Studies In John’s Epistles – 1 John 2

John continues his theme of sin and forgiveness which he began in chapter 1. While it is inevitable that Christians WILL sin, we have God’s guarantee of forgiveness and restoration, mediated through the finished work of Christ on our behalf and Christ himself, as our Advocate.

This passage covers several “mini-topics” which we will examine in more detail as we move through it.

Christ Is Our Advocate
2 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

The Test Of Knowing Him
3 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

Love and Hate; Light and Darkness
7 Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. 8 On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining. 9 The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. 10 The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Their Spiritual State
12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

Do Not Love the World
15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

Deceptions Of The Last Hour
18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that Antichrist is coming, even now many Antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. 20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the Antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.

Let Truth Abide In You
24 As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.

Warnings
26 These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. 27 As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

The Children Of God
28 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. (1 John 2)

***********************************************************************Christ is our Advocate
My little children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)

Here at the beginning of the second chapter, John restates what came at the end of chapter one about the forgiveness of sins, although here, he adds a different vantage point. Rather than simply saying that if we acknowledge our sins, God is faithful to forgive them, thus putting forgiveness in a covenant context, (faithful being a covenant term) now John reminds us of how this is accomplished. It is because of the death and finished-work of our “Advocate“, Jesus Christ.

He has also spoken as the Elder, starting out with the words “my little children.” John is the last of the Apostles of Christ remaining alive in the body, and his writings in this vein are filled with truth, grace and love for his “children.” His desire is that we shouldn’t sin, thus he compares and contrasts light and darkness that we might clearly understand the difference as we journey through this life. Knowing that we will all stumble, he gives us the reassurance that all will be made right, thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ… and this is always a comfort to me, I don’t know about you, for I am prone to stumbling.

I also would mention that at the end of verse two, John tells us that Jesus has paved the way for our sins to be forgiven, just as He has for the sins of the entire world. Sometimes, I think that many of us might have the feeling that Jesus has enabled us to have been forgiven, and then we look at the world, and the forgiveness of the world. We share this with others that they too can be forgiven, and then we stumble ourselves again and forget that our new sin is forgiven also, just like our previous sins. In fact, I have watched many faithful followers struggle with this concept, and if this is ever our plight, take heart with John’s words here in verse 2.

The Test Of Knowing Him
We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:3-6)

I read with interest, and sometimes sadness, when people write that we need never do anything as Christians because there are no conditions in the New Covenant. They seem to suggest that since grace is free, if we accept it, and then we’re set for life, so to speak, with no obligation to ever do anything or behave in any particular way. Most of the time, I conclude that they are probably just wording things a little bit wrong, and don’t really mean to go quite that far, but sometimes, I think they entirely misunderstand the Christian walk. John makes it quite clear in these verses that we are to obey the commands that Jesus gave us. In fact, Jesus commanded that we should teach others to obey Him also. (Matt. 28:18-20)

The overriding standard in this obedience is to live our lives as Jesus lived. How is that? Love your neighbor; serve others by putting their interests ahead of our own. Spread the Good News to the lost.

Love God, and place His priorities above our own, and to love our brother. John seems to me to be pretty clear that we must live as Jesus did, and if we are not willing to do so, we may have a serious problem.

Love and Hate; Light and Dark
Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them. (1 John 2:7-11)

In these verses, John gives one more comparison and contrast. This time it is love and hate, light and darkness. If we are in Christ, then we must love our brothers and sisters. If we claim to be in Christ, yet we hate our brother or sister, then we cannot be in Christ; I think this is a fair summary of John’s point.

In the opening sections of this letter, John has made the point that if we are in Christ, we must live our lives like Christ. In fact he has made this point several times in various ways, but recall in particular 2:3-6. Where in the Gospels can we find any indication whatsoever that Jesus ever hated anyone? Far from it! We see Him showing love in all cases, even when He let the Pharisees have it with the seven woes. Remember, right after that, Jesus is lamenting the fact that despite all that God has done, they insisted on turning against Him; Jesus was clearly grieved by this. (Matt. 23:37 ff.) When you reduce the Christian faith down to its simplest form, and I am a fan of doing this, its central idea is love God; love your neighbor. There is no room for hate in that formula.

Our brother may irritate us now and then, and may even let us down. In truth, our brother may well be every bit as imperfect as we are, but we are to love him anyway, just as he is to love us anyway, just as Jesus loves all of us anyway. Remember that love means that we put the interests of the other person ahead of our own.

To this message from John, I’d like to add my own observation: How much damage do you suppose has been done over the years to the Gospel by people who call themselves Christians, but who fail to demonstrate His love to others? How many thousands have said “no” to Christ because of some so-called believers who show an attitude of hatred for other people? How many have left the faith because of this behavior in the church?

Those who hate rather than love can call themselves whatever they like, they may fool many people, but they cannot fool God, and I would respectfully suggest they repent, and do so quickly.

I Write to You Because…
This is a transitional passage between John’s introductory section and the rest of the letter. In verses 1:1-2:11, John has been going through this comparison and contrast which shows his readers who is and who is not in Christ. Great section, lots of insight! Now, he is giving the reasons he has written the letter, and after this he gets into some very deep thoughts. We often just blow by this little transition and wade into the content that begins in verse 15, but hold on a minute; the transition is amazing!

I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of His name. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.

I write to you, little children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one. (1 John 2:12-14)

Do you see what this is? It isn’t so much about the “who” John is addressing, it’s the “why” that is important, contrary to so much that has been written and discussed over the years! Let’s restructure these verses:

If you are in Christ, John is writing to you BECAUSE:
1. YOUR sins have been forgiven on account of His name.

2. YOU know Him who is from the beginning.

3. YOU have overcome the evil one.

4. YOU know the Father.

5. YOU know Him who is from the beginning.

6. YOU are strong.

7. The Word of God lives in YOU.

8. YOU have overcome the evil one.

Did you notice the tense used here? Each of these “because” statements is either in present or past tense, indicating that they are facts at this very moment, not something to come in the future. I’m sure that I need not mention that there are no “buts” in any of these statements. Now, as for the “who,” there are three “who’s” in the passage, “little children“, “fathers” and “young men.”

