When a Believer Perpetually Sins

     Can the true believer live in perpetual sinThe purpose of this article is to show that a child of God can simultaneously surrender some areas of his life to God and other areas not. Like train tracks that run parallel, a believer may be obedient in one thing and disobedient in another. David and Solomon are my biblical examples. Both men were believers, were appointed by God to serve as kings in Israel, received direct revelation from the Lord, wrote Scripture, and are in heaven today. Yet, both men directly disobeyed God’s Word, not just on occasion, but on a continual basis throughout their lives (Solomon especially). The failure of both men pertained to their kingship. In order to understand their ongoing failure, we must start with what God commanded of the kings of Israel. Moses wrote:

“When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ 15 you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. 16 “Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’ 17He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself. (Deut. 17:14-17)

     God wanted the kings of Israel to be servants who trusted in Him. God had proven He could deliver His people by His might (Ex. 14-15), so He forbid the kings to multiply horses, wives, silver and gold because these would tempt them to turn away from the Lord and seek human solutions to their concerns. The natural inclination of the human heart is to trust in self and worldly wisdom rather than God and His Word. Multiplying horses meant the king would rely on his military power to deliver rather than the Lord. Kings also acquired wives as part of political alliances to keep their borders safe. And the accumulation of gold and silver would influence them to pursue pleasure and rely on wealth to solve their problems. There’s nothing wrong with horses, marriage, or wealth; except that these can, when increased, be impediments to our walk with God. When given the opportunity, most people will not intentionally place themselves in a weak and vulnerable place. Yet, it is often in the place of weakness that God’s wisdom and strength is magnified (see 2 Cor. 12:7-10).

     One of the things I love about the Bible is that it shows people as they really are, having both good and bad qualities, successes and failures. For example, Scripture reveals David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14), was chosen by God to be king over Israel (1 Sam. 16:12-13; cf. 1 Chron. 28:4), defeated Israel’s enemies (1 Sam. 17:1-58), and authored Scripture (73 Psalms). However, David was not without his faults. David sinned when he had an affair with Bathsheba and had her husband, Uriah, murdered (2 Sam. 11:1-17), and later he failed as a father when he would not deal with the rape of his daughter, Tamar (2 Sam. 13:1-39), and again when he sinned against the Lord by taking the census in Israel (2 Sam. 24:1-15). 

     Like David, Solomon had his successes and failures. Solomon did well in the early part of his kingship. In humility he sought the Lord for wisdom (1 Ki. 3:4-15; 4:29), executed wise judgment among God’s people (1 Ki. 3:16-28; 10:9), ruled over a large area (1 Ki. 4:21), was chosen by God to build the temple in Jerusalem (1 Chron. 28:6), and wrote several books of the Bible including Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. However, we know that Solomon sinned when he broke God’s code for the kings of Israel by multiplying gold (1 Ki. 10:14-15, 23), horses (1 Ki. 4:26; 10:26), and wives (1 Ki. 11:1-3).[1] This eventually led to a complete turning away from God. The final days of Solomon’s life were given over to worshipping idols (1 Ki. 11:4-8).

     But what does the Bible say about David and Solomon’s perpetual sin? By perpetual sin I mean continuous, uninterrupted sin that lasts for many years. Both David and Solomon’s perpetual sin was polygamy. They both multiplied wives throughout their kingship in spite of God’s clear command (Deut. 17:17), and they never turned from it. David had eight wives that we know by name: Michal (1 Sam. 18:27), Abigail (1 Sam. 25:39-42), Ahinoam (1 Sam. 25:43), Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:24), Maacah, Haggith, Abital and Eglah (2 Sam. 3:2-5), and other wives that are unnamed (2 Sam. 5:13).[2] Solomon’s kingship started with a political marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter (1 Ki. 3:1). By the end of his life, Scripture reveals Solomon “had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away” (1 Ki. 11:3). God permitted Solomon to sin in this area of his life, and it eventually ruined his walk with the Lord. Solomon eventually worshipped idols (1 Ki. 11:4-10), and this brought God’s anger. God said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant” (1 Ki. 11:11). God punished Solomon for his sin, but He punished him as a son and not an unbeliever. In spite of David and Solomon’s sin, God used them both to accomplish great things. Eventually, Jesus, the promised Messiah, was born in their family line (Matt. 1:6-7, 17).

