Thursday, August 23, 2012

Helmet of Salvation

This post is a shout-out for all those headed off to me.  It's that time of year, and this Saturday, I'll be going off to college in another state.  So where do I have time to write a blog post?  Uh, I'm not sure, so appreciate this! ;)
However, I do want to make it clear that this is really applicable to everybody, even though I'm talking college-ish things since that's what's on my mind, we need to use the helmet of salvation in high school, (and elementary and middle school, come to think of it!), in the work place, with friends, even in church.
Your mind is a battleground, and college is the place with the armory, war supplies, and enemy's opportunity.  Going to college means you are entering a place where there are countless different ideas, philosophies and worldviews that will have to be contended with.  Even at a Bible college, or Christian university, you will have to contend with different interpretations of Scripture, and the mentalities and assumptions of the professors and students.
A few weeks ago at a prayer thing at Nationals where lots of people prayed protection over last year quizzers, two godly women were praying for me, and when they were done they each mentioned something similar.  "The WORD," the one lady said emphatically.  "You must filter everything through the Word."  And I thought, "Okay, yeah, sure, of course I will."  The other lady was praying for me to be equipped with the full armor of God, particularly the helmet of salvation, and when she was done, she reminded me that my beliefs would be tested at college, and to keep the simple faith of a child in regard to God.
That's what triggered these thoughts and got me thinking.  Now I am very fortunate, considering what college I'm attending.  It is a small Christian college, with not very many students, but the ones who are there are generally committed Christians.  However, I'm not naive enough to believe that I won't have to protect my mind.  There will be struggles, even in simply being far away from home and on my own, which I've never had to deal with before.
But how?  How do I equip myself with the helmet of salvation?  When someone sounds and seems smarter than you, and can make their case so eloquently and convincingly, even if it's wrong--how is a person supposed to protect their mind from that?  From the little bits of falsehood that are mingled in with truth?
We were doing a Bible study on Proverbs 12, and the verses jumped out at me in a different way.  Somebody read Proverbs 12:5:

  "The thoughts of the righteous are right: but the counsels of the wicked are deceit."
and when I asked them to explain it, they said, "Well, it seems pretty simple and self-explanatory."  And when he said that, I said, "You really is simple!"  A theme that seemed to keep emerging from that chapter is to just do what you know is right, regardless of what others think, or the cousels of the wicked, or your own desires, and God will take care of you.  A couple verse that relate to this idea are:

Pro 12:3 A man shall not be established by wickedness: but the root of the righteous shll not be moved.

Pro 12:26 The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour: but the way of the wicked seduceth them.

Pro 12:28 In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death.

If we know what is good and righteous, we need to commit to that and God will worry about the rest.  The counsels of the wicked may be deceitful, and sound nice, and sound right, but that doesn't matter if it ISN'T right.  The devil transforms himself into an angel of light and that's why we need to be careful, but if we're keeping our eyes on Jesus, and following Him and His righteouness, then our root will never be moved.
The other verse that came to my mind was 2 Corinthians 11:3.

