Category Archives: Bible

“The Bible Says…” Are You Sure? (part 3)

I pray my last post was helpful to you. Today, in part 3 of this 5-part blog series, we take a look at a very popular saying that many believe is found in the Christian Scriptures. It has been screen printed on shirts, graffiti tagged on walls, placed on coffee mugs, and even tatted on people’s bodies. And here it is:

“Money is the root of all evil.”

money evil pic

But before you run to your favorite tattoo shop and get this inked on your arm or wherever, you might want to double check to see if it squares with what the Bible actually says. Many of you probably already know that this prominent statement is actually a misquotation of 1 Timothy 6:10a, which says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” (English Standard Version) As we read this sentence slowly and carefully, two points emerge:

1. It is not simply money that is in view here, but rather the love of money.

Money (like food, the internet or television, sex, etc.) is not inherently sinful, evil, or wrong. It is amoral in nature. It is our inordinate desire for, attitude towards, and attachment to it that is the problem. Paul speaks of this in verse 9 of 1 Timothy 6, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” (emphasis mine; ESV) When you take the particular Greek word for desire used in this verse into account, you understand that Paul is speaking of a deliberate setting of the mind and affections on becoming rich. This is not just a simple and occasional desire to have more money; rather, it is a constant preoccupation with making more of it – my mind on my money and my money on my mind – to the point where one casts off biblical wisdom and common sense, resolving to obtain more money by any means necessary, even if those means are foolish or sinful. As someone once said, “There is nothing wrong with you having money as long as money doesn’t have you.” The love of money is when money has you.

2. The love of money is a root – not the root – of all kinds of evil.

When you look at the vices in our western culture, one would be hard-pressed to not agree with this truth. We’ve turned what would normally be classified as gluttony into a sport of sorts, cheering on men and women as they gorge their bellies with various types of foods all for, you guessed it, a cash prize. Men walk into sperm banks, pick up a porn magazine or watch a XXX video, and lust themselves into some loot. People sell their bodies in exchange for the almighty dollar. Hitmen or enforcers for hire. We adorn gossip in a dress or suit, pay an individual handsomely to be its mouthpiece, place him or her behind a camera or microphone in a studio and broadcast it across the country. Some deceptively panhandle for that paper, conning people for cash. Others unethically siphon money from their baby’s father (or mother’s) child support checks for their own personal use.  And the list goes on and on. Our incessant infatuation with money has created a cesspool of iniquity; one in which we wallow with revelry, all the while dismissing its toxic effects on our souls and in our society. It is indeed a root cause for all types of evil.

I believe Trip Lee sums up well the perspective we as Christians should have regarding money (as well as sex and power) in his song entitled “Heart Problem” from The Good Life album. Take a listen and take heed.

So, enjoy money and the benefits it affords, but don’t become enamored with it; and definitely don’t exalt it over the God of grace.

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“The Bible Says…” Are You Sure? (part 2)

Two weeks ago, I began a 5-part blog series with this article, and today I want continue with part two.

So there I was sitting in the adult Sunday School class as a young 20-something year old preacher at my home church in Austin, TX. I don’t recall what lesson or text of Scripture we were discussing that day. All I do remember is one of our church members raising his/her hand to respond to a point that the teacher had just made about the need for us Christians to live godly lives. “Yes, brother/sister so-and-so, you have something to say?” the teacher asked. The member replied, “Yes, brother teacher. I agree with you that we as Christians should live godly lives…” Nothing too controversial there, right? Well, just wait for it. He/she continued, “because after all the Bible says God won’t dwell in an unclean temple.” I distinctly remember having this confused look on my face, thinking to myself, “Are you sure about that?” So after a few people nodded their heads in agreement, I, along with a couple of others, spoke out in disagreement. And a spirited debate ensued.

“God won’t dwell in an unclean temple.”

So what does this whole “God won’t dwell in an unclean temple” concept mean? Essentially this: Since our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, we should live clean or holy lives because to do otherwise will cause God the Holy Spirit to not remain in us. To say it another way, living incongruent with Scripture jeopardizes the indwelling of the Spirit in our lives. God will depart from us if we keep disobeying Him.  I am in support of the truths that surround this statement because they are biblical: 1. Christians – specifically our bodies – being temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), and 2. Living holy or clean lives (Romans 12:1; 1 Peter 1:14-16); but I do not agree with it for two fundamental reasons.

