Who is the “Thief” in John 10:10?

Now most people who have heard anyone quote/paraphrase the first half of the verse – “the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy.” – know that most of those people they’ve heard quote it are intending the listener to understand the “thief” to be Satan.

The problem with this assumption is that nowhere in the text does Jesus mention “the devil.” Granted, the devil can fall into the category of “thief” that Jesus has created in this parable – but I believe we do harm to the text and misunderstand Jesus when we automatically interpret “the devil” in the place of “the thief.”

Side NOTE: I am fairly certain that Scripture nowhere attributes the title of “thief” directly to Satan…

So, who does Jesus have in mind?

Well, first off, if he has anyone in particular in mind, it seems to be any number of those within the decades before His Incarnation (and even within His own lifetime) who had risen up and called themselves the Messiah – trying to amass followers and liberate Israel from the Romans. (John 10:8)

Along with that, however, I do not think it would be too much of a stretch to think that Jesus also meant the Sadducees and Pharisees to fall under this category as well – although they may actually be closer to the “hired hand.” (John 10:12-13)

However, all of this is in keeping with the mistake of those who misquote John 10:10 in reference to the devil – it is missing Christ’s entire point in using this parabolic illustration.

The thrust and purpose of Jesus’ words is obviously HIMSELF. How HE is the door to life, how He is the Good Shepherd, and He is a faithful and mighty master. The thief and the hired hands only serve as a juxtaposing contrast to the goodness, faithfulness, and power of the Good Shepherd. (John 10)

To focus on the contrasting “images” instead of the subject of the parable (I.e. Christ) is an insult to our Lord – not to mention bad hermeneutics.

All of that said – it is true that held within this glorious example of the goodness, faithfulness, and intentional power to save of Jesus, there is an undercurrent of an assumption about the wariness we should have about false teachers and deceiving “leaders.” (2 Peter 2, Jude, Matthew 7:15-23, etc.)

So, is there a group that can fall into these contrasted to Christ categories today?

Well, yes, I believe it would be appropriate to put Kenneth Hagin, Jeff Taylor, Kenneth & Gloria Copeland, Benny Hinn, Todd White, Bill Johnson, Joyce Meyer, Paula White, Creflo Dollar, Paul & Jan Crouch, Oral Roberts, Rick Joyner, Joel Osteen, Joseph Prince, and all other leaders and “pastors” of the Word of Faith movement and New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) into the category of “the thief” who comes “only to steal, kill, and destroy.” And I believe men like Rick Warren, Robert Jeffress, Carl Lentz, and Brian Houston fall under the category of “hired hands” – not necessarily apostate wolves in sheep’s clothing, but certainly squishy and spineless on the Gospel.

Beware of such men and women, yes; and do not be ignorant of the devil’s devices and rebellious influence in the world, yes… but do not let those things twist your remembrance or reading of the Scriptures.

Christ is the Good Shepherd, and His sheep hear and follow His voice – because He is Able and Mighty and Faithful to save!

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The COMMAND of Christ Nobody Seems to Care About

“”You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”” ~ Matthew 5:27-32

“And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” ~ Matthew 19:3-9

No one in the U.S. knows how to take the words of our Lord seriously on this point… even sanctified, fruit-bearing Christians whom I have interacted with do not know how to respond to people or family in their lives that demand they have the right to remarry after a divorce – let alone that they have the right to get a divorce in the first place…

I am no better. I have attempted to speak my mind with a few as far as the clarity of Scripture on the topic – and those with whom I have conversed agree with my interpretation – but I have personally never had the courage or wherewithal to say anything to the face of a family member that commits this sin of divorce and remarriage… and as far as I know, no one I have ever met has actually said or done something about it either – or even if they initially did, they have eventually just capitulated and interacted with those in this sin on some form of normal basis.

I am too young and uninvolved with anyone I know who has chosen to partake of the sin of remarriage after divorce to feel I would even be given a voice… however, as far as I can see is my duty from Scripture, I WILL NOT be silent or follow in the paths I have seen taken if anyone within my sphere of influence shows signs of coming to divorce.

