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.

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.

Topical Bible Questions: What Should Be the Christian Perspective on Nudity in Art?

 

Answer: The Bible has much to say about the human body, which was not only created perfect by God, but also created unclothed. Adam and Eve were innocent in their nakedness, but when they sinned, “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Genesis 3:7). Never before had they realized they were unclothed—the concepts of “clothed” and “unclothed” were meaningless to them. But sin affected their hearts and minds, creating vulnerability, guilt, and shame, and these things produced fear (verse 10). In their attempt to cover their spiritual shame, Adam and Eve intuitively covered their bodies. We should note that, when God took away their fig leaves—a sadly inadequate covering—He replaced them with something more permanent—animal skins (verse 21). Thus, God regarded clothing as appropriate and necessary in a fallen world.

We are not saying that the naked body is evil or repulsive; on the contrary, we see the body as a beautiful part of God’s creation. However, due to the fall, nudity now has implications of sinfulness attached to it. With few exceptions, the Bible presents nakedness as shameful and degrading (Genesis 9:21; Exodus 20:26; 32:25; 2 Chronicles 28:19; Isaiah 47:3; Ezekiel 16:35–36; Luke 8:27; Revelation 3:17; 16:15; 17:16). The only passages in which nudity is free of shame are those that describe Eden’s idyllic setting or that deal with marital relations (Proverbs 5:18–19; Song of Solomon 4).

In concert with biblical principles, most societies attach negative connotations to public nudity and place taboos on it. It is interesting, then, and somewhat puzzling, that those same societal taboos do not apply to artistic displays; a gallery may be full of nude statues, but the people viewing those statutes are required to be clothed.

So, Western culture has determined that nudity in art is permissible. What is the Christian perspective? Can nudity be used in a valid presentation of truth? Can artistic nudity be part of making a larger, legitimate point? For the Christian, does exercising “artistic license” justify portrayals of the nude human form?

Of course, all sorts of tangential questions also arise: What about partial nudity? Is a bare leg too suggestive? What about cleavage? If someone paints a scene from the Garden of Eden, how much shrubbery should surround the carefree couple? Does Michelangelo’s David need underwear? Where does “art” end and “pornography” begin? If lust occurs, whose fault is it—the artist’s, the viewer’s, or both?

We can’t answer these questions in all their particulars—we’ll leave that to individual conviction and conscience—but we can lay out some general principles concerning nudity in art. The first two we’ve already touched on:

1) The naked human body is not inherently sinful.
2) The Bible portrays public nudity as disgraceful.

To these we would add the following:

3) Lust is sin (Matthew 5:28; 1 John 2:16). We are responsible to guard our own hearts against lust. “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14–15). We should make every effort to avoid whatever causes us to sin and make no provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14). This means that, if a visit to the art gallery arouses lust in the heart, then, by all means, stay out of the art gallery.

Related to this is our responsibility to guard against inciting lust in others. We realize that some Christian artists draw, paint or sculpt nudes, and they do so with a clear conscience. We are loath to pass judgment on anyone’s personal convictions; however, Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 are powerful passages on conviction, freedom, and stumbling blocks. We all bear a responsibility to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and the Christian artist must find a way to balance “artistic integrity” with his obligation not to obstruct the spiritual growth of others. To paraphrase 1 Corinthians 8:13, “If the art I create causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never create art again, so that I will not cause him to fall.”

4) Christians have been called to modesty (1 Timothy 2:9). In this matter, we wish to strike a balance between legalism and licentiousness. We don’t want an “anything goes” attitude, but neither do we want to wrap women in burqas. The basic guideline is for Christian women to dress “modestly, with decency and propriety.” Of course, this instruction is for living people and not for art, but perhaps there is a connection, if indeed art imitates life. Why would a Christian artist paint a model—who is to dress modestly—in an immodest way? Why should Christian art be held to a lower standard than the Christian himself?

5) Christians should have nothing to do with the evil that is pornography. It is true that our culture differentiates art and pornography, and we understand that artistic nudity does not necessarily equal pornography. But we must remember that we live in a fallen world. The legal definition of pornography—the attempt to quantify “obscenity” and gauge “salacious intent”—becomes meaningless when someone is lusting at a picture. It does not matter what the intent of the picture is—if it incites lust in someone’s heart, then there is a problem.

Some artists attempt to disassociate nudity from its sexual connotations and thereby justify depictions of the nude human form. These artists may be attempting to portray vulnerability or recapture a lost purity; they may be trying to promote an innocent appreciation of beauty or glorify the Creator of the body. We agree that humanity could use a little more recaptured purity and recognition of beauty, but we question whether artistic nudity is helpful in a society saturated with sex.

