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Category Archives: unbelief

Bruce’s Response (Former Preacher Turned Atheist)

Some of you might have read my post back on February 28 entitled “Answering a Personal Attack: My Response to a Former Preacher Turned Atheist.” Bruce responded to my comment on his blog (see below) and I just responded to his response. Feel free to leave a comment at the end of this post if you wish. Thank you to those of you who have been praying for me during this conversation. Larry

Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

Larry: I’m trying to make the point that real Jesus-followers should deeply love others whether they come to faith or not.

Bruce: You say “whether they come to faith or not.” There’s the condition, whether you can see it or not. I’m going to befriend my neighbor without any such motivation. Last year, I had an across the fence interaction with my neighbor’s father. I had no thoughts of evangelizing him or converting him to atheism/humanism/liberalism/Bengalism. We talked like two people getting to know each other.

Larry:The thing is both of us have a worldview.

Bruce: I’ve never said otherwise. The difference being, of course, I don’t write books, hold seminars, or cajole atheists, agnostics, humanists, or Bengalites to “reach” unbelievers. I don’t make fake friendships with people so I can evangelize them or add them to my “church.”

Larry: You have a worldview, Bruce.

Bruce: Again, I never said otherwise.

Larry: And you spend hours immersing yourself in your former Evangelical world to find reasons to criticize Jesus-followers. You’re on a mission, right?

Bruce: I’m a critic of Evangelicalism, right-wing politics, and the designated hitter. I have countless Christian readers whom I never criticize. It is your religion’s beliefs, practices, and cultural/social influence I have a problem with.

My mission? To be a good father, husband, and grandfather; to love my neighbor; to work for a better tomorrow; to take outstanding photographs; to take road trips with my wife; to endure chronic pain in the hope that tomorrow will be a better day; to photograph 50+ high school sporting events a year; to cheer the Reds on to a World Series championship. You see, I have lots of interests now that I don’t have to concern myself with God/Jesus/Bible/afterlife/judgment/hell. All that matters is now, today, the moment.

Larry: I’m just saddened that you feel you must judge my motives without knowing me.

Bruce: Yet, you do the same. Snap. I write about what I read on public blogs, websites, news sites. Don’t want my critique, don’t write. Besides, do you really think I can’t “know” you to some degree through your writing?

Larry: Is any friendship with one’s concern about another’s eternal destiny automatically fake? Or do other factors make that friendship fake?

Bruce: By all means pray, be concerned, etc. Just don’t bother others with these things unless they ask. Just befriend people for the sake of who they are, and not based on their “need” to be won over to your peculiar flavor of Christianity. You wrongly think your “duty” and “right” to evangelize others trumps respecting them or accepting societal boundaries; that your fear of hell, love for Jesus, and commitment to the Bible supersedes the rights of others — especially the right to be left alone or not be bugged by Jesus salesmen.

Larry:You don’t believe in a God who is holy and that we’re in a lot of trouble. But I do. Shouldn’t I want to share that message with others?

Bruce: Religion is a personal matter. By all means share it, if asked. However, you are advocating befriending people so you can evangelize them; of using subversive means to gain a religious objective. That’s different, little more than a bait an switch.

Larry: Lost people often don’t want to be told they are lost. But I answer to a higher authority. And I need to do my “job” with love and care. If a bridge is out and yours is the car behind mine, isn’t warning you an act of love?

Bruce: Really? You are going to go with the lame “bridge” analogy? Just because you feel “led” doesn’t mean you should bug others. Instead of using fake friendships to evangelize people, how about letting your “little light shine?” You know, like publicly repudiating Donald Trump and his abhorrent anti-human policies and working to make the world a better place. So much good you could be doing Larry, but you waste your time trying to get people to join your club.

Larry: Why do you work so hard, Bruce, to prove Christians and Christianity wrong? I can’t know your inner motives, but could it be that you’re trying to justify your rejection of Jesus? Just a question. Blessings.

Bruce: No, you are making a f___ing judgment. I’ve written thousands and thousands of words about why I deconverted and why I’m a critic of Evangelicalism —a sect I think is a cult that psychologically (and times physically)harms people. Besides, “Why do you work so hard, Larry, to prove Christians and Christianity right? I can’t know your inner motives, but could it be that you’re trying to justify your delusional need and worship of a dead man named Jesus?” Your words, right back at ya, dude.