     Today, there is a battle that rages concerning whether a believer can sin perpetually and still be a true believer. The answer is yes; he can. However, the believer who disobeys God’s Word and abandons his walk can expect the Lord to discipline him, perhaps severely (Heb. 12:4-11), even to death (Lev. 10:1-2; 2 Sam. 6:1-7; Acts 5:1-10; 1 Cor. 11:30; 1 John 5:16-17). The believer who dies by the hand of the Lord goes to heaven (John 10:28), but because of his sin, he forfeits eternal rewards (1 Cor. 3:10-15). This need not happen. The sinning believer can turn from his rebellion and humbly seek the Lord through confession (1 John 1:9), and once restored, can pursue a life of righteousness, as God expects.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (Tit. 2:11-14)

Steven R. Cook, D.Min.

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[1] Nehemiah dealt with pagan influence in his day, as foreign women did not convert to Judaism, but rather, turned the hearts of God’s people toward idolatry.  Nehemiah compared the situation in his day to that of Solomon, who sinned against the Lord.  Nehemiah said, “Did not Solomon king of Israel sin regarding these things? Yet among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel; nevertheless the foreign women caused even him to sin” (Neh. 13:26).

[2] As far as I can tell, David married only women within the Israelite community and he cared for his wives.  In one biblical account, two of David’s wives, Abigail and Ahinoam, had been taken captive (1 Sam. 30:5), and David prayed to God concerning the matter.  God provided David victory so that he could reclaim his two wives as well as many possessions (1 Sam. 30:6-18).

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What it Means to Follow Jesus

     To follow Jesus means we follow Him for who He is and not who we want Him to be. There is a biblical Jesus and a worldly Jesus. The worldly Jesus is the one the world sets forth. He is the ecumenical Jesus who never judges, never offends, never stands up for truth, never divides, embraces other religions, wants to improve the world rather than convert the heart, and lets everyone into heaven. There are many moral people who follow this Jesus, and the world loves them for it. In the end, this is a Jesus of their making who fits their agendas. It’s a Jesus who serves them.

     But what does the Bible reveal about Jesus? The Bible reveals Jesus is God who added humanity to Himself (John 1:1, 14; 5:18; 10:33; 20:28), and that He is worthy of worship (Matt. 2:11; 14:33; 28:9). He lived a sinless life (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 1 John 3:5), willingly went to the cross and died in our place (John 3:16; 10:14-18), and was buried and rose again on the third day (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Concerning salvation, Jesus is the only Savior (John 14:6), and it is only by grace through faith in Him that one is eternally saved (Eph. 2:8-9). There is no salvation apart from Jesus (Acts 4:12).

     During His incarnation, there was a time when Jesus was popular with the masses because He fed them (John 6:1-14), but when they wanted to take Him by force and make Him king, He withdrew from them (John 6:15). The same crowd later pursued Jesus, not because they embraced Him or His teaching, but because they wanted another free meal (John 6:24-26) and He corrected their selfish motives (John 6:27). Jesus was kind to the sick and helpless (Matt. 8:1-3; 20:34; Luke 5:13), yet He did not hesitate to condemn the religious and powerful (Matt. 23:13-36). For the most part, Jesus was rejected by the majority of those who heard and saw Him (John 3:19; 12:37; 15:24). At times He caused division (John 7:43; 9:16; 10:19), even among His own disciples (John 6:66), as well as members of a family in the same household (Luke 12:51-53).

