Wells or Cisterns?

I remember one of the greatest highlights each summer as a child on our West Texas farm was when my father would start hooking up the irrigation pipe to water the fields.  Water was a big deal out there. We had no lakes or ponds. There were no crashing sounds of waves from the ocean or consistent experience of rainfall. When the cold, fresh well water gushed out of the pipe, it was an exciting moment.  I would stand there and listen for the water coming through the pipe as Dad would turn on the pump at the well-house. You could hear the air popping and burping out of the line and as the water came closer to the outlet you could feel the cool wind surging out.  Then whoosh! Gushing out of the pipe would be wonderful wetness. The water was so cold you could barely stand to be in it, so I would run in and out, splashing around and enjoying the feeling of being refreshed.

Interconnected with this wonderful experience was yet another much anticipated event.  We had an old livestock watering tank in the center of one field. It was rectangular in shape and made out of concrete.  On the bottom corner was a drain spout which we plugged enabling us to fill it with water. The tank served as our summer swimming pool; however, before we could use it each year, our mother insisted on disinfecting it by scrubbing it down with bleach.  Even though there were no livestock in the area actually using the tank, Mom wanted it sanitized before we filled it with water and set so much as one toe inside. As a child, I never understood why no one stopped me from jumping straight into the water coming out of the pipe, yet I was not allowed to jump straight into some water in a concrete tank.  What I did not comprehend was the difference between fresh and stagnant water.

In the Bible, we read about holes dug down into rocks called cisterns.  Typically water would be drained (during the short rain season) or transported to the cistern to supplement the supply during the dry months.  Wells were also dug but different in the respect that they were extremely deep reservoirs. In the upper section of the well there were openings for natural springs to flow from, thus filling the lower reservoir.  Hence, cisterns had to be manually filled while wells were naturally fed by flowing water.  

It was not uncommon for cistern water to develop a thick layer of scum on the surface, which required the people to literally ‘drop’ their bucket to break through the sludge to get to the water beneath.  Eventually the water would become undrinkable if not replenished with a fresh supply. This is because water that is not flowing becomes stagnant. Moreover, cisterns would eventually run dry either from not being replenished or from cracks that would develop along the walls.  Wells were different. As long as water was continually being removed, the source would replenish the levels, thus refreshing the stock.  

Where do we get our water from – our spiritual water?  Do we dip into the stale pools of sectarian dogma or do we drink from the fresh, flowing, living water of Christ Jesus?  Do we cart our doctrines in and pour them into static, leaky holdings or do we allow the river of God to stream healthy teachings into our presence?  In Jeremiah 2:13, God states, “For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. 

How do we know when we have traded the river for the dormant hole?  It is when people come to us who are suffering with the pain of a sin-filled world and we attempt to apply our beliefs and teachings.  The person who is being crushed under the weight of a divorce could care less whether of the methodology of worship. The person who is in the final stages of cancer ravaging their body finds no reassurance in whether someone uses systematic theology.  The person whose body is convulsing from the withdrawals of addiction sees no relief in ministerial boundaries. The person immersed in grief and loneliness to the point of suicide sees no relevance in dogma, tradition, or ritual.

Do all the things we concern ourselves with in our doctrines and issue oriented arguments hold a cup of fresh water for the person who is dying in their thirst for relief?  Do the net results of all our debates make any difference to the person who is in anguish? The question must be answered – does it matter?  

When Jesus met a woman who was drowning in her misery, He did not offer her a cup of rules and regulations.  He extended a drink of His “relief.” He said to her, “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”  

Living water means growth.  Living water means healing. Living water means liberation.  It is constantly moving (a fountain) and being renewed.  One of the greatest features about this refreshment is we do not have to go somewhere and haul it in.  God personally brings it to us. “I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; and My salvation will not delay.” (Isaiah 46:13a).

We thank You Lord for supplying what we really thirst for.  We ask for Your forgiveness for the cisterns we have carved and subsequent abandoning of Your will.  Please give us new life Lord. Flood us with precious streams. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Cheers.
-James Sterling

The `A Priori of Faith

The defining use of an `a priori is based upon the reasoning of self-evidence without needing any prior experience.  An `a posteriori is an assertion based on prior experience.  The application of Christian faith often vacillates between these two thought processes and thus, causing confusion in what or how one defines “faith.”  Therefore, an understanding of the two adjectives (adverbial usage also) is in order.

The simplest explanation for an `a priori is found in natural law that governs the universe.  Intrinsic to this is mathematics. In spite of contemporary attempts to redefine the terms, 1+1 will always equal 2, as 5+5 will equal 10 and 10+10 will equal 20.  This is determined before we deliberate the evidences. In fact, it will be true regardless of whether or not one is aware of its existence. However, an `a posteriori is rooted in mankind’s observations and experiences.  Therefore, while an `a priori may be affirmed by an `a posteriori, it does not require the `a posteriori to make it true.

Christian “faith” has largely been presented as something that requires a belief or believer(s) in order to exist.  Christian apologetics often die at its own sword by arrogantly presenting half-cocked arguments in the face of well thought out paradigms from millennia old religions and hammered-out philosophies.  Sufficient evidences for Christianity are often presented more on the inclination of opinion, rather than absolutes. Moreover, ethereal abstracts seem more attractive in an effort that appears to have a greater concern for winning the day through confounding, as opposed to convincing another of a universal truth.  

For example, the United States Declaration of Independence states that the “Laws of Nature” and “Nature’s God” are the basis for what entitled them to make a separation from the “political bands” to another.  Therefore, it is not merely a wish of a people. It is an absolute that is so essentially true, the next paragraph begins with, “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” One may argue that the statement still is a matter of a belief to one group of people, because another can be produced that disagrees with the premise and conclusion.  However, the evidence of any person’s demand for freedom remains a universal truth; this is how these rights can be declared as “unalienable,” meaning, they cannot be removed. This is a classic `a priori statement.

Presenting the gospel to an unbeliever on the foundation of what one “believes,” even when given in light of personal experiences (`a posteriori), leaves the subjective door wide open and has a tendency to disempower its truth.  While the `a posteriori can be an excellent form of testimony and witness to the `a priori, the universal truth must be presented and held as the absolute truth.  Christians have too easily yielded massive grounds concerning the Gospel in the name of philosophy, psychology, science, sociology, and tolerance thereof, all for the sake of acceptance and approval, in fear of unmerited labels.  

