Further Thoughts on the Weekly Sabbath

I recently wrote, “Response to ‘Should Christians keep the Sabbath or Sunday?'”. This laid out some Scriptures regarding Sabbath, with special attention on how Christ fulfills the Sabbath (and Sabbath was meant to point toward Him, so that Christians feeling obligated to honor a weekly Sabbath for righteousness’ sake are actually going backwards).

Here I wanted to continue that discussion.

Disclaimer

First:

  • If you (like me) think it is wise and healthy to take built-in weekly breaks (such as a Sabbath), for the sake of growing your physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being, I honor and bless you for doing that. I think there is a natural wisdom in doing that, where even corporate America (generally) gives employees 2 days a week off. Why? Because they believe they can get more work out of them by built-in breaks. It truly is how God has wired us, and I think we need to respect that. So long as you don’t mistakenly think keeping this weekly ritual is necessary for Christians to honor Christ and walk in righteousness.
  • Further, if there are cultural or background norms where keeping a weekly-Sabbath is/was built-in to the fabric of your culture, and you want to honor that tradition and norm, I honor and bless you for doing that. So long as you don’t mistakenly think keeping this weekly ritual is necessary for Christians to honor Christ and walk in righteousness.
  • Further still, if there is anything else that compels you personally to keep a weekly-Sabbath in your walk with the Lord, I honor and bless you for doing that. So long as you don’t mistakenly think keeping this weekly ritual is necessary for Christians to honor Christ and walk in righteousness.

Keeping a Weekly Sabbath Ritual Is Optional, and Not Necessary to Honor Christ and Walk in Righteousness

With that disclaimer (I hope) clearly secured, I want us to consider what the New Testament says (and doesn’t say) about weekly sabbaths:

