Friday, December 30, 2011

CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD

The Scriptural account of man tells us that we have been created in the image of God. The intention of this article is not to give a detailed explanation of the meaning or significance of this but, rather, to encourage the reader to reflect upon the value of man based upon our view of man.

I would like to suggest that the greatest expressed value of man is as he embraces and reflects the character of the God in whose image he has been created. However, whether he expresses this character or not, there is real, intrinsic value in the fact that he has been created in the image of God.

One who has rejected this image and turned from God to other “gods” or idols, is referred to in Scripture as “lost.” Mankind, referred to as “lost”, is still recognized as having been created in the image of God but, as well, having departed from that image. Though lost, man still has great value when acknowledged as a being created in God’s image.

As we depart further, however, we do not simply depart from God’s image but we deny such a God and such an image. An attempt to find man’s place in the universe at this point has represented him as coming into existence in the form of animal. At this point, we have made the value of man even lower than the Biblical idea of lost man. A man who is lost is still a man while viewing man as animal is to remove the uniqueness and value of “manness.”

The devaluation of man has not stopped with viewing him as an animal but has slid deeper into viewing him as an organic machine controlled by deterministic forces above, beyond and before him. We are simply a helpless mechanism with delusions of value.

In response to this and in an attempt to recover from the despair this produces, we cannot simply tell ourselves we have value. We must recover the true nature of our original design, purpose and value and deal honestly, intelligently and maturely with our departure from this reality. There have been many efforts to prop man up with encouraging words of self-esteem, first aside from the church and the gospel and now within the church and the neo-gospel, that will prove to fail and eventually produce even greater despair due to the failure to arrive at the hope promised through such false and deceptive efforts.

Notice the incredible wisdom and insight offered by the apostle Paul when he writes, “This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Ephesians 4:17-24, NASB)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

REFLECTION ON EXODUS 32 AND DEUTERONOMY 9 (PART 9)

Moses Responds to God Response – Characteristics of an Intercessor

The Living, Creator of the universe had delivered people of Israel from Egypt with an overwhelming display of His power and supremacy. The people of Israel, after having the commandments of God spoken to them, quickly turned away and violated what God, in love and for their good, had communicated. God, in response, told Moses to stand aside as He was going to eliminate this people and make of Moses a great nation. Moses intercedes.

There are four characteristics of an intercessor that surface in this passage; humility, compassion, concern for God’s reputation and the expectation that God responds to human intercession. This post is concerned with humility.

It is likely that a correct view of humility is rare. Though we will identify its presence in this passage, it is worth noting that it is clearly stated in Numbers 12:3 that “…Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.” This verse serves to affirm that Moses was, in fact, humble and to challenge our idea of humility in that the book of Numbers is ascribed to the authorship of Moses. It would seem that a humble man would not state that he is the most humble man on earth.

The word “humble” in the Old Testament text implies being poor (in spirit), afflicted, needy, bowed down and lowly. However, it carries with it an accurate assessment of one’s state, as opposed to thinking more lowly of oneself than is true. In the text, God had just indicated that He would eradicate the current “nation” and begin anew with Moses. Such an offer could easily appeal to one’s sense of, both, importance and convenience. Moses could have been the last man standing and the father of the new branch of God’s people. He would have had the task of simply raising a family. The account of Exodus 32, as it now appears, could have ended. However, he turned down the offer that would have given to him this position of great esteem and opted to engage and appropriately deal with the massive number of rebellious Israelites (estimated in the millions) at the expense of raising a family. This humble response laid the foundation for the intercession that follows.

…the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12, NASB)

“You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:5-7, NASB)

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

REFLECTIONS ON EXODUS 32 AND DEUTERONOMY 9 (PART 8)

Moses Responds to God Response

I recently taught in a Discipleship Training School in which we considered the idea that love, in order to be love, in certain circumstances must respond in varying measures of severity. While considering certain Old Testament accounts, such as the one in Exodus 32, where large numbers of people lost their lives, one of the students responded with a significant degree of emotion, verging on strong anger (largely toward God), stating that it is not right that innocent children should suffer when God judges a nation or city in severity. Without considering the entire interchange, I would like to make a simple point that was later made to the student in a private conversation. I said, “I noticed that you expressed your concern for those who suffer because of the wrong actions and rebellion of others with quite a bit of passion. Either you can turn that passion into hatred toward God or you can recognize that God is truly attempting to rid the world of such wickedness and work together with Him to accomplish this. There are many ways you can work to alleviate such suffering.”

Notice that Moses responds to God’s declaration of judgment with intercession. There are a number of very strong and important implications that accompany such a response. Moses assumed he could alter the course of events that were about to transpire. Though God declared His intention, Moses proceeded according to the idea that he could offer God an alternative to the course revealed. Moses, obviously, had not been to seminary but he did know God. As we proceed, in future posts, to evaluate the intercession that follows, keep in mind that such an account is not simply an irrelevant Bible stories. Hopefully we will be inspired to become alternative channels and influences God can work with in order to avoid judgment that is otherwise appropriate and necessary. Many people can do the easy work of complaining about suffering but few seem to be available to help eliminate it. Will you be found when God looks for someone to stand in the gap? Notice in the passage below from Ezekiel that prophets, priests and princes, who should have been protecting and leading the people, were part of the problem as opposed to the solution. Who will rise up?

