Dear Fellow Brothers, Sisters and Blogger Friends;
This is something that I believe the Lord has placed upon my heart since long before the Hurricane Katrina disaster and 9-11. I just haven’t really addressed it and it is over this last week, (13 – 14 years later, I know!) and with everything going on in the world right now I felt “convicted” to finally teach what I feel the Holy Spirit has placed on my heart. It is in regards to what so many others who call themselves Christians are saying about these circumstances and disasters happening all over the world.
First though, I want to share some thoughts about what I like to call “Bible English.” I could call this “Bible Language” for my non-English brothers and sisters, but the principles that I explain to you will most likely apply to just about any language. First and foremost, I must tell you that I am not an English major; I’m not even an English teacher! But——-
I believe my many years of writing, reading and speaking have prepared me for some of the basics that I want to share with you.
Now I know that many of you will think that I am a broken-record with some of what I am wanting to share with you, but I have found that repetition is one of the best ways to learn. Also, I want to build upon some of what I have taught in the past, not just in this blog, but in forum’s and websites I have had.
Most of you have heard or read my articles upon understanding the written Word of God. Paul writes in Romans 2:28-29, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.”
Romans 7:6, “But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.”
He also tells the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians 3:5-6, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (Bold Emphasis Mine)
It is interesting that the English language holds so many words that are written the same but can have such different meanings. English isn’t the only language that does this, but it is the one that has the most usage of same words with different meanings, and by the accounts of many of our foreign brothers and sisters it is one of the hardest to learn for that very aspect.
Now in contrast, the Greek language for instance, (which is the predominant language of the New Testament) let’s you know that when you are speaking or writing about love, they have different words to identify the type of love so that you understand the context with which the speaker or writer is expressing themselves.
In the English language however, you need to be able to read or hear a sentence in the context of the other sentences to get the meaning of a certain word that is used that could have more than one meaning. I will give you an example I love to use in teaching.
Remember, I am not an English teacher so what I am giving you is simplified principles, but principles that work none-the-less. Now we know that a sentence must be made up of at least two things; a noun (or pronoun) and a verb (or adverb). For instance, the shortest sentence in the Bible is this one found in John 11:35, “Jesus wept.”
Two words; one pronoun and one verb. Very simple. The problem with this sentence by itself though is that we do not know the context with which it is stated. Was Jesus weeping for joy, for sorrow, etc. The answer to those questions can only be answered by reading what is written before and after the sentence. It is only then that we realize the context of why the Apostle John recorded this event.
Now, I am going to give you another example of a two word sentence but one that can have more than one meaning when relating to the Bible. I want to remind you that it is in the context of Bible reading and understanding for this reason: even though we have modern English translations, there are still patterns of archaic speech that we use when referring to Biblical references.
The sentence for instance is; “God convicts.” This is a two word sentence. It has a pronoun and a verb. Now, we can conclude in this simple sentence that the word convicts is not used to denote “cawn-victs” or persons who have been sentenced to jail or prison for crimes committed. Why? Because the word convicts can actually be another noun. So, we know that in this day and age that this simple sentence is speaking about something God does or is in the process of doing.
So now we are in a dilemma. If I am teaching and I tell you that God convicts, there are two things that can cross your mind. One, that God passes or is passing sentence and is sitting is active judgment or the more archaic meaning, that God convinces or is in the process of convincing someone of something. This is the very reason I have told you this is in regards to how English applies to Biblical understanding. In today’s society, when we talk with one another, I would hope that when you discuss God’s role as Father and Creator, you don’t use the word convict without some form of clarification and that your explanation expresses what it is you are trying to get across.
The statement, “God convinces men of their sinfulness so that man would have a heart to change,” is far different than, “God sentences men for their sinfulness so that man would have a heart to change.” Now look at those two sentences. If I were to substitute the words, convinces and sentences, to strictly “convicts” it still takes the addition of only one letter to change the meaning.
God convicts men of their sinfulness so that man would have a heart to change.
God convicts men for their sinfulness so that man would have a heart to change.
Simply by adding the letter “r” and changing the word “of” to “for” changes the whole context, But, it is such a subtle change that when you are reading or quoting the Word of God, many times your mind has already drawn a conclusion before you comprehend the difference.
