Hidden Sin

This entry is part 60 of 60 in the series Holiness Matters

Did you ever notice something that drove you nuts about somebody else? Every once in a while I will notice something that bothers me about somebody else. Every time they do it or I perceive it in them, I notice. It’s almost like it’s screaming at me.

We all have things about ourselves that other people notice and we don’t. It takes others seeing these things in us and letting us know about them before we can do anything to change them. A lot of times we notice in others the same faults we have in ourselves.

There is an interesting passage in the Bible where the psalmist asks God to declare him innocent from his hidden sins and faults. But are these things he doesn’t realize about himself or things that are hidden from him in his character? Let’s take a look at this fascinating verse in the Bible.

Keeping It under Wraps

This verse in the Psalms, Psalm 19:12, is the desire of the psalmist to not displease the Lord. All of Psalm 19 is about how God reveals himself to us. The beginning of the Psalm talks about how creation speaks of God. It’s the external evidence we see of him. It’s his works, profound to us.

But then the rest of the Psalm focuses on God’s internal witness of himself to us through the law. The law enlightens us on the sin in us (Romans 7:7). It helps us to discern all of the faults and sins within ourselves. It exposes our sin to us.

It’s in this context that the psalmist asks God to declare him innocent from his “hidden sins.” The law helps us to understand things in us that don’t please God. But it’s interesting that he uses the phrase “hidden sins.”

Some translations use the word “faults” instead of sins. But the interesting thing is that the original word in Hebrew does not mention faults or sins. The word just means “hidden.” But because of the reaction of the psalmist to ask God to declare him innocent of these things, we understand them to be some kind of negative aspect in us.

If we’re talking about hidden sins, we might be referring to when theologians call sins of omission. There are two types of sins, sins of commission and sins of omission. Sins of commission we are much more familiar with. These are the sins we know we commit. Our conscience and God’s law condemn us on the spot when we do them.

Sins of omission are those things we should be doing that we don’t do. We may or may not be aware that were not doing them. We need someone or something to tell us if we are not doing these things.

God’s law and Word tell us everything that God expects of us. If we don’t have the law we don’t know what God expects of us. This is exactly what happened in the Old Testament. God gave his laws, special revelation of his expectations, to the Israelites. The Gentiles had no idea what God expected of them.

Each of us has a conscience, but it only convicts us based on a moral code that we think we are following. If we don’t have God’s law, we make our own, or develop it with a social consensus. We may or may not be doing what God expects of us.

All of these things factor into understanding what the psalmist is talking about when he talks about things in us that displease God. He asks God to declare him innocent of the hidden things that displease him.

It might help to get a wider context as we look at the verses around it. The beginning of the verse asks another question, “Who can discern his own errors?” It seems that the psalmist is concerned with the parts of his person and character that he doesn’t know whether or not they please God.

As I said, the law helps us to see what God expects of us. It is like a mirror that we put up to our character, thoughts, intentions, motives, and heart. These are the things that no one else can see but us. The things we do inside that no one sees, the thoughts we have, our motives and intentions for how we act, and the deep part of our spirits and souls that only God can see.

We are responsible for these before God. No one else can judge us for them. It’s only when we speak of them or act upon them that people can even tell what they may have been. We can understand a little bit better these hidden things in us as we look at the verses below this one in Psalm 19.

The psalmist mentions presumptuous sins, those parts of us that are arrogant and insolent. These are the things we think we have the right to do. We don’t ask God if there what he wants us to do if they even honor him.

This is getting down to the nitty-gritty of our character. The psalmist is begging God to deal with the parts of him that no one else sees. These are the foundations of who he is. Many of us ask God to forgive us of our sins, by which we usually mean the things that other people know we do because they see us doing them.

But how many of us are so in tune with the heart of God that we ask him to expose and change the parts of us that displease him deep down inside? The things we could get away with because nobody else knows about them but us. This is how deeply we want to please God.

God and Our Secrets

Another verse, Psalm 90:8, talks about how God is angry with Israel because of their secret sins. Once again, “sins” is added because of the context. The line above it talks about iniquities that are set before the Lord. The context is clearly speaking of secret things within us.

Even if no one else can see the secret character flaws and sins within us, God sees them. Are there little things we hold back and don’t give over to him? Like the psalmist, Job also asks God to teach him what he doesn’t see in himself (Job 34:32).

Whether we know about these secret and hidden things in us or we find out about them because of God’s Word as it exposes them, we must turn them over to Jesus. We can only have one master, and it must be the Lord Jesus.

If there are other parts of us that other people can’t see, he can still see them. Jesus won’t share the throne of our hearts. We can’t call him Lord and say, “No” to him because of these other things in our character.

If we don’t know some of the flaws in us or the sins that we harbor against God, those little things we keep to ourselves and think we have hidden and are secret from everyone, our hearts should be to expose them and allow God to eradicate them.

We don’t want to harbor any sins or character flaws that displease the Lord. We want to get rid of them so we can follow him without keeping anything back. The sins we think we have hidden away are mastering us. They are in charge because we let them stay. Paul by the Spirit calls us to not let sin reign in our mortal bodies (Romans 6:12).

