What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
God finds it necessary to repeat Himself yet again on this point which He considered to be so important:
- God had given the Sabbath Day of rest as a blessing for His children.
- God gave them twice as much manna on the sixth day.
- They were not to go out to attempt to collect manna on the seventh day.
Some have misconstrued the latter part of this verse as meaning that Sabbath-keepers should not even leave their homes on the Sabbath Day. This is not what is being said at all. God is chastising the disobedient Israelites who had just blatantly broken His Sabbath instructions! He was telling them not to go out of their homes on the Sabbath for the purpose of collecting manna. To extrapolate this concept for New Testament Sabbath-keepers: We should not venture from our homes on the Sabbath for the purpose of doing any kind of work.
A conservative radio talk show out of Atlanta caught my ear one day as a discussion developed about the moral and ethical standards of youth today. Callers, young and old, gave their wisdom or the lack thereof. At one particular time, the subject matter had narrowed down to how young adults and teenagers evaluate what makes a person good or bad.
The next caller was Natalie, a 17-year-old girl who lives in an upper-middle-class neighborhood and achieves a B+ average in school. As her comments continued, it became clear that Natalie judged her own life by what others around her were doing and saying. Her moral and ethical standards did not come from the Bible or from standards taught to her by her parents. Her standards were based solely upon what was acceptable to her peers—those "wise" counselors who encourage individualism but all dress, act, and speak the same.
As Natalie vainly described her lifestyle, it was amazing to realize her total removal from reality and moral responsibility. She said she did not sleep around—she only has sex with her boyfriend (whoever that is that particular week). She does not drink alcohol—except at parties (which she attends several times a week). She defensively sighed, "I'm not bad, not like the others."
She claims she only smokes pot about two times during the school week and occasionally before school in the morning—but not as much as most kids. When she goes to school stoned, the teachers know it, but no one mentions it. According to Natalie, most kids in her high school smoke pot mixed with LSD "because they go together so well." She has tried it, but does not smoke it regularly (only a few times a month). Natalie admits, "Pot definitely affects my memory, definitely. There's a lot I can't remember. But everybody does it! I don't do it like the others. Not as often."
Natalie justified herself by saying, "I'm not bad, not like the others. I think I'm a pretty good person, I haven't killed anybody. I know it's wrong to do drugs, but it's the only thing I do wrong. I'm a pretty good person. I haven't killed anybody yet!"
The announcer was stunned, "Are you telling me, because you haven't killed anyone—yet—that makes you a good person?"
In a matter-of-fact way Natalie replied, "Well, yes!"
What a sad indictment of the society in which we live that children have descended to the level of moral bankruptcy. Natalie is a typical product of this society. She is the fruit of a nation that has rejected the way of the righteous God. As the children of Israel did throughout most of their history, Natalie does whatever seems right in her own eyes (Judges 17:6; 21:25).
Martin G. Collins
Comparing Ourselves Among Ourselves
2 Chronicles 24:18-22
Jehoiada the priest was not Joash's biological father, but he had acted as a father to him. He had essentially reared this king of Judah.
This passage recounts the murder that Jesus referred to in Matthew 23:35, when He said, "'You murdered [Zechariah] between the temple and the altar." It just shows what ingratitude can do to a person's thinking.
Let us evaluate Joash's character. He was a "fellow traveler." He was a leaner, a clinging vine, who did not have the resources within himself to choose his own course. Whenever he was pressured, he had nothing within to give him strength, so he drooped and spiritually died. Joash bent whichever way the wind blew. He was easily influenced by his peers. He went whatever way the crowd was going. His character reflected the crowd that he had joined. When Jehoiada was with him, and the influence was for good, then Joash was compliant and seemingly a good king. However, when he was with his peers, a bad crowd, he was afraid to buck his peers and his character plummeted. We should also add that he did not repent when he was warned.