The Permanent Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

In his upper room discourse with the disciples – minus Judas Iscariot – Jesus informed them that in the near future the Holy Spirit would come to be with and in them forever (which now becomes an objective reality for all of us post-Pentecost Christians at the moment of belief in Jesus – see Ephesians 1:13):

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17, emphasis mine; ESV)

Nowhere in the New Testament do we see any teaching on the potentiality of the Holy Spirit departing from us due to our sinful behavior. We can grieve him (Ephesians 4:30) and quench him (1 Thess. 5:19), but we can never evict him. This is in no way a license for us to sin.  The Holy Spirit sanctifies, transforms, or conforms us to the image of Jesus (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Cor. 3:18), which implies that there is a constant putting away of sin and striving to live obedient lives for Jesus to the glory of God (Colossians 3:5-17).

The Sealing with the Holy Spirit

According to Ephesians 1:13, at the moment of salvation we are “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” This idea of being sealed has various nuances in Scripture. The Bible Knowledge Commentary gives some helpful insight here: “The word ‘seal’ indicates security (Matthew 27:66; Eph. 4:30), authentication and approval (John 6:27), certification of genuineness (John 3:33), and identification of ownership (2 Cor. 1:22; Rev. 7:2; 9:4).” (pg. 619)

As those in Christ, you and I have been stamped, if you will, with the Holy Spirit, indicating that we belong to God. But notice as well that the Holy Spirit himself “is the guarantee of our inheritance…” (1:14).  That word guarantee means a down payment. The Holy Spirit is God the Father’s initial deposit – for our lives now on earth – of what He has in store for our lives in heaven for eternity.

That’s not all though. Paul continues, “until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (1:14). Does this say that the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance unless we disobey? No. It says until we acquire possession of it. The Holy Spirit is our assurance that we will receive all that God has in store for us in eternity – the resurrection and transformation of our bodies, an eternal place in heaven, etc. The Holy Spirit, my brothers and sisters, will never leave us in this life because it has been determined by God the Father that he remain in us from now until the consummation of all things when Jesus returns.

So instead of living in pseudo-fear of losing the Holy Spirit due to our sin, how about we focus on what the Bible actually commands us to do and that is to be filled with the Holy Spirit, ever presently yielding to His controlling influence in our lives, resulting in our obedience to Jesus in accordance with the word of God (1 Peter 1:2; Ephesians 5:18; 2 Timothy 3:16).

“The Bible Says…” Are You Sure?

Being a pastor now for over 10 years, and having been in church since I was a boy, I have occasionally heard people make statements or repeat popular sayings and mistakenly attribute their source to the Bible. They usually preface them with, “Well, you know the Bible says…” To which, in many cases, I would think to myself or say, “Are you sure about that?”

Early on, when I was young in the faith, I would just take what was said at face value. But as I grew in the Lord Jesus and in my knowledge and understanding of the Bible, I came to discover that a few of those proverbial sayings were either not in the Scriptures at all, or are there (conceptually in some cases) but were inadvertently misread and/or severed from their literary context and thus misapplied. Although the ones I have chosen to address in this “The Bible Says…” Are You Sure? series of brief blog posts are not eternally detrimental and damning, they can and do impact to varying degrees the lives of those who accept them. Here is the first of five:

 “God won’t put more on me than I can bear.”

Those of us who are listeners and supporters of urban contemporary gospel music know that this idiom was further ingrained into the minds and hearts of believers across the U.S. back in 1997 with one of the hit singles, “More Than I Can Bear,” from the high-charting billboard album God’s Property by God’s Property from Kirk Franklin’s Nu Nation.  “Play the song, please.” Why certainly.

Did you catch the main verse of the song? Take a look:

I’ve gone through the fire
And I’ve been through the flood
I’ve been broken into pieces
Seen lightnin’ flashin’ from above
But through it all I remember
That He loves me
And He cares
And He’ll never put more on me
Than I can bear

Before we continue, let me be absolutely clear: I am in no way disparaging Kirk Franklin (or the musical genre) or calling into question his ability to interpret Scripture and write songs accordingly. The body of his work speaks for itself. To the contrary, I am tremendously grateful to God for the gift Kirk has used in service to the church worldwide.