Exposing Hidden Sin

I love the heart of the psalmists in several places of Scripture. Returning to Psalm 19, he ends the entire Psalm by expressing his desire to be pleasing and acceptable before the Lord (Psalm 19:14).

He asks the Lord that the words of his mouth be pleasing to him. But he goes even deeper than that, asking for the meditations, or the groans of his heart, to also please the Lord. He doesn’t want anything to be hidden.

This is a brand-new type of vulnerability. And it’s the hardest road to take. But it makes us genuine before God. Having nothing to hide can be the most freeing thing we ever do. But it’s also hard to give up those secret things inside of us we can hide away from others.

Paul talks in the New Testament about exposing the darkness everywhere we see it (Ephesians 5:11). Because we walk as children of light, we have no part in anything that is darkness. We expose these things not only in the world but also in ourselves.

As I said before, it’s not easy for us to expose these things, especially in ourselves. It requires the same steps we took when we came to Christ. We must first confess it as it is exposed in us, whether through the observation of others, God’s Word, or God’s Spirit speaking to us about these issues.

Confession is hard for us because it opens up that place of vulnerability. Other people see deep inside of our souls through confession. It is an intimate and vulnerable place many of us are uncomfortable with. But it is the only way to experience victory.

If we truly wish to be free in Jesus, we must confess hidden sins within ourselves. We must lay these sins and character flaws that displease God as his altar. We must let his Spirit search the depths of our soul and spirit. It’s a painful experience, but it brings freedom and victory.

The best part about confession is that we know Jesus forgives us (1 John 1:9). Jesus doesn’t let us wonder if we’re still part of his kingdom. The Bible promises that he is faithful and just to forgive us when we confess.

But we must also understand what it means to repent before the Lord. The word “repentance” means to turn away from something. We don’t turn back to it. Often times, Christians come to a revival moment where they repent.

But then because they don’t understand that they lay it at Christ’s feet to never pick it up again, they go back to the same things and have to repent all over again. But that’s not how repentance works.

As we turn it over, we don’t come back to it. We must become so sick of our sin and the things in us that displease the Lord that we never want to pick them up again. Until we hit this moment, we will have entangling and hidden sins.

Winning the War

Through exposing any darkness we find in us, we make sin and the enemy, darkness its self, vulnerable. We can win the war over hidden sin and our character flaws through exposing them to the light of Jesus.

Sin only has power over us as long as we keep it secret from others. Exposing it to the light of Jesus weakens and destroys it within us. As I showed with Psalm 19:14, we must have the heart to completely repent before the Lord and never want these hidden things to resurface in us.

Another passage in the Psalms that I love is Psalm 139:23-24. The Holy Spirit knows the depths of our person and can search them (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). But we must be open and vulnerable, ready for the Spirit to search us.

The psalmist cries out for God to search him and know his heart. We want nothing hidden from ourselves or from the Lord. We ask him to expose everything in us that displeases him. We open ourselves to the painful process of God’s testing us and our character to know our thoughts and the deep things in us.

God tells us as he looks into us if there are wicked and grievous ways in us. The Holy Spirit leads us into character transformation that changes us forever, conforming us to Christ (Romans 8:29). He guides us into the way that pleases Jesus so we can walk in it.

Conclusion

Anything that is secret or hidden in us, whether we know about it or not, the Spirit of God knows. We must be open to him leading us into the freedom and light of Christ. Exposing these things in us that displease the Lord is another step in the process of becoming holy.

We cannot let anything keep us from following Christ and walking in his ways. It may be something hidden in you that you don’t know about. But the light of God’s Word exposes it. The Holy Spirit reveals it to you.

At this point, each of us has two choices. We can keep it hidden away, secret from others but still exposed before the Lord. The Holy Spirit will never let it go until we let it go and give it to him. The other option is exactly that, to confess it, allowing Jesus to forgive us and take it from us.

Who wants that burden anyway? Our entire goal in holiness is to become more and more like Jesus every day. We must not let any of these hidden things remain in us. Leave me a comment and tell me what you think of the subject of hidden sins and character flaws and how we can expose them before the Lord.

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OT Most Important Book

This entry is part 363 of 371 in the series Inquiring Minds
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What is the most important book in the Old Testament?

This is a very hard question to answer because every part of the Old Testament, every book, has its place and helps us to understand God’s mission to restore his relationship with sinful humanity. I don’t know that I could pick just one book from the Old Testament.

My approach would be to look for the book that has the most messianic prophecies about Jesus. Perhaps Isaiah is one of the most important books in the Old Testament for this reason. And just think, he was the prophetic voice no one would listen to or heed.

Genesis is another extremely important book because it lays the foundations for the rest of the Bible. It helps us to understand God’s approach to be able to call his creation good again. It shows us the beginning of every part of his plan.

It would be hard for me to choose between these two books, and of all the other books that are in the Old Testament, each one of them contributes something to this salvation history narrative, fitting into the rest of the Bible beautifully.