Little children“, as we have already seen, is one of the ways that John addressed the community of believers; is an inclusive term. “Fathers” can either be literally a father of children, or it can refer to the heads of the households, and in Scripture this is often the case; certainly it is when referring to a patriarch. In those cases, something that is true of the father is true of the household. It seems to me that here, because of the inclusive reference at the beginning, the inclusive meaning is also true of fathers, particularly since there is nothing in the text that would indicate specificity of intent. It could also refer to those we call “church fathers”. “Young men” are the heads of households yet to be born, and I think we can take this reference to mean that not only are these things true in believing households of today, but they will also be true of future generations of believing households. You might wonder about a household of one, but remember that in John’s day, households of one were extremely unusual if not non-existent; they are actually quite a modern development. Looking at the list of statements again, it seems that we can take them to refer to all of us who are in Christ. That is also the context of the previous and following sections…

Notice that there is some repetition. Numbers 2 and 5 are the same, but 2 comes after a reference to the Son, while 5 comes after a reference to the Father. If you know Jesus, then you also know the Father. Having overcome the evil one is mentioned twice also, numbers 3 and 8. Both are directed to young men, and it seems to me interesting that it is repeated the second time in a series of three statements made to young men. Now if we have an accurate understanding of “young men,” then let’s consider these future heads of household. They are the future, but they are also young. They are the ones who need encouragement and the mentoring of the Elder Apostle the most, and so they, who will bear the spiritual battle in the future need a little more instruction than those who are experienced, the veterans. Here, John gives an extra assurance that they are strong, filled with the Word, and have overcome. I would guess that this is as much comfort to John’s “young men” in their day, as this whole list should be to us in our day. This is particularly true when we get into the rest of this letter; John is getting his readers prepared for what is coming.

What About This World?
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

Now that John has shown us who we are in Christ, and what the realities of life in Christ are supposed to be, he turns to the world around us. John isn’t referring to the natural world, God’s creation, rather he is referring to the world of Mankind; the culture, society, the impulses, the way things are here. John isn’t speaking of “culture” in the sense that he is against literature, or art, or music, or opera; the things which enrich our lives. Instead, he is referring to the impulses and ways of men and society. If we were to say that we live in a “dog eat dog world“, we would be referring to the impulses and ways of this world; that is more like what John is getting at. John is telling us that we are not to love the world or anything in it and if we do, we have a spiritual problem for sure.

The “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” are often cited as the three main categories of sin. Clearly these do not come from God, for as John puts it, they come from the world. If you think about it, so much of what people consider important has more to do with impressing others than with anything else. Why are we so often driven by career advancement? Why do we need so much stuff? Why is your living room fancier than your bedrooms? Why do you need the fancy car instead of the economy car? Must I spend $100.00 on a tie? Why do we want what somebody else has? Our knee-jerk answer to these kinds of questions might be sin, but John goes deeper than that; this comes from the world. Jesus nailed that down when He said that we “prefer the praise of men.”

In the final analysis, this world, its ways, and everything in it will pass away, but the love of God endures forever. Our Lord showed us a life that was lived for the love of God. Isn’t that where our love should be? I’ve heard people say that we are here to fix the world, but I must state clearly that this is a mistake. We were never commanded to fix the world. The world is passing away! We are commanded to share the love of God through Jesus Christ with people, so that they may be saved from the world’s fate.

Deceptions Of The Last Hour
So far in this letter, John has given us a reminder of the supremacy of Jesus Christ; who He is, what He is, what He has done, and His nature. John gave us a comparison and contrast of what the “Light” is, and who is and who is not “in the light.” Then John reminded us of who we are in Christ and how amazing that is. In the previous section, John warns us not to love this world, and now John is taking us to the front lines on a battlefield, where it becomes plain why he has taken us on this journey to show us just who we are, and just who “they” are.

Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many Antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. (1 John 2:18-19)

This is the first mention of the term “Antichrist” in the Bible. It means someone who is against or in place of the Messiah. In these verses, John mentions twice that we are in the “last hour“, which is interesting when you consider that many will suggest today that there are more hours to come.

On the Cross, Jesus accomplished two very-important things; He paid the price of our sins and purchased our redemption, and, He sealed the eternal-destiny of Satan and his followers. In that sense, the “last hour” began at the Cross, because Satan’s days are numbered. “What” and “who” we are in Christ is the result of His shed-blood and finished-work on the Cross. When He said “it is finished”, those results were a “done-deal”.

Whoever these Antichrists were, or are, they appear to have been hanging around us, and then to have gone rogue. If nothing else, in these two verses, we can be sure that these rogues were hanging around, but they were never “us“. Recall the descriptions of in the light and in the darkness in vv. 1:5-2:11… These characters were the ones in darkness.

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the Antichrist, denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:20-23)

Now we have a little more information: The rogues John is talking about deny that Jesus is the Messiah. That is a bald-faced lie, and those who are in the truth would never make such an assertion, so these guys were not in the light. No person who denies that Jesus is the Messiah is in the Son, and if a person is not in the Son, they are also not in the Father. They are Antichrist, and there are many of those in the world. Virtually every pseudo-Christian cult that is in existence today has redefined who and what Jesus is. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are glaring examples of this heresy. Both cults, NOT coincidently, were formed by disaffected “Christians” who rejected the clear teachings and doctrines of the Bible, so it should come as no surprise that their doctrines of Christ are seriously-flawed.

Let Truth Abide In You
As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life. (1 John 2:24-25)

These two verses are the warning: Make sure that you hang on to what you know about Jesus Christ. If you do, you will remain in Him and inherit eternal life. Do not listen to the rogues. By the way, this is why I said above that John has taken us to the front lines on a battlefield. It is a spiritual battlefield in a spiritual war, where the Antichrists in our midst will attempt to pry us away from the Truth. Resist, and do not listen to their lies!

