God Promises All Things Work For Good – Pt. 1

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 17

If I were to ask you the question, “What is it that most concerns you?”, I’m positive that your answer would fall into at least one of these categories:

  • the economy, and specifically your job, or lack of a job, personal finances and debt
  • your health, involving fitness, sickness, dieting, medical coverage and more
  • your relationships,  spouse, children, dating partner, parents, or combination of them
  • your possessions, like how to get them, safeguard them, and upgrade them
  • state of the world, including war, poverty, crime, pollution, the ecology, etc.
  • deep questions, like is there a God, what’s life all about, what happens when we die

There are probably other categories that I could add to this list, but I think these six would cover the majority of concerns that most people think about and are anxious about.  Whatever it is that we might be worried about, there is one common element that weaves its way through all of these areas of life.  Namely this: uncertainty.  None of us can or ever will know what will happen in the future, and that can lead us to frustration and anxiety.

For many months now, I have been writing articles on the topics that Max Lucado has included in his book “GOD’S STORY, your story.”  In chapter nine, Lucado does an excellent job of helping us to realize that even though we often fail to understand what is happening in our lives and why they are happening to us, that God is still in control of the situation and is at work all the time to bring good out of the situation.

On page 137, Lucado writes this:

We know…. There are so many things we do not know.  We do not know if the economy will dip or if our team will win.  We do not know what our spouse is thinking or how our kids will turn out.  We don’t even know “what we ought to pray for” (Romans 8:26).  But according to Paul (in Romans 8:28), we can be absolutely certain about four things.

Lucado goes on to state what those four things are, and I will summarize what he has to say to us.  Let me quote Romans 8:28 here so you have the context in front of you.  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  The first thing we know is that “God is at work…”  This immediately counters two negative positions, the idea that there is no God (Atheism), and the idea that while He may have created the world, He is no longer involved with it (which is called Deism).

No, God is very much at work in our world.  And the good news is that “God is at work for our good…”  This will counter a number of negative ideas about the character of God.  Some people think God is a punishing god, sitting up in heaven with a big stick and just waiting for us to step out of line at which point He will whack us.  Neither is God an ambivalent god who doesn’t care about what happens in our lives.  But He also isn’t a bigger version of Santa Claus who panders to our every wish and whim.  Rather, God is actively seeking to do that which is going to be for our very best, helping us where we most need help.

     

The third thing that Romans 8:28 tells us is that “God is working for the good of those who love Him…”    I will repeat what I said above, that God is not a punishing god.  But on the other hand, God is definitely seeking to bless and reward those people who have committed their lives to Him, to live in obedient service and worship to Him and His Son, Jesus Christ.  That does put the responsibility upon us to be actively seeking to please our God.  And the neat thing about God and His blessings is that as we share the blessings that God gives to us with others, the more that He ends up blessings us.  When we become a conduit of His love, then we end up experiencing even more of His grace and love.  Isn’t that fantastic!!!

Finally, the last thing, and perhaps the most important thing, is that “God is at work in all things…”  If we truly believe this, then we can face any circumstance or situation in life.  When things are just clicking along and everything seems to be falling into place, we can thank our God who is actively bringing about these wonderful blessings in our lives.  But then when things are not going well, even in the most challenging moments of life, we can be confident that God will do all He can to bring good out of that situation, no matter how terrible it might be.

     

As many of my readers already know, our family has faced many difficult and trying experiences in life.  I think of all the categories I listed above, I believe that critical health challenges are the hardest to face as those are usually the most out of our control events.  In our immediate family then, from 2002 – 2005, our older son went through three years of chemotherapy to battle against the leukemia in his body.  Then, from 2008 until the present, I have battled with my genetically inherited muscle disease that has limited my mobility and has caused extreme levels of pain.

And yet, for both me and my son, we have seen God’s hand upon our lives in special and powerful ways that we would never have experienced had we remained in good health.  And for both of us, who have remained strong in our faith in God, we have seen our lives and testimonies touch countless numbers of other people.  And in many ways, this has come about because we believe the promise within Romans 8:28, “that is all things, God works for the good to those who love Him.