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Serious Moments

This entry is part 362 of 371 in the series Inquiring Minds

What are some of the most serious moments in the Bible?

I think there are a lot of serious moments throughout the Bible. But if I had to focus on a few, I would deftly focus on all of the times that God interacted with humanity. Most of these interactions have to do with our sin and how he steps in and brings his grace.

I think the first serious moment of the Bible is in Genesis 6. There is so much sin and sinful hearts throughout all of the earth that God can’t find anyone who is righteous. Although got started with a creation he deemed “very good,” within a short amount of time humanity was irredeemable.

If we understand the standard interpretation of the beginning of Genesis 6, angels married the daughters of men (Genesis 6:2), violating God’s standard for a human man and a human woman to marry (Genesis 2:18-26). And this was just one example of the wickedness of humanity.

It gets so bad that God predicts, “My Spirit will not always abide with man forever” (Genesis 6:3). Moreover, a few verses later the Bible comments that, “every intention of the thoughts of his (man’s) heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

God’s reaction must be judgment for humanity, but you can see his heart reaction, that it grieved his heart and he regretted that he made man on the earth (Genesis 6:6). This is about as low as a low point in the story can get.

I think it’s one of the most serious moments in the Bible because of God’s reaction. His first thought when he saw the wickedness of humanity would not change wasn’t excitement about judging the earth in a flood. It was grief and regret.

Sin always separates us from God and it always hurts his heart. We often think of the legal implications of our sin. But for God, it’s a relational issue first. When God saw there was no other way but the judgment of the flood to deal with sinful humanity corrupting his once good creation, he first reacted relationally.

God is on our side and he wants us to be holy and righteous like him. He wants a good creation that loves and serves him willingly. But he is holy and must judge sin when it occurs. So this is the first serious moment of the Bible as I see it.

Of course, the flood doesn’t solve the problem. It comes roaring back and still exists today. Humans still sin against God on a regular basis. One of the other serious moments of the Bible, although I don’t have a specific verse, is when God uses the prophets of Israel in the Old Testament to condemn the Israelites for how they treat one another and how they have turned to idols instead of God.

God knows that if they don’t change their tune, he will have to send them into exile, out of the precious and perfect land he promised to them. Once again, every time that God has the judge humanity, he is not excited about it. It hurts his heart but he must judge wickedness.

Despite the continual message of the prophets of Israel, the people ignore their God, their first love. He must choose to judge them for their wickedness and idolatry. It’s out of regret and sorrow once again that he turns to judgment. The Israelites don’t give him another option.

In case you think all of my solemn and serious moments are from when God must judge his creation for sin and wickedness, my final serious or solemn moment in Scripture comes from the day we call Good Friday.

As I said before, sending the flood and kicking Israel out of the Promised Land were bandages on the gushing wound of sin. Until Jesus came. The moment that Jesus arrived on the scene, he showed God’s character and what he truly is like. Through his teachings and ministry, his very life, Jesus showed the world what God really wants.

There was no truer moment than the three hours he hung on the cross. This is after an entire night of being judged by humans who didn’t know any better. The accusations and the suffering came in waves. Jesus hung on the cross in the most agony every human could ever feel.

Humanity was doing it all over again. Except this time, this was God’s final effort that would provide the ultimate sacrifice for sin and pathway to freedom through Christ. As he hung up there, he said seven things that still speak volumes today.

One of my favorite Easter sermons is when I go through these seven words from the cross. Every word that Jesus speaks, though he is in complete agony and pain, resonates with his goodness and encourages me today.

It’s a solemn moment as our Savior hangs from that tree. But it’s also a serious moment because the defeat that Satan and wickedness saw in the murder of Jesus on the cross is the same moment of victory where Jesus made a way to forgiveness of sins and restoration of relationship with God.

This sacred moment on the cross showed the depth of our depravity at its worst point, and the even deeper grace of Jesus poured out for us in his blood. Yes, indeed, this is the very best serious moment, the moment of victory over sin that each disciple in Jesus claims at the moment of his or her salvation.

There are so many more serious moments throughout the pages of Scripture. But I see these three as some of the most important and solemn moments. The Bible is a book of faith in Jesus who gave us salvation through his sacrifice on the cross.

It shows the moments leading up to that moment and what happened in the victories afterward. These are the high points and the serious points of the Bible.

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Results of Unforgiveness

This entry is part 361 of 371 in the series Inquiring Minds

What happens if we don’t forgive and empathize with someone of their mistake or mistake on us? Does something tragically happen to us, and if we don’t forgive?

Forgiveness is a big topic in Jesus’ teaching. Some of the things he says about it make it very important for us to understand and apply his teaching about forgiveness. God takes forgiveness very seriously, as we will see.

Many times as a pastor people tell me that they can’t forgive a person for what they did because it was so egregious. I don’t say the next couple of sentences to try to smooth it over to make it all better. I understand how difficult it is to forgive someone who has wronged you.

Ponder this for just a moment. Before we talk about what Jesus taught about forgiveness, the most profound thing Jesus taught us was not from his words but from his actions. It was on the cross that Jesus cried out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23). He didn’t just teach it. He practiced it.

