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STUCK! Chapter Two: Who Sez?

In this chapter we want to deal with what is perhaps the most foundational question one can answer. The question is “What is the authority for your life?” To ask the question another way, “Where do you get your beliefs, priorities, truth?”

If my authority is my own opinion, or the beliefs of my friends, or what the majority thinks or feels, my spiritual life is in a lot of trouble. My opinions are always changing, my friends don’t seem to have a clue what they believe most of the time, and the majority is so frequently wrong! I need an unchanging, reliable, trustworthy source for my total life. And that should be the Word of God, the Bible.

And here is the problem for a lot of Christians. For many they see God’s Word as part of their Sunday go-to-meeting outfit, a necessary accessory to their ensemble. They carry a big Bible, preferably black, under their arm as they attend church. Or, for many today, it’s simple an app on their phone which they can pull up to follow the preacher (or check their email when the sermon drags).

But in our heart of hearts we know the Bible is much more than a religious rabbit’s foot. And reading the Bible should be much more than checking what amounts to some to be a daily holy horoscope. We need to see the Bible for what it truly is: God’s instruction book for the believer. It tells us how to live, what to avoid, how to think, where to spend our time, what our mission is, how to deal with temptation and sin, when to engage others with the gospel (and when to walk away), why there is suffering and why this (whatever catastrophe I’m going through at the moment) is happening to me now, etc.

We Christians must repent of our poor views of the Scriptures and wash our minds with the truths of Psalm 119 about the cruciality of the Word of God. We have been deluded into thinking that the Bible is there only to comfort us at funerals or to provide an encouraging verse when we send a birthday gift to a nephew or to crochet or decoupage or frame a biblical statement for display in our home. We read in Hebrews 4 that “the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (v. 12 KJV)

When we mentally shelve the Word of God, turning to it only in dire emergencies, we are doing great harm to ourselves. God’s Word is meant to be studied, meditated on, and carefully applied to every experience we face this day. We assume that a surgeon doesn’t need to run to his anatomy textbook so he can find and do surgery on one’s appendix. That knowledge should be innate with him, second nature.

But that’s not the case with the believer and his Bible. It needs to be our constant reference, our daily sourcebook for wisdom and insight, our road map for how we are to navigate our today.

Of course, there are some strong reasons why the believer might want to avoid God’s Word. We don’t naturally want our lives to be cut up by truth, to be pierced by the One who knows our hearts, to have our thoughts and intentions read by God Himself (Heb. 4:12). But we know that that is exactly what we need if we want to follow the Lord with a whole heart.

God’s Word convicts us of sin. It will cause us to face our temptations and either plead with the Lord for strength to resist them or cowardly give in to the promptings of our own evil desires or the enticements of our supernatural enemy.

The Bible will require of us our most diligent mental, emotional, and volitional engagement. Far from being an easy-to-read book, the Bible will insist that we work hard to quarry its meaning. Do you think that you are no longer a student simply because you’ve earned a high school or college or graduate degree? Think again. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you have become a life-long pupil in God’s school — and there is a world of homework to get done!

HOMEWORK:
1. Read Chapter Two “The Believer’s Authority” in m book DocWALK. Take notes on both wrong views of the Bible and correct ones.

2. Carefully go through all of Psalm 119 this month. It’s the longest chapter in the Bible, but gives us amazing statements about the Word of God.

3. Begin an email Bible reading program with several friends. I’ve been doing this for years and it has been a great encouragement in my life. Choose a book (for example, Ephesians) and read chapter one this week each day. On Sunday send a brief thought to the group of something the Lord gave you from that chapter. Then on Monday begin reading chapter two. And so on.

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2022 in STUCK!

