The Offensiveness of Talking about Sin and the Gospel

June 30, 2017 at 2:46 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | 1 Comment
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Pagan: You are a cruel #$@&%*! for telling your children that they are sinners. If the Bible says that God is love, and He made us pure, then aren’t we born of love and light, and made to show love, not fear?

Christian: The fact that we all come into this world with a sin nature is proven by both the Bible (Psalm 51:5), experience, and plain common sense. Jesus Himself is the Light of the World and He is condemned and rejected because human beings love darkness more than light (John 3:19). We are born physically alive, but spiritually dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3). Think logically and critically for a minute. Do parents have to teach little children to deceive and lie and be selfish? No, of course not. In fact, loving parents spend much time trying to teach their children to be kind and honest and loving and generous. Pure children of light and love wouldn’t need such training or correction. Presumably, you think that people SHOULD be loving and show love. But what was your first reaction when you saw a viewpoint you strongly disagreed with? To be loving and accepting and tolerant? To be “pure” light? Nope. It was to call names and blurt out profanity. We can pat ourselves on the back and boast about how loving we are, but until we come humbly to God, trust in Christ, and receive a new spiritual heart, we are simply incapable of pleasing our Creator. Our default setting is evil, and we are condemned by our thoughts, deeds, and attitudes. That’s why we need a Savior who can give us His righteousness that allows us to be accepted by a holy God Who hates sin. See John 3:17-21. Nobody likes to be called sinful or evil, but the Truth is what sets us free.

Pagan: It is my opinion that babies are born clean. It is the world – we grown people with our silly stuff – who put upon them our foolishness, our pride, our prejudices…. Shame on us!

Christian: Hardly anyone personally likes to think of himself as a sinner. And most people share the opinion that babies are born without any guilt until some mean or thoughtless grownup corrupts them. The problem with that is, our opinions never outweigh Scripture, which is God’s explicit revelation of the Truth. The Bible says that the wicked go astray directly from the womb (Psalm 58:3). It says that not a single one of us is “good” or righteous (Romans 3:10-12). It says that our hearts are desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). This can be tough to hear because it hurts our pride. But if we can’t admit that we are sinners, we won’t really see our need for a Savior. Jesus didn’t suffer and die for basically good people. He died for the wicked and the self-righteous and the people who would rather not think that God might want to punish them for lying and cheating and stealing and being covetous and a bunch of other stuff we give ourselves a pass on every day (see Exodus 20). And no one likes to be confronted about sin, but only those who can admit the truth about themselves will be forgiven when they believe the Truth about Jesus (Mark 1:15) and call upon Him to save them (Romans 6:23; 10:13). God doesn’t see our sin as silly stuff. He sent His Son to be murdered by vicious blood-thirsty liars in order to rescue those who will be humble enough to admit that we don’t deserve that kind of love.

Pagan: The Bible doesn’t prove a thing. Try science.

Christian: You make it sound like you think those things are at odds with each other. They are not. Science is just knowledge which is gathered and tested. The Bible provides the only logical explanation in the whole world for why there is even such a discipline as “science.” Without the God of the Bible, things like gravity and logic and time and thoughts could not exist or ever be expected to behave consistently according to the “laws” that only a divine Creator could have made them to follow. Therefore, the Bible does indeed “prove a thing.” It proves everything (Colossians 2:3).

Pagan: I am so sorry for all who believe this sinner stuff. You are so much more than what you have been told that you are. You have you been lied to by religion and government. The concept of sin is profitable. All we need to do is love one another, and stop destroying our planet by doing things like killing the bees. Without the bees, we are all goners.

