Avoid Deception – Read the Word Purposefully

The Galatians were deceived by the Judaizers. Instead of continuing to follow God’s Word, they allowed a group of people to convince them they needed to add something to God’s Word regarding salvation in order to experience salvation. The Judaizers told them salvation wasn’t found in Jesus alone. Rather it was found in Jesus plus works. In this instance, it was the work of circumcision.

Paul is shocked they would submit themselves to the law. He lets them know in his letter to them.

What contributed to their deception?

One reason the Galatians were deceived by the Judaizers was their inability to listen to the Law.

“I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?” (Ga 4:20–21)

What does it mean to “listen to the Law”? Why is it important we listen to the Law?

BDAG Defines it as:

to hear and understand a message, understand

Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), p. 38

Listening to or hearing the Law implies more than hearing it read aloud or preached. It implies understanding the message the text is attempting to convey.

The Galatians Misunderstanding and Paul’s Clarification

The Galatians did not understand the message of the OT Law, namely, one cannot earn salvation through works. Over and over again the Law points to our inability to keep the Law to gain salvation. Incase the Galatians did not understand the laws application, Paul makes it clear in chapter 5:

“Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” (Ga 5:2–4)

It is important we listen to the Law, it tells us we cannot keep it and we need a Savior, so that we are not “obligated to keep the whole law” and end up “severed from Christ”.

The Law cannot justify us. Only Christ can provide justification through His work on our behalf.

How can we be better listeners to the Law ourselves?

Work on being better Bible readers

(1) Association – Find a way to associate the text to an experience you have had in the past, or something you are going through right now.

(2) Pray for Understanding – Before you read, pray the Lord would open the text up to you.

(3) Pray the Text – After you read, pray through the text. Praying the text isn’t rocket science. Start with the first verse you read and pray whatever comes to mind. When you have milked that verse dry, move on to the next, and then the next, until you have prayed all the verses you read. If you want further ideas and reasons why praying the text is helpful, Donald Whitney has written an excellent book Praying the Bible, which I highly recommend.

(4) Meditate on the Text – If all you do is read a chapter, close your Bible, and go about your day, chances are you aren’t going to remember much of what you read, which means you probably aren’t going to apply much of what you have read to your life. In comes meditation. By meditation, I don’t mean sitting with your legs crossed, arms out, palms up, trying to clear your mind. I have in mind just the opposite. Instead of trying to clear your mind, you should fill your mind with the text. There are several ways to do that:

  • Think through the key words in the text.
  • Write out the text.
  • Journal the text.
  • Memorize a key verse(s).
  • Visualize the text by drawing it (probably more for you artsy types).
  • Think of how the text applies to your life, your family, or your community.
  • Formulate the main idea of the text. Think about what the text is telling you is true, and then ask what you should do, think, or believe based on that truth.
  • Ask yourself how the text points to Jesus.

By employing these tips, you should be able to read the Bible in a way that allows you to hear what God’s Word is saying.

Understand the purpose of the Law

The Law points to Jesus.

How does the Law point to Jesus?

  • The Law also shows us we cannot keep the Law – The continual sacrifices are meant to show us that we are incapable of keeping the Law. That in and of ourselves, we would remain under God’s judgment.
  • The Law shows us we need a substitute – We don’t atone (make right) for our own sin. In the OT Law an animal is sacrificed in our place. The sacrificial animal is meant to point to another sacrifice to come.
  • The Law points to Jesus through its ineffective nature – Sacrifices have to continually be made. The sacrifices are not sufficient to provide us with salvation from God’s wrath.

Conclusion

If we want to keep ourselves and others from being deceived by faith teachers, we must be students of the Word reading it for all it offers. We cannot pick and choose which verses to read, nor can we read it in isolation from the other texts in Scripture. Rather, we must read it in context and in a faithful manner.