  • Acts 15: When Gentiles were coming into the faith, God (through the apostles and elders in Jerusalem) enumerated only 2 general Jewish practices they wanted believing Gentiles to keep: (1) not eating food sacrificed to idols, blood, or strangled animals, and (2) sexual purity (see Acts 15:29). And even the first item was later shown, by Paul, to be more culturally bound (so as to not unnecessarily offend–see 1 Cor. 8ff), whereas Jesus already, “declared all foods clean,” (Mark 7:19). Other than these 2 items, the apostles saw that adding other requirements of the law was, “putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10). Instead: “We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are [through faith].” (Acts 16:10). Not only do they affirm Gentiles in faith in the gospel alone as necessary for salvation, but they also see none of the Old Testament rituals as part of the Gentile walk in faith. This would necessarily include Sabbath.
  • Hebrews 3-4: The book of Hebrews is filled with Jewish practices that God has clearly abolished in light of Christ and the gospel. Much of it concerns the necessity of appealing to Levitical priests, animal sacrifices, and rituals requiring the temple. But Jesus and His sacrifice make such rituals, “obsolete,” (Heb. 8:13). So that we don’t need to offer animals for sin, we don’t need to find a Levitical priest for purification, and we don’t need to go to the Jewish temple for cleansing. So far, I’m quite sure all Christians would say a hearty, “Amen!” Yet I don’t hear the same hearty, “Amen!” when people open Hebrews 3 and 4. Those chapters unmistakably see our resting in Jesus’ finished work as the ultimate fulfillment of Sabbath (“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God.” Heb. 4:9). Clearly, the weekly Sabbath was not the goal of God, otherwise, after 1,500 years of ordaining it, God would never say there still “remains” another Sabbath. The writer of Hebrews seems to put this practice on par with the customs of the temple, animal sacrifice, Levitical priesthood. The whole tenor of the argument seems to break down if people thought God was teaching that temple, animal sacrifice, and Levitical priesthood are nullified by Jesus and the Gospel, but Sabbath remains.
  • Romans 14:5-6: “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind…” This verse seems as clear as I could imagine that Sabbath is an optional practice, and unnecessary in honoring Christ. If one feels it is important for them, then by all means do it, and please let no one stop you. But once people move from there to telling others it is required by God’s law, important for all to do, and/or necessary to honor Christ/God, they have crossed the line and are guilty of the very thing Paul is warning against in context. As D.A. Carson pointed out (see “D. A. Carson teaches on the Christian’s relationship with the Old Testament Law”), it is unimaginable and preposterous to consider that Paul would make a similar clause about such clear sins as, for instance, “adultery” (i.e. we don’t read, “One person considers adultery bad, another considers it good, let each do as he wishes,” — God forbid!). Thus, weekly Sabbath-keeping is put on a different plane than any other 10 commandments. You’re fine to do it and fine to not.
  • Col. 2:16-17: This was already mentioned in more detail in “Response to ‘Should Christians keep the Sabbath or Sunday?’”, so I won’t spend too much time on it now. But consider that here we are told, “do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or…a Sabbath day,…the reality, however, is found in Christ,” (Col. 2:16-17). I hope you can see by now how consistent this is with what was said above. Rom. 14 (like Col. 2) puts Sabbath keeping alongside eating certain foods, and both passages say these are not matters that others should judge you on (that is, they are not universal commands for Christians to do. They are optional. Heb. 3-4 shows that the substance and fulfillment of Sabbath is Jesus, just as Col. 2:17 does. And in all 3 passages (Heb. 3-4; Rom. 14; Col. 2), Sabbath is placed alongside other Jewish rituals/practices that are clearly said to be obsolete in terms of needing to do them to honor Christ and walk in righteousness: eating certain foods (cf. Mark 7:19; 1 Tim. 4:3), etc. There is a powerful consistency here.
  • And these are the main “weekly-Sabbath” commands I’m aware of in the New Testament. Also, notably, these are all of the passages found in direct communication to Gentile Christians, especially concerning what parts of the Old Testament rituals/practices are binding. All of these passages seem to point in 1 trajectory. Now, conversely, consider the notable places Sabbath is missing in the N.T.:
  • We have many “vice” lists that preclude people from the kingdom of God. For instance 1 Cor. 6:9-11 lists many practices that, if people are perpetually and unrepentantly participating in, would exclude them from God’s presence: “sexually immoral…idolaters…adulterers…men who practice homosexuality…” you get the idea. But in all of these various lists (e.g. 1 Tim. 1; Gal. 5; Rev. 22; etc.), Sabbath keeping (or any Jewish ritual keeping: festival days, eating foods, etc.) is never mentioned. So not only do the passages mentioning Sabbath keep it as optional and unnecessary in terms of righteousness, but the passages that list many of the “necessary” items, never include Sabbath. This does not mean that these various “vice” lists are exhaustive. The point is: are you led by the flesh or the Spirit? And here are some marks of not having/living by the Spirit. But it’s notable Sabbath-keeping is never mentioned as a mark of walking by the Spirit.
  • Further still, we know that there are 10 commandments listed out in Exodus 20. These are monumental and truly basic to Judaism and Christianity. 1 of these commandments is honoring the Sabbath. I think this may be 1 reason some Christians don’t feel comfortable dropping Sabbath-keeping as essential to righteousness. They argue that we still believe murder and adultery is bad, shouldn’t we believe the same about Sabbath-keeping? But, as I believe it shows in Heb. 3-4 (see above), I think we do ultimately fulfill this command by resting in the finished work of Christ through our faith in the gospel. Thus, unlike all the other 10 commandments, a Christian is not obligated to keep a weekly Sabbath, and it is not a necessary evidence of walking in the Spirit that you do keep the weekly Sabbath. Proof of this is seen in the fact that all the 9 other commands of Exodus 20 are clearly repeated in the New Testament, including correspondence with Gentile Christians: idolatry (Rom. 1); taking Christ’s name in vain (1 Cor. 12:1-3); honor your parents (Eph. 5); don’t murder (Rev. 22); don’t commit adultery (2 Pet. 2:14); don’t steal (Eph. 4); don’t lie (Eph. 4); don’t covet (James 4:2).

I hope this makes sense. Forgive me where it doesn’t. As I said above, by all means practice weekly Sabbath for the right reasons. But if you think doing it is part of what any Christian should do to honor God and be righteous, please reconsider.