Additionally, Christians can be tempted to overextend themselves into a form of hyper-spiritualism when sharing the Gospel solely upon an `a posteriori basis.  In efforts to convince the unbeliever of the testimony, approaches to sensationalism are attempted which typically end up in alienation.  If this sounds far-fetched, consider how often the gospel is actually shared from the pattern of created order (`a priori) as opposed to a personal conversion experience (`a posteriori).  When the Apostle Paul engaged with educated unbelievers on Mars Hill in Acts 17, he began with the `a priori of creation and built his argument from there.  

However, a word of caution is advisable.  When presenting an `a priori, the truth of the statement must not be padded with preference or even experience.  It must be left to stand on its own with no fences, walls, or minefields. Any such doing reflects fear that it cannot withstand question or scrutiny.  Creation, order, the purpose of mankind’s existence and the need for salvation in a broken world are truths that are indeed, self-evident, as is the God who holds the answer to all of them.

jas

Beware The Mob

Beware the Mob

The founding forefathers of the United States of America were looking for a way to secure the nation in a way that it would never be removed from the hands of the people; thus forming the opening of the preamble to the Constitution, “We the people.” However, encapsulated within is the declaration of something that is not a democracy. This is because the founders knew that the definition of a purely democratic government being “one man, one vote” would send them towards a mob rule mentality, which would only result in anarchy. While it was important that the citizenry must be able to vote, they must have a system that equalizes the power. Thus, a government controlled as a republic was born. The question would remain though, would the democratic vote hold sway over the republic, or would the republic hold the reigns of the democracy? This was the reason when Benjamin Franklin emerged from the secret Constitutional Convention of 1787, responded to a Mrs. Powell of Philadelphia who asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” with, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

As time would march on, politicians and parties would begin to learn the ways of manipulating the central populaces in the country. The representation of immediate constituencies overrode the wellbeing of the United States as a whole. Elected representatives became far more interested in holding power as opposed to serving patriotism. Soon, the power of the mob was harnessed.

Mobs serve few functions. One, is to drown out any opposition. Two, is to destroy remaining hindrances in their paths. The third item, which always seems unanticipated amongst them, is to self-implode. The mob is always attractive to those in positions of power insofar as they can steer them. However, once the mob breaks free from the reigns, it is seldom regained to containment.

This act is of no new play. For centuries mob mentality has been used by wicked people for what they would think to be their own purposes. Take for example the persecution of Christians. Maltreatment in the Roman Empire was largely motivated by crowds who were stirred up by those who would convince them of a pseudo-conviction of their consciences. In other words, tell the crowds that someone is encroaching upon an inherent good in their lives, and therefore, they must take drastic action.

This was the same principle the Jews exercised when bringing Christ into the mock trial that led to an audience with Pontius Pilate. But the Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. Acts 13:50 (NAS)

Marcus Aurelius took greater action than those that preceded him. As witnessed in the inquiry of Pliny the younger to emperor Trajan concerning the handling of Christians, Trajan merely stated that the Christians were not to be pursued. However, if they were come upon, they were to be prosecuted according to the law of Rome. The practice of Christian prosecution for denying the gods of Rome continued through the reigns of Hadrian and Pius. But Aurelius took a more aggressive stance to the pursuance of Christians to the progressive shedding of blood. His modus operandi to accomplish this goal was primarily in and through the immediate governors inciting city crowds to act against the pending threat upon their securities and moralities. The easily manipulated populace would therefore accomplish the duty otherwise reserved for the Roman government. Ironically, the Pax Romana appears to have been used against itself to serve itself by creating a false narrative of a pending threat to Rome. This in turn would justify a lynch mob to execute justice. Again, the irony lay in breaking the law to protect the law.

Mobs and revolutions are not to be confused. While revolutions often encompass war, at times it is also exercised through peace and passivity. The common denominator is the accomplishing a desired purpose based upon a set of fixed principles. It is true enough that revolutions can be evil as well. Yet they are still structured as such. Mobs in general are chaotic and unhinged. The vast majority are unable to remotely articulate that for which they riot against. In the midst of predisposed, externally force-fed clichés, arguments given are often circular in reasoning and have no root in which to rely on. This ends in a graduated form of vandalism that fickly ebbs and flows with things such as emotions and the weather. However, a true revolution looks well past its immediate circumstances. It believes in a far greater purpose, which compels them past local hindrances.

Remember, it was the same crowd shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David,[1]” to Jesus as He entered Jerusalem, that were later demanding, “Let Him be crucified[2]!” before Pilate. This is because the mob is easily incited, as the chief priests and elders persuaded the crowds to shout for the release of a guilty man over the innocent Christ.[3]

As the church, we are never to be the mob. We are the body of Christ. In Him there is purpose, meaning, and given direction. Evil will continually attempt to harness the zeal of Christians for its own reasons. Resolutely turning our faces towards our King will prevent being deceived and the temptation to take matters into our own hands.

Keep the Faith,

jas

[1] Matthew 21:9; NAS

[2] Matthew 27:23; NAS

[3] Ibid 27:20

When Men Call Good, Evil

When Men Call Good, Evil

The Divine Command Theory questions whether something is good and holy because God commanded it or whether God commands something because it is good and holy. This is commonly referred to as the Euthyphro Dilemma found in Plato’s The Last Days of Socrates. The storyline is set when Socrates is traveling to the courthouse to deal with charges levied against him by Meletus. While waiting outside, Socrates meets a young man by the name of Euthyphro who is there on the unusual mission of prosecuting his own father for the death of another man. Euthyphro sees his actions as just and good (holy). Socrates asks him to define ‘holiness.’ Euthyphro answers that whatever is agreeable to the gods is holy and what is not agreeable is unholy. Socrates observes, however, that even the gods are prone to disagree on any number of things. Therefore, there can be no common meaning of holiness among them. Euthyphro notes many things may be disagreed upon, but the killing of a man should be agreeable to all as unholy. When Socrates demands evidence for this assertion, the dilemma of Euthyphro is declared:

EUTHYPHRO – ‘Well, I should certainly say that what’s holy is whatever all the gods approve of, and that its opposite, what all the gods disprove of, is unholy.’

SOCRATES – ‘We’ll soon be in better position to judge, my good chap. Consider the following point: is the holy approved by the gods because it’s holy, or is it holy because it’s approved?’

Applying this to our current treatment of biblical texts: Do we call something good because God commanded it or does God command it because it is good?  The line we take on this will largely determine the outcome of our doctrines. This is due to the fact that if something is good (holy) simply because God commands it, then at a later date if God removes the command it is then the opposite – evil (unholy).  However, if what God has commanded is because it is good (holy) to start with, then regardless of the presence or removal of the command, it remains good (holy).

