Archive for the 'Bible' Category

The NLT Changes John 3:16!

This is old news I’m sure, but I just happened to find out that the NLT now uses contemporary wording for John 3:16 in order to reflect the meaning to modern readers. I always wondered why they used the old rendering. I’m not sure which year this change was made. Let me know if you do. (They now make minor changes frequently instead of major revisions.)

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

(The KJV is “For God so loved the world…”.)

Others before it that I know of are God’s Word, NET, HCSB, ISV, and Mounce (from the interlinear).

Here is a footnote from the HCSB:

16 “For God loved the world in this way:[a] He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 The Gk word houtos, commonly translated in Jn 3:16 as “so” or “so much” occurs over 200 times in the NT. Almost without exception it is an adverb of manner, not degree (for example, see Mt 1:18). It only means “so much” when modifying an adjective (see Gl 3:3; Rv 16:18). Manner seems primarily in view in Jn 3:16, which explains the HCSB’s rendering.

I’m not suggesting the traditional KJV rendering (John 3:16 KJV), which is what nearly every other translation has borrowed from, is/was wrong or even not optimal. I’m not a language expert, but I believe that the people living in that time, and probably for many, many years after, understood it in this way. As language changes, I believe it’s OK to make some minor changes in translation. I think a good idea for a Bible would be to have one in the King James Version which has footnotes that explain any English words or phrases that might not be well understood to modern readers because of the older English.

Some might ask why the difference is important. While someone reading the KJV will still understand what Jesus did for us on the cross, the word love has many definitions and connotations. If we want to know not just that God loves the world (sinners), but how he loved the world, we can look to what he sent his Son to do for us on the cross to display his amazing grace for us.

For a much better and well thought out explanation on that, please see:

Thoughts On Guidance and Being Led By The Spirit

A few rambling thoughts and some not rambling quotes. I’m in a bit of a funk and don’t feel up to putting together a well-written post–if I’ve ever done one. I put horizontal lines between sections that don’t flow. Such a cheater.

I remember being in group Bible studies and the group would pray. Whoever was leading would say, “Go ahead and pray if you feel led.” I always thought, What if I want to pray but don’t feel led? Do I have to feel led to do anything? We can do good things without being whispered to.

Here is a verse that many people pull out and make a whole doctrine out of:

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.
Romans 8:14

Tempted as we might be to consider the Spirit’s leading as referring to guidance for vocation (“Is the Spirit leading me to change jobs?”) or matrimony (“Is the Spirit leading me to many him/her?”), this is not what Paul has in view. Paul is justifying the conclusion he drew in verse 13, that putting sin to death by the power of the Spirit leads to life.


Instead of a preoccupation with issues of guidance (the preoccupation of our era), we should be concerned to ask the Lord:

“How can I live in a way that reflects the holiness of my Savior?”

“Will You show me how to deny myself?”

“Which sin, or part of a sin, am I to kill today?”

-Derek Thomas, How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home

And he shows us these things largely though Scripture or something that’s a reminder from it.

Here it is again in context:

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

14For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
Romans 8:12-15

We aren’t trusting God when we need to know what to do in every situation. We’re not trusting his guidance (Proverbs 16:9, 20:24) or his providence. God doesn’t always, or usually, tell us what to do outside of Scripture, or give us some sort of feeling when he wants us to do something. He also doesn’t turn his leading into a guessing game of “is this the Holy Spirit or…?”

We also have this need to want to know the future. Look at all of the ‘newspaper prophecy’ books. We have to trust that even if we make what looks like a good decision today, things may change tomorrow and it might not seem like such a good decision anymore. (Although we can only judge our decisions by the information and thought put into it at the time of the decision.) This is still within God’s providential plan. Just as God doesn’t tell us the future, other than what he clearly states in the Bible, he won’t always tell us what the best thing we can do for the future is. That doesn’t seem very helpful to us. Who are we to question God or make up our own doctrines that are more to our liking? His main concern is making us more like Christ. We know how God loves us by what he sent his Son to do on the cross for us, resulting in us being the children of a loving, merciful, kind, gentle Father. And yet like any child, we often like to do things our way, even if it has nothing to do with reality.

When Jesus says that His sheep “hear his voice,” He is not referring to an ongoing conversation like a telephone call. He was not saying that people would hear audible or inner voices from God. He was referring to His call to salvation. Jesus is calling His sheep to an endless life of fellowship with the living God. These believers follow Christ and show renewal in the new direction and commitment of their lives to Him.

