Tag Archives: think

Great Reasons to Leave Church

I want the reason people leave our church to be:  It’s too hard.

The sermons make me think too much.

Those people think that prayer is the answer to everything!

They expect me to actually STUDY the Bible!

They make me think about others too much.

Those people are too interested in me and in my life.

Those people hold me too accountable.

Their standards are too rigid.

These should also be the reasons people join our church.

I am blessed to belong to a little church which meets this description well and I thank God often.

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Clouds Without Water

Beautiful poetry about something very ugly.

If you’re planning a day at the beach, clouds without water sounds like a good thing.  But this metaphor from Jude 1: 12-13 was spoken to herdsmen and farmers  in an ancient culture dependent on the understanding of weather. A cloud without water was not a scientific impossibility but a hopeless disappointment.

These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved…

Where have you read a more damning condemnation?

Hidden reefs can wreck a vessel along with its passengers. The threat is not seen until the danger is immanent.

Shepherds who feed only themselves. The job description for shepherds includes guarding the sheep round the clock, placing their bodies as barriers between the defenseless sheep and predators, leading the sheep to nutritious grazing and clean water.  The helpless sheep will perish without their shepherd. A shepherd is meant to put the needs of the flock before his own, their lives before his own.

Clouds without water, carried along by winds promise refreshment and life, but deliver nothing. They appear to be made of life-giving water, but they pass by leaving one parched and disappointed.

Dead, uprooted autumn trees without fruit.  At harvest season, these are threes with dead branches and no potential for fruit. There’s no chance of future growth–the trees have no root.

Wild waves casting up foam which is shame. Picture turmoil, tumult, forceful waves assaulting the shore, spewing poison, depositing on the sand regret and bitter shame.

Wandering stars in black darkness  Stars wandering aimlessly in the vast emptiness of space, futile and purposeless.

Such are those described who preach without truth.

Why would someone preach who has nothing to say? This is a wise question at the heart of discernment.

The clouds without water from the book of Jude were false teachers within the church who represented themselves as teachers of God’s truth and sources of God’s wisdom but they spoke their own falsehoods, sold their own foolishness, lead their listeners astray, then abandoned them.

They wanted a position of leadership but lacked any qualifications. Qualifications included belief in some truths, and the truths had to be the real ones. Firm convictions to base teaching upon; commitment to teach in the face of opposition, and willingness to suffer for their beliefs. A willingness to stand for The Truth, which they did not invent.

True leaders were possessors of a conviction that the standard of the truth was completely trustworthy. The author of that truth was a Person they knew, who had offered ample evidence that his truth is The Truth.

Though the teachers in Jude appear as guides to the lost, they only intend to help themselves. These teachers are dangerous; they will leave their students’ lives shipwrecked. These shepherds will lead their followers to a desolate place and abandon them. Like clouds without water, these teachers have no spiritual refreshment to offer. Their students will die of thirst.

They themselves are lifeless like dead branches; they are barren. How will their followers bear fruit? They are rootless with no foundation.

They are constantly pushing and spinning with activity, sound and fury, but to no purpose. They are not ashamed but their followers will be burdened with shame. The purpose of their aggressive work is self-aggrandizement so others are not helped. Their guidance leaves followers stranded in the empty darkness searching for home.

Today we have the same false teachers in any direction we look, who claim to speak with God’s voice.

But today there are also those who go about proselytizing for the faith of No Truth.  These preach without truth and sometimes express outrage because anyone claims to know.

We have more than one generation which has been unburdened with a concept of objective truth. They are not fighting for or against any truth; they have been taught that there is no truth.

Certainty is a trigger. Certainty  seems to produce outrage and incredulity. It is vain to suggest that we are all certain about something.  We are all certain of what we believe, or else we don’t believe it. No one believes nothing.

Without a certainty that some things are true, independent of subjective opinion, we always become the poor victims of those false teachers described in Jude. We live as those shipwrecked travelers or those lost sheep, exposed to predators and hunger…disappointed and parched, unable to gather or bear fruit…without good influence and unable to ourselves give hope…ashamed, wandering aimlessly, without purpose.