1 Sam 4: Does God Really Side With You?

In 1 Sam 4, after being defeated from the Philistines, Israel came up with a plan:

  • Grab God (via the Ark of the Covenant)
  • put Him in battle with us
  • fight again

They concluded that this was what they were missing in their previous fighting. But with God on their side, now, they would surely win, right?

Sadly, they lost the battle again. And not only that. The Ark of the Covenant (where God dwelt with His people) was also captured by the Philistines (though all their idols couldn’t stop worshipping it, so they quickly had to get rid of it — read this comical show of power in 1 Sam. 5).

So consider this:

  • Israel had a facade of God being with them (in the Ark of the Covenant).
  • Israel strongly believed God was with them (shown in their shouts and revitalized energy)
  • The religious leaders (the priests) believed God was with Israel, and supported them doing this
  • Even the Philistine enemies believed God was with Israel (see 1 Sam. 4:7-8)

Yet, they were all wrong. God wasn’t with them. They never sought His way in the matter. They only “brought” Him along, assuming He supported their way. And they were terribly beaten.

You, religious leaders, even non-believers zealously believing God is with you does not mean He ACTUALLY is.

The antidote, in my humble opinion, to repeating this tragic mistake today is Proverbs 3:5-6:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,and he will make your paths straight.”

In other words:

  1. Don’t lean on your understanding. It doesn’t say to stop using your understanding, but it does say to stop leaning on it. Just because you believe something, doesn’t make it true (e.g. Prov. 14:12)
  2. Instead, trust in Him alone. Not you or your understanding or your religious leaders or a whole host of people. Trust in Him.
  3. And, “in all your ways submit to [or “acknowledge”] him”. Then, “he will make your paths straight.”

In other words, submit to Him and His ways, THEN walk in trust of Him and His ways alone.

Why A Donkey?

In the “Palm Sunday” passages of Scripture, we see that Jesus rides on a “donkey” and a “colt” (Matt. 21:1-11).

There seem 2 main reasons for Him choosing a donkey:

  1. It shows Christ coming humbly. In fact, Zech. 9:9, where Matthew 21 quotes from, says: “See, your king comes to you…LOWLY and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” A donkey and it’s (smaller) colt doesn’t exactly suggest pomp and ostentatious splendor.
  2. But also, donkeys were animals ridden on when peace had been achieved. See Judges 5:10 (after they won the battle); 1 Kings 1:33 (where David inaugurates Solomon as king by riding on a donkey). These pictures contrast kings riding horses in times of war (see Rev. 19:11).

Putting these together seems to show Jesus coming as a humble King to bring peace. This peace, however, was ultimately the peace between a holy God and sinful people that Jesus secured in his life and impending death, and resurrection.

1 Sam. 3-4: Faithful With God’s Word

“So Samuel told him [Eli] everything [that God spoke] and hid nothing from him…And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground…And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.” (1 Sam. 3:18-19; 4:1).

As Samuel didn’t let any of God’s word fall to the ground in passing it to Eli, so God ensured none of Samuel’s words fell to the ground when he passed them to others. Further, God expanded the reach of Samuel’s words, “to all Israel.”

To the degree that you do not forsake God’s word that He shows you, I believe God will allow your words to pass on to others deeply, widely, and without being lost.

God Loves Speaking Through Stumbling Tongues

Many have wrongly assumed that God speaks the clearest through the most eloquent speakers.

But God actively warns against such nonsense through his servant Paul: “I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom…I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, SO THAT YOUR FAITH MIGHT NOT REST IN THE WISDOM OF MEN BUT IN THE POWER OF GOD.” (1 Cor. 2:1-5). Did you catch that? If not, I made it all uppercase so you might 😉

Paul was well trained to speak eloquently, but recognized that this was a barrier, not a help. Why? Because God wants you to know Him and the gospel, instead of getting caught up in the messenger.

Of course we see this in Moses, too, who was a man of a stumbling tongue who God used to free his entire nation.