     Jesus called men to follow Him (Matt. 4:18-19; 9:9; John 1:43), and He had many female followers as well, several of whom funded His earthly ministry (Luke 8:1-3). To follow Jesus means to learn His teaching, obey His commands and model our life after Him. Followers of Jesus were to share the gospel (Matt. 4:19), not be bound by the world’s values (Matt. 8:19-22), treasure Jesus above one’s profession (Matt. 9:9), be committed to Jesus above family (Matt. 10:34-38; cf. Mark 1:20), and deny self and take up one’s cross daily (Matt. 16:24; cf. Luke 9:23). There is no place for personal glory or selfishness in serving the Lord, as one’s life is given for His glory and the benefit of others (1 Cor. 10:32-33; Phil. 2:3-4). To follow Jesus is a lifelong pursuit.

Steven R. Cook, D.Min.

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The Lord’s Supper

And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” (Luke 22:19-20)

     The Lord’s Supper is mentioned in the Gospels of Matthew (26:26-29), Mark (14:22-25), Luke (22:19-20), and by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Christians at Corinth (1 Cor. 11:23-34). The Lord’s Supper is also called the Eucharist, from the Greek word εὐχαριστέω eucharisteo, which means to give thanks, which is what Christ did when He instituted this church ordinance (Luke 22:19). And, it is called Communion, from the Geek word κοινωνία koinonia, which means communion, fellowship, or sharing (1 Cor. 10:15-17), because it took place during a community meal where believers fellowshipped with each other during a time of Bible study and prayer (see Acts 2:42). 

     The Lord’s Supper was instituted by Jesus on the night He and the disciples were celebrating the Passover meal. This was the night before His crucifixion. The Passover meal celebrated God’s deliverance from the final plague on Egypt as the Lord passed over the homes of those who had sacrificed an unblemished lamb and placed its blood on the doorpost and lintel of the home (Ex. 12:1-51). The flawless lamb foreshadowed the sinless humanity of Jesus who is “a lamb unblemished and spotless” (1 Pet. 1:19), “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus is “our Passover lamb” (1 Cor. 5:7), and His death paid the price for our sins (Mark 10:45; Eph. 1:7; Heb. 9:22).

     Jesus’ death instituted the New Covenant which was given to Israel and will find its ultimate fulfillment in the future millennial kingdom when Jesus is ruling. Because Christ inaugurated the New Covenant, some of the spiritual blessings associated with it are available to Christians today; specifically, forgiveness of sins (Jer. 31:34; Matt. 26:28; Heb. 10:17) and the indwelling Holy Spirit (Ezek. 36:26-27; 37:14; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19).

     The elements of the Lord’s Supper include unleavened bread and red juice. The unleavened bread symbolizes the sinless person of Jesus who “gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Eph. 5:2). The red juice symbolizes the “blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28). Throughout the church age, there have been four major views concerning the elements of the Lord’s Supper.

  1. The Roman Catholic view—Transubstantiation— teaches that the bread and red juice, without losing its form or taste, becomes the literal body and blood of Christ.
  2. The Lutheran view—Consubstantiation—holds that Christ is present in and with the bread and red juice in a real sense.
  3. The Reformed view—Spiritual—teaches that Christ is spiritually present in the bread and red juice.
  4. The Evangelical view—Symbolic—sees the bread and red juice as symbols that point to the body and blood of Christ (held by this writer).

     The first three views see Christ actually present in the bread and red juice, whereas the last view sees the elements as symbols that point to Christ. The last view is similar to how one understands the sacrificial lamb in the OT, which sacrifice did not actually contain Christ, but rather pointed to Him and His atoning work on the cross. Likewise, the Lord’s Supper does not actually contain Christ, but points the believer to His life and death.

     When Christians partake of the unleavened bread and red juice, we are recognizing our relationship with God through the life and death of Christ. Just as we are nourished bodily by physical food, so we are nourished spiritually by the life and shed blood of Jesus who died in our place. Eating the bread and drinking the red juice is a picture of the believer receiving the benefits that have been provided by the life and death of Jesus.

