December 5th, 2013 — Freedom, Politics, pro-life, Revival, Theology
I was recently talking with a Christian leader from the Middle East. He told me that for decades Christians have prayed that God would expose the lies inherent in Islam. He believes, as do many others, that the brief Egyptian presidency of Mohamed Morsi was an answer to that prayer. After little more than a year of Morsi’s reign, Egyptians saw that Islam makes life worse, not better, and the important thing is, they saw that it was Islam itself, not Morsi, that had failed.
Since that conversation I’ve been asking myself, what are the lies that enslave North Americans? When we pray that God would open the eyes of Canadians and U.S. citizens, how should we pray? Here is a suggested list of lies that we should pray God will expose.
- That government is an adequate replacement for God.
- That forced redistribution of wealth is the equivalent of Christian charity.
- That psychology and counselling can fix a sin-broken soul.
- That mankind is primarily related downward, toward the animals, more than he is related upwards, toward God in Whose image we are created.
- The we should focus our attention and effort on success in this life, rather than laying up treasure for the life to come.
- That existence, i.e. the universe and all it contains, consists only of what we can see and measure.
- That prayer is merely a religious form of meditation and self-help.
I am sure I have missed some of the popular lies that need exposing, but this is a starting point. I ask you to join me in praying these lies be exposed nationally and personally throughout our nation, and that once people see the emptiness of the materialistic lifestyle, they will seek the true God in Jesus Christ.
Two more things. 1) If you think of more lies that need exposing, send them to me. I’ll add them to the list. And 2) If you disagree with anything in my list, let me know, and let me know why. It will be fun to hash these things out.
November 27th, 2013 — Bible Study, Daily Devotions, Prophecy, Theology
Matthew 16:27-28 “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
What I scribbled in the margin: “What does Jesus have in mind? Is He thinking of the transfiguration [which follows immediately in chapter 17] or of some later date?”
The easy route is to connect these verses to the transfiguration. This seems to allow for the statement “some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” But there are problems with this approach. For one thing, Jesus speaks of coming with his angels, and of a judgment. None of that relates to the Transfiguration. To arrive at a useful answer to these questions I think we need to look at the larger context, the verses that come just before and that are found in the same paragraph in the original Greek text (emphasis mine).
I emphasize this last thought because some Bible translators have been so desperate to connect these verses to the transfiguration they have actually changed the paragraphing in opposition to the Greek text. The New King James Version, for instance, places a heading above v. 28 that reads “Jesus Transfigured on the Mount,” thus connecting the last verse in chapter 16 to the topic covered in the next chapter. This is not reflected in the Greek text, which extends the paragraph beginning with v.24 to the end of the chapter. It is clear to me, at least that this is an attempt by the NKJV translators to lead the reader to a particular conclusion: that this passage has nothing to do with Jesus’ second coming. Even with such trickery the effort fails. The transfiguration does reveal Christ in his true glory, but in no way does it show him “coming in his kingdom.”
And since v.28 actually belongs to the paragraph that begins in verse 24 we are forced, I think, to conclude that Jesus is talking about his second coming. In verses 25 and 26 Jesus has just uttered his famous declaration, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” These words hint at the kind of judgment that can only be construed as final judgment, that moment when a soul stands before God with eternity hanging in the balance.
Jesus’ next statement, that “the Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory” to “reward each person according to what he has done,” flows logically from his previous utterance and must inescapably refer to something comparable to those Old Testament passages (the natural context for Jesus’ disciples) that speak of final judgment under the title “The Day of the Lord.” I’m thinking of such passages as Joel 2:28-32, but also Isaiah 2:12ff, 13:6ff, and multiple passages in Ezekiel, Amos, Zephaniah and Zechariah.
When connected with Jesus’ next words, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom,” the entire passage leads to the idea that some of his disciples would live until his second coming. If that is what Jesus is teaching then we have to conclude that his frequent prophecies regarding his “coming” must refer primarily, if not exclusively, to 70 a.d., the time when all old covenant symbols were definitively destroyed (including the temple) and the New Covenant alone prevailed. Anything later than that (for example, the still-future second coming that most Christians expect) would have been too late for any of his disciples to still be living.