We also see this in Peter. Peter, as we know, was constantly saying the wrong thing. You can see it, for instance, during Jesus washing the disciples feet. There Peter proudly protests that he won’t get his feet washed. Then Jesus explains that He must cleanse them. So Peter says, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” (John 13:9). See, Peter verbally went from one ditch to another. And this isn’t the only time he tripped over his tongue. In fact, he has the distinct privilege of needing to be interrupted by all 3 Persons of the Trinity to correct him in various verbal blunders (Father – Matt. 17:4-5; Son – Matt. 17:25; Holy Spirit – Acts 10:44).

Yet, when God needed a “human microphone” to speak to Cornelius about the gospel, He chose Peter. And notice how God arranged this:

  • God speaks to Peter in a vision (Acts 10:9-16),
  • then by the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:19)
  • while also speaking to Cornelius by an angel (Acts 10:30-33)

God had all sorts of ways to speak – a vision, by the Holy Spirit, through an angel, you get the picture. But when He wanted to say something really important, He told them to listen to Peter. Peter!? The one who blundered all the time. God’s ways are truly above ours!

The key, I believe, is that Peter (and others) knew he blundered. They wouldn’t get confused who was truly speaking. Peter was the one who denied Jesus to a 12-year old servant girl. But then the Spirit came upon him with a tongue of fire (Acts 2), and God got control of his tongue.

And here in Acts 10, the same thing. Peter begins to speak (as best he knew how), and then the Holy Spirit essentially said, “I’ll take it from here” (see Acts 10:44).

It reminds me of a story where the famous Bible teacher, Philip Mauro, was ministering the gospel to people in Italy. He had a translator ready to help him speak to them. And he started speaking a few rehearsed phrases, but then a miracle happened. God started giving him words–in Italian!–and he ended up never needing the translator. In other words, he was willing to bumble along with a few words, and God took it from there.

Psalm 8

Now open to Psalm 8. I believe it all comes full circle here.

  • verse 1a – God is so majestic
  • verse 1b – God’s glory is in the heavens
  • verse 3 – God made the moon and stars
  • verse 5 – God made people in His image
  • verses 6-8 – God made creatures for people to rule over

All is amazing to reflect on!

But in the middle of all that, we have this intriguing passage: “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” (8:2). Consider that! When God wanted to really show off his strength against his enemies, He looked over all His vast universe…and He found children and infants.

But…even further…look now at Matt. 21:16. There, Jesus quotes the same passage, but with a twist: “From the lips of children and infants, you, Lord, have called forth your praise.” Notice what part of the body God is using in the infants and babes? “The lips”

So this God who makes everything so glorious–the sun, moon, stars, universe, people, animals–shows off his strength the most through mouths that aren’t even able to talk well at all. How about that?!

The truth is, that God wants to show off. And if you’re a good speaker, it can distract people from the Message and the ultimate Speaker. He just wants bumbling, fumbling speakers to offer his lips to Him in service. To say what you know to say. And if you are willing to do that, then revival will begin around you (see 1 Cor. 2:1-5 again).

And if you don’t even have the boldness to bumble through a few words spoken to others about Jesus, then you’re in good company… For that same Paul who was a mighty leader and wrote much of the New Testament, also said: “and also [pray] for me, that WORDS may be given to me in OPENING MY MOUTH BOLDLY to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,” (Eph. 6:19).

Start there.

D. A. Carson teaches on the Christian’s relationship with the Old Testament Law

I know I’ve dealt with this subject in a few places already:

But since it continues to be a hot topic (from the time of Paul until the present), I will probably keep on writing about it 🙂

In this case, I want to highly encourage people to watch D. A. Carson’s excellent teaching (“How Does Jesus Fulfill the Law?”):

It is a touch scholarly, but well worth your time and effort, in my humble opinion 🙂

Brian

Response to “Should Christians keep the Sabbath or Sunday?”

A friend shared this with me: Should Christians keep the Sabbath or Sunday? [13 min 19 sec].

Before I respond, I want to make sure I outline his basic premises.

