Secret Knowledge?

secret bible codes

The Apostle Paul warns that we can end up always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:7)

But what’s the difference between learning and knowledge?
I couldn’t find a big difference between these two Greek words so the context must be key.  

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” So knowledge of the truth is given to everyone who follows Jesus. To know the truth is to know Jesus, since he is the truth.

Therefore the learning that Paul is talking about in this verse must mean something outside of truly knowing Jesus. As you see above in The Sun’s front page, this “learning” is information that will be revealed to the select few —- note the words “hidden” and “secret.”

Unlike the writers in the Sun, I don’t know secrets like where Jimmy Hoffa is today. Nor do I have a quick, secret shortcut to give you lasting peace of mind and your best life now.

If I learn a lot of hidden linkages and connections in the Bible along with secret number codes, how does that increase my compassion for anyone?

I have been reflecting on the simple message of the gospel. I like how Jonathan Leeman says it:
The gospel can be summarized in four words: God, man, Christ, response.
God is holy and loving.
Man sinned and earned the judgment of a holy and loving God.
Christ lived and died in our place to defeat sin and death.
We are called to respond in repentance and faith.

There isn’t anything secret about the gospel. It’s the knowledge that we really need!

Tell Me What I Don’t Want to Hear

dont want to hear

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Timothy 4:3)

First, some fake news for itching ears: The Christian life is always easy.  We are special because we have faith; with our faith we can speak wonderful realities into existence. Because we have faith, God automatically protects us from the misfortunes that plague those who lack the faith that we have.

Now for some genuine news:
As Christians, we do not have the power to speak wonderful realities into existence. We are not magically exempt from misfortunes, calamities, sickness, and plagues. 

At first glance you might think that the fake news sounds much better. But here’s some genuine good news:
We have a God of all comfort. And our faith does give us something special that outsiders lack. When we are faced with misfortunes, calamities, sickness etc., we do, by faith, have a special ability to persevere through them. God gives us the grace to endure.

The bogus teaching that you won’t suffer or be sick if you have enough faith sounds good when you are healthy and the economy is booming. But what if you catch COVID and then get laid off from your job? Does this mean you are guilty of deficient faith?

Looking at Paul’s life helps answer that question. He faced much persecution and suffering. Does that mean he had deficient faith? Listen to what he said:

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. (2 Timothy 3: 10-11)

Paul’s rescue was guaranteed until he finished God’s mission for his life. Indeed, each of us can say that God never stops sustaining and supporting us —– until we have finished with all that he has given us to do.

His guarantee does not give us our best life now but for those who believe it grants our best life forever.  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

Would you Want This Verse on Your Coffee Cup?

coffee mug enemies - Copy

Does this verse sound unkind? Why is it even in the Bible? How does it square with the message of love, love, nothing but love that we hear in our contemporary worship songs? Or line up with this old hymn: “Gentle Jesus meek and mild.”

Two thoughts about this verse:

First, note that the writer of this Psalm is not taking matters into his own hands. We are not talking about a Charles Bronson Death Wish vigilante movie! No, the writer is asking God to take care of it.

As Paul said:

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  (Romans 12:19).

Second, Jesus is more patient than the Psalmist. God’s wrath is real but Jesus has given it a delay. Jesus has mercifully postponed the sentiment expressed on the coffee cup, by allowing us to live in an age where God’s grace, love, patience and mercy are triumphing over his judgment.

Peter expresses it beautifully:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  (2 Peter 3:9)

We want to respond to this news by steering people to the love of Christ and the offer of repentance, forgiveness and salvation that he makes. Yet, we also give a loving warning by letting people know that the patience of God really will end one day and then it will be too late. So we don’t stop pleading and persuading.

Today, you are in one of two camps: You are either very thankful for the redemption Jesus accomplished for you, or you are receiving a loving warning to respond to God’s offer before it is too late.

Who is God’s Candidate?

Knowing that most evangelicals are right-wing Republicans, I was curious about how the evangelical Christian left viewed current political issues. Did they have a convincing, biblical, well thought-out analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of both the Democratic and Republican parties?

So, I looked at what Jim Wallis and Sojourners magazine had to say. Their counsel:  Without question, Christians should adopt the Democrats’ platform, because the Bible teaches that an increase in the power of government will bring more of God’s righteousness and justice to our land. Ironically, though, I found them to be the exact mirror image of the right wing, who say that the Bible teaches that a smaller government and more individual initiative will bring more of God’s righteousness and justice to our land. So instead of being hardline Republicans the Christian left has become hardline Democrats!

Each side is skeptical about how anyone who calls themself a Christian could be a supporter of the other party. Even more, few Republicans or Democrats are willing to admit that the opposite party is more correct on any issue.

In my home state I was tempted to vote for someone from the other party for Senator. I had the impression that this guy stood for a higher value than mere party loyalty. I was extremely disappointed when, in a town hall meeting, they asked him to name one area in which he disagreed with his national party. “There are none” he said. This gentleman did not get my vote.

Both sides fall into a trap when they appeal to the Bible. They have decided which party they are loyal to first, and then they go back into the Bible to prove that the Bible shows their party is on God’s side.  It’s hard to take off the blinders and go to the Bible first.

Now I’ll give you a variation on the challenge that was given in the Senatorial town hall: considering who you usually vote for, see if you can find one issue where the other party is more biblical. As someone who votes Republican or Libertarian, I have tried to read what the biblical prophets say with an open mind. As I see their concern for the downtrodden and the ripped-off, then I must admit that the Democrats are stronger on some of the social justice issues. Even if I don’t vote for them this year, at least I’ll stop viewing them as enemies of America!