Of course, you think there are “other” reasons I’m an atheist, right? Cuz, the Bible says . . .

Only thing worse than fake friendships is refusing to let people tell their stories on their own terms. Everyone has a story to tell, and we should accept them at face value. I accept that you are a Christian. I would never question how you became one, why, or any other aspect of your “testimony.” Simply put, I believe you Larry when you say, “I’m a Christian.”

I’ve said all I can say on this matter.Maybe others will weigh in with their comments.

ReplyDr. Larry Dixon

    1. Bruce:
      You’re probably done with my responses, but allow me one more brief comment.

      1. It seems that no matter what I say, you’ve convinced I’m into conditional friendships. I’ve seen the damage done by misinformed Christians, and I’m trying to fight against that.

      2. I understand your point about simply being a friend of others. With no expectations. No message. No conditions. But Bruce, you were in Christianity for a long time. You know what the message is. You have rejected it. Forgive me, but you have no message that transcends this earthly (but important) life, right?

      3. Regarding your worldview, you challenge me for writing books, holding seminars, and trying to reach unbelievers with my worldview. Is that fair? Knowing what you know, wouldn’t you criticize me if I didn’t care to share the gospel with others? Can you give me the benefit of the doubt that I am trying to do what Jesus told me to do?

      4. I commend you for your mission of being a good father and grandfather, etc. At least we have that in common! But I’m also convinced there’s an eternity awaiting everyone.

      5. When I said I’m saddened that you felt you needed to judge my motives, I was not criticizing the research you do to combat Christianity. You accused me of fake friendships — based, I guess, on your past experiences with professed Christians. I’m fighting that same practice. Of course, you can “know” something about me by reading what I write, that’s true. But you can’t see my heart, nor I yours.

      6. I’m intrigued by your suggestion that Christians shouldn’t “bother others” with the gospel “unless they ask.” I’m so glad someone “bothered” me years ago with the gospel. I wasn’t smart enough to ask how I could be forgiven. I think if you were to ask some of my friends who are not yet Jesus-followers if I respect them or supersede their rights, you might be surprised.

      7. I certainly don’t want to be guilty of “bait and switch.” I’ve never appreciated that approach by used car salesmen. And I don’t want to be guilty of it either. But, Bruce, if the gospel is true (work with me here a minute?), then I am under obligation to love people into the kingdom if I can. Doesn’t that make sense?

      8. I thought my bridge-being-out analogy makes a good point. If you were in the car ahead of me, wouldn’t basic compassion for another human demand your warning me?

      Looks like you want to move on “to other targets.” Thanks for posting my responses, Bruce.

      Blessings. Larry

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2020 in unbelief

 

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Time for a Sad Quote: Polly Toynbee on Christ’s Sacrifice for Us!

The journalist Polly Toynbee in her review of Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 6.01.01 AM“The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” said, “Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him too?”

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2016 in unbelief

 

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What on Earth Are We to Do about Unbelief? (Part 10 of 10)

FirefoxScreenSnapz689If you have read through all these posts on the one-chapter letter of Jude, thank you.  We’ve seen a lot in this battleplan for believers, haven’t we?

What started out as an epistle of praise for our common salvation got changed into a challenge to these Christians to recognize false teaching and to stand strong for the truths of biblical Christianity.  Much of Jude’s emphasis, however, is on the believer’s responsibility to grow in the things of God himself.  And that growth impacts how we reach out to those who are still outside of Christ.

Let’s notice our tenth part of our response to unbelief in our world and it is this —


Step #10-  We must Live Our Own Lives as a Praise to God! (vv. 24-25).

24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

After changing the purpose of his epistle from a letter of rejoicing in our common salvation to a battleplan for believers, Jude concludes his challenge to these Christians by driving them to worship!  The unbelief in the world around us should not push us into despair, but into praise!  We, of course, should grieve for those who don’t trust Jesus, but Jude’s concluding focus is not on an unbelieving world but on a praise-deserving Savior!

Note two specific truths about this God we are to praise.  First, He is able to KeynoteScreenSnapz155keep us from stumbling.  That’s precisely what had happened to these false teachers — they had stumbled from the faith.  Second, He is able to present us before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy!  There is going to be a great day of Jesus presenting His bride to His Father and she will be a spotless bride, without fault.  Notice also that He will do that presenting “with great joy”!  He is looking forward to that presentation.  If inwardly you aren’t jumping up and clicking your heels and saying “Whooppee!”, check your pulse.  You might be dead.