Good is not so because God calls it good – even though God would never call anything good that is not. It is good because it finds its origin in Him (Genesis 1:1, 31).  Choice has been given to living creatures (such as men and angels) so they can choose to change from goodness to wickedness.  Such choice is obviously not a part of an inanimate object or substance.  How a ‘thing’ is used by something living with the consciousness of choice determines whether it is evil or good.  Take for example the common butcher knife: in the kitchen it is an invaluable tool for food preparation; however, in the hands of a murderer, it is a weapon of destruction.  The knife itself has no determination of holiness except that which it is used for.  Therefore, all inanimate objects are subject to what we choose to use them.

If things then are good because they find their origin in God and thus He commands them as holy, we cannot point to things set apart in the ancient Scriptures that bring Him glory as something which turns to bring Him shame in the New Covenant.  This would be philosophically contradictory.

The frightening aspect of this seemingly subtle shift is when men begin to call good, evil, they are in fact in the shadow of committing the unforgivable sin.  This is consistent with the teaching Jesus gives in Mark chapter 3.  As Jesus cast out demons, the scribes from Jerusalem accused Him of being possessed by Beelzebul and using powers of wickedness to exercise the spirits.  Jesus referred to this as the act of blaspheming the Holy Spirit.  They were accrediting the gracious act of deliverance to the evil power of Satan.  They were in effect calling good, evil.

In God’s eyes, there is only good or evil, right or wrong, holy or unholy, sacred or profane, righteousness or wickedness, truth or lies, etc.  Man cannot whitewash himself with vague and ambiguous language by saying, “I don’t agree with,” or “I don’t think that is right,” or “That is wrong.”  It is either of God or of the devil.  The looming danger is when we allow our own desires, prejudices, and even maliciousness to manipulate our discernment concerning what is of God and what is not.  This style of thinking has permeated our doctrines, to which we are now submitting ourselves to answering for, calling things wicked and evil, which God has expressly called good.  For this, we must repent and repent quickly.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Colossae, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Col. 3:17).  This means that in whatever you do, if you cannot do it the name of the Lord God, it is evil.  This does away with the alleviation of our worldly lifestyles and heightens our accountability to everything in which we participate.  The compartmentalization of Christian living should not come as any surprise to us.  We have been laying the foundation for years by expressly changing the very commands of God to suit our desires.  The evidence that this has backfired is clearly seen in the psychological response of contemporary Christians.  While we may not articulate it, we have interpreted things changing from once called right (good) to now being inherently called wrong (evil).  Therefore, we think in the subconscious that something can be right (good) outside of our assemblies and wrong (evil) inside.  This is not only a gross philosophical inconsistency, it is giving the glory God deserves to the world and its ruler.  Moreover, if anyone possesses God given gifts we do not view as ‘good’ within our assemblies, we compel them to take their gift to the world and lay it at its feet.  This is a serious charge for which we will have to give an account.  In Isaiah 5:20, the Lord says through His prophet, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

Perhaps we should listen to the call of Moses to the people of God before they entered the land of promise:

You shall not do at all what we are doing here today, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes;  Deuteronomy 12:8

jas

Ethics

One of the immediate items revealed in a brief Old Testament review is that God instated a set of principles by which we as people are to live.

prin·ci·ple
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, modification of Middle French principe, from Latin principium beginning, from princip-, princeps initiator — more at PRINCE
1 a : a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption b (1) : a rule or code of conduct (2) : habitual devotion to right principles <a man of principle> c : the laws or facts of nature underlying the working of an artificial device.

Some of the methodology has changed throughout our spiritual upbringing, but the principles have always remained the same.  This is why the psalmist would sing, “But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end.” (Ps 102:27).

“But the values of men continually self-destruct by their own contradictions.”

Nevertheless, mankind has always had a tendency to follow his own will and desires.  Thus, man tries to develop his own sets of principles to live by. But the values of men continually self-destruct by their own contradictions.  For example, there is a cry in our land for an absolute freedom of speech.  That is why the incredibly violent and vulgar aspects of the Internet, rap and metal music, the movie industry, and art is not only allowed, but legally protected.  Yet, society often demands that one must control his or her speech in relation to “offending” someone.  Subsequently, there is an obvious discrepancy and contradiction between the standards.

I realize some may immediately react to this statement with arguments surrounding censorship, but that is not my purpose.  Therefore, I will not attempt to “cover all the bases” in this briefing.  What I do want you to see is that there is already of set of standards in place that God desires for us to live by.  With this in mind, consider how many decisions we face that are based upon what the general consensus concludes.  After all, does it not sound correct to go with the majority rule? Yet God has called us not to what the majority of mankind thinks. In fact, He has called us “out” of what the bulk of the world would determine as truth and justice. Is not Satan the ruler of this world (John 14:30; “Ruler” only in the sense of those who reject Christ)?  God has called us to His truth and to His justice in Jesus Christ.  So, remember in your day-to-day activities and decisions that God has set forth a pattern with principles to live by.  Sift everything through the screen of His word and view everything through the eyes of Jesus.  But be prepared – many times it will be against the so-called “majority” view.

Keep the Faith

jas

Opinion

OPINION ~ Function: noun.  Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin opinion-, opinio, from opinari.  Date: 14th century.  1) a view, judgment, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter.  2)  belief stronger than impression and less strong than positive knowledge.

This is undoubtedly an opinionated culture.  Have there ever been more formats to express the minds of the people?  Oprah, Talk Back Live, Electronic Bulletin Boards, Chat Rooms, Rush Limbaugh, Billboards, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat – the picture is obviously clear.  There is no famine in the land for what people have to say concerning just about anything.  The epitome of these arenas must be talk shows.  Any large radio talk show employs a “screener;” these are employees whose job is to filter off any uninteresting or unintelligible callers.  In other words, they have to skim the top off of all the ignorance that calls in for the show.  Even then, there is never a shortage of people with opinions about something they have never even heard of before.  One must stop and ask, “What limits the public opinion on anything?”

Kay Arthur once made a statement about opinion and responsibility.  The essence of the thought was that people should not readily express opinions about matters that they do not have any responsibility with.  In other words, one needs to earn the right to speak.