Why this matters
First, it matters because Jesus’ credibility as a prophet is at stake here. You see, this passage is only one in a list of prophecies Jesus made about his coming. If he is wrong about the timing of his second coming then nothing he says can be trusted. For another example, see Matt. 10:23 where Jesus says, “You will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” That seems to indicate a relatively short interval between his ascension and his return. Unfortunately, this verse fits so poorly with today’s prevailing ideas about prophecy that some otherwise good and great men, including Earl Radmacher, former president of Western Seminary and one of the leading theologians of our time, has raised the possibility that Jesus might have made a mistake. If it was a mistake, it is certainly one Jesus made again and again, not just in Matthew 10 and 16, but also in Matt. 24, the chapter in which Jesus’ describes the destruction of Jerusalem and his second coming as a single event. There he includes these words: “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” Such passages almost demand that the Bible reader see their fulfilment in the 70 a.d. destruction of Jerusalem. Nothing before or after that date fits Jesus’ words, and anything that happened after, say 95 a.d., would have proven Jesus a false prophet because by that point all the apostles, including the apostle John, would have “tasted death.”
Correctly interpreting Matthew 16:27-28 matters for a second reason; if we misinterpret and misapply Jesus’ words then it is we who risk becoming false prophets and bad theologians. If we say, for instance, that Matthew 16 and Matthew 24 are primarily about a future that is still to come then we risk being wrong about the second coming over and over again. And, of course, this is exactly what has happened. The “futurist” approach, adopted by Tim LaHaye and his Left Behind novels, not to mention Hal Lindsey, John MacArthur and a host of other authors and television evangelists, has led to a series of failed prophecies going all the way back to William Miller in the 1830s.
As you can see from the names mentioned above, not all the exponents of Christ’s future return are shysters. Some are serious and sincere theologians. Nevertheless, the futurist approach they adopt regarding Jesus’ words have lead them to make serious mistakes. Hal Lindsey was adamant that the rapture would take place by 1988, but he was just as wrong as Miller, who said it would happen in 1843. Even John Walvoord, formerly the president of Dallas Theological Seminary, and a great scholar by everyone’s estimation, was led to a false prophecy when Saddam Hussein first invaded Kuwait back in 1990.
At that point Walvoord rushed a revised version of his book Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis into print, claiming, “All these [previously listed] facts lead to a spiritual challenge. If the Rapture of the church is imminent before the Middle East ruler emerges, it is not only possible but probable that the Rapture will take place soon” (italics added). That was 23 years ago, and nothing has happened except the fall of the Soviet Union and the total defeat of Saddam Hussein. Only someone who thinks that when Jesus said “near, right at the door” (Matt. 24:33, or “soon” (Rev. 22:20) he actually meant 2,000 years or more would pass, could also continue to claim that his prophecy of the soon-coming rapture from 23 years ago is still somehow not false.
Finally, those who misinterpret and misapply Matt. 16:27-28 risk becoming bad theologians. By relegating this passage, and related passages such as Matthew 24, to the still distant future they are forced to imagine a rebuilt temple with all the sacrifices reinstituted. This is extremely problematic, and not just because the Muslims currently control the surface of the Temple Mount. No, the problem is this, to rebuild the temple goes against everything taught in Scripture. For one thing, the temple was destroyed to make it clear to all that it was no longer the way to God, that redemption was to be found in Jesus Christ alone, who “went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not manmade, that is to say, not a part of this creation” (Heb. 9:11). And in Hebrews 10 the writer states without equivocation that God “sets aside the first [physical temple] in order “to establish the second [spiritual temple].”
Paul makes clear in Ephesians 2:11-22 that the people who worshipped at the earthly temple are joined with New Testament Christians in the one body of Christ, the church. There is only one body and one building, and both are spiritual and mystical, with Christ the head of the first and the cornerstone of the latter. It breaks my heart to think that anyone who knows God through Jesus Christ would ever imagine for a moment that the Jews would be forced, even symbolically, to go back to those “weak and miserable principles” (Gal. 4:9) that “can never take away sins” (Heb. 10:4).
September 20th, 2013 — Uncategorized
Here’s the opening paragraph from a recent article regarding the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project, http://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2013/09/a-bold-prediction-et-will-call-in-next-25-years.html). “Admit it, the notion that we are alone amongst the stars – all 10,000 billion billion of them – is just a little depressing. Whether we concede it or not, humanity longs for its cosmic significant other.”
