Hope in His Word

Posted by on Nov 21, 2014 in Bible, Featured

Hope in His Word

Editor’s Note:

The purpose of this series is to help Christians think through the doctrine of Scripture and provide practical guidance on not only how to read the Bible but to deal with objections and attacks on the Bible.

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Psalm 119:4, “Remember the word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope.”

Whatever your special need may be, you may readily find some promise in the Bible suited to it.

Are you faint and feeble because your way is rough and you are weary? Here is the promise-”He giveth power to the faint.” When you read such a promise, take it back to the great Promiser, and ask Him to fulfill His own word.

Are you seeking after Christ, and thirsting for closer communion with Him? This promise shines like a star upon you-”Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Take that promise to the throne continually; do not plead anything else, but go to God over and over again with this-”Lord, Thou hast said it, do as Thou hast said.”

Are you distressed because of sin, and burdened with the heavy load of your iniquities? Listen to these words-”I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions, and will no more remember thy sins.” You have no merit of your own to plead why He should pardon you, but plead His written engagements and He will perform them.

Are you afraid lest you should not be able to hold on to the end, lest, after having thought yourself a child of God, you should prove a castaway? If that is your state, take this word of grace to the throne and plead it: “The mountains may depart, and the hills may be removed, but the covenant of My love shall not depart from thee.”

If you have lost the sweet sense of the Saviour’s presence, and are seeking Him with a sorrowful heart, remember the promises: “Return unto Me, and I will return unto you;” “For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee.”

Banquet your faith upon God’s own word, and whatever your fears or wants, repair to the Bank of Faith with your Father’s note of hand, saying with the Psalmist, “Remember the word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope.”

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Exegetical Analysis of 2 Timothy 2:15

Posted by on Nov 20, 2014 in Bible, Featured

Exegetical Analysis of 2 Timothy 2:15

Editor’s Note:

The purpose of this series is to help Christians think through the doctrine of Scripture and provide practical guidance on not only how to read the Bible but to deal with objections and attacks on the Bible.

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“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” -2 Timothy 2:15

Much ink has already been spilled on Paul’s instructions to Timothy, however, I felt the urge to take a look at the specific words and phrases used by Paul, if anything to get a sense of just how strong this exhortation is and more importantly, to reiterate why consistent, purposeful, sound Bible study is the function and responsibility of every believer. Apologetics which is providing a defense of why and what you believe as well as theology, the study of God to include all of the facets of theology that are to inform and impact all aspects of life, are not solely the purview of academics or those occupying the pulpit. While Timothy was certainly functioning in the role of a church leader, the command to study God’s Word has been given as a command to all believers. With that in mind, in this article we will focus on what Paul is saying to us to include at least a cursory look at Scripture’s overarching command for all of God’s people to actively read, study, and apply the truths of Scripture to their lives and the world around them.

The Apostle Paul begins 2 Timothy 2:15 with the command “be diligent”. It must be noted that some translations use the word study. The Greek word that is translated as “be diligent” or “study” is spoudazō which means “to hasten, make haste or to exert one’s self, endeavor, give diligence.” Spoudazō is a verb and its use by Paul connotes the concept of a need for action, the necessity on the part of the individual to actively engage in an effort that requires a large degree of focus and effort that will involve the entirety of the person who is actively pursuing that which is the subject of this diligent level of study.

The second aspect of this passage is the phrase “to present” or “to show”. This phrase consists of the Greek word paristēmi which means “to present (show) by argument, to prove, with the added element of the quality which the person or thing exhibits.” As with the idea of being diligent or studying, paristēmi is a verb that connotes a sense of action on the part of the individual. It is not a passive concept whereby someone might have to venture a guess as to what you are doing. Conversely, this verb demonstrates the idea of actively presenting something to someone else again with the added element of a necessary quality to the nature of what you are presenting.

