A Diet of Distinction (Part Two)

July 27, 2016 at 1:46 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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In Part One we saw that the Old Testament dietary laws are no longer binding on New Testament Christians (Acts 10:9-16). They were perfectly kept, and, in a sense, fulfilled in Christ (Colossians 2:16- 22). Only the Old Testament moral laws, reiterated as the Law of Christ, are considered binding under the New Covenant.

One of the purposes of the Old Covenant dietary laws was that God wanted His people to be “holy.” The Hebrew word translated as “holy” in the Bible has a connotation of “cutting” (setting apart from other people) and “culling” (setting apart unto a dedicated purpose). God’s people are supposed to be “cut off” from sin, and “cut out of” this world’s system. God has always wanted His people to be distinct and different.

For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Leviticus 11:44

The Jewish people were commanded to be unmingled with the world – not trapped in the sins associated with unbelievers. They were to be associated with the Lord’s name, not in name only, but in behavior and in every area of life. This was important partly in order to prevent His people from being influenced into moral sin, and partly to maintain the purity of the bloodline of the coming Messiah. The promised redeemer would have to be a descendant of Abraham in order to fulfill God’s promises.

New Testament Christians know that the Messiah has already come, but the principle concerning the danger of sinful influences still applies:

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

II Corinthians 6:14-18

An Old Testament Israelite could not eat with or stay in the home of a Canaanite because of the unclean foods and other unclean practices, so it would be very difficult to form relationships that would lead to intermarriages and procreation.

It would affect the witness and testimony of God’s people if they became intertwined in the lifestyle of pagan people groups.

A. God’s people should be distinct in their calling and conduct.

Our calling is to glorify God. Therefore our conduct – the way we behave – must bring glory to Him.

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

I Corinthians 10:31

God’s Old Testament people were supposed to conduct themselves in a way that let people know they truly believed that their God was real. We must do the same, but we can’t do that without being different from unbelievers, and without speaking His name and being identified openly with Him.

B. God’s people should be distinct in their conscience.

We need to have an awareness of God watching us in the smallest details of our lives.

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.

Psalm 139:7-12

We must also have an awareness of God loving us and being willing and able to help us please Him in every detail of our lives.

C. God’s people should be distinct their creeds.

We need to be able to articulate what we believe, and why we believe it. We need to be ready to cite Scripture to back it up.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

D. God’s people should be distinct in their communication.

We should not use unclean language.

But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

Colossians 3:8

We should not jest about sin.

Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour.

Proverbs 14:9

We should not use God’s name in vain, and we should not use imprecise language which undermines sound theology, such as saying we are “proud” or “lucky.”

Next time, in Part Three, we will see how God’s dietary laws teach us to have a clean consistency.

Don’t Be a Simple Evangelist

November 24, 2014 at 5:35 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.

Proverbs 14:15

Two types of people are being contrasted here: “the simple” and “the prudent.” The simple are shown as a bad example. They are not simple in the sense of being uncomplicated. They are simple in the sense of being unwise, perhaps even foolish. The prudent are wise. The characteristic that distinguishes the simpleton in this verse is that he is gullible. He believes everything he hears.

The one exception where it’s okay to “believe every word” is the Bible itself – which is obvious from multiple other passages. But here, what is being described is a person with no discernment: someone who foolishly “takes at face value” whatever he encounters. The prudent man, on the other hand, is careful about what is presented to him.

This principle – a healthy willingness to evaluate – has various and sundry applications, and one is in evangelism – specifically when it comes to dialoguing with someone about whether or not he is saved. A quick nod of assent to the question, “So, are you a Christian?” should probably not be enough evidence to end the inquiry when you are trying to present the Gospel to someone you do not know well. Follow-up questions about the when, where, why, and how, and by Whom, would constitute “looking well unto your going” when you are hoping to lead someone to Christ.

A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.

Proverbs 14:16

Again, the wise man and the fool are contrasted. Wise men see evil and are afraid of damaging their testimony and the effectiveness of their Gospel witness. They also fear the Lord Whom they love for saving them. Fools “rage.” They go on a tirade against the idea that they can’t do whatever they want, and they are confident – but it is a false confidence. It is a misplaced self-confidence and a dangerous confidence that their relationship with the Lord makes them immune to discipline and correction.

He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.

