Confession

This entry is part 109 of 109 in the series Holiness Matters
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It’s one of the scariest things the Bible tells us to do. If you are Christian, confession is part of your walk with Christ. But it’s extremely uncomfortable and many Christians refused to do it because it is uncomfortable.

But the Bible calls us to confess our sins. We wax and wane on all the details. But even though it’s scary to expose our sins to God and others, we must obey as Christians must do what God’s Word prescribed if we sin.

There’s one way to be free from sin, addiction, and bad habits. Confession is God’s gift to us, but we don’t see it that way. When we muster the courage to follow the biblical precedent of confession, freedom floods in.

Forgiving Sins

So why do we continue to confess as Christians? Some people have a theology of Jesus forgiving sins past, present, and future. I’ve put a lot of thought into this, and I originally thought this sounded great.

But after further study, I would ask anyone with this point of view, “Then why are there verses about forgiving one another and God forgive our sins after salvation?” John 1:5-10 distinguishes momentary sins and a sinful lifestyle, promising Jesus forgives every time we confess our sins.

If God forgives all of our sins, even the ones we have yet to commit, why would these verses be in our Bibles, and addressed to Christian churches? It made no sense the more I thought about it.

I approach Christian confession differently now. When we were saved, Jesus forgave our sins, the sins we committed before we committed our lives to him. But he does not forgive us for sins we will commit. If we commit sins as we walk with Jesus, we must confess our sins, seek his forgiveness, and continue to walk with him.

This makes sense when we consider the verses I mentioned above. John teaches that Christians deceive themselves when they live a lifestyle of sin and they still walk with God. Their fellowship with God and other Christians is separated by their sinful lifestyles.

John doesn’t expect Christians to keep on sinning. But he reminds us that Jesus is gracious if we do sin and ask his forgiveness (1 John 1:9). Jesus forgives all our sins. “All our sins” refers to current sins, not future ones.

Paul teaches the same principle. In Romans 6 he teaches we are dead to sin. We don’t react to temptation. We continue to demolish our fleshly desires. This brings victory in him over sin. In Ephesians, Paul says we are dead to sin and alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-3).

So sin for the Christian must be rare. But if we momentary lapse into sin, Jesus is still faithful and just, still loving and gracious, to forgive our sins.

Keeping Sin to Myself

Most Christians in the Western world consider sin a private matter. They don’t want to confess sins to anyone, and not publicly. We would rather confess them to God in private prayers.

But the Bible speaks of public confession often in the New Testament. Jesus calls us to go to a brother we have offended and received forgiveness before we offer our gift at the altar (Matthew 5:23-24). This indicates a public place, at a service.

Confession to a brother we have wronged can happen privately even in a public place. We deal with it personally. But we still must deal with it in that moment, in that public arena.

The threefold approach Jesus gives us to discipline may turn out to be very public, addressing the whole church with our sin if we refuse to deal with it before then (Matthew 18:15-18). Jesus teaches us to address it one-on-one first, then to have an elder of the church delivery between two parties that refuse to come to forgiveness. And the third if it is still not dealt with is to address the church with the issue.

Nobody wants their sin to become public. It’s incredibly embarrassing. But it has its benefits if it comes to that. If a believer refuses to go through these steps, it’s hard not to address the church and make the sin public. This is why it is better to expose sin to the light and eradicate it.

The Bible talks about hidden sin (Psalm 19:12; 90:8; Job 34:32). It also talks about the entangling sin we continue to fall into (Hebrews 12:1). We must expose this into the light of confession or it will continue to rule over us. We will never be free from sin if we do not confess it.

Hidden sin was believed to be the things we don’t realize we have done that are sin. For instance, in the Old Testament law, a person could commit a sin against God and not realize it was against Old Testament laws.

Hidden sins may be the sins we commit and hide away, not asking for forgiveness from God and not seeking forgiveness from those we offend. We pass them off until we forget about them. We keep them deep down inside not wanting anyone to know about them.

The entangling sin of Hebrews 12:1 is a sin a person continues to commit over and over. Even though we ask for forgiveness from God, and confess the sin, it is a weak spot in our armor. We are susceptible to recommitting them.

Find an accountability partner. This is a Christian who is wise and mature in Christ and the Scriptures. He or she can help guide you away from this entangling sin, to help you with putting these sins away for good.

Accountability partners should be the same gender and must be someone you trust to not reveal confidential conversations to others. It’s unfortunate I even have to give qualifications for a wise choice in an accountability partner, but more than once I have seen Christians abuse these relationships.

May we have inner fortitude and strength to address our hidden and entangling sins before they destroy us. God much more desires that we walk with him, deny our former fleshly desires, and keep our guard up against temptation.