The question on the table is does “God won’t put more on me than I can bear” comport with Scripture? Simply put, does the Bible say that? It depends. Depends on what? Exactly. “Wait, now I am confused.” Let me explain. It depends on what the “more” is in reference to. In other words, God will never put more of what on us?  The words “fire” and “flood” in the above verse can be ambiguous. But I would venture to say that most people (including myself) would understand them to mean suffering, trouble, or distress of some kind. Who would hear or read “seen lightnin’ flashin’ from above” and not think that is metaphorically speaking of the storms of life? So, if the more is related to trials, then the answer to the question of does the Bible say that would be no.

Some would push back and say that I am incorrect and would direct me to 1 Corinthians 10:13 as proof of the contrary, which says (what follows is the King James Version because that is where the language of this saying comes from): “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” But upon a closer reading, one will discover that this verse is not dealing with trials (hardships, suffering, trouble), but rather with temptations (note the word temptation – including the verb form – is mentioned three times). Yes, the Greek word for temptation is the same word used for trial, as is the case in other passages of the Bible (e.g., James 1:12-14; 1 Peter 4:12); but, according to the immediate context of 1 Corinthians chapter 10, it refers to the former (i.e., temptation: an enticement to sin) rather than to the latter (i.e. trial: an evaluation, or proving, of/for our sanctification). Essentially, what Paul is saying then is God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability by providing the way of escape, so that we will be able to bear or endure it. I would humbly submit that the focus of this verse is not on our ability to bear but on God’s ability to provide. Therefore, our success in not succumbing to temptation is contingent upon God’s ability to make a way out, not our ability to not tap out.

Furthermore, after a cursory look through the Old and New Testaments, one can’t help but to see how this saying doesn’t exactly match with what we find in the word of God. At times, when it comes to trials, God does allow or permit more to be placed on us than we can humanly bear. Consider this short list of examples of those who experienced the crushing weight of trials (even those trials that came as a direct result of obeying God’s calling on or purpose for their lives):

  • The People of Israel in Egyptian bondage (Exodus 5)
  • Moses leading the Israelites out of the wilderness of Sinai (Numbers 11:10-15)
  • Elijah facing Jezebel’s death threat and the deplorable spiritual condition of God’s people (1 Kings 19)
  • Naomi’s loss of her husband and two sons (Ruth 1)
  • Job loses his property, children, and health (Job 1-2)
  • David’s anguish over his enemies (Psalm 22)
  • Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry (Jeremiah 15:10-21)
  • Jesus incomparable agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46)
  • Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Yes, God won’t ever put (in the sense of permit or allow) more on us than we can bear as it relates to temptation; but He will, at times, when it comes to trials.  Because, after all, it’s not about displaying our own strength, but rather that of our God’s.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9; ESV)

Men, Where Are You?

AWOL

I don’t think I have to convince you of the fact that many men (not all) here in America are AWOL. We have drawn back from the front line, failing to take up arms to fight -in honor of God, according to his rules of engagement (i.e., the Bible) – for integrity, responsibility, respect, marriage, family, justice, and purity; and have instead decided to entangle ourselves in civilian pursuits (2 Timothy 2:3-4), reveling in selfish and sinful passions.

We are absent. Though a few of us might be so for reasons beyond our control, scores are absent voluntarily and for illegitimate reasons. We have abandoned our families, communities, and churches. Too many of us are nowhere in sight. No wonder why, for example, women and children conduct their lives or treat us as if we are invisible…because we are! Out of sight, out of mind.

Others of us are present, but not fully engaged. We are here, but not here. We are consumed with achievements, accolades, and assets to the neglect of establishing and growing in our relationship with Jesus and others. We are addicted to hobbies to the neglect of home or work. We are fixated on all things flashy to the neglect of the fundamental. We have hidden in plain sight through our obsessions.