Christian: You say that you are sorry for all who believe this “sinner stuff.” But then you go on to list a number of things you think are wrong. Do you see the contradiction in this? Why speak loudly against hurting the environment or exploitation of the masses or any of the causes you are against? Who’s to say that those things are wrong? If you reject the notion of sin and sinners, then those people are just exercising their preferences and you have no basis for placing your preference to be free from manipulation and control above their preference to control and manipulate you. But I don’t think you’ve really thought this through. It’s just easier to classify others as evil and not to think about our own sin. We think, “If we really stand up against the government or the industrialists or the bee-killers or the religious oppressors, then maybe God won’t notice that we have told lies, or committed adultery, or stolen, or blasphemed His name, or dishonored our parents, or failed to love our neighbor, or to worship Him the way He deserves.” But that won’t work. Hebrews 9:27 says we are all going to see God one day (sooner than we think!) And He is going to judge each of us individually, and He’s not grading on a curve and giving us a pass just because there are some people out there that you think are worse than you. When we stand there before His throne it will be one of two ways: with our sin or with His Son. If you are with His Son, He will welcome you as His child. If you are there with your sins unforgiven, then He will do what is right and good and cast you away for all eternity. It’s sobering and frightening to consider, but that is the absolute most LOVING thing you could hear because it’s true.

For he [God] hath made him [Jesus] to be sin for us [humble repentant sinners], who [Jesus] knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him [Jesus].

II Corinthians 5:21 (bracketed words added)

 

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God’s Wrath: Attribute or Reaction?

June 28, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: The Bible makes it clear that God does get angry. Is the anger of God something that resides in him by nature, or is His anger only a provoked response to the existence of sin or evil?

Answer: I am not aware of a Bible verse that indicates that God’s anger is merely a provoked response, although I believe if we took a poll of Bible commentators, that would be the majority view. Let’s start out by affirming what the Bible does affirm, though: God is love (I John 4:8). Also:

The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 7:-7-8

These verses do show that the attribute of love is something inherent in God’s divine character, but they do not rule out the possibility that wrath is one of God’s divine attributes, also inherent to His character or nature. Love and wrath existing in the same being are not logically contradictory, and, while it is true that the Bible does portray God’s wrath as being EXPRESSED against sin or evil, the Bible does not state that the entrance of sin and evil into the world CREATED God’s wrath or provoked something which did not exist in Him before. I believe the Bible teaches that all human emotions were originally given to man as a part of the God’s Imago Dei creation, so that they existed in God before being communicated to His creatures, but that the entrance of sin into the world warped these emotions in us, so that they are often expressed sinfully by us. If God had chosen not to allow sin to enter His creation, His attribute of wrath/anger would have still existed, only it would be expressed by us as righteous indignation or “holy wrath,” rather than as the loss of control or temper. For example, the serpent’s twisting of God’s words should have (and could have) made Adam and Eve angry and wrathful toward the serpent, and that anger would not have been sinful. It would have been an obedient and worshipful expression of God’s wrath. In fact, one reason why God allowed such a thing as sin in the first place might have been to show His righteous wrath, thereby demonstrating the glory of the full spectrum of His attributes for all eternity.

The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

Proverbs 16:4

Blessing the Food?

June 26, 2017 at 9:43 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: Before we eat, we ask the Lord to “bless this food.” Why do we do that? What does it mean to “bless” the food?

Answer: Not everybody prays that way. Sometimes people just thank God for the food, but, yes, asking God to bless the food “we are about to receive” or asking Him to “bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies” are very common pre-meal prayers. Sometimes, we even call it “saying the blessing” or “saying grace” instead of “praying” before we eat.

I suppose if we ask God to “bless the food” we are asking Him to make it good for us, or to put it to work in the strengthening and health of our bodies. Sometimes, we are asking Him to “bless” it in a way that would supernaturally make it taste better! I once saw a video where a Christian comedian was joking about asking the Lord to “bless this food” before eating a Cheeto. He said, “Lord, miraculously change this Cheeto into a carrot as it travels down my esophagus…” Pretty funny, since it does seem a little hypocritical to ask the Lord to bless our own unhealthy eating choices, although we should certainly be grateful for everything that He provides for us. It is very important to think about what we are saying when we pray, rather than praying out of habit or repeating something vain and meaningless (Matthew 6:7), so good question!

Role Reversal Ransom

June 22, 2017 at 11:02 am | Posted in Mark | 2 Comments
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The Gospel of Mark stresses the Lord Jesus’s role as the greatest Servant of all time. We know He came to seek and to save (Luke 19:10). We know He came to destroy the works of the devil (I John 3:8). We know He came to give life, and to give it more abundantly (John 10:10). But we must never forget that He also came to minister.