He states:

  • God kept a Saturday-Sabbath in the first week of creation (Gen. 2:3).
  • God then told Israelites to “remember the Sabbath” in honor of God’s ordained Saturday-Sabbath (Exod. 16:29; 20:8-11; Lev. 23:3), which God took very seriously (Exod. 31:14-15).
  • Jesus said He didn’t come to break the Old Testament law, but on the contrary He came to fulfill it, and tells others to not break the least of the commands (Matt. 5:17-19)
  • Even Gentiles are to join the Jews in honoring the Saturday-Sabbath (Eph. 2:11-13, 19 and Isaiah 56:6-7).
  • THUS…any true Jesus follower would honor the Saturday-Sabbath (as outlined in the Old Testament)

My response:

Quite frankly, I’m sad and disappointed that this speaker is making such categorical statements when he does not seem to seriously engage the serious arguments that people (like me) would put forth for why Christians are not judged based on their observance of a Saturday (or even Sunday) Sabbath.

For instance, he states, “There’s not even a single verse in the Bible that tells us that Jesus replaced the Sabbath or became the Sabbath,” (see 8 min, 59 sec).

Yet we read things like, “Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink…or a SABBATH DAY. These are a SHADOW…the reality, however, is FOUND IN CHRIST.” (Col. 2:16-17).

The point of Colossians 2 is that Jesus forgave our sins by His sacrificial death AND “canceled…our legal indebtedness” at the cross. That is, what we owed God based on the Old Testament Law has now been completely fulfilled in Christ. Earlier in Colossians 2 we see people insisting on physical circumcision (as the Law prescribed). But then Paul shows that our faith in Jesus’ death and our baptism into Him is how we fulfill circumcision. By doing this we are spiritually putting to death and cutting off our sinful self (called the flesh). That is the ultimate meaning of circumcision.

Even more, he starts Col. 2:16 by saying, “THEREFORE do not let anyone judge you…” And he goes on to list out all sorts of Old Testament rituals they were formerly judged by: eating and drinking…festivals…SABBATH DAY.

Just as Jesus is our spiritual circumcision, He is also, “the reality,” (v. 17) of all these things. He is our “Passover Lamb” (1 Cor. 5:7), helping us to keep the spiritual “Festival” of Unleavened Bread by our holy lifestyle (1 Cor. 5:8). He is our Firstfruits festival (1 Cor. 15:23). And He is every other festival.

Such things were “shadows,” but Jesus is the fulfillment. In this way, Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament (Matt. 5:17)

And what is our work then? “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:28-29).

In fact, Hebrews 3-4 compares this work of belief/trust in Christ’s finished work as our KEEPING THE SABBATH DAY!

From the beginning of creation, God worked, and then rested. Yet at the end of all his work, Adam and Eve were created. After God worked, they were now to rest. They rested in his finished work.

This rest was alluded to by Moses and Joshua in Israel going to the Promised Land. There, they were going to, “a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant” (Deut. 6:10-11). See the pattern? Israel didn’t work, but was going to live off of God’s labor in bringing them into something they did no work for.

But even after this, in Psalm 95 (which was written hundreds of years later), God still talks about a rest: “Today, if you hear his voice…” he offers you rest.

Hebrews 3-4 ties all of these things together:

  • The Sabbath rest of the creation week
  • The Promised Land rest
  • The rest promised in Psalm 95

And says this startling statement to Christians he is writing to: “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.” (Heb. 4:9-11).

The resting from our works comes through faith in Jesus alone: “Now we [Christians] who have believed enter that rest,” (Heb. 4:3). And even in the Old Testament: “they were not able to enter [the rest], because of their unbelief,” (Heb. 3:19).

This is startling. Hebrews 3-4 spells out in amazing details how our Sabbath is to believe in Jesus. We rest in His finished work. We have no more works to show our worthiness to God. But if we try to add work to this, then we are breaking the Sabbath.

Doesn’t that give such a richer context and sense of the Sabbath? It shows how sabbath really was a “shadow,” (Col. 2), while Jesus/the gospel is the “reality” or “substance” (Col. 2).