Confession to Whom

There are many different Christian traditions ranging from confession in a box to a priest to Christians who don’t have any form of public confession. But Scripture gives us guidelines and principles on confession.

First and foremost, we must realize what happens if we sin. Sins affect up to three parties

our sins always affect God and our relationship with him. They also affect us. But don’t stop there. We can sin against other people. If we sin against another person we’re responsible to confess to God, see the effect in ourselves, and confess to that person.

Some of our sins don’t affect others, like sinful thoughts, intentions, and motives. Others don’t see these sins. We must confess to God. He already knows, but confession rescues us from thinking we can keep moving in faith without addressing it.

So there’s always at least two people involved in every sin we commit. Confession cannot be unspoken. We can’t think we can sweep it under the rug or expect that God forgives us. It’s a healthy practice to confess your sin to God, and to another person if you sin against them too.

Sin and Sickness

Throughout the New Testament, a careful reader will notice a connection many of the authors give between sin and sickness. Two examples will help us to see this pattern, although they are not the only times this principle appears in Scripture.

James talks about the effective prayer of the righteous person (James 5:16). Let’s back up to James 5:14. James starts with sickness. He provides the solution, to go before the elders of the church, have them anoint you with oil, and pray for you.

The result, he concludes, “and you will be healed, and if the person has committed sin, their sin will be forgiven” (James 5:15). First we are talking about sickness, and now sin is included. Why does James talk about both?

James says that the prayer of the righteous person is effective and powerful. But that’s not the whole verse. The beginning tells us to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another.

James says when we do this, we will be healed. We could interpret this verse to say that sin can block healing. So in confessing sins, we open the door to physical healing. That’s why the prayer of faith by a righteous person is so effective. Through it God deals with sin and sickness.

Sin and sickness are connected. Sin can cause sickness. This is why in John 9, the disciples when they see the man born blind ask, “Who sinned, him or his parents?” They saw sin as the cause of his sickness. And since it was from birth, they wanted to know if the parents passed their sin onto the sun before he was born.

But there’s another reason James brings up sin when he talks about sickness. Jesus died on the cross to save, deliver, and heal us. Salvation includes forgiveness of sins, healing the body and relationships and deliverance from demons. Jesus’ salvation is holistic. His work in us is complete. It takes care of everything that holds us back from freedom in him,.

Four friends can’t get their paralytic friend to Jesus, so they dig a hole in the roof and drop him before Jesus’ feet (Matthew 9:1-8; Luke 5:17-36). When Jesus sees him, he tells him, “Your sins are forgiven. Get up and walk.”

The friends brought him there so Jesus could heal him. But Jesus forgives his sins. He forgives the man’s sins and heals him. It may be that his healing is the proof of his sins forgiven. But they both happen at the same time. He frees the whole person so we can completely devote ourselves to him.

Conclusion

Confession scares us because we don’t want our sins exposed to the world. We don’t want anyone to know about these failures. But exposing our sin to the light of God’s forgiveness keeps sin from mastering us.

We must ask God and others for forgiveness. The Bible calls us to make confession one of our greatest weapons against hidden and entangling sins. God forgives us, and other Christians are commanded to forgive. Confession doesn’t have to be scary. Leave a comment and describe your fears about confession.

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Modern Apostles

This entry is part 470 of 470 in the series Inquiring Minds
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Are modern day missionaries the equivalent of what the Apostle Paul was at one time?

The twelve apostles and other apostles mentioned in the New Testament, like Paul, where a special type of apostle for the first century only. These apostles had the ability and authority to write Scripture for the New Testament.

They also formed and founded new works, such as churches in new cities and any other type of Christian organization. For instance, they formed the Deacon ministry in Acts 6 so they could continue to minister as apostles but have people to serve in certain functions in the church that required attention, such as passing out food rations for widows.

The Canon of Scripture is closed. With the finishing of the book of Revelation by the apostle John in 95/96 AD, no Scripture can be written. What we have as the 27 books of the New Testament along with the 39 books of the Old Testament stands as the Christian canon.

For this reason, the apostles of today, modern day missionaries, cannot write Scripture as the first century apostles did. They had the authority to write Scripture because they walked with Jesus or personally knew him.

Paul is the only one people may contest as personally seeing Jesus. Yet the Scriptures clearly say that he saw the risen Jesus just as the other apostles did in the upper room and other places on the road to Damascus (Acts 9).

Because they personally knew Jesus or walked with him throughout his earthly ministry, they understood and could reiterate his teachings to the Church. He opened their minds to receive the understanding of how to interpret the Scriptures already written (Luke 24:45).

So for modern day apostles, what we call missionaries today, they still fulfill the role of an apostle. They form and found new works all across the globe. When they found churches, orphanages, Christian organizations, parachurch ministries, and all these types of new works, they are fulfilling the function of the apostle.

