Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Political MMA among Christians, Say It Ain't So!

I have not been following this political season. And to be honest, I'm glad. From what I see on social media, politics have become another form of MMA. But, not surprisingly, believers are too in the political ring duking it out…but with other believers, like they forgot their identity. How despicable! What is politics over being blood bought brethren? Yet another mark on the repellent example Christians exhibit to the world in the name of Christ. What a shame.

Here are my thoughts...

Please don't let this election cause you to fight or divide from your brethren in Christ. Go right ahead and vote, and vote confidently according to your personal reasons. There is nothing wrong with that. But allow me to help you remember a greater reality, "this is not our world". Keep that in mind. Here are some other greater realities we all should remember:
    -Our vote and the government will not save any souls. 
    -Our vote and the government will not make any disciples of Christ.
    -Yes, your vote is important, but only to this world. Our votes and our elected government have no weight whatsoever to the "kingdom" from which we belong to and are to be focused on bringing people to as well.
    -Our vote and strong stance about our government should not keep us from walking out the greatest commandment, the second one like it, nor the new commandment (Matt. 22:36-40, Jn. 13:34-35).

Just in light of these handful of greater realities, politics are truly not worth being divided over. So here is my encouragement and challenge:
    -Don't hang on your side's every word. They are fallen men with an imperfect agenda.
    -Don't simply disagree with the opposite side because they're on the opposite side.
    -Be better than your party, the candidates, and the media. Be the ambassador of Christ and not the ambassador for your political party.
    -Be mindful of the flesh and don't fall prey to political self-righteousness. Look for areas where you agree with the other side and acknowledge the wrongs and failures of your own side.
    -Agree to disagree on who we vote for and don't take it personal or so serious when others vote differently from you for their different reasons.
    -Abandon fighting and dividing over "fallible men" and "fallible political parties" which can never accomplish what God has called the Church (you, I, and the other brethren) to accomplish.

We as born-again believers are brethren under the true Commander-in-Chief, who died to establish true bipartisanship, but not simply between Jew and Gentile, Democrat and Republican, but between us and Himself. That is the "President" we are to endorse as the best choice, and encourage others to side with, and vigorously defend with His eternal stats and flawless record.

Politics has its place here in "this world". Our vote has its place here in "this world". Therefore, we are to do our part in voting so far as it concerns for "this world". But never forget "we are not of this world", and our brotherhood with other believers supersedes anything "in this world". Our accomplishing and pushing forth the agenda of our God and Savior supersedes the politics and parties in "this world".

Let us be intentional on landing where God is honored and Christ is best proclaimed in this political season and the ones to come.


A Sad Reality in the Body: Subjective -vs- Absolute

I was scrolling through Facebook recently and stumbled across a fellow believer who posted a strong (and some would say biased) statement. Yet, the statement isn't what caught my attention, it was the 20+ comments underneath. I'm one of those people who when I see a lot of comments for a status or a blog or an article, my investigator senses (which my wife calls my "nosy senses") go off. So I'll scroll down, quickly glancing at the comments until I get the gist of what's being commented and then I move on. Well in this particular case, some of the comments from the believers made me cringe. Some of the believers who commented spoke of truth as being "subjective"--that is, "we all can have our own interpretations and still call it truth". I exercised self-control and wisdom and chose not to meddle (thankful for the Holy Spirit, because I sho' did want to meddle). But I could not stay silent, so here I am.

What are we upholding?
We have to uphold the absolute Truth of God, but not simply for those outside, but for those inside all the more. The sad reality is too many members in the Body uphold subjective truth and "my truths" but are devoid belief in absolute Truth. That is a dangerous, destructive, and unbiblical position. It's too much of the "reader's intent" and not the "author's intent" on what Truth is in Scripture. The human authors were the ones sovereignly selected and inspired to write God's truth, not us. Our aim should always be to find out their intent not ours or anyone else's.
         Most believers are devoid of proper biblical interpretative methods. That's part of why truth is subjective to many believers. It's hard to believe in absolute Truth when you're never taught there is absolute Truth nor shown how to understand it in Scripture. Of course then Scripture becomes "what you make of it" (i.e. "reader intent") rather than "what the Divine Author intended and used His human instruments to convey" (i.e. "authorial intent").

What are we striving towards?
Yes, we should strive to agree on every absolute Truth in Scripture. But we won't agree on everything because our sinful nature presents that incessant hurdle of pride.
         So what do we do?
  • We seek to find agreement in the essential truths.
  • We seek to be objective (i.e. open and unprejudiced) where Scripture is open-ended.
  • We seek to become like Jesus in our upholding His truth, in our exercising grace toward ours and others imperfections, and in our love for one another.
  • And we seek to discuss, seasoned with grace and love, those hard things like understanding Scripture properly where we disagree---even if we still end disagreeing.
We are to graciously fight for God's absolute truth because we were saved by His absolute truth (Jam. 1:16-18). But let's do so not with a spirit of dissension, but a spirit of grace.

