Category Archives: Topical Bible Questions

Topical Bible Questions: What Does the Bible Mean When It Refers to Something as a Perversion?

 

Webster’s Dictionary defines perversion as “a diverting from the true intent or purpose; a change to something worse; a turning or applying to a wrong end or use.” Anything can be perverted. Using opiates for non-medicinal purposes, for example, is a perversion of the poppy plant. In the Bible, the word translated “perversion” is used to define a deviation from righteousness in sexual behavior (Leviticus 18:23; Romans 1:27; Ephesians 4:19; Colossians 3:5), speech (Proverbs 10:31), or justice (Ecclesiastes 5:8). In each case, there are warnings against using for evil something that God created as good.

Satan twists things. Every good thing that God created, Satan works to pervert. God created sexuality and called it good (Genesis 1:27–28, 31). Sexual union has a dual purpose—procreation (Genesis 1:28; 9:1) and joining marriage partners as “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:8; 1 Corinthians 6:16). Since early days, human beings have found twisted uses for sex that accomplish neither of God’s intended purposes. The perversions were so widespread by the time God gave the Law to Moses that admonitions against specific perversions had to be included in detail (Leviticus 18:23; 20:12–13; Deuteronomy 27:20). According to Scripture, any sexual activity outside the marriage union of one woman and one man is a perversion and condemned by God (1 Corinthians 6:18; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:3). The New Testament lists some specific sexual perversions such as homosexuality, adultery, and fornication, stating that those who practice such aberrant behaviors “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9–10; Galatians 5:19–21).

The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about perverted speech. Our mouths were created to praise God, encourage each other, and speak truth (Psalm 19:14; 120:2; 141:3; Proverbs 12:22). Perverse speech occurs when we use the gift of speech for evil purposes such as cursing, gossiping, using foul language, coarse joking, and lying (Proverbs 10:18; 12:22; 16:27; Ephesians 5:4). Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (NASB). In Matthew 15:11, Jesus indicates that perversion is a matter of the heart: “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

God also hates the perversion of justice, especially when it victimizes widows and orphans (Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 27:19; Isaiah 1:23). God is perfectly just and commands human beings to model that justice. Proverbs 11:1 says, “The LORD detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him.” When we choose to seek our own interests at the expense of the rights of others, we have perverted justice. Some examples of perverted justice are the taking and offering of bribes (Proverbs 17:23), oppressing the poor (Amos 5:12), killing the innocent (Exodus 23:7), and bearing false witness (Exodus 23:1; Proverbs 19:5). God loves justice, and godly people will love it, too. God desires His children to actively defend those who are being oppressed (Isaiah 1:17; Micah 6:8).

Satan cannot create; that power belongs to God alone. So he perverts what God has created. If he can entice God’s most cherished creations to follow him in his twisted ideas, he succeeds in perverting the image of God we were designed to magnify (1 Corinthians 11:7). It is Satan who introduced the idea that perversion equals freedom. But he knows quite well that perversion is a slippery path that leads to bondage and then death (Romans 2:5–8; 2 Peter 2:19). By perverting sexuality, speech, or justice, we mar the likeness of God in our own lives. But by using God’s gifts in the way He intended them to be used, we find true freedom and can enjoy a healthy relationship with God (Psalm 24:3–4; Matthew 5:8; Galatians 5:1).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

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Topical Bible Questions: What Is Spiritual Adultery?

 

Spiritual adultery is unfaithfulness to God. It is having an undue fondness for the things of the world. Spiritually adultery is analogous to the unfaithfulness of one’s spouse: “ ‘But like a woman faithless to her lover, even so have you been faithless to me, O house of Israel,’ says the LORD” (Jeremiah 3:20; see also Isaiah 1:21; 57:8; Ezekiel 16:30).

The Bible tells us that people who choose to be friends with the world are an “adulterous people” having “enmity against God” (James 4:4–5). The “world” here is the system of evil under Satan’s control (John 12:31; Ephesians 2:2; 1 John 5:19). The world system, with its contrived and deceitful scheme of phony values, worthless pursuits, and unnatural affections, is designed to lure us away from a pure relationship with God. Spiritual adultery, then, is the forsaking of God’s love and the embracing of the world’s values and desires (Romans 8:7–8; 2 Timothy 4:10; 1 John 2:15–17).

