deception

Did God Really Say That?

Photo by  Eunice Lituañas  on  Unsplash

Opinions abound... everyone has one! Here's one I liked by a former American president, "I have opinions of my own—strong opinions—but I don't always agree with them."

This brings up a couple good questions. Can all opinions be right? Can any of them be right?

"If you convinced me—And I convinced you, Would there not still be—Two points of view?" [Richard Amour]

Many people claim God told them certain things. But is this their opinion, or was it really God? How can we know one way or the other?

Figure it out

A multitude of authors and speakers claim they can teach people to know the will of God. But I wonder, is it really that hard to know?

Preschool-age children already know how to figure out their parents. As they get older, they know who to go to for a favorable response to what they want.

We learn how to discern this at an early age, and likewise, learn how to use this discernment to manipulate others.

Is it really that hard to know the will of God?

You can't manipulate God, but you can know His will. It's really not that difficult. The hard part is giving up on trying to manipulate Him to agree with what we want (our self-will).

A tell-tale sign of not hearing God's voice is when we think we have it all figured out. Then we attempt to coerce others to believe it.

When we deceive ourselves that something is true because we are banking on it, we then work on others so they will accept it. This is either an effort to deceive or leads to deception.

You can't manipulate God, but you can know His will

The value of listening

Don't get me wrong. I'm as opinionated as the next person. Sometimes, more than most. When I begin to hear my own voice sound shrill and uncompromising, I know it's time to listen, not talk.

You've heard the old expression, "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak." [Epictetus]

When my voice sounds shrill and uncompromising—I need to listen not talk

Over the centuries, or should I say, millennia, people have taken the truth, twisted it to their own design, and presented it as God's truth. This happens in all areas of philosophy and religion, among individuals and within churches.

Cultural swings can influence this. It could be the current flow of a culture or opposition to it. Think hundreds of years, not decades for perspective.

The earliest example of misrepresenting what God says is found in the encounter of the crafty serpent with the first woman and man (Gen 3:1-5)

People have long taken the truth, twisted it, and presented it as God's truth

Unadulterated truth

Jesus dealt with this in His time. Experts in the Law had tweaked and twisted God's truth into their own version of it. The foremost ones were called Pharisees.

It's no different today. We have our own Pharisees. Of course, we think it's the other guys, not ourselves. We brand them with libelous labels and separate ourselves as more righteous.

But when we do this, we hide behind the shadow of Jesus—our version of Him—as if He's on our side. When we do this are we any different than the Pharisees of the Lord's time?

Pharisees exist today but we think it's the other guys, not us

How Jesus made the truth clear

How did Jesus deal with this twisting and tweaking of truth? He often restated truth in its original form, its intended meaning.

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Never break your oath, but give to the Lord what you swore in an oath to give him.’

But I tell you don’t swear an oath at all. Don’t swear an oath by heaven, which is God’s throne, or by the earth, which is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, which is the city of the great King. And don’t swear an oath by your head. After all, you cannot make one hair black or white.

Simply say yes or no. Anything more than that comes from the evil one." (Matt 5:33-37 GW)

So, it's imperative that we know and understand the truth of God well. Not our view of the truth or the dogmatic views of spiritual leaders.

It's imperative that we know and understand the truth of God well

How to know the truth yourself?

Last week, I shared of the value and importance of reading and listening to God's Word. But the first priority is knowing God. Knowing Him, in a personal way.

The first priority is knowing God—knowing Him in a personal way

Reflecting Jesus

How? A simple path is looking at all the invitations Jesus gives in the gospels. Hear them. Take them to heart. Let them become life in you. 

Here are two important invitiations—

“Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest... learn from me, because I am gentle and humble." (Matt 11:28-29 GW)

“Those who want to come with me must say no to the things they want, pick up their crosses every day, and follow me." (Luke 9:23 GW)

But how will you know His will? How will you know if you're following Him in the right way?

Simple. When your life reflects the nature of Jesus, you're on the right path.

When your life reflects the nature of Jesus, you're on the right path

A Stolen Lamb

unsplash.com_RLong

unsplash.com_RLong

Injustice is just so... unjust! It's a wrong that demands to be made right. When it happens to us, those close to us, or the innocent and defenseless it stirs up anger inside of us and we want some type of justice done.

The greater the indifference or wrong on the part of the offender, the stronger the reaction and demand for justice. Sadly, we can be unaware of our own indifference, even a heartlessness when we cause heartache or wrong others. What's worse is when we are numb and hardened to the cries of the victims of injustice.