–Tom Provost, Thus Saith The LORD Part 2 – Word of Life Wisconsin

I think it’s important that with terms like Biblical wisdom, we need to make sure we’re defining those terms according to what the Bible says. It’s easy for us to make assumptions based on our culture, whether that be at large or the Christian culture.

Here are some quotes about guidance from a previous post:

Finally, in all this, the matter of various horizons, the uncertainty of the future, the view of the life of the godly as beset with uncertainty and how we are to regard it and handle it, has importance for the topic of guidance. How does the Lord guide his people? Assuring us a Christian life with a beginning, a middle and an end, with the end being the tying up of all loose ends? It is an interesting fact that the apostles, in giving much doctrinal and practical guidance, never once (as far as I can see) gave guidance with respect to Christians’ futures. They are never asked, and never offer such guidance, as to what the will of God is for their lives and how they are to discern this. This is disappointing for any one hoping, through prayer or Bible study or some other discipline, to be handed a torch which has the magical power of shining a golden light illuminating the path leading from the present to an assured tomorrow, or to the next year, or the next decade of our lives.

–Paul Helm, Helm’s Deep: Ecclesiastes and the New Testament

Don’t spend your life waiting for God to whisper sweet nothings in your ear. God has already spoken.

–Carl Trueman

Our pictures of life are far too often like eating fast food, or like living under the shadow of a rule book, or like staring glassy-eyed out into the third heaven waiting for “a word from the Lord”. Wisdom challenges all this. It says to us, warmly yet firmly, “Grow up!”, “Mature!”, “Move beyond childhood into adulthood!”, “Use the mind God has given you!”

Wisdom is about learning to apply the gospel to every area of our thinking and doing. We will be tempted to justify our ignorance and mental laziness by saying that we’re trusting the Lord. We may even appeal to Proverbs 3:5-6 to defend this attitude. But that’s not what Proverbs 3:5-6 is about. Rather, it encourages diligent, careful, prayerful, intelligent and enthusiastic exploration of life in the light of the gospel.

–Mark Storm, Symphony of Scripture

Also see:
About that little voice in your heart… | MOS – Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

What Is Sola Scriptura?

I was doing some re-reading on sola Scriptura because it’s such an important doctrine, and one that I’ve always especially liked, even if I didn’t know what it was called. I remember being a rather young Christian and occasionally (meaning not nearly often enough) going to a Christian bookstore when I felt like getting a new book. When I paged through a book, if it didn’t have Scripture references sprinkled throughout it, I would immediately put it back on the shelf.

John MacArthur on the first of the five ‘solas’ of the Reformation:

The Reformation principle of sola Scriptura has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture as our supreme authority in all spiritual matters. Sola Scriptura simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture. It is not a claim that all truth of every kind is found in Scripture. The most ardent defender of sola Scriptura will concede, for example, that Scripture has little or nothing to say about DNA structures, microbiology, the rules of Chinese grammar, or rocket science. This or that “scientific truth,” for example, may or may not be actually true, whether or not it can be supported by Scripture—but Scripture is a “more sure Word,” standing above all other truth in its authority and certainty. It is “more sure,” according to the apostle Peter, than the data we gather firsthand through our senses (2 Peter 1:19). Therefore, Scripture is the highest and supreme authority on any matter on which it speaks.

What Does Sola Scriptura Mean? by John MacArthur | Ligonier Ministries Blog

I believe that everything that fits under what sola Scriptura encompasses should be held up by Scripture (Acts 17:11, 2 Corinthians 10:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22). We shouldn’t add or take away from Scripture, which is easier than we may think. If we say that the Holy Spirit told us something that can’t be confirmed in Scripture, we may be adding to it, even in a minor way.

