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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Believer’s authority – Part 6

Further examination of the errors taught in Kenneth Hagin’s book “The Believer’s Authority”

After trying to pervert Ephesians 2:5-6 and confusing the believer with the Savior (see “Believer’s authority – Part 5”), on page 22 of his book “the Believer’s Authority” Hagin says:

“If the Church ever gets the revelation that we are the Body of Christ, we’ll rise up and do the works of Christ! Until now, we’ve been doing them only limitedly.

When we realize that the authority that belongs to Christ also belongs to individual members of the Body of Christ and is available to us, our lives will be revolutionized!”

Notice the fundamental assumptions in those statements: 1) the “revelation” that the Church is the “body of Christ” is something other than the metaphor used in Scripture. 2) the “works of Christ” are NECESSARILY something other/more than proclaiming Christ and Him crucified, feeding the hungry, clothing the destitute, visiting orphans and widows, and loving our fellow believers. 3) Christ’s authority is a right and possession that belongs to human individuals. 4) being saved by the Holy Spirit’s regenerative power through the gospel is not enough to “revolutionize” a person’s life.

I ask the reader, are those assumptions primarily and fundamentally Biblical? It is my contention that those assertions are not only UN-Biblical, but completely ANTI-Biblical.

We see this not only in Hagin’s abuse of the Ephesian passages already addressed in previous posts, but in his further abuse of passages from 1 & 2 Corinthians following the assertions quoted above.

In his book – on pages 22 & 23 – Hagin quoted 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27, and 2 Corinthians 6:14 & 15. And in his quotation of verse 12 of 1 Corinthians 12 he inserts this blasphemous interpretation/remark: “[We are Christ. He’s calling the Body, which is the Church, Christ.]” That – along with the piecemeal, “proof-texting” quotations – disqualifies Hagin from any respectable position as “Bible teacher.” However, to further help the reader, let us examine those texts in context.

First let us remind ourselves that in 1 Corinthians Paul is writing to a group of Christians who have come out of utterly pagan religious systems that had them doing all manner of bizarre and evil things as part of their regular “worship” – and so Paul must write to them to correct them where they have reasoned that they could hold on to some of their old ways of public “worship” in the Church that they are now a part of. By what modern translators have sectioned as chapter 12 of the letter, Paul has begun to move into instruction on “spiritual gifts” under the broader category of the unity of the Church. And it is within this category of “manifestations of the Spirit for the common good” (v 7) – under the broader scope of the unity of God’s people because of their being “empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills.” (v 11) – that Paul introduces this metaphor of the children of God being made “one body” in and under Christ.

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the war should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together…” 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 (ESV)

NOTE: The reader is welcome and encouraged to continue to follow Paul’s teaching and trail of thought beyond what I have quoted – but for the sake of brevity, I shall stop here and continue my critique of Hagin’s erroneous reading of the text.

As we read the entirety of Paul’s thoughts and follow his instruction we find less and less ground to come to Hagin’s conclusions that this metaphor puts the believer on par with or in the position of Christ himself. Paul’s entire point in using the metaphor of a body is to at once point out believers’ unity and diversity as a corporate group graciously saved and built by God for His own pleasure and glory.

As for the passage Hagin quotes from 2 Corinthians 6 (verses 14 & 15) – I see very little relevance to Paul’s metaphor in the first Epistle, except that Paul is emphasizing again that God has built a temple/people for Himself – and He has made it holy and is sanctifying it for His own pleasure and glory.

After quoting these passages out of context and seeming to completely miss the point(s) – or deliberately twisting their meaning – Hagin doubles down on his man-made “revelation.”

“First Corinthians 6:17 says, “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” We are one with Christ. We are Christ. We are seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High. All things have been put under our feet.” – Kenneth Hagin, “The Believer’s Authority” (page 23)

I would submit to the reader that the interpretation given of the text used in the quotation above is utter – damnably heretical – blasphemy.

Here is the text in context:

“”All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food” – and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” ~ 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (ESV)

First, the reader will note that everything in the context of this passage makes it completely impossible to interpret any of it in a strictly “literal” manner – to do so would be to deny fundamental facts of the reality of how God constructed the physical universe. Second, again the reader will notice that the future tense of verse 14 implies that our true union with Christ will not come until we die or the Judgement.

Once again, an honest reading of the text that seeks the author’s intent devastates Hagin’s assertions – and, in this case, placed his ideas in the realm of blasphemy against the supremacy and uniqueness of Christ.

Nowhere do the Biblical authors imply – let alone explicitly teach – that the world ruling, creation upholding, divinely innate authority of Yahweh (Matthew 28:18, Ephesians 1:20-23, etc.) is available to, shared by, or invested in the believer in Christ Jesus. Though I cannot see into the hearts of men, I would be willing to argue that anyone who says otherwise is either a deceived and/or delusional heretic, a liar and a charlatan, or a demon possessed individual.

