Spirit and Truth

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Due to the mass inclusion of scripture in this blog post, please refer to the bulleted points as signposts to what the scriptures say, but not as an overriding authority. Use these signposts merely as conversation starters in your mind, and use the scriptures as your basis for argument and discussion, but most of all edification.

Bold Text Key
Green Text – relates to, or is, main Scripture (Mark 12:30-31)
Red Text – basis for argument and discussion
Black Text – to highlight text needing to be read
in conjunction with Green text and Red Text

OPENING PRAYER

• My prayer for this blog post would be that you would read the Word of God and be edified by it, growing in wisdom and understanding as I have done when studying the Word.

MARK 12:30-31 NKJV – THE TWO GREAT COMMANDMENTS

• The main scripture we will be looking at today is Mark 12:30-31, which reads as follows:

30And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark‬ ‭12:30‬-31 ‭NKJV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

• So, what does it mean to love the Lord your God with all of those things, and to love your neighbour as you love yourself?

MARK 12:28-34 NKJV – THE SCRIBES: WHICH IS THE FIRST COMMANDMENT?

28Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” 29Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. 30And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But after that no one dared question Him. – Mark‬ ‭12:28-34‬ ‭NKJV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

• Well, in Mark 12:33 a scribe came to speak with Jesus. The scribe said that loving the Lord your God with all your heart, with all understanding, with all the soul, with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.

• When Jesus saw that the scribe had answered wisely, He said to him, You are not far from the kingdom of God (v34).

•  Let’s just sit back for a moment and think about this, how can two commandments be more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices? This is something God’s Word will provide an answer to later on.

Continue reading

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True Worship

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What are The Fruits of the Spirit? Well, Galatians 5:22-23 says the fruits of The Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, but do any of these fruits account for the state of laziness or complacency? No? Then why do some of us allow ourselves to fall into this trap? I do not ask this question out of any kind of condemnation, I am merely asking a rhetorical question to which I believe I have an answer for. Like 2 Corinthians 1:24 says, I am not trying to dictate to you what you must believe, I am rather trying to work with you for your own happiness, but in order for me to do this you need to hear what I am going to say, and to accept it or reject it.

The choice is up to you…

Now sometimes as Christians, we can arrive at a point of complacency, a place where we limit God’s Spirit to our own standards. One of the Fruits of The Spirit mentioned above is ‘peace’, and this peace is capable of producing a level of tranquillity unlike anything we have ever experienced before. It allows us to bask in God’s abundant love, and in addition, humbly hear His Word. The only problem that arises from this fruit, as well as the others, are the standards we impose upon them. For instance, when we choose to build our lives around a single aspect of the Spirit, we knowingly or unknowingly idolise the fruit as a single entity, thus cutting ourselves off from the other aspects of the Spirit, and in turn God.

Worship can sometimes be an example of this. I can recall a time when I was at a one-week Christian leadership conference, and throughout the course of the week the worship band was gradually building up to an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the last night. Though this was exciting, it led me to think as to why we didn’t have an outpouring ever day. I could understand that the band maybe wanted to respect the sensitivity of the audience, but on the other hand, this was a conference for Christian leaders who depended on the Holy Spirit for guidance in their respective roles.

As I pondered to myself why the band might have led in such a way. The only answers that came to me were a) that the band had grown more confident in their own ability as the week went on b) that the band had been appealing to the audience and c) that is was a combination of both. If this was the case and the band had grown more confident as the week went on this would be truly concerning for a leadership conference. After all, does Psalm 56:3 not say that whenever we are afraid, we must put our trust in God? For He is our refuge and strengtha very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

Now by putting our faith, hope and trust in God that does not mean that we cannot trust our Christian brothers or sisters. It simply means that God wants us to set Him above all things. Firstly, because He made us, secondly, he owns us, but most of all He loves and cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). He does not want our actions or the actions of others to directly govern our lives, or, faith in Him.

As a result, we are not to put our faith, or in this instance, confidence, in people (Psalm 146:3), but only in God. It makes no sense to do so. God is infinitely greater than any other human being that has ever existed on the face of the earth (obviously this excluded Jesus because He was God), and so why would we look to ourselves independent of the Holy Spirit when looking for spiritual leadership and guidance?

Galatians 5:16-26 can definitely shed some light on this issue within the Church. From this passage we learn that God’s Spirit must control our lives so as not to leave us with the desires of the flesh. In doing so the Spirit conquers the flesh. It does not, however, accept co-rule over the body. God’s Spirit cannot work with the flesh, for the desires and acts of the flesh warrant death, but God’s Spirit warrants true life and not an imitation of it. It also satisfies us in a way that the flesh will never be able to do, whilst also leading us in the direction God would have us walk.

