Scripture, and I've looked carefully through the New Testament on this issue, that spiritual warfare is not principally a power encounter but a truth encounter. I have in front of me maybe fifteen or twenty different verses that talk about the weapon that Christians wield in spiritual warfare. The principle verse as far as I'm concerned is 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 and the verse says this, "For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses." Many people read that and they look for their Holy Ghost machine gun to shoot out great balls of fire at the enemy. It's usually accomplished by using a certain type of, what's in my mind, an incantation. Say the right words of binding and loosing and pleading the blood of Christ and you've done the job.

But what does Paul describe in 2 Corinthians? He doesn't describe that kind of thing. He says something entirely different. He continues, "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." Paul is saying that speculations are destroyed against the knowledge of God by taking thoughts captive.

20 texts on how the True God wants us to battle

You never see Paul binding and losing. In fact, he avoids encounters in the book of Acts and when he does he deals with it in a word. But I see all through the text words about the True God. There are phrases about "true knowledge" in Colossions 2 and 3. Then in 2 Peter two references to "true knowledge." "True grace" in 1 Peter 5. "True light" in 1 John 2. "Sound doctrine" in Titus 1 and 2. In 2 Timothy, "Retain the standard of sound words." "Holding fast to sound doctrine," Titus 1:9-11. In 1 Timothy 1. "sound teaching with which we have been entrusted." Titus 1:9, "the faithful words and exhorting in sound doctrine." Titus 2:1, "sound doctrine." Titus 2:7, "the purity of doctrine." Ephesians 4, "renewing in the spiritual of our mind." Romans 12:2, "transformed by the renewing of our minds."

Time and time again the Apostles hammer away at us that the way to do spiritual conflict is to use true knowledge. Spiritual warfare is not power encounters, my friends. It is truth encounters. It is really very easy to resolve these problem. First, what are the disciplines specifically teaching in the Scripture? Second, how do we see these disciplines actually practiced by the disciples, or do we even see them at all?

What we do see is the disciples in the process of doing effective work and teaching us sound doctrine. But do the Apostles bind and loose, pray against territorial demons, free people from generational bondage and demonic influence, plead the blood over inanimate objects, cast out demons for different maladies or sins? No. Is this possible but not recorded? Not likely. What is the standard? Is it a spiritual discipline? Is it necessary according to the teaching and the example of the text? The answer is no.

If you want to know, you've got to do the study in the text. Sound doctrine is not as easy as adopting an idea from a T.V. prophet or a charismatic Holy Ghost revivalist and then starting to sling spiritual darts back at the devil. It involves spending time to know the truth. You're not going to get a quick fix from a book on the rack. It's got to be a life's commitment. But without that kind of commitment your life will be spent tilting at windmills.

Do you want to grow? Peter says, "Long for the pure milk of the Word in order that by it you may grow with respects to salvation."

Chimera's and warring with Quixote Windmills

Here's the problem with challenging windmills. First, we fight the battle where the battle isn't. Have you heard the joke,"What if they gave a war and nobody showed up?" One's establishing a war footing and nobody's showing up for the real battle. Second, we aren't placing our forces precisely where the battle is waging: the battle for our minds over the issue of truth. Third, in the process of jousting at his imaginary dragons, Quixote got beat up by the windmill, wounded, disabled. Sometimes we get so beat up jousting at chimeras that we are unable to do real battle.

Like Quixote, and I can't fault the sentiment, this is a divine quest; but like Quixote many of us are jousting at imagined enemies; like Quixote, and this is very unfortunate, there is often disdain or condescension for those who do not see what they think is plainly before their own eyes.
I talk like this and people say, "Poor me, his great learning has driven him mad. He's using his mind too much. He ought to get into the spiritual realm of things." Well, friends, I will. Chapter and verse. My chapter and verse says "renew your mind." That's how you'll know truth from error.

2. What does subtle, crafty, cunning, sensible, shrewd and prudent mean?

"Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1, NKJ)

In its first use in Genesis 3:1 the original King James Version rendered the word ‘ârûwm, "subtil", like the French, Middle French soutil, Middle English sotil/sutil and Latin subtilis - literally sub + tela, referring to the cloth on a loom and having to do with weaving. So it involved craft in the sense of manufacture rather than craft in the sense of cleverness or craftiness. Yet this is where craftiness comes from, cleverness and ability and design.

Of the 11 occurrences of ‘ârûwm (Strong's #6175) just the one is rendered "subtil", the remainder are covered by "prudent" x8 and "crafty" x2 in the KJV whilst the NAS translates 3 of them as "sensible" and 1 as "shrewd" and chooses "crafty" here. The Latin Vulgate translated it as callidior "crafty", in this instance, a word deriving from callere "to be thick-skinned, hardened, practiced", and from which we derive "callous" and the rarely used word "callid".

So is the serpent "crafty", "sensible", "subtle", or just good at needlework? It was certainly able to "weave" a good tale and convince Eve to doubt God. The root verb ‘âram (Strong's #6191) can be taken two ways. It only occurs 5 times, twice in Proverbs (15:5; 19:25) where it is used to good intent and twice in 1 Samuel 23:22 where the import is negative as it is in Psalm 83:3 [Heb.v4]. It can mean "to uncover" or "make naked", or "make manifest", which is exactly what the serpent ultimately did, finally causing the most famous fig-leaf "cover-up" of all time once Adam and Eve realized their nakedness.

Indeed, the Hebrew wordplay between Genesis 3:1 and the preceding verse 2:25, given that the chapter and verse divisions are not original, portrays the full contrast between Adam and Eve's, "And they were both naked...", innocence, rendered by the Hebrew ‘ârôwm (Strong's #6174) and the following "naked nastiness" of the serpent described by ‘ârûwm ).

