The Bible says:
Do not go beyond what is written! (1 Corinthians 4:6)
Do not teach any different doctrine! (1 Timothy 1:3)
Do not devote yourself to myths and speculations! (1 Timothy 1:4)
If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. (1 Timothy 6:3-4)
Yet, we have heard popular preachers say such things as:
“Jesus… so He was born through Mary the Virgin. And then He was born again in resurrection.”
“God gave me a Ferrari because I am a Ferrari. You’re a Ferrari, too!”
(Oprah Winfrey): “Do you believe that only Christians can be in relationship with God?” (Carl Lentz): “No. I believe that when Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life…’ The way I read that… He’s the road marker.”
“God began to say to me, ‘I’m gonna tell you something right now, Beth. Boy you write this one down; and you say it as often as I give you utterance to say it!’”
“Every Christian who believes in the Trinity – that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… co-equal, co-eternal… believes that because of the authority of the Catholic Church.”
“God broke the law for love!”
“My teaching is not mine, but His who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.
The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of Him who sent Him is true, and in Him there is no falsehood.” (John 7:16-18)
The Bible has been written for our instruction. That through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we have hope!
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through the endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)
If you go beyond what is written, you’re probably being a heretic.
…when we understand the text
In Psalm 139, David wrote that every one of his days had been written by God before one of them came to be.
In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:16)
God told Jeremiah that He appointed him to be a prophet before he was even born.
Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1:5)
The Apostle Paul also said that he was set apart by God before he was born.
He who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by His grace… (Galatians 1:15)
Jesus said to His disciples,
“You did not choose Me, I chose you.” (John 15:16)
That is the picture that we see throughout Scripture – we didn’t choose God. It is God who chose us for His glory, through the saving power of Christ. We who are Christians were predestined before the world began, by no action of our own.
He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace… (Ephesians 1:4-6)
God chose those who would be saved and those who would be the objects of His wrath.
What if God, desiring to show His wrath and make known His power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy which He prepared beforehand for glory… (Romans 9:22-23)
Don’t dismiss this teaching as some sort of “ism”. (such as “merely Calvinism”)
It’s what the Bible says.
Now, that said, do you still have a choice?
Well, as far as you’re concerned, YES!!
Faith is given to us by God, but you still have to obey.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8)
Obey His commandments (1 John 5:2)
Repentance is also granted by God, but you still have to turn from your sin.
God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 2:25)
Repent and believe the Gospel! (Mark 1:15)
No one can come to Christ unless the Father draws them, but you still have to follow.
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws them. (John 6:44)
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. (Luke 9:23)
You choose to be thankful. You choose to help others. You choose to preach the gospel. You choose it!
Be thankful! (Colossians 3:15)
Show hospitality. (Romans 12:13)
Preach the Word! (2 Timothy 4:2)
Though, it is God who wills and works for His good pleasure, we’re still held accountable for the choices that we make.
It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)
Each of us will give an account of himself to God. (Romans 14:12)
It’s not for us to know now the full picture the way that God sees it. That comes later.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
It is not you who chooses God, but God who chose you. Now, confirm your calling by being obedient to what He has commanded!
…when we understand the text
His divine power has given us everything we need for a Godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. 4 Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, Godliness; 7 and to Godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. (2 Peter 1:3-15)
1 Timothy 2:11 says:
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.
So, according to the Bible, a woman is supposed to sit in church and be quiet, right? She’s supposed to keep her mouth shut and leave the talking to the men.
Yeah… good luck with that, honey.
I love you, sweetie!
All right, so that’s not the meaning of that verse. Rather, it goes with the full instruction that follows:
I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, rather, she is to remain quiet. (1 Timothy 2:12)
The context here is church leadership (1 Timothy 2:11-3:13), which continues on into chapter three. Basically, a woman can’t be a pastor or an elder in a church. That’s no less controversial, but it’s what the Bible says. And, this instruction is universal to all people, in all cultures, at all times. It’s not exclusive to the time period in which the Apostle Paul was writing this. (1 Timothy 2:11-15)
How do we know that?
Because Paul, exercising his authority as an apostle, goes all the way back to Adam and Eve with his explanation.
For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. (1 Timothy 2:14)
So, because Adam was formed first, and because Eve was deceived by the serpent, a woman is prohibited from being an authority in the church. She can teach children, she can teach other women, and she can lead others to Christ. Priscilla did that for Apollos along with her husband, Aquila.
But, she can’t be a pastor.
Any church that appoints a woman as a pastor would be in Biblical disobedience. There are other ways a woman can find Godly fulfillment that a man cannot. But, the authority in the church is commanded for men to step up and lead.
… and that’s when we understand the text.
Is smoking marijuana a sin?
Well, it used to be that you could say, “Yes, because it’s illegal.” And that would be that.
But now that marijuana is legal medicinally and recreationally, is it still sin?
All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)
Often, marijuana is compared to drinking alcohol or caffeine, but they are not the same. You can drink a glass of wine and not get drunk; or have a cup of coffee and still operate heavy machinery. But, if you take one puff on a joint or a bite of “Aunt Mary Jane’s Special Brownies”, you get high. The whole point of marijuana is to alter the consciousness, which diminishes your thinking and functioning.
