October 31, 2013

Starving Sin II: Burning The Thing That Burns

[Continued from Part I]

In this post I include three more things that the believer can actively do to thwart or stave off sin.

1 John 1:7 ~ “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Although John’s statements are sometimes generalized and ambiguous, they are rather simple to understand. He speaks of walking in the light. John is simply telling us to not walk in our own ways which are all paths that lead to darkness. To walk in darkness represents walking in the realm of the self. To walk in the light is to walk in the realm of God. God is holy and perfect, He is perfectly righteous. We are none of these things. God is the source of these things. The self or realm of people ruins even good things by throwing them into the shadow of darkness. Although they are not permeated by the darkness they are blocked and obscured by it like clouds or fog in twilight.

In John’s mind the darkness symbolizes evil and unrighteousness. If we look closely at the amoral or immoral cities that Paul or John visited, we get some indicator. They are ancient comparisons of the cities today.  We can literally see the depraved immoral life of certain sections of our great cities and megalopolis’. An even sharper contrast can be found when we look at the pagan Muslim cities of Middle-east where Christianity has not managed to enter and then look to more Christian areas and cities. The savagery becomes more apparent. Christians are by no means perfect but there is a clear contrast between Taliban and my local church or attendees at Westminster right down the road from my house.

All this opposed to true Christians that actually walk in the ways of Christ and are indwelt by the Spirit of God. They breathe the light, they live with God who is light. John urges that no other than such walking in the light can be suitable. There is nothing worse than men who say that they are good and then go on deceiving themselves with the idea that they could keep their relationship to the light (God) yet give themselves up to sinful excesses. We as Christians are only deceiving ourselves if we think we can. What is worse is when these people do behave poorly while simultaneously claiming Christian heritage. It defames the name of Christ.

We cannot live a life trying to see how close we can walk to that line of sin and still get away with things. This is not more than trying to tempt the Lord our God. We are to live a life for God as new creations and separated for God’s holy purposes. Just as a priesthood of believers should be.

1 John 1:9 ~ “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Another way we can help in our battles with sin is the confess them.

Confession as a solitary stand-alone act has little value. Going to a priest to confess them in a robotic manner to "clean the slate" is virtually worthless. The importance of confession lies squarely in the condition of the heart and mind of the one confessing, not the absolution or forgiveness from other men. It is an issue of what is our attitude(s) and behaviors towards sin, not what another can do for us upon confession. Everything that could be done for our sin has already been done by Christ on the Cross. No man has any  power over our sin except Christ. Confession on the other hand shows an open and reachable heart. A heart that is hardened and unwilling to confess is unreachable an therefore cannot be taught. A person willing to confess sin has a humble heart and mind and wishes to have wrongs taken away by the Lord. A hardened heart just doesn’t care.

There are essentially three conditions that are possible in man when it comes to confessing sin. 
(1) It is possible that a man might have nothing to confess at a particular moment but it is unlikely as a man’s heart is upon evil continually. There are none righteous, no, not one. 
(2) A man can be recalcitrant or not want to confess sin our acknowledge it. 
(3) Finally a man may want to confess. 

The question arises: What do these conditions say about the people they are found within?

What does it mean to confess our sins? What significance does it have? Why do we tell our most horrid hidden sins to God? God already knows our sin better than we do. He even knows of the ones we are not aware of. If He already knows, why does He have us confess? Simple. He may know them better than us…and that is the whole point. By searching ourselves deeply to find the hidden sins and recounting them to God we make them manifest and perfectly evident to ourselves. He has us confess them so that we know them better, not Him. There is a deepness of understanding and dare I say “appreciation” of the significance of the sin when we become intimately acquainted with it and its negative aspects and effects in our lives and other's lives too. So...to confess our sins is not merely telling them to God…it is a time and place to familiarize ourselves with it and see their damaged done. 

A man will not stop putting his hand on a hot stove or into a fire until he has been painfully burned by it. Without self-examination, confession is nothing more than empty words or ritual. True self-examination and understanding of our sin should produce regret, repentance and godly sorrow. It should burn. It should humble us not elevate us to arrogance. It should turn us to penitence and prayer not haughtiness and further rebellion. Having understood the sin this well leaves an impression on us like scars from a burn. It creates an aversion to it. It brands us and sears us like meat. In this way the searing adds character and if its our dinner...it adds flavor. :)

Lastly, we see another passage from 1 John.

1 John 5:16 ~ “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.

What we’re seeing here is a Christian interceding for others (v. 16-17). We also see love for a brother or sister that is sinning. A true Christian will not sit idly by while they see their brethren sinning wittingly or unwittingly. There is a nature intrinsic to the Christian that we intercede for those with the body of Christ that stumble. This is because in the true Christian body there will be desire for true unity in love. If the unity in the body is of the Spirit of God it will be working towards holiness…not against it in sin. Therefore, Christians should care that other Christians are obedient to the word of God. A loving Christian will not let his brother put his hand on a hot stove without warning. If the errant brother is insistent on putting their hand on a hot stove in error, we are justified in a rebuke since a loving brother will not knowingly let a brother purposely or involuntarily hurt themselves. This is why the whole: "We shouldn't tell them their in error because its unloving and critical!" makes absolutely no sense to me at all. A loving person will not think a burning is better than a rebuke!

What John is elaborating on here is that prayer should extend to the needs of others even when they do not know they are in need. He does this to show fully what it means to love the brethren. This should be a startling wake up call for the evangelicals that say we should not tell people they are wrong in their sin or error for fear of alienating them. To love them is to purposefully intercede for them. To hate them is to let them go their own ways in sin. We are to act as a shepherd when the sheep go astray.