Proverbs 14:17

This verse is a little different from the previous two in Proverbs 14. It is not a contrast between a “right” person and a “wrong” person. It is a contrast between a “wrong” person and a “more wrong” person. A short-tempered person loses his cool and does something dumb. It’s not excusable, but it is chalked up to the heat of passion, and can be repented of and repaired more easily. However, the person who coldly calculates a wicked plan, then carries it out, is not seen as bumbling or irrational. He is hated, even by those who are worldly, because he has first shown hatred to others.

Let’s remember to share the Gospel with others in a way that is honestly probing, non-hypocritical, and patiently kind.

God Knows Something about Everything

October 2, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments
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Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.

Psalm 119:66

The Hebrew word for “judgment” in this verse is ta’am and it literally means “taste.” One of our regular prayers ought to be to ask God to give us “good taste.” It is generally recognized by her friends that my wife has excellent “taste” – except when it comes to picking husbands. (I think she tastes great!) But what we’re really talking about here is a big word for taste: it’s the Christian doctrine of “Discernment.”

We don’t like to think of ourselves as “judgmental.” It’s a term that has a bad connotation if you use it for someone who thinks he’s “better” than someone else, but “judging” is not really a sin – not when it’s done according to God’s standards. Every time we take a bite of food in order to determine whether we’re going to eat the rest of it, we’re being judgmental. We think, “This tastes good, but how fattening is it?” Or, “If I eat this and this, I’ll be too full to eat that.” Or, “If I don’t eat what my wife brought to the party, she might get mad – especially if no one else is eating it either.” Or, “This will give me heartburn and keep me up tonight.” Or, “This is going to make my breath smell bad.” That’s how “discernment” works: you make decisions based on past experiences, potential consequences, appetites, what people will think of you, and on and on. There are many benefits to cultivating good discernment, especially if we move on from thinking about food, and apply it to thinking spiritually.

A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not: but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.

Proverbs 14:6

“Understanding” is another word for discernment. Somebody who thinks he knows it all already is a scorner. He’s not teachable and he stays ignorant. But, for someone who has gotten skilled at practicing discernment, it starts to get easier. He gets to where he can look right into the heart of a matter and make good decisions.

Hey, honey, we can get this yacht for no money down!
-Wait a minute, Dear, remember what the Bible says about covetousness and stewardship.

Can little Billy come over for a play date with Susie?
-Well, I saw you doing shooters at Big Mike’s last week, so I’m thinking little Billy and little Susie might not get the proper supervision at your place. How about if Susie comes over to our house instead?

When you practice discernment, knowledge starts to come more easily. So how are we going to do it? How are we going to cultivate this gift of discernment?

I am thy servant; give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies.

Psalm 119:25

Remember to ask for it. According to I Corinthians 12, some people have it as a special spiritual gift, but we are all called to exercise it. We need to pray about it, then practice it (“I am thy servant”). Start thinking about your decisions the way you think about what you are going to eat. How healthy is this for me spiritually? Throw out the spiritual junk food. Cultivate a desire for Godly habits by practicing them.

“I am thy servant.” Remember that discernment is making the exact choices God would have you to make. It is doing God’s will, and where do we find God’s will? In the Bible as illuminated by the Holy Spirit. In reading the Bible with the intention of obeying it.

What do you think about boron? What do you think about Jupiter’s eighth moon during it’s fifth solar phase? Probably nothing. You don’t have an opinion one way or the other because you don’t know anything about it. You have an opinion on bananas in your Corn Flakes because you’ve tried bananas or Corn Flakes or both, and you know something about them. You have an opinion on whether certain words are cuss words because you grew up hearing them and you know what they mean and you’ve seen people’s reactions to them.

This is where we observe a huge distinction between God and us. His discernment and knowledge and wisdom and information and data are unlimited. He is truly omniscient. So you need to consult with God and try to find His Biblical revelation about every decision you make. Most of us know at least one “special” person who gets on our nerves because he acts like he knows something about everything. Nobody really knows something about everything – except for God. In fact, He knows everything about everything.

Preparation for the Battle

July 15, 2013 at 11:26 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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I sometimes wonder how often the difficulties we experience in life are simply God’s way of lovingly “breaking” us: tearing down our pride in or order to prepare us for glorious victory in some upcoming battle. “Breaking” can be painful, but it is helpful to see it as part of preparation. Even our hurts are appointed by God.

For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;

Philippians 1:29

That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.

