Why is Jesus Better?

Hebrews 9

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Previously, in chapter 8, the author disclosed that Jesus has now obtained a superior ministry and is the mediator of a better covenant that is enacted on better promises (8:6). While the author has simply made this assertion, it now remains for him to explicate how Jesus’s ministry is “superior.” And it is in chapter 9 that the author takes up this very task.

In the 1st part of the chapter, the author recounts the old covenant ministry under the Mosaic Law. There was a tabernacle and sacred items and a place where atonement was made by priests. Yet, it says that “this is a symbol for the present time…until the time of restoration” (vv. 9-10).

All the institutions of the old covenant were limited because they “cannot perfect the worshiper’s conscience” (v. 9). They mandated various sacrifices and rituals which by their nature were unable to bring the worshiper the true cleansing that was the intended goal of atonement and salvation.

But, in verse 11, the author now turns to present the superior ministry of the Messiah in the new covenant. Throughout the rest of the chapter, the author goes into great detail about how Jesus as our high priest in the new covenant has accomplished everything that the former covenant and regulations could never achieve. Everything from the cleansing of the tabernacle to the sprinkling of the blood of the sacrifice was done by Jesus, not in the earthly tabernacle, which was a copy of the heavenly reality, but in the heavenly tabernacle by offering himself as the “better sacrifice.”

Jesus’ sacrifice was “better” in at least two regards. First, the author says that Jesus did not offer a sacrifice many times as the high priest in the former covenant had to because he entered the tabernacle every year. Jesus entered the sanctuary in the presence of God only once. Second, Jesus did not offer the “blood of another” by bringing an animal sacrifice like the high priest of the previous covenant but rather offered his own blood as the sacrifice for sin.

As verses 13-14 say, “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God?” What the author is comparing is that if under the old covenant the animal sacrifice was sufficient to sanctify the worshiper for the purification of the flesh, then the blood of Jesus must be able to do more than that.

And this is exactly his point: Jesus’s sacrifice is able to do what the old covenant sacrifices never could, and that is to cleanse our conscience from “dead works,” which are the sinful deeds that lead to death and require forgiveness and healing. The old covenant had no power to cleanse the worshiper’s heart from their sinful deeds.

But praise be to God that through Jesus and his sacrifice our minds and hearts can be washed clean of our sin and that we may with a pure conscience “serve the living God.”

-Jerry Wierwille

Application Questions

  1. Compare the conscience of a sinner under the old covenant to your conscience under the blood of Jesus. What makes the difference?
  2. How will you use your pure conscience to serve the living God today?

The Best Covenant

Hebrews 8

Monday, September 26, 2022

In verse 6 of Hebrews chapter 8, it states that Jesus has now obtained a superior ministry and therefore is the mediator of a “better covenant” with “better promises.” What then follows in verses 8-12 is the longest consecutive Old Testament quotation in the New Testament. The quotation comes from a section in chapter 31 from the Prophet Jeremiah.

Now, when the author of Hebrews says that Jesus is the mediator of a “better covenant,” it doesn’t mean that the covenant is just a little bit better. It is indeed better, but how much better? Is there a way that we could quantify the degree of “betterness” that characterizes the new covenant? I don’t think so.

The new covenant is greater and better than the old covenant to such a degree that a comparison is nearly impossible. Perhaps we might say that the distance between the two covenants is like the difference between the height of the earth’s atmosphere and then the height of the universe. As glorious as the old covenant was, it was still imperfect. But, the new covenant brings the perfection that the old covenant pointed toward and prefigured in a typological way.

And with Jesus mediating a new covenant, this indicates that the old covenant is obsolete and no longer needed since the new covenant has totally eclipsed its purpose and function. Everything that the old covenant stood for and provided—the ways that it conveyed God’s law to his people, revealed the knowledge of him, and made provision for atonement for sin—has been fulfilled and superseded in the new covenant by Christ himself.

The new covenant promises which surpass anything that the old covenant offered was prophesied by Jeremiah when he wrote, “I will put my laws into their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And each person will not teach his fellow citizen, and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, and the least to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their wrongdoing, and I will never again remember their sins.”

Therefore, it might help to think about the new covenant as being the “best covenant” because there will not be another covenant. There will be no “new covenant 2.0” or the “new revised covenant.” Nothing that can improve the new covenant any further. God’s law is in the hearts and minds of his people, he instructs them in his ways, all God’s people know him, and he has forgiven their sin completely, never to remember it.

