These sayings are often thrown around in our culture. They seem to be used more often than not to say that no one has the right to say that anyone else is wrong for what they do or believe. What’s ironic is that the person saying that you’re wrong for judging is at the same time judging you.
“Judge not” comes from Matthew 7:1, “Judge not that you be not judged.” But, people usually leave off or have never read the next few verses. Verses 1 through 5 specifically speaks of not judging hypocritically. It speaks of having a beam in your own eye while trying to take the speck out of someone else’s eye. Jesus tells us in this chapter to FIRST take the beam out of your own eye then you can help take the speck out of someone else’s eye. To do so, requires an amount of judging. First to judge yourself so you can receive correction, then your judgement will be clear enough to help others.
Now judging is often translated or contextualized as the word “condemn”. In the sense of salvation, we are right to “judge not”. Since only God knows the intentions, thoughts, and heart of a man. (1 Kings 8:39)
However we are told both directly and by example to judge the actions and teachings of others. By judging I mean saying what someone said or did is wrong.
Another definition of judging is to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong. One popular example in scripture is when Paul opposed how Peter was acting towards Jewish verses Gentile believers (Galatians 2:11-14). Also the Bereans in Acts 17 verse 11 judged Paul’s teachings according to the rest of scripture.
Scripture also gives us criteria on how to judge whether a prophet is of God. Jesus said you will know a false prophet by his fruit (Matthew 17:15). Deuteronomy 13 says we will know a false prophet of he comes with signs and wonders but tells you to follow other gods. In Galatians 1:8-9 Paul tells is judging people who are teaching a contrary gospel.
So it is clear that in some instances we are right to judge. There is a such a thing as right and wrong, falsehood and truth. But, people shouldn’t throw stones when living in a glass house. In other words, don’t criticize others when you have a similar weakness. Remember we ALL deserve or have deserved condemnation from God. If He has saved you from a life of sin, then don’t look down on others who haven’t received God’s gift of salvation. You were once in their shoes (1 Corinthians 6:11).
Some other scripture concerning judging:
Matthew 18:15-20 (on church discipline) If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
John 7:24 Judge not according to appearance but judge with righteous judgement.
Romans 2:21-24 You then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal?You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
1 Corinthians 5:3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.
1 Corinthians 15:12-13 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
One of the most commonly heard yet commonly misunderstood words in the Christian community is the word “gospel”. When people hear gospel they may think of a kind of music. Some who hear it think “truth”. Some hear it and equate it to the Bible but aren’t sure exactly what it means.
Then there are those that know that the word gospel means good news. They are correct. But what is it the good news of? Is it a promise of financial prosperity? Is it a promise of physical health? Is it a promise of perpetual happiness? That you’ll never experience pain or sorrow, financial trouble, or sickness? No, that’s not the Gospel of Christ.
To understand the Christian gospel, we must start way back in the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve live in perfect harmony and communion with God. It is also implied that life would be everlasting in this paradise. They witness no shame. They suffer no pain. They experience no death. God in His sovereignty gave Adam and Eve the choice to obey and live forever in perfect communion with Him or to follow their own path. The instructions were clear: Enjoy everything in the garden you desire except for the fruit of that one tree. Of the day you eat of it you will surely die.
Why was the tree put there in the first place? The Bible doesn’t say specifically but I believe it was to give man the choice to obey God or disobey. God chose not to create humans as “robots” or “slaves” that had no will. But He created us as creatures that could choose Him or choose otherwise. However, since only God is good and goodness and life are only found in Him, to choose otherwise, by default, is to choose death.
This was the sin of Adam and Eve. They chose otherwise. The Adversary in the form of a serpent tempted Eve to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree. Eve offered it to her husband Adam who then ate. At that moment sin and death entered the world. Their unveiled communication with God was now wrought with shame and hiddenness.¹ The land that had once freely offered its bounty to them was now cut off from their access. By sweat and hard work was Adam to work the ground and by pain was Eve to bear children. But worst of all was the chasm that was now created between God and man. Man had been kicked out of God’s first temple (the Garden of Eden) because he failed to guard it.
Because Adam is the representation for all of man, and because all of man comes from Adam, this bad news doesn’t just apply to Adam and Eve. We all share in the curse of their disobedience. Now we have a sin nature.
