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.

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“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.

Believer’s authority – Part 3

Continuing critique of “the Believer’s Authority” by Kenneth Hagin

(NOTE: the first two posts in this series can be found HERE(1) & HERE(2))

“Ephesians 1:3 reads, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us [the whole Church] with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” The American Standard Version renders “all spiritual blessings” as “every spiritual blessing.” This means every spiritual blessing there is. In Christ, all spiritual blessings belong to us. Authority belongs to us whether we realize it or not. But just knowing this isn’t enough. It’s knowledge acted upon that brings results! It’s a tragedy for Christians to go through life and never find out what belongs to them.” Kenneth E Hagin, the Believer’s Authority (last paragraph of page 12 – emphasis/italics original)

(Side NOTES: (1) anyone who wants to say what the differences in Bible translations “mean” (I.e. make a case or point for a specific meaning that is not given in the text) better have a decent grasp of the original language(s) themselves – or be able to point you to sources they used to come to their conclusion… (2) having been granted salvation isn’t enough for your life to NOT be a tragedy???)

I return to this paragraph first because there are a number of things I haven’t addressed yet, and because it – and the section following – is (I believe) a hinge upon which Hagin’s doctrine turns.

Assumptions (again)
Once again I urge the reader to question the assumptions of an author that are not given full Biblical warrant.

Notice that Hagin assumes that “authority” is a spiritual blessing. What gives him the right to assume this? Now, he has kind of already told us that he gets this from the believer’s union with Christ at/in salvation, and later he will eventually give us an incredibly far reaching argument for where he got this idea, but for now let us consider his closing argument for chapter 1 of his book.

‘Things belong to us’

The underlying argument from the end of page 12 to page 14 consists of a fuller explanation of what Hagin means by his statements in the last half of the paragraph quoted above.

He begins the argument by asking his reader if they have ever thought about the following statement: “salvation belongs to the sinner.”(pg 13)

Ignoring the obvious blunder (I.e. that salvation, in fact, BELONGS to (is possessed/controlled/given by) the LORD (Jonah 2:9, Psalm 3:8, etc.) – NOT “the sinner”), let’s read more and find out what Hagin means by the statement:

“Jesus already has bought the salvation of the worst sinner, just as He did for us. That’s the reason He told us to go tell the Good News; go tell sinners they’re reconciled to God. But we’ve never really told them that. We’ve told them God’s mad at them and is counting up everything they’ve done wrong. Yet the Bible says God isn’t holding anything against the sinner! God says He has canceled it out. That’s what’s so awful: the poor sinner, not knowing this, will have to go to hell even though all of his debts are cancelled! Second Corinthians 5:19 will tell you that. There’s no sin problem. Jesus settled that. There’s just a sinner problem. Get the sinner to Jesus, and that cures the problem. Yes, that’s a little different from what people have been taught, but it’s what the Bible says.” – Kenneth Hagin, the Believer’s Authority(page 13)

Now, once again, the plethora of assumptions in this quotation reveal how Hagin understood and applied key doctrines of the Christian Religion, and how you respond to Hagin’s words will be indicative of how you yourself view the Bible.

So, with all of the presumptive statements made by Hagin in that quote, he only referenced one verse of Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:19. Let’s read the verse with a little context, shall we?

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all these things are from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as if God were imploring you through us. We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made the one who did not know sin to be sin on our behalf, in order that we could become the righteousness of God in him.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (LEB)

What jumps out to me first is the lack of the idea of “already-ness” that Hagin seemed to have. There is nothing in this passage that implies ‘ownership’ (or anything of the kind) for/to the sinner. And even if one subscribes to an interpretation of this text as teaching universal atonement – there is no basis upon which to assume that the God-hater (a.k.a. “the sinner”) is already (I.e. before coming to Christ in repentance and faith) “at peace” with God, or reconciled to Him.

God’s “reconciling the world to Himself” did not automatically remove His wrath against sin. Notice that the subject of this reconciliation is primarily those who are “in Christ,” and have been made “new creations” – it says nothing about those who are outside of Christ having been reconciled. Also, God’s act of reconciling men to Himself is an event that takes place in time (as far as we are concerned), and has nothing to do with anything “belonging” to fallen men.

