Hebrews Lesson 51 April 27, 2006
NKJ Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'
We will start off with a letter. This is one of those nights where I have a lot of different things to do. Who knows how unified anything will be.
This is from Jim Myers. Actually it is two letters because Jim has a short letter and with it there is a lengthier letter from one of the African people that he worked with. He just returned to Kiev from Africa.
I am back in the Ukraine after nearly three weeks in Africa. This was the most productive trip yet as far as opportunity to teach and response to the Word. After teaching some 60 hours in two weeks I am just a wee bit tired but not exhausted. It takes almost 36 hours to Kiev to Lusaka, Zambia. The fact that it is in the same time zone means that there isn't the jet lag to deal with. I was a week in the big city and a week in the bush. The settings were quite different but the objective was the same - to provide sound teaching to pastors and other leaders. I thank all of you who have prayed for me and supported the ministry so that I can take the Word of God to so many places. I received the following letter which I thought you might enjoy reading. The letter is from Jack C. Nikandu who is the Central African Education Coordinator Church of God World Missions.
Dear Brother James
Choice Christian greetings!
I am thankful to God for the Jim Myers Ministries and the most needed and vital role you are playing in preparing and equipping church leaders for effective ministry and leadership. The just ended leaders' seminar in Lusaka, Zambia that brought together 24 churches and ministries and had an attendance of more that 300 people was a blessing. The seminar addressed the great need of many church leaders in Africa – the need for sound biblical teaching. There is a great need for leadership training and development in Africa. Many seminars have emphasized quantity and not quality. We thank God for your emphasis on godly quality leadership - a must for African churches and ministries. Many church leaders have not been exposed to sound biblical teaching at seminars they have attended. The just ended seminar was with a difference. Leaders have been challenged to be men and women of the Word - men and women growing deeper in the Word. The seminar received a tremendous response. The people were open and receptive to the Word. I am assured that the next time another Jim Myers seminar is held in Zambia there will be many more people attending because of the testimony of those who attended. Church leaders cannot remain the same after such biblical teachings. My prayer is that not only in Zambia but other leaders in countries surrounding Zambia will also benefit from the Lord's blessing from the sound, timely, and biblical teaching of Jim Myers. Finally let me thank those who have stood together with Jim Myers ministries and who have provided and continue to provide financial support. The seminars are costly but their support is an investment in the business of God. I would love to meet and thank them in person for their love and goodness to God's work in Africa and other parts of the world. Those who support your ministry are playing a great part in transforming church leadership in Africa.
Sometimes people say, "Well, Jim is supposed to be a missionary in the Ukraine. What is he doing in Africa? What's he doing in Brazil?"
The thing is Paul was supposed to be a missionary to the Gentiles, but he went Greece and Turkey and Rome. He went everywhere. It is wherever the Lord opens doors and gives you an opportunity to go and teach the Word.
Last time we are started looking at the doctrine of the leading of the Spirit. We are going to put a pause on that and go back to what we were talking about before we got into talking about the leading of the Spirit that comes out of Hebrews 5.
Turn in your Bibles to Hebrews 5. I want to set things up again and then I want to give us a framework for discernment which is what grows out of this passage. Then we are going to look at some application. What we have been doing the last few weeks as a matter of fact is actually looking at application of the text. Unfortunately we live in a world where application is often reduced to being able to give 3 or 4 points on how to love your children or how to love your spouse or how to be more effective at work or how to live on the basis of your own potential and be encouraged and strengthened and have happiness and health and wealth and all of those other things. Real application of the Word starts with what goes on in your head and your thinking. That is the toughest stuff to teach and to grasp. Some of this material that I am teaching and that you have heard me teach in other series before this and go over again and again related to thought and thinking is so foundational. Every time I go though this it is like peeling an onion and I go a little deeper into the subject. It makes a little more sense to me and I hope it makes a little more sense to you. Thought is foundational. I remember years ago, the first time I really started digging into the whole subject of spiritual warfare realizing that spiritual warfare isn't this charismatic thing that you are going out and doing battle with the demons. Spiritual warfare has to do with what is going on in your head.
NKJ 2 Corinthians 10:5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
It is a battle. The warfare takes place related to taking every thought captive for Christ. Not just some thoughts, not just those sinful thoughts; but every thought. We have to learn to think and structure our thoughts biblically. That is a difficult thing for most people to deal with. It is a lot easier to stay at home and watch whatever that show is where everybody gets on and sings or something like that and have a little entertainment than to come to Bible class and have your brain cells fried for an hour. If I could I would fry them for 3 hours tonight.
All of this ties together because I was talking about apologetics. I did a little bit at the beginning of the last lesson. I was just tying some lose ends together. Before that we talked about mysticism. We talked about rationalism. We talked about how everybody comes out of this cesspool of worldly culture. We all bring this baggage with us that somehow has been dressed up and perfumed to look like it is acceptable to God and it is really good morality and all of this other stuff. Of course we know that Isaiah says …
NKJ Isaiah 64:6 But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.
