Wavering Between Two Opinions (Part Three)

1 Kings 18:16-24

Next, let’s consider the object of the contest between the Lord’s prophet, Elijah, and the false prophets encouraged by Ahab and Jezebel. This is an unpopular topic in this day of the “intolerance of tolerance” (D.A. Carson). Political correctness in North America and Europe has reduced the level of communicating ideas to the level of complete silliness. If you say anything that disagrees with the opinions of the self-appointed intellectuals and pop celebrities, you are branded a bigot, intolerant, or worse and then roasted alive in social media. A truly open-minded person is willing to join in a discussion and to listen and to talk without inflammatory words.

Elijah acted in order that the reality of the worship of the Lord would be clear. True Christians are against violence and trying to coerce people to believe. We think that all people are free moral agents and must grasp the superiority of Jesus Christ and the gospel, if they are to follow him. No one can follow the Lord, unless they are convinced in their minds to follow him. Having said that, we also state that the worship of the living God is just not another religion to be tolerated. It is the right one. All others are wrong.

Someone might ask, “Isn’t that being rather narrow-minded?” Let’s use an illustration. If we had a table before us with 20 glasses on it, one filled with pure water and 19 with deadly poison, would it be narrow-minded to drink only the one filled pure water? If God’s word is truth, then all other religions are deadly error. Should Christians then work for the suppression of other religions? Israel was so ordered in the old covenant (Deuteronomy 13). No, because we live under a different covenant, which is not a ministry of death, but of life (2 Corinthians 3). The new covenant way is to avoid false teachers (2 John).

During the old covenant, God demonstrated his ability to effectively deal with sin. He operates in space and time. He reserves to himself the right to tell us how to interact with people who oppose him and truth. We are to love our enemies (Matthew 5).

In our time, we are in the midst of a great struggle within professing Christianity. Here are a few examples.

  • Is the object of religion to love God or oneself?
  • Is the Bible the word of God or a mixture of truth and error?
  • Can we even say that there is any such thing as absolute truth?
  • Is there eternal punishment for the unsaved or merely annihilation or even universal salvation?
  • Is a Christian someone who merely assents to the “Apostles’ Creed” or one who trusts in Jesus Christ alone in order to be right with God?
  • Is there any value in or purpose for being heavenly-minded?
  • Was Christ’s death and resurrection necessary to save us, or were they only moral examples?
  • Does God really care about sexual immorality?

Elijah acted in order that the people would serve God only. His demand was based upon a basic principle of the old covenant: “if… then follow…” (1 Kings 18:24). The law covenant prohibited the worship of any other gods and the making of idols and images (Deuteronomy 5:1-10). Once you know what is right, you must live in conformity with the truth. Jesus taught this same truth: no person can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). You must be for the Lord and live for him, or be for a false god and live for him.

What should we learn from this uncomfortable incident?

  • It is not enough to be brought up in a Christian home, and just to drift along with the tide when out in the world. You yourself must know Christ by faith and decidedly live for him.
  • It is insufficient to have an orthodox creed and to live a wicked life (Titus 1:16). True faith produces godliness.
  • It is not acceptable to be a Christian on Sunday, and yet fail to confess the Lord Jesus Christ during the week (Matthew 10:32-33).
  • Don’t waver between two opinions. Worship the living God and live for him!