This of course begs the question as to what we are to be presenting given the verb paristēmi demands by definition the individual actively is doing something. While most would submit that what is to be provided is an argument for what we believe and why and while that statement certainly is factual, Paul actually states we are to first diligently present ourselves approved to God, with the natural progression of being a workman who does not need to be ashamed which also naturally flows into the process of rightly dividing the word of truth. So what does this idea of presenting ourselves as “approved to God” mean? The Greek word Paul uses that is translated as approved is dokimos, a word that means accepted, pleasing, or acceptable. In its use in the New Testament in such a context as 2 Timothy 2:15, dokimo describes an individual who is mature in the faith, a person of integrity. This idea of maturity springing forth from a devotion to Scripture hearkens back to passages such as Psalm 19:7-8 which declares “The Torah of Adonai is perfect, restoring the inner person. The instruction of Adonai is sure, making wise the thoughtless. The precepts of Adonai are right, rejoicing the heart. The mitzvah of Adonai is pure, enlightening the eyes.” (CJB) What Psalm 19:7-8 demonstrates is essential for understanding what it means to be approved to God as noted in 2 Timothy 2:15. One who is approved by God is one who loves the law of God, His Torah, the entirety of God’s word. It is this attitude of devotion, the daily washing of yourself in the Word of God, the writing of God’s Word on the tablet of your heart that allows for the restoration of the inner person. What this means is what makes a person mature in the faith is devotion to the commands of God outlined in His word. Maturity is demonstrated and being approved to God as a workman is found in the life of the person who loves God’s Word. It is this love and devotion to God’s Word that moves the believer from a place of being pĕthiy (simple) to being wise.

Now that we have established what diligence means, how to present ourselves to God and what it means to be approved to God, it is time to investigate what being a workman means. Paul uses the Greek word ergatēs, a noun that means a laborer. Here we have the continued theme of an activity that involves work, a daily task on the part of the believer. This is the same noun Jesus uses in Matthew 9:37 when He declared “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” In order to understand what Paul is getting at in this discussion of being a laborer, we have to back up a verse to 2 Timothy 2:14 which states “Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers.” What Paul is doing is providing the reader with a comparison between a disapproved worker and an approved worker. The disapproved worker is one who strives after or speaks with words that have no profit which in effect is damaging to the hearer. Philip Towner, in his commentary on 2 Timothy, provides some salient commentary on what this is all about noting:

“The translation quarreling about words (or striving about words) expresses one side of a single Greek word that can also mean fighting with words. The one term sums up their activity as a whole, content and method. Their fight with words and disputable doctrines caused strife and division. The outcome of their efforts was negative in two respects. First, because of the spurious nature of the words and their improper motives, their arguments produced nothing of value. Second, the greater danger was that poorly grounded believers might be influenced by personality or cleverness of words to accept some novel view that could ruin their faith. Their quarrels about doctrine and word fighting did nothing to build up the church or the individual. In contrast stands God’s approved workman. What makes this worker different from the false teacher? First, this one’s life and work must be oriented toward God. The opponents looked to people for approval, but God’s servants must seek it from God. This orienting of oneself toward God involves an active (do your best, or make the effort) and conscious (present yourself) decision. Avoiding the ways of the false teachers and remaining true to the gospel in teaching and life from the test that faced Timothy. God’s approval would rest upon the one who passed this test.”[1]

As we can see, the disapproved workman only desires a demonstration of their own intellectual persuasiveness, focusing most often more on methodology or the cleverness of their articulation of words, often forgetting that true wisdom comes solely from God and His Word. The approved workman is diligent to commit themselves as a laborer to be constantly diligent to focus on God and what He says in His Word, using any talents of writing, discussing, or other gifts to the glory of God rather than for personal recognition.

This approved workman is described by Paul as one who does not need to be ashamed. The word translated ashamed is used only once in the New Testament and that is in 2 Timothy 2:15. It simply means having no cause to be ashamed. Those who have their complete focus on knowing God and making Him know will have no reason to be ashamed. There will be no lack of desire to share the message of the gospel. This mature, approved, diligent workman will not hide their light under a bushel. They will have great confidence to do that which Christ commanded in Matthew 28:19-20, namely “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV) They will have great confidence that due to their diligent study of God’s word, they will be able to wield this sword of truth against the enemy and additionally, they will be able to share the hope that is within them to those who so desperately need deliverance from the darkness and bondage of sin. Ultimately, it will be their complete passion and joy to study God’s Word and to share with a great degree of God given wisdom elements of the faith. Since apologetics is really the application of God’s truth to all of life, this passion for Truth will inculcate every fiber of their being and every aspect of their life.