Jude concludes by assigning glory, majesty, power, and authority to “the only God our Savior.”  Pretty strong evidence for Jesus’ deity, don’t you think?

In light of all that we’ve seen in this one-chapter epistle, let’s worship Him FirefoxScreenSnapz734— and make sure we’re in the battle!

“The idea that this world is a playground instead of a battleground has now been accepted in practice by the vast majority of Christians. . . .  The ‘worship’ growing out of such a view of life is as far off center as the view itself – a sort of sanctified nightclub without the champagne and the dressed-up drunks.” This World: Playground or Battleground? by A.W. Tozer, pp. 5-6.

 

Questions:
1.  Take each of the four nouns — glory, majesty, power, and authority — and ask what is specifically demanded of you if you follow Jude’s injunction to give these to God.

2.  What other biblical texts talk about that day of presentation?

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2014 in unbelief, worship

 

What on Earth Are We to Do about Unbelief? (Part 9c of 10)

FirefoxScreenSnapz689In our discussion of this one-chapter letter by Jude, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus, we have seen a number of aspects of our response to the unbelief in the world.

Much of Jude’s material has to do with the content and character of the false teachers which had snuck into God’s people.  But in our verses for today we see that Jude’s attention now focuses on how we are to mature in our walk with the Lord.

Let’s continue to look at a ninth part of our response to unbelief in our world and it is this —

Step #9c-  We must Take Responsibility for Our Own Spiritual Lives! (vv. 17-23).

17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

And English teachers?!

And English teachers?!

Where does evangelism fit into our concern for a world wrapped in unbelief?  Obviously we are to protect God’s people from false teachers and we are to work hard at developing our own spiritual lives (vv. 20-21).

Could it be that evangelism — seeking to share the Good News about Christ with those who are lost — is a key to our own spiritual growth?  We learn in verses 22-23 that we are to “be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear — hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

Sometimes the last response by Christians towards those who doubt is mercy.  We are often tough on those who ask questions, challenge assumptions, suggest alternative ways of understanding doctrines.  Perhaps if we showed mercy, rather than judgment, toward such seekers, there might be more seekers.  And some who are already seekers might settle on the answers the Bible gives to their questions.

Some lost simply need to be snatched from the fire.  What an image!  FirefoxScreenSnapz730Zechariah 3:2 and Amos 4:11 use this expression.  Amos says, “‘I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,’ declares the LORD.”  There are others who need to be shown mercy, but mercy mixed with fear.  I’m not sure what the fear refers to. Perhaps a fear that they will return to their wayward lives.  Or a fear on the part of the rescuer that he or she might take the path of doubt.  But this third group, those who require mercy mixed with fear, ought to elicit in the rescuer a godly hatred of the effects which sin has had on their lives.

At the very least, verses 22-23 seem to indicate that we can and should take different approaches with different people.  The gospel remains the same (see verse 3), but our methods and approaches can differ quite a bit depending on the type of person we are seeking to reach. (to be continued)

“Christianity today is man-centered, not God-centered. God is made to wait patiently, even respectfully, on the whims of men. The image of God currently popular is that of a distracted Father, struggling in heartbroken FirefoxScreenSnapz592desperation to get people to accept a Saviour of whom they feel no need and in whom they have very little interest. To persuade these self-sufficient souls to respond to His generous offers God will do almost anything, even using salesmanship methods and talking down to them in the chummiest way imaginable. This view of things is, of course, a kind of religious romanticism which, while it often uses flattering and sometimes embarrassing terms in praise of God, manages nevertheless to make man the star of the show.” (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 27)

Questions:
1.  What is one practical way we can show mercy toward those who doubt?

2.  Do we see lost people as almost already in the fires of God’s judgment?  To snatch someone from the fire indicates imminent danger of being burnt.  Do we see our unsaved friends and relatives that way?  Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is well worth reading to encourage our seriousness about the extreme danger in which lost people presently are.

