What Role Does the Bible Play in a World Where Everyone Does Whatever Seems Right In Their Own Eyes?

 

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I am writing tonight from beautiful Florida

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In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. Judges 17:6 NLT

We are created to follow our own conscience and moral convictions. Does that mean that we just do whatever is right in our own eyes? Lately I have heard people telling me that the Bible is a good book, but God gave us a brain to figure out for ourselves when to follow it and when not to follow it. Many believe human reasoning trumps God’s Word. Many pastors dance around the Bible and by the end of their sermons haven’t really said anything, because they were afraid to say anything, because they don’t want to offend anyone. They want everyone to decide for themselves what is right and wrong.  What could be wrong with that?

For one thing, the idea that you can decide for yourself what is right and wrong is exactly how sin began. Let’s take a careful look at the serpent’s lie after Eve told him they would die if they disobeyed and ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5 NLT 

The serpent assures Eve she won’t die for disobeying God. After all, how dare God tell us what is right and wrong, much less give us consequences for having our own opinions and way of doing things! The Serpent tells Eve she will be like God. God makes the rules. God is the judge between right and wrong. If Eve becomes like God she will make the rules and decide for herself what is right and wrong.  This was implied in the serpent’s comment to Eve, “you will know both good and evil.”  In other words,

She would be a god. She would be a law unto herself. -Ellen White, Christ Triumphant, January 16. 

This is why it is so important that we follow our personal conscience and convictions based on God’s Word, instead of just following our own inclinations. Be careful when people tell you God gave you a brain to figure it out for yourself. The serpent was teaching Eve to rely on her own brain instead of God’s Word.

People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart. Proverbs 21:2 NLT 

There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. Proverbs 14:12 NLT 

The problem is, everyone is right in their own eyes. The kindergartner on the playground, who hit his classmate who called him a name, is doing what is right in his own eyes. The man having an affair with another man’s wife is doing right in his own eyes. The woman is lonely and not being shown enough affection from her husband. In his eyes what he is doing is not lust. It is love. The husband and father who is cheating God by not returning an honest tithe, is just trying to make enough to support his family, so it is right in his own eyes. The possibilities are endless when we do what is right in our own eyes.

While people tell us to use our own brains to figure out right and wrong, this is what God’s Word says,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 NLT 

Jesus gave us the perfect example of not depending on our own understanding. Jesus was not a philosopher of sorts. As a matter of fact in Luke 12:14 Jesus refused to play judge.  In His humanity Jesus did not use His own reasoning or set Himself up as a judge as to what was right or wrong. So what did Jesus do? He did exactly what the serpent told Eve not to do, He went by God’s Word alone!

In Matthew 4 Jesus answers each of satan’s temptations with “The Scriptures say….” See Matthew 4:4, 7, 10. Jesus came to save the world, and satan told Jesus he would give it back to him if he would just worship him. Jesus could have reasoned that it made more sense to do that than to die on the cross. He could have used situation ethics and philosophized that saving the whole world would be worth worshiping satan, especially since He was going to die like a sinner on the cross anyways. But Jesus never used human reasoning, or His own brain as some say. He did not philosophize. He simply went by what the Scriptures say.

In Matthew 22 some religious leaders presented a story to get Jesus to reason with them about the resurrection. Jesus would not “reason” with them. He did not share His own ideas about how He thought it might work. All he did was reference the Scriptures. See Matthew 22:29.

In Luke 10:25 an expert in the law asked Jesus how to have eternal life. Instead of saying, “Well this is how I see it,” Or “my opinion is,

Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”  Luke 10:26 NLT 

The serpent advised Eve to disregard what the Word of God said, and use her own brain to decide what was right and wrong. Jesus gave us an example of disregarding what we think is right and wrong, and to just go by Scripture, which is the Word of God.

If we follow the serpent’s plan we will just follow our personal whims and inclinations based on our preferences. When we follow Jesus’ plan we will follow our personal conscience and convictions based on Scripture.