But it never goes unnoticed. One person, who is able to bring about true and full justice, not only sees it but holds each one of us accountable for our life.

2 men and a parable

Parables are often associated with Jesus but they are common throughout history in many cultures. Solomon, King David's son through Bathsheba, used several parables in his writing in the book of Proverbs.

Before King Solomon was born, the prophet Nathan told King David a telling parable. One he would never forget. It's found in 2 Samuel 12:1-4 (GW). It begins, “There were two men in a certain city. One was rich, and the other was poor."

The contrast and injustice become more clear as the parable unfolds. It tells of a wealthy man with many flocks who took the pet lamb of a poor man to feed a visitor.

The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cows, but the poor man had only one little female lamb that he had bought. He raised her, and she grew up in his home with his children. She would eat his food and drink from his cup. She rested in his arms and was like a daughter.
Now, a visitor came to the rich man. The rich man thought it would be a pity to take one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler. So he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared her for the traveler. (2 Sam 12:2-4 GW)

As Jesus often did with His parables, Nathan used the parable to convey a simple truth but with a catch. As David heard the parable he responded in an immediate and strong way (2 Sam 12:5-6 GW). In doing so, he convicted himself of his own sin.

The back story

One important factor for understanding parables is the setting for the parable itself. It often reveals why the parable is told. We need to read the story in the previous chapter (2 Sam 11) to understand why this parable impacts David the way it does.

David was the great warrior king of Israel but he chose to stay back and send his army to battle without him. One day after a nap, David took a stroll on his rooftop and saw a beautiful woman bathing. Her name was Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.

The enemy of our souls had set a trap and David fell for it.

A thwarted deception

David ignored this woman's marriage and had her brought to his palace. When she became pregnant, David tried to cover his sin. He called her husband home from the war thinking Uriah would sleep with his wife while at home and assume he impregnated his wife.

But things did not go as expected (2 Sam 11:8-13). David did not count on Uriah's loyalty to his soldiers and his honorable character, which was greater than his king.

An unnecessary death

The reactions of the very first encounter with the clever adversary of our soul are seen in David's next decision—the murder of Uriah.

King David instructs his general Joab to put Uriah on the front line of battle then pull back from him. He took advantage of Uriah's loyal and honest character (2 Sam 11:14-17). And so, Uriah's unnecessary death was the consequence of David's ill-fated attempt to cover his sin.

The indictment

“You are the man!” Nathan told David. “This is what the Lord God of Israel says: I anointed you king over Israel and rescued you from Saul. I gave you your master Saul’s house and his wives. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if this weren’t enough, I would have given you even more." (2 Sam 12:7-8 GW)

What we see of David in this story lurks in all of us. His reaction to Nathan's parable reflects our natural unredeemed self.

We condemn ourselves when we cry out for justice on others without realizing our own wrongness and our need for mercy.

None of us are as innocent as we may think. None of us will avoid true justice—the accounting of our life before the One True and Righteous Judge. But we all need His mercy!

Judgment and restoration

Next week, I'll look into the consequences—the judgment—of David's sin with Bathsheba and Uriah and his response to it. It just might surprise you!

Judgment is a part of God's redemptive story. It's like drawing a line for what God says is acceptable in His eyes. It's not mere punishment. It has a purpose. God desires for His judgment to lead to correction and restoration.

Until then—

What bothers you most about David's actions?

His weakness of temptation, the adultery, the attempt to cover his sin, the murder of Uriah, or David's calculating hardness of heart? Why and which do you relate to most?

What we condemn in others is often what dwells in our own heart.

Why Do You Believe That?

Photo credit: unsplash.com_EDennis
Photo credit: unsplash.com_EDennis

What's the most visited page on a website? The About (Me/Us) page. It's true for my site, as it is for most others. Is it because our culture is so voyeuristic?

While this might be true to some degree, mainly it's because we want to know someone before we trust what they say. Christian believers also need to know the validity of what they say they believe.

Over the next several weeks, I want to take a look at why we believe what we believe. This includes a look at the 5 Solas, the basic pillars of the Protestant Reformation, from my own point of view as a follower of Jesus.

A very brief history

Every evangelical church, or evangelical community of believers, is rooted in the Protestant Reformation. Many people in evangelical ministries may not realize this, or if they know it, may not know why.