 

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2014 in unbelief

 

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What on Earth Are We to Do about Unbelief? (Part 9b of 10)

FirefoxScreenSnapz689Don’t you just HATE to WAIT?  As we look at the world around us, we believers in Jesus long for His Second Coming.  But we are to be waiting . . .

Jude has already said much to us in this one-chapter letter.  We are to notice the unbelief around us, but not to the point that we give up or drop out of the battle.

In fact, Jesus intensifies his challenge to these believers — and us — to get strong in our own walk with the Lord.  We saw in our last post that we are to build ourselves up in our most holy faith.

Let’s continue to look at a ninth part of our response to unbelief in our world and it is this —

Step #9b-  We must Take Responsibility for Our Own Spiritual Lives! (vv. 17-23).

17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

FirefoxScreenSnapz723Jude then says that these believers are to “keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” (21).  Can we do that?  Can we keep ourselves in God’s love”?  Some commentators suggest that Jude is not saying that we can keep ourselves in a condition in which God can love us, for we are sinners by nature and practice.  Rather, he may be saying, “Live in such a way that you show your love for God!”

Notice that keeping ourselves in that condition, that state of showing our love for God, FirefoxScreenSnapz722helps us in our waiting!  We are waiting “for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring [us] to eternal life.”  (21).  Although the Bible teaches that eternal life is the present possession of the one who believes in Jesus (see Jn. 3:15-16; 3:36 [“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.]; 5:24; 6:47; 17:3), it also teaches that eternal life is a future reality awaiting the believer (Mt. 19:29; 25:46; Mk. 10:30; Jn. 6:40).

How’s the waiting going? (to be continued)

FirefoxScreenSnapz724I am convinced that the dearth of great saints in these times even among those who truly believe in Christ is due at least in part to our unwillingness to give sufficient time to the cultivation of the knowledge of God. We of the nervous West are victims of the philosophy of activism tragically misunderstood. Getting and spending, going and returning, organizing and promoting, buying and selling, working and playing–this alone constitutes living. If we are not making plans or working to carry out plans already made we feel that we are failures, that we are sterile, unfruitful eunuchs, parasites on the body of society. The gospel of work, as someone has called it, has crowded out the gospel of Christ in many Christian churches. In an effort to get the work of the Lord done we often lose contact with the Lord of the work and quite literally wear our people out as well.”

Questions:
1.  There is wasted waiting and there is worthwhile waiting.  How can our waiting for the Lord Jesus to return be seen as worthwhile waiting?

2.  If I am right that “keep yourselves in God’s love” means — Live in such a way that you show your love for God — what is one practical way that we can do that?

 

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2014 in unbelief

 

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What on Earth Are We to Do about Unbelief? (Part 9a of 10)

FirefoxScreenSnapz689Do you ever feel like giving up?  No?  (You probably lie about other things as well).  I look at the world around me, and I get a bit discouraged.  Unbelief is rampant.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is ignored or critiqued.  What’s a believer in Jesus to do?

Jude, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus, wrote a one-chapter letter precisely answering that question!  We’ve seen so far in our study that in the face of the world’s unbelief, we are to keep ourselves strong in the faith (vv. 1-4).  But the Christian faith is being attacked — and we need to be aware of those attacks (vv. 3-4).  The Christian is to be ready to do battle for Christian truths (vv. 3-4), acknowledging the fact that the God who delivers is also a God who destroys (vv. 5-7)!  There are many dangers in false teaching that we must realize (vv. 8-10), for those teachers are simply repeating the errors of history (v. 11).  We’ve also seen (seventhly), that we should understand that false teachers have nothing to offer (vv. 12-13).  Eighthly, we saw that false teachers inevitably lead to ungodly living (vv. 14-16).

Let’s look at a ninth part of our response to unbelief in our world and it is this —
Step #9a-  We must Take Responsibility for Our Own Spiritual Lives! (vv. 17-23).

17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

What are we to do about unbelief on earth?  We’ve seen a number of steps that we can take.FirefoxScreenSnapz719  But what about ourselves?  What about our own spiritual growth?  Again Jude reminds us of the false teachers in verses 17-19.  He uses the expression “scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.”  They are divisive people who follow mere natural instincts and don’t have the Spirit.  So, obviously, to properly pursue our own spiritual lives means not making the same mistakes as these false teachers.  We must not scoff at the things of God, nor follow our own ungodly desires.  We must not follow our natural instincts.  And we must “have the Spirit” in our lives.