For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9, NASB)

And the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Son of man, say to her, “You are a land that is not cleansed or rained on in the day of indignation.” ‘There is a conspiracy of her prophets in her midst, like a roaring lion tearing the prey. They have devoured lives; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in the midst of her. Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. Her princes within her are like wolves tearing the prey, by shedding blood and destroying lives in order to get dishonest gain. And her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ when the Lord has not spoken. “The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice. And I searched for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. Thus I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; their way I have brought upon their heads,” declares the Lord God.’” (Ezekiel 22:23-31, NASB)

Thursday, November 03, 2011

REFELECTIONS ON EXODUS 32 AND DEUTERONOMY (Part 7)

God Responds

After communicating to Moses that He (God) viewed the people of Israel as corrupt and obstinate, having quickly turned aside from the commandments given to them, having made, worshipped and sacrificed to this idol, He reveals His response.

Was it right for God to declare, “Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them, and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation”? (Exodus 32:10) Does this imply an uncontrolled emotional outburst? Could this be understood as an expression of love? Is Richard Dawkins correct when he claims that, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” In preparation to resolve such concerns, let’s first consider God’s purpose for raising up the nation of Israel.

In Genesis 12:1-3 we read, “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

The Old Testament account of God’s interaction with the nation of Israel describes His effort to prepare a people who can reflect the fruit that we produce when honoring and obeying God’s design for personal and corporate life and who can, consequently, bless all nations with instruction regarding God’s redemptive provisions. Such redemptive provisions ultimately include the work of the Messiah that allows pardon to be righteously and wisely extended to all and any guilty party. Consider the following two passages: “And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Genesis 22:18, NASB) “And I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws.” (Genesis 26:4-5, NASB)

The role and responsibility of the nation of Israel in regard to redemptive history was tremendously important and, as stated regarding Moses, obedience was crucial in the effective unfolding of this project.

The account we are considering in Exodus 32 is, in great measure, a defining moment, the significance of which we have likely underestimated as we approach such Scriptural accounts with a shallow, Sunday school mentality. In my next post, we will continue to reflect upon this defining moment and its connection with God’s severe, but I believe appropriate, response.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

REFLECTIONS ON EXODUS 32 AND DEUTERONOMY 9 (PART 6)

God Responds

After communicating to Moses that He (God) viewed the people of Israel as corrupt and obstinate, having quickly turned aside from the commandments given to them, having made, worshipped and sacrificed to this idol, He reveals His response.

The response we are about to explore is, to a great degree, no longer viewed by many professing Christians as a response God is “allowed” to have. Largely due to confusion about the purpose and result of the atonement, some have created a God who is wholly tolerant, passive and “gentle.” In response to the conduct of those recently delivered from Egypt God says, “Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them, and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.” (Exodus 32:10)

A number of observations, to be presented in separate blog entries, are worth developing. In this post I will address the issue of God and emotion. Contrary to Greek, Perfect Being Philosophy and its impact on Classical Christian Theology, God does experience emotion. The verse quoted above is a solid example. I would suggest, however, that a careful, well developed understanding of Scriptural revelation leads to the conclusion that God is not governed by His emotion but, in love, God subjects His emotional responses to an analysis of the highest good in the situation in question. The best option in some circumstances, the current case being an example, is to bring some form of judgment. We will probe ideas about why judgment was the best initial option in upcoming posts, but the point of this entry is to highlight the fact that God does experience emotion, is not governed by emotion and that a severe response to human sin and rebellion is, often, a completely legitimate response on the part of God. Though God is not controlled by His emotional reactions, it is quite possible that, after subjecting His emotional response to analysis, the most appropriate course of action will be consistent with the emotional response.

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. “And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

“And these (the goats) will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous (the sheep) into eternal life.”   (Matthew 25:31-33, 46)

Monday, October 31, 2011

REFLECTIONS ON EXODUS 32 AND DEUTERONOMY 9 (Part 5)

God Reveals His view of the People (Part 2)

As Moses is on Mt. Sinai in the presence of God, the Israelites recruited Aaron to make for them a golden calf to “go before” them. They then “offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.” As God was aware of this behavior, He reported to Moses His perspective of the people. He first stated that, “…your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.” In Deuteronomy 9:12 God is recorded as saying, “…your people whom you brought out of Egypt have acted corruptly.”

I would, in this entry, like to refer to the second of two points of interest from this passage. This point relates to the statement, “…your people…have corrupted themselves.” The question is sometimes asked, “Do people sin because they are sinners or are they sinners because they sin?” In an attempt to avoid the entanglements of probing this issue in all of its technicalities (as if I actually could), I would like to state, in a simple and straightforward manner, that we establish our own moral character as individuals and, strangely enough (little understood in our age, as a nation (a corporate people). In this passage, as God had been laboring to prepare the people of Israel for a significant purpose in redemptive history, God observes that their choice to quickly violate the commandments delivered to them has spoiled them. They have proven to be unfit for the task for which He has been preparing them. Their choice to pursue idolatry was the watershed moment of proof. Though the church has been great at doing theological gymnastics to explain away such God / man interaction because of preconceived views of God and man it is significant to note that the text indicates that God had certain hopes that were, at that moment, dashed. They willingly, decisively corrupted themselves. Later in the continued history of this people God will state, What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?” (Isaiah 5:4, NASB) To those of our current age we must sound the warning of Hebrews 2:1-3, “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?”

