Tag Archives: Truth

Lies We Believe.

In Genesis’ account of original sin we learn a great deal about how Satan seeks to distort our understanding of God. Recall that in the Garden of Eden God created “all sorts of trees … that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit” (Genesis 2:9, NLT). He then places Adam in the garden and encourages him to “freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden – except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 16-17, NLT). God warns him that if he eats from that tree he is sure to die. In other words, enjoy My creation to the fullest but demonstrate your love for Me by obeying one simple command. Show that you trust Me to do what’s best for you.

What a remarkable arrangement. Nothing in recorded history approaches the generosity and splendor God offered. Adam will spend eternity enjoying the most succulent fruit imaginable and experience that pleasure daily without having to work a single second for it. It is an ideal situation that people from every generation and every culture crave.

But after God creates Eve from one of Adam’s ribs, Satan arrives on the scene in the guise of a serpent and reveals his nature as a cunning deceiver. [Remember that Jesus once called Satan the father of lies – see John 8:44]. Notice how he operates. Immediately he challenges Eve’s understanding of what God said, which she did not hear firsthand but learned from Adam. “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1 NLT).

He uses that same approach to distort Scripture with us: “Did Jesus really say ‘Come to Me and I will give you rest’?”; “Did He really say ‘Neither do I condemn you’?”; “Did He really say ‘Forsake all to be My disciple’?”

Whenever God plants truth in our heart or Scripture points us to Christ, you can be certain Satan will come alongside and whisper, “Did God really say that?” “Is that really what Scripture means?” In doing so he hopes to cast doubt on our faith so we question God’s words.

To combat Satan’s deceit we must diligently sow God’s Word in our hearts. Otherwise we risk making the same mistake as Adam and Eve when she misquotes God and declares they are not allowed to eat fruit from the tree of knowledge nor allowed to touch it. We make ourselves susceptible to Satan’s lies whenever we possess an ill-informed understanding of God’s character and His Word.

Satan then informs Eve that God has lied; they will not die if they eat the forbidden fruit. In doing so he makes a defamatory charge: they cannot believe God. He is unreliable and untrustworthy. Moreover, He does not have their best interests at heart and wants to withhold His best from them. The other trees are not nearly as satisfying as God claims. True fulfillment only comes from eating of the tree God has forbidden.

Satan makes similar arguments today and sadly many of us fall for them as easily as Adam and Eve did. God can’t be trusted nor does He want what’s best for us. His commands are burdensome, onerous, and prevent us from enjoying life to the full.

Take time this week to examine your life. Are there areas where you rejected God’s commands or His promises because you bought into Satan’s lies? I want to remind you that God is absolutely trustworthy. He cannot lie. And He always wants what’s best for us – even when that is not what we want for ourselves.

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Understanding the Bible: You Needn’t Be a Scholar to Comprehend God’s Truth.

Many people in the world today want to understand the Bible but feel entirely unqualified to unlock its truths. They believe only pastors or those with a seminary degree possess the requisite qualifications to fully understand God’s Word and the truths it contains. As a result, they spend little time reading and studying Scripture. Instead, they embrace as truth whatever message they hear on Sunday, at a Bible study, or on Christian radio. Perhaps some readers share that perspective.

If that’s you, I’ve got great news. Irrespective of your educational background, lack of training, or absence of credentials, you can understand the Bible without having to rely on others to tell you what a particular passage means, what insight God wants you to glean, or how to apply a specific verse to your life. How is that possible?

First, we need to understand that God reveals His truth through His Spirit. At the end of His ministry Jesus told the disciples, “when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13, NKJV). Paul reinforces that truth in his epistle to the church at Corinth, saying: “God has revealed [His mysteries] to us through His Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:10, NKJV).

Scripture leaves no ambiguity on this point. It is the Holy Spirit that guides our understanding of the Bible and equips us with the wisdom to discern the mysteries of God. God’s truths are not manifested to the carnal man, no matter how much study he dedicates to them, because they are fathomed under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Paul declares, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14, NKJV).

Jesus reinforces this point when he chastises those who refuse to repent despite hearing His teaching and observing His miracles. “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes” (Matthew 11:25, NKJV). Men and women with considerable intellectual heft failed to understand God’s simple truths but young children comprehended them with no difficulty.

This disparity confounds the world but makes perfect sense when filtered through Christ’s words. Jesus tells us that God reveals His truths and mysteries to whom He will and withholds them from whom He will. In this instance, God revealed them to young children and withheld them from those the world considered brilliant.

So do we sit back and do nothing to learn more about God and Scripture? Absolutely not. To ensure God opens the eyes of our heart to His Word, we must surrender our lives to Christ. Only then will the Holy Spirit come upon us and reveal God’s thoughts and truths. One of the reasons so few professors, scientists, and intellectuals understand God’s Word in any substantive way is that they refuse to embrace Christ and submit to Him as Lord. Pride prevents them from committing their lives to Him and accepting the simplicity of the Gospel; as a result God withholds spiritual understanding from them.