Even further, think of the context of the book of Hebrews.

This was written to Christians who were beginning to go backwards, and think they needed Jesus PLUS works of the Old Testament to satisfy God. So God comes along in Hebrews and shows how Jesus is the ULTIMATE substance of the whole Old Testament. He is better than the angels who gave the Old Testament (Heb. 1-2). He is better than Moses (Heb. 3). He is better than the weekly Sabbath (Heb. 3-4). Etc. So why are you “putzing around” trying to go back into Judaism – “let us move beyond…be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation…” (Heb. 6:1). The whole point is: don’t go back!

If you want to take 1 day (or a period of days) to rest like they did in the Old Testament Sabbath, do so. God writes: “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” (Rom. 14:5).

The problem is that this person in this video defies God’s word here. He is not giving people the freedom in their conscience to choose which is best for them. Instead, he is bringing people back into a “must” of Judaism that Jesus fulfilled (Matt. 5:17). And those who follow Him also fulfill and go beyond by repentance and faith (and being led by the Spirit, see Gal. 4-5, for instance).

Finally, small point:

In the video he says that there is no indication early Christians celebrated on Sunday (instead of Saturday), but that’s not the case. In addition to Acts 20 (which he brought up), we also see 1 Cor. 16:2. And we have evidence (from what I recall) that VERY early on they started celebrating Sunday as “the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10). Later councils of the church only ratified what was already practiced.

This doesn’t mean it’s the replacement Sabbath! See above 🙂


See also Further Thoughts on the Weekly Sabbath.

Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice

I recently finished reading Thaddeus Williams’s book, Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth.

To quote the famous Christian book reviewer/blogger, Tim Challies, “Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth is the book I’ve been waiting for!”

I sense that many in the church have been concerned and perplexed by the growing “social justice” movement in our society. At least, I can say that I have been for these reasons (and more):

  • while “justice” is rightly seen as a biblical issue (there are 138 references to this word in the ESV), and Jesus calls it part of the, “more important matters of the law,” (Matt. 23:23)…
  • the people I saw the most vocal about “social justice”-type of issues were simultaneously professing to not be Christians (and even, in some cases, saw biblical Christianity as part of the “enemy”)
  • our society has been shown (via poll after poll after poll) to be the most biblically illiterate and god-less that the nation has ever been. Where 124 of the first 127 colleges were explicitly Christian in America (as I’ve read before), today the top colleges are quite anti-Christian (see George Yancey’s research on this, for instance). Yet this is the society that has “seen” and been “woke” to social justice issues that all other generations in America (who are more biblically literate and Christ-centered) have missed? Even more, college campuses (which are the most extreme in their anti-chrisitan ideology) are the places where the “woke” and “social justice” movements are most enlightened? Sadly, this reminds me more of Israel when it was at it’s lowest points morally saying things like, “The way of the Lord is not just,” (Eze. 18:29), and, “Where is the God of justice?” (Mal. 2:17).
  • when I’ve conversed with some (not all) who are zealous for “biblical justice,” and tried to talk through biblical justice versus the current “social justice movement,” stances, they seemed cold to me for bringing up the gospel or the Bible. Not that they disagreed with these things, they just didn’t seem as interested in talking through a gospel-centered, biblically holistic version of biblical justice. Yet the Bible teaches, “It is NOT GOOD to have zeal without knowledge…” (Prov. 19:2)
  • The modern “social justice” movement seems firmly aligned with the democratic/liberal party, at least in terms of “justice” issues. Yet this is the same party who voted to remove God from their platform and have endorsed and even celebrated abortion and infanticide (unarguably the most socially unjust things done today). Again, this just makes me suspicious that such a movement “stumbled” upon true, biblical justice in certain areas while totally missing it in other areas.

Saying all this, I’d hasten to re-state my first point: “justice” is rightly seen as a biblical issue (there are 138 references to this word in the ESV), and Jesus calls it part of the, “more important matters of the law,” (Matt. 23:23). That is, we should find a comprehensive and biblical view of justice, and seek to be “doers” not just “hearers” of true, biblical justice. Whether we feel like it or not!