Jeremiah 17:9 warns us that “the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked.” Part of the heart’s deceit is self-deception, as we try to convince ourselves that we are not affected by sin, that we are somehow uncommonly resistant to the temptations “common to man” (1 Corinthians 10:13). That fact is, none of us are free from the influence of the flesh (Romans 7). It’s easy to say, objectively, that a certain nude image has artistic merit and communicates truth, but as fallen human beings, we all bring a measure of subjectivity into play. That subjectivity—combined with the emotional response that art seeks to induce—makes artistic nudity problematic, if not impossible.

6) Art, since it is created by morally responsible beings, is not morally neutral. It is a myth that art is inherently good simply because it is “art”; likewise, it is a myth that art is morally neutral, regardless of subject matter. We cannot evaluate art on mechanics or technique alone; we must also consider intent, theme, and subject matter. Philippians 4:8 can serve as a guide for judging the intangibles: is it true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy? This is the standard to which Christian artists are called.

In the end, we would say that, if possible, nudity in art should be avoided. This may not correspond with the world’s thinking, but it should be no surprise to find the world at odds with biblical principles. By no means are we advocating a withdrawal from the art world. We earnestly need Christian artists, critics, and patrons. Neither are we saying that the study of art, human anatomy, or artistic nudity is a sinful pursuit. But we urge believers to be extremely careful when viewing nudity in art. Put on the full armor of God and stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11–18). And, for those creating the art, remember that God clothed Eden’s emigrants. What God has covered, let not man uncover.[1]

 


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

Topical Bible Questions: What Does the Bible Mean When It Refers to a Remnant?

 

A remnant is a left-over amount from a larger portion or piece, whether it is food, material from which a garment is fashioned, or even a group of people. Although remnants could be looked upon as worthless scraps, and many times are, God assigned high value to those of His people whom He had set aside for holy purposes, those He labels as “remnants” in several places in the Bible. To begin, in Isaiah 10 the story is told of the Lord’s judgment upon the Assyrians. In Verse 12 God says: “I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes.” He continues in Verse 17, 18: “The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame; in a single day it will burn and consume his thorns and his briars. The splendor of his forests and fertile fields I will completely destroy, as when a sick man wastes away.”

Continuing, God relates how His people will turn back to Him as a result of this tremendous display of His strength—His utter destruction of most of Assyria: “In that day the remnant of Israel, the survivors of the house of Jacob, will no longer rely on him who struck them down but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God” (Isaiah 10:20, 21). He goes on to assure the remaining Israelites that they need not fear the Assyrians, for soon He will destroy them.

There are other remnants—those left over from a larger group—in the Bible, even though the word “remnant” isn’t used to describe them. Noah and his family were the remnant saved out of the millions on the earth before the flood (Genesis 6). Only Lot and his two daughters survived the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, a very small remnant indeed (Genesis 19). When Elijah despaired that he was the only one left in Israel who had not bowed down to idols, God assured him that He had reserved a remnant of 7000 “whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him” (1 Kings 19).

God’s sovereign choice as to whom He will save and whom He will not can also be seen in the New Testament, as carried through from the Old Testament: “Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out His sentence on earth with speed and finality’ ” (Romans 9:27–28). This implies that great multitudes of the Israelites would be cast off. If only a remnant was to be saved, many must be lost, and this was just the point which Paul was endeavoring to establish. While the word “remnant” means what is left, particularly what may remain after a battle or a great calamity, in this verse, it means a small part or portion. Out of the great multitude of the Israelites, there will be so few left as to make it proper to say that it was a mere remnant.

Of course, the most blessed remnant is that of the true Church, the body of Christ, chosen out of the millions who have lived and died over the centuries. Jesus made it clear that this remnant would be small when compared to the number of people on the earth throughout history. “Many” will find the way to eternal destruction, but “few” will find the way to eternal life (Matthew 7:13–14). We who believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior can, with great peace, rest in the fact that we belong to the “remnant.”[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 Necromancy?

 

Necromancy is defined as the conjuring of the spirits of the dead for purposes of magically revealing the future or influencing the course of events. In the Bible, necromancy is also called “divination,” “sorcery” and “spiritism” and is forbidden many times in Scripture (Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:10; Galatians 5:19–20; Acts 19:19) as an abomination to God. It is something that the Lord speaks very strongly against and is to be avoided as much as any evil. The reason for this is twofold.

First, necromancy is going to involve demons and opens the one who practices it to demonic attack. Satan and his demons seek to destroy us, not to impart to us truth or wisdom. We are told that our “enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Second, necromancy does not rely on the Lord for information, the Lord who promises to freely give wisdom to all who ask for it (James 1:5). This is especially telling because the Lord always wants to lead us to truth and life, but demons always want to lead us to lies and serious damage.