My wife and I have said often to each other, if we see any of our siblings struggling in marriage, we will do everything we can to help mend whatever wounds may exist… and if that is not possible – and their spouse still wants to leave and break the vows – we will do everything we can to help them stay faithful to their unfaithful spouse, and help them avoid remarriage unless that former spouse dies.

But why do professing Christians so often – and, seemingly, so easily – commit the sin of remarriage (sometimes so soon after the divorce)? Because they have bought the evil lie of AMERICAN “CHRISTENDOM” that they deserve to be “happy.” And, unfortunately, so many of their relatives have swallowed that same damning poison, and so they support them in their decision to sin against God for the sake of their own physical/emotional comfort on earth.

And thus, those of us who fear God and care for the sanctification and holiness of these people are called “unloving” or “ungracious” – we are insulted, whined at, and treated like we are terribly un-compassionate people by those who think they have the right to have things their way, even if it involves a slap to the very face of God.

May God have mercy on them… and may He have mercy on us, and gives us the strength and boldness to rebuke in love and with grace, and to follow through with our rebuke with firm, steadfast compassion for their souls.

The Promise of Leviticus 14:35

This post is going to be a tough one. The Church in our day really doesn’t understand how to reckon with and activate the spirit I’m about to reveal to you from God. And I haven’t fully appropriated this yet, so I need this message too – but I want us to realize and live in our victorious position.

My wife and I struggled against mold in every apartment we’d ever lived in since we were married. And I was slowly getting the revelation in my soul that it was a weapon The Enemy had used to steal plants from my wife that I’d give her on special occasions. But – Haleluiah! – one day, after struggling with the mold and getting so frustrated I cried out to God, my wife said something by the Spirit that Awakened what God had been working in my soul!

Right then and there we stood and said “NO!” to that spirit of mold! We stood on Leviticus 14:35 and declared that we had a High Priest in the heavenlies who would make our house clean. And we prayed to Satan and demanded he leave our family alone.
Our house belongs to God after all – and it was our responsibility and sacred duty to make our home a sanctuary!
I know this doesn’t make sense in the natural realm, but that’s why you’ve got to get the revelation of it in the Spiritual Realm! Because if you don’t the demon of mold will walk all over you!

Maybe you have started to grasp this truth before. But then summer came and you got lazy – so when winter came back around you were wide open for attack from The Enemy! Let me encourage you to stand in the gap! Don’t be ignorant of The Enemies devices!

Stand on the promises of Leviticus 14:33-57 about mold in the house of God! Read those words over and over and over and over and over and over again until you get the revelation of what they mean for your life! Don’t let the devil use reason to take that promise of mold-free living away from you!

Continue reading “The Promise of Leviticus 14:35”

The Silliness of “Saying ‘No’ to Sickness” – Some Additional Thoughts

Another idea given in the message I mentioned in my last post was “you are filled up in order to be poured out.” Basically the idea being, “God wants you to be healthy for the sake of others.” — which is a pious way to say “we shouldn’t have to learn self-control, or be self-sacrificing unless we’re comfortable before we do it.”

Or at least, that’s how it comes across to me. I honestly have heard professing believers use this line of reasoning outside of the context of the particular message that sparked these posts – but in every instance it sounds like a childish desire to avoid actual self-denial and true suffering.

Nothing in Scripture implies to me that the Christian has any right to desire to be more healthy than they are in the moment they are called upon to preach, serve, or sacrifice.

Now, I believe that God condescends to miraculously heal us at times, but it comes down to having our view of God’s graciousness to heal balanced out by a Scriptural view of God’s graciousness to help in suffering.

The Silliness of “Saying ‘No’ to Sickness”

My wife and I listen to a wide variety of speakers and preachers throughout the week to supplement the preaching we sit under (when we can) on Sunday mornings.

One such speaker we listened to recently tried to present a “Biblical view of health and healing” – and basically labeled himself a Pentecostal, if not borderline Word-Faither.

I’m not going to bother criticizing this man’s whole sermon and will not be mentioning his name for many reasons, but primarily because he is tolerably orthodox and I’m mostly just taking issue with his use of words and emphasis.

“Healing” was a big deal in the environment I grew up in, so I have had many “states” and “changes” of mind when it comes to the subject over the course of my life… but nowadays if I hear someone say something like “saying no to a cold will be the hardest thing you ever do” because of some notion of “the Enemy will come after you for it” it gets quite difficult for me to not perform a fairly painful “facepalm.”