Christians admit nothing of the kind, because by grace we personally have come to know the “cosmic significant other,” although I would prefer to use a capital O – or call Him by His name, Yahweh, the Creator of the earth, the stars and everything else, aka the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Sometimes we forget how blessed we are to know God, and then along comes blogger Ross Pomeroy, author of the sentence I quoted in the first paragraph, to remind us that knowing we are not alone is precious indeed. We should pray for Ross (Don’t worry about the address; God knows where he is.) And we should do what we can to give people a glimpse of the joy of our relationship with God.
September 6th, 2013 — Bible Study, Politics, Prophecy, Theology
I was made aware yesterday that prophecy-oriented websites are having a field day over something called the Isaiah 17:1 prophecy. The Scripture text reads as follows: “An oracle concerning Damascus: ‘See, Damascus will no longer be called a city but will become a heap of ruins.’” Anyone following the news these days will immediately understand why this verse is receiving so much interest.
Commenting on this passage author Jack Kinsella suggests that Biblical prophecy is unfolding before the eyes of the world. As he wrote last year, “The prophet Isaiah predicts a quick war between Israel and Damascus, culminating with the total destruction of the city in a single night. In the event of a WMD attack against Israel, the destruction of Damascus would be Israel’s only defense against potential annihilation.”
Kinsella believes the possibility of a war between Israel and Syria is good news for Christians in that it heralds the approach of the rapture. “How it will all play out depends on where we are on the Bible’s timeline,” he concludes. “If we are where it looks like we are, we’re almost within earshot of the [rapture] trumpet.” Kinsella is not alone. Dozens of bloggers and authors are writing in much the same vein.
There is almost no possibility that they are correct. For one thing, the prophecy against Damascus comes in a section of Isaiah that is very clearly rooted in known history, a section that prophesies the end of many ancient middle-eastern nations. In Isaiah 13-14:23 God prophesied the end of Babylon, and sure enough the prophecy came true in 539 b.c. In 14:24ff God prophesied the end of Assyria, which took place in 605 b.c. Then come prophecies against the Philistines and Moab in chapters 15 and 16, two peoples who were long ago conquered so thoroughly that apart from the Bible no one even remembers them. Then, immediately afterwards, Isaiah speaks of Damascus and predicts its destruction.
Here’s the question every Bible reader ought to ask: If all the prophecies surrounding the destruction of Damascus are clearly about ancient times, including nations that only existed in ancient times, why should we suddenly decide that Isaiah 17:1 is to be fulfilled nearly 3,000 years later in the 21st century a.d.? The answer is, we shouldn’t. We should accept, as Bible scholars always did prior to the 19th century, that Isaiah 17 was fulfilled by the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser (II Kings 16:9).
Perhaps this wouldn’t matter much, except that a great deal of damage can be done when Biblical prophecies are handled carelessly. For one thing, misapplied prophetic passages can cause unbelievers to doubt the Bible when, in fact, the only thing they should be doubting is some individual’s erroneous interpretation.
Setting dates for the rapture is an especially dangerous exercise. From William Miller in the 1840s to Harold Camping in our time, dozens, if not hundreds of men and women have stepped forward to announce a date or period of time in which the second coming is supposed to take place — all of them supposedly basing their predictions upon the Bible. The only thing these people have had in common is that they were all equally wrong. Hal Lindsey thought the rapture would come by 1988. John Walvoord suggested it could happen in the early 1990s, and so on. But it did not take place according to their timetables, and there is no reason to believe that the next would-be prophet will finally get it right, either.
Here’s my plea. Since prophecy is perhaps the most difficult issue in Biblical interpretation, let us avoid dogmatism. Over the past 2,000 years of church history several approaches have been put forward by believing Bible scholars, and it would be a mistake, in my opinion, to assume that only the view known as dispensationalism (the view held by Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye and the above-mentioned Jack Kinsella) is the correct one. Let us agree to study other approaches in order to compare their underlying methods of interpretation and the long-term effect that each approach might have upon the life of the Church. Above all, let us agree to love one another as together we prepare for that great day when we see our Lord face to face.