Imagine working very hard on a yard to make it beautiful.  The soil is turned and prepared for a host of plants.  Bushes, shrubs, and flowers are careful selected and coordinated and placed them carefully about the landscape.  The trees are pruned and each plant is fertilized according to its needs.  The lawn is manicured and all the pesky weeds have been removed.  Magazines and home owner associations argue over which who retains the right to a cover shoot of the landscape for next month awards and publications.  This garden looks exceptional.

One day while labor is being performed in the midday sun, a few neighbors approach and begin kibitzing the labors.  Critique ensues over the choice of bush shaping.  Black spot fungus is pointed out on the roses.  Whispers abound about the imperfect cut on the tree branch prune.  Aphids are strained out while the pest of critical words are swallowed.

To what right do these individuals have to offer such assessment?  To what minute of labor did they acquire the right to this appraisal?  In this scenario it is painfully obvious; they have no right to speak against one’s efforts because they have no investment.  This same principle is recognized in sayings, such as, “Try walking a mile in another man’s moccasins.”  This is commonly understood as the need to minimally attempt to imagine living a person’s life before criticizing them.  It’s all a matter of humility when it is boiled down, because sharp edged opinions would be dulled considerably if one had to bear the load of the task or the individual.

The apostle Paul said in Romans 14:4,  “Who are you to judge the servant of another?  To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand,” and in Galatians 6:2-3, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.  For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”  When individuals cease being judgmental and start actually getting involved in the work of the kingdom, something just shy of miraculous takes place – people begin bonding and become a true family.

I give my God thanks for all of you who do this very thing.

Keep the Faith!

jas

New Year 2018

When a new year comes to pass, it is always interesting to watch the year end reviews on evening news to reflect on the events that have taken place. 2017 is no exception. In fact, in this generation, it may be without exception. Aside from the shear number of natural disasters, celebrity deaths, and the raw shakedown of the popular and powerful sexual predators (that otherwise seemed untouchable themselves), the political arena left even the most stoic slack-jawed. The only thing that matched the constant exposure of lies and deceit were the accusations of others lying about the lies and deceit. One was left to question the questions, and even then, at the expense of the questioners.

Since the Civil War, we have probably never see the likes of such polarism in our society as we do today. If one reads books from the 80’s and 90’s concerning American culture, the authors would state that the country spends more time splitting into sides and shouting at one another than they do accomplishing any agendas. Today, people have graduated from bellowing and protesting, to bashing each other’s skulls in order to communicate their minds. Some of the nation’s most admired prognosticators consider the country to be on a knife’s edge, teetering towards where this paragraph began – civil war.

Observant Christians are often taught to look beyond the chaos of the world, and to seek where the hand of God is leading the church – and rightly so. However, the ideas of mankind in leadership positions have frequently been confused with the absolute direction of Christ. When people drift from points in which they should otherwise be anchored, popularity casts their course, and the winds of opinions send them tossing about.

The Roman Catholics of the feudal Europe had more than ample reason for many misunderstandings of Scripture in their day. This was due to the chasm of a language they did not speak and being subject to the worldly men who did. These leaders of the church held this power over the masses and wielded it as hammer force their agendas. Emerging from these dark times were those who risked all that they had to set the people free to follow God as their sovereign leader alone. The formula for such a spiritual revolution was not difficult. The consequences that would rain down from those losing their position of prestige and power would be harsh though. But how would the people be released to seek God according to His terms and no other? It would be done by giving them God’s word in the language they spoke and understood for themselves.

Today there are over one hundred mainstream English language biblical versions that can be had at the turn of a page or a stroke of a keyboard. Moreover, one can access Greek and Hebrew interlinear bibles to see how the original languages align and are translated to their own. Access to the Scriptures has never been greater and as simple as today. Even if one has no internet access, multiple organizations are willing to give away complete bibles, free of charge, whatsoever.

Yet with this ease of access, has come an attitude that exceeds taking something for granted; it is the assumption that what is present, has always been, and will always be there. Bibles are left unread both in the collective assembly and at home. With this mindset in place, church members have passively handed over their minds to some church leaders with no checks and balances for the doctrines (or lack thereof) being espoused. Thus, our culture has come somewhat full-circle to that of the dark ages, with men telling the people what they should or should not believe, neither equipping them to study or think for themselves. Granted, the barrier is not a language limited to a certain vein of clergy, but one of willful ignorance. Ironically, there was much bloodshed during the age of translating and publishing bibles in English. Today, there is no bloodletting – just mentally checking out.

More than ever, Christians need to clearly understand that which they profess to believe in. This apologetic must be ready to answer the difficult questions that stand in direct opposition to the faith, such as abortion, homosexuality, capitol punishment, gender definitives, designer genetics, and even the history of Israel and Palestine. Questions abound with so few in the church answering. Many leaders teach doctrines based solely on popularity and local economics.

This is not a time to engage in screaming arguments. It is not a time to answer questions that are nothing more than goose-chases down rabbit trails. In these tumultuous periods, it is a confident head and spirit that will prevail. And such a mind and spirit will only come from a willing, Spirit-led, diligent disciple of God and His word.

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”

2 Timothy 2:15 NAS

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

James 1:22 NIV

Keep the Faith,

jas

The Biblical Notion Of Need

The Biblical Notion of Need

A compilation of articles and responses to the

problem of benevolent acts within the church proper

James A. Sterling, D. Min.

May 24, 2017

Within the Scriptures, a model is clearly established for God’s defining, application and ultimate purpose for need in a broken world.  Cries of pain and grief are common throughout Scripture as the beginning of a process to the understanding of a genuine, personal need.  Yet, this is quite different to the modern concept of simply realizing one’s desires and melding it to an actual need.  Thus, society has entrenched us in the secular idea that want constitutes need.  This has leaked into the assembly of Christ and surfaces ever so frequently in the name of ministry, outreach, and otherwise.

In the Bible, people who finally realized their separation from His Holiness could only cry out for mercy and pardon.  In doing so, they would decisively turn from the sinful lifestyles and worldviews in which they were participating.  This included, but was not limited to, idol worship and those who continued to willingly participate in wickedness.  Additionally, scriptural references show us that meeting the need of an individual was the prelude to introducing them to their real need: salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The only direction for the truly needy person to turn is toward a radically different life of worship.  This includes a dismantling of the old lifestyle and a creation of a new life.