I Thessalonians 3:3

By and large, our flesh tends to resist drawing near to Christ while we are experiencing bright sunny days, good health, plenty of money, or worldly popularity. Those things tend to cause us to depend on ourselves and give ourselves the glory for them. However, how many times have you drawn close to Christ – and depended on Him more – and really magnified Him – through intense suffering?

Even when we face the assault of the enemy, we must not rely on our own strength. God’s people needed to remember this fact when they were attacked by the king of Assyria.

With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.

II Chronicles 32:8

The way to survive the attack of a spiritual enemy who is stronger than you is not by self-reliance. Our true hope is in turning to God, for His enemies are no match for Him.

There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength. Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield.

Psalm 33:16-20

We know that when God “breaks” His children He will rebuild us and use us again. Jacob is a good example of this. He was broken by God and then re-used. His brother, Esau, was never broken so he was never used in a favorable way by God. Moses is another example. He was broken repeatedly and was used continuously.

What we learn in our past battles can be used in our future battles.

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

II Corinthians 1:3-4 (emphasis added)

Confidence in God is always better than confidence in self.

In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.

Proverbs 14:26

When we are preparing for a difficult task we tend to think that we are making ourselves strong – even spiritually speaking. We pray, we read our Bible, we preach to our own souls, and tell ourselves we will overcome and not back down. But the Bible says that, even though we are God’s Own children, our emphasis is not to be on us. It is to be on our Father. We put on our armor in preparation for a battle, and we remember that we are not really battling against other people. We are battling wickedness in high places. It is a spiritual battle. God is not preparing you to wage a personal vendetta or to settle a grudge against sinners you don’t happen to like.

Performing a Biopsy on Your Marriage

May 23, 2012 at 9:29 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians, John | 10 Comments
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Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

I Corinthians 13:4 (emphasis added)

A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.

Proverbs 14:30

Husbands and wives are one flesh. The opposite of a sound heart is a divided heart. Can a one-flesh body thrive with a divided heart? No, the Bible says that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. We have a word for when something inside our body starts attacking the very body that gives it life: cancer. That’s what “rottenness of the bones” means. It is describing an eating-away from the inside.

This is how it works: First you think there is at least some basic minimum to which you are entitled. “I don’t ask for much, but…” Second, you see something that you don’t have that would fulfill that longing (covetousness). “All I’m asking for is…” Third, you see that your spouse does have the thing you long for or something that satisfies him or her in the way that you are not being satisfied (bitterness). “Well, I don’t see you having to put up with that…” Fourth, it occurs to you that if you don’t get to have it, he or she shouldn’t either (the wrong kind of jealousy). “Fine! If you’re going to be that way about it…” Fifth, out of spite, you don’t want your spouse to have it, or you want to have it for yourself instead (envy).

To further aggravate the situation, there are usually two sides to envy. You are not happy because you don’t have something, and you are resentful that your spouse does have it. Even if you are able to suppress the kinds of statements used for illustrative purposes in the paragraph above because you realize that these types of feelings are too ugly to express out loud, you can still succumb to love-negating envy. It’s just that you do it secretly. You rejoice when your spouse weeps. You weep when your spouse rejoices. When that happens you have lost your “soundness of heart.” You have “rottenness” eating away at “the bones” (the infrastructure) of your marriage.

Let’s see how the Bible says to handle this by looking at the example of John the Baptist:

After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison. Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.

John 3:22-27

John recognized that envy is not only potentially disastrous to a relationship or a common cause, but it is an attack on the wisdom and the providence and the sovereignty of God.

Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.

John 3:28-30

Most married couples had a “best man” and a “maid or matron of honor” in their wedding. The attitude of these people is supposed to be happiness for the bride and bridegroom’s joy. How awful if your best man or maid of honor had been standing there at your wedding, secretly seething with anger and envy because you were getting to experience joy that they weren’t – or if you were marrying the person that they secretly wanted for themselves! In my marriage I don’t normally think of me decreasing and my wife increasing, but I should think of the Lord of my marriage increasing. In marriage we are supposed to actually want our spouse to have every good and perfect gift that God has for her or him. There’s no room for envy of each other. (Likewise, there’s no room for envy of what another couple has in their marriage.)

In the last lesson on marriage I asked, “Is there some quality or virtue about your spouse that you wished he or she did not possess?” With recognition of the destructiveness of envy in view, a better question now would be, “Is there some virtue or quality about your spouse that you are glad he or she has even though you don’t have it?

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