P.S. To read Kinsella’s original article go to (http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs019/1101818841456/archive/1110485439100.html).
September 5th, 2013 — Bible Study, Daily Devotions, Theology
Matthew 16:24-26 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”
What I scribbled in the margin: “The resurrection is necessary, but it is the cross that is uniquely characteristic of God. God can’t help but live, but He chooses to die.”
First, let me ask you to spend a moment of silence mourning the death, or perhaps I should say the murder, of the English language. The murderer, of course, is the spirit of political correctness that today marches across the land insisting that “he” and “him” can never stand in for human beings collectively. Thus we get the latest iteration of the NIV that makes Jesus say “themselves” and “their.” Not only is that NOT what Jesus said, it removes the immediacy of His message. The reader is no longer thinking of himself and his need to obey Christ’s call. Rather, the use of “their” makes it somewhat impersonal, as though Jesus’ words apply not so much to the reader as to somebody else. (Sigh)
To get to the point of my scribble, please note that Jesus’ call to self-denial on the part of His disciples comes immediately after the revelation of His own impending suffering and death. This revelation was quite shocking to Peter and the other disciples who, for the moment, could not get their heads around it at all. They had just confessed Jesus to be God’s Son. And from their perspective God could not die, nor should he even think of it. This, of course, is the scandal of the cross and the reason Christ is still rejected by Jews and Muslims alike. That God should willingly make Himself weak, that He should suffer and die, is from their perspective the ultimate blasphemy.
But what about us Christians? We give lip-service to the cross, but is it possible we join unbelievers in denying its power. We flock to ministries that promise us power over health and wealth, never considering for a moment that God might will us to suffer and be poor. We can be as insistent upon getting our rights as anyone else. God help us to remember that our God chooses to humble Himself, deny Himself and die to Himself. Nor can we forget that Jesus has called us to be like Him if we want to be with Him. God help us.
September 4th, 2013 — Bible Study, Daily Devotions, Theology
There’s an old joke that says: “Never trust an atom; they make up everything.” Turns out that simply isn’t true. I won’t argue that you can trust atoms, but it’s a fact they hardly make up anything. According to scientists’ latest estimates as reported in Britain’s TheGuardian website, atoms form the basic materials for everything we can see around us, but altogether they only account for about five percent of everything that exists. The rest of the universe’s mass is attributed to “dark matter” and “dark energy.” How dark is dark matter? Very dark, indeed. So dark it can’t be detected. There’s no instrument sensitive enough to measure it, and every attempt to capture even the smallest shred has failed. But scientists are adamant. It has to be there, they say. Otherwise, what is there to hold the hold the universe together? Hmmmnnnn. What indeed?
Here is one possible alternative, as offered in Colossians 1:15-17. “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Or what about Hebrews 1:3? “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” Thus it seems to me that the Bible has a very logical, sensible explanation for what keeps the galaxies on course, our Great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The same God who created everything is also capable of holding everything together, everything visible and everything invisible.
I’m well aware that even Christian scientists try to avoid sticking the word “God” into the gaps of human knowledge. Because what happens if we later identify a “natural” process in the very gap where we once placed God? Here’s the Biblical answer to this question. “‘Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord” (Jer. 23:24). As Christians we don’t dare push God out to the edge of His universe. We freely admit there are plenty of gaps in human knowledge, but we admit no gaps at all in our God’s intimate involvement in all that is going on, whether natural or supernatural. He is between the electrons and protons of every atom and he is equally between the stars, upholding and sustaining all the universe “by His powerful Word.”
P.S. Here’s a little thought experiment. Dark matter was originally hypothesized some 80 years ago. Since then billions of dollars have been spent in a fruitless (so far, at least) effort to confirm its existence. But scientists persist in searching for it because they believe it must be there. I’m not denying the possibility that dark matter may exist (see the last paragraph of the main article), but I am asking you to consider who’s faith is more factually based, the scientist who believes in something no human has ever detected, or the Christian who believes in the Word of God, a word confirmed to us by the man who died and rose again?
August 30th, 2013 — Bible Study, Family, Freedom, Politics, pro-life
Now that I’ve got your attention . . . .