These are the people that wronged him and hurt him the most. He was alone in his death. Not even his disciples understood him. Peter denied him to save his own skin. And we know he forgave Peter (John 21:15-19). He forgave all of the religious leaders who put him on that cross out of envy and jealousy.

If Jesus can forgive people who put him on a cross and murdered him, he pretty much owns the trump card on being able to teach it to his disciples. I wager that nothing we have done, no matter how deep the betrayal could ever measure up to what Jesus suffered.

He not only forgave those who wronged him, but he did it because he loved them and us. Nothing we ever do is unforgivable to Jesus. The moment that we confess and ask him for forgiveness, he is more than willing to forgive us.

I know it’s a hard issue, and whatever was done to each of us hurts, but our Master, our Lord, teaches us to forgive those who wrong us. Your question comes out of the place of feeling guilty or afraid of the consequences of not forgiving others.

But that’s the wrong motivation to forgive others. We don’t do it because we get punished if we don’t forgive. We do it because Jesus forgave us and loves us. We do it because our Lord teaches us to forgive. We do it because Jesus commands it.

Much of the teaching of the church on unforgiveness involves a self-centered forgiveness. They talk about how much better you’ll feel when you forgive others. They tell you how much it benefits you to forgive others. Regardless of whether or not you feel better, the point is that Jesus lays down the example.

Jesus’ disciples and followers do what Jesus did. We follow his teachings. Sometimes forgiving others makes you feel better and gives you a feeling of freedom. Other times it doesn’t. But because Jesus taught, commanded, and demonstrated it, we as his disciples forgive.

Everything we do in the Christian life should be because of our love and gratitude to the Lord. We don’t operate out of guilt or fear of punishment. So don’t think of forgiving others as something you have to do so you don’t get in trouble or lose your salvation or anything like that. Forgive because Jesus is your example and he forgave you.

Just because we forgive someone doesn’t mean we need to empathize with them. Forgiveness doesn’t require us to understand what they did. It doesn’t require us to put ourselves in their place. It also doesn’t require us to welcome them back into our circle of trust. That may happen, but it’s not required.

Christians operate out of unconditional love for others. Whether it’s another believer or nonbeliever who violates your sense of justice for yourself or wrongs you, Jesus calls us to forgive.

Jesus lays down some pretty heavy teaching on the subject of unforgiveness. But let’s look at the basics of what he has taught us. First of all, Jesus includes forgiveness when he teaches the disciples to pray in the Lord’s Prayer.

Halfway through the Lord’s prayer Jesus teaches us to pray first to be forgiven for our own transgressions, and then the next line of the prayer is “as we also forgive those who transgress against us” (Matthew 6:12).

It’s expected that we forgive others. I don’t know if you can read into the lines of the prayer that our forgiveness is contingent on forgiving others, but as we seek forgiveness from the Lord, we are expected to forgive others for their trespasses against us.

What’s very interesting, and part of the answer to your question, is that after the prayer, Jesus makes a comment about forgiveness (Matthew 6:14-15). He makes it clear that if we don’t forgive others, our heavenly Father will not forgive us.

This is an astounding approach to forgiveness! God expects us to forgive others. But if we don’t, the forgiveness we seek from him will not be given to us. Jesus puts it in black and white. When we don’t honor God by forgiving others as he has forgiven us, we shouldn’t expect that he forgives us.

As much as we have sinned against God, it’s understandable that he would make our learning to forgive others part of the deal. He has been the example of forgiving us of the most terrible sins against him. And it would honor him when we forgive others.

God has this thing about loving his creation, including every human being who bears God’s image. He expects us as part of our worship to him and honoring him to treat all other human beings with dignity and respect.

It makes sense that the God who pours out his forgiveness upon us expects us to then pass on his example to others in forgiving them. We must apply this teaching to our lives. We honor God and receive his forgiveness when we forgive others.

Another important teaching of Jesus on forgiveness is when he is asked by Peter how often we must forgive others (Matthew 18:21-22). Right after Jesus has talked about the three-tier disciplinary approach of the church on how to deal with offenses between believers, Peter then asks Jesus if seven times of forgiveness is enough.

Jesus answers that seventy-seven times is what he expects. We will give Peter the benefit of the doubt that seven is the number of perfection or completion and he only meant to say that he wanted to completely forgive his offender.

But when Jesus says 77, the two sevens represent a doubling of the commitment Peter made. Jesus expects us to go the extra mile in our forgiveness of others. Even if they are repeat offenders, we never have an excuse to not forgive them.

Jesus then follows up his proclamation with a parable that shows how the Father reacts to those who receive his forgiveness and mercy but will not give it to others (Matthew 18:23-35). The master of the house out of compassion forgives the debt of one of his servants. But then the servant goes out and refuses to forgive the much lesser debt of someone who owes him.

These are not easy teachings for us to fulfill, but the Lord expects us who follow and are his disciples to obey him in this matter as well as every other matter he teaches. Forgiveness is not easy to do, but Jesus did it for us. And when we forgive others, we show them, as good representatives of Christ, the image of Jesus.