NOTE: The pictures I could have used to inspire concern about whether we, as a nation, have corrupted ourselves, are much more shocking then the one I chose. (click at your own risk)

Friday, October 28, 2011

UNDERSTAND AND KNOW

Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24, NASB)

What we have above is one of many Biblical statements that is jammed full of valuable insights. As a starting point for gleaning truth from this passage I would like to consider the phrase, “he understands and knows Me.”

Someone (who, I cannot recall) once said that we will generally find God in the radical middle. I have found that people too often swing in extremes. I use the word “radical” here to mean, “Pertaining to the root or origin; original” as opposed to a common usage indicating “outrageous” or “extreme.” In reference to religious movements we can swing from a fundamentalist perspective which emphasizes agreeing with information to a charismatic perspective which emphasizes experience. God is not accurately represented in either extreme but will be found in a perfect and beautiful balance that corrects and blends the extremes. This is likely why many are turned away from God when looking at such extremes.

The passage above reveals that God wants us to understand and know Him. The usage of two different words is significant. “Understand” would encourage a circumspect, intellectual, academic pondering of truth that allows one to construct an accurate view of God. “Know” would imply a relational, experiential dimension of knowledge. God is not looking for an either / or arrangement as much as a both / and arrangement. Some religious movements gather information and pass it along but shy away from (if not fear) actual encounter with the Living God, while others seek after experience but nearly refuse to engage their minds in any form of serious intellectual activity. Then there are those religious circles that do neither; stay away from them. When we manage to find a healthy balance in reference to understanding and knowing, we will more effectively approach that place where we will truly encounter and become equipped to please and to represent the Eternal, Personal, Creator Who is supreme and yet present, transcendent and immanent. We are not to remain little children who are tossed back and forth between extremes, but we are to grow up “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

REFLECTIONS ON EXODUS 32 AND DEUTERONOMY 9 (Part 4)

God Reveals His View of the People (Part One)

As Moses is on Mt. Sinai in the presence of God, the Israelites recruited Aaron to make for them a golden calf to “go before” them. They then “offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.” As God was aware of this behavior, He reported to Moses His perspective of the people. He first stated that, “…your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.” In Deuteronomy 9:12 God is recorded as saying, “…your people whom you brought out of Egypt have acted corruptly.”

I would like to refer to two points of interest. The first point I will deal with in this entry and the next point in the upcoming entry. The first is that God does not refer to the people, as they engage in this behavior, as His people. They are “your people whom you brought up.” It is appropriate to take recognize how “sin in the camp” affects God and our relationship with Him, both, individually and corporately. Later, in the history of the nation of Israel, God speaks through the Prophet Isaiah to say, “…your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2, NASB) I have heard people attempt to justify the practice of sin in our current age by referring to this as “the age of grace.” Man has always, in some measure, to some degree, on some level, been recipients of God’s grace, but this is not to be understood as a justification for sin. Titus 2:11-15 reads, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”

God is calling to Himself “a people for His own possession,” a people who deny ungodliness and worldly desire and who live sensibly, righteously and godly. To be His people, we must purpose and pursue a life reflective of the truth and purity of the principles of His kingdom. I am amazed at the number of people who assume that God must accept (in fact He’s pathetically longing for) whatever scrap we toss Him. We’ve turned the love of God into a weakness because we know neither God nor love.

“For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” (1 Peter 4:17-19, NASB)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

HOW MANY MEN ARE BOLD ENOUGH TO BE GENUINE FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST?

ClickHere
It was Wednesday morning as twenty-five or thirty men came streaming into the second floor “chapel” of the county prison. Along with the throng of inmates was a young man who had been attending classes for a number of months. He purposely used his hefty, semi-muscular physique for its intimidation factor. This young man had likely done, as well as experienced, significant damage. Over the months, we had established a decent rapport that involved verbal exchanges that ranged from humorous to aggressive. One day, in apparent resignation, he raised his hand during class in order to say, “I’ve come the conclusion that I am just naturally disobedient.” I looked at him with, likely, a bit of perplexed disappointment verging on annoyance before I said, “I don’t care.” This was, quite obviously, not the response he, nor the other students, anticipated. I continued, “Think about it this way. Every time you’re disobedient to something, you’re obedient to something else. What you’re really telling me is that you're being obedient to the impulses of your flesh. You’re being obedient to the principles of the kingdom of darkness and selfishness, to Satan. So, while you’re being obedient to this, you're also being disobedient to God and His kingdom of light and righteousness. So, you’re into disobedience? Just switch who you’re being obedient to and who you’re being disobedient to. You see, it doesn’t take a man to live according to the impulses of his flesh. Animals do this. But, it does take a man to stand up for justice and righteousness. If you like a good fight, try being disobedient to Satan. Try fighting for truth and morality and against deception and immorality.”