I want to point out two headlines found next to each other on today’s Drudge Report (www.drudgereport.com). The first reads “Obama: Sex ed for kindergartners ‘right thing to do.’” The second reads “Cops: 2 women gang raped by group of 10-12 juveniles in park . . . developing.”
It goes without saying that the President and his people would be aghast at the suggestion there might be a connection between the two headlines. But I remember when Bart Simpson’s teacher, Edna Krabappel, was forced to show a sex-ed film to her students. Her comment at the end — as I remember it, at least — flat out nailed the inherent contradiction in the modern world’s approach to educating children about sex: “Okay kids,” she said, “Now that you know exactly what to do, don’t do it.”
I might add that the new sex education program the President approves of will be instituted in his home town of Chicago and will (here I quote from the article) “instruct kindergartners about same-sex relationships.” I believe the day for Christian parents to take their children out of the public schools is long past. The priests of Moloch and Baal now set the curriculum. If there was ever an application for II Corinthians 6:14-18, this is it.
P.S. Just to be clear, I thank God for every Christian teacher, and I hope they will remain in the public systems, so long as they can do so without compromising their Christian witness. My prayer is that their efforts will result in many children being preserved from the worst of the Moloch system. But there is a big difference between mature Christian teachers who are consciously fighting the good fight of faith, and exposing our impressionable kindergartners and grade schoolers to a seductive, but evil world view.
August 29th, 2013 — Bible Study, Daily Devotions, Theology
Matthew 15:27-28 “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.”
What I scribbled in the margin: “The proof of this woman’s faith was shown when she accepted a subordinate status. In other words, she accepted all that God was doing (making her a Canaanite instead of a Jew, making her a woman instead of a man, the hard time Jesus was giving her, etc.). Hers was a request of faith, not an expectation based upon our modern concept of rights.”
It is so easy for us to call Christ “Lord,” but so difficult to obey when His lordship and our personal inclinations take us in different directions. In this vignette from Jesus’ life he has taken his disciples to the north of Israel, so far north, in fact, that they’ve gone out of Israel and are now in what today we would call Lebanon. His purpose was to give His disciples, and Himself, a break from the constant strain of public ministry.
But Jesus finds that His reputation has preceded him and as soon as He is recognized here comes a Canaanite woman, a Gentile woman, to ask of Him a favour. Her daughter is demon-possessed and she believes Jesus has the cure.
Now everybody in the 21st century simply “knows” that Jesus will heal the woman’s daughter. He has to. After all, He is God and since we “know” that God loves everybody equally, we also “know” that Jesus is duty bound to perform the woman’s request. But to everyone’s surprise He does not. Instead he mutters something about being sent only to the “lost sheep of Israel.”
Does this discourage the woman? Indeed it does not. So Jesus tries again. “It isn’t right,” he says, “to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” Whoa! Insult! Jesus has just called this woman a dog, when her only offense is to ask Him to heal her daughter. A simple, “No,” would show her more courtesy and perhaps leave her dignity intact. Instead, gentle Jesus meek and mild rudely snubs her as perhaps no other man on earth would think to do.
The woman, however, keeps her eye on the ball — her daughter needs healing at any price. So instead of returning the insult and flouncing off, she swallows her pride and simply replies with the witticism in the quote we started with — a witticism that broke Jesus’ resistance and got from Him what she needed.
Do you ever acknowledge that Jesus actively pushes back against some of your prayers? I know that He does because there is one question that must be settled before we can ever be allowed to enter His presence. Who will be the master? Will it be Jesus? Or do we think we have a right to insist on our own wishes, or perhaps bargain with Him as equals? It has to be Jesus who rules. That is why He insists that we submit to His authority on all matters, over life, death, salvation, or anything else, even to the point of allowing Him to call us dogs and suggesting (horrors) that we might not even belong to His family.
Do you think I’m exaggerating? Then how else can you explain the following Scriptures? “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46) Or his statement in the Sermon on the Mount: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Mat. 7:22-23)
Or what about Jesus’ extended riff on His Lordship in John 13:13-17? “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
The amazing thing is, you will be blessed if you accept Christ’s Lordship. The Canaanite woman accepted it fully and her daughter was healed. Actually, 6,000 years of history tell us that those who submit to God always find blessing beyond imagination. Those who struggle with the principle of Christ’s Lordship have to ask themselves, “Have I really believed in Christ? Or have I just rattled off a few words and called it a prayer?” (Notice I said “principle;” because the flesh is always with us everyone struggles with His Lordship in real life.)