Thus, we face a modern dilemma of true needs verses ‘false’ needs, which will also be referenced as ‘wants’.  From whence lies the difference?  Consider if it is a factual statement in that ‘real’ needs first call mankind to humility, faith and prayer, then a ‘false’ need in any cloak will do exactly the opposite.  False needs have no call to faith, no call to prayer, and no desire to consult the Lord.  The desire becomes an unjustified declaration of “I / we want” fallaciously stated as “I / we need.”

Noted scholar and apologist Oz Guinness has approached the subject of the “abandonment of evangelism for social justice.”[1]  While statements have been made concerning ‘building huge churches’ yet, neglecting the poor,[2] it is acknowledgeable that some of the larger congregations have generously funded programs for seeing to the poor within their communities, as well as overseas projects.  Yet what is most often neglected is the theology regarding seeing to the poor in biblical actuality.  Consider how God used severe need to turn His people’s faces back to Him.  Moreover, it was the same God who used extreme need to push Jacob and his clan towards Egypt as a crucial part of His plan to set the stage for the Exodus to come years later.[3]

However, if one is to be transparently honest with oneself, he must lay out his pre-suppositional baggage on the table.  Even though one may think emotion has had no effect on his responses, having ‘needs’ in one’s past can be memories of a particular nature with powerful consequences when it comes to discernment.  Couple this with an active engagement to benevolence ministry and one may find himself crippled in assessing biblical need with a tainted lens of action based on sympathy invoked strictly by feelings.  There are specific reasons why certain television commercials utilize shocking pictures of extreme suffering in efforts to collect funds.  Emotive responses seldom have been filtered through logical discernment, let alone biblical purposes.

On the other hand, examples given by a person who will be referred to as “Mr. Smith” had been actively involved with and in multiple benevolence programs.  Mr. Smith reported being abused and stolen from while volunteering at distribution locations.  Not only was the church building broken into in the particular area where the distributions would take place, but his truck toolbox was stolen from, ironically after assisting one of the recipients with starting their vehicle.  In one particular situation, a person received 2 full paper sacks of groceries.  After leaving with the goods, the individual returned to the location with the sacks, still full, and slammed them on a table exclaiming in expletive language that he disapproved of the contents therein.  Mr. Smith also reported that at the food and clothing pantries where he served, an estimated 80-90% of persons were monthly (in some cases, bi-monthly) ‘regulars’.  He stated that many would have practiced and polished heart-wrenching stories that would periodically include their children, parading about barefooted, filthy, and crying, so as to get more money, goods, and services.  Mr. Smith confirmed that a portion of these same families were ‘professionals’, working a circuit in a tri-state region, selling and trading much of the items they were accepting.  He stated being most disturbed that they were training their children for the deception and discovering how they networked and communicated with others who did the same.

Thus, working in such benevolence programs is a double-edged sword.  When one witnessed the despairing faces, whether genuine or learned behaviorisms, it pierces the heart through.  In the same notion, it also sets the stage for being abused.  Understanding then that the situation is ripe for subjective management and manipulation, Christians must rightfully turn to the Scriptures looking for directives and answers.

Thus, the next challenge is before the church.  Debates held within and between denominations over what the Scriptures actually state concerning ‘need’ pendulum from having no concerns to feeding the world.  The problem then is largely misconstrued to being one of whether or not to be benevolent, instead of focusing on the actual direction of the Word of where benevolence ministry energies should be applied.

Consider if one were to say something along the lines of, “I really hate it when mom and dad are constantly trying to tell me what to do with my life,” and later on a person who had been listening in, later told one’s parents that it was said, “I hate my mother and father.” The person who made in the initial statement would likely be outraged for being misrepresented.  Yet, in subtler (and sometimes not so subtle) ways, the church is commonly attempting to do this very thing with Scripture.  This is the source of many denominational schisms.

One passage that is commonly quoted as “hard to misinterpret,” is Matthew 25:31-46.  Yet, the typical hermeneutic applied is one that ignores the primary rule of context for understanding any passage.  Broadening the scope of the passage will give perspective to the intent of not only the writer, but the Speaker quoted as well.  In going back to chapter 25:1, the essential ‘title’ of this local context is found.  It is found in the first 5 words, “Then the kingdom of heaven.”  Therefore, the context of this section of Scripture given largely in parabolic form is about the kingdom of heaven.  This is affirmed in the statement given in verse 34, “inherit the kingdom prepared for you.”  To attempt to ignore this is to ensure a fatal hermeneutical error.

Paragraphs in contemporary translations are subheadings of the contextual theme.  Verse 14 is such a subheading, which illustrates an emphasis to ‘be ready’ and to have a proper attitude of stewardship, which ultimately makes the point that these things are connected to grand context of ‘the kingdom of heaven’.  This is demonstrated in verse 29, which states another emphasis on being faithful with the task at hand, because it concerns a distinct connection to how one will conduct one’s self in the kingdom of heaven.  Confirmation to this contextual observation is in following sentence, verse 30.   It is the particular regard of an ultimate separation of those who will be in (the kingdom of) heaven and those who will not.

Verse 31 and following picks on the continuing theme Jesus is presenting about the kingdom of heaven and then addresses that it will be broader than His listeners think.  Here, Jesus shifts from the parable to a metaphor with simile applied.  This is revealed in the actuality of a coming judgment, for both Gentiles and those of Jewish descent.  The Jews have been primarily raised on the notion that all Gentiles will be ultimately excluded from the kingdom of heaven.[4]  But Jesus says to those ‘on His right’ in verse 34, “inherit the kingdom prepared for you.”

Verses 35 and following made by Messiah are not referring to the world in need.  Rather, He is referring to Himself, as most translations do justice by capitalizing the pronoun.[5]  Christ is referring to Himself as the ‘stranger’.  Any remote suggestion that this is a reference to the lost of the world is not merely a stretch.  It borders pantheism.[6]  In a classical sense of the reversive, Jesus flips the point back to those listening and addresses them as the ‘righteous’.  So in this sub-point of the context, the ‘nations’ (Gentiles) will consist of some saved people who genuinely came to Christ – and the ‘righteous’ (Jews) will have some that will be rejected, as they rejected Him.

Again, the context is consistent, because the ‘saved’ are in the kingdom of heaven and all others are not.  Then, even more explicitly, Jesus describes the separation in verses 41-45.

However, there is one key element in this widely quoted passage that unilaterally defeats an argument for unequivocal form of benevolence to all suffering people.  It is found in the ‘least of these/them’ of the group that Jesus makes reference.  Aside from the context previously stating an exclusive reference to ‘the kingdom of heaven’ in verse 40, Jesus defines the ‘least of these/them’ as ‘brothers of Mine’.  This phrase is repeated in verse 45.