Paul concludes this passage with the phrase “rightly dividing the word of truth.” This idea of rightly dividing comes from the Greek word orthotomeō which means to teach the truth directly and correctly. How is one able to teach the truth of God’s word directly and correctly? It is only by being a diligent, prepared, unashamed workman devoted to a life focused on God and His Word. Any other approach will result in flailing around with the Word of God which always results in an incorrect approach to matters of theology. This is not like a broken clock where somebody can get it right at least twice a day. Sharing the truth of God’s Word is serious business and requires the utmost care and discipline. This is especially true for those called by God to be in a position of authority or called to shepherd the people of God. The Apostle James in his epistle notes “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1) So as you can see, this is serious business. New Testament scholar Ralph Earle rightly notes “The context suggests that Paul is warning against taking the devious paths of deceiving interpretations in teaching the Scriptures.”[3]

Paul further notes that it is we who are to rightly divide, namely the word (logos) of truth (alētheia). The logos as we have noted is the Word of God. Alētheia refers to “the truth as taught in the Christian religion, respecting God and the execution of his purposes through Christ, and respecting the duties of man, opposing alike to the superstitions of the Gentiles and the inventions of the Jews, and the corrupt opinions and precepts of false teachers even among Christians.” What this definition refers to is the difference between the truth of God’s Word and the machinations of humanity. Towner again provides excellent commentary, noting in regards to the right handling of truth, “Our correct handling of the biblical text includes first understanding the original message in its original context, which requires knowledge of the biblical languages and the historical-cultural-social setting that the author addressed (or depending on those who do have such knowledge). But the task is not finished until the original message has been brought across the centuries and applied freshly in our own situations.”[3] For those who immediately might react to such a statement with “Well I do not have a knowledge of Hebrew or Greek so that must mean I am off the hook”, let me advise you that many tools are available to the laymen for studying the original languages and the historical, social, and cultural background. For the purposes of this study, I utilized www.blueletterbible.org, a site which provides the user with the meanings and usage of the original languages. Additionally, there are many quality study Bibles on the market that provide excellent background information to every book of the Bible. In our day and age, it is only an attitude of laziness that suggests one cannot access tools to be a diligent workman, rightly dividing the word of truth.

What does this all mean? Hopefully this study of 2 Timothy 2:15 has provided you with a better idea of what Paul was trying to get across not just to Timothy, but to every believer since. It is our duty as believers to be diligent, to present ourselves approved to God, to be a workman, a laborer for truth, to be a people who are able to wield the sword of truth in an accurate manner. This is the calling of every believer and not just a select few academics, professors, or pastors. May the Word of God become your passion and may you have that desire to grow in maturity in the things of God.

References
[1] Philip Towner, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: 1-2 Timothy & Titus (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1994), 181-182.
[2] Ralph Earle. “Commentary on 1 & 2 Timothy” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon. Edited by Frank Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 402.
[3] Towner, 182.

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8 Tips for Better Bible Teaching

Posted by on Nov 19, 2014 in Bible, Featured

8 Tips for Better Bible Teaching

Editor’s Note:

The purpose of this series is to help Christians think through the doctrine of Scripture and provide practical guidance on not only how to read the Bible but to deal with objections and attacks on the Bible.

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Every pastor who has been to seminary has taken some type of homiletics class. These classes help teach how to navigate the Scriptures and apply them with certain guidelines. The guidelines assist you in not teaching the wrong subject of the passage, or from preaching heresy. But what about those people who are teaching Bible classes and Sunday school, especially those without any formal Biblical training—how do they prepare a lesson? I’m going to give you 8 simple tips that I gleaned along the way and from seminary. Obviously, at this point, you have already chosen your passage.

1.  Take a Step Back. Locate the main passage and the main idea of that passage. No verse is placed within a vacuum; each belongs to a greater block, or passage of verses. For instance, you may desire to teach about John 3:3 and “being born again,” however, that verse is a part of the greater passage containing verses 1-8. As well, being re-born of spiritual birth must include the main idea of the Holy Spirit and His work. So, take a step back and look at the big picture—passage and idea.