In reference to the example I mentioned earlier, this is what seemed to be the case with the worship band. They had lost confidence in the Spirit and instead relied on their own efforts to worship God. I suppose it could have been out of fear, resulting in a lack of confidence in God to overwhelm anyone with the Holy Spirit, and if this were true it would contradict 2 Timothy 1:7 which states that God did not give us a Spirit of fear, but a Spirit of power, love, and sound mind. Now, I believe that worship is a pure expression and/or confession of praise and adoration that provokes emotions such as these:

“ My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise. Awake, my glory! Awake, lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations. 10 For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, And Your truth unto the clouds. 11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; Let Your glory be above all the earth.” – Psalm 57:7-11 New King James Version

Psalm 57 is a psalm written by David after he had fled from Saul in a cave, the psalm begins with what I would imagine to be a very anxious David making a plea to God for help, but the remaining part of the psalm ends contrary to public opinion with David praising God, but pay attention to the words that are highlighted above.

How does David worship?

Well,

  1. He repeats the statement that his heart is steadfast.
  2. He says he will sing and give praise to God.
  3. He asks God to awake his glory.
  4. He asks God to awake his lute and harp.
  5. And he tells God he will awaken the dawn.

These are five very strong and powerful statements made by David, but the order in which they are stated plays a significant role. By first stating that his heart is steadfast in God, twice, he puts his trust in Him alone first. He then goes on to say that he will sing and give praise to Him. Hebrews 11:1 says “…faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

David certainly lived up to this scripture, his faith gave him confidence, and with that hope. Without these two things he would not be able to sing and praise God without constraint. His relationship with God also allowed him to be relaxed, and peaceful in highly stressful situations. Toward the end of verse 8, David said he would awaken the dawn. To ignore this statement is to ignore the workings of God through David, for God’s presence in David’s life was stronger than most Christians today. God’s Spirit was the driving force for David’s life and he depended on it to be able to worship God. Worship by definition is an open expression and response to God’s unrelenting faithfulness in humanity, but how often do we forget this? Sometimes I think we take Christ’s sacrifice too lightly in our lives.

Too often we think worship is about us, we limit God’s immeasurable power and start to form patterns and structures of our own, forgetting what worship is, how it should be done, why it should be done, and ultimately who is in charge, but like I said before, worship is an open expression and response to God’s unrelenting faithfulness. It is something we cannot help but do because all the glory belongs to Him. In another Psalm, David says to God 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvellous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.” (Psalm 139:14) Does this sound like the words of a man who is claiming glory for himself? Of course not.

However, let us go back to the worship band that I mentioned earlier on. Now when the band had been gradually building up to an out-pouring of the Holy Spirit, I made two assumptions a) that the band might have been growing more confident as the week went on and b) that the band might have been trying to appeal to the majority of the audience. Now as was mentioned before, in 2 Timothy 1:7 Paul writes an encouraging letter to Timothy telling him that God did not give us a Spirit of fear, but a Spirit of power, love, and sound mind. Paul’s reason for writing this letter was likely to be because of a lack of faith and/or fear on Timothy’s part in the Spirit God had given him. This fear would have been similar if not the same to that of the worship band, but if we are to be truly free, as Christ intended (Galatians 5:1), there is no room for any kind of doubt or hesitation.It is true that we will never fully understand how God works on earth, but that does not stop us appreciating what He has done and continues to do. Jesus said that it was impossible for men to save themselves, and that only through God were all things made possible (Matthew 19:26). The same can be said of worship.

Conclusions

  1. Let God’s Spirit control EVERY aspect of your life
  2. Trust Him alone above all others
  3. Cast all your fears on Him in prayer
  4. Praise Him with every fibre of your being

Christians should not get TATTOOS… or should they? (Part 1 of 3)

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PART 1

A Critique of Leviticus 19:28

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. – Proverbs 27:17 KJV

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. – Proverbs 13:20 KJV

A good friend will not always agree with you and support your beliefs. Instead, a good friend will always challenge your thoughts, ideas and beliefs to make your thoughts clearer, your ideas better and your beliefs stronger. I would like to dedicate this blog to a dear friend of mine from college. Without his friendship, debate and discussion I would not be writing this blog today.


Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD. – Leviticus 19:28 KJV

Leviticus 19:28 is commonly used by Christians to show God’s disapproval of tattooing in general. Though the KJV (King James Version) does not use the word “tattoo” anywhere within its translation, other translations such as the NIV (New International Version), NKJV (New King James Version), ESV (English Standard Version), NASB (New American Standard Bible) and the NLT (New Living Translation) do include it.