Judging Without Throwing Stones

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”John 8:7 NKJV

The phrase Jesus used in John 8:7 has been widely taken out of context. Please keep a couple of things in mind. Jesus was talking to the very people who participated with the woman being judged. “These would-be guardians of justice had themselves led their victim into sin.” –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 460. By saying “He who is without sin” Jesus was being specific, meaning let a witness and not a participant throw the first stone. Jesus did not mean to give the idea that to obey the law of Moses one had to be perfect. They just had to be a witness and not a participant. The other thing to keep in mind is, Jesus was not talking symbolically. He was talking about literally throwing literal stones at her.

I want to make this clear, because I have sat in nominating committee meetings, where someone’s character was being discussed in relation to their fitness for a specific church office. As concerns about their character were voiced, someone came to their defense, with the cliche, “Let He who is without sin throw the first stone.” The cliche is totally out of place and context. We were discussing whether or not this person should have an office in the church, not whether they should be literally stoned to death! Please, in a church nominating committee there is a huge difference between denying someone an office and stoning them to death, as is the context in John 8. In a church business meeting there is a huge difference between church discipline and possibly removing their names from the books, and literally stoning them to death.

The Bible gives clear and definite counsel in Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 6, among other places on how to discipline a wayward church member. Still some will deny those inspired passages, and say we should practice love instead of discipline. Yet love includes discipline! Jesus says,

I correct and discipline everyone I love. Revelation 3:19 NLT

Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness.Romans 11:22 NLT

Jesus has given counsel to His body, the church on how to rebuke and discipline in love, those who are wayward, some of which may actually include being denied a church office, or even having their names removed from the books, (hopefully to be added back again after repentance!) but none of which includes actually stoning people to death as was literally discussed in John 8. In Revelation 3:19 we see that discipline and love go together, and in Romans 11:22 we see God being severe while being kind in saving sinners from their sin.

Please understand, judging someone according to Bible counsel is not the same as throwing stones. Please understand when we truly love people, we will follow Bible counsel on dealing with their sin, which includes loving discipline. There is no genuine love without discipline, and there is not genuine discipline without love.

What’s the Difference Between Appearing as Evil and Just Being Misjudged?

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Abstain from all appearance of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 KJV

A misunderstanding of this verse has crippled the success of many missionaries. A young student loses his parents, and his teacher is afraid to put her arm around his shoulder and comfort him for fear she might be accused of evil. A pastor is having studies with a bar tender in his home and needs to swing by the bar to pick up his umbrella he left, at the bar tender’s home. What will people think if they see him walk into a bar? Is that giving the appearance of evil? No! It is just giving the appearance of walking into a bar!

My purpose here is not to lessen the accountability of Gospel workers. My point is to help us, as missionaries, be healthy and balanced. Yes we must be careful not to put ourselves in compromising positions, but at the same time we must realize, there are some unbalanced people out there who will misconstrue and misrepresent just about everything, and we can’t allow them to cripple our ministry. It reminds me of when, after 9-11, President George Bush told his fellow citizens to go on with their daily lives, regardless of terrorist threats, otherwise the terrorists win. Likewise, if Satan can cripple our ministry by making us over-analyze and stretch our imagination to see how each action and motive can be misconstrued into something evil, then Satan wins.

The truly converted soul is illuminated from on high, and Christ is in that soul “a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” His words, his motives, his actions, may be misinterpreted and falsified; but he does not mind it because he has greater interests at stake. –Ellen White, Testimonies, Vol. 5, Page 569

There is a line between giving “the appearance of evil” and someone else judging us.
I have seen other gospel workers’ ministries become totally paralyzed by their understanding of what Paul said about not appearing evil. The NLT version of Paul’s earlier quote simply says,

Stay away from every kind of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 NLT

Just because someone else judges us does not automatically mean we have given the appearance of evil. And by the way, just because someone claims to have the gift of discerning spirits does not mean they really have that gift. They may just have the gift of judging and causing dissension. Jesus’ own disciples were surprised when they saw Him talking to a woman at the well. The Pharisees judged Jesus for hanging out with prostitutes and publicans, but He never gave “the appearance of evil”! They were judging.

A teacher can put her arms around a hurting child and still stay far from evil.  A pastor can walk into a bar without it appearing to be evil, so long as he does not walk like he is drunk or make jokes about drinking. Joking about drinking oractually insinuating you are doing something evil is when you give the appearance of evil. Just because something can be misconstrued by someone with a dirty mind does not mean it is giving the appearance of evil. It simply means someone has a dirty mind.

Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted. Titus 1:15 NLT

Satan will use unhealthy, unstable people to misconstrue and misjudge our every move. We cannot let God’s work be paralyzed by people with wild and dirty imaginations. The key, I believe, is to have a healthy understanding of where the line is between giving the appearance of actual evil, and someone else just judging according to their unhealthy imagination. We can’t let unhealthy imaginations dictate our mission. It’s a matter of healthy boundaries – knowing where our responsibility ends and others’ responsibility begins.

Joseph had his motives and actions misjudged and misconstrued but in the end Pharaoh himself said,

“Can we find anyone else like this man [Joseph] so obviously filled with the spirit of God?” Genesis 41:38 NLT

Obviously the prior accusations against Joseph did not mean anything to Pharaoh. He could see right through the false accusations and see Joseph’s mission was filled with the spirit of God. So long as our mission is filled with the Spirit of God, balanced healthy people will see through any false insinuations and God will make our mission successful just like He did for Joseph.

You may study this week’s SS lesson on Biblical Missionaries here.

Does a Revival Have to be Traditional to be Genuine?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

Last week I pulled up behind a stopped car at a red light. We both were waiting to make a left turn. The light turned green but the car in front of me just sat there. I politely honked my horn. The car continued to just sit there. Frustrated I decided to just go around the parked car and make my left turn! As I did I almost hit a fire truck with lights flashing and siren blaring! Suddenly I realized why the car in front of me was just sitting there during the green light. Apparently I had my Philips Craig and Dean Best Hits CD blaring so loudly, I could not hear the siren like the car in front of me could. I felt like a fool for honking at the car in front of me and then for trying to just go around it. I thought I knew what was going on but obviously did not really understand the situation.

A couple thousand years ago, Joseph thought he understood the situation when his fiancée Mary got pregnant. Even so, Joseph decided to keep quiet about his suspicions and divorce Mary quietly. Smart man! He did not go off spouting accusations publicly that he would have to retract later. And with the evidence, you couldn’t blame Joseph for thinking he understood the situation. Like Joseph, how slow we should be to judge even when we think we have all the evidence we need for a verdict.

Joseph was a man who loved truth so an angel comes to assure him that what is going on with Mary is nothing sinister, but on the contrary is of the Holy Spirit.

“As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:20 NLT

How often have we been quick to judge something in the church and condemn it because it is not normal or strange to us? While we do not want to fall for a false revival, let’s also be aware that a genuine revival may not come just the way we expect it, just like Jesus did not come the way Joseph expected!

“Let every worker in the Master’s vineyard, study, plan, devise methods, to reach the people where they are. We must do something out of the common course of things. We must arrest the attention. We must be deadly in earnest. We are on the very verge of times of trouble and perplexities that are scarcely dreamed of.” –Ellen White, Evangelism pages 122-123

When it comes to revival for the church or evangelism for the community, let’s not put God in our traditional boxes and limit Him to work within our conventional imagination.

You say, “Oh but we must be so careful we don’t fall for a counterfeit revival!” I understand. So did the angel talking to Joseph. While the situation with Mary was very strange to say the least, the angel assured Joseph it was also Biblical!

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel which means ‘God is with us.’”Isaiah 7:14 NLT

 

So just because something is strange to us does not mean it is not of the Holy Spirit or UN-Biblical! Mary’s situation was both strange and nontraditional while still being absolutely Biblical!

 

So if we see something new going on in the church let’s not condemn it just because it is strange or new to us. Like Joseph, let’s be slow to judge before we condemn something that may actually be of the Holy Spirit. Let’s pray and be open to heavenly Beings leading us in accordance with Scripture.

You may study this week’s SS lesson on revival here.

Motives

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This week’s SS lesson is on motives, and there is nothing more frustrating and isolating than having your motives misunderstood. However, it is not an isolating occurrence. It happens to everyone. It happened to David. When he saw Goliath making fun of Israel’s God, he wanted to stand up for God, but his own brother misconstrued his motives and said, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.” 1 Samuel 17:28 NIV What hurts more than strangers misjudging us is family misjudging us. Hurt for David too, I am sure.