In the end, he was assassinated and not buried with the kings (II Chronicles 24:25). Is that not an interesting contrast between him and his "father" Jehoiada, who was not even in the kingly line but a priest. Yet, he was held in such high regard that he was buried with the kings. We must conclude that Joash's character was merely programmed; it had not truly been internalized. It was not genuine.
Faith and character have to be grounded within us and personally held. We should recall Ezekiel 14:14, concerning Noah, Job, and Daniel. Even these three righteous men could save only themselves.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Three Kings Are Missing From Matthew 1
This section begins with a description of the haughtiness of Israelite women. God illustrates the pride of Israel's women in the way they walk, they dress, and they use their eyes. Instead of being modestly well-dressed and dignified, the walk, the dress, the whole appearance is designed to impress others and frankly, to scorn them. It is also designed to bring attention, prestige, and acclaim to the self.
It is common in society for modern parents to encourage, passively or not, their adolescent daughters to grow up too soon by wearing clothing, shoes, and other pieces of apparel designed to draw attention to the wrong things, for the wrong reasons, at the wrong time. They give in to their children's pressure, who have already surrendered to the pressure of their peers. God says the problem is pride.
Isaiah 3:16 is an almost savage denunciation. Why is it so harsh? It is interesting to consider this in light of when it was written, around the time Israel fell and several decades before Judah's fall. Isaiah was a prophet to Judah, but before it succumbed to the Babylonians, Judahite society had disintegrated badly. Morality was at a low ebb.
The reason Isaiah 3:16 contains such a harsh denunciation is because of the influence that women hold over a nation's morality—God expects them to be the primary, daily instructors of their children. If women largely determine the character of a nation through their instruction of their children in morality, spirituality, and ideals, then they wield critical power over the nation's future. They determine whether ideals of purity, integrity, unselfishness, and faith will prevail or fall.
It ought not to be this way because the weight of instruction should fall at least equally on men. But in reality, because there is such a double standard in the world, women do most of the teaching. So when that line of defense—the moral teaching of women—breaks, and the morality of women becomes debased, then there is no hope for the nation.
Pride distorts a person's thinking into misconceiving one's function. We can apply this to what is happening in our nation. Will women fill the role God designed for them, or will they fulfill the role that the world has designed for them? God says in the next chapter that, if they choose wrongly, He will punish women by taking away their men.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part Six)
Evaluate yourself against these pressures:
Teens tend to be idealistic, and this is good. They often resolve to be serious, "hit the books" and spurn the drugs, sex, smoking, drinking and "hanging out" that they have seen others doing. But if the "right" fellow or girl appears, or if the teen is recognized by the "right" clique, his desire to be accepted by them pressures him to adjust his ideals to conform to them. His ideals or convictions are merely preferences.
A minister may search the Bible for truth and find something interesting that he believes and resolves to do and teach. When he tells his fellow ministers about what he has found, they may say to him, "I don't say you're wrong in this, but don't you think you should tone it down a bit? Make it less offensive, and then maybe we can cooperate with you and work on some of your objectives."
At first he may strongly defend his belief, but little by little, as he sees the reaction of his peers, he may begin to bend. He believes it and resolves to do it, but if he changes, his belief is a preference.
If the Word of God tells us to change something, we must change it! But we must be very careful about things previously proved from God's Word, believed, put into practice and then changed when some form of pressure is brought to bear!
This is perhaps the strongest pressure. When Jesus advises His disciples about counting the cost of commitment to Him, every person He mentions is a family member. "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26).
Usually no one can motivate you like a deeply loved mate. A husband may resolve to commit himself to a strong belief, but on telling his wife, she replies, "Please don't, honey. Do you realize what this will do to us and our family?" His resolve begins to melt because he knows he will feel responsible if, because of his belief, he inflicts discomfort or pain on an innocent bystander.
