Spirit of God – Part 3

In part 2 of this series, we finished by looking at passages from the Old Covenant and will now turn our attention to the New Covenant and the work of God’s spirit through the Messiah of Israel…Yeshua, Translated in English as Jesus.

It is in the New Covenant that we are given further insight into the actions of God’s Spirit. God’s Spirit is shown to descend upon Jesus giving him power and enablement for the ministry before him.

I again want to stop here for just one moment and remind ourselves that the actions of God’s spirit here in the New Testament are still given in descriptive ways for us to have a better understanding of the actions and work of the invisible God, whose very essence is spirit. So when we see terms of being led by the spirit or speaking against the Holy Spirit, the writers are communicating to us, the actions of our God in ways that we can understand yet ever so poorly our God. It is Jesus who through the apostle John, will provide us with the fullness of this understanding when he makes this statement about God – “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”” (John 4:23–24, ESV)  Did you catch that – God is spirit!!

I spent a couple weeks in Israel and had the opportunity to talk with some Jewish Brothers who are now following Jesus, and they expressed this in a way that made more sense to them. They said that the Spirit is the manifestation of the power of God and that Jesus is the manifestation of God in the flesh. To these men, the Trinity doctrine that is very prevalent throughout all of Christianity is to them taking those anthropomorphic expressions of the one God who is Spirit and breaking Him into individual persons. This in essence is bringing God down to our human level and borders on the same views that the pagans had of their Gods and the limitations they would have as more human-like in form.  Are these valid arguments or not is one of those areas that can lead to division in the body. Since the early church fathers there have been discussions, councils, and development of doctrine regarding the nature of God both for our own understanding and also to combat false prophets and ideas. The best we should do is to remain open about the study of God’s character while still being on guard to doctrines and ideas that the scripture simply does not support.

As people who are followers of Jesus, what do we take away from all of this? Well, we have a foundation in the Scriptures of God’s spirit already at work in the lives of His people, and with the resurrection of our Lord, the actions of the Spirit of God have been renewed or refreshed in the people that God is calling back to himself. What are those things that we see of the Spirit in the New Testament?

First, as in Genesis, He gives life. Jesus expressed this in the passage that we quote so often – “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”” (John 3:3–8, ESV) Being born of the Spirit is considered the new life of every believer called by God.

Then what happens after that? The spirit (whom we are told is sent forth from the father and son – another expression for our benefit) will teach us (Jn 14:26), bear witness to the life of Jesus (Jn 15:26), guide us in all truth (Jn 16:13), represent the power of God in the lives of his people (Acts 1:8, Rom 8:26, 15:13), bears witness to our spirit that we are His children (Rom 8:16, Gal 4:6), instills in us the qualities of God’s character (Gal 5:22), and as it is in Genesis, the Spirit Speaks. (Rev 2:29, 3:6, 3:22) Finally, just as with the people of God in the Old Testament, the Spirit can be grieved or quenched by the sinful actions of His own people. (1 Thess 5:19, Eph 4:30)

So, as followers of this amazing God and the example he has given us in His Son Jesus, what should we do with this amazing gift of His presence living within us. A fresh expression of Life given from the creator of all things. I think Paul wrote it best when he penned 2 Tim 1:6 – “For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:6–7, ESV) The power of God, that resurrected Jesus from the grave is the same power that lives in each one who truly follows Jesus, and that power enables us to live a life that is an expression of Love and Self-Control. We just have to choose to allow him to be in control rather than I, for I is the center of sIn. God in His grace and mercy has refreshed his presence in the lives of those who choose to accept this wonderful gift, so then how shall we live?

Spirit of God – Part 2

Continued from Spirit of God Part 1

Throughout the Torah, the early writings that were given to the people of God through Moses contained many examples of God’s spirit and His action in the lives of His people. Not only would the spirit be attributed to creation and life, but it would be seen as the power of God working in and through His chosen people. Examples of this can be seen in passages like Ex 28:3, 35:31, Nu 11:17, 11:25, Dt 34:9. Later writings would also have similar descriptions of God’s spirit at work in his servants. Sometimes anthropomorphic terms would be used to describe the work of the spirit in such a way to emphasize importance or urgency in the Spirits action like we see in 1 Sam 11:6 – “And the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled.” (ESV)  The Spirit which is present everywhere and at all times is shown here to rush upon Saul, giving urgency to what the Spirit was doing through Saul.