As the first rule of any sound hermeneutical practice is exegetical context, the second rule to interpretation is to allow Scripture to literally interpret itself.  Thus, the question is demanded, who are these ‘brothers of Mine’ and the ‘least of’ persons?  Within the same gospel account in chapter 10:14-17, and more explicitly, verses 40-42, the answer is derived in that it is those who have received Christ.  Therefore, this passage does not support the notion of non-arbitrary benevolent application to any person or persons exhibiting need, whether slight or severe.  In the facts presented, it is the reverse.  These are not merely nondiscriminatory benevolent acts; rather, they are direct, specific reactions to the disciples of Jesus, His brethren.  In the contemporary context, it is the body of Christ as found in the true church.

Unfortunately, the western contemporary church has a tendency polarize over basic biblical principles and simply shout at any who disagree with their premise.[7]  Christians can hold deep-seated grudges against those who hold views contrary to their own and sever all ties where they can.  Classical debate has been lost in discussing matters with any form of argument as seen to be hostile.  This is especially prevalent in the benevolent-welfare industry.  If one seeks a biblical definition in regards to the poor and seeing to the needs thereof, judgmental assertions are sure to follow accusing the questioner as one who rejects all forms or caring for the needy.  Yet such extremism is unmerited and should be rejected on the basis that Scripture gives concise direction on the matter.

The prior biblical example given Matthew 25 demonstrated a common and fatal exegetical mistake used in benevolent assessment.  Another passage used is found in John 12:8, which states, “for the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have Me.”[8]  Though commonly used as an overgeneralized inclusion for all people who are in need, this particular passage, in its context, technically does not have anything to do with an expected location where the poor exist, local or otherwise.  Jesus was merely correcting the pseudo-concern Judas Iscariot expressed for the expensive perfume being used by Mary.  Ironically, Judas was claiming that he wanted to use the value of the perfume to give to the poor, while Jesus points to a more important purpose within the moment.  Therefore, this passage technically has nothing to do with the biblical assertion of Christians being obligated to see to the wants and needs of the world, local or otherwise.

Another argument is also given from the book of Acts as giving examples of how Christians should be responding, as none are to be in need.  This is an obvious reference to Acts 2:45; 4:34, 35.  However, this is not a generic statement for providing for all needs for all people, nor for those living locally.  The context in both passages is strictly within the “congregation of those who believed.”[9]  The primary responsibility of the Christian community is to the ‘kingdom’ of Christ and these particular chapters of Acts leave no doubt as to the contextual address.  The ‘none in need’ are only applicable here to the church proper, as chapter 2 is the incipient congregation of “about 3,000 souls”[10] and chapter 4 is the “congregation of those who believed.”[11]  There is a meeting of needs and removing of social barriers in Acts that is in response to the shear numbers of people responding and the differing cultures of nations[12] coming to Christ as represented by His kingdom.  It is not a generic application of benevolence to the rest of the world outside of the body of Christ.

Understanding these specifics, what then is the biblical definition of ‘need’?  As stated prior, the modern cry for need seldom depicts an accurate picture of what true need actually encompasses.  Our current system has a tendency to cultivate need into a standard for society as opposed to something of an actuality.  In other words, being needy becomes status quo; or more easily said, being needy becomes normal.  A brief examination of socialistic structures reveals systems, which built themselves on the growing of a needs-based generation.  Ultimately, people would become dependent on something other than God, such as a governing authority, and subsequently surrender their freedom.

However, the ‘need’ that the Bible addresses is far from this.  God’s word, when properly applied, takes the needy person from the abnormal and brings them up into the normal.  Albeit there are some exceptions such as physical disabilities, mental disorders, etc., where there will always be some essential need involved, the predominant issue of man’s problem is a heart matter that must ultimately be addressed.  Therefore, the physical deficit is that which points mankind to his spiritual necessity.

Still, an argument persists that in only serving needy Christians, a lost and hungry world is left unreachable.  A common statement is that a person cannot hear the words of Jesus on an empty stomach.[13]  This is either a serious misunderstanding of the Scriptures or a straw-man argument used to pacify consciences.  Insofar as the biblical Word states, one did not necessarily have to be converted in order to receive aid, financial loans,[14] or even general hospitality,[15] which in reverse is fortunate for the family of Jacob.[16]  However, the Law states that there is to be one statute for the nation of Israel, which constitutes the people of God, and the alien who sojourns with them.[17]  The difference between the biblical example as opposed to the contemporary is that Israelites were instructed to draw others to come into the camp of YHWH.  Today, Christians are directed to go out with goods and supplies, even to places and nations that are hostile to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The irony is, even when some countries are in desperate need, their laws against Christianity trump any acceptance of benevolent aid.  In other words, church congregations may bring money, food, medicine, and even laborers to help.  But the gospel of Jesus Christ, either spoken or written, is forbidden and punishable even to death.

Even so, there appears to be little, if any consideration what God may be doing in the lives of the lost that are faced with dire circumstances.  If God used critical need to obtain the attention of His people who already profess His name, how much more then might He use the same to reach the lost?  Even in terms of the fall of humanity, had Adam and Eve not been driven from the Tree of Life, they would have never known the true need to be saved, thus, needing a savior.  In this desperate circumstance, God points mankind to Himself in Christ Jesus, to “draw all men” to Himself.[18]

Moreover, believers are also given the account of Job, who, at the permission of God, suffers tremendous loss for what appears to primarily be an example of faithfulness in needful circumstances.  Had Job not experienced such dire need, there would have been no testimony.  If Israel had never been captive in Egypt, there would have been no demonstration of deliverance in the Exodus, which was a foreshadowing of Christ to come and His act of salvation.  If Assyria[19] and Babylon had not been used as tools of discipline and punishment, the Israelites would have continued in their depravity.  If the logic holds true then for the One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, why is it not considered applicable in the present tense for a world seen experiencing great need and suffering?