But why are we MIA (Missing In Action)? It all stems from the first man, Adam. Our first father (along with his wife), as we discover in Genesis 3:8-11, hid from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Why did he hide from God? In his reply to God’s question – Where are you? – we find the answer, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10; ESV, emphasis mine). He was afraid because he was naked. But to God the answer to his question was more than skin deep. God knew the deeper reason for Adam’s fear and hiding was because he ate of the tree he had commanded him not to eat of (Genesis 3:11).

And it is the same with us men today. Many times we disappear in life because of our disobedience to God. Godward disobedience produces all kinds of human dysfunction and distortion. When we are not right with God, much gets left…people get left behind to go through the painstaking effort to heal and rebuild their lives in the wake of the devastation of our sinful, tornadic behavior; our wives, children, and God’s churches get our leftovers, while other people and businesses are continually allowed to feast on our “prime” time and energy; and God’s agenda for our lives is left incomplete because we are bent on fulfilling our own.

We are all a product of the first Adam. But thank God for the “second Adam” (Romans 5:12-21)!

Gentlemen, if we are going to be the men that God created us to be – men of holiness, honor, and humility – we must stop running from God in sin, hiding behind the trees of fear and pride. May we, by God’s grace and Spirit, run to God, bowing in repentance, trust, and surrender at the feet of the one who bore our sins on the tree (1 Peter 2:24), Jesus the Christ.

Believe in him. Worship him. Trust him. Learn of him. Live for him.

Prayer Cloths and Faith Healers

Prayer cloth

I’ll never forget the time I saw a huge palate of letters containing handkerchiefs from people who were seeking healing from God through this faith-healing televangelist. As he addressed the viewers and commenced to lay hands on and pray over the cloths and for the requests that were mailed in, he referenced Acts 19:12 as justification for this part of his ministry, “so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them” (Acts 19:12; ESV).  Many in charismatic circles of this stripe see this verse (and some others) as applicable to their lives and ministries – and some would even say to all our lives as believers as well – and state their conviction in words like this, “The same miracle-working power of the Holy Spirit that was at Paul’s disposal is available to us today. We, too, are able to lay hands on and pray healing over cloths and the sick will recover. We just need to have the faith to operate in this dimension.” But is this true? Is this a proper understanding of this text? Is this biblical warrant for praying that the healing power of Jesus, in some mystical way, be transferred into these cloths through the laying on of hands, so that when people receive and apply them to their ailing bodies, they will be instantaneously healed and delivered from evil spirits? I believe the answer to each question is a resounding “No.”

First, if we go back just one verse, verse eleven, it clearly says that “God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul” (Acts 19:11, emphasis mine; ESV). Nowhere else in the book of Acts are miracles said to have occurred specifically through the medium of handkerchiefs and aprons by the hands of someone other than Paul.  Certainly there were other believers – like Peter, who was an apostle – used by the Lord Jesus to perform miracles, signs, and wonders. Though it was rare, God even performed miracles through believers who were not apostles. Stephen was one (Acts 6:8), and Philip was another (Acts 8:6-7). But what was reported to have happened through the apostle Paul in Acts 19:12 was unique, special. Therefore, it should not be viewed as normative and applicable to all believers, or even just to some who claim they have been called by God to be faith healers.

Second, remembering the fact that Luke was writing under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit and had a penchant for being detailed in his accounts, please note the text says that the cloths and linen garments “had touched his skin” (Acts 19:12; ESV). The way this reads is the cloths that people had on them somehow came in contact with Paul’s skin. Paul, therefore, was a passive participant. He didn’t stand up and proclaim to people that he had a special anointing exuding from his pores and they needed to bring him their handkerchiefs and aprons, so that he could touch them, and then they could take them back to the sick to be healed. Paul didn’t pray over the cloths. He didn’t lay hands on them (If Paul did “lay hands,” Luke would have plainly said so, as he did in other passages of Acts – see Acts 19:6). People had the cloths with them and they somehow touched his skin and God miraculously healed the sick when those cloths and garments were laid upon them. Also note, Paul didn’t subsequently launch a healing-in-my-skin-prayer-cloth ministry or host crusades with said name.

Third, and finally, the reason this rare occurrence in Acts 19:12 shouldn’t be seen as normative today or sought out by believers to be replicated in their ministries is because miracles were primarily designed to confirm the gospel of Jesus and the ministry of the apostles (2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3-4) during the apostolic age and among new or unreached people groups at that time.