Jesus told his sheep to be serpents

Apart from Genesis 3:1 every other reference to ‘ârûwm is found in either Job or Proverbs. In Job, probably older than Proverbs and more contemporary with the writing of Genesis (to some traditional scholars, at least), the word is generally negative referring to the "devices of the crafty" (Job 5:12) and the "tongue of the crafty" (Job 15:5). By contrast, every reference in Proverbs (12:16, 23; 13:16; 14:8, 15, 18; 22:3; 27:12) is positive and is more appropriately translated as "prudent" or "wise". Indeed, had Eve the same ‘ârûwm as the serpent she would have followed Solomon's advice "A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself; The simple pass on and are punished." (22:3; 27:12) and hidden herself from the serpent's cunning rather than from God's coming.

Curiously, Jesus commands his disciples to be as "cunning as serpents and as innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16), using the same Greek word as used to translate ‘ârûwm in the Greek Septuagint Old Testament of Genesis 3:1

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What does Mathew 18 really mean

What does Mathew 18 really say?

By far, the favorite doctrine of all Word of Faith teachers, used over and over again by those asking for money to fund their organizations, is claimed to be found in Matthew 18:19 where the following is stated:
"Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven." (NAS)

The claim is made that if two or more Christians agree about a specific issue, then whatever that issue might be, when stated to God in faith as a prayer request, it must be accomplished by God according to the wishes of the believers. This is claimed to be the Prayer of Agreement or "bringing our faith into agreement with yours" or "releasing the power of the prayer of agreement." When used by the leadership of Word of Faith organizations, it is stated that they and their associates or organization will agree with the prayer requests that are made known to them, and that the power of their Prayer of Agreement with those requests will cause those requests to be fulfilled by God, according to what they claim is stated in Matthew 18:19. This is a remarkable claim and, if it is true, would place tremendous power into the hands of Christians worldwide. However, is the Prayer of Agreement what Matthew 18:19 actually teaches? The premise sounds so good and is based on the Scripture, so how could anyone disagree with that teaching? The difficulty with the Scriptural foundation is that many Word of Faith teachers base their doctrines on "proof" texts which they claim support their beliefs. In many instances the single verse provided appears to confirm the teaching, but on closer examination it is revealed that the verse has been pulled out of the context in which it was given and the verse is claimed to say what it does not. A fabrication is perpetrated, which covers an ulterior motive by the teacher, and the Scripture is used in order give credibility to what is being taught. This is true in the case of the Prayer of Agreement. Sadly, many people have been deceived by the claims and have expressed disillusionment because of the false promises that have been made, using the doctrine of the Prayer of Agreement as the basis of authority.

Matthew 18:19 is not a verse isolated within itself, because it is part of a group of 6 verses, beginning with Matthew 18:15 and ending with Matthew 18:20. These verses deal with a single subject, are a single unit and comprise a teaching spoken directly by Jesus Christ to His disciples, so it is imperative that leaders present the verses as Jesus Christ intended and taught. If the verses are claimed to teach what they do not, then the teachers are claiming that Jesus Christ was a liar and they are speaking the truth, which assumes that they are of better moral and spiritual character, and have greater understanding than Jesus Christ. This is not acceptable. Verse 19 cannot be separated from that unit of six verses and must be interpreted within the confines of that unit.


1. Verse 19 has NOTHING to do with requests to God by a believer, in relation to health, wealth, happiness or any other aspect or desire in their own life.
2. NO request is made to God by the individuals in the verses.
3. God is NOT asked to agree with or grant any request that is made.
4. The subject of verse 19 is NOT about prayer and prayer is never mentioned.
5. The two persons of verse 19 are NOT individual Christian believers making requests for themselves.


1. It is part of the unit regarding the subject of the DISCIPLINE of sinning Christian believers, introduced in verse 15.
2. There are FOUR people in verse 19, not just 2 - there are people who ASK and people who AGREE. It must be determined:

A. Who are the people who ask?"...about anything that THEY may ask..."The subject of THEY refers back to verses 15, 16, 17 18. Jesus is speaking to His disciples and they are the subject of THEY and are identified in verse 1, "At that time the disciples..."Chapter 18 is entirely dedicated to teaching by Jesus Christ to His disciples. The people who ask are His disciples who are placed in the teaching, as examples, in the roles as leaders of the church.
B. To whom do they make their request?"...that if two of YOU agree..."The subject of YOU refers back to the previous identification in verses 15, 16 and 17. Again, the TWO are the disciples in their example roles as leaders of the church.
C. For what do the people ask?Verses 17 and 18 provide the answer in relation to the sequence of events in verses 15-17. They ask in relation to the sinning brother introduced in verse 15, and their request is for the approval of the means of discipline to be administered by the leadership of the church.
D. To what do they all agree?Verse 19 is the answer, "...that if you agree on earth about anything that they may ask..." It is the request for the type of discipline to be applied against the sinning brother that is to be agreed to by the leadership of the church.

So, when the text is actually read and verse 19 is properly retained and viewed within its context, the passage reveals its true meaning, as it is seen that the unit refers to the method and process by which a sinning Christian is confronted by other Christians and the manner in which church discipline is to be administered by the leadership. There is a specific process and order to be followed when the administration of discipline is found to be necessary.