     There is a vertical and horizontal aspect to the Lord’s Supper. The vertical aspect indicates one is in a right relationship with God through faith in Jesus, for the Lord’s Supper has meaning only to the one who has trusted Christ as Savior and received forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life (John 3:16; 10:28; Eph. 1:7). The horizontal aspect of the Lord’s Supper indicates one is walking in love and living selflessly towards other Christians (1 Cor. 10:15-17; 11:17-34), for it is a picture of the love and selflessness of Christ who gave His life for the benefit of others. It is a sin to partake of the Lord’s Supper while behaving selfishly toward other believers, and God will punish those who do so (1 Cor. 11:27-30). Paul instructed the Christians at Corinth to partake of the Lord’s Supper retrospectively by looking back at the sacrificial life and death of Christ (1 Cor. 11:23-25), prospectively by looking forward to Jesus’ return (1 Cor. 11:26), and introspectively by examining their attitudes and actions (1 Cor. 11:27-32). A proper understanding of the Lord’s Supper will lead to unselfish love towards others (1 Cor. 11:33-34a).

Summary

     The Lord’s Supper was instituted by Jesus while celebrating the Passover meal on the night before His crucifixion. The unleavened bread symbolizes the perfect humanity of Christ, and the red juice symbolizes the blood of the New Covenant that was ratified on the cross. Christians who partake of the Lord’s Supper see themselves as the beneficiaries of the spiritual blessings of forgiveness and the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Lord’s Supper instructs us to look back to the selfless love of Christ, forward to His return, and inward to one’s values and actions.

Steven R. Cook, M.Div.

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Christians Paying Taxes

     Paying taxes is a form of godliness for the believer, for we support divinely established institutions of government and believe in the rule of law (Rom. 13:1-5). As submitting Christians, we pay taxes to our city, state, and federal government. Paul writes, “For because of this [submission to government] you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (Rom 13:6-7).

     Paying taxes to support the government is clearly biblical. But aren’t governments sometimes corrupt? And if I pay taxes, am I held accountable for the government’s corrupt use of that money?

     Jesus paid the temple tax (Matt. 17:24-27), which was required under the Mosaic Law (Ex. 30:13-15). He also taught it was valid to pay taxes to the Roman government (Luke 20:22), saying, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Luke 20:25). Jesus never committed sin (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 1 John 3:5), and even though He paid taxes, He was not responsible for how those taxes were used.

     The temple in Jesus’ day was under the control of corrupt leaders—Sadducees, Pharisees and Scribes—and some of the tax money given to the temple found its way in the pockets of godless men who used it for sinful purposes. Roman taxes paid the salaries of Roman officials and soldiers, some of whom wrongly judged our Lord and nailed Him to a cross. God sovereignly controls governments, even corrupt governments, and the actions of sinful men can be used to accomplish His will (John 19:10-11; Acts 2:22-23; 4:26-28). Occasional failure on the part of the state does not negate the authority of those whom God has delegated the right to rule. God sets up kings and nations, and He also removes them (Dan. 2:21; 4:17, 25; Rom. 13:1-5). As Christians, we are to pray for rulers (1 Tim. 2:1-4; cf. Jer. 29:7) and be subject to their authority (Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13-17). We obey until we are commanded to act contrary to God’s Word, and then we say no (Dan. 3:16-18; Acts 5:29).

     In the US, Christians are to pay taxes. Tax dollars are used to pay salaries for military personnel, police officers, fire fighters, teachers, social workers, and to cover the cost for roads and highways, public transportation, medical benefits, subsidized housing for seniors and disabled persons, food for the hungry, clothing and shelter for the homeless, and so on. I work for a nonprofit organization that feeds the elderly and disabled in my community and approximately 45% of our annual budget comes from tax dollars. I also work with other social agencies that help the impoverished in society and I see the many good uses of tax dollars. Certainly there is corruption in some social agencies and this means some tax dollars are used for immoral purposes. However, one should not overlook the many good uses of tax dollars in our society and the many good people who serve as God’s ministers.