Spiritual adultery includes any form of idolatry. In the Old Testament, the children of Israel tried to mix the worship of other gods such as Baal with that of God (Judges 3:7; 1 Kings 16:31–33; Jeremiah 19:5). In doing so, Israel became like an adulterous wife who wanted both a husband and another lover (Jeremiah 9:2; Ezekiel 6:9; 16:32). In the New Testament, James defines spiritual adultery as claiming to love God while cultivating friendship with the world (James 4:4–5). The person who commits spiritual adultery is one who professes to be a Christian yet finds his real love and pleasure in the things that Satan offers. For believers, the love of the world and the love of God are direct opposites. Believers committing spiritual adultery may claim to love the Lord, but, in reality, they are captivated by the pleasures of this world, its influence, comforts, financial security, and so-called freedoms.

The concept of spiritual adultery against God is a major theme throughout the Old Testament (Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 3:20; Ezekiel 16:15–19). This theme is illustrated especially well in the book of Hosea. The prophet’s wife, Gomer, symbolizes the infidelity of the children of Israel (Hosea 2:2–5; 3:1–5; 9:1). Hosea’s commitment to Gomer symbolizes God’s faithful, patient love with His erring people.

Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24). The Bible exhorts us, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:15–16). Believers must echo the words of the old hymn: “The world behind me, the cross before me; no turning back.”

“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’ ” (1 Peter 1:14–16). Spiritual adultery is like trying to straddle the fence with one foot in the world and the other heaven. We cannot have both. As Jesus warned the church in Laodicea, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15–16).

The love of the world is primarily an attitude of one’s heart, and we can cast away worldliness by cultivating a new affection. To avoid spiritual adultery, “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2, KJV).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Topical Bible Questions: What Does the Bible Say about Scoffers?

 

The word translated “scoffer” in English can mean “one who mocks, ridicules, or scorns the belief of another.” In Hebrew, the word translated “scoffer” or “mocker” can also mean “ambassador.” So a scoffer is one who not only disagrees with an idea, but he also considers himself an ambassador for the opposing idea. He cannot rest until he has demonstrated the foolishness of any idea not his own. A scoffer voices his disagreement, ridicules all who stand against him, and actively recruits others to join his side. In the Bible, scoffers are those who choose to disbelieve God and His Word. They say in their hearts, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1), and make it their ambition to ridicule those who follow God.

The Bible has a lot to say about scoffers (Proverbs 19:29; 29:8; Acts 13:41). Proverbs 3:34 says that God “scoffs at the scoffers, yet He gives grace to the afflicted.” Psalm 1:1 gives us clear instruction about how to deal with scoffers: “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers” (NASB). The progression of unbelief begins with listening to ungodly counsel and ends with joining the scoffers. The Bible warns us not to entertain the company of those who actively ridicule our faith, or we risk having that faith destroyed. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (ESV).

We cannot totally escape the presence of scoffers. They were active in Jesus’ day, and we continue to hear from them today. Jesus told His disciples, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18–19). A Christian should “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks … to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). However, when we cease to be the influencers and start to become the influenced, it is time to “shake the dust off our feet” (Matthew 10:14; Mark 6:11; Luke 10:11).

First Peter 3:3 warns us that “in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires” (cf. Jude 1:18). We know from Scripture that scoffing will only increase as we near the time for Jesus’ return (2 Timothy 3:1–5). We already see it happening with the blanket acceptance of evolutionary theory that excludes a Creator, the rapid expansion of false religions that deny the deity of Christ, and the numeric explosion of those who identify themselves as agnostics and atheists.

Scoffers have always been and will always be present in the world. But there is coming a promised day when “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10–11). On that day there will no longer be any scoffers. They will at last accept the truth, and their scoffing will be forever silenced.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Topical Bible Questions: What Does the Bible Say about Burnout?

 

Anyone who has experienced burnout knows it is not something he ever wants to experience again. Burnout is commonly described as an exhausted state in which a person loses interest in a particular activity and even in life in general. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, social, and spiritual exhaustion. It can lead to diminished health, social withdrawal, depression, and a spiritual malaise. Many times, burnout is the result of an extended period of exertion at a particular task (generally with no obvious payoff or end in sight) or the carrying of too many burdens (such as borne by those in the helping professions or those in positions of authority, among others). Burnout can be common among those in high-stress jobs who feel forced to please an earthly master in order to maintain their job and continue to provide for their families. The god of money reigns in Western culture, and his demands often lead to burnout. Christians are not immune to the demands of economic realities or to experiencing fear of failing to meet those demands. Unfortunately, burnout can also be common among those in vocational Christian ministry and those highly involved in their churches. In these cases people sometimes feel compelled to serve the god of productivity and works. Burnout can happen anywhere. It is the result of overwhelming demands or responsibilities, either placed on us by others or by ourselves, that we simply cannot bear. So what does the Bible say about burnout?