Beauty from Ashes?

Beauty from ashes. The hopeful thought that something good can emerge from trials, or that something ugly can be transformed into something beautiful.

The phrase belies itself. “Ashes” are kind of a pretty image. Picture a humble muted-green bowl on a homey wooden kitchen table neatly filled with a casual pile of gray ashes lit by the natural sunlight of a wooden window with garden flowers in bottles on the ledge which looks out on sprawling farmland.

We women have a tick, a habit, a default behavior. It is to turn every disagreeable thing into a pretty thing. We must make all ashes into beauty ASAP. Every ugly thing must be subjected to a makeover. If it’s beautiful we can live with it.

But ashes aren’t really ugly. There are much uglier and messier things than ashes. Everyday life presents us with the mundane forms of ugly: dirt, grime, disorder. Endless little urgent tasks which seem to add up to a pointless waste of time. Tending other people’s sicknesses. Tending other people’s felt needs til multitasking is an understatement. Futile wastes of our precious effort.

The woman who has suffered tragic loss knows that there are things that come into our lives without our permission which are irredeemably ugly. There is no reconciliation with the sudden death of someone you can’t live without. You cannot put a happy face over the long, slow suffering which ends relationship in death. As hard as we try, we cannot make it right.

But someone always tells us to try.

In book studies, ministry gatherings, and all sorts of supportive gatherings for our mutual womanhood, we are constantly asked to expose our pain, replay our disappointments and hurts for one another. I wonder about the wisdom of these exercises. But the next step is where it gets really puzzling.

Poetic language is used to pretty up the tragic. Generic but hokey prettiness papers over the truly ugly.  “Christ is transforming all….” we are told. We are clearly asked to live with the ugly by seeing something beautiful in it. Christ is changing ugliness into beauty? Scripture reference please?

Do we not realize that art can turn the evil into the picturesque? The snow-like ashes floating down from the smokestack of the concentration camp crematorium in the black-and white film. The twisted motorcycle on the ground and the shattered lens of the glasses. These images are symbols, substitutes for the horrible destruction because to see the real thing would make us gasp, shrink and scream.

But life is not art. We have to live with the real tragedy which nothing can redeem as beautiful. We have to look at the death, the cruelty, the crushing loss, usually without being able to comprehend the reasons. Some things are ugly and no mind game is going to change that. We must call ugly ugly, tragic tragic, and evil evil. We cannot confront them and resolve our attitude toward them if we fool ourselves about what they are.

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How does that prettifying advice sound to the Rwandan women who watched their neighbors go insane one day and pull out machetes to kill everyone in their neighborhood? To the victim of childhood abuse? To any woman in the third world whose life is eaten up simply getting enough food for her family to get through another day?

I’ll tell you how: silly, privileged. Even I don’t have time to sit and worry about whether things are pretty.

Alright, I’ll play. We’ll skip over the Scripture search and allow that Jesus can change something ugly (we won’t define what we mean by ugly here) into something beautiful (we won’t define that either). I’m sure He can. But maybe a better question would be: how does Christ change ugly into beautiful?

The question is asked: when did Christ see something as beautiful when everyone else saw a mess?  The answers are given: the woman at well, the woman about to be stoned. Everyone else saw an ugly sinner, but Jesus saw the real person and how valuable and beautiful she was. He affirmed her.

But that’s not what happened. He loved and valued her; that’s true. He loved her better than anyone ever had. He saw her infinitely intrinsic value, broken and marred. Her beauty flawed because of the choices she had embraced. It grieved him.

Then, because he loved her, He did the only loving thing. He saw her sin, and named it sin. In order for transformation to happen, the woman had to agree that she was ugly and sinful. She had to want to disown her sin. She had to humble herself under his judgment and accept His remedy. Then there could be forgiveness, reconciliation, transformation.  These women were told to leave their ugliness behind and sin no more. Then there was real beauty.

He did not dress ugly up and call it beautiful. He told her that He and sin could never be reconciled, and asked her to choose. He changed the truly ugly into something beautiful, as only He can. There is an important difference.

If there is beauty, we find it in spite of the ugliness. One doesn’t replace the other, or the distinction is lost.

