I had the privilege of preaching on Genesis 31 (Jacob flees Laban to go back to Canaan) this morning. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Confront conflict in a God-honoring way by understanding its sources, not running from it, being sure that unresolved conflict will chase you down, and by being ready and willing because you are able.
Archive for June, 2013
In our day and time, truth (and even the concept of it) lies beaten and bloody in the street, while lies enjoy the applause and adulation of the masses.
Here are a few of those lies:
- I can be like God.
- I don’t need God.
- Science has disproved the existence of God.
- The church is outdated and unnecessary.
- The Bible is meaningless in our times.
- Jesus is irrelevant to modern life.
- Love is sex.
- Sex is love.
- “Safely” engaging in promiscuity, homosexuality, and adultery is no threat to my body, soul, or spirit.
- Maintaining virginity until marriage is unrealistic.
- Marital fidelity and commitment are outdated.
- Sex will make you happy.
- Material things will make you happy.
- Fame will make you happy.
- The world owes you a living.
- Your worth depends on your wealth, intelligence, skill, and/or physical attractiveness.
- Allowing yourself to be constantly entertained by depictions of human sinfulness is no threat to your spirit.
- You are better than others.
- You can get along fine by yourself.
- You can ignore life’s consequences and not suffer the consequences.
- Liberty means I’m free to do whatever I want.
The only antidote to these lies is the truth – plain and simple. Where do we find truth? In God’s Word (“Your word is truth” said Jesus to His Father in John 17:17). If you and I have any chance of avoiding these lies and clinging to the truth, we have to know the Bible and grow in it – there’s no other way.
I had the privilege this morning of preaching on Genesis 30:25-43 (Jacob deceives Laban). Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: We can be certain God will accomplish His purposes in and through us, even if it’s in spite of us.
At the end of the Lord’s Prayer (or the “disciple’s prayer” if you prefer to call it that), we find these words in some manuscripts: “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen (Matthew 6:13).” Even if these words aren’t found in the earliest Greek manuscripts of Matthew’s Gospel, they’re certainly theologically correct (read 1 Chronicles 29:11-13 if you have any doubts).
I’m not interested in the issues of textual criticism involving the end of Matthew 6:13, though. I’m interested in the words themselves. Jesus teaches us to pray and remember that the kingdom of God belongs to God; that power belongs to God; all the glory belongs to God; and all of these things are true forever – for all of eternity. He also teaches us that by saying “Amen,” we’re agreeing with what He just said.
This has tremendous implications for me:
- It’s His kingdom, not mine. He’s the King, I’m not. I’m a subject of God’s kingdom and not its ruler. I need to remember that.
- It’s His power, not mine. God’s power changes hearts, not my persuasiveness. God’s power gives life, not my activity. If anything is to happen in His kingdom, it’s because of His power, not my ability. I need to remember that.
- It’s His glory, not mine. God deserves to be put on display and made visible to the world, not me or my schemes, plans, and achievements. all praise and honor belongs to Him and Him alone. I need to remember that.
- All of these things are true forever. There will never be a time when it will not be His kingdom, power, and glory. I need to remember that.
- To these truths, I bow my knee and say, “So be it,” for His glory and my good. I need to remember that, too.
All of these things, Coram Deo (before the face of God), are His and not mine. May it be so.
This morning, I had the privilege of preaching on Genesis 29:31-30:24 (the account of Jacob’s children). Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Find your love and fulfillment in God alone through Jesus Christ.
As a new Christian (way back in 1980), I came across a Bible that had some red print in it, instead of simply black and white. I remember asking someone why and they said it was the words of Jesus that were printed in red. That’s a good idea, I thought, because it sets His words apart and honors Him. Not only that, but it makes them easier to find.
Over the years, though, my excitement over Bibles with red letters has dampened considerably. Why? What’s wrong a red-letter Bible? They’re misleading – that’s the basic idea.
Christopher Ash, in his book Hearing the Spirit: Knowing the Father through the Son, gives three reasons red-letter Bible aren’t helpful.
- The red words are not in the original language that Jesus spoke. Most likely, He spoke Aramaic, His native tongue. Mark 5:41; 14:36; and 15:34 are examples of the Lord speaking Aramaic. Within thirty years, His words and teachings were translated into Greek by the Gospel writers. Even if we read New Testament Greek, we’re one level away from the words Jesus actually spoke.
- There are no “speech marks” in Greek. In other words, there are no quotation marks. The translators, therefore, have added them in order to make the text easier to read (and, of course, to be faithful to the text). Most of the time, there isn’t a question as to where a quote begins or ends, but sometimes there is. A case in point is John 3:16-21, which are printed in red in most red-letter Bibles. But there are good reasons to believe the quote (of the Lord Jesus) ended in verse 15 and not in verse 21. Were those verses spoken by Jesus or written by John? We don’t know for sure.
- The Gospel writers paraphrase and summarize what Jesus said in some places. A good example of this can be found in Matthew 19:1-12 and Mark 10:1-12.
I’ll add another reason: The words of Jesus are not “more important” or “more inspired” than other parts of the Bible. Red-letter editions of the Bible, whether they intend it or not, help create a false impression among believers that the words of Jesus carry more weight than anything else in Scripture. Are the words of our Lord more important than Paul’s or Peter’s or James’s or Isaiah’s or David’s, or those of Moses? No they aren’t. “All Scripture is inspired by God” according to Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16. Jesus Himself was active in the process of inspiration, including His own words. In a sense, therefore, we could say that all of the Bible – both the Old and New Testaments – are the words of Jesus. This misunderstanding also leads to the false idea that if Jesus didn’t say anything about a specific subject (say homosexuality or abortion), then we can’t say anything about it, either (if we accept it, though, that’s OK, according to those who try to make this argument).
Red-letter Bibles aren’t evil, so don’t go out to the trash barrel and burn them. But they’re not helpful and could actually be harmful.