That's a very mild euphemism for the way the Hebrew expresses it. The best we do is garbage in God's eyes. We need to have a complete overhaul of our whole thought process. What happens is we all come out the cesspool with all of this intellectual baggage as well and moral baggage and behavioral baggage and all of this other stuff. We have to learn to get rid of this. The only thing that cleanses it and gets it out of the way is studying the Word, slogging our way through some of this difficult stuff over and over again. One day the light comes on. On nights like this it isn't food for babies. It is tough stuff.
Those of you who have a tough time with this, you have to realize just as you do when you are eating a meal and you get a tough piece of meat and your teeth are bothering you or whatever you need to say, "I am not going to eat that. I am just going to eat the mashed potatoes."
The more you hear it the more you will get some sense out of it, the more it will mean something to you. It is not easy. It's not easy for anyone to think about thinking.
So let's go back and remind you of a couple of things.
First of all in Hebrews 5 we are dealing with the fact that these believers have become backslidden. They had reached a point where they had advanced to spiritual maturity. Then due to sin, due to regression, due to a number of factors they had regressed. So they have deteriorated into what the writer of Hebrews calls dull of hearing. Actually they have become intellectually lazy. They have become complacent. They have become sluggards in the battle. We are all in the spiritual battle. We are all in this warfare. Ultimately it is warfare of thought, thought, thought. We live in a culture today where part of the baggage that we bring with us out of the cultural cesspool is "Don't think, just feel. It is all about how good you feel. It is all about the sense, the appearance of things. It's not about substance at all."
So we looked at the fact that what puts pressure on us is the sin nature. The sin nature not only pressures us in terms of overt sins, mental attitude sins, the kinds of sins that we normally think about, but the structure of our thinking. So I talked about that.
We have the trends in our sin nature towards either immoral degeneracy or moral degeneracy. It not only affects sin, it also affects how you think. So in terms of immoral degeneracy because it is anti-authoritarianism, it leads to mysticism. There is no external authority that is going to dictate everything to me. There is no external authority like the Word of God. It is all about how I feel. In its worst forms, it is raw subjectivism. People do whatever they want to do on the spur of the moment. They may plan to do X, Y, or Z. Then when the moment comes they do A, B, or C. It's nothing more than a failure to be disciplined in your thought life.
But then on the other extreme when you go to moral degeneracy you always have these rigid artificial standards that are imposed either morally or even intellectually. The way that this usually manifests itself usually in the realm of thought is some kind of external system of reason or logic. We have a great example of this.
The reason I want to go back and talk about this again is because many of you were here on Saturday night for family night and watched the "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe". Those of you who weren't, you have an assignment. That assignment is that you need to rent the DVD and watch it. It works at a lot of different levels. I have never been a CS Lewis junkie. There are a lot of folks who are. I know a lot of guys at seminary that read everything. He has some good things to say. He is a great illustration of things that I have been talking about for the last month. There are many things in the "Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" that relate to what I have been saying and are very positive illustrations. But it also comes with a certain amount of negative baggage that I also want to talk about.
Why do I want to do this? Let's go back and think very briefly about what I set up for an apologetics thing. In terms of apologetics, apologetics is basically the defense of Christianity. It comes from the Greek word apologia.
NKJ 1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
Apologetics goes with witnessing. I remember one time sitting at a table with several people. I think Charlie Clough was the one who got some people's ire up a little bit. He was talking about how important it was to understand how to think like a pagan so that when you are presenting the gospel to them you do not get sucked into their logic traps, their way of thinking in order to try to win them over in the process of giving them the gospel.
There was one person there who made the comment, "You don't need all that. You don't need to know anything like that. All you need is to know the gospel and just hit them with the gospel."
That was a simplistic way of expressing it. Sometimes that is all you can do. But if you have a relationship with somebody and they are in the process of being witnessed to by you and they have legitimate questions then you have to be engaged in a dialogue with them. That means you have to answer questions. You have to think about the questions that they ask. You are engaged in a dialogue. Sometimes it can almost be like a debate. In the good sense of that dialogue they're really wrestling with objections that either bother them or they've heard bothered other people. So they want honest answers because they don't want to slip their brain into neutral and buy Christianity because it made you feel warm and good and happy and successful, but that there is a solid rational basis for believing in Christianity or something of that nature.
So when we talk to an unbeliever we are concerned about the whole question of common ground. What is the common ground that we share with the unbeliever? Ultimately the question that we are asking is (if you are making a truth claim and that is what you are doing) when you tell someone that Jesus Christ died on the cross for their sins and that Jesus said, "I am the Way the Truth and the Life, no ones comes to the Father but by Me. Jesus claims to be the source of everything and the source of truth. Then you are making a truth claim.