 

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Bless-ed! 52 Blessings You Have As a Believer! (Blessing #1)

Blessing #1: The Blessing of a Final Authority for One’s Beliefs

“I have made a covenant with God that he sends me neither visions, dreams, nor even angels. I am well satisfied with the gift of the Holy Scriptures which give me abundant instruction and all that I need to know both for this life and for that which is to come.” (Martin Luther)

Why do you believe what you believe? What is your authority for what you choose to incorporate into your view of the world? Some people trust their reason; some their emotions. Others rely on some religious authority to tell them what to believe. I heard about a man who was asked, “What do you believe?” “I believe what my church believes,” he replied. “Well,” asked the friend, “what does your church believe?” “The church believes what I believe!” “That’s interesting,” said the friend. “What do you and your church believe?” The man thought for a moment, then replied, “We believe the same thing, dummy!”

For the believer in Jesus, there’s a better authority for what we are to believe — and it’s the Word of God.

1. WE HAVE A FINAL AUTHORITY FOR WHAT WE BELIEVE!
THE BLESSING
My friend Mike doesn’t “feel” like he’s lost or unsaved. For many people their feelings are their final authority for what they believe. As a follower of Jesus, my authority is God’s Word, the Bible. And the Bible is quite clear in declaring the human person’s lostness before a holy, Triune God.

THE BIBLE The Bible (composed of 66 books) claims to be the Word of God. This isn’t a unique claim to Christianity, but there are good reasons to trust the Bible rather than other pretend authorities (such as the Book of Mormon, or the Koran, or Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures). God’s Word promises to be “a light to our path” (Ps. 119:105), a treasure of truth to one’s mind (Ps. 19:7-11), nourishing food for one’s life (Job 33:12), and even a double-edged sword piercing one’s soul for good (Heb. 4:12). Martin Luther confessed: “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold on me.”

This issue of the Bible’s final authority for one’s life cannot be overstated. If the Bible is the very Word of God — and there are abundant evidences to wholeheartedly affirm that conviction — then it must have daily power over my decisions, actions, motivations, feelings, priorities, etc.

ACTION STEPS 1. For you as a believer, thank the Lord for God’s Word, your final authority for what you are to believe. Write out a new prayer every day this week expressing your gratitude for the Scriptures.
2. A bit of homework: Read through Psalm 119 over this week and list at least 50 benefits of the Word of God in your life.
3. For extra reading I recommend buying either a One Year Bible or a Two Year Bible and committing yourself to reading through all of God’s Word in either one or two years.
PRAYER 4. Pray today for your lost friend that he or she might become interested in what the Bible says about life and salvation and the world. Ask God the Holy Spirit to bring a godly conviction to their soul. Consider praying about offering a one-on-one Bible study to your friend.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2022 in blessings

 

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IF THE GOSPEL REALLY IS TRUE . . . We Have a FAMILY! (Part 5)

When he stepped into the pulpit for the first time, Karl Barth raised a profound question, didn’t he? But what conclusions should we reach IF the gospel indeed is true? We’ve seen in our study that if the gospel is TRUE, then we have a message for the world which is both good news and bad news. We are Christ’s aroma (2 Corinthians 2) — and some will think we are a fragrance and some an odor! We’ve also seen that we have every reason to challenge other worldviews and religions as to their response to the gospel. Thirdly, we drew the conclusion that if the gospel is true, then we have a complete justification to make the Bible our absolute guidebook for life. Let’s notice a fourth conclusion —

IF THE GOSPEL IS TRUE, THEN . . .

We desperately need the people of God, the church. For many the church is the great Evangelical option. “I’ll go if I have time.” “I’ll give if I can spare some loose change.” “I’ll serve if I must.” Because the good news of the gospel is true, God is creating a forgiven family — and each of us are members!

Not a one of us is perfect — but we’re growing. And we are to meet together to focus on Him and to practice the four priorities which marked the early church. We read in Acts 2 —

If we wish to be like the early Christians and to be blessed by God, we will devote ourselves to: doctrine, fellowship, worship, and prayer! Because we need somewhere to go on Sunday?! NO! Because Christ is building His Body, the Church, and we are members of it!

Today’s Challenge: Philip Yancey’s little book Church: Why Bother? raises some key questions. Why do you “bother” with church?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2021 in gospel

 

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IF THE GOSPEL REALLY IS TRUE . . . We Have a FINAL AUTHORITY! (Part 4)

“IS IT TRUE? IS IT REALLY TRUE?” was the question Karl Barth anticipated as he was talking about the gospel. These posts are intended to give certain conclusions IF the gospel is true.