As they preach the gospel all around the world in different languages, they are fulfilling the function of the apostle. Like Paul and the churches he founded, they act as spiritual fathers and mothers to these organizations they found.

So the only difference between a first century apostle and a modern apostle, a missionary, is that modern day apostles do not write Scripture. Everything they do and say must agree with Scripture.

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The New Life

This entry is part 467 of 470 in the series Inquiring Minds
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Would every individual who gives their life to Christ have the same type of change in character as the apostle Paul did?

Acts 9 records the extraordinary events that converted Paul to the gospel and to Christianity. As he traveled on the road to Damascus with his caravan, desiring to imprison Christians for their faith, Paul personally met the Lord Jesus Christ.

These dramatic events, the booming voice that sounded like thunder to the others of his caravan, the blinding light that blinded Paul for three days, and the conversation he had, gave him an immediate conversion.

He says in Galatians that he immediately began preaching the gospel. This is a man who was one of the most dangerous enemies of the church until he had this experience. His life completely changed, going 180° the other direction. He went from locking up Christians and approving of their deaths to becoming one of them, one of their greatest missionary evangelists.

I have met people, been witness to, and read many biographies of other Christians who have had dramatic conversion experiences like Paul. Their lives have also taken a complete turn the other way from what they used to be. Every conversion experience takes us from the old self, or the all life, to the new self and the new life in Christ (Romans 6:1-4; Ephesians 2:1-4).

God uses these conversion experiences to prepare them for incredible tasks he has before them as believers. Not everyone has such dramatic conversion experiences. Or at least, we don’t realize we do. Anyone who is converted by the Christian gospel to Christianity is a miracle.

What I mean by this is that when we begin to realize what all happens for us to hear the gospel, understand it with spiritual ears and faith, our spirits to be awakened by the Holy Spirit, and for us to believe in faith, follow Christ as his disciples, and lead others to him, is a miracle.

All of these things are impossibilities until you involve God, the Holy Spirit speaking to us and waking us up to the message of the gospel, Jesus’ death granting us forgiveness and God’s grace, and the Father planning our growing in holiness.

Only God can raise a dead spirit to life, through his word of life. So in that sense, every conversion to Christianity is dramatic like Paul’s. Every Christian is commanded to do what Paul did, to impact the world for Christ.

As long as you are impacting the world and influencing it for Jesus, you are fulfilling the same call that Paul received. Whether it is what we would refer to as dramatic, or ministering to people one day at a time, you are doing exactly what God wants you to do.

No matter how you view your conversion experience, just as Paul grew in the face and in his Christian character and became holy, so every Christian goes through these experiences. God the Father plans for us to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-30).

The experiences we go through, especially trials and persecution, strengthen our faith and Christian character. The Holy Spirit is with us every step of the way, giving us his power to live the Christian life.

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The Time Is at Hand

This entry is part 466 of 470 in the series Inquiring Minds
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What does “for the time is at hand” mean in Revelations 1:3?

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3, ESV)

The book of Revelation is by far one of the hardest books to interpret. It may discourage many from even cracking its pages. And yet John points out that there is a great blessing for anyone who reads Revelation.

Eschatology, the study of the end times, is also one of the most difficult studies to undergo. There is a lot we don’t understand. We should not be discouraged in discussing these matters or trying to understand them.

We are called as Christians to read the words of the prophecy of Revelation. It is first and foremost a prophetic book about our future. Most of what occurs in Revelation has yet to happen. We are expected to read the book, hear its words, and to keep the prophecies written there.

To keep the prophecy we must observe it and guard against people trying to hide it away. Even though we don’t completely understand it, it needs to be on our minds. We need to do our best to understand it.

Then John gives the reason for why we must read it, listen to it, and keep it. The time is at hand, or near. The word for “at hand” or “near” is a word used by Jesus when he talks about the kingdom of God being near you.

Jesus represented the kingdom of God and he was among the people when he said this. But he was also about to inaugurate God’s kingdom with his death, and so it was near them as far as the timing of it. It was about to happen in the near future.

This is probably the best way to understand the words of this prophecy of Revelation. Even 2000 years ago when John wrote this prophecy it was close to happening. So any time after Revelation was written, the prophecy is near us.

It is about to happen. It is a close future for us. This is why we must read and attempt to understand the prophecy. Many, especially those who have a futuristic view of the book, have attempted to interpret the book in lieu of current events.

Others saw the prophecy of Revelation happening during John the apostle’s time. Some saw it happening as soon after this time. And they’re still others who take a spiritualist approach to the book, seeing it as more symbolic and figurative than literal.

Some people may argue that this phrase “for the time is near” doesn’t refer to time, since we have been waiting for 2000 years for the prophecies to begin happening. But we must also remember that God takes a long view of time.