Satan would love for us to come up with ideas that don’t conform to Scripture, often using others to influence us to believe teachings that aren’t biblical. Many times people aren’t malicious, just uninformed. Look at how many sayings there area that aren’t in line with what the Bible says. We need to check these things out for ourselves. It’s also easy for us to be disobedient in our own thinking and let ourselves get off of the right path. Sometimes this is due to laziness, where we just don’t feel like looking things up. We need to make every thought, idea put forth, argument, theory etc. captive to Christ, who is the Word of God (2 Corinthians 10:5). I like what John Gill says about that:

And bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; or “carrying captive the whole understanding”; that is, so illustrating it with divine light, that it clearly sees Christ to be the alone, able, willing, full, and suitable Saviour, and so becomes obedient to him, both as a Saviour and a King; such an enlightened soul looks to him alone for life and salvation, ventures on him, and relies upon him, and is desirous and willing to be saved by him in his own way; he receives and embraces all his truths and doctrines with faith and love, and obeys them from the heart, and cheerfully and willingly submits to all his commands and ordinances; for though he is taken by the grace of God, and all his strong holds, reasonings, and high thoughts are demolished by the power of God in the Gospel, and he himself is carried captive, yet not against, but with his will, to be a voluntary subject of Christ, and cheerfully to submit to the sceptre of his kingdom.

In addition, the Bible isn’t an ‘owner’s manual for living life’. (Although, just like how owner’s manuals get put to the side, many Christians don’t read the Bible either, and then wander around aimlessly, making up rules as they go along.) It’s a living Word given to us by God about himself (Jeremiah 23:29, 2 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 4:12). We can’t always encounter a situation and ‘look it up in the manual’, although there are plenty of helpful rules that may directly apply to many situations. But we need to know it well enough so that we can acquire Biblical wisdom in order to live lives that are pleasing to God (Colossians 1:9-10).

I think the Five Solas are a great way to explain Reformed theology to someone new to it. TULIP is focused more on soteriology and can scare some people away if they are given that first thing.

This is why the internet needs self-appointed theology police, like me, to correct all the wrongs that are out there. (joke)

Wrong on the Internet

Wrong on the Internet

You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you.
Colossians 3:13 NLT

Images via Photobucket

The Dread of God

Is the fear of God on the decline? Culture slips in, “God is love”–although completely true (1 John 4:8; 16)–becomes all he is. Jesus has become only meek, mild, and tame.

Though many read the Psalms for comfort, there we can see how dreadful God’s judgement is through how the Psalmists portray it. Does this apply to ‘New Testament Christians’?

If we pay attention to all of what Jesus says in both the Gospels and Revelation, we can see that he isn’t tame, that he can’t stand sin and he is ready to eradicate it in a very non-meek way in the end. He is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).

Two benefits that I see to respecting God’s wrath is that: 1) We can better appreciate what Jesus did on the cross for us by receiving the wrath we deserve. 2) It compels us to be holy as he is holy (1 Peter 1:16)–wanting to please our Father by learning more about his holiness and imitating it, as feebly as we do. Thank God that he compels us, strengthens us, and shows us how to become more like him.

I like how the Revised English Bible translates Psalm 119:120:

The dread of you makes my flesh creep,
I stand in awe of your decrees.

In the verses before this, the Psalmist is recounting God’s judgement of sinners.

Here is what Spurgeon has to say in The Treasury of David:

“My flesh trembleth for fear of thee.” [KJV] Such was his awe in the presence of the Judge of all the earth, whose judgment he had just now been considering, that he did exceedingly fear and quake. Even the grosser part of his being, – his flesh felt a solemn dread at the thought of offending one so good and great, who would so effectually sever the wicked from among the just. Alas, poor flesh, this is the highest thing to which thou canst attain! “And I am afraid of thy judgments.” God’s words of judgment are solemn, and his deeds of judgment are terrible; they may well make us afraid. At the thought of the Judge of all, – his piercing eye, his books of record, his day of assize, and the operations of his justice, – we may well cry for cleansed thoughts, and hearts, and ways, lest his judgments should light on us. When we see the great Refiner separating the precious from the vile, we may well feel a godly fear, lest we should be put away by him, and left to be trodden under his feet.

Love in Psalm 119:119 is quite consistent with fear in this verse, the fear which hath torment is cast out, but not the filial fear which leads to reverence and obedience.

