25% Truth

25% Truth

The previous blog posts in response to a Sunday morning message I listened to online drew so much web traffic (twice as much as normal), I figured people must be interested in critical sermon analysis. So, I’m giving it another go, and will continue to do so, from time to time in the future. This one is based on a portion of the sermon, Being Led by the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6-15), by Robert Williams.
 

That’s Not God

According to Williams, there are four ways you can tell you are not hearing God’s voice:

  1. God never says anything that contradicts Scripture
  2. God’s voice is not the voice of anxiety, unsettledness or exhaustion
  3. God’s voice is not the voice of obscurity – “Clear trumpet”
  4. God’s corrective voice is not one of guilt or condemnation, but loving discipline and conviction of sin

Let’s have a look at the first one: God never says anything that contradicts Scripture.

American Experiment: Protestantism in the 1700s and 1800s (an excerpt from The Bible: The Book that Bridges the Millennia) describes how Protestant Christians, believing they were hearing the voice of God, found biblical justification for the Trial of Tears and slavery:

native peoples of North America found themselves forced off their tribal lands as U.S. national boundaries expanded further westward. Under the Indian Removal Act of 1830, Eastern tribes of Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Creek were force-marched along the “Trail of Tears” to the Oklahoma territory. Eventually most Indian nations were forcibly relocated as the U.S. government broke every treaty it made with native peoples. Millions died from disease and genocidal* war. Survivors were confined to “reservations” on the worst lands.

Protestant Christians used the Bible to defend and justify these realities. Slavery was rationalized because Africans were not Christian, therefore labeled “heathens” and considered sub-human. The Promised Land theology of the book of Joshua with its model of military conquest was used to justify the wars against indigenous peoples, the “Canaanites” of the New World. The Puritans who came to the New World saw themselves as God’s elect, called to establish the New Israel. Frontier individualism and the optimism of progress through expansion and wealth led to the political slogan “Manifest Destiny,” which reflected Christian triumphalism, a biblical interpretation that encouraged an attitude of the moral and economic superiority of white Christians over all others, and justified the taking of land.

The oppressors assumed they heard the voice of God. They turned to scripture to validate that assumption, and they found what they were looking for within the writings. We must either conclude that scripture can contradict the voice of God or that using scripture as a means to test whether one is hearing God is, at best, subjective evidence (an oxymoronic word combination), because the concepts contained within its pages become distorted as they pass through the filters of both translation and interpretation.

I propose that we view scripture the way Jesus (“…the Word became human and made his home among us”) taught us. Take, for example, a conversation Jesus had with an expert in scripture. He doesn’t simply ask the man what is written there. He also asks, “How read you?” Our simple English words don’t fully encompass what Jesus asked, but when one examines the Greek, the full meaning becomes clear. Jesus essentially asked, “What is written in the law? In what manner or by what means do you know with certainty?” After some discussion about loving God and loving your neighbor, Jesus told this story:

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”

The reason the priest and Levite treated the injured man like roadkill was that commandments in scripture about ritual contamination made handling a half-dead man a personal risk. Should the man die, then they, having touched the man, would not be permitted to perform temple services. Samaritans, in the eyes of Jews and Levites, were heathens to be compared with pigs or dogs. They rejected all of the Old Testament books except the first five. Yet, in Jesus’ story, the Samaritan is the one who heard and obeyed the voice of God. All three of them saw the man, yet only one acted with compassion. Why?

Perhaps the priest and Levite did as most Christians are doing today, that is, using scripture to decide whether they are hearing God, instead of hearing God to decide whether they should use scripture. Jesus not only drew a clear distinction between the word (message) of God and the scriptures (writings) but also associated Himself with the word (message):

Nor have you His word dwelling within you, for you refuse to believe Him whom He has sent. You search the Scriptures, because you suppose that in them you will find the Life of the Ages; and it is those Scriptures that yield testimony concerning me, and yet you are unwilling to come to me that you may have Life.

When I was a kid, I cheated on a test, and I felt so full of shame and guilt that I vomited. During that time, my understanding of the voice of God was continuously filtered through misinterpreted scripture. I not only felt like the sheep that had wandered off but also like the sheep that was being thrown to the wolves by an angry Shepherd. That overused scripture-filter continued to distort much of what I heard from God into adulthood. I loved Jesus, but I didn’t really trust Him the way a sheep trusts a good shepherd. A few years ago, I realized that sometimes hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd and following Him meant rejecting orthodox interpretations of scripture. What a difference that has made in knowing, really knowing Him, and in realizing how He knows me better than I know myself. Of course, I still wander off, I still say or do things that make me feel ashamed of myself. The difference is that I charge with reckless abandon toward the Good Shepherd to rescue me from myself. And as someone who is secure in the knowledge of His boundless grace and love, not just for me, but for everyone, I spend very little time focusing on my failures and a lot more time rejoicing in His victorious message of hope.

(Numbers 2-4 will be covered in upcoming blog posts.)

Read the other blogs in this series here.

