Top Seven[ish] Things People Think Are In The Bible (And They Totally Aren’t) [Except some totally are]

A friend shared an article on facebook the other day, and asked for feedback. These are my thoughts; they are probably not complete, but they get the job done. You may want to read the original article before diving into my response. I think two overarching things need to be clear about my response, so keep these in mind as you read:

  1. The author addresses an URGENT problem in our churches. There are so many platitudes floating around in our churches that we rarely stop to examine, many of which we have either spoken ourselves, or heard others speak. Maybe we’ve thought them to ourselves or watched/heard something and thought, “that makes sense.” MANY SUCH STATEMENTS AND CONCEPTS ARE BLATANTLY UNBIBLICAL. We need to be “wise as serpents” and “examine every teaching” to make sure that we are not being led astray by the evil one.
  2. I see this as pretty indicative of where faith in much of America stands. To be clear, I would not call the author a non-Christian, but several of the ideas put forward here are not biblical, as I hope you will see. KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN FOR FALSE TEACHING.

Without further ado, we press onward.

First, the premise:

The opening paragraph and the link in it reveal that this person is probably coming from a relatively liberal position toward Scripture. By that I mean, they probably don’t believe it to be the inerrant word of God, but rather “stories” (a word he uses), with morals, kind of like Aesop’s fables. To correct thisopening paragraph, the Bible IS the only written word of God. To challenge that would be to suggest that other “holy books” should be held with equal weight. No time for that in this discussion. Let’s just say that’s a cliff I’m not willing to dive off.

Onward…

Number 7: The Rapture. Not Biblical!

The Rapture, especially as portrayed by Jenkins and LaHaye in the “Left Behind” series, is not biblical. The article is right that it is a relatively recent view (dispensational pre-millennialism–look it up) of the end times. This view takes a couple of verses and elevates them over the larger body of apocalyptic biblical passages, but even more so, I feel like this view adds so many judgment events that it muddies the waters and fuels the “no one can understand it” fire. Regardless, on this point, many scholars disagree—even professors at the seminary I attend—and it is healthy not to break fellowship over something like this. A more healthy view of the end times is: “be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matthew 24:44, 25:1-13, 1 Thessalonians 5:2). Christians have been given passages about the judgment not so we can “crack the code” and have some special knowledge, but so that we will prepare ourselves today for the day Jesus comes again.

Number 6: God hates _________. Biblical!

I don’t know if the author is looking for a specific reference to homosexuality (i.e. Westboro Baptist Church) to fill in this blank. If so, that is a much longer discussion for a different day. Allow me to simply address the unpopular notion that God hates things. The Bible is clear that God hates certain things. He hates pagan worship rituals (Deut. 12:31), altars set up to other gods (Deut 16:22), and divorce (in some translations of Malachi 2:16). He hates sin and all who do wrong (psalm 5:5; Psalm 11:5; Lev 20:23), in Proverbs 6:16-19 there is a list of six things “God Hates.”

What’s more bothersome is that the article’s author tries to write off Scripture pretty flippantly by excusing anything that is “judgment, damnation” or Levitical codes…you know, the parts where you might expect to find the things God hates. It is dangerous to pick and choose portions from the Bible we like, because it leads to worshiping our preferences rather than God Himself.

The point here is that God is a holy God, perfect and blameless in every way and cannot be in the presence of sin. Therefore, we are all deserving of punishment, but out of his love for us, he gave us a way to restore relationship with him, namely, letting Jesus become our sin (2 Corinthians 5:17-21) so that there would be no more penalty for us.

NUMBER 5: Everything happens for a reason. Not Biblical!

I actually agree with this one. This can be a sensitive topic because this very line may have provided you comfort in a very rough time. But this is simply not in the Bible. Some things happen for a reason. When that is the case in the Bible, it says so. Also, when that does happen, there isn’t any “I think” language going on. When God speaks, he speaks clearly. God Speaks (Gen 3), Burns a Bush that doesn’t burn up (Ex 3) and then ten plagues (Ex 7-12), Wets a fleece, then wets the ground around the fleece (Judges 6), Sends unquenchable fire (1 Kings 18), Speaks through prophets (“This is what the Lord, The God of Israel Says”), sent his son, and then his spirit, struck men blind (Acts 9), healed the sick and maimed, etc. You get my drift. When God does something “for a reason,” he doesn’t “whisper.”

A better understanding is that there is an evil one. He wants to deceive and discourage those who live in the Truth, and he is “the prince of this world.” Since sin entered the world, it is broken and “subjected to futility” (Romans 8:20). That is why there are natural disasters, broken relationships and pain all around us. However, God works all things (even the bad things that he didn’t cause), for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. . . to be conformed to the likeness of his son.” (Romans 8:28-29). Stuff happens, even things God allows to happen, but they are opportunities for us to trust in him for our peace, which brings me to…

NUMBER 4: God Is In Control. Biblical!

