While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)
- Acts 17:16-21
“The temptation to forget the few spiritual essentials and to go wandering off after unimportant things is very strong, especially to Christians with a certain curious type of mind. Such people find the great majors of the faith of our fathers too tame for them. Their souls loathe that light bread; their appetites crave the gamy tang of fresh-killed meat. …
“Usually the game they bring down is something of which there is a biblical closed season. Some vague hint in the Scripture, some obscure verse about which the translators disagree, some marginal note for which there is not much scholarly authority: these are their favorite meat.”
- A. W. Tozer, The Next Chapter After the Last
The Scripture gives the idea that the Athenians chased whatever latest ‘idea’ that sounded good.
Why does the name ‘Jabez’ come to mind? Jabez is mentioned in three verses of 1 Chronicles. The first as a place name (2:55) and then in verses 4:9-10. Jabez said a prayer to increase his territory so that he and his family would be safe, and it happened. Thus, he owned enough property to be considered a place name two chapters before the story about the prayer. Bruce Wilkinson took these two verses and wrote a book about it – a lot of expansion, extrapolation, and interpretation. Other books followed. Key chains and coffee mugs followed that. People forgot the rest of the Scriptures and flocked to the throne of Jabez. They were saying, “The rest of the Bible is too complicated. I prefer to say one simple prayer and then get what I want – safety, security, and more stuff.”
I am not slamming Bruce Wilkinson. I have used a couple of his video series when I taught the Video College of Biblical Knowledge Sunday school class. His explanation of the vine and branches is excellent.
What I am saying is that people are like a moth that is attracted to an artificial light. You don’t see moths fly into out space to reach the sun. You see moths fly toward something that is not natural. You see moths fly toward something that cannot sustain them. With these bug zappers these days, you see moths fly to their deaths, and I claim that many people, most people, are human moths attracted to the latest fad message.
There have been entire denominations based on handling snakes. This is mentioned in Mark 16:18, but recent discoveries of ancient manuscripts show that Mark 16:9-20 are not in the earliest found manuscripts. If this is a shock to you, the NIV has started placing notes, blocking out verses under question – still there, but in italics and set apart. This concept may be what Tozer said about translators disagreeing.
NOTE: These verses in Mark 16 and the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8 are the two biggest areas of question. Removing these verses changes nothing regarding the character and person of Jesus Christ. Anything found in these verses of substance is found elsewhere. What is not found is the handling of snakes. Then again, a discovery may happen in the next five years that shows these verses in an earlier manuscript. But for now, we don’t know if a part of the early manuscript is lost or if a scribe added something later. The key is that there are early manuscripts that confirm almost all the New Testament. It is highly reliable, and it was reliably transcribed, with very minor excerpts that cannot be confirmed.
Back to wandering from Jesus’ message, like a human moth: Jesus said to take up your cross and follow Him. People think, “Well, the movies portray the cross as being hard. Hard things are icky. Give me an easier path.” The problem is that someone either takes advantage of their desire or what these pastors or theologians say is taken out of context.
For those who have been taken out of context, you are in good company. Jesus said that all your desires will be granted to you and more. Oh, no. He said something before that. He said something about our hearts being in tune with that of the Father, but Daddy wants me to have a good time, right?
Now someone can take my last sentence and build an entire religion around it, but that does not mean that you get what you want. Our Heavenly Father wants us to buy into His program, His will, and His plan. When we do that, the only desire of our heart will be the things, in a worldly sense, necessary to carry out that program, will, and plan. Otherwise, our desire is simply to be more like Jesus, who said something about not even having a place to rest His head.
Janis Joplin had it wrong. God is not going to buy you a Mercedes Benz because your friends have Porsches, and you must stay ahead of them. Okay, for the rhyme, you must make amends. But, you may need a working automobile to do what God needs you to do.
Who knows what the next hairbrained scheme will be hatched to lure you away from faithful service to God. It could be elaborate. It could be a simple statement.
But whatever you do, do not base a new religion on Matthew 27:5, “So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.”
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.