This person is sitting there saying, "Okay, the Hindus make their truth claim. The Buddhists make their truth claim. The Moslems make their truth claim. There are all of these other philosophies out there. I can be Hegelian, existential, Platonic, Aristotelian. Why should I believe you? What is your basis for truth? How do I validate this? How do I verify it? What are my ultimate criteria for determining what truth is?"
Over the process of time people have come up with some different answers. As I pointed out last time, the first appeal that the unbeliever makes is to autonomous rationalism and logic. Then the believer gets sucked into that. How the unbeliever views logic is not how the believer is going to view logic. I am going to give you some illustrations of this a little later on. Also the unbeliever may appeal to historical evidence where historical evidence becomes the ultimate determiner or criterion for what is true. There are apologetic strategies that appeal to empiricism. Then you have a third category that relates to mysticism. That is fideism. That is the idea that there is no way to validate a religious claim. You have this existential leap of faith. You just believe it because that's what gives meaning, and purpose and validation in your life. That is called fideism from the Latin word faith. What we would say is no the ultimate court of appeal is revelation. We will talk about this a lot more. This comes out of Romans 1:19. I did this to remind you, get this back in your head. We will come back to it in a minute.
We need to remember the chart. There are human viewpoint systems of knowledge. How do you ultimately know truth? The top three - rationalism, empiricism, and mysticism - I always say these are used independently. By independent I mean it is independent from what the Word of God says. So the starting point is not in the Bible. You don't start with God as the Creator God of the universe holding, maintaining that creator-creature distinction. You start with something in creation. Right away maybe you are beginning to see what the issue is. You either start with human reason some rational principle laws of logic, law of non-contradiction, history or something like but you are starting with something in creation, not something in the Creator. At that level you can start having some methodological problems. So those three systems of knowledge are set over against revelation. How do we know anything is true? Because God said it. We start with the Scripture. As a Christian you can't start anywhere else without compromising the integrity of your argument or the integrity of your defense.
Now let me give you an illustration for this. Let's say that you are a criminal and you have a dream team defense. You've got Johnnie Cochran. You've got F. Lee Bailey. You've got Percy Forman. This is your dream team defense. They are all dealing with the same evidence. I used this illustration three weeks ago. I am trying to pull a lot of different strands together here. This is your dream team for defense. They don't agree with each other. They are all dealing with the same evidence, but they don't agree with how it should be presented. If you follow one of them, let's say Johnnie Cochrane comes along and he's our rationalist. He is going to take one approach. Then you have F. Lee Bailey. He is going to come along and he's the empiricist. He is going to take another approach. Remember they are still dealing with the same data. Then you have the third guy and that's Percy Foreman. But he is the fideist. He is going to come from the same data, but he is going to come from a third strategy. That is what we are dealing with here, strategy as opposed to content. The content is going to be basically the same for all three of these. But you see all three of these even if they win in front of the jury doesn't mean strategically they didn't commit some crucial errors in the process. That's what I am talking about.
Isn't this fun?
Everybody is sitting out there saying, "I worked all day today. I don't understand this."
See it is strategy and tactics. If you put it in a military context you are using the same weapons. You are using the same tanks and the same soldiers, but it is how you use them. Remember the principle that a right thing done in a wrong way is wrong. Even though you may end up giving information to people and they trust Christ as their savior as a result of it, it doesn't mean that it was done the best way - that you didn't somehow compromise the integrity of God and the integrity of revelation in the process. So we are trying to learn a little bit about this whole thing called apologetics. That is basically what "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe" was. That was what CS Lewis is generally known for. His books "Mere Christianity", "The Problem of Pain", "Miracles", and "Screw Tape Letters" are apologetic. They focus on evidences for the Christian faith. I want to talk about on those things.
Let's go back to Hebrews. Everybody heaves a sign of relief. Somehow we get real comfortable dealing with the text. It is when we start applying the text to how we think that things get muddy, difficult and hard to figure out.
NKJ Hebrews 5:11 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.
We have been talking about the dynamics of what makes somebody dull of hearing.
NKJ Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
Now let's look at this a little bit. I am not going to deal with all the exegesis in this passage. There is a lot in that first clause "by this time you ought to be teachers". But I want to look at that second clause "you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God". That word for first principles is the Greek word stoicheion. - the basic parts, the rudiment, the elements or the foundational components of something. It's what we might call the ABC's of Christianity, the building blocks, the separate doctrines of Christianity. While we are looking at this passage, I want you to see where it goes. It goes to 6:1.
NKJ Hebrews 6:1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
Now if you have been with me through this study these first 5 chapters and we have been looking at this, some of you are going, "This is elementary?"