So to those who are sick or seeking healing from God for a loved one who is ill, keep your handkerchiefs and garments. No need to send them in to a faith healer along with your financial faith seed. If you are a believer in Jesus, you can pray to God for healing yourself (James 5:13a). If it is in his will to heal you (with or without medicine), you will be healed.

And if you just feel like you need someone to pray for you, let me suggest the following: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the LORD will raise him up.” (James 5:14-15a; ESV)

A Sign of the Times

“Please don’t give money to beggars on this corner. It’s bad for the neighborhood.”

Those were the words of an actual sign I saw on the side of the road as I drove back to my office today. The major issues that this professionally-made sign points to don’t escape me: the low societal view (and treatment) of the poor and of human dignity, and the tension, at times, between giving versus enabling. As important as these matters are, my mind, for the most part, went to something altogether different.

You see, someone didn’t take too kindly to what was written and took it upon himself or herself to edit the message by cutting out the word “don’t” making the sign read: “Please ______ give money to beggars on this corner…” Obviously, one could just mentally fill in the blank to get the intended message of the author.

With that being said, I couldn’t help but see a correlation between what an individual did to that sign and what some people do to the Scripture – God’s message, His “sign,” if you will. They may not cut out words and sections of the Bible literally, but they do hermeneutically. That is, they interpret the Bible in such a way that they in effect change its message. They cut it to fit their own desires, which only means that it is tailor-made for their destruction (2 Peter 3:16).

That sign on the corner was a sign of the times: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teaching of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” (1 Timothy 4:1-3, emphasis mine)

Regardless of who seeks to change God’s sign, may God strengthen the hearts and expand the ministry and influence of those of us who, by His grace, are committed to faithfully “cutting it straight.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Do We Have a Divine RIGHT to Health and Healing?

Do I believe God heals? Yes. The Bible is absolutely clear on God’s ability to heal and even gives instances where He healed persons who were sick with various illnesses and diseases.  But I don’t have to appeal to the Bible as evidence only. My life is a testament of the healing power of God.

I was born 3-months premature. While spending an extensive amount of time in the NIC unit, the doctors had given my parents a pretty bleak diagnosis, stating that the odds were fairly high that I would have a disability or life-altering condition of some sort. Fast forward a bit and here I am 36 years later with a wife, a daughter, and two degrees, sitting in front of a computer screen typing this blog post in great health with no complications stemming from my premature birth, contrary to the professional opinion of those assigned to my care in 1977.

God can and does heal.

But the question on the table is this: do we as believers have a divine right to health and healing? According to the teachings of some pastors and preachers in certain sectors of Christianity, the answer to that question is in the affirmative. Many of them read and interpret such passages like 1 Peter 2:24 as proof positive for their convictions on this matter (of which I took issue with here in this previous post). Another text that is customarily used to support this “Divine Right To Health and Healing” belief is that of 3 John 2, which says, “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” (ESV) This is where I want to land and disembark our hermeneutical helicopter and explore the biblical grounds to see if in fact their claim is true. Don’t worry though. Our exploration won’t be long – we will hit three way points to be exact – because the truth of this passage is not hidden or buried but is instead readily accessible on the surface. You ready? Let’s go.

Way Point #1 – Genre

In reading the heading of 3 John in our English Bibles and its content, we discover that this particular book of the Bible is one of many New Testament epistles or letters. Hear John in his own words, “I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.” (3 John 13-14, emphasis mine; ESV) This fact might seem elementary to point out, but you will see in a minute how crucial it is to a proper understanding of the focus verse of this blog post.

Way Point #2 – Greeting

Within this New Testament genre, it was typical for the writer to include a greeting at the beginning of his correspondence to whomever was his audience – which is what we find in 3 John 1-4.  Who is John’s audience? On to our final way point.

