Why trust the Bible?

Psalm 12:6 says “The words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.”
God’s words (the text of the Bible), is like silver refined seven times

Why not just refined once once?

“Seven” in the Bible is the number for completeness and wholeness.  What Psalm 12:6 is saying is that God’s words are completely pure, without error and wholly reliable.

Yet, there may be more to the number seven:

Have you blasphemed the Spirit lately?

Jesus said in Mark 3:28-29, “I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.  But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”
Many people, including Christians, have wondered what blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is, and many different opinions have been given throughout church history.

It’s not…
Let me tell you what the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit isn’t.
It’s not denying God. Peter, the disciple, denied Jesus and was them later reconciled back to God.  It’s not doubting. Thomas, the disciple of Jesus, doubted and he was reconciled.  It’s not murder.  King David committed murder and was forgiven.  Jesus also prayed for forgiveness of the Roman soldiers who crucified him.
It’s not a sexual sin.    In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Paul lists a whole lot of sexual sins and then reminds the Christians that that is what some of them were (past tense), but now they are forgiven and part of God’s family.
It’s not suicide.  The Bible teaches us that Jesus’ death paid the price for all our sins, including sins committed against ourselves. 
It’s not an ongoing sin that you struggle to overcome. Ongoing and deliberate sin may grieve the Holy Spirit as Ephesians 4:30 indicates, but its not unforgivable.
We need to remember the great positive Jesus refers to in v28, “I tell you the truth, ALL the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.”  If we turn from sin and believe in Jesus we will be forgiven of anything and everything.

Son of Satan…

To understand blasphemy against the Holy Spirit must look at the context of Jesus words.  Jesus words where directed to the religious leaders.  And Jesus said this because, according to v30, “they were saying, ‘He has an evil spirit.’”  The religious leaders were rejecting the truth about Jesus despite of the clear evidence.   That’s what blasphemy against the Spirit is.  The religious leaders were saying, after seeing Jesus’ miracles and exorcisms, that Jesus was in fact a dark magician, a son of Satan, and casting out demons by using occultic power.  

Eternal sin

The Holy Spirit is the third member of the Trinity.  He is God and he convicts us of sin and shows us where we’re unholy and unrighteous.  The Holy Spirit empowered the life of Jesus.  The Holy Spirit reveals Jesus to us. The Holy Spirit inspired the writing of the Bible.   It’s the Spirit’s role and delight to point people to Jesus.  He never draws attention to himself, but always points people to Jesus.  When the Spirit seeks to convince you of the truth about Jesus and you reject that truth (like the religious leaders), you blaspheme and that is unforgivable.  Why is it unforgivable?  Its unforgivable because you are cutting yourself off from the very source of forgiveness.  When you are unforgiven it has eternal consequences; that’s why Jesus calls it an eternal sin (v29).

If you die rejecting truth about Jesus, you will be seperated from God forever in a place Jesus described as hell. You are rejecting Son of God and relying on your own goodness.  That was the commitment of the religious leaders all the way to the point of murdering Jesus.  Jesus rose from the dead three days later to prove them wrong.

Is Jesus your God? Do you worship Jesus or something else?  If not, you’re already presently guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Ps The sin is unforgivable only as long as you keep committing it.
PPs By definition, Christians cannot blaspheme the Holy Spirit.

How big is your Bible?

How big should a Christian’s Bible be?  Good Christians should have a really big Bible so that other can clearly see it’s a Bible.  Really spiritual Christians should have a leather bound Bible with cross references.  Bible’s that contain only the New Testaments and Psalms are ok for new Christians, but you really should aim to be more godly. Super-spiritual, higher grade Christians have the ESV study Bible, with a leather cover.
This may sound silly, but often in the church we have these petty rules we follow.  If you’re not part of a church I’m sorry to say that this is sad, but true.  We have unspoken rules as to how many devotions a good Christian should have per week, how many beers (if any) a good Christian can drink at a bring ‘n braai, how many times a Sunday a good Christian gathers for corporate worship, and so the list goes on.  Unsaid rules about tattoos, dress, jeans, baseball caps, age-restricted movies and shopping on Sundays, saying grace, and so on. 