2. Interpretation. This is an important step and carries the label, exegesis. You need to ask yourself several questions: what is the literary style of the writing (prophetic, letter, narrative, wisdom, etc.) and what is the culture in which it was written. Could a 1st century letter be interpreted with 21st century meanings—obviously not, as the writer had no idea what would happen in our life time. This is a big problem with the untrained teacher; he or she tends to read into the text (what we call eisegesis). A good example of eisegesis is when a teacher claims that a woman’s head must be covered in church at all times, or when praying, and a man cannot have long hair (1 Cor. 11). We believe in the literal understanding, but we need to be careful when teaching doctrine and theology. Clearly, this passage concerns the culture in which it was written. A good rule of thumb, if you’re unfamiliar with a writer or book of the Bible, utilize a credible commentary and if you come up with some new meaning of the text—generally, it’s the wrong one. We have two millennia of great Bible scholars at our fingertips; if they haven’t witnessed it in Scripture then it’s not there.

3. Make a Bridge.  Pastors are taught to bridge the text of Scripture in the sermon. The focus is always on the main idea of the text, and so, good teachers will try and build a bridge from the text to the main idea; basically, keep the main idea, the main idea, don’t go off to never-never land. If the passage is about new birth and the power of the Holy Spirit, stay focused on that idea throughout the sermon. This goes along with the next point…

4. Find the Main Principles. Ok, you already know the main idea, now you can make an outline of the principles within that idea. Let me clarify, if the main idea (let’s use Jon 3:3 again) is new birth, then some of the principles that we want to discuss are water, flesh, Spirit, womb, and the Kingdom of God. All of these are well within the main topic. Making an outline helps you stay within your study of the topic and to present it carefully and correctly. Here’s a hint, if you see a word repetitively used, the writer may be trying to get your attention. Does the writer switch pronoun usage in mid-sentence—from I, to we? One book I will always recommend is How to Read the Bible For All It’s Worth, by G. Fee & D. Stuart—if you don’t have it—buy it!

5. Use Illustrations. People are visual now-a-days. The people during the writing of the Bible were more auditory; they heard and recited what they heard. We now live in a society that changes topics every ten seconds on television (commercials) to capture attention, and check our Facebook and Twitter statuses every minute. So, if you’re teaching about the Temple, find an illustration of one and utilize it in the class. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, just something simple.

6. Application. Here is one topic that has been beaten to death, but while I agree that we need application, it is down the list at number six and behind illustration—the reason—sometimes we focus so much on application that we lose the actual emphasis and meaning of what happened, when it happened, and the how it happened, of the passage. It’s great that we understand the Scriptures and should be able to apply them to our lives, but don’t over-do-it. My rule is to look for one application per main principle and then clarify the text from that application. An application should be an “Aha” sort of moment, not “That’s what the Scripture said.”

7. A Good Introduction. A good introduction is a must—you just spent a lot of time and work in study and yet you show up and say, turn to this or that page in a dry monotone voice—Wow! Sounds exciting, right?! This doesn’t need to be in Vegas lights, especially if it’s only a small Bible study, but if you’re speaking before more than fifteen people, seek a good intro. I always find a personal story, a captivating explanation about the book, letter, or idea. Show them your excitement! I live for teaching the Word and it always gets me amped, I want to show that, but also be reverent of its power and majesty.

8. Tie It Up! Boy, this is one area that I can’t stand when I hear preachers and they just end the teaching, leaving you hanging. It’s like they took you on a ride, but never brought you home—you’re left in purgatory. Every good teaching should, and I pathetically use the coined phrase, “land the plane,” of the passage. Tie up all the loose ends, by going through your study. Your teaching should match your outline and then marry it together with a good conclusion of what you said. As I have heard it stated before, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them what you told them, and then remind them of what you said.”

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Applying God’s Word- Benefits and Methods

Posted by on Nov 18, 2014 in Bible, Featured

Applying God’s Word- Benefits and Methods

Editor’s Note:

The purpose of this series is to help Christians think through the doctrine of Scripture and provide practical guidance on not only how to read the Bible but to deal with objections and attacks on the Bible.