More problematic than the misunderstanding addressed above is Hagin’s view of people. Primarily whatever he believed about them that allowed him to make statements like: “the poor sinner not knowing this, will have to go to hell even though all of his debts are cancelled!”(pg 13) And: “There’s no sin problem. Jesus settled that. There’s just a sinner problem. Get the sinner to Jesus, and that cures the problem. Yes, that’s a little different from what people have been taught, but it’s what the Bible says.”(pg 13)

The first problem – as I’m sure the reader will have grown tired of reading by now – is that he gives no Scriptural reason for saying this, other than his obvious interpretation of the one text he mentioned(2Cor5:19).

The second problem is that these statements reveal a sub-Biblical (one could almost say anti-Biblical) understanding of mankind.

The “sinner” is NOT a “poor,” unfortunate person who wants to do the right thing, doesn’t deserve hell, and would be brought to heaven and coddled by a gushing god if he only knew what was already his! What the “sinner” IS is a selfish, self-centered, God-hating, self-righteous, and worthless creature that deserves and resides under the wrath of God apart from His mercy and grace in Christ:

“…just as it is written, “There is no one righteous, not even one; There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned aside together; they have become worthless; There is no one who practices kindness; there is not even one. Their throat is an opened grave; they deceive with their tongues; the venom of asps is under their lips, whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and distress are in their paths, and they have not known the way of peace. The fear of God is not before their eyes.” ~ Romans 3:10-18 (LEB)

For the first three chapters of his Epistle to the Romans, Paul labors to explain and make unmistakably clear the evil of every single human being, and that the just, righteous wrath of God will be poured out upon them at the Judgement (and in many ways is already manifested against them).

Hagin’s seemingly man-centered gospel – and therefore his view of people and their relationship to God – is troubling, to say the least.

I urge the reader to contrast Hagin’s statements and claims against the full text of what is written in Scripture. Though he is correct that Jesus “fixes the problem with/of sinners,” there is no Biblical reason to think that God’s holy wrath does not still abide upon the unrepentant. For now, I have addressed the few Scriptures Hagin tried to use in the first chapter of his book. There are plenty of other things that could be said of the silly claims and worldview revealing statements that he made in the chapter, but I wish to primarily point the reader to God’s Word.

I hope my thoughts and observations thus far have helped the reader to at least begin to see or ponder how sub-Biblical the doctrine of “the believer’s authority” truly is.

May the Lord bless you and help you to be more concerned about Him; His glory; and HIS Authority – and to think nothing of yourself.

Believer’s authority – Part 2

A critical examination of the doctrine of “the believer’s authority” as taught by Kenneth Hagin in his book of the same title.

(NOTE: Kenneth Hagin recounts having changed and repetitiously “prayed” Paul’s prayers in The first half of Ephesians over himself many times… for fuller context; see “Part 1”)

“I spent about six months praying this way during the winter of 1947-48. Then the first thing I was praying for started to happen. I had been praying for “the spirit of wisdom and revelation” (Eph. 1:17), and the spirit of revelation began to function! I began to see things in the Bible I had never seen before. It just began to open up to me.” ~ Kenneth Hagin, the Believer’s Authority – page 10

A question to the reader: does a “spirit” (when in reference to a human being) have to be “activated” or “accessed” in order to “function,” so to speak? And, if so, why isn’t there clear instruction in Scripture for this practice?

Another thing I will put out there for the reader to ponder; I personally always retranslate phrases like “I began to see things in the Bible I had never seen before” and “it[the Bible] just began to open up to me” as actually meaning something along the lines of “now the text doesn’t actually say what I’m about to tell you, but…”

Think about it, especially when coming from someone who’d supposedly been teaching the Bible for many years (14 in Hagin’s case – pg 11), why should we trust them when they begin to teach something diametrically opposed to a normal understanding of the Scriptures?

For instance, the second actual bit of Scripture Hagin quotes in his book is Ephesians 6:12 (notice, he skips a massive portion of the Epistle before giving any exegesis… and supposedly his book is a “study based on Ephesians”) – he then goes on to blather and bluster about “our authority over such evil spirits”(pg 12) when there is nothing about “authority” even within the context of the text he quotes. Now, he tries to make it sound like it is by telling us that we must ‘think of this passage in light of what Paul wrote elsewhere,'(pg 12) but fails to give any form of direct quotation.

