Thursday, January 26, 2012

Not everything is black & white!

6-9I can't believe your fickleness—how easily you have turned traitor to him who called you by the grace of Christ by embracing a variant message! It is not a minor variation, you know; it is completely other, an alien message, a no-message, a lie about God. Those who are provoking this agitation among you are turning the Message of Christ on its head. Let me be blunt: If one of us—even if an angel from heaven!—were to preach something other than what we preached originally, let him be cursed. I said it once; I'll say it again: If anyone, regardless of reputation or credentials, preaches something other than what you received originally, let him be cursed.
(Galations 1:6-9 The Message)

Wow!  Paul gets right up into the grills of these Galation believers!  He opens with is authority for writing to them, then launches into the very convicting announcement of the "fickleness" he is going to set straight!  His concern is the intentional "twisting" of the truth about Christ, his sacrificial death, the "adding to" what God has already declared to be the perfection of his complete work on the cross.  

Fickleness is the likelihood of change.  In other words, if the chance presents itself, we will change!  This is dangerous when it comes to our beliefs.  We need to be assured of what we believe and then stand on it!  No one should come along with a "new revelation" and then sway us into changing our beliefs. As a baby Christian, I read a book, "Know Why You Believe", by Paul E. Little.  The book is small, but packed with the simple truths I needed to get a foundational knowledge of as a new Christian.  He covers topics which answer questions about who Jesus is, was his resurrection real, is the Word of God a true authority we can rely upon, and how Christianity differs from a bunch of the other world religions.  What I hoped to accomplish by studying the topics outlined in this book was establishing a "foundation" upon which I could allow the Holy Spirit to build.  I wanted to be assured of my beliefs - - so I would not go through life "changing" at the drop of a hat.

If "variant messages" existed just after Christ walked this earth, how many different variations to the true message of God's love do we have today?  Lots and lots!  As time goes on, new "twists" come - - bending the Word of God to please the intentions of man's heart, instead of allowing the Word of God to bend our hearts toward the intentions of God's heart!

This is why we need to be on-guard when considering new truth.  We need to learn to be students of the Word - - taking what we learn, comparing it to the Word (not just one passage!), and then allowing God's Spirit to affirm or deny the teaching.  It is how we protect ourselves from teachings that will ultimately eat away at our foundation and cause a lack of stability in our lives.  

Paul is quite straight-forward in his impression of these other teachings - - they are to be cursed.  Those are strong words - - and he did not just say it once!  Fickleness is the state of being so casual in our beliefs that we actually are totally changeable without even really realizing it.  Paul's call is for us to not be so impressionable - - to have our allegiance well-established and then stick with it.  Does that mean we never consider a new way of seeing a passage?  Absolutely not, but we learn to "test" it against what we already know, what the other portions of scripture teach, and the confirmation of the Spirit of God in our lives. 

Did you realize the underlying cause of fickleness is perversity?  According to Webster's, this is the underlying root of this word.  Simply put, because the heart is not pure, we struggle with remaining steadfast!   I do believe scripture teaches the heart is deceitful, so it makes it really difficult for us to really know it (Jeremiah 17:8-10)!  We can count on this:  God knows our heart and it is HIS business to help keep our heart on track!  

I have a friend who recently asked a question about Israel's laws to offer the firstborn of the flock.  Her concern was the next statement to offer the firstborn male.  Here's the rub:  Did this mean we were to sacrifice our sons (like on an altar)?  We need to consider all scripture in light of its context (what is the rest of the story) and then consider what God is aiming at with what is being said.  His "aim" is in giving the best to God - - the "first" of our harvest, the "first" of our finances, the "first" of time, etc.  Give him the best - - the Law of Moses reiterated this over and over.  

Sometimes we need to do a "reality check" with the teachings we have come to embrace.  It will do us well to consider them in light of the intention of scripture.  Considering the tendency of our heart to follow after stuff that is deceitful, we need God's help to help us understand things like "types" used in scripture.  "Types" point us to something - - the firstborn male was Christ - - he would become the ultimate "perfect" sacrifice.  When we engage in this purposeful exploration of the teachings we come across, we begin to formulate a solid foundation upon which we can build.  So, explore, but be careful what you embrace!