Dave Jenkins – The Son of Man Must Be Lifted Up (John 12:27-34)
Tim Challies – Why Are We So Distracted?
Tony Reinke – Smartphone Smart
We have often loved what we’ve learned about God more than God himself.
The Bible warns us about the dangers that come with our knowledge of God, especially for the theologically refined and convinced. “You cannot serve both God and theology.” Good theology is a means to enjoying and worshiping God, or it is useless.
Has your theology turned into idolatry? Has your knowledge of God ironically and tragically drawn you away from him, not nearer to him? Here are nine questions that might help you diagnose theology idolatry in your own heart and mind.
1. Does your theology draw you to God?
Does greater knowledge of God lead you deeper into prayer? Maybe the surest test of our theology is whether it produces greater intimacy with God. No one needed to tell Jesus anything about God, yet that didn’t in any way dilute or diminish his need to pray. Instead, it deepened and enlivened his commitment to meet his heavenly Father in prayer (Mark 1:35).
“Let us make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:4).
This is my confession. I’ve dabbled and stumbled into the sin of self-importance, ego, vain glory, and tooting my own rusty horn. I’ve wished for a platform — not a soapbox on my corner of the web. Who doesn’t want to be noticed? Who doesn’t want their peers to think you’re a go-to kinda person, a savant who’s able to smash words and ideas together — tastefully — like a veteran Marble Slab manager?
So, who? Well, off the top of my head: John the Baptist. He’s such a rascal isn’t he? He really gets under the skin, irritating what our flesh wants. We must decrease. Christ must increase.
BABEL VERSUS THE BAPTIST
Babel and the Baptist are at odds. Let’s make a name for ourselves. Let’s not. Let’s increase our following. Let’s decrease, dwindle to peanuts, and baton everything toward Christ. How can we increase our social media buzz? How can people see more of Christ by what I do?
There’s a fuzzy tension here. It’s possible to want to help others think biblically, to look to Christ, to learn God’s word, and also “market” or strategize or share online. Martin Luther and George Whitefield utilized the technology of their day to spread the gospel and God blessed their ingenuity. It is possible.
Jesus thinks reading is a big deal. After all, he wrote a book. And Jesus thinks reading his book is a big deal, because, well, he is. For a blog post on the sufficiency of Scripture and biblical scholarship this may seem overly simplistic. Aren’t scholars supposed to talk about really complicated things that impress others with their erudition and expansive vocabulary? While it is possible for most scholars to do such things, it is also true that erudition and expansive vocabularies ought to result in scholars helping people see the simplicity in matters marked by complexity. Believe it or not, it is likely safe to say that many scholarly debates turn on someone’s misreading of a particular text or a particular author. Given the cultural factors that hold in America today, as well as the sinful corruption of every human soul, there is a powerfully toxic blend of factors that undermine faithfully accurate reading in general, and of Scripture particularly, even by people who memorize the latter, write a lot about it, and have declared intentions in helping others understand it.
Reading has always been at the core of human scholarly pursuits. Indeed, the ancient and long-standing view of a scholar has been one who has the ability to read (not necessarily speak) in multiple languages and synthesize this reading accurately. On more than one occasion Jesus criticized the official and unofficial leaders of God’s people for being poor readers (Mt. 12:3, 5; 19:4; 21:16, 42; 22:31). Jesus was confronting them with their sin. The texts to which Jesus referred were certainly ones with which the leaders were very familiar. In one sense they had read them, but in another sense they had not. As it turns out, moral deficiencies corrupt intellectual analyses and conclusions that have practical results in every aspect of life. According to Jesus, their failure to rightly interpret the text meant they really had not read it.
“It repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” Genesis 6:6
The manner in which God here acknowledges man as his handiwork is specially to be noted. The words are, “It repented the Lord that he had made man upon earth.” It is not said generally, “that man had been made”; but definitely, that “he had made man.” He had spoken of man in his primeval goodness, as coming from his hand; so now he does not fail to remind us that it is this same man, this very race, that has now become so worthless and hateful.