When he told John to record these prophecies, nobody knows how long it will take for them to begin happening. But for God, who is outside of time, the time is short and these prophecies are near to happening.

God has a completely different perspective of time that humans do. Because our lifespan is not very long, we become impatient for the events prophesied to happen now. We do not know when these prophecies will begin to happen.

This is why we must be ever vigilant and prepared for the end times events to begin. For us, the prophecies of Revelation and end times events should always be “near.” We must live as though they are about to happen.

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Nine to Five

This entry is part 108 of 109 in the series Holiness Matters
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One of the biggest surprises people have when I talk about holiness and addictions is when I bring up work as an addiction. Nowadays you don’t have too many people argue about it. Many people have been on the receiving end of people who work too much.

The song, “The Cat’s in the Cradle” depicts a young man who learns early on from his father how to be a workaholic and ignore his family at home. When the father gets old, he wants to spend time with his son, but the sun is too busy working.

None of us want this to happen to us. And yet it’s the last thing many of us think about when we were too much. There are different reasons people have to work so much, but our culture certainly doesn’t discourage it.

The Bible has a lot to say about our work ethic. Like everything else in our lives, the Lord has expectations for us concerning our work. But with everything that is addictive, he also requires us to have balance in our lives.

Workaholics Anonymous

So many people in our society have become addicted to their work that people have made a name for them – workaholics. It’s a play off of the word alcoholic. It’s a person who is addicted to their work so much they don’t do anything else.

Americans have a strong work ethic. We believe in working hard. There’s working hard and there’s overworking. People have different reasons for taking overtime. But one of those reasons is because there workaholics.

If a person is doing their very best to provide for their family, having more than one job or working overtime hours to be providers, that’s one thing. This person is doing the very best they can to help their family survive.

This is not workaholism. It’s a show of responsibility, doing the hard things and sacrificing themselves for their families. Even in America we have many who must work more than usual for purposes like this.

But those who work way too many hours, true workaholics, can have several reasons. They may be lovers of money, which is against Scripture (1 Timothy 6:10). There are many more things in life than money. While it can be helpful, it can also lead to idolatry.

One of the other reasons I have found workaholics don’t want to go home even after hours is stress in the home or life in general. They’d rather be at work instead of dealing with their life problems. It’s the same thing as the alcoholic who stays at the bar and drinks himself silly so he doesn’t have to deal with reality.

Workaholism can be a form of escape. The problem is that you eventually have to face the music. Some people don’t think they can get out of their life problems. They don’t want to rely on anyone else or trust anyone else to help them. So they stay at work and don’t go home or deal with their problems.

Most people I have met aren’t usually happy in their jobs. Perhaps they didn’t get to choose the job they wanted when they began their career. Maybe they have to take on jobs they don’t enjoy to provide for their families.

But workaholics, whether they like their jobs or not, refuse to go home when it’s time to clock out. If you can’t leave your job when you should, you are addicted to work.

Your Most Important Work

One of the worst situations is a workaholic who won’t go home to deal with family issues. They stay at work so they don’t have to address character flaws, the anger of their spouses, or the chaos of their children. In some extreme cases, the family doesn’t want them there.

I didn’t grow up in a home that was anything like these scenarios. I have very little experience with how to deal with such things. But I know there are Christian counselors that can help you if you find yourself in any of them. It’s much better to get professional help than hang out at work.

You may be thinking they don’t want to see you at home. Maybe it’s just better to stay away. But your spouse and children need you more than you possibly know. It’s a different kind of work, home life, but it’s part of your calling.

Your children especially need your mentorship, leadership, and nurturing ability. It’s never too late to reset your relationships and commit to them. Even if they don’t realize it, they will be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually unhealthy when you stay away.

In those rare instances where they tell you to stay away, there may be some hurt or open wounds there relationally. These wounds do not close on their own. Time doesn’t really heal them. What heals them is resolution to the issues. There must be reconciliation.

Don’t forget “The Cat’s in the Cradle.” If you don’t start to reconcile your relationships in your family now, it will be too late later. Start today. Flip the narrative. Forgiveness must be your priority. Things won’t change until you step up and change them.

Your Heavenly Employer

So what does the Bible say about work? It all starts in the Garden of Eden. God gave man work to do before the Fall in Genesis 3. Work is not punishment for evil. It is a divine privilege. But when the Fall happened, God cursed work and made it much harder.

There are many Proverbs against laziness. We must avoid not working enough. Provision for our families and ourselves comes through a work ethic that glorifies God. How many hours a week is that? It may differ in pending on what you do and what’s expected in your industry.

This is one of those things you can take to the Lord and ask him what he expects of you. The Sabbath requires people to work six days a week and then rest the seventh day (Exodus 20:8-11). Many people in American culture work five days a week and then take off the weekend.