Because of our sin nature, we are prone to sin. We are susceptible to sins enticement and we are slaves to sins power. This is evident because to do wrong is usually easier than to do right. Therefore, all of us sin. And because we all sin we all die. Not only is this death physical, it is spiritual. Since, our spirits are eternal then the death they experience is eternal. The death our spirits experience is unlike the death of our bodies. When our bodies die they can no longer experience what goes on around them. Spiritual death, on the other hand, is an eternity apart from God in a place the Bible calls hell; where no joy, happiness, love, or peace is found. Jesus calls it a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth and where the worm does not die (Mark 9:44).
This is the bad news that must be understood and accepted before we get to the good news.
“You cannot possibly understand what the Bible says about salvation unless you understand what the Bible says about the thing from which we are saved.”- J. Gresham Machen
The good news is first told in Genesis 3:15. This protoevangelium (or first gospel) says that the serpent will bruise the heel of the Seed of the woman but the Seed will triumph by crushing the serpent’s head. However, the fulfillment of this promise would take some time.
Let’s go back to what happened in the Garden. After man and woman ate the fruit they saw they were naked. So in shame, they covered themselves with fig leaves. However, God sacrificed the first animal to cover man’s shame. In other words man’s works weren’t sufficient to cover his shame. God had to shed blood to do it.
From that moment on, sacrifices of animals without blemish were the only suitable sacrifices for sin (Lev. 17:11, Hebrews 9:22). But even these sacrifices only covered sin for a time. The sacrifice of atonement had to be done once every year by the high priest for all the people of Israel.
These sacrifices were to point to Jesus’ sacrifice. The everlasting sacrifice. Jesus lived a sinless life and was therefore without blemish. He became the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross freed us from sin’s power, saved us from sin’s penalty, and rescued us from sin’s presence. He fulfilled the promise God gave to Adam and Eve. Satan bruised the Seed’s heel when Jesus was crucified on the cross. But when Jesus rose from the dead, He defeated the Enemy’s power over man and death was defeated.
By placing our faith in the work of Christ we no longer have to be separated from our Heavenly Father. We now have direct access to talk to the Father as we once did. And we have an advocate to go to God on our behalf (1 John 2:1-2).
We are also given the Holy Spirit who leads us into truth to help us discern right from wrong (John 16:7-11). He will also be our Comforter in times of trouble (John 14:16).
The Gospel also promises us that when we die we will spend an eternity with the Father. Whoever believes in the Lord Jesus will have everlasting life (John 3:16). Not that we will not die a physical death but that in the end we will live in the presence of the King (John 11:25) where we will no longer have to worry about sin, pain, suffering, or death (Revelation 21:4).
None of this can be done on our own. Like Adam and Eve, our works do not cover our sins. They’re insufficient. Only by what God has done as the person of the Son through His sacrifice on the cross can man be reconciled, redeemed, and restored. God, by His grace and mercy, has provided a way out of the trouble we have placed ourselves in. He could have left us up to our own devises but He knew we could not save ourselves. He could choose to wipe us all out at the first sinful thought or the first sinful act we commit. An infinitely righteous and holy God would have every right to.
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”- Isaiah 52:7
The first four books of the New Testament are called the Gospels. In them they tell the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. After Jesus was born wise men came from the east looking for Him. They asked “where is He who is born king of the Jews?” (Matt. 2:2)
During the last few days of Jesus’ life, He gives us pictures of Him presented as this king: His triumphant entry riding on a donkey, His being presented a robe and crown of thorns, and His being lifted up on the cross. Although the robe, crown, and cross were used to mock and kill our Lord, they were still symbols of who He came to be.
Upon His return, Christ will establish His kingdom upon the earth and restore ALL things as it had been before Adam and Eve sinned.
Therefore, the Gospel does not just declare freedom for man. The Gospel is the good news of the Kingdom of God. Kingdoms of men come and go but the kingdom Jesus sets up will be an everlasting one (Daniel 2:44).
So how can we be sure that we enter into His kingdom? John the Baptist made it clear, “REPENT, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2). Also, ““The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; REPENT and BELIEVE in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15). When we repent we turn from our sins. We change from the path of death in which we were going, to life in Jesus Christ.
Further reading: Matthew 4:17, Acts 2:38-39, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, Ephesians 1:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:15-17
¹This is pictured in the temple when there was a curtain that separated the Holy of Holies, where the presence of God was, from the rest of the temple and the people. Only the High Priest could enter on the Day of Atonement. But the veil was torn the moment Christ died on the cross (Matthew 27:51)
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves… -Proverbs 31:8
At the time of this writing, since the American legalization of abortion, 59.8 million human beings have been aborted in their mother’s wombs in the U.S. That number worldwide, since 1980, is close to 1.5 billion. Almost 30 years after America helped fight a war that ended the Jewish Holocaust, our country hypocritically legislated that some of the most vulnerable among us can be killed on a whim.