With all this background, enter Thaddeus Williams’s book: Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth.

It is just the book that addresses both the “hearing” and “doing” of James 1. In other words, it seeks to faithfully hear what the Bible says about justice and challenge the reader to walk in this.

Specifically, he takes the reader through 12 questions that every Christian should ask about the social justice they are participating in:

Does our vision of social justice…

  1. take seriously the godhood of God?
  2. acknowledge the image of God in everyone, regardless of size, shade, sex, or status?
  3. make a false god out of the self, the state, or social acceptance?
  4. take any group-identity more seriously than our identities “in Adam” and “in Christ”?
  5. embrace divisive propaganda?
  6. replace love, peace, and patience with suspicion, division, and rage?
  7. prefer damning stories to undaming facts?
  8. promote racial strife?
  9. distort the best news in history?
  10. make one way of seeing something the only way of seeing everything?
  11. turn the “lived experience” of hurting people into more pain?
  12. turn the quest for truth into an identity game?

See also the trailer:

If this sounds like a book you’re interested in reading, please contact us. I’ll send a free copy to the first 3 people to write 🙂

Brian

Focus on Jesus, Not Satan

Jesus Exposes Satan, Demons, Darkness

It is inevitable that following Jesus (“the Light of the world,” John 8:12) will cause collision with Satan/darkness. Jesus’ own ministry revealed demons and Satan more than any other figure in the Bible (I believe I heard there were 60 run-ins with demons Jesus had, by one count). And Jesus himself connected the entrance of His kingdom with Spirit-led deliverance of demons (Matt. 12:28).

Further, it is to believers that God warns: “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” (Eph. 6:12). And, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8).

Focus on Jesus

Saying this may cause us to fear, but that’s only because our focus went in the wrong direction. It’s true that you are no match for the enemy (e.g. Psalm 18:17), but Satan is no match for Jesus/God (e.g. 1 John 4:4; Rev. 12:8). Focusing on Satan and self will inevitably bring fear, but focusing on Jesus will bring faith and boldness. Thus, Jesus/God himself says things like, “fear not, only believe,” (Mark 5:36). In fact, Richard Wumrbrand said that the phrase “Fear not” occurs 366 times in the Bible, which he (and I) surmise is so that we see that God commands us to stop fearing afresh EVERY DAY of the year (including leap years!).

In any case, consider:

  • Psalm 23:5: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;” – notice you can be in the presence of enemies, and still have a banquet before the Lord. Don’t get distracted by the enemy, enjoy the banquet.
  • Psalm 110:2: God tells Jesus to, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!” Again, Jesus will rule. That’s a fact. And He will have enemies. God doesn’t say rule in the absence of your enemies, but “in the midst of,” them. They do not stop Jesus from focusing on his mission of ruling, nor should they cause us to stop focusing on our mission of following Him.
  • Psalm 25:15: “My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.” This seems a strange place to look when there is a net down at your feet! But we are to point our eyes to the Lord, despite traps around us, and He will take care of us.
  • Numbers 21 – In this episode there are lots of snakes attacking Israel. They wanted to be done with the snakes and even asked Moses to remove them. But, instead, God told Moses to hoist up a dead snake on a pole. Then, “everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live,” (v. 8). Notice the remedy? God didn’t take away the snakes in their midst. He just told them to change their focus, and look upon this dead snake on a pole. Well, guess what? In John 3:14-15, Jesus tells us: “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” The serpent dead and judged, lifted on a pole, was a picture of the work Jesus would complete on the cross. Our belief and focus on Him is like the Israelites looking up to the serpent hoisted up. When they got their attention off of the serpents attacking them at their feet, they actually had relief. We will not find relief by looking down at the serpent/Satan slithering around to attack us. Power comes from focusing up.

Confront Satan

And when it’s clear you need to confront Satan, do so with the authority of the Lord in you:

  • Acts 16:18 – “Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.”
  • James 4:7 – “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (notice the order here)

For, “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world,” (1 John 4:4).