Warnings
I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in Him. (1 John 2:26-27)

John invokes the anointing of the indwelling Holy Spirit in urging us to remain in Christ in these verses. Consider this: Here is a warning that there are those who will try to lead us astray, to turn our backs on our Lord. They are fighting against us in a spiritual war, and this can sound really scary.

Take heart! John is pointing out to us that we have within us, at our disposal, greater firepower by tenfold! It is the very Holy Spirit of God, the third Person of the Godhead! If we are focused on our relationship with our Lord, and we take these “battles” to Him, there isn’t even a contest, for “greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world.”

One of the vital-functions of the Church is to provide a “spiritual-support-system” to us when we engage in spiritual-warfare. No soldier in his right-mind goes into combat alone because he is easy-pickings if he does. Instead, he goes with his unit, even if his “unit” is a rag-tag band of survivors from other units. “Lone-ranger” Christians are also much easier to “pick-off” by Satan and his minions than are well-connected Christians, those who avail themselves of the teaching and means of grace of a local church.

Peter, in 1 Peter 5:8, gives this warning; “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking who he may devour.” Our adversary is vigilant and persistent in trying to trip us up, so we must likewise be vigilant. We have a solution; stand on the truth of the Word of God, and reject the lies. We also have the Holy Spirit to remind us of the truth and apply it to our hearts.

As simple as this is, many will be so creeped out by the stories and the idea of spiritual warfare, that it almost makes me wonder if these stories of myth, legend and popular fiction are actually part of the lie itself, so that we won’t fight back, and our superior firepower will never be brought to bear on our foe. Hmmm… Do you think we need to have a healthy relationship with the Lord? I do!

Continue in Him
And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him. (1 John 2:28-29)

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I sit back and think about everything involved in following our Lord and it all just seems a bit overwhelming. Thinking about who He is, what He is, His love for us, His call to us… and all of the implications of these things… Wow! I don’t want to mess this all up!

Oh sure, I’m confident in forgiveness for sins, and I understand that He is loving, merciful and not interested in a “gotcha” moment, no that isn’t it at all; I don’t want to grieve Him or let Him down. In the text we’ve been looking at, John seems to sense the same kind of thing. He’s taken us through all of these amazing attributes, and he’s taken us through the facts of life in a spiritual battlefield, and now suddenly, he seems to take a little step back to survey the scene, and just as though he were reading our minds, he writes these two verses.

Wow! What do we do now? John’s answer is “continue in Him.” Yes, that’s right; continue in Him, so that when He appears, we may be confident and unscathed by this world of ours. By “continue in Him,” I think John means that we should simply keep on living in Christ’s image, as He taught us, doing what He did, following His Father’s purpose and not being distracted. We do know that He is righteous; so then, we do know that everyone who does right is born of Him. By “right,” John must mean that they do the things that He would do, so while Jesus is the Model for all of us to follow, when those around us follow His model, we have someone to show us the way when we are confused.

Wow! Once again, even though the answer is simple, it isn’t always exactly easy.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Bible Study – John’s Testimony

The Word Made Flesh
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:14-17)

The core of the Apostle John’s Christology is that Jesus Christ is both the Eternal Word, who he affirms as being our Creator, and a man, displaying all the hallmarks of being human. No one was closer to Jesus than John. John had spent three years with Jesus. They may have been cousins, and Mary lived with John and his family after the crucifixion.

The most profound marvel of the Incarnation is that the sinless Son of God was able to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves, fully-atone for our sins. If we die for our sins, we die, never to be raised again. Jesus died the death we could never die and was raised again so that we might be raised again also.
And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22)

Jesus, in His incarnation, was Emanuel, God with us, and unlike previous times when God dwelt among His people, Jesus, God, was approachable, touchable, with no strings attached. He wasn’t separated by a curtain, approachable only once a year, and only by the High Priest with a blood-sacrifice. God, in bodily-form, dwelt among His people for several years. God came near. The Holy One of Israel got His hands dirty so that we might be made clean and new.

Only begotten” is one of the great mysteries in the Bible, because it would imply to us that the Word had a beginning, however He could not have been Eternal if He had a beginning. It is our language and word-usage which trips us up. If “unique” was substituted for “begotten“, it would give us a much clearer sense of what and who the Word was. Sometimes translation and our word-limitations make for less-than-clear understanding of the original thought.

Maybe I shouldn’t be, but I am frequently amazed by how many Christians have bought into lies, with pastors even preaching those lies from their pulpits. Just because colleges and seminaries teach it, and much of Christendom believes it, doesn’t make it true. The Protestant Reformation was started to confront and correct the rampant-heresy in the Roman Catholic Church. Lies enslave us, while truth sets us free. Jesus came to speak truth into our fallen world, to set us free.

Was John the Baptist demeaning himself by saying the Jesus Christ ranked higher than him? Absolutely not. He simply recognized that Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word, was God, and he wasn’t.

The author then contrasts Law and Grace by contrasting its authors. Moses was the great law-giver, but keeping the law never brought-about a righteous life. We have all experienced religious-legalism, and the Scribes, Pharisees and teachers of the law had raised religious-legalim to a fine art. The problem was that even if a person kept 99% of the law perfectly, they were still condemned by that 1% they didn’t get quite right. Another problem was that the law only exacted penalties for failure to keep it but it didn’t have any rewards for compliance. A person may have a perfect driving-record for twenty years, but when they finally get a speeding-ticket, their otherwise-perfect driving-record doesn’t diminish the penalties for that ticket. Even though my only speeding-ticket was over thirty years ago, that ticket, and that I paid it, is still on record somewhere in Illinois. I would never get inducted into the “Safe-driver Hall of Fame” because I don’t have a perfect driving-record.

That is where Grace comes in. God gives us what we don’t deserve, a right-relationship with Him, rather than what we DO deserve, eternal-punishment. Christ has the perfect record we could never attain, and through His perfect life, shed-blood and finished-work, God gives us what He earned for us. Grace goes far-beyond just keeping us out of Hell. Grace also gives us a place in God’s eternal kingdom, with all the rewards that go with that blessed state. I get inducted into the “Safe-driver Hall of Fame” based on His perfect record, not kept out based on my flawed-record.

Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us, came to reveal who God is in an intimate way. He didn’t merely “represent” God, He WAS God.

The Testimony of John
19 This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”

24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. 27 It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ 31 I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” 32 John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:14-34)

Why did the religious-authorities question John the Baptist? Didn’t he have the “right-stuff“? Didn’t he have the right “pedigree“? His father, Zacharias, was a priest, and his mother, Elizabeth, was a “daughter of Aaron“, so he certainly had the right “pedigree“, but our answer comes in the “who” that questioned him, the religious leaders. They didn’t believe that he had the “authority” to do what he was doing, specifically, baptizing people. John the Baptist had not graduated from the “Jerusalem Theological Seminary“, nor had he gone through the proper steps to become “ordained” by the “powers that be“. John’s “ordination” came from God, not from man. In a nut-shell, he was operating outside their “system“, and they didn’t like it.

John the Baptist did recognize that he was fulfilling the prophesy from Isaiah:
The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3)

When John the Baptist said that he was not worthy to untie the thong of Jesus’ sandal, he wasn’t demeaning himself, rather he was recognizing the greatness of the very Son of God.

Where have we seen the promise of God’s provision of a lamb before?
6 So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. 7 But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!”

And he said, “Here I am, my son.”

Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together. (Genesis 22:6-8)

Abraham believed that God would provide the lamb for the sacrifice and his faith was rewarded with that provision. God’s provision of that lamb that day was a powerful symbol and foreshadowing of the perfect Lamb of God. Animal sacrifices could only cover-over sin, but could not take it away. Only the perfect Lamb of God could actually take upon Himself our sin and truly take it away.

Even though Jesus and John the Baptist were related, John knew very little about Jesus or His upcoming ministry until God revealed it to him. The clincher was when John baptized Jesus and the Holy Spirit descend on Him in the form of a dove, combined with the Voice from heaven.

When John the Baptist baptized Jesus, all three members of the Godhead were revealed, Jesus, the Son of God, God the Father by His voice, and the Holy Spirit as represented by the dove. God had never revealed His fullness in this way before, which led John to say: I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:34)

What a marvelous testimony!

Wishing you God’s richest blessings in 2016!
Steve

Rejection

What is rejection? Rejection is telling someone by your words and actions that they are not important. Rejection is telling someone by your words and actions that what you want is more important than your relationship with them. Rejection is telling someone by your words and actions that they are no longer a part of your agenda…THAT THEY NO LONGER MATTER TO YOU. Rejection is telling someone by your words and actions that you really don’t care what kind of hurt you are causing them, because you no longer care about them.

What do I know about rejection? In a word…a LOT. Being rejected by others has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a kid growing up, we moved around a lot, so I was always the “new kid on the block“…the “new kid in school“. I might make a friend or two, and then we would move – again.

Because of my Tourette’s, I was teased a lot in school. I was called “twitch“…and worse. Other kids made fun of me by imitating my facial tics. I was a book-worm, and read encyclopedias in my spare time, so my nickname was “Brit” or “Encyclopedia“.

Even my parents rejected me… Probably the worst case of my young life was on my eleventh birthday. My grandfather died on that day, and his death was more important than celebrating my birthday. Rather than celebrating my birthday, dad drove to Illinois to be with his family for the funeral. He couldn’t wait a couple of days, and be a part of his son’s life, before he went to the funeral. His family, and the funeral, were more important than his own son. Maybe that seems trivial, but it isn’t. It was to become a pattern, repeated at various times and various ways.

By about my thirteenth birthday, mom no longer came into the bathroom and talked to me while I took my bath. Perhaps that was to teach me “modesty“, but in the long run, it taught me that she no longer cared enough about me to take special time for me. Sure, I was getting to be a “big-boy“, a “young man“, but other than the fact that my sexual equipment was getting bigger, and getting hair around it, I was still the same kid she had brought into the world just a few years later…but I wasn’t to her. As I got older, my parent’s lives got busier and busier, and they had less and less time for me. I no longer “mattered“. I was rejected. When I didn’t do well in English, dad simply grounded me until I got my grades up. Never mind that he had been a college-English instructor, and could have helped me, but he didn’t have the time. I didn’t matter, just my grades.

After my sophomore year of high-school, we moved again, so my dad could pastor a church in Oklahoma. Again, I was the “new kid on the block“…the “new kid in church“…the “PREACHER’S KID“, and I wasn’t welcome. Sure, there were other kids my age in the church, but they already had their own clique, and I wasn’t welcome. Whether it was in church, or elsewhere, I didn’t “fit-in“. I was an outsider looking in. I vividly remember those interminably-long church-bus rides between Oklahoma and church-camp in Colorado. The rest of the kids carried on, cut-up, and generally had a gay old time…and sang “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love“, while I sat…lonely and rejected. I hated that song for many years, because it represented what they should have been, but weren’t…loving. Even at camp, about all the people that had anything to do with me were other pastors. One particular pastor stands out in my mind as having the kind of love that I wasn’t getting elsewhere.

After I graduated from high-school, instead of going to college…like all the other kids I graduated with did, I went into the service. Once again…out of sight, out of mind. I was just a fleeting shadow, and not worth keeping up with.

After I got back home from my time in the service, I met and married a lovely young lady. She supported me through two years of college. I got recruited right out of college, so we moved to where my new job was.
Along the way, we had four kids…three girls and a boy. That presented its own unique set of challenges, because particularly when they were young, my wife’s full attention was devoted to them. While we did have some “us” time, it was never the same. I was “dad“…I was the “provider“, but the husband-wife relationship had been seriously disrupted. After we had been there about a dozen years, my wife started getting home-sick. She was very close to her family, and being over five-hundred miles away made that difficult for her. When I saw the handwriting on the wall, that the work for the group I was in was being seriously curtailed, we decide to move back “home“. That really was the beginning of the end of our relationship and our family.