The light of the new covenant is so far greater than the light of the old covenant that the old covenant simply pales in comparison. The well-known colloquial idiom, “It doesn’t even hold a candle to it” seems apt to apply here where if we imagine the new covenant having the glory and radiance of the sun, then what source of light can compete with it. The old covenant is like the moon, when reflecting the sun, the moon provides just enough light to walk around at night and see most objects near you. But it is still dark, and the potential to stumble or trip is very real. However, the light of the new covenant is like noon day where everything is illumined, and we now walk with full vision of what is before us.

The new covenant is better in every way, and we are able to receive and experience all of these better promises it has to offer. Let us count ourselves blessed to have a Savior who mediates this superior covenant that we can enjoy.

-Jerry Wierwille

Application Questions

  1. What are the differences between the old covenant and the new? (You can find several differences in this chapter alone, but
  2. Why do you think the all-knowing God didn’t just start out with the best/new covenant?

Imitate Those Who Inherit the Promises

Hebrews 6

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Do you have any Christians that you look up to? Lately I’ve been learning about a pastor named Tim Keller who has really inspired me. Much of his teaching is sound, and he is a great preacher. He is also incredibly successful at bringing Jesus to new people. He has grown his church in New York City (a rather hostile environment for Christianity) and has helped plant over 700 new churches in 75 cities all over the world through a church planting organization that he founded called Redeemer City to City. This to me is exactly what Jesus wants to see his church doing. When he said, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” he meant it, and this is what it can look like.

If you tried to take Tim Keller, or your local church’s pastor, and teach him about how to baptize, repent or pray for people, you would look silly. These guys have been around the block a time or two and they shouldn’t be relearning these basics of the faith. I think that is what is being said in Hebrews 6. It’s just inappropriate to take the first step of the faith and then keep taking it repeatedly, walking in a circle. Jesus has a mission, and once you have come to believe in him, your next steps should always be towards the fulfillment of that mission. That isn’t to say that these topics shouldn’t be taught, but rather they should be taught as a foundation for a new Christian and other beliefs should be built on top of them. However, strong condemnation is given to those who witness the works of the Holy Spirit and yet fall away from the faith. It says it is impossible to restore again to repentance. It also says that if land bears thorns and thistles then it is worthless and will be burned. Beware of people like this, who have seen the power of God and yet never take the next step, never bear fruit and don’t help further the mission of Christ.

Instead, be an imitator of those who inherit the promises through faith and patience. Imitate people like Jesus, who taught, healed and loved. Imitate people like those Christians whom you look up to. Imitate people who never cease spreading the gospel. These people have seen the promises of God and make every effort to give back to the one who loved them first. God has been making promises to mankind for a long, long time, and his promises are true. We see the promise that he made to Abraham to multiply him, and we see the fulfillment too, albeit long after Abraham may have thought it possible. That’s where patience comes into play. God’s timeline isn’t your timeline, but his promises are true just the same. Continue to imitate Christ in all things, since he is our forerunner, the one who goes out before us. Learn his ways and walk in them. He, after having suffered, entered into the Holy of Holies, the place where God resides, and there he prepares a place for us, too.

-Nathaniel Johnson

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Who has been a great role model for you in displaying faith and patience while waiting for what God has promised?
  2. What can you do today, and this week, to practice showing “diligence to the very end” (vs 11).

A Reason to Believe and a Reason to Hope

Hebrews 2

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

I love this chapter in Hebrews! It outlines the very reason that I am a Christian, the reason that I believe in Jesus and follow his teachings. It says in verse 2, that the Lord first declared himself. When Jesus was on earth, he taught in the synagogues and proclaimed to be the Messiah spoken of in the prophecies of Isaiah. He proclaimed himself to be the Son of Man spoken of in the prophecies of Ezekiel. We know that he did because we have the firsthand, eyewitness accounts in the first four books of the New Testament. Here again, the author of Hebrews is adding his account (Hebrews 2:4). More importantly than all of this, God adds his own testimony by performing signs and wonders through the apostles, and even among disciples of Jesus today. It’s for this reason that I believe.

Remember yesterday’s passage that proclaimed the great glory and exaltation of the Son of God. The author tells us to pay attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. Keep that picture that he painted in your mind. The greatness of God himself has been given to Jesus. You have heard what has been said of Jesus from your friends, your pastor, from the gospels and from the Holy Spirit. Hold on to these things; cling to the faith.