Fear of Lawsuits
Living in perhaps the most litigious society ever on the face of the earth, we are aware of the expense and hassle of going to court, even for the innocent. We may say, "I'm all for this, but I'm not going to get sued over it! You can't ask me to be sued—that's going too far! The news media will make me out to be a villain. They'll publicly hang me! At the very least I'll lose my hard-earned reputation, maybe my job and all my property because of attorney and court costs." This daunting pressure causes many to change their beliefs.
You may have never really been in a jail, but they are not pleasant places. Most prisoners want to get out as quickly as they can. In fact, some will risk life and limb to escape, knowing they will probably be unsuccessful. If they do make it out, they will most likely be apprehended and returned to "serve" even longer sentences. Jail is very damaging to a person's liberty and reputation.
Most people who go to jails never get past the visitor's area. I have been into the deepest bowels of several maximum security prisons to visit violent inmates on death row. They are horrible places.
In contemplating what it would be like to be in prison, remember that virtually every move an inmate makes is programmed by his captors. You would be isolated from your dearest family members and friends. You are told when to get up, when to eat, when to exercise, when you can read, watch TV, bathe or shower, and occasionally even when you can talk, go to the bathroom or sleep.
Additionally, the people around you have made a living of not playing by the rules. You would be stuck on their turf. Some are quite violent. It is a crazy, frightening environment for one accustomed to the comforts and control of home.
Would you really be willing to go to jail for your faith? Even when no one seems to understand why you would do such a thing? Would the pressure of facing jail make you change your beliefs? If so, your beliefs are preferences.
Maybe some of you men are saying to yourself, "Yes, I'd go to jail." But would you be willing to stand by and watch your wife go to jail? Some have faced that. Would you then pressure her to change her mind?
Do your beliefs mean so much to you that both you and your wife would go to jail, knowing your children would be taken by the state and raised by foster parents you do not even know?
The Pressure of Death
This final test is obvious, yet some have learned through experience that there is a fate worse than death. When a person's resolve over a belief fails, his guilt can be crushing. Luke 22:34, 59-62 shows Peter in such a circumstance.
Do you see the common factor in these? What does your belief mean to YOU? What are you willing to sacrifice in exercising your belief? If you feel you should do something but have the right not to do it, it is merely a preference.
A belief that is God-ordered is a conviction. It is not merely a matter of resolve or dedication, but a matter of believing with all our heart that God requires it of us. If we hold our beliefs as God-ordered, we will withstand all the above tests.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Are Your Beliefs Preferences or Convictions?
This is a warning to us—that the iniquity that is in the world will cause a loss of love in the church. If we understand the progression of events in Matthew 24, then verse 12 speaks of the time of the Tribulation. We are leading up to that, living in a period in which the stresses against the church—from the world—are increasing. As they increase, it can have the psychological effect—because we begin to get weary of dealing with it—of becoming apathetic, that is, without feeling for what we formerly loved so dearly.
So the iniquity is in the world, but resisting it is a constant stress because it exerts tremendous pressure through an appealing façade—to give in and go along with it. As we live with it and everybody else is doing it, the world's behavior gradually becomes acceptable to us, thus giving evidence that apathy is taking over.
We need to look at every aspect, even in areas we may consider "minor things." How do they dress? What kind of music do they listen to? What are the world's movies like? What are their attitudes in dealing with each other—in stores, on the street, in communities? In many places, we can hardly get anybody on the street to greet us! There are many little behaviors like this. The iniquity is in the world, but it pressures us into doing things as it does—and then it becomes our behavior.
This is just hypothetical, but what if we evaluated ourselves against the world ten years ago and judged that we were 50% more righteous than the world. Then today, we did exactly the same thing, and figured that we are at least 50% more righteous than the world. However, if the world had become more unrighteous during that same period, then, even though we may be 50% more righteous than the world now, we have actually gone backwards in those ten years—right along with the world!
John W. Ritenbaugh
Hebrews: A Message for Today
We generally think of this verse only in terms of a state of persecution, but its principle applies all the time. Life is a series of compulsions which lead us to choices. These compulsions come in two varieties: 1) forced, as by a gun to our temple which says, "Do this or else," and 2) unforced, just as each dawn comes regardless, gently persuading us to rise and meet our duties. Each pushes us to choose, and the only real difference in them is their strength.