The Lord Watches Over Everyone

Unpopular Scripture of the Day:

I am going to watch over them. I am going to watch over them to bring disasters, not blessings. In Egypt the people from Judah will die in wars and famines until everyone is gone. 28 Those who escape the wars will return to Judah from Egypt. Then all the people of Judah who went to live in Egypt will know whose words have come true, mine or theirs. 29 I will give you this sign,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will punish you in this place so that you will know that my threats of disaster will happen to you. 30 This is what the Lord says: I’m going to hand Pharaoh Hophra, king of Egypt, over to his enemies and to those who want to kill him, just as I handed over King Zedekiah of Judah to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and to those who wanted to kill him.’”
Jeremiah 44:27-29

John Calvin says,

I will watch over them, he says, for evil and not for good. This mode of speaking we have observed elsewhere, and explained why the Prophets spoke thus, even because hypocrites, though they think God cares not for human affairs, and imagine that he sleeps in heaven, and hence audaciously provoke him [see context before this passage], as though they were fugitives and their purpose hid from God, yet boast of God’s providence, and pretend that they acquiesce confidently in him. For this reason the Prophet answered, that God watched indeed, but not for good. We then perceive the object of the Prophet; he derided the presumption of the people, who thought that God had a care for their safety. He then says, that God indeed does not sleep, but that this would bring no benefit to hypocrites; for though God watches as a father to preserve his own people, he yet watches as a judge to destroy all the ungodly.

We can be sure that God is watching over the evil that is done and will punish now or certainly at the end. We need to remember how much more God hates sin than we do.

He is also always watching over his children, whether good or bad comes. I always cringe when somebody averts disaster and says, “God was really watching over us”, because as I see it, this implies that God wasn’t watching over them if bad would have happened. (I understand that most people say this sincerely.) We will have trouble in this world (John 16:33 as just one example of many) but God will work it for the good of those who love him–who have been called according to his purpose–namely, his children (Romans 8:28). This to make them more like Christ–infinitely more important that any temporal thing we can receive (we mustn’t leave out Romans 8:29).

We Are Slaves of Christ

As opposed to servants, not that we don’t serve. We were “bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 1 Peter 1:18-19, Revelation 5:9). A very great price. Most English translations avoid using the word slave when referring to believers, although that’s changing.

The underlying Greek word is doulos, which always means slave. I realize that the way languages work, there is often more than one definition for a word given its context. But I’m agreeing with those who say that doulos always means slave, as opposed to servant or bondservant (1 Corinthians 7:22 ESV). The word “‘servant’ for ‘slave’ is largely confined to Biblical transl. and early American times” according to the entry on doulos in A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament by Bauer along with Gingrich and Danker, often referred to and known as BDAG by scholars. (If you like to read commentaries you will find that referenced a lot.) In other words, it’s always translated as ‘slaves’ in most literature, with English (I suppose) Bible translations being an exception, which is regrettable.

Here are some examples. The ESV uses the traditional KJV, ASV, RSV rendering and HCSB, NLT, NET, and parts of the NASB use ‘slave’ when describing our identity in Christ.

Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and singled out for God’s good news–
Rom 1:1 HCSB

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,
Rom 1:1 NASB

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,
Rom 1:1 ESV

And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ.
1 Cor 7:22 NLT

For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ.
1 Cor 7:22 ESV

Am I now trying to gain the approval of people, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ!
Gal 1:10 NET

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Gal 1:10 ESV

You cannot be slaves of God and of money.
Matt 6:24 HCSB

You cannot serve God and money.
Math 6:24 ESV

(The translation I read, God’s Word, uses ‘servant’ the majority of the time. Can’t have everything.)

John MacArthur wrote a book on this subject called Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ. As he is wont to do, he goes a little bit far and calls using the word servant a conspiracy among translators. I’m not sure how translators get together to conspire about this, but it sounds like an otherwise good book. MacArthur was apparently unaware of the newer translations–that not being his forte. He has a sermon you can find online” Slaves for Christ. There is also a book called Slave of Christ: A New Testament Metaphor for Total Devotion to Christ by Murray J. Harris.

Why is this important? John MacArthur says in an interview:

I read the other day the No. 1 group in the world in drawing audiences is YouTube; No. 2 is Joel Osteen. How in the world did that happen? But what’s his message? This message is whatever you want, whatever you desire, whatever you dream, whatever your heart longs for, Jesus wants to come along and give it to you. So now you have an inverted Christianity in which you are Lord and he’s your slave. That doesn’t exist if you understand what it means to confess Jesus is Lord and you’re his slave. That has been allowed to flourish to such a massive degree along with the health, wealth prosperity message which basically says the same thing – you’re in charge and Jesus will give you what you want. This whole inversion is because of a skewed understanding of doulos.

Read the rest here:
Interview: John MacArthur on Being a 'Slave' for Christ
Even if you don’t like John MacArthur, I think you might like this. I certainly did.

