What saith the word?
As Christians trying to abide by the will of Christ (Col 3:16-17) we realize the importance of studying the scriptures so that we know what to believe and do (2 Tim 2:15). Unfortunately, today many people are teaching and practicing things contrary to the scriptures, but give verses to support their doctrines. Many state it is a difference in interpretation, but many times they are not rightly dividing the word of truth. Many of these problems are related to keeping verses in context. We have to remember as we read the scriptures today, that these scriptures were written to a different group of people who lived in a different time. Some passages are directed specifically to the Apostles, others to Christians in General, and others to non-believers. This does not mean that these scriptures are not applicable to us today. However, we must first understand God’s inspired message to them so that we can apply it to us today in a relevant way.
One cannot just take any scripture and use it to support their ideas. For example, one cannot take John 3:16 (KJV) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” and make this a support verse to include any person with a mental belief of Jesus. There are many people who think Jesus lived but was not the Messiah, and clearly this verse does not teach universal salvation.
The scriptures impose boundaries upon themselves just like we do in our language today. The authors of the New Testament make it abundantly clear that the Law of Moses and the old covenant are not bound upon believers in the new covenant (cf. Ephesians 2:11-18; Colossians 2:16-19; Hebrews 7-9). Yet, the Old Testament passages can be quoted to reinforce New Testament teachings, but it would be wrong for someone to impose animal sacrifice upon a New Testament Christian. Therefore, the importance of understanding scriptures as applied to us today is context. Clearly, God’s message was meant for both those living when it was written and for us today, but context shows us how to apply it in a time with different customs and manner of life.
Another example of this is when Paul was speaking to those in the first century who had received spiritual gifts from the apostles. There are no apostles today to give gifts as demonstrated in Acts 8:17. It would be incorrect to think that we have access to the same gifts (I Corinthians 13:10, James 1:25). When that which was perfect (complete) was come the gifts were done away with. The “perfect” or “complete” thing he was talking about is the “perfect law of Liberty” which is also called the New Testament. There was the written word to guide us, and thus there was no need for the miracles which produced faith in the messenger.
People have been speculating about the message of Revelation for their own day for the past nineteen centuries; and for nineteen centuries many have been wrong. Revelation was written directly to the Christian audience at the end of the first century and must be understood in that perspective. However, the lessons can be applied to us today. Any interpretation of Revelation that does not respect the original audience is not a Biblical interpretation! We must work diligently to not just read and quote Scripture but to do so in a proper and right way, which is keeping it in context!
What A Name Says!
The name Christian brings honor and glory to Christ and shows that one is a follower of Him and His word. Why are followers of Christ called Christians, and from where did this name come? Seven hundred years before it was given, God promised He would one day call His people by another name (Isaiah 65:15). This new name was to be given by the Lord Himself (Isaiah 62:2). Additionally, Isaiah 62:2 shows that this new name was to be given by the Lord after "the Gentiles shall see your righteousness". By Acts chapter 10 the gospel had been taught to both Jew and Gentile and the church was composed of both. Then we read in Acts 11:26, "And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." The name "Christian" was the new name the Lord gave after the Gentiles were included in His church as was prophesied. This is the worthy name by which we glorify God and Christ. Even king Agrippa recognized this. Acts 26:28 (KJV) Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. This was not a name, which Christians assumed for themselves, nor was it given in derision by enemies of Christ.
God’s word says, "Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter" (1 Peter 4:16). We glorify God when we wear the name Christian. Why should anyone wear a name that does not glorify God and meet His approval? Why would anyone, who "claims" to be a follower of Christ, want to give glory and honor to Luther, John the Baptist, Rome, Nazareth, catholic which means universal, and the list goes on and on. Why can’t we give glory and honor to God and Christ where the honor belongs? Even by their names they do not claim to belong to the Lord. Many want to wear their denominational names by calling themselves by other names rather than only a Christian. They seem to be ashamed of the name Christian or at the very least involved in division. Jesus says, Mark 8:38 (KJV) Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. We must never be ashamed of being a Christian. It is an honor to wear the name. According to the New Testament, not everyone who is referred to as a Christian is a Christian. One is not a Christian because he believes Jesus Christ is the Son of God because the Bible says, "Even the devils believe and tremble" (James 2:19). The name Christian is used loosely today which brings shame and reproach on the Lord and His name because many want to do things their way and not the Lord’s. By this they, "blaspheme that noble name by which you are called" (James 2:7). The many differing denominations do not exist by the authority of the Lord, and their existence is contrary to the doctrine of Christ by wearing their different religious names (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). We should simply be a Christian, a member of the Lord’s one true church as revealed in the New Testament. We must speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent. We must call things by Bible names and do things in Bible ways, if we expect to go to Heaven
The Bible has much to say about our influence through speech upon others. The passage that comes to my mind immediately is Ephesians 4:29 (KJV) “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers”. From this passage we learn that “corrupt” speech is not to be spoken by the Christian. There are three ways in which we can use speech in a corrupt way. First of all we can utter a curse upon something. This is basically what Jesus condemns in Matthew 5:22 (KJV) “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire”. To curse another person or even to curse God’s creation is a sin against God. God made the earth and people as a blessing. We ought to respect God’s blessing and not curse it. The second way in which we can corrupt speech is by using God’s name in vain. God told the Israelites in Exodus 20:7 (KJV) Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. This principle is still true today. God does not want us to refer to Him in a vain or empty way. He is God, and deserves our constant and complete respect and reverence. To use His name in an empty way is to not give God the respect that God deserves. The third way in which we can corrupt speech is by taking something that God has made holy and making it common. The intimate (sexual) relationship is one such example. God made that relationship to be holy, that is, set apart between a husband and wife. If we speak concerning that relationship or act as if it is just another common activity then we denigrate it. Yet today, television shows mock this relationship and many speak of such matters in a flippant and joking way. This is completely inappropriate and should not be named among the people of God. Ephesians 5:3-4 (KJV) 3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.”