     Thank you to all the godly Christians in America who pay your taxes and help support the best moral practices in our society.

Steven R. Cook, M.Div.

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When Believers Hide

     The hyphenated term Crypto-Christians is used to refer to believers who hide during times of persecution.  The English word crypto is derived from the Greek κρύπτω krupto, which means to hide, and the word is used in both a positive and negative sense in Scripture.  There have been, and are times when God’s people hide themselves, or were hidden by others, in the face of persecution.  Biblically, there appear to be both right and wrong reasons for hiding.

     By faith, Moses’ parents hid him from Pharaoh (Ex. 2:1-2).  The writer of Hebrews comments on this act, saying, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden [κρύπτω krupto] for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict” (Heb. 11:23).  By faith, Rahab protected the two spies that came to her house, for “she had brought them up to the roof and hidden[1] them in the stalks of flax which she had laid in order on the roof” (Josh. 2:6; cf. Heb. 11:31).  Obadiah hid one hundred prophets of the Lord and provided food and water for them (1 Ki. 18:1-4).  These were true prophets, for a false prophet would not have been afraid of the public hostility of Ahab and Jezebel.  It is recorded that Jesus “hid Himself” (κρύπτω krupto) from an attack by the Jewish leadership (John 8:59).  Certainly there was no sin in Jesus’ action.  There was another time when Jesus “hid Himself” (κρύπτω krupto), though the text does not say why (John 12:36). 

     There are examples of believers who hid themselves and the text neither justifies nor condemns their actions.  For example, Elijah ran for his life and hid in a cave (1 Ki. 19:1-2, 9-10).  God showed the prophet grace, providing for him during his journey (1 Ki. 19:4-8).  Elijah thought he was the last prophet in Israel, saying, “I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Ki. 19:10b).  However, Elijah was unaware of 7000 faithful Israelites who had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Ki. 19:18).  One might question whether these 7000 believers were also concealing their faith for fear of persecution; otherwise, Elijah would have known about them and realized he was not the last of God’s prophets.  Scripture reveals Joseph of Arimathea was “a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one (κρύπτω krupto) for fear of the Jews” (John 19:38).  However, after the crucifixion, he exposed his faith for all to see and apparently did not fear oppression.

     There are believers whom the biblical text rebukes for hiding.  For example, some of the Jewish leadership in Jesus’ day had “believed in Him” (John 12:42a); however, “because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue” (Joh 12:42b).  These believers chose to hide their faith for sinful reasons, because “they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God” (John 12:42-43).  One could argue that Peter was hiding from persecution when he denied the Lord three times (Matt. 26:33-35, 69-75). 

     In summary, there is Scriptural evidence of believers who hid from persecution.  For some, it was not wrong, but for others, it was.  How should we distinguish between them?  It seems permissible to hide oneself from persecution as long as it does not mean disobeying or dishonoring God.  A thorough knowledge of Scripture and strong faith in God will equip the believer to make good decisions in times of persecution.  The spiritually mature believer will be able to overcome fear and live confidently in God’s will, seeking His glory over personal protection.

Steven R. Cook, M.Div.

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[1] The Septuagint uses the Greek word κρύπτω krupto as a synonym for the Hebrew טָמַן taman.

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Living in Babylon

     Daniel is one of my favorite characters in the Bible.  His life and times are recorded in the Old Testament.[1]  Daniel was born into a good family of noble birth in Judah (Dan. 1:3-6).  In his early years he witnessed the spiritual and moral decline of his country.  Idolatry was rampant in Israel to such an extent that human sacrifice had become acceptable (Ezek. 16:20-21).  As a result of Judah’s spiritual decline, God brought judgment upon the nation through Nebuchadnezzar, a Babylonian king (Jer. 25:8-9; Dan. 1:1-2), who besieged Jerusalem in 605 B.C. and transported many captives to his homeland.  Though Daniel was young—perhaps about sixteen— he was taken from his family and deported to Babylon where he lived for nearly seventy years under the administration of several kings (most notably Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Cyrus).  While most Israelites were conforming to the influences of the pagan[2] culture around them, Daniel resisted.  He was a rebel in the best sense of the word, for he walked with God while others bowed to idols.  Daniel is recorded in Scripture as a righteous person (Ezek. 14:14, 20); however, God allowed him to be taken captive,[3] and this was because God had a plan for him to serve as a minister in Babylon. 