Now don’t get me wrong.  Having a Bible , regular devotions and being Christlike are good and godly things!  However, we sometimes tend to think Christianity is about obeying the rules and checking the boxes.  If we keep the rules we feel proud and if we break the rules we scold ourselves and feel guilty.  Jesus condemned the Pharisees for this kind of attitude in Mark 2:8-3:6.  Christianity for Jesus is about submitting to him as King, being forgiven of all sin, and redirecting our life towards Jesus, the only One who can give us highest joy.  We then seek to live godly lives, not to earn God’s favour, but as a result of God’s ongoing favour to us.

Dr. Howard Kelly was a renowned physician and surgeon as well as a devout Christian.  During the summer holidays while in medical school, he sold books to help with expenses.  Becoming thirsty, he stopped one day at a farm house for a glass of water.  A girl came to the door. When he asked for a glass of water, she kindly said, “I will give you a glass of milk, if you wish.”  He drank the cool milk and left refreshed.

Years passed, and Dr. Kelly graduated from medical school and became the chief surgeon at John Hopkins Hospital.  A patient was admitted one day who was from the rural area and was seriously ill.  The skilled chief surgeon spared no efforts to make the patient well.   After undergoing surgery, she recovered quickly.  One day she was told by the nurse, ‘Tomorrow you will go home.’   Though her joy was great, it was somewhat silenced by the thought of the long bill she must owe the hospital and surgeon.  She asked to see it, and the nurse brought it to her.   With a heavy heart, the patient began to read the different items from the top downward.  The further she read, the more depressed she became, wondering how she would ever pay the bill.  But as her eyes lowered, she saw a notation at the bottom of the page.   It read, “Paid in full with one glass of milk.” It was signed, Howard A. Kelley, MD.

We owe God a debt we can never repay.  No amount of good or rule-keeping can even start to pay what we owe God. But Jesus, by his substitutional death, paid what we owe in full to God so we can be forgiven.  What drives you?  Ticking petty boxes to earn God’s favour or enjoying God’s grace, knowing the bill has been paid in FULL.

Too good for God

“Religion is a crutch for weak people”

I’m sure you have friends that say this kind of thing. They may add: “I don’t need God, I’ve got it together!  I lead a good life.  I’m not a rapist or a murderer or corrupt.”

 The error of this kind of thinking is that it holds a very low view of sin.  This person views very serious sins, like murder, as bad, but their own minor indiscretions, like a white lie or selfishness, as “being human”.  They forget that, according to Jesus, hating your brother in your heart is as offensive to God as murder and lusting in your heart as offensive to God as adultery.   Pride is default position of this person’s heart.  They arrogantly belief they do not need God as they are good enough.  They are like the surfer who believes that Great White Shearks are harmless.  What the surfer may or may not believe does not change the truth.

 The reverse position that others hold, which is also the result of pride, is the view that they are too bad for God.  They say things like: “I’ve done such terrible things to others.  God will never forgive me.  I deserve to suffer in my guilt.”

 The error of this kind of thinking is that it holds a very low view of Jesus’ death.  Jesus was executed outside Jerusalem to, according to the Bible, bear the judgement of God for the sin of God’s people.  Jesus death was a substitutional, sacrificial death that paid the price for ALL sin, every one.  That’s why Jesus could triumphantly exclaim, “It is finished!”  To view your sin as too big, or too bad, or too damaging for God to forgive is extreme arrogance and minimizes the death of the Righteous One for you.

 Are you too good for God?  You are not as good as you think!  You’ll never be good enough for God.

 Are you too bad for God?  Jesus’ death is more powerful than you think!  You can never be too bad for God.