In light of YHWH’s acts to draw His errant people to Himself through need, Scripture also demonstrates His mission in drawing the nations likewise.[20]  More pointedly, God states that the nations will specifically “come to” Him.[21]  While in the ancient passages, this entails a specific geographical location encompassed within the borders of Israel, in particular, the temple.  It is there that YHWH determined that He would “meet” man.  Since the advent of Christ Jesus, man comes to know God through the body of Christ, as is known to be the church proper.  If the theology of the nations being drawn to the temple during the ancient period holds true, then the theology of “all men” being drawn to Him is likewise authoritative.  To ignore the historical example of God using need to gain the attention of mankind is at the peril of interfering with His plan and purpose.  While some areas may appear grey in defining the communication of His gospel while seeing to the needs of those who are lost, in all cases the minimum charge for the church is to testify to Jehovah Jireh as source for all provision.  As the nations were to be drawn to the Lord God in His temple, the world is to be drawn to the church.  If the church convinces itself to see to the needs of the suffering in spite of this, hearts may be temporarily pacified, but it becomes a classic co-dependent and enabler of lives separated from God.

God demonstrates the reverse of a secular attitude towards neediness, as well as the pervasive contemporary form of charity in the western church.  He also sees the great potential in every human being to be all that He has intended for them in the imago Dei.  Biblical need sharpens the focus of man’s need for God more than the need for his stomach.  Thus, as need has always been a tool of the Lord to turn the faces of people towards Him, it is in one’s dire sense of hardship that man ultimately will look to Him for help.  The key element that the church often fails to acknowledge in this case is to wait for the needy to first turn towards God.  If not, it would be similar to forcing baptismal water onto the lost before they come to the question, “What shall we do?”[22]

Moreover, when a needy person is properly ministered to, they not only cease being dependent and a burden to others, but they potentially become co-disciples in kingdom labor.[23]  This is the essence of a truly benevolent heart.  The biblical notion of need must be understood in that it turns man’s attention from self-reliance and resolutely sets his face towards God.  It is in a needful statement that Jesus says, “If anyone is thirsty.”  His directive is, “let him come to Me and drink.”[24]


[1] Bob Paulson, “Hostility on the College Campus, A Conversation With Oz Guinness,” Decision Magazine, 27 May 2016, https://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/june-2016/hostility-on-the-college-campus-a-conversation-with-os-guiness/ (accessed 10 May 2016).

[2] Jefferson Bethke, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus,” YouTube, 10 January 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1IAhDGYlpqY#! (accessed 25, January 2012).

[3] Genesis 42-45.

[4] Some doctrinal variations of Messianic Jew and Christians of Hebraic roots interpret all application of the word e[qnh (eth-nay – nations / Gentiles) as those who are not of Messiah.  This interpretation will have no effect on the contextual point given regarding ‘the kingdom of heaven’.

[5] Here, it may also be seen, in a post-facto sense, that ‘He’ will ultimately be revealed as the ‘body of Christ’, as found in the Church (cf. Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:12; 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:12).

[6] Pantheism in the sense that all persons, saved or otherwise, would be a part of the constitution of God, as a whole.

[7] James Davison Hunter, Culture Wars (BasicBooks, HarperCollins Publishers, 1991), 52-57.

[8] New American Standard Version Bible

[9] Acts 4:32; New American Standard Version

[10] Acts 2:41-47; ibid

[11] Acts 4:32; ibid

[12] Acts 6:1; ibid

[13] Matthew 4; ibid; Jesus fasted 40 days and nights and affirmed the Word before Satan.

[14] Deuteronomy 23:20, ibid

[15] Hospitality during the Judaistic period could be limited in many circumstances to those who were considered ‘clean’, albeit with certain exceptions and changes of contact (Acts 10).

[16] Genesis 42-47; ibid; Understanding that the written Law, nor the nation of Israel had yet been established, the family of Jacob and Egypt were still considered ‘foreign’ to one another.

[17] Leviticus 24:22; Numbers 15:14-16; ibid; Note the inclusion of burnt offerings by the alien and sojourner.

[18] John 12:32; ibid

[19] Isaiah 10:5; ibid

[20] Isaiah 11:10-12; 42:6; 49:6, 22; 60:3; 66:18-20, ibid

[21] Micah 4:1ff; Habakkuk 2:5; Zechariah 8:18, 23; Malachi 3:12; ibid

[22] Acts 2:37b; ibid

[23] Ephesians 4:28; ibid; The principle carries in Paul’s teaching not to steal and to work ‘in order that’ one may have something to share with him who has need; once again, in the context of the church.  The antecedent is evident in verse 25.

[24] John 7:37; ibid

Sin, Transgression and Iniquity

Psalm 32:5

I acknowledged my sin to You,

And my iniquity I did not hide;

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”;

And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.

HEB: חוַעֲוֹ֘נִ֤י (ḥaṭ·ṭā·ṯî) / (chatta’ah) = “missing the mark”

NAS: I acknowledged my sin to You,

HEB: וַעֲוֹ֘נִ֤י (wa·‘ă·wō·nî) / (avon) = to bend, twist or distort (as in God’s word)

NAS: And my iniquity I did not hide;

HEB: פְ֭שָׁעַי (p̄ə·šā·‘ay) / (pasha) = “a willful act of disobedience”

NAS: I will confess my transgressions to the LORD;

HEB: וְעֲוֹ֖ן (‘ă·wōn) / (avon) = *see above

NAS: And You forgave the guilt of my sin.

Sin?  Transgression?  Iniquity?  What’s the difference?  “Sin is sin is sin is sin,” are things we have heard for years.  Yet the question is still demanded from ourselves, given in the text – Why has God chosen to use 3 different words for what many have deemed as the same thing, in just one sentence (a line from the psalmist, in between pauses)?

For the sake of brevity, in what may initially appear as the oversimplification of an argument, let the following be acknowledged as a basis: all acts against the will of God, whether committed in full knowledge or utter ignorance, are to be considered sin.  However, distinction is given for the one who sins in willful disobedience and also the one who wishes to take His will, and ‘twist’ the actual determinative meaning and intent.  As the serpent said to the woman, “indeed, has God said….?”  This would make him (the devil), the original ‘pervert’.

So let us start from the basis of the argument that ‘all acts against the will of God are sin’.  If this is the case, how can a sinful act be held against a person who has no knowledge of the Word of God?  In Romans 1:20, the apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, establishes his argument on general revelation.  This is the inescapable testimony to the knowledge of creation that can be obtained by observing what is around you and being able to discern the demand of a created order.  Paul states, “His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse;” (emphasis mine).  Thus, ignorance is not an argument for innocence.

Yet there appears to be an even greater sense of accountability to those who not only know they are willfully disobeying God’s will, but even more so for the ones who would ‘twist’ and ‘bend’ the pureness of the intent.  This, by definition, is ‘perversion’ of the Word.

Understanding these differences, there would be 2 basic classifications of sins: general sin – anything against the will of God, and transgression – sin that knows better.  Iniquity fits under transgression as a sub-point.