2Co 11:2-3

For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (3) But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
Paul was writing in his concern that just as the serpent had beguiled or tricked Eve through his subtility and sneakiness, our minds could be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.  I love that he calls it the simplicity that is in Christ.  I firmly believe we do not have to have everything figured out.  All we need to do is follow Christ.  We may not know all about textual criticism, and the Masoretic text, and the Septuagint, and hermeneutics, and all that...but there is a simplicity in Christ that we can follow, and that's what I encourage you to do at college.  Continue growing in Christ.  Put yourselves under godly authorities that can help you to grow, and just do what's right.  The philosophies and wrong ideas and all that will fade away, but God's word will not pass away.  Two sections of Scripture may be helpful in thinking about that, as you go off to college, or high school, or the work place or wherever...
Eph 4:11-16 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (12) For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (13) Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (14) That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (15) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (16) From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
That's what the church is for.  It can help you to grow in Christ, and not be tossed about by every wind of doctrine.  But the main thing to remember is in this next portion of Scripture:
 Col 2:1-12 For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; (2) That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; (3) In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (4) And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. (5) For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. (6) As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: (7) Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. (8) Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (9) For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (10) And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: (11) In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: (12) Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
I know that's a huge portion of Scripture, but I wanted to include it all for you to look at and digest and mull over.  The main point, though, of course, is that we are complete in him is hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  Follow Christ and do what's right, and even if someone sounds smart, remember that if it's morally wrong, they are being deceitful, and will be overthrown.  Just focus on doing what's right.
I tried to use this example in my youth group the other night, and I don't know that it made sense to anybody but me, but maybe there are some fellow Narnia-lovers reading this.  If not, just stop reading where I left off with the Scriptures in Colossians haha.  But a scene in "The Silver Chair" by C.S. Lewis stuck out to me, in relation to this topic.  Two kids are sent by Aslan into Narnia to look for the lost prince who is held in this enchantment by an evil enchantress.  But when they get down there to set him free, and he's finally in his right mind, remembering who he is and about Narnia, the enchantress begins working an enchantment on all of them.  She has been holding the prince in a cavern under the ground, where you can't see the sky or the sun.  And every time they mention something like Narnia, the sun, or even Aslan, she begins questioning them about whether or not it's even real.  "What is this sun you speak of?" she asks. "Do you mean anything by the word?"
"Yes, we jolly well do!" one of the kids responds.  (Which I just had to throw in there because he said 'jolly well'...I think I'm going to begin using that phrase more often.)
"Can you tell me what it's like?" asked the Witch.
"Please it your Grace," said the Prince, very coldly and politely.  "You see that lamp.  It is round and yellow and gives light to the whole room; and hangeth moreover from the roof.  Now that thing which we call the sun is like the lamp, only far greater and brighter.  It giveth light to the whole Overworld and hangeth in the sky."
"Hangeth from what, my lord?" asked the Witch; and then, while they were all thinking how to answer her, she added, with another of her soft, silver laughs: "You see?  When you try to think out clearly what this sun must be, you cannot tell me.  You can only tell me it is like the lamp.  Your sun is a dream; and there is nothing in that dream that was not copied from the lamp.  The lamp is the real thing; the sun is but a tale, a children's story."
Now the reason I bring this story up, is because as we read it, we know, of course that there's a sun.  And we're rooting for the children and the Marshwiggle and the Prince to pull out of the Witch's spell and remember it!  But for some reason, the enchantress's words seem to make so much sense, down there in her dark world, under the influence of her music and the smell of the incense burning by the fire in the room.  They can't seem to find the words to explain themselves.  And many times, it seems like that's how we are.  Maybe the person we're talking to isn't even trying to deceive us, but they've never experienced what we have.  How would you explain light to someone who's never seen or experienced it?  You almost have to know and experience it for yourself.  And so they, with eloquent explanations, and logical-sounding rationalizations, demonstrate to you with their words that there is nothing more than their world that they've experienced.  What they know is the real world.  What you believe is only made up, copied from their real world.  Everything has a very natural explanation.  And it's hard when we can't find the words to explain ourselves.
The story in the Silver Chair continues and the Witch does the same thing when they bring up Aslan.  She tells them there are no such things as lions.  They've only imagined this thing they call a lion from what are really cats.  They are about to fall completely sway to the enchantment, when Puddleglum stamps out the witch's fire, which the enchanting smell is coming from and burns his foot.  The pain clears his mind a little and he tells the witch, "One word, Ma'am.  One word.  All you've been saying is quite right, I shouldn't wonder.  I'm a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it.  So I won't deny any of what you've said.  But there's one more thing to be said, even so.  Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things--trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself.  Suppose we have.  Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones.  Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world.  Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one....That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world.  I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it.  So thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we're leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland."
The witch was trying to tell them by fancy words and explanations that the world they'd experienced wasn't true.  And they couldn't find the words to defend themselves, because their minds were muddled since they were on the enchantress's territory.  But because Puddleglum was committed to do the right thing, and he knew it was still right and virtuous, regardless of what she said, they were able to overcome the enchantment and escape.  That's what we need to do.  Be committed to what is right and virtuous, and keep our minds on Jesus so we don't get distracted by the hollow philosophies of empty deceit.  Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.  Pray for me as I go off into the world and try to implement this, and stay strong for Christ yourself.....and I hope that example wasn't too weird and made a little sense.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Yellow Dress/White Truck Principle