While God does not put an absolute prohibition on drinking alcohol, it is always sin to be intoxicated. Drunkenness, whether by the vine or the weed, is not of the spirit but of the flesh. Those who do it will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-20)
But marijuana is a plant, and it was made by God, so that makes it good for us!
Yeah… there are plenty of poisonous plants you don’t apply that logic to.
Adam and Eve ate of a forbidden plant. How did that turn out for them?
1 Peter 4 says:
Live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they’re surprised when you don’t join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:2-5)
The Bible says, Be sober minded. (1 Peter 5:8); and Have the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2:5); Set your mind on the things of God. (Matthew 16:23). You mind should not be mastered by anything else…
…when we understand the text.
Ahhh, the New Year! Time for a fresh start… new beginnings… bogus prophecies that don’t mean anything.
Seriously, watch out for those yahoos declaring, “This is the year of your breakthrough!”
By now, you’ve made a few New Year’s Resolutions of your own. Perhaps you want to lose a few pounds, or break a bad habit, or learn a new skill. And then, in two weeks, when you epically fail at your resolution, you’ll say, “Eh, there’s always next year.”
Is it a good idea for Christians to be making resolutions?
Sure. Why not? There’s nothing wrong with setting personal goals.
Just remember that:
Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it to the glory of God! (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Unless your resolution is to diet… in which case don’t eat and don’t drink to the glory of God?
Consider also these words from James:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such-and-such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit,” yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you’re a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)
Yeah, it’s straight up evil to think that you control your destiny. But as Job understood, the days of a man are like the days of a hired hand. His days are few and predetermined. And God has appointed our limits that we cannot pass.
Man who is born of a woman
Is few of days and full of trouble.
He comes out like a flower and withers;
Flees like a shadow and continues not.
Do you open your eyes on such a one
And bring me into judgment with you?
Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?
There is not one.
Since his days are determined
And the number of his months is with you,
And you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass,
Look away from him and leave him be,
That he may enjoy, like a hired hand, his day. (Job 14:1-6)
Jesus said not to be anxious about anything: …what you shall eat or drink or wear. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. Instead seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33)
…when we understand the text.
Is Christmas a pagan holiday?
No, it’s a Christian holiday – a celebration of the birth of Christ!
If that wasn’t what Christmas was about, our secular culture wouldn’t be so afraid of the name.
But didn’t Christmas start out as a pagan holiday?
There have been many pagan festivals around the Winter Solstice, including the Feast of Saturnalia. In 274, Emperor Aurelian chose December 25th as the birth date of Sol Invictus, the Roman sun god. Prior to that, Hippolytus of Rome tried to calculate the birth of Christ and mistakenly came up with December 25th. This was before the Roman empire was Christianized, or December 25 was associated with any pagan festival.
The Winter Solstice was once a celebration of darkness on the darkest day of the year. It has since become a celebration of light, when Jesus came into the world.
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. (John 1:9)
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk into darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
But, aren’t all these Christmas traditions a rip-off of former pagan customs?
Some of them aren’t.
Christmas carols are rich with Biblical truth and have impacted the world over. Giving presents comes from the Magi bringing gifts to the Savior, and also the gift of the Savior, Himself, to mankind.
Going into the house, [the wise men] saw the child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshipped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
The Christmas tree has roots in paganism (no pun intended). But, so what? Redefining pagan symbols is in the Bible.
In ancient Rome, Caesar rode on a white horse. In Revelation 19, Jesus returns on a white horse, because he’s greater than Caesar!
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. (Revelation 19:11)
So, at Christmas, some formerly pagan symbols have been Christianized to celebrate that Jesus is greater than darkness. The Bible says nothing about Christmas, but it does say not to argue about days – don’t look down on the person who celebrates, or the person who doesn’t. Let us agree that the Advent of our Lord is worth celebrating every day! And that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners! (1 Timothy 1:15)
…when we understand the text.
Hebrews 12:1 says:
“Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”
What does this mean, that we’re surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses?
Well, it’s often interpreted that the saints who have gone before us – the faithful who have died and are with Jesus in heaven – are looking down from above. They’re watching us, cheering us on as we run the race just like athletes in a sports arena would compete in front of a big crowd.
However, nowhere else in the Bible are we given a picture of saints watching us from heaven. Furthermore, the Bible doesn’t say anywhere that we should pray to these believers. They’re not watching and we can’t talk to them. So, they’re not witnessing us, they witnessed to us.
The stories of these saints and their completed lives of faithfulness continue to minister to us through the Scriptures.
What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” To the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. (Romans 4:3,5
By faith Abraham obeyed… (Hebrews 11:8)
These witnesses were just mentioned in the previous chapter.
Saints like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab…
And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David, Samuel and the prophets… (Hebrews 11:1-40)
Many other men and women who, by faith, finished the race and won the prize. And so, by their witness, we learn to put off sin and run the race, looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith.
Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39-40)
And as we are perfected in our faith, by the testimony of the Saints who went before us, so they are perfected also. Until we are all presented together before God as the purified Bride of Christ…
…when we understand the text
In John chapter eight, we read the story of a woman caught in the act of adultery, and she was brought before Jesus. The Pharisee said, “Teacher, Moses commanded us to stone such women. What do you say?”
They were trying to trap Him.
Early in the morning, Jesus came again to the temple. Al .lthe people came to Him, and He sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” (John 8:1-5)
If He said, “Let her go”, He’d be ignoring the law of Moses. But if He said, “Stone her”, He’d be going against Rome. And, that would get Him in trouble with the Romans. (The Jews were not permitted to carry out capital punishment.)
Jesus responded by riding on the ground with His finger. When they continued to press Him, He stood up and said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Upon hearing this, the Pharisees left and Jesus said, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? She said, “No one, Lord.” And He said, “Neither do I condemn you. Now, go and sin no more.”
Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger on the ground. As they continued to ask Him, He stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more He bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heart it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones. And Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him. He stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Now go, and from now on sin no more. (John 8:6-11)
This story is commonly used to say, “No one is without sin, therefore no one has any right to judge.”
But Jesus just said a few verses before to judge with right judgment.
Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment. (John 7:24)
When Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin be the first to cast the stone,” He was saying, “Which one among you is the dude she had adultery with?”
According to Leviticus 20:10 he’s supposed to be stoned with her.
If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adultery and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10)
Having been exposed that they were ignorant of the law, the Pharisees hightailed it out of there.
Jesus, the Author of the law – represented by Him writing on the ground with His finger – forgave the woman and told her not to sin anymore.
However there’s a problem with this story.
John didn’t write it, and your Bible will tell you that.
John 7:53 through 8:11 didn’t appear in any of the earliest manuscripts, and some put it in the Book of Luke.
(It’s named pericope adulterae. Your Bible likely says, “The earliest manuscripts do not include John 7:53-8:11.” In some texts, it’s found after John 21:25, Luke 21:38, or Luke 24:53)
It’s a nice story, but it doesn’t belong in the Bible.
The greatest story of love and forgiveness is found at the cross of Christ.
…when we understand the text
In Revelation 3, Jesus rebuked the church at Laodicea for becoming complacent in their faith.
“I know your works”, He said, “you are neither hot nor cold. So, because you’re lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because yo are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15-16)
Now, it’s often interpreted that being hot is having passion for God, and cold is against God. If you have no passion, then you’re lukewarm. Therefore, Jesus is saying, “Either be all in or all out. It’s the ones in the middle that really make me sick.”
But, how does that make sense?
Jesus was not telling a church, “I’d have more respect for you if you were just against me.”
Laodicea was abundant in riches, and the church benefited from the wealth of the city. It got to the point where they thought they didn’t need anything from God. But Jesus said, “You are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. You have nothing apart from Christ.”
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. (Revelation 3:17-18)
For all of Laodicea’s luxuries, there’s one resource they didn’t have: water.
Nearby, Colossae had refreshing cold water; and Hierapolis had medicinal hot water. But what happens when you channel that water in? It becomes lukewarm.
If you’re expecting a cold drink and it’s warm, or hot water and it cools with all those mineral deposits in it, you’re gonna spit it out.
What Jesus was saying to them was this:
“You are far from the source. You cannot refresh nor offer healing to anyone because you’re far from Me and My word.”
This people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are fare from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men. (Isaiah 29:13)
Many churches today have sought after wealth and prosperity, and they’ve forgotten the word of Christ.
Jesus says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline. So be zealous and repent!” (Revelation 3:19)
But, if you cling to this world instead of Christ, He will spit your name out of his mouth on Judgment Day.
…when we understand the text
From a sermon by Dr. Voddie Baucham:
“If the social justice movement went by its actual name, young Christians would not have been lured into it. Because the social justice movement is actually Cultural Marxism. There’s no such thing as ‘social justice,’ people. In fact, in the Bible, justice never has an adjective. There’s justice and there’s injustice, but there’s not different kinds of justice.”
The term “social justice” is an argument for the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges in a society. Sometimes that argument turns loud and violent, though many have good intentions when they speak of “social justice,” a desire for the common good. But who gets to decide what the common good is, and who carries it out?
God is the one who defines what is just and what is unjust.
“The Rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is He.” (Deuteronomy 32:4).
Our works are not good.
Why is there in injustice in the world? Because it’s full of unjust people.
All have turned aside; together they’ve become worthless. No one does good. Not even one (Romans 3:12).
So what has a just God told us to do?
He said to preach the gospel to all nations, baptize, and teach them (Matthew 28:19-20).
That is the mission of His church.
Those who have been changed by His Spirit will do good works — the works God defines as good.
Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. (Hebrews 10:24)
But works are not the Gospel. You cannot change the world.
Only God changes hearts, which He does through the gospel.
I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put in you. (Ezekiel 36:26)
“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24).
That is the message of justice we should announce, so that all who hear it might be forgiven their sins and will not fall under the righteous judgment of God. He is both “just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).
…when we understand the text