Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Big Circle

I have taught the subject of applying God’s authority at least four times over the years at different congregations and to all age levels. The more I study and search the sciptures, the more I realize how important this subject matter is to us all. I always like to illustrate with a large circle…within the circle is doing God’s will and by His authority as He has revealed to us. Anything beyond the circle, whether one pixel outside or 10 feet away is outside of the realm of His authorization.

Many people rationalize their actions by referring to God’s word as nothing more than a series of personal letters written as general guidelines for us to use, or not use as we see fit. I have corresponded with a preacher at a church of Christ congregation that has been studying and proclaiming this philosophy for a number of years in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. He readily admits being of a more conservative nature but feels so much more free and liberated to have a more liberal stance.

When we disregard God’s commandments, don’t follow His examples or necessarily infer what actions to take in our worship and church conduct, we do things that may be very offensive to God and have to bear the consequences. This is exactly why so many churches continue to get further and further from the "circle of authority." This divergence is nothing new in our modern times. The apostle Paul found that the church at Galatia very quickly began to pervert God’s word after he had taught them the Gospel.

Galatians 1:6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Satan uses all sorts of gimmicks and emotions to get us to rationalize by just barely crossing that "circle" to test the waters. Once we cross that boundary, nothing but the conscience of mankind will set those new boundaries. All must be done by HIS authority:

Colossians 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

God takes His commands and authority very seriously. The silence of the Scriptures gives us no authority to act. How do we know if something is pleasing to God unless we go the New Testament and see if it is so? We should all be able to justify our worship and actions with Bible commands and examples or at least be able to infer that God required it of us. I leave you with one final passage.

1 Corinthians 1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Friday, March 21, 2008

What is Easter? ...according to the Bible, of course

Acts 12:4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.

This is the only passage that mentions the word Easter. Unfortunately, we find in the original Greek that the King James translation should have use the word, ‘Passover.' This was not a reference to the present-day tradition of an annual celebration of the resurrection of Christ but rather a reference to the Passover. This Greek word, paske is used several times in the New Testament and is translated to Passover in every instance other than this passage in Acts.

Satan will use all means to demean and degrade any and everything in the Holy scriptures. This includes taking the teachings, truths, and methods and then perverting (altering) them to the point that people will celebrate them in their own ways. This includes Christmas and Easter celebrations as a religious holy day (i.e. holiday).

Easter was started as a pagan holiday in approximately the 4th century to celebrate fertility and the goddess of Spring. This same goddess has been referred to several names including Aphrodite, Astarte, and Ashtoreth. She is mentioned in 1 Kings 11:5, 33 and 2 Kings 23:13.

Over time, just like the celebration of Christ’s birth, Easter was adopted by the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches as a tradition and quickly adopted by mankind. Many argue that there is nothing wrong with celebrating Christ’s death and resurrection on a yearly basis as a special day. Unfortunately, once again, man continues to try to outsmart and second guess God. The Spirit, in His divine writings was very specific about when and how to celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection.

Matthew 26:26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. 30 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

Acts 20:7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

From these two verses, we see that we are to partake of the bread and fruit of the vine on the first day of every week. This is not a yearly practice but rather a weekly ritual. We must follow God’s pattern and not add to it nor take away from it. God has a reason for His commands and we don’t always understand the reasons behind them.

Our congregation celebrates the sacrifice of Christ on a weekly basis. You won’t see special “Easter” sunrise services or a special communion to be ignored for the next 51 weeks. We do as Christ instructed in remembering Him on a weekly basis…for he knows how short our memories are and the need for this constant reminder.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Source of God’s Authority is not….

Many people are very gullible and will believe almost anything without verifying the source or accuracy. I constantly get emails claiming many things yet I quickly learn that it may be a hoax or outright lie. We need to be very careful when we put trust in anything other than God’s word. Man is always fallible and can lead us astray. The bible warns us of this.

Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

This leads me to a subject of talking about things that are not sources of authority.

Old Testament: As mentioned in the last blog, people are constantly referring to practices or doctrines in the Old Testament as reasons for doing it today. Examples include tithing, the 10 Commandments, instrumental music, polygamy, etc. We must remember that it was removed on the Christ when He died for us.

Ephesians 2:14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

The Preacher/Bishop/Cardinal/Pope: Preachers have a tremendous responsibility when teaching others. Many religions place a special emphasis on the evangelist to the point that they’ve invented special offices or positions that are not dictated by scripture. When this is done, God’s word is supplemented without His authority. All men sin and can lead a group astray. Terms like pastor or reverend are misused by everyone due to the abuses of certain religions and media. God is the source of authority not man.

Creeds of the church: Some churches legislate their own bylaws, creeds or synods/councils. We have no authority to make up the laws. We cannot accept creeds of man and be pleasing to God.

Matthew 15:8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

The End Justifies the Means: Also known as Consequentialism, it refers to those moral theories which hold that the consequences of a particular action form the basis for any valid moral judgment about that action. From a consequentialist standpoint, a morally right action is one that produces a good outcome, or consequence. Many people justfy their actions by saying it’s a good work or they look at the results of doing it a certain way.

Look how the mega-churches reel people in with big bands, entertainment, sporting events, motivational speakers, etc. They justify their actions by stating it’s a good work because all these people get to hear God’s word and worship Him. David tried to move the ark of the covenant in a way that was different than God’s way and the “end would justify the means.” However, we find that his alternate method led to a death and results not accomplshed. (see 2 Samuel 6:1-11 and 1 Chronicles 26: 16-20)

Many more things are used by people to justify their actions; however, we need to remember that anything other than the Testement of Christ is not a proper source of authority in our actions as a church or as an individual. Of course, not all details are given, and we will start to examine the method in which we can look at our actions to determine if they are pleasing to God in future blogs.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Out with the Old, In with the New

One of the most misunderstood and misused applications of the Bible is mixing up the Old Law with the New Law resulting in confusion, many different denominations and out-right misuse of scripture. I have often had Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, and others come to my door and try to justify their beliefs using the Old Testament or Old Covenant as a source of authority in why they do certain things. Don’t get me wrong, the Old Law had its purpose and can still provide valuable lessons in how to respect God and the history of God’s eternal plan for the church.

Galatians 3:23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. 26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

The law was designed to be an introduction to Christ. The sacrifices and offerings were designed to shadow forth the Messiah, and to introduce him to the world. It had a purpose and its purpose was fulfilled as prophesied by Isaiah and others when Christ died, was buried and resurrected.

Hebrews 8:10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

We see further in Hebrews 9 that the New Covenant was much better than the old. It was perfect as established and confirmed by the blood of Christ. When we look to the Bible as a source of authority, we need to remember that the Old Law was given to the Israelites and had its purpose. The New Law is given to all mankind…both Jew and Gentile, and allows us all to become Christians and have the hope of eternal life.

Probably the most visible and misunderstood concept is that of the 10 Commandments. These commandments were given to the people of Israel not to the Gentiles or Christians of today. I once had a man say, "Oh so we can murder or commit adultery if we want?" Of course not…that’s just the silliness that seems to appear in a discussion of religion. We find that nine of the Ten Commandments are actually reaffirmed under the law of Christ. We follow these laws because Christ has told us to follow them.

Matthew 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

We find that if we have the proper attitude and love God first, our neighbors second, and ourselves last, we will have no problem following the word of God and obeying His commandments. We won’t be trying to find loop-holes and trying to rationalize our actions in worshipping God the way we want rather than the way God wants. We will search out the New Testament for what we can cannot do and never allow God’s silence on a subject to justify doing whatever we want. My next blog, I will start looking at specific rules or approaches in how we establish authority. I welcome your comments and look forward to the next entry.