I've been told that my blog posts are too long, and I need to start making them shorter so people have time to actually read them.  So in keeping with that charge, this will be shorter than my usual essays that I put out.  And I suppose it makes sense to post in smaller chunks, because I don't have time to write super long didactic messages, and you don't have time to read them.
I thought I would share with you a concept my sister so beautifully illustrated after a recent Bible study.  It's a very useful tool, and something to keep in mind.
A lot of times people see what they want to see in the Bible, and they keep seeing things that relate to whatever it is that they are thinking of.  My sister noticed this when every example she was giving in the Bible study had to do with the National Bible Quizzing Tournament, because that is what she was thinking about.  And she related it to something that had happened at a conference she had recently attended...
A friend of hers was wearing a bright yellow dress, and noticed somebody else wearing the same color.  Then she said, "Hey, a lot of people are wearing yellow today!" and began counting all the people wearing yellow.  But, as my sister so aptly pointed out, she honestly probably could have done the same with any color.  It's just that yellow stood out to her because that's what she was wearing.  But if she had been wearing green, she might have noticed all the people wearing green, and so on, and so forth.
The same concept applies when you buy a new car.  You may think you are getting a unique white truck, which is one of the newest models, and you can't remember ever seeing a white truck like yours before.  But as soon as you get on the road, you begin noticing how many white trucks there are out there exactly like yours.  You didn't notice before, because you weren't watching for it, but once you got a white truck, they began standing out to you.
People do the same thing when reading the Bible.  The thing that they're focusing on or dealing with in their life is what sticks out to them in Bible study.  A friend of mine had to teach a Bible study on Proverbs 7, and thereafter, for the next several Bible studies, it seemed like everything that was said reminded him in some way of what he had learned by studying then teaching Proverbs 7.
But it's also something to watch out for.  We can often see ONLY what we want to in the Bible, without letting it speak for itself, like it should.  I find this to be true, especially if I'm debating a topic with someone.  If I've been talking with someone about predestination or baptism or God being one, or whichever topic I'm currently debating, EVERYTHING I read in the Bible seems to relate to that issue somehow.  I'm constantly looking for verses I can use against the other person in that subject.  The trouble is that means I have the capacity to pull verses out of context.  You'll see others do the same thing, particularly in group Bible studies.  If they have a point they want to prove, even if the verse isn't even talking about that subject at all, they'll find a way to relate the verse to that subject.
The trouble when we approach the Bible that way, we may miss what God wants to teach us.  I recently saw an example of this in a book I'm reading called "The Spanish Brothers".  It's set during the Spanish Inquisition, and is, of course, about two Spanish brothers who are reading the New Testament in their own language on their own, even though the Church strictly forbids that, and calls this new movement of Christians heretics.  One brother is captured, the one who is more solid in his faith, and inadvertently leaves his Spanish New Testament with his brother who is out of town at the time of his arrest.  The brother gets back and tries everything he can to set his brother at liberty but to no avail.  Understandably, a bitterness and anger towards the inquisitors and priests and government officials who have captured his brother begins to well in his heart.  But listen to this paragraph about what happens as he reads the Word of God, as a result:
"Gradually a strange alteration appeared to come over the little book he constantly studied--his brother's Spanish Testament.  The words of promise, and hope, and comfort, in which he used to delight, seemed to be blotted from its pages; while ever more and more those pages were filled with fearful threatenings and denunciations of doom--against hypocritical scribes and Pharisees, false teachers and wicked high priests--against great Babylon, the mother of abominations.  The peace-breathing, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," grew fainter and more faint, until at last it faded completely from his memory; while there stood out before him night and day, in characters of fire, "Serpents, generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?"
We need to be careful to let God teach us His heart and what He wants us to see through His Word, rather than reading into it what we want to see.  There's nothing wrong with verses standing out to us that apply to things in our lives that we're going through at the fact, that's the way that God intended for it to happen!  The problem is when we use the Bible as a means to further our own agenda or justify our lifestyle.  Let God show us what He wants us to see in His heart and ours, and we will be blessed as we study His Word!  Hope this little study tip helps you in some way!  (This one's for free.)   As a final note, remember these words of James:
James 1:21-25Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. (22) But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (23) For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: (24) For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. (25) But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
(Psst!  Hey, how was that for shorter?  A little better, huh?  Oh well...I'm working on it.)