Way Point #3 – Gaius

The person to whom John writes is named Gaius. It is obvious that John had a fatherly affection for him, as he pens, “The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.” (3 John 1; cf. also to verse 4)

The reason for briefly taking the time to journey to these way points was to set the context for our focus verse. We cannot arrive at a proper understanding of a passage of Scripture without first seeking to establish its proper context. 3 John 2 is part of a greeting that John extends to his beloved child in the Lord, Gaius, who, according to verse 3, is continuing to mature in relationship to God in Christ, His Gospel, and His Word (i.e., “walking in the truth”). When we consider all of this together, John’s intent in writing 3 John 2 becomes evident, and here it is: he was not writing to inform Gaius (or any other reader beyond him) of a divine right to health and healing given to all believers in which he [Gaius] could confidently put before God, obligating Him to comply, but rather to express his prayerful desire to God for Gaius’ well-being. This verse is about one man’s heartfelt entreaty to God for another. It has nothing to do with a “divinely sanctioned” entitlement before God.

So, if there is something that we can extrapolate from this verse it is that we should desire that all things go well with our brothers and sisters in the Lord and pray to that end; not seek to lay claim to some supposedly universal divine right to health and healing in this life, which by the way is nowhere to be found in the written statutes and declarations (i.e., the Bible) of our King.

By all means, feel free to request health and healing from our God. In many cases, as our loving Heavenly Father, He will oblige us for His glory. But we must keep in mind that in other instances, as our Sovereign God, He may choose to let the “thorn” of sickness remain for our growth, to keep us grounded, to create opportunities to share the Gospel, and/or to display His sustaining grace, all for His glory in Christ Jesus.

Are You Anointed?

If you’ve been around the church world for any number of years, I am sure that you have caught on to our nomenclature and sayings.

“I’m blessed.”

“God is good all the time. And all the time God is good.”

“Purpose”

“On mission”

“Gospel-centered”

“Missional”

“Fellowship”

“Biblical Community”

And the list goes on and on. But there is one term that is used quite a bit in certain church contexts and songs that, due to how it has been taught, has generated some confusion and, as it seems, has unfortunately helped to build a sort of spiritual caste system in the minds of many believers. It is the word: anointed. Just to be clear: the word “anointed” (anointing, or to anoint) is a biblical term; its use – not misuse – should therefore not be disparaged by any of us. So, how exactly is the term employed in Scripture? Here is a cursory look through both Testaments. I’ve sought to categorize my research for clarity purposes.

Ceremonial

The anointing oil was a blend of fine spices and olive oil that was used ceremonially to consecrate the tabernacle/temple and all its items, as well as the priests for their service to God concerning the people and the tabernacle (Exodus 30:22-33, cf. also: 29:7, 40:15; Leviticus 8:10-12; Numbers 3:3).

Certain people were selected or permitted by God to serve as the kings of Israel/Judah and were therefore ceremonially anointed by a prophet or priest (1 Samuel 10:1ff, 16:1-13; 1 Kings 1:28-39; 1 Kings 19:16; the kings of Israel, particularly Saul and David, were called “the Lord’s anointed” – 1 Samuel 15:1; 2 Samuel 1:14, 1 Samuel 24:6; 2 Samuel 19:21).

Relational/Purposeful

God’s people as a whole – and even a pagan king – were called His anointed, communicating that they were chosen as His possession – i.e., the people of Israel – or for His purposes – i.e., Cyrus of Persia (1 Chronicles 16:22; Habakkuk 3:13; Isaiah 45:1).

Physical

People would anoint themselves with oil as a means of cleaning and refreshing their skin and perfuming their bodies (Ruth 3:3; Daniel 10:3; 2 Samuel 12:20). The Greek verb “to anoint” simply means to spread on, which, for example, is what Jesus did with the mud that he made from his saliva to place on the blind man’s eyes (John 9:6).

Christological

Jesus is said to have been anointed by God and is called the anointed one (i.e., the Messiah, Christ, Chosen One), both of which are related to his person, his ministry, and his work of redemption (Mark 14:8; Luke 4:18; Acts 4:26-28, 10:38).