A lesson from Haji

Haji, a practising Muslim from Zanzibar, came to stay at my place for a month a few years ago.  We had a super time sightseeing, eating, laughing, biting shopping malls (yes , I know its seems unbelievable!)  and enjoying Cape Town. Yet, often times we had to cut our trip short in order for Haji to get back to the house in time to ceremonially wash and recite the prayers.  Haji is a moral, honest, upright man who is seeking to live the best life possible to please Allah.  Haji’s worldview says, “I perform, in order to be accepted”.

 The gospel according to Jesus found in the Bible is totally opposite.  The gospel says, “I’m accepted, therefore I perform”.  We see this truth clearly in Mark 2:14 when Jesus calls a “sinner” to become a disciple.  The account reads:

As he (Jesus) walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

 Levi was a Jew who worked for the revenue service of the Romans.  We as ostracized hated and excluded.  He was not good, nor religious, nor upright.  Yet Jesus calls him to follow.  Levi followed.  He became known as Matthew and had a profound influence on generations of Christians through the book he authored (The Gospel of Matthew). He was accepted by Jesus, therefore he performed and obeyed and changed. 

 Haji’s religion (and all religion) says “You need to perform to be accepted”.  The Bible tells us to admit we can never perform enough to be accepted by God, but rather to confess our wrongs and sins, and to accept what Jesus has done for us.

 Do you constantly feel guilty that you are never performing quite enough?  Not praying enough? Not witnessing enough? Not working enough? Not preaching enough?  Perhaps you need to remind yourself of the gospel of Jesus.

Do not be anxious

We South Africans are anxious about many things.  I think anti-depressants are one of the most commonly prescribed medications in our country.  We are anxious about the future, our jobs, the crime rate, our retirement, our bank balance, our politics, our relationship or lack or relationships, and the list goes on.

Jesus disciples in Luke 12 also had good reason to be anxious.  The religious system hated their master and opposition was growing. Jesus gave the disciples and us three big reasons as to why we should not be anxious:

1.  God is big

In v4-5 Jesus says: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.  But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell.” IOW Jesus says that you should fear the right thing, God.  Fearing the right thing will prevent you from fearing the wrong things.  Remember that God is big and people are small.

2.  God cares

In v6-7 Jesus says:  “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God…Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Jews needed to buy animals for sacrifice at the temple. The law made a provision for the poorest of the poor to sacrifice birds.  One penny could buy you two sparrows (Matthew 10:29) or two pennies could buy you five sparrows (v6).  The fifth, extra sparrow was thrown in for free; it was “worthless”; it was of no value.  Jesus says that if God cares for that odd sparrow, how much more will he care his people?

 3. God knows

In v29-30 Jesus says: “And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.  For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.”
Those people who are not saved by God and do not follow Jesus are generally obsessed with meeting their perceived needs.  Of course, this is understandable if you consider this world to be all there is.  Jesus says that our lives should not be obsessed with our material needs because, quite simply, God knows.  God is Sovereign.  God cares for his people.  God knows. 

 The command to “not be anxious” is directed to those who are following Jesus, those you are seeking first God’s Kingdom.  What are you anxious about right now?  Don’t be anxious; God is big, he cares, he knows.

Does God allow divorce?

To sum up the Bible’s teaching’s on marriage and divorce:

1. Marriage is the sacred union between one man and one woman and God’s intention is for marriage to last a lifetime.

2. Divorce is not always sinful.

3. Divorce is permitted, but not required, on the ground of sexual immorality.

4. Divorce is permitted, but not required, on the ground of desertion by an unbelieving spouse.

5. When the divorce was not permissible, any subsequent remarriage results in adultery.

6. In situations where the divorce was permissible, remarriage is also permissible.

7. Improperly divorced and remarried Christians should stay as they are, but repent and be forgiven of their past sins and make whatever amends are necessary.

* This points are from Kevin DeYoung’s brilliant paper: “What did Jesus think of divorce and remarriage” (http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2010/11/03/a-sermon-on-divorce-and-remarriage/)