I can kind of get on board with this one not “being in the Bible,” except not really. God is never out of control. HOWEVER, he is not a puppet master, pulling strings. God has two major ways of expressing his will: prescriptive and permissive. Prescriptive will are the things he causes to happen (miracles, creation, the incarnation of Jesus, etc). But other things he Permits to happen. He allows us free will to live our lives because without the freedom to choose, a relationship with him would be meaningless. Anyone who has ever loved someone understands this. Love cannot be compulsory. As a result, God lets things happen and has given us as much evidence as he saw appropriate to point every human back to him (Romans 1-3).

The problem I have with this one is the idea that God was “bested” at the cross. Jesus’ prayers in the garden (for starters) and his many predictions to his disciples of what was to come are are evidence that this was the plan. Not to mention Psalm 22, Isaiah 9, Isaiah 53 just to name a few significant places where Jesus’ life, teaching, death by crucifixion and resurrection is prophesied several centuries before any of it happened.

Yes God’s “will” can be changed, if he wills. He did not set us in action and then sit back to watch the pins fall, but he is active in our lives. The author really tips his hand here to call the Bible a “Story,” because the word implies fiction, which the Bible is not. But that’s probably something we could discuss more in a separate post.

NUMBER 3: “Jesus is my personal savior.” Not Biblical [but let me explain].

I have trouble with this one. To be fair to the author, there is no “magic prayer,” as many, many, many pastors and churches have led Christians to believe. I think that is at the heart of the author’s point. “Accept the Lord into your heart” and “Accept him as your personal savior” are not in Scripture. But Jesus doesn’t just say, “follow the leader,” either. The gospel call is to give our undying allegiance to Jesus as not just our savior but Lord and King. That means he gets priority over everything—literally everything (Luke 14:26)—else. That allegiance is not a decision parents can make for their children. Everyone has to personally choose to die to themselves and follow Jesus. The point he makes here is a good one, though. “Come forward, say a prayer, and be saved forever, whether you ever think about this night again or not” is a seriously anemic message that probably causes more problems than it solves.

On a more theological level, I have become increasingly aware of the corporate nature of the Gospel. Not that individuals are not saved, but the fact that Christ died for the Church (his bride), and many of the verses quoted and claimed for personal peace of mind are not, in fact aimed at a person but a population (Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you” is a plural you. Better to read it, “I know the plans I have for y’all.” Or John 3:16, “God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that those who believe…” Not to take away personal salvation, but the individualism that the author hits on here is a legitimate concern. Worship is not “Just me and God,” but Jesus and his Church, of which we are all members. God didn’t send Jesus to die for ME and MY sins, he sent him to die for the CHURCH and the sins of the WHOLE WORLD.

But I digress.

NUMBER 2: Jesus died for my sins. BIBLICAL!

No, No, No. This is heresy, and I don’t throw that term around lightly. If there is one item on this list that is “a hill I will die on,” this is it. To say this questions the very bedrock upon which Christianity is founded, and it will lead those who believe it away from Christ.  If he wanted to emphasize “MY,” see the discussion on number 3 about the corporate nature of Jesus’ redemption. But it doesn’t seem this is his point. His argument seems to be that the very idea of Jesus dying to take the penalty for sins is not in the Bible.

Here he goes again, taking the verses that say specifically what he says IS NOT in the Bible, and says we can’t use them to say that it IS in the Bible. This is absurd. Jesus is our atonement (Romans 3:25; 1 Cor 15:1-4), but I don’t need those verses to say that. Look at Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2, or 1 John 4:10. What’s really fascinating is to read the account of the passover (Exodus 12, Leviticus 16) and then consider the ways that Christ is called the “Passover Lamb” (1 Corinthians 5:7), the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29), and is portrayed as a lamb through much of Revelation. Also reading Hebrews will help to understand why Christ is the only sacrifice that could cancel the debt in our sins.

Questioning the atonement, which he puts off to another post but makes clear he disagrees with it, is in vogue right now. One author called it “Cosmic Child Abuse.” The more I study the more convinced I am that the Penal (punitive in nature), substitutionary (he died in our place) atonement is the only view that makes sense of the cross. Arguments that Jesus died to set an example are weak, and fail to recognize that he could have more effectively accomplished that purpose without dying and living on instead. This is a complex issue that deserves more space than I can give it in this post, but the crucifixion (specifically) makes no sense without the context of penalty for sin. The cross had to happen so that the wrath of God, his perfect holiness, could be satisfied, while providing a way for his perfect love for his creation to be satisfied as well.

And finally:

NUMBER 1: God only helps those who help themselves. Not Biblical!

This one is spot on. He hits the nail on the head. The gospel is about coming to God in humility and brokenness. Not—as one of the elders at one church where I have served proposed—about us living our lives without “bothering” God and turning to him when we get stuck. That would make God some kind of Genie, or lucky rabbit’s foot or something.

In summary, he’s a little better than 50% right, with four of his 7 (1, 3, 5 and 7) are not in the Bible, at least not explicitly, and the author should be credited on this account.

But 2, 4 and 6 are in the Bible—explicitly—and at least 2 and 4 are central to the Gospel. Take those away and your idea of Christianity become paper-thin, relativistic moralism.