Is this why Jesus, quite clearly, warned His disciples of the hatred and persecution that was to come their way as devoted followers? There is a battle raging. The only question is, “What side are we fighting for, what kingdom are we advancing?” Paul stated, “And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)

Often, I have opportunity to tell the men in the prison class I offer, “A real man is not one who can drink the most, fornicate the most, lie and steal the most. A true man is one who can stand up for truth in the midst of lies and deception, fight for righteousness and justice in the midst of corruption, who can defend the defenseless against the abusive immorality of a society full of selfishness, greed and darkened minds.”

Where are our men, men with chests? C. S. Lewis wrote, “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” Many are held up in prison and many held up in a false, passive concept of love. I often look at my prison class and see potential leaders robbed of their impact by directing their strength in the wrong direction. I often look at congregations gathered in churches and see men robbed of their impact for truth, righteousness and justice in a perverse world due to a wrong, passive, wimpy concept of love.

William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, is credited with the following two quotations:
"Our war is to fight devils, lies, fleshly indulgence, hardship, disappointment, and everything that sets itself against God and His kingdom and living a holy life. We must stand up to defend the powerless. Make your stand against that which persecutes, puts down and perverts. We must fight to help people; to make them believe victory is possible – that God can, that God is able. You must never give up! You never get what you really want in God without loss, suffering and resistance. The best things cost the most. Little of real warfare is the actual battle. Do your homework. Laziness will make you afraid. You cannot be useful, significant and successful without uninteresting, out of sight work, and plenty of it."

"While women weep, as they do now, I'll fight; while little children go hungry, as they do now, I'll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I'll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I'll fight-I'll fight to the very end!"

Who will stand up for me against evildoers? Who will take his stand for me against those who do wickedness?” (Psalm 94:16)

Friday, October 14, 2011

REFLECTIONS ON EXODUS 32 AND DEUTERONOMY 9 (Part 3)

THE ABSENCE OF GODLY LEADERSHIP (Part Three) – People Sacrifice to / for Their Idol’s

As Moses, under the guidance of God, led the people out of Egypt and into the wilderness (a very, very difficult place to be), he then entered the presence of God on Mount Sinai, resulting in his absence from the people for forty days and nights. In the absence of his godly leadership we’ve seen the people establish an idol as a supposed solution to the void of his leadership (vs.1) and we’ve seen that they assigned to this idol accomplishments that ultimately belonged to the hand of God (vs.4). Verse 6 reads, “So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.” With just a minor amount of reflection, we can quickly and easily see that people will sacrifice to and for their idols. If your idol is money, you will sacrifice for it. You will evaluate the use of your time and energy, you will compromise your moral character, you will sacrifice relationships for the sake of financial gain. This is true regardless of what one’s idol takes on. It might be one’s reputation, success or “happiness.” It might be sports, food or sex. It might be religious in nature, anti-religious in nature or non-religious in nature. It might be drugs (legal or illegal) and/or alcohol. It might be humanitarian aid or Christian ministry. Idols come in all forms and will always exact sacrifice from their worshippers. Satan knows this very well. Jesus understood this also. “…the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory; and he said to Him, ‘All these things will I give You, if You fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Begone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’’” (Matthew 4:8-10, NASB) Jesus also taught that a man cannot serve two masters. Are you serving and sacrificing to a useless, deadly idol or are you serving, honoring, worshipping, loving and, yes, sacrificing, to and for the Living God?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

REFLECTIONS ON EXODUS 32 AND DEUTERONOMY 9 (Part 2)

“Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And Aaron said to them, ‘Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’ Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.’ So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. ‘They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it, and have sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’’ And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them, and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.’” (Exodus 32:1-10, NASB)

THE ABSENCE OF GODLY LEADERSHIP (Part Two) – Our Idol’s Steal the Glory of the Lord

In this account, the people of Israel, recently delivered from bondage in the land of Egypt, make a request of Aaron in the absence of the godly leadership of Moses who is spending time on Mount Sinai in the presence of God. The request is that he make them a god who will go before them. Aaron gathered their gold jewelry and skillfully crafted a calf of gold. In presenting this wonderfully crafted manmade god to the people he declares, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” In our last reflection upon this passage, we stated that in the absence of godly leadership, people establish for themselves an idol. Now we see that our idols steal the glory of the Lord!! It would seem beyond ludicrous to ascribe to a calf recently crafted from the melted gold jewelry the feat of delivering the people from bondage in the land of Egypt, but that’s exactly the proclamation being made. How often do we look to our idols of money, man, fame, sex, drugs, alcohol, material possessions, relationships, music, etc., etc., etc. for that which they cannot deliver and ascribe to them that for which they never provided? Do your idols blind you to the reality of the provisions that can only be made by the Living God?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

REFLECTIONS ON EXODUS 32 AND DEUTERONOMY 9 (Part 1)

“Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And Aaron said to them, ‘Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’ Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.’ So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. ‘They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it, and have sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’’ And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them, and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.’” (Exodus 32:1-10, NASB)