But Jude goes on to positive admonitions about our own spiritual lives.  We are to “build ourselves up in our most holy faith,” for example (v. 20).   Spiritual growth does not happen automatically.  We FirefoxScreenSnapz721don’t become spiritually mature by osmosis (simply sitting “under the sound of the Word,” as some of the older generation used to say).  We are to build ourselves up.  It is not enough just to fight false teaching.  We must invest energy in growing ourselves up!

Jude also uses the enigmatic expression “and praying in the Holy Spirit” (v. 20).  What does he mean by that command?  There is no real context to dogmatically determine what he means, but it seems unlikely that he is referring to the supernatural gift of speaking in languages one has not learned.  Perhaps his point is praying in such as way that we maximize our cooperation with the ministries of the Holy Spirit to us (illumination, conviction of sin, leading, etc.).  (to be continued)
FirefoxScreenSnapz720
“The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us. ”
― A.W. Tozer

 

Questions:

1.  What is one factor that keeps you from growing in the Lord as you should?

2.  Name one practical step you can take to combat that hindrance in your life ________________________

_______________________________________________________________________________________

 

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2014 in unbelief

 

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What on Earth Are We to Do about Unbelief? (Part 8 of 10)

FirefoxScreenSnapz689Unbelief is rampant in our world.  Specifically, unbelief in the gospel.  What’s a Christian to do?  We have seen from the little epistle of Jude that first, we are to keep ourselves strong in the faith (vv. 1-4).  Second, we must be aware of attacks on the Christian faith (vv. 3-4).  Third, we must be prepared to do battle for Christianity’s truths (vv. 3-4).  Fourth, we must acknowledge the fact that the God who delivers is also a God who destroys (vv. 5-7).  We must, fifth, realize the dangers of false teaching (vv. 8-10).  Sixth, we must see that false teachers are simply repeating the errors of history (v. 11).  Seventh, we should realize that false teachers have nothing to offer (vv. 12-13).

Let’s look at an eighth part of our response to unbelief in our world and it is this —

Step #8-  We must recognize that false teachers inevitably lead to ungodly living! (vv. 14-16).

14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15 to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”  16 These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.

These false teachers may have taken the believers to whom Jude is writing by surprise, but they did not surprise God.  We saw at the beginning of the epistle that these teachers are “certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago.”  We see in verse 14 that they were prophesied about by Enoch.  Who is this Enoch?  He is described as “the seventh from Adam,” so he can’t be Enoch, the son of Cain (Gen. 4:17) who was the third from Adam.

The saying of Enoch here quoted is found at the beginning of the Book of Enoch (Jude 1:9): “And behold He comes with myriads of saints to execute judgment on them, and He will destroy the ungodly and judge all flesh concerning all things which the sinners and ungodly have committed and done against Him.” These words are taken from a speech in which an angel interprets a vision which Enoch has seen, and in which he announces to him the future judgment of God.

FirefoxScreenSnapz712Enoch was a important person mentioned in Genesis 5:24, the 7th from Adam, the son of Jared (Gen. 5:18) and the father of Methuselah (5:21; Luke 3:37). After the birth of Methuselah at 65, Enoch lived 300 more years (Gen 5:23-24). “So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”  Hebrews 11:5 says, “By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”  Enoch was transported into heaven without dying. With Enoch was conveyed the teaching of both heaven and immortality.

The concept of ten thousand saints is not unique. In Deut. 33:2 And he said: “The LORD came from Sinai, and dawned on them from Seir; he shone forth from Mount Paran, and He came with ten thousands of saints; from His right hand came a fiery law for them.”  Revelation 5:11 says, “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands. ” The Bible teaches that heaven has a vast population of both angels and people — saints. These are those (either one or both groups) who will come with him when he comes to earth to judge and set up his kingdom.

Jude was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21), so we know KeynoteScreenSnapz152that what he quoted from Enoch was true. This is confirmed by the fact that the same idea about the Lord returning with His holy ones to render judgment is found elsewhere in the Bible (Zechariah 14:5, Isaiah 66:15, and Psalm 96:13, Deut. 33:2).