(Side NOTE: I would like to know who on earth the people are that “think that authority over the devil belongs to only a few chosen people to whom God has given special power”(pg 12) according to Hagin… notice again, no references or sources)

What he does do is try to reference “being born again” and tie that to this assumed “authority in Christ” without giving any Scriptural basis for the presupposition.

The same page(12) of Hagin’s book leads me to caution the reader about trusting the teaching of anyone who thinks they know so much about Satan and his wants and desires. Where is it told us in Scripture what “the devil” does and does not want us to know or do? Again, I plead with the reader not to allow wolves like Hagin the ground for their presuppositions that have no basis in Scripture.

Although we are told in Ephesians 6 that as disciples of Christ we now primarily wrestle/struggle (notice there is no concept of “overwhelming victory” in the passage – it simply mentions the act of “striving against”) against “spiritual forces,” there is no reason to assume that the evil thoughts and schemes of men are not also in view here – do we not face such “spiritual darkness” when we preach the Gospel to a hostile crowd and call upon the Holy Spirit to make dead men alive?

In any case, the next passage of Scripture that Hagin quotes is Ephesians 1:3.

“Ephesians 1:3 reads, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us [the whole Church] with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.The American Standard Version renders “all spiritual blessings” as “every spiritual blessing.” This means every spiritual blessing there is. In Christ, all spiritual blessings belong to us. Authority belongs to us whether we realize it or not. But just knowing this isn’t enough. It’s knowledge acted upon that brings results! It’s a tragedy for Christians to go through life and never find out what belongs to them.” ~ Last paragraph of page 12, “The Believer’s Authority”

First, I’m sure the reader has already noted the lack of context given by Hagin when he quotes the text. And he has forced an assumption upon the phrase “spiritual blessing” merely based upon the presence of a word that can be translated into English as either “every” or “all.” Where in the text does it say that “authority” falls under the category of a “spiritual blessing?”

Also, with all of the clear teaching given on justification and salvation in and through Jesus Christ in Paul’s other Epistles, why is there not more clear teaching on how this gives the believer supposedly supernatural powers of control over supernatural beings? Are we really expected to just assume the blessing and power of the Holy Spirit given the Christian to fight temptation, flee from sin, and do what is pleasing in the sight of God should include some vague notion of “bossing around demons,” as it were?

Obviously Hagin’s primary problem here, as usual, is in interpretation.

The purpose, extent, and descriptions of these “spiritual blessings” the Christian is given is explained in Paul’s following words starting in verse 4!

Just read the first 2 chapters of Ephesians with the goal of understanding what Paul’s primary point was and you will easily see that the wonder and glory of God (and His worthiness to be praised) in the salvation of wicked men and women through Jesus Christ is the highest idea within Paul’s words! Anyone who would try to make this about the “awesome power(ahem, given by God, of course) of the Believer” over ANYTHING is deceived and/or attempting to deceive others.

Thus far Hagin gives very little support for the presumptive statements he makes about his chosen topic. In future posts I will do my best to more thoroughly address the Scripture that Hagin tries to use – but for now I wish to press upon the reader, once again, the need to acknowledge (if not outright challenge) the assumptions presented with no Biblical bases by Hagin and those of the Word of Faith movement for their false doctrine of “the believer’s authority.”

Food-for-Thought & Terribly Accurate Satire

http://www.piratechristian.com/messedupchurch/2017/6/when-did-the-church-turn-into-amway

http://babylonbee.com/news/bee-explains-prosperity-gospel/

Self-Esteem . . . Or God-Esteem?

I once heard a preacher make a great statement that is quite relevant to the last two posts I’ve put up – and his statement actually gave me the title for this post… But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’ve probably been thinking about this way more than is even helpful, but I couldn’t shake the question: does God really command me to love myself? I’ve read and heard a lot about self-esteem and how it can supposedly effect your attitude, relationships, and even “success” – whatever that means – in life. But I’ve always found it hard to believe that any of those teachings are Biblical. Honestly, am I supposed to believe that Scripture actually teaches that one of my problems is that I think too poorly of myself?