Once again, whatever the Holy Spirit leads you to do is the best thing for you. Paul teaches in the New Testament that if a person doesn’t work, they should not be allowed to eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). God expects us to work because he made work as a good thing.

Through our work we receive one of our purposes in life. I don’t know about you, but I love to see progress in my projects. If I didn’t do any work, there would be no progress. I would feel like a large part of my purpose in life was not fulfilled.

As we work, we do it for the Lord no matter what the work may be. Paul tells slaves (the equivalent of today’s employees) to work as unto the Lord (Ephesians 6:5-7). We must work even when people do not notice what we do. We are not out to please people. We want to please our Lord.

Just because you don’t work in full-time ministry, like a preacher, doesn’t mean your work does not matter to God. In fact, he has put you where you are so you can serve others, and not just in your job.

Many people find God places them where they are to witness to others and help them understand God. More than this, many people are ministered to by Christians who take their work seriously and please God in the way they approach it.

Whatever you are doing you must do it as unto the Lord. He is watching you and is pleased with your work ethic. But he is even more pleased that you are being a good representative for him in your work.

Conclusion

The Bible has a lot more to say about work even then I could record in this blog post. Suffice it to say, you honor the Lord with a good and godly work ethic. Don’t be a workaholic who doesn’t address the issues of life.

Instead, in everything you do, please and glorify the Lord. Offer him the very best you have to offer. You are working for the Lord, not for other people. Leave a comment and share what you have learned about a godly work ethic.

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Prophetic Healings

This entry is part 465 of 470 in the series Inquiring Minds

Did the ancient biblical prophets have the power to heal like the later twelve disciples did besides prophesying?

Many of the prophetic books do not give us insight into the personal lives of the Old Testament prophets. They are the writings of these prophets to Israel. But we do catch a glimpse from time to time into the lives of these prophets.

For instance, throughout the lives of Elijah and Elisha, we notice miraculous signs that accompany their ministries. In one case for each prophet we see boys being raised to life again (1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:18-37) and Elisha’s dead bones raise a dead man (2 Kings 13:21). Resurrection from the dead is rare in the Old Testament, but we see it in the prophetic ministry is of Elijah and Elisha.

Other times prophets are consulted concerning healing for someone. One example of this is Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-14). Elisha rescues Israel’s King by taking on the problem of the Gentile who wants to be healed of leprosy.

He gives him instructions to go to the Jordan River and dip seven times. Naaman is indignant that Elisha won’t even meet with him. But when he finally gets over his pride and follows the prophet’s instructions, he is healed of his leprosy.

The ability to heal is a “byproduct” of the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit comes upon those in the offices of prophets, priests, and kings. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit indwells Christian believers.

Healing, we can infer, is part of the prophetic office. Although we only see examples in a few of the prophets’ lives, it’s most likely that all of the Old Testament prophets had the same power to heal. Some of them speak of healing in their prophecies.

God is the same not only throughout the Scriptures but also today (James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8). He used the Old Testament prophets to heal peoples’ diseases. Healing was a prominent hallmark of Jesus’ ministry. And God still heals today.

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Entertainment Tonight

This entry is part 107 of 109 in the series Holiness Matters

Everybody has a weakness when it comes to entertainment. Some people are big into music. Others have the guilty pleasure of movies and TV shows. Some people are very active, playing sports and exercising.

I’ve met people of all kinds, even people who like playing cards and other board games. Let’s not forget the big video gamers out there. People have all sorts of ways to unwind and relax at the end of the day.

In any one of these categories, we can fall prey to addictions. They usually amount to spending too much time enjoying these forms of entertainment. They can also speak to the types of entertainment we choose.

God wants us to make holy choices and spend the right amount of time enjoying our pastimes and hobbies. Let’s take a look at some of the ways we can live holy lives and honor God as we unwind from a busy work day.

Moving to Music

Most people love their music. Whether you think the 70s were the greatest times where the best hits happened or you love that good ole’ rock ‘n roll, we all have our jams. But it’s not just about genres. Some people are convinced they wrote better lyrics back then.

I enjoy any music with a good beat. I used to play the drums before I became paralyzed. I love rhythms, especially the ones that get stuck in my head. But I don’t always listen to the words.

I can be enjoying the music and the beats of a song and not even realize what the song is putting into my head subliminally. I’ve found myself saying the words to a song, realizing my brain learned them without my knowledge. And when I listen to the words, let’s just say the song didn’t say what I thought it said.

Then it’s practically impossible to get the song out of my head because it is so catchy. I bring this up because we as Christians must realize what we’re allowing into our heads and hearts. The world will influence us in many different ways.

What we listen to matters to God. But it’s not just music. Sometimes we use our ears to listen to gossip. We want to know what’s going on in our little corner of the world. But much of what we hear is none of our business.