Later on in the scriptures, David would pen various psalms (Ps 139:7-10) that would also give us more insight into the very essence of God. In many Eastern cultures, their gods were more like humans and were not present everywhere at all times, but in the Psalms, David shows us that God’s spirit is present everywhere and at all times. Throughout the scriptures, God’s spirit would be attributed to His presence, so we could understand that the very essence of God is present everywhere and at all times.

In the prophets we would see even more of the Spirits actions in the lives of his people when they would show that from the Spirit would flow wisdom and understanding, yet, the prophets would also repeat the original theme of life and creative power like in Isaiah – “Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it:” (Isaiah 42:5, ESV) It is also shown that it is God’s spirit that enables men to continue to carry His image to a world that has lived in darkness and chaos. (Is 61:1)

The prophets also show us another aspect of the very presence of God, that in our rebellion and sinfulness we can grieve the Spirit, which is just a way of showing that we are grieving God. “But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore, he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them. Then he remembered the days of old, of Moses and his people. Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit,” (Isaiah 63:10–11, ESV)  In this very passage the He is God and it shows that He is the one who is in the midst of His people, and it is His spirit, the very essence of who He is that is grieved.

A beautiful passage where we see future actions of the ruah is the wonderful promise to all the people of God is Ezekiel 36:25-27. It is here that God tells His people that he will gather them from the places they have been scattered and cleanse them. Then he tells them that he will give them a new heart, a new or fresh spirit, He will put His Spirit (ruah – breath) within them so that they will walk in His ways. “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:25–27 ESV)  This should drive the reader straight back to Genesis and the ideas regarding God as the Life-giver.

A similar passage is also given in Jer 31:31, where it is tied to a new or refreshed Covenant that will be given to the people of God. ““Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”” (Jeremiah 31:31–34, ESV)  If you ponder these passages you will see an interesting parallel to God’s spirit and God’s Torah. In Ezekiel God says he will put his spirit in them and cause them to walk in His Torah, whereas in Jeremiah he says that he will put his Torah in them and that they will Know the Lord.

This opens the door to the world of the coming of God in the flesh as the Messiah of Israel. We will continue to explore these ideas found in the New Testament in Part 3.

The Spirit of God…Part 1

And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2, ESV)

            What kind of images does this opening passage from Genesis create in the mind of man? What might this new nation of people that have been redeemed from Egypt by the hand of God think when they heard “The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters”? The Spirit here is called the ruah of Elohim which can mean breath, wind, or spirit of God. This Spirit of God would become an active agent of God’s power manifest throughout His creation, and would also become a very hotly debated aspect of the nature of God down through the history of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religions. Here in the opening of the book of beginnings we have a picture of the Earth formless, void and covered in waters, possibly an expression of chaos and disorder, and the Spirit of God hovering or vibrating over the face of these waters. Many of the creation stories of the ancient eastern cultures feature a theme of chaos to order, with chaos being very much associated with water. It was also expected that order would follow out of this chaos.[1]  So, here in the beginning of Genesis we begin to see one aspect of the Spirit of God’s power and actions in the creation story, bringing order out of chaos. Later when God creates man in His image is it then possible that one of man’s roles as an image bearer (one who acts as a representative of God) is to also continue to bring order out of chaos. (subdue the earth)

God would continue to give us more insight into His very nature as the scriptures would unfold to His people. At this point, we should stop for one moment and consider a very important aspect of how God has revealed himself to man. It is through His Word, and in His Word, we have ways in which God has described himself in terms that we can relate to.  One way this is done is through what is called in the theological world an anthropomorphism. What that means is that God describes himself with human-like terms that we can associate with. When it says God’s righteous right arm, it does not mean that God who is spirit and invisible has arms or legs or anything else of that nature, but that for us to understand an aspect of His nature that is how He is described. This is very important to keep in mind, if we forget that basic concept we can begin to bring God down to our human level rather than keep him exalted.

That said, God’s Spirit, the very essence of who he is, is first revealed in the very opening passage of the scripture. It is the ruah of God that is hovering over the waters closely followed in the text with God speaking. What would Spirit, a word that also means breath mean to a people that had just some come out of Egypt?

Breathing is what shows life, so the Spirit would be seen as the source of life, and it is that source of life that is later shown to have given life to the first man. (Gen 2:7) We now have a theme about the very nature of God in that it is He that gives life to all things. We see this theme, as well as the creative theme, vividly displayed when Job says “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” (Job 33:4, ESV).

We will continue this Journey to discover more about the Spirit of God in Part 2.


