The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Respect God’s Word

". . . and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" - Matthew 16:18b

There is a war of world views upon us. It has been raging for quite some time. We are seeing the seeds of sin planted in our educational system and society come to harvest. Such a harvest of unholiness have been watered and ripened under the noses of the church. This harvest of hatred toward God has been cultivated on the watch of a church characterized by Laodicean lukewarmness. God's people have for the most part been complacent, condoning and compromising in her sheepish responses. The church is now watching what is being reaped because we have not sown. Immorality, licentiousness, wickedness, idolatry, and all kinds of unholy rotten fruit is coming to harvest. Jesus said the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few and we should therefore pray for more workers (Matthew 9:37-38). We haven't prayed. The enemy has preyed. There is therefore a proliferation of tares amongst God's wheat. There is a rise of evil in our world that is fast approaching, if not already exceeding that which was like the days of Noah just as Jesus said would happen (Matthew 24:37).

So what is the response of the church? What has the church decided to do? Some, awakened by guilt and the conviction of their lapse of duty, run out into the fray naked. They fail to put on the spiritual armor and weaponry provided by God (Ephesians 6:10-18). No helmet of salvation, no breastplate of righteousness, no belt of truth, no work boots of the gospel, no shield of faith. Nothing, just their prayerless carnal impressions and impulses in a kamikaze attack. And the result has been lambs to the slaughter.

But worse than the prayerless forays is the treachery of those who seek to put unloaded weapons in the Christian soldier's hands. Those in charge of the arsenal have either sent out weapons with no ammunition or provided a badly chipped and unsharpened saber. Not only is their brand of sword not tempered, it is distempered. What do I mean? Too often the church has taken the one instrument, the one effective weapon God has provided for our warfare, and dulled it. I'm talking of the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17).

It's not a pretty sight to see people hacking away at the enemy with a dull machete. No one should be hacking away at anyone. We can hack away at the thick underbrush of the weeds of this world (Matthew 13:22). But we should never hack away at people. The sword of Gods' word must always be administered with the courage of His love (Ephesians 4:15).

Spiritual surgery must be performed by laser sharp tools. The sharper the scalpel the cleaner the cut. The sharper the scalpel the less scarring and more effective the surgery. What is a sharp scalpel of God's word? It is one that is translated true to the text.

Now I'm not looking to get into a war over translations. I'm not a Kings James Only proponent. And I am not looking to get into a discussion over which manuscripts are more reliable. There is a more insidious and fundamental attitude toward the word of God that precedes such discussion of textual criticism. I'm not going to go into an academic discussion that will put most readers into glazed dazed coma. Please hear me out and read on. I am talking about a more basic attitude of disrespect toward God's word.

It is always a dangerous thing to bend God’s word to fit human opinion. That is what we see happening in certain segments of the church of our day. There is a human-centric view that aims to temper the truth of God for the sinner as well as for the wayward saint. People, who claim good intentions, not only bend God's word but avoid and sometimes even cut out portions of the Holy text. They dissect and divide with an eye to sugarcoating. They ignore or divert attention from any scripture that is not palatable to them or that they perceive will not be palatable to those they want to reach. They feel frequently that what God says in His word is too harsh for listeners. But feelings are fickle. We are not called to feel. We are called to faith. And faith comes by hearing God's word (Romans 10:17). Distort or hinder God's word in any way and you limit the ability to see it produce faith in people.

The rationale for the redaction of God's word is frequently a person's self-imposed prime directive of relevance. "We must make God's word RELEVANT!" I understand that. Really, to a certain extent, every "translation" of the original text of God's word is meant to make the revealed content understandable to people in their language. That's a good thing. But the line is crossed when "translation" is mixed with human opinion. The line is crossed when  personal preferences drives  what people feel is important to be emphasized or de-emphasized from God's revealed text.

One wonders if one day, in the pursuit of relevance, a consequence of human centric treatment of God's word would be an attempt to remove God's ordained and revealed gender specific references. Oh I know this has already been spearheaded by, for example, the Today's New International Version "translation." (To me that's not even a work worthy of the definition of "translations.") But I can foresee an even more disrespectful treatment of God's word.

It's not hard to imagine a complete denial of the Fatherhood of God someday in "Christian" circles. Can't you foresee the feminizing of the Holy Spirit? And toward the end if societal trends of our day are adopted to their extremes, can't you imagine some pushing into God's Holy Word a kind of transgender malaise of gender non-specificity. To them God is capricious about His gender. Like them, God can be whatever gender He wants to be. God wears pants one day. God wears a skirt the other. A kind of crazy modern day modalistic view of God. God becomes to them a kind of chaotic chameleon of gender neutrality. This is the ultimate projection of humanities' distorted sinful perceptions on God. It's blasphemous.

How long before such "translations" of God's word or such "interpretations" of God's word begin to cut out references to anything and everything deemed "offensive" to the culture of the day. Can't you just see the political correctness of this world being adopted hook, line, and sinker by the end times stinking stenchy church? Years ago we might have responded to that, "No way!" Today? It might be more relevant to say, "Yes, I can see that way."