     

* [God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

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Jesus Is The Light Of The World

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John 8:12 – 20

12 Once again Jesus spoke to the people. This time he said, “I am the light for the world! Follow me, and you won’t be walking in the dark. You will have the light that gives life.” 13 The Pharisees objected, “You are the only one speaking for yourself, and what you say isn’t true!”

14 Jesus replied: Even if I do speak for myself, what I say is true! I know where I came from and where I am going. But you don’t know where I am from or where I am going. 15 You judge in the same way that everyone else does, but I don’t judge anyone. 16 If I did judge, I would judge fairly, because I would not be doing it alone. The Father who sent me is here with me. 17 Your Law requires two witnesses to prove that something is true. 18 I am one of my witnesses, and the Father who sent me is the other one.

19 “Where is your Father?” they asked. “You don’t know me or my Father!” Jesus answered. “If you knew me, you would know my Father.” 20 Jesus said this while he was still teaching in the place where the temple treasures were stored. But no one arrested him, because his time had not yet come.

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Our passage above starts with “Once again Jesus spoke to the people…”  The event of bringing the woman caught in adultery (7:53 – 8:11) was a sidebar to the larger story which began in chapter 7 with Jesus standing up at the Feast of Tabernacles to teach the people.  We now return to some powerful teachings of Jesus while He was in Jerusalem.

From this point on, we will often come across topics and themes that have come up before within the Gospel of John.  It will not be difficult to see these major threads of divine truth that are woven through the book.  The bold statement of Jesus, “I am the light of the world” and that those who follow Him will “never walk in darkness” takes us all the way back to 1:4–5:

“In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

According to John, light equals life and darkness equals all that is sinful and evil.  The Pharisees who were listening heard this and immediately challenged Jesus.  They cannot accept Him as the ultimate source of light and life.  When they say this cannot be true and that Jesus is [wrongfully] speaking for Himself, they are actually challenging His authority to be able to make such a claim.

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In verses 14–18, Jesus goes on to give four reasons as to why He had every right to claim that He was the true source of Life for all mankind.  First of all, He knows with absolute certainty what His true origin is and what His ultimate destiny is.  Looking ahead to 16:28, Jesus said, “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”  As God’s Son, Jesus had a divine origin and later returned back to His divine realm united with God the Father.

Secondly, Jesus’ standards for His moral life and His teachings have always been far above human standards.  In verse 15, Jesus basically says that we all will make subjective and flawed judgments when evaluating others and spiritual truth.  In the Greek, He literally says, “you judge according to the flesh.”  And the Bible is quite clear that the human flesh is flawed by being worldly and sinful.  But Jesus was never flawed in this way, and so He could speak about Himself with such divine authority.

Jesus goes on though to say that even if He were to condemn another, just like the Pharisees were trying to do to Him, Jesus is able to do it in a fair and just manner for He has God the Father on His side helping Him to speak and to do all that He came to do.  Even though Jesus left the realm of Heaven, the Father never left His side, and so as a fourth proof of His divine authority, Jesus stated as required by Jewish Law, that two witnesses (His own and that of God’s) qualified Jesus to be One who spoke the truth, that is, that He is the source of eternal life which becomes the Light for all mankind.

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Wow!!  This is powerful stuff!  Unfortunately for the Pharisees, they had never really developed a personal relationship with God.  So when they challenged Jesus with regards to His paternity (“Where is your father?”) they thought they might trap Jesus to admit to the popular scandal that He was born illegitimately by Joseph out of wedlock, but they in fact indict themselves that they know very little about who Jesus really is and who His real Father is, that is, God the Father.

The Pharisees were spiritually blind with regards to Jesus’ true identity and authority.  Jesus is the Light of the world.  He is the source of true spiritual Life.  At some point, every person will have to make a decision as to who Jesus is.  Human sinfulness continues to keep people blind to this spiritual truth.  But it does not have to remain this way.

My friend, have you come into the light of Truth and discovered Jesus’ true identity?  I’m glad you are reading this article.  But even better would be if you would open the Gospel accounts of the New Testament and read for yourself to find out who Jesus is.  He is calling even now, “Come to Me, and come into the Light of Life.”