Additionally, we should read the Bible on a regular basis. That is critically important. Jesus told His disciples, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given – and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken from them” (Mark 4:24-25, NLT). The same principle applies to reading God’s Word. The more we read, the more understanding God gives us. And as we understand more, we will want to read more, and God will reveal more. And a virtuous cycle begins.

In contrast, if we rarely read the Bible or study its content, then God will remove from our hearts and minds what little understanding we have. Either we are building on our foundation of biblical knowledge or it is being dismantled. The status quo never remains.

As you head into this weekend, reflect on whether you are establishing a sound foundation in the wisdom, knowledge, and insight of God’s Word under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If not, commit to reading your Bible on a regular basis and build it into your schedule so it becomes a habit. If you live in a part of the world where you do not have access to a church or Christian teaching, rejoice that God reveals Himself and His ways to those who read and study His Word, the Bible. You need only ask His Spirit to open your eyes and your heart to the truth.

Three Verses that Bible Literalists Ignore.

A significant number of Christians, especially in the Evangelical community, embrace a literal interpretation of the Bible. They believe God means exactly what His Word says and refuse to entertain any idea that some passages in Scripture employ literary devices such as metaphors, hyperbole, and allegories. Convinced of their position, they demand church doctrine align with a literal view; all other perspectives are heresy.

For example, literalists read Genesis and insist that God created the world in six 24-hour days. They read Revelation and contend that exactly one-third of the grass is burned (and not a blade more) when the first trumpet sounds, exactly two hundred million soldiers are saddled at the River Euphrates (and not one less) when the sixth trumpet sounds, and exactly a quarter of mankind is killed with the opening of the fourth seal (no more and no less). For them, orthodoxy requires rigid adherence to every dotted ‘i’ and crossed ‘t’.

Curiously, Bible literalists often ignore other Bible passages where a literal interpretation inconveniences them or disrupts their lifestyle. They employ a literal view of Scripture on an inconsistent basis. Let’s look at three such passages often disregarded by Bible literalists.

Jesus tells his followers, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor your rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed because they cannot repay you, for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:12-14, NKJV).

The literal interpretation of this verse is quite clear. Yet, I wonder how many of those who claim to follow the Bible literally have obeyed this verse? How many have invited the homeless, destitute, and diseased into their homes and celebrated with a dinner party, social event, or celebration? We can all come up with excuses for why we don’t. It’s too dangerous. They’ll steal my stuff. No poor or homeless people live near me. They smell bad and behave boorishly. But Jesus doesn’t condition our obedience on convenience or safety. If you follow the Bible literally, then the next dinner or social event you host should include lots of strangers marginalized by society, not friends and family.

Some will argue that their church sponsors something similar during Thanksgiving, inviting the homeless and poor into the fellowship hall for a meal. Others will explain that they visit a homeless shelter once a month to help serve meals. And that’s all well and good, but it does not represent a literal application of Scripture. Those who claim to believe the Bible literally must invite “the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind” into their home the next time they host a social or family event. That’s literally what Jesus taught.

On another occasion Jesus told His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-24, NKJV). The literal interpretation is clear. It is difficult for the rich to enter heaven. That’s a very straightforward and easy to understand message. Yet, I wonder how many Bible literalists strive to be rich, or are rich? If your goal is to spend eternity with Jesus why make things hard on yourself by being rich?

I’ve heard this passage taught dozens of times by pastors and church leaders across the country. Curiously, the focus is almost always on what Jesus isn’t saying rather than on what he is. Ministers tell their congregations that Jesus isn’t telling us it’s wrong to be rich. He isn’t telling us that wealth is bad. He isn’t telling us that no one who is wealthy can make it into heaven. And so on, and so on. They want their flocks to understand that they can continue living prosperous lives of comfort, luxury, and excess and still experience eternity with Christ. They use the passage to teach the exact opposite message of what Jesus is communicating to His followers: Quit wasting your time pursuing wealth and the things of this world. Why? Because those who do become distracted from following Him and their faith never blossoms. Anyone serious about following Scripture literally will have a much different understanding and application of this passage than what we hear from the majority of pulpits on Sunday. Jesus’ words could not be clearer. Literally.

Finally, Jesus also informed His disciples, “You will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22, NKJV). Too often we hear that following Jesus will make things easier in life. Jesus rebukes that nonsense here and explains that things will actually get tougher. People will hate us for no other reason than our love for Him. To experience salvation, though, we must endure to the end. It is not enough to make a profession of faith and then succumb to the temptations of the world or renounce our faith in the face of persecution. Jesus declared we must endure. Only then will we enjoy eternity with Him. Too often we hear that as long as someone professes faith in Christ, he or she is guaranteed eternal salvation. But that is not what Jesus teaches here, or in any other passage. If we really believe the inerrancy and literal interpretation of the Bible, we must recognize that God calls us to remain faithful until the end.