August 20th, 2013 — Bible Study, Daily Devotions, Freedom, Politics, Theology
Matthew 15:12 “Then the disciples came to him and asked, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?’”
What I scribbled in the margin: “The Pharisees loved rules and it bothered them that Jesus replaced rules with principles.”
I promise to connect the Scripture with my scribble in a moment, but first just note with me the silliness of the disciples asking Jesus if he knows what’s going on. If you’re like me, then we need to spend a moment or two repenting of how much reporting goes on in our prayer lives. We spend too much time telling Jesus stuff He already knows, and if He weren’t so holy he’d be really irritated with us. I think this was what Jesus was getting at back in the Sermon on the Mount when He said, “Your father knows what you need before you ask him” (Mat. 6:8).
Now to the subject at hand, and the first question on your mind is, of course, what was it Jesus said that had offended the Pharisees? Here it is in verse 10 of the same chapter. “Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him unclean, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him unclean.’”
This statement offended the Pharisees because they emphasized dietary laws. Based on certain dietary prohibitions that God gave the Jews in the books of Exodus and Leviticus, the Pharisees had developed hundreds of laws, and interpretations of the law, to try to state exactly what should be eaten, how it should be eaten, and even the manner of its preparation. For these Pharisees, eating right was a matter of life and death, and they weren’t thinking about calories. They thought the wrath of God would fall if they happened to eat a single kernel of wheat in an unacceptable manner. No wonder they were angry. Each had spent a lifetime making rules and keeping the rules, all to avoid the wrath of God, when along comes Jesus saying it doesn’t matter what a man eats.
“But what’s wrong with rules?” you might ask? “Maybe the Pharisees had too many, but don’t we need some rules?” Perhaps, but not as many as you might think. You see, rules kill thinking. Rules eliminate creativity. Rules promote uniformity. Rules enhance the power of the rule-maker and the rule-enforcer. If a man lives by rules, then all he need do is memorise the rules and apply the right ones in every situation. He doesn’t have to think. He doesn’t need a brain. He only needs a hard drive and a well-written bit of computer code to retrieve the right rule for each situation and then run the loop. Because ultimately, rules are what govern machines, and the more rules, the more machine-like a person or society becomes. Communist countries are infamous for their uniformity and the boring grayness of their cities and societies. You know a country is moving through socialism toward Communism when successive governments only multiply the rules.
Christianity is the opposite. Our watchword is, “He who loves his fellow-man has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8), and “The commandments . . . are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. . . . Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law” (Romans 13:9-10).
“But how can Jesus risk letting us live with so little guidance?” some legalistic, rule-bound near-Christian might ask. The answer? Jesus trusts the Holy Spirit to guide us and empower us. That’s why Paul could write: “Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. . . . The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (rule)” (Gal. 5:16, 22-23).
This should guide how we read the Bible. We should seek to understand the principles by which God lives and operates, knowing that with the Holy Spirit’s help we can live the same way. Because having been given the Spirit, “we have the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:16).
August 2nd, 2013 — Bible Study, Daily Devotions, Prophecy, Revival, Theology
Matthew 13:33 “He told them still another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.’”
What I scribbled in the margin: “Note that the kingdom is like yeast. It is the kingdom that spreads and grows to fill the dough of the world.”
This post is too long, but I don’t know how I could have made it any shorter, and I promise you now that if you will read it to the end it could possibly change your way of viewing the world.
Now, before you read another word please go back for a second time and read the Scripture passage along with my note. Do you see anything unnatural about my interpretation? Is it possible you even find yourself thinking, “Of course that’s what it means. Anyone can see that. Why would he even bother to write anything here?”
I’ll tell you why. Because a whole school of interpretation grew up in the twentieth century that insisted this verse meant just the opposite. According to this school “leaven” has “a meaning fixed by inspired usage. Leaven is the principle of corruption working subtly; [and] is invariably used in a bad sense” (Matthew 13:33, C. I. Scofield Reference Notes). Thus Mr. Scofield and his followers, including such popular authors as Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye, insist that Jesus can only be speaking of a future end time (thought to be our time) in which, in Scofield’s words, “the true doctrine . . . would be mingled with corrupt and corrupting false doctrine.”
