Archive for August, 2020

Comparing Ourselves With Ourselves

August 27, 2020

Many believers seem to decide what is right and wrong Biblically by what other believers they associate with believe and practice, instead of following the truth – John 17:17. Perhaps II Cor 10:12 refers to this attitude when it warns “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”

Could this be the main reason the great majority in some denominations make the puzzling decision to accept the sprinkling of infants for baptism when the Bible so clearly teaches believers (Acts 8:35-37) should be buried (Rom 6:4) in baptism? Might it be because they have developed a confidence in the belief of their parents, their preacher, and/or especially those that are in their church circle of friends? “Sprinkling babies must be okay; the majority of my faithful church friends go along with it.”

And is it possible this is the main reason many Christians don’t work very hard at personal evangelism (Matt 28:19, Mark 16:15, Acts 8:4, II Cor 5:11), because the Christians they associate with the most don’t do it either? They reason – if those I respect as Christians aren’t diligently working to get studies with non-Christians, then it must not be important to God for me to do such either. This ideology makes for problems among Christians in other areas also, like the general disdain for public religious debating (Acts 19:8-10), ignoring God’s instructions regarding fasting (Acts 13:3, 14:23, etc.), the trend toward more immodest clothing (I Tim 2:9-10), and some never even studying the covering issue (I Cor 11:2-16). There are many areas this attitude could affect. We (myself definitely included) need to guard against this comfort trap. Instead of comparing ourselves to the church people around us, we should challenge ourselves with Jesus, his apostles, and their teaching (John 8:31).

How To Tell If Someone Is Criticizing To Help Or To Tear Down?

August 20, 2020

No doubt the Bible teaches faithful Christians are to warn others as they have opportunity (Acts 20:20,26-27,31). They do so out of love for the soul they are rebuking (Eph 4:15a) and because they want to deliver their own soul (Ezek 3:18). But we all know there are those that criticize, not really to help the one they are criticizing, but to tear them down; many times, perhaps out of jealousy, mistakenly thinking tearing someone else down helps bring me up (James 3:14-18, Matt 27:18).

How can we tell the difference? When someone is criticizing us, how do we know if their purpose is to help us or to tear us down? One strong indicator is if they do as much encouraging (genuine complimenting) as they do criticizing. A person who truly has your best interest at heart recognizes that God puts as much value in positive encouragement as criticism (Heb 10:24-25). Godly love is kind, does not vaunt oneself, seeketh not her own welfare, rejoices not in the iniquity of others, but rejoices when it finds someone practicing the truth (I Cor 13:4-6). True love not only rebukes when necessary (II Tim 3:16), but will also “encourage … and build … up” (I Thess 5:11 NIV, Deut 3:28, Judges 20:22).

As an example of someone who tears down, I once overheard (because a speaker phone was accidentally left on) a “Christian” lady say about another Christian lady – “I think she does so many charitable deeds because she feels guilty for the way she lived previously.”  That’s a terrible judgment of motives (I Cor 2:11a) about someone who was trying hard to do the Lord’s work.  Just maybe this gossiping lady was being made to feel guilty by the work of the good deeds lady, so in order to rid herself of guilt she chose to tear down the good image of the lady she was gossiping about.  Jill Blakeway described such people this way “When a toxic person can no longer control you, they will try to control how others see you.  The misinformation will feel unfair, but stay above it, trusting that other people will eventually see the truth, just like you did.”

What is the lesson for us? Yes, rebuke others when necessary, but always to help them get better, not to tear them down. And find the good in people around you (there is always some), and point out those good things to the person (as we see done in Rev 2:2-6). Praise (commend ESV) them as Paul did in I Cor 11:2. Balance is a key to helping them to see that you have their best interest at heart when it is necessary to correct them. “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ” (Col 2:2 NIV).

What Does “Heap Coals Of Fire On His Head” in Rom 12:20 Mean?

August 13, 2020

Romans 12:19-21 reads “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”

The obvious teaching from this verse is that when someone treats us badly, we should not do in like kind, instead we should return good for the evil. And in doing so, we will “heap coals of fire” on their head. But what does that mean – to heap coals of fire on someone’s head?

I Pet 3:15-16 confirms what we already inherently know from reading Rom 12:20 – our returning of good for evil should make the perpetrator “ashamed,” that is, feel guilty for their actions. If when someone treats us unkindly, we treat them unkindly back (Eph 4:32), they are likely to feel vindicated in their past actions (Prov 15:1). But if we return their meanness with kindness, then that tends to make them feel bad for their actions. If you want a person to feel bad for their harsh treatment of you, that is, if you want them to feel guilty and possibly repent (and that should always be our desire), then your best course of action is to return their evil with kindness, gentleness, compassion, and benevolence.

What Do Passages Like Judges 9:23 Mean When They Say God Sent An Evil Spirit Upon Someone?

August 5, 2020

Judges 9:23 says “God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem” and I Sam 16:23 puts the same concept this way – “when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul.” What does this mean? Is God involving himself in sin by sending an evil spirit?

My father-in-law helped me to understand that these texts mean God sent an evil spirit in the sense that God allowed such to happen; that he didn’t stop it. Passages like Matt 7:7, 5:6, and John 7:17 teach that if we seek God and the truth, we will find such; if we hunger and thirst after righteousness, God will make sure we are filled with righteousness; if we are seeking to know and do what we know of God’s will, God will make sure we know his complete will.

Well, what is the opposite of that? That would be – if we are not truly seeking God/truth, then God will not make sure we find it. He may allow things to come our way (from the devil directly or indirectly) that will deceive us. In the case of I Kings 16, King Saul had already digressed from obeying God (I Sam 15:9-26), and 16:14 says “the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him.” So God didn’t allow an evil spirit to influence Saul until Saul first rejected God; and Saul allowed himself to be influenced in such direction.

We see something similar in the New Testament several times. In John 13:27 and Luke 22:3ff Judas let Satan enter him in making up his mind to betray Jesus. When Peter contradicts Jesus in Matt 16:22-23, Jesus rebukes Peter saying “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” And I’m pretty sure II Thess 2:10-12 is talking about the equivalent when it says “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be d-a-m-n-e-d who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” God doesn’t directly deceive us, but he allows us to be deceived if we don’t have a love for the truth.

What’s the lesson in this for us? Be like Josiah in II Kings 22 whose whole intent was the please the Lord, and “seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deut 4:29), seek God with your “whole desire” (II Chron 15:15). Otherwise, you might find yourself on the outside looking in. God is only a “rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb 11:6).