For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Mark 10:45

Any good servant knows he must serve faithfully, fervently, and fondly. However, there comes a time when ordinary servants reach the end of their ability. What earthly servant could sell himself to buy back His master, for is the master not inherently more valuable than the servant? What captor would release a master in exchange for a lowly servant? Here is where we stand amazed at the majesty and intense love of the Master of Glory.

The Lord Jesus came to rescue captives – not merely by paying a ransom, not merely by risking danger in a reckless rescue mission – but by giving Himself as the Ransom to set His Own servants free. Are you free today from death, from sin, from the grave, from Satan, from hell, from the very wrath of the Righteous God Himself? If you are, then do your best to celebrate the Master Who gave His life as ransom to redeem rebellious, hateful, sinful, and helpless servants.

Know Your Rights

June 20, 2017 at 3:44 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 2 Comments
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I. The Right to Establish a Legacy

Am I am not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?

I Corinthians 9:1

This is part of Paul’s extended argument for why we should be willing and motivated to forego the exercise of our Christian liberties for the sake of our love for other, weaker believers, and for the sake of Christ’s love for them. Before he went into into his own willingness to do this, he asked his audience to concede the obvious fact of his own Apostleship. You and I are not capital-A Apostles, obviously (despite what you see in the Charismatic movement these days), but are we not, in some sense, little-a apostles? Are we not “sent ones,ambassadors for Christ in the world? Are we not free? Paul was a Roman citizen, in bondage to Christ, but still free from the curse of the Law. Are we not free from the penalty and power of sin? We have not seen Jesus personally with our physical eyes, but I pray that you have seen Him with eyes of faith, and are fully convinced that He is real and that you know Him personally.

The facts of the Corinthians’ conversion and changed lives were evidence of Paul’s Apostolic authority, but do you have people whose lives you have influenced? People who could today testify of the genuineness of your profession? If so, you have a “right” to point to these people as supporting witnesses (although not conclusive proof) of the authenticity of your walk with the Lord. You may not be the founder of a church like Paul was, but surely there are a group of people who see you as a spiritual mentor or at least a Godly influence in their lives. If not, this is a goal to strive for: make a legacy of faithfulness and influence.

If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.

I Corinthians 9:2

Yet there were some who challenged Paul’s credentials:

Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,

I Corinthians 9:3

II. The right to Earn a Living

Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?

I Corinthians 9:5

The idea of “leading about” our wives, who are also our sisters in Christ, is awkwardly worded to us, as if a husband had a rope through his wife’s nose, or as if she was unable to see and needed to be led through life like a blind person. What it really refers to, though, is the type of servant-leadership and leading-in-love that the Bible gives to husbands as a fearful and Christ-honoring responsibility. Paul was not married, as far as we can tell, but there was nothing about his full-time service as an Apostle that prohibited him from being married. (I Corinthians 9:3 also refutes the Roman Catholic policy of unmarried priests – especially since it uses Peter as the specific example of a married Apostle.)

Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?

I Corinthians 9:6

It is not wrong for full-time ministers to be supported financially by the Church, and through charitable and required giving.

Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?

I Corinthians 9:7

Just like in the secular world, people expect to be paid for serving others, and people who are in the business of caring for livestock and crops also draw their own livelihood from some of the very supply they produce for others.

Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?

I Corinthians 9:8

The Bible is very specific in giving authority to working people to eat from the fruits of their own labor.

III. The Right to Eat Leftovers

Have we not power to eat and to drink?

I Corinthians 9:4

The word for “power” here means authority.

For it is written in the law of Moses, thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

I Corinthians 9:9-11

The principle of reaping and sowing is both material and spiritual. If we accept the spiritual side of it, the material side really ought to be a no-brainer. Ministers have the right to eat the leftovers from what is given into their hands as part of their service to the Lord.

Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?

I Corinthians 9:13

However, it is important to remember that the having of a right does not dictate the necessity of exercising that right.

IV. The Right to Eschew Liberty

But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.

I Corinthians 9:15

So, the Apostle Paul, while in Corinth, did not get paid for ministry; he would have rather die than be accused of greed or scamming.