When we hear the word intercession we think of the reality television shows where family members forcefully interject themselves into loved-one’s lives to save them from themselves. Many are junkies or addicts and their lives have gone off the rails and have become unmanageable. There is usually an open and caustic affront to the people whose lives are out of control to try and snap them back to reality. My question is this: How is this any different than Christians that have gone off the rails in apostasy, false belief, false teaching or pursuit of flagrant sin? Frankly, I see no difference. We are all sin junkies. Some still flagrantly and openly pursue their sin and some are recovering junkies. Either way, at one time or another....all can use prayer. Yet many within the church will take a hands-off politically correct approach. This is not what we see in 1 John (of the Gospels and the rest of the Bible for that matter).

Most Christians who try too hard to categorize and tidy up the words of John don’t realize that sinning always leads to dying. We are saved to eternal like but the wage of any sin is death. While the Bible is clear that no Christian will ever experience spiritual death and be subjected to God's wrath eternally in Hell we will suffer the physical consequences of our sinning in our inevitable physical death. Because most sin (because of God’s mercy and grace) will not die immediately for their sin, we need to pray for our brethren when they sin. This praying is concrete evidence of not only our love for them but also a clear reciprocation of the mercy and grace God shows. We therefore emulate God in this manner.

There are hidden benefits to being in the faith and having loving brethren in the faith and what we’ve seen in this passage is one of them. When we intimate ourselves to others and pray for them and their sin, we get to know them personally. It is hard to not care about a person once you really get to know them…and that is the whole point. The care and concern that goes into praying for a sinning brother shows a vested interest in the salvation….just like our own. Just like God did for us by sending His Son.

God is smart. God is Wisdom. God is Love. He has passed that wisdom on to us through people like David, Solomon, Paul, Peter, John and most of all Jesus. We are well-advised to take heed of the words long written down on the pages of the Bible when it comes to stonewalling sin and giving it a punch square in its jaw. When we work out our salvation it requires we take an active role in our sanctification or journey towards holiness. This means we must actively resist sin and starve it off, not feed it. There is no better way to do this than to put the principles of the Bible into actions. This requires that we internalize the word of God until it becomes us. By doing this we become like Christ...because the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us so that He would know all the temptations known to man and still overcome them in our stead because he loved us and interceded for us (John 1:14, Hebrews 2:14-18).

John 1:14 ~ "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."

Hebrews 2:14-18 ~ "Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery [to sin]. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted."

[Completed in Part III]

October 29, 2013

Starving Sin I: Undermining the Underminer

Many believe that there is little that can be done about one’s sin. Some would say we are victims of it. The Bible says that sin should hold no sway over the believer. In the end we are victorious in Christ. The question is what to do in the meantime. The truth is that sin will remain but it should not reign. It is like an underwater mine. It's always there lurking just beneath the surface waiting to shatter or splinter your life into a million scattered pieces. When it emerges it us usually a detonation and destructive to whatever touches it.

Romans 6:12-14 ~ “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

We are to turn to God away from our sins and turn to God trusting His promises. This is the source of our conversion and the beginning of our sanctification. Yet…the Bible tells us there is more that we can do to act on our own behalf in our progress and process of sanctification. Yes, it is through grace by faith that we are saved but the process of becoming more holy (sanctified) is a joint process with God. The question then arises: What are the things we can do about our own sin? The Bible has a few things to say about this and I will mention ten of them.

Matthew 6:14-15 ~ “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

This is the latter portions of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew and the message Jesus gives here is clear. The measure by which you do or do not forgive will be reciprocated back to you by the Father. Why? Because there is an element involved in forgiveness that does not immediately become evident when a person first looks at it. The framework that holds up forgiveness is mercy and grace.

This is difficult for sinful people. It requires that we overlook wrongs and leave grudges in the past without expecting restitution. Many trespasses committed against us are often accidental but the grudge and anger we maintain by choice is not. It is sinful and inevitably damaging like the aforementioned mines. Sins that are lingering just below the surface doing or ready to do irreparable damage. Firstly, it is sinful and second God knows that sin results in damages mental and physical...that will lead to a death…our death. That which is not of God is death because God is life (John 14:6).

Within forgiveness we can also find additional Christian virtues. We see humility, self-denial (dying to self), love that is tempered with patience and understanding and finally it shows charity. When we approach wrongs like this it allows us to see other’s mistakes and flaws in a charitable view and not lead to further hostilities. In this way charity and humility act as a city of refuge for others. On the other side of the coin we see anger and pride. These two lack of virtues show that we believe it is below us to endure an affront, or not retaliate an injury and therefore shows we have not died to self in a daily manner and we think way too highly of ourselves. This of course can then lead to cruelty, hatred of our neighbor. These lead us to a contempt of the moral laws of God and Christ that are so plainly against revenge and are therefore ungodly and of the world.

Galatians 5:16 ~ “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

There are two ways to deal with sin. We can either run directly towards it or we can run to God. It is the charge to the Christian to set ourselves against it. Based on the sinful nature of the people that make up the church, the church is often full of errors and foolish practices. The Bible is clear that the measure of the Body and the Church is Christ and the Bible. When we look to ourselves for the answer instead of Christ and Scripture we stumble out of the gate. It is possible to attack those idiocies outright, showing how foolish they are or it is possible to awaken the spiritual life in that Church which itself shed them. We do this by turning to Christ as our mentor and Scripture as our guide.