If the gospel of Jesus Christ is really TRUE, we’ve seen that we have a message for the world which is both good news and bad news. We are Christ’s aroma (2 Corinthians 2) — and some will think we are a fragrance and some an odor! We’ve also noticed that we have every reason to challenge other worldviews and religions as to their response to the gospel.

Let’s notice a third conclusion and that is —

IF THE GOSPEL IS TRUE, THEN . . .

We have a complete justification to make the Bible our absolute guidebook for life.

Many Christians actually hold to a number of inadequate pictures of the Bible. For some it’s like a kind of good luck charm, kind of like a rabbit’s foot (which was unlucky for the poor rabbit). For others, the idea of a holy horoscope comes to mind. They drop their finger on a random verse to give them happiness for a day. Others look at the Bible as a kind of fundamentalist fortune cookie that provides uplifting and totally innocuous sayings.

But the true nature of the Bible involves the following pictures (discussed in my book DocWALK):

So much could be said about God’s Word, the Bible. IF the gospel is true — and it is — the Jesus-follower must realize that he or she has a final authority that should not be picked up haphazardly! The Bible should be our daily source for guidance, the light we need for living wisely, the cup of cold water thrown in our face when we are stuck in sin, . . . You get the picture.

Today’s Challenge: My friend, what is the Bible for you? Meditate on the verses given above for the true nature of the Bible. And take specific steps to grow in your love of and obedience to God’s Word!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2021 in gospel

 

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Seven Critical Challenges for Living in This World (A Study of I Peter 2): R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

Some of you are aware that I’ve been engaged in a daily Bible reading program with my friend Frank in New Jersey for a couple of years or so. We choose a book of the Bible and read the same chapter each day for a week — then move on to the next chapter after that. Our procedure is quite simple and is explained here.

Well, I’ve started a small group of four men who are doing this kind of daily Bible reading and we’ve worked our way through Philippians and I Timothy, and are now going through I Peter. We drop each other a short email on Sunday about something we’ve learned in our reading together.

In reading through I Peter 2, I believe there are seven critical challenges that Peter gives us that are particularly relevant for us right now in our world. Here’s the seventh —

This seventh critical challenge involves the believer’s behavior towards others. We are to show “proper respect” to everyone. Sometimes that’s quite difficult to do, isn’t it? Notice, however, that it is “proper” respect. We are not to favor others because of their status or wealth or power.

And Peter gets very specific in breaking down the category of those to whom we should show proper respect. We are to: (1) love the family of believers; (2) to fear God; and (3) to honor the emperor. Love, fear, honor. Those are high qualities for the follower of Jesus.

Today’s Challenge: We’ve covered some very important commands in our look at I Peter 2. As you think about these seven, which one stands out as the one you most need to work on?

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2021 in I Peter 2

 

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The Place of Our Experiences (A Study of 2 Corinthians 12)

Paul pulls out this experience from FOURTEEN YEARS AGO because he has to defend his apostleship! How important are our experiences? And what do we learn from them?

The psychotherapist Carl Rogers once wrote: “Experience is, for me, the highest authority. The touchstone of validity is my own experience. No other person’s ideas, and none of my own ideas, are as authoritative as my experience. It is to experience that I must return again and again, to discover a closer approximation to truth as it is in the process of becoming in me. Neither the Bible nor the prophets — neither Freud nor research — neither the revelations of God nor man — can take precedence over my own direct experience. My experience is not authoritative because it is infallible. It is the basis of authority because it can always be checked in new primary ways. In this way its frequent error or fallibility is always open to correction.” (Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person)

While we may vehemently disagree with Rogers (God’s WORD should have final authority over our experiences), nevertheless our experiences are important. Please notice here in 2 Corinthians 12 that —

I. There are times and occasions when we SHOULD use our experiences.

II. A certain type of humility ought to mark our relating of our experiences. (Paul’s use of the 3rd person).

III. We evaluate our experiences to see what lessons God will teach us (v. 7).

IV. We interpret our experiences in light of eternal persons and values (vv. 7ff). We do not give our experiences final interpretive authority!