Things seemed to hum along for another couple of years, and then my work started taking more and more of my time. I worked a lot of overtime due to me responsibilities. My wife and kids spent more and more time with her family, and less and less time with me. Her mom got to the point of needing 24/7 care, but her family was unwilling to put her in a nursing home, and the only person in the family that didn’t have an outside job was my wife, so she became her mom’s caregiver. Not only was our husband-wife relationship stretched from having four kids, but it got stretched thinner by her caring for her mom. I was no longer her #1 priority. At one point, she even demanded that we buy her mom’s house and move in with her. I refused that demand, because it wouldn’t have been good for anything but her being able to take care of her mom even more. The house was also way too small for our family. I saw less and less of my wife and family.

My wife started realizing what her actions had done to our family, but by then, the damage was all but irreparable. Her health was also suffering, and she refused medical help. She also refused any form of marriage counseling. She took her own life shortly thereafter. I am sure that she thought her death would unite our fragmented family, but it totally destroyed it. Suicide may be the ultimate form of rejection, because it is totally self-centered. Suicide tells those affected that they aren’t worth living for…

Because her family blamed me for her death, the very people who should have rallied around me didn’t. Old friends and family became mortal enemies, and they did everything in their power to destroy me. One brother-in-law even threatened to kill me. I had to move out of the community because I was no longer welcome there. Her family even poisoned my own kid’s attitudes towards me, so that they didn’t even want to see me or have anything to do with me. It has been over eighteen years since their mom’s death, and they still refuse to have anything to do with me. My oldest daughter threatened to call the police if I tried to contact her again. I am still not welcome in that community. The bitterness and hatred still run that deep. BTW…those people even call themselves “Christians“. Where is their love?

About a year later, I remarried, and shortly after we got married, we moved completely out of the area. The first place she started rejecting me was in the bedroom. Even though we didn’t have a truly-active sex-life, it went to non-existent…from sex every few weeks, to sex once every two or three years. That marriage lasted until I lost my eye. She decided that I was no longer part of her agenda, and she divorced me. She couldn’t even be bothered to send me a “get-well” card, let alone come and be with me in the hospital. I was thrown away with yesterday’s trash.

A few months after that divorce, I met another lady, and we started courting. I had a steady job, and she was disabled and unable to work. We got married, and as long as I had steady income, I was the greatest guy in the world. After she got her disability, and I lost my job, I became expendable. I was no longer part of her agenda…no longer desirable…thrown away with yesterday’s trash. Oh, we can’t forget that she had promised faithfully to NEVER do to me what my previous wife had done, but she did…

Maybe I should have gotten wiser, and avoided further romantic contact, but I had never been a “happy single“. I was “wired” to be married, and that was how and where I was happiest.

After being divorced for about two years, I met another lady. She had been down many of the same roads I have been down, including being a widow. She seemed to be the “ideal” wife. At least she talked a good talk. We got married in December 2013, and less than six weeks later, she moved out…while I was out of town at a doctor’s appointment. All she left was a note. We had sporadic contact for a few months, and then abruptly she wanted to move back home with me. That lasted exactly two weeks, before she moved out again. A couple of weeks later, she texted me and told me that she is in love with another man, and would be filing for divorce shortly. Oh, we can’t forget that she had promised faithfully to NEVER do to me what my previous wife had done, but she did…

Perhaps that is the most unkind cut of all…leaving me for another man. That tears at the very heart of who I am as a man. It is rejection – in spades. She has thrown me away with yesterday’s trash, because I am no longer what she wants in life. I was a brief interlude, but little more. She claims she is sorry for what she has done to me, but her actions show that her remorse is only superficial. She is unwilling to do what is necessary to start undoing the hurt she has caused.

Do I know a bit about rejection? I could probably write a book on it, but what would that accomplish?

Rejection – when a person willfully and deliberately hurts and discards another person who trusted them to never do that. Someone else knew quite a bit about rejection.

Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
3 He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

4 Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
9 And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53)

One of His close associates, Judas, betrayed Him. Another close associate, Peter, denied him, not just once, but three times, after he swore that he would NEVER do that. When He was arrested, only Peter and John tagged-along behind the mob to His trial. John is also the only disciple who was there when He was crucified. All the rest had turned-tail and ran. Mark fled the scene of His arrest naked.

Yes, Jesus Christ knows a few things about rejection, and He keenly-feels our rejection with us. Who better to turn to in our pain?

In Christ,
Steve

Missing Love…

Have you ever missed an opportunity to love someone? Have you ever been so busy pointing out someone’s faults that you forgot to love them? Do you ever judge someone else so that you feel better about yourself? If we are honest, we have all missed opportunities to love someone because we are too self-centered to lay aside our judgemental-attitude long enough to do what we are supposed to do, love them. How many relationships have we destroyed by being judgemental?

I wish I could say that this is rare among Christians, but it isn’t. I had a sad experience recently which has hammered this point home to me. I was at a Bible-study, and since our usual leader was out of the country on a missions trip, his parents joined us to share what God is doing in their lives. They have been missionaries with Wyckliff Bible Translators for many years, and God has done some phenominal things through them and in their lives. When I got ready to leave, I told them I am in Christian nudist missions, and his response was “You can’t be a Christian and a nudist.”.

Someone else in the group had already told them about me, so they had already prejudged me before they even met me. What could have been a beautiful friendship between fellow-laborers in God’s kingdom was destroyed in an instant. Judgement eclipsed love…

That brings us to 1st Corinthians 13, the beautiful “Love-chapter”
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it his not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 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.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)

Wisdom…
He who answers a matter before he hears it,
It is folly and shame to him. (Proverbs 18:13)

A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city,
And contentions are like the bars of a castle. (Proverbs 18:19)

He who restrains his words has knowledge, And he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent. (Proverbs 17:27-28)

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” (Abraham Lincoln)

Final thoughts…
As I have thought about this for the last several days, I am not going to make any further analysis of this situation and these Scriptures. Instead, I am going to heed the words of Proverbs and the wisdom of the old rail-splitter and hold my piece. With David, I will simply say:

“May the Lord be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.” (1 Samuel 24:15)

In Christ,
Steve

Sir, Are You Jesus?