[1] A Study on the dual form of Mayim, Water; Min Suc Kee, Ph.D. University of Manchester (England), teaches Bible at the Korea Baptist Theological University in Daejeon, South Korea

Let not your hearts be troubled

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”” (John 14:1–7, ESV)

If we stop and consider the year 2020 what things come to mind, maybe it is the fires in Australia that killed three billion animals, or perhaps the flash floods that followed when the rains came. Out in the oceans there have been 26 tropical storms, 25 named storms, 9 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes. In the pacific there have been 13 named storms, 4 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. There have been 45,939 wildfires in the US with 8.3 million acres burned. 2020 is the 10th consecutive year that has seen 10 Billion dollar weather or climate disasters. In Africa and the middle east there where record setting locust invasions that in places devoured 90% of the crops. The great lakes, once at all time lows have overflowed and are taking out many homes along their coasts. There is political unrest in many countries and finally the great plague of covid-19.

There is so much we could worry or be fearful about, but Jesus told his disciples to not let their hearts be troubled but to believe in God and in him. Jesus told them that he is going away to prepare a place and that he will come again. Thomas does not understand, asks to know the way. Jesus responded with these words:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.

This statement is one of the many “I Am” statements that Jesus says. The Faithlife study bible puts it this way:

Jesus uses seven metaphorical “I am” statements to define His role as Savior and Messiah . These sayings also carry strong overtones of being claims to divinity. He identifies Himself as the bread of life (vv. 35, 48, 51), the light of the world (8:12; 9:5), the gate for the sheep (10:7, 9), the good shepherd (10:11, 14), the resurrection and the life (11:25), the way and the truth and the life (14:6), and the true vine (15:1).[1]

All these terms are very personal, revealing characteristics of our Lord that should drive us to a more intimate relationship with our savior. His desire for us it to be ready, to be focused on him and not all the things going on around us. My favorite “I am” saying is that Jesus IS THE TRUTH, he is the embodiment of all that God has revealed to us in the scriptures. Therefore, we should be spending time in the scriptures and in prayer, finding quality time with our savior, not just facts and doctrine, but to know the one who holds all things in His hands yet desires to be in our midst.

Martin Lloyd Jones once made this comment regarding the study of scripture:

“What foolish creatures we are! Many of us are not interested in doctrine at all; we are lazy Christians who do not read, do not think, and do not try to delve into the mysteries. We have had a certain experience and we desire no more. Others of us, deploring such an attitude, say that, because the Bible is full of doctrine, we must study it and grapple with it and possess it. So we become absorbed in our interest in doctrine and stop at that. The result is that, as regards this question of the love of Christ, we are no further on than the others because we have made doctrine an end and a terminus. In this way the devil trips and traps us and robs us of our heritage. If your knowledge of the Scriptures and of the doctrines of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ has not brought you to this knowledge of the love of Christ, you should be profoundly dissatisfied and disturbed. All biblical doctrine is about this blessed Person; and there is no greater snare in the Christian life than to forget the Person Himself and to live simply on truths concerning Him….We should never study the Bible or anything concerning biblical truth without realizing that we are in His presence, and that it is truth about Him. And it should always be done in an atmosphere of worship.2 

Today, so many of the people who call themselves Christian are just going through the rituals, yet God is far from their hearts. Jesus gave us a wonderful parable regarding how we should be waiting for His return:

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:1–13, ESV)

Where are you today with your relationship to Jesus. Are your lamps ready to receive the bridegroom when he comes, or has the bridegrooms delay lulled you to sleep? Have you let the oil burn away so when he does come you will not be ready to enter the marriage feast? Oil in Scripture often represents the Holy Spirit and we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit in abundance in our lives so that we will remain in tune with God so we are prepared when He returns. Yet we can grieve and quench the Holy Spirit in our lives. Both of these are similar in their effects. They hinder a godly lifestyle. This happens when a believer sins against God and follows his or her own worldly desires. The only correct road to follow is the road that leads the believer closer to God and purity, one of repentance and humility, one that takes us farther away from the world and sin. 

We must prepare and be ready, but not out of ritual but through relationship. The passage I started this blog with (John 14) was a very intimate time that Jesus was having with the disciples in the last two weeks of His life. Let these words ring deep in your heart. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also..

Jesus in the book or revelation warns the churches of the sins that have creeped into the body, the apostles warned of difficult times and great apostasy, but in the end the simple message to all of them was to repent. Let’s get on our knees and repent, not only as individuals but as the body of Christ.

