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Combating Legalism IV

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Question #1:   I've read with interest the legalism emails of the last three weeks. I am thankful that one area of emphasis in Thieme's teaching was the dangers of legalism and that I absorbed it well enough that an alarm goes off when I hear certain behaviors emphasized as spirituality. It has such a "blinding" effect on people. I've noticed it also is a source of great arrogance. The old saying that 'you can lead a horse to water but can't make him drink' is unfortunately true when dealing with someone who is riding the legalism hobby horse; no matter how hard or long they ride it, they go nowhere, but they keep riding. It is sad to see people so blinded that no amount of light has any effect.

Response #1:  Yes, I certainly owe an incalculable debt to the "Old Man" too. As you say, we all make our own decisions in this life, and we all have to live with the consequences. For everyone who isn't really interested in spiritual growth, progress and production, there are all manner of sink holes to fall (jump?) into. Legalism is a dark and deep one.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #2:    I keep getting letters from this person who makes it seem as if keeping the commandments is a requirement for salvation. Although this person doesn't directly state this...the bolded words indicate it. I can't accuse him of teaching legalism because his responses doesn't directly state it. This was a reply he gave me when I cited passages on how we are saved by grace through faith. I understand that genuine believers "keep" the commandments because they love God and are saved by Grace through faith, but he makes it appear as if we have to keep the commandments to BE saved. In other words, he's putting the cart before the horse. This is what he wrote:

"The only law that was fulfilled was the Ceremonial law, which was nailed to the cross. In the Old Testament animals were slain, but, in the New Testament Jesus was slain...so, we no longer sacrifice animals.

Ceremonial Law:

1. Is called, "the law contained in ordinances." Eph 2:15.

2. Was spoken by Moses. Lev 1:1-3;Deut 31:24-26

3. Was written by Moses in a book. 11 Chron 35:12

4. Was placed in the side of The Ark. Deut 31:24-26

5. Was nailed to the cross. Col 2:14

6. Was abolished by Christ. Eph 2:15

 

10 Commandments:

1. Is called the "royal law" James 2:8

2. Was spoken by God. Deut 4:12,13

3. Was written with the finger of God. Ex 31:18

4. Was placed inside The Ark Ex 40:20;Heb 9:4

5. Is to "stand forever and ever" Ps 111:7,8

6. Was not destroyed by Christ. Matt 5:17,28

The Holy Spirit uses these commandments in our on-going process of sanctification.

Jesus said, "If ye love Me, keep My commandments." John 14:15.

Jesus said, "He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him." John 14:21.

When Jesus gave us the "Two Greatest Commandments," He was quoting the law. Deut 6:5;Lev 19:18.

"Then one of them which was a lawyer, asked Him a question, tempting Him, and saying, Master which is the great commandment IN THE LAW?

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. Deut 6:5.This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Lev 19:18. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Matt 22:35-40.

"By this we know that we love the children of God (Lev 19:18) when we love God (Deut 6:5) and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous." 1 John 5:2,3.

"And this is love that we walk after His commandments." 2 John 6.

His Church Keeps His Commandments: "And the Dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." Rev 12:17.

His Saints Keep His Commandments: "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." Rev 14:12.

And finally, the Apostle John wrote, "Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." Rev 22:14.

Even in heaven, the Lord makes quite a statement about His Covenant:

"And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in His temple The Ark of His Testament: and there were LIGHTNINGS, and VOICES, and THUNDERINGS, and AN EARTHQUAKE and GREAT HAIL." Rev 11:19.

There was only one Covenant within The Ark - The Ten Commandment Covenant. "

I'm sure it is apparent that he's teaching that commandment keeping is how we enter heaven. Is what he wrote correct?

Response #2:   This is another one of those not-too-well-thought-out, do-it-yourself attempts to create one's own doctrine and as such is not really very clear in what's being said. When things are "fuzzy", one always has a harder time addressing the main issue. If I may hypothesize, I think you have correctly "smoked out" what this person's true agenda is. It does seem to be a sort of hyper-legalism designed to elevate the ten commandments to the premier place of Christian faith and practice, and it does seem as if ritual Sabbath observance is at the root of that desire.

One of the main ways this person is trying to get around the many obvious problems with Christians keeping the Law (apart from ignoring entirely the teachings of the books of Romans, Galatians and Hebrews et al.) is the false distinction he/she attempts to make between "the Law" on the one hand and "the ten commandments" on the other hand. Simply put, this distinction is completely unscriptural.

What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet".
Romans 7:7

There is of course a true and scriptural distinction to be made, but that distinction is between the shadows taught by the letter of the Law and the true spiritual reality behind the Law. Since Christ fulfilled the letter of the Law, we are now released from its superficial rituals even as we are bound by the truth which always underwrote it.

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:12 TNIV

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Matthew 22:36-39 TNIV

These passages directly contradict your correspondent's position, because they replace the ritual code with a deeper spiritual reality. For Christ is the end of the Law for everyone who believes resulting in righteousness (Rom.10:4), not a righteousness from works as from the Law, but that true righteousness which comes by faith (Rom.4:13, e.g.). Therefore we are no longer under the Law, but under grace (Rom.6:14). That does not mean we are free to sin (Rom.6:15), but it does mean that we are free to serve the Lord in freedom rather than being bound by the ritual observances of the Law, shadows which have now been melted away by the rising of the Sun of Righteousness from on high (Lk.1:75-79; cf. Col.2:17; Heb.8:5).