 THE ABSENCE OF GODLY LEADERSHIP (Part One) – The People Establish an Idol

In this account, Moses, who had been commissioned by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, had been on Mount Sinai for forty days and nights (Dt.9:9). During this time, the massive throng of people (numbered in the millions) he had led into the wilderness became distraught. In the absence of this one powerful, godly leader, the people approached Aaron, making a request. “Make us a god who will go before us.” Void of godly influence and leadership the people revert to a cultural practice characteristic of the place from which God was providing deliverance. They will make a god who will get them out of this jam. Instead of looking to the God who had called and empowered Moses, they look to an idol fashioned by human imagination and skill. It’s nearly inconceivable that there was not another individual or group of individuals who would oppose this pursuit. It’s even more disturbing to see the response of the “leader” to whom they appeal as he quickly assents. This, however, is not uncommon in our age as people often allow someone to “lead” if they take them where they want to go and let them do what they want to do. What idols do we follow in the absence of godly leadership?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

PREVIEW: INTRODUCTION TO "CHANGE YOUR MIND" (the current book I am writing)

In this book, we will consider the importance of understanding. In Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary, he defines understanding as “The faculty of the human mind by which it apprehends the real state of things presented to it, or by which it receives or comprehends the ideas which others express and intend to communicate.” If we, as human beings, are to operate properly and cooperate with the God who created us in His image, we must attempt to understand God and His design for life on planet earth.

In the first volume, Change Your Heart, of this series, Equipping the Saints, the topic was repentance. Repentance is a climactic point when a human being who had been living in supreme self-interest resolves that he/she will cease living for Self and begin to live for the Supreme Being supremely. Repentance is a change of purpose. Sin is characterized as choosing, either consciously or by “default”, the ultimate purpose of pleasing, honoring, satisfying, serving and worshipping Self supremely. This is not necessarily a bold, verbal declaration but, rather, a way of life. Repentance involves firmly establishing as one’s new and ultimate purpose that of pleasing, honoring, serving and worshipping God supremely. Many people allow God to possess a little corner of their lives if it serves their interest. In such cases, people use God rather than serve God, rather than love Him with all their heart. They might give God permission to bless them, serve them, benefit them or take them to heaven when they die but the heart of this arrangement is Them. Repentance strikes at the heart of this wrong arrangement and leads to relating to God in His rightful position of supremacy. The individual no longer views God simply as a means to their own personal happiness but resolves that living to please, honor, serve and worship God is the end to which they strive. This is done, not because of what they get out of it, though there is enormous benefit in the long run (not always in the immediate) but because it is right. This is the most fundamental step back into reality and entrance into the kingdom of God. All of this is initiated by God and is done in response to the calling and drawing of the self-sacrificial love and kindness of our great God and Savior who desires that none should perish but that all should come to repentance. Repentance is a change of why one does what he does not just a change of what one does. It is an internal resolve and purpose of pleasing God supremely. This internal “why” naturally affects all of the external “whats”.

This volume is entitled Change Your Mind. Once a person has the purpose of pleasing God the question becomes, “What pleases Him and how do I do it?” This necessitates gaining understanding. Understanding is associated with our mental function and is a word that relates to a proper perception of information and of truth. Understanding is a crucial step in the process of fulfilling one’s purpose of pleasing God. This book is an investigation of certain areas of understanding that are instrumental in one’s attempt to fulfill the purpose of pleasing God.[1]

A very important parable given by Jesus is the parable of the seed, the sower and the soil found in Matthew 13:18-23. Though we will consider this more thoroughly in a later chapter, a brief reference to it here should prove beneficial. It is a parable that emphasizes the absolute necessity of understanding if we are to produce new and good fruit. Without entering into a detailed evaluation of the text, I will simply highlight the fact that there are many ways that we might respond to truth that keep us from arriving at the understanding needed to be productive (productivity and fruit having to do with pleasing God). Very clearly, however, one will not be fruitful until having gained understanding. The passage indicates that this parable was given to those who had eyes to see and ears to hear and yet did not see, hear or understand (Mt.13:13). Jesus stated that those who had (understanding) would be given more, but those without (understanding) would lose even what they had (Mt.13:12). This is not only an aspect of His explanation about why He taught in parable but was, as well, part of the parable itself as we see those who do not understand have that which was sown taken away by Satan (Mt.13:19). Finally, it is only “the man who hears the word and understands it” (Mt.13:23) who bears fruit.

Paul recognizes that the only way we can have a change of life is by having a renewal of the mind. We are transformed by the renewing of the mind (Ro.12:2). If we have the purpose of pleasing God and we get information and understanding about what pleases Him, we can then act upon this understanding and fulfill our purpose. This is the process in which we must engage or we will produce no new fruit.

Chapter One will consider an overview of God’s governmental relationship with various spheres of His creation. Special emphasis will be upon the mode of government He practices with the human race. In the second chapter, we will consider the relationship between hearing truth, understanding truth and acting upon truth. The third chapter deals with the relationship between the mind, the emotions and the will. Chapter Four contains information about the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride of life and Satan’s attempt to use these areas to pervert and defeat us. In the fifth chapter, we consider the importance of growth and “increase” in God’s redemption of man. The final chapter revisits the parable of the seed, sower and soil in an effort to gain deeper insight than was offered in this introduction.