But the meaning of “leaven” is not as “fixed” as Scofield would have us think. Of this passage the great Greek scholar A.T. Robertson has written: “Curiously enough some people deny that Jesus here likens the expanding power of the Kingdom of heaven to leaven, because, they say, leaven is the symbol of corruption. But the language of Jesus is not to be explained away by such exegetical jugglery.”
John MacArthur, who is mostly sympathetic to Scofield’s approach to Biblical interpretation, also disagrees.
“Some interpreters suggest that since leaven nearly always symbolizes evil in Scripture (see note on Mark 8:15 ) it must connote evil here as well. They make the leaven some evil influence inside the kingdom, but that twists Jesus’ actual words and violates the context (Italics added), in which Jesus is repeatedly describing the kingdom itself as the pervading influence. (MacArthur, John (2005-05-10). The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Kindle Locations 39613-39615). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.)
So look at the Scripture one more time and ask yourself, “Did Jesus say, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like dough in which [corrupting] yeast is mixed?’” Clearly He did not. Instead, He said it is the kingdom that will fill the earth before The End, implying, frankly, that before the end comes, the whole world will be strongly, if not completely, influenced by the gospel.
Now let me tell you why this matters. Scofield and his followers looked at their North American surroundings and concluded the jig was up for Christianity. The mainline denominations had all turned liberal in their theology and many professed believers were becoming enslaved by materialism and sexual perversions. Wherever they looked, whether toward government, academia or the arts, they saw the rapid decline of Christian influence and concluded, “This must be the end. This has to be the ‘increase in wickedness’ in which ‘the love of most will grow cold’ that Jesus spoke of as preceding The End in Matthew 24:12.
By thinking this way Scofield and LaHaye have fallen into an error that carries with it serious consequences. Not only have they damaged their own faith, they have also crippled the faith of their millions of readers. (Try to imagine either of them seriously asking God for a world-shaking revival. They wouldn’t do it because they don’t believe such a thing is possible.) Many Christians wonder why revival has been withheld for so long. Is it possible that it hasn’t come because too many Christians have read The Late Great Planet Earth and the Left Behind series and so no longer believe in the possibility of revival? And thus no longer pray for it?
Scofield and LaHaye have committed a second error. They are wrong to think Christianity is in decline. In fact, outside of Europe and North America it is on the march as never before. Check out these statistics provided by the Voice of the Martyrs.
- Evangelicals are growing at a rate 3 times faster than the world’s population growth rate and are the world’s ONLY body of religious adherents who are growing by means of conversion. In 2000, evangelicals had an annual growth of almost 5%, while Islam grew at half that rate.
- In China the Protestant church had maybe 1,260,000 members in 1949. Today the church has grown to at least 81 million members (registered and unregistered). The Catholic Church has grown from 3 million to over 12 million during the same 50 year period.
- In Africa alone, the rate of church growth has been nothing short of staggering, skyrocketing from an estimated 10 million Christians in 1900 to 360 million in 2000.
- The church in Sudan is the fastest growing church in the Muslim world; this despite facing some of the most horrendous persecution known to man in recent years.
- In Ethiopia, the church has exploded. In 1960, evangelicals numbered 200,000 and made up 0.8% of the population. In 40 years, by 2000, the church has grown to nearly 12 million, making 20% of the population. This has taken place despite great persecution during the communist era of 1974-1991. Today, converts in rural areas face great persecution; stoning, bombing of church buildings, discrimination, expulsion from home, driven from their villages en mass.
- India now has 10 churches with more than 10,000 members and 30 that have more than 3,000 members. In 1999, one church leader reported baptizing 2231 in a single day. Some Indian denominations are reporting that they are planting a new church every day.
- Among the Hmong people of northern Vietnam, there were NO evangelical Christians in 1989. In 11 years, by 2000, they numbered over 175,000. All of this church growth has taken place while being brutally oppressed by Vietnamese authorities.
- One of the main reasons for the persecution of Christians worldwide has been because of its rapid growth. It is truer to say that church growth causes persecution than that persecution causes church growth.