The order is as follows:
  • Verse 15 - Sin is recognized by a fellow Christian in the life of another Christian, and that person goes to the sinning individual and confronts that individual regarding the sin. If the sinning person repents, all is forgiven and well. If the sinning person does not repent, then:
  • Verse 16 - The fellow Christian is to take ONE or TWO more other Christians and confront the sinning individual again. If the sinning person repents, all is forgiven and well. If the sinning person does not repent, then:
  • Verse 17 - The entire fellowship church is to be told. If the sinning person repents, all is forgiven and well. If the sinning person does not repent, then:
  • Verse 17 - The person is to be exiled from the fellowship of the church. That is the meaning of the binding and loosening on earth (verse 18) that is also taken out of context by Word of Faith and most charismatic teachers. The leadership had the power to exercise discipline and their decision was final when based on the proper application of the disciplinary process. Witnesses were available and testified as to the facts of the case, the words of the sinning Christian were stated and a judiciary decision was made by the leadership of the church, in relation to that person's connection with the fellowship. It was NOT A DECISION IN RELATION TO THE SALVATION OF THE SINNING CHRISTIAN, but only in relation to their association with the fellowship.
  • Verse 18 is a comment by Christ indicating the authority granted to the leadership of the church in relation to establishing the final judgment against the sinning Christian who refuses to repent. Their decision was binding and their authority was just as great as if God had made the same decision in heaven.
  • Verse 19 - The AGREEMENT is in relation to the process employed in verses 15 through 17 that results in the decision to expel the sinning person from the fellowship. A decision was made after meeting with the sinning person by the TWO individuals who accompanied the first Christian to confront the sinning believer. Their decision was in regards to the disciplinary measures to be applied to the sinning believer. These TWO individuals then made a request, based on the decision that they made (verse 19), to the other TWO individuals mentioned in the text, the leaders of the fellowship, who are the ones that must AGREE (verse 19) about what the other TWO have ASKED in relation to what disciplinary measures should be taken against the sinning believer.

It is the TWO Christians (who confront the sinning believer) who ASK, and it is the two DISCIPLES (the leadership of the church), who must AGREE as to what was asked by the other two. If the principles of discipline were followed correctly and the DISCIPLES (the leadership of the church) agreed as to what the request for discipline required, then the request was granted, applied and carried the same weight as if it had been spoken in heaven by God, based on the authority given to the DISCIPLES in verse 18, regarding the binding and loosening. The binding is the discipline applied and the loosening is the discipline removed when the sinning believer repents and is restored to the fellowship.

So, it is the two or more Christians who ASK the leadership of the church to exercise a certain type of discipline against a sinning believer, and it is the leadership of the church who must AGREE as to how appropriate the request for discipline is, in relation to the sinning believer. If the leadership AGREES with what the two or more Christians ASK, then the discipline is applied.

There is NO Prayer of Agreement being taught in these verses. In fact, there is no prayer noted or described at any point in the entire passage. The two or more Christians do not ASK in relation to requests for themselves, but in relation to disciplinary measures to be applied against a sinning believer. The leadership are the ones to AGREE, but they must AGREE, not in relation to personal requests by the two or more believers, but as to the propriety of the request for discipline which the two or more Christians had ASKED in relation to the sinning believer.

Those Christians who continue to accept the teaching of Word of Faith leaders at face value, are lacking in discernment, because they do not search the Scriptures to see if what is being taught is truly what is stated in the Scripture. In the case of the Prayer of Agreement, people are deceived by the teaching of Word of Faith leaders, because they willfully refuse to read the Scripture to see what it plainly states. Lack of discernment always leads to self-deception.

It is a dangerous circumstance when teachers misapply the Scripture in order to support their own teachings and attribute to God actions in which He is not involved. Word of Faith leaders, who claim to be anointed teachers and healers who speak for God, deliberately ignore the true message of Matthew 18:15-19, preferring to teach a false message regarding the direct words of Jesus Christ, and by such action reveal themselves to be false teachers. Teaching the Prayer of Agreement from Matthew 18:19 is not just a simple error or difference of interpretation, but it is a deliberate, premeditated and intentional presentation of a falsehood that is claimed to be truth.

God is not forced, and will not be forced, into fulfilling the desires and requests of Christians based on the "power" of some "agreement" between two or any number of persons. If one wishes to believe that He does operate on those principles, then the doctrine must be found elsewhere in the Scripture, because it is not taught in Matthew 18:15-19. Those who use Matthew 18:19 to teach that God grants prayer requests of any type based on the "agreement" of two or more Christians, or that it teaches the release of spiritual power regarding some alleged Prayer of Agreement, deliberately teach false doctrine. The number of religious leaders who teach this doctrine are legion, but among the more recognizable are, Sarah Bowling (daughter of Marilyn Hickey), Morris Cerullo, Kenneth Copeland, Paul Crouch (TBN), Jesse Duplantis, Kenneth Hagin, Marilyn Hickey, Benny Hinn, Oral Roberts, Richard Roberts and R. W. Schambach.

The Prayer of Agreement doctrine fits in very well with the Word of Faith assertion that the words that Christians speak in faith have force and authority that is so powerful that even God must obey the request that is made. It is taught by them that Christians can create a world unto themselves by learning to use faith and words, and assuming the right faith and the right words are used, God is subject to that faith and to those words. This is seen in the teaching of Kenneth Copeland:

"Those things are governed by law and the thing that governs those laws are words, say it with me, we've been saying it in our daytime class 'faith filled words', say that, 'faith filled words dominate the laws of death', now say it again 'faith filled words dominate the laws of death'."
Kenneth Copeland's teaching states that there are certain laws that are superior to God, one of those laws being faith. In fact, the law of faith is so superior, that God had to use faith to create the universe, according to Kenneth Copeland. When it is seen how things begin to tie together in Word of Faith doctrine, then the logical conclusion is inescapable. If there are laws that are superior to God, and Christians can learn how to use those laws, then Christians can at least cause God to supply every want and need, and at best those Christians can become gods themselves, possibly even being superior to the God of the Bible.