So where do euphemisms fall into these three categories? When we are unsure of the meaning of words, the best place to go is to the dictionary. When I looked up “gosh” it said that it was a euphemism for God. When I looked up “golly” it said the same thing. The word “heck” is a euphemism for “hell.” The words “darn” and “dang” are euphemisms for the word “damn.” Often on social media, I see Christians write “O.M.G”. This is simply a euphemism for “Oh My God.” And is just as inappropriate as using God’s name in vain. The word euphemism means the following: “the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant.” Basically, a euphemism is using a word that doesn’t sound as bad as the one that most consider offensive, but the meaning of the word is the same. So there is no change in meaning when we use a euphemism. Therefore, dang and darn mean “damn”, heck means “hell”, and shoot means …. Well, you know.
Temptations are things that people face on a daily basis. It is not always something as bad a pornography, adultery, or murder. A temptation is anything which challenges our character as a Christian. This could be something as simple as skipping service, dressing immodesty, or telling a “white lie” to save someone’s feelings. Overcoming these temptations is a task that we will face for the rest of our lives.
Does James advice seem contradictory or unusual? James 1:2 (KJV) My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Christians are not to think of trials or temptations as a punishment or a trap in our lives. These trials are not “placed” in front of us to make us fall, but are rather tests or trials which simply come about because of life. These trials will come but Paul tells us how to deal with them. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (KJV) There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. We are able to overcome any temptation, but the best method is to look for the route of escape. Sometimes escape is not possible and we simply have to endure the trial, other times we are given the option to not indulge in or take part in an activity which we now is wrong. Often, the best method of escape is to not participate. Jesus Himself told us how to prepare for these trials. Mark 14:38 (KJV) Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.
Now for the important part of dealing with temptations. Face it, we are humans and we make mistakes and give in to our temptations. The important thing is our mindset regarding the temptation and how we deal with it in the future. When we fall into temptations and fail, we have an avenue to become righteous again. 1 John 1:9 (KJV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We then have to figure out how to deal with the trial in the future and this brings us back to Mark 14:38. We must watch for this temptation again in the future in order that we can avoid it from causing us to fall again. Our eyes set on purity and righteousness, coupled with prayer regarding the matter, are our best defense in avoiding and overcoming temptation.
When we become Christians we are to transform our lives. Some immediately begin to grow, while others remain stagnant in their faith. Paul instructs us in Romans 12:2 (KJV) And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Based on Paul’s words, lets look at three ways we can be transformed.
1. We must prepare our hearts
Preparing our hearts is one of the most important steps to become spiritually mature. If we don’t desire the right mindset to do Gods will, we may eventually fall away from God. It takes dedication and commitment to learn more about God and do his will. Jesus taught the same concept during his ministry. Luke 10:27 (KJV) And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. If we do not fully prepare our heart to serve God we will find it very difficult to remain faithful. Motivation and desire is the key to success in every area of life.
2. We are to do everything with heaven as our ultimate goal.
Matthew 6:19-21 (KJV) Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Jesus was letting the people know that monetary gain should not be our focus in life, rather we are to make heaven our goal and our treasure. If our goal is to get to heaven, and we have prepared our hearts, half the battle is won.
3. We must be doers of the Word.
Its not enough to be motivated, or to desire the reward of heaven. It is also not enough to know the word of God. We must also obey what we have learned as a response to the preparation of our heart and the desire for our heavenly reward. I believe James put it best: James 1:21-25 (KJV) Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
Simply put, Christianity is based upon a heart that desires to do right in hopes of a reward of heaven. This desire is demonstrated by the faithful Christian in knowing God’s will, and then living according to God’s word in every aspect of their life.