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30). The ultimate solution for those currently experiencing burnout is to find refreshment in Christ. For those with a particularly high level of burnout, this refreshment may include obtaining medical support and drastically altering their life activities. Others may find refreshment through seeing a counselor. Reading encouraging Scriptures (such as Romans 8, John 15, or Psalm 139) can be very life-giving. Even simple activities like cooking, going for a walk, playing with the kids, or watching a funny show can be restorative.

The prevention plan for burnout is to rest in Jesus and follow His direction for life.

Burnout is often the result of self-reliance. The self-reliant take upon themselves the role of savior rather than trusting God to accomplish His own will. They begin to see every need as their call, rather than asking for God’s wisdom and direction. This can play out in a ministry setting when a pastor attempts to do the work of the entire Body of Christ, in a business setting when someone forces a certain plan or project, in a family setting when a parent takes responsibility for the success and happiness of a child, and in numerous other settings.

Another cause of burnout is a lack of self-care. Those who do not take care of themselves fail to understand how much God values them. They fail to accept His rest and His love for them, instead martyring themselves on the altar of pleasing others. They may sacrifice sleep, nourish their bodies poorly, over-extend their schedules, or neglect their needs in other ways. Whether it’s a lack of self-care or an insistence on self-reliance, burnout stems from a lack of understanding of the character of God and His expectations for our lives.

Work is part of the human calling (Genesis 1:28; 2:15; Colossians 3:23; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). Generativity is a portion of what gives our lives a sense of meaning and purpose. Christians are also expected to be self-sacrificial, at times giving beyond themselves. However, nowhere in the Bible does God equate our acceptability or our identity with our work. And nowhere does God command or condone working so hard that we become burned out. Rather, our work is to be energized by Him. He demonstrated the importance of rest on the seventh day of creation and with the Sabbath command (Genesis 2:2–3; Exodus 20:8–11; Mark 2:27). After one particularly busy time, Jesus invited His disciples away from the crowds for a time of rest (Mark 6:31). Jesus said to come to Him with our burdens and take His yoke instead. He also gave us the Holy Spirit who can give us discernment in what tasks to say “yes” to.

Moses would have burned out, but for the wise counsel of his father-in-law, Jethro. The story is found in Exodus 18:14–23. Moses thought he was doing the will of God by sitting as judge and hearing the people’s cases. However, Jethro rightly recognized that this was not a job for one man to handle alone. Eventually, Moses would burn out, and the people would be left unsatisfied. To avoid burnout, Moses had to accept that not every need was meant to be filled by him. God charged Moses with leadership, not with performing every duty. Jethro advised Moses to delegate the task of judging the nation to other trustworthy men. That way, the people were provided justice, others had an opportunity to participate in God’s plan, and Moses’ need for personal care was met.

The apostles in the early church also wisely delegated some tasks in Acts 6:1–6 when they appointed deacons to help bear the burden of the ministry to the church. Jesus provides rest for our souls and boundaries for our schedules. He also gives us a community to help carry out the work He has prepared for us. The Body of Christ is meant to function as a whole, each member helping carry the others’ burdens, and all resting in Christ (Galatians 6:2; Ephesians 4:16; Romans 12:6–8; 1 Corinthians 12:7, 27; Hebrews 4:9–11).

The author of Hebrews wrote, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1b–3). To persevere—to continue in our calling without burning out—we must remain focused on Jesus. Or, to use another metaphor, we must stay connected to the Vine (John 15:1–17). This is good biblical and psychological advice. In some studies, avoiding burnout has been linked with spiritual well-being. The better we feel spiritually, the less likely we are to experience burnout. When we are in vibrant relationship with God and receiving our fill from Him, we are less likely to push the boundaries God has set for us or to work ourselves beyond what He would ask. We are more apt to recognize what God is calling us to do and what He is not calling us to do. God equips us for what He calls us to (Hebrews 13:20–21; Ephesians 2:10). When God continually fills our spirit, it is impossible to dry up and burn out.