One sentence denotes our Father’s convincing ability to turn us away from sin and another denotes our God’s role in judgment for sin. Two very different ideas from one word; convicts!
At this point you might be saying to yourself, “Brother Roland has really lost it” and you might start scratching your head. But, I am leading up to a point of why I wanted to clarify this. Convicts, conviction, etc., is just one of the English words used in the Bible that so many Christians stumble over because they aren’t understanding the word in the context of the rest of the Bible. Either they do not read the Word themselves, or they do not mediatate or contemplate it.
When we as teachers, and this goes for anyone who shares the Word of God with another, are stuck to the letter of the Word only, you can see with the examples given, where this can lead. But, when we read the Word of God and allow the Spirit, the Holy Spirit to teach us the principle behind the Word, and we read each sentence in the context of the other sentences and paragraphs, etc., we then come away, not with just an intellectual understanding of the Word of God, but with a spiritual, life-changing understanding! It is that spiritual understanding that changes hearts and lives.
Now, I want to move on and share with you another word that is a real stumbling block to Bible readers, especially if you are prone to the “letter” of the law or word as compared to the Spirit of the Word; and this is what brings me to my mention of catastrophes and the situations that are going on in the world and affecting so many today.
I was living in Washington State many years ago when Mount Saint Helens erupted. I was in church that Sunday morning when the major eruption hit and from the reaction of those who only looked at spirituality as an obligation to fulfill, you would have thought the world was ending. Many Christian’s even were saying that this was God’s judgment on the people of the area.
This same teaching, philosophy is happening right now and was prevalent soon after disasters of the early 2000’s. People were crying out, “God is pouring out His judgment upon the people of the affected areas!!!!” I will tell you first hand that this is a human, carnal nature that is common to all mankind!
I praise God that His Holy Spirit has revealed to myself and others some spiritual truths. You see, the war we fight is not flesh against flesh, it is spirit against flesh, as well as spirit to spirit. The flesh, the carnal nature of man wants to believe what is base, easy and quick to condemn. But, the spiritual man wants what is on the mind of His Father, God Almighty! The more mature we become in the Lord, the quicker this spiritual battle is over! Why? Because practice makes perfect (so the saying goes) and as we “practice” surrendering our wills to His, the spiritual battle within ourselves becomes easier to win.
So, by now, you must realize that I am talking about what so many call “judging!” At least I hope you realize this. Judging is another one of those Bible words that has more than one meaning and the only way that you can tell which meaning the Bible is speaking about (aside from becoming fluent in ancient Greek and Aramaic) is to look at the context within which the word is used.
For instance, I will share with you one of the most used and one of the most misunderstood passages concerning judging and judgment in the Bible.
1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.
2 “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
3 “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?
4 “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?
5 “Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.
(7-14 Not listed for clarification purposes.)
15 ¶ “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
16 “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?
17 “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
18 “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
20 “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
21 ¶ “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
22 “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’
23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:
25 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:
27 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching,
29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
Now I only removed verses 7-14 for ease of clarification. In reality those verses are what connects these two thoughts, but they also have been taken out of context so much that they now mean something totally different to people who use and read them. For the sake though of this article on judging, the two thoughts that are expressed here will suffice.
In verses 1-6, Jesus is speaking about judging, passing judgment, or sentence upon a brother or sister, in other words, condemning them. He is telling us that we all have our faults and that before we CAN HELP another, we first have to take care of our own problems that cause us to stumble and to sin! The way Jesus ends this particular paragraph in verse 6 shows us this one principle. It doesn’t do any good to offer your spiritual services or gifts to those that have no regard for them or to those that do not understand the value of them. Since Jesus is speaking about removing sin and faults, it does no good to try and give what is the greatest treasure we have, REDEMPTION, to those that have no understanding of the preciousness of this gift!
This then takes on a couple of meanings concerning judging. We are not to pass sentence or condemn our brothers and sisters, but we are to discern (judge), or be able to determine with a certainty of truth, who can and will appreciate the priceless gift of redemption.
So how does one “determine” another’s appreciation of the GIFT that Christ Jesus offers? I’m so glad you are wondering! Now we can see the value of the verses I removed, the ones explaining the gift and how one receives it. They have to ask, seek and knock for it. In other words, IT CAN’T BE FORCED UPON SOMEONE.