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Networking & Praying For God’s Word in Southeast Asia

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[Editor’s Note:  It is exciting for me to be able to share with you about a couple who are colleagues with me in Pioneer Bible Translators.  There are two reasons for this.  First of all, for many years they helped to impact a people group close to where my heart is, the Island of New Guinea.  Now God is using them to impact the lives of millions of people in a large region of Southeast Asia.  How exciting!

What makes this especially meaningful for me is that I have the privilege to work along side with this couple in their new work.  Once the Scriptures have been drafted and checked through a couple of times (for comprehension and exegetical accuracy), then the team sends me the language files electronically and I do the final consultant check on their Bible translation work.

In the past two years, I have had a hand in checking parts of or the whole of Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians, Matthew and just recently Philippians.  The work is progressing well and it is hoped that the New Testament will be published for this regional language in 2013.  Come along with me as we learn more of what this couple is doing to promote the advancement and distribution of God’s Word to Southeast Asia.]

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Phil and Gale came to Pioneer Bible Translators with 29 years experience with another Bible translation organization. They worked with a language group of 2,000 people in the rainforest of Papua, and didn’t need much in the way of networking skills. Work proceeded smoothly once a few government and church officials were aware they were translating the New Testament.

Now they are working in a vastly different situation, translating the Bible into a national language with a potential audience of over 200 million people. The work is no longer just faithfully translating each verse; it is about knowing the right people, and what partnerships can be set up with various Christian organizations.

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The people who make decisions are in the cities, but the people who need the translations are mostly in rural areas. Rural language groups won’t have a chance to hear God’s Word if we don’t succeed in advancing our projects in the cities. Phil travels often by taxi, giving out local translations of Scripture to every driver. He rode with 51 drivers on his last trip; only one was a Christian.

He visited the managers of a Christian radio network and discussed sending out our books as free gifts from their stations. He is scheduled to meet with a producer of a free satellite TV network that has viewers in cities and rural areas all over the area. He met with a Bible class that is part of a huge mega-church in the capital, and he will soon be visiting seminary students who will distribute our Gospel of John on their mission trips.

There are approximately 400 languages in South Asia that need a Bible translation. After Phil’s presentation at one seminary, 10 students made the commitment to pray about becoming Bible translators for 10 of these languages. It is amazing to see God work out the details! Pioneer Bible Translators has an enormous task ahead of us. We must complete our translation work and get God’s Word in the hands of these people.

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Prayer Requests

  • Pray local supporters would be found to publish local translations of the New Testament and find channels for distribution to rural areas.
  • Pray that Phil will successfully navigate unfamiliar cultural expectations as he speaks with important people.
  • Pray that God will provide a means whereby nationals can be trained and equipped to translate for many needs. There are many who would volunteer to become translators, but cannot see past practical reasons.
  • Please pray that churches in the area would feel called to support Bible translation, and that training centers would be established in the area.
  • John 4:23 – Pray that many from among the Bible-less peoples will become true worshipers who will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.

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[Editor’s Note: For almost two years I have been writing articles about my work and the larger work of Pioneer Bible Translators in the world.  I have asked my readers from time to time to pray about some important issues and current events.  This is the first time that I would like to suggest to my audience that they consider taking the next step after praying for Phil and Gale and their translation work and to consider the possibility of helping them with a financial gift to see this work accomplished.  I end this article with a quote from Phil, and a link to where you could become a financial partner.]

Southeast Asia Plain Translation
“This island nation in Southeast Asia has a Bible, but the translation is old and very hard to understand. Our team is creating an easy to understand translation that will be life-transforming for millions in this area. These books of the New Testament will offer Living Water to a thirsty land. Click to donate. Choose ‘Projects’ and ‘Southeast Asia Plain Translation’ from the drop-down menus.”