Yes, it is! You see we have so lowered the bar of expectation in terms of what we can learn from the Bible and what it teaches us about every dimension of life and thought that all of a sudden when we get to this verse we realize (and people are generally uncomfortable with this) that they move it aside because they don't want to think about it. But the writer of Hebrews is saying is that there is such a profound level of teaching that goes beyond basic doctrine of who Jesus is and what Jesus did that we need to pursue that. We need to get out of first grade material and second grade material. Let's get to junior high and high school material. What we are covering some tonight is truly that. It is the real meat of the word. It isn't just that milk that most people are used to. Even a lot of stuff we consider here is considered pretty basic. It is just that we have got such a culture of biblical illiterates today and thought and intellectual idiots today that when you start thinking and talking about some of the deep implications of the Word of God people can't follow you anymore. It is tragic because there is some real significant stuff here that the writer of Hebrews expects us to be able to handle.
In our verse here in Hebrews 5:12 he uses the word stoicheion for the basic parts, the rudiments, the elements or the components of something. He contrasts this in the context with the elementary principles of Christ in 6:1.
Hold your place in Hebrews 5 and turn with me back to Colossians 2. Let's go to verse 8. This is a warning from the Apostle Paul to the Colossian believers.
NKJ Colossians 2:8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
What he says is you have to be careful that you don't get deceived through false philosophical systems of thought and get distracted from what the truth of God's Word is. That is what I am talking about here. That is why thought is so important. Ultimately when you get down to it to use the fancy philosophical term for how do we know what is true and how do we know what we know; it's epistemology. I have said this again and again. We live in a era of period of epistemological crisis. That is why the charismatics are so popular. They are basing their knowledge of what truth is on their emotion, some experience that they have with the Holy Spirit and this becomes the validation for truth. Not what the Word of God says, but what their liver quiver says. What their inner vibrations say. They wouldn't know it if you hit them in the face with it. They have an epistemological problem. Their epistemological problem is that the foundation for their thought doesn't come from the Word of God. It's coming from mysticism. But they are wrapping it up and cloaking it in biblical verbiage. This is what deceives so many people and gets so many Christians off center. You have got all kinds of philosophies. In the ancient world in Paul's time you had Aristotelian and Platonism. You also had the Epicureans and the Stoics. Today we get the Darwinians. We get the sociologists who tell us that Christianity and all religions are just sociological phenomenon. Then you get the Freudians and their descendents that everybody's problem is psychological. All regeneration is, is some sort of psychological phenomenon. If you have problems in your life you don't have to go to the pastor any more. He may teach you some things about God, but if you really want to solve the problems of life you have to go to a psychologist. You have to go to some person who is trained in psychology. So many seminary students and pastors get distracted by that. They really want to help people but they don't believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. Their starting point epistemologically is never totally the Word of God. They compromise. They have a foot in both camps. This happens in a lot of different areas.
So you have various human viewpoint systems. That is what I have talked about. You have human viewpoint systems of rationalism. You have human viewpoint systems of empiricism. You have human viewpoint systems of mysticism. These traditions can deceive you.
The Greek word there is kosmos. The basic principles of the world there are the ABC's of human viewpoint thinking. Now lest we forget Romans 12:2….
NKJ Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
That means we have to think about our thinking. We don't just sit out here and emote and feel good about Jesus and the fact that I am going to go to heaven. After I am saved there is a battle to be won, and there is an objective to be accomplished. That is one of the interesting things.
For those of you who saw "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" after Aslan is killed and then he comes back to life, what does he do? He goes into the battle. Things don't end in coming to Christ in salvation. There is a battle. That is why the kids like Peter were given the shield and the sword. They are given other tools. Those represent the basic spiritual skills to get by in the battle. So they have to go on. They have to go through the battle goes on and the battle doesn't end with the story. The battle goes on and on and on because there are other monsters and other enemies that need to be defeated. That is the same thing in the Christian life. It goes on and on and on. We have these enemies to defeat. The worst ones are the ones that hang around in our thought from before we were saved.
The word that is used there for basic principles of the world is this word stoicheion. What it is talking about is the cosmic system has its own set of ABC's. Its set of ABC's is basic principles for how to live life and how to know things is at odds with the basic principles of Scripture. So if you think about what composes basic foundational elements of any culture whether you are talking about Japanese culture, Chinese culture, Indian culture, Arab culture, European culture? What are the foundational elements of a culture?