As an apologetics ministry…as Christians period, we must speak out in defense of those who cannot speak for themselves. The Constitution of the United States of America proclaims “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness…” Meaning it’s obvious that God has given us certain rights that cannot be taken away. A chance at life being one of them.
The Bible says we are all created in the imago Dei (image of God). Genesis 1:26-27
Secular humanism says that morality comes from considering what’s best for the human species. How is killing our unborn best for the human species?
While the abortion debate has raged on for decades, it will continue as long as caring people speak out against injustices done to the innocent. Here I intend to provide some arguments against abortion. While, I know this is one pro-life blog out of thousands, maybe millions, we can’t keep quiet on the issue. If these words help save even one life then it is worth it.
Perhaps the most common argument pro-choice advocates use is that the child in the womb is not a person but merely a clump of cells. A zygote. A fetus. “Personhood” is what’s at stake. Does abortion just terminate a growing group of human cells like removing a skin tag? Or is it the termination of a human being?
This argument outlines the only 4 differences between a baby inside and outside the womb. Size– Does the size of a person determine personhood? Is an infant less of a person than the tallest person? Of course not. Therefore size shouldn’t matter in the case of the fetus. Why is it different than any other “human cells”? Because given the chance it will grow into a full grown adult human. Level of Dependency– Just because the fetus depends on his mother for life, does that make his life any less valuable? Does that exclude personhood from him? What of the newborn that must still depend on others for life? What of the severly disabled or elderly that depend on others to sustain life? Are they persons? They are all people. Environment- How does changing from one location to another determine personhood? Especially since the change of location is literally a matter of inches. Development– Pro-choice advocates argue that it’s not a child, but it has the potential to be a child. Yeah. And the newborn has the potential to be an adult. Is the newborn that can’t sit up on his own less of a person than the crawling toddler? Is the toddler that can barely form words less of a person than the greatest orator? Is a prepubescent child less of a person than an adult? None of this matters in determining whether a person is a human being. Most of us would consider it self-evident that they are all people. Logic states the same is true for the unborn child.
TROTTING OUT THE TODDLER (pro-life argument)
Many can understand the same rationale used for abortion can be applied to the toddler. Any argument the pro-abortionist uses must be taken to it’s logical conclusion. If it is OK for the unborn then is it OK to do to the toddler? Most would argue no. If not, then why is it logical to do to the unborn?
WOMEN’S RIGHTS ARE NOT MEN’S ARGUMENTS (pro-choice argument)
Answer: It goes without saying that the child grows in the woman’s body. It is the woman’s body that nourishes the baby growing inside her. So it’s often argued that it’s the women’s rights that are being infringed upon by pro-lifers. And since men cannot carry babies or understand firsthand what childbearing entails, then we as men have no right saying what a woman should do with her body.
This has only a bit of truth to it. A woman does have the right to do with her body as she chooses. But even that has limits. Heroin use is illegal. Driving without a seat-belt is illegal. However, when a woman is pregnant, then the conversation is no longer about one person’s right or one person’s body. Its about the other person growing inside her having a chance at life. And anyone, male or female, understands living and has the inherent right to that chance. It doesn’t take a special gender to speak out in defense of someone’s life.
WHAT ABOUT WHEN THE LIFE OF THE MOTHER IS IN DANGER BECAUSE OF CHILDBEARING? (pro-choice argument)
Answer: An ectopic pregnancy is the occasion in which the fertilized egg did not complete the journey to the uterus but instead implanted in the fallopian tube. The fetus cannot grow if not implanted to the wall of the uterus and if it stays in the fallopian tube it can be seriously detrimental to the mother. Ectopic pregnancies cause 40 deaths a year in the US. However, pregnancy terminations due for reason of the health of the mother only account for .1% of all abortions. Some places don’t even consider the termination of an ectopic pregnancy as an abortion. Also, there have been medical records of a successful transplant of the fertilized egg from the fallopian tube into the uterus which is another option instead of termination discussed in one of our papers HERE. Either way, stopping the growth of a child in a place that would likely kill both the child and the mother is different then intentionally taking the life of a growing child in the womb.
WHAT ABOUT RAPE OR INCEST? (pro-choice argument)
Answer: Rape and incest are horrendous acts. The victim should be treated with care and compassion. Any women who are victimized by these crimes have gone through traumatizing experiences. And the perpetrators of these crimes should be held criminally accountable for their actions.