Praise and pray to the Lord alongside Solomon

After Solomon built the temple to the Lord, he prayed the following prayer of dedication. I as I read the text this morning, his prayer struck me. As you read through it, notice:

  • How he calls upon the Lord to act in regard to God’s own character, how He has revealed Himself throughout Scripture.
  • The promises he asks the Lord to keep.
  • The care of the Lord for His people and the foreigner.
  • How he calls his people to follow the Lord and how we likewise should follow the Lord.

1 Kings 8:22–61 (ESV)

22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven, 23 and said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart; 24 you have kept with your servant David my father what you declared to him. You spoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day. 25 Now therefore, O Lord, God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father what you have promised him, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ 26 Now therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you have spoken to your servant David my father.

27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! 28 Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O Lord my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, 29 that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. 30 And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

31 “If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath and comes and swears his oath before your altar in this house, 32 then hear in heaven and act and judge your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing his conduct on his own head, and vindicating the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness.

33 “When your people Israel are defeated before the enemy because they have sinned against you, and if they turn again to you and acknowledge your name and pray and plead with you in this house, 34 then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them again to the land that you gave to their fathers.

35 “When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against you, if they pray toward this place and acknowledge your name and turn from their sin, when you afflict them, 36 then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel, when you teach them the good way in which they should walk, and grant rain upon your land, which you have given to your people as an inheritance.

37 “If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemy besieges them in the land at their gates, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, 38 whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart and stretching out his hands toward this house, 39 then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways (for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind), 40 that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers.

41 “Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name’s sake 42 (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, 43 hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.

44 “If your people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to the Lord toward the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, 45 then hear in heaven their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause.

46 “If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near, 47 yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors, saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ 48 if they repent with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name, 49 then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause 50 and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you, and grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them 51 (for they are your people, and your heritage, which you brought out of Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace). 52 Let your eyes be open to the plea of your servant and to the plea of your people Israel, giving ear to them whenever they call to you. 53 For you separated them from among all the peoples of the earth to be your heritage, as you declared through Moses your servant, when you brought our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord God.”

54 Now as Solomon finished offering all this prayer and plea to the Lord, he arose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had knelt with hands outstretched toward heaven. 55 And he stood and blessed all the assembly of Israel with a loud voice, saying, 56 “Blessed be the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant. 57 The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us, 58 that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers. 59 Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, 60 that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other. 61 Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the Lord our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”

Are you a real man?

““…Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn,” (1 Ki 2:2b–3)

King David gives final instruction to his son, Solomon, before he passes. What David says in these verses is applicable for all men everywhere, not just David’s son.

He tells Solomon a real man follows the Lord. He keeps his ways and statutes, his commandments and rules, his testimonies. Real men don’t blaze their own path. They don’t intimidate others so as to get their own way. They aren’t closed off to the things of God. They don’t stay home while their family attends church. They don’t let mom act as the spiritual leader of the family. Real men follow the Lord.

Culture, even recent modern culture with its focus on changing the way men act, portrays men in a wholly unbiblical way. Either you are a macho masculine man who blazes a path based on strength or you are emasculated so much so that you don’t speak out of turn and celebrate everything the culture says is right and good. But these two paths are not the biblical path.

The biblical path of manhood is meekness (controlled strength) not weakness. It is humility not pride. It is submission to the Lord not ruling in His place. It is love for family not domination. It is justice, equity, mercy and grace. It is care for others. It is self-sacrifice rather than selfishness.

Men, it is no wonder we craft and live by our own rules. Following the Lord is not easy, it is difficult. Nay, it is impossible without Him working in your heart, drawing you to Himself, and constantly changing you through the work of the Spirit.

Men, we show ourselves to be thus by following the Lord. Be a man this week!

Conquer your giants? Or conquer the Giant?

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.”” (1 Sa 17:45–47)

Conquer the “Giants” before you is a common application of the David and Goliath battle. But is that accurate? Is the battle begin David and Goliath teaching us to conquer the “Goliaths” before us?