The Bible and Christianity are not in opposition to the man they try to save. They are at war with his corruptions. God wrote the Bible for man to have a guide or map back to Him. It is man that is forever laboring against the Bible’s truths and fighting God. We have a choice and this verse tells us we have a clearly defined choice. This stands in opposition to those that say it is not my fault that I got pregnant and want an abortion. It stands in defiance of those that would say God made me homosexual, it is not my choice. Therefore I will give in to my nature and produce immorality. This indicts God as the cause of your sinful choices. That is patently absurd.. This one verse alone refutes that. When it says walk by the Spirit and not by the desires of the flesh it implies that Spirit is not carnal or physical, it is spiritual. Sexual immorality finds its root in the flesh, not in the Spirit. If the Bible encourages the pursuit of the spirit…the logical conclusion becomes self-evident.

James 5:15 ~ “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.”

Many people, especially those that have a poor grasp of theology and are biblically illiterate will focus in directly on the part of this passage that says, “If you pray faithfully, the sick will get well.” This passage has been misappropriated by the Health, Wealth and Prosperity preachers as meaning they can “name and claim” health just by praying for it. If believers don’t get healing, it is then somehow the believer’s fault for not being faithful enough. Never mind that it totally ignores the will of God and focuses on the will of the sinful believer. This is a heretical teaching by ungodly charlatans in pursuit of a buck that victimizes the weak of the faith. The main point of this passage is therefore overlooked or ignored totally. We need to actually do homework to determine what this is really telling us. We need to dig below the window dressing of the affirmation preachers like Joyce Meyers and Kenneth Copeland to see the root of the tree that produces Godly fruit.

One of the primary reoccurring themes of James is that faith is an active thing. It cannot and does not rest or it is not faith. Faith does things…faith without works is dead faith. Faith’s activities cover entire lives. Faith is particularly concerned with relations based in places. That means this passage is placed firmly at the end of a dissertation on Christian faith and its resultant activities.

It therefore answers the unasked question: What needs to be done by or for the afflicted and the sick? It is not necessarily concerned with the immediate assumed result.

We must understand that leaders in the church, those that would pray intercessory prayer, elders, preachers, and missionaries do not heal people nor do they have the power directly in them to do so. They are simply agents of Christ’s body. It is God that does the healing by His choice by His will. We cannot use God as cosmic vending machine. We have no power and authority in and of ourselves. Power and authority resides in the Godhead and is given to us by God at His volition and by His choice. Just because we pray to heal does not mean it happens immediately or at all. By assuming that from this passage we miss the total point from the passage.

Luke 9:1 ~ “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases…”

Further examination of the passage in Greek changes this passages complexion quite a bit. In Greek it says “τῆς πίστεως σώσει τὸν κάμνοντα” or “the faith/belief-will be saving-the faltering” The healing therefore might not be a medical healing but perhaps spiritual. This is also surprisingly close to: The Righteous will live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Hebrews 10:28)." The words “will be saving” here can imply being made whole spiritually not necessarily physical. In failing physical health a believer can die and go to Heaven in this way they are perfectly spiritually healed and this keeps with the intent of the context both in James 5 and James at-large. The second half of this verse lends itself even more to this truth. “If they have sinned…” is a perfect active subjunctive in the Greek. In other words it is assumed a person will sin…they will be forgiven (future passive) which means it is something that will happen to them in the future (possibly even after death). How will they be forgiven? If they pray for healing. The act of prayer towards God in a spiritual manner would require a repentant heart change of the one praying. Therefore they would’ve had to have accepted that God has the ability to forgive sins. How? Through the atoning work of Jesus on the Cross. This prayer and belief is therefore not some magical incantation but it comes because or an act of grace from God by His choice and will because of a heart changing and turning to God through Christ. There is much assumed here but not expressed and it does not specifically imply immediate physical healing.

[Continued in Part II]

October 26, 2013

The Most Heinous Monster In All of Creation

This post (just in time for Halloween) is essentially a re-post from three years ago. It is a slightly tongue-in-cheek expose of strange creatures mention in the pages of Scripture with a new addendum (ending). Many of the following fiends will be drawn from the KJV as the translators that created that version took quite a few liberties they probably shouldn’t have. I will not fault them too much as they did the best they could with a limited knowledge base…

First up is the famous (or infamous) passages about unicorns in the King James Version of the Bible. Most of the newer translations translate this wild ox and rightfully so. So what we are talking about here is a rather ugly bovine not a full-size version of My Little Pony®. We need a history lesson for this one so we can clear the waters once and for all.

God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of a unicorn. Numbers 23:22 (similar in Numbers 24:8)

His glory [is like] the firstling of his bullock, and his horns [are like] the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they [are] the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they [are] the thousands of Manasseh. ~Deuteronomy 33:17

Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Job 39:9

But my horn shalt thou exalt like [the horn of] an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil. Psalm 92:10

And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness. Isaiah 34:7

What is known for sure is this animal was strong and horned. The author of the Hebrew texts would've probably known exactly what this animal was but I am betting one thing: It was probably not a unicorn. When the Hebrew was translated to Greek in the Septuagint the word chosen was monoceros/monokeros μονοκερως. When it was eventually transliterated to Latin it became...you guessed it: unicornis. We must keep in mind that the translators of the KJV were natives of 15th century England and probably had never left their local region let alone England proper so when they came across a Hebrew Re'em רְאֵם or a Greek μονοκερως they were hard pressed to find an English equivalent so they did the best they could with the Greek. Too bad the best they could do was a bit too creative and relied heavily on folklore and imagination.