So back to “judging” and continuing in verses 15 on, we see a different type of judging, although the word itself is not used. It is still judging, but now, Jesus is explaining the kind of judging we are to do and HOW to do it correctly!
How do we judge correctly in the instance of false prophets, teachers, etc.? The key is in verse 20. I can paraphrase it so that it can be easily understood and it doesn’t make it any less the Word of God, in Spirit and Truth. “Actions speak louder than words!” This is verse 20 paraphrased so modern man can understand it. It is the same thing. We will know the false, not by what they say, but by what they do.
You see, a true believer, even though he stumbles and falls, will not stay down. He will get up, dust himself off by repenting of wrong doing and continue to move ahead, moving forward in the Lord. The more a true believer stumbles, the more he falls the longer it does takes for him to mature, but mature he will, to the point where his stumbles become less and less.
Now, a false “believer” may appear for a long time to never fall, but eventually they will do so publicly and the difference is that they won’t repent of it. You will not see a change that reflects a changed heart. They may not “dust themselves off” but rather just put on a new change of clothing, so to speak.
A false prophet can’t and doesn’t truly love. Again, I am not talking about a feeling of love, I am talking about a demonstration of love that is unchanging, unselfish and patient. Someone with a hard heart will always be looking for a way to receive something for what they do, be it praise, recognition, fame, or even material goods, in other words, there is a very selfish nature at work. To love like Christ, takes a “spirit” of unselfishness AND we have to have Love abiding in us and us in Him, God, our Father. That is the only way our carnal nature can turn from a selfish nature to one of unselfishness. Remember what John says in his epistles, “God IS love” and when we have Him abiding in us, our flesh may stumble, but our spirit will always pick us back up, repent and then move forward.
So, we as true believers, true followers of Christ have to know how to “JUDGE” truth from false. This is judging. It is not a contradiction in terms, or in the Word of God. But, it is important to understand the truth in the context of the Bible.
We live in a world today where man has taken the “bait of Satan” to quote the minister and author, John Bevere, in so many seemingly benign ways. Well-meaning, but spiritually blind religious leaders have made a doctrine of Matthew 7:1-5 and have forgotten or ignored all the verses that follow. On the surface this seems right. It seems the religious and loving thing to do. Don’t judge. But, we aren’t called to be religious, and so judging has been taken out of context and it has crippled the “religious” church all in the modern term of being “politically correct!” Paul stated we are a “NEW creature in Christ,” we have become a part of the spiritual Church, the Body of Christ!
So, because of religious nature, when a minister, motivated by love for his fellow brothers and sisters has to provide correction or reproof, instead of accepting it in the spirit with which it is given, we are told that we are “judging” and we have no right. In essence, the lack of vision, the lack of spiritual discernment, or judgment, has tied a teacher’s hands. But, things ARE going to be changing.
Just as in the days of Jesus, where His authority was confirmed by power, so shall it be in the last days, when those who are moving in the spirit of love speak His Word with authority. The authority of the Word, NOT the speaker, will be confirmed again with miracles and healings and prophesy etc., and it will be as much and more (in quanitiy) than during Jesus’ day. Why? Because Jesus abiding in us by His Holy Spirit will be able to reach out and touch so many more than when Jesus alone walked this earth!
Now, how does this all tie in with the catastrophes of the last few years and the catastrophes that are bound to continue in the coming months and maybe years? First, the Lord prophesied these things would happen centuries ago. Again, why? Because He wanted His children to be prepared and to recognize the time for what it was, (the season, not the exact time), not to judge, condemn and sentence mankind (for that is not our job) but to understand the need for His power and authority to be demonstrated in love once again! These disasters and conditions that were set into motion all through His Creation. These are a result of the laws of science (nature) that He created running its course! These events are not His judgment, YET!
For a true Christian, someone who is truly a follower of Christ, to say this is God judging men because of where they live or what they do, is not loving, not understanding and not discerning (or proper judgment) but rather callous, selfish and unforgiving. Remember, it is God who says that He wishes NONE to perish. It isn’t His will or wish that mankind perish, in a catastrophic way or any other way, but He WON’T circumvent man’s will to do as he man’s carnal nature dictates. Man still retains his ability to choose. We all can still choose our own will or we can choose to surrender to God’s will. In absolute truth, either way will not make Him love us any less. It’s just that our choices lead us to a destination of our own choosing.