You start with, how does this culture view ultimate reality? Who are the gods or goddesses? What is the ultimate reality? If you go back beyond creation or the origin of the earth what created it? How did it come into existence? What was there before creation? What was there before evolution? What is eternal? That is your first thing. That is your ultimate reality. Is ultimate reality eternal matter so that everything that comes is material? Is there no such thing as immaterial or spirit or spiritual? That's Darwinism. That is evolutionism. That is pure materialism. What was there? Were there like in the old Babylonian creation ethics these gods that existed - they either had sex or a battle depending on which version you read. They have sex and that produces the universe or they kill one another and cut up the body parts of one of the gods or goddesses and that becomes the foundation for reality. But anyway, you start with what is ultimate reality? Whatever you perceive ultimate reality to be, that then if you are logically consistent that is going to develop into your view of right or wrong. If you start with a couple of gods and goddesses and they don't have any absolute ethical system and they are always warring or always involved in various sexual activity with multiple sex partners, what ethic does that lead to? That is the ethic that produced the fertility cults of the ancient world. It is the same kind of ethic that produced the health and wealth gospel today because the prosperity gospel today is just another version of the old fertility religion. They just kind of cleaned it up a little. You have your ultimate reality. From that ultimate reality you derive your value system. Philosophy calls ultimate reality metaphysics. Your value system is ethics.
You also have to figure out how you know how anything is true. That is called epistemology. So every system has its ultimate view of reality, its view of right and wrong. If it's postmodernism then every culture has an equally valid value system, and you have a way of knowing that. Then all of that comes together and produces a cultural view of art, beauty, and music. That is called aesthetics. Those are basically the four branches of philosophy. Once you understand those things you can take it and impose it on anything you read. You read some literature. Let's say you read Wordsworth.
You ought to say, "What is he saying here?"
Every writer is saying something. He has got a world view and that world view includes an ultimate view of reality, and an ultimate view of values right or wrong. It as a view of knowledge and how we know what we know. It has a view of beauty. You read Ann Rice who writes these fiction books on vampires. I understand now that she is not going to do that anymore. She got converted to Roman Catholic view of Christianity. So that has another set of problems with it. She is not going to write any more of those awful vampire stories. She has had a change of personal ethics which changes what she is going to write in her stories. Authors write from within their own frame of reference or their own worldview.
Now what Paul said back in Colossians 2:8 is don't be deceived through philosophy or empty deceit which is according to (kata plus the accusative) the standards of the basic principles of the world and not according to Christ.
Ah! Here is our juxtaposition. See it is either this or that. It is either world's systems or world's traditions or the world's philosophies or it is Christ. There is no in between. There is no such thing as neutrality. It's either human viewpoint or its divine viewpoint. Now in human viewpoint there can be a lot of truth there. It is how truth is structured and how it relates to ultimate things that is important. You think that when you are talking to an unbeliever and they have their viewpoints that you can agree on a lot of things. All these things that you think you agree on, you really don't. They are looking at them from the whole grid of their human viewpoint philosophy whether it is Marxism or Freudianism or Platonism or Hegelianism. Even though they may get certain things right, there is a lot of stuff that is wrong. And it is not just the details; it is how the details relate to one another. So that is why I say we have to think about these things.
Now let's go back to our text and see what the writer of Hebrews says.
NKJ Hebrews 5:13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.
He just got through saying in verse 12, challenging them saying you have need for somebody to go back and teach the ABC's of the oracles of God (that is another synonym for the revelation of God). You have come to need milk and not solid food.
Now some of you are sitting out there saying, "I am as lost as I can be."
Well, guess what I was too. I had to go back over and over it again. That is how you learn something. We have quit drinking the milk out of the bottle. We have to go to the fact that there are deeper things that impact our thinking than just things we are familiar with.
See if all you do is take in basic doctrine and things you are familiar with and not build on that and go to places that you are not familiar with – ideas and thoughts and frameworks of thinking that you are not familiar with - you are just a babe unskilled in the Word of righteousness.
That word translated unskilled is the Greek word apeiros meaning inexperienced, unskilled, ignorant of true doctrine pertaining to the lack of knowledge or lack of capacity to do something. Let's translate it with the phrase unacquainted with or unaccustomed to.
Literal translation: So everyone who partakes only of milk is unaccustomed to the Word of righteousness for he is a babe.
Now let's go to verse 14.
NKJ Hebrews 5:14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
The Greek word is teleios meaning mature. Solid food is for the mature.
That's a bad translation in the New King James. It's not who by reason; it's those who consistently practice something. That's the idea there. It is the Greek word hexis meaning skill or proficiency. It has the idea of a repetitive and successful practice of the spiritual skills part of which is taking in the Word over and over and over again even when you don't understand everything that is there. You keep coming back hearing it again and again and eventually things start to click, things start to make sense. That is how you grow. It is the consistent practice of learning the Word, learning the Word, hearing it taught and by that having your senses exercised.