The Protestant Reformation (PR) started when men such as John Wycliffe, John Huss, Martin Luther, Huldreich Zwingli, and John Calvin, over a period of 200 years, objected to the sale of indulgences (kindnesses) and other practices of the church.

As a means of raising money, the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) provided a way to pay for forgiveness, even for people already dead. There's more to what paying for indulgences includes, its origin and history, but it worked like a get-out-of-hell-free card.

The reform movement formalized

This led to a movement that set out to reform the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). When it was clear the church—the only recognized church at that time—would not change, the Protestant movement separated from the RCC.

Initially, three primary churches developed, then a fourth, for mostly the same reasons—

  • The Lutheran Church— started by followers of Martin Luther's leadership and influence
  • The Reformed Church— started by John Calvin's followers
  • The Presbyterian Church— started by John Knox in Scotland
  • The Anglican Church— this included the Reformers in England, but was formalized when King Henry the VIII broke away from the Pope

Luther's 95 Theses

Although many people had similar concerns, Martin Luther is most well known for his Ninety-five Theses posted on the door of the church in Wittenberg. Luther was a monk who taught moral theology at the University of Wittenberg.

The original intent for his 95 Theses was to promote discussion not dissension, but the church didn't see it that way.

There's much more to the story, but the essence is that Luther and other reformers challenged the authority of the pope and certain practices of the church that were not biblical.

The driving force of the Protestant Reformation was to bring the church back to its biblical roots. The Scriptures are to be the final authoritative basis governing all doctrines and practices of the church, not the pope nor other church leaders.

The roots of Protestantism

Protestantism is a broad term that includes churches or communities of believers who are not part of the RCC, but who hold to a biblical foundation of faith.

Other churches grew out of the four primary ones mentioned above because of other distinctions in theology, doctrine, and practices, but the essentials of the Christian faith remain the same.

The primary tenets of the Protestant Reformation are summarized in the 5 Solas (originally in Latin)—

  1. Sola Scriptura – Scripture Alone – The Bible alone is the sole authority for all matters of faith and practice.
  2. Sola Gratia – Grace Alone – “Salvation by Grace Alone.” Salvation is proof of God’s undeserved favor; we are rescued from God’s wrath by His grace alone, not by any work we do.
  3. Sola Fide – Faith Alone  “Salvation by Faith Alone.” We are justified by faith in Christ alone, not by the works of the Law.
  4. Sola Christus – Christ Alone  “In Christ Alone.” Salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone; no one and nothing else can save.
  5. Soli Dei Gloria – Glory of God Alone “For the Glory of God Alone.” Salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God for His glory alone.

Why we need to understand what we believe

Pure and simple devotion

We need to be aware of deceptions perpetrated by the enemy of our soul (the devil). As Paul points out, we need a pure and undivided devotion to Jesus.

But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. (2 Cor 11:3 NLT)

It's always about Jesus! He's the Head of the Body of Christ—the church. He's the Core of the Gospel. He's the Alpha (first) and Omega (last). He's the only Son of God—Savior, Lord of Lords, and Returning King.

A strong and deep relationship

Our relationship with the Lord Jesus needs to deepen so we're not so vulnerable to clever arguments, deceptions, or anything else that would draw us away from a pure, uncomplicated commitment to Him.

I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments... And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him... Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. (Col 2:4, 6, 8 NLT)

Spiritual maturity

We need to pursue spiritual maturity, not by gathering more theological knowledge, but through deepening our understanding of Jesus—who He is and what He's done to redeem and restore us.

This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. (Eph 4:13-14 NLT)

It's who you know, not what you know

We need to be rooted and grounded in our relationship with Jesus, not just gain more knowledge about Him. We need to understand what He says.

The four gospels are the bedrock for our faith, as they were for the early church. Jesus is the one who interprets the truth of the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms for us. He did this personally for the apostles (Luke 24:44), and He will do it for us by the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:27).

Jesus is the Cornerstone of our faith (1 Cor 3:11; Eph 2:20; 1 Pet 2:4-6).

Jesus is our plumb line, our spiritual point of reference. As Jesus said to His closest followers—

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63)

If the truths we hold about Jesus and the Christian faith don't line up with what He says, then we're on shaky ground.

Do you understand why you believe what you believe?


Helpful links for the history of the Protestant Reformation and the 5 Solas—

Protestant Reformation

Protestant Reformation History

5 Solas

Cambridge Declaration–Alliance–Confessing Evangelicals