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.
Hebrews 10:1 TNIV

In this respect, it is very important to understand why the fourth commandment is not repeated anywhere in the New Testament as being still in effect: we are now bound to sanctify God in our hearts not merely on one day through participation in ritual activities, but at all times through genuine spirituality: learning, believing, speaking, and obeying His truth. The fourth was the one commandment that bound believers in Israel to learning about the Lord and to meditating on His truth (for these activities were the special province of the seventh day); in this age of the Church, after the Law was fulfilled by our Lord through having "nailed it" to His cross (Col.2:14), we see the entire edifice of shadow melted away by the brilliant light of the revealed Son of God whom we are to love and sanctify ("keep holy") in our hearts at all times, and to follow now at all times and in a very real way, not just in a ritual one on only one day, ever abiding in His rest and peace.

So there does remain a "Sabbath day's rest" for the people of God. For he who has entered into [God's] rest has himself ceased from his works just as God did from His own. Let us therefore be eager to enter into that [continual and spiritual ] rest, lest anyone fall [from grace] following the same pattern of disobedience [as the Exodus generation did].
Hebrews 4:9-11

Peace I leave for you; peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
John 14:27

One of the disturbing things about the emails you shared is the typical and, frankly, disgusting "veiled threat" of loss or lack of salvation for some sort of "non-observance" set up by the "cherry-picking" and false juxtaposition of a variety of passages which only even loosely have anything to do with the topic at hand. When we carefully read and consider scripture as a whole and in its proper context, we find that salvation comes to all who are believers in Jesus Christ, and that there is forgiveness of all of our sins through faith as we are entered into Christ, and later through confession once we have believed; for we all find out that while we are called to perfection, none of us is perfect; we find out that we are to improve alright, but that such improvement comes from the inside-out through spiritual growth, not from the outside-in through adherence to some sort of false, Pharisaical standard.

Therefore I entreat you by God's mercy, brothers, to dedicate your bodies as a living sacrifice, well-pleasing to God – [this is] your "priestly-service" spiritually performed. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by this renewal of your thinking, so that you may discern what God's will for you is, namely what it is good, well-pleasing, and correct [for you to do].
Romans 12:1-2

Personally, I find nothing quite so cowardly and outrageous than to do all in one's power to make Christians feel "guilty" (often easy enough to do for any of us who are humble enough to recognize our imperfections), then try to play that guilt into getting us to do what this or that person or group want us to do – usually with an end toward manipulating us into all sorts of unscriptural activities. This is the way cults operate. If I can convince someone that they are not saved or in danger of losing their salvation, and thus make them feel guilty and afraid, and if I do not actually tell them exactly how to be or to stay saved, then they are dependent upon me for their salvation – that is, they may come to operate as if they were, even though that is a ridiculous notion. If this person has the decidedly apostate idea that keeping the Jewish Sabbath is necessary for salvation, he/she should come out of the closet and say so. Then we will be able to tell him/her that he/she is wrong to his/her face. I find nothing so likely to incur divine judgment than to falsely infuse doubt, guilt and fear in our fellow brothers and sisters, and especially without telling them "the way out", even if as in this case we may be sure that it is false; for then at least we will be able to knock out the feelings of guilt/fear/doubt by realizing that the "emperor has no clothes" when we see that the solution is clearly not biblical (and may therefore deduce that the problem was for that reason not scriptural either).

In the One who set us free, our Savior Jesus Christ – may we all take care to stand fast in that freedom (Gal.5:1).

Bob L.

Question #3:    

I received this letter in my email and this message appears as if I need to work my way into heaven. I know that true believers aren't justified by their works, but their works demonstrate that they are justified. This is what he/she wrote:

"Religion Vs Spirituality

In Psalm 119, the word, "Word," Is used interchangeably with, "law,""commandments,""judgments," "precepts," "statutes," "testimonies."

God's Word is His law.

"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments and do them." Ezek 36:26,27. When His Spirit is within us, we are empowered to obey His Word/His law.

Jesus said, "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven.

MANY will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works?

And then will I profess unto them, I NEVER KNEW YOU: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity." (lawlessness)Matt 7:21-23.

"And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I KNOW HIM, and keepeth not His commandments is a liar and the Truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth His Word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby we do know that we are in Him." 1 John 2:3-5.

Jesus said, "My sheep hear My Voice, and I KNOW THEM, and they follow Me." John 10:27.

Jesus said, "He that rejecteth Me and receiveth not My Words, hath one that judgeth him, the Word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." John 12:48.

The Apostle John wrote, "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." 1 John 3:4.

The Apostle Paul wrote, "For as many as sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified." Rom 2:12,13

"Jesus answered and said unto him (Nicodemus), Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."