And I proceed to practice a great amount of self-control to keep from slamming my forehead against the table when I hear people tell stories about ‘battling dozens of oncoming symptoms over the course of a specified period of time…’

I’m sorry, but your state of mind and how you think or pray do not have nearly as much correlation to God’s condescending mercy in providing “miraculous health” to your body as most Christians would like to think.

I thought of writing this post because this morning I wasn’t feeling well and one of the questions my wife and I asked while listening to this person popped into my head: “what myriad of circumstances was this person dealing with while going through this initiation into the ‘divine health’ viewpoint?”

Point being this: Any number of things could have been making me feel ill this morning; the cup of coffee I had, the breakfast I ate, how those two interacted in my stomach, how much “junk food” I’ve consumed in the last week, the emotional and mental stress I’ve experienced in the last few weeks, a virus I contracted somewhere in the last few days that my body is finally expelling (and those producing symptoms), or any number of a combination of those and other things I might not have thought of or know about!

But in spite of all those potential factors, I’m supposed to assume that “the Enemy” of the Christian has personally singled me out for an “attack” – is what it sounds like this idea is promoting when I hear it.

Frankly I think that mentality is silly for a number of reasons.

1. I’m not that important, and Satan (in particular) and the other demons (in general), would probably accomplish even LESS than they normally do in “attacking” me in that manner if they had that power (and that’s saying a lot, because they don’t accomplish very much as it is, when it comes to the saints).
2. Many people who live in “developed” civilizations have so sterilized their everyday environments and can have such poor diets that it is easier (I would think) for them to contract the common cold or other minor sickness far more easily than most people throughout history.
3. And most importantly, there is no Scriptural warrant for being borderline obsessed about the health of our physical bodies.

Also, in listening to professing Christians talk about “healing” there is always a missing element (I believe) to everything they say – and that missing element is a properly developed doctrine of suffering.

I’m convinced from my reading of Scripture that it has far more to say about suffering and human weakness and the curse and effects of sin upon creation than it does about miraculous physical healing in the here and now.

All of that to say: I would encourage the reader to look to Scripture for a proper view of suffering in order to have a proper view of health…

“Are You Excited?”

I hate that question.

When you have a baby on the way people inevitably ask it, and if you don’t respond with great enthusiasm they assume something’s wrong with you or that you don’t want the baby or that your “nervous” or what have you…

I am so sick of this culture’s need for everything to be so exaggeratedly “positive” – no, I am not constantly in some state of bubbly giggles, nor do I want or seek to be.

And, frankly, I highly doubt that anyone responding with enthusiasm to that stupid question (at least when it comes to babies) is being entirely honest. And I would be willing to bet that most women eight months along do not feel anything but a desire to finally have the baby in their arms instead of pulling at their back in the womb.

Now, don’t misunderstand, children are a beautifully wonderful gift and blessing from the Lord. And they supply much joy and comfort in life.

But the idiotic question, “are you excited” fails to encompass the gravity of being given the life, heart, and mind of a human being to nurture, train, and support for the next indeterminate amount of decades. And the cultural assumption of “positivity” behind the question is simply unrealistic and childish. The heartache and emotional hills and valleys endured through childbearing and raising should never be glazed over or ignored as “bad” so that we can get on with some naive ideal of always being emotionally “happy” or “light-hearted” or whatever other kind of self-induced drug people use to skate through life the way THEY WANT.

If you ask the question a lot, I’m sorry about the offense you might be taking at my words. But I would urge you to actually stop and think about what it is you are asking – and come up with a more intelligent, compassionate, and interested question.

God gave us more than one spectrum of emotions. Deal with them honestly.

Scriptural Examination of the Use of “if the Lord wills” in Prayer

I have heard – far more often than I’d care to admit – so many wolves in sheep’s clothing discourage their followers from using some form of “if it be your will” in their prayers to God.

I would submit to the reader the idea that it is NEVER permissible to discourage anyone from praying “if it is the LORD’s will.”

Now, the reason I put forth this idea is that I believe Scripture teaches the seeking of God’s will over and above our own in our prayers and day to day actions.

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” ~ James 4:13-17 (ESV) (I would encourage the reader to also investigate the context of this passage; chapters 4 & 5… better yet read the entire Epistle of James)

The passage above is located in the greater context of rebuking “worldliness” among the people of God, but James’ specific idea follows the thought of the Psalmist (Psalm 39:5 & 62:9) that men are about as substantial as smoke or a thin mist – in the grand scheme of things the individual means next to nothing. Therefore, how arrogant is it for someone to assume they know how their lives will go or even how to make their lives go that way? Especially when they cannot possibly know the minute specifics of the Will of God in their lives? Thus, as God fearing worshippers, we should acknowledge and submit to the overarching and/or specific Will of God in our obedient stewardship of our own lives.
Another interesting thing that James points out here (like Solomon: Proverbs 19:21) is the fact that – regardless of all a person’s plans or thoughts – only the Lord’s Will and plans will ultimately be established, and James explicitly states that we do not necessarily know the specifics of that Will or “plan.”

An account in the Old Testament has a similar idea buried in the worldview of it’s three Jewish characters. In Daniel 3 Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath is incited again Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (a.k.a. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego respectively) for their refusal to worship the golden image he had made. When Nebuchadnezzar confronts them and threatens to throw them in a “burning fiery furnace” if they do not worship his image, this is what Scripture records as their response:

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” ~ Daniel 3:16-18 (ESV)

I’m sure the reader has noted where my previous assumption is shared by Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, but for the sake of filling out my argument I will point the reader’s particular attention to verse 18. Specifically the phrase “but if not.” These men would not have said the things they did if they did not have a properly balanced theology of God’s choices when it comes to how He works out His own sovereignty. They knew that God was ABLE to deliver them from the fiery furnace specifically, and they knew that God WOULD deliver them out of the king’s hands ultimately, but they DID NOT know whether God would deliver them in both or just one of those ways.

There is a big deference between trusting in God’s ultimate faithfulness and mercy on behalf of His people, and presuming upon God for the specific ways in which He “must” carry out those qualities. A very big difference, indeed.

Lest there should be any possibility of my making more of something than is warranted by two passages of Scripture (though I believe what I have offered is more than sufficient to prove my case), let us examine another individual who obviously understood how to speak and think about his life in light of God’s ultimate say in the course of events.

“But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power.” 1 Corinthians 4:19 (NASB)

“…but taking leave of them and saying, “I will return to you again if God wills,” he set sail from Ephesus.” ~ Acts 18:21 (NASB)

These examples (and more that can be found throughout his epistles) are spoken by the apostle Paul. It is clear by Paul’s references to God’s will and the theology he teaches in the epistles that he believes (and even seems to just assume it without needing to argue for the point) that disciples of Christ are never CERTAIN of the exact (i.e. specific and down to the minute details) will or plan of God in any given situation. What Paul often gives the Church as certainties are God’s mercy and grace in the salvation, justification, and sanctification of the saints; His ultimately meeting out justice at the Judgement; and other such general tenets of the Christian Religion or of the character and/or attributes of God. (See Romans, 1 Thessalonians, Ephesians, etc…)

There is another person who gives us this example, however, and I am sure you already know who he is.

“Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “my soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” ~ Matthew 26:36-39 (ESV) {for parallels see Mark 14:32-42 & Luke 22:39-46}

Now, the accounts of our Lord’s travails in Gethsemane are amazingly deep and rich portions of Scripture, and I pray the reader will excuse my shallow look at these Scriptures for the sake of my thesis – as it is far from the meat of the particular passage at which I am currently pointing. But I do not think I do the Lord any injustice when I look to His prayers for examples of how I should pray – after all, would He not prove to be the best exemplar of his own teaching? (Matthew 6:9-13)

The fact that I am not looking to the primary intent of the author in recording these words for us aside, notice Jesus’ words: “…nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Repeated in different forms twice more according to later verses)

My point? If the sinless, righteous, perfect Son of God; who knew/knows what was coming with greater clarity and detail than we could imagine; who had/has a more intimate relationship with and knowledge of the Father than we will EVER have; and would feel/felt with agony in the full force of the weakness of His humanity (and endured only because of the strength and perfection of His divinity) the Wrath of God against the sins of His people… if the blessed Christ included a caveat like ‘if it be your will’ in the very prayers that are recorded for us right before his being handed over for crucifixion – how dare any of us even think such a thing is inadvisable?

Again, I hope the reader can excuse my shallow examination of the example given us in a few words spoken by our Lord in one of His darkest hours, but I also hope and pray that you can see the validity of my observations.

Now, the anti-Biblical group I mentioned at the start (i.e. those who discourage people from praying “if it be your will, Lord”) generally only make their heretical statements when speaking in the context of praying for healing.

I spent the other night discussing this with my wife and wondered about this detail. As we talked I pinned down a few things that I think cause even those who seem to be more orthodox in “charismatic” circles to say such things.

The first and primary idea I concluded would cause this is a presupposition; namely “it is ALWAYS God’s will to heal.”
Now obviously if we take into consideration eschatology, any orthodox Christian could agree that the Lord does ultimately plan and desire our complete restoration and “healing.”
The difficulty is what most charismatics actually mean by the statement – and that is that “it is ALWAYS God’s will to heal supernaturally/miraculously in the exact moment a prayer is prayed and in the exact way the prayer is meant.”

Side NOTE: before going further, I want to acknowledge that this assumption is in fact quite huge and complicated, having many aspects; such as how one defines faith, how one is to “act in faith;” and many such other things. But to properly address the idea in its fullest would require far more words than I have to give at this time. So I shall merely be sharing the essence of the conversation my wife and I had the other evening.

As I’m sure the reader has already anticipated, I will say that it is a borderline arrogant, presumption upon God – without any Scriptural basis – to think you know exactly how God feels about or intends to act upon our prayers for the physically ill, handicapped, and/or infirm.

Side NOTE: notice I have said nothing to discourage prayer for the sick – I am assuming any disciple of Christ reading this will take it for granted that we are supposed to pray for them (just as we pray for all those we serve and care for), and even specifically request that God relieve them of whatever malady they might be suffering under.

The connection to this assumption about miraculous physical healing and discouraging believers from using the language of Jesus, Paul, James, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azaraiah in their prayers for healing, I think can be explained in part by a wrong understanding of (or possibly just emphasis upon) an idea most fully articulated by James in James 1:5-8 — but was also taught in many of the places where Jesus tells us we should not doubt God when we pray.

Side NOTE: my wife pointed out that James was specifically talking about requesting wisdom from God, and so that passage has a more narrow application and interpretation intended than Jesus’ statements.

Now as I came to this concept of doubt in the particular area of requesting miraculous physical healing from God, I concluded that perhaps some of the more orthodox people I have heard say we shouldn’t pray “if the Lord wills” because it displays doubt.

My answer to that misconception is twofold;
1) even if a Christian has some form of doubt when it comes to what he is praying for – and BECAUSE of that doubt he concludes with “nevertheless, not my will, but yours” – I do not think it wise to discourage this brother from his chosen phrasing simply because a: if he is requesting something God desires him to have, it will be given whether he is COMPLETELY doubt free or not (Mark 9:14-29… verse 24 I believe is specifically relevant), b: he could have experienced that doubt because he has requested something that is outside of God’s will and the Spirit has pricked his conscience on the matter, and c: if his doubt is going to affect the answer to his pray, leaving out such a sentiment will not change the consequences of his doubt…
2) If using this language necessarily implies some form of unbelieving doubt, then what are we to make of Jesus, the apostles, the men of God in the Old Testament, and the writers of Scripture themselves? There is nothing in Scripture that implies a follower of Jesus cannot be fully confident in the condescension, provision, mercy, and faithfulness of God in his prayer, and yet not know whether what he is praying for is within the particular, specific plan of God and thus he leaves God the room He is owed in the very prayer itself to answer in a way that is not anticipated by the nature of the specific request.

So, all of that to say, I would warn the reader to pause and be wary of someone who says anything negative about praying “if it is the Lord’s will” – because that person has not thought out their position, at best. Or they have an underdeveloped view of God and His interaction with His creation and a wrong view of man and prayer at worst.

“Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” ~ Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV)

May the LORD be praised, for He is worthy.