But what does relying on Jesus look like practically? It will be different for each person. For some it will mean examining their own hearts and removing the idols of self-reliance. For others it will be challenging their trust in God by learning to say “no.” For some it will mean consulting with God before saying “yes.” For others, it will mean being more intentional about self-care. Self-care implies not only caring for one’s body as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19–20) by getting proper exercise, sleep, and nutrition; it also means taking time to laugh, to engage in hobbies, to be with friends, to be alone, to go for a hike, to soak in a bath, to read a book, to journal, in essence to actually enjoy those things that God has made to be life-giving to you. Taking steps to rely on Jesus may have very real consequences. Often when we first begin to set boundaries, such as those required in order to avoid burnout, some of those around us do not respond well. When a person is used to your continual “yes,” he may not know how to handle a “no.” Employers, families, and fellow church members may not understand what you are doing. You may even suffer the loss of relationships, but you may also find yourself engaging in even richer relationships and truly enjoying the activities of life. When we are following God, we can trust that He is faithful to provide for our needs (Matthew 6:33). God has designed us and He knows what is best for us. When we rely on Him, we can trust Him to make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5–6). It takes wisdom, discernment, and faith to live within God’s parameters, but it is there that we find true life.

We recover from burnout by entering God’s rest. We avoid burnout the next time by staying in tune with God’s specific direction for our lives. That means we consult Him about our schedules, we take time to care for ourselves, and we learn to depend on His strength to carry out our duties. Our identity is not drawn from the tasks we accomplish but from our relationship with Jesus. We do the work He calls us to, and we do it with all our hearts, but we do not go beyond the limits He has set. We accept help from others because God has called us to community. We accept His rest because it is the gracious gift of a loving and wise Father. God is more interested in our relationship with Him than He is in our work (Hosea 6:6). There is nothing spiritual about “burning out for Jesus.”[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Topical Bible Questions: What Is Spiritual Manipulation?

 

To manipulate is to negotiate, control or influence for one’s own advantage. Spiritual manipulation is a technique used by some abusive churches and cults to control individuals and acquire gain, all the while giving the impression that their teachings are based on the Bible.

Some religious groups take Scriptures out of context in order to support their beliefs. They isolate “proof texts” and “cherry pick” verses to persuade the uninformed that their interpretation is right, even to the extent of claiming they alone have “the truth” and everybody else is wrong. Some have even altered the Bible and produced their own translation to support their religious bias.

Some denominations use scholastic dishonesty to manipulate. They will use partial quotations from first-century Christians and eminent Bible scholars in suggesting that they agree with their views. Take, as an example, the booklet “Should You Believe in the Trinity?,” published by the Watchtower Society. Page 7 includes a partial quote from Justin Martyr: “Justin Martyr, who died about 165 C.E., called the prehuman Jesus a created angel who is ‘other than the God who made all things.’ He said that Jesus was inferior to God and ‘never did anything except what the Creator … willed him to do and say.’ ” What’s missing from this partial quotation is significant. Justin Martyr said that the “Son, who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God.” Nowhere did Justin Martyr say the pre-human Jesus was a created angel.

Some individuals manipulate Scripture for their own personal benefit. An authoritarian husband might demand that his wife submit to him as the head of the house and quote Ephesians 5:22 (“Wives, submit to your husbands”). But that same man might purposefully overlook verse 26, which says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Instead of taking the bits of Scripture he approves of and using them to lord it over his family, he would do well to read 1 Corinthians 13 and practice the type of love that is patient, kind, protects, trust and perseveres, etc.

During a conversation between Christians, someone might say, “The Lord has told me that.…” This phrase essentially shuts down the conversation because it implies that, since God has spoken a word, there can’t be any further discussion. Don’t be fooled by this trick; it is a form of spiritual manipulation. Or a preacher says, “Sow into my ministry, and God will repay you. Sow, and you will reap! God is no man’s debtor.” Could such preaching simply be an exploitive appeal for money? Is the preacher trying to influence people for his own financial advantage? If so, it is spiritual manipulation.

Another form of spiritual manipulation occurs when abusive churches and cults twist Scripture to give more authority to the leadership and keep the members under their control. One example is the use of Hebrews 13:17 as a basis for demanding unquestioning loyalty and obedience to the leaders. Some religious groups view questioning the leaders as tantamount to questioning God. Some leaders claim to have divine authority and approval; thus, to disobey them is to disobey God. This is perhaps the most pernicious form of spiritual manipulation, and it has no place in a true church.

Victims of spiritual manipulation seldom realize what’s happening to them. Here are some indicators of a spiritually manipulative church:

Legalism Demands for obedience Unquestioning submission Punishment (loss of privileges, shunning or expulsion) Misplaced loyalty Emphasis on performance Exclusivism (“we alone are right, and everybody else is wrong”) Isolation (refusal to associate with anyone but spiritual brothers and sisters) Humiliation of the “disobedient”

Abusive churches train members to block out any information that is critical of the group. With enough thought and information control, the leaders can get those under their control to defend their new identity against their former identity. The first line of defense is denial—“What you say isn’t happening at all.” Next comes rationalization—“This is happening for a good reason.” After that, justification—“This is happening because it ought to.” Finally, wishful thinking—“I’d like it to be true, so maybe it really is.”