While I can’t put myself in the shoes of a woman who has become pregnant due to rape or incest, it is a fact that the child (who also didn’t ask for this) should not have the death sentence placed upon him or her because of it. Two wrongs do not make a right. Aslo, there is evidence that many women who have gone through the termination of a pregnancy due to rape report regret for taking the life of the unborn baby and would not recommend abortion to other women in their situation.
Kathleen Dezeeuw, who gave birth to a child conceived in rape said “I, having lived through rape, and also having raised a child ‘conceived in rape’, feel personally assaulted and insulted every time I hear that abortion should be legal because of rape and incest. I feel that we’re being used to further the abortion issue, even though we’ve not been asked to tell our side of the story.” And, “I am not sorry, nor ever will be, that I kept and raised my son. The life I tried to snuff out was the very tool that was used to bring me to a place where I could forgive those involved in what happened to me. God truly did work it out….”
NO ONE KNOWS IF IT’S A PERSON (pro-choice argument)
Answer: Does using a condom cause abortion to the sperm, as some pro-choicers have argued? No. No matter how much a sperm is nurtured, it will stay a sperm until it dies. The same goes for the unfertilized egg. When a woman has her monthly cycle the unused egg is voided from her body. But it would always remain just an egg. But when the sperm and egg come together, they have together made a tiny human being that will grow into a bigger human being. It doesn’t matter if it senses it’s surroundings or its own existence. It doesn’t matter if it can feel pain. There are plenty of older people that many of us may know that lack some of the basic sensory perceptions that most of us take for granted. That doesn’t make them any less human than the rest of us. Even if we don’t know it’s a human being does that mean we shouldn’t error on the side of caution. If I’m going to demolish a building would me saying I don’t know if anyone is inside be any reason to go ahead and knock it down? If I’m driving at night and see a pile of clothes in the road that could be a person, should I just drive through it?
“There is simply no doubt that even the early embryo is a human being. All its genetic coding and all its features are indisputably human. As to being, there is no doubt that it exists, is alive, is self-directed, and is not the the same being as the mother–and is therefore a unified whole.” Dr. Bernard Nathanson, ex-abortion doctor and former director of the Center for Reproductive and Sexual Health, The Hand Of God, Regnery Publishing, 1996, p.131.
ABORTIONS OCCUR NATURALLY (MISCARRIAGES) (pro-choice argument)
Answer: It’s illogical to place miscarriages and abortions in the same moral category. One is happenstance of nature and the other is caused by man. No one is held morally responsible for naturally occurring miscarriages, nor should they be.
ABORTION IS LEGAL (pro-choice argument)
Answer: What’s lawful and what’s moral are not always congruent. Slavery was once lawful in our country. That didn’t make it moral.
SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE (pro-choice argument)
Answer: Why is defending human life a religious only argument? It’s probably a safe bet that even the most secular modern civilized society has laws against killing. No religion has to be brought into the conversation. Anti-abortion advocates don’t just come from the “religious right”. There is even a pro-life movement for the non-religious. However, of it take those of us that believe man has intrinsic worth – that human beings were created with purpose. If it takes believing that God, the Creator of the universe, cares enough for the well-being of people, to speak out against atrocities done mostly in the name in inconvenience, then so be it. Legislation has already deemed it illegal to do violence against another human being. It should be consistent and include the unborn as well.
Facts about the unborn and abortion:
With our current medical technology, just 21 weeks after conception, babies can survive outside the womb.
9 weeks after conception, all the baby’s structures that are necessary for pain sensation are functioning.
A baby’s brainwaves can be detected at 6 weeks from conception.
So the LGBTQ movement is something that is becoming more and more common and personally affects Christians more than ever before, quite clearly because of the acceptance of the movement in mainstream media.
I have recently wrote about the importance of loving everyone regardless of their race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, etc. which can be found HERE but the definition of what that love looks like is very much debated among Christians and everyone else.
As such, I thought it may be helpful for some Christian’s and non-Christians alike for us to outline what we believe at Theologetics.org and why we believe it.
Let’s start by looking at what is at stake. For someone who identifies as being gay or a lesbian, if Christians take a stance against same-sex attraction and these Christians are wrong about it being a sin, the individuals that embrace same-sex attraction will rightly feel ostracized and hurt because what they are identifying as is the same thing many Christians would wrongly be calling a sin. But if Christians stand against homosexuality because it really is something that is wrong, something God condemns, and something that is a hurtful lifestyle, then Christians that lovingly condemn the sin are showing true love to the sinner.