Comments
  • Mary Vanderplas July 17, 2014 at 6:53 am

    I agree that the Bible can be used to justify anything, even atrocities, if it is not read and interpreted through the proper lens and if it is read without openness to having our personal and social biases challenged and corrected. I agree that the Samaritan in Jesus’ story, by responding with compassion and generosity to the needy stranger, showed that he understood the truth of God, that he “heard God’s voice.” And I agree that the priest and Levite, by keeping their distance from the injured person, showed that they didn’t hear God speaking. The problem, I think, was not that they read their Bible in order to discover God’s truth, but that they read it through the wrong lens – through a lens that placed ritual observance over love and mercy toward fellow human beings. I like what you say about Jesus being the word of God – and the implication that in order to hear God’s voice one must look at what Jesus did and commanded (and interpret the scriptures in light of this).

    I appreciate what you shared about your own experience of bondage in an environment where scripture was routinely misinterpreted such that there was little grace. I love the picture you paint of coming to know the ever-merciful Shepherd and running to him for help – and of living in the freedom that knowledge of his “boundless grace and love” affords.

    • Lanny A. Eichert July 19, 2014 at 1:41 pm

      Mary, Alice’s PROBLEM is that she wants to replace Scripture’s literal meaning with what she FEELS is her personal revelation from God. That’s the point of her blog. She actually does what she complains others do. She hasn’t come to Christ; she’s come either to her own spirit or to Satan’s deceptions. Either way she’s deceived. There’s nothing about her blog that you should appreciate or find agreeable. It is totally perverse. You are supporting her rebellion against God and you will answer for it in the Judgment.

  • Stephen Helbig July 17, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    “As someone who is secure in the knowledge of His boundless grace and love, not just for me, but for everyone, I spend very little time focusing on my failures,(or the failures of others), and a lot more time rejoicing in His victorious message of hope.” ~ I stephen give a hearty Amen and Amen

    So much of mankind is yet groping about in the dense darkness of the carnal mind, not knowing that HE ~ Our LORD AND SAVIOR ~ The LIVING WORD ~ is standing right there in the shadows of death, ~ RISEN, ~ Oh were all eyes opened to see what Jesus Christ has completed as the pattern son.

    Yet; He hath appointed a day ~ Oh glorious day! ~ when His light shall shine forth and the plan shall be completed as the apostle saith, “For God has allowed us to know the secret of His plan, and it is this: He purposed long ago in His sovereign will that ALL human history should be consummated in Christ, that EVERTHING that exists in Heaven or earth should find its perfection and fulfillment in Him. In Christ we HAVE BEEN given an inheritance, since we were destined for this, by the One who works out all His purposes according to the design of His own will” (Eph. 1:9-11, Phillips).

    • Stephen Helbig July 17, 2014 at 9:54 pm

      HOW READ YOU? ~ Jesus asked ~ Do you know with certainty

      “The scriptures found in the Bible mirrors human development, human growth, and human understanding thru The Spirit of God released to mankind. The spirit that was released in the risen Christ in history is guiding our hearing of the word of God ~ So the key then is to be a spirit led person, surrendered to the spirit, so you can trust what you’re hearing. If you’re still led by the ego (carnally minded), you’ll misinterpret the real meaning.” ~ Richard Rohr

      Jesus stated ~ “You search the Scriptures, because you suppose that in them you will find the Life of the Ages; and it is those Scriptures that yield testimony concerning me, (John 5:39)(Weymouth New Testament) ~

      Look at the two Trees in the garden ~ “That I may know Him!” ~ Ah, there lies the difference between the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. The tree of knowledge of good and evil can only impart to man the knowledge of good and evil. ~ Nothing more. ~ The sad fruit of that tree represents condemnation and death!

      The tree of life, however, imparts to men the knowledge of Christ who is Life! For that reason let us exchange the knowledge of good and evil for the more excellent knowledge of Christ. As long as we try to enforce rules and lay upon men regulations, laws, doctrines, “dos and don’ts” etc. we are merely feeding them from the tree of knowledge of good and evil; unto condemnation and death. The Son of God came that men might have life and that abundant. HE DID NOT COME TO CONDEMN. These two are opposites, incompatible and contradictory! You cannot condemn and yet minister life at the same time. There is a people of God who are arising in this very same ministry of LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS. The world is condemned already. But the Kingdom of God is our allotment ~ Righteousness Peace and Joy, “IN THE HOLY SPIRIT” ~ Do we not understand that LIFE swallows up death just as light dispels darkness? HIS SPIRIT flowing through our lives accomplishes this! The LAW of His life consciously and experientially makes you free from the LAW of sin and death! “For the LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the Law of Sin and Death” (Rom. 8:1-2).

      p.s. ~ “Rejoicing in His victorious message of hope.” ~ Thank you very much 🙂

    • Lanny A. Eichert July 19, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      Stephen blows his own praises before he trumpets Alice’s. What wisdom this is dripping with personal revelations that pervert God’s Scripture. They have no Absolute Truth; neither do they that agree with them.

      • Stephen Helbig July 19, 2014 at 8:00 pm

        American Standard Version (Ps. 56:10)
        In God (I will praise his word), In Jehovah (I will praise his word)

        (2 Corinthians 1:3) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort

        (Philippians 4:8) Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any PRAISE, think about these things.

        (Rev. 5:13) And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”…

        • Lanny A. Eichert July 21, 2014 at 12:02 am

          Stephen, since you just quote Scripture as the answer to all disputes, why don’t you quote Matthew 7: 13 & 14 as the validating answer to the everlasting torment of the human majority in creation? It is a direct quote of the Saviour Creator God.

          • Stephen Helbig August 15, 2014 at 3:51 pm

            Lanny, fist of all you know that I “DO NOT” relate this scripture with “EVERLASTING” torment, and we in the past have been down this same road and discussion many times. As one reference to this past discussion, ~ SEE all of the 184 comments on Alice’s past blog “Exposition on the Reign of God: Narrow vs. Wide.” (January 1, 2012). ~ An excellent re-read!

            Also ~ Note; apóleia: defined as destruction, loss ~ Strongs # 684 /apṓleia (“perdition”) does not imply “annihilation” (see the meaning of the root-verb, 622 /apóllymi, “cut off”) but instead ~ “LOSS OF WELL-BEING” rather than being ~ (Vine’s Expository Dictionary, 165; cf. Jn 11:50; Ac 5:37; 1 Cor 10:9-10; Jude 11). This can be found @ copyright © 1987, 2011 by Helps Ministries, Inc.
            Also if I may quote you on this past blog @ “Exposition on the Reign of God: Narrow vs. Wide.” ~ Lanny A. Eichert says on January 16, 2012 at 10:42 pm ~ “though it “doesn’t” specifically say they are finally destroyed…”
            QUOTE ~ “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. {Matthew 7: 13 & 14} ~ The “norm” is that many go in at the broad way leading to destruction and though it “DOESN’T” specifically say they are finally destroyed, do you mean to tell me Jesus was telling them there is hope of salvation when they miss the Strait gate? …” – end quote here for this purpose ~ Yes indeed, I do in fact tell you, ~ SALVATION remains as HIS GIFT, fully presented, Past Tense.

            The only further clarification that comes to mind that I can present now, is this nugget ~ “LIFE GREATLY MATTERS” ~ And one must give great intention, and great devotion in humble service to this “Life” spoken of by our LORD in these verses. ~ There is a broad path to unravel Life as one can easily see, and is easily traveled down, and is destructive to life. However we can also see a truth spoken of here ~ “that as seen in the life of a great athlete we see great devotion” ~ For in the life of a great athlete there is a drive “a great devotion” of his pursuit to attaining the prize, ~ And in like manner we see Jesus revealing this truth here in these verses. “LIFE MATTERS” ~ So I would say along with Jesus ~ “LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’~ AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’” fulfilling ALL the great commands. ~ And as the beloved apostle John summed it up saying ~ “GOD IS LOVE” ~ And this really is the narrow path that Jesus spoke of in these verses of Matthew 7: 13&14.

            p.s. ~ As we are flying down the freeway of life in great speed and great traffic ~ Narrow is the way to merge safely ~ This requires great attention

            p.s.s. ~ I fully agree with this comment by Mary Vanderplas January 17, 2012 at 8:18 pm in describing these verses found in Matthew 7: 13&14
            “I agree that the picture here is of two ways and two destinies. But the purpose isn’t to answer questions about how many will be saved or who will be saved. Nor is it to scare outsiders into repenting and getting on the right path. The purpose is to spur lagging disciples to renewed decision and commitment.”

            p.s.s.t. ~ “LOVE WINS” ~ and I love you brother, Thanks for being here.

  • Lanny A. Eichert July 17, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Alice, you are confused: you make your perceptions the judge of God’s perfect literal Holy Bible in order to violate the perfect literalness of it thus allowing your own nonliteral interpretation. You only think you’re hearing from God because you like what you hear more than the literal Scriptures. You have no sure way of knowing that you are not hearing the Devil’s speech or that of his demons, or even your own personal desires, that is, your own spirit speaking to you. You need a source of Absolute Truth outside yourself to determine truth.

    God is transcendant and His will is unknowable to us lower forms of life, except God reveals it to us in an incorruptable way. That’s done by God when He provided to us His perfect literal Holly Bible. It is the only source of Absolute Truth. The only approach to understanding its words the same way every time is the literal interpretative approach, since any other way is as varied as the human mind that determines what it means. An Absolute Truth statement means the same thing every time it is read and understood regardless of who reads it and when.

    • Lanny A. Eichert July 18, 2014 at 3:14 pm

      And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.

      You refuse to believe Matthew 7: 13 & 14 “many there be which go in thereat” and “few there be that find it” even though they be the very words out of Jesus’ mouth, right out of the mouth of God {Matthew 4: 4}.

      Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

      • Lanny A. Eichert July 18, 2014 at 3:27 pm

        Alice, in your John 6: 39 what is “the Life of the Ages”? Can anybody find it and should everybody try? Explain.

        • Lanny A. Eichert July 18, 2014 at 3:31 pm

          Correction:
          Alice, in your John 5: 39 what is “the Life of the Ages”? Can anybody find it and should everybody try? Explain.

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