But how did mankind come to an understanding of sin in a more specific way than general revelation?  It was the literal giving of the Law from the hand of God into the hand of man (When He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.  Exodus 31:18).  Had sin been understood (by mankind) under general revelation to the extent that God intended, He would have no reason to produce hand-written tablets of stone – not once, but twice, since Moses destroyed the first set in a fit of anger.

However, once mankind has been given the Law, now he is particularly accountable to the will of God.  But make no mistake, just because one is ignorant of the Law does not mean they are dismissed.  As Paul writes in Romans 2:12ff, those who sin against God, with or without the Law, will perish.

So why does God bother with giving us the Law?  As with any relationship, a better understanding of one another is always conducive to a fruitful bond.  Living by God’s word gives us true life, and most importantly, leads us back home to Him.  Yet as we dive deeper and deeper into His Law, we quickly discover that we cannot possibly accomplish the letter (Romans 3:20, “because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin”).  This is when the intent begins to shine through.  As we see our imperfections under the microscope of the Word and how weak we are in accomplishing even the most basic principles of godly love, we find ourselves in dire straits.  The wages of sin is death.  If we cannot achieve all of the Law, we sin.  Our wage’ then, awaits us on the horizon.  It would seem hopeless, if we are left to save ourselves.  Then, the Word (the Law) literally puts on flesh (John 1:14), intrudes into this brokenness, and pays our ‘wage’ in punishment.  This is where our sin is dealt with.  Sins of ignorance; transgressions in full knowledge; and even iniquities where we attempted to distort the will of God are all satisfied between the genuinely repentant heart and the purely efficient sacrifice of the only perfect One.

Lastly, God distinguishes specifically between sins that are; 1) committed intentionally (with knowledge); 2) unintentionally (ignorantly); and 3) defiantly (“with a high hand,” as in ‘fist clenched towards heaven’).  Passages from Numbers 15 will best represent these differences (emphasis mine).

1) There are numerous passages that deal with sacrifices (burnt offerings / the cross of Jesus Christ) for sins.  These are easily found.  Therefore, only the next 2 will be focused on here.

2)  15:22-29; ‘But when you unwittingly fail and do not observe all these commandments, which the Lord has spoken to Moses, even all that the Lord has commanded you through Moses, from the day when the Lord gave commandment and onward throughout your generations, then it shall be, if it is done unintentionally, without the knowledge of the congregation, that all the congregation shall offer one bull for a burnt offering, as a soothing aroma to the Lord, with its grain offering and its drink offering, according to the ordinance, and one male goat for a sin offering. Then the priest shall make atonement for all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and they will be forgiven; for it was an error, and they have brought their offering, an offering by fire to the Lord, and their sin offering before the Lord, for their error.  So all the congregation of the sons of Israel will be forgiven, with the alien who sojourns among them, for it happened to all the people through error.  ‘Also if one person sins unintentionally, then he shall offer a one year old female goat for a sin offering.  The priest shall make atonement before the Lord for the person who goes astray when he sins unintentionally, making atonement for him that he may be forgiven.  You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the sons of Israel and for the alien who sojourns among them.

3)  15:30, 31  But the person who does anything defiantly (‘with a high hand’), whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from among his people.  Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him.’”

The ‘defiant’ is particularly disturbing when you understand that it is tangible to the biblical definition of being the ‘unforgivable sin’ (Luke 12:10; Jude 12 (doubly dead); 1 John 5:16; Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26, 27)

By clarifying these distinctions, it is easy to see that there is a greater responsibility and accountability for those who understand the Word.  As recorded in James 3:1; Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.  How much greater then for those who attempt to deceive not only themselves, but others also, that God’s Word says something other than His original intent.

Keep the Faith,

jas

Chosen

You only have I chosen among all the families of the earthAmos 3:2a

A small, skinny boy stood out in the middle of a parched recreation field with the dry wind whistling through his hair.  He was desperately trying to look calm and unconcerned about the event unfolding before him.  It was nothing new really.  Every week the P.E. class would exit out the side doors and head over to the sports grounds adjacent to the school building.  Every week it would be announced what game would be played.  And every week his stomach would tie up in knots while the team captains would pick their teams from the group of boys.  It seemed like it was the same story being reread – the same song being played over again.  They would get down to the last couple of boys, and once again, he would be left out to stand on the side, while everyone else played.  As the teams would run off to play kickball, baseball and soccer, the field looked like it went on forever.  He was unable to even hear what they were saying to each other when they ran off.  His side of the playground always felt cold.

But something different happened today.  He thought he heard his name called by one of the captains, but knew that it just could not be.  He had terribly embarrassed himself twice before thinking he had been selected and ran over to the team, only to be laughed at and jeered all the way back to where he stood before.  So he held his place, looking down at his worn shoes.  His name was yelled this time.  “Are you deaf or what?” said the team captain.  In a sense of indescribable excitement, he felt the blood rush through him.  He kept telling himself to play it cool, but the silly ear-to-ear grin plastered across his face could not be hidden.  Today he had been picked.  Today he had been chosen.  And today he would do everything within his power to prove his gratitude to the other boy, who in his mercy, gave him a chance to be a part of the team.

In the sacred Scriptures, we read that God chose Israel out of the pack of humanity. He refers to them as the “entire family that He brought up from the land of Egypt;” and says, “You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth.” in Amos 3:1-2. Out of all the people in creation, God selected this puny little group of people who had been enslaved for some 400 years (“The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples” Deuteronomy 7:7).  Though they leaped for joy to be brought into the team of God, they soon forgot what it meant to be picked by God.  They began to presume on the fact that they had been chosen and were in a covenant relationship with the Lord.  They had long forgotten the days of feeling like they had been left out and left behind.  As their pride swelled at being the chosen ones, they felt as if they could sin with impunity.

To be chosen does not mean one is absolved from accountability or responsibility.  In fact, the elect of God are more liable for their actions than anyone else.  Just as we would expect an elected official to be accountable to the people for their actions, in a much greater sense, the elect of God are accountable for every single deed, from first to last (And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. Matthew 12:36).  It has always been the temptation of man to think once he is saved he can sail on the waves of lukewarmness.  At first, he is zealous for being selected and accepted; however, after a while his salvation is taken for granted.  Instead of being a servant to the King, he becomes a servant unto himself.

Let us never forget the thrill of when God pointed at us and said, “I choose you.”

Keep the Faith.

 

jas