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Last Monday I started a five part series on how to hear, read and study the Bible. In the first post I looked at the importance of hearing and studying the Bible for our spiritual growth. Last Tuesday I gave you a few practical tips on how to study God’s Word. Last Wed, I looked at the importance of memorizing and meditating on God’s Word. Last Friday we learned how to mediate on the Word of God and the person and work of Jesus Christ. Today we’ll wrap up this brief series by looking at applying God’s Word– Benefits and Methods.

Applying God’s Word- Benefits and Methods

The Bible promises the blessing of God on those who apply the Word of God to one’s daily life. The classic New Covenant statement on the value of integrating the spiritual with the concrete is James 1:22-25: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” Pithy and powerful is Jesus’ similar statement in John 13:17, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

These verses teach that there can be a delusion in hearing God’s Word. Without minimizing the sufficiency of Scripture nor the power of the Holy Spirit to work through even the most casual brush with the Bible, we can frequently be deluded about Scripture’s impact on our lives. According to James, we can experience God’s truth so powerfully that what the Lord wants us to do becomes as plain as our face in the morning mirror. If we do not apply the truth as we meet it, we delude ourselves by thinking we have gained practical value, regardless of how wonderful the experience of discovering the truth has been. The one who will be blessed in what he does is the one who does what Scripture says.

For someone to be blessed in what he does is the equivalent of the promises of blessing, success and prosperity given in Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:1-3 to those who meditate on God’s Word. That’s because meditation should ultimately lead to application. When God instructed Joshua to meditate on His word day and night, He told him the purpose for meditating was “so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” The promise “then you will be prosperous and successful” would be fulfilled, not as the result of meditation only, but as God’s blessing upon meditation-forged application.

The Lord wants you to be a doer of the Word. One should open the Bible with expectancy and anticipate the discovery of a practical response to the truth of God. It makes a big difference to come to the Bible with the faith that you will find an application for it as opposed to believing you won’t. Thomas Watson was called the nursing mother of the gigantic evangelical divines, and encouraged anticipation about application when he said, “Take every word as spoken to yourselves. When the word thunders against sin, think thus: “God means my sins” when it presents any duty, “God intends me in this.” Many put off Scripture from themselves, as if it only concerned those who lived in the time when it was written but if you intend to profit by the Word bring it home to yourselves, since medicine will do no good, unless it be applied.

Because of God’s inspiration of Scripture, believe that what you are reading was meant for you as well as for the first recipient of the message. Without that attitude you’ll rarely perceive the application of the passage of Scripture to your personal situation. Meditation is not an end in itself. Deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities of Scripture is the key to putting them into practice. It is by means of meditating on the Bible that facts are fleshed out into practical application.

If one reads, hears or studies God’s Word without meditating on it, no wonder “applying Scripture to concrete situations” is difficult. Perhaps we could even train a parrot to memorize every verse of Scripture that we do, but if we don’t apply those verses to life, they won’t be of much lasting value to us or the parrot. How does the Word memorized become the Word applied? It happens through meditation.

Most information, even biblical information, flows through our minds like water through a sieve. There’s usually so much information come in each day and it comes in so quickly that we retain very little. When we meditate the truth remains and percolates. We can smell its aroma more fully and taste it better. As it brews in our brain the insights come. The heart is heated by meditation and cold truth is melted into passionate action.

Psalm 119:15, “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” It was through meditation on God’s Word that the psalmist discerned how to regard God’s ways for living, that is, how to be a doer of them. The way to determine how any Scripture applies to the concrete situations of life is to meditate on that Scripture.

Asking questions is one of the ways to meditate. The more questions you ask and answer about a verse of Scripture the more you will understand it and the more clearly you will see how it applies. Here are some examples of this: Does this text reveal something I should believe about God? Does this text reveal something I should praise or thank or trust God for? Does this text reveal something I should pray about for myself or others? Does this text reveal something I should have a new attitude about? Does this text reveal something I should make a decision about? Does this text reveal something I should do for the sake of Christ, others or myself? There are times when a verse of Scripture will have such evident application for your life that it will virtually jump off the page and plead with you to do what it says. More often than not, however, you must interview the verse, patiently asking questions of it until a down-to-earth response becomes clear.