The statements of Kenneth Hagin following his blaspheming on page 23, though making it possible to hope he didn’t mean what he said, further display his confusion on other key doctrines of the faith… but considering the current length of this post – and the “random tangent” nature of how Hagin closed his chapter – I’ll pause here…

First Thessalonians 1

“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 1 (ESV)

Side NOTE: The background for the first Epistle to the Thessalonians, from Scripture, seems to be in Acts 17:1-9. And based upon that portion of Acts, and Paul’s usage of the plural in the last sentence of verse 5 (and some brief internet searches) it seems that “Silvanus” named above may very likely be “Silas” from the book of Acts. As I do not yet read the original Greek fluently, I’ll leave that observation there for what it is.

It is interesting how Paul is always about thanking God for the saints whom he knows and knows of. And it is encouraging and/or useful (I think) that his thankfulness often stems from a very practical/personal interaction element of how he came to know or be with the group his Epistle is written to. In the case of the Thessalonians he remembers broadly their “work of faith,” “labor of love,” and “steadfastness of hope in Jesus Christ.” And from the account given to us in Acts 17, these aspects of the Thessalonians may be all the more intense for Paul due to the relatively small group that were initially saved there and subsequently persecuted by the Jews.

The second thing that jumps out at me in the beginning of this Epistle is Paul’s persistent consistency in using language that puts the impetus on God in the matter of salvation. Although he does not go into the depth he did in the Epistle to the Ephesians, it is undeniable that Paul believes God chose the particular Thessalonians who believed.

Now, my soteriologically synergistic brethren may be a little agitated at such an observation, however, verse 4 is quite clear. Paul thanks God for the Church at Thessalonica because he knows that they, being loved by God, were chosen by God. And Paul knows this for one reason that is threefold; because the gospel came to them “in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”

It seems to me that Paul is using Hebrew parallelism in describing his assurance about God’s choosing and saving the Thessalonians – for where does the “power” of the gospel come from but the working of the Spirit to “fully convict” those whom God has chosen for salvation?

And then Paul reminds his readers of “what kind of men” he and Silvanus “proved to be” among them for their sake. It seems here in the latter half of verse 5 that Paul inserts the beginnings of what is an underlying theme of both the Epistles that he wrote to the Thessalonians; and that is something of a Christian “work ethic” or “code of conduct” – if you will. Though this only becomes blatant in 2 Thessalonians (some of them apparently having missed that point) – I do not think it a stretch to see a little of that reasoning in the things that Paul will bring up later in this Epistle.

However, the primary and actual point of Paul mentioning what kind of men he and his companion proved to be was to continue to commend the Thessalonians – and further the list of things he is thanking and “remembering” before God – for their having been imitators of them “and the Lord.”

And in what way does Paul describe them as imitators of Christ? In their receiving the gospel in “much affliction,” being granted joy by the Holy Spirit because of that word and in spite of the affliction – and in so doing being made an example to other believers in nearby regions. And not only a living example, but proclaimers of the gospel of Christ – evidenced from Paul having heard that their “faith in God has gone forth everywhere,” (verse 8).

And subsequently Paul thanks God and encouraged the Thessalonians by including verses 9 and 10. Making it a perfect transition into the underlying themes of both Epistles to the Thessalonians – that of Christian living and the Eschaton.

It will be interesting to see – as we pick up “chapter 2” – how Paul continues with this personal address as he also weaves in teaching and recollections of imitation-worthy examples for how we as Christians should act and think…

For now, I encourage the reader to walk through the entirety of the Epistle in their own private study, and hope my observations have been at least interesting, if not entirely “helpful.”

Believer’s authority – Part 5

A continuing critique challenging the assumptions and biblical interpretations of Kenneth Hagin’s “The Believer’s Authority”

In chapter three of his book “The Believer’s Authority” Kenneth Hagin introduces the primary presumptive formula for where this false doctrine is supposedly found in Scripture.

He starts the chapter by quoting Matthew 28:18 (page 19) – and then makes this statement:

“When Christ ascended, He transferred His authority to the Church. He is the Head of the Church, and believers make up the Body. Christ’s authority has to be perpetuated through His Body, which is on the earth.” – Kenneth Hagin, “The Believer’s Authority” (page 19)

Notice the complete baselessness of Hagin’s claims – namely, that “Christ’s authority has to be perpetuated through His Body…” He quotes a passage ABOUT JESUS and suddenly turns toward “us” (the believers). Now, he technically is going to try and “establish” these ideas throughout the course of the chapter – however, he will be completely unable to provide us with a Biblical text that actually teaches what he tries to teach. He must rely primarily upon twisted inferences and bald-faced claims that have no support in any portion of Scripture.