The Auroch
by: Tom Hammond
The beast may have been a rhinoceros. Strong, single horned and its name even ends in ceros or horn. The problem with this theory is the Greeks already had a name for the Rhinoceros: ῥῑνόκερως. More than likely this "unicornis" was an Auroch or a wild ox. Aurochs were immortalized for their brute strength and “elephantine” size by Julius Caesar in Gallic War , Book 6, Chapter 28:
"...those animals which are called uri [Aurochs]. These are a little below the elephant in size, and of the appearance, color, and shape of a bull. Their strength and speed are extraordinary; they spare neither man nor wild beast which they have espied. These the Germans take with much pains in pits and kill them. The young men harden themselves with this exercise, and practice themselves in this sort of hunting, and those who have slain the greatest number of them, having produced the horns in public, to serve as evidence, receive great praise. But not even when taken very young can they be rendered familiar to men and tamed. The size, shape, and appearance of their horns differ much from the horns of our oxen. These they anxiously seek after, and bind at the tips with silver, and use as cups at their most sumptuous entertainments."
Powerful, fast and horned. Once real and legendary in their time, they are now extinct.

An Auroch, a more feasible explanation...but boring (**yawn, a cow **). Were there ever unicorns. Who's to say for sure? Scientists are digging up new fossils of spectacular beasts every single day and wildly speculating about how they evolved from this or that and who we are related to them. Perhaps someday they will dig up a unicorn fossil?

Were the old versions of the Bible wrong to include what they knew might be too fantastic to believe? Before we leave behind the "Land of Eccentric Biblical Creatures" we should probably clear the air and mention the other more whimsical items of the Bible.
Satyr and Goat

We have the Satyr שָׂעִיר mentioned in Isaiah 13:21 and 34:14 (KJV of course).

The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest. Isaiah 34:14

This was probably a shaggy or hairy goat.

We also have a Cockatrice, the chicken-snake with looks that kill.

And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. ~Isaiah 11:8 (KJV again).

The Cockatrice was suppose to have been some type of serpent that can kill with its glance. The context leads a reader to realize that this is a snake of some sort most likely an asp or an adder.

...and of course we must mention the Dragons. The Dragon of Revelation is really suppose to be a dragon or some form of nightmarish beast. The words of the Old Testament are not so clear (Psalms 148:7) δρακοντες or תַּנִּין tannim/tannin. They were clearly large and unpleasant terrifying brutes. We can also look to nearly every euro-asian culture and see a form of this beast. All cultures have this creature in common. This is similar to the story of a massive flood. Many, if not all cultures have a story of mankind going through an antediluvian period (pre-flood) and then a massive deluge. It is highly unlikely that these stories were pervasive myths and spread but it is more likely that in actuality...they happened and became part of the culture. Cultures do not readily spread to other peoples without force but stories within cultures do. That means many of these stories came from the bottom-up (past to present) not from outside (other cultures). Similarly the story of dragons spread the same way. I mean good grief, we believe that dinosaurs exist, is the existence of a dragon that much of a stretch? I guess the same can be said of the unicorn but there is much more evidence in the case of the unicorn to suggest this was another form of pastoral animal. It is mentioned in the context of other pastoral animals such as peacocks, lambs, lions, bullocks, goats, donkeys and horses.

Where we are pretty sure these beasts are the product of 16th century misuse of words we should absolutely go back to visit the original languages or at least consult multiple versions to gain a consensus of what we are really dealing with. If we do not explain how fairytale creatures can reside in the pages of the Bible (mostly KJV) we do a horrible injustice to modern readers/believers. We also do a terrible injustice to the translators of the King James Version as they did not have at their disposal all the resources many have today like National Geographic and the Internet. At the same time we really should make sure that we stay as close to the original manuscripts as possible. I still use the KJV but I always match it up against the Greek and Hebrew in a word study since these tools are so readily available in software packages in our computer age. 

In the end, we still need to contend with the likes of Leviathan that is described in Job 41:1-34, Psalm 74:14, Psalm 104:26, Isaiah 27:1 and Behemoth in Isaiah

Job 41:1-34 “Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook or tie down its tongue with a rope? Can you put a cord through its nose or pierce its jaw with a hook? (and so it goes for 34 verse…)

Isaiah 27:1 ~ “In that day, the Lord will punish with his sword—his fierce, great and powerful sword-Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea.

“Look at Behemoth, which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox. What strength it has in its loins, what power in the muscles of its belly! Its tail sways like a cedar; the sinews of its thighs are close-knit.”

Do I know what Leviathan and Behemoth were? No, I don't. Does modern science? No, they don't. Because we cannot quantify something does not make it not true nor a myth. It just makes it unknown to man. It is not unknown to God as we are shown in Job and Isaiah above. What I can take away from Scripture is this. If Scripture spoke of Leviathan and Behemoth, then they most certainly existed...even if we are not sure of what they were. We need to align the way we see things in the world. Science does not need to be mutually exclusive from the Bible regardless of what you have been told. When we see the world only through science we will only ever have half and explanation (or less) to the things we see or have seen in this world. 

What is ironic is that we didn't need science to tell us the truth about the worst monster in our lives, we needed the Bible to describe to us this degenerate abomination. As a matter of fact the entire Bible from Genesis 3 to Revelation 21 deals with the most pervasive and insidious freak in all of history...

Yes, there were monsters in the Bible as the Bible is replete with examples of them. If a reader looks hard enough they will eventually realize that some of the worst monsters were satanic in origin. If one looks honestly at the text of the Bible and accepts what it says, a person will come to one of the most startling conclusions having read it. That the most dreadful and horrific monster or beast in our world...is our own sin. Some of the most immoral and evil beasts dwelt in human skin. You see, the truth is that the real monster in God's Creation is anything that exalts itself against God and that is exactly what sin is. An arrogant and rebellious exaltation against Holy God. God considered sin so destructive, so heinous and so monstrous He acted profoundly and eternally on it. He considered this monster so serious that He sent his only begotten son to overcome it for good so it would not terrorize those that would turn to Him. In so doing He put an end to death so that death would not have its vicious bite and sting.

