One Way

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How do we live godly lives in an ungodly world?
Jesus said, “Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). “Shrewd” means “wise, sensible” and its root meaning is “thinking, understanding.” Jesus said think and then make a wise and sensible determination. Let’s be honest – we get mentally and spiritually lazy – accepting as truth whatever we are told without bothering to examine things for ourselves. The advertising world depends on that. We need to be Bereans. “The Bereans…received [Paul’s preaching] with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11). We must wake up our dulled minds and think about what we hear – in the world and even in the church – alongside of the Word of God and see if it is true.
In contrast to being shrewd, Jesus also commands us to be innocent, which means “to be pure, not mixed with evil.” His command here is to not get mixed up with the world’s philosophies and ideas. The Israelites were commanded to keep themselves separate from the pagan peoples around them and not fall into their evil ways nor worship their pagan gods. Yet they tried to compromise with the Lord and the culture, believing that they could dabble in paganism as long as they continued to also follow the sacrificial Law of God. In their dulled minds they believed they were still being obedient to the Lord.
Has anything changed? I don’t care what your bumper sticker says, God’s people cannot “coexist” with ungodliness. It didn’t work for Israel and it won’t work for Christ’s followers today. I’m not advocating separatism; Jesus called us to be His witnesses in the world. We must interact with lost people to tell them about Jesus. But we must also keep our hearts purely devoted to Him alone and not allow the world to mix us up. Jesus left us “in the world” (John 15:11) but “not of the world” (v. 14). We live with people who do not follow Christ or His Word and that is by God’s good design; but we live for the One who died for the world, and we live by His Word and for His glory. How will they know that He is the only Way if we live as if Jesus is just one option among many?

Are You Sure About That?

What do these statements have in common?

“Copy and paste this to your page to circumnavigate the Facebook algorithms and see all your friends again!”
“If you’re being held up at an ATM, put your pin in backwards and the bank will alert the police.”
“My lawyer friend said to copy and share this legal statement to prevent Facebook from using your photos and posts without your consent.”
“When Jesus folded the napkin, it was a sign that He is coming back!”

Besides the fact that they are shared over and over and over on social media, they are all false. They are lies. But because they have been passed on multiple times, people assume they are true. And they keep sharing them.
Paul warned about false doctrine that takes deep root in the church. He said, “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:7). In the three letters Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus, he prefaced several statements of doctrinal truth with the words: “Here is a trustworthy saying:” He wanted these two young men, whom he had assigned to care for the believers in Ephesus and Crete, to be careful with what they believed and what they taught. He wanted them to only pass along “trustworthy sayings.” My favorite Bible folks are the Bereans from Acts 17 who were considered “noble” because they checked out everything Paul told them. They didn’t take his word for it. They wanted to know if what he was saying was true.
I want you to be a Berean. On Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In your daily life. In your knowledge of the Bible and spiritual things. In what you pass along to friends and family. In what you teach your children. Check things out. Especially where it concerns the Scriptures. You need to build your faith and your life on “trustworthy sayings,” not “myths and old wives’ tales.” As Paul said, “Train yourself to be godly” through daily Bible study (not just a 5-minute devotional), meditation on God’s Word, and prayer. Fill your mind and your heart with truth.
What do you believe? Why do you believe it? Because it’s what you’ve always heard? Or because you’ve checked it out for yourself and found it to be trustworthy and true? Be a Berean Beloved.

When Everyone’s a Philosopher, How Do You Know What’s True?

In this day of social media, everyone has an opinion and anyone with internet access and a keyboard can become an expert about everything from sports to food to politics to religion. Spend an hour on the web and you will know the deep thoughts of world leaders, celebrities, “influencers,” the media, the local yokel, and even the Kardashians. I’m guilty too, as I flood the cyber-world with biblical commentary. The delivery may be modern, but the idea of sharing ideas is as old as man. The trick is to figure out who’s ideas are worth listening to.