We are surrounded by various elements that, forced or unforced, exert pressure to compel us to submit to them out of loyalty. Both good and evil are compulsions pressuring us to follow them. Our culture urges us to "go along." Family ties influence us to blend in. Our peers, friends in business, school, or neighborhood buddies, entice us to conform. These compulsions sweep us along, and all too frequently we go right into idolatry to satisfy our desires to be accepted and feel secure. But Peter and the other apostles said, "We ought to obey God rather than men."
John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)
We all understand that sheep have a strong inclination to follow, to go along with what other sheep in the flock are doing. I once read that, if a shepherd is herding his flock into a pen, and he places a bar a foot or so off the ground across the gate so that the first sheep has to jump over it to get in, then he removes the bar, the following sheep will continue jumping as they pass through the gate based on what the leading sheep did!
Years ago, my wife and I owned a small flock of lambs in partnership with our neighbor. They escaped from our pasture one Sabbath morning by "worrying" a fence until they were able to push out through the hole. Once one lamb went through, the others followed. We did not know they were gone until a neighbor about a half-mile away called to let us know our sheep were on her property. They had followed a railroad track cut into the side of a steep embankment until the land leveled off in a wooded area. They were scattered in the wooded area.
As I approached, I began to speak to them. They turned and began walking toward our pasture. Soon, they had regrouped and begun following me. Although I was certainly concerned that a train might come along, my major worry was how I was going to get them up that steep ten-foot-high embankment, back through that narrow opening, and into the pasture.
When I arrived at that point, they were too timid to follow my voice and me up the embankment. The only thing I could do was wrestle and drag the sheep up and shove them through the opening. I thought I was going to have to repeat that same procedure with all of them, but to my delighted surprise, once I shoved the first one through the hole and into the pasture, the rest came on their own! What I feared actually turned out to be easy because of this strong instinct to follow.
Human beings tend to share this proclivity. We even call it the "sheep instinct" or "running with the herd." This influence moves people to buy and wear the same clothing because "everybody" is wearing whatever happens to be popular. It also motivates "keeping up with the Joneses." We are nervous about standing out from the crowd and perhaps becoming the objects of scorn and derision.
However, this proclivity works against us as Christians because it can easily influence us into going the way of this world. In this case, it takes a strong willingness not to conform to what everybody around us is thinking, doing, and perhaps even wearing. Such a circumstance will reveal who we really fear.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part One): Fear
1 Corinthians 15:34
Because of their fellowship or association, with evil company, they were becoming involved in sin. Paul is suggesting that the people with whom the Corinthians were fellowshipping did not have the knowledge of God, and the Corinthians were being pulled down to their level. The apostle is saying in effect, "Break it off with those people. Get away from them. They are pulling you down. Repent."
He says, "I speak this to your shame." The people to whom he was writing had friendships primarily with people in the world. He is advising these people to consciously choose better companions.
John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is Prayer?
We easily recognize that Christ died for our sins. But why? ". . . that He might deliver us from this present evil age."
The word translated "deliver" does not just mean being delivered from bondage, the way the Israelites were delivered out of Egypt. It means instead, "rescued from the power of." The meaning "delivery away from" may be implied, but that is not the primary meaning here. The power of this present evil world lies in its ability and power to make an impression upon us or make us conform to its ways.
Paul writes in I Corinthians 5:10, "I didn't mean that you should go out of the world, but rather that you should not fellowship with one who is a brother and who has this sin." He is not talking about leaving a place but about being rescued from the power of this world to impress its ideas, manners, ways, customs, and traditions upon us. Paul reiterates this in Romans 12:2: "Don't let the world squeeze you into its mold" (Phillips). That is what we have been delivered from—not God's law, but the power of the world to squeeze us into its mold.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Childrearing (Part 3)
It is common for people to take the easy way, the path of least resistance. They allow themselves to be blown along with the prevailing cultural wind, whether in fashion, sports, art, music, politics, or sadly, ethics and morals. Taking no thought to their course or direction, they follow along with the current trends because it is easier to "go with the flow."