That word for exercise is the Greek word gumnazo which is where we get our words gym, gymnastics, and gymnasium. All of those words come from gumnazo. Its original meaning was to train naked. That's how they originally performed in the Olympics. They didn't have neat little spandex outfits. They went out there bare-butt naked. In fact in the early 20th century when they were going to resurrect the Olympics they were coming out of one of the Ivy League schools. I think it was Princeton. Their idea was to bring back the old Olympics. So they started a pre-Olympic competition. They started competing. The first time they competed they were competing at a girl's school. All of these athletes were classic scholars. They were delving into Homer and all the classics. They studied everything about how the ancient Greeks did it. They came trotting out on the athletic field bare-butt naked. All of the girls screamed and ran back in. That was the last time they did it that way.
That is what gumnazo means. The basic idea is discipline with the removal of all distractions - anything that hinders you, gets in the way, slows you down, and prevents you from performing at maximum efficiency. See that is what I am talking about. You may think I am getting the razor blade out and slicing things pretty thin as we go through this, but the thing is we have to constantly let the Word of God, let that sharp sword of the Word of God, pierce into the depths of our thinking (remember it is sharp enough to separate soul and spirit) and to surgically remove all the nasty human viewpoint hangovers that we have got from the culture, from our upbringing, and from our sin nature and everything else. So it has to do with discipline through the removal of distractions and hindrances. It is in that process of the removal of those distractions and hindrances that allows us to discern.
Discernment isn't some kind of heebie-geebie word of discernment that the charismatics talk about.
"I have the spiritual gift of discernment and I have to be in your presence. I know what spiritual gift you have."
That's just garbage. That's not what the Word of God teaches. The Word of God says that discernment comes from the Word of God. It talks here about the fact that it is through discipline and the process of spiritual growth that as you go to maturity you are able to distinguish between and evaluate things. There is a difference between judging. Jesus talks about "judge not that you be not judged".
I hear these idiot Christians who will hear some pastor and say, "Well I am not going to say anything about what he said because that would be judging the pastor."
What about all of these passages in Scriptures that talk about thought and evaluation and discernment? That is not judging. Judging is saying that he is going to hell or he is all wrong and judging him personally. You need to evaluate what comes out of a pulpit. How do you evaluate it? Because you have built a frame of reference in doctrine. You learn to think.
There is nothing wrong with sitting out there and thinking, "You know I am having a difficult time with what I heard. Help me understand this a little better."
You hear some pastor say something. You screw up your face and say, "That just doesn't sound biblical."
How do you know? You have to go back to the text. There has to be an ultimate authority. That's the Scripture. It only comes from feeding on solid food reaching maturity through the consistent disciplined practice of taking in the Word and discerning both good and evil. You have to learn how to do that.
I have given you a couple of examples. When we started last week with the leading of the Spirit, I took a quote out of Charles Ryrie. I am trying to teach you a little discernment so that if you read something or hear something you don't just say, "That sounds great and nice! He is somebody that I am supposed to respect. Let's go along with what he said."
There is not one pastor-teacher, theologian, or evangelist who is inerrant or infallible in the Church Age whether they are filled with the Spirit, whether they are in fellowship. That doesn't count. It is not a guarantee of inspiration or infallibility. That's not what that's all about. Yet there are a lot of people who think that.
"Oh, the pastor, he goes and studies and he is in fellowships and he studies the Word so God is going to teach this to him."
Wait a minute it sounds mystical to me, doesn't it? Let's clean that up a little bit. Yes, the Holy Spirit is working covertly in the background. As I have been talking about, I've got a program running in the background of my computer right now. It is a virus protector. You don't see it, but it is running back there. That's how the Holy Spirit works.
The Holy Spirit teaches us in this age, but not all at one time. As the years go by, it's a gradual process of teaching. It's not that I sit down and read Ephesians 4:7-11 and all of a sudden, "Yeah! The Holy Spirit taught me and told me what it means." Next year I may study it in a little more depth and do more correlation with another passages and say, "Oops! I didn't catch that last time."
Was I out of fellowship? No, I am learning. I am growing. That happens with every one of us. That is the process. So we have to learn a few things about exercising discernment and part of this is in reading and understanding things of an apologetic nature. I am going to go back to that illustration. We talked about C S Lewis.
Let's talk a little bit about apologetics and about thought and about how we can avoid a few things.
I will hit CS Lewis next time.
Let me give you 8 points that we need to think about in terms of what apologetics is all about. Apologetics is important. The Scripture talks about it. It's simply giving an answer for the hope that is in you so that when somebody asks you why you are a Christian that you can give them an answer. Some of you remember that this time last year I got a chance to go down to the hospital and sit next to an old friend of mine that I first witnessed to 30 years ago.
After about two or three minutes of small talk he said, "Okay Robby. Why do you believe what you believe?"