Leaving the theological nuances of those doctrines aside and dealing with the practical aspects of Word of Faith teaching, it becomes quite apparent how the system operates. The core is the Prayer of Agreement doctrine. If God is subject to the law of faith and to the law of words, then Christians, agreeing with each other, praying in faith with the right words, can make God into a spiritual genie in which every desire must be fulfilled by Him. When coupled with the "Seed Faith" doctrine, in which money given to a Word of Faith ministry will activate the faith used in the Prayer of Agreement, and the money given will be multiplied and returned to the giver many times over, then the reality of the goal is seen. The ulterior motive behind the teaching of the Prayer of Agreement doctrine is to obtain money from adherents. Money is the goal and heart of virtually every Word of Faith "ministry". Adapted from Gary A. Hand.

Cured by another poison

Cured By Another Poison

1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Corinthians 12:7

24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
7To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

A Devil

I do believe there is a devil. I probably do not assign to Satan the power that others may credit to him. Satan is a fallen angel, not a fallen deity. I do not believe Satan is ubiquitous (omnipresent), nor omnipotent, nor omniscient. The Bible tells me that if I resist him he will flee James 4:7); that greater is He who is in me that he who is in the world (1 John 4:4); that I am not to give him a foothold (topon—place or opportunity) in my life; and that the means by which I deny him that foothold is by not giving into my own sins (Paul gives the examples of lying, anger, stealing, unwholesome words, etc.; see Ephesians 4:25-29). It would be wise of us not to overestimate or underestimate the power of the devil.
I reiterate, I do believe there is a devil. The Bible teaches that he is a as a roaring lion, walking about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Since Satan is not ubiquitous, I don’t think that when we consider ourselves being attacked by him that we actually have his personal attention; perhaps we have the attention of one of his multitude of demons (Revelation 12:4). Nonetheless, there is a devil. He is the father of lies (John 8:44), the accuser (Revelation 12:10), the source of great evil, and one who seeks to disrupt the lives of God’s children.

Heightened Sense of Attack

Since the devil is not omniscient, omnipotent, or omnipresent, it is reasonable to conclude that his attacks come in waves. Although it would be almost impossible to discern which enemy (the Bible speaks of three, the world, the flesh and the devil) is at the fore of any particular dilemma, there are times when there seems to be a heightened sense of attack—what I call ‘peak season for sin and disaster’.
This heightened sense of attack might be a single dark and disastrous event, or a series of events, that make you think you’re somehow in the devil’s crosshairs. You might find yourself the victim of illness, accidents, gossip, financial disaster, increased temptation, you name it! These are the types of things that can be paralyzing when it comes to boldly advancing the word of God (Acts 4:29). These are the types of things that make us feel weak and ill-equipped. I remember going through a period like this many years ago just prior to a speaking engagement. I had to address 200 men on how to be better husbands. I remember feeling like that was the last place in the world I wanted to be. So what do we make of these seasons in our lives? Are we being punished for disobedience? Is Satan angry with us because we do not give him the credit he deserves? Is God angry? Should this launch us into a period of introspection and self-examination to find out just what it is about us, or what is wrong with us that we would be the target of such difficult times? Are there mystical and magical prayers, incantations, or disciplines that I’ve been neglecting in order to ward off the devil?

I believe self-examination is a healthy thing (Psalm 139:23, 24). And certainly, since sin has consequences, we might seek to determine if our current difficulties are related to specific transgressions on our part. People who lie and steal shouldn’t think it an odd thing to lose friends. But it may be none of these types of things.

Does Job Fear God For Nothing?

One possible reason for difficulties is that God is demonstrating that the truly faithful are truly faithful by His grace and not because of His circumstantial comforts. In Job we read of the Lord saying something to Satan in regard to Job that we hope He will never say in regard to us.
8 Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil."
9 "Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. 10 "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face."
12 The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

Not Always A Judgment

First of all we see that this eliminates the idea that difficult times are necessarily the judgments of God on unrighteousness. By God’s own definition Job is "blameless and upright" (Job 1:8). I don’t know how many of us God would say that about, but it is comforting to know that the difficulties we incur are not necessarily a result of God’s judgment upon us.

Why Do We Fear God?

Secondly, we learn here that God will test people to determine and refine the substance of true faith. In doing so, God brings glory to His own name because the faith we have is His gift to us (Hebrews 12:2). Why do people truly fear God? Why do we continue to walk in faith? Is it because of the things God gives us? Are we faithful because of the creature comforts with which we are surrounded? Are some faithful simply because they are stronger or more righteous than others? One of the most detestable heresies permeating our current Christian culture is the ‘name it and claim it’ or 'faith is a force' cult. This brand of quasi-Christianity promises both health and material prosperity to those who are truly faithful and no the secrets of how to have authority. The promise of health and wealth and healing is used to attract its members, and the subsequent lack of same is, no doubt, a main cause of its attrition.

So during our trial we must ask ourselves why we fear God or why we walk in faith. If God were to remove our every sense of comfort, our every source of joy, our job, our families, our health and any sense of well-being, could Satan say to God in regard to you and me "Does Paul fear God for nothing?" One commentary suggests, Satan responded by attacking Job’s motives: Does Job fear God for nothing? "For nothing" is rendered "without any reason" Because Satan could not deny God’s assessment of Job’s godliness, he questioned why Job was pious. The accuser suggested that Job was serving God not out of love but only because of what he got from God in return. If Job’s rewards were removed, out would go his reverence.