[1] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Jn 6:35). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

2David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Unsearchable Riches of Christ—Studies in Ephesians, Chapter 3


The Torah of Yahweh (Part 2)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This one was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and apart from him not one thing came into being that has come into being. In him was life, and the life was the light of humanity. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:1–5, LEB)

In the book of John we start with a beautiful expression of “the Word”. The faithlife study bible comments on it this way…

The “word of Yahweh” evokes associations with creation, divine revelation, personified wisdom, and the law of Moses. The “word of Yahweh” and the law had already been closely related in prophetic poetry (see Isa 2:3). The “word” is the agent of creation in Psa 33:6, but divine wisdom is personified and depicted in that role in Prov 8:22–31. In the deuterocanonical book Sirach 24:23, this personified divine wisdom is connected to the law of Moses, similarly given preexistent eternal status in Jewish tradition (see the rabbinic text Genesis Rabbah 1.1). Jesus is connected with divine wisdom also in 1 Cor 1:30. By choosing this language, John makes Jesus the very power and essence of God.[1]

John ends his opening thoughts with this statement…

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17, ESV)

Many Bibles insert the word “but” between Moses and grace. It is not there in the original text. Careful study of this verse reveals that instruction was given to Moses, how to live it correctly comes through Jesus. Put another way – the instruction is the Grace of God, revealing to us how we are to live, and Jesus is the one who demonstrates it to us and enables us to carry it out by His Spirit.

Recently I have been listening to some old sermons from the late Rev Billy Graham. The more I listened that more I realized that he provided solutions to many of our greatest problems through the word of God and the saving grace of Jesus the Christ. He literally lived out and preached 2 Tim 3:16 –

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, ESV)

Do we believe what Paul wrote in this verse; I mean do we really believe it? The unfortunate thing today is that we have turned so many verses into short pithy quotes and out of context promises that we throw at people without first demonstrating the compassion and mercy that Jesus showed.

Scripture should be used, yes, but done so through prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit who is the one who brings those words to life in us. It needs to be kept in the full context of what is written and not just popped out and used like a pill.

I think back on Psalm 1 and ask myself, do I delight in the Torah of Yahweh, if so, how do I show it? Do I spend quality time meditating on His words or do I fill my mind and life with unfruitful junk food.

Listen carefully to your prayer life, what is you main focus. A life filled with God’s word should be more upward focused, seeking His will and not our own. God already knows our needs and desires before we even ask. Is your prayer life guided and driven by His Word and the Spirit or do you find yourself continually praying a laundry list of what you want God to do? Try this exercise – allow scripture to guide your prayer life. Develop a discipline of spending a rich amount of time in God’s word and not filling your mind with junk. (Facebook, Netflix, games, social media, Instagram etc.) These are ok when we limit our time with them, but the greater amount of our time should be reading and praying in God’s Word.

[1]Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Jn 1:1). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

The Torah of Yahweh (Part 1)

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the advice of the wicked; nor does he stand in the way of sinners; nor does he sit in the assembly of mockers. Instead, in the law of Yahweh is his delight, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1–2, LEB)

When you move through the Psalms you can’t help but experience the deep love the writers had for God’s word. I don’t think it is an accident that the book of Psalms starts its first stanza with words like delight and meditate. In Psalm 19, the writer looks at the revelation of God in the universe, and pairs it with the beauty of the word of God. One commentator put it this way…

The very sound of the two movements of the psalm tells something of their two concerns: the broad sweep of God’s wordless revelation in the universe, expressed in the exuberant lines of verses 1–6, and the clarity of his written word, reflected in the quiet conciseness of verses 7–10, to which the heart-searching of 11–14 is the worshipper’s response.[2]

Today, there seems to be a fierce attack on the Word of God. The methods of this attack may change but the underlying message is still the same – did God really say?

The word used in our english for Torah is law. This is also a huge problem since “law” brings many pre-concieved ideas from our culture that just are not true of the Bible.