Again Jesus answered, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

Religion is going to church, performing the traditions, and thinking that you will have eternal life. When you invite His Spirit to live within you, you will have eternal life - because He is eternal life.

"But be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers, only, deceiving yourselves." Ja 1:22 "

It almost seems as if having faith/repentance is not enough to be born again, but by doing works. Isn't that what you get from this letter?

Response #3:

Well, this is a laundry list of Bible verses to which is prefixed and postfixed the person's own statements, so that is what we shall have to examine to discern intent.

On the prefix: "God's Word is His Law"; I have no problem with that, as long as we understand that His Word means what it means; that is to say, we can't "load" into the notion of what the Word of God is the notion of "Law" in the sense of the Mosaic Law, for example, and do so with impunity. The Law of Moses is part of the Word of God, but much of it has been fulfilled and replaced by the realities of the New Covenant (as explained throughout the New Testament). For example:

Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
Galatians 3:6-14 NIV

On the postfix: "When you invite His Spirit to live within you, you will have eternal life - because He is eternal life."; As I have written to you many times, all who are believers in Jesus Christ possess the Holy Spirit (Rom.8:9; cf. Jn.14:17; 2Tim.1:14; Heb.6:4).

So this person has an agenda and thinks that the passages heaped on above presuppose the reader to think that the conclusion that we must "ask for the Spirit" is thereby assured (even though as Christians we already have the Spirit). Personally, I don't think this person has shown even a hint of a connection between verses quoted and conclusion claimed at all!

But in any case as I say, scripture is very clear about the fact that all true believers in Jesus Christ are given the Holy Spirit the moment they believe.

In our Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #4:   

I having sharing your writings with one of my friends who is struggling with sin, and his response was . . .

"There has to be more advice beyond "pray and walk closely with Jesus", or else what is discipling?"

What do think?

Response #4: 

Thanks for all your efforts! Not everyone is going to be pleased or helped by every ministry, despite the best of intentions (one of the reasons why the Body of Christ has so many different members).

I think if I were going to summarize myself what I have written in the past about getting past personal stumbling blocks and moving forward spiritually, I would include in your friend's synopsis, "grow up, stop whining, get serious, put away childish things, and finally take some personal responsibility for your actions: you have free will; use it to please the Lord and not yourself". Of course I put it less bluntly in the email you are referring to, but sometimes people need "blunt".

As far as "discipling" goes, I have issues with what that means in the present day church visible. The "discipling" movement is based entirely on a mis-application of Matthew 28:19. "Make disciples" in that verse could (and better should) be translated "make students", since the verb there and the related noun both refer to learning (root math- from which we get "mathematics", the "stuff which ought to be learned"). We only get "disciple" in the Bible because of the Latin Roman Catholic tradition: the word for student in Latin is discipulus and the tradition in English translations became to transliterate the Latin word rather than to translate the original Greek word. I understand the reasoning. Being a student may only suggest an academic attachment, whereas following Christ requires more than mere knowledge: it requires belief and follow through. But Jesus uses this particular word for a reason too: you have to learn the truth before you can believe it and apply it. So "make students" may be too weak from the standpoint of faith and follow through, but the word "disciple" and "discipling" have picked up so many non-biblical and frankly legalistic connotations that they are always misleading in the extreme.

Case in point is your friend's use of "discipling". What I am sure he means by this is some other believer being a "big brother" or "big sister" and guiding and checking up on a fellow believer's progress. This is a recipe for spiritual disaster and is nowhere taught or recommended in the Bible. Indeed we are to encourage one another; and under some circumstances we might even be called upon to reprimand one another (i.e., when we recognize a fellow believer falling into apostasy, for example, but great care needs to be taken here). But to essentially give one's free will over to someone else's interpretations of scripture and, even worse, someone else's interpretation of where we are spiritually and everything we are doing is absolutely contrary to the correct path of spiritual growth. We have to take responsibility for our own actions. We have to learn and believe and apply for ourselves. We are not children of this world but children of God and it is to God and to His Word that we need to give our allegiance and attention, not to the whims of other believers, no matter how spiritual they may appear.

Creating an artificial hierarchy of those who are least, more and most "spiritual" is folly because only the Lord can make these judgments, and the false sense of security that handing your volition over to somebody else may bring will in the end only make the person with problems more vulnerable to spiritual pitfalls because it weakens the will and sense of self-responsibility precisely because it hands responsibility over to somebody else. I might also hasten to add that in my observation and experience, the people who are most likely to gladly take up the role of "discipler" are the ones who are ultimately the most dangerous to the "disciple", because they are more often than not people who get a kick out controlling other people (and that is hardly a sign of true spiritual growth – rather it is a sign of a pharisaical patina of self-righteousness and self-importance). Finally on this, if we are going to be anybody's "disciples" (by any definition), shouldn't we be disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ? He is the One we should strive to please, and if we put any human being in between we are not going to be doing ourselves any spiritual good.

See also these links:

'Discipling'

Spiritual counselors and 'discipling'

The true biblical meaning of discipleship

Accountability to God

In our Lord.

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Ok, here is what he said about your advice...