Whatever you listen to, you must make sure that it is holy. This doesn’t mean we can’t listen to worldly music at all. I enjoy many songs and bands that aren’t Christian. But as with everything else in holiness and addictions, we must ask the Holy Spirit how he feels about what we listen to. And then we must obey what he speaks to us.

We have the unique opportunity to use our ears to listen to God’s voice instead of the voices of this world. We must hear Jesus’ voice above the noise all around us. We need to spend time learning how to hear his voice.

What’s on TV?

If you are like me, you not only enjoy music, but you also enjoy watching TV or movies. I lean more toward TV, especially shows with surprises in the plot. I like TV shows that surprised me. The twists and turns can be quite enjoyable.

But as we all well know, there are shows we would feel convicted about if Jesus was physically in the room with us. The thing is, he is with us through the Holy Spirit. We must become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s voice.

It’s not that God doesn’t want us to enjoy a TV show here and there, or a great movie. He wants us to make holy choices about our entertainment, what we watch. What if your pastor saw your Netflix, Hulu, and other show and movie apps playlists? Would your cheeks get red?

It goes further than TV shows and movies. Another popular way to use our screens, especially on the computer, is to view pornography. If your heart doesn’t skip a beat when you see things you know don’t please God, you have a bigger spiritual problem than you can imagine.

Ever since Genesis 3 when even a husband and wife recognized nakedness was a problem, people have been dealing with sex in all the wrong ways. Adam and Eve were married and recognized the difference.

We have been invited into people’s bedrooms, their sexual relationships, and all sorts of places we don’t belong. Scientific studies on pornography prove that it destroys the way we look at one another, interact with one another, and it destroys proper relationships. We objectify one another, and we can no longer carry on a normal relationship, let alone a romantic one.

Pornography changes the way our brains think. It floods them with endorphins, and we can never look at one another the same way again. We must be careful not only what kinds of TV shows and movies we watch, but that we avoid at all costs the soul-damaging effects of pornography.

Ask the Holy Spirit if what you are watching pleases him. If it doesn’t, you must have the sensitivity to him to know he doesn’t approve. Change your ways and your channel. Put away the evil things.

Realize this is not about seeing pieces of skin on people you shouldn’t see for morality reasons. Holiness goes much deeper than morality. God knows what seeing these images will do to your spirit and soul. When you feel convicted, don’t ignore it. Deal with it.

He knows they will make you callous toward his presence, that they will grieve his Spirit. They will move you further away from him in your walk. It’s not worth seeing these images to risk your relationship with God.

Playing the Game

When I was growing up there was a particular bent toward steering clear of any kind of card game or dice. They considered all of these things, even if they weren’t evil in themselves, to go against the biblical principle of not looking like the world (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

I’m a sucker for just about any board game. They come with dice and cards in many situations. But the kind of cards and dice they wanted me to avoid were those that can lead to gambling.

They have a point here. We must avoid gambling because it leads to idolatry and relies on unbiblical means to provide our needs. But I have played card games like Solitaire, and even in my denomination we had what we called “Pentecostal poker,” also known as Rook.

We tend to replace the things we think are evil with other things we don’t consider as evil. I’ve played poker without putting money on the table. None of these things have made me feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

And that’s just it. When other Christians tell us what we can and can’t do, they are trying to take the place of the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit guides us into holiness. He is the one to convict us of the things in our lives he finds offensive.

Always listen to the Holy Spirit. You can seek the wise counsel of mature Christians who can give you reasons for God’s expectations instead of just telling you not to do them. We must hear the Holy Spirit’s voice.

There are some board games I would seriously advise you not to play. Some of these games put you in a place where evil spiritual forces can get a hold of you. One example is a Ouija board. The devil has been known to use this to inhabit and influence people.

But that doesn’t make all games evil. Games with dice, like Yahtzee, are not evil. You must use Christian discernment and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to know what kinds of games go beyond the scope of just fun. Don’t open the door to evil forces in your life.

The Other Monitor

When you are looking at a TV screen, movie, or computer, pay more attention to the Holy Spirit who monitors your heart and spirit. When he tells you not to view something, listen to something, or play something, be sensitive to his voice.

Our consciences monitor our lives, holding us accountable to the Holy Spirit’s commands and principles. It makes sure we don’t violate God’s laws written on our hearts. We must evaluate the things we take in.

We cannot allow the world to influence us. We must influence the world. The Great Commission commands us to go and make disciples. But we can’t do that if the world is making disciples of us.

Pay very close attention to the sensitivity of your heart to the Holy Spirit, God’s Word, and the counsel of mature Christians. These things can spare you from becoming addicted to things that go against God’s best for your life.

Conclusion

There are lots of ways to entertain ourselves. And in one sense, we need the entertainment. When you do a hard day’s work as the Bible commands, it’s good to unwind and relax. Your brain and body need a break.