No Mood to be Faithful

Some of us are barely hanging in there on many occasions and for a variety of situations. The commentary continues, Satan’s subtle suggestion that worship is basically 'a selfish pursuit' hits at the heart of man’s relationship to God. The Book of Job does more than raise the question of the suffering of the righteous. It also, through Satan’s words, deals with the motives for godly living. Will anyone serve the LORD if he enjoys no personal gain from it? Is worship a coin - a credit card - that buys a heavenly reward? Is piety part of a contract by which to gain wealth and ward off trouble? Satan suggested that if God removed His protecting hedge around Job and removed everything he owned, then Job would curse God. Job, Satan claimed, would no longer insert his coins of worship if nothing came out of the machine. Job, in other words, was worshiping for selfish reasons. This accusation also attacked the integrity of God, for it suggested that the only way He can get people to worship Him is to promise them harmony or wealth. Perhaps this indictment against His character is one of the reasons God let Satan buffet Job. Surely God knew Job’s heart, but He used Job as a demonstration to silence Satan. In addition, God wanted to deepen Job’s spiritual insight. Not an easy or enjoyable endeavor for Job. But God was honored and Job was refined—and the devil made it all possible. We learn here that God can use the devil to accomplish in us what we are incapable of accomplishing on our own. The devil, like the ungodly king of Assyria (Isaiah 10), is an apparatus in the hand of God. In a moment I will seek to demonstrate how the devil is a profitable utensil in the hand of God, but first I would bring our attention to the Christians’ call to be holy (1 Peter 1:15).

Be Ye Holy

As a Christian, we are called to be holy. We are to play an active role in our growth—our own sanctification or holiness. We are called to put off the deeds of old man and put on the new (Colossians 3:8; Ephesians 4:20-24). We are called to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Paul uses the illustration of an athlete: Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Paul states that he buffets his body and makes it his slave. To buffet means to handle roughly and in a servile (slavish) manner. The Greek word (hupopiazo) means to beat black and blue, to smite so as to cause bruises and livid spots. Like a boxer one buffets his body and makes it do what it ought to do. This is to be an aggressive action on our part. The call to holiness is a two-fold call: it includes the avoidance of transgressing God’s law and the pursuit of obeying God’s law. The athlete doesn’t just avoid doing wrong things, the athlete must also do right things in order to win the contest. In this battle the Christian seeks to avoid the evils of selfishness, ungodly anger, lust, gossip, outburst, laziness, stealing, etc. The Christian also pursues that which God call us to. We are to study His word (2 Timothy 2:15 and fellowship with His saints (Hebrews 10:25), etc. And we are to engage this pursuit of holiness, as Jesus taught, with all "your heart, with all our soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30b NKJV).

But we, more than not, find that our own pursuits of our own holiness woefully inadequate. It is for this reason, God’s desire to make us holy, that He reaches into His toolbox and produces one of His most effective contraptions, the devil.

God’s Instrument—The Devil

Paul wrote of buffeting his body. Though a sinful man, he had overcome so much: dangers, tortures, and other evils. He had triumphed over multiple enemies of Christ, had driven away even the fear of death (Philippians 1:21), had renounced the world. But there was a trait—that most evil of traits—that Paul’s own buffeting couldn’t cure. He could not subdue that baneful quality of pride. What medicine would the reat physician use to cure Paul of the deadly disease of pride? Paul would be cured by another poison.

Cured By Another Poison

We have a medicine in our society called ‘antibiotic’. ‘Anti’ means against, ‘biotic’ refers to life. It is a medicine that is against life—it kills. There are many such medications (such as chemotherapy) which might cause great destruction to the body in order for the healing to take lace. We see in this next passage that what Paul could not accomplish in his own disciplines, God accomplished for him. Paul’s temptation to exalt himself was due to wonderful and godly things God had revealed to him.
And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me to keep me from exalting myself! (2 Corinthians 12:7)

Again we see buffeting. And although the actually word for buffet in this passage (kolaphizo) is not the exact same word used earlier, the idea is the same—to maltreat, or treat with violence. When Paul became ineffective at buffeting himself, God sent one who would strike him with greater effectiveness. The obvious question (one that is seldom asked when this passage is quoted) is what concern Satan has with the humility of Paul.

Why would Satan wish to keep Paul humble?

Obviously, Satan’s motivation was not to humble Paul but to destroy Paul—to ruin his ministry and, if possible, his life. But, my brothers and sisters, Satan can not ruin our lives. He can only tempt us not to trust God. But we, like Paul, must learn that the grace of God is sufficient," for His "strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV) And we must learn this—and this is of critical importance—that Satan is the poison by which God cures. As Augustine stated, "the poison of pride... cannot be cured except by poison."

Calvin states,
But what does this mean -- that Satan, who was a man slaver from the beginning was a physician to Paul, and that too, not merely in the ure of the body, but -- what is of greater importance -- the cure of the soul? I answer, that Satan, in accordance with his disposition and custom, had nothing else in view than to kill and to destroy, and that the goad, that Paul makes mention of, was dipped in deadly poison; but that it as a special kindness from the Lord, to render medicinal what was in its own nature deadly. Similarly, after Joseph was mistreated by his brothers, sold into slavery, endured false accusations and imprisonment understood who was ultimately in control.

And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive (Genesis 50:20).
And cannot the same thing be said of the cross itself? Were not the events of the cross both the deadliest poison and the greatest cure? It was the devil’s plan to destroy (Luke 22:3); the actions of Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles and the people of Israel standing "against" God’s "holy Servant Jesus" (cf. Acts 4:27). Was there ever a more poisonous conspiracy? But it was all God’s "predetermined purpose" (cf. Acts 4:28) to save the souls of the lost and bring glory to His own Name.