A characteristic of spiritually abusive systems is that a misplaced sense of loyalty is fostered and even demanded. This is not about loyalty to Christ, but about loyalty to an organization, church or leader. Because authority is assumed or legislated, following that authority must also be legislated. This is accomplished is by setting up a system where disloyalty or disagreement with the leadership is construed as disobeying God. Questioning leaders is not allowed. After all, the leader is the authority, and authority is always right. Such spiritual manipulation denies the truth of Ephesians 1:22, which says that Christ is the Head of the church. Our loyalty is due Him.

All Christians need to be alert to spiritual manipulation and follow this example from Acts 17:11: “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Did the apostle Paul take offense when the Bereans researched to ensure that his preaching was based on Scripture? Of course not, because Paul knew his preaching would stand up under exhaustive scrutiny. Likewise with all teaching and preaching—we must hold it up to the light of God’s Word before we accept it. Any religious group that prevents its members from doing independent research, or from challenging what the leadership says, must have something to fear.

Jesus told His disciples they would be like sheep among wolves and instructed them to be “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). The Master’s yoke is easy, and His burden is light. He gives us rest and is gentle and humble in heart (Matthew 11:28–29). That is the Christlike example all who shepherd Jesus’ flock must exemplify.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Topical Bible Questions: What Does the Bible Say about Child Sacrifice?

 

The horrific practice of child sacrifice has been committed throughout the world for thousands of years. Generally, the sacrifice of a child was intertwined with the worship of a pagan deity, often a fertility god. Worshipers sought to obtain a blessing from their god(s) or to confirm or complete a vow taken in the name of the god.

Ancient Aztecs, Incas, and a few other peoples in South and Central America practiced child sacrifice. The same for the Druids of Europe. The city of Carthage in North Africa contains evidence of child sacrifice related to the worship of Ba’al Hammon, a god imported from Phoenicia. Many Roman writers refer to this barbaric act in Carthage.

The Bible contains the heart-breaking tale of child sacrifice practiced in the name of Molech (also spelled Moloch or Molek), a god of the Ammonites. Molech worship was practiced by the Ammonites and Canaanites, who revered Molech as a protecting father figure. Images of Molech were made of bronze, and their outstretched arms were heated red-hot. Living children were then placed into the idol’s hands and died there or were rolled into a fire pit below. Some sources indicate a child might also be “passed through the fire” prior to the actual sacrifice in order to purify or baptize the child. Molech worship occurred in the Hinnom Valley near Jerusalem. Because of this, the valley became associated with the idea of Tophet, or hell (Isaiah 30:33; Jeremiah 19:12; Mark 9:45).

God prohibited Israel from child sacrifice in general and Molech worship in particular. Leviticus 20:2–5 states, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing in Israel who sacrifices any of his children to Molek is to be put to death. The members of the community are to stone him. I myself will set my face against him and will cut him off from his people; for by sacrificing his children to Molek, he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name. If the members of the community close their eyes when that man sacrifices one of his children to Molek and if they fail to put him to death, I myself will set my face against him and his family and will cut them off from their people together with all who follow him in prostituting themselves to Molek.’ ” Many other Old Testament passages affirm God’s zero-tolerance for child sacrifice.

Sadly, King Solomon became involved in this horrendous practice, as recorded in 1 Kings 11:4–11, “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD.… On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites.… The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the LORD’s command.”

Later, the evil king Manassah offered his own son as a sacrifice (2 Kings 21:6), as did King Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:1–4). The people of Judah participated in this crime against their own sons—a sin so “detestable” that God said it had never even crossed His mind (Jeremiah 32:35). Child sacrifice was one reason for the Babylonian captivity (verse 36).

Some critics of the Bible point to the story of Abraham, who laid his son Isaac on an altar and prepared to sacrifice him as directed by God (Genesis 22:1–14). However, in this case, God was testing the obedience and faith of Abraham. God stopped him from actually following through and provided a ram as a substitute sacrifice.