What a humbling question… It comes from the well-known story about the traveling business-men and the blind girl who was selling apples in the airport. How often do we, as Christians, pause to realize that we may be the only “Jesus” some people may ever see?

Several years ago, the “WWJD” bracelets were everywhere, reminding people to ask “What Would Jesus Do?” in every life circumstance, but they went the way of most fads, and I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw one. Even though that girl couldn’t see the business-man who came back to help her, the eyes of her heart saw Jesus. When she realized that her table had been dumped over, she had asked Jesus to send someone to help her. She imagined, perhaps from Bible stories that she had heard, that if Jesus was there, He would help her. Her prayer was answered almost immediately.

Even though that business-man missed his flight and didn’t make it home in time for supper with his family, he had the priceless experience of being “Jesus” to that blind girl.

When was the last time YOU were “Jesus” to someone?

Blessings!
Steve

Unity…

Is it any wonder that the Church seems powerless? Is it any wonder that the Church seems to be having less and less impact on society? Is it any wonder that there are more and more “churches” but fewer and fewer Christians? We all claim to be Brothers and Sisters in Christ, but you would never know it by the way we act. Where has our Unity gone?

The more the New Testament church spread, the less unity it exhibited. By the time the Apostle Paul came back to Jerusalem in Acts 15, the seeds of discord had already been sown.

Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. (Acts 15:1-2)

What followed that was the Jerusalem Council, which was convened to iron out their differences and formulate a uniform “standard“. The legalists were already making their voices heard and their presence felt.

Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.” (Acts 15:5)

If the legalists had their way, “salvation by grace through faith” would have been replaced by “Get circumcised, and keep the Law of Moses” so you can be saved. Do you remember the Pharisees from “Traditions…”?

“Issues”…
There are a lot if “issues” which divide Christians, even though we claim to read and believe the same Bible, and first “issue” is about which translation/Bible is the “real” Bible.

Bibles…
How can we have so many “Bibles” when they are all supposedly translated from the same “original” documents? Do the same original words mean different things to different people? Every church and denomination has its favorite. A few of the more familiar ones are:

King James (KJV) – because the “Apostles spoke King James English“. Many Baptist churches are KJV-only.

New King James (NKJV) – King James without the obsolete language.

New American Standard (NASB) – an updated translation using more modern English, and favored by many Reformed churches.

New International Version (NIV) – an updated translation done by an international group of scholars.

English Standard Version (ESV) – came on the scene recently, and is favored by many Reformed churches.

Even though this should be a “non-issue“, many churches and denominational-groups make it one.

Baptism…
I heard a “Reformed-Baptist” pastor say “Every time the word “baptize” is used, it should be translated “immerse”. Is how a person was baptized more important than that they WERE baptized? Many churches, particularly Baptist Churches, believe that it IS a BIGDEAL how a person was baptized, because they believe that a person hasn’t really been baptized until they have been immersed. I could never be a “member” of one of those Baptist churches because I was sprinkled, rather than being immersed.

Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) churches accept all modes of baptism as valid, even though they traditionally use sprinkling for baptisms. Is it any wonder that many PCA churches are “melting-pots“, welcoming people from many different religious-backgrounds?

Eschatology…
Why do so many churches and Bible-scholars think it is SO important to analyze every scrap of prophesy to pin down “exactly” how and when the End-times events are going to happen? Do they not have anything better to do, such as spreading the Good News of the Gospel? Can’t we accept that Jesus said that He didn’t even know the time-line? Can’t we just allow God to be God, and leave it to Him to determine how and when?

The Evangelical-Free Church has their eschatology-position as the last point in their ten-point Statement of Faith, and every candidate for church office must agree to all ten points. My wife and I were members of an E-Free church for a while, but I didn’t agree with that last point, so I couldn’t be an officer. The E-Free denomination courted my dad to become an E-Free pastor, but he also didn’t agree with their eschatology position. They missed-out on a very well-studied and scholarly pastor.

God’s desire for unity…

How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.
(Psalm 133)

The reference here is to the special oil which God commanded His people to make and use ONLY for holy purposes. Aaron, the first High Priest, was anointed with this special oil when God ushered-in worship in the just-completed Tabernacle in the wilderness.

The “dew of Herman falling on Mount Zion” represents God’s blessing when His people live together in unity. That is how much God values unity…

Is it any wonder that the Church seems powerless? Is it any wonder that the Church seems to be having less and less impact on society? Is it any wonder that there are more and more “churches” but fewer and fewer Christians? We all claim to be Brothers and Sisters in Christ, but you would never know it by the way we act. Where has our Unity gone?

Isn’t it time we quit bickering about things that don’t matter and get on with fulfilling the Great Commission?

In Christ,
Steve

Amazing People

I have an amazing circle of friends and acquaintances, and that circle is growing all the time. Some of them are Christians. Some of them are Agnostics. A few are Pagans. Some are even Atheists. Quite a few are married, and some of those are monogamous, but some of them are polyamorous. Some of my friends are straight, and some of them are gay, lesbian or bisexual. Some are into kink, BDSM or S&M. A couple of them are even transgendered. What is so amazing about them?

They were all created in God’s image, and God the Father loves them so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, into the world to die for them. He would rather die for them than live for all eternity without them. But, do you want to know the most amazing part of it? I need a Savior just a badly as the “worst” of them, because, even as a Christian, I am no better than they are. How can I NOT love them?

Steve

What Did The Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Decision Change?

On Friday, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United Sates extended the right to get “married” to same-sex couples. It was a day of joy and celebration for same-sex rights advocates, and a day of infamy for most Christians. Most Christians believe that the Supreme Court changed the definition of “marriage” by their decision, but that is NOT the case. If you were born after 1923, you have lived under AND embraced the modern definition of “marriage“. If you have ever gotten a “marriage license“, you have affirmed the validity of the modern definition of “marriage“.

Note that I am NOT addressing homosexuality. I am addressing “marriage” as it is defined and exists in the United States.

Before you start picking up stones to throw at me, bare with me and hear me out. Prior to 1923, “marriagelicenses” were largely-unknown, but then the Federal Government passed the Uniform Marriage and Marriage License Act, and by 1929, every state in the Union had adopted marriage license laws, and by 1935, all states required licenses except Maryland, which soon followed shortly thereafter.