I sat there and went through a rational defense of the gospel and an explanation of the gospel for about 3 hours. That was the first of several 3-hour sessions. People are not always ready right away to respond to the gospel for a variety of reasons - good reasons and bad reasons. We have all talked to people and they throw out all of these questions. What about the heathen? How can a good God let these things happen? You know all they are doing is throwing up a smoke screen because they aren't interested and they don't want to talk about it. They are using it as a way to try to push you away. Then there are other people that we talk to and they ask the same questions, but they are legitimate. They really want to know. They have heard these objections. They have raised these objections. They have been concerns for them and they want to know the answers because they are positive, but they don't want to just park their brain in neutral and accept what you have to say.
So when we talk about apologetics which is part of evangelism we have to think through some foundational principles.
What is apologetics?
- Apologetics is the explanation and vindication of the Christian worldview over and against the various forms of non-Christian worldviews. We are going to explain, defend and vindicate why Christianity is true and why any or all of the other views are false – Hinduism, Buddhism, Post Modernism, Modernism, Darwinism or whatever it is. We are going to show why Christianity is true. So it is making a truth claim.
- How you conduct your defense, your strategy for conducting that defense is as important as the content of the defense. Let's take a football analogy this time. It's not just good enough to have linemen and to have running backs that can run faster than the other team or a quarter back that can throw farther and more accurately than the other team. You have to have a game plan and a strategy to take all of that talent so that you can defeat all of the talent on the other side. That is what I am talking about. You just don't go willy-nilly (although most of us do) into evangelism opportunities. Usually that is what happens. We need think it through. We have all done that. We have blown this 1,000 times as we practice. Each time you get involved with a discussion with an unbeliever you learn a little bit more. So we are talking about the strategy for utilizing the evidence and how you talk with an unbeliever. The unbeliever comes to the table with his set of criterion. He is saying, "According to my human viewpoint pagan world view, this is how I determine truth." You are coming to the table with the Word of God. Are you going to accept his presuppositions about ultimate validation of truth in order to win him to your side of the table? You better not. The problem is that most of us do. A lot of apologetics books ultimately utilize that kind of a strategy. So we have to think about it.
- The key issue in a defense strategy is not to compromise the reality and the integrity of God and His revelation in the way we approach the subject. We don't want to compromise God's integrity, the reality of His existence, and His revelation in the process of communicating the message. Since God is the central and ultimate reality of the Christian faith and the highest authority in the universe, then we can't appeal to some higher authority for proof that God is true. If the Word of God is God's Word, what higher authority can you go to in order to prove it than God Himself? You can't. If you say reason or logic is our authority for proving the validity of God's Word, you have just said that there is something higher than God that I can go to in order to validate this. Or you go to history. What you are saying that there is something in history is that history is neutral and my interpretation of history is neutral. The unbeliever's interpretation of history is just as good as my interpretation of history. Wait a minute. Isn't his interpretation clouded by the fact that he is suppressing the truth in unrighteousness? Romans 1:19 Sure it is. So he is distorting the facts. That is another issue. What is a fact and how do you define what a fact is? So if God is the ultimate reality of Christianity and the highest authority in the universe, then we can't appeal to some higher authority for either proof of His existence or the veracity of His Word. And if you start appealing to something else as that which ultimately proves God's existence. Oh! I have a rational argument for the existence of God – wait a minute - you are saying that reason proves God. Does reason exist autonomously and independently from the omniscience of God? No, it doesn't. It's God's thinking that defines reality. So we have to be careful because it is easy to start answering the questions. Charlie is the first one to teach me this. You can't answer a fool according to his folly. That is what Proverbs says. The way they ask the question and the way they phrase the questions predetermines where the conversation is going to go. The next thing you know you are in trouble. It is the old question of "have you quit beating your wife yet?" However you answer the question you are in trouble.
- Since in the interchange and the conversation with the unbeliever, the issue is how do you know what is right and true in a field of competing religious claims and philosophical positions? You have to be careful. How do you determine truth? What is your criterion for determining truth? There is true and there is True. How do you determine truth? What is that umbrella up there that is the ultimate umbrella beyond which there is nothing? Is it God? It is logic? Is it empiricism? Or is it mysticism, how you feel? How do you know it is true? "Well, it resonated with me. I heard a pastor teach on this subject and I knew it was right." Did you look at the Scripture? Did you exegete the passages? Did you look at what he said? No? Then you can't rely on your heebie-geebie liver quiver to figure out that it is right. You've got to look at the text. I have seen so many people come along and they say, "Well, I have always heard this doctrine taught. It fits my experience." You have become experiential now. You are as bad as any human viewpoint pagan out there. Revelation isn't your ultimate authority because you didn't say, "Do the passages that this person cited support what he is saying?" It's not easy to do. It is hard to do for me. It's harder for you. I remember when I was going through Dallas Seminary. You are in seminary and you are trying to figure all of this stuff out. You know generally what is right, but you are trying to figure out all of the details. We had to take a course in pastoral psychology and counseling (Boy that was fun.) with Frank Meyer and Minrith. They have really gone on to be famous. You can go to a Minrith-Meyer clinic in Houston, Little Rock, Austin, or Dallas. They are all over the country. Everybody falls in love with them because Minrith and Meyer are Christians and they taught at Dallas Seminary. They must be right, right? These guys biblical training was in a navigator discipleship course. All they did human viewpoint psychology that they rewrapped in Christian terminology and patched a bunch of Bible verses on there. But if you started going in there and exegiting every one of their proof texts in light of the context and original language, it wouldn't document 80% of what they said. A lot of Christians think that because a Bible verse there it must be right. That must be what the text says. These guys didn't know Greek from Latin. When we have truth claims the ultimate authority is the Word of God. We can't compromise by something else.