"I was thinking along the lines of this passage:

Matt28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Teaching them being as discipling. From what I read, it appears as if you are saying that it's not a necessary step and it's more of just needing the bible and the Holy Spirit. While you suggest the new/mature christian discipling relationship is a recipe for disaster, isn't the "God and me" situation also a danger?

1Peter5:1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. 5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

An elder as described above is someone to submit to-and in that submission comes being taught (discipled) by one more mature as Peter outlines above. Yeah, I think it goes way beyond academic stuff...I think it is the way God wanted His Church to be raised and educated...instead it's been handed over to the seminaries to "create" preachers (but I digress ). So in this example I see a different pattern than you've suggested. But as you say, there are hazards in creating preacher disciples instead of Christ's disciples, but I don't think we'd have to toss out the baby with the bathwater?"

What do you think?

Response #5:  

It's not a question of "baby and bathwater"; it's a question of "a little leaven leavens the whole lump" (Gal.5:9). Introducing a practice into a church which robs individual believers of their personal relationship to the Lord by inserting another person, a "priest", in between them and Jesus, is just another form of the Roman Catholic confessional. It is deadly to faith and an example of legalism at its worst.

1) Matt.28:19: Clearly from this passage, the biblical way to disciple someone is to teach them. You show them through scripture what the Bible says and they respond directly to the Lord. The best way to do this is in a teaching venue. The best people to do this are teachers. The worst way to do this is one-on-one face to face (because such a process is subjective and emotional by nature). The worst people to do this are non-teachers (because they likely don't even know what they don't know). But what is absolutely deadly is one believer "riding herd" on another believer. We are not children. If scripture proclaims something grossly sinful, that should be obvious to the newest of new Christians upon hearing it / reading it. Those who refuse to refrain from gross carnality and rub the noses of the congregation in it without qualms should be expelled from the church (1Cor.5) and we should not even continue fellowship with them (1Cor.5:11 – they can be allowed back only after they truly change: 2Cor.2:5ff.). On the other extreme, on matters which are "disputable", we are not even supposed to pass judgment (Rom.14:1). How then can we sanction the passing of personal judgments in questionable areas on the lives of others about which our knowledge is extremely limited? There is no place in the Church of Jesus Christ for the setting up of non-elders to analyze and pass judgment on the minutia of the conduct of other members of the congregation. No church which does this will prosper. This activity is deadly for the faith and spirituality of both the victim and the perpetrator. We hear the Word. We understand the Word. We believe the Word. We live the Word. Where is there a need for a human "umpire" sitting at our shoulder? That is what the conscience is for. That is what the ministry of the Holy Spirit is for. Using your own free will is dangerous by definition, but that is what we have been put here to do (it's the whole point behind God's creation of Man in the first place). Handing one's free will over to someone else is a recipe for disaster and the bedrock of all cult activity.

2) 1Pet.5:1: In fact, there is no discipling by members of the congregation to other members here. The oversight mentioned in this passage is conducted by the pastor, and is only spelled out in two ways: 1] "feed the flock": very clearly by giving them spiritual food, by teaching them what the scriptures say so that they may respond for themselves; and 2] "be examples": this is also talking about the pastor/elders, but I have no problem with someone discipling the rest of the congregation by being a terrific Christian in all they think and say and do. But that is quite different from telling someone else what to think and say and do. Of course the congregation needs to submit to its pastor/teacher/elder(s). That's not discipling; that's church discipline, respecting and yielding to those in authority.

The truly important questions here are 1) whether the teaching one receives is true and can come to a person in an objective way and 2) whether the "teaching" is biblical principle or legalistic intervention. On the first point, the pastor or the teaching-elder or whatever one's particular church chooses to call it is the person who is placed in the position of responsibility to lead the church forward spiritually through correct interpretation and teaching of the scriptures. That person is responsible to the Lord to "get it right" and to "do a good job". The congregation is responsible to "submit" to a reasonable degree, and also to leave if that individual fails (for we are responsible as Christians for to what and to whom we give our attention). When a teacher teaches the Bible, he is not analyzing any individual person's life; the Spirit will do that when the person is convicted by what he/she hears. That is critically different from, say, one person telling another person to do this or to stop doing that. No matter how well a member may know another member, they can't know all the facts. Only the person in question with the Spirit's ministry has any hope of making the right decisions for their own life.

The only place where direct intervention has a hope of "being right" is in areas of gross carnality and presumptuous self-justification of such behavior (or clear lack of spiritual application like a failure to listen and respond to Bible teaching). But these things are so obvious that there isn't really a chance that the person in question doesn't already know what they are doing (or failing to do) is wrong. Even here, discipling is a terrible thing, because if a person stops doing something because they are being pressured, then they really haven't addressed and faced the issue personally. The result inevitably is that either 1) they will start the bad activity again as soon as the pressure lifts or 2) they will find a way to do it secretly (or in the case of omission to appear to do what they are failing to do but without any true inner spiritual commitment). Real change in the Christian life has to come from the inside out, not the outside in, otherwise we are just whitewashing the tomb.