A Response To “Power Comes From The Holy Spirit”

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A few weeks ago, I wrote an article called “Spiritual Life Comes From The Holy Spirit”.  This article is part of my Bible study series on the Gospel of John.  Part of the article focused in on verse 39 of chapter 7 where John comments that “the Spirit had not yet been given.”  I received a response from one of my readers who raises a good question.  I would like to paste his comment and try to give a good response to him.

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Not arguing with your scripture quotes, but how is it that long before Pentecost, various OT prophets were operating in the Holy Spirit with massive power and miracles. It seems that the Holy Spirit was always there for those who sought Him. The OT account seems to contradict Jn7v39. Just wondered what your thoughts were.

I comprehend where you are coming from, but I keep finding anomalies to the plain statement that the Holy Spirit would not be sent until Jesus had ascended.  i.e. Proverbs 1:23 ‘Turn you at my reproof, behold I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.’

This seems to be quite plain (and present tense) in its meaning, and I don’t buy that there is some difference between pouring “unto” and pouring “into”. Added to which it is an open statement to any reader, not just some OT Patriarch.  I also read some other OT verse the other day saying similar. I have sneaking suspicion that anyone who desired God’s Spirit would never have been refused OT or NT.

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There is no question that God’s Spirit was active long before the day of Pentecost.  We have God’s Spirit involved in the creation of the universe in Genesis ch. 1.  And there are many key people who were empowered by the Spirit of God (Moses, Gideon, Samuel, Saul, David, Elijah, Elisha, Zechariah to name a few).

What many people do not understand is that the Spirit of God was given only selectively to some of these key people that God was empowering to do His work during the OT period.  During the earthly ministry of Jesus, the Spirit did come down and empower Him, just like the OT judges and prophets.  But the Holy Spirit had not yet been released to all believers yet.

In fact, Jesus himself stated in John 16:7 that the Holy Spirit could not come to help believers until Jesus had ascended back up to Heaven.  This is a divine mystery, but it would appear that God decided to limit His direct involvement in the lives of people with only one Person of the Trinity at a time.  But there will come the day when we all who believe will be with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit when we are resurrected into the new heaven and the new earth.

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Let’s take a closer look now at some of the specific times in the OT where God’s Spirit empowered people, and consider the verse our friend pointed out in Proverbs 1:23.  I did check the Hebrew for this verse and taken just by itself, הִנֵּ֤ה אַבִּ֣יעָה לָכֶ֣ם רוּחִ֑י, it can be translated “Behold, I will pour out to you (pl) my spirit.”  In biblical studies and linguistics though, we must always look very carefully at the context in which we find a verse.

Proverbs 1:23 just happens to be part of a larger section (Proverbs chs. 1-4) that deal extensively with the topic of “Wisdom”, and also comes within a unique section of verses in chapter one of vv 20-33.  In this short section, “Wisdom” is personified (which may or may not be a reference to God), and it is Wisdom who starts to say, “I will pour out my….”  So should we translate “ruach” as “Spirit” or something else?

The Translator’s Handbook says:

Wisdom is likened to a fountain of water, a gushing spring for the person who will accept her instruction. Translations differ considerably in this line. NAB has “pour out to you my spirit,” NJPSV “speak my mind,” NJB “pour out my heart,” GECL “I open to you [plural] the treasure of my wisdom.”

It seems best to understand “my spirit” (my thoughts) in terms of what characterizes Wisdom, who is the speaker here. Her essential characteristic is wisdom, and therefore we may say something equivalent to TEV “I will give you good advice” or SPCL “I will fill you with wisdom.”

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Okay, so what about the many other places in the Old Testament where it is quite clear that “God poured out His Spirit” upon His people, or “the Spirit of the LORD came upon them.”  Using word searches like “the Spirit of God”, “God’s Spirit”, and “My Spirit”, I found roughly 50 verses in the entire Old Testament.  With the exception of a few verses which refer to God giving His Spirit to all people, and which are very likely references to the distant future, i.e. in or following the time of Christ, or the end times, almost every other verse was connected to key people and leaders of Israel.