The idea that dead people’s spirits can be contacted for information is false. Those who attempt such contact inevitably contact demonic spirits, not the spirits of dead loved ones. Those who die go immediately to heaven or hell—heaven if they believed in Jesus as Savior, and hell if they did not. There is no contact between the dead and the living. Therefore, seeking the dead is unnecessary and very dangerous.[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 Beauty?

To define what is beautiful is difficult because beauty is, as the old saying goes, in the eyes of the beholder. What is beautiful to us may be ugly to another. To regard something as beautiful it must meet our own definition and concept of beauty. The fact that beauty is an individual concept is understood clearly by all. However, many don’t realize that God’s concept of beauty also is His own. No one defines for God His concept of beauty. If a person is beautiful to God, he fits God’s concept of beauty.

For example, God never uses one’s outward physical appearance to determine beauty. When the prophet Samuel examined Jesse’s sons in search of the next king of Israel, he was impressed with Eliab’s appearance. God told Samuel: “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Nothing in a person’s outward appearance impresses God. God looks upon the inner beauty, the beauty of one’s heart.

God never uses the origin or culture of a person as the criteria of beauty. People of one culture seldom see beauty in people of a different culture. Only a divine revelation could convince Peter to enter a Gentile’s house and preach the gospel to him (Acts 10). It took an angel to get Peter the Jew and Cornelius the Gentile together. Only a divine sign convinced the Jewish witnesses that Gentiles unquestionably had the right to be God’s children. When Peter said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism (Acts 10:34), he was saying, “At last, I understand.” Peter realized that God is unconcerned about a person’s origin or culture. God gladly accepts those who revere and obey Him. His concept of beauty is uniquely different because He ignores cultural preferences and prejudices.

While our opinions are strongly influenced by a one’s address, occupation, and social role, God never determines beauty by social rank or life circumstances. When we speak of the so-called “beautiful people,” rarely do we mean those who are struggling to survive, who make their living by menial jobs, or who come from “backward” areas. In contrast, God never notices those things when He considers beauty in people. Paul wrote, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26–28).

What is beautiful in God’s eyes? Recognizing the qualities God has cherished in the lives of other people is one way to determine His concept of beauty. Noah’s implicit trust in God led him to construct a gigantic boat miles from water. Abraham trusted God’s promise so implicitly that he would have sacrificed his son of promise without hesitation. Moses yielded total control of his life to God and became the man of meekness. David gave his whole being to doing the will of God. No consequence or shameful treatment could keep Daniel from reverencing his God. Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy were ruled by God in every consideration and decision. They were totally focused upon Jesus’ will as they shared the gospel with all. In all these qualities God saw great beauty.

While all these people were beautiful to God, virtually nothing is known about their physical appearance. It was not their physique or stateliness but their faith and service that made them beautiful. The same was true of God’s beautiful women: Rahab, Hannah, Ruth, Deborah, and Mary of Bethany. Those noted for physical beauty were often great spiritual disappointments. Sarah, the beautiful wife of Abraham, did not have his kind of faith. Saul was a man of physical beauty, but he was not the godly king God wanted.

The qualities God wants in His people further reveals His concept of beauty. The beatitudes reveal some of God’s standards of beauty. An awareness of one’s spiritual poverty, sorrow for wickedness, hunger and thirst for righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, and being a peacemaker are all qualities of beauty. The epistles also stress attributes valued by God: keeping a living faith while enduring physical hardships, controlling the tongue, enduring personal harm to protect the church’s influence, making sacrifices for the good of others, and living by Christian convictions in the face of ridicule. All these are beautiful to God.

However, just as a beautiful appearance can become ugly through neglect, a beautiful life of righteousness can become ugly through neglect. Spiritual beauty must never be taken for granted or be neglected. We must remember that just as it is possible to be one of society’s most impressive people and be ugly in the eyes of God, it is also possible to be an unknown in society and to be radiantly beautiful in His eyes.[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 Being Late or Lateness?

There is no commandment in the Bible that says, “thou shall not be late, ever” so it’s not as simple as one Scripture reference to determine God’s view on tardiness. Everyone has been late to something at some point, often due to unforeseen or unavoidable circumstances. But if someone is habitually late and unconcerned about being on time, especially if that person professes to be a Christian, then scriptural principles do apply. As with all things God looks at the heart, “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

For one thing, continual lateness does not express love for others. Forcing others to wait for us time after time is simply rude. Christians are to love one another and love our enemies as well, and “love is not rude” (1 Corinthians 13:5). When others perceive that we are unloving and unconcerned about them, our reputations as Christians suffer. “A good name is better than precious ointment, And the day of death than the day of one’s birth” (Ecclesiastes 7:1). A good name, a good reputation is important as a Christian. This means that we should be known as people of our word, trustworthy and dependable and not be known as always late, slothful, or unconcerned about others. Our actions as Christians point back at Christ. Do they glorify Him? Do they bring Him honor? “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23).