For the rest of pages 19 and 20 he will directly quote Ephesians 1:18-23 and Colossians 2:15, interspersing them with somewhat true statements about Jesus’ work on the cross and His victory over “sin, death, and Satan.”

But he does all of this under the assumption that this all has relevance because it gives the believer this mystical superpower he calls “authority.”

“The source of our authority is found in this resurrection and exalting of Christ by God. Notice in the eighteenth verse [of Ephesians 1] that the Holy Spirit through Paul prays that the eyes of the Ephesians’ understanding—their spirits—might be opened to these truths. He wanted all churches—all believers—to be enlightened. The truth of the authority of the believer, however, is overlooked by many Christians. In fact, most churches don’t even know the believer has any authority!” – Kenneth Hagin, “The Believer’s Authority” (page 21)

Notice that Hagin forces his own doctrine and idea into the text of Ephesians. He provided no actual context or exegesis of Paul’s words, but wrote as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world that Paul had the “believer’s authority” in mind when he wrote the Epistle.

In actual fact, if you read Ephesians properly – as in you look for THE INTENT OF THE AUTHOR – you will find Paul’s primary aim (especially in the beginning of the letter) is the glory of God in the gospel and Christ’s work on behalf of His people. Nowhere would an honest reading of the book imply a doctrine of “authority” belonging to the believer on Christ’s behalf.

But notice the craftiness of what Hagin has done in the paragraph quoted above. Not only had he been trying to force an assumption into the reader’s mind throughout the first chapters of the book, but here he tried to twist Paul’s prayer that the Ephesians would understand and know things about God in Christ to somehow mean that Paul wanted them to know about this false doctrine.

And in case someone caught the fact that Hagin contorted the text in order to change it to mean what he wanted he added: “You never will understand the authority of the believer only with your intellect; you must get the spiritual revelation of it. You must believe it by faith.” (Page 21)

I would caution the reader that any statement like that – made by anyone in any context – should cause sirens, warning bells, and red flags to signal in the thinking person’s mind. Historic, orthodox Christianity never demands that we jettison our brains. However, Word-Faithism tends to be utterly anti-intellectual for the exact reason that its false doctrines and lies about Scripture begin to fall apart the moment we start to use the thinking faculties God gave us and seek to understand what God intended through the authors of Holy Writ, instead of looking for things we would like to have the text speak to.

After this Hagin quotes Ephesians 2:1-7 and tries to correlate our justification in Christ’s resurrection as having to do with the false doctrine he is purporting.

“Notice that the Head (Christ) and the Body (the Church) were raised together. Furthermore, this authority was conferred not only upon the Head, but also upon the Body, because the Head and the Body are one. (When you think of a person, you think of his head and body as one.)” – Kenneth Hagin, “The Believer’s Authority” (page 22)

Notice that Hagin has conflated the ideas of Ephesians 1:20-23 and 2:6. Hagin has essentially turned “the believer” into Christ Himself, instead of the object that Christ has saved and justified as Paul has laid out.

The very phrasing in Ephesians 1:22 excludes the kind of conflation of “authority” that Hagin is advocating: “And he(God, the Father) put all things under his(Jesus) feet and gave him(Jesus) as head over all things to the church(believers),” – although the metaphor of “body” is used in the following verse, there is nothing here that implies that God is sharing His “authority” with anyone but Himself.

The same goes for Ephesians 2:6, because – although it does speak to our association with Christ – the very next verse implies a very real “not yet” (or eschatological) nature to the idea when it says: “so that IN THE COMING AGES he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (emphasis mine)… all of this to re emphasize the fact that, if we read Ephesians with the desire to see what Paul intended to communicate, we will see God’s awesome graciousness toward His children in Christ; how they are hidden and justified in Christ, and how salvation is all the work of God and NOT men… nowhere will we find the silly idea of the believer commandeering Christ’s authority for their own use.

At this point I would ask the reader an honest question: would it not be reasonable to assume (since Paul is building – or “rebuilding” as the case probably was – an understanding of soteriology in Ephesians) that if Paul had any desire for believers in Jesus to make demands of God and Satan based on some “authority” that they possess because they are basically just an extension of Christ, that he would have written a little more clear and extensive teaching on the matter? After all, he moves into advice about proper sanctified living and even gives specific advice to husbands, wives, children, and slaves and masters on how they should carry out their God-given callings… why not give us some specific instruction about our authority, if it’s such a big deal?

The answer is what I have asserted throughout the course of this post: the false doctrine of the “believer’s authority” is not actually taught in Scripture. The most it’s adherents can come up with is twisted inferences that ignore context and require absurd assumptions about the meanings of metaphors and analogies.