Finally, given the low spiritual state of the average Christian in this country and the appallingly weak understanding of the Bible most possess, I'm not sure where this pool of disciplers would come from. It is hard enough for the average believer who is genuinely looking for a good source of spiritual food to find it at the pastor/teacher level without submitting their spiritual future to someone of merely superficial spiritual growth who is almost certain to do them much more harm than good.

Since the cross we have a new High Priest; and since Pentecost, we all possess the means in the indwelling Spirit to access God's grace in Jesus Christ directly without intermediaries. That doesn't mean we don't need each other. We certainly do. We are one Body and we need the gifts of all (in this respect, we all need good, solid orthodox teaching). But in terms of growth, application and practice, it really is "you and God" now, and that is a very good thing like it or not (the Reformation was largely fought over that one). God will provide the spiritual food and all the other resources necessary to grow. The question has always been, "are you willing, Christian?" For those who really aren't, falling into some organizational hamster-cage activities often provides just the right substitute in order to not have to think seriously about the truth of their spiritual unwillingness. But if we really want to get serious about following the Lord, we have to accept personal responsibility and get serious about the defense (sanctification) and the offense (spiritual growth) in this fight of faith in which we are involved, the better to please our Commander in Chief (2Tim.2:3-4).

In our Lord.

Bob L.

Question #6:    

Hi Doc!

"Fake it 'til you make it." I've heard this saying taught before by spiritual leaders I've had in the past. Of course in regards to salvation, this saying is very wrong; it's obvious that a person should not fake their salvation. But it was taught in regards to your spiritual life. If you don't feel like being nice, dressing right, smiling, blah blah...all the facets of being a good christian - you should fake it until it's a habit.

Do you agree/disagree with this statement?

Response #6:

I couldn't disagree with this statement more. It encapsulates everything that is wrong in contemporary Christianity. True change comes from the inside out. When we learn the truth of scripture and believe it, we grow closer to Jesus, and that changes us – in every good way. But if instead of growth we seek to clean the outside of the cup, to give the appearance of being spiritual instead of becoming truly spiritual, we turn into Pharisees, legalists, hypocrites. And it is no good saying that we can combine the two because it can't be done. We should change when the Lord leads us to change through the truth. If on the other hand our changes are superficial attempts to please what we suppose others want us to do, we give our free will as a hostage to those other people (rather than responding to the Lord and His Word). And since it is impossible to grow past the level of those to whom you cede your obedience, true spiritual growth in such an environment becomes impossible. For, believe me, people who are teaching this kind of nonsense are only in tangential contact with the Word of God (if they are in any true contact with it at all).

In Him who is the truth, our Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #7:  

Just one question about this: Does the inside follow the outside, or the outside follow the inside? Or is there a level of both?

Response #7: 

I am very much an inside to outside person. Jesus told the Pharisees to "first clean the inside of the cup", and that is what I believe we should do in terms of all matters of personal sanctification. In terms of spiritual growth, this is doubly and even more obviously true, for we certainly can't "fake" a deeper relationship with Jesus or a closer walk with Him. Growth comes from learning and believing the truth – all inside. The Word digested and usable in our hearts is the capital the Spirit makes use of to use us in God's plan. We can't fake listening to or reading Bible teaching. We can't fake believing it. And we can't fake the effects that it has for good in every aspect of our life. If we "fool" anybody in this respect, in the short and long run we are really only fooling ourselves. Legalism falsely assumes that by jamming ourselves into some exterior cookie-cutter mold we can become more spiritual. The charismatic approach is to gin up an emotional response from the outside in and call that spirituality (erroneously). But true sanctification, true growth, and a true witness for Jesus Christ – especially one that will stand the tests of time and worldly pressure – must always come from the inside, being a genuine reflection of true inner change and growth that come exclusively from our response to the truth of the Word of God.

In the One who is our all in all, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #8:  

I'm not sure I quite understand. So when I look at the outside is it more "noble" to dress any way you want or talk any way you like and say "Well God's still working on my insides? Sorry if I may have misunderstood you.

Response #8: 

How you dress and what you say and everything and anything you do or think or say should come from a conviction that this is what the Lord wants you to do, think and say. It should not come as a result of your anticipation of being censured or approved by some other human being or group. Jesus told us repeatedly to follow His commands. We are to love and obey the Word of God, the truth of God, the will and commands of God. We are not to turn our will over to someone else or some group of individuals who may or may not have any sort of a true relationship with God at all.

There is a false opposition being presented here. It is not a question of it being either "what I want to do" on the one hand or else "what somebody else says I should do" on the other. Rather, it's a question of what God wants you to do and whether or not you are willing to do it.

How do you know what God wants you to do? Only through spiritual growth, learning and believing the truth of scripture, and the ministry of the Spirit working together with your conscience will you know what God's will is for your life in small things as well as in large. Some things are very clearly spelled out in the Bible. But many more matters of incidental application are not. It is a terrible mistake to assume that just because something isn't specifically precluded by scripture or something isn't specifically enjoined in the Bible that doing / not doing respectively is "OK". God is not mocked. He is well able to bring you to a complete knowledge of everything you should and should not be doing – if you are willing to let Him do so through learning His will in the way He has prescribed. But you will never, never get to this place by listening to legalistic opinions of third parties who are neither trained in the Word nor truly dedicated to pursuing its truth. When you grow, you learn the answers to all sorts of questions you never had, and you often find out that the questions you thought were important were relatively unimportant. Many issues which many groups make matters of great importance are of little true importance in God's plan. But they can become very important – all for the bad – if they become litmus tests for and/or false means of achieving spiritual growth. That is the very definition of legalism.

It's not what you want or what I want or what Tom, Dick or Harry say is important that counts: it's what God knows is important that counts. To find out that answer requires starting with what you and every other believer knows in his/her heart is the most important thing, namely, following Jesus through spiritual growth by reading scripture, listening to solid Bible teaching, believing the truth, applying it to our lives, and helping others do likewise. Following this path, you will never stumble.

In Him who is the only truth, the only way, and our eternal life, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #9:  

I received this regarding Jewelry and was wondering if you agree. I know that the bible mentions the city of God like a bride and being adorned with jewels. 

"1Pe 3:3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 1Pe 3:4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in

that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price

We need to compare scripture with scripture. If 1 Peter 3:3 speaks against the wearing of jewelry, it also speaks against putting on of apparel. Which it obviously does not. The whole point I believe is that a womans true beauty is not found in her hair do, her jewelry, or fancy clothing but in the hidden man of the heart. I believe scripture condemns not the wearing of jewelry but the abuse of it. Society puts an over emphasis on the outward adornment with little or none on the inward adornment. For the Christian, the inward out to have precedence over the outward."

Response #9: 

I would agree with this, except to say that I don't even believe this passage to be a condemnation of wearing jewelry at all, but rather a call to look at the inner rather than the outer person and to emphasize spiritual growth in place of a glitzy (and usually misleading) superficiality.

Please see the link: "Should Christians Wear Jewelry?"

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #10:  

Hello,

I am really enjoying your website and the clarity in which you speak about the Bible. But one thing disturbed me. You mentioned vegetarianism as an occult or anti-Christian activity. How so?

Thank you

Response #10: 

Thank you for your e-mail, and for your encouraging remarks as well. As to your question, I would wish to make a distinction between abstaining from meat and/or meat by-products and the "-ism" per se. That is to say, certainly, the Bible has no problem, as far as I can see, with a person deciding for reasons of personal preference to abstain from meat. But the motivation here is all important. Daniel and his friends abstained from meat and wine in the Babylonian court, but not from any conviction that there was anything wrong with meat or wine in general terms; rather they deeply desired to keep themselves from being defiled in terms of the Law's prohibitions, and at least in terms of the meat, that would have been impossible to do and yet partake. That is probably true not only because of the types of meat served (pork being the most likely major problem here), but also with the way in which otherwise acceptable meat was prepared (i.e., through strangulation which means eating meat with blood; no doubt there were also other preparation issues). So Daniel and his friends abstained for spiritual reasons – good and godly ones.

We do not have this problem today since Christ is the end of the Law for those who believe (Rom.10:4). In fact, that is the issue here. Since there is no spiritual aspect to food for us – as Paul says of meat, "we are no worse if we do not eat meat and no better if we do" (1Cor.8:8) – the problem lies in making what we eat a spiritual issue. Investing spiritual significance in physical activities which are not spiritually significant is always spiritually dangerous, and we know from scripture that this issue created major stumbling blocks for Christians in Paul's ministry (cf. Rom.14; 1Cor.8; 1Tim.4:3). The evil one knows how to use false issues like this to place a legalistic wedge between brothers and sisters in Christ, and also to alienate Christians from the Lord (when and if their dietary regime, whatever it may be, begins to take on a "spiritual significance" that it ought not to have). So it is bad enough for a believer to look askance at another believer because he/she doesn't eat meat or because he/she does, but far worse if the result of the activity is being attracted to a false spiritual agenda. And we are not independent agents in this world. As I said above, it is the "-ism" that disturbs me, because while I do know good Christians who abstain from meat, most of the people in this world who embrace the "ism", a suffix that assumes a belief system behind the practice, are in fact involved in religions or cults or at least in activities which are anti-Christ. For in fact, it is more often than not true that vegetarianism (as opposed to abstaining from meat) is not a stand-alone proposition. This will be much more so the case in the coming Tribulation as the following excerpt from the CT series points out:

3. False Dietary Regime: Dietary regulations play a significant role in the Mosaic Law for the purpose of "distinguishing between the holy and the profane" (Lev.10:10). That is to say, Israel's separation from the practices of the world in diet were to be representative of their far more important spiritual separation (Rom.4:13). Reversing this relationship, that is, claiming holiness or righteousness on the basis of "keeping the Law" in any of its aspect is, as any reader of the New Testament is well aware, diametrically opposed to the true purpose of the Law and the true meaning of grace. Yet a key feature of antichrist's religion as administered by his high priest, the false prophet, will be to take traditional legalism a step farther, instituting a system of aggressive vegetarianism that will give its practitioners a feeling of "holiness" and "purity" on the basis of diet (i.e., physical, substituting for spiritual, purity), despite whatever truly sinful behavior in which they may be engaged (1Tim.4:1-3; cf. Col.2:16-23; 2Tim.3:5; Heb.13:9). [From part 4 of Coming Tribulation]