Furthermore, as Christians we never want to cause someone else to sin. Constantly being forced to wait for someone can be very aggravating, especially to those who make an effort to be on time. Minor irritation can very easily become anger. Anger is usually sin and we are never to be the cause of someone else’s sin. “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come’ ” (Luke 17:1).

Waiting can not only be frustrating, but it causes unnecessary stress and wasted time for the person that has to wait. Christians are exhorted by Paul to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). The perpetually late person does not consider others’ time as more important than their own. Most habitual late-comers are concerned only with themselves. Continually being late does not communicate a zeal or diligence in serving Christ by loving others as He loves us. It also does not communicate faithfulness or trustworthiness.

For the person who is habitually late, there is hope. For many, it is simply a matter of bad habits built up over time. Sometimes it’s just a matter of changing those habits to be more aware of time, planning far ahead, and leaving ample time for the unexpected. Recognizing the spiritual impact on others is the first step in understanding the importance of reversing the bad habit of tardiness. If we are motivated by love for others and a desire to maintain a good reputation for Christ’s sake, then prayer for wisdom and help is the next step. God has promised wisdom to all who ask for it (James 1:5) and He is never far away from those who call upon His power for godly living.[1]

 


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

Topical Bible Questions: Does the Bible Say “Come as You Are”?

While the concept of “come as you are,” if understood correctly, is biblical, the precise phrase “come as you are” is not found in Scripture. But, again, the Bible does have a variety of verses that imply the same message, based on God’s amazing grace.

In Joel 2:32, where the prophet is declaring the terrible judgments of the Day of the Lord, God’s offer of deliverance is open to “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord.” In Isaiah 1:18, God offers the invitation to come, though your sins are as scarlet, and He will make them white as snow. Revelation 22:17 is the invitation in the new Heaven, which says “Come! Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” In these and other verses, the clear implication is that, even though we are sinners, God desires us to come to Him as we are, so that He can cleanse us.

As for the meaning and application of the phrase, we can go to the examples of how Jesus dealt with the sinners He encountered. Sometimes well-meaning Christians tell people that they have to “clean up their lives” before God will accept them, but that is not what we see in Scripture. When speaking to the woman at the well who was living with a man she was not married to (John 4:1–26), Jesus addressed the fact of her sin, then offered her the salvation she needed. Again, when the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1–11) was brought before Jesus, he told her “go, and sin no more.” The sin was never excused or ignored, but forgiveness was offered to anyone who recognized the truth of their sin and was willing to confess and forsake it. While God certainly expects us to leave our sin, that comes as a part of our salvation, not as a prerequisite. We are not able to clean ourselves up without God’s help.

“Come as you are” is sometimes misunderstood and misapplied in today’s church. Those churches which are identified with the Emerging/Emergent Church or Hipster movements, among others, sometimes take the grace of God and turn it into licentiousness (Jude 4) by teaching that it makes no difference how you live, as long as you believe. If you come to Christ in an illicit relationship, they say Christ will accept you just as you are and sanctify that relationship. If you come to Christ as someone who enjoys the night life, you can continue those things, and use them to “reach others for Christ.” This may be a popular message, but it directly contradicts Scripture which clearly says that these things from our past lives should be left behind and that our former friends will think us strange for doing so (1 Peter 4:3–4). Romans 13:13 commands us to walk honestly, or decently, no longer participating in the licentious lifestyle of the world. Galatians 5:13 says that we are called to liberty, but that we cannot use liberty “for an occasion to the flesh,” excusing our continued sins.

God is amazing, gracious, loving, and forgiving, so He calls us to salvation, even though we don’t deserve it. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8), making it possible for us to receive forgiveness. He requires us to confess and forsake our sins when we come to Him, but He receives us just as we are, then begins to change us as we submit to Him in obedience.[1]

 


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

Topical Bible Questions: What Principles Should Distinguish a Christian Business?

Are there certain laws, rules, or principles that delineate a secular business enterprise from that of a Christian business? What are the identifying hallmarks of a Christian business? Are there any biblical guidelines to managing a Christian business?