In conclusion, let us take to heart that God is forming Christ-likeness in us (Galatians 4:19). And the holy dispositions that trials, even from the hand of Satan produce in us are something that we could never produce in ourselves. I remember standing before the brothers and sharing how husbands ought to love their wives. I remember a special sense of brokenness—one that my own personal disciplines could not accomplish. This was God’s design in terms of my disposition. This is how He wanted me to feel when I stood before the audience. And though it may have been the employment of Satan that brought these discomforts to me, it was ultimately the design of my Father in heaven - not only consoling, but encouraging. We may never, in this life, find out what it is that God is working in us through these trials. But that doesn’t matter. We know that He is working. And as C.S. Lewis stated, "We don’t need to know what vitamins are in the meal for the meal to nourish us, we need merely eat the meal."
The practical application for me at the end of the day is simple. Study, prepare, and go on and give the day it's due; no matter how many hound dogs bark at the moon, it doesn’t keep the moon from its course. It should be the same with you and me. It is our Father who owns the world and all it contains (Psalm 24:1). Satan, as far as you and I are concerned, is to be considered a scalpel of the hand of God. The only disaster is when that defeated foe, through his lies and subtlety, briefly wins a battle by tempting God’s children to depart from their present course of trusting Christ and pursuing holiness.

Adapted from a piece by, Paul Viggiano

Monday, February 22, 2010

Imitation: 5 steps to embarking into Satan's subtlety

3 pieces in this series

1. Imitation: 5 steps to embarking into Satan's subtlety
2. Spiritual Counterfeits
3. Defining Discernment

Imitation: 5 steps to embarking into Satan's subtlety

In Bruce Walke’s Old Testament Theology he writes about man’s fall into sin and discusses the way Satan’s first temptation took shape. He suggests that this original act of temptation is an archetype of sorts. All of the temptation that would follow through the long line of human experience would mimic this one. Satan tempted the second human being in the same way he tempts the 20 billionth (or whatever I happen to be). It is not just Satan who works in this way, though, but all human beings. We are prone to following Satan in luring others into sin in the same way.

Here are five steps to leading another person into sin.

Be a theologian with a twist. There is little doubt that Satan is a theologian, and a skilled and outspoken one at that. He has had a very long time to study God and, as a leader among angels, once enjoyed free access to him and close communion with him. Satan knows God and knows about the character of God. But unlike the theologians we seek to be, Satan is a theologian who despises God with every bit of his being. When he turns to Eve and says, “Did God really say…?” he brings Eve into a dialogue that opens her mind to a new realm of possibility, one she would not have thought of on her own. He knows God well enough to know what God has said and done.
But there is more. Satan is not only a student of God but also of men. From the moment God first spoke of man, Satan must have been watching and observing. Knowing that man was the crown of creation, Satan was surely looking for an opening, a way to destroy this jewel. He became a student of the ways of men. As a theologian, a psychologist and an anthropologist, Satan has unique skill at leading men astray.

Turn commands into question begging. Satan takes the command of God and rephrases it as a question. “Did God really say?” What was a clear statement suddenly becomes hazy. Posing as a theologian he asks, “Are you sure about this, or is this only Adam’s testimony as to what God said? Are you sure? How do you know? Is this really a command? Can we discuss this a little bit? Is it possible that you misinterpreted what God said? Is it possible that there is some context here we’ve ignored?” Waltke says, “Within the framework of faith, these questions are proper and necessary, but when they are designed to lead us away from the simplicity of childlike obedience, they are wrong.” And so we see Satan raising questions of interpretation and authority necessarily designed to create doubt and confusion and to lead away from the simplicity of a childlike obedience.

Emphasize the one prohibition over abundant freedom. Satan carefully and deliberately distorts, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden” into “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” He overlooks the great freedom God gave Adam and Eve and instead overstates the one prohibition. He gets Eve to focus on the prohibition rather than the gift and the freedom. Instead of focusing on the Tree of Life, from which she was free to eat, and on the millions of other trees available to her, Satan got her to focus her heart on that one tree from which she was not allowed to eat. And Eve began to focus not on what she had been given, but on what had been forbidden. And suddenly nothing but what was forbidden could satisfy her.

Doubt God’s sincerity and motives. Satan casts God’s motives as self-regard rather than love. “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” He convinces Eve that God is limiting her, that he is not giving her the full measure of humanity. He is holding back, reserving for himself things that she deserves to know and to experience. As Waltke says, we hear this message all around us today. “Be liberated! Be free! Self-actualize! Unleash your inner potential! The Serpent’s message even echoes in the church. Instead of sanctification, the church seeks self-improvement. Instead of holiness, the church seeks happiness.” When you hear such things, you can rest assured that the Serpent is once again at work seeking to convince you that you need to be something other than what you were created to be.

Deny what God says is true. In the final step, Satan flatly denies what is true. “You will not surely die.” The fruit of all of the doubt and the resentment is unbelief. If God’s words happen to hinder us from becoming what we want to be or from doing what we want to do, Satan convinces us that we can safely ignore them. In the church today many people de-emphasize sin because it may hinder the quest for self-actualization or it may make people feel guilty or damage their self-esteem. “Sadly many evangelical churches are in the process of buying into a guilt-free, pain-free, judgment-free gospel.”

In the face of such temptation, the woman yields to Satan’s denials and half-truths. “Having stripped Eve of her spiritual defenses, Satan’s work is done.” Without God, the decision will be made purely on the basis of pragmatism, of what works best to bring about the desired end, on the basis of aesthetics, of what is beautiful, and on the basis of self-improvement, of what will bring her supposed wisdom. It is only one short step from here to outright disobedience.