Another very important area of understanding is our view of God. This point is made, in a powerful way, by the prophet Jeremiah. He spoke on behalf of the Lord by saying, "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things". In a future book, we will specifically look into this area of understanding.

It is my hope that the limited information contained in the small volume will contribute to the process of growing in your ability to please God.


[1] In the introduction of Change Your Heart there was emphasis placed upon Design, Function / Purpose and Process. If we are to produce new and good fruit we must honor the design for doing so which involves engaging in the right process. This process relates to having a change of heart (purpose) and then a change of mind (understanding) so we can have a change of life (choices, action and behavior). Too often, it is assumed that we can experience a change of life directly, without engaging in this process. Many people want to bypass understanding and simply act upon feelings, impulses and instinct. In some significant way, this is part of the problem, not the solution.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

DON’T BORROW FROM MY VIEW TO DISCREDIT MY VIEW

A number of years ago I oversaw a discipleship class for the seniors of a local Christian school. The academic success of the school was very impressive and I was honored to contribute to the educational process. I began the discipleship process by explaining that the Biblical term “heart” referred to that to which an individual is committed supremely. I then emphasized that it resolves to one of two ultimate options; Self (in some manifestation) or God. This was followed by an explanation of the nature of genuine repentance. Repentance involves abandoning Self-supremacy (living to serve and please Self supremely) and resolving to live for the purpose of loving, pleasing, honoring, worshipping and serving God supremely. I then challenged the students to reflect personally and individually upon the supreme purpose of their own hearts. At this point, one of the students raised his hand and declared that we have no ability to repent and that God and God alone was in charge of who would and would not be saved. This single comment was the result of seventeen years of poor theological influence. This comment also ignited very significant, ongoing discussion about the nature of the relationship between God and man. In short, I explained that Scripture clearly commands us (sinner and saint) to respond to God the way we should with whatever measure of understanding and ability we possess. This is the reasonable requirement of God and He would not command us to do that which we could not do. This implied the presence of, either, natural or gracious ability. I went on to emphasize that, together with God (or in some cases in rebellion to God) we are actually involved in deciding the nature of the future we enter into in some significant measure. This involves genuine freedom and voluntary interaction on our part.

Three students demonstrated real interest in discussing these ideas though they were not necessarily receptive to them. I purchased and gave them copies of The God Who Risks by John Sanders and The God of the Possible by Greg Boyd. In response to possessing such books, the father of one of the students contacted the school and complained that they had hired someone who taught what I was teaching. Through a series of emails to me and the school, he emphasized that he was disturbed that I did not believe that God is sovereign (I do believe He is but define the idea differently than this father) and that God was in absolute control of everything that happens (his concept of sovereignty). He wanted the school to dismiss me.

Here is the dilemma. According to the view I was suggesting, human beings can actually choose to resist God or cooperate with God. According to his view, everything (including the behavior of man) happens just the way God ordained or actively causes it to happen. Therefore, in an email response to this concerned father I stated, “In order to be upset with the school for hiring me and in order to be upset with me for my beliefs and the teaching of such beliefs, you must borrow from my belief system. According to your view, why did the school hire me? According to your view, why do I believe what I believe? You see, according to your view, the school hired me and I believe what I believe because God has ordained it as such. So, my conclusion is, you do not have a problem with the school or with me, you have a problem with God. According to your view, the school could do nothing other than what it did and I can believe nothing other than what I believe. You need to borrow from my view to assume otherwise."

I never heard from him again. I finished the school year and graciously resigned. What do you believe?

Thursday, September 01, 2011

HOW LOVE WINS - Thank you Mr. Charles Finney

God desires and purposes that all (1 Ti.2:4, 2 Pe.3:9) should repent, be forgiven, transformed and filled with the knowledge of the truth. This is clearly and certainly what God is working toward. Whether or not individuals respond appropriately is another issue. But, GOD IS WORKING TOWARD THE SALVATION OF ALL. Regarding love we can say that love is to purpose and pursue the highest good identifiable. It is universal good-will, or willing the highest good in general. As difficult as it is for human beings, with their distorted minds, to comprehend, love does everything for one reason or ultimate end; the highest good of being in general. Within this context, however, we must realize that there are expressions of love that we would categorize as “kindness” but there are also expressions which fit under the category of “severity.” Both kindness and “severity” are attributes of love (Ro.11:22). Another word, sometimes, used for “kindness” is “gentleness.” Severity is not cruelty, it is love shown in strictness, rigor and purity. In order to bring a dimension of clarity, I often refer to severity as severe kindness. Love always shows a regard for the well-being of others and will be gentle and kind toward all, except in those cases where either the good of the individual, or of the public, requires a different approach. It is a mistake to suppose that love is all softness under all circumstances. It will be gentle or severe, depending upon which is required to pursue the highest good. It is important to understand that kindness is the rule and severity is the exception but it is just as important to realize that though kindness is the rule, it might not be possible to express it most often in light of outward circumstances such as the character and conduct of the individual(s) with which God (or you) are dealing. If kindness is appropriate and severity is shown, this is not love. In the same way, if severity is require, for the highest well being of the individual and/or the public interest, and kindness is shown, this is not love. Both, however, are equally and necessarily attributes of love. Let me emphasize that the general approach of love is to treat others kindly and gently, unless circumstances and/or the character of the one loved requires a different treatment. When a person or persons conduct themselves so as to endanger the public good, severity is just as natural, and as necessary to love, as kindness and forbearance are under other circumstances. WITH GOD, IT IS LOVE THAT LEADS TO THE APPROACH HE TAKES. However, “It is one of the most shallow of dreams, that the Divine character is all softness and sweetness, in all its manifestations and in all circumstances.” “It is impossible that love to the whole should not manifest severity and indignation to the part which rebels against the interests of the whole.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

IN THIS IS LOVE (A Meditational Thought)

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” (1 John 4:7-21, NASB)

Though I am focusing on verse 10, and not planning to exegete the entire passage, the impression the surrounding verses create will prove helpful.

