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Devotional - Applying Scripture To Our Lives

Discussion in 'Thoughts for Today' started by anthony wade, Sep 7, 2012.

  1. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. – 2Timothy 3: 16-17 (NLT)

    Beloved we are living in the end times. The Bible warns us specifically about what will happen in these times as we will see many fall away from the faith. Many others will start to chase after myths and abandon sound doctrine. I write a lot about doctrine because false doctrine leads us astray and away from God whereas correct doctrine brings us closer to God and the work He has for us to do before He returns.

    Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. – 1Timothy 4: 16 (NIV)

    Only two things Paul warns Timothy to watch closely – his life and his doctrine. And look why! It will save both himself and his hearers! This is not a small matter. I bring it up because the further into the end times we go the more insidious false doctrine becomes. It masquerades as sound doctrine. It mixes a little leaven with the truth so the untrained ear thinks what they are hearing is right. Every time we hear the name Jesus we should not be compelled to shout amen. The name of Jesus is probably the most misused word we find in the modern church.

    Today’s devotional is specific to a poorly thought out theology I have heard propagated twice now in the past several months. Realize that the people behind the poor theology may very well have the best of intentions but God does not care about our intentions. He cares about our obedience. So this is not an indictment against anything other than the teaching. I believe it stems from another recent trend I see where preachers or diviners of God’s Word hold a belief or position and then seek to use the Bible to defend it. That is a dangerous practice – to approach God not wanting to hear from Him but rather wanting Him to rubber stamp your own theology. I have heard people misuse Scripture to support the most ungodly or nonsensical positions you could imagine. The position in question today is the belief that the context of verses from the Old Testament determines that they do not apply to new covenant believers. The first time I heard this it was regarding everyone’s favorite verse after John 3:16:

    For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29: 11 (NIV)

    The logic goes something like this – because this was written and intended for the remnant of Judah in Babylonian captivity it was never intended for Christians. Thus when Christians cite Jeremiah 29: 11 they do so ignorantly and incorrectly. The other Scripture I heard challenged was another Christian favorite:

    Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. – 2Chronicles 7: 14 (NLT)

    The similar logic was that this was God speaking to Israel during a time of drought and because it was a promise of restoration on a physical (agricultural) level it has nothing to do with Christians, should not be used by Christians, and never has anything to do with a promise of God for a spiritual restoration.

    Where do we start? Hermeneutics is a big fancy word for the study of Bible interpretation. It has rules which must be followed; the first being context, context, context. It is important that we understand what the context of a verse is so we can be assured it is not being misused. For example, Matthew 7: 1 is one of the most misused verses in the Bible. This is the famous “judge not” verse Christians like to use when someone is trying to help them with a sinful behavior they may be inclined to. Standing alone, it certainly does look like God is saying to not judge but that is because the context is missing, which is the following four verses. When taken as a whole it is clear that we are to judge but not as hypocrites. Verse five says to help your brother with the speck in his eye after you have dealt with the log in your own. While we are at this, who the Scripture was originally intended for is also very important so that we can understand the meaning. There is nothing wrong with understanding that the original intent of the 2Chronicles verse dealt with a drought and the restoration of agricultural prosperity; in fact it should be understood. Likewise, we should understand that Jeremiah was a Prophet to the remnant of Judah. What I think some of the modern theologians are missing here is that meaning and application are two different things.

    Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. – Romans 15: 4 (NLT)

    What is Paul saying here? This letter was written specifically to the believers in Rome around 50AD. Does that mean we dismiss it? By this logic, the entire Bible is only useful to the people who it was written to, who are all dead now. Now, that does not mean that people have not misapplied Scripture before. That can certainly happen which is why again it is crucial that we watch our doctrine closely. Is the application of Scripture supported in other Scripture? The Bible always confirms itself and never contradicts itself. How can we be sure of this? The Word is God beloved. He never contradicts Himself and always confirms what He has said. He is not a man that He would lie.

    So when we read Jeremiah 29: 11, is it supported in Scripture that God does indeed have a plan for our lives? Is that plan to prosper us and not to harm us? Well Romans 8: 28 assures me that God is working all things out for my good so I would answer a resounding hallelujah! But here is how it can be misapplied. Prosperity preachers will use a verse such as Jeremiah 29: 11 and say that God using the word “prosper” here indicates that He wants everyone to be rich. The problem with that conclusion is there is no mention of material wealth in this verse or the context. We also can cross reference to the story of the rich young ruler and see that Jesus told him to sell everything he owned because his riches were preventing him from truly following God. Jesus spoke about how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. A true reading of scripture reveals that not everyone is meant to be rich. For a lot of people, excessive wealth would drive them away from God. Prosperity however can mean many different things and that is the point of Jeremiah 29: 11. God has a plan for our future. How can I be sure? Philippians 1: 6 says that He who started a good work in me will complete it! Philippians 4: 19 says that God will meet all my needs. Now, we may disagree about what my needs are but in the end, God has a plan. Jeremiah 29: 11 most certainly applies to my life and the life of every believer. Let us never forget that as believers in Jesus Christ we also share in the Hope of Glory, the ultimate plan for our future – eternal life with our God.