And so Satan works through questioning, doubt, focusing on what is forbidden and finally on outright denial of the truth. And Eve is only the first to be drawn in and to succumb to the temptation. Every one of us has fallen for the same old trap. If you think of your own life, I’m sure you will think of examples where this pattern was used against you, perhaps just in your own thoughts or perhaps in a book you have read (and there are many books in the bookstores, both Christian and non- where this same pattern is used). Satan’s first tactic worked so well that I don’t think he has ever felt it necessary to modify it too much. The shape of temptation has not changed.

2. Spiritual Counterfeits: Jn1:1, Eph6:13-25, Lion Witch and Wardrobe

Last week I received an interesting email from a member of a mailing list I participate in. He asked whether it is true that Satan works primarily by counterfeiting what is true. This is dedicated to understanding why discernment is so difficult to merge into. I show that there are internal, spiritual and cultural influences that seek to keep us from being men and women of discernment. It is the spiritual force that underlies the others and which seeks to keep us enamored with mere counterfeits of the truth. Satan, once the mightiest of the angels, is now the devil, on the prowl for those who have forsaken him and who are seeking after God. Satan seeks to lead us astray. His tactics rarely change for since the dawn of human history they have proven remarkably effective. Satan seeks to lead us astray, to deceive us, by offering us a counterfeit version of the truth. Satan offers something that resembles the truth but is actually error. He is crafty and subtle, offering something that seems so close, and still is so far away. “Did God really say?” were his words to Eve and they are the words he continues to use today. The Apostle says “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” and regards it as no surprise that “his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

I recently read C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe again. I had not read it in many years and had forgotten many of the details. As I read it aloud, I was struck time and again by the insightful ways in which Lewis describes sin and evil. Significantly, The White Witch, the story’s evil character, seems to be unable to create but relies instead on imitation. Part of her magic is “that she could make things look like what they aren’t.” The winter imposed upon Narnia is not a real one, but a mere imitation or perversion of a real winter; the Turkish Delight she gives to Edmund is her imitation of ordinary food; the sledge she rides in is understood by many to be a deliberate imitation of the one used by Father Christmas. It is “a counterfeit, exactly like the real thing but a cheat. … Evil can only parody goodness, it cannot invent new forms of real beauty and joy. That is why in fairy tales you have to beware of attractive disguises—nice old crones selling apples in the forest, say, or angels of light.” A recurring theme in this story is that of the forces of evil attempting to deceive the innocent by counterfeiting what is good and right and true. By looking to the world of Narnia we see that C.S. Lewis had profound insights into the way evil functions in our world. This point is critical to my understanding of the work of Satan: he cannot create so merely counterfeits what has already been created, twisting and perverting what should be good and true and pure.

Satan is capable of perverting anything. Lewis makes this point in his Screwtape Letters. In Letter Nine, Screwtape addresses Wormwood on the subject of counterfeit pleasure.

Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and
normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures, yet all our research has not enabled us to produce even one. All we can do is to encourage humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced and indulge them in ways which He has forbidden. We always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least mindful of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever-increasing craving for an ever-diminishing pleasure is the formula. It is more certain; and it’s better style.
One Example:

Consider an example of Satan’s subtle works of counterfeiting and undermining the truth. The book of John begins in this way: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). We learn a great deal from these few words. We see that Jesus is eternal for He (the Word) existed in the beginning, so that before God created anything, Jesus already was. We learn about Jesus’ divinity, for He was with God and really was God. These verses are critical to the Christian understanding of the Trinity and the person of Jesus. But let’s now look at the translation of these verses used by Jehovah’s Witnesses in their New World Translation. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” Once again, we can learn a great deal from these few words. We see that Jesus existed in the beginning, that Jesus was with God and that Jesus was a god. And right here, though it is a single word, a single letter, a single indefinite article, the word “a” makes all the difference. Where John 1:1 clearly affirms the divinity of Jesus Christ, the Bible of the Jehovah’s Witnesses denies this critical doctrine, teaching instead that Jesus was merely one of many gods created by the Father. Where an accurate rendition of this verse teaches that Jesus is eternal, the counterfeit translation makes Him a created being. The difference is subtle but profound. It is the difference between beautiful truth and gross error. It is the difference between salvation and damnation. And this is how Satan works, always subtle, always crafty, always seeking to draw us away from what is true.

Satan is fully committed to our downfall and is committed to keeping us confused. He seeks to cause chaos and destruction by leading us away from discernment. He and his hordes of fallen angels seek to blur distinctions, to introduce subtle error and to introduce what is ungodly to the church. In our fight for discernment we must battle against the spiritual forces arrayed against us. Thankfully Scripture is not silent and describes for us the “whole armor of God” provides our defense.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication (Ephesians 6:13-18a).

We have truth, righteousness, faith, salvation and the Spirit to guard us. We have the word of God to battle for us. Through it all we pray to the Spirit to protect and guide us against the schemes of the devil. In this way we can fight against and overcome the spiritual forces that are set against us and committed to our downfall. Through the power of the Spirit we can wage war against and defeat the spiritual forces that seek to lead us away from discernment by offering a clever and subtle counterfeit of the truth.
As Christians who value discernment, we need to be watchful for Satan’s counterfeits. It is important that we understand how he works that we may ensure that we do not allow him to overcome our defenses with his subtle counterfeits of the truth.

3. Defining Discernment

Through the months I’ve spent writing my book on spiritual discernment, I have wrestled with various definitions of the word. While several definitions have been offered by other authors, none struck me as being quite right or quite complete. I have offered a definition on this site and was glad to receive some good feedback on its shortcomings. I went back to the drawing board and eventually arrived at a definition that really seems to accurately represent what the Bible means by discernment. So here it is with a brief breakdown of its component parts. Of course much of the definition’s context is missing, but I do trust this will still prove useful. So here it is:
Discernment is the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong.
When we practice discernment, we are applying the truths of the Bible to our lives. We are attempting to understand the words of the Bible and trusting God’s Word to give clarity so we might see things as God sees them. Our goal in discernment is to do just this: to see things through God’s eyes through the Bible and thus to see things as they really are. Like wiping the steam from a mirror, we seek to remove what is opaque so we might see with God-given clarity.
To aid our understanding, we’ll now unpack this definition, looking at each of the individual components.