The sloppy definition of “beauty” is a problem here. At first it means pretty, then it means popular or desirable. Then it means intrinsically valuable. Then it means righteous. Then it means an ugly thing in which I can somehow find some value anyway. Or something.

Should we value things on the basis of their beauty? We are called to something much better: discernment as to whether things are righteous, true, and holy; or evil, unrighteous and polluted. Discerning between the two poles, and all grades between, is absolutely essential. We are to answer the call to use the two weapons we have against deception: our critical thinking, and the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Then we are called to agree with God’s evaluation.

We are responsible to discern, prove, think. We are nowhere called to evaluate beauty. I’m afraid we are favoring the one over the other. Discernment requires us to apply intelligence, wisdom, and whether we honor God.  Evaluation of beauty makes our feelings of first importance.

So bring on the upbeat alternative Christian-ish music, but instead of  the sunlight dancing across the floor, the homey garden flowers on the breakfast table, the healthy people running up the picturesque hill, or the down-to-earth rock stars surfing, their hair wet, their eyes laughing; show me the very unpretty things we really do all our days.  Don’t show me the rarefied, or even the sadly poetic.

Because I’m listening to the music while I look down at my hands washing the 134th dish of the day. I’m reaching my hand into some slimy garbage so the water can go down the drain.  I’m cleaning up someone’s vomit who didn’t make the toilet.  I’m sitting in an office waiting way too long for an appointment. I’m taking an unexpected drive to pick someone up who still doesn’t understand that I can’t say no, no matter how much I need sleep. I’m reeling from a mutual failure of understanding between me and one of my kids, wiped out from another emotional clash.

I’m waking up at 4 a.m. and lying there thinking about what the relentless future is likely to accomplish upon my children. I’m besieged with the Things I Have Failed to Teach Them and wondering if I still have time, or whether they’ll still listen.

If the video makes sense to the devastated woman whose whole family has been murdered; to the young girl who’s been sold by her parents to spend her youth working at a loom, a defacto slave; or to anyone else whose life seems to have become nightmare, then it makes real sense.

If we claim to have Biblically-inspired advice to give, it must work for everyone everywhere, or it’s worthless. Worse yet, it’s a lie. If it’s only true when my problems aren’t so bad, but it’s silly when I meet tragedy, it doesn’t work at all. Because really awful things usually reveal what remains steadfast when the pretty pictures become ironic.

 

 

 

The First Creation: Part 1

What makes a marriage a marriage? We need to define it before we re-define it.  What is distinct about it?  What makes marriage…marriage?

I think we misunderstand it, and that is pure tragedy.

Man and woman were made in the image of God. They were created beings who were able to relate to God; sentient and self-aware; in His image because they possessed spirits. Out of all that God created, man is the only being who is able to commune with God.

God called this creation something special. Together they were His joy, His most cherished creation. We were created for this relationship with God, and cultivating this relationship with God is man’s responsibility and his privilege.

God created man. Then woman was made from man. Note that she was not created a separate being or species.  They are two manifestations of the same created being.  She was made from him. So intrinsically was she created to be the one who completed him. They are inseparable.

Genesis 2: 23-25:

The man said,

         “This is now bone of my bones,

         And flesh of my flesh;

         She shall be called Woman,

         Because she was taken out of Man.”

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

 

The fundamental creation was the man and the woman in exclusive, intimate relationship. We call that marriage. Marriage is primal in two ways in terms of human societal significance: it was first or primary; and it was the original creation from which all else followed.

In sexual intimacy between a man and wife, that which was once complete in one being, then separated into two, joins again into one. One flesh, one union.

Either marriage is created by God, or it’s a human construct. Either the church is created by God, or it’s a human construct. Either the nation is created by God, or it’s a human construct.  As such, either God is sovereign over them, or there is no authority over them except whoever exerts and maintains power over them.

The Breaking of It

Marriage has been understood everywhere, by everyone, at all times. Heterosexual marriage is what has been understood as marriage. Even where other sexual relationships are tolerated, monogamous marriage is the standard to which all other relationships are compared, and no society in human history has ever defined non-heterosexual unions as marriage.