In the next section, the author draws our attention to another psalm like in the first chapter, but this time, he uses it to speak of all mankind more broadly, not just the man, Jesus. God is so much higher than we are. We can’t even wrap our minds around what it means to be Spirit and dwell in heaven. And yet, God cares for us mere mortals. We are lower than angels in that the angels are in the presence of God, but it says that all things have been subjected under man’s feet. It’s clear that this isn’t talking about the current state of the world. There are countless things that aren’t subject to man’s authority: disease, death, hunger, poverty and all kinds of injustices. This is just what the author says in Hebrews 2:8. But we do see Jesus. And just like we read yesterday, everything was given to Jesus. He is the heir of all things and is made higher than all the angels. While Jesus was here, he appeared lower than angels, a man mocked and rejected, but now he is exalted with a crown of glory.

Though Jesus was the first to be glorified, he was the pioneer of salvation, he is not alone since salvation is available for all who believe in his name and we all can become sons of God, brothers and sisters of Christ (Hebrews 2:10-13).

This final section of the chapter is poetic and beautiful, but its real beauty comes through the deep truth and hope that it can bring to our lives. Jesus, though he was perfect and blameless, was put to death. In doing so, he destroyed death itself and freed all of us from the slavery of the fear of death. When you believe in Jesus, you are made free because you don’t need to fear death because there is life for all who are sons of God. We saw it first in Jesus. We saw him raised from the dead and ascend into heaven. This is the fate that awaits us as well. We can relate to Jesus in every way even though he is so highly exalted. He suffered temptation, suffering and death, just as we all will, but we have a hope for life that is to come, a hope that is true, because it was attested to us by God, through his son.

-Nathaniel Johnson

Questions for Reflection

  1. What is the meaning of verse 1? What do they need to pay more careful attention to? Why? Is it still true today? Is it still true for you?
  2. How would you explain Hebrews 2 to someone who has never heard of Jesus before?

Before-and-After Transformation

Titus 3

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Though I had never met the woman in person, I was pretty certain it was her. I’d seen many photos of this wellness coach, and I had always been stunned at her story: she lost nearly 200 pounds by following the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) plan, which I try to also follow for health reasons, and was now a weightlifter as well. Something about her smile was distinctive and very recognizable. I knew she lived in this general area, so it wasn’t too far-fetched to think it could be her. As we got off the hotel elevator together, I summoned up the courage to ask: “Excuse me, are you a THM coach?” She looked stunned, but kindly replied, “Yes, I am…” I explained that I recognized her from the social media pages and was awed by her story. She gave all the glory to God for helping her become healthy. We said a few more words and then parted ways. Later that night, she posted humorously on the group page that she was now a B-List celebrity because she had been recognized in public looking a bit disheveled on her way back from the hotel waterpark, and then I formally introduced myself on social media as well. 

“Before-and-after” posts almost always entice me to stop scrolling and read into the story. Whether it is a weight loss, home makeover, cake decorating challenge, hairstyle tutorial, or hoarder-to-minimalist success story, I feel so thrilled watching a transformation take place. I think we all love a good change for the better, yes? Perhaps that’s why I’m fascinated with the metamorphosis of butterflies too! 

Paul tells us how our “before-and-after” should look, beginning in Titus 3:3: “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” That is who we used to be, but that is not who we are now! He continues, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” So, what do we do now instead of all those behaviors we used to do before we were saved? Paul says, “I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.” 

Before God saved us, we were overcome by all sorts of sinful behaviors. But now that  we have experienced the kindness and love and mercy and grace of God that we did not deserve, we need to devote ourselves to doing what is good. 

We have known since we were children sitting on Santa’s lap that we were supposed to be good! But what exactly does that mean in a biblical kind of way? Hop back up to verse 1 to find a bit more guidance. “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” This list seems to be at least a partial, but still challenging, description of “doing what is good”, don’t you think? 

Paul urges yet again – it must have been such a problem in their society as it is in ours! – to avoid foolish talk (verse 9). I’ve noticed this theme throughout 2 Timothy and Titus; it is a good reminder that we need to pay careful attention to watch what we say, making sure our words are edifying. We are called to be representatives of Jesus in everything we say and do. 

-Rachel Cain

Reflection Questions: 

What does your “before-and-after” look like? Maybe, like me, you were raised a Christian and don’t have a dramatic story to tell. But God has still saved you by his grace! Write out your salvation story and testimony, so that you will always be ready to give an answer for the hope that you have. (I Peter 3:15)

In this scripture, Paul calls believers to “do what is good”. What are some specific good things you think God is calling you to do in this season? 