Spiritual

And then there is the last sense (which I am not dogmatic about in terms of my interpretation of the two primary texts referenced in this paragraph) where to be anointed has to do with believers being called or chosen by God to fulfill a specific ministry, as seen in 2 Cor. 1:21 with Paul and Timothy (and Silvanus?; cf. also, 2 Cor. 3:1-6), or the universal church having received the Holy Spirit who is possibly referred to as “the anointing” in 1 John 2:20, 27 (which is where the point of application lies the most for us today; cf. also, John 14:25-26, 16:13-15; Acts 10:38; Note: The anointing in 1 John 2 could instead be understood to mean a grace work of the Holy Spirit, or the truth concerning Christ/the word of life that all believers have received.).

The point I am making is that nowhere in Scripture, particularly the New Testament, do you hear of there being different degrees, levels, or types of anointing, or that only a few elite Christians have the anointing and the rest of us do not, or that you have to go through some form of difficulty or sequence of “spiritual steps” in order to receive a deeper level of anointing. As far as I can tell, all of this type of talk or teaching has no legitimate basis in the Scripture.

So let me bottom line this article in closing: Are you as a Christian anointed? Yes…just like every other believer in Jesus.

Holy S#&*! Profanity in Christianity

cursing

Got your attention? Good. Because I think we need to address (readdress) this issue, which I believe – and I think you will agree – has become too commonplace amongst us, and dismissed or justified by some of our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Vulgarity in our society, especially in entertainment and in the arts, has run amuck. There used to be a time when censoring curse words in a song or on a show was expected and welcomed. Not so much now. We have even reached a point where certain derogatory words are used and accepted as terms of endearment, all depending on the context of the conversation (Think of how the word B*^$# is used in hip-hop and pop subcultures, on reality television shows, etc.). To be honest, I hear and see it so frequently today on television and on social media sites that in some ways I personally have become desensitized to it. What I mean is that it doesn’t shock me like it used to. I sort of expect it now. After all, we are dealing with fallen people who have yet to be redeemed by Jesus from their sin.

But what about when we hear and see it displayed by those of us who have been saved from sin by God’s grace through faith in the person and redemptive work of Jesus? Should the proliferation of profanity in our culture cause us to disregard its presence – albeit in varying degrees – in our lives as the church? The answer to this latter question is no. Before I elaborate on this, I know what some of us might be thinking.

“Out of all the evil and sin in the world, let alone in the church, you choose to write a blog post on cursing?! What about abortion, murder, stealing, you know, the big stuff? C’mon, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that serious, Ed.”

“I’m grown. And, yes, I am a Christian. And, yes, I may say a few ‘choice’ words on occasion. But it ain’t like I’m running around sleeping around, or abusing my kids, or doing drugs like some of these other folks. My cursing isn’t hurting anybody. So, give me a break! You are just being self-righteous, Pharisaical, legalistic, and holier-than-thou!”

I hear you. And I have a response to each of those statements. But to do so would only cause us, I am sure, to just go back and forth, tit for tat. But at the end of the day what really matters to all of us as Christians is what God says about this subject. After all, we believe that His thoughts, His words on the matter – as recorded in the Bible – are our final authority, right? Right.

But let me speak to the last sentence in the last statement in quotation above as a segue into God’s Word concerning this issue of profanity in Christianity. I am by no means seeking to be self-righteous, holier-than-thou, etc. I used to curse with the best of them. For those that know me personally, that might be hard for you to imagine. But I did. I am in no way glorifying in it. I simply mention it here for the sake of relating to those who have this sinful, fleshly propensity. However, when the Lord Jesus saved me and as I matured in Him, cursing was one of the sins that I was set free from, practically speaking, quite quickly and was convicted of by the Holy Spirit every time I would slip up. I didn’t have a book, chapter, and verse to point to at the time as the basis for the conviction that I felt. I just knew it was wrong. Then one day during my regular Bible reading I came across a passage of Scripture that spoke directly to it (as well as to other sins):

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from you mouth.” (Colossians 3:5-8, ESV, emphasis mine; see also, Ephesians 5:4)

According to Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, the Greek word for “obscene talk” can also be understood to mean “foul speaking.” It is a compound word with the first word being defined as “base or dishonorable.”

Some questions naturally arise: What is considered to be base or dishonorable words? Who determines what they are? These questions are fair. But in all honesty, the spirit that is sometimes behind this type of inquiry is not completely sincere. In certain cases, we ask these questions with an underlining goal to justify our coarse language, not necessarily to seek truth or goodness with the intent of altering our behavior to match it. But, back to the questions at hand.

