Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Whole Counsel of God

Today is the second day in our 40th week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures today are:  Jer 14-16; 2 Cor 13; Psalm 76.

Lately, I've been reading a book by a well-known Christian author that questions one of the doctrines of the orthodox church.  The author is uncomfortable with the doctrine because in his mind it neither seems to fit the idea of a loving God nor does it fit into modern sensibilities.  He draws from a lot of various scriptures in order to prove his point, and I'll say that there are times when he makes his argument very well.  As I read, I find myself wanting to nod my head in agreement with him, because I'm not fond of that particular doctrine, either.  Yet, when I put the book down and walk away from it, I say, "Wait a minute--didn't he read the rest of the Bible?"  

You see, we want to believe the things that make us feel good. I mean, who would want to feel responsible, accountable, or repentant, when instead we can just feel good?  So when the traditional, orthodox teachings of Christianity have any elements that no longer make us feel good, we come up with creative arguments and new interpretations of scripture that fit with our new "enlightened" ideas.  This is what the author that I'm reading is doing.  And I pray for him.  And I pray for those who read him.  And I pray for myself and my own understanding, because I'd really like to agree with him...but if I'm going to be true to God's holy Word, I just can't.

It's important to know the truth from a lie, when you hear it.  There are people out there who will tell you just about anything to make you feel good.  They want to win you over to a kind of religion that believes that a loving God never judges anybody for anything.  Lying prophets are everywhere.

Jeremiah, the Weeping Prophet

The Weeping Prophet encountered such false teachers.  In Jeremiah 14:13-16 (ESV), he writes:

Then I said: “Ah, Lord God, behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’” And the Lord said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.  Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name although I did not send them, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not come upon this land’: By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed.  And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword, with none to bury them—them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their evil upon them. 

God was saying that while people would like to hear a message that said there would be peace and plenty, such a lying message is abominable when God has ordained violence and famine instead.  Such false prophets only preach such things in order to line their own pockets to prepare their own cupboards for the famine that they know is coming.  Or, perhaps they believe that a loving God would never allow warfare and famine to come upon the land, because that doesn't fit into their modern worldview.  As some would say, it just "doesn't preach."  So they come up with a kinder, gentler gospel.

An example of this (not the example of the author I was reading) is that some people would like to take all references to Jesus' blood out of the hymnal. "The blood," they say, "is offensive.  It turns people off.  It's too gory and repulsive.  It just isn't what draws people in these days.  Let's take the cross out of the Gospel and just make Communion into a banquet table, devoid of any reference to the Lord's broken body and poured out blood."  

But the Bible says, "The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God...we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23 NIV)."  2:14 also says, "The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit."

You can't water down the Word of God just because it doesn't fit your modern mindset.  You can't change it simply because it doesn't fit your view of who God is.  Christians need to change our view of who God is, in order to understand our Lord biblically.  Instead of making the Bible say what we'd like to believe, we need to believe what it says.  

In all fairness to this Christian author I've been reading, I can see how he could misconstrue some of the passages that he's using to make his point.  But he needs to read the rest of the Bible, not simply the scriptures that seem to support what he already believes.  In Acts 20:27 (NIV), the apostle Paul says, "I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God."  For us today, this means reading the Bible in light of the Bible, comparing one scripture with another so that if there seem to be inconsistencies, we study and pray until the light of God's truth shines true.

If you've been listening to some of the world's false prophets out there, compare what they're saying to what the Word of God says.  You've got to know the whole Bible in order to get the whole counsel.  That's why we're reading the Bible through this year.  And I hope you won't stop once we're done.  I hope you've developed a habit that will last a lifetime, so that you can be "a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15 NIV)."

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