Hagin had more to say on this key pillar of the doctrine in his third chapter, however, this post has run a bit long, so I’ll pause here and pick it up another time.

In closing I would again plead with the reader (if you have been influenced by the Word of Faith movement in general, or by Kenneth Hagin’s ideas specifically), ask questions that get at the heart of what you assume when you read Scripture. Don’t let anyone tell you a text means something unless they can substantiate it from the flow and substance of the entirety of the passage they say their idea comes from – and even then, ask if their idea is a historical one(long held throughout church history), or if it is an aberration from what orthodox Christianity has always taught. And any number of questions you can think of to “test the spirit” of an idea. (1 John 4:1)

Please do not fall into the snares of wrong and dangerous thinking encouraged by the lies and delusions of the Word-Faithers.

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…

Stop Thinking About You!

Yet again I hear of another book which aims to pervert and twist the meaning of a Biblical text so that it will line up with their American ideals. Granted, this particular pastor had a slightly better emphasis and view of God than Joyce Meyer or others of the Word of Faith ilk – but that does not make his approach any less backwards.
The text the book was supposedly drawing on for its content was Matthew 22:35-40 (roughly speaking – I’ve not read the book, so I’m going on what I heard on the radio):

“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ~ Matthew 22:35-40 (ESV)

Now the first portion of the radio broadcast focused on the first “section” (apparently it is divided into three) of the book; how we are to view, love, and relate directly to God. Some nice and proper things were said by the pastor as he was being interviewed on that portion, but one thing he said was eerily indicative of how off base his view and intent in the middle portion of the book would be once the radio interview got there…
He said something along the lines of “one of the things that we do, as people, is seek our meaning and purpose. We want to know why we’re here – and God gives us that need. And I always say you will find the greatest meaning in life in worshiping God, because that was what we were made to do…”
I am paraphrasing there, but I believe I captured the essence of his intent from what I can remember. And I could appreciate his statements about the worthiness of God to be worshipped, but how he said what he said just irked at me until I realized his thought was as backward as the entire middle portion of his book.

We do not worship, serve, love, or obey God to “find meaning and/or purpose” or any other reason that has US at its focal point. Those may be products or natural results of worship – and because of our fallenness and pervasive rebelliousness our actions and intents may always be tainted with a selfish focus – but we are SUPPOSED to love, worship, obey, and serve God for the very basic and primary reason of HIS WORTHINESS; and simply because He commands it.

But I digress, my reason for mentioning that statement from the writer is to point at the very simple reason that the man can write an entire third of a book on “loving yourself” based on Jesus’ wording in verse 39 quoted above. And that reason is that the author – along with so many American’s who profess to follow Christ – is placing his own ego (or, more accurately on the part of his intent, the egos of his readers) into the text.

Nowhere in the Law (which is what Jesus is quoting and summarizing) is there any hint that the Biblical authors ever had any concept of what we today call “self-esteem” or “an appropriate self love.” Every place the Scriptures speak to “self-love” it is in a negative context and does nothing but condemn it. (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 1 Timothy 2:21, Romans 1:21-25, etc…)

Getting back to the radio interview, however, I will say once again that this pastor sounded much more pious and “Christiany” than the common Word of Faith spewer. He spoke of “having a proper view of ourselves” and “loving ourselves the way God does” in slightly less offensive fashion than I have heard before – but the idea was essentially the same as what I have addressed before in previous posts.

The problem is that it’s the entirely wrong approach. If you “hate yourself” you may very well need to have a change in perspective, but that necessary change will not be from the “negative” to the “proper negative” or the “positive” or even the “right positive.” What you need to do is STOP LOOKING AT AND THINKING ABOUT YOU!
Way more people could do with a more negative view of themselves – especially those professing Christ as Savior – however, the aim of Holy Writ is not to have us “think of ourselves properly” but to “lose, forget about, and die to ourselves.” (Matthew 16:24-25, Luke 14:25-33, etc…)

And guess what, the more you “die to self” and look to Christ, and believe, trust, worship, and obey Him – by default you will have/develop a proper understanding of yourself. But that is a simple product, or result, of NOT focusing on you at all – because God All-Mighty is the one Being worth loving, obeying, and thinking about.

So please, do not allow the tripe you hear every day coming from the current “Christian” culture to influence you away from the real solution to any problem you may be facing in life.

Christ, and the hope of one day standing in His Glorious presence, can remove so many of this terrible world’s aches and pains (or at least point to the escape route)… Trust HIM; learn to love HIM more and better and more appropriately; and stop thinking you need to “love” yourself, or some other such nonsense.

God is the one we should be concerned with loving. And by extension He will help us love those around us – and IN THAT He will help us to stop being the narcissistic pieces of dirt the idea and mindset I’m ranting about stem from.

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.