There need be no fear in the things of this world for the Lord Jesus has overcome them all. We can rest easy at night as believers and be at peace with this. There is no boogieman that will accost us in the dark and there is no sin that cannot be overcome through Christ Jesus. Instead of focusing on the Oogily Boogilies on Halloween we need to focus on the risen Savior and what that signifies to us. There is no need to be afraid of the dark for the Light has come into the world (John 3:19).

October 24, 2013

Witchcraft and Necromancy In The Bible, Part II

Magic Circle
John William Waterhouse
[Continued from Part I]

Next up, that witch Jezebel…and yes, she was really a witch according to Scripture.

2 Kings 9:22 ~ “…and when Joram saw Jehu, he said, “Is it peace, Jehu?” He answered, “What peace can there be, so long as the whorings and the sorceries of your mother Jezebel are so many?”

What do we need to take away from this? Joram sees Jehu and asks a simple but biting question. Can there really be peace with a woman who whores after things that are not of God. Her transgressions have been allowed for so long they have become commonplace or even accepted. Few see them for the evil that they are. The real question that should be asked here is later answered by the prophet Isaiah

The question? What peace can sinners have with God? The definitive biblical answer is no peace as long as sin is pursued with reckless abandon. On the other had, when sin is repented of and forsaken, there is peace in Jesus Christ. It is the old Christian cliche: 

Know God, Know Peace. No God, No Peace. 

So Isaiah 57:20-21 tells us....

But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. "There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

Joram ends up dying as a criminal, under the sentence of the law (as did Ahaziah and Jezebel). Ahaziah was essentially one-and-the-same as the  house of Ahab. He was one of them and he had made himself one of them by his sin. It is dangerous to join those that enjoy and relish their sins. We end up entangled in guilt and misery by it. (2 Kings 9:30-37). As anyone that has have a drug addiction or habitual sin that they were unable to break free from until they came to the cross of Christ.

Primarily what we see in this verse and its surrounding contexts is a false peace to maintain the status quo even though that peace and status quo is maintained at the cost of a horribly sinful charade. This is the evil that has infiltrated the evangelical mind and church today. In an effort to not make waves we remain silent to maintain a false peace with errant brethren. Some are so errant that they are no longer brethren. Based in what they believe they are literally pagan in some instances. Silence is fine but never at the cost of compromising the truth of Scripture. Then, like now, we see people willing to tolerate known lies and untruths in the name of politically correct ecumenicalism instead of laying it on the line and telling the world the truth in in fear of "offending" someone.

So the question needs to be asked: Is peace really peace when it is made at the cost of accepting a known evil? I think not.  We do this exact same thing today when we allow the premise of abortion, homosexuality, prostitution and other sins that we try to legislate in our government. In some cases in liberal denominations...they are openly accepted and even promoted. Many will try to vote those out that would attempt to push these immoral issues but they inevitably remain totally silent otherwise. When we have evils and depravity this bad openly accepted in society we cannot just sit idly and passively by as millions more are murdered or corrupted. If we remain silent...we are exactly the same as Joram in this verse. Silence in these types of situations flirts with outright complicity in the sins being allowed through our silence.

Moving on to Daniel 2 we read that Nebuchadnezzar's magicians, astrologers, soothsayers, and sorcerers couldn’t interpret nor tell him his dream

Daniel 2:10 ~ “The astrologers answered the king, “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. 

Here we see that the pagan pretenders cannot really interpret dreams let alone retell them. They are caught utterly flatfooted and off balance here. They essentially make a blanket statement about all magicians, astrologers, soothsayers, and sorcerers. From their own mouths they condemn themselves and invalidate their abilities. There admission is to save themselves from the known punishment for not producing and answer to matters like this for a despot king. It would mean a death by being cut to pieces or dismemberment.

I am not so much concerned with the king and his kingdom's significance in this story (and God’s sovereignty) as I am with the total ineptitude and inability of these charlatans versus a true man or prophet of God. It is a striking parallel that these types of New Age charlatans still exist in our day and some even go under the moniker of “Christian”. Those that attempt to tell you how great your future will be based on the positive thoughts and feelings you have about yourself. How you will be rich if only you would pray harder and send more money to this or that guru or ministry. This is an ages old story and these quacks could do no more with positive thinking and the black arts then, then they can do now. The bible is clear here…they are incompetent and unqualified. They are powerless to either recall or interpret dreams. They are frauds.

But God can interpret dreams and know the unknowable. He not only allows us to dream, He is often the Creator and/or Sender of them. Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar are just a later version of the Joseph and Pharaoh. A dream sent by God to a king. The dream is going to effect the king and entire kingdom. One of God’s own people interprets it and is in a position of power when they do it or are put in a position of power because they interpret the dream. Above and beyond both stories we see God lofty on His throne in sovereign and omnipotent/omniscient control. So much so He actually sends messages of the future to His people both in dream and later in prophets. Yet we also see God not-so-lofty but rather near us working through kings and the common man to move kingdoms and history forward.

My last biblical citation ends us in Acts 13. It is the story of Elymas of Bar-Jesus.

Acts 13:6-8 ~ "When they [Paul and Barnabas] had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 

In this demonic man we see a special tool of the Devil strategically placed to try and circumvent the plans of God. Of course this is not possible and he is essentially verbally smacked around by Paul and sent on his way but the confrontation is of interest for Christians today. Why? We need to recognize when we're being detoured from our proper tasks. We need to give the “how-to and the what-for” to those that would attempt to withstand or actively repress our proclamation of the word of God or the Gospel.