David’s battle with Goliath is bigger than you and I. It is a cosmic battle between the one true God – Yahweh – and the lifeless gods of this world. It purposes to show God will not be defeated by worldly powers no matter how great they might seem to us. God is the One who is in control and we can trust that to be the case.

Here is how one author puts its:

“Nothing contrasts the value systems of God and the world like the narrative of David and Goliath. This is not about how to take on the “giants” that stand in the way of our dreams. It is about the weak versus the strong, faith versus arrogance, the living God versus lifeless idols. It is ultimately about how God rescues his helpless people through His Spirit-anointed, faith-filled, Serpent-crushing warrior-king.” (Unfolding Grace, 233-34).

The David and Goliath narrative is about more than you and I. It is about more than our troubles. It is about the cosmic struggle between good and evil, God and Satan. It ultimately points us to Christ, who wins victory for us all. Jesus is the better and greater David who crushes the head of the serpent through His sacrificial death on the cross and finally through His victorious return.

Don’t view this as a moral tale to defeat your giants. That is to think too narrowly and selfishly. View this as a cosmic battle that provides you with ultimate victory!

God alone is your Deliverer who deserves your exclusive worship

And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”” (1 Sa 7:3)

To worship the Lord is to forsake the worship of other gods. The Lord tells us in Exodus 20 that He is the One who provides redemption (Exodus 20:2). No other god saved the Israelites from slavery and bondage in Egypt. It was Yahweh alone who freed and saved them from continued bondage and certain death. 

Since God alone provides redemption, we are not to worship any other gods (Exodus 20:3). We are to exclusively worship the Lord. He will not compete for our affections. He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5). Jealous for His own glory because it is His glory that provides us with joy. 

Worship involves giving our whole life to the Lord, not just an hour or two once a week during a worship service. Worship means exclusively looking to the Lord for wisdom and direction. It involves us giving our entire life to the Lord. 

Indeed, He alone is worthy of our worship because He redeems us from slavery and death as well. The slavery of sin and the eternal punishment of death. Through Christ a New Exodus occurs. We are led out of bondage to the promised land of an eternal kingdom with Christ as our God and King. 

Today, if you are to worship the Lord, don’t let anything stand between you and God. Don’t allow any other gods to steal your affections. Don’t allow any idols to come between you and God. Don’t put your trust and hope in earthly things such as wealth, status, career, pleasure, sports, and even family. Yes, even good things can be idols –those things that come between us and God. Instead, turn to the Lord alone, giving Him exclusive worship. For He alone is your Deliverer!

Freedom Occurs when we operate according to God’s Wisdom

The book of Judges ends with the statement: 

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)

The same refrain occurs multiple times throughout the book. Judges is meant to highlight how people operate when there is no one to provide direction. In short, when we operate according to our own wisdom, we not only sin against God, but we sin against others as well.

The book of Judges shows us in vivid detail that the positive talk about our ability to manage / govern self is untrue. When we cast off leadership and operate according to our own wisdom, societal breakdown occurs. The liberty we seek does not happen. The only way we are able to live free product lives that result in wealth, safety, and human flourishing is to agree to and live under a collective rule of law enforced by a non-corrupt government. 

We know, not only from God’s Word, but also from human history, that the greatest amount of flourishing occurs when a societies laws and government most closely resemble God’s wisdom put forth in His Word. When we deviate from God’s Word and His wisdom, we push against the fabric of God’s good design for this world. The resulting rebellion is not freedom but bondage. It is not human flourishing but destruction. 

We know this to be true from our own experience. Most of you reading this post use power tools according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. When you do, your home projects are done safely and with relative ease. The opposite is true when you use a tool in the way in which it has not been designed. You might get away with it a time or two, but sooner or later you are going to get hurt.

Freedom occurs when we operate according to God’s wisdom. Destruction results when we operate according to our own wisdom. Don’t reject God’s wisdom for your own. We know what happens. We know the ending. Turn to the Lord, His Word, His wisdom, and experience the flourishing you desperately desire.