Am I Greek?

Titus 2

Friday, September 16, 2022

During our most recent homeschooling year, my children and I studied world history from Creation through Greek civilization, reading the biblical accounts alongside mainstream history that was happening synchronologically.  It was so interesting to see all of the historical events weaving together to validate the Bible! When we studied Greece, we also learned about the Greek gods and goddesses, which proved to be a great opportunity to reinforce to my children the concept of false gods and idols. It also allowed for discussions about why we follow YHWH, the one true God.

Titus, to whom Paul wrote this letter, was a Greek convert to Christianity. He was leading a church, and there were a lot of problems within it. The gods of the Greeks were corrupt (for example, Zeus, the main god, was a promiscuous liar), and the Cretan Christians were getting mixed up with the qualities of the Greek gods versus the one true God, as well as copying the behaviors of the people around them. As such, there were many issues that needed to be addressed to maintain order in the church and help the new Christians get back on track with Jesus. Paul specifically speaks of men and women (both young and old), as well as slaves, with different ideals that were specific to their situation. However, all of the things Paul listed are qualities that we should all aspire to attain. I like the way The Message records verses 1-10 (I’ve put in bold the main actions):

“Your job is to speak out on the things that make for solid doctrine. Guide older men into lives of temperance, dignity, and wisdom, into healthy faith, love, and endurance. Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don’t want anyone looking down on God’s Message because of their behavior. Also, guide the young men to live disciplined lives. But mostly, show them all this by doing it yourself, trustworthy in your teaching, your words solid and sane. Then anyone who is dead set against us, when he finds nothing weird or misguided, might eventually come around. Guide slaves into being loyal workers, a bonus to their masters—no back talk, no petty thievery. Then their good character will shine through their actions, adding luster to the teaching of our Savior God.”

Yet again, though written for a certain people in a specific time, we are not that different from the Greeks; we, too, have idols, are prone to wander, and can easily be misled by the culture around us. All of these qualities Paul listed are still admirable ambitions for all of us today! Which ones will be your focus in the coming weeks? 

Much of Paul’s advice to the Cretan church involved the older people being good examples and leaders to the younger people. There is an old saying that goes, “It takes a village to raise a child,” meaning that it is important for the child to have many good influences, as well as for the parent to have support in the difficult journey of parenting. No one could have prepared me for the mental and physical exhaustion that accompanies the wonderful joy of being a mother – and it isn’t getting much easier as my children grow older, either! I know I need help sometimes and have been grateful to some wonderful ladies in my church family (and actual family) who have come alongside me to offer help when needed. There is someone out there who can benefit from your prayers, your stories, your listening ears, and your godly wisdom, and there is likewise someone more experienced in the faith who could be all those things for you as well. 

Paul ends by reminding us that we have been saved by grace, and through our salvation, we are called to deny the passions of this world, striving to “live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives”. But that is not all! We are still waiting for our promised hope, when Jesus will return and redeem us again, bringing us into the Kingdom as his family. That is our goal. That is our hope. That is our happy ending. We must stay focused on the goal, spread the good news, and seek strength to live for God during this life, no matter what it may bring.

-Rachel Cain

Reflection questions: 

-What does it mean to you to live a self-controlled, upright, and godly life? Are there any changes you need to make to do so?

– Is there someone younger than you (or younger in the faith, rather than in age) whom you could mentor? What about a godly person who might be willing to mentor you? Invite each of these people into your life.

Are You Good Looking?

1 Timothy 2

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

I love dressing sharp, and looking nice. Lots of people do, I even get stressed out about what I wear, and what others will think of me about what I am wearing. Seems a little conceited right? Well I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, we all have done this at one point in our lives. Whether it be clothes or shoes, perhaps new cars or something else, we like having nice things and showing them off. It feels good when someone complements us or the stuff we have. But I am here to tell you and myself, that these things are not what matters. See Paul in 1 Timothy 2:9-10, has to explain this to some of the women in the local community, but it applies to everyone!  “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.” We are known not by what we look like or by what we have. Rather by what we act like. Jesus doesn’t really care what fancy clothes we wear. Some may disagree but all I am saying is he wore a robe and sandals. When’s the last time you saw someone in church wear a robe with sandals? Yeah, I can’t remember either. Therefore, recognize the value of our actions over the way we look. I personally struggle with this concept probably more than anyone I know. But with God all things are possible. 