Interestingly, the word “tattoo” did not enter the into the English language until the late 1700s, which is why the KJV (written in the early 1600s) is closer to the literal translation stating, “Ye shall not… …print any marks upon you” (Leviticus 19:28 KJV). Further still, in the KJV the word “marks” also has an uncertain root.

Bearing this in mind, one could postulate that the prohibition of tattooing for a Christian (based on Leviticus 19:28) is an argument made from silence. However, if one were to define tattooing within the parameters of Leviticus 19:28, one would first need to meet the criteria with regard to its context. Arguably, this is hardly ever done. So often as Christians we cherry pick a verse to suit our own agenda, and subsequently remove it from its original context. Leviticus 19:28 is often used in this way, as well as 1 Corinthians 3:16 (which I’ll be speaking on in a subsequent blog). The problem with treating God’s Word like this, deliberately or mistakenly, is that it waters down the truth and as a consequence makes partial truths. Especially if additional verses are wilfully or ignorantly left out of the argument, that would otherwise challenge or change the outcome.

That being said, let’s look at Leviticus 19:28 in context. To start with, the NKJV gives Leviticus 19 the sub-heading ‘Moral and Ceremonial Laws’, which is an apt and appropriate title. Jay P. Green, Sr. (General Editor and Translator of The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-Greek-English (TIB)) also provides a literal translation of the verse which reads as follows:

And you shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead; and you shall not put on yourself any writing or mark; I am Jehovah. – Leviticus 19:28 TIB

The first part of verse 28 does not differ significantly from the KJV, and as we read it we find that the Israelites were not allowed to “make any cuttings in [their] flesh for the dead”. Now, if one were to define tattooing by this part of the verse alone it would have to meet the criteria of one cutting themselves, but more importantly, for the dead. On the whole, some tattoos do fall under this category, especially when a person wants to commemorate the loss of a friend or family member, but in reference to this citation of scripture, God’s Word is not actually referring to tattooing in this way or tattooing whatsoever. It is instead referring to what we would call self-harming today, but in the context of losing a loved one. Although, if one were adamant enough to argue for the prohibition of tattooing on the basis, one could hardly argue its case in light of the fact that this part of the verse scarcely contains the scope, with which, it would need to carry out such a prohibition.

However, the second part of this verse does differ, somewhat, from the KJV. Where the KJV states that the Israelites were not to “print any marks upon [themselves]”, the TIB further clarifies that they were not to “put on [themselves] any writing or mark”. “Mark” (TIB) or “marks” (KJV) has an uncertain root as was mentioned earlier, but “writing” (TIB) does translate in The New Strong’s Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words (TNS) as “an incision or gash”.

Again, if we were to define tattooing by this part of the verse alone it would have to meet the following criteria. Said person would need to have writing on themselves meeting the description of an incision or gash, but the uncertainty surrounding the words “marks” (KJV) or “mark” (TIB) renders them inactive, and therefore unusable. However, the remainder of this part of the verse does give one the biblical precedence and prowess needed to prohibit the act of tattooing, not to mention other practises including incisions or gashes.

Well, at least this would be the case if parts 1 and 2 of verse 28 formed two separate sentences, but even though we have critically examined this verse in two (out of three) parts, when put together they do in fact form one sentence. This is also consistent with other English Bible translations, and even though the wording of the text differs from one translation to another, parts 1 and 2 of the verse are never separated with a full stop, but are in fact always united with a coma or semicolon (to indicate a pause or more pronounced pause between parts of a sentence, or for separating items in a list), a colon (used to precede a list of items, a quotation, or an expansion or explanation), or no punctuation mark at all.

As a result, the different meanings that can be drawn out of this verse when separating certain aspects, are in fact done away with when viewing the verse as a whole. That is not to say that what was found is irrelevant. It simply means that what was found finds its true meaning when united with the other aspects of the same verse. For instance, part 2’s broadness in reference to “[putting] on yourself any writing” (TIB) is confined to the context shown in part 1 when referring to the cutting of “flesh for the dead”. It should therefore not be divorced from part 1 and redefined in such a way as to bring about an entirely new meaning.

In conclusion (and after much study), Leviticus 19:28 can be clearly seen not to be prohibiting tattooing.


Points to remember

  1. The word “tattoo” did not enter the into the English language until the late 1700s.
  2. “Mark” (TIB) or “marks” (KJV) has an uncertain root.
  3. Don’t cherry pick Bible verses to suit your own agenda.
  4. In the NKJV the sub-heading for Leviticus 19 is ‘Moral and Ceremonial Laws’.
  5. The beginning of Leviticus 19:28 refers to what we would call self-harming today (in the context of losing a loved one), and not tattooing.
  6. Leviticus 19:28 fails to address tattooing let alone prohibit it.

NEXT BLOG:

 

PART 2

A History of Tattoos… A History of Markings.