John, one who was personally close to the incarnate Son of God, reflects upon the significance of love. Three expressions of love surface; the love God has for human beings, the love human beings have for God and the love human beings have for one another. The words recorded in verse 10 can be read in a flat, monotonous manner, as we too often read Scripture, or with the reflective awe that was likely stirring in the author as he pondered, with great experiential background, the magnificence of God and His manifestation of love toward us.

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” As we attempt to appreciate what John says, let’s consider that one emphasis in the passage concerns the reality that this love which God has shown toward us impacts those who receive it in such a way that it becomes the source of our perfecting the love that we express toward God and others. Having been created in the image of God, we are to reflect His character by using our finite abilities as He uses His infinite abilities. Love requires that we, possessing appropriate abilities, use the abilities we possess as they were intending to be used. It should be plain to see that if we suppose that the nature of sin involves the loss of all ability, we cannot express love at all. In fact, under such a scenario, it is actually impossible to sin as sin involves a wrong use of our abilities, not the lack of ability.

John marvels at the love of God because, though there is a natural tendency to be drawn toward and express love for that which is pure, beautiful, majestic and impressive, it is difficult to love those who are insulting, rebellious and selfish. God, having been grieved and hurt by the unfaithful idolatry of mankind (Ge.6:5-7, Eze.6:9 among others), has risen above personal animosity and pursued a path and plan of redemption at His own expense and suffering. Such a display of moral character in the face of such adversity is far more impressive than any love manifested toward one who is perfectly pure and appealing, from whom one believes they will gain much benefit.

Jesus understood this perspective as evidenced in His words are recorded in Matthew 5:43-48. Notice how He concludes His thought. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48, NASB)

The “perfection” spoken of is as stated above, using our limited, finite abilities (whatever capacity we possess in whatever form they exist) to live up to the light we possess (however bright or dim it might be). Relegating love to the nature of God, similar to His power, eternality, omnipresence, authority, etc. robs Him of the praise due for the glorious Self-government exercised toward the literally despicable race of man. It also, places this love in a realm that eliminates it from any possibility of our emulating such character.

God is our model, our inspiration and our help. Let us grow in our understanding, appreciation and love.

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. And just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way. And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:27-36, NASB)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

SHOULD WE ABANDON WILLIAM BLACKSTONE

Several foundational principles are expressed in both the Judeo-Christian worldview and Blackstone’s Commentaries. These principles, summarized below, reveal the extent to which American law has repudiated Blackstone.

A. There are different types of law in the universe. Blackstone’s classification of law into six types is foundational to the rest of his philosophy and is consistent with the Judeo-Christian system of law:

1. Law as the order of the universe. “Thus when the Supreme Being formed the universe, and created matter out of nothing, He impressed certain principles upon that matter, from which it can never depart, and without which it would cease to be. When he put the matter into motion, He established certain laws of motion, to which all movable bodies must conform . . . .”

2. Law as a rule of human action. “. . . the precepts by which man, the noblest of all sublunary beings, a creature endowed with both reason and free will, is commanded to make use of those faculties in the general regulation of his behavior.”

3. Law of nature. “These are the eternal, immutable laws of good and evil, to which the Creator Himself in all His dispensations conforms; and which He has enabled human reason to discover, so far as they are necessary for the conduct of human actions.”

4. Revealed law. “The doctrines . . . delivered [by an immediate and direct revelation] we call the revealed or divine law, and they are to be found only in the Holy Scriptures . . . . Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these.”

5. Law of nations. [A]s it is impossible for the whole race of mankind to be united in one great society, they must necessarily divide into many . . . . [the regulation of their interaction] is the law of nations . . . [it] depends entirely upon the rules of natural law, or upon mutual compacts, treaties, leagues, and agreements . . . .”

6. Municipal law. “[This is] a rule of civil conduct, prescribed by the supreme power in a state, commanding what is right and prohibiting what is wrong. But no human authority can act without limits.”

B. God is the Creator of the universe, man, the very concept of law, and several universal laws; and his original Creation was ex nihilo (“out of nothing”). Blackstone was certainly not an evolutionist! But the evolutionistic fervor of later legal scholars was a major force in America’s abandonment of Judeo-Christian/Blackstonian jurisprudence in the Twentieth Century.

C. God has built into the universe fundamental laws that are fixed, immutable, and must be obeyed.

D. Man is a dependent creature who is not to disobey God’s fixed laws but is given free will and reason to discover and choose his actions within the limits of God’s laws.