As Christians, it is important for us to realize how deep this goes, many if not all people that embrace same-sex attraction are not just lightly making the decision one day to like the same sex, they had been feeling an attraction for a long time.
Lets take a brief look at the attraction itself. Often it is believed this attraction is something people are born with. While there is not much evidence for that stance, the truth is it really doesn’t matter from a Christian perspective. Some people are born with a disposition for the abuse of alcohol or drugs but that doesn’t make that desire healthy or right. So I would caution Christians or secularists that take a side of the issue using the logic that it is or is not in the genes since the Bible clearly states that we all have sinned and have a sin nature, so genes are not a good measuring stick for this issue or any other for that matter.
So to the Christians reading this I say please be kind, gentle, loving and patient when dealing with this issue as those who are lost need to see Jesus in you more often than hearing about what the Bible says is wrong. Remember, “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” Proverbs 15:1
So now, let’s take a quick look at the Bible.
The Bible doesn’t address the issue of homosexuality much but when it does it is clearly condemned as being sin. For the purpose of keeping this blog short I won’t go into the meanings of the verses about homosexuality but for someone that questions what the Bible really says about it being sin, you can find some information on it HERE. Basically there are several ways the Bible is read and how it is read depends on the reader.
In my opinion, the four basic types of Bible readers are:
2. Cultural Christians
3. Non-Fundamentalist Christians
4. Fundamentalist Christians
Non-Christians consider the Bible to be either just another book of many, that it is out-dated or maybe even that it is a bad book. They may believe it has some good ideas or no good ideas but definitely not a book that has any authority over how people should live their lives. As these beliefs are unfounded, it would take at least another separate blog to begin to explain the reasons why but some information about the authority of Scripture can be found as a PDF HERE.
In reality, a Cultural Christian is someone that really follows culture over the Bible regardless if it aligns with the Bible or not. They don’t really read the Bible that often and usually don’t care to either. They may consider themselves a Christian because their parents are Christian, or they were baptized as a child, or something to that effect. A Cultural Christian says one thing and does something else. This is hypocrisy. It is illogical to say you believe something or identify as something but live as though you do not. In reality, many Christians have areas in their lives that they may say they believe what the Bible says but live as though they do not believe it. All who say they follow Christ should examine their hearts in any area of life and truly compare it with what the Bible says regarding that area.
Non-Fundamentalist Christians are among varying denominations and individuals that generally don’t believe in the complete authority of the Bible. They may believe that the Bible is either only partly inspired by God or not at all, or that the inspired word of God has been changed and not to be taken literally today. Similar to Cultural Christians, a Non-Fundamentalist’s belief is also illogical, let me explain.
If I were to believe the Bible is only partially inspired by God, and that some of it are men’s ideas added in, I would have no way of knowing what to really believe is true or not and thus, it would not make sense to put any faith in the Bible at all. The same logic applies if I were to believe the Bible were originally 100% God’s inspired words but that it has since been changed.
Similarly, if I were to believe the Bible was written completely by men, not inspired by God at all, it would have no authority and would just be another book among millions, so calling myself a Christian would really be pointless as all other ideas, religions, and philosophies would have equal merit and truth. (That’s not to say other non-Christian sources of information don not have some truth to them, just that the Bible is the only ancient manuscript that can be shown to be without error in it’s original manuscripts, and divinely inspired with hundreds of fulfilled prophecies. Again, some information about the authority of Scripture can be found as a PDF HERE and other good places to start would be books by Lee Strobel, Ravi Zacharias, C.S. Lewis, and Dan Story)
Which leads to the last type of Bible reader; the Fundamentalist Christian. Fundamentalist Christians believe the Bible is completely inspired by God. They look at context when interpreting the Bible and take it to be literal when the language is not poetic or allegorical. If you claim to be a Christian, this is the most logical way to read the Bible. If you are not a Christian, there are many reasons why you should look into what the Bible really says, specifically about Jesus, and the historical, archeological, theological, and simply logical reasons why the Bible is the inspired Word of God which any of the previously mentioned links and authors are great places to start.
So, if the Bible is completely inspired by God (which the evidence is well in favor of it being so) and the passages that discuss homosexuality are examined in context and taken literally (the most logical way to read and interpret the Bible), homosexuality is clearly found to be a sin.
Anytime anyone chooses sin, they are saying to God that they want to do things their way instead of God’s way. Anytime we try and do things our way leads to pain, sickness, destruction, and death. Being a sin, homosexuality is destructive to those who practice it and thus, the most loving thing Christians can do is lovingly stand against the sin while being loving and like Christ to those who embrace same-sex attraction. This is our stance. I hope this was helpful for those who read it, at least in understanding where many Christians and Christian organizations are coming from when they say they will not compromise on Scripture when it comes to these specific issues of homosexuality.
A friend of mine recently couldn’t find his youngest boy. He and his wife looked all over their house and once they realized he really wasn’t there, they called the police. This father assumed (and hoped) his son went to a friend’s house without telling them and he planned on yelling at his son and even spanking him on the spot for wandering off when he found him. After an hour of scouring the neighborhood, an hour that felt like an eternity, he finally found him at a neighbor’s house. But in that moment, he couldn’t yell, he couldn’t spank his son like he planned on doing, all he could do was hold him in his arms because he was safe.
He said that he got just a small glimpse of what God feels when one of his lost children is found. That he was shocked that he didn’t react the way he had planned and that his heart was so full of gratitude that the only thing that came out of him was love for his lost son.
Jesus came to this earth to get back what was most precious to God; his lost children.
“his lost children”
But who are his lost children? Who are the ones that are SO precious to God that he would send his only begotten Son to die a horrific death in OUR place just to reconcile us, to save us? Who are the ones that have God’s love, his affection, his heart?
The answer… We ALL are!
One of us.
It doesn’t matter what you have done. God loves you. It doesn’t matter what mistakes you have made. God wants you. Not everyone will accept this gift and many will choose to live eternally apart from God and stay lost but regardless, God loves all of us!
So when some in the body of Christ elevate certain sins over others, namely homosexuality, and don’t reach out to those individuals in love because of that sin, they are not only making a mistake but committing sins (plural) themselves.
The sin of hypocrisy. The sin of arrogance. The sin of selfishness…
So if you have gay friends and think you are a Christian, you are truly living like Christ. If you are trying to be a light to those who are lost, you are living the way Christ called all of us to live. We are called to be in the world and not of it. I think the Church focuses on the second half of that verse a little too much sometimes, “not of it.”
Sometimes while trying not to be of the world we forget to be in it.
Don’t get me wrong, we cannot condone sin in any form. Being gay is clearly a sin and should not be celebrated (Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Romans 1:26-28). But those who struggle in that area should be loved, should be befriended and shown that they are important to God. Let them see God in you, not God’s judgment through you, after all, there is not one of us who does not struggle in some area. As I see it, Jesus treated the lost this way, never condoning sin but always loving the sinner. He was the most critical of the religious of His time; the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the religious leaders… Jesus called them “white-washed tombs” (Matthew 23:27) meaning they were hypocrites, self-centered and missing the point of true love. They focused on the law too much and did not love people.
The law is important but it never supersedes God’s love. Love fulfills the law. Like many things in life, you cannot have one or the other, there needs to be a balance of the two. But it seems to me more and more “Christians” in our day are known by the law, not by the love. Again, not to say one replaces the other, just that Jesus was known by His love and I really believe we should too.
So while some celebrate the LGBTQ community and others treat them like they are committing the unforgivable sin, we should open our arms, our hearts, and our homes to EVERYONE in love to show them that they are cherished by us and subsequently, by God. Just maybe that will make the difference in their lives and help open their eyes.
At any given Sunday service, youth retreat, children’s church, Christian concert, etc, there is typically what is known in American Christianity as an “altar call.” It is usually an invitation of those who want to make Jesus Christ their personal Lord and Savior and those who already are Christians but want to rededicate their lives to Him. Some attribute the popularity of alter calls to Billy Graham and his popular crusades. While there is no direct biblical reference to alter calls, I cannot speak negatively of them. Many have come to Christ by the way of altar calls.
I want to talk about what happens after the altar call. I think we falter when we see altar calls as a litmus test of how well a ministry or sermon or gathering is going. We like seeing crowds come to the front. We like knowing that (x) amount of people filled out commitment cards. But there is a danger of a false sense of accomplishment here.
How many of these decisions to come forward were caused by family or peer pressure? How many of these decisions to come forward were based on emotions being drawn by the worship leader? What happens after the music stops? Are these conversions genuine? I’m sure millions are. But, who seeks to pour into spiritual growth afterwards?
In what is known as The Great Commission found in Matthew chapter 28, Jesus commands “Go and make disciples of all nations…” While making converts is vital to the growth of the Church, there has to be a continuous maturing of the believer after that. Otherwise you’re left with large amounts of spiritual infants who, often by no fault of their own, haven’t moved from milk to meat. They were simply a face in a crowd. While the angels were rejoicing at their salvation the elders bragged about the number of hands that were raised.
If a man has been working at a job for 20 years and showed very little knowledge or skill in his work, you might believe something to be very wrong, either with him or the training program. If a man is a Christian for 20 years and can’t name something elementary like the four Gospels and shows very little spiritual fruit, we should be wondering what went wrong. He is spiritually a 20 year old infant.
Wikipedia defines a disciple as a “student”. Merriam Webster defines a disciple as “someone who accepts and helps to spread the teachings of a famous person.” In traditional Chinese, the disciple was a person “who believes in the ideas and principles of someone famous and tries to live the way they do or did.” In the original Greek of Matthew 28, disciple (didaskalos) is a pupil of a master or teacher. The root Latin word that we get disciple from (discipulus) actually means “scholar”.
As we can see the meaning of disciple is far from someone who stays in spiritual infancy. A disciple should be steadily growing in knowledge and holiness. While the Holy Spirit has His part to play, so do other believers. When Jesus called out Lazarus from the dead, he left it up to his family and friends to make sure he didn’t stay in his grave clothes. In other words when we are saved from our spiritually dead selves, it is the responsibility of those who have been waiting and praying over us to help us look like the spiritually awake individuals that we become. This is one reason being an active member of local church is so vital.
I know of many churches that don’t just leave the new believer alone after their conversion. Many send mail, call, or even visit to help ensure the believer is growing. Many churches have discipleship programs where the new believer or even the 20 year old infant can learn to grow in Christ. There are missionaries who don’t just leave the people they find with a new faith but actually ensure the natives they converted learn and grow to become new pastors and teachers. These are the churches and believers that are fulfilling Jesus’ mandate to make disciples.
If you are a new believer or believer who realizes that you haven’t been growing since you got saved, then my advice is to surround yourself with believers who are maturing spiritually. Find a church that encourages Bible reading and group study. And make the time often to study for yourself.
Helping believers grow in knowledge is one of our goals here at Theologetics.org. Every believer must also mature in spiritual fruit. It is our prayer that reading this will cause us to evaluate ourselves and motivate growth in both aspects of your Christian walk.
Applicable verses: Matthew 28:19 Hosea 4:6 Psalm 1:1-3 2 Peter 1:5-6 2 Peter 3:18 2 Corinthians 13:5 Colossians 1:10 Ephesians 4:15 Galatians 5:22-23 Titus 2:1-8 Hebrews 5:12
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth– 1 Timothy 2:15
I’ve heard the same story repeated. I’ve even experienced it myself. A Bible Study is underway and the person leading the study will begin by reading a verse or passage. Then he will ask those attending what that scripture means to them. In a group of 10 you might get 10 different answers. This is especially true with more ambiguous or mysterious passages. You might ask “what’s wrong with that? The Bible speaks to everyone differently depending on where you are in your life.” There is some truth to that. But let me provide another perspective:
You write a letter to a loved one. How much of that letter would you expect them to read? It would be safe to assume that the entire letter is to be read. While certain phrases or sentences may stick out in the persons mind, they are to be taken in context with the rest of the letter. If a sentence seems questionable on its own, usually it is the rest of the letter that will make sense of it. It’s all a part of communication. You want the reader to understand what you meant, not for them to inject their own interpretation.
This is how we should come to scripture.
The Bible is a collection of books and letters written to those identified as God’s people. Hermeneutics is the science of rightly interpreting the Bible.
Scripture in its original form did not consist of chapter and verse divisions. To be honest sometimes I wish it still didn’t. But, with such a large book, chapters and verses are helpful for finding the words you need. However, we fail when we pick out a verse without understanding the surrounding text, or context (with the exception of most of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes). Take a verse like Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge lest you be judged,” which many of us take to mean you should never correct anyone in sin or wrong doing. However, a more thorough reading of chapter 7 will explain that we’re not being told NOT to judge. We’re being told that we shouldn’t judge others before we have judged and corrected our selves first (verses 3-5) on the same matter. Some chapters even begin with the adverb “therefore” meaning “for that reason”. Because of this, we should know what was being said in the previous chapter. This will bring new light to the following chapter. Since most books in the Bible are written as narratives or letters, it would greatly benefit the reader to read the entire book other than just a couple of chapters. This can and will bring the better understanding of each verse read.
In the grander scheme, reading the entire Bible can bring better contextual understanding of each of its included books. In regard to Matthew 7:1 we are told over and over throughout the Bible to judge rightly and to use discernment (judging). Making the common phrase “The Bible says not to judge,” erroneous and at best incomplete.