The true prophecy of Enoch, though unrecorded, could have been handed down by tradition, as the Jews had a meticulous way of keeping both written and oral tradition. Paul mentions Jannes and Jambres the Egyptian magicians, names known in Jewish tradition, but not from Scripture (2 Tim. 3:8). For him to do this and be accurate God would have had to confirm the tradition.

“Even if Jude cites a passage from this non-canonical book, it does not mean he accepted the whole book as true, only this particular statement. I think it is more likely Jude did not lift this statement from the non-Biblical book of Enoch,. It was either something passed on orally or he received it as a direct revelation from God.” (http://www.letusreason.org/Biblexp118.htm)

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At any rate, we have Jude predicting (from this non-biblical source) God’s judgment KeynoteScreenSnapz151upon ungodly, false teachers.  His emphasis in on their ungodliness!  “. . . to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (v. 15).

He then describes the present teachers as “grumblers and faultfinders.”  They follow their own desires, boast about themselves, and flatter others for their own advantage. (v. 16).  We must recognize and point out ungodliness, especially if we wish to guard God’s people!

KeynoteScreenSnapz153

 

“Sin is not judged by what we think about it — but by what GOD thinks about it!”

Questions:

1.  Would you say from the quote above that Rob Bell is advocating ungodliness?

2.  How difficult it is to stay biblically true, regardless of the blowing winds of culture.  What are other examples of ungodliness that you see today?

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Posted by on July 11, 2014 in unbelief

 

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What on Earth Are We to Do about Unbelief? (Part 7 of 10)

FirefoxScreenSnapz689We have been asking the question, how should we respond to the unbelief in the world?  We are not to wring our hands and become disillusioned, fall into despair, or give up.  Rather, we have seen from the little epistle of Jude that we are to, first, keep ourselves strong in the faith (vv. 1-4).  We must also be aware of attacks on the Christian faith (vv. 3-4) and be prepared to do battle for the truths of Christianity (vv. 3-4).  We must acknowledge the biblical truth that the God who saves is also a God who destroys (vv. 5-7).  We saw in our last post that we must realize the dangers of false teaching (vv. 8-10).
Let’s look at a seventh part of our response to unbelief in our world and it is this —

Step #7-  We must See that false teachers have Nothing to Offer! (vv. 12-13).

When I was a child, I was told that calling people names (other than their given names) was not nice.  Here in verses 12-13 Jude resorts to name-calling.  But name-calling is appropriate when it is accurate — and these false teachers need to be carefully described by Jude.

12 These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. 13 They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.

He uses six metaphors to explain why these false teachers have nothing to offer the believers to whom Jude is writing.
(1) “They are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the FirefoxScreenSnapz702slightest qualm”! (v. 13).  The Greek term Jude uses for “blemishes” is spilades, a term meaning “rocks.” Barnes suggests it may refer to a rock by the sea against which vessels may be wrecked or a hidden rock in the sea on which they may be stranded; these false teachers cause others to make shipwreck of their faith.  These eat with the believers without any fear of what their eating represents.  If this is a reference to the Lord’s Supper, then they are certainly eating in an “unworthy manner” (I Cor. 11:27).FirefoxScreenSnapz703
(2) They are shepherds who feed only themselves.  One commentator said they pamper themselves, instead of pastoring God’ people.
(3) They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind.  FirefoxScreenSnapz7042 Peter 2:17 uses a slightly different metaphor.  He says they are “wells without water.”  These teachers promise what they cannot deliver.
(4) They are autumn trees, without root and uprooted — twice dead.  Jude “compares them to trees, which having leaves and blossoms, make a show of fruit, but cast it, or never bring it to maturity, or it rots instead of ripening; so these here make a show of truth and holiness, but all comes to nothing.”  FirefoxScreenSnapz705These are not trees that are “mostly dead” (to borrow an expression from “The Princess Bride”), but doubly dead.  One is reminded of Matthew 21:18-19 and Jesus’ cursing of the barren fig tree which had leaves (evidence of some early, immature fruit), but no fruit.
FirefoxScreenSnapz706(5) They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame.  Isaiah 57:20 says, “The wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.”  One commentator says, “They seem to produce nothing but foam, and to proclaim their own shame, that after all their wild roaring and agitation they should effect no more.”
(6)  They are wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness FirefoxScreenSnapz707has been reserved forever.  The Greek word literally means “planets,” which shine for a time, but have no light in themselves. The Jews called their teachers stars, and Christian teachers are represented under the emblem of stars.  But these stars have no fixed position, but just roam about.  Shooting stars which seem to rush from their sphere into darkness.  to whom is reserved utter darkness, a phrase which not only expresses the dreadful nature of their punishment, but also the certainty of it. It is “reserved” for them among the treasures of divine wrath and vengeance, by the righteous appointment of God, according to the just demerit of their sins.  Note also that it will be for ever; there will never be any light or comfort, but a continual everlasting black despair, a worm that dieth not, a fire that will not be quenched, the smoke and blackness of which will ascend for ever and ever.  Hell is meant by it, which the Jews represent as a place of darkness: the Egyptian darkness, they say, came from the darkness of hell, and in hell the wicked will be covered with darkness.