Marriage growing from the root of the special sexual relationship is more primal than any law; its violation more basic, fundamental and outrageous. Cultures everywhere know this without regard to their knowledge of Judeo- Christian culture.

Socially and historically, its violation is often perceived as more egregious than murder.

When comparing codes of law across world civilizations, there are very few laws which are truly universal. The one law which is common to every culture is a man’s exclusive relationship with his woman.

In some cultures, this is understood as the man’s ownership of his woman. It is not an egalitarian rule: a man may have multiple women, wives or concubines but the women are regarded as in exclusive relationship with the one man. I’m not defending; only explaining.

And in some primitive societies, it is lawful to kill in order to protect this relationship, and it is lawful to avenge its violation by killing. Murder then is considered a virtue under the circumstance of protection of one’s woman—one’s exclusive “ownership” of the relationship with one’s woman. That relationship is understood to be the foundation upon which that man’s family or clan is built. If he loses her, he loses all.

Everyone everywhere always understood the meaning and importance of marriage. Til the enlightened new age, now.

Next: But What Is It?

Prove All Things Part 3

Please see Prove All Things Part 1 and Prove All Things Part 2

     The Word of God says that Christians have been given all the tools and the abilities necessary to think more clearly than anyone, to see the truth absolutely clearly, to discern wrong from right, to be able to discern in all matters.  Abundant power is at our disposal to act on those judgments.

We’re expected to study, search, think and mediate on His word, and  trust that we will find the answers to our questions.  God can speak!

 Ps 119:97-101:Oh how I love your law! I meditate on it day and night

Your commands make me wiser than my enemies.I have more insight than all my teachers

I have more understanding than all the elders, for I obey your precepts

I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I may obey your word

You have the mind of Christ. We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Cor 10:5

How about this verse for clarity?

Evil people don’t understand justice,

but those who seek Adonai understand everything. Proverbs 28: 5

     We never need to consult the wisdom of the world on any important matter. It offers us no reliable or true guide in the making of decisions.

What happens when we don’t use the standard?

     ‘Error, superstition, bigotry, and fanaticism attempt to repress free discussion, by saying that there are certain things which are too sacred in their nature, or which have been too long held, or which are sanctioned by too many great and holy names, to permit their being subjected to the scrutiny of common eyes, or to be handled by common hands. In opposition to all this, Christianity requires us to examine everything – no matter by whom held; by what councils ordained; by what venerableness of antiquity sustained; or by what sacredness it may be invested. We are to receive no opinion until we are convinced that it is true; we are to be subjected to no pains or penalties for not believing what we do not perceive to be true; we are to be prohibited from examining no opinion which our fellow-men regard as true, and which they seek to make others believe. No popular current in favor of any doctrine; no influence which name and rank and learning can give it, is to commend it to us as certainly worthy of our belief. By whomsoever held, we are to examine it freely before we embrace it; but when we are convinced that it is true, it is to be held, no matter what current of popular opinion or prejudice maybe against it; no matter what ridicule may be poured upon it; and no matter though the belief of it may require us to die a martyr’s death.” -Barnes

     We are fully equipped to be leaders in this culture. What’s more, we have a lot of freedom in this particular culture to exercise that leadership.  I think we squander that opportunity. We have conformed to the culture of this world.

Why don’t we lead?  Why do we follow the blind?

     How much have we conformed? We have bought the premises  that we Christians are a marginal sub-culture; that we are nearly powerless to influence the world around us; that it is too uncomfortable to move out of step  with the world around us. We act out of the fear of man when we look to our peers for reassurance in making major life decisions.  We put ourselves under the influence of peer pressure. And worst of all, we don’t even question those other sources; we don’t apply discernment or wise counsel from an unquestionable source which is freely available to us. We don’t test all things.

We want our families to look like everyone else’s. We don’t want our kids to feel different, and to be left out.

And we certainly don’t want to be identified with those Christians who … fill in the blank.

Be careful. Perhaps those Christians with whom we are so uncomfortable are doing exactly what God is telling them to do. He may even be trying to tell you something similar.