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2020 in experience

 

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Some Thoughts on the Book “What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?” (Post #10) GOD LOVES STRAIGHT PEOPLE BUT NOT GAY PEOPLE!

I am grateful for this book by the United Methodist minister Martin Thielen entitled What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? He looks at a number of beliefs he thinks Christians should give up — and this book challenges my fundamental beliefs as a Jesus-follower. In this next chapter he tackles the issue of homosexuality. He subtitles this chapter: “All persons, including homosexual persons, are welcome in God’s church. Beyond that, however, mainline and moderate churches are not of one mind on this issue. For now, ‘welcoming but not affirming’ best describes most mainline churches, and the discussion goes on.”

[A comment before I’ve even read his chapter: What if God has spoken with absolute clarity on this issue, like He did with murder, or blasphemy, or adultery? And what would qualify, in Thielen’s mind, as “absolute clarity,” I wonder?]

Thielen lays out three views among Christians about homosexuals. He describes the views as “the Christian Right,” “the Christian Left,” and “the Christian Center.” The Christian Right condemns homosexuals in no uncertain terms (Thielen even cites the anti-gay preacher Fred Phelps who proclaimed “God Hates Fags” to introduce this chapter). The Christian Right is criticized for singling out homosexuality as a far-worse sin than any other sins.  Second, this view deeply wounds homosexuals and their loved ones. He concludes, “a nonwelcoming position on homosexuality is not an authentic Christian option” (55). The Christian Left welcomes homosexuals and affirms their relationships. It claims homosexuals do not choose their orientation — that’s the way God created them. Further, the Bible “knows nothing of loving, monogamous gay relationships.” Lastly, biblical passages about homosexuality need to be understood in their historical context. Like the church’s position on women and on slavery, we need to make the same changes with our view of homosexuality. The Christian Center is welcoming but not affirming of homosexual behavior. Thielen’s own denomination (United Methodist) “does not affirm homosexual behavior, will not ordain practicing homosexual clergy, and will not celebrate homosexual unions” (56). Thielen argues that this debate will continue.

[I was surprised that Thielen did not recommend Matthew Vines’ God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships which seeks to reinterpret the primary passages condemning homosexual behavior (Gen. 19, Lev. 18-20, Rom. 1, and I Cor. 6).]  [Please email me if you wish a copy of my review of Vines’ book].

MY RESPONSE: Thielen likes to tell stories. Let me tell one. Tom was a missionary to Germany with me in the 1970’s. I did not know about his homosexual orientation until after he left the two-year team. Ten years’ later my wife and I visited him in Ohio and learned of his commitment to the homosexual lifestyle.  At that time he told us he had seen 100 of his gay friends die of AIDS.

At a ten-year reunion of our team in Canada, my wife and Sue and I pleaded with Tom until 2 AM to give up his homosexual behavior. To no avail. Tom died of AIDS about a year later.

So this “issue” of homosexuality is no mere academic topic to me. But like other controversial issues, Thielen doesn’t allow the Bible to have full authority. He simply divides viewpoints into three categories and says, essentially, “let the debate continue!”

My critique of this chapter will overlook Thielen’s beginning with the most egregious example (Fred Phelps) as a hater of gays. I’ll also restrain my frustration at his categories of Christian “right,” “left,” and “center.”

Here are some points to keep in mind in discussing this critical issue:

1. What does the Bible say about homosexual behavior? Thielen gave no serious attention to the primary passages on this topic. (I Corinthians 7 puts sexual sins in a more-serious category than other sins). Doesn’t the Lord Jesus affirm traditional marriage in Matthew 19?
2. Does the Bible use the term “abomination” with other sins (other than homosexual behavior)?
3. In quoting a pastor who said “Homosexuals will not be allowed in heaven,” why does Thielen not refer to I Corinthians 6:9 which specifically lists homosexual behavior as excluding people from heaven?
4. The concept that “what is . . is right” must be challenged! For someone to say, “I was born gay, made this way by God!”, seems to justify a homosexual lifestyle. What if a “straight” person said, “I was born promiscuous! I’m just practicing how the good Lord made me!”?
5. We all come into the world broken! Same-sex orientation is a kind of brokenness. And Christ is the answer to that brokenness.
6. The church has failed miserably to love and welcome those with same-sex attraction, but it should not affirm any practice of sin.