The basic idea behing the word Torah is to throw, cast, or to shoot an arrow at the mark. The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament defines the scope of this word very nicly…

The word tôrâ means basically “teaching” whether it is the wise man instructing his son or God instructing Israel. The wise give insight into all aspects of life so that the young may know how to conduct themselves and to live a long blessed life (Prov 3:1f.). So too God, motivated by love, reveals to man basic insight into how to live with each other and how to approach God. Through the law God shows his interest in all aspects of man’s life which is to be lived under his direction and care. Law of God stands parallel to word of the Lord to signify that law is the revelation of God’s will[1]

What an amazing thought that God’s compassion and love are poured out through his instruction to allow us to live with each other and be able to approach God. Paul a man who lived by that instruction did not look at that instruction as a burden, but as a gift that reveals his standing before God…

Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”” (Romans 7:7, ESV)

This verse from chapter 7 of Romans continues a theme Paul starts back in Romans chapter 5, then he drives it all home in Romans 7:25…

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (Romans 7:25, ESV)

The word “Serve” that Paul uses means to be a slave to, controlled by, or to serve. So even though Paul struggled in the flesh with sin, his mind was controlled by the Lord. We see this re-emphasized in Romans 8:5…

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:5, ESV)

How is this done, how do we set our minds on things of the spirit? It is in the same book a few chapters later that Paul tells us to not be conformed to this age, literally to not be in union with the patterns and fashion of the existing culture. “But to be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may approve what is the good and well-pleasing and perfect will of God”. How can we know what is the good and well-pleasing and perfect will of God? The Psalmist knew…read and meditate on Psalm 119 and you can see just how much the word of God can do in the life of a believer.


[1] Hartley, J. E. (1999). 910 יָרָה. R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer Jr., & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 404). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2]Kidner, D. (1973). Psalms 1–72: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 15, p. 114). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Did God actually say…

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”” (Genesis 3:1–3, ESV)

I did a search of churches in my area. There were not as many as I expected but still quite a few. A sadness overtook to me as I listened to the exerts of sermons from these churches and most of them did not start with God’s word. Many of them used a small verse as a point in their story just to tie it to God but then jumped into pithy stories, humor, dramatic statements, sociology, psychology, and motivational garble to tickle the ears of the audience.

Do not get me wrong, some of these are probably descent churches with pastors that really desire people to know God but are going down a path that is very dangerous.

John MacArthur, a person in our generation who has held up the word of God continually through his life made this comment in an interview:

“These people, like the liberals, deny the clear teaching of Scripture. And I’m convinced that the reason they deny it is not because it can’t be understood, not because it’s unclear, but because they don’t like what it clearly says. And that takes you back to John 3, “Men love darkness rather than light.” The light is there, they hate the light, they run from the light. The issue is not that Scripture is not clear, it is crystal clear.” (John MacArthur)

Many pastors today have succumbed to the lie, “did God actually say? Instead of listening and preaching the scriptures, we have replace the Bible with psychology and sociology and created the seeker friendly church where the message preached is designed to give people what they want to hear and hide the truth of God’s word behind smoke and mirrors.

But the whisper is not just happening in the pulpit, we cannot blame just our leaders for our biblical illiteracy, we also must take the blame. Yes, the serpent is still more crafty and uses many tools to distract us from the Lord and His word.

When the word of God is not our center, then what is the balance of our priorities in life? How much time do we spend watching television over reading and studying and memorizing God’s word? What about social networking (Facebook, Instagram, twitter etc.) does it take more time than we spend reading God’s word? The list can go on, but the point is this – do you really consider the Word of God and spending time with the one who holds eternity in His hands important, or does the idols of this world draw you away? Dr. Kenneth Berding from Biola University made this observation in an article he wrote back in 2014…

Every time I teach a class called Biblical Interpretation & Spiritual Formation, I ask my students why it is that so few people in this generation are really zealous about the things of God. I can’t remember a time when I’ve asked that question when someone hasn’t mentioned distractions. Social networking, texting, television, video games and places dedicated to amusement (“amusement” parks, for example) pull our attention away from God’s Word. These fun and interesting activities occupy time that we could spend reading, studying and memorizing the Bible and they distract our thoughts during time we could spend meditating on God’s Word throughout the day. When we walk from one meeting to another, are our thoughts naturally moving to Scripture and prayer? As we leave a college class session, are we thinking on the things of God that we have learned from the Bible? Or do we immediately check to see whether someone has messaged us? (Berding, 1914)

I ask this simple question about our gathering together, and our personal time…what is the center of our attention, God’s Word or the world. In an article by Alex Dodson of the Watchman radio hour he notes:

The proclamation of the Word of God has taken a back seat in many evangelical churches today. The great pulpits of the past no longer exist. Even the large pulpit bibles that used to be on every pulpit don’t have a place in modern evangelical church sanctuaries. The pulpit has been put aside to make room for the worship team. When the preacher comes to speak, he usually has a small lectern that is put there for him to lay his Bible or notes on and then removed quickly as soon as he is finished to make room for the worship leaders. The great preaching of the Word of previous generations is missing from most modern day evangelical churches. So, people who tremble at the Word of God are scarce today. (Dodson, n.d.)