Therefore not eating meat is fine; eating meat is fine. Neither activity has any spiritual significance in or of itself. But when a belief-system label is placed on something of this sort, (such as "vegetarianism") our spiritual warning radar should go off. If I were to decide to refrain from eating meat for reasons of health or personal preference, I would not "evangelize" about it, I don't think I would let anyone know I was doing it, and I would certainly not self-describe myself as a "vegetarian" or "vegan" or whatever. Now I would never wish to condemn my brothers and sisters in Christ for eating no meat, nor even for the peccadillo of using these terms if they truly mean nothing by them. For example, Christians say "good luck!" all the time without believing in luck and realizing full well that God is in control, not some mysterious force called "chance" or "luck" or "tyche" (as the Greeks would say). But still, it would be better if we didn't say this at all. And if we really do start believing in "luck", even to a small degree, we are heading down a dangerous road.

So you have my sincere apologies if I offended you or anyone else – that was not my purpose. I am chewing over the language I used in SR 4 and BB 2A on this subject. It is not at all the behavior I mean to question (perhaps it might be healthier to abstain from meat and meat products – I have my doubts but I am willing to concede that it's possible); rather what I am concerned with is the very real and close connection between the physical and the spiritual when physical and bodily activities come to be invested with spiritual significance. This happens very easily – and sometimes before a person even realizes it – in every sort of bodily activity, and naturally so since the body is the gate to the spirit. Therefore the devil is never far away whenever such opportunities present themselves, and has in fact designed much of his approach along these very lines. For whether it is asceticism or self-indulgence, wherever we become over-focused on the physical, Satan and his agents are ever present to lend us a "helping hand" to fan this tendency into full blown legalism, and to take it right to the brink of spiritual disaster (and over the brink, if we lack all prudence).

I hope this helps to answer your question. Please do feel free to write me back about any of this.

In the One who is our true food and drink, having given us His body to eat and blood to drink, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #11:  

Hi,

I hope you don't mind that I am writing to ask you a question. A little while ago everything started to fade, love for Jesus, the Bible, conviction on sin. Then in I went to a revival. The first night I wanted to cry so bad, it was almost unbearable. The second night while there was an alter call I wanted to go up so bad that again it was almost unbearable. So I am standing there, I tell myself that I am not going to go up, that nothing has changed, it's not that I felt God's forgiveness. Then when I made up my mind not to go I had a thought that said something like, you are going to squash the spirit. I then replied, "I don't care". All of this is just taking seconds. At first, I made a host of excuses for my behavior. First it was that nothing felt different, That I didn't want the preacher to come and pray with me because I would not be able to stop crying. I did not want to go up there then find out that nothing has changed. I have been saying the sinners prayer almost daily for about a year and half so it seem silly that this one was going to produce an effect. Then later, any time that this would bother me, it became the song that they sing at an alter call only last about two minutes I didn't want to be up there when they stop singing and have everyone wait for me. It is sort of weird when someone comes up front and the song is done maybe even done twice we all sit down and wait for them to finish, but that is not the point. That worked for awhile, then it became how does anyone even say a real prayer in that short of time. I think I have made my point, there were other excuses but what they were doesn't really matter. I have for some time been making excuses for why I did not go forward. I can't seem to pray now, not with true conviction. I am scared but not trembling before God like I should at the thought of being unconverted. Then last week I realized that everything I was saying was false. None of the reasons I have gave were the truth. It was pride, I wanted it on my terms. I didn't want to cry in front of anyone. I was more concerned with what the congregation would think then following God. I have been saying for over a year that I would give anything, that there is nothing more in this world that I want then to become God's child and yet I tossed it over for pride. I don't know what to do. I have prayed for forgiveness but it seems hollow. At one time when I would wake up in the morning I would be thrilled to pray and thank God for everything and anything that came to mind. I don't want my seed to die and yet I know that it can not live unless God allows it to. Did I miss my chance at being converted? Do you have any idea of what to do. I feel as if I was given a choice and I chose wrong.

Response #11: 

Let me say right from the start that your church's understanding of these matters and mine seem to be quite different, at least from this description.

We are saved through faith in Jesus Christ. Faith is not invulnerable, but neither is it so exceptionally fragile. Generally speaking, if a Christian is concerned about his or her faith, they usually have no reason to be so (even if their spiritual lives are a mess, their faith at least is not in danger of being lost). It is much more often the case that the people who are not concerned about their faith at all are the ones who need to worry (i.e., they are concerned because they don't care, and the fact that they don't care usually means that their commitment to the Lord is very weak). As long as a person is a believer in Jesus Christ, that is, one who believes in Jesus, has faith in Jesus, follows Jesus, that person's salvation is absolutely secure.