Today, child sacrifice is practiced throughout the world. There has been a resurgence of child sacrifice in Uganda. Witch doctors have been implicated in the mutilation and death of children who were killed in an effort to bring good fortune and wealth to those willing to pay for it. There is also a correlation between child sacrifice and modern-day abortion. Unprecedented numbers of children have been “sacrificed” at the hands of abortionists for the sake of convenience, immorality, or pride. Hundreds of thousands of babies have been killed so that their parents can maintain a certain lifestyle. God hates “hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:17), and we can be sure that God will judge this horrendous sin.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Topical Bible Questions: What Does the Bible Say about Motivation?

 

Motivation is defined as “that which moves one toward an action; that which changes, provokes, or impels our very being.” The Bible has a great deal to say about motivation. The motivation of Christians is supposed to be exactly the opposite of what motivates unbelievers. For one thing, our sense of motivation or inspiration comes from God, not from the things of the world. David spoke of his motivation in his psalms: “I desire to do Your will, O my God; Your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8). Later he wrote, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25).

The world is motivated by self and the aggrandizement of self, the all-about-me syndrome, which is identified by self-determination, self-obsession and self-worship. The Bible does not teach us to be centered on ourselves. In fact, it teaches just the opposite. Jesus said, “The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:11–12; Luke 9:48). As followers of Christ, we are called to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). The cross was an instrument of death, and Jesus’ message to us is that only those who die to self will truly follow Him. We do that by doing nothing out of vanity and conceit, but instead considering others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).

Jesus set the example for our motivation in this life: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work” (John 4:34). Jesus was concerned with pleasing His Father, and so should we be motivated by that same concern. He always did the Father’s will, motivated by pleasing Him through obedience (John 8:29). His obedience extended all the way to the cross where He humbled Himself and “became obedient unto death” (Philippians 2:8). Our motivation should be the same as His—the obedience by which we prove we are truly His. “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

The apostle Paul spoke of what motivated him to endure the suffering he experienced: “For me, to live is Christ …” (Philippians 1:21; compare 2 Corinthians 11:23–28). It wasn’t money, it wasn’t fame, nor was it being the best apostle that motivated Paul. It was living for Christ that superseded everything (Philippians 4:12–13). Our motivation as believers stems from a yearning to have peace with God (Romans 5:1; Philippians 4:7), to have His grace as well as hope (Romans 5:2; 1 John 5:13). The Christian views life through the lens of the future—being in the presence and glory of God (John 17:24), and this is our true motivation.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Topical Bible Questions: What Does the Bible Say about Brokenness?

 

In this world, broken things are despised and thrown out. Anything we no longer need, we throw away. Damaged goods are rejected, and that includes people. In marriage, when relationships break down, the tendency is to walk away and find someone new rather than work at reconciliation. The world is full of people with broken hearts, broken spirits and broken relationships.

“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). There is something about reaching a breaking point that causes us to seek the Lord more sincerely. King David was once a broken man, and he prayed, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me … The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:10, 17). There are some things in our lives that need to be broken: pride, self-will, stubbornness, and sinful habits, for example. When we feel our brokenness, God compensates: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit” (Isaiah 57:15).

The Bible says that God breaks those who are proud and rebellious. The mighty Pharaoh set himself against God, but God broke him and freed His people from bondage and shame. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high” (Leviticus 26:13). God punishes all those who proudly resist Him. “My servants will sing out of the joy of their hearts, but you will cry out from anguish of heart and wail in brokenness of spirit” (Isaiah 65:14).

To us, broken things are despised as worthless, but God can take what has been broken and remake it into something better, something that He can use for His glory. Broken things and broken people are the result of sin. Yet God sent his Son, who was without sin, to be broken so that we might be healed. On the night before He died, Jesus broke the bread and said, “This is my body, which is broken for you.” He went all the way to Calvary to die so that we can live. His death has made it possible for broken, sinful humanity to be reconciled to God and be healed. Without the broken body of Jesus, we could not be made whole. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Only when we surrender to Christ can we be restored and transformed. Such surrender requires a brokenness on our part (Luke 9:23). Romans 6:1–14 describes how believers become dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. Claim the promise that cannot be broken: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.… The Lord redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:19–22).

Jesus viewed all things in the light of eternity, and so should we: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2–3).

God draws us, He calls to us. He longs for us to come to Him so He can heal us. Often, we are unable to hear His call because we’re so busy with other things—our lives, our families, our work, our own problems and unhappiness. Sometimes we must be broken before we realize our need. And our deepest need is to be reconciled to God. Only then can we be made whole (Matthew 5:5).

The solution can never come from our own efforts or striving, but comes only from Him. Only when we recognize our need for God are we able to take our eyes off ourselves and focus them on God and Jesus Christ. Only when we stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking about what Jesus did for us can we begin to heal. Only when we admit our need and ask God into our life, can God begin to make us whole. Only when we confess that we are broken can God make us into what He wants us to be. Once we let go of self and place God at the center of our lives, everything else falls into place (Matthew 6:33).