Marriage” had been largely under the domain and authority of the Church, but then the State stepped in and gave itself the authority to license and regulate “marriage“. Do you understand the implications of this fact? What the State can regulate and license, the State can also define, or redefine as it sees fit. The State can also expand it as it sees fit.

The Church wasn’t going to be left out in the cold, so the Church became the “enforcer” of this new State-sponsored “marriage“. How many churches would allow an “unlicensed” wedding to take place in their facilities? How many pastors would perform a wedding for a couple that didn’t have, or intend to get, a “marriage license“? The take-away is that “If you want to get married in the church, you have to have a “marriage-license“”. If that isn’t being an “enforcer” for the State, I don’t know what is.

There is the common attitude among Christians that any couple which isn’t “legallymarried” is simply “livingtogether” and “living in sin“. That attitude reinforces the “need” to “do it right” and gives Christians the “justification” for condemning those people as “immoral” and “sinners“.

What is “marriage”?
See, what the people fail to realize with these procedures for marriage given by the Government unto States is that, when you marry with a marriage license, you grant the State jurisdiction over your marriage. When you marry with a marriage license, your marriage is a creature of the State, it is a corporation of the State, therefore, they have jurisdiction over your marriage including the fruit of your marriage, in which the fruit of your marriage is your children and every piece of property you own. When you marry with a marriage license, you are not just marrying your spouse, but you are also marrying the State. “With This Ring I Thee Wed“, is of the State and is found in most county courthouses in many States. That phrase was published by the State Bar Association. They don’t tell you that when you repeat your vows, you enter into a legal contract, in which there are three parties to that contract, with the first being you, the second being the person you are marrying, and the third being the State you marry in. See, the State and the lawyers know that when you marry with a marriage license, you are not just marrying your spouse, you are marrying the State, thus giving undue jurisdiction to the State.

Thus, “marriage” is a legal-contract, which is “licensed” by the State, recorded by the State, and enforced by the State. If you believe that this is Biblical “marriage“, you are smoking some kind of strange weed. According to our modern definition of “marriage“, nobody in the Bible was “married“. PERIOD!

In spite of the “Christian” trappings of most weddings, they are, at their core, a civil ceremony. The officiant perfoms the ceremony under the authority of the State, and without that State authority, the marriage is not legally-recognized. Have you ever heard; “By the authority vested in me by the State of ____________, I pronounce that you are husband and wife.“?

For more background about how the State “owns” you, go back and read “You Are Not Your Own…

Common-law marriage…
Common-law, or undocumented marriage is only allowed in nine states plus the District of Columbia (DC). All of the States are supposed to honor common-law marriages from other States, but some States place restrictions of how they honor those marriages. In spite of our disdain for common-law marriage, that was the way non-religious people got married for hundreds of years before the advent of “marriage-licenses“. Under common-law marriage, a couple is considered “married” if they live together and say that they are married. How is that any different than any other kind of “marriage“?

Biblical marriage…
Is there really a “Biblical marriage-model“? The simplest marriage “prescription” I have found is in Genesis 2:23-25:

“Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”

In the Old Testament, we note that Abraham married his sister.

We also note that Abraham sent one of his servants to seek a wife for Isaac, and he took a LOT of goodies with him, the “dowry” or “bride-price“.

Jacob served Laban for seven years for each of his two wives, for a total of fourteen years service, as the “bride-price“.

David killed two hundred Philistines and brought back their bloody foreskins as the price of his first wife, Saul’s daughter Michal.

Are we really ready to go back to “arranged-marriage“? That was the model throughout much of the Old Testament.

“Biblical marriage” recap…
Rampant incest from the beginning up through at least Jacob…

Polygamy throughout the whole Old Testament…

Sex-slaves (concubines) throughout the whole Old Testament…

Girls were the “property” of their father until they were “sold” to their husband, and then became the “property” of their husband…

What part of that do you want to revive to get back to a “Biblical marriage model“?

What about monogamy?
Over the last several hundred years, monogamy has become the predominant marriage-model here in the west, driven by the false notion that it is the only “Biblical” marriage-model. The reality is that monogamy is only prescribed in one place in the Bible, and for one particular group of people – church leaders.

Qualifications for Overseers
3 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Qualifications for Deacons
8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 3:1-13)

Church leaders are held to a higher standard because they represent Christ to the church. If a man is not a church leader, elder or deacon, he is NOT constrained by this command. Plural-marriage makes him ineligible to be a church leader, but this doesn’t imply that it makes him any less godly. Many Evangelical groups believe that a man is ineligible to be a church leader if he has been married, divorced and remarried. I believe that is an accurate interpretation.

I was ordained as a deacon in one church, and then ordained as an elder in a different church, and even though the church I belong to now believes that ordination for elder is for life, I am not eligible to serve as an elder because I have been married and divorced several times. What I do otherwise has no bearing on whether I am eligible to serve.

Options…
What are the options for Christians and churches that reject this expansion of “marriagerights“?
1) Try to get all marriage laws repealed: Good luck getting all marriage laws repealed, because once the State gains the authority to regulate and license something, they aren’t going to give that up. Power corrupts, and more power means more corruption. Marriage and divorce are HUGE cash-cows for most States, and particularly for greedy divorce lawyers.

2) Refuse to participate in ANY State-sponsored and regulated “marriage“: Just as the church has the right to NOT perform same-sex weddings, the church can also refuse to perform ANY wedding that includes State-licensed civil-marriage. If a couple wants to get married in a church, to have a “churchwedding“, they are married BY the church, and if they want a State-sanctioned “marriage” as well, they can go to the courthouse.

3) Quit “feeding” and “endorsing” this State-sponsored “marriagemonster“. When you quit requiring couples wanting to be married in your church to have a “marriagelicense“, you are no longer “feeding” and “endorsing” State-sponsored “marriage“.