I wish I would have known this a long time ago, although the concept of us not being our own has already made a significant impact in my life with God.

Although we are slaves of Christ, we are also heirs, and he even treats us as friends:

Listen, my dear brothers: Didn’t God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He has promised to those who love Him?
James 2:5 HCSB

I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father.
John 15:15 HCSB

Be still and let Scripture interpret Scripture

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10

For some reason, many people have made this verse out to be about prayer. As if we should sit and be still and listen for God to speak and receive ‘A word from the Lord‘. If you look at the context, it says nothing of the sort. If we’d like to hear from God, he wrote a great book that we can read at any time. It’s amazing.

Although the context of Psalm 46 is pretty clear, when reading in Exodus, I saw a great example of Scripture interpreting Scripture in a specific situation. I don’t know Hebrew, and can’t compare the vocabulary or confirm this is an absolute parallel, but I think it’s similar enough to be a valid repetition in Scripture that strengthens ideas. Finding them is one of the objectives of Professor Horner’s Bible Reading System.

As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Exodus 14:10-14 (emphasis added) both NIV

What Is Biblical Wisdom?

It may not be what many of us thought.

I was reviewing memorized Scripture and noticed parts of these two:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
James 1:5-8

What I would think is this is the type of thing where somebody asks you about something and you answer that you’ll pray about it and ask God for wisdom. Not that I believe that God whispers in our ear and tells us what to do, but he guides us and reminds us of Scripture that may help. Which he does…

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
James 3:17

This is a much different portrayal of wisdom than the scenario I wrote above. We often ask for wisdom and don’t get it. We’re sometimes asking for the wrong thing or expecting God to tell us what he doesn’t usually reveal to us. Biblical wisdom isn’t necessarily about making the right decisions or being able to answer people’s important life questions, although it could indirectly lead to that in some cases. Biblical wisdom is something that God promises to give to everyone. This is his will for believers.

I recently read Knowing Scripture and remembered a quote in there that really struck me as I was also pondering how James and other inspired writers portray wisdom. I’m now reading Communion With God and just read something about wisdom in that book. And I have a saved quote from a commentary on Job that I read a year or two ago (which is very good) that describe these things much better than I can.

Sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation (2 Tim 3:15). Paul refers to the Scripture’s ability to give wisdom. When the Bible speaks of wisdom, it refers to a special kind of wisdom. The term is not used to connote an ability to be “worldly wise” or to have the cleverness necessary to write a Poor Richard’s Almanack. In biblical terms, wisdom has to do with the practical matter of learning how to live a life that is pleasing to God. A cursory glance at the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament makes this emphasis abundantly clear. Proverbs, for example, tells us that wisdom begins with the “fear of the LORD” (Prov 1:7; 9:10). That fear is not a servile fear but a posture of awe and reverence, which is necessary for authentic godliness. The Old Testament distinguishes between wisdom and knowledge. We are commanded to acquire knowledge, but more to acquire wisdom. Knowledge is necessary if wisdom is to be gained, but it is not identical with wisdom. A person can have knowledge without having wisdom, but he or she cannot have wisdom without having knowledge. A person without knowledge is ignorant. A person without wisdom is deemed a fool. In biblical terms foolishness is a moral matter and receives the judgment of God. Wisdom in the highest sense is being wise with respect to salvation. Thus wisdom is a theological matter. Paul is saying that through the Scriptures we can acquire that kind of wisdom that concerns our ultimate fulfillment and destiny as human beings.

–R.C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture

The path of wisdom, godlikeness, and holiness would rely on Scripture for guidance without necessarily looking to specific texts to lay down hard and fast rules (though it occasionally might and we dare not neglect them when it does). Wisdom brings order to life and relationships, and the wise take God seriously. Wisdom derives from biblical values, but it is not necessarily bound to Israelite culture. Holiness recognizes that aspects of our behavior will sharply distinguish us from those around us. God’s holiness is embodied in his distinguishing attributes; we exhibit holiness by reflecting God’s communicable attributes (e.g., by exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit). We can build ideas about godlikeness around the biblical text’s portrayal of God.

–John Walton, Job (NIVAC)

What Biblical wisdom is:

The sum of all true wisdom and knowledge may be reduced to these three heads: (1) The knowledge of God, his nature and his properties. (2) The knowledge of ourselves in reference to the will of God concerning us. (3) Skill to walk in communion with God.