But the way you choose to use your leisurely time matters to God. Just because you check out from hard work for a time doesn’t mean you can check out of holiness. We must find ways to entertain ourselves that please the Lord and honor the Holy Spirit.

Watch carefully what you do in your free time and monitor your heart and soul. Be sensitive to every word from the Holy Spirit concerning your entertainment. The Lord has high standards even in our times of relaxation. Leave a comment and describe how you have found a balance between enjoying your free time and not offending the Holy Spirit.

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Divination

This entry is part 464 of 470 in the series Inquiring Minds

Image by Erik Stein from Pixabay

Where in the Bible are certain divination and fortune-telling techniques sanctioned, and why?

First, let’s define what divination is. It is the practice of trying to discern the will of the gods. By this definition, it is a pagan practice done in the nations surrounding Israel. So For Israel to use these practices is a violation of God’s laws.

There are different types of divination. The pagans around Israel used different methods to try to discern the will of their gods. One not seen in Scripture is cutting open and animal and discerning the will of the gods by the arrangement of organs inside the body.

One practice we see in Scripture often is casting lots. This is usually used with some kind of dice. The Bible doesn’t explicitly explain how this practice works. Generally, a person will roll at least two dice, calling the desired effect. Based on the roll of the dice, the person discerns what the gods want.

Another practice we see is prophets cutting themselves to get the attention of the gods. On Mount Carmel when Elijah faces off with the prophets of Baal they cut themselves to get Baal’s attention (1 Kings 18:28).

These nations also consulted sorceresses to speak to the dead. Although King Saul makes it the law of the land of Israel not to consort with sorceresses, he does so personally (1 Samuel 28). These are some of the ways pagans in the nations attempted to ascertain the will of their gods.

The only practice we see used in Israel among these is casting lots. Some scholars believe the priest’s Urim and Thumim may have been a form of dice to cast lots. We see casting lots of other places in the Scriptures as well.

Surprising to some, when the apostles are choosing a twelfth apostle to replace Judas Iscariot, they cast lots and pray, asking God to give them direction between two candidates for the apostleship. But let’s be clear about when the Israelites cast lots.

First, they expect that when they cast lots, as they pray to Yahweh, the answer they get will not be the will of idols or false gods, but of the God of Israel. Casting lots by an Israelite seeking Yahweh’s direction is not considered evil in Israel.

Look at the process the apostles followed. They prayed asking God’s will. They chose two candidates who were equally acceptable to God. Both were qualified to do the work of the apostle and fulfilled the definition of apostle. After prayer, they cast lots. They accepted the result as God’s will.

An important distinction to make is that we no longer see casting lots by Christians in the New Testament. On the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the apostles and disciples in the Upper Room are filled with the Holy Spirit and simply rely on asking him personally instead of casting lots.

We also see foreign nations consulting prophets, doing whatever they ask to receive the result they want. Balak enlists the services of the prophet Balaam to curse Israel for him (Numbers 22-24). But Balaam finds himself required to obey Yahweh and do as Yahweh wants him to do. No matter how many times the king demands he curse Israel, he must bless them instead.

The Israelites eventually turn to idols and worship them freely in Israel during the time of the prophets. They probably do all types of divination during this time. But this is not permitted by God. The prophets preach against this activity.

The clear teaching of Scripture is that Christians must not use the practices of divination. We have no need to discern the will of the gods. And as far as God’s will is concerned, Scripture gives us direction on part of his will.

For instance, God wills that none should perish but all be saved (2 Peter 3:9). He also wills that Christians become sanctified and holy (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Christians need only ask God what his will in a certain situation is. Through prayer and guidance of the Holy Spirit and Scripture, we receive God’s will.

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Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

This entry is part 469 of 470 in the series Inquiring Minds

If some of the Old Testament prophets, patriarchs or kings such as David had the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of them, would they have gone straight to Heaven and not the paradise section of Hades?

Anytime Old Testament people were given the Holy Spirit, he was not dwelling inside of them. The Bible makes a distinction in the Old Testament that the Spirit came upon people, usually through the anointing. But in the New Testament, he dwells in Christians.

I know this is a small distinction to make, but it is made regularly in the Bible. So the difference is that the Holy Spirit came upon people in the anointing, usually the offices of prophets, priests, and kings. But as part of the new covenant, God promises to put his Spirit in those who believe in him.

Prophets, priests, and kings were anointed to serve God in their respective offices in Israel. This means that the Holy Spirit came upon them to perform the works God called them to do. When King Saul turned away from God and was not obedient, the Bible tells us that God’s Spirit left him. And then David was anointed king of Israel. But David did not serve in that office until after King Saul’s death.

