Feb 15, 2021
Join us as we explore God’s ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.
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Thanks for joining me today for “A Little Walk with God.” I’m your host Richard Agee.
As Christians, we often ask the question, ‘why can’t the world understand how wrong their behavior when pitted against God’s word?’
It’s a valid question. People’s actions everywhere seem to get worse instead of better with the turning of every calendar page. We thought the ’70s topped the list for frivolity, disorder, and social discord, but then came the last several years. Wow! Serial killers, kidnapped children worked as sex slaves, increased control by drug lords, violent crime, division among political parties turning into riots instead of debates, social injustice. You name it, and we’ve had it in the last few years.
Evil doesn’t claim a party name or a social divide. The behavior finds its way into every corner of society – every party, every race, every social class. We used to claim ourselves a Christian nation, not necessarily because the vast majority were Christian, but because we based our law and expected behavior on Christian values. Particularly, those last six commandments – honor your parents, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t lie, don’t steal, and don’t covet.
When we live in a community with those principles, we live better together. Somewhere along the line, we quit living by those principles. Perhaps it started with lying, then coveting, then dishonoring parents, adultery, stealing, then murder. Everything skyrocketed. But why? Why can Christians (not nominal Christians, but Christians) understand scripture’s importance, but others can’t? Why is God’s word so much more evident to us than to those who do not follow Jesus? Why is the Bible just a fantasy to those who do not believe?
Paul gives us the answer in his second letter to the church in Corinth. He writes these words in what we note as the fourth chapter of his letter:
However, if our gospel still remains ‘veiled,’ it is veiled for people who are perishing. What’s happening there is that the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they won’t see the light of the gospel of the glory of the Messiah, who is God’s image. We don’t proclaim ourselves, you see, but Jesus the Messiah as Lord, and ourselves as your servants because of Jesus; because the God who said ‘let light shine out of darkness’ has shone in our hearts, to produce the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus the Messiah. (2 Corinthians 4:3-6 NTE)
It’s an interesting phrase, ‘the god of this world.’ Satan’s hold over this world is as flimsy and false as it was in the Garden of Eden or in the wilderness when he tempted Jesus. God is the God of all creation, including this world. But just as Satan blinded Adam and Even with his deception, he blinds men and women who fail to accept in faith the truth of God’s word.
We, in the church, the body of Christ, still have an interesting problem, though. Why do so many Christians misunderstand God’s word or use it in ways that clearly run against Jesus’ command to love God and love others? How can they twist scripture in ways that would permit the crusades or burning mosques, or killing innocents in riots? How is stealing, adultery, lying, murdering somehow okay when twisted into some kind of righteous behavior?
Today, part of our problem stems from the variety of translations used across various denominations and groups. Although the vast majority have few items that will change important aspects regarding salvation, some translations do. A small number of sects make wholesale revisions of God’s word to suit what they want to believe rather than what His word says. To reduce the probability of such an error, I encourage you to read a variety of translations. The vast majority render God’s word in much the same way. Newer translations come from the very oldest manuscripts available, some from as early as the second and third centuries. Compare versions and see what scholars say about any significant differences in word meanings before blindly accepting one over another.
Second, we forget the gospel writers penned their works for Christians living in their day and time, not ours. The letters they wrote to congregations and individuals around the Mediterranean in Greek address the first-century Roman world issue the Christians faced in their new found faith. We blindly read without thinking about the context in which the writers lived. In fact, we often forget Paul and the other authors of the New Testament wrote to believers, not unbelievers. They admonished people in the church for their behavior, not those in the pagan temples. Their letters could have started, “Clean up your own act before you start talking about those guys outside your doors.” We need to think about the culture, the difficulties the church faced, the ideas Paul tried to instill in a new faith with no theology before pressing our beliefs and denominational theology on the scripture we might read.
Finally, remember definitions change with time. Not only do we have the problem of the translations from Greek to English. The Greek New Testament contains about 5,400 words translated into an average of over 12,000 English words, two and a half times as many words. So, some translations are bound to use different English words for the same Greek word. But some English words change meaning over time. Bad now means good in the vernacular. Gay usually doesn’t refer to lighthearted and carefree today. Words change.
God’s word still provides truth. But how do we find that truth after telling you the pitfalls we face?
First and foremost, be a student of God’s word. Read and study it. When I say read it, I’m not talking about reading a verse or two a day and setting your Bible aside and saying that’s good enough. You can read the longest gospel in about two and a half hours. You’ll be surprised what you learn when you do so. You can read Romans in half that time—what a fantastic book. Read large chunks of the Bible at a time – several chapters or a whole book, so you understand how it came into the possession of those to whom it was written. The authors didn’t write chapters and verses. They wrote letters to the churches. They wrote prophecies to kings. They wrote biographies of Jesus. Read the Bible as you would those types of books, and you will get an entirely different perspective than by reading a few verses at a time.
Next, study smaller sections, starting with the gospels. Try to understand how the people lived during Jesus’ day. How did he act around them? How did the Romans act around the Israelites? Do you realize as Jesus walked the roads in Galilee and Judah, he saw criminals crucified along the roads? We sometimes forget he was not the first to undergo Rome’s most heinous form of execution. Jesus knew what was coming. He saw it every day. The crucified acted as road signs across the country to let people know they better obey Rome – or else. Think about the setting, the culture, the plight of the people he helped, spoke to, admonished, forgave. Use commentaries, history books, and whatever you find useful to help place you in that time to better understand what he told the disciples and those around him. Then do the same for the rest of the New and Old Testaments.
Then, as you read and study, begin with a prayer and a question. “God, what do you want me to hear from you today? What do you want me to change about my life?” You’ll be surprised at the answers you find in his word, his truth.
Finally, ask for discernment as you read and study. Spend some quiet time before and after reading to just listen for the Holy Spirit’s voice in your life. Test what you hear against God’s word. They will never conflict. They will always support Jesus’ commands to love God and love others. He showed us how and said for us to do the same. So, test what you think you heard from God. Then go and do it. Go wherever God is working and be part of his plan, not yours. Stop asking, “what is your plan for me?” Instead, ask, “God, what is your plan, and how can I be part of it?” It’s a subtle but important difference in how we approach God’s word.
Don’t let the self-proclaimed god of this world pull the veil over your eyes. Let the truth of God’s word, the creator of all things, the one who gave his life for us, be your guide in all you do. Truth is available for those who seek it.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible-based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn’t, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.
Scriptures marked NTE are taken from the NEW TESTAMENT FOR EVERYONE: Scripture are taken from The New Testament for Everyone are copyright © Nicholas Thomas Wright 2011.