He might have drawn a veil over this point, so as to prevent our being so vividly reminded that man was truly his own workmanship. But he does not. Nay, he brings the sad fact before us, — a fact that seems to reflect upon his own skill and power. He does not disavow creation. He does not disown man. He does not speak or act as one ashamed to be known as the Maker of one so miserably apostate, so incurably depraved. Even when making known man’s extremity of guilt, he openly owns him as his creature. He does not keep silence on the matter, as one desirous that it should be forgotten or unnoticed. He brings it directly forward, as if to call attention to the fact.
When man fails in some great or favourite project,—as when an architect plans and builds a palace, which, by reason of some essential defect, almost immediately tumbles down, — he is anxious that its failure should not be proclaimed, and that the work thus ruined should never be known as his. He cannot bear the reproach which is sure to fall upon him; he shrinks from the responsibility which has been incurred; he cannot afford to lose the reputation he may have gained.
“Anyone who claims to be in this light while hating his brother is still in the dark.” 1 John 2:9 (CJB)
When we think of sins, most think of the big ones such as murder, adultery, pornography, and drunkenness. Hatred towards our fellow man, in particular towards our brothers and sisters in Christ is a sin we often overlook. That is unfortunate given the Apostle John in 1 John 2:9 equates hatred towards another as akin to walking in darkness. Those who claim to be followers of Christ should not live in hatred towards others. Walking in the light in an attitude of love is incompatible with walking in darkness in an attitude of hate.
Given that one manner in which the world will know we are followers of Christ is by our demonstration of love for one another (John 13:35), to have an attitude of hatred is not in keeping with what God expects of His people. In order to understand what this hatred is all about, let’s spend some time unpacking the short but powerfully important passage of 1 John 2:9.
The first half of this verse notes there are those who make the claim they are in the light. The Greek word translated as light in 1 John 2:9 is phōs. It has a variety of meanings all related to something giving off light. We find in Scripture those who walk in the light are the righteous. This begs the question as to what is the source of this light we are to walk in as God’s people. Psalm 119:105 reminds us “Your word is a lamp for my foot and light on my path.” In order to walk in the light, the follower of Christ must walk according to the precepts and instructions found in God’s Word which is the light that shines on the path of life, determining for us how it is we should live.
We also find that all of God’s commands found in His Word are rooted in loving God and loving others (Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:30-31). Loving God and loving others are behaviors that encapsulate all of God’s commands to us throughout Scripture. This means to walk in the light is to walk in the truth of God’s Word which commands us to walk in love towards God and others at all times. If we claim to walk in the light and if we claim to have Scripture as the light and foundation for our life, walking in love will be a hallmark of our life.
The Apostle John notes in 1 John 2:9 that walking in love is not always the case for most people. There are many who claim to walk in the light yet continue to hate their brother. John declares that hating your brother is not walking in the light but is rather walking in darkness. The Greek word translated as dark or darkness is scotia, meaning “the darkness due to want of light.” It is often a metaphor used in Scripture to describe those who are ignorant of God’s Word and His commands. This term is often specifically related to the wicked and those in bondage to sin.
Of further note is what is meant by the word hate. John uses the word miseō which means “to hate, pursue with hatred, detest.” We can clearly see that such an attitude is one that is demonstrated by a pursuit of hatred, a continued attitude towards our brother rooted in detesting the very sight of them or even the sound of their name. This means hatred is an active problem and rears its ugly head in a number of ways in our lives each and every day.
As followers of Christ, we have been delivered from bondage through the shed blood of Christ. With that said, we still have to deal with the sin nature. One element of sin that continually entangles us is that of hatred. When we claim to walk in the light yet allow a root of hatred and bitterness to maintain its hold in our lives, we are not allowing the light of God’s Word to penetrate the darkness that still remains and wants to still grab hold of us. In order to deal with the root of bitterness, we have to allow God’s Word to sink into every fiber of our being. God’s Word is “at work and is sharper than any double-edged sword — it cuts right through to where soul meets spirit and joints meet marrow, and it is quick to judge the inner reflections and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). When we walk in the light of God’s Word, it will shine into those dark corners of our hearts, cutting through that root of bitterness and hatred.