Please comment below: We must have gay friends that we want to see come to Christ and find freedom in Him. Can any of my readers give a word of testimony here?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2019 in homosexuality

 

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Why Should We Believe Anything at All? (Part 3)

On Sunday January 27 and February 3 I will be preaching at Cedarcroft Bible Chapel in New Jersey.  I want to do a two-part series entitled —

Of the four sources for one’s beliefs (REASON, EXPERIENCE, ECCLESIASTICAL TRADITION, and SUPERNATURAL REVELATION), we believe that the 66 books of the Bible ought to be our final authority for what we believe about God, man, sin, etc.

The following conclusions flow from such a commitment to God’s inspired Word, the Bible.
1. In terms of Introductory Matters, faith makes sense and is based on God’s Word.
2. Concerning Bibliology, we have every reason to believe that God has communicated truth about Himself to everyone (general revelation) and has given us His Word (Special Revelation). God is there — and He is not silent!
3. Concerning the area known as Theology Proper (the study of God), we can have confidence that the God of the Bible is real, displays certain attributes (love, justice, mercy, holiness, etc.), and is One with Whom we can have a personal relationship through Jesus Christ!
4. Regarding the area of Christology, we can study the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus, confident that He is both fully divine and fully human. As the saying goes, if He is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.
5. Concerning the doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), we can be certain that He is personal and fully divine, the Third Person of the Trinity. And the Holy Spirit works in believers (leading, filling, illuminating, convicting). He is One with Whom we can have an on-going relationship.

In summary — Why Believe Anything at All?  The answer is — we already believe many things.  Our job is to figure out why we believe certain things, submit ourselves to the final authority of the Scriptures, and REJOICE in the truths about reality which the Bible, God’s Word, gives us!  Are you rejoicing this morning? (we will ask what conclusions follow in the second set of five doctrines in our next post)

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2019 in doctrine

 

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Why Should We Believe Anything at All? (Part 2)

In preparing for my next trip to speak at Cedarcroft Bible Chapel in New Jersey (from January 26 to February 4), I want to focus on the two messages I will give on Sunday morning. Both will be entitled —

We considered the fact that we all believe many things.  No person is without a “worldview,” a way of looking at life and at God and at self.  But what should be one’s authority for developing a correct worldview?  Some suggest REASON, some EXPERIENCE.  Other think one’s ECCLESIASTICAL TRADITION ought to suffice.  We suggested that our final authority ought to be God’s revelation to us — the Word of God, the Bible.

But Christianity is not alone in claiming SUPERNATURAL REVELATION!  What about the Mormon’s claims that the Book of Mormon is also the Word of God?  What about Islam that says the KORAN is God’s infallible Word?  What about Christian Science which says that SCIENCE AND HEALTH WITH KEY TO THE SCRIPTURES is the Word of God?

The fact is that merely claiming a book or books to be supernatural revelation from God is not enough.  What are the reasons one should believe one and reject the others?

“Don’t you know the Scriptures?”

There are many reasons that the Bible (composed of 66 books) should alone be regarded as God’s Word:  historical reliability, fulfillment of prophecy, the unity of the Bible, the testimony of the Lord Jesus to the Old Testament and His prediction of the New Testament to come.  In the final analysis, the Bible’s credibility comes down to the question — “Who was and is Jesus — and why should He be trusted?”

If Jesus is God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, then His view of the Bible ought to be my view of the Bible.  If the Bible is my final authority in life, then the way I look at reality and at God and at myself ought to be derived from the teachings of God’s Holy Word.

In our next post, we will draw certain conclusions (if the Bible is our final authority) about the first five areas of theology (introductory matters, Bibliology, Theology Proper, Christology, and Pneumatology.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2019 in doctrine

 

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