Below are 3 other blogs I wrote and a sermon. The first one discusses truth and what it is. The second one discusses the need for proper biblical methods of interpretation. The last one is a debate I had with someone who held to "subjective truth", and a glimpse of how dangerous, destructive, and unbiblical it is. And the sermon is on upholding God's truth in our thinking.
1. Let's Talk About Truth
2. The Need for Hermeneutics (Part 1 of 2)
3. Blog Debate
4. Uphold The Truth pt. 1


Monday, October 15, 2012

Interpretive Journey of Numbers 15:17-21

“The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land to which I am taking you and you eat the food of the land, present a portion as an offering to the LORD. Present a cake from the first of your ground meal and present it as an offering from the threshing floor. Throughout the generations to come you are to give this offering to the LORD from the first of your ground meal.’” (Num. 15:17-21)

We'll start our journey of this verse with some observations. Observations help the reader to notice certain things which may be overlooked if not closely scanned. After the observations we'll go step-by-step through interpreting this verse and see how significant OT verses like these are for us today.

There are repeated words in “the LORD”, “you”, “land”, “present”, “offering”, “the first of your ground meal”, and “from”. There are active verbs in “enter”, “taking”, “eat”, “present”, and “give”. A generational statute is given, “Throughout the generations to come you are to give this offering”. There is an action of God, He takes them to the land (v. 18). There are actions of the people, they do the entering, eating, presenting, and giving. Also, there is a command, “present…an offering”. In the NKJV, ESV, NASB, and KJV they say “you shall” right before, indicating a command.

Step 1: What did the text mean (or what was the author's intent) to the biblical audience?
At this point in Israel’s journey this specific instruction of God probably didn’t make much sense to the people. Ten of the twelve spies sent to spy on the Promise Land had come back with a bad report, and the people of Israel listened and refused to enter the land which God swore they would have (ch. 14). So, God assures them that due to their refusal they will not enter the land, none of them twenty and older (14:29); that is except for Joshua and Caleb (14:30). But the people mourned more for the word from God than the word of the spies. They decided they are ready to enter the land like they should of the first time. Despite the warning of Moses and the word of the LORD, they presume to enter (14:39-44) and were defeated (v. 45). The following instructions in chapter 15 come on the heels of there double disobedience to God and defeat of the Amalekites and Canaanites, all regarding the Promise Land. They were just told they were not going to enter the Promise Land, only Joshua, Caleb, and their children—who they complained would be victims—would enter, they on the other hand would die in the wilderness. Thus these instructions were for the Israelites that would be entering the land (v. 17-18). These instructions were also similar to that spoken of already in Exodus (34:26) and Leviticus (2; 23:9-14, 17). And, the term “food of the land” indicates that the entering generation would no longer be eating manna and quails, but rather food from the land (cf. Josh. 5:10-12). As a result of this all, the overall objective of this text is obedience and honoring God with an offering of the first of the “ground meal” of the land He was bringing them into.

Step 2: What are the differences between the biblical audience and us?
We are no longer under the Old Covenant. We haven’t recently been defeated by the people occupying the land we were promised by God to possess. We are not about to enter into the land promised to our ancestors by God only to be told we will now die in the wilderness because of our disobedience, complaining, and complete lack of trust in God. We do not live in tents in the Middle Eastern desert. We have not been recently freed from slavery and bondage to Egypt with great signs and wonders. We are not civilians of a theocracy. We have never seen or been led by God personally in the form of a cloud or fire. Moses is not our mediator, Jesus is. And so on the list can go.

Step 3: What is the theological principle in this text?
Obedience to God and honoring Him with an offering of the first of what He has blessed us with.

Step 4: Does the New Testament teaching modify or qualify this principle, and if so, how?
Obedience is the greatest manifestation of the people of God. As we obey God to love, forgive, be faithful, and so on God is glorified (cf. Matt. 5:16). Obedience to God is presented in the New Testament just as much as it was in the Old Testament (e.g. Lk. 11:28, Jn. 10:27; 14:15, Rom. 8:5, 14, 1Pet. 1:13-16, 1Jn. 2:3-6, Rev. 22:14). As for honoring God with an offering of the first of what He has blessed us with, the New Testament says very little on this. Actually in the book of Hebrews the author says that God had no pleasure in “sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin (which are offered according to the law)”, and in Christ “He takes away the first that He may establish the second” (Heb. 10:8-9). Through the offering of Jesus Christ “we have been sanctified…once for all” (Heb. 10:10). Now if this entails every offering ever instituted under the Law, then we are no longer obligated to present an offering to God for anything other than because we want to. However, there are other verses that say our offerings are to be “the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15), doing good and sharing (Heb. 13:16), walking in the love of Christ (Eph. 5:2), and presenting our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1). So we can continue to obey God as those in the Old Testament and honor God with an offering of the first of ourselves—that is the life He has blessed us with—though not as a fulfillment of the law but purely because we want to honor God and He deserves it.

Step 5: How should individual Christians today apply this modified theological principle in their lives?
By learning and following the wisdom and instructions in the Word of God. For every day presents an opportunity for believers to obey or disobey the God’s instructions, to follow Him or follow what we think is fitting, and to honor or not honor Him with the first (best) of our lives that He has blessed us with.

The One Volume Bible Commentary, 1936
NASB Life Application Study Bible, Updated Edition, 2000
NIV Archaeological Study Bible, 2005
The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance, 1999