A recent study conducted by the Gallup organization and the National Opinion Research Center revealed that 78% of all Americans claim they want to experience some form of spiritual growth. Of this group, half of them felt they were too busy with their careers to enjoy God or even give enough time to developing their spiritual lives. And when polled about their workplace, it was found that when businesses provided spiritually-minded programs they felt not only more calm and relaxed, but were in fact more productive.

Additionally, it was discovered that those who worked for Christian business organizations where spiritual values were encouraged were less fearful and more committed to their workplace goals, as well as less likely to compromise their values. Ian Mitroff, professor at the USC School of Business, says that “spirituality could be the ultimate competitive advantage.”

What then are the key principles that set apart these organizations that place a high premium on Christian values? Though we could name many, there are three biblical principles that stand out that define a Christian business worthy of that name.

First is integrity. Integrity is about Christ-centered living. It is about doing what is right rather than what is expedient. The organization with integrity will make its business decisions based on the standards and principles of God—righteousness, truth and honesty. That is, there is congruency between what the organization verbalizes and what it practices. No one can point a finger at such a company and justifiably cry out, “Hypocrite”! For this reason Socrates (469–399 BC) declared, “The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.” A Christian business is the epitome of integrity. This means “we are who we say we are.”

Second is a commitment to excellence. Paul said: “This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone” (Titus 3:8). If an organization is to be recognized as an exemplary one, one whose goal is to glorify God through its commitment to excellence in its service and product, it must always honor God and be thoroughly cognizant of its role and mission in a pagan world. Such an organization never forgets that God has called them to be His witness before the lost world in which they do business.

When business organizations commit themselves to the pursuit of excellence they exalt the Word of God. And as the Gallup and National Research Center study revealed, they also demonstrate God’s power to transform lives, not only through their employees but with their customers as well.

Finally, a Christian business should have a commitment to its people. This includes the area of fair compensation, performance recognition, and providing growth opportunities, both professionally and personally. It has been determined that organizations that recognize the needs of their people and create opportunities for them to fulfill those needs are able to bring out the very best in them. The Apostle Paul was very clear about relationships between employers and employees. To those who work for someone else, Paul gave this command: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:22–24).

Then to employers, Paul commanded: “Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven” (Colossians 4:1). Paul gave this command to employers because, just as their employees report to them, they themselves have someone to report to—their Master in heaven. Employers could hardly expect to be treated fairly by God if they failed to treat their employees fairly. Paul’s remarks concerning the employee/employer relationship involves the mutual submission of employees to their employers and vice versa. Employees, too, are to treat their employers with respect and “obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart” (Ephesians 6:6).

In all things, for both employers and employees, Christ should be the model for Christian business, because He was known to be a man of integrity, even among His enemies (Matthew 22:16).[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 MLM (Multi-level Marketing)?

The Bible does not address multi-level marketing specifically, but it does give some principles regarding providing goods or services in general and our involvement in them. MLM companies have been a frequent subject of controversy and lawsuits because of their similarity to illegal pyramid schemes, price-fixing of their goods and services, high initial start-up costs, emphasis on recruitment of lower-tiered salespeople over actual sales, requiring associates to purchase and use the company’s products, frustratingly complex compensation schemes, and the cult-like techniques which some groups use to “hook” and keep those in lower tiers.

There is nothing illegal about most MLM companies, but are they a good fit for a Christian? Both spiritually and physically, God gifts us with abilities. He also intends for us to use all of our abilities on behalf of others, not solely for our own gain (Acts 20:35). We are also told to “consider others better then yourselves (Philippians 2:30). This focus on serving others, seen in Christ Himself, is reflected in the frequent use of the word, “give” and is a general principle of Scripture. The contrast to a focus on giving is a focus on getting, also called “greed” or “covetousness.” As Christians, our life focus on giving should also be reflected in our chosen occupation in which we seek to give to others through our work. It is true that our employers should reasonably compensate us for our labor (Luke 10:7), but our primary focus should not be on what we receive.

There is another principle found in Scripture that applies: you can know a tree by its fruit. While this principle was specifically given about being able to identify false teachers (Matthew 12:33), its application extends beyond that. According to one business teacher who has spent a good deal of time researching 350 MLM companies, over 90% of the people who become involved with MLM companies end up leaving those companies in just a few years. He also found that on average 99% of those involved with MLM companies end up losing money (see www.mlm-thetruth.com). These statistics alone say something about a company that uses the multi-level marketing technique as its primary way of selling its product.

As with any business/financial venture, the Christian’s first responsibility is to obey the Lord’s command that we love one another (John 13:34) and Paul’s admonition to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Seen from that perspective, for the Christian, MLM would seem to be a less than ideal enterprise.[1]

 


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