Literary context is only one step in “rightly dividing the word of God.” Duvall and Hayes in their book GRASPING GOD’S WORD, explain how to get a better understanding of scripture in 5 steps they call “The Interpretive Journey”.
Step 1 is called “Grasping the text in their town”. Basically what would the text in question mean to the original readers. How would they have understood it. This can be difficult if there is no general understanding of who the original audience was or how they viewed the world around them. Is the book written as a historical document, poetry, epistle?
Step 2 is measuring the width of the river to cross. In other words what are the differences between the original audiences and myself? What was their culture, language, and situation? Were they under a different covenant?
Step 3. “Crossing the principlizing bridge.” What is the theological principle this text presents? You come to a verse like “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this” in Deuteronomy 22:5. This isn’t just a commandment forbidding women to wear pants. If we look at the differences in culture as stated in Step 2, we can understand that there were no pants in the culture of the ancient Israelites. So they would have understood it to mean your appearance in general. God made man to be male and woman to be female. The way you present yourself to the world is to either submit to who God made to be or to go against it. Crossdressing could also be a matter of being deceptive.
“Consulting the Biblical map” is Step 4 of the journey. This goes back to using the rest of scripture as context for understanding. Is what I have gathered about this passage agreeing with the rest of scripture. Since God does not contradict Himself nor does He change His mind then if my understanding is contrary to what is explicitly stated elsewhere then it is my understanding that needs to submit to scripture, not the other way around.
The Last step on thee journey is “Grasping the text in your own town”. This is where you apply what you have learned in the previous 4 steps to your life and the lives of those around you. How does it apply in my culture now?
Biblical exegesis is a process of rightly interpreting. Exegesis is only done through careful and objective study of the text. The opposite of proper exegesis is called eisegesis. Eisegesis is when the reader interprets the text through subjective lenses and makes the scripture mean whatever he wants it to mean.
One way to properly exegete scripture is by studying the original languages it was written in. I’ll give a simple example that many of us have learned in high school. There is a famous scene in Romeo and Juliet where Juliet is seen asking “Romeo, Romeo. Wherefore art though Romeo.” Now in our modern English, that sounds like Juliet is inquiring about the location of her beloved Romeo. But, in the 1500s, when it was written, that phrase would have been understood as “Romeo, Romeo. Why are you Romeo?” Since Romeo and Juliet came from feuding families she was asking why did Romeo have to be Romeo of the family that her family hated. The next line in the poem makes sense of this when she says “Deny thy father…”
Now if we need help understanding a poem written in the same language only a few hundred years ago, how much more so a book written in foreign languages thousands of years ago? Now I’ll use a biblical example to make my point.
In John 21, after Jesus’ resurrection, He asks Peter “Do you love me?” To which Peter responds “Yes Lord; you know that love you.” Jesus asks this question to Peter twice more. And twice more Peter has the same response. Now in the English this may seem like just a conversation about Peter’s love for Jesus, and that would be right. However, the conversation in the original Greek presents Peter answering a somewhat different question than he is being asked. The term love that Jesus is using is the Greek word “agape” meaning an unconditional love. The term for love that Peter uses is the Greek word “phileo” meaning more so a brotherly/friendship type of love. Both still “love” but different verbal expressions and meanings. It is believed that Peter was so ashamed after his 3 denials of Christ that he could not say with confidence that he unconditionally loved his Lord because his zeal turned to fear and he abandoned Jesus.
Back to the scenario being played out in Bible studies around the country. The goal should not be to come away with subjective interpretations of scripture. We can know what the Bible says and what it means when time is taken to properly study it. So to correct this scenario the person leading the study should already have a proper understanding of the text. Yet, he can walk his audience through how he got the understanding of what the original author meant. So, when the time comes to engage the group, they aren’t left with subjective interpretations; they will have an educated understanding of what was meant. What the Author actual meant. The subjective part comes in how each individual with apply it to his or her own life.
Some people ask me how they should begin reading the Bible. It is my personal opinion that starting with the New Testament is the wisest choice. Start at Matthew and read to the end of Revelations. When I began seriously reading the Bible I spent most of my time in the New Testament until I’d read it several times. I suggest the New Testament first because it teaches us what we need to know about salvation and Christian living. Then I say read the Old Testament, Genesis to Malachi. But as you are reading be sure to read each book just like you would a book. Only using chapter and verse divisions as reference points. Write down verses that speak to you (or baffle you) in a notebook for further study. And last but most importantly, always seek the Holy Spirit’s illumination. Reading the Bible without it will lead to confusion, misunderstanding, and misuse.