–John Owen, Communion With God

What Biblical wisdom is not:

There are two things that might seem to have some color in claiming a title and interest in this business: (1) civil wisdom and prudence, for the management of affairs; (2) ability of learning and literature—but God rejects both these, as of no use at all to the end and intent of true wisdom indeed. There is in the world that which is called “understand— ing,” but it comes to nothing. There is that which is called “wisdom,” but it is turned into folly, “God brings to nothing the understanding of the prudent, and makes foolish this wisdom of the world” (1 Cor. 1:19-20). And if there be neither wisdom nor knowledge (as doubt— less there is not) without the knowledge of God (Jet. 829), it is all shut up in the Lord Jesus Christ: “No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him” (John 1:18).

–John Owen, Communion With God

These are things I love to learn about. It’s great to be corrected by God through his Word because he’s speaking to us. When God speaks, it’s always, always about simple, practical, spiritual things that matter the most.

I’ve often thought that when I’m old(er), I would like to be a wise man without knowing or thinking that I am. I’m now much farther away from that ideal than I thought. It’s a great subject to explore. I’m oftentimes embarrassed that I don’t realize many of these things that seem to be so plain sooner than I do. It shows that “the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6) And his timing can be peculiar.

Counter-cultural Thought of the Day: Dependency

Sounds like a bad word, doesn’t it?

I was meditating on how we are dependent on God and how dependency is seen as a bad thing in almost every way in our culture, whether it’s medications (except caffeine of course) or people or many other things. God wants us to be dependent on him. It’s for our good. We need to humble ourselves in that way. It was good to think about; it’s difficult to do.

Blessed are those who recognize they are spiritually helpless.
The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
Matthew 5:3 GW

The LORD is good. He is a fortress in the day of trouble. He knows those who seek shelter in him.
Nahum 1:7

The LORD is my shepherd. I am never in need.
Psalm 23:1

My soul clings to you. Your right hand supports me.
Psalm 63:8

Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive,a and your joy will be complete.
John 16:24 TNIV

That could be an extremely long list obviously. I just picked a few in my head.

The Value of the Law

If you take any of your neighbor’s clothes as collateral, give it back to him by sunset. It may be the only clothes he has to cover his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will listen because I am compassionate.
Exodus 22:26-27

Any person of sound mind who has read the Bible and says that the Old Testament shows God’s wrath and the New Testament shows God’s love should be punished for their poor reading comprehension. Those who haven’t read the Bible shouldn’t make such silly statements.

The law can be valuable in teaching us about how to think of and treat others, and show us more of God’s character.

For more on the law see:
The Law of Moses and the Christian: A Compromise | TGC including more links at the bottom.

Reformed Scholars Misquoting Rev. 3:20?

And I’m not just referring to any old scholars, but two of the three big Johnnys, Owen and Edwards.

It has often been criticized that Christian newbies interpret Revelation 3:20 as being God’s calling unbelievers to salvation. But as the interpretation goes–for those who are in the know–this was said to the church in Laodicea which was supposed to be made up of believers, albeit lukewarm, and God is calling them to have fellowship with him.

I just finished reading Jonathan Edwards’ sermon(s) titled The Excellency of Christ. In it I read this:

Rev. 3:20. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and I will sup with him and he with me.” Christ condescends not only to call you to him, but he comes to you; he comes to your door, and there knocks. He might send an officer and seize you as a rebel and vile malefactor, but instead of that, he comes and knocks at your door, and seeks that you would receive him into your house, as your Friend and Savior. And he not only knocks at your door, but he stands there waiting, while you are backward and unwilling. And not only so, but he makes promises what he will do for you, if you will admit him, what privileges he will admit you to; he will sup with you, and you with him.

This was during the last part where he makes a long plea for the listeners to trust Christ for salvation.

Then I remembered that John Owen wrote about something similar in either The Glory of Christ or the Sin and Temptation trilogy. It was the latter–the Crossway edition.

[He is patient] toward the elect not yet effectually called. He stands waiting at the door of their hearts and knocks for an entrance (Rev. 3:20). He deals with them by all means, and yet stands and waits until “his head is filled with the dew, and his locks with the drops of the night” (Song 5:2), as enduring the cold and inconveniences of the night, that when his morning is come he may have entrance. Oftentimes for a long season he is by them scorned in his person, persecuted in his saints and ways, reviled in his word, while he stands at the door in the word of his patience, with his heart full of love toward their poor rebellious souls.

