Do they apply?

March 8, 2010 at 8:37 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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It seems that in the American church’s rush to appease the lost and the non believers (I was going to say pagans but that would probably offend someone), or their effort to bilk trusting, tested Christians of all the money they have by “sowing their seed”; the church has forgotten one of its greatest tools. Ok, I don’t think that they’ve forgotten it as much as they’ve tossed it aside for church growth plans and light-hearted, shallow events that bring people in based on their greed and have them leaving the same way (if they’re lucky). Now, any pastor can pick whatever they want to say and then go traipsing through the scriptures and cherry-pick whatever verses they want to support their “sermon”. To do this, of course, they have to twist the scriptures until they squeeze every last drop of life out of them; but the ends justifies the means even if the means completely destroys the foundation upon which the “sermon” should be built on.

This attitude bleeds to the flock of the “shepherd” over time until the entire group goes through the Bible picking out “life verses” and “claiming” specific verses as “theirs”. After awhile, the church is full of puffed up men and women who expect everything from God because they can string together a group of verses that have no real connection and then muster up their most faith filled voice to command Him to bring it to pass right now because they deserve it. Mix in the idea that we have to look blessed (whatever that looks like) and act blessed even if we don’t have two nickels to rub together and you’ve got a large portion of America’s churches.

So, what is this missing tool? What is the thing that would stop all of this nonsense? Hermeneutics.

Herman who? (which is a great DVD by the way)

Hermeneutics. I could give you a long, drawn out definition, but that wouldn’t help. Hermeneutics is the theory and methodology of the principles of interpretation of a text. In other words, there are proper methods for studying, understanding, and interpreting scripture. Hermeneutics includes things like context, proper historical setting, understanding the cultures of the day, word definitions, and a number of other things to gain the most of the text. Do you need all of the things to use hermeneutics? Nope. But, the more of those things that you have, the deeper you can go. The most important tenet of hermeneutics is the fact that the author of the text defines it and not the reader. God is the author of scripture and, therefore, has already defined what the text means. It is NOT the role of the reader to decide what it means and then live their life that way. Instead, it is up to the reader to interpret the text correctly and then decide whether or not they choose to apply that interpretation to their lives. The reason that this no longer happens as much is because it is easier to change the scriptures to suit ourselves than it is to change ourselves to fit the scriptures (that’s as close to a cliche that I’m going to get…). The church has dropped the ball so severely on preaching the truth about hell and the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in judgment of the world that we no longer fear it. We no longer seem to be concerned for what will happen if we are found out to be false converts when the Lord appears.

Instead, because we can’t really see God, and because He can’t just walk up and smack us, and because we’ve been taught by the best “pastors” how to quell the nagging conscience that screams at us when we sin; we flippantly disregard the truth in the book that we stuff under our arm on Sunday mornings (it’s part of our “Christian look” right?). We spend our time weeding through the mountains of warnings about sin, hell, and judgment to find the few prosperity verses scattered in the text. So, I thought that I would toss out a couple verses that are commonly misused and misunderstood.

The first one that I want to talk about is Jeremiah 29:11-14:

‘For I know the plans that I have  for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. ‘You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. ‘I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’

The question is, does this directly apply to Christians? I emphasize this because there are some general applications that can be made from the verses, but that’s not how the verses are misused. When someone quotes this, usually they mean that it is a direct reference to them right now, in this day and time, just like it was for the Jews of that time. That’s not true. If we use some simple hermeneutics we can see that. First, we have to understand what is going on here. Israel has been taken into captivity in Babylon and Jeremiah the prophet is relating to the captives when God wished to tell them. He tells them to settle down in Babylon and raise their children there. He tells them to build houses and live their lives here. Israel was to be captive in Babylon for 70 years. God was reassuring the captives that if they would turn back to Him, He would deliver their children from Babylon and return them home to Israel. This in no way applies to Christians directly. You can allegorize it all you want, but it doesn’t fit hermeneutically. As I said before, there are some general principles that you can take away from the verses that do apply to Christians. Those principles being that God is always in control (everything happened just like he told Jeremiah it would), and that God will be found by those who truly seek Him. This is much more sensible and has more lasting comfort than what is “preached” today.

While there are other verses that I could list, there is only one more I’m going to look at now. To do so, we’re going to have to go even further back into history and scripture. The text that I’m looking at now is Deuteronomy 28:1-14:

“Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. “All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God: “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. “Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock. “Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. “Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. “The LORD shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways. “The LORD will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your hand to, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God gives you. “The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways. “So all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they will be afraid of you. “The LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your beast and in the produce of your ground, in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give you. “The LORD will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. “The LORD will make you the head and not the tail, and you only will be above, and you will not be underneath, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I charge you today, to observe them carefully, and do not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today, to the right or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.

This is one that I have heard quoted by numerous preachers, televangelists, and Christians. They talk about how obedience will get you “blessed” so much that you just can’t contain it any more. You will be blessed everywhere you go and in everything that you do. Your kids will be blessed, your things will be blessed, and your enemies will be defeated. You will lend and not borrow and you will always be on top in everything you do. And all you have to do for all of this is obey.

If you just stop and think about this and compare it to the Lord Jesus and the focus of the New Testament you can see that it doesn’t line up if taken the way that it’s normally preached. The focus of Christ was the salvation of others from the wrath of God, not blessing. Some will say that you can’t save others unless you have the money to do so. Really? First, you and I can’t save anybody. Next, it doesn’t cost me a dime to stand up and preach the gospel in a park, in a bowling alley, or at work. Not one penny. Not only that, the way this verse is misused, the focus is on I. Look at all the “you”s in the text. In context, all of those “you”s make sense. Without the context, it becomes a self-serving text that directs the person’s vision in toward themself. The context of the verse is the fact that after leaving Egypt and wandering the desert for years (complaining and griping all the way), the Israelites finally made it to the Promised Land. They are about to enter in. Moses, who couldn’t enter the land because of his disobedience, has called the congregation together to remind them of all of the laws that God has given them to keep them from falling into the sins of the people that they will encounter in the land. He continues to hammer home the point that they are different and set apart. He then reminds them of all of the things that will come about if they “diligently obey” God. These verses don’t apply to Christians at all. This was for these Israelites at this time. Will obedience make your life better? You bet. Is it guaranteed? Not at all… What I find extremely funny about this passage in particular is the fact that all of the people who “claim” this verse do so with the monotone sound of one who has spent hours of rote memory driving this into their brains; and oddly enough, even though they are extremely quick to “lay hold of” the fourteen verses of blessing that come with obedience, they always seem to forget about the fifty-five verses of curses and destruction that come from disobedience. Why don’t you ever hear of anyone “claiming” that?

The utter disregard for God’s Word has got to stop if the church is ever going to truly accomplish its mission. This is not to say that there aren’t pockets of people who understand the scriptures rightly. It just disheartening to think of what isn’t happening because man has decided that God’s truth the way that He meant it has no value whatsoever…

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