Saturday, April 20, 2013

Root of Bitterness? It's not what you think

I learned something new this morning. Not new in the sense that I’d never thought about the idea before. No, new in the sense that what I had always believed about a verse in the Bible was wrong and now I believe I see it in a correct light. (I almost said I have a new perspective but I’m afraid of the “terminology nazis.”)

Here’s the verse Hebrews 12:15. I’ll quote it in the KJV because I have a feeling that translation is what prompted the misunderstanding: “lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you.” You’ll notice that the word “you” is in italics. That’s because it’s not in the original but has been added by the translators. Usually this is done to help in understanding and, understood rightly, it would do so here. But I think the problem arose with much impetus from a well-known Bible teacher in the 70’s and 80’s who took this phrase from v. 15 and made it a primary teaching that Christians should not develop a root of bitterness in themselves.

Let me say it clearly. This is what I now see correctly: Hebrews 12:15 is not addressing the issue of bitterness in a person’s heart. But let me be quick to add that the Bible does address this issue. It does warn us not to be bitter (Ephesians 4:31). The teaching is clear. If there is any bitterness in our hearts must be put away. So the idea of Christians resisting bitterness is not what I am resisting from this verse today.

Based on my reading from Deuteronomy 29:18-19 I now see the basis for that verse, the whole verse in Hebrews 12:15. The clear teaching in Deuteronomy is for the people, as a whole, to beware of anyone (or even a whole tribe) who pridefully thinks because he is a part of the covenant people he can live any way he wishes. The equivalent today would be someone saying I’m saved and “once saved always saved” so it doesn’t matter how I live. For OT Israel this person or persons will be dangerous like a horrible infection that can spread throughout the people.

When one reads all of Hebrews 12:15 one sees that’s exactly what it is warning the church against. It is in essence quoting the Deuteronomy passage. Let me quote the whole verse: “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” This is a warning to the church to watch out for those who “profess” salvation but show by their lives that they do not really “possess” it for they “fail to obtain the grace of God.” Now they think they can live like the devil and still be assured of “fire insurance.” The writer of Hebrews says as Moses suggested that “by it many become defiled.” In other words, the root of bitterness is not something within an individual Christian. Rather, it is a root in the midst of the whole church, a cancer that might spread to others.

What do we do about it. We lovingly admonish those among us to let their lives demonstrate their having been born again. Let the root of Christ-likeness show forth from the way we live. We must be willing to call one another to holy living.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Preachers, Don't Go Vegan!

You’ve seen it haven’t you? It’s become one of my favorite commercials. Two antelopes standing in the dark night with night vision goggles. They easily see the Lion “Carl” approaching and let him know it. One says, “Come on, Carl, you’re better than this.” They mock him unmercifully. Then one delivers the line, “Have you ever thought of going vegan, Carl?”

There it is. When what you’re trying doesn’t work, Carl, go vegan. I fear too many pastors have taken the vegan route. They think that the old meat/solid food route won’t work anymore so they have taken the vegan route and removed the meat of God’s Word from their sermons. Their sermons become little more than sometimes skillful ramblings of the preachers personal opinions: what he thinks we ought to do; what he likes about Jesus; or even what parts of the Bible he likes the most.

Don’t do it, brothers! Don’t go vegan! Preach the meat of the Word of God. Study to show yourself approved. Rightly explain it. Give folks the true Word that will build them up in their faith.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Corporate Worship from Psalm 27:4

This morning Psalm 27:4 caught my attention, honestly, more from a questioning stance than a conclusion stance. There’s something here that is far greater than my comprehension. David’s desire is to “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” What could he possibly mean by that? He was not a priest and was not allowed to go into the Tabernacle to “live.” So this “dwelling” must be figurative in a sense.

Let’s fast-forward to our New Testament context and apply it there. The “house of the Lord” or “his temple” today is the Church, the Body of Christ. Of course, we’re not talking of the physical building we often call a church, but the community of people who make up the Church. I think we can benefit from David’s desire by seeing it in a context of gathering for worship with the Church.

David’s desire is 3-fold: to be there; to “see” the Lord; and to “inquire” (seek) there. For you and me this is a strong encouragement toward a right view of worship. First, we ought to desire to worship with other believers. Sadly, this is not the case for many. Many see “going to church” as a grind, not a gift; as a duty, not a delight. Ask God to change your heart if this is true of you.

Second, too often we go to church to see or be seen by other humans. Granted, one of the key aspects of gathering as a church is fellowship with other believers, but that should not be our primary focus. Our primary focus should be worship, “to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.” Ask the Lord to give you the desire and ability to truly focus on Him when you gather with the Church.

Third, as Charles Spurgeon has said, it is not only lost people who ought to be “enquirers.” Saints should inquire also. The word is the same root as “seek.” We ought to come with an inquiring heart to learn from the Lord through the experience of worship, especially the preaching of the Word.

Gathered worship is designed by God for His people to be one of the greatest means of grace in their lives for the building up of the Body of Christ, individually and corporately. Like David we should "seek after" it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Caution to the Women of My Church

From time to time I become aware of books that are becoming very popular or about to be released that will likely become popular among women. Some of these books I readily and heartily recommend like anything by Nancy Leigh Demoss or Elizabeth Elliott, , and many others.

But at other times there are books that are potentially dangerous for the subtle and not so subtle undermining of biblical truth found in them. One such book is   A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband "Master" (Thomas Nelson; October 30, 2012).

The best way to warn about this book is to let you read a review by Trillia Newbell:

Another book that I would caution about is One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Again the best way to warn is to post a review by Tim Challies:

Finally, I heard not so long ago about a church women's book club reading 50 Shades of Gray together. To say that I was shocked is the understatement of the year. I first learned of this book (actually a series) when one of my daughters asked me if I had heard about it. Since I had not, I went online to find out. The first review I read was by a woman (not a Christian) who absolutely loved the book. From her positive review it became evident to me that the book is nothing less than pornography (in fact it's often advertised as "mommy porn"). How a church group could read this is simply beyond me.

Dear sisters, there are so many edifying and entertaining books out there that uphold God's Word. Please don't let yourself get sucked into those that aren't. 

And MEN, if you are reading, be godly husbands. Protect your wives by giving them godly counsel.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

July 4th "God-works"

July 4th fireworks in Beaumont, CA, are really something. We have a fantastic show for a small town; probably as good as any anywhere. Last night, having been told by the previous owners that the view was good from our backyard, we settled in for the spectacular. Little did we know....

As usual, the fireworks were amazing! But a few minutes into the show everything changed. First, we noticed a small sliver of light in the sky directly behind and above where the fireworks were bursting in the air. One thought it was a fire on the mountain. Another asked if there were a blimp or something hovering. But we watched intently and then we realized: a gorgeous full moon was rising from behind 11,000 foot Mt. San Jacinto, directly in line with the fireworks show.

Honestly, it's one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. God's giant, blazing yellow ball dwarfed the fireworks. We simply watched in speechless (almost) awe. How true the Scripture is:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
(Psalm 8:3 ESV)

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
(Psalm 19:1 ESV)

It was as if God Himself peeked over the mountain and said: "Let Me really show you something!"  You go, God! Glory!