The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.
- Deuteronomy 7:7-9
I love those who love me,
and those who seek me find me.
- Proverbs 8:17
You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
- 2 Timothy 3:10-17
“From this perspective the whole reading of the Holy Scriptures in worship services becomes every day more meaningful and more beneficial. What we call our life, our troubles, and our guilt is by no means the whole of reality; our life, our need, our guilt, and our deliverance are there in the Scriptures. Because it pleased God to act for us there, it is only there that we will be helped. Only in the Holy Scriptures do we get to know our own story. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God and Father of Jesus Christ and our God.
“We must once again get to know the Scriptures as the reformers and our forebears knew them. We must not shy away from the work and the time required for this task. We must become acquainted with the Scriptures first and foremost for the sake of our salvation. But, besides this, there are enough weighty reasons to make this challenge absolutely urgent for us. For example, how are we ever to gain certainty and conﬁdence in our personal deeds and church activity if we do not stand on solid biblical ground? It is not our heart that determines our course, but God’s Word. But who in this day has any proper awareness of the need for evidence from Scripture? How often do we hear innumerable arguments ‘from life’ and ‘from experience’ to justify the most crucial decisions? Yet the evidence of Scripture is excluded even though it would perhaps point in exactly the opposite direction. It is not surprising, of course, that those who attempt to discredit the evidence of Scripture are the people who themselves do not seriously read, know, or make a thorough study of the Scriptures. But those who are not willing to learn how to deal with the Scriptures for themselves are not Protestant Christians [evangelischer Christen].”
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
Bonhoeffer continued from last week’s quotation with a powerful message regarding our relationship with God’s Holy Word. We need to read the Scriptures. In reading, studying, applying, and, yes, living the Bible, we will know God. We must have that 100% commitment to Jesus, trusting and believing that God is active within us, and then the Holy Spirit will open our minds to great wonders and understanding. I know from my experience that the understanding did not come until my reservations, my holding back a portion, as did Ananias and Sapphira. Once I surrendered unconditionally, God opened my mind immediately. I started reading the same Scripture I had read since I could read, and had read to me before then, and new and exciting understanding burst forth from God’s Word. But you must read it, or listen to it, for that to happen.
The fallen world around us tries to trick us into thinking that left is right and up is down. It has been Satan’s trick since the Garden of Eden. The frustrating thing today is, that with the internet being our source of information, the meaning of words can change in a flash. Someone with their hands on the dictionary can change something instantly, where it used to take committees meeting once a year and deciding what words should be added, what words were no longer used, and what words have changed in meaning based on the ever-evolving vernacular. They still have those meetings for the more stable dictionaries.
There used to be that once each year that we had to make adjustments, and many adjustments were rejected in the committee as being deemed insignificant, just a localized fad. Now, it is instantaneous, and it seems to have a purpose behind it, to keep people uncomfortable, to allow offense to be taken when no offense was meant. If for no other reason, they are offended that you cannot keep up with the constant changes. This discomfort and confusion are the devil’s playground.
And why bring up massive definition changes? The Bible does not change, at least not that fast. Adjustments are made to some translations due to word usage changes, those once each year dictionary committees, if those changes are applicable. And even though statements like “God is Love” may remain understood and universal, subtle word definitions can start making the Bible say something it was never meant to say, even if the meaning is only changed from something concrete to something murky and confusing.
Then you add to this issue of definition that many denominations wish to stay up with the changing times, ignoring some sins as inconvenient bumps in the road instead of a “Thou shall not.” Or even worse, to celebrate the sin. I think it was in a recent David Robertson podcast (Quantum) where he quoted some theologian that stated that our usual routine was to obey God’s law, then dabble in disobedience, then ignore it, then be entertained by it, then celebrate it. I probably butchered the ‘quote’ enough for this to me my original, but I was not taking notes at the time when I listened to the podcast.
But where are we today? We are in the entertainment and celebration stage for many things that are in the Bible as “Thou shall not.” Even the really naughty sins that we would never do become fodder for the television shows that we may watch.
You will hear people say, hopefully not from your pulpit, “Oh, that is too harsh. We need to soften our approach or people will leave the church. We need to be more inclusive.”
I believe in being inclusive regarding everything except for sin. Skin color does not bother me. Everyone has skin color. If you looked at my family, the photo above, you might not think we are related when you focus on the slight variations in skin color.
Ethnic backgrounds can add diversity that makes the worship of God even more rich. When our church has visitors from Malawi, we sing Malawi music and do the dances. Presbyterians do not dance otherwise, and we do Malawi dances poorly. Last week, our Sunday school class celebrated Sinterklaas, since it was 5 December. Everyone went home with a chocolate, found in wooden shoes, and some speculaas cookies (often made into the shape of a windmill). All because my wife came here to the USA from the Netherlands when she was about 8 years old.
But worship must be in Truth. That Truth can only be found in Scripture.
The Scripture is clear. The source of ambiguity and muddying of the water is Satan entering the hearts of mankind, just as the serpent tempted Eve. The muddiness is a function of how badly we are tempted rather than the words being ambiguous.
And as Bonhoeffer exhorts, our challenge to remain in the Truth is absolutely urgent for us.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.