Beyond this teaching of forgiveness, Jesus also teaches us to not retaliate against those who mistreat us (Matthew 5:38-42). Even further than not retaliating, he calls his disciples to love their enemies and pray for them (Matthew 5:43-48).

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Christian Higher Education

This entry is part 360 of 371 in the series Inquiring Minds
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Does having more credibility make it worth the *time* it takes to earn a degree in Theology, despite that *time* is so short according to prophecy?

This is a really great question, and I think it depends on what the Lord is telling you to do. When I was at the end of my Bible college years, God challenged me to go to the seminary and I didn’t want to because I wanted to get out there and preach the gospel.

I felt that my Bible college education had prepared me to pastor a church and preach the word. So I thought I was equipped well enough to get out there and get started. I also felt that spending two or three more years in education wasn’t as important as getting into the field.

But at the same time, I’ve always liked to be in class and part of an education system. I’ve always been a student of the Word and enjoyed learning tremendously. So seminary would fit. I decided that I would make a deal with God.

I was in my senior year in my last semester, so I decided to go to the seminary and take one course to see if I really did like it and if I really thought it would add something to my ability to be the best pastor I could possibly be.

By the way, never make a deal with God. You will probably end up doing what he wanted you to do or told you to do in the first place. So I went to that one class, New Testament Theology, for one semester.

We didn’t actually have a New Testament theology course at my Bible college. We only had systematic theology courses. So I wondered how this would help me make a decision. I walked into class the first day and this professor walked in, sat down, and told us we were going to read through the New Testament this semester and get an idea of how each Bible writer was telling us something different about God, Jesus, and other themes in the New Testament.

It was my first biblical theology type courts. He said we could use whatever translation we like of the Bible as we did the class. He opened up and began reading from Matthew, the very first verse. It was only a few minutes into his reading that one of the students raised their hand.

This student asked the professor, “Professor, what Bible version are you using?” To which he responded, “I’m using the Benny Aker translation,” and held up a Greek New Testament. The professor was sight reading from the original language of the New Testament!

At the time, I had three years of Greek under my belt in my undergrad and my jaw dropped. You have no idea how many years of experience it takes to be able to sight read from the Greek text. And so flawlessly!

And that was the beginning of one of the most fruitful three years of my life. How my education helped me, spending that extra time, is that it’s super prepared me for ministry. My undergrad gave me all of the nuts and bolts, my seminary experience took the nuts and bolts and arranged them into a finely tuned machine.

So for me, I found out that when God speaks to me and tells me what to do, I don’t even need to argue. I ended up in the seminary for about two and a half years and got my three year Masters of Divinity. It has helped me to be a deeper teacher and a stronger preacher.

But as I said in the beginning, the quest for higher education in Christianity really depends on each person. It’s not a decision anyone but the Lord can make for you. I have found my seminary experience to add to a boundless thirst for knowledge of God’s Word.

Bible college gave me all of the tools and understanding that I didn’t have growing up in the church. It’s not that I didn’t learn in church, or know what I was doing or how to study the Bible. The Bible college helped me to understand what I was doing and to give it a name and a process.

When I got to seminary, it put all the building blocks in the right place so that I would be most effective in my ministry as a pastor and teacher. In my personal experience, many of the people that came out of my Bible college were either very challenged in ministry, some of them left the ministry, and others are doing great today.

That can happen anywhere and in any Bible college/seminary. I found higher education very helpful in my case. Because I enjoy education, it was one of the ways that I could even better prepare to minister for the Lord.

One other thing I would like to touch on from your question. I didn’t go to seminary or even Bible college with the purpose of gaining credibility. I believe that is a byproduct of getting any kind of education in Christian service.

My goal in going to Bible college, and later seminary, was to be as fully prepared and effective in ministry as I could possibly be. I saw education as a way of helping me to become better at ministering for the Lord.

Consider that you want to go to higher education as a spiritual discipline, a desire to be more effective in ministry. Credibility also comes with it, but it should not be your only focus.

So all I can do is tell you about my experience and tell you that deciding on your education level is as personal to you and the Lord as everything else in your life. I know higher education rarely hurts a person or a person’s ministry. This is my experience.

The very best advice I can give you is to pray, seek the Lord, and see if it fits with your personality and aptitude. Don’t be afraid of higher education. If that is what God is telling you to do, do it. But if you are prepared to be a minister of Christ, perhaps higher education will present itself to you later on in life as well.

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Human Wisdom

This entry is part 359 of 371 in the series Inquiring Minds
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What does Colossians 2:8 mean?

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8, ESV)

To understand all the parts of this verse and what they refer to or mean, we need to take a look at the context surrounding the verse. Beginning with Colossians 2:6-7, we see the basis for why Paul says in Colossians 2:8.

He starts by telling the Colossians to walk in Christ because they have received him. Since they have begun to follow Christ, they should continue to walk in him. What is walking in Christ? Paul clarifies in the next verse.

Walking in Christ means to be rooted and built up in him, to be established in the faith. This refers to the doctrines and standards of the Christian faith. The Colossians need to be well-versed in doctrine and practice, doing what the Lord teaches.