The idea that God is referring to believers here is widespread enough that I even saw a meme (a photo with text on it) about how Rev. 3:20 shouldn’t be used in this way. The modern interpretation is that he wants his children to have fellowship with him and not ignore him as the lukewarm Laodiceans did. I’ve also read good blogs that explain this and it’s certainly makes sense to me.

The only modern commentary I have is an excellent one by Craig Keener in the NIVAC series. He says the Laodicean Christians have shut Him out of their lives and God is saying that he wants fellowship with them.

What do you think?

Here are some others for reference.

Adam Clarke:

Christ stands – waits long, at the door of the sinner’s heart; he knocks – uses judgments, mercies, reproofs, exhortations, etc., to induce sinners to repent and turn to him; he lifts up his voice – calls loudly by his word, ministers, and Spirit.

Matthew Henry:

[1.] Christ is graciously pleased by his word and Spirit to come to the door of the heart of sinners; he draws near to them in a way of mercy, ready to make them a kind visit…

John Wesley:

I stand at the door, and knock – Even at this instant; while he is speaking this word. If any man open – Willingly receive me. I will sup with him – Refreshing him with my graces and gifts, and delighting myself in what I have given. And he with me – In life everlasting.

Geneva Bible note:

This must be taken after the manner of an allegory; (John 14:23).

Fling the anxiety to God and keep looking up

Not as easy as it sounds.

These are all NIV because that’s what I have them memorized in, and also to be consistent, especially the first two. I put these in an order that I think shows a progression. I would always encourage looking at the context of verses; single verses are used to show the main point.

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous be shaken.
Psalm 55:22

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Philippians 4:6

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:33-34

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4

I’ll Pray It My Way

“The compass of our knowledge of ways and means is very narrow, as, if one is blocked up. Often we cannot see another; but our God knows many ways of relief, where we know but one or none at all, and it is very usual for the Lord to bring the lifting up of His people in a way they had no view to, after repeating disappointments from those quarters from which they had great expectation.”

–Thomas Boston, The Crook in the Lot

At some point in the past I realized that when I (and probably many others) pray for relief of affliction, and if God is to make it happen in this life, I’m praying for the solution that I see is the way out, instead of realizing that God could make it so in an infinite number of ways. I don’t think this means that God won’t answer our prayer because of this–that would be ludicrous–but it narrows our perspective of how God can work. We shouldn’t expect him to do it our way, or that we even know what that way is.

Contemplating Jesus

See if this makes sense; I’ve been thinking about it for a while:

The temple Jesus spoke about was his own body.
John 2:21 GW

I have asked the LORD for one thing –
this is what I desire!
I want to live in the LORD’s house
all the days of my life,
so I can gaze at the splendor of the LORD
and contemplate in his temple.
Psalm 27:4 NET

She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he said. […]
“but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the best part; it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:39, 42 NET

I read a book about the Lord [Jesus] by a Catholic scholar (they can be quite good in many things) quite a few years ago and he said that Mary was contemplating (word used in the NET for Ps 27.4) Jesus. I liked that description.

We contemplate what Jesus says by reading the Bible. I’ve always loved that passage. The ‘historical Jesus’ (not the polemic, apologetic, or reconstruction types) or Jesus as a man has been one of my favorite subjects. Do you have any books you like on that subject? I have one by another Catholic scholar called The Lord by Romano Guardini, although extremely comprehensive, not just about Jesus when he was on earth as a man. I read it quite a few years ago like the other one. I want to read it again. The only two Roman Catholic things I noticed at the time were that he said Jesus had no blood brothers because Mary remained a virgin, and he was especially lenient with John the Baptist when describing him in prison, questioning if Jesus was the Messiah. I want to read it again as a devotional. There are probably some things I would disagree with now, but it’s too good not to read. The Glory of Christ by Owen was excellent.

A Curmudgeon’s Take On New Year’s Resolutions

I’m not into them, at least not on January 1st, but I won’t bore you with my opinion. Plenty has been written on the interwebz. I realize that some people like to evaluate their life as the calendar turns, so I thought I might gather an oft-neglected quote, some Bible passages, and ideas that might be applicable.