Goodness!  Jude minces no words in describing these false teachers!  Ideas have consequences and these false teachers not only have nothing to offer, they have much to take away!

Questions:

1.  Who are some of the contemporary false teachers in our culture, do you think? What are their ideas that are unbiblical?

2.  What Christian truths are they taking away?

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Posted by on July 9, 2014 in unbelief

 

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What on Earth Are We to Do about Unbelief? (Part 6c of 10)

FirefoxScreenSnapz689Should Christians simply ignore the unbelief they see in the world around them?  Should we become discouraged, lose hope, think that the gospel isn’t “the power of God unto salvation to all who believe”?  We’ve seen from this little letter of Jude that we must first, keep ourselves strong in the faith (vv. 1-4).  We then noticed that we must be aware of attacks on the Christian faith (vv. 3-4).  And we must be prepared to do battle for the truths of Christianity (vv. 3-4).  We also saw that the God who saves is also a God who destroys (vv. 5-7).  We saw from verses 8-10 that we must realize the dangers of false teaching.

Let’s finish up the third part of our sixth point of our response to unbelief in our world and it is this —

Step #6c-  We must See that false teachers are simply repeating the errors of history (v. 11).

Jude continues by saying that these false teachers have “. . . been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion” (v. 11)

11 Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.

The Korah story is one of rebellion and is told us in Numbers 16.  Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and On “became insolent” and rose up against Moses.  250 Israelite leaders joined them in opposing Moses and Aaron.  Their accusation was that Moses and Aaron had gone too far and had set themselves above the Lord’s assembly (vv. 1-3).

Moses stands up against these men and tells Korah that the Lord will show who belongs to Him.  Korah and his followers are to burn incense before the Lord.  Moses reminds Korah of the privileged place he and the Levites have in serving Israel — “but now you are trying to get the priesthood too.  Moses says, “You Levites have gone too far!” (vv. 4-7).  “It is against the Lord that you and all your followers have banded together.  Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?” (vv. 8-11).

FirefoxScreenSnapz698Moses summons Dathan and Abiram, but they refuse to come to Moses.  They accuse Moses of not only bringing the people into the wilderness to kill them (out of a land flowing with milk and honey! Egypt???), but now of wanting to lord it over us!  “You haven’t brought us into a land of mild and honey,” they say to Moses, “or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards.” (vv. 12-14).

The showdown with Korah and his followers takes place the next day at the entrance to the tent of meeting.  The families of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram are swallowed up by the earth opening up under them (vv. 31-33).  Fire comes from the Lord and consumes the 250 men who were offering the incense (v. 35).  The censers “of the men who sinned at the cost of their lives” were hammered to overlay the altar (v. 38).  Israel was reminded that no one but a descendent of Aaron could burn incense before the Lord.

The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron FirefoxScreenSnapz697and said, “You have killed the Lord’s people.” (v. 41).  God sends a plague among the people.  Aaron offers the incense and makes atonement for the people, and the plague stops.  But 14,700 people died from the plague. (v. 49).

Questions:

1.  Numbers 27:3 tells us that Korah and his followers “banded together against the Lord . . .” How do we know when we are in danger of banding together against the Lord?