-Jesse Allen

Application Questions

  1. Who do you admire for true beauty? What makes them so?
  2. How concerned are you with your outward appearance? Do you pay more attention to doing good rather than looking good on the outside?
  3. What does Paul write to Timothy regarding prayer in 1 Timothy chapter 2. How well are you following the directions in verse 1? In verse 2? In verse 8?

Grace Poured Out

1 Timothy 1

Monday, September 5

It is easy to make mistakes when you don’t know you are making them. My job is GIS mapping, and I create maps of construction permits, plans, and various other things. These maps usually take between 9-18 hours of work to complete and they are needed in order for us to move to another project. The other day I finished a project and went to start another one and accidentally switched the new project for the old one and rewrote and saved over my completed project! Before I could realize my mistake I had completed the next project in the same file, therefore losing my project all together. This is a big mistake that can delay a project by 1-2 days. Fortunately for me I am new and it was my first time doing this, so with that I was given a lot of grace, and was just asked to do the project again. A lot of mistakes come from doing something new and not knowing what we are doing.

Paul in 1 Timothy 1:12-14 admits that he had acted in ignorance when persecuting the Christians. He had no idea that he was in the wrong and kept going, similar to a botched project. He admits his fault and God gives him grace by placing him in charge of all those who he was persecuting. Paul says in verse 13 “. . . yet I was shown mercy because I acted in unbelief”. When he was persecuting the Christians he had no idea of God’s plan, he refused to admit he was wrong, but God shows him mercy through recognizing he may not understand what is going on. Many of us make mistakes without knowing they are mistakes until it is too late. This is true especially with God, God gives us mercy everyday when we are making mistakes. Even the big ones and even if we repeat the mistake God still is good and forgives us.

-Jesse Allen

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What spiritual truths or expectations were you once ignorant of?
  2. How did God get through to you – and show you grace for your past mistakes?

Salty

Colossians 4

Saturday, August 27, 2022

We are commanded to be salty.  WAIT. Salty?  Maybe I should clarify.  We are not talking about salty sailors, that would use coarse language and tell crude jokes.  We are not talking about the 21st century definition of “salty”, meaning bitter or upset from embarrassment.  We are talking in terms of a tasty preservative that not only keeps eternally, but seasons our meats, cheeses, and daily bread.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” – Matthew 5:14

While salt is essential to carry out some of our basic metabolic processes,  in all honesty, I don’t think this is why we crave it.  We desire a dash here and there because it just makes every food a little better. Popcorn pops.  Steak Sizzles.  Chocolates Chimes. Even allegedly flavorless water tastes better with a little salt in it (that’s right those alkaline waters are, you guessed it, salt-enhanced). It is so magnificent that many of us commit a foodie faux pas and reach for salt before we even taste our food.  We can’t resist.  So how does this desire “to make it better” sneak its way into our subconscious?

Well, here’s the science (from a guy that taught a science class one time).  Salt is ionized, so it attracts the water particles and in turn, aromas in the air surrounding your food.  Also, salt stimulates the taste buds, waking them up, so it enhances the taste along your tongue.  Finally, salt even suppresses bitter and sour flavors by dulling their neural transmissions to the brain.  It is in these very ways we, too, can be salty.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossian 4:5,6

1. Be gracious and attractive.  Christians wear the compassion of Christ when we accept his death on the cross as payment for our sin. We have nothing to boast about except for our Savior. While anyone could be watching us live on any given day, the sense of those on the outside are most heightened when they know they have wronged you, yet you forgive, when you experience great loss yet rejoice, and when you exceed all others but maintain humility, giving glory to God.  In these instances, we are to act to attract.

2. Be shrewd and stimulate discussion. While we may have specific rules or cultural norms at work, school, or the grocery store regarding the proselytization of those who are not like-minded, I truly believe people are far more ready to have conversations regarding their faith than we give them credit for.  What starts as a favor at the well, ends in a testimony about Jesus.  Likewise, when we hear hopelessness, desperation, anger, frustration, trial, it is time for a dash of salt.  “Tell me about faith.” “Is it okay if we pray together?” “Here’s what Jesus said about this.”