When bad things happen or when they realize that they have ended up somewhere that they never imagined they would be, instead of deeply considering the course of their lives, many merely shrug their shoulders and call it "fate" or "circumstance." In doing this, they show that they are ruled by the swirling winds of society around them. Rather than exercising control over their lives, they allow those trends to direct their journeys through life. They simply refuse to set a course, man the tiller, and make for a set destination.
At one time or another, we, too, have been affected by what is happening in the world. We have allowed ourselves to be driven by the prevailing winds of this society and its standards. Whether we admit it or not, we have been affected by our culture's television, movies, fashion, politics, and even religion.
We have been called to come out of this world (Revelation 18:4). God wants us to find a course contrary to the prevailing and normal way of life that seems right to those in the world. As Proverbs 14:12 tells us, "There is a way which seems right to a man and appears straight before him, but at the end of it is the way of death" (The Amplified Bible). History is strewn with examples of human ideas that did not end well.
The prevailing winds of this Satan-inspired world (Revelation 12:9) sweep millions along in its intense velocity. It is beating against us all the time, and the struggle to resist is wearying. Out of sheer exhaustion, some give in to these winds and conform to their whispered suggestions. It is especially easy to succumb to them when surrounded by peers, employers, friends, and neighbors who want us to follow them and their way of thinking. It is just far less stressful to go along.
However, we are not to conform to the course that the world takes (Romans 12:2). Instead, we are to set our sails to follow a different line, obeying God and rejecting the popular trends of this world when they disregard His way of life. This means that we must take the time to consider and decide where we want to end up. What is our destination? Where is our home port? Then, we have to learn to make right choices so that we will one day arrive there.
The force that is in the world—dominant, popular, and widespread—is contrary to God. If we desire to obey God, we must face it and overcome it, having enough strength to endure its ceaseless, insistent pressure to return to its easy lifestyle.
1 John 2:15-17
I John 2:15-17 warns us that there is a profound gulf between the Father and the world, and that a Christian is faced with making a choice between them. Spiritually, morally, and ethically, Christianity does not allow for neutrality. God is bringing us into a position where we recognize truth, admit it is true, and make it a part of our lives.
We are learning a new way of life, so He does not want us to be ensnared by the attractiveness of many things that are in the world. We cannot presume that because something appears to be harmless, it would be fine to do "just this one time." Therefore, we have to learn to resist the urge to think and conduct our lives as the world does.
"World" in I John 2 is the Greek cosmos, and its basic meaning is "an ordered system." Because of the disparity between God and this world, it cannot possibly be the world for which God gave His only begotten Son. The world He created He called "very good." Nor is He referring to mankind, also part of His creation. He loves people and desires to save them.
Nevertheless, He does not like man's way of life. This ordered, human-centered system is anti-God and anti-Christ, and Satan sits at its head. This system occupies His creation and consists of people that God loves so much that He sent His Son to die for them, but He does not love the system! It produces people that need to be rescued, and it tends to make them worse and worse.
When God speaks of "the world," He is identifying all of man's purposes, pursuits, pleasures, practices, and places where God is not wanted. Much of this world is religious, cultured, refined, and intellectual, but it is still anti-God and anti-Christ.
Through His calling, God puts us into a position where He forces us to choose between disparate ways of life, and both of them are realities. We must choose either the eternal and worthwhile or the temporal and vain. God is not saying that this world is unpleasant, unattractive, or unappealing, but we have to choose between that reality and His. The sum of this passage is that this ordered system—anti-God yet appealing and attractive—has the power to seduce the believer, to ensnare him and turn him from God. We have to be vigilantly on guard against it.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Christmas, Syncretism, and Presumption
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