2.  What does Jude mean when he says these false teachers of his day “have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion” (v. 11)?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2014 in unbelief

 

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What on Earth Are We to Do about Unbelief? (Part 6b of 10)

FirefoxScreenSnapz689We have been asking the question, how should we respond to the unbelief in the world?  We are not to wring our hands and become disillusioned, fall into despair, or give up.  Rather, we have seen from the little epistle of Jude that we are to, first, keep ourselves strong in the faith (vv. 1-4).  We must also be aware of attacks on the Christian faith (vv. 3-4) and be prepared to do battle for the truths of Christianity (vv. 3-4).  We must acknowledge the biblical truth that the God who saves is also a God who destroys (vv. 5-7).  We saw in our last post that we must realize the dangers of false teaching (vv. 8-10).
Let’s look at a sixth part of our response to unbelief in our world and it is this —

Step #6b-  We must See that false teachers are simply repeating the errors of history (v. 11).
Jude continues by saying that these false teachers have “. . . rushed for profit into Balaam’s error . . .” (v. 11)

11 Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.

The story of Balaam (Num. 22) is best remembered as the story of an ass (a donkey).   He was a diviner, someone who could pronounce a blessing or a curse on another.  Balak, the king of Moab, fearing an invasion by the Israelites, summons Balaam to curse Israel.  Balaam tells the messengers to spend the night with him and he would report to them what the Lord told him to do.  God commands Balaam not to curse the Israelites “because they are blessed” (v. 12) and Balaam says the Lord has refused to let me go with you (v. 13).  A second group is sent to Balaam, promising great reward for Balaam’s cursing God’s people.  Balaam said, “Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God.” (v. 18).  He has the group spend the night, and God tells Balaam to go with them, but “do only what I tell you.” (v. 20).

Apparently God saw Balaam’s heart in the morning as he prepared to go with the Moabite officials, for in His anger God sent an angel of the Lord with a drawn sword in the road to oppose him (v. 22).  Three times his donkey refuses to go further (turns off into a field and gets beaten, FirefoxScreenSnapz696presses against a wall and crushes Balaam’s foot and gets beaten, lays down under Balaam and gets beaten) (vv. 23-27).  The Lord opens the donkey’s mouth and it says to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” (v. 28).  Balaam responds, “You have made a fool of me!  If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.” (v. 29).  [The donkey could have said, “I know where there’s a sword!”]  The donkey replied, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day?  Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?” (v. 30).  Balaam says “no” and then the Lord opens his eyes and he sees the angel in the road with his sword drawn (v. 31).  The angel of the Lord asks Balaam why he has beaten his donkey three times.  The angel says he came to oppose Balaam because his path was a “reckless one before me.” (v. 32).

The angel emphasizes that he would have killed Balaam and spared his donkey if he had kept going.  Balaam volunteers to go back, but the angel tells him to proceed but to speak only what he tells him to (v. 35).  Balaam tells Balak he can’t say whatever he pleases, but must speak only what God puts in his mouth (v. 37).  Balak has a religious ceremony of sacrifice and takes Balaam up to a spot where he can see the outskirts of the Israelite camp (v. 41).  Balaam has altars built and sacrifices made.  He consults with the Lord, goes back, and speaks a KeynoteScreenSnapz149blessing over Israel which outrages Balak.  Balaam says, “Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?” (23:12).  Balak tries a second time to get Balaam to curse Israel and God tells him to say, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it.” (vv. 19-20).  Balaam predicts the military success of Israel.  Balak says, “Neither curse them at all nor bless them at all!”  Balaam says, “I must do whatever the Lord says.”  Balak tries a third location.   They again build seven altars and offer sacrifices.  We read in chapter 24, “Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not resort to divination as at other times” (v. 1).  The Spirit of God came on him and he prophesies a blessing upon Israel which concludes “May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!” (v. 9).  Balak is furious, sends him home with the words “the Lord has kept you from being rewarded” (v. 11).  Balaam warns Balak in messages 4-7 about Israel’s victories over its enemies (vv. 15-24).  He then returns home and Balak goes his own way.

What an odd story, we might say!  Apart from the matter-of-fact conversation with his donkey (come on, you talk to your pets.  How would you like them to talk back to you?).  The obvious point of the story is that a messenger of God should speak only the message of God.  And the false teachers plaguing Jude’s readers isn’t doing that.  They “have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error”!

Questions:

1.  In the false teachers that you see in our culture, have you “followed the money”?  What does their lifestyle tell you about their message?

2.  Balaam’s theological statement — “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind” — how does that relate to the doctrine of the Incarnation, do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2014 in unbelief

 

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