They need to abound in thanksgiving for the teaching they have received and what Christ is doing for them. The reason why all of this is so important as a backdrop or background for Colossians 2:8 is because it will talk about all the other things they used to follow.

Paul tells the Colossians to not be deceived by human philosophies and traditions. He has talked about human philosophy in 1 Corinthians 1:20-26. It talks about the wisdom of the world and the philosopher of the age. Human philosophy by itself leads humanity astray.

Some commentaries suggest that there is a specific or particular philosophy that Paul is railing against. This philosophy is based on speculation, religious dogma, perhaps a touch of the kind and nature that pagans worship, etc.

Human tradition may refer to the things we celebrate, like festivals and holidays. It may specifically refer to Jewish traditions, the feasts and holy days. He has dealt with them in other epistles.

The elemental spirits could be one of two things. If Paul is referring to elemental principles, like those found in religions of all kinds made by humans, then that would be the first option. The second option is to understand it to be referring to the elemental spirits, celestial or earthly.

In the second option, Paul may be referring to things like earth, air, wind, fire, and other elements of the earth, or even spirits that are not godly. No matter how you look at it, these were all things that would pull the Christians away from Christian faith and doctrine and sidetracked them, distracting them from growing in the faith.

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John the Beloved

This entry is part 358 of 371 in the series Inquiring Minds
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Why is John called John the Beloved?

This comes from the Gospel of John. While John is regularly named throughout the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), you don’t see his name barely anywhere in the Gospel of John, if at all.

However, we know that he mentions himself without using his name. John tends to call himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Throughout the Gospel of John, when we see anything that resembles this, we know that it’s referring to John.

John wrote his Gospel after the other three had been written. He focuses on completely different themes than the other Gospels. He still has a perspective of Jesus that agrees with the other three. But his Gospel is unique because of the different focuses of the book.

He is not focused on telling us who did what when it doesn’t involve Jesus. He is more focused on telling you the narrative in such a way that you believe that Jesus is the son of God (John 20:30-31). Because this is his main goal, he focuses more on the signs and sayings of Jesus, as well as the farewell discourse and other such distinctives of his Gospel.

So the way he inserts himself into the narrative as “the disciple of Jesus loved” instead of mentioning his name personally, he is trying to keep the focus on what Jesus is doing and why we should trust in him as the son of God.

Is part of what makes the Gospel of John so different, about 90% different than the synoptic Gospels. When John sat down to pen his Gospel, he provides a different perspective as the fourth evangelist. It helps us to understand Jesus in a deeper way.

Each of the evangelists approaches the life of Jesus with a different perspective. It’s like taking four different pictures of the same object. But we can tell that they are talking about the same Jesus and the same events in his life, ministry, death, and resurrection. These four different perspectives give us different walks of the same Jesus and show us who he is in a more profound way. John the Beloved

Why is John called John the Beloved?

This comes from the Gospel of John. While John is regularly named throughout the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), you don’t see his name barely anywhere in the Gospel of John, if at all.

However, we know that he mentions himself without using his name. John tends to call himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Throughout the Gospel of John, when we see anything that resembles this, we know that it’s referring to John.

John wrote his Gospel after the other three had been written. He focuses on completely different themes than the other Gospels. He still has a perspective of Jesus that agrees with the other three. But his Gospel is unique because of the different focuses of the book.

He is not focused on telling us who did what when it doesn’t involve Jesus. He is more focused on telling you the narrative in such a way that you believe that Jesus is the son of God (John 20:30-31). Because this is his main goal, he focuses more on the signs and sayings of Jesus, as well as the farewell discourse and other such distinctives of his Gospel.

So the way he inserts himself into the narrative as “the disciple of Jesus loved” instead of mentioning his name personally, he is trying to keep the focus on what Jesus is doing and why we should trust in him as the son of God.

Is part of what makes the Gospel of John so different, about 90% different than the synoptic Gospels. When John sat down to pen his Gospel, he provides a different perspective as the fourth evangelist. It helps us to understand Jesus in a deeper way.

Each of the evangelists approaches the life of Jesus with a different perspective. It’s like taking four different pictures of the same object. But we can tell that they are talking about the same Jesus and the same events in his life, ministry, death, and resurrection. These four different perspectives give us different walks of the same Jesus and show us who he is in a more profound way.

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God’s Discipline

This entry is part 357 of 371 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

Do any scripture verses inform us how God disciplines us?

Before I answer this question, I must make the distinction between God’s judgment and his discipline. God’s judgment is far harsher than his discipline. And his judgment is pointed toward unbelievers while his discipline is for his children,

The Bible tells us that God disciplines the ones he loves (Hebrews 12:6). The writer of Hebrews quotes verses from Proverbs 3:11-12. God disciplines us because of sin (Hebrews 12:4). He goes on to explain that God disciplines us because he treats us as his children (Hebrews 12:7).

We don’t look at discipline as a good thing. Nobody likes to be disciplined because it is painful at the time. But as the writer continues, the result of discipline is righteousness before God (Hebrews 12:11). So the Bible is clear that God disciplines us.