For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

I Corinthians 9:16-18

In fact, he was called to preach the Gospel whether or not he was paid, and he considered the privilege of preaching it to be its own reward. I hope you and I would have this attitude in ministry, because it is often a thankless task, and a motivation of “giving to get” will all too often result in discouragement and even bitterness.

For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

I Corinthians 9:19-22

Please understand the context of the foregoing verses, because an out-of-context reading of the statement, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some,” was the “seeker movement’s” life verse during the heyday of Rick Warren’s purpose-driven campaign to see Christian churches run like service-industry corporations. It was a verse twisted to justify all manner of pragmatic shenanigans that ultimately destroyed many formerly-sound local churches, and – according to many reports – led to vast numbers of false converts. What the verse is really about is the adoption of non-sinful but foreign cultural norms, for the sake of the Gospel. He did not mean for “all means” to include sinful means, nor a “bait and switch” ministry method. And, while it is true that Paul’s evangelistic methods were pragmatic in a sense, what he practiced was a holy and honest pragmatism with all cards on the table, not so that he might spring the truth like a trap once he had gained people’s trust, but so that he could honestly portray the ethic of Christian love in building genuine – GENUINE – relationships and share the Gospel with “all men.”

Paul was willing to forfeit certain rights and privileges, and was unwilling to flaunt his liberty to encourage comfort with sin, or to stunt the strengthening of conscience.

V. The Right to Exercise Laboriously

This is the one part of I Corinthians Chapter Chapter 9 – an otherwise very clear chapter – which is somewhat difficult to grasp. There is not a whole lot of agreement among commentators about the precise details of what is being conveyed.

It helps to understand the Isthmian Games, a popular sporting event in Paul’s day, that would have been known to all Corinthians. It also seems likely from the biographical information we can glean about Paul from the Bible that he may have actually competed in these games (possibly in racing events and/or fighting matches featuring a combination of wrestling and striking similar to what is known as “MMA” today), which were a smaller version of the Olympic games.

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.

I Corinthians 9:24

The main idea in this passage of Scripture is that an athlete who really wants to win, not only takes the event itself seriously, but the training leading up to the event.

And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

I Corinthians 9:25

However, the “competition” (which is a competition within ourselves and against spiritual enemies, not against each other) is far more important than any earthly sporting event.

I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:

I Corinthians 9:26

This probably refers to strategic blows – not flailing wildly hoping to hit the opponent by chance.

But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

I Corinthians 9:27

When we, as Christians, set aside our rights and freedoms in favor of temperance for the sake of weaker believers, we not only help them, but we help ourselves by working hard toward the right goal, which is mortifying: (1) our flesh; (2) our desires; and (3) any part of our makeup that has a bent toward anything sinful.

A Body of Idolatry

June 16, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Romans 12:1 commands us to present our bodies as living sacrifices. If we take this literally, and I think we should, then it will remind us that all our limbs and sensory organs are to be dedicated to serving and glorifying God. If we ignore this command we run the risk of living like idolaters.

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.

Psalm 115:4-7

A material idol, designed to act as, or represent, a false god, has a mouth that can’t talk, eyes that can’t see, ears that can’t hear, a nose that can’t smell, hands that can’t pick up anything, feet that can’t walk, and a throat with no sound. And then comes the kicker:

They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.

Psalm 115:8

These idols are made by the very people who are worshiping them! How can they be so self-deluded?! Imagine praying for deliverance to a little figure that needed you to even carve it into existence. Can people really believe that a god would be dependent upon its own “creator?”

It’s not as far-fetched as it seems. Logic, apart from the wisdom that comes only from the True and Living God, is not our strong suit. In fact, if we do not keep our hearts diligently focused on God, we will quickly fail into delusion and all sorts of idolatry.

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

Proverbs 4:23

Then, pretty soon, we will usurp the use of the mouths that God has given us, and start speaking disrespectfully, rebelliously, and deceitfully.

Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.

Proverbs 4:24

Next we’ll stop looking for God’s beauty in His creation, and we’ll studiously avoid looking for people who are genuinely needy or who make us feel uncomfortable, and we’ll instead use God’s gift of vision for peeking at forbidden and ugly-but-seductive things.

Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.

Proverbs 4:25

Before we know it, our idolatrous feet will follow our idolatrous eyes and hearts right off of God’s safe path and into the world’s bramble of unfulfillment, heartache, addiction, danger, and desolation.

Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.

Proverbs 4:26-27

We are poor identifiers of our own idolatry. Most of us think that our common sense would kick in somewhere around the time we started placing offerings into the hands (hands that we ourselves had fashioned!) of idols that could not hold the very things we were trying to give them. But, no, here we are, hopefully knowing somewhere deep down that we – and all of the complex creation around us – were made by Someone infinitely greater than us, yet still trying to give our time, talents, and treasure to man-made idols, such as political parties, houses, cars, electronic devices, investment portfolios, clothes, and entertainment. What a contradictory race of creatures we are, to desire to be “blessed,” but to want to dictate, design, and direct our own trivial blessings, while our Supreme Maker and true source of all true blessings, is relegated to the sidelines of our lives and largely ignored.

Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield. The Lord hath been mindful of us: he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron. He will bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great. The Lord shall increase you more and more, you and your children. Ye are blessed of the Lord which made heaven and earth. The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.

Psalm 115:11-16

Who Is Leviathan and What Is He Twisting?

June 8, 2017 at 10:31 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: Is there an evil spirit named Leviathan who “twists” communications between Christians in order to cause division and trouble in the Church?

Answer: Leviathan, in the Bible, was some sort of giant sea serpent. Some commentators believe it may have been a reference to huge crocodiles which grew to greater sizes in the ancient world than they do today. It is used as an example of God’s awesome creation and His power over it. However, a few years ago a preacher named Ron Phillips published a book on “spiritual warfare” in which he attempted to give names to some of the demons (formerly angels which fell from Heaven when Lucifer rebelled against God). He decided to call one of them “Leviathan” even though “Leviathan” is never used in the Bible as the name of a demon or a demonic spirit. This sort of teaching is fanciful at best and outright heretical at worst, but it became extremely popular among many Charismatic and Pentecostal preachers. The idea, I suppose, is that, since “Leviathan” is like a serpent or a crocodile which “twists” its prey in a death roll after it strikes, then the “Leviathan spirit” must be a demon which “twists” the communications of human beings to cause conflict and disunity and miscommunication. Certainly, we can not put it past Satan to attempt to cause trouble in the lives of believers in whatever ways he can, but we need to stick to what the Bible actually says, rather than naming and blaming supernatural beings when we ourselves fail to heed the Word of God.

Matt Smethurst: S.W.I.M. Down Deep

June 6, 2017 at 2:58 pm | Posted in Quotes | 1 Comment
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If exploring sin brings you to the deep end of the pool, exploring mercy will take you to the Mariana Trench. And awaiting you at the bottom of the dive is not a black hole but a solid rock.

Matt Smethurst

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Matthew 5:4

A Second Pair of Paradoxes

June 5, 2017 at 2:19 pm | Posted in Mark | 5 Comments
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Last time I looked at two paradoxes found in Mark Chapter 10:
1. Two shall be one.
2. Adults shall be as little children.

The third paradox is found in the story that is sometimes called “The Great Refusal” (after an episode in Dante’s Inferno) or the story of “The Rich Young Ruler,” and the parable that goes with it, found in Mark 10:17-31.

Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.

Mark 10:28-31

“The first shall be last” is certainly not a worldly concept. The world’s system is that the first get the right to stay first, but in God’s system (where the first shall be last and vice-versa) the unknown sufferers will receive glory. Of course, this concept of “first” is understood in a relative sense; obviously, in the eternal realm of Heaven, the Lamb of God will actually be the “First.” Peter, still very much in an “earthly” frame of mind, was focused on his position in the “here and now,” and his temporal point of view has sadly become a staple of the “prosperity preaching” that is so prevalent today. Too much emphasis is placed on the idea that Christians should work for personal rewards, and not for God’s glory.

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.

Mark 10:35-40

We don’t presume to “know” what is in our “heavenly treasure chest,” and, while we don’t ignore the motivation of rewards for serving Christ, as we grow in Christ and in sanctification, we ought to be maturing past the idea of “giving to get.” In fact, that must not be our only, or our highest, motivation.

