Category Archives: Integrity

Why Division?

Many decades ago two high school juniors, my best friend and I, went to a Unitarian Universalist church. We sat and watched and listened to the Sunday performance. After a while I whispered to Herb, “this is pretty weird shit.”

“I’m going to reserve judgment until they bring out the snake charmers,” Herb said.

The next act was performed by two young men – one reading a poem while the other balanced a plate on top of a broomstick on top of his forehead. Herb looked at me and raised one eyebrow. He could do a heck of a Mr. Spock impersonation.

We were two young men searching for truth. Herb had been raised atheist-Jewish while my family was strict Roman Catholic. We had attended Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches before stumbling upon the UUs. We kept looking. We went to various Bible studies and even Wednesday night prayer meetings.

One thing really bothered us – all of these churches claimed to be working from the same handbook, the Bible. Yet they had wildly different philosophies. Why are there so many  “Christian” denominations? They can’t all be right, can they?

It took a couple of years before I saw why the Christian church is so divided. In the meanwhile I was attempting to approach the Bible, the Word of God, with some humility.

One man stands out from those years; he absolutely believed that the Bible (as originally written) contains no contradictions. He taught me something that has stayed with me over the decades. He said that the vast majority of the verses in the Bible are very clear – they are easy to read and understand. He encouraged me to concentrate only on those at first. Once I had them firmly in mind I could look at the more difficult verses – always remembering that they couldn’t contradict the clear ones. Context, he emphasized, was also extremely important.

I realized that the denominations were taking the exact opposite approach. They were giving lip service to the majority of the Bible while concentrating on the less clear verses. And often taking them out of context. Each denomination – even each preacher – could have its own “brand” by interpreting these verses in different ways.

Why do this? It isn’t an effective way to bring the blessings of the gospel to the people. It seemed to me that it was intended to cater to people’s prejudices – to bring in as many bodies (and dollars) as possible. The preachers didn’t seem to care whether those people were, or ever became, Christians. (I also have serious doubts about the spiritual status of many preachers.)

These “Christian leaders” were not interested in the accuracy and integrity of the Bible. They were interested in a secure paycheck and in their egos.

That’s why I still read and research the Bible for myself, and refuse to reflexively believe what “everybody knows.” “Everybody” is frequently wrong.

Let the Deception Begin

In Genesis chapter 3 God has preserved the record of the Serpent’s deception of Eve. Obviously, He wants us to learn from this event. It can serve as an exemplary warning to each and every believer. Eve demonstrates what not to do.

Though there are many valuable truths in these verses I’d like to focus on one: how the Adversary began his deception. Note first of all that the adversary does not come right out to contradict God’s word.

1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

What was it that God had told Adam earlier in Genesis?

15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Doesn’t it seem fair to say that the adversary’s statement is completely correct? Had God said that they could not eat of every tree of the garden? According to all the rules of logic and language the adversary’s statement wasn’t a lie. It was completely factual.

All that the serpent did was…take it out of context. The context was, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.” To remove “facts” from their Godly context is an extremely subtle method, used by the adversary, to trick people into denying God’s word. If you take pieces of God’s Word out of context, even in your thoughts, you no longer have the truth of God’s word.

If we’re observant and have diligently studied God’s Word we’ll notice how frequently this happens. The lack of context allows principles to be twisted into untruths.

That’s all the adversary did to start the conversation with Eve. The next move was up to her.

2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

Did the woman reply by saying, “Hey, that’s out of context. God told us, ‘of every tree we may freely eat. Then He added one, and only one, exception”?

No, she considered the out-of-context “fact” and replied to that. She considered the adversary’s statement in its own light, rather than considering it in the light of God’s word. How often do you and I do that very thing? I know I do it more often than I care to admit – even to myself.

Books, shows, advertisements, conversations: all are peppered with principles drawn from God’s word. We’d do well to develop the habit of considering such words in light of their godly context, rather than accepting them at face value. Just because a principal applies in a certain situation, in a certain context, does not mean that it is, “a word fitly spoken,” in a different situation.

When I unthinkingly accept something that sounds biblical I leave myself vulnerable to being deceived. I must consider when and where it is true . As we study the rest of the adversary’s attack on Eve we’ll notice that he uses logical reasoning to draw a conclusion. There’s nothing wrong with logic – without it you wouldn’t have a computer on which to read this article. But logical thinking is extremely dependent on beginning with correct premises. If we start with a premise that is incorrect, or that doesn’t apply in our situation, we will end up with garbage conclusions.

When we allow Satan to dictate our premises we will be deceived. We will not have the truth of God’s word.

Let’s take a look at one example that we’ve all been exposed to. “The truth shall set you free.”

Each of us can probably take this simple statement and arrive at a multitude of different conclusions as to its meaning. Oprah Winfrey has used it to teach that you must be truthful about who you are, and uses the example of Ellen DeGeneres admitting that she’s a lesbian. This “set her free.”

Others take off from the statement to claim that knowing all the facts, “the truth”, about a certain situation will cause your eyes to be opened; the prison bars will disappear. You will no longer be trapped by deception. Many so-called “conspiracy theorists” fall into this camp.

But what if, instead of starting from this naked premise, we take it back to the context of God’s word? What conclusions can we then draw from these words?

In the book of John, chapter 8 it says:

31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;

32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

Hey, this doesn’t say anything about coming out of the closet or learning who really killed JFK. It is talking about continuing in Christ’s words. And, as John the Baptist testified of Christ, “For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God…” (John 3:34). To continue in God’s Word is to know the truth and that truth shall make you free (Greek: eleutheroo, “shall liberate you”). It is not instantaneous, but rather a process of continuing.

I guess this principle doesn’t apply to as many situations as people claim, does it?

The devil referred to God’s Word when he was tempting Eve. In the same fashion, he quoted God’s Word when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness (see Matthew 4 and Luke 4). Jesus replied to these temptations with, “it is written,” and a quote from the Word. Each of Jesus’ quotes put the premise back into the context of the totality of the Scriptures. He refused to consider the adversary’s words outside of the context of God’s words.

We are admonished to be imitators of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 11:1).

Stripping biblical principles of their context is one of the most powerful of the adversary’s tricks. God doesn’t want us to be ignorant of this device. We should take all such assertions back to the truth of God’s Word.  Remember 1 Timothy 2:

3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;

4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

God doesn’t want us to fall into error; error won’t make us free.

John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

deLaune

Why “Being Renewed?”

The renewed mind is the key to a power-filled Christian walk, a Christian lifestyle. The foundational verses regarding this are in the book of Romans:

Romans 12:1-3

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

deLaune