Question is, how can we know other people’s motives when we don’t even know our own hearts?

The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?

 “I the Lord search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
according to what their deeds deserve.”  Jeremiah 17:9-10 NIV

“Humans are very seldom either totally sincere or totally hypocritical. Their moods change, their motives are mixed, and they are often themselves quite mistaken as to what their motives are.” –C.S. Lewis

I am glad David did not let his family get in his way of doing what needed to be done. Even though his motives were misconstrued he continued to do what was right, which just validated the fact even more, that he was doing right for the right reasons and not to get the praise of his family, because there was no praise from his family! Likewise when people misconstrue our motives, let that be a comfort instead of a curse. We can know that we are doing right because it is right, and not for our egos, when everyone accuses us of having bad motives, but we do the right thing anyway.

Everyone loves an inside joke. When nobody else gets the joke, but you and your friend, it makes your friendship more intimate, having something between you two that nobody else understands. When you are doing right because it is right, and nobody else understands that, just consider it an inside joke between you and Jesus, and it will make your relationship with Him just that more intimate. The two of you are the only ones who need to know your motives. Its nobody else’s business!

Glimpses of Our God; God The Law AND Understanding Giver

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.  Psalms 119:34

God not only wants to give us His law, He also wants to give us understanding. I remember one time a friend made some muffins. She gave me some, and before I could take the first bite, her kids were already snickering. Turned out she forgot to add sugar. I could not spit the muffin out of my mouth fast enough! It tasted terrible. Psalms 19 tells us that when the law is combined with wisdom and “light to the eyes” (understanding?) that it is sweeter than honey. Without understanding the law is as bland as those muffins which had no sugar.

To me, nothing is more frustrating and hurtful than to be misunderstood. However, I am far from the only person who has had to live with their motives  misunderstood. In John 12, a woman comes to anoint the feet of Jesus. She wants to show her appreciation for His great love and sacrifice which changed her life. As she pours the perfume on his body, the snickering begins. Her motives are twisted and accusations are made. Her offering is being critiqued by a thief who had no business critiquing her. She continues her worship, doing her best to pretend he is not around. Rightfully so, because what she is doing has nothing to do with him. Its frankly none of his business. Jesus understood and that’s all that matters.

The other day some friends from out of town came to visit. They followed me in their white rental car to the beach. We came to a toll booth and I saw what I thought was their white rental car behind me. I wanted to pay the toll for them so I quickly pulled in front of the car so they could follow me through the booth. The car flashed its lights and honked its horn. That is when I realized it was not my friend’s car but a total stranger. The stranger glared at me and made a gesture insinuating that I was a total idiot to pull in front of someone like that. Never having seen my friend’s rental car before, how was I to know the difference? It was to me an easy mistake. I did not mean to intentionally pull in front of this stranger but they had no way of knowing that, and I had no way of explaining myself to them. They proceeded through the tool both and sped on their way never to be seen again. I am sure they told their friends later, about the idiot who looked right at them and pulled in front of them. That’s not the real story though. And they will never have a way of knowing that is not the real story. Once again I have to live my life being misunderstood.

I know this was a simple little incident. There are people who have had more hurtful misunderstandings than what happened to me at the toll booth. Still, it reminds me that if I have been misunderstood, that there is a very high chance that I have misunderstood others too. Sometimes we think we have all the facts we need to make a judgment when in reality we have no clue. Joseph thought he had all the facts when his fiancé Mary was with child. Thank God he was a just man, and kept his mouth shut about his speculations, because as it turned out he was wrong. Mary was not having an affair. You would have thought he had all the evidence you needed, but thank God Joseph, who was a man of justice according to Matthew 1, was also a man of understanding and compassion. Joseph was a man who honored the law and the seventh commandment, but thank God He also sought understanding, and an angel of God gave it to him, and explained the whole situation about what the Holy Spirit had done in her life. Could it be that we sometimes can misunderstand what the Holy Spirit is doing in the lives of others, and jump to unhealthy conclusions? I believe so. That is why we, like Joseph need to seek for understanding as well as the law. Having the law without understanding is like having muffins without sugar, and I guarantee  you don’t want to know what that’s like!

To study this week’s SS lesson click here.

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