3. Suppress the bitter and the sour.  While the first two focus on what’s outside coming in, the bitter and the sour are rolling around on the inside. When we make it our purpose to be the light of Christ, we suppress our own desires to be recognized for our struggle by leaving them at the cross.  We dull our persecution by making it our testimony.  Our sickness and our pain are the platform to share faith. In this world, we will have trouble, but we can take heart! He has overcome it all.  Finally, in those moments when the bitter continues to bleed and the sour continues to seep, it is time for us to consult the Word of God and lean on someone else’s flavoring so we don’t lose our saltiness.

As you walk away from your home and step into the world, hear the coarseness and bemoaning of (the other type of) salty people.  What you may have found most irritating before is the sound of those who are looking for grace, wisdom, and relief from their struggle. Be ready with an answer.  Be ready to reach for the salt, so someone else can share in its eternal life.

-Aaron Winner

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Can you think of a specific time when you failed to “act to attract” or make the most of a salty opportunity with an outsider? Instead, your words, actions, and attitudes (or lack thereof) may have left behind a bad taste.
  2. Looking back, what could you have done differently?
  3. How can you make the most of the next opportunity?

Fine-Sounding Arguments

Colossians 2

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Have you noticed that some of the greatest wisdom on this planet is defining a word by again, using that same word?  Here are some examples: Fair is fair. Business is business. The rules are the rules. A deal is a deal. Love is love.  While each of these sayings have a context and a more nuanced understanding, it tends to oversimplify complex issues that need some mulling over.  We accept these phrases because it makes our logic simpler and dismisses further discussion.  Fine-sounding arguments such as these may not be all they are cracked up to be.

Even worse, an apologist, for any belief under the sun, can use the words of God in the wrong context or without a key understanding and can distort it immensely.   In Matthew 4, Jesus actively combats the words of God taken out of their context.  The world is rapidly filling with empty arguments that lead to the rebranding and normalization of sin.  Like Jesus, it is our responsibility to call it out for what it is. And surely, God did say we will die, in a second death if we buy in, sell out, give up ourselves to these false teachings. Truth is truth.  Here are three ways for your eyes and ears to discern between the eternal wisdom of God or the shallow echoes of hollow human reason.

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. – Colossians 2:2-5

Did God really say it?  While I believe that God has inspired wisdom since the Bible was composed, including some of what I hope is wisdom in this blog, you can’t go wrong believing only what is already written from Genesis to Revelation.  Well, God didn’t say anything about social media, phones, or college?  Truth.  But what he did say was how to treat your neighbor, how to spend your time, and how you should work.  These truths found in scripture are living and active.  If we truly feel we are faced with some ethical dilemma that is completely unique to us in our present state, we should pray for wisdom because God gives wisdom generously to all without finding fault.

Who, exactly, does it benefit? Jesus makes an important distinction between behaviors that are motivated by God and those that are motivated by self. Prayer, tithing, and fasting are all wonderful disciplines for every Christian to take up. However, when we do it in public or take God’s glory by making it about ourselves, we are not feeding our relationship with God; we are feeding our ego.  Jesus makes the case that motives and intentions are every bit as important as the action we take. Truth may be on the side. I can eat or drink whatever I wish, but it may cause a stumbling block for another. If I knowingly offer advice that gives me permission to act for my benefit alone, then my words are not heavenly Father’s.

Does it advance the Kingdom of God? When our Savior heals on the Sabbath, he speaks clearly to this measure. Isn’t it right to work for the Lord on the Lord’s day?  To act more like Him?  To worship him in not only words but action?  Choosing to live for God is vastly different than choosing what goes on your plate.  There are some clear lines drawn in the sand. The gate is narrow, and only those who intend to deceive you will widen it.  There are simply behaviors and relationships that God doesn’t give his permission or his blessing.  It doesn’t advance the Kingdom of God to make allowances for habitual, unrepented behavior.  A short-term gain of a warm-body in a seat on Sundays is an eternal loss when sin isn’t confronted.  We accept the whole of God’s moral will or we are rejecting the lot.  This wisdom can burn like a good rubbing alcohol, but it also allows us to heal and be cleansed.

My hope and prayer for the church of today is that we can rid ourselves of these fine-sounding arguments, and make the case for sound, Godly discernment. Wisdom and life stem from Him alone.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:2-7

-Aaron Winner

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Reading Colossians 2 what are some of the dangers Paul is warning the church to avoid? What does he want the church to stay focused on?
  2. Where do you see God’s word and wisdom being distorted by fine-sounding arguments. Pray for wisdom and discernment to see clearly.
  3. What is the end result for those who are led astray and deceived?
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