- God is all powerful. He is an omnipotent God. He is the God who spoke into reality the creation that we see and everything in it including the way we think and the way we categorize. Everything about our mentality God created. He created it the way He did so that He could communicate to us. He created us in such a way that He could communicate to us. Furthermore because God is the one who created everything the way it is, things are what they are because God made it that way. A tree isn't a tree because we have gone out and this is a product of chance or it just happens to grow that way or that trees function in a certain way because that is the way it is. They function that way because God made them that way. A tree is a tree because God said, "This is a tree. This is how a tree is going to function. This is how a tree is going to operate. I am going to set the boundaries called kinds in Genesis 1 so that when you talk about a tree everybody knows you are talking about a tree and not a dog." So your very language presupposes those absolute kinds that the Scripture talks about. God is omnipotent. He created the creation. Things are what they are because He says so. Morals are what they are. Right and wrong is what it is because of God's character and God's revelation, not because of consensus and not because of culture.
- God is omnipotent because He is the absolute creator and possesses all authority. His authority is self-attesting. When God speaks people know it is God. It contains an inherent authority. God made us in such a way so that brain receptor that we have knows Truth from God when it hears it. The trouble is after Genesis 3 carnality gets in the way and clouds up the way men think. On top of that in negative volition they want to suppress the truth in unrighteousness. I told you I could go to midnight. Just hang in there.
- The character of His revelation what He speaks therefore affirms the starting point that the recognition of God contains a self-attesting verification. We know it. We are made that way. To suggest that there is another authority that we can go to in order to validate God puts man in the non-biblical position of being the truth determiner. This is what Eve did. The serpent came along as said, "If you eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, you are going to die? Is that true?" All of a sudden she had to judge God. How is she going to do it? By Experience? Rationalism? "Ah, I am going to do it by experience. Let me eat it." What happened? Everything dominoed from there. She put herself first and foremost in a position to judge God by an independent higher authority
- As Christians we begin with the assumption and we must begin with the assumption that God's Word is the final authority and therefore it is God's Word that stands in judgment of all other philosophical positions and religious claims. Everything has to come under the authority of God's Word. The practical reality of all of this (I am helping you think through the thought methodology, the intellectual background of this.) is really beneficial. We talked about this last time in terms of evangelism because it gives you greater confidence in starting with the Word of God and knowing that this is what God's Word says and not having to figure out (sometimes it is nice to know) what everybody else believes - what the Muslims believe and what the Jews believe and all of this is helpful. But we know that they already know that God exists. That's the key.
- Ultimately the problem of man is not rational. When you appeal to some rational point, what are you saying? You are saying that the reason that you are not buying the gospel is because you've got a cog lose in your logic machine. If I can just point out to you how to straighten out your logic machine then you will trust Christ. If you are appealing to history or empiricism what you are basically saying is, "You are missing the right piece of data from history or experience. If I can plug that in so that you understand that Christ rose from the dead then you will believe in Christ." The only reason that you don't believe in Christ is that you just don't have the right piece of data or the right kind of logic. But what the Bible says is the reason that you are not believing in Christ is because you are a sinner. You are fallen. The problem isn't rational. The problem isn't experiential. The problem is a spiritual problem. You are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. You already know that God exists. Romans 1:18-9 You already know the truth. It is not that you are missing data. You don't like the data. What our job is to present the data without compromising it in the process. It doesn't mean that they'll accept it. We have to make sure we do a right thing in a right way. That is why we have the Holy Spirit who cuts through all of this.
Now that is the build up. Now I want to talk about CS Lewis. See, I told you we were running out of time. We need to look at this in a little more detail. Those of you who haven't seen "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" you can go watch it. What I say next week may make a little more sense. Since a whole week will go by and this isn't something that you will think about every day, I will have t review about 90% of what I covered tonight so it will get us right back to this point. Then we will get into it but I will do it a lot faster because it won't be as new and as fresh.
This is great stuff. I just love it. Let's bow our heads in closing prayer.