So, naturally, to answer my own questions, I go to the Bible – and specifically I go to the places that describe mankind’s essential problem:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them…

…as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.

All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.”

“The venom of asps is under their lips.”

“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”

“Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… ~ Romans 1:18-32, 3:10-18, & 3:23 (ESV)

(NOTE: see also Psalm 14, Psalm 53, Jeremiah 17:9, Psalm 36:1-6, Ephesians 2:1-3, etc.)

So, according to Scripture, my problem is not that I am “deceived” or self-deprecating, but that I am a God-hater. And thus I pervert the good things God originally made and act against His law, thereby earning for myself the just and righteous wrath of my Almighty Creator. What is worse, I can do nothing to appease the wrath of this thrice-Holy God, because even my attempts to do so are tainted with selfish, evil idolatry.

Now, the good news is that God has appeased that wrath Himself to save a people from Himself, for Himself. Jesus Christ, God the Son, took upon Himself the penalty for sin to redeem a people for Himself, thus making it possible to clothe them in His righteousness and delight in them for God’s own pleasure and glory.

So, since God has saved me and clothes me in the righteousness of His Son through my repentance and belief upon/in Him, I must forever focus upon the work and might of God – as that, and more, is merely the due reward of His act – and in so doing, forget myself (as far as is necessary without forgetting my state apart from Him, and His action) in the ever pursuing of His honor, praise, and glory.

(NOTE: see the entirety of the portions of Romans quoted above, the rest of Psalm 36, Ephesians 2:4-10, and the entirety of the New Testament…)

So, to return to what I opened with – and to close – here is a paraphrastic quote of something I first heard Voddie Baucham say:

“What we need is not more ‘self-esteem.’ What we need is more God-esteem!”

And here are a couple quotes I saw throughout the length of time it took me to gather my thoughts for this post:

“If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be.” ~ C. H. Spurgeon

“Only those who have learned well to be earnestly dissatisfied with themselves, and to be confounded with shame at their own wretchedness, truly understand the Christian gospel.” ~ John Calvin

NOTE: at some point I will post something in response to those silly people that would read these quotes and say “but now your focused back on your ‘wickedness’ instead of God! (I.e. Christians shouldn’t think about their sin)” … But – for now – suffice it to say a healthy (and poor) view of one’s self, balanced with a mindset of self-forgetfulness, SHOULD lead the disciple of Christ to greater and greater love for and confidence in the merciful, gracious, and worthy God and LORD of the universe.

The Implications of Believing There’s a Command to Love Yourself

So I recently put “a command to love yourself” into a search engine to see what I’d get… I’m not sure why, but I was kinda surprised at the litany of stuff actually arguing for the idea.

However, I shouldn’t have been surprised, because the American Dream has always – in one way or another – encouraged the love of self. In fact, much of contemporary “Christianity” today focuses on a “you are worth so much” chant that logically leads its teachers to follow this chant with a teaching that will keep listeners satisfied and “in the club,” so to speak.I’ve primarily heard the “love yourself” teaching twisted out of the Scriptures by Joyce Meyer (I’m pretty sure it’s actually her primary “teaching” platform), however, I’ve heard plenty of similar teaching – if in more veiled language – from many other sources.

One article I found online is a good example of this: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/loving-yourself-the-biblical-command-we-tend-to-forget/

You will notice, however, that the author uses no Scripture (aside from the half quotation of “love your neighbor as yourself”) to back up their claims that to “love yourself” is even an idea in the imperative of the command. Now, there are professing Christians that will try to go to passages about “abundant life” and such and try to twist their base ideas into something that will work with their teaching on Matthew 22:39... But as I’ve tried to briefly point out in my last post, I do not believe the whole testimony of Scriture would even come close to substantiating such a claim.

Besides that, no matter how much “Christianese” you use, the logical end of such and argument is self-love and/or self-worship as a prime goal in life. It also diminishes a person’s ability to rightly judge their own sinfulness by inserting a third category of responsibility that the Bible does not teach.

I thought this article was a perfect example of the logical end to such a false message: https://bayart.org/2016/08/22/how-to-fall-in-love-with-yourself/

Anyone who can read such self absorbed advice and not cringe or have red flags go off in their brain has a lot to learn about what the Bible says about mankind, God, and the character and worth of Christ.