Respond specifically to Scripture. An encounter with God through His Word should result in at least one specific response. After you have concluded your time of Bible intake you should be able to name at least one definite response you have made or will make to what you have encountered. That response may be an explicit act of faith, worship, praise, thanksgiving or prayer. It may take the form of asking someone’s forgiveness or speaking a word of encouragement. The response may involve the forsaking of sin or showing an act of love. Regardless of the nature of that response, consciously commit yourself to at least one action to take following the intake of God’s Word.

A Final Thought

Will you begin a plan of memorizing God’s Word? If you’ve been a Christian very long you’ve probably memorized more Scripture than you realize. Will you cultivate the discipline of meditating on God’s Word? Occasional Godward thoughts are not meditation. William Bridge said, “A man may think on God every day and meditate on God, no day.” God calls His people throughout the Scriptures to develop the practice of dwelling on Him in our thoughts. When you consider what the Scriptures say about meditation and when you weight the testimonies of some of the most godly men and women of Church history, the importance and value of Christian meditation for progress in Christian growth is undeniable.

Will you prove yourself an applier of the Word? You have read many verses from the Word of God in this series on reading and studying the Bible. What will you do in response to these passages of Scripture? The discipline of Bible intake, especially the discipline of applying God’s Word will often be difficult. The great difficulty in applying the Bible is the opposition to it. Dr. J.I. Packer said this:

“If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible. Knowing that it is the Word of God, teaching men to know and love and serve the God of the Word, I should do all I could to surround it with the spiritual equivalent of pits, thorn hedges and man traps, to frighten people off. At all costs I should want to keep them from using their minds in a disciplined way to get the measure of its message.”

Now that you have learned to read and study the Bible in this series, are you now willing at all costs, to use your mind in a disciplined way to feed on the Word of God for the purpose of godliness? If your answer to that question is yes, then you are ready to grow in the knowledge of the Word of God and the Gospel of God since, “Nobody ever outgrows scripture; the Book widens and deepens with our years” (Charles Spurgeon, The Talking Book, Volume 17, Sermon #1017– Proverbs 6:22).

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How To Not Follow Balaam’s Error

Posted by on Nov 17, 2014 in The Gospel and the Christian Life

Maybe it was one of felt board lessons I heard in one of the eight to ten Sunday school lessons I endured. Or maybe I was just distracted by the talking donkey. Either way, I’ve never thought of Balaam as a bad dude. I’ve always thought he just had a dark moment where he committed the sin of donkey abuse, but for the most part he was faithful in speaking God’s Word.

Numbers 24:13 seems to back up my perception of Balaam being a faithful prophet. I mean what an awesome verse for a preacher to put on his wall:

“If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the Lord, to do either good or bad of my own will. What the LORD speaks, that will I speak…”

In other words Balaam was a prophet. And if he were to remain a prophet then no amount of money could persuade him to speak something other than God’s Word. That’s stout.

Problem is, Balaam really wanted that house full of silver and gold. But he also wanted to have the perks of being a prophet. And so this is why his story ends with him giving advice on how to destroy the Israelites without using prophetic voice (See Number 31:16). He found a way to still look like a prophet but also make bank off Balak.

Balaam was a wicked dude.

Our Balaam Hearts

If I’m being honest, I can see Balaam rear his ugly head in my heart.

In Numbers 22:12 the Lord speaks very clearly to Balaam. He tells Balaam that he’s going to do the opposite of what Balak is asking. Then Balak comes back with a little more cash and a promise of honor. In verse 19 Balaam goes back to the Lord to see if he missed anything.

Do you see it?

Being faithful to God’s Word is going to cost Balaam. And so he wonders if maybe he can convince God to tweak His Word just a bit. Not much. Just enough to get Balaam his prestige and prosperity.

Balak has stolen Balaam’s gaze. He’s the cool dude with all the cool toys that Balaam wishes he could play with. And he’s come to town promising to let a little of his cool rub off on Balaam if only the prophet will do him this little favor.