Remember also, that in all these instances, true Christian’s as well as unbelievers are perishing. The real judgment comes because as the Word says, “it is appointed for man to die once and THEN the judgment” (or sentencing). For the Christian, judgment will be eternity with the Father as His sons and daughters. For the unbeliever it will be eternal separation from the ONE who truly loves them! Remember that the Bible tells us that it rains and shines on the just and unjust alike. This is the world we live in. But—as Christians, as true believers and followers, we have sign-posts showing us what this all means, not judgment or sentencing, but timing; a change of seasons! This is why Jesus always said, “to him who has ears to hear, listen, and to him who has eyes to see, see!”
The Christians in the early church, as it grew, were known by their demonstration of love for one another and to others. In the face of catastrophe and disaster, they loved others. Today, we put up signs and billboards condemning whole cities for the acts of just a few. Instead of demonstrating love, we turn people away AND turn them off (to the truth) by condemning them. Condemnation and teaching with authority are two extremely and vastly different principles. I can teach about the consequences of a sinful nature without condemning the people whom the Lord has chosen to give freely the gift of redemption, after all, as the popular saying goes, Christians are are just sinners forgiven.
How can you win a person’s heart to yours if you are telling them they are no good, the scum of the earth, not worth the dust they are made of, and so forth? They already know of their sinful nature. The Bible tells us that we are all aware of it. Some choose to ignore it, others are searching. This is where verses 7-14 in Matthew 7 come in. It’s only the ones who are willing to ask, seek and knock that the door will be opened too. It isn’t to the ones that have already made up their minds! Yet, we today want to chase off those that may be asking, seeking and knocking when and in the midst of disasters and catastrophes striking all around!!
Spiritual discernment, love of others as ourselves, and totally giving over to love our God as a Heavenly, Merciful and Gracious Father is the only way we can “judge” between who is seeking and who has already made up their minds. When we as believers start to realize it takes more than believing in A God to truly be Christian, then and only then will we start to see His love through us flow outward to those that truly need it, are searching for and want it.
In the meantime, we need to look at the Word of God, which is living and powerful, able to change lives, in the light of the Spirit with which it was written, not by just what someone else says who may be witty and charismatic or a good speaker. The Bible is full of truth, but also hope, compassion, mercy and grace to those that will share it like it was meant to be shared, in Spirit and Truth, with power and authority, rather than in letter and condemnation.
When you see disasters happen like this world has experienced from the early 21st century on, don’t be quick to condemn and sentence, rather be quick to love; and if you are unable to help in any physical way, the most powerful demonstration of that love is to pray for all the victims and families and government workers and officials who are able to do the physical work. Prayer will not only change the hearts of those affected, it will change the hearts of those truly praying out of a spirit of LOVE!!
“be quick to love”
Dear Roland – I was presented with “4000+ words” and flinched. I am glad I flinched – and started reading. So much of what you say here had me nodding along. How words can be extracted and juiced and become the essence of any convict (!). How discernment in just another word for judgement. How Sodom and Gomorrah still live and thrive in many places as labels of something.
He has laid something on my heart too. To “knee jerk response” looking for the good. To knee-jerk response with love. It is actually Really Difficult to do! But I read your words and I see your own “knee-jerk with love” being taught. A love that allows, a love that includes, a love that empowers, and a love that grieves.
He gave me a phrase some time ago: “The answer’s always love, now what was your question?” He is loving that way! 🙂
So for anyone else flinching at “4000+ words”: dive in, swim around, float on your back and enjoy – this is just one big pool of love called words!
Thanks for your words of encouragement. I do have a tendency to get wordy, but sometimes that’s what it takes to get a point across. I truly appreciate your thoughts on love also as love is what should motivate us in everything. Sometimes, truly loving someone requires you to care more for an eternal resolution than the fear of being hurt in this present time. Jesus died knowing it would hurt and grieve the disciples, but He also knew that His love for them would result in eternal reward! God bless, very much!