Sadly, few Christians embrace the literal (and intended) interpretation of the above passages. Instead, most of us perform all sorts of intellectual gyrations to avoid arriving at the application Jesus intended when He taught His disciples these truths. Surprisingly, even Bible literalists reject the literal (and obvious) message of Jesus’ teachings because doing so will burden or inconvenience them. It will force them to live lives they have no interest in living and follow a faith they cannot reconcile with their current lifestyles. So to ensure their doctrinal purity they proclaim themselves defenders of Bible truth and insist on a literal interpretation of the Bible – but only when it’s an intellectual exercise that doesn’t disrupt their daily routine. But that’s not Bible literalism, that’s hypocrisy.

I’m not suggesting a literal interpretation of Scripture is wrong. Generally, I take that approach myself, except when it is clear a literary device is being used. However, when Bible literalists apply their rigid interpretation only to verses that require nothing more than intellectual assent and refuse to apply it to verses that inconvenience, discomfort, or disrupt their lives and lifestyle, then that is not only wrong, it is dangerous duplicity. And that could cost them in the end.

Where are all the prophets?

The past couple weekends I spent considerable time in my car driving to relatives on one occasion and a distant ballpark on another. I listened to the radio during most of my travel time, primarily contemporary Christian stations. While the music was uplifting I noticed a distinct trend in the messages of these recording artists. They sing almost exclusively about God’s love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, peace, and joy, and revel in His blessings, promises, hope, and commitments. Their emphasis draws on biblical truth that encourages, inspires, comforts, and sustains believers. During my twenty-plus hours of driving more than 95% of the songs I heard focused on those themes.

On the one hand, I enjoyed these positive, uplifting messages. They align with God’s word and definitely represent an important component of the gospel. On the other hand, I was troubled that very few songs addressed the difficult lessons Jesus taught and emphasized during His ministry – ones we find uncomfortable today. His challenging messages on discipleship, repentance, denying ourselves, forsaking all, counting the cost, humility, and avoiding the lures of the world are as equally true and important as His message of love, mercy, and forgiveness. In fact, you cannot experience one without the other because both sets of truth represent God’s word and reveal His character.

But in recent times the church has shifted its focus to those themes highlighted on Christian radio while ignoring the difficult ones Jesus preached on so often. Sunday sermons rarely address Jesus’ most challenging teachings because congregants have little interest in hearing those truths. As a result, a generation of believers understands the gospel only in the context of the benefit they receive from it and know nothing of the cost. They are familiar with God’s blessings and promises but have little familiarity with Christ’s expectations, especially on those topics that lack appeal in our culture. A quick perusal of the local Christian bookstore reveals the same trend with authors. Lots of books address biblical truths we want to hear while few tackle the portions of Scripture that disinterest us.

So where have all the prophets gone? Why are most of our preachers, singers, writers, and evangelists focused primarily, often exclusively, on those aspects of the gospel everyone wants to embrace? Why do so few share that part of the gospel that challenges listeners to follow Christ in full, even when doing so is difficult and runs counter to our desires?

As I see it, there are several reasons for this trend. First, preaching, singing, and writing a message that everyone wants to hear generates more income, popularity, and influence for the pastor, singer, or author. Such attractive perks do not accrue to those who share Jesus’ challenging lessons. Since most want the status, affluence, and power enjoyed by the Pharisees, they share only those Scriptural truths people find appealing. Few are willing to bear the disrespect, contempt, poverty, and social isolation endured by Old Testament prophets and John the Baptist.

Also, most church leaders today have a blind spot with respect to some of Jesus’ most difficult teachings. They have explained away the true meaning of His words for so long that they no longer understand the simplicity of what He taught on subjects such as discipleship, sacrifice, and the dangers of this world. God has withdrawn from them an ability to comprehend His truth on these subjects because they have no desire to preach it.

Finally, congregants insist pastors, musicians, and authors share only palatable truths. They have itching ears that demand soothing words that reinforce their beliefs irrespective of their alignment with Scripture. They use the power of their wallet to demand easily digested spiritual food, even if it results in an imbalanced and nutritionally compromised spiritual diet – like a three-year old who demands to eat only candy and cookies.

But a gospel that captures only half of what Jesus taught, that reflects only half the Scriptures, is no gospel at all. It is a dangerous doctrine that leads down a path to eventual destruction. That is why we need more pastors willing to preach the entire gospel, recording artists willing to sing about the difficult truths Jesus spoke, and authors willing to address the challenging messages of the Bible.

I am not suggesting Christian leaders ignore God’s love, mercy, peace, hope, forgiveness, promises, and joy. Those are as critical to the gospel as His call for repentance, complete submission, obedience, sacrifice, humility, and the full embrace of discipleship. We need both. We need teachers and leaders who share both as the full gospel.

Recognizing the dearth of teaching on several critical areas of biblical truth in this country, I will use this blog to address some of these topics in upcoming posts. The content will challenge most readers and make many uncomfortable, but I encourage you to read the articles anyhow. Avoid dismissing the message as nonsense. Instead, explore what Jesus taught on these matters and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance in understanding. You may find yourself awash with a fresh, exciting faith as a result.