Discernment is…

…The Skill…

Discernment is a skill. It is not an inherent ability like breathing or chewing, but a skill like reading or public speaking that must be practiced and must be improved. There is not a person on earth who has been born with a full measure of discernment or who has all of the discernment he will ever need. There is not a person who has attained a level of expertise that allows him to move on and to leave discernment behind. Like the master musician who practices his skills more as his acclaim grows, in the same way a discerning person will see with ever-greater clarity his need to increase in discernment. He will want to sharpen and improve this skill throughout his life.

God graciously enables and equips us practice discernment with increasing accuracy and confidence. Like other skills, discernment increases with practice. An apprentice to a tailor will at first make slow, hesitant cuts to a piece of fabric. His experienced tutor, though, will confidently make accurate cuts in one smooth movement. In the same way, what is at first difficult can, with practice, become more natural. The more we know of truth, the more our ability to discern will increase.

While the Bible does not make it entirely clear, it is likely the God did not immediately bestow upon Solomon the full measure of his eventual wisdom and discernment. It is more likely that God gave Solomon ability but required that he continually sharpen this skill. After all, God also granted Solomon “both riches and honor,” but these surely did not come in full measure that very day. Just as we are required to invest effort in learning what the Bible says and just as we are to strive after holiness, in the same way we are to work at the skill of discernment, attempting to become better at it through practice. This is clear from Hebrews 5:14 which reads “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Distinguishing good from evil, and doing so correctly and consistently, requires dedicated, ongoing practice. It is a skill. "What at first is difficult, can with skill, become more natural."

…of understanding…

The Hebrew word most commonly translated as discernment is otherwise translated as understanding. Discernment is closely related to understanding and depends upon a right understanding of God and His ways. Because we can only base what we do on what we know, we must first understand who God is and how He wants us to serve and honor Him. Understanding must precede both interpretation and application. This is clear throughout the Bible, but especially in Proverbs were Solomon continually ties knowledge, wisdom and discernment, not as separate disciplines, but as related. And so to be people of discernment we must be people who dedicate ourselves to studying, knowing and understanding God.

…and applying…

Discernment involves not only understanding, but the application of that understanding. This is where we see the interrelated nature of wisdom and discernment and where we see how difficult it can be to separate one from the other. Discernment is wisdom in action, wisdom applied, and here we seek to apply the skill we have been practicing. We do not only know (understand), but we also do (apply).

…God’s Word…

God’s Word refers to two aspects of God’s revelation: revelation of Himself through the person of Jesus Christ and revelation of Himself through speech, and in particular, the words that were recorded in the Bible. Though in days past God revealed Himself through words of prophesy and other forms of personal address, today we know Him through the Bible which God has given to point us to the Word of God as it exists in the person of Jesus.

God’s Word is Truth. In John 17:17, as part of His High Priestly Prayer, Jesus affirmed to His Father, “your word is truth.” God’s Word is the very source of infallible truth. God’s word is our measure; it is our source. Hebrews 14:13 says that “everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.” Conversely, then, those who are mature are those who are skilled in the word of righteousness. The word of righteousness, those doctrines that are fundamental to the Christian faith are synonymous with the word of God.
We can only worship and glorify God on the basis of what we know of Him. In order to be discerning, we must know and understand what is true about God. To do this we turn to God’s Word. And so, to be discerning, we must first be students of the Bible. We must study it, we must read about it, and we must hear it taught from the pulpit.
When we engage in discernment we attempt to use God’s Word to rise above our own limitations so we can see as God sees. Through the truths contained in the Bible, God allows us to see things with His eyes.

…with the purpose of separating…

God’s word is the standard we use to differentiate between what is true and what is false. The concepts of separating and distinguishing are inherent in the words of the original languages translated as discernment. Discernment implies that we are to separate things in order to understand their differences.
Like the laser level that shows with perfect clarity any deviations from what is straight, the Bible teaches what is true, leaving what is false standing out with glaring clearness. We use God’s Word as a tool to separate what is true from what is false. We use it to make the light appear lighter, leaving the dark to appear ever darker.

…truth from error…

A constant theme when discussing spiritual discernment is the importance of distinguishing truth from error. The Bible makes it clear that doctrine is either true or it is false. We are called by God to examine all theology and to make such binary distinctions. When we speak of truth and error we speak of doctrine and theology - about ways of thinking rightly and truly about God. We think about how we think, knowing that we what think inevitably affects how we act. What we think of God will necessarily impact how we serve Him. If we want to serve him in a way that is true and pure, we must think of Him as He really is, thinking of Him without error. Only when we have separated truth from error are we able to rightly worship God.

…and right from wrong.

At times discernment will be concerned with truth and error. At other times it will be concerned with right and wrong, words which indicate a moral dimension to discernment, for this practice concerns itself not only with doctrine and theology, but with the practical application of those disciplines to our lives. Discernment is a skill we need to live lives that are morally and ethically pleasing to God. We need to be discerning first in what we believe and then in what we do. Where the concepts of truth and error concern what we believe, the associated concepts of right and wrong concern what we do and how we live. In this way we see discernment as a discipline that applies to all areas of life. As I wrote just two days ago, there is treasure everything. Discernment allows us to see and to form a theology of everything, a theology that touches and impacts all areas of life. Tim Calles.