Is history repeating, are we like the ancient Israelites who worshiped God with their lips but had hearts that were far away?

May we pay heed to what the prophet Isaiah wrote to that generation…

Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:1–2, ESV)

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8, ESV)

I leave the reader with this excerpt from a sermon delivered  by CH Spurgeon on March 16th 1890 which are still relevant today:

The Psalmist, in this psalm (psalm 19), has compared the Word of God to the sun. The sun in the heavens is everything to the natural world; and the Word of God in the heart is everything in the spiritual world. The world would be dark, and dead, and fruitless, without the sun; and what would the mind of the Christian be without the illuminating influence of the Word of God? If thou despisest holy Scripture, thou art like to one that despises the sun. It would seem that thou art blind, and worse than blind; for even those without sight enjoy the warmth of the sun. How depraved art thou if thou canst perceive no heavenly lustre about the Book of God! The Word of the Lord makes our day, it makes our spring, it makes our summer, it prepares and ripens all our fruit. Without the Word of God we should be in the outer darkness of spiritual death. I have not time this morning to sum up the blessings which are showered upon us through the sun’s light, heat, and other influences. So is it with the perfect law of the Lord; when it comes in the power of the Spirit of God upon the soul, it brings unnumbered blessings: blessings more than we ourselves are able to discern.

References

Berding, D. K. (1914). The Crisis of Biblical Illiteracy. Retrieved from magazine.biola.edu: http://magazine.biola.edu/article/14-spring/the-crisis-of-biblical-illiteracy/

Dodson, A. (n.d.). A Missing Element in Modern Evangelical Worship: People Who Tremble at the Word of God. Retrieved from http://www.oneplace.com: https://www.oneplace.com/ministries/watchman-radio-hour/read/articles/a-missing-element-in-modern-evangelical-worship-people-who-tremble-at-the-word-of-god-12289.html

Spurgeon, C. H. (1890). The Warnings and the Rewards of the Word of God. In The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (Vol. 36, p. 157). London: Passmore & Alabaster.

Lack of Knowledge

Hosea 4:6

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” (Hosea 4:6, ESV)

Hosea is the last prophet sent to Northern Kingdom of Israel before they fell to Assyria. His ministry came on the heels of a golden age in their history where there was peace and prosperity of the likes not seen since the time of Solomon.

But there was a problem, the people where in moral decay, no longer seeking after God, and heavy into idolatry.

God instructs Hosea to marry a woman of whoredom whose unfaithfulness to her husband is an example of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. Yet Hosea would remain faithful to his wife through all of this as an example of God’s love for His people.

The message is simple – return to God or judgment is coming. Today our message is no less complicated, return to God by believing in the name of our Lord and Savior Yeshua (Jesus) and you will be saved from God’s coming judgment.

Chapter 4 is where God brings an indictment to the people based on their violation of the covenant.

Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel, for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens, and even the fish of the sea are taken away.” (Hosea 4:1–3, ESV)

The word in this passage is the Hebrew word daat and is from the root word yada which has the implication of intimate relationship. If you do a search on the exact use of the verbal form of this word you will come across some 140 places that it is used. Here is a verse that I think captures the idea well considering the condition of the people in the time of Hosea.

“Blessed be the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant. The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us, that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers. Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other. Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the Lord our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”” (1 Kings 8:56–61, ESV)

Look at the condition again of these people – swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery. Does that sound familiar – not with the world, but with God’s people! Is this not also a condition that Paul warns Timothy about regarding the last days before God’s return.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:1–7, ESV)

History is repeating, God’s people in Hosea are destroyed for lack of knowledge, they rejected knowledge and forgot the instruction of God.

Paul in his encouragement to Timothy after this warning is about following Pauls example in all that he has taught Timothy and to hold steadfast through it all. He warned of trouble and persecution, of evil people and imposters. But to Timothy he gave simple instruction:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14–17, ESV)

This brings me to the reason for writing this blog, we are in a time of decay in the body of Christ where people are not wanting to do the hard work of learning God’s instruction but are settling for pithy sayings, entertainment, and manipulation of the word to give them what they want to here. This is not always on purpose and it has subtly slipped into the body of Christ over time so that not even some very well intentioned leaders have noticed the issue and are caught up in the excitement of the shiny new and improved yet man created way of doing church.

Time permitted I hope to blog more on this subject in the weeks to come. May the encouragement Paul gave to Timothy ring true in our lives…“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:3–5, ESV)