The people to whom God poured out His Spirit were almost exclusively upon Moses and the leaders of his time, upon Judges like Othniel, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson and Samuel.  Then we see special anointing upon the kings of Saul, David and Solomon.  Finally, the Spirit of God came upon the great prophets, from Azariah to Isaiah, Jerimiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, plus prophetic passages that speak of Christ as in Isaiah 42:1-3 and Joel 2:27-29.

The bottom line is that God empowered special leaders of Israel (judges, priest, kings and prophets) when God needed something specifically to be done.  But otherwise, the people of God back then were not fortunate to experience the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that all believers have access to today.  There is no doubt that we are very privileged to live in the age of the Spirit, who has been  given to all believers after the resurrection and ascension of Christ.  Thank you God!

Our God Is In Control Of Everything

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[Editor’s Note: My friend who wrote this following article works with Pioneer Bible Translators in a sensitive area in Southeast Asia.  We need to uphold him and other Christians in prayer as they seek to get God’s Word out to the people in their mother-tongue languages.]

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One of the greatest things about working in a new field is that you get to see God open doors and solve problems firsthand. Sometimes we get a glimpse into the intricate ways that He “makes your ways straight” long before we even knew we would need His help.

For the past couple of years, we have been trying to start a translation project with a tribe that my parents and grandparents worked among in the last century. Let’s call them the Bimble tribe for now. They live in the North-eastern part of South Asia and have no translation in their own language, but they are very eager to have one.

Last time I visited, we were able to convince the churches in the area to listen to us and consider giving us permission to do translation work in the Bimble language. So now I left to go see all the Bodies in the area and collect their decision to allow us to work or not. When I arrived and contacted the Church of God (Anderson) elders, they were delighted that I had returned to their area and came to visit me the same day with papers granting me permission and promising help in anyway possible from their Body. It seems they had been waiting for me return for quite a while.

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I was travelling with a friend of my father and bolstered by this wonderful news, we went to meet the head of the CNI Body in town. It was a good thing we did. He was leaving town for a meeting and would not be back till the end of the week. He regretted that he would not be able to type up the permission letter but told me to make one and he would sign it. At which point, I went from being worried to being delighted.

It is always nice to be able to make people say exactly what you want them to but I made sure he saw my draft before I left that night. He also asked me to redo his letterhead while I was at it and promised to sign it as soon as he got back.  The only scary part was that he planned to return the night before I had to fly out and any delay would ruin this plan.

And sure enough, the Adversary was up to his tricks and the next morning there was a bandh. This is a forced political closure of all roads and businesses, like a strike of everything, and was started by the opposition parties and some rebel groups. Needless to say, I was a little worried. The bandh lasted right up until my last full day in town so there was very little I could do except pray that the people I needed to see would be able to return to town and would have time for me to see them.

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On that last day, we rushed to see the head of the Presbyterian Body since they are the largest in the area and we had to have their acceptance in order to succeed. We did this putting our faith in God because due to the bandh we had not been able to make an appointment or anything like that.

When we arrived, there was no one around. The leaders were all in a meeting of the council that runs the Presbyterian Body. We decided to wait anyway, praying that God would give us an opportunity to meet the leaders. After a long time, we became a bit discouraged and decided to see if there was anyone else there at all.

We walked into the only other office with people and met the vice-head of the Body. He listened to what we had to say and was sceptical at first but soon his attitude changed. He became enthusiastic about our plans to translate the Word into Bimble. He became so interested that he decided that he would take us to the Head of the Body and make sure we got an appointment with both him and the chairman of the Council.

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When they arrived, we went in and were introduced to the chairman and to the Head of the Presbyterian Body. However things started to do downhill from there. The Head changed his mind and objected. He told us that there is no need to do a translation in Bimble and that they could not give us permission. But, as seems to be the case whenever things get out of hand, the Tetragrammaton (LORD God) intervened.

The Chairman remembered that my father’s friend had performed his sister’s wedding (full blown weddings are a bit rare and are very grand, so doing one is considered an honour) and he started listening very carefully. Eventually, when we explained our idea of doing an oral translation he decided that it might be a good idea. And within seconds, the Head of the Presbyterian Body followed suit. We got our permission verbally and they even promised to support us if any of their people had questions.