In what way does he discipline us? Well, if we commit sin, and we should not because we are dead to sin (Romans 6:1-11), then he convicts us by his Holy Spirit (John 16:8). You might say that he is supposed to convict the world of sin. But if we are sinning, we are like the world instead of like God.

God’s conviction begins with that nagging feeling that something is wrong in our relationship with him. Indeed, something is. We do not lose relationship with God, but we feel the separation from him that sin causes. He will hound us until we deal with the sin issue in our lives.

Throughout the Old Testament when Israel sinned against the Lord, he did all kinds of things to the nation from making it unfruitful to even sending enemy nations against it. Because Israel refused to obey the Lord, they were sent into exile, kicked out of the Promised Land that he gave them.

God only needs to discipline us when we are not walking with Christ. When we walk with him, he has no need to discipline us because we’re doing what we should be doing as his children. There is a verse that says that judgment must begin with the house of God (1 Peter 4:17).

Peter talks about the suffering we go through as Christians (1 Peter 4:12). It is suffering that comes from the world, but the suffering we do must be for Christ. If we suffer because we are not doing what God tells us to do and not representing Christ, this is where our discipline begins.

God makes his judgment about each of us. And if he finds that we are not following him, he has every right to discipline us. And he will. The Bible talks about the suffering of Christians. It mentions fiery trials.

Sometimes God tests us like he tested the faith of Abraham (Genesis 22:1). Other times he will use a time of trial to see that we are righteous before him (Job 1-2; James 1:2-4). But God enhances our character and faith, strengthening it through these trials. God doesn’t make trials, but he will use them to sharpen us.

These are some of the ways that Scripture describes the discipline of the saints. But we must keep in the forefront of our minds and hearts that God does this because he loves us. He doesn’t want his children to be wayward. The Father disciplines his children.

We must also remember that while it is not pleasant to be disciplined by the Lord, he is returning us to the path of righteousness. In the end result, his discipline makes us more holy and closer to being conformed to Christ when the discipline is finished.

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Revelation 10:7

This entry is part 356 of 371 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Bernd Scheurer from Pixabay

When is the fulfillment of Revelation 10:7 due in your opinion?

There is a lot of mystery written into the tenth chapter of Revelation. It begins with an angel that comes down from heaven with a little scroll. But before John deals with that scroll, he hears seven thunders that give a message John is told not to write what the seven thunders spoke (Revelation 10:4).

Whatever was said is sealed up for a later time. Next, we see the angel calling for there to be no more delay for God’s mystery to be fulfilled (Revelation 10:6-7). What is this mystery? It was revealed to the prophets in the Old Testament.

He specifically mentions that this will happen when the seventh angel blows his trumpet, and the last days of judgment. The seventh angel appears in Revelation 11:15-19. Here we find out that when the seventh angel blows his trumpet God’s kingdom through Christ is fulfilled.

The heavenly temple is opened and the Ark of the Covenant in heaven is revealed to the earth. On earth, there are flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a heavy hailstorm. God’s presence is coming down to earth.

In the next part of Revelation 10, John eats the little scroll, sweet in his mouth and bitter in his stomach (Revelation 10:8-11).. This little scroll has to do with the sweetness of proclaiming God’s word, but the bitterness of the judgment against humanity.

Revelation 10 has to do with prophecy and how it will be sweet to give the prophecies that God has given, yet bitter because of the great judgment coming up on the entire earth. Revelation 10:7 will be fulfilled in the last days of the trumpet sound from the sixth angel of judgment.

When will this happen in the time span of human history? It will be at the very end, when Christ is revealed in his glory and comes to the earth to bring God’s judgment to the wicked people on it. I don’t know exactly when this will happen, other than that it will happen at the end of time.

I won’t presume to know all of the times of everything that Revelation prophesies. But I know that the Bible tells us the sequence of events that God will use to bring his power and glory to our world. Not everything is revealed in the book of Revelation. But that’s what makes being on God’s side in those times worth watching to know what he is going to do.

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Your Heavenly Employer Part 4

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Your Heavenly Employer

Have you ever worked so hard that you just wanted to sleep? I often find that my body will take the sleep it needs whether I want it to or not. I will drift off without even realizing it.

But we should never work ourselves, especially our bodies, to the point that they are taking rest from us. Even I need to learn how to rest in the Lord’s Sabbath. People have a lot of questions about the Sabbath, so I will try to clear some of them up in this post.

Work and Sabbath are not enemies. As much as the Lord expects a solid and hard work ethic to represent him, he also commands us to take the seventh day and make it holy, a rest in God’s presence.

But who knows what that means? This post may clear up some of the misconceptions and help us to understand the Sabbath better. More than understanding the Sabbath, we need to be practicing it every week. So let’s zoom in on the Sabbath.

God Our Example

What does the Bible say about work? Can I even take a break? The biblical balance is hard work for six days, and then rest on the seventh day. This is called Sabbath in the Bible, and the Sabbath, while it speaks to work ethic, is much more involved than just work.