    This also however does not mean that everything magically applies to new covenant believers simply because it was in the Old Testament. We are supposed to test everything against the entire Word of God. I will give you another example:

    About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners.It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” – Acts 10: 9-14 (NIV)

    Peter is referring all the way back to Leviticus which outlined what foods were considered unclean and therefore to be avoided by the Israelites. The Lord immediately tells Peter to not call anything He has made clean impure. The rules have changed but Peter was still clinging to the old way. He forgot what Jesus taught:

    Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand.What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’” – Matthew 15: 10-11 (NIV)

    On many other things Jesus raised the bar on the old ways. Instead of dealing with adultery He dealt with the lust behind it by saying if you even look at a woman lustfully you have committed adultery in your heart. Instead of dealing with murder He dealt with the anger behind it. Instead of an eye for an eye we are now commanded to turn the other cheek. So it is important that we examine and test everything. This is why doctrine is so important! Because people can twist Scripture so easily if they so desire. They can leave the context out; refuse to look for supporting or dissenting Scripture or use the Bible to prop up pre-formed biases and conclusions. I remember I once sat down to do a devotional on righteous anger…because I was angry. I was angry about things in my church and I wanted to write about that. By the time God was through with me I had a devotional about how our anger rarely reaches the level of righteous anger Jesus has set in Scripture. God cut through my arguments with His Word and showed me how my anger was mine. It was selfish not righteous. It was about my ego, not His Son. That is how you watch your doctrine. When the Scriptures I was seeing were not agreeing with my plan, I could have pushed them aside and simply kept going until I could find something I could stretch to fit. But then it would be my word not God’s. My word means nothing. God’s Word means everything.

    This brings us to our key verses, which should completely dispel the notion that somehow things in the Bible are not applicable to New Covenant believers simply because of whom the original audience was. It is important to realize first that this letter was written by Paul to Timothy. There was no New Testament yet. Paul had no idea this letter would become doctrine. So when he is speaking about Scripture here he is clearly speaking about the Old Testament. First, all Scripture is inspired by God. From the fall of man to the revelation of John on the Island of Patmos. God does not waste a single letter in His Word. He inspired all of it. It is useful beloved to teach us what is true – as we see today in this study. Understand that the poor theology we spoke of today has two huge problems for those who follow it. One is that they would be missing out on some of the greatest promises in Scripture. I would rather hold Jeremiah 29: 11 close to my heart than discard it based upon some contextual argument that does not pass the smell test. Secondly, bad theology leads to bad theology. Nothing good can come of it. The Bible says that a little leaven spreads through the entire batch. I have heard the contorted argument that we should eat the meat and spit out the bones but I tell you what – if the bone is rotten, I don’t trust the meat.

    All Scripture is also useful to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. I know the “love only” crowd may have some problems with this but it is not my word – it is God’s. The 2Chronicles verse for example was designed to help Israel correct their backsliding ways and it also serves as a stark reminder to the church today to repent. It applies to both. Lastly, God uses His Word to prepare and equip us to do every good work He has laid out for us. How do I know that is what this means? Because Scripture supports it:

    For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2: 10 (NLT)

    Listen beloved; broad is the path to destruction and narrow is the gate that leads to heaven. Many are being led astray in these times. Our job is not to have unity for the sake of unity. We should not have the goal of singing kumbya together regardless of what is being taught and preached. Check and make sure the person is not trying to use Scripture to support a pre-formed bias. What do I mean by that? A prosperity preacher will seek out Scripture he can use to prop up his belief that everyone should be rich – starting with him. I remember once there was a prosperity preacher who used Deuteronomy 28: 2 to defend his extravagance. Right away my Spirit bristled and was curious what Deuteronomy 28: 1 contained. Here are the two verses:

    “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God: - Deuteronomy 28: 1-2 (NKJV)

    The second verse speaks about being overtaken by God’s blessings but he conveniently left out the context which shows that you must first obey all 613 Mosaic laws, which no one could do. Be wary of people who are preaching anything “alone.” God is a God of balance and order. When Paul left the Ephesian elders he said he was free of their blood because he preached the entire Gospel. Watch your life and your doctrine closely. The wolves are in sheep’s clothing for a reason.

    Reverend Anthony Wade – September 7, 2012

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