We have conformed to the world’s thinking when we believe we have a right to maintain a standard of living like our neighbors, a standard which is comparable to royalty at any other time or place. We have completely bought the world’s under-evaluation of women and mothers in the home.  We act as though we ought to seek the world’s good opinion in the court of popular culture.  We have an aversion to extremes, when truth is truth, no matter where it leads.  We have adopted the world’s definition of relationships, and the world’s standard for conducting relationships.  We willingly share cynicism and pessimism with a hopeless world. We assert that we have the right to make decisions to suit ourselves which would impact His kingdom!

In our women’s Bible study last week, we were looking at David facing Goliath. He was the only man among all the men in the nation of Israel who wanted to challenge the giant.  He was a man after God’s own heart.

But what made him different?  You could name a lot of things about David that made him special, things that end up making him a magical kind of person who could do what he did.  But I think it comes down to one thing.  Those other soldiers who weren’t willing were no cowards in battle. But they were all thinking with the group, responding to peer pressure. David was the only one who was willing to step out of the crowd and act on the behalf of God’s name and reputation.

We have to be willing to do the same.  God wanted all of the Israelites to be like David—and they could have been.  There was nothing magical about David.

David also knew that God would give the victory—it wasn’t up to David.  He could step forward out of that crowd because he trusted God to do as He had said.

We act as though everything is up to us to orchestrate and make happen.  But God is there! God has a special place and task for you if you step forward out of the crowd, and listen to Him instead of the voices in the world.

Now all of us, if we’re believers, have already stepped out in a major way!  We already have declared that we’re different from the rest of the world.  We believe we are willing to suffer for our beliefs. But are we willing to suffer for being different?

Here’s the application to Titus 2:3:

The decisions that women make…all women, married, single with families or without….define the culture.

2 Timothy 1:7: For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

     We must step out from the crowd.  We must wade against the relentless current. Our culture is not to be trusted for sound advice for walking a Christian’s path. We must recognize that we are necessarily, positionally living lives which are in opposition to the world’s purposes. We have to expect to be different!

     How much do we impact the culture by our distinctiveness…and how much can we…if we become people who really prove all things, and who live every bit of our lives acknowledging the Lordship of Jesus Christ?

Who is the person who fears Adonai?

He will teach him the way to choose.

He will remain prosperous,

and his descendants will inherit the land. Psalm 25: 12-13

 

 

 

Prove All Things: Part 2

Please see  Prove All Things Part 1 and Prove All Things Part 3

Here was the amazing connection I found—actually it found me!

Commentary: The prophecies  “ must not be accepted with credulity but are to be tested by more objective revelation and especially the touchstone of Christ’s Lordship. (I Cor 12:3) and His Incarnation.” (I John 4:1-3)!

I John tells us how to discern between spirits; this was the test the early Christians were to use.

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.

And here is the ‘touchstone of Christ’s Lordship’: I Cor 12:3: Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says ‘ Jesus be cursed’, and no one can say,’Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit     

     So the test that we apply is whether a premise/idea acknowledges and accepts the Lordship of Jesus Christ!

If I’m weighing my options about a decision which determines the course of my life, and impacts the lives of those in my family…which options, if I were to choose them, would allow me to acknowledge and yield to the conviction that Jesus Christ is the Lord of my life? Does this source of wisdom accept Jesus as Messiah…that he is God and came to earth as a man, and that He is my Lord?

And this is what immediately follows John’s test for the discernment of spirits:

I John You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us (the apostles and their disciples); but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. I John: 4-6

     Why should the acknowledgment of Christ’s Lordship be the test?

     He owns my life!  He bought me at a price, the most costly price ever paid for anything. I owe Him Lordship in all matters. All things in  my life are seen in the light of his ownership. Everything in my life, everything, is about Him.

     “Spiritual discernment is the ability to distinguish divine truth from error or half-truths, right from wrong or good from bad, an ability which is vital to assure a healthy Christian life. Test everything to see if it is authentic Christianity.”