4) Change your attitude towards couples who are “living together” without being “married“. Get to know them before you condemn them as “living in sin“. If they believe that they are “married” and present themselves as being “married“, they ARE “married“. “Marriage” does NOT require a piece of paper to be valid, whether the State recognizes their “marriage” or not.

Before you throw stones…
Before you start throwing stones at me, do your own research. Become more than passingly-familiar with the whole Bible, particularly the Old Testament. Most Christians know more about the “traditions of the elders” than they actually do about the Bible, even though they believe that the “traditions of the elders” are “biblical“. I have done, and continue to do, my own research.

How does this Supreme Court decision affect you?
Unless you are in a same-sex relationship, this decision has no affect on you. If you are in a same-sex relationship, you may now get “married“. The Supreme Court did NOT “redefine” “marriage“. They simply extended the rights to the benefits of “marriage” to same-sex couples. “Redefining” “marriage” happened long before most of us were born.

God bless!
Steve

Idolatry

Do you have an “idol” in your home? Do you have a shrine to your favorite “deity“? Do you have tributes to your favorite “idol” in your closet, dresser or on your hat-rack? Maybe you are wondering what I am talking about, because you would NEVER worship another “deity” besides God, and yet idolatry wasn’t just a problem in the Old Testament, it is a real problem today, even among Christians.

Virtually every city or town in America has at least one shrine, and many major cities have dozens of shrines and grand temples to their favorite “deities“. Some of those temples have even been built with tax-payer money. Sometimes one of those “deities” will threaten to move somewhere else unless the city builds them a new temple.

Very few homes in America are without at least one altar to the family’s favorite “deities“, and many homes have one of those altars in every room in the house. Usually the biggest altar is in the living room or family room so the whole family can worship together, and the bigger the altar the better.

People spend hundreds, and even thousands of dollars to worship in their favorite temple, and many buy season-tickets to those temples so they don’t miss out on anything. They will stand in line for hours, and some have even been known to camp out overnight so they can get the best seats. Some people take expensive vacations to go worship in their favorite temple and bring homage to their favorite “deity“.

They throw elaborate parties to worship at the altars of their favorite deities, and it isn’t unusual for there to be lots of liquor involved also. People go crazy over their “deities“.

God said, in Exodus 20:3-4,
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Another “god”…
Yes, maybe I have finally lost my mind, or maybe I haven’t. The reality is that the vast majority of Americans spend way more time and money on entertainment than they do in the worship of God. That, my friends, is idolatry.

We have “American Idol” and “Dancing With The Stars“…

The shrines…
In most homes, their shrine is their entertainment-center, and the altar, and most important part of the entertainment-center, is their television. Feeding that altar is usually a satelite dish or cable-TV provider, and we can’t forget that DVD player and the Digital Video Recorder. People are paying some serious money for those “special packages” which include subscriptions to all their favorite “deities“. They can worship all their favorite “deities” right in their own home, in the comfort of their own living room or family room. I have a friend who will pay her Direct-TV bill even if she doesn’t have enough money for her rent and utilities. She goes ballistic if she can’t watch TV. She also thinks that I am “deprived” because, even though I have a TV, it isn’t hooked up to anything. A recent Red-box movie rental ended up costing her over $100 after she paid the late-return fee and the overdraft fees on her bank account. NO movie is worth that much to see.

How many towns don’t have a movie theater? Sometimes there is even a movie theater in one of those “one-horse” towns, because movies are big business. New-release movies will rake in a hundred MILLION dollars in just a few short days. That is insane.

The temples…
If there is a major sports franchise in your city, you have at LEAST one temple to the city’s favorite “deity“. If there are several major sports franchises in your city, there will be temple for each, because, heaven-forbid, they share temple space with each other. A nice sports-temple costs a half a BILLION dollars and up.

The grand-daddy…
The grand-daddy of all of the entertainment venues in my neck of the woods is Disney World. That place rakes in money so fast it would make your head swim. It may be the “happiest place on earth“, but it is also the greediest. Tens of thousands of people flock there every day to empty out their wallet and be entertained.

The tribute…
Virtually everywhere I look, I see someone wearing some item of tribute to their favorite “deity“, a jacket, a shirt, a T-shirt or a hat. People love to advertise their favorite “deities” and pay tribute to them. Regardless of which “deity” is on display, the item cost way more than it is worth.

The real problem…
We have become “children of a lesser god“, the “god” of pleasure, the “god” of entertainment, and while we spend BILLIONS of dollars on entertainment, many churches have trouble coming up with enough money to cover their bare-minimum budgets. Our Senior Pastor had to take a ten-week, unpaid sabbatical last summer because my church didn’t have enough money to cover its expenses. Our Associate Pastor was also paid way less than what he should have been for the same reason.

We have a serious problem with our priorities. “Self” has taken the place of God, and pleasure has trumped responsibility.

When was the last time you took vacation to go to a church retreat? Are you more faithful at your favorite sports venue than you are to your church? Do you skip church to watch the Superbowl, or are Sunday-evening church functions cancelled because of the Superbowl? Some churches even have a church-sponsored Superbowl-party…

We have turned entertainment “stars” and sports “heroes” into our IDOLS and pay them millions of dollars a year, for what, while our REAL heroes can’t even make a decent living and they do their work largely-unnoticed. Our value-system has been turned on its head.

Many of these “stars“, “heroes” and “idols” are also horrible role-models. It seems like the worse they are as role-models, the more they get paid. There is something seriously-wrong with that picture.

Am I “deprived”?
Am I “deprived” because I “only” have my computer and a few GOOD books? Am I “deprived” because I DON’T get a hundred channels of garbage on my TV at the touch of a button? Am I “deprived” because I refuse to pay to get “entertained“? Am I “deprived” because my God is the owner and ruler of the universe? Am I “deprived” because I am an heir with Christ of everything God owns, including Heaven? I sure don’t see it that way. I am incredibly-blest to have a good computer and a few good books, and be able to reach the world through this blog to the furtherance of God’s kingdom and for His glory.

How about you?
Are you a child of a “lesser-god“? Do you worship the idols of entertainment and pleasure? If you do, God has a few words for you:

3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

In Christ,
Steve