During the final week of Jesus’ life, He was eating a meal, and “a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head” (Mark 14:3). The woman’s action of breaking the alabaster jar was symbolic of a couple of things: Jesus would soon be “broken” on the cross, and all who follow Him must be willing to be “broken” as well. But the result of such costly brokenness is beautiful, indeed.

Surrender to God and allow Him to make you whole, to give your life meaning, purpose and joy. Trust Him. “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” (Romans 8:28).[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Topical Bible Questions: What Is the Definition of Faith?

 

Thankfully, the Bible contains a clear definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Simply put, the biblical definition of faith is “trusting in something you cannot explicitly prove.”

This definition of faith contains two aspects: intellectual assent and trust. Intellectual assent is believing something to be true. Trust is actually relying on the fact that the something is true. A chair is often used to help illustrate this. Intellectual assent is recognizing that a chair is a chair and agreeing that it is designed to support a person who sits on it. Trust is actually sitting in the chair.

Understanding these two aspects of faith is crucial. Many people believe certain facts about Jesus Christ. Many people will intellectually agree with the facts the Bible declares about Jesus. But knowing those facts to be true is not what the Bible means by “faith.” The biblical definition of faith requires intellectual assent to the facts and trust in the facts.

Believing that Jesus is God incarnate who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and was resurrected is not enough. Even the demons believe in God and in those facts (cf. James 2:19). We must personally and fully rely on the death of Christ as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. We must “sit in the chair” of the salvation that Jesus Christ has provided. This is saving faith. The faith God requires of us for salvation is belief in what the Bible says about who Jesus is and what He accomplished and fully trusting in Jesus for that salvation (Acts 16:31). Biblical faith is always accompanied by repentance of sin (Matthew 21:32; Mark 1:15).

The biblical definition of faith does not apply only to salvation. It is equally applicable to the rest of the Christian life. We are to believe what the Bible says, and we are to obey it. We are to believe the promises of God, and we are to live accordingly. We are to agree with the truth of God’s Word, and we are to allow ourselves to be transformed by it (Romans 12:2).

Why is this definition of faith so important? Why must trust accompany agreeing with facts? Because “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Without faith, we cannot be saved (John 3:16). Without faith, the Christian life cannot be what God intends it to be (John 10:10).[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Topical Bible Questions: How Can the Bible Bring Comfort during a Difficult Time?

 

The Bible is the Word of God written to His people and, as such, it contains everything we need to be “complete” (2 Timothy 3:15–17). Part of the “everything” we need is comfort. The Bible has a lot to say about comfort and has many passages and verses that comfort us in life’s tough times.

Life is fraught with many difficulties. We all experience setbacks in one way or another. Sometimes they are sudden; sometimes they are gradual. Maybe we have suffered the death of a loved one or been forsaken by a loved one. Maybe our health is poor or our finances are uncertain. Whatever the difficulties, they affect all of us at some point in our lives and the Bible states that this is inevitable (Job 5:7; Genesis 3:17; Proverbs 22:8). The Bible is the Word of God (Isaiah 55:11), written by God’s servants under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21) and provided as both a guide and an aide to our daily living.

But perhaps the most important aspect of God’s Word is the promises that are contained within, promises that the Lord makes to those who are prepared to trust Him. It is these promises that bring comfort, promises that feed off the weakest spark of saving faith to provide the reward of comfort, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. There are many promises in the Bible that have to be combined with faith to be realised, for without faith it is impossible to please God, the provider of comfort in times of trouble (Hebrews 11:6; 2 Corinthians 1:5; Psalm 46:1).

Clearly, the promises of God cannot be appropriated in the same way by the unbelieving, with whom God is angry continually (Psalm 7:11). Nevertheless, it is because of God’s grace, through the work of regeneration that happens at conversion, that these promises are realized and become the very fuel that spurs His people on to greater faith and greater obedience. These things go hand in hand; we trust God’s promises, and He has promised to reward us accordingly with joy, peace and comfort, intangible things that the world can never supply. One of the greatest verses that has brought comfort to many is Isaiah 26:3. Embrace it in faith, asking for the Lord’s help, and there will be no disappointment.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Topical Bible Questions: What Is Servant Leadership?

 

Servant leadership is best defined by Jesus Himself: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26–28). In the Christian realm, all leadership should be servant leadership.