“One way to examine everything carefully is to ask: ‘What does the Lord think about this? How does it appear in His presence? Every area of life comes under the searchlight- conversation, standard of living, clothes, books, business, pleasures, entertainments, furniture, friendships, vacations, cars, and sports.”  MacDonald: A Believer’s Bible Commentary

I Peter 3:15  But set apart Christ as Lord.

Gal 1:8,9  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!  If they were to test even apostles, we ought to test influences from other Christians, and certainly sources from the world.

Isaiah 8:19-21 encourages us when needing counsel…To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.

Eph 5: 8-17, esp. 8-10   For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.

 

     If I agree that He is Lord then I must go to scripture to find out what He says about a matter.

Acts 17:11: Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Hold fast that which is good-…This is just as much a duty as it is to ‘prove all things’. A man who has applied the proper tests, and has found out what is truth, is bound to embrace it and hold it fast. He is not at liberty to throw it away, as if it were valueless; or to treat truth and falsehood alike. It is a duty which He owes to himself and to God to adhere to it firmly, and to suffer the loss of all things rather than to abandon it. There are few more important rules in the NT than the one in this passage.  It shows what is the true nature of Christianity, …practical value cannot be but be felt constantly in our lives.  Other religions require their votaries to receive everything upon trust; Christianity asks us to examine everything.” Barnes Notes on the Bible

     We are to be THE thinking people.  And I think that God expects us to think, think, think, about everything. Question everything…prove all things. Don’t accept what any other source has to say about anything without putting it to this test.

I Corinthians 2:12, 14-16: Now we have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit of God, so that we might understand the things God has so freely given us. 14-16: Now the natural man does not receive the things from the Spirit of God-to him they are nonsense! Moreover, he is not able to grasp them, because they are evaluated through the Spirit. But the person who has the Spirit can evaluate everything, while no one is in a position to evaluate him. For who has known the mind of Adonai? Who will counsel him? But we have the mind of Christ!

     The Word of God says that we have been given al the tools and the ability necessary to think more clearly than anyone, to see the truth absolutely clearly, to discern wrong from right, to be able to discern in all matters; abundant power is at our disposal to act on those judgments.

We’re expected to study, search, think and mediate on His word, and we are to have trust that we will find the answers to our questions.  God can speak!

 Ps 119:97-101: Oh how I love your law! I meditate on it day and night

Your commands make me wiser than my enemies.I have more insight than all my teachers

I have more understanding than all the elders, for I obey your precepts

I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I may obey your word

You have the mind of Christ. We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Cor 10:5

     We never need to consult the wisdom of the world on any important matter. It offers us no reliable or true guide in the making of decisions.

See Part 3:     https://madelynlang469.com/2014/04/29/prove-all-things-part-3/

Prove All Things: Part 1

 

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. I Thessalonians 5:21

Who is the person who fears Adonai?

He will teach him the way to choose.

He will remain prosperous,

and his descendents will inherit the land. Psalm 25: 12-13

The responsibility to “prove all things” is one we all share, and its application should be a practical and fundamental motivation in our everyday lives. This is what I sought to put into understandable terms when I had the opportunity to speak to the women’s fellowship at our church.When I looked into the phrase “prove all things” in I Thessalonians, I discovered some things I hadn’t expected.

Let’s look at the passage.

19 Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything.  Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil.  NIV

19 Don’t quench the Spirit, 20 don’t despise inspired messages.21 But do test everything—hold onto what is good, 22 but keep away from every form of evil. The Jewish Bible, Tanakh

Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don’t be gullible.  Check out everything, and keep only what’s good.  Throw out anything tainted with evil.  The Message Remix

And then we have this…

18 In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

19 Quench not the Spirit.

20 Despise not prophesyings.

21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly…   King James

According to J.C. Ryle: “St Paul says to us, ‘ Prove all things.  Hold fast that which is good.’ In these words, you have two great truths:

I-The right, duty, and necessity of private judgment.

II- The duty and necessity of keeping firm hold upon truth.”

So here are the questions I had to answer about this passage.

~If we are to test everything, and hold on to the good, then are we to discard something?

~If we are to test all things, how are we to do that? What standard are we to test them against?

~Do we do that?

~What kinds of things are we to test? Spiritual matters alone?