Sabbath is a seventh day not only of rest, but of reverence for God. It is a day of reflection, of worship, and yes, of rest from labor. The point isn’t to become legalistic about how much work you can do. The rabbis were famous for their strict Sabbath laws. Our best way to understand and practice Sabbath is to look to God.

God is our chief example in Sabbath, for He worked six days creating, and then rested (Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:11). The Sabbath is made special, or holy, set apart from the other days. To be sure, even in our work, as we will find later in our study, we work as unto the Lord.

But on the Sabbath, we celebrate God’s goodness and we rest. We were physically designed by the Grand Designer to rest. There is a host of medical evidence about those who do not take a Sabbath. But it must be clear that not taking a Sabbath does not just affect your body. It affects your whole being, from your emotions to your decisions to your spiritual walk.

God didn’t need to rest and he does not sleep. He didn’t do it because he needed it. He sanctified, or set apart, the Sabbath as an example to us of his expectations. God created and observed the Sabbath for our benefit.

He commanded us to observe the Sabbath in the Ten Commandments. As with all of God’s commands, they are not meant to restrict us, but to show us God’s designed way to get the most out of life! Through obeying God, we live the greatest life possible on earth.

God wants the very best for you, an abundant life. But you have to be obedient and live the way He has designed life to be. Otherwise, you run into all kinds of consequences when life is not lived the way it is designed, just like if you used a sledge hammer to put up a picture in your house.

When is the Sabbath?

People like to argue about the Sabbath. When is this day? The Jews say it’s Saturday. The Christians say it’s Sunday. When is it? Scripture does not tell us what day God rested. The Sabbath day on Saturday was set up, I believe, so that the whole community could observe the day.

Christians have their Sabbath on Sunday because that is the day the Lord rose from the dead. Every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection. Constantine made Sunday an official day for Christians in the Roman Empire in 325 AD.

But it is most likely that this was already Christian practice (1 Cor 16:2, where the first day is the first day of the work week, a Sunday on the Jewish calendar) and that he simply made it official when Rome became a Christian empire.

The important thing is that you take one day out of seven, and of course this expands to the seventh year, and every 50 years as well with the Jubilee that no one practices in God’s Law, to both rest and revere God.

It is both. You can’t just sleep in or lay on the couch. You must also revere God! People think it’s one or the other, but you must do both. Resting does not mean that you can do nothing. It means that you put a special emphasis on that day for the Lord. It means that this day is different from the other six days.

We must begin to understand the concept of rest. The Bible talks about resting in the presence of the Lord. This is what the Sabbath day was meant to be. The reason you don’t work is so you can concentrate on God’s presence alone. We can rest in him instead of our own provisions.

As a pastor, my Sabbath is not a Sunday. I’m preaching and ministering to people. Like most pastors, I take a different day during the week and spend it as a Sabbath. Even I am not as faithful as I should be to observe the Sabbath every week faithfully. And when I don’t, I feel it all week long!

Sabbath Blessings

Just like the tithe, the Sabbath teaches us to trust in God for that seventh day of rest. The tithe teaches us to rely on God for the other ten percent of our income. And the Sabbath teaches us to let God supply our needs for that seventh day.

The principle is that when we honor God and give Him that day for His glory, He will surely bless the day and all of our needs will be met. We see this most clearly in the wilderness with the children of Israel. They were given manna from heaven, a wafer-bread-like substance for 40 years. God never stopped providing for them this simple need of food.

The word “manna” in Hebrew means, “What is it?” But they were given manna enough for one day. If they tried to gather enough for more, it would spoil, rot and stink. God was teaching them how to labor His way.

On the sixth day, before the Sabbath, they were given a double portion for the next day. There would be no manna on the Sabbath, but the manna from yesterday did not spoil! Honor the Sabbath, and God will honor your reverence of Him.

So there is a rest in God for those who are faithful to work in six days. We honor God on the seventh and don’t work, but rather celebrate and worship Him wholly. We devote that day to Him for His glory and work. And He blesses that devotion.

One of the principles the Israelites learned in the wilderness is that God honors the six days of work we do when we set aside the seventh day to rest in him. He provides for all of our needs even when we are not working. The Sabbath is an active trust in God’s provision.

We live in a world where businesses are open 24/7/365. They claim they need the full amount of time to make the most money, but Chick-fil-A, for example, closes its doors as a corporate practice on Sundays. And they are not hurting for business at all.

Conclusion

God’s principles work. We’re not even getting into what it would look like to practice the Jubilee, but that’s a different topic for a different post. We don’t need to work all seven days of the week.

We can put our trust in God to provide for our needs for the one day. Beyond this, our bodies get needed rest and our souls become rejuvenated in God’s presence. We need the Sabbath more than anything.

Especially in America, we strive to live the American dream, making the most money we can so we can do “what we want.” We call this freedom, but the freedom we find in Christ, especially in his Sabbath rest, is greater than any freedom we can conjure up ourselves.

In the next post I will lay out the final step of our journey discovering the theology of work in the Bible. We will take a deeper look at God’s principles for work. Join me next time and leave a comment telling me how you practiced the Sabbath.

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