A common misconception among those who want to exercise a leadership role over others is that it comes with glory, power, and positions of honor. In fact, such a mistaken belief was the occasion for Jesus’ words in the above passage. James and John had just asked Jesus to place them at His side when He assumed His throne in the kingdom to come. As a result, the other disciples became indignant at the arrogance of their request (Mark 10:41). And as an object lesson, Jesus modeled the true servant style of leadership. He, the Lord incarnate, bent down and washed their feet, teaching them the true measure of leading by first serving others (John 13:12–17).

The word “servant” in Matthew 20:27 means “slave.” Not every servant was a slave, but every slave was a servant. It is sad commentary in the church today that we have many celebrities, but very few servants. There are many who want to “exercise authority” (Matthew 20:25), but few who want to take the towel and basin and wash feet. Paul reminds us that our attitude is to be like Christ’s in that we consider others better than ourselves and do nothing out of vanity or selfishness. Rather we look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3–4). In this sense, then, every Christian is a servant.

Primarily the focal point of servant leadership within the church is: “To prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:12). This means with Christ being the head of the church, the entire church body is served in the act of providing leadership. It’s not just the church leaders who become acutely aware of their place at the foot of the cross, but all those within the body of Christ. We all mutually submit ourselves to Jesus just as He was in submission to the Father. From a biblical perspective servant leadership is not only being free of abuse of power and coercion, but is first and foremost based on mutual respect and love for one another.

A servant leader seeks to invest himself into the lives of his people so that as a whole, the church community is challenged to grow to be more like Christ. This is demonstrated in their willingness to give of themselves to meet the needs, but not necessarily the wants of their people. Like a good parent, the true servant leader knows the difference between the spiritual needs of his spiritual children and their selfish wants and desires.

The bottom line to the application of servant leadership is that we don’t emulate the examples of the world: our example is Jesus, who came as a servant. Therefore, our mission is to serve one another, to give of ourselves. Christ came to give His life. We are to give of our lives not only in service to Him, but to our fellow man, including those in the church and outside it (Mark 12:31).[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Topical Bible Questions: How Should a Christian Respond to Illegal Aliens/Illegal Immigrants?

 

Illegal immigration has become a volatile issue, especially in the U.S. Many have raised their voices passionately in their condemnation of illegal immigration while others defend it just as fervently. The subject of illegal immigration has not only generated heated debate, but has caused intense division and strife among politicians, educators, co-workers, families, and friends. Sadly enough, its contentiousness has infused itself into the church with Christians drawn into the turbulent fray with supporters on both sides seeking to justify their positions based on their own personal beliefs.

So, what does the Bible say about illegal immigration? What should be the Christian response to those who enter our country illegally as well as to those who condone and support such activity? The first consideration is that those who enter any country illegally violate that nation’s laws as well as the laws of God. Believers are torn between showing compassion and mercy to those who seek help and yet not wanting to violate God’s will.

Sadly, we have brothers and sisters in Christ fighting over the issue of illegal immigration where the Bible is quite clear on what our Christian response should be: “The LORD detests the way of the wicked but he loves those who pursue righteousness” (Proverbs 15:9, 28:5; Psalm 5:4–5). When we condone criminal activity where people blatantly and habitually violate the laws of our government, we no longer “shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 2:15). The Bible makes it clear that those who violate the laws of our government are in sin, as are those who support or assist them in breaking the laws (Romans 13:1–7; 1 Peter 2:13–14; Titus 3:1–2).

Peter’s reference to “those who do wrong” clearly means those who break the laws and who, by doing so, are also guilty of doing wrong to others. These are to be punished by the governing authorities. Paul has made it abundantly clear that the government is in the best position to judge the course of action that should be taken to find solutions to this problem. Our government has the divine authority to do so. Whether or not the government authorities exercise their legal and divine right to enforce the laws doesn’t change the fact that the church cannot knowingly support illegal activity and be in the will of God. To condone or aid and abet people who cross borders illegally is sin, just as the initial act of coming into the country illegally is sin.

At the same time, as Christians, we have to separate our attitude toward the act of entering the country illegally and our attitude toward the illegals themselves. The first obligation of a Christian is to express Christ-likeness in all our thoughts and deeds (Romans 8:29). There is no room for hatred toward those who come into the country, albeit illegally, desperately seeking work, refuge from danger and persecution, or a better life for themselves and their families. Christian compassion must be shown towards those who would risk their lives in a dangerous, and often fatal, attempt to cross a border. Acts of hatred or violence toward illegal aliens is never to be considered or tolerated by those who name the name of Christ.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.