I hope this helps. My point in posting this is to challenge you: when you hear Christian teaching, do you accept it as spoken, if it “hits you right,” or “seems to make sense?” OR do you saturate your life in the Word of God so that you are able to refute those who oppose true teaching (Titus 1:9). To close, I will leave the following thought from Paul to Timothy:

“If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to Godly Teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing

My prayer is that we won’t be seduced.

God Bless.

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Addicted – Day 2

[This is day 2 in a post about me kicking caffeine to the curb. Read the journey from the beginning.]

Today was MILES better than yesterday

But it was still pretty rough.

Today I was a substitute teacher in a gym class and it served as a great reminder that when we depend on the things that naturally create energy (such as exercise, in this case), it has a tendency to snowball in a cascade of positive effects.

Sure I had some headaches today, but they were not as bad and I didn’t notice them nearly as much.

That being said, I was a grouch today.

Paul said to the Church at Corinth, “I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)

When the Bible talks about fasting, the moral of the story is this: it is a good practice in learning to resist the desires your body has. It teaches you to say no to one of your most natural instincts (food), so that you can more easily say no to the things you desire that you are smart enough to know aren’t good for you. Dependence on Jesus for that resolve strengthens your faith in him in the tougher times.

Fasting is about “making your body your slave” instead of being enslaved to the desires of your body.

What’s more, it’s about finding JOY in that process.

The joy is where I struggled today.

Grateful for another opportunity tomorrow!

Caffeine Journal

  • Day: 2
  • Intake: 1 Cup of tea in the morning and one in the afternoon (roughly 100mg total)
  • Symptoms: VERY tired, and later in the day, headaches
  • Weakness: That 2:30 feeling
  • In A Word: (ok, in a phrase) Just Keep Swimming.

Photo Credit: Martin Gommel via Compfight cc

The truth always comes out.

Lance Armstrong finally comes clean about doping to Oprah after years of defending his innocence in the public eye

For seven years, Lance Armstrong was an American icon. A cancer survivor, seven (!) consecutive Tour de France titles, a foundation that became iconic and gave hope to cancer survivors all over. He was the embodiment of American resolve.

But then the accusations started. Slowly, at first, stories of Lance’s doping and using Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED’s) started emerging and then began to gain steam. Teammates, friends, trainers and the like started leaking that this man rose to the top by dishonest means.

Years of testimonies, years of interviews and headlines, years of denials have brought us to this point, where Armstrong finally admitted to his doping to Oprah on Monday (according to the Associated Press). Finally, the drama, the suspicion and speculation have come to an end. We will see Thursday night the extent to which Armstrong comes clean, but one lesson is sitting in the rubble of all of this, begging to be learned by people everywhere:

Cover-ups always hurt worse than confession.

The first accusations of doping came toward the end of Armstrong’s 7-year run atop the Tour de France. Imagine the change in headlines if that happened. He would have been ousted from his titles, but the media firestorm that has persisted the last 7-8 years would have been avoided, the court trials, the lawsuits, the denials. To say, “this sport is running rampant with PED’s and I am sorry to say I fell to that very prevalent temptation.” Would have certainly been big news, but it would have ended there. Perhaps Armstrong could have become the poster boy for cleaning up cycling and helping the USADA perfect their testing methods (the same ones which Armstrong duped over 600 times). The situation would have been painful, but certainly much more easily redeemable than it ended up being.

Now Armstong has had a hard fall from grace, being stripped of his seven titles by the USADA, losing almost all of his sponsors, being ousted from his own LIVESTRONG foundation. Most importantly, dozens and dozens of relationships have been broken. This is the reality of dishonesty.

That very first denial starts an avalanche. It starts us down a path of self-preservation at all costs. With each cascading lie, what could have been a simple lapse of judgment became a growing act of deceit for the sake of reputation. The denials had to get louder and stronger. People were taken to court, threatened and cast aside if they even suggested that Lance had ever seen doping in cycling. Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports chronicles just a few of the more deplorable intimidation tactics Armstrong and his team used to keep the truth from emerging.

This is a truth that we all tell our kids and those young people over whom we have influence, but to have this boldness in our own lives — to face consequences because it is the right thing — is much harder than it sounds. We all want to point at Armstrong and say, “I would have done the right thing. I would have told the truth.” But the fact of the matter is, most of us are under much less pressure than Armstrong was, and even still honesty is hard to maintain. 

Every day, there are folks that want to live a moral life but have fallen to temptation, only to deny allegations and make things appear on the surface as if everything is OK. People steal money from their jobs, are unfaithful in marriages, cheat on tests, falsify tax information, or just lie to a friend about why they don’t want to hang out. We are all dishonest in some regard, and lies almost always start with a “the truth would hurt too much mentality.” But by dragging out our cover-up schemes, we end up hurting people more than we would have originally.

The truth might have hurt. But now there’s the truth and the reality of all the broken relationships and broken trust. Notice the truth still came out.

Solomon said it this way, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” (Proverbs 11:3) It is so much easier to live a life guided by integrity than under the oppression of duplicity. My hope and prayer is that we would learn from this and boldly live in repentance and confession with one another, that we would humble ourselves and live by integrity.

What do you think about Lance Armstrong and his Confession?