David had a thing about not touching the anointed of the Lord. He would not kill King Saul. He waited for him to die before he assumed the office of the king even though he was anointed king earlier than that. He respected the anointing of the Spirit of the office, if not the man in the office.

So God anointed people for works in his service in those offices in the Old Testament. The amazing thing about the new covenant is that even the common person, down to the servants, can receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It went from a few people (comparatively) serving in the offices of Israel to anyone God wished to put his Spirit in.

A second distinction to make according to your question concerns Hades and Sheol. The Old Testament does not give a clear enough distinction for us on exactly how Sheol worked. The translations range from the grave, the pit, resting with forefathers, and just referring to it by its name, Sheol.

Perhaps the best understanding we have is that Sheol was divided into two parts, the part for believing Old Testament saints and a part for the rest who did not make a decision. Some believe that when Jesus was crucified and buried, he went down to Sheol to proclaim himself to everyone there. Those who trusted he is the Messiah were then liberated from Sheol and went with him to heaven. Those who did not stayed in Sheol. This is one understanding of 1 Peter 3:19-20.

Hades is referred to in the New Testament. There is a much more robust understanding of the afterlife in the New Testament. Hades or Hell may be different from Sheol in the Old Testament. It is the final place for those who do not turn to God in this life.

Those distinctions made, people in the Old Testament who operated in the offices of prophets, priests, and kings did not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, but he came upon some people for these tasks. As we saw with King Saul, the Holy Spirit can leave a person who is not fulfilling the office the way God wants them to.

For this purpose, we can gather that the Holy Spirit coming upon a person for service in an office is not the same as being sealed with the Holy Spirit in salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). It appears that one is for utility while the other is a confirmation of salvation.

This is not to say the Holy Spirit cannot leave a person who has turned away from God after knowing him, falling away from grace, or apostasy. But that is a completely different matter for another question. The point here is that the Holy Spirit coming upon or dwelling in a person does not guarantee that they will go right to heaven.

Another point to make is that because Sheol was more like a holding place before Christ came and completed his mission to bring salvation, we cannot make the assumption that people immediately went to heaven in the Old Testament. The only exemptions to this are Enoch and Elijah, who were taken up to be with God and never died, going to Sheol.

While the Old Testament sacrificial system was in place to forgive sins and foreshadow the coming of Christ, the ultimate sacrifice on the cross, this system was only in place for a time. It was not a system of salvation but a system to keep a person from feeling the full brunt of the Law’s prescription, in most cases death, for sins committed in Israel.

Sacrifices were done every day and had to be done for as many times as a person sinned against God. Jesus came as the sinless sacrifice, once and for all. This was a game changer. But as I said before, we do not have a full understanding of Old Testament beliefs regarding the afterlife.

It is still up to God to decide the final place for every soul. If you know Jesus, you will be with God for eternity. If you don’t know Jesus, the Bible teaches your eternal destiny is much less secure. Hell is reserved for Satan and his demons. But there are also indications that those who did not believe in Christ will end up there.

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Hiding a Lamp

This entry is part 468 of 470 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Lukas Baumert from Pixabay

What is the meaning of St. Luke 8:16?

“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”” (Luke 8:16–18, ESV)

In this teaching of Jesus, there are references to two ideas. The first is not hiding the light. The second is what he says in Luke 8:18, that God rewards those two are good stewards of what they have been given by God.

Covering a lamp or a light with a jar refers to not using it for its intended purpose. Lamps are designed to give light to the house. When you cover it with a jar or put it under a bed, it doesn’t do what God designed it to do. It can’t provide light if it is covered up.

When we think of a jar, our first impression is a glass jar, but this refers to earthen vessels, jars made of clay. So putting a jar over the lamp would hide almost all of the light the lamp would give. This teaching happens as Jesus has been talking about his disciples being lights of the world.

We’re not supposed to hide the light. When we evangelize, we preach the gospel with actions and words. We don’t hide the gospel away from people. We shine our light, provided the example and the testimony of what Jesus does in our lives.

Another way you can understand this idea of hiding the light is that we can’t hide sins or speak anything in the dark or in secret. What we say and do that we think nobody else knows about will be exposed to the light. People will see what you say and do, even if you think they don’t. God sees everything that we do whether it is in secret or in public.

Finally, Luke 8:18 speaks to the matter of stewardship. Jesus says those who have will be given more and those who don’t have, even what they think they have will be taken from them. Some people think they have something they don’t.

They abuse the gifts of God and think they own everything. But the Bible teaches that God owns everything and he entrusts his things to us. It is up to us to steward and manage them with wisdom. Jesus further explains this in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). The same principle is played out in that parable.

When we abuse the things God entrusts to us, he will take them away and give them to people who are using godly wisdom to steward his possessions. But when we are faithful to manage what God blesses us with, we will continue to see his blessing and favor.

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