     Daniel was a role model for other Jews living in captivity.  Upon arrival in Babylon, Daniel (and his friends) was forced into a Chaldean reeducation program which was intended to assimilate him into the Babylonian culture.  Where possible, Daniel submitted himself to his new culture by learning “the literature and language of the Chaldeans” (Dan. 1:4), accepting a new name (Dan. 1:7), and serving as a governmental administrator (Dan. 1:17-21; 6:1-3).  God expected Daniel to pray for the prosperity of the city where he lived, saying, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare” (Jer. 29:7).  If possible, God’s people were to get along with their temporary captors.  “The exiles were to be peacemakers, not troublemakers, and they were to pray sincerely for their enemies (Matt. 5:43–48; 1 Tim. 2:1–3; Titus 3:1–2).”[4]  However, there were times when Daniel would not go along with the values of his new culture.  Specifically, Daniel refused to submit to Babylonian authority when it commanded him to violate God’s Word (Dan. 1:8a), or to pray to a human as though he were a god (Dan. 6:4-11).  In the first act of refusal, Daniel wisely sought a diplomatic solution to his problem (Dan. 1:8b-16), and the second time he simply defied the king—albeit respectfully—and trusted God to care for him (Dan. 6:12-23). 

     Daniel’s life manifested biblical wisdom applied to everyday circumstances.  Overall, his life was characterized by righteousness (Ezek. 14:14, 20), diplomacy (Dan. 1:6-16; 2:1-16), prayer (Dan. 2:17-18; 6:10; 9:3-19), wisdom (Dan. 1:17; 2:23), worship (Dan. 2:20-22), excellence (Dan. 6:3), faithfulness (Dan. 6:1-10), and humility (Dan. 9:4).  We learn from Daniel that God allows faithful believers to experience difficulties in the Devil’s world, which often serve to grow the believer spiritually so that he/she might be a light to others.  And, like Daniel living in Babylon, we realize this earth is not our final home, and that we are to regard ourselves as “as aliens and strangers” living in a foreign land (1 Pet. 2:11).  As Christians, our citizenship is actually in heaven (Phil. 3:20).

     So, how does the Christian overcome the demanding influences of a pagan culture and serve as a light to others?  First, the believer must replace a lifetime of human viewpoint thinking by learning God’s word (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18).  A biblical worldview enables the believer to see his/her spiritual identity as a child of God (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:1-5; Eph. 1:3-6; 1 Pet. 2:9-10), a saint (Acts 9:13; Rom. 1:7; 8:27; 1 Cor. 1:2; 6:1-2), and an ambassador of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:20) who has a meaningful and eternal purpose in God.  More so, a biblically trained mind empowers the believer to properly interpret the world in order to see it from the divine perspective.  Cultural conformity is effectively resisted by the believer who is “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).  This means Scripture saturates the Christian mind (Isa. 26:3; Prov. 3:5-6; Col. 3:1), and the believer is not allowing his/her thoughts to be bogged down with the cares of this world (Matt. 6:25-34).  Mental discipline is necessary, for the stability of the Christian is often predicated on the biblical content and continuity of his/her thinking.  Second, the believer must be in daily submission to God, seeking His will above his/her own (Rom. 12:1-2).  Arrogance impedes the Christian life, but humility brings God’s favor; for “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5).  Third, the Christian must learn to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18), and to walk in dependence on the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25).  Being spiritual means we are yielding ourselves to the Holy Spirit for guidance and strength to do God’s will.  Fourth, when the believer commits sin, he/she breaks fellowship with God and has grieved and/or quenched the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 5:19).  Fellowship is restored when the believer simply confesses his/her sin to God and trusts that He forgives as He promises (1 John 1:5-9).  Lastly, the believer must be a wise steward of the time and opportunities God provides to advance spiritually (Eph. 5:15-17; cf. Heb. 5:12; 1 Pet. 1:17; 4:1-2).  The believer does not reach spiritual maturity overnight, and since he has only a measure of time allotted to Him by God (Ps. 139:16), he must make sure his days are not wasted on meaningless pursuits, but on learning God’s word and living His will. 

