Tags: 2 Peter 3, atheism debate, professing atheists, Psalm 14, Psalm 53, Romans 1, willingly ignorant
There is no such thing as a real “atheist.” According to Romans 1:18, people who pretend that they do not believe in God, actually not only believe in “a” God, but, deep down, they know that the Hebrew and Christian God of the Bible is the One True God. They don’t like this, so they “hold this truth in unrighteousness.” In other words, they make a great effort to push it down, or hold it down, so they don’t have to think about it and feel conviction. This is also the truth within Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1. Fools who deny the existence of God are only trying to convince themselves of what they cannot really believe. Even in specifics related to the effect of God’s wrath on the world’s geological history, the Bible tells us that people try to be “willingly ignorant” (II Peter 3:5). As one preacher put it, “willingly ignorant” means “dumb on purpose.” People’s unrighteous lives may give the appearance of integrity to the profession of their “atheism,” but the fact is, they are fighting hard against, or running away from, what they know to be true.
Tags: 2 Corinthians 10, Biblical swimming, count your blessings, Habakkuk 2, Johnson Oatman, swimming lesson, swimming strokes, water in the Bible
We live in a day and age when the fountain of God’s Word seems to be flowing in pitifully small, and rapidly drying, streams. By and large, the practice of the world is to stomp right past the cleansing fountain of the wisdom contained in the Bible, and to wallow instead in the muddy imaginations of man (II Corinthians 10:5). However, there is coming a day when “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). In that day, experienced “swimmers” will have an advantage. Having spent much time learning to maneuver in the cleansing water of the Word, some will not be shocked or afraid as the tidal knowledge of the Lord’s glory rises, and covers the whole earth.
Over the past few weeks, our S.W.I.M. lessons have looked at the competitive strokes of literal swimming, and applied them to spiritual truths found in Scripture. This week’s lesson will serve as a brief review:
- The Backstroke: True disciples of Christ will encounter opposition that will at times push them backward into troubled waters. The Bible’s solution to this situation is to look up to the Lord, and keep moving ahead. (Acts 27:41-44)
- The Breaststroke: God’s hands go forth from God’s heart, and the love of God will cause His hands to reach out and push away the encompassing enemies of His people as they humbly call upon Him. (Isaiah 25:11)
- The Butterfly: Some swimmers follow strict rules of form to appear graceful, when in fact they are thrashing violently beneath the surface. God is not impressed by a false show of outward beauty or self-righteousness. (Matthew 23:27-28)
- The Crawl: Creeping and crawling is sometimes seen as a reason for scorn among the skeptical, but God has appointed to all things a time and an order. Just as there are nocturnal animals which creep forth at night because of the design of God, so also new believers in Christ Jesus must go through a period of spiritual crawling, before growing into walking and running. (Psalm 104:19-20)
- Freestyle: Competitive swimmers with the freedom to choose the stroke they want, will choose a style which allows them to swim most efficiently. Christians, striving for the prize of the high calling, see their freedom in Christ as an opportunity to do those things which are most profitable for the cause of Christ and the glory of God. (Galatians 5:1-7)
- The Dog Paddle: When new Christians begin to navigate the waters of spiritual maturity, they must be careful not to imitate, or pick up the bad habits of, those who would promote a “watered-down,” or ritual-based gospel. (Philippians 3:2)
Those who have believed on Christ Jesus in their hearts, and who have called upon the name of the Lord, must dive into God’s Word and learn to “see what it means” (S.W.I.M.). In His Word you will find reasons to be grateful, and promises and comfort for the coming storms.
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
“Count Your Blessings,” Johnson Oatman Jr.
Tags: beware of dogs, Biblical swimming, dog paddle, not of works, Philippians 3, swimming dogs
The “dog paddle,” while not an officially recognized competitive swimming stroke, “is often the first swim stroke done by young children when they are learning to swim” (A Boy’s Own Book of Outdoor Sports). Although its movements work well for canines, it is often a habit-forming method of swimming for youngsters, and one which must be broken in order to teach them better, more efficient, strokes.
As Christians, we must beware of those who would continually hound us, while barking out false doctrines.
Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
Doctrines that teach salvation through good works or religious rites may appeal to a spiritually childish part of us, and cause us to want to imitate them, but we are instructed to worship God in His Spirit, and to rejoice in Christ Jesus, and not to have confidence in the flesh or good works.
Tags: Christian excellence, Christian freedom, freedom, freedom in Christ, freestyle, Galatians 5, Lamentations 1, swimming, swimming excellence, swimming strokes
The previous S.W.I.M. lesson focused on a swimming stroke called the crawl, which, despite its name, is actually the most efficient stroke for speed. USA Swimming lists the five competitive swimming strokes as: individual medley, butterfly, breaststroke, backstroke, and freestyle. “In freestyle events, the competitor may swim any stroke. The stroke most commonly used is sometimes called the crawl…” It is hardly surprising that racing swimmers, when given the “freedom” to choose any style they wish, choose the style which allows them to swim the fastest.
Likewise, Christians (those who are truly saved by grace through faith in Christ) are given freedom to run the Christian race in a variety of “styles.”
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
The freedom we have in Christ is freedom both from the yoke of legalistic bondage, and from the slavery of sin (Lamentations 1:14). But the Christian race is not a short “swim-sprint,” where the swimmer throws himself wildly into the water and violently writhes and thrashes his way to the other end of the pool, flopping out of the water and lying, chest heaving, exhausted and spent for the rest of the day. No, the Christian’s race is more like a long-distance swim, sometimes experiencing pounding waves, sometimes calm sea. One day carried along easily on the current, other times battling his way upstream. At times making progress through a violent storm, at other times treading in place, trying to keep his head above the surface.
The Holy Spirit commended, but also admonished, the Galatian believers in Chap. 5, Verse 7: “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” If you are a Christian, you are free to swim in any style permitted by Scripture. This is the freedom granted by Christ’s shed blood on the Cross. If, when you were first saved, you made a public profession, joined a church, were Scripturally baptized – if you read your Bible, prayed regularly, told others about the Lord Jesus – then you “did” swim well. But if you have stopped swimming well, you should ask the question, “What has hindered me?” Are you sinking because you are burdened with unnecessary worldly possessions or interests that weigh you down in the water? Are you being slowed down because you haven’t spent enough time training with your Instructor or studying your “Training Manual?” Are you in danger of drowning before reaching the finish line because you lacked physical discipline and enjoyed the pleasure of a heavy meal right before jumping into the pool?
Swimmers, set free from rules which require them to swim in a certain style, use the style which allows them to swim most excellently. Christians should recognize their freedom in Christ as an opportunity to strive for excellence, not mediocrity.
Tags: Bible lesson, crawl, nightcrawlers, Psalm 104, strokes, swimming
The swimming stroke which is probably the most easily recognized is called the “crawl.” USA Swimming states that the crawl “is characterized by the alternate stroking of the arms over the water surface and an alternating (up and down) flutter kick.” Although this is probably the most efficient way for a person to move through the water without artificial propulsion, its movements make it appear as though the swimmer is crawling along on his belly on the surface of the water.
In Psalm 104:19-20 the Bible tells us that God, in His glory, has appointed the day and the night for different types of creatures. Although nocturnal beasts often move in a creeping or crawling fashion, they are just as much in the will of God as men who are appointed to be upright in the daylight.
He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down. Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth.
Immature Christians are compared in Scripture to babies (Hebrews 5:12-14). It is natural for babies to crawl. More mature Christians need to understand that, although moving from milk to strong meat, and moving from crawling to walking and running, can be a tedious process, it is part of a process appointed and prescribed by God.
Tags: Bible lessons, Biblical swimming, butterfly, Matthew 23, swimming strokes
The “butterfly” stroke is considered by some “to be the most beautiful of the strokes” (USA Swimming). “It features a simultaneous recovery of the arms over the water combined with an undulating dolphin kick. In the kick, the swimmer must keep both legs together and may not flutter, scissor, or use the breaststroke kick. Both hands must touch the wall simultaneously on the turns and the finish.”
The butterfly is perhaps the most deceptive swimming stroke. While the insect known as the butterfly floats effortlessly on currents of air, the swimmer who will make the butterfly stroke appear beautiful must exert great effort, adhere to strict rules, and thrash violently during his repetitive plunges beneath the surface.
Although the Bible does not record a love for swimming among the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’s time, we can imagine that, if they had known of such a thing, the butterfly might very well have been their favorite stroke.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
Like butterfly swimmers, the scribes and Pharisees adhered to strict formal rules, hoping that their outward lives appeared beautiful to men. Underneath the surface, however, these hypocrites struggled furiously to achieve a righteousness which can, in reality, only be imputed by faith in Christ.
Tags: Isaiah 25, John 13, Luke 18, spiritual swimming lessons, swim, swimming in the Bible, swimming in the deep, swimming lessons, swimming strokes
USA Swimming defines the “breaststroke” as “the oldest stroke, dating back hundreds of years.” It is a type of swimming in which the swimmer uses “simultaneous movements of the arms on the same horizontal plane. The hands are pressed out from in front of the breast in a heart-shaped pattern.” It is often said to be a type of swimming which requires great endurance because the swimmer is constantly exerting effort.
This type of swimming stroke exemplifies one of the images the Bible gives of God moving on behalf of His people, as He saves them from the midst of their enemies.
And he shall spread forth his hands in the midst of them, as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim: and he shall bring down their pride together with the spoils of their hands.
As God spreads forth His hands among the enemies of His people, we get a mental picture of His hands making the shape of a heart, representing His love for His children. The enemies are then pressed away and aside, along with their pride and their ill-gotten gains. God’s endurance, unlike that of a human swimmer, knows no limits, as He is all-powerful. If you feel you are drowning in a sea of suffering, misery, or even apathy, admit your sin, smite your heart of pride, and call upon the Lord for mercy (Luke 18:13). He will rescue you, and pull you close to His heart, so that you may fellowship with Him and share His secrets (John 13:25).
Tags: Acts 27, backstroke, Bible, Biblical swimming, deep water, shipwreck, swimming lessons
According to USA Swimming, the different types of recognized repetitive swim motions are called “strokes.” One of these, the backstroke, “consists of an alternating motion of the arms with a flutter kick while on the back.” Anyone who has seen this type of swimming in action knows that the swimmer is in the unusual position of being flat on his back, looking up, yet moving swiftly.
Scripture is silent on the subject of exactly what type of swimming stroke the Apostle Paul used, or whether he used a 1st Century “floatation device,” to make it safely ashore when he experienced a shipwreck.
And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves. And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape. But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land: And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.
What is certain from Scripture, however, is that the Apostle Paul was someone who, despite being knocked flat on his back many times, always looked up to God, and kept moving forward. The soldiers were afraid of escaping prisoners, but Paul was a man of faith, not a man of scheming. Some saw the storm and shipwreck as reasons for despair, but Paul saw an opportunity to glorify God, and to serve others. Can we say the same when we’re in the midst of a “storm,” or when we find ourselves in “deep water?”
Tags: Basic Christianity, Christian doctrine, discipleship, Salvation
A shortened version of this will appear on the CD case cover for the audio CDs of the Wednesday night discipleship lessons I taught last summer:
“These discipleship lessons are intended for Christian believers: those who have been saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ His Son. They contain the bare basics for understanding some of the major doctrines of the Christian faith. They are not intended as a substitute for going through God’s Word, precept by precept, in diligent and prayerful study. These lessons will help you grasp enough of Christianity to be able to converse intelligently on the topics outlined, but it should be every Christian’s goal to spend his or her lifetime learning more and more about the Lord of the Bible.
“While these lessons are really designed for believers, my prayer is that you will still share them with your lost friends, family members, co-workers, and acquaintances. When the Lord Jesus recruited disciples, He did so with this command: “Follow me…” (Matthew 4:19; Luke 5:27) In this command we have both a path (follow), and a person (Me). If you are to walk the path of eternal life, you must go the way of Jesus Christ. He is infinitely worthy to be studied, worshiped, adored, emulated, obeyed, and followed.”