As in the case of Bar-Jesus, some of Satan’s tools will be those right within a public gathering to proclaim the truth of God’s word, or in this case, a synagogue. Also in this case it is a new area that had never been evangelized before. The probability of elevated demonic activity is always higher in places where the Gospel has not been heard. We see the same in Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8. What is the godly man’s response? A gentle conversation? No. Paul flames this guy! It is a scathing unrelenting rebuke of (dare I say it?) biblical proportion. Why does Paul do this? It is mainly because of the overt and obvious biblical denunciation of sin. In particular, the biblical denunciation of occultism in which Bar-Jesus appears proficient, hence the fact he is called a μάγος or magician/sorcerer.

These people and tools of Satan will literally walk boldly right in our front doors. A person needs to ask how this would be possible if we are vigilant and on the lookout for dorks such as this and the answer should be obvious. We apparently are not as vigilant as we believe we are or worse…we too will have turned away from sound teaching. How? Perhaps the infiltration occurs because we are not rebuking those clearly in error and accepting their heresies and lies directly into our homes and places of worship? In other words this could also be a call to the biblically educated laity to politely bring error to leaderships attention.

We need to realize this passage very much speaks to us today on a few different levels. One, the forces of evil will stop at nothing to subvert the will and purposes of God. They will even infiltrate our places of worship and gatherings in an attempt to shut us down and silence us. This should only embolden us even more to do what we’ve been called to do by the Lord.

It is the old saying, “Stand for what you believe.” If you are not encountering resistance and trials…there is an incredibly high probability you are not doing what you were called to.There needs to be a place, a line where you will say, "This far, and no farther!" That line for me is the truth of Scripture, the truth of the Gospel, the truth of Jesus Christ. Where is your line? Do you even have one?  As for Paul, Scripture tells us he fought the good fight. He had not compromised the truth…he had not compromised the Gospel to tickle people’s ears with false teachings and a false gospel. He had driven his sword in the ground and not given an inch. He had stood his ground fearlessly.

So should you. Stand for what you believe even if it means standing face-to-face with witches, warlocks, sorcerers, conjurers of the demons and those that dabble in the black arts…so they can proceed no further. Be assured, you will probably encounter some of these deluded people this coming week. Why not try and preach the Gospel to them?

October 22, 2013

Witchcraft and Necromancy In The Bible, Part I

The Sorceress
Georges Merle
Oil on Canvas
In keeping with the Halloween theme of my posts recently I will post more on the unholy haranguing and harassings of some of the more unsavory types outlined in the Bible. The Bible is quite vocal about the black arts as God is negatively vocal about witches and their ilk. God is clear about what happens when a person deals in the pagan practices rooted in Babylon and other ancient pagan cultures.

The Law of Moses and some of the later narratives of the kings and prophets are explicit. The Bible clearly and ardently forbids and condemns witchcraft along with other forms of necromancy and future-telling. To me it seems that the primary reason these things are forbidden is because of their extremely close link to idolatry and worshiping or pursuing knowledge based in the created rather than the Creator. They are just another false source of truth (deception/lies). This dependence on the pagan things of the world or the things of the world itself are blatant and obnoxious idolatry. They are therefore a slap in the face of a Holy God who was clear when He said that man shall have no other God’s before Him.

“‘I will set my face against anyone who turns to mediums [mumbler / ventriloquist] and spiritists [conjurer of spirits] to prostitute themselves by following them, and I will cut them off from their people. Leviticus 20:6

“A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist [conjurer] among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads.’” Leviticus 20:27

Along the same lines Exodus mentions witches or those that to whisper a spell, enchant or practice magic/black arts

“Do not allow a sorceress [witch] to live. Exodus 22:18

In Deuteronomy we see a more explicit statement and clarification. One must be blameless or undefiled.

“When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable (abominable) ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire [Molech worship], who practices divination [witchcraft or future telling through demonic means] or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD; because of these same detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God. Deuteronomy 18:9-13

“And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?" Isaiah 8:19

Wherever witchcraft, sorcery, mediums, divination, etc. are mentioned in Scripture it is absolutely condemned in no uncertain terms because of what it forces people to trust in and what it does to them spiritually. These demonic practices turn a person to sin and the demonic away from God…exactly what the Bible was written to help people prevent. We must never forget the Bible is a book written to bring people back into a right relationship with God through repentance. In repenting and believing in God we are saved. When we turn our back to God and apostatize we are in a dangerous godless place. It is a place infested with demons and the demonic. Things like witches and witchcraft set themselves up against God to do just the opposite of what God wills. In so doing they make themselves the sworn enemy of God and the ally of the Devil. Poor company if you ask me. As we will see, all these instances pertaining to the black arts have people on the wrong side opposing God. In some cases like Pharaoh, they (sorcerers, magicians) are being used by people that are also against God.

So…on with some examples of witches, sorcerers and their ilk from the Bible

Exodus 7:11-12 ~ “Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs.”

The sorcerers of Pharaoh’s court to all appearances conjured serpents from staffs. This is just like the satanic to mimic and try to emulate (albeit poorly) the works of God through Moses and Aaron. Where the supernatural work from Aaron’ staff was a supernatural work that was the doings of God, the mimicry of the sorcerer’s is illusion at best, purely demonic at worst.

What Christians should see here is not so much the trickery of the practitioners of the black arts so much as we need to see the divinely ordained mission of Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh to set His people free. Moses and Aaron are there to facilitate the release of God’s people out from under the bondage of Pharaoh. This attestation comes in the form of God intervening supernaturally.