Paul warned the believers in Colossae: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy . . .” (Colossians 2:8). The Colossians were being led astray by false teachers who claimed that the secret to eternal life was a higher plane of knowledge – a knowledge that was superior to Christ and put one on the level with God. Their philosophies sounded right, but they were wrong, and anyone who listened was led astray. It wasn’t just a first-century problem. That warning still applies today. There are a lot of messages that sound like the Bible, but they are not the Word of God. There are a lot of teachings that sound like Jesus, but they are not the Son of God. They have shades of truth, but they are not the truth.  So how do you know what is true?

When bank tellers receive training to recognize counterfeit money, they are not schooled in every possible way that a bill can be counterfeited. Instead, they are taught every detail of a genuine bill, so that when someone presents money that is even a little off, they can spot it instantly. The key to recognizing a false bill is to know the real thing. The key to recognizing false teaching is to know the truth. Luke commended a group of believers in Berea because they listened to Paul’s teachings and “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11). They didn’t take Paul’s word for what God said; they checked it out in God’s Word.

I hope you do the same Beloved. I hope you take what your Bible teacher says, your Pastor, your favorite author or singer, even yours truly, and lay it beside the authoritative, infallible, inspired Word of the Living God to see if it agrees with what was spoken by the Spirit of God. And if it does not, you run from it and run to the truth. And if I said it, you call me out on it. I also hope that you are making Bible study – not just a five-minute devotional reading – a priority in your day. I hope you are digging in and soaking up the truth. I hope you are learning to recognize the ways and words of God so you are not “taken captive through hollow and deceptive philosophies . . .” I hope you know the Scriptures so intimately that anything just a shade off of the truth raises red flags in your spirit. There is far too much as stake to shrug your shoulders and reason that “it sounds okay to me.” Be a Berean. Know the truth. It’ll set you free.

Is That What the Bible Really Says?

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One of my responsibilities is to help my sister-in-love create a bulletin board in the church. The Lord gives her the image and I craft it. She is in charge of inspiration and I am the perspiration. This month, we naturally did an “Easter” theme – based on the song, “Love Grew Where the Blood Fell” and on Luke 22:44: “And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” My husband crafted a wooden cross and we mounted it to the board. Because we wanted to emphasize the Lord’s prayer of surrender in Gethsemane, we talked about adding the “rock” upon which Jesus prayed. But something stopped me. I went to the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all speak of the anguished prayer in the garden, but there is no mention of a rock; rather, the Scriptures say “He knelt down and prayed” (Luke 22:41) and “He fell with His face to the ground and prayed” (Matthew 26:39). No rock. But, the prayer on the rock is entrenched in our memory of the story. So where did the rock come from? From the 1886 painting, “Christ in Gethsemane” by Heinrich Hoffman. This classic work of art has become part of the story, just as the “Three wise men” have become part of the Christmas story. But read Matthew’s account again – there were three gifts, but no mention of the number of wise men. John Henry’s 1857 song, “We Three Kings” cements the idea in our minds.
I share this to warn you and me – don’t let side stories and paintings and songs and culture add to or take away from the Word of God. Sure, there’s no harm in having a rock in Gethsemane or three kings in the Christmas story (who, by the way, did not come to the manger, but to the holy family’s house about 2 years after Jesus’ birth). But there are other false teachings that slip in just as easily and can do great harm to your faith and mine. Even if it is something you are sure of, go to the Scriptures and verify it. Our own thoughts and recollections can be colored by something as simple as a children’s nativity play. Friend, we need to be like the Bereans – who listened to Paul’s teachings and “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts17:11). I’ve been a Bible teacher for 20+ years, and my sister-in-love has studied the Bible even longer and we both had a rock in Gethsemane. We were both surprised to discover that there ain’t no rock. Beloved, don’t take anyone else’s word for what God said but God Himself. Even mine. Go get your Bible right now and check it out.