Why am I writing this? I'm writing this because of a fire in my belly for God's word. I'm writing this as a precaution. I'm writing this in hopes that in some small way I can be used by the Lord to awaken some of His people to the importance of His word. "'The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; and he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?' says the LORD. 'Is not My word like a fire?' says the LORD. 'And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?'" (Jeremiah 23:28-29). We are inundated with the chaff of unfaithfulness to God's word. We are swamped with dreamers passing on human opinions. We are impressed with the machinations of marketeers. But a house built without scripture is built on sand (Matthew 7:24-27). A storm is coming, (it's here!)  and if we forsake God's word we will not stand! We are responding to the world's attempts to stone us by retreating into houses made of straw. We need God's word to break those rocks! We need His fiery word to burn up the chaffy straw houses we've built. We need a revival of God's word. That begins with a respect for God's word.

The problem with a disrespectful attitude toward God's word starts with the human centricity of those who are guilty of this distortion of God's word. They fail to remember that God is the Creator who made us and that He knows best about what we need. No man or woman is worthy of a position to sit as editor of God's revelation. Humanity falls short of God's glory. We need to listen to the Author and surrender to His instructions. We need to "humble yourselves before the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time" (1 Peter 5:6).

Therefore, let’s get right back to the bottom line of God's word. Let's consider why we should not try to alter the meaning of God’s word to fit our human opinions. Let's set aside our "relevance" for the sake of God's revelation. If we truly believe in God and His omniscient foreknowledge then we should believe that none of what we see in our world today has caught God off guard. God has revealed His word to humanity knowing full well what humanity needed to hear "for such a time as this" (Esther 4:14). Let's trust God and His word as God's word. What does God say about His word and how we should handle it?

First, God warns against changing or altering His word in numerous places in His word. The God says in His word:

·         Deuteronomy 4:2 - 2 You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.

·         Deuteronomy 12:32 - 32 “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.

·         Proverbs 30:5-6 - Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.6 Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.     

·         Revelation 22:18-19 - 18 For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

If you wrote a letter to someone and the person who read it changed your words and altered its meaning to mean something other than what you clearly and simply intended, you would probably find that offensive and even criminal. If a general sent orders to the front lines and when they got there the orders were altered  by those in lesser command, the offenders would face a court marshal and more importantly victory in the battle would be put in jeopardy. Changing God’s word is like changing orders or changing a letter, it puts people at risk and jeopardizes God’s intended purposes, it is offensive and it is criminal.

Second, God’s word is holy, unique, and ought to be approached with the utmost reverence. God says His word is holy which means it is unique. The Bible states this saying:

·         Romans 1:2 - 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures,

·         2 Timothy 3:15-17 - 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

There is no book like God’s book the Bible. No other book is verified and validated by the combination of manuscript evidence, archeological evidence, prophetic evidence, the preservation in the face of persecution evidence and the logical statistical rational of the combination of these factors considered together.  No book can match the 66 book Bible for truth and reliability. God’s word is holy and we ought to have reverence for it. 

Third, we should inductively look to learn from God in His word not deductively look to use God’s word to support our views.  The proper way to approach God’s word is inductively. This means we come to it open and eager to learn what the Holy Spirit wants to reveal to us through the word. This means we come to the word of God first and form our beliefs and opinions based on what the word says, not the other way around. When a person approaches God’s word deductively with preconceived beliefs and then seeks to support their particular opinions with God’s word, it leads to scripture twisting, misinterpretation, misunderstanding and manipulation of God’s holy word. We are the ones who must learn from God; we cannot teach God anything.

At the root of the problem is that we live in a sinful world that places man at its center. This man-centered mentality has crept into the church. The Bible refers to this as the works of the flesh. It is walking according to our own understanding rather than walking in the Spirit and being guided by God (1 Corinthians 3; Galatians 3:1-5; 5:16-26). We shouldn’t look to shade God’s word to fit our preconceived opinions. Rather we should look to the Holy Spirit to illuminate God’s word to our understanding (1 Corinthians 2:9-15).

When people try to contemporize God’s word under the premise that it needs to be made “relevant” to peer pressures and beliefs of the day, what they have done is they have become people pleasers and consequently stopped being servants of God (Galatians 1:10).  God’s word is true and unchanging like He is (Matthew 24:35; John 17:17; Hebrews 13:8). Rather than trying to change God’s word to fit the prevailing human opinion of the day we ought to be trying to see how what human beings say fit according to God’s word. When you look at human fields of learning you find an ever changing unstable series of “facts” that with time prove to be wrong or off for the most part. God’s word is dependable and has stood the test of time. We need to respect it when we approach it because it is indeed, God’s word. If we do that, then we can change the momentum of this war of world views. If we do that, we can go on the offensive. Jesus said, "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. . . . and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 7:24 and 16:18b). Respect God's word. Amen.

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