Even though God has worked supernaturally through Moses and Aaron…Pharaoh and his accompanying Egyptians pay them no mind and use satanic means to undermine the work of God. Should we expect any less in today’s battles against the same satanic scumbag?

2 Thessalonians 2:8-10 ~ “…and then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 

Having been given over to their wickedness, God will even allow them to be deceived by removing His covering of mercy and grace.

In 1 Samuel 28:7-25 we see the most prominent witch in the Bible.

1 Samuel 28:8-11 ~ “So Saul disguised himself, putting on other clothes, and at night he and two men went to the woman. “Consult a spirit for me,” he said, “and bring up for me the one I name.” But the woman said to him, “Surely you know what Saul has done. He has cut off the mediums and Spiritists from the land. Why have you set a trap for my life to bring about my death?” Saul swore to her by the LORD, “As surely as the LORD lives, you will not be punished for this.” Then the woman asked, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” “Bring up Samuel,” he said.

The Bible clearly and ardently forbids and condemns witchcraft along with other forms of necromancy [attempts to contact the departed]. The reason contacting the dead is forbidden isn't so much because God is worried about the dead revealing His secrets about the afterlife...it is because spirits or ghosts as we understand them from the culture don't exist. What we would be seeing if we really did conjure a ghost is in reality a demonic spirit impersonating a dead person (except in the case of Saul here as it seems God directly intervened to pass judgement on Saul). 
It is all about demonic smoke and mirrors not actual contact with the dead. The Bible is clear...people die once and then face judgment. They do not come back from the dead except when God resurrects everyone on the day of Judgement. The righteous will be resurrected to the Kingdom and eternal salvation and the unrighteous will be resurrected to eternal judgment (Hebrews 9:27).
As for those that would dare practice witchcraft and necromancy or consult with these types of people we read the following...

Leviticus 20:6 ~ “‘I will set my face against anyone who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute themselves by following them, and I will cut them off from their people.

Based on the later deadly repercussions for Saul for having consulting a medium I would have to say that Saul did have God’s face set against him in the end and was cut off from his people as was his son Jonathan…in death…this is in spite of the fact that Saul was one of God’s anointed.

Even though Saul drove the mediums out of the land he consults with the witch of Endor anyway. This is an obvious case of willful disobedience by both Saul and the witch. Much to the amazement of Saul and even the witch herself (1 Sam 28:12 she cried out with a loud voice) …she actually pulls off this summoning, or so it appears. This is a successful violation of a capital offense in the Old Testament.

Regardless of whom/Whom this entity is, one of the spiritual points of this passage is often missed. Saul’s failure lies in his inability to trust God and go to God for help rather than rely on his own devices and the devices and methods of mankind which are flawed at their core. His failure also lies in his disobedient heart. The truth is Saul had little or no faith in his God even though he may have said so or alluded to as much. His faith and main source of disobedience resided in his belief in himself or those around Him instead of God. He violates God time after time in disobedience or partial disobedience. As we know from Saul, God considers even partial disobedience…full disobedience and failure to obey is viewed the same. Sin is sin no matter how you cut it. Failure to obey is sin. Sin is worthy of condemnation and judgment and that judgment inevitably is death.
[continued in Part II]

October 19, 2013

Meals Made For A Monster: Cannibalism In the Bible

It is the time of year where the culture celebrates the dead, evil and the occult. It seems like a good time to address similar things in the Bible as it might help me draw in someone that is lost in the culture and possibly tune them into the Bible and its truths. In this post I might not be dealing specifically with monsters per se...but I am certainly dealing with godless and monsterous behavior that is only possible if God removes His covering of grace and mercy from mankind.
As far as I know there are only a handful of examples of cannibalism in the Bible. There is also one noted misunderstanding in the New Testament about something Jesus said also which I will elaborate on at the end of this post.

For the first incident we must visit 2 Kings. A woman in Samaria boiled her son and ate him with her neighbor and then cried to the king when her neighbor would not boil her son.

2 Kings 6:24-29 ~ “Afterward Ben-hadad king of Syria mustered his entire army and went up and besieged Samaria. And there was a great famine in Samaria, as they besieged it, until a donkey's head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and the fourth part of a kab (approx. 1 quart) of dove's dung for five shekels of silver. Now as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying, “Help, my lord, O king!” And he said, “If the Lord will not help you, how shall I help you? From the threshing floor, or from the winepress?” And the king asked her, “What is your trouble?” She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ So we boiled my son and ate him. And on the next day I said to her, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him.’ But she has hidden her son.”

So what would drive a human to such a horrendous act? In a word: starvation. We see the horrors of a severe famine. We see how famine is the dreaded companion of war. The Syrians poured into the Northern Kingdom in Samaria in such volume that they soon overwhelmed the ability to support the army and the kingdom turned to abject famine. The route of war either leads through or creates a trail of famine or the famished. History is littered with examples of morbid human dishes that besieged cities were forced to dine on because no food was left.

Further on in the Scriptures we see that when King David had a choice between famine, war or pestilence, David threw himself on the mercy of the Lord rather than chose something as horrendous as famine (1 Samuel 24:14).

We see that famine dulls human dignity to blunt rounded edge and kills the humane condition of men. This is brutally evident here. A mother’s love for her child is one of the most powerful emotional bonds in creation yet that is overridden in this story. All sense of right and wrong are thrown to the wind (or into the gut if you prefer). What horrid condition must a person sink to extinguish the bond of a mother to her child? How far does a mother need to stoop to be able to share a meal with another adult made from her own child? It defies description and dwells somewhere in the dark brooding crevasse of human depravity.

What is incredibly sad though is that it was foretold of long before it happened. How you say? In the Law, Moses told of these types of repercussions for disobedience to the Lord. This punishment would come not so much as punishments in-and-of-itself but rather as the natural fallout of a depraved humanity let go to the horrible base nature of their sin(s) in the breakdown of social order. It is found in the context of curses from God for disobedience in Deuteronomy 28:15-68 we read the following…

Deuteronomy 28:53 ~ “And you shall eat the fruit of your womb, the flesh of your sons and daughters, whom the Lord your God has given you, in the siege and in the distress with which your enemies shall distress you.

Here we see the fragile boundary between the civilized and savagery. Here we see the brittle razor-thin line between righteousness and sinful wicked depravity.  It is no wonder that righteousness cannot be found in anything man does…it can only come from God. When the divine mercies abate and the restraints of divine grace are removed, true evil can then be unleashed on the world in all its frightful satanic power.

The second abominable act comes to us from Jeremiah in his Lamentations. Lamentations is essentially Jeremiah’s eyewitness account of Jerusalem’s fall in 586 B.C in the Southern Kingdom this time (ironically). It falls to Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army. It is God’s judgment being visited on a disobedient people. People that saw what happened to their northern sister in Samaria and still continued on their wicked course.

Lamentations 4:10 ~ “The hands of compassionate women have boiled their own children; they became their food during the destruction of the daughter of my people.

Again, as in 2 Kings, we see mothers cooking and eating their own children. Moral duty is foregone, and unnatural crimes are perpetrated at the beckoning of starvation and hunger. In the previous verse of 7 and 8 we see the condition of the Nazarites who were normally remarkable for health and personal beauty and were held in veneration because of their religious devotion (Numbers 6). Their rose complexion in Lamentations 4 has turned to blackness, their frame is shrunk and distorted, and their skin is shriveled and dry. Famine plays havoc with beauty, and brings the strongest down to helplessness. Evil and deformed.

We recoil at the thought of cannibalism but the conditions must have been deplorable and the need to survive insurmountable. The conditions were so bad that falling to the sword was deemed a more acceptable end than dying through starvation. The living envied teh dead. So extreme was the famine, that cannibalism became common and not seen as taboo and mothers actually boiled and ate their own children. Again we see the restraints of civilization are merely superficial and it is only through divine grace that any semblance of society is maintained. Famine makes people forget the suffering of their children. Severe suffering affects all levels of society including the rich and well-to-do. Famine and starvation changes beauty into deformity and will make the most refined person into an animal capable of cannibalism. How far are we today from similar circumstance? I makes one wonder, doesn't it?

My final allusion to cannibalism comes to us from the Gospel of John and it is a misunderstanding to something Jesus says to His disciples.

John 6:47-52 ~ “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Many listening are stunned as they have clearly misunderstood what Jesus has said here and have taken Him literally.

John 6:53-57 ~ “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.

Is Jesus condoning cannibalism here? No…of course not. He is speaking at least indirectly to the later idea of communion but there is something more here that is distinctly spiritual taking place. Jesus was looking forward to a time soon where the great atoning work of His crucifixion and resurrection would be complete. His death and the Cross were in plain view for Him. The will of the Father and the will of the incarnate Son are seen to be in perfect unison here. It is the Father who sends down the true bread from heaven (like Manna) and the Son, who is the true bread, gives His flesh/blood, His incarnate life for the life of the world dead in its sin (Levitcus 17:11).

In this passage Jesus is referring to Himself as the Bread of Life. As such, we must eat of it daily. We must eat it or take it in internally. The means by which we can do so is expressed in the words, "He that believes in Me has eternal life " (John 3:16; 6:47). We must receive Jesus and His word with all the grace, truth and spiritual power that it brings. We must integrate this divine nourishment (truth, life) and integrate it into our lives. If we do this it becomes us as opposed to becoming an evil monster. We therefore would emulate Christ and would exhibit the fruits of the Spirit. What Jesus is saying is that there should be such a close spiritual union between Himself and His people that they may be seen as one in Him

We as Christians are to partake of His life and teaching. We become members of His body figuratively therefore partaking of His Spirit and being sustained and made fruitful by His life in us. We are to partake of this “bread” every day as we are not capable of any righteousness on our own without Him. To maintain this life we must take Him in daily, just like food, to keep this eternal life alive in us.

Jesus will immediately go on to clarify his statement. There were apparently many people or hangers –on with weak faith that still considered themselves Jesus’ disciple but at the point of this statement…they are blown asunder and can't run fast enough to get away from Him. Their conception of His ministry seems to have been flawed. This claim by Jesus must have just made it harder for them to believe and remain disciples. He claims not only to be the long promised Messiah, who would be greater than manna but that He Himself was the bread of life which came down from heaven to give life to the world.  Those that wished to gain eternal life must eat of His flesh and drink His blood. Those loosely attached are appalled and murmur. In answer to the murmuring Jesus corrects their misunderstanding of His words.

John 6: 60-63 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 

The proof of His words would be given in His ascension to Heaven in Acts. It would show that He would return from where He had come. He would not ascend like a servant but as the Son of God by His own divine power back into Heaven. Jesus’ ascension would show by what interpretive measure these words were to be understood. "The words that I speak unto you are spirit," In other words, when the appearance of Jesus resurrection body (His life) flesh disappears in the ascension, the body he assumed at the Resurrection…it would be then that the disciples and believers would understand that these words from Jesus now have a spiritual meaning-not a literal meaning.
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