Solid Scripture and Twisted Hearts

If you were traveling through Europe by train and needed to ensure that you caught the correct connections to reach your final destination, you would likely pay close attention to the train schedule.  Finding a schedule online, you download it, pack your bags, and head to the station believing you have an authoritative resource in your hands.

Train stationOnce you arrive at the station, the ticket agent affirms that you do have an authoritative schedule, but that it has some wrong information regarding the trip.  Concerned?  Most likely.  Want to know what it off?  Absolutely.  Do you consider the schedule and its details an authority anymore?  Not likely.

Nevertheless, the ticket agent assures you that the concept is right, it is just some of the key instructive details that are wrong, so it is still an authority that you can rely on.  You press for details, but the agent sidesteps by saying that they aren’t really sure themselves; and all you need to do is disregard any instructions that don’t feel right to you or that you disagree with based upon those around you at the time.  All the while, the agent insists that the document you possess is authoritative.

What do you think about the agent’s view of the schedule being authoritative, just as long as you ignore the parts of the schedule and the details that you and/or those around you don’t like?  Most likely you think the agent has a messed up definition of “authoritative” and are starting to have misgivings about whether or not you will actually reach your destination.

The illustration may seem a bit silly and unrealistic, yet it is precisely how too many professing Christians view the Bible.  Rather than taking 2 Timothy 3:16 as “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching,” it is twisted around to “All Scripture that is profitable for teaching is breathed out by God.”

All Scripture

The first (the actual text) properly places the Bible as the authoritative element over our lives, opinions, and feelings.  The latter (the people often actually live out) places our opinions and feelings as authoritative over the Bible.  The former says that all Scripture is profitable and we need to allow it to change our hearts.  The latter says only what we like is profitable, the other parts are “in error.”

Almost immediately, any Bible believing Christian will likely object to the thought of twisting Scripture and stripping it of its authority.  Yet, I attended a seminary that professed the Bible to be authoritative, but then proudly championed sociopolitical causes in direct contradiction to many clear passages in the Scriptures (they didn’t advertise this when I first applied…only afterwards did it come to the surface).  They were experts at saying “Paul was wrong/misguided/overly influenced by his culture when he wrote…” or “That passage actually means the opposite of what it says in English and Greek/Hebrew because…” or “That is a purely first century construct that we don’t need to follow today because…”

I wholeheartedly agree with digging into the biblical text and doing proper hermeneutics (for example see blogs posts like these here and here and here and here).  What I found telling was that I was challenged and dinged points by my graduate assistants when I would give answers that were based upon Scripture being “breathed out by God” and being the authority over current hot-button politically correct issues.  It soon became clear that, like the train schedule in the illustration, the Bible was considered to be these teachers’ authority, so long as they had the freedom to override anything they (or society) found to be objectionable.

Once we go down the path of deciding what parts of the Bible have authority in our lives and which ones do not, we change the solid Scripture described in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 into an empty verse and truth based upon our own twisted hearts.

Timothy Keller, in Judges for You, helps drive this point home when commenting on Judges 17:

We filter out (consciously or unconsciously) things about God that our hearts can’t accept.  In some ways, this is the main sin of our time…

The most serious way we do this is by consciously, intellectually rejecting part of scriptural revelation of God.  We do this whenever we say: We can no longer accept a God who does this… or who forbids this…When we  use the term “no longer,” we wrap ourselves in the mantle of so-called progress…This means we, like Micah’s family, are reshaping God to fit our society and hearts instead of letting God reshape our hearts and society.

Another way we do this is simply psychologically ignoring or avoiding those aspects of God’s revelation we don’t like…

A third way we do this is by subjectivizing all morality.  For example, two professing Christians may be having sex with each other though they are not married.  Why? Because they prayed (good) and then “felt peace about it” (irrelevant!). They ignore the objective commands about sex and marriage which God has given them in his word…They follow God’s law so far, but they then twist or add to it so that they can do what they like.