You mention sin. Sin is an issue for a variety of reasons. Particularly gross sin, particularly arrogant sin, particularly serious sin (all sin is serious, of course) is very problematic if it becomes a pattern. The reason for this is that in addition to the severe divine discipline that can come a person's way as the result of consciously, deliberately, brazenly and repeatedly flouting God's authority, there is also a tremendous psychological pressure that comes with knowingly and defiantly rejecting God's will. If a person is into this sort of behavior, eventually faith may begin to erode. It becomes difficult to "look God in the face", as I often say, and a person is pressured to reduce God in his/her thinking and eventually eradicate Him altogether. Clearly, it is difficult to disobey someone so overtly and willfully, and at the same time have any respect for them. Thus, aggressively anti-God patterns of gross sinning can lead to apostasy by causing the decay of faith until a person gets to the point of not believing in Jesus any more (see the link: Apostasy and the Sin unto Death).

However, no Christian will be entirely free of all sin while living on this earth. We inhabit bodies permeated with a sinful nature, and that fact alone guarantees that we will all stumble from time to time. Committing (relatively) minor sins on occasion is vastly different in practice from indulging in a behavior pattern of consistent and repeated gross and willful sinning. If we are truly trying to please Jesus, then all that is required when we do err is to confess our sins to God in private prayer (1Jn.1:9). As we turn away from the mistake, we may suffer some discipline as a result, but it will be the type of punishment that fathers give their children with our heavenly Father helping us to reform through the experience. Sinless perfection is not the mark of spiritual maturity since no one outside of our Lord Jesus ever demonstrated it. And when we do sin, we have our Lord Jesus as our Advocate to the Father interceding on our behalf (Heb.7:25; 1Jn.2:1).

I personally do not believe in the value (let alone the necessity) of altar calls for unbelievers (let alone for believers). Believing in Jesus Christ, confessing sin to the Lord, expressing concern about salvation, spiritual growth, problems with particular sins and the like – all of these are things that we as priests of God in Jesus Christ are encouraged to and are able to take to Him in private prayer. A public audience for these things is not only not required in the Bible, but by the way such things are generally administered (as in the example you share), it would seem to me that they are likely not even authorized, for they usually tend to distort the principles of truth of the Word of God in a very legalistic and emotionally manipulative way.

There is a difference between emotions and faith. Emotions cannot save us, only faith can. Nor can emotions condemn us, as long as faith still lives. Faith is the free will thought process of a person's inner-most heart. Emotions are unreliable guides to anything in life, and do not always line up with the truth or with what faith has decided. Faith and emotion are joined in the heart, but faith should lead and faith should make the decisions. We need to learn to ignore our emotions when they tell us something we know by faith is not true; if we give into emotional pressure against the better judgment of our faith, on the other hand, it can only lead to trouble. Indeed, when faith starts to follow emotion, trouble always results, and faith can be damaged or destroyed.

Suppose we "feel good". That does not mean we are growing spiritually or doing what God would have us do with our lives. Suppose we "feel bad". That does not mean we are wrong in what we are doing or are not being used by God in the way He pleases. In fact, there are very good reasons for the devil to make a believer on the right track feel bad whenever he can; because when we feel bad we tend to think that we are doing something wrong. Likewise, I have no doubt that the devil strives to make those who are falling away from Jesus and those who are not interested in Him in the first place, feel as "good" as possible – that way they will be less inclined to repent. Feelings have little to do with anything – at best they are broad signals to alert us to problems of which we should be aware anyhow; at worst they are mere reactions to difficult circumstances that may send us in the wrong direction if we have not properly learned how to interpret and control them. As we mature in the Christian life, we learn to separate how we feel from what we know to be true. In time, our emotions learn to follow our heart-decisions (for the most part, anyway); we learn that what we know to be true from scripture and what we have believed from the Bible is right and good and true, regardless of how we may "feel", and we learn to motivate and re-motivate ourselves whenever we feel our emotions drawing us in a wrong direction or acting as a drag against proper progress.

And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.
1st Samuel 30:6 KJV

I cannot hope to judge your spiritual state. The only person with a chance of coming close to a correct assessment on that score is you. But the "what now?" of what we should do is ever the same for all human beings. If we are not believers, we should immediately seek Jesus and put our faith in Him for salvation. If we are believers who have sinned, we should confess that sin in assurance of immediate forgiveness (if not immediate release from discipline – yet loving discipline). If we are trapped in some form of debilitating behavior or sinfulness, we should immediately make extricating ourselves with God's help our number one priority, remembering that this life is all about decision making – that is what faith is – and just as we believed to be saved, so we believe to repent and to return and to be restored and to repair whatever damage we have done. If we have confessed and returned to the Lord, then we need to aggressively institute a program of spiritual growth and stick with it as long as we live, reading our Bibles daily, praying daily, listening to good, solid, orthodox Bible teaching daily, believing the truth and applying it to our lives, progressing and passing the tests which come, and, once we have attained a certain level of spiritual maturity, helping others to do the same. These rules are simple enough; carrying them out is the test of who we really are inside . . . and of what we really believe.

Wherever you are in the above, it is my prayer for the stabilization of your faith, and for your growth and production in Jesus Christ, for great rejoicing and reward in His presence on that great day of days. Nothing is worth more; nothing is more important.

In our Lord Jesus Christ who will reward us all each according to our works.

Bob L.

 

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