Steven R. Cook, M.Div.

[1] English translations of the Bible place Daniel among the prophets, and there is good cause for this, since Daniel received direct revelation from God and was called a prophet by Jesus (Matt. 24:15).  Daniel is also listed among the prophets in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament).  However, the Hebrew Bible—called the Tanakh, an acronym for the Torah (Law), Nebi’im (Prophets), and Kethuvim (Writings)—places Daniel among the Writings (Psalms, Proverbs, Job, etc.).  It’s possible that the book of Daniel was listed under the Writings in the Hebrew Bible because his words and life modeled the wisdom one needed to live successfully in a pagan culture.

[2] I use the term “pagan” to refer to any value system that is contrary to God and His word.  Unfortunately, pagan values are often the norm, permeating every aspect of society including education, politics, law, art, literature, music, and so on.  To stand against paganism is not merely to resist the final forms it takes within a culture, but to see those forms as derivatives of a worldly system that is set against God and to resist the very value system upon which those forms are predicated. 

[3] Later, in 597 B.C. the prophet Ezekiel was taken to Babylon (Ezek. 1:1-3).  Jeremiah lived in Judah until its destruction in 586 B.C. and was taken away to Egypt (Jer. 43:1-7).

[4] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Decisive, “Be” Commentary Series (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 124.

Posted in Biblical Worldview, Christian Theology, Inspirational Writings, Living by Faith, Righteous Living | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Divorce and Remarriage?

     I’ve recently had several people ask  me about divorce.  It’s a difficult subject, but the Bible does address it.  Scripture teaches that divorce is permissible only when a spouse offends through sexual infidelity (Matt. 5: 31-32), or when an unbelieving spouse abandons their Christian partner (1 Cor. 7:12-16).  Divorce is not required, and is discouraged if any hope of saving the marriage can be found.  Forgiveness and love is expected in the Christian toward the offending spouse.  Remarriage is permissible when the divorce is biblical (Matt. 5:31-32), when an unbelieving spouse abandons the marriage (1 Cor. 7:12-16), or if a spouse dies (1 Cor. 7:39).  The believer must only marry another believer (1 Cor. 7:39).  God does not recognize divorces for nonbiblical reasons; however, if a divorced partner remarries, forming a new covenant relationship, this frees the first spouse to remarry (Deut. 24:1-4). 

     God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16), yet, it is recorded in Scripture that God Himself issued a writ of divorce against His people, Israel, after they had repeatedly engaged in spiritual adultery, saying, “I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce” (Jer. 3:8a; cf. Isa. 50:1).  The metaphor of divorce here speaks of God sending the Northern Kingdom of Israel away to their destruction under the Assyrians in 722 B.C.

Note in verse 8 [of Jeremiah 3] that God divorced Israel and that it was because of adultery. The Savior’s words in Matthew 19:9 are consistent with this. He taught that divorce is permissible for an innocent partner when the spouse has been guilty of immorality. When we read in Malachi 2:16 that God hates divorce, it must mean unscriptural divorce, not all divorce.[1]

(This short article is an excerpt from my book: Making a Biblical Marriage.)

Steven R. Cook, M.Div.

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[1] William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 1000.

Posted in Christian Theology, Marriage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments