How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
Praise be to you, Lord;
teach me your decrees.
With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.
I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.
I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.
- Psalm 119:9-16
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
- Matthew 5:17-19
In the past, I have written about a “Mr. Know Everything” who wrote all about the Bible without including anything about the Bible in the book. I have written about a noted social scientist who treated Christianity in a different book as a social science and if we could just get rid of such things as faith, reading the Bible, and all the talk about those icky sins, we might become a sanctuary for the liberal minded. And I also wrote about going to a church for a used book sale and finding many used books, but also a secular bookstore within the church building.
Now for one of those books. I got the books that interested me, and the deal for the used books was a set price for a bag of books. I had carefully packed the bag and there was room for a couple of mildly interesting paperbacks or one good sized hardback book. Of the hardback books, there were two within reach: 1) a book about all the angels mentioned in Scripture. And 2) a book about how to encourage others in reading the Bible. I was leaning toward the latter, but the drawback was that the author was the pastor for an Ivy League school. The red flashing lights were blinking, but I got it anyway. What could be so bad if the goal was to encourage people to read the Bible?!
Wow! How wrong can I be! I will not give the name of the book nor mention the author. I would hate for anyone to be encouraged to buy it and see for themselves.
He starts off with some excellent quotable quotes, which I will not share. One talked about an old lady that said that reading the Scripture was like eavesdropping into a conversation in a foreign language. You might have rudimentary skills in that language, but as the conversation goes on, you find words you are not familiar with. You lose context, then you lose interest, and then you simply quit listening.
In another quote that will not be quoted, he wrote that the Bible is a living text, in that it has a literal face value, but then a spiritual meaning beyond the words used that could have different meaning as one grows in faith. He got that right.
Then two pages later, when the subject of race relations first appears, he mentions that the religion of the oppressor was Christianity. Ouch!! In context with what he was saying, I absorbed the blow, thinking he used a bad turn of phrase, but then it quickly dropped into the abyss, never to return. Strike that! This was within the first 25 pages of a nearly 400-page book, and for the last 100-150 pages I was simply skimming through trying to find a redeemable moment. I might have missed a morsel.
After he introduces the topic of “Hey, let’s give the Bible another try. You might learn something,” he then goes into a section of abuses of the Bible. You know, taking the Bible out of context, but … He talked about how the Bible was rigid and never changed while the world was changing at lightning speed. Odd, I think that is the best thing about the Bible, regardless of the new translations that come out to keep it current with “language,” the content and context never changes because God never changes. I see no “abuse” there.
He then returns to the subject of race, only to bring up slavery. He spells out how slavery is bad, and no one will disagree other than those who are profiting by slavery. Then he details how the Bible gives a very cogent argument in favor of slavery. Odd, he even mentions the book of Philemon in his argument against slavery, but he ignores it in his condemnation of the Bible. That is, the Bible that he is trying to get people to read. Maybe read and then do the opposite? Confusing, but I kept going, for a little bit further.
The next chapter was on anti-Semitism and how the Bible had been used to persecute Jews for 2,000 years. But his arguments that the Bible encourages anti-Semitism seemed to miss my brain. The Bible teaches us, Jesus specifically teaches us, to love one another and even to love one’s enemies, not that the Jews are enemies of mine. I have a few Jewish friends. I should love them even more than my enemies. The next chapter talked about how the Bible was misinterpreted to suppress women, but again, no concrete evidence that an intelligent study of the Bible could produce such a response.
Then, the pastor wrote about homosexuality. His conclusions about homosexuality, as I looked back and read forward, was his underlying argument throughout the book. He detailed how the Old Testament wrote about a hard line against sexual perversion was in the Bible to keep God’s chosen people pure. Thus, the Old Testament could be ignored, in total, due to the writers having an agenda, to keep people pure. Then, the only two people in the New Testament who spoke against homosexuality were Jesus and Paul. They also had an agenda to keep the new believers pure. We could then ignore anything said by Jesus and Paul.
That was the author’s agenda. We should read the Bible. Some of it is rather nice, but we should ignore it, especially those people like Jesus that say things we do not want to hear. PLEASE, do not believe that! He went on to do hatchet jobs on such things as suffering, Joy, temptation, etc. But it seemed that throughout the book his AGENDA was that the Bible had an agenda about keeping the believers in the Bible pure. Since living a pure life was impossible, just ignore all that. In other words, read the Bible, but ignore all that you read. If you learn anything, be sure to filter it through the Woke filter (although the author wrote the book before “woke” became a term) and if anything survives the filter, simply ignore it.
No, no, no, no no!!!!!
God’s Holy Word is Holy in that we are to try to achieve the impossible, the impossible without Jesus being in our hearts. We can achieve, at death, that purity, but we can come close in the meantime. And we can truly have Joy. We can truly resist temptation. There is nothing wrong with purity.
Our church’s new pastor came on board over a year ago, but due to COVID restrictions, his formal installation as our pastor was delayed until recently. In the constitutional questions that the pastor must answer, one is “Do you promise to further the peace, unity, and purity of the Church?” The pastor must say “I do.” This author probably was not part of the same denomination, so he may have never had to agree to that, but I think we should all strive in that direction. It does not state “I will achieve peace, unity, and purity.” He must strive to do what he can to get us there.
Why is purity impossible? There is a thing called our sin nature. We are prone to stray. When you get people like this author as members in your church, and you strongly believe that the Bible is the Word of God, either purity goes out the window or peace and unity go out the window.
All interpretations of what God meant will go out the window when we come face to face with God. But will that meeting be as Jesus judges us for what good we achieved on earth, or will we come face to face with God at the Great White Throne where God will not find our name in the Book of Life and He will proclaim, “Depart from me. I never knew you.”
In the Scriptures above, the psalmist gives a great exposition on why we need to read God’s Word. The second Scripture is from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus, with only the agenda to save our souls, says that not a jot or tittle must be changed. Sorry, that was the King James Version. The NIV says that you must not leave out the smallest letter (the jot) or the least stroke of a pen (the tittle). If you ignore Jesus due to His “agenda,” beware. His agenda may simply not be for you. But if you desire to be loved by a loving God, you must accept Jesus into your heart, trusting in Him and believing Him, and His agenda of saving your soul will be secure.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.