~What kinds of things are spiritual matters? Do these things impact how I live my life?

~If we are to apply this testing to practical decisions and preferences, are there other legitimate standards by which to test those?

~ What are they? Do we use those other standards?

What We Throw Out

First: If we are to test everything, and hold on to the good, then are we to discard something?

Avoid every kind of evil. Hold onto what is good”…Do you see a gray area? Hold on to the good, but keep away from every kind of evil. Abstain from it, throw it out.

What is found not passing the test is called evil, and we are commanded to separate ourselves from it.

The Sources We Use

Next: If we are to test all things, how are we to do that? What standard are we to test them against?

What are some sources of advice we usually go to?

Our common sense… people we respect as peers…premises from a surrounding culture…expert advice…our best judgment based on our beliefs? Do you have any others?

 I submit to you that while living in the midst of a culture which is intrinsically contrary to God’s thinking, that in practical terms, we make decisions all day long which are influenced by that culture. Without examining and without proving.

We swallow our culture’s premises without a thought.

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.  Prone to leave the God I love.” We are!

We sometimes declare that we’re to use our common sense. And we tend to do this when it’s the last refuge we have, in cases where hundreds of years of culture and the most obvious Biblical references stand against our wishes. But Scripture does not seem to recognize our common sense as a reliable source of wisdom.

Pr 14:12  There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

Psalm 53:3 Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way. And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Is 53.

Our own way is called iniquity. My way of acting is called iniquity. Left to my own devices, my own reasoning, my own judgment, I choose iniquity.

Is there an area where God has not spoken and so it’s up to our common sense?

Pr 3:5Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight.

There’s that universal word again—all.

How many things are we asked to prove?  “Prove all things.”  That means everything including the ones you thought were settled.  Test them all over again!

Getting Advice from Our Culture

Barnes Notes on the Bible:  “Prove all things—Subject everything submitted to you to the proper test. (I Cor 3:13)…they were carefully to examine everything proposed for their belief. They were not to receive it on trust; to take it on assertion; to believe it because it was urged with vehemence, zeal, or plausibility. In the various opinions and doctrines which were submitted to them for adoption, they were to apply the appropriate tests from reason and the word of God, and what they found to be true they were to embrace; what was false they were to reject. Christianity does not require people to disregard their reason, or to be credulous. It does not expect them to believe anything because others say it is so. It does not make it a duty to receive as undoubted truth all that synods and councils have decreed; or all that is advanced by the ministers of religion. It is, more than any other form of religion, the friend of free inquiry, and would lead people everywhere to understand the reason of the opinions which they entertain.”

My pastor, Robert Kinzel: “We are swimming upstream—big time–against the culture.” “The ship is going down…you don’t want to go with it!” AND “When you begin to look for guidance outside of God’s word, you’re in trouble!”

Here is a description of the unbelieving culture of any time:

Romans 1:21-23: …Although they know who God is, they do not glorify Him as God or thank Him. On the contrary, they have become futile in their thinking, and their undiscerning hearts have become darkened. Claiming to be wise, they have become fools!  

31: brainless, faithless, heartless and mindless.

 If the world is filled with people who go their own way, whose god is their bellies, who don’t refer to Almighty God in the way they lead their lives, why would be go to the world, the culture, for advice?  Are these the sources we use to help us make important decisions about our lives?

And here is Romans 12:2: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will

What is the True Test?

I started looking for a definable test.  What was the standard I ought to use? And I was shown this:

Commentary: The prophecies  “ must not be accepted with credulity but are to be tested by more objective revelation and especially the touchstone of Christ’s Lordship. (I Cor 12:3) and His Incarnation.” (I John 4:1-3).

I John tells us how to discern between spirits; this was the test the early Christians were to use.

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.

And here is the ‘touchstone of Christ’s Lordship’: I Cor 12:3:

Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says ‘ Jesus be cursed’, and no one can say,’Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.  

So the test that we apply to a premise or idea is whether it  acknowledges  the Lordship of Jesus Christ; and whether it acknowledges that Jesus is who he said he is.

Please read  Prove All Things Part 2 and Prove All Things Part 3