That same night the Head of the CNI was able to sneak into town on the last bus and we were able to get to his house even though there was a lockdown on the streets to stop people from rioting. It helps that we were driving an ambulance. 🙂 He signed the paper and offered his personal support. It just goes to show that no matter what happens — strikes, bandhs, riots, or lockdowns— The Tetragrammaton is really the one in charge of everything.

A Response to Max Lucado’s “Open Doors” – Pt. 2

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A few weeks ago, I wrote two articles the dealt with the topic “God Opens Doors and God Closes Doors.”  These articles were based off of chapter eight of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story.”  I received a response from one of my readers who raised some interesting points and asked some good questions.  I would like to paste part of his comment and try to give a good response to him.

“I have not read Max Lucado’s book so my thoughts are incomplete. However I want to address one aspect of what you are saying.  It is common for people, particularly Christians to say, “if its of God, then the door will be open, if it’s not then the door will be closed”.  This all sounds fine, but it lacks scriptural evidence and it also ignores the same activities of Satan. It may sometimes be true, but we first need to actually hear from God before assuming such a fact.

Door open, door closed are not paths we can assume are God’s. They may confirm a path -alongside other indicators, but only a fool would blindly assume.  The problem with just letting your path be defined by open or shut doors is that it absolves a believer from listening and discerning the voice of God. It avoids relationship.

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In Part 1 of my response to my reader (read here), I shared a number of verses that do support the idea that God can direct our paths by “opening the doors of opportunity” to do something.  But God can also “close doors” on something that we pursue by putting obstacles in our way that do not allow us to pursue that path.

This does not invalidate at all the comments of my friend above.  If we were to rely only on this one test to confirm God’s will for our lives, we do in fact assume too much about God’s hand in our lives.  Some “doors” may be open to us just because of favorable circumstances.  On the other hand, when we encounter difficult roadblocks, this may be due to the activity of Satan resisting us, and instead of walking away and saying “this is of God”, this might be the time to truly press forward by faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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What we need then are other good criteria to help us determine what paths we ought to follow or not follow in our desire to do God’s will.  Over the years, I have found that there are a number of other ways in which we can confirm what God would want us to do or not to do.  Most of these “tests” have Scripture to back them up, and also make good common sense.

The very best answer I can give in knowing God’s will for our lives is for us to always check things out first with God’s Word.  An easy example of this is something that I have actually heard happen.  One woman told me, “God has told me that it is okay for me to divorce my husband.  This is not the man that God intended me to marry.”

While the second statement might contain some truth in it, seeing as we so often do go after what our heart desires and fail to ask in the beginning if this is what God would want.  But the first statement is not only wrong, it is a lie that comes from Satan.  Jesus is quite clear in Matthew 5:31-32, “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’  But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

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If we carefully read our Bibles, we would see that there are many general and specific guidelines that God lays out for us as to how to live our lives day-to-day.  I do recognize that not every situation in our lives will be covered in detail in the Bible though, so we must have other ways to test if some course of action might be of God or not.

Thankfully, we do have the Holy Spirit within us, who will not only empower us to live godly lives, but He will also help to direct us in our lives.  Read John 16:12-16 to see how Jesus promises us that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth, will make known what is to come, and will disclose things to us that Christ has made known to the Spirit.  I take this to mean we will have the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us to know what courses to pursue in life.

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In addition to God’s Word, and the leading of God’s Spirit, we must also remember that we belong to Christ’s body, the Church.  And by being active members of a church, we can have access to good godly advice from godly men and women.  Proverbs 12:15 speak towards this, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.”  There is much wisdom that could be gained if we would just ask our elders in the faith.

And finally, I believe that as we faithfully and regularly give to God in prayer our questions about which decision to make, God will confirm in our spirits what choice to make.  It is this quiet inner peace that God grants which I believe often will guide us, for true inner peace comes from God, while fear and anxiety come from the devil.  But remember, listen to God first, and then listen to your heart.  I don’t think you will go wrong.

Does Jesus Condemn Or Condone Sin?

