Thursday, November 19, 2009

How I Learned the Bible

Excerpt from a sermon on November 18, 2009.

Years ago, when one of my students in the Old Testament at the community college asked me, “How in the world did you get to know the Bible as well as you do?”, I couldn’t give her an answer. Such a question had never been asked of me before. I went home and thought about it during the week. Finally it dawned on me how it was that I came to know the Bible, and that was simply that I believed it. I just believed it. Every time in my Bible study that I came across something in the law of God in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, or Deuteronomy, or anywhere in the Bible, that I would not have said, or came across a judgment of God that I wouldn’t have made, or found anything that was different from how I felt – I felt shame and fear, and repented. I believed God, and I saw what He thought, I saw what I needed to think. I discovered what I needed to feel in order to be true and right. I learned the Bible by changing my thoughts every time I found a place where God’s way of thinking was different from mine, where His thoughts were not my thoughts and His ways were not my ways. I confessed to Him, “I’m wrong, God. I’m blind. Thank you for giving me a glimpse into your mind.” I rearranged me to accommodate Him.

That is how I learned the Bible. I confessed that it was right and I was wrong every time there was a difference between it and me.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Better Off?

When Jesus knew their thoughts, he said to them,
“Every kingdom divided against itself
is brought to desolation,

and no city or house that is divided against itself will stand.
If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself.
How then will his kingdom stand?
Matthew 12:25-26

Thoughts inspired by chapter 7 of the book God Had a Son Before Mary Did

In the above verses, Jesus was revealing something about Satan. He was telling the leaders of Israel that Satan loves order and that he has it in his kingdom of darkness. Satan’s dominion is structured, and orderly, and efficient. He despises anarchy and confusion, and he will not tolerated such things within the ranks of the fallen heavenly creatures who were cast out of heaven with him.

It is very important for us to understand that Satan was cast out of heaven not because he despised the orderliness and efficiency of God’s kingdom but because he envied it, and when he was cast down to earth, he did not lose his admiration of order. Men and women who have no self-control and have given themselves over to self-indulgence and fleshly lusts are despised by the devil. Vandals and other out-of-control human beings are held in contempt by Satan. There is discipline and high standards of conduct required of all humans with whom Satan loves and uses, such as the men whom Jesus called “sons of the devil”. Those men fasted at least twice a week; they prayed loudly and publicly on a regular bases; they were always present for the religious gatherings of Israel; they gave tithes of everything that came into their possession; and they treated with great contempt other human beings who were less devoted to religion than they were. Jesus called these men “sons of the devil” because (1) that is how the devil is and (2) those men were so much like him.

I said all of that so that you would understand why I say the following: In some respects, human society is better off with the devil than without him because he influences men to live up to strict standards of morality, cleanliness, and order. Without the devil, men go wild and give themselves to all kinds of perverse, fleshly lusts and lawless activity. When Satan is in control of men, those men are wicked, but they are wicked in an orderly way, and they impose that order on societies, which has some benefits.

Then again, those people who are overcome by lustful desires and are despised by the devil and his ministers have the advantage of being aware of how unclean they are. Being out of control – out of God’s control, Satan’s control, or even self-control), these pour souls are more likely to hear the call of Jesus and surrender to his love than those who are proud of the religious standards that they maintain. We saw these things among people when Jesus was here. Jesus was called “the friend of harlots and drunkards” (Mt. 21:32), while he warned the self-righteous sons of Satan that drunkards and harlots would be welcomed into the kingdom of God before them (Mt. 21:31).

If you have messed up your life, and if you know it, then you are closer to God’s heart than the greatest religious figures of earth who have not humbled themselves to Jesus and received the baptism of the holy Ghost. It does not matter who you are or what you have done; if you know you are wrong, you are wiser than the Pope, the self-righteous head of the greatest abomination of earth, and you are cleaner in God’s sight than the exalted pastor of the largest congregation in town if he has not been washed from sins by the power of the baptism of the holy Spirit. “Be of good cheer!” my sinner friend! “He calleth for thee.” And if you feel guilty, then you have heard that voice.

Jesus said he didn’t come for those who think they see but for those who know they are blind. The “great physician” said that he came to heal the sick, not to heal those who claim to be well. Are you sick in spirit? Are you blind concerning the things of God? If you confess that you are, then God has chosen you, has already touched your heart, and you have something to be thankful for. There are millions who are as sick and blind as you are but who will not confess it. They choose rather to hide behind their pastors, priests, steeples, stain-glass windows, and doctrines and titles, and unless they repent, they will die in the shadow of such things instead of in the light of Christ. They may be better off in some ways than the wretches who are wasting their lives with drunkenness, rebellion against authority, and immorality, but they are not better off than the weak and miserable wretches, like me, who have fallen at the feet of Jesus and confessed our need of his mercy.

The Time for Judgment Has Come

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.
And if it first begin at us,
what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
1Peter 4:17

A thought inspired by Chapter 7 of the book, God Had a Son Before Mary Did

“The time has come” for house of God to be judge only because it has already been accomplished in heaven. The creatures who existed from the beginning in the very presence of God in heaven have already had their Judgment Day. They were judged when the Son of God ascended into heaven, offered himself to the Father as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, and was glorified by the Father to be “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). When the Son of God was exalted to sit at the Father’s right hand, Satan and the angels who followed him were cast out of heaven. That was their judgment, and it was also the day of Judgment for the angels and other beings judged worthy to remain in the presence of God. The Father gave all authority of judgment to His Son Jesus Christ, including the authority to judge angels, cherubim, seraphim, and every other heavenly being. Heaven’s Judgment day was the day that Jesus was glorified and sat down at the right hand of the Father as Master of heaven and earth.

So, as Peter said, it is now time for judgment to begin at the house of God. Since the family of God in heaven has been eternally judged, the family of God on earth is now in line for judgment, and we are being judged now. Jesus said that before he returns to bring salvation to the faithful among his people, this earthly family of faith will be purged of every soul who is disobedient and who causes others to stumble in their faith (Mt. 13:37-43). Paul taught the same thing, that there will be a judgment and a purging of the household of faith before the return of Jesus (2Thess. 2:1-3). Only after this purging of the household of God on earth takes place will Jesus come to take away to the Father those who are judged to have kept the faith.

Of course, after that Second Coming of Christ, the judgment of the entire world will soon follow. But that does not concern us. What matters to us is the present. Today is the day of salvation. If we were to be judged today, what would the Master’s decision be?