Why is this such a problem?  Because it makes it impossible to have a truly personal relationship with God.  In a personal relationship with a real person, the other one can contradict you and upset you – then you have to wrestle through it to deeper intimacy.  But when we simply ignore (either intellectually or psychologically) the parts of God we don’t like, it means we don’t have a God that can ever contradict our deepest desires or say “no” to us.  We never wrestle with him.  We never let him make demands on us. We can end up worshiping a much more comfortable God, but also a non-existent one (pp 169-170).

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Spending 3 Weeks a Year Playing on the Phone

texting
A recent study shows that the typical person spends 90 minutes a day on their phones – “sending texts, making calls, using apps and games, or doing anything else on their phones…That’s 32,850 minutes a year, or 22.8 days. Over the course of the average person’s life, that’s 1,414 days — 3.9 years — spent squinting at a little piece of glass and plastic.”

If you asked the typical American Christian if they had 90 minutes each day to read their Bibles, odds are that they would respond that the time just isn’t their in their schedules.  To back up their claim, odds are that they could show you their schedule and demonstrate the lack of an hour and a half block of time in the day that is free for spending time in the Word.  Yet, based on the above study, we do have the time.  We simply need to adjust our thinking.  Instead of looking for a big block of time, how about we snag those little minutes throughout the day?  I am all for a dedicated longer block of time in the Bible (even if just 10-15 minutes), but how about we capture those little moments to increase the daily impact of the God-breathed Scriptures on our hearts (2 Tim. 3:14-17)?

I am not advocating giving up using one’s phone, playing with apps, and texting (unless you are doing those things while driving).  Rather,  can we at the very least treat our Bibles like we treat our phones?  To have a dedicated time in the Scriptures each day is great.  But how about grabbing some moments throughout the day to read a verse or a chapter during down time instead of playing a level or two of Angry Birds or Temple Run?  How much more time each day would we be letting “the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly” (Col. 3:16) impacting and changing our lives?

Even if we spent 1 minute to read the Bible of every 3 minutes currently spent on frivolous texting and app use on our phones, we would have an extra 30 minutes of Bible reading per day.  That’s 10,950 minutes a year, or 7.6 days, or over a week’s worth of Bible reading a year.  In other words, a person could easily read through the entire Bible 2 or more times a year.  Since there are Bible apps for phones, one could even use your phone to do this reading.

Slow Fade into Compromise

“You can look the other way once, and it’s no big deal, except it makes it easier for you to compromise the next time, and pretty soon that’s all you’re doing; compromising, because that’s the way you think things are done. You know those guys I busted? You think they were the bad guys? Because they weren’t, they weren’t bad guys, they were just like you and me. Except they compromised… Once.” -Jack Bauer (24 12:00am-1:00am, 2001)

An Oasis Christian Community worship leader read this quote while introducing the Casting Crowns song “Slow Fade”.  The thought fits perfectly.  Too often we deceive ourselves into thinking that we will compromise just this one time.  We will give into sin just this once.  It won’t hurt anyone.  Soon we are not fleeing from youthful lusts and pursuing righteousness, faith, love and peace with others (2 Timothy 2:22), but are sliding or running down the slippery slope of sin.

Our conscience is slowly seared and numbed as we turn black and white issues into gray.  Our heart starts to long for self-centered things over the things of God.  We are caught up in a snare and unintentionally bring others into the trap with us.  Sometimes we eventually move into a realm of intentionally trying to bring others down the slope with us.   We begin to live out the negative examples that the apostle Paul warns about in 2 Timothy.

Let us heed the words of Scripture that were unintentionally captured by Jack Bauer and intentionally captured in the song “Slow Fade”:

Be careful little eyes what you see
It’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings
Be careful little feet where you go
For it’s the little feet behind you that are sure to follow

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade

Be careful little ears what you hear
When flattery leads to compromise, the end is always near
Be careful little lips what you say
For empty words and promises lead broken hearts astray

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day

The journey from your mind to your hands
Is shorter than you’re thinking
Be careful if you think you stand
You just might be sinking

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
Daddies never crumble in a day
Families never crumble in a day

Oh be careful little eyes what see
Oh be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above is looking down in love
Oh be careful little eyes what you see

Flee, Pursue, Escape, Do

2 Timothy 2:22-26 has a sandwich of four actions: (1) Flee, (2) Pursue, (3) Escape, (4) Do.  The negative is followed by a positive.  We don’t just flee, we also pursue. We don’t just escape, we also do.

Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

“And they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him, to do His will” (2 Timothy 2:26).

A person’s life is not to be one of simply avoiding sin but one of positive action in the will of God.  Jesus has saved us out of a fallen condition and life to bring us into a condition and life of holiness.  Verse twenty-two also makes it clear that this isn’t a solo venture, but that we are to pursue and do with other Christians.  The Christian who is a loner is bound to end up back in the snare of the devil, just as the straggler in the antelope herd is bound to be brought down by the lion.

For more on this, the Oasis Christian Community sermon Escape! is all about this passage of Scripture.

The Plan

“What if I told you that there was something out there so much greater than the Olympics that it would not even be worth the comparison. Something out there greater than anything you have seen or heard about and that YOU can be a part of it. How can you be a part of it? 2 Timothy 1:9-10 has the answer.

THE Plan is a new entry by co-author Corey Fronk of the Men at Heart blog.  Examining the hype for twenty short days for the Olympics that come and go every two years (taking into account the summer & winter games), it challenges us to live for something greater than ourselves.  It is well worth the time to read and pray about the thoughts brought up in the blog.

On a side note, the Oasis message that was mentioned in the blog is entitled Healthy Words.

The Effects of Healthy Words

“[As professors] we are going to go right on trying to discredit you [parents] in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your…religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable.” -Philosopher & Professor Richard Rorty (1931-2007)

Intimidation.  Psychological warfare.  Trash talking. Richard Rorty and many others employ these against Christians in attempts to make them ashamed of Jesus and the Bible.  This tactic is not new.  The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor me his prisoner, but share in the suffering for the gospel by the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8).  The word “ashamed” carries the thought of attempting to prevent an action.  Paul recognizes this tactic and instructs Timothy to counter this attack by arming himself with “the healthy words” (v 13) of the person and work of Jesus Christ.

How does getting into the healthy words of the Bible counter shame?  When a person feeds upon the truth of God’s Word, 2 Timothy chapter one reveals that a person is able to zoom out of their situation and see the grandness of God, the marvelous power of His salvation, and the purpose He has designed for those who are His.  All of a sudden compromising the truth for the sake of being politically correct in the secular & religious realms is shown to be the silly and shameful action.

For more on this topic listen in on the message entitled Healthy Words from Oasis Christian Community’s sermon series Finishing Well: A Study of 2 Timothy.  Tim Lin and Seth Evans took on this topic as they covered 2 Timothy 1:8-18.

Fanning the Flame

What do memories have to do with fanning into flame the gift of God within a person?  Apparently a lot.  The Apostle Paul led up the verse “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you” (2 Timothy 1:6) with three memories.  A memory of serving God with a clear conscience in constant prayer.  A memory of Timothy’s tears.  A reminder of Timothy’s sincere faith and faithful mother and grandmother.

Far from simply being the fond memories of a man about to be martyred, Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 1:3-7 are key patterns for us to learn how to run the race of faith strongly all the way to the end.  Serve God. Keep a clean conscience even when it isn’t popular.  Pray for others.  Serve Jesus and people with passion and your entire heart – even unto tears.  Have relationships in Christ with other people.  Maintain a sincere and genuine faith without compromise.  Encourage strong families in the faith.  All these things help us fan into flame the gift of God within you and help you help others fan into flame the gift within them.

An exercised and well-fed gift  results in a spirit of courage.  A spirit that goes forward in spite of fears within and dangers without.  A spirit of power in the gospel.  A spirit of love for God and men.  A spirit of self-control enabling a person to run the Christian race with endurance all the way to the end.

To hear more, tune into Oasis Christian Community’s audio page and listen to the sermon Faith on Fire.