E. Man’s reason is corrupt and cannot, by itself, discover and apply God’s law.

F. God is not only the Creator, but a Being of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness.

G. God created man and His fundamental laws in such a way that man can be happy only when he is obeying God’s law.

H. Revealed law, natural law, and human law exist in a clear and inseparable relationship to one another.

I. The purpose of human law is to “command what is right, prohibiting what is wrong.”

J. Human law is not to violate God’s law, but is to decide what are right and wrong in regard to “things in themselves indifferent” (i.e., actions that are not intrinsically right or wrong but are declared so by human lawmakers).

K. Human law’s most effectual tool for producing right conduct and preventing wrong conduct is sanctions – punishment.

L. At the time of Creation, God gave man dominion over all the earth, but changes in society ultimately necessitated the emergence of individual property ownership.

M. There are three primary personal rights:

- Personal security. The right …consists in a person’s legal and uninterrupted enjoyment of his life, his limbs, his body, his health, and his reputation.

- Personal liberty. This personal liberty consists in the power of locomotion, of changing situation, or removing one’s person to whatsoever place one’s own inclination may direct; without imprisonment or restraint, unless by due course of law.

- Right of private property: law of the land. [This right] consists in the free use, enjoyment, and disposal [by man] of all his acquisitions, without any control or diminution, save only by the laws of the land.

N. Human judges are empowered to interpret the will of the legislature by certain distinct standards, including:

- The usual meaning of words;

- Context of the words being interpreted;

- Subject matter of the law;

- Effect of the interpretation—absurd meanings must be avoided;

- The reason for the law—why it was promulgated

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

EDIFICATION

A statement made by the Apostle Paul in a wonderful passage written to the Ephesians says, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Ephesians 4:29, NASB). From this passage we might conclude that our ultimate goal, when it comes to the power of the spoken word, is to edify. To edify means to build up and/or move toward the highest possible good. A mistake that is often made is to assume that edifying words are always and only positive words. However, building up and moving toward the highest good is not accomplished with positive words alone. In fact, in a fallen world that has been greatly impacted by sin, breaking up the fallow ground that has resulted from our departure from God’s design requires a great amount of words that will not fit into the category of positive words.

If the above statement is true, why does Paul say “let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth?” Unwholesome words are words that tear down or destroy as an end, in and of itself. I am not suggesting that we become negative as opposed to positive. I am suggesting that we know what it means to edify which involves both negative and positive words balanced in the right place and right proportion to accomplish this challenging goal.

Timothy remained in Ephesus to prevent certain men from teaching certain unedifying things (Ep.1:3). Paul wrote to instruct Timothy in this pastoral responsibility. Notice the speech oriented words in the following passages as we consider what is involved in real edification. "…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction" (2 Timothy 4:2, NASB).

The first command given is to “preach” the word. To preach is to proclaim or herald before and audience. The following words are descriptive of preaching. As we work through this list, it is important to emphasize that the goal of preaching in this manner is ultimately to edify, move people away from their current departure from moral reality and from displaying God’s character toward honoring God’s design for all of life.

Preaching involves reproof. To “reprove” means to convict or convince (generally with a suggestion of shame of the person convicted), refute, expose, reprehend severely, chide and/or admonish. This is not generally place under the category of “positive” words. As a side note, I have often heard individuals (many of whom I greatly respect) say that only the Holy Spirit can convict people. Here, Paul uses the same word found in John 16:8, to command Timothy to reprove (convict people of their departures).

Next, he says to rebuke. This is an interesting word which has to do with placing value or honor on someone. A rebuke involves pointing out where we have departed from our real value or honor as those created in the image of God.

He then uses the word “exhort.” This means to encourage people to recapture their real value and honor from which they have departed. It is important to emphasize that this is, in great measure based upon the recognition that we have departed from God’s intentions for us and that redemption/reconciliation/salvation refers to the process of returning to God’s original design for man. Consequently, reproof, rebuke and exhortation are very important to this process. In a commentary on this passage, Thomas C. Oden states, “Good counsel involves simultaneously convincing the intellect, rebuking the disordered passions, and encouraging the will. Each phase of counsel needs the other. An ungentle rebuke may hurt too much to hear. A rebuke that lacks convincing evidence is implausible. An encouragement that lacks realism will not help.”

Finally, Paul uses the term “instruction.” Instruction involves a detailed explanation about how something is designed to fit together or to work. Having convinced someone that their (our, in the corporate areas of life) current approach is contrary to God’s design, they need to be informed and instructed about the proper approach. This, again, is intended to edify, build up.

I close with the following reference and brief commentary: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NASB).

To recognize someone’s highest good and therefore verbally encourage edification requires that we understand God’s design for human life as revealed in Scripture. We must be cautious of simply instructing people to line up with our own personal preference or opinion. If people are departing from God’s design for individual character and responsibility or relational spheres such as family, church, etc. we are to call them back by teaching, reproving, correcting and training. This takes patience and wisdom. The trend to simply provide people with “self-affirmation” without addressing the issue of departure will not edify. Reproof and rebuke without instruction and patience will not edify. Resistance toward this process will not edify.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” (Proverbs 12:15, NASB)