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John 7:53 – 8:11

53 Everyone else went home, 8 but Jesus walked out to the Mount of Olives. Then early the next morning he went to the temple. The people came to him, and he sat down and started teaching them.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law of Moses brought in a woman who had been caught in bed with a man who wasn’t her husband. They made her stand in the middle of the crowd. Then they said, “Teacher, this woman was caught sleeping with a man who isn’t her husband. The Law of Moses teaches that a woman like this should be stoned to death! What do you say?”

They asked Jesus this question, because they wanted to test him and bring some charge against him. But Jesus simply bent over and started writing on the ground with his finger.

They kept on asking Jesus about the woman. Finally, he stood up and said, “If any of you have never sinned, then go ahead and throw the first stone at her!” Once again he bent over and began writing on the ground. The people left one by one, beginning with the oldest. Finally, Jesus and the woman were there alone.

10 Jesus stood up and asked her, “Where is everyone? Isn’t there anyone left to accuse you?” 11 “No sir,” the woman answered. Then Jesus told her, “I am not going to accuse you either. You may go now, but don’t sin anymore.”

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This is a very well known passage in the Gospel of John.  In various versions, this passage has been given a title like, “The Woman Caught In Adultery.”  In some ways, this title does summarize the main point in this passage, but I believe that this does not really capture the most important issues that are going on under the surface of this story.

The key to this whole passage I believe comes in verse 6 as John perceptively wrote, “they wanted to test him and bring some charge against him.”  We have seen in earlier chapters of John that the religious leaders were becoming more and more antagonistic against Jesus and His teachings and ministry among people.  Catching this woman in an act of adultery gave them the pretext to try to trap Jesus in what He would say about the situation.  Consider what one of my commentary sources says:

If Jesus answered: ‘Moses is right; stone her!’ they would have gone to Pilate and accused Jesus of infringing upon the rights of the Roman authority, which had reserved to itself the ‘right of the sword’ here, as in all conquered countries. If he had answered: ‘Do not stone her!’ they would have decried Him before the people and would even have accused Him before the Sanhedrim as a false Messiah; for the Messiah must maintain or restore the sovereignty of the Law.  (Exegetical Helps on John)

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As I look at the text, there are two other very subtle things that bother me besides the attempt of the leaders to trap Jesus in His words.  First of all, where was the man who also was involved in this act of sexual immorality?  Was he not guilty of sin?  And secondly, is it possible that the Jewish leaders arranged for this man to have sex with this married woman and they were all close by to “catch” them in the act?  Was it all a setup to frame and accuse Jesus of a legal crime by what he said next?

But Jesus, who was granted omniscience by God’s Spirit, knew all along what was going on and remained quiet.  He knew better than to respond to these religious bullies.  I’m sure it must have infuriated them that they could not bait Jesus into a rash response.  (Hmm… can we learn something here from the way Jesus handles those who oppose Him and all that He stood for?  I think so.)

Then Jesus speaks those famous words, “If any of you have never sinned, then go ahead and throw the first stone at her!”  Obviously every person who has lived has committed sin.  From the time of Adam until the present day, every person has fallen short of being perfect and without sin.  And when that realization dawned on these men, they finally all left the woman alone, for to condemn her would be to condemn themselves.

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Here then is the most important question in this passage.  What did Jesus think about this woman?  It is true that she did commit adultery.  So that does mean that she committed sin in God’s eyes.  Jesus himself had not committed sin, and so He alone was in a position to condemn the woman for her actions.  Look at what Jesus said to her, “I am not going to accuse you either. You may go now, but don’t sin anymore.”

It is clear that Jesus did not desire to see this woman condemned to die according to the religious rules of that day.  But more importantly, Jesus did not want this woman to continue acts of sin and thus be in a state of sin that would result in God condemning her to eternal death.  So Jesus did not condemn her, but He also did not condone her actions.

This is the crucial application for us today.  We must all be willing to bow in humility before God and admit our sin before Him.  Then we are to choose to no longer follow this path of sin.  This is an act of repentance, a true change of the heart.  And when that occurs, the door is then opened to receive forgiveness of our sin, forever.  I pray that you have made this important decision for your life.

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