The desire to tweak God’s Word to keep ourselves in favor with our culture is a temptation that all of us likely face. We are prone to do this in distant relationships and even in the face of absolute strangers. None of us are immune from wanting the perks of a prophet without the pain of declaring uncomfortable prophecy.

Rescue From Balaam

Thankfully, the Lord is working in our hearts to boot out our Balaams.

The root cause of Balaam’s error is found in 2 Peter 2:15. There we see that Balaam was in love with shameful gain. It was his love for Balak’s life that caused him to want to change God’s Word.

The more we are enamored with Christ the less we’ll be prone to desire Balak’s shiny junk. And the more I believe that God is all I need, then the more I’ll affirm that His Word is sufficient.

If our hearts are satisfied in the Lord we won’t ask him a second time to change His Word. We’ll believe that He is enough and that He knows best. The converse is also true. The more dissatisfied I am with the Lord the more likely I’ll be to want to get Him to change His Word.

Let’s be the type of people that say with Balaam, “I’m not able to go beyond the word of the Lord”. But let us be people that say that because we are truly enthralled by the Lord.

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The Smell of Bible Breath

Posted by on Nov 17, 2014 in Bible, Featured

The Smell of Bible Breath

Editor’s Note:

The purpose of this series is to help Christians think through the doctrine of Scripture and provide practical guidance on not only how to read the Bible but to deal with objections and attacks on the Bible.

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Your Bible is alive. Look at it. It sits there — rumbling. Growling. Don’t be shy. Don’t stay behind the yellow line; get close to the roar of the supernatural pages.

It really is supernatural. Not in the Jumanji or Bride-of-Chucky genre — heavens no. The Word is most certainly alive, not like a puppy or houseplant; provide it moderate attention and you’ll derive pleasure from keeping it around. It doesn’t eat or drink, require walks, or rest—rather, itself is eat and drink, takes us on walks, and brings us rest.

It really is breathing.

The Bible’s Breath

Its breath is what makes us alive. We live off of the life of the word. I don’t normally do this, but here are some Greek words to show you the connection between these verses on how the Bible is the Word of life from God.

It is the Spirit [pneuma] who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words [logos] that I have spoken to you are spirit [pneuma] and life [zoe] (John 6:63).

Holding fast to the word [logos] of life [zoe] (Philippians 2:16).

For the word [logos] of God [theos] is living [zao] and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit [pneuma], of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

All Scripture is breathed out by God [theopneustos is a compound word for God and breath/spirit] and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living [zao] and abiding word [logos] of God (1 Peter 1:23) .

The Bible sits on our laps and breakfast tables — breathing life on us, like some never-ending oxygen tank for the soul. Breathe in. Deeply.

Effects of the Bible’s Breath

It’s alive but not like your kid sisters hamster or embarrassing goldfish. The Bible is alive with power. Mega-power. Your copy of the Bible may only weigh-in at a meager pound and a half, yet it’s raw force makes cat-5 hurricanes breakout in hives.

The Bible reverberates with the power of God (Romans 1:16, 1 Cor. 1:18, 1 Thess. 1:5). The words that created Neptune are from the same source as the words on the on the page — God.

No other book packs this kind of clean, organic, pure, sustainable, multi-generational power. From Adam and Abraham to you and me, the word of God keeps going, breathing, and making alive. Souls are made alive and saints are revived by the word of life. “Lazarus, come forth.” Remember that? (John 11:43). Raw resurrection power.

The Aroma

The Spirit flies behind every word in The Book, breathing on us, wafting the aroma of Christ, that we may live again — that maybe, just maybe, our groggy eyes will see the glory of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18).

Are you down? No vitality? Keep in the word of life. Keep trying to get run over by the power by the Spirit as you dart through the city blocks and paragraphs, alley-ways and allegories, skyscrapers and prophesies, and meander through the canon verse-by-verse. Keep traveling. It’s what sojourners do.

And before you know it, you’ll sound like Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Go On and Getcha Some

Get breathed on enough and something awesome — transformative — happens. We get Bible breath. Not that our words are God-breathed,rather we begin to breathe God’s words on to others — a mark of being filled with the Spirit, the pneuma of theos — the breath of God.

So go on and get you some Bible breath. It’s a fresh-maker.

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