The fourth paradox in Mark Chapter 10 is that, if you want to be a servant, you are really a ruler – and if you want to be a ruler, you will wind up a servant.

And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Mark 10:41-45

I believe that this passage of Scripture, dealing with the perfect and divine and amazingly gracious servanthood of Jesus Christ, is a key to understanding of one the main themes in Mark’s entire Gospel.

What the Knows Ought to Know about Conscience

June 2, 2017 at 10:53 am | Posted in I Corinthians | 3 Comments
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This may sound obvious, but it bears mentioning: As Knows (Christians), we ought to know that we don’t know everything.

Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.

I Corinthians 8:1

Clearly the Corinthian Christians were forbidden from practicing idolatry, but it was difficult, in those days and in that place, to purchase from a market, or to consume, meat that had not been offered to a false idol. Usually, in ancient times, sacrifices were divided – with some being burned, some being eaten at a temple, and some going to the priest. The priests sold their leftovers to markets. The Knows at Corinth “knew” this – and they “knew” about avoiding idolatrous worship practices – but knowledge by itself tends to swell a person with pride. We expect humility to be the great deflater, but here the Bible teaches us that love (“charity”) fills people up (“edifies”) in a good way – not with puffy vanity, but with wholesome nourishment that builds us up.

And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.

I Corinthians 8:2

Humility is self-defeating when we are proud of being humble, so knowledge apart from love, while puffing us up, makes us ignorant.

But if any man love God, the same is known of him.

I Corinthians 8:3

We might ask, “Known of him by whom?” Known by others? Known by himself? Or known by God? All three would apply. Our testimony of love for God should be evident. Because it is a “given” knowledge, it humbles us, but it is still knowledge – awareness of the truth – so that we can KNOW we belong to God. And certainly God knows those who belong to Him. False professors will hear Jesus say, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

A willingness to examine our practices in light of Scripture, even when it come to things as mundane as eating, and a willingness to examine our consciences, can be a convincing sign to others and to ourselves that we have a real relationship with God – that He inhabits every area of our lives as He should – and that we understand our moment-by-moment existence as “coram Deo” – before the face of God.

The Knows also ought to know that not everyone knows the same things.

As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.

I Corinthians 8:4

The Corinthian Christians knew that idols – as the representatives of false gods, and as supposedly talismanic objects in and of themselves – had no real power because the list of real Gods stops at one.

For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)

I Corinthians 8:5

This is a reference to spiritual beings which are sometimes called gods – and do in fact have supernatural powers.

But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

I Corinthians 8:6

We know that these beings are created, and, even though they may have power, their existence and whatever power they possess is totally dependent upon God the Father and Christ the Son.

Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.

I Corinthians 8:7

However, even some of the Knows at Corinth were a little shaky on this understanding. For them to eat food which had been sacrificed to an idol would defile their weak (not properly informed) consciences. “Unto this hour” implied that they were truly Knows, but that some of the superstition of their previous “Know-Notism” (paganism) had not yet been fully sanctified out of them.

But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.

I Corinthians 8:8

It’s not what goes into the body that makes us more or less holy in terms of our standing before God (although mind-altering substances would be a different matter). So, when is it okay and not okay for Knows with stronger consciences to exercise their liberty and eat a t-bone steak left over from an Apollonian feast? The answer to this has to do with Christians understanding and prioritizing the greater good.

But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.

I Corinthians 8:9

Remember how love deflates proud knowledge. It also reminds us – in our humility – to serve someone besides ourselves.

For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;

I Corinthians 8:10

Be careful about where you exercise your liberty. Someone watching you might misunderstand and think it is okay to do what they thought was wrong – for the wrong reasons. Christian liberty is properly developed from a sharper – not a duller – conscience. Iron sharpens iron: Christians are supposed to sharpen each other, not make each other dull.

And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.

I Corinthians 8:11-12

If your love for your fellow brother or sister is not strong enough to keep you from callously exercising your liberty, your love for Christ certainly ought to be.

Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

I Corinthians 8:13

The good of fellow Christians is the overriding factor when it comes to nonessential liberties.


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