Grace and peace, David

Reading the word, part 2

We continue with thoughts about about reading the word of God clearly. Part of the fogginess in our reading comes from a lack of not using tools that enable us to read more clearly. Our cars come with wipers and defoggers to clear the glass so that we can see, but they only work if we use them. Here are some more suggestions about reading the word. Read it:
With others – We are much too individualistic in our Christian experience. Yes, we can affirm “The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). But the Lord has also placed us in his body to share life with one another. Yet we seldom think about reading God’s word together. We ought to read the Bible at our gatherings. This assists us in focusing our attention toward God. It is also worthwhile to be reading together as a group throughout the week. In FifteenFive, we do this by announcing a passage that everyone is to read; for example, “let’s read First Thessalonians five times this week”. This helps to develop unity of ideas as we all listen to what God is saying to us from the same passage. It also provides material for spiritual conversations when we meet. To illustrate: Someone might say, “This week as we read First Thessalonians, I noticed how Paul talked about encouraging one another.” And a discussion might branch off from that comment. This way God’s word can affect our thinking as a group of his people.
With faith – Reading the word is an activity for your whole soul, not only your mind (cf. Hebrews 4:2). As we read and listen to God’s words, God expects us to believe and obey. Do we think about believing what we hear, so that it deepens our trust in the Lord? Do we encounter something that we want to draw back from? (This is different than having difficulty understanding what we read.) We are to receive God’s message with a personal and group commitment to or reliance upon it. Some in the group may be struggling with fear issues. Think about how a joint reading of Hebrews 10 or 1 Peter might provide counsel to help one another. What insights can Matthew 10 give the group for spreading the good news? We can believe together what the Lord teaches all of us.
To see Christ – Since the Lord Jesus Christ is the theme of the Bible (John 5:39; etc), we ought to read to see him. Is he on our thoughts as we read? We ought to read to learn more of him, not merely in a gathering of facts, but in knowledge of him personally. Surely, the Holy Spirit makes this happen (Ephesians 3:16-19). However, we should seek to learn of him, since we are learners (disciples) of Jesus. We can easily miss opportunities to meet with the Lord simply because we are not looking to meet him.
To be changed – A clear reading of the word will enable us to see the necessity of ongoing change or growth in grace (2 Timothy 3:16-17; James 1:22-25). Our lives are to demonstrate continual repentance (change of mind that produces a change of our behavior). So then, we are not to read as detached observers or critics of the people we meet in the Bible. Instead, we come to be instructed and rebuked and transformed (Romans 12:1-2). Reading chapters five and six of Ephesians ought to bring about change in our family relationships. The good news of Jesus should work through our hearts and out to our actions. But again, this requires us to sit under God’s authority in the word to gain insight into the places he wants us to change. If we do not want to change, we will miss many things that our Lord wants us to see clearly.

Lord, give us grace to read clearly,


Reading the word

The other day, I was sitting in a doctor’s office waiting to see him. He is a specialist and his appointments had stacked up and I was next to last in line. As I talked to myself about waiting calmly, I decided to think about my next article for this blog. I had noticed a picture on the wall of a flower with raindrops on it. They were very clear, and my thoughts turned to listening to God’s word clearly. So, here are some thoughts about how we should read the word.
Intentionally – We will not profit from God’s word as we ought unless we really want to listen to him. It is too easy to get sidetracked, because we fail to realize what we do when we read. The scriptures are God talking to his people at all times. In them we hear his voice. This can be of great spiritual benefit, if we desire to hear him. But we can get distracted. For example, we might read as an assignment, or as a means of spirituality, or to receive therapy. (Perhaps we might not need “therapy” but change!) This means we should approach our reading as the time to listen to our Father communicate with us. We come to hear his wisdom and to reorder our way of life in conformity with it.
Purposefully  – By this I mean reading with a goal instead of reading randomly. This goes along with the first point.  While we can benefit from reading the Bible with any method, others things being equal, I think it is helpful to be reading according to some plan. Many have found it beneficial to read through the whole Bible in a year. This requires reading about three to four chapters a day, which is very doable, if we are willing to prefer the Bible over personal entertainment. While we ought to read all the Bible, it is also helpful to read it in depth, like reading through Matthew twelve times in one year, which is about a chapter a day. Or read through Philippians every day of one month. By the end of this course, we will have a better awareness of what that book says.
Worshipfully – This also is related to the first point. Since the Word is God the Father telling us the story of his glory in his Son, by the Holy Spirit, we ought to read with reverence and joy. The goal is not merely to read to gain information, though that will happen. We ought to read as dearly loved children of the Father. Every part of the story proclaims God’s glory and what is for our good. Since we are in his family, it is our family history. It is the Lord telling us the good news for our encouragement and transformation. Our response ought to be praise and worship to God for making the story, telling us the story, and putting us into the story.
Carefully – This should be a happy outcome from the previous three, but there is another point to be made. While it is often said that people learn in different ways, I think it is wise to ready with paper and pencil or pen nearby. Our minds are bombarded with information and images. It is very easy to forget what we have heard the living God say to us. It can also help us visually connect ideas as we write them down. We can write down questions we have or insights we have gained to share with others.

With prayers for clearer Bible reading,