Hate can be demonstrated in so many ways. We may think that hate is simply snippy words or a bad attitude or grinding your teeth and rolling your eyes when someone’s name is mentioned. While those are certainly indications of hate, walking in a spirit of sinful hatred towards others is actually quite more. Glenn Barker aptly notes, “Whenever a brother has need and one does not help him, then one has despised and, in fact, hated his brother.” That reality certainly puts us all in the category of walking in a spirit of hate more often than we would like to admit.
Dealing with hate in our lives is a must. Walking in hate towards another, whether they are a brother or sister in the Lord or someone outside the household of faith is akin to walking in darkness. Walking in darkness is equated all throughout Scripture as sinful behavior. Thus hatred is sin and sin in all its insidious forms must be dealt with through the work of the Holy Spirit. When the light of God’s Word permeates our hearts and minds, we can walk in the light which is love towards God and others. Being obedient to God’s commands is the very definition of walking in love. John Calvin comments “the love of God teaches us to love men, and we also in reality prove our love to God by loving men at his command. However this may be, it remains always certain that love is the rule of life. And this ought to be the more carefully noticed, because all choose rather almost anything else than this one commandment of God.”
If you are struggling in this area, spend time in prayer and in passionate study of God’s Word. Pray that the light of God’s Word and His love would shine through in all areas of your life and in your dealings with others. Pray that God through the work of the Holy Spirit would uproot the sin of hatred in your life and that He would replace it with love and compassion.
 Glenn Barker. “Commentary on 1, 2, & 3 John” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12: Hebrews through Revelation. Edited by Frank Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 317.
Why is Bible reading important? Most Christians know they should read their Bibles. But often, our Bible reading can feel dry and insignificant. Why is it so important for us to read this book? What’s the urgency of it?
Ruth and Naomi’s story in the Old Testament reveals some urgent truths through illustration about why we need our Bibles right now and every single day. We should not bypass these truths because they are the difference between spiritual life and death; between conviction and apathy; between joy, peace, and strength and discontentment, anxiety, and fear; between knowing some things about Jesus and knowing Jesus intimately.
Here are five reasons that you desperately need the Bible, as illustrated in the book of Ruth.
You need the Bible so your soul doesn’t starve.
Threat of starvation loomed before Ruth and her mother-in-law. They moved back to Bethlehem after their husbands and sons died, leaving them without male protection or provision. So the women had to find a way to keep themselves alive. Ruth decides to glean in the fields of family members, “in whose sight [she] shall find favor” (Ruth 2:2), with her sights set on Boaz’s part of the field.
Boaz takes note of her hunger and determination. He asks his servant about Ruth, who replies,
She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, “Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.” So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest. (vs. 6-7)
Ruth gleans for dear life, and for Naomi’s life. She knows she will find favor here, that she can come and will be received, and that gleaning from this field will save both she and her mother-in-law from physical starvation.
“What have I to do any more with idols?” Hosea 14:8
When Christ came into the temple, He found those that sold “oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: and when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple” (John 2:14-15). So when the Holy Spirit comes into any heart, He drives out the buyers and sellers. If you have received the Spirit, you will be crying now in your heart, Lord, take these things hence; drive them out of my heart. What have I to do any more with idols? Some of the idols to be cast away are:
1. Self–righteousness. This is the largest idol of the human heart, the idol which man loves most and God hates most. Dearly beloved, you will always be going back to this idol. You are always trying to be something in yourself, to gain God’s favor by thinking little of your sin; or by looking to your repentance, tears, prayers; or by looking to your religious exercises, your feelings; or by looking to your graces—the Spirit’s work in your heart. Beware of false Christs. Study sanctification to the utmost, but make not a Christ of it.
God hates this idol more than all others, because it comes in the place of Christ: it sits on Christ’s throne. Just as the worship of the virgin Mary is the worst of all kinds of idolatry, because it puts her in the place of Christ; so self-righteousness is the idol God hates most, for it sits on the throne of Christ. Dash it down, dear friends. Let it never appear again.
It is like Manasseh’s carved image in the Holiest of all (2 Chr 33:1-15). When Manasseh came home an altered man to Jerusalem, would not his first visit be to the Holiest of all? With eager hand he would draw the veil aside; and when he found the carved image, he would dash it down from the throne of God. Go and do likewise. If you feel God’s love freely by the righteousness without works, then why would you go back to this grim idol? What have I to do any more with idols?