If you notice, the Scripture doesn’t tell us specifically what words or phrases would be considered off-limits for believers. Why? Well, I believe because God knew that in some regards they would vary from culture to culture, from place to place, and even from conversation to conversation. Having said that though, it seems that certain terminology is fast becoming universal due in large part to the interconnectedness of the world via technology. Certain questions could be asked that would possibly help to mark out those terms that would be deemed obscene, but – and I could be wrong here – I don’t think it’s necessary. Because in this fallen world we live in I think those words are already identifiable. They are those words that the majority of humanity wouldn’t want spoken by or around our little children. They are those words that are spoken in stand-up comedy shows and rapped and sung in the songs of the sinful sectors of the mainstream music/entertainment world. In other words, to state it plainly and frankly, you and I both know what obscene talk is and what is considered as such in our various contexts. We are adults after all, right? So, with all due respect, let’s not play games here.

To this issue of cursing not being bad or wrong as long as we are not hurting anyone, let me say this: It is hurting someone, and His name is God the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30). We should seek to not grieve the Holy Spirit through the use of profanity (or any other “sins of the mouth” for that matter) in verbal or virtual communication (Twitter/Facebook abbreviations included).

There is no expectation of perfection here. None of us will be able to obtain that until the return of the Lord Jesus when we will be gloriously transformed. But we should be progressing, growing, and repenting. And if you are a Christian who used to cuss like a sailor (Just a colloquialism; not typecasting seamen or seawomen), as I once did, but still deals with a real, pronounced temptation to do so, know that in Christ sin has no dominion over you (Romans 6). And if you do sin in this way, don’t downplay or dismiss it, and in no way justify it, regardless of whether it was mild cursing or otherwise. Sincerely confess it to God. If you curse someone out, humbly ask them for forgiveness (this includes your children as well). Deal with your cursing in a way that honors the Lord Jesus and respects people.

Father, may you help us, through the Holy Spirit, to refrain from the profane and to honor you and represent Jesus well with our whole lives, including what comes out of our mouths and through our keyboards, tablets, and smartphones. In the name of Your Son and our Savior, Jesus, we pray, Amen.

Fighting On Your Knees: Prayer and Spiritual Warfare

A couple of weeks ago, I concluded my 20-plus week teaching series on the book of Ephesians. I entitled the series, “Ephesians: Our Life in Christ.” We had a wonderful time studying God’s Word, and I pray that God grows us tremendously from it.

In our last lesson, we tackled Ephesians 6:10-20, that classic passage on spiritual warfare. In addition to the six pieces of God’s armor, we discovered that prayer also plays an integral part in our standing against the schemes of the Devil and his demons. In verse 18, “praying…” is an adverbial participle that modifies the verb “take…” in verse 17. Essentially what this means is that we put on the helmet of salvation and wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, by means of prayer. This then – in my feeble understanding – seems to be the normative means by which we as believers guard ourselves against and fight Satan and his forces. We fight through prayer.

Does this mean then that we are to talk to or rebuke the Devil in our prayers? The short answer is: No. Here is why I say this. There is no biblical precedence for talking to the devil in the context of prayer. As Jesus taught us, our prayers should be addressed to our Triune God, with specific attention given to the Father. When it comes to dealing with Satan and his demons in our prayers, we should keep praying to the Father about them instead of talking to them (Matthew 6:9-13; also cf., John 17:15). If we stop addressing God the Father and turn to speak directly to Satan, we have ceased from praying at that point. Our prayers are to be directed to God, not Satan.

So when it comes to standing against the devil’s schemes, fending off temptation, extinguishing the flaming arrows of unbelief, protecting our minds from spiritual attacks, etc.:

1. Pray constantly (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thess. 5:17)

2. Pray consistently with & dependently on the Spirit, according to the Bible (Ephesians 6:18; Romans 8:26)

3. Pray specifically (Ephesians 6:18 – “all prayer and supplication”)

4. Pray biblically (Acts 4:24-26)

5. Pray confidently (Hebrews 4:14-16)

6. Pray preemptively (Matthew 6:13)

“Fight all your battles on your knees.” Dr. Charles Stanley

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