I was thinking about this subject right before I read the first passage in Ecclesiastes below the quote by Edwards. That’s what brought all of this up. This is just my take on this subject. If it’s not idealistic enough, or if you don’t have visions of unicorns, rainbows, and everything shiny and happy for next year, there is plenty of other material out there for you. (I’m doing my best to stay true to the subject line.) I do pray that everyone reading this post will grow closer to God and more Christ-like as the year progresses, whatever situation God has you in.

I’ve seen resolutions that contain a list of resolutions. Nobody can remember and do a long list of things. Saying that you’re going to do this, that, and the other thing will inevitably lead to failure unless you’re the 1% of the population that can do that. Jonathan Edwards couldn’t keep up with his 70 resolutions. Here is a quote from him later on in his life (emphasis added):

“My longings after it, put me upon pursuing and pressing after them. It was my continual strife day and night, and constant inquiry, how I should be more holy, and live more holily, and more becoming a child of God, and disciple of Christ. I sought an increase of grace and holiness, and that I might live an holy life, with vastly more earnestness, than ever I sought grace, before I had it. I used to be continually examining myself, and studying and contriving for likely ways and means, how I should live holily, with far greater diligence and earnestness, than ever I pursued anything in my life: but with too great a dependence on my own strength; which afterwards proved a great damage to me. My experience had not then taught me, as it has done since, my extreme feebleness and impotence, every manner of way; and the innumerable and bottomless depths of secret corruption and deceit, that there was in my heart.”

Source of Edwards quote: (Marsden, Jonathan Edwards, 53). The quote is from his “Personal Narrative” in the Yale Works, 16:797.

HT: CAMPONTHIS: JONATHAN EDWARDS: RESOLVED TO GRACE…enjoying the beauty and sweetness of Christ

Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. 3 A dream comes when there are many cares, and many words mark the speech of a fool. 4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. 5 It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. 6 Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? 7 Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.
Ecclesiastes 5:2-7

Don’t make promises to God. Make very small attainable goals. It doesn’t matter how small. Though I don’t identify with it, it seems that most people’s eyes are bigger than their discipline. They don’t have the ability to calculate what they’re capable of. This ends up making people look and feel pathetic. I know that sounds arrogant and mean, but it isn’t much different than what the Bible says. Start small and you can always progress. (As in proe-gress)

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
Luke 14:28-30

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
Romans 12:3

Since most Bible reading plans are based on a calendar year (although electronic devices and other methods make that moot), many embark on a reading plan, which is the most fantastic thing anyone can do. If you for some reason have a hard time reading the Bible, set a goal of reading one paragraph a day. You can do that, right? Then move on from there. After a while you’ll find yourself liking and reading it more and more. As much as I hate to say it, maybe a one year Bible reading plan is too much for some types of people early on. Better to read a little consistently than to start out with a plan that ends up being abandoned and leaving one full of guilt.

As another example, look at exercise, if that’s something you don’t do. Instead of spending money on a health club membership (a “gym” is where the serious people workout), which takes 25 minutes to drive to and 30 minutes to get in a workout where it seems like it was worth the money, start out doing one set of bodyweight squats and one set of pushups leaning against the kitchen counter at home three times a week. You’ll find that you’ll make progress each time. This may motivate you to do more. Plus if you keep going and keep learning, when you’re elderly you’ll be able to stand up from a deep couch, pick things up off the floor, and maybe even avoid preventable diseases, God willing. Plus more importantly, you’ll feel better now (after you’ve been doing it for a while), which will help you spiritually.

Things like attitudes, behaviors, taming our tongue–those are more difficult to quantify. I think those are the types of things where we can’t work on very many at once. If we keep our mind on Scripture, God will convict us of sin and help us work on specific things. He will guide us on the right path.

Have a humble attitude. Realize that some goals may have life getting in the way.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.
James 4:13-16

If we mess up, God isn’t holding it against us. Remember that we are in God’s favor because of what Christ did for us at the cross. We can always start over (whenever we want!) and know that God is for us (Romans 8:31).

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

For someone who doesn’t like resolutions, I have a lot of thoughts on them; I suppose it’s because I like to make goals and plans throughout the year. I like the structure. There is much more that could be written, but I will leave it there.

If you need an idea, here is a random resolution: Read one chapter of Proverbs a day for the month of January. Easy to keep track. That may lead you to other things you need to work on. In any case, it’s a book that should be read regularly.

Also see: