Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Work Relationships – 1 Tim 6:1-2

Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be defamed. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brethren; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these duties. (RSV)
Who Is a Slave?
Was Paul really talking about literal slaves in this passage or was he talking about anyone who is employed by another? The answer has some strong implications for both slaves and employees. Had he used only the word slave, which includes both voluntary and involuntary servitude, then it would be easy to say he was only speaking to people who had signed up to do a job. You might call them contractors today. They have the option of leaving at some point. Those that were born into slavery, captured in war, or sold into slavery for debt usually didn’t have that choice.
God allowed slavery and I don’t know why. However the slavery that He allowed had some definite rules around it. If people followed these rules slavery would not be the cursed condition that it is. It would not have degenerated into what we saw in our own nation where people were treated like cattle with no rights or dignity. 
Ex 21:1-27 specifies some of the conditions surrounding slavery. The first is for Hebrew male slaves who were to be set free after serving six years. It gets messy if a slave had a wife and whether or not the wife was part of the original deal or the wife was a slave that was given to the male while a slave. Depending on these circumstances, the wife might allowed to go free. The male slave could then volunteer to continue as a slave for life to stay with his wife. Wow, that doesn’t sound much better than any other slavery but beneath it is respect for a human being in a world that usually considered slaves as nothing more than property that could be used in any way the owners want.
The passage also would put a stop to sex slaves. It is clear that if someone took a female slave for sex, she was then given the same rights as any wife. There wouldn’t be the possibility of using the woman promiscuously as is done today.
Abuse of slaves that resulted in death would be avenged. In other words, the family of the dead slave had the legal right and responsibility to kill the person who killed the slave. If the slave recovered from the abuse, there was no penalty – ouch – that doesn’t sound too good. However looking at verses 26 and 27 reveals that loss of an eye or tooth meant the slave would gain his freedom. The principle was clear that there were limits and that abuse shown to slaves in our more modern times was not allowed.
So this is the mindset of Jews at the time of Paul and it was the starting point of how Christians would deal with slaves. As a starting point it was better than the rest of the world, but it isn’t where we should end up as we take to heart the rest of Scripture. Unfortunately, many Christians have used these Old Testament Scriptures to condone and enforce slavery as a legal right instead of examining the Word to see what an ideal relationship between people should look like.
The Better Way
In 1 Tim 6:1-2, Eph 6:5, Titus 2:9, and 1 Peter 2:18 we find commands to slaves about the way they should do their work and show respect to their masters. In Eph 6:9 and Col 4:1 we also find that masters are supposed to be treating the slaves in the same way.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28 NASB)
The better way is to consider who each person is in Christ. We are all members of one family and we should treat each other as family members. No one is better than the other. No one can claim another human being is inferior because Jesus died for all which means anyone can become a Christian. Another thing to remember is that we are witnesses of Christ who lives in us. How we behave and our attitudes can detract or attract someone to Christ. That master or employer could come to Christ by our example.
Even if a person isn’t a Christian, how would you treat him if he were? Would you suddenly have to change your behavior or attitude toward someone if she became a Christian? Would your conscience be clear if someone you worked with become a Christian? Certainly some things would change because this person would now be a brother or sister in Christ. He may stop swearing, stealing, lying, and other things. However the way you worked with that person shouldn’t change. You should still be fair, honest, doing a good day’s work as the slave or employee or paying for a good day’s work as the master or employer.
We should obey our earthly masters with fear and respect in sincerity of heart just as we would obey Jesus (Eph 6:5). The key is sincerity of heart. When it comes down to the basics, what is in our hearts comes out in our speech and actions by which we will be judged (Matt 12:34-37). The same applies to masters. If we are in the authority role, then we need to remember that Jesus is over us and He doesn’t show partiality (Eph 6:9).
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Gal 5:14 KJV)
There is simply no getting around the fact that we should love our neighbors. We shouldn’t have to ask who our neighbor is as the lawyer did in Luke 10:29. Lawyers look for loopholes in the law. That is one of their jobs. Jesus closed the loopholes when He preached the Sermon on the Mount, especially in this regard by saying we even need to love our enemies (Matt 5:43). When it comes to the Bible, we shouldn’t be looking for loopholes. We should look for the ways we can obey.
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matt 7:12 ESV)
This is the way to obey the law to love others. This brings us back to slaves and masters. If I’m a master, then I should consider what I would want if I were a slave. I were an employer would I think that my employees would want decent wages, fair treatment, and a good work environment? If I’m working for someone else, do I think they would like an honest day’s work from me, for me to leave company supplies in the office, and respect the boss? Whatever may have transpired in ancient cultures (or even current cultures) can’t trump the golden rule.
Defame God
When we are poor employees or employers, we profane God’s name. Followers of Christ were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26). Later, Paul emphasized that every family in heaven is named after the Father (Eph 3:14-15). Love of each other is one command that we should follow but we also need to love God above all other things. That means that whatever we do should bring honor to His name.
And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, “These are the Lord's people, and yet they had to leave his land.” I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone. (Ezek 36:20-21 NIV)
The nations of Israel and Judah profaned God’s name by their disobedience and they suffered the consequences of exile. It isn’t any different today. When we sin in the way we treat each other or rebel against God’s moral law, people notice. Just as they noticed what happened to the Israelites. They are saying that being a Christian doesn’t help a person lead a godly life and there is no point in Christianity if we act the same or worse than everyone else.
Loving God needs to be a motivating factor in our lives. Why should we love God instead of defaming His name?
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? (1 John 3:16-17 NASU)
The obvious reason is that God loved us and Jesus, who is the exact representation of God (Heb 1:3), died for us. Where would we be headed if Jesus hadn’t done that? We would be headed for hell. Jesus saved us from the punishment we deserve by taking that punishment on Himself. Does that motivate us to love God or not? Does it motivate us to love other by taking care of other who are in need. Does this apply to employee and employer, slave and master relationships? Well, if you think it doesn’t then you have another think coming or you simply don’t have a relationship with Jesus and the Father.
If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? (1 John 4:20 KJV)
Put these last two passages together and it becomes obvious that anyone who does not have a loving relationship with others (husband – wives, parent – children, employees – employers, or neighbors) doesn’t have a relationship with God. It may take some longer than other to work though this, but the first step is to look to Jesus to change your heart by repenting and following Him.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Poor Choices or Evidence of Sin – 1 Tim 5:24-25

The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after. Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed. (NASB)
Some Men
I like the daily devotionals that my wife and I read every day at breakfast. They provide a lot of insight and encouragement. The Daily Bread for 4/11/2013 was centered on how God can make up for times in our lives that were unproductive for the kingdom of God because of our poor choices.[1] As we look at 1 Tim 5:24-25, these poor choices lead to ruined lives that are evident to all. These verses come on the heels of the verse that accommodates the use of wine, yet for most people, alcohol is only a poor choice and for many it is the worst choice they ever made in their lives.

What are poor choices? The previous weekend, Terri and I spent Friday evening and Saturday taking one of a series of Biblical counseling classes at our church. It is taught by Faith Biblical Counseling.[2] In the class, we were told that we should always use biblical terms instead of psychological labels when we counsel anyone. The use of the term poor choice or mistake is a good example of the way the world has redefined the word sin. The consequences of this seemingly innocent change of words are huge.
If I invest money in the stock market, is that a sin? I know some think that is gambling and it does have risks, however the concept isn’t the same as gambling which is based on luck. Instead of depending on luck, you are doing as Jesus suggested to the servant who buried his talent, you are investing your money with the hope of gain (Matt 25:27). However if the stock, bonds, or bank you invested in can be a very bad investment and you can lose your money with some grave consequences. That is a poor choice but it doesn’t have any moral implication that you have sinned.
A mistake is similar. I can add up my checkbook balance and make a mistake. I will suffer the consequence if the mistake causes me to be overdrawn. It usually cost a fee. Once, I made a ten-cent error on my credit card payment and they froze the account. I had to pay the consequences of a mistake, but was that a sin? No, as with making poor choices, there is no moral implication in a mistake and therefore is not the same as a sin.

When we use terms other than the biblical words to describe our sinful actions, we minimize God’s Word and its authority over us. When we say we have make mistakes or poor choices, the moral element of the decisions have been subtly removed so that we don’t need to repent, ask forgiveness, make restitution, or reconcile. We can shrug it off as if it doesn’t matter because it was in the past. While we may learn from mistakes and poor choices and even keep from repeating them, we haven’t seen that there are eternal consequences to sin and that we need to recognize our accountability to God.
What is sin?
The simplest definition of sin is found in Rom 3:23 where is says that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. This assessment comes after Paul summarized mankind’s attitudes and behavior from the Old Testament in Romans 3:9-13. God’s indictment against us includes many things but the bottom line (literally) is that that we don’t fear God. When we don’t fear God, then we don’t seek His way, His advice, His righteous direction, or his kingdom; we are not seeking His glory. At its core, is our own selfishness which turns everything we do into sin.

However, this definition of sin is meant to wake up people who haven’t acknowledged that they are sinners. Its focus is to recognize our sinful hearts and turn to Jesus for forgiveness. When that happens our hearts are changed and we become a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). We now seek God and His glory, but we still sin occasionally. The basic problem is still the same in that we don’t fear God in some area of our lives and we put our desires ahead of His.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14-15 ESV)
Why do we need to use the biblical definition of sin instead of poor choices or mistakes? The reason is that we must correctly assess what is going on in our lives to keep from making those poor choices over and over again. If we call them mistakes or poor choices, then we have not acknowledged that they are a result of desires that have dragged us away from a proper respect (fear) of God and that it is a sin that requires repentance. If we don’t acknowledge that we have sinned against God we don’t have any real hope of being able to change and worse, we are then out of fellowship with God and others.
If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:6-10 KJV)
That verse right in the middle (8) is what is prevalent in our society when we insist that we have only made mistakes or poor choices. We deny that we have sinned and therefore deceive ourselves. Unfortunately, that self-deceit has eternal consequences for those who don’t know Jesus and unproductive and ineffective lives (2 Peter 1:8-9) for those who have surrendered their lives to Jesus.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. (Ps 51:3-4 NIV)
While we most often sin against one another, we also need to realize that even the most grievous sin against our neighbor is ultimately a sin against God. David committed adultery and killed Bathsheba’s husband, yet He recognized that his sin was first against God. He violated the commandments against adultery and murder as well as the omission of loving his neighbor.
Being Found Out
 Sin has a way of being found out in a person’s life. Sometimes, God reveals it to others so that His name isn’t maligned. When David sinned with Bathsheba, God revealed it to Nathan the prophet. David was quite hard hearted at the time and it took a parable to soften his heart before Nathan leveled the charges (2 Sam 12:1-15). God was merciful to David and allowed him to remain as king even though he deserved death.
God wasn’t as merciful to Ananias and Sapphira. When they pretended to be more generous and spiritual than they really were, their sin was revealed to Peter. When Peter confronted them, the Lord took their lives (Acts 5:1-11). Great fear fell on the Church and others who heard of it.
I’ve heard stories about people who have the gift of knowledge. God gives them information about another person which they wouldn’t have ordinarily known, such as adultery in their life. Often it is a complete stranger. When confronted, they repent and God is glorified. This is how Nathan and Peter knew of the sins of the people they confronted. If the sins aren’t obvious, God can reveal them to others.
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:19-21 NASU)
More often, sins are evident in a person’s lifestyle without the need for God to whisper it to another person. Unfortunately, in today’s world you can go down this list or others in Scripture and cross off some of these sins. In fact, it is politically incorrect even to mention some of them as sin. Some have gained legal status as religions or minority status.
Sometimes, the evidence is found in the consequences that the sin has on the person’s own body. Some forms of cancer, sexually transmitted disease, liver damage, broken homes, poverty, and others are often a result of unrepentant sin. (Don’t take this out of context and say that these are evidence of sin. If you do you will be teaching false doctrine.) When these are a result of sin, they are a fulfillment of Scripture.
… receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. (Rom 1:27 NKJV)
The Bible doesn’t use the word error very often. This isn’t the same as a mistake. It is a purposeful straying from what is right. The error comes because God gives some people over to their sins (Rom 1:26) after they are without excuse having rejected God and His righteous decrees (Rom 1:20).
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matt 7:18-20 KJV)
The sins of other appear later. Some trees take many years to mature and bear fruit. In our lifetime, we may never see the bad fruit that is borne by a person who doesn’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior. There are many people who live outwardly gracious lives. They help the poor, advocate good moral causes, and even attend good Bible believing churches. However, inwardly, they are not trusting Jesus as their Savior. They are doing all this good in a futile effort to earn salvation and in fact God considers even these good deeds as sin (Isa 64:6) because they are not done out of faith (Rom 14:23). They may think they are Christians but they aren’t. They are weeds among the wheat (Matt 13:24-30).
They will be cut down and thrown into the fire. In other words, they will end up in hell. Their sins will not be evident until the final judgment. They will stand before the judgment seat and be shocked to learn that they have no part in the kingdom of God, heaven (Matt 25:41-46).

The same is true for believers. Their deeds can’t be hidden and they will also be found out. Most of the passages that deal with sin being found out also deal with good being revealed. Before Jesus judges those who thought they knew Him, He rewards those who really did know Him (Matt 25:34-40). The blessed truth of this lesson is that when we are simply living our lives as Christians, knowing and serving our Savior, we will be doing things that please Him without even realizing it.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering [patience], gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness [gentleness], temperance [self-control]: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections [passions] and lusts [desires]. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Gal 5:22-25 KJV)
The good that is evident for believers is summed up in the fruit of the Spirit. When we belong to Jesus, when we have surrendered and given ourselves to Him, His Holy Spirit living in us will bring about these character qualities. It takes surrender to live and walk in the Spirit. It isn’t something we naturally do, that’s why it says we have crucified the flesh, our sinful nature. We put to death our passions and desires to do what we want and by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, we do what God wants. Then the fruit of the Spirit will be evident in our lives. It is the fruit that will follow us into eternity.

[1] Stowell, Joe. "Making Up For Lost Time" Our Daily Bread. RBC Ministries, 11 Apr. 2013. Web. 11 Apr. 2013.
[2] An outreach of Faith Church, Lafayette, Indiana.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

God’s Word about Alcohol – 1 Tim 5:23

 No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent infirmities.
Alcohol Permitted
1 Tim 5:23 is the one verse in the Bible that every alcoholic knows. Try to tell an alcoholic that he drinks too much and if he knows you are a Christian, he will most likely say the Bible doesn’t prohibit drinking then quote this verse to you. He is right, the Bible doesn’t prohibit alcoholic drink and in some cases it recommends it.
The first is medicinal use as Paul recommended. I’m not sure how much good a little and the emphasis is on little and not much, medical help there is in wine. So who would you look to for good medical advice? I looked it up on the internet and found an article from the Mayo clinic. The explained that the biggest evidence of health is the antioxidants that are found in red wine that comes from the grape skin. These help in cholesterol balance and reducing the formation of blood clots. However, they also pointed out that you can antioxidants from a variety of other foods and other alcoholic drinks such as beer. They cautioned that over use of any alcoholic beverage has more dangers and listed them. Only two 5-ounce drinks of wine a day for a man and one for a woman was the maximum recommendation. They stated that neither the American Heart Association nor the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommend it.[1] In our age, we have better foods, diets, and medications to take care of our stomach and frequent infirmities than was available to Timothy.
What are the other uses for wine in the Bible?
He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth;  And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart. (Ps 104:14-15 KJV)
God has provided everything we need. If it were not for His hand in keeping the universe going, we wouldn’t have feed for cattle and other animals or vegetables for ourselves. There wouldn’t be any more meat and potatoes. We would quickly die off. One process in nature is fermentation. Without that, we wouldn’t have wine and other alcoholic beverages. In this Psalm, God reminds us that He is the one that is in control of nature and therefore has provided wine and its purpose is to make the heart of man glad. He has provided it along with cosmetics and good food. We should be thankful for all that God has provided and only use it to glorify Him.
Another interesting aspect of God’s provision for alcoholic use was allowed when offering the tithe to the Lord. In Deut 14:22-27, the Lord commanded that everyone set aside a tenth of their crops to be brought to the tabernacle and offered once a year. If they lived a long way from the tabernacle, then they were to sell the tithe and bring the money instead. When they arrived, they were to buy food for the feast.
When you arrive, you may use the money to buy any kind of food you want—cattle, sheep, goats, wine, or other alcoholic drink. Then feast there in the presence of the Lord your God and celebrate with your household. (Deut 14:26 NLT)
Note that wine and other alcoholic drink are specified making it clear that wine is alcoholic and not grape juice as some contend. Other versions translate alcoholic drink as strong drink. There is no translation problem as this word is always translated the same (except in the NIV which sometimes uses beer) and is not the same word for wine. The conclusion is that God allows alcohol to be consumed and even in celebration before the Lord. When Jesus turned water into wine, He affirmed the celebratory use at weddings and was a manifestation of His glory (John 2:1-11).
Give strong drink[2] unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more. (Prov 31:6-7 KJV)
Here are two different uses of the two alcoholic beverages in the Old Testament. As indicated by the Hebrew language, strong drink was more than wine. Since it is recommend to someone who is perishing, it may have been used for someone with a terminal illness or injury to help deaden the pain. The weaker wine was to lift heavy hearts as described in Ps 104:15. However, it is evident in the proverb that if they drink enough, they well get bombed and forget their misery. We also need to be cautious about these verses, as the context (see warnings below) would indicate that this use is a contrast to a warning. It is a poor substitute for a close walk with the Lord regardless of your circumstances.
When you think about it and see what has happened in Russia with their chronic depressed economy, vodka is still free flowing. It isn’t necessarily so in all depressed cultures, but it seems that even when people are poor, they find ways of drowning their sorrows in booze.
And that brings us to the abuse of alcohol which is where the alcoholic needs to listen instead of quoting the permission given in the Bible.
Alcohol Warnings
It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. (Prov 31:4-5 KJV)
Rulers, government officials, judges, leaders of industry should all sit up and take notice of this proverb. The previous few verses in first Timothy were talking about honoring rulers and we looked at what a good ruler is. Now, we need to add that they don’t drink. This proverb implies that once they start, there will be consequences – forgetting the law and perverting their judgment. How much drinking does it take? It doesn’t take as much as we think. You can argue it all you want, but God has said that alcohol clouds your judgment. If you want to be in a leadership role, you should stay away from alcohol.
All we need to do to prove this proverb is look at DUI arrests. Certainly, they include more than just leaders, but it is amazing how many people in public office have had a DUI incident. Some have gone to great lengths to try to cover them up when they are in public office.
And the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying, "Drink no wine nor strong drink, you nor your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die; it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations. You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean; and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them by Moses." (Lev 10:8-11 RSV)
Even though the Lord allowed the use of alcohol when feasting before Him, when the priests were to draw close to Him they were prohibited from using any. There were two reasons. The first was that there had to be a distinction between common or unclean and holy or clean. God is perfectly holy. He doesn’t tolerate any impurity in His presence. In this case, it is ritual purity, not sinlessness because all priests were sinners. The implication is that when a person has partaken of alcohol there are some things he shouldn’t do. The second reason was to teach the people the statutes. If the priests were to enter God’s presence after drinking alcohol, they would have broken a statute of the Lord. By their example, it would then bring into question every statute. Don’t you wonder what else a leader is doing wrong when they’ve been caught in a moral charge, a DUI, misuse of campaign funds, or taking bribes? Do you trust people like that to judge fairly, make godly laws, or enforce laws with justice?
You may argue that Jesus drank wine and was sinless. That is true. I’ve heard teachers who have rationalized that it was OK for Jesus because the wine was always watered down or it was only grape juice. One believed Jesus never drank wine but grape juice because the pure, sinless Son of God would never let anything impure such as fermented grapes inside His body.
My own rationalization is that Jesus was a tradition breaker (Matt 15:2) but revealed the spirit of the law. In the case of murder, the spirit of thou shalt not murder included becoming angry with someone (Matt 5:21-22). Jesus admitted that He drank, implying wine, but denied being a drunkard (Matt 11:19). However, when He was ministering as priest to take away our sins, He refused the wine offered to Him on the cross (Mark 15:23). When He was finished, He took sour wine (which is vinegar after the alcohol has evaporated). Jesus demonstrated the proper use of alcohol and knew when it should be avoided.
Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine, Or with gluttonous eaters of meat; For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags. (Prov 23:20-21 NASB)
Over indulgence is the key not only for drinking but also for eating. The warning is clear. It will eventually cause the drunkard (ESV) to end up in poverty. If you doubt this, visit your local Gospel Mission that works to rehabilitate people on alcohol and other drugs. Ask those who have been on the streets without family or friends how they got there. Ask the single mom whose husband was an alcoholic and brought home the beer instead of the bacon.
Avoid Alcohol
29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes?
30 Those who linger long at the wine, Those who go in search of mixed wine.
31 Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it swirls around smoothly;
32 At the last it bites like a serpent, And stings like a viper.
33 Your eyes will see strange things, And your heart will utter perverse things.
34 Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, Or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying:
35 "They have struck me, but I was not hurt; They have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?"
(Prov 23:29-35 NKJV)
This proverb is a perfect summary of an alcoholic’s story. Each verse encapsulates what is going on. Verse 29 gives the reasons that an alcoholic becomes one. It isn’t because of his disposition or his disease; it is because he has problems. The verse doesn’t explain what he should do; it simply states that they always have reasons to drink. Alcoholics become alcoholics because they don’t seek to find their answers in God. It is all about them and their problems – selfishness. Their idol is self and when self doesn’t get what it wants, it finds excuses instead of turning to God. Idolatry is sin and sin keeps people out of the kingdom of God (Eph 5:5).
We aren’t talking about a person who has an occasional drink. Verse 30 is clear that they are taking the time to drink. They may deny it, especially when they are binge drinkers who only get wiped out one a month or are social drinkers who take drink more that Mayo recommends or even much more. They linger longer than they should. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if they lingered but in addition, they search for it. In other words, there is a purpose in their drinking which follows from the previous verse. The purpose is selfish; they are looking for something to satisfy them outside of God.
The deceptiveness of wine or other alcoholic drinks is evident in verses 31 and 32. I can see the person who wants to be sophisticated swirling the wine in his glass. He makes comments about the body and clarity or bouquet; he is the master of wine and highly respected – at least in his own eyes. It reminds me of Satan’s temptation of Eve in the Garden. She believed that the fruit was a delight to the eyes and would make her wise (Gen 3:6). The comparison to the fall continues as an alcoholic will eventually suffer the bite of the serpent. There are terrible social problems as a result of alcoholism that I doubt can be measured. However vehicle accidents are measured and the cost estimated.
Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 48 minutes. The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $51 billion.
In 2010, 10,228 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.[3]
These statistics are only for deaths in car accidents. How else does the serpent bite? He also causes destruction in families, lost jobs, lost productivity, other accidents, homicides, lying, stealing, and more. If a person is drunk and an accident happens, it isn’t really an accident. That’s why drunk drivers who kill people go to prison. You can probably add to this list out of your personal experience.
Verses 33-35 sum up what happens to people while they are drunk. Many people have made light of the drunk staggering down the street and singing some silly song. However there is physical pain, there is abuse to both the drunk and the spouse and kids. What is the problem – your heart will utter perverse things. What did Jesus say about the heart? He said that evil thoughts, murder, sexual immorality, lying, slander and more come out of the heart (Matt 15:19). Alcohol has a way of letting these things come out much easier than without it.
The last of verse 35 is the ultimate curse of alcohol. The craving or perceived need for more is built into its poison. It is a downward spiral that can only be reversed by extremely strong will power when the alcoholic relies on himself to overcome. Few people have that will power and that’s why alcoholics need more, they need Jesus and the Holy Spirit to overcome. They need to see their sinful heart attitudes and idolatry (pleasures before God) and find their sufficiency in Christ. They have to repent.
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; (Eph 5:18 KJV)
Paul put it very simply. When I’ve been drinking, I’ve let a spirit into my body (that’s why they called alcohol spirits in the past). It isn’t a spirit in the sense of a demon, but it is a spirit in the sense of a desire. It is a real spirit in the sense of a chemical that messes with my brain functions as well as destroying other organs. Even a small amount can make a significant difference. It can make the difference between a careless comment and a careful comment. I know, I’ve been there. One beer, one careless comment that would have not been uttered without that tiny little relaxed feeling and one spouse’s feelings hurt. It is sin facilitated by the booze.
The answer is to be filled with the Spirit of God instead of the spirit that is in the world, whatever that spirit is. If it is alcohol or pot or other drugs, they don’t help the Christian live a life that is Spirit led.
So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh - for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Rom 8:12-14 RSV)
It is our choice. We can put to death the deeds of the body by being led by the Spirit or we can increase the deeds of the flesh (i.e. sin) by desiring and partaking of alcoholic beverages. Try it. See if your life is better or worse without alcohol for a month. What would you miss if you eliminated it from your home, from your social life, from your work? Or are you afraid of what people will say about you or think of you if you don’t drink with them? Do you want to be led by the Spirit of God or the spirit of men or by the spirit of alcohol?

[1] Staff, Mayo Clinic. "Red Wine and Resveratrol: Good for Your Heart?" Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 04 Mar. 2011. Web. 10 Apr. 2013.
[2] OT:7941 shekar — strong drink, intoxicating drink, fermented or intoxicating liquor. (from The Online Bible Thayer's Greek Lexicon and Brown Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, Copyright © 1993, Woodside Bible Fellowship, Ontario, Canada. Licensed from the Institute for Creation Research.)[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 02 Oct. 2012. Web. 09 Apr. 2013.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Elder Recompense and Rebuke – 1 Tim 5:17-22

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain," and, "The laborer deserves his wages." Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. (ESV)
The quality an elder must have to be compensated for their hard work is to rule well. Jesus had a lot to say about ruling. His disciples had been arguing among themselves who was greatest and He used that to teach the most significant aspect of being a Christian. He taught that if we want to be first, then our attitude and our actions should show that we put ourselves last and a servant of all (Mark 9:33-36). Jesus demonstrated this in His own life and death on the cross.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45 NIV)
When an elder is ruling well, it will be obvious in what he is doing and the way they treat others.

Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? (Matt 24:45 KJV)
The first thing that is apparent is whether or not they are willing to serve. Jesus also gave an example in Luke 12:37. He said that the servants who were awake when the master returned will be served by him. While this refers to the wedding supper of the Lamb, it also shows that a real leader isn’t afraid to do menial tasks as he leads. I am concerned about leaders who are surrounded by people who do everything for them. I read that the new Pope, Francis, was called humble because he went back to his hotel to pick up his luggage and paid the bill himself.[1] This is a refreshing witness in a world that exalts leaders and expects them to partake of the best while ignoring the needs of others. Would you call a CEO who has an exorbitant salary and benefits while the company is losing money and laying off workers a good ruler?
If a leader ignores the clear teaching of Scripture and advocates other doctrines, would you call him a good ruler? That sounds like a rhetorical question but this is a serious problem in our churches and nation. In the next chapter, Paul has some harsh words for those who do exactly that. I think two of the worst offending doctrines that are being embraced and will bring eventual judgment are the redefinition of marriage (and all that is behind it) and disregard for life in the womb. I don’t know how anyone can daily meditate on the Bible and pray and support same sex marriage and abortions. Something just doesn’t add up. Leaders who, despite their deep spiritual convictions, have rationalized and supported these abominations should not be afforded the honor or power they so desperately want.
Paul mentions those who labor in preaching and teaching are worthy of double honor. Yet he didn’t demand this kind of recompense from those he taught.
You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:34-35 NIV)
The amazing thing about Paul is that he was generous. He was even willing to support those who worked with him while he also taught. Acts 20:31 says that he warned the Ephesians night and day. I suspect there was a lot more evening services then than there are now. Are our leaders generous with their funds and time? If they are then they are showing the marks of good leaders.
In teaching His disciples to be good leaders, Jesus pointed to the masses of people who were without shepherds. They were harassed and helpless because they were being told some very ungodly things about how to please God. Their shepherds were not rulers who were concerned for individual’s welfare but in keeping their religious and political system intact which guaranteed their position. Jesus pointed to the masses and told His disciples to pray for workers for the harvest. Then he sent out the twelve on their first hands-on short-term mission trip (Matt 9:35-10:1). He did the same with seventy-two in Luke 10.
Good leaders are looking for the needs of the people. It isn’t just the people in their own congregation, but the broader community. If all the leaders are doing is taking care of their own, then the clear desire of Jesus is missed. A good leader has to have a vision that reaches beyond to the nations (Matt 28:19-20).
How to Honor Leaders
Paul says that these leaders are to receive double honor. He uses Deut 25:4 to show that even an ox gets to eat while treading out the grain. He paraphrases Lev 19:13 and Deut 24:15 to extend that and show that anyone who works should be paid. Paul is talking of church leaders and not government or business leaders, but it certainly should apply to these as well – if they are demonstrating that they are good leaders. However, I’m sure that there are a few leaders who use this in purely selfish ways. The bottom line for our pastors who preach and teach is that we shouldn’t expect them to be paupers. They should be paid well and they shouldn’t be paid paltry salaries as schoolteachers are.

However that honor is not necessarily the double honor Paul mentions, it is only half of it. There is a trend in our nation to demonize our governing leaders. It doesn’t matter what their political position is. Someone is going to dredge up all kinds of filth against them, imagined or real. Honoring our church leaders is quite specific and should not allow any of the garbage that I see being spread over the internet and emails about our nation’s leaders. If it is true and verifiable, then they need to be held accountable, but most of the stuff I see is neither.
Honoring our leaders means that we don’t admit, entertain, receive, or listen to a charge or accusation against an elder. These words are used in various translation of the Bible. When I see the accusations made against government leaders, the word entertain stands out. Many of the accusations are simple made up to entertain or infuriate people. However this digresses from the very important topic of our church leaders.
The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts of the body. (Prov 18:8 NASU)
When someone starts griping about your pastor, what do you do? Do you entertain or listen to it and tuck it away in your heart so that you are more receptive to the next complaint? If the church isn’t being run the way you want, do you tell others in your circle of friends about it? All these things are forbidden by Paul’s admonition to Timothy. They are gossip at best and slander at the worst. The proverb speaks of a dainty morsel. It isn’t something large. These things should be overlooked. Honoring our leaders means that we don’t entertain ourselves with these things.
Honoring them means that when something is serious, it must be presented as evidence by two or three witnesses. This can get rather sticky. I’ve seen cases where accusations have been rejected because the person bringing the charge was alone with the leader. Then another brought the same kind of accusation, which was rejected for the same reason – no witnesses. After several of the same kind of charges the elder was confronted and denied any wrong. What should be done? Do several people at different times without collaboration with each other presenting the same problem constitute two or more witnesses? Sometimes we take make a literal interpretation of the Bible support what we want when there could be more than one way to make a good literally interpretation and miss a broader application.
We certainly need to be careful and in this case the key would be to receive (not entertain) a charge. That means that it would be investigated to discover the truth of the matter. It is probable that a person who is charged, as in the situation I described, with personal misconduct without others present, is also capable of convincingly lying to cover up the sin. Receiving the charge would be appropriate. Acting on the charge is much more difficult.
Double Accountability
What happens when the evidence reveals sin? Hopefully, the elder or pastor will repent when confronted. But that isn’t the end of it. Different translations of the Bible say that those who continue in sin or persist in sin are to be rebuked publicly (NAS, ESV for instance). Others do not include the word continue or persist (NIV, NKJV, KJV) so that the rebuke needs to be public even if the sin was a onetime thing. Since there isn’t a consensus on this, I think it depends on the problem.
The purpose of the public rebuke is to warn others. It is quite clear that when a pastor or elder sins or teaches something incorrectly, it will affect the congregation. Some will see it as permission to do the same thing or be lead astray by incorrect or false teaching. Paul provides a very good example in Gal 2:11-14 when he had to rebuke Peter publically for his hypocrisy. Peter’s actions led others, including Barnabas, into the same hypocrisy.

I’ve seen examples of worse things when a Christian school fired a teacher or administrator for inappropriate conduct with students then didn’t make it public or reveal it when that person obtained a similar job with another school. The behavior was repeated causing more suffering and grief. If the Catholic Church would have heeded Paul’s instructions, it wouldn’t be facing the problems with sexual misconduct in its priesthood. The problem doesn’t just exist in the church. We’ve all heard or read about lawyers, doctors, psychologists and other professionals who cover up for each other. How many managers in business are let go because of theft instead of being prosecuted?
Our Responsibility
What should we do when it happens or to prevent leaders from sinning? Paul instructed Timothy to keep his instructions without partiality, favoritism, or prejudice. That is probably the biggest difficulty we have. There is something about leaders that make us want to be on their good side. We want to please them because they are somehow special. You don’t want to cross the boss. Because of our innate ability to excuse the misdeeds of leaders, Paul reminds us that our decisions are done in the presence of God, Jesus, and even angels. At the foot of the cross, we are all the same. We need to be God pleasers instead of people pleasers.
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Rom 12:3 KJV)
This verse works two ways. First we have to make sure that we are thinking about ourselves correctly. That means that we shouldn’t be putting ourselves above others, but when we examine ourselves soberly, we realize that by God’s faith given to us, we aren’t less than the other person is either. I’ve had people tell me that I can’t contradict poor Biblical teaching because the other person is more educated than I am.
It doesn’t matter how educated a person is, if they are wrong, then they are usually more stubbornly wrong when they are more educated. Prov 21:11 says that a wise man gains knowledge when he is instructed. According to Prov 12:1, a person who loves knowledge, such as an educated person, should love discipline. However, those who hate being corrected are stupid.
Hopefully, we will not be intimidated by those who need to be rebuked and will do what is necessary knowing that it is for our good and the good of others.
Why should we take our time in appointing leaders to positions of authority? In this age, it seems like it would be very easy to know what a person is like by looking at their facebook page or following them on twitter. However, these are just surface representations of people. Certainly if a person has been crass on his posts, it would reveal some serious flaws for leadership in the church. However, it takes time and observation to know a person well. I’ve read that many predator types seek jobs in day care facilities, church Sunday school programs. They all seem to be upstanding people until they are caught. Paul is saying that if we are not diligent in examining a person then we are taking part in their sins.
Joshua and the elders of Israel made a treaty with Gibeon who had tricked Israel by pretending they were from a distant country. Joshua 9:14 says that they made the treaty on outward evidence and didn’t seek the counsel of the Lord. This committed Israel to support Gibeon and let them live among them. Both were contrary to God’s command when Israel entered the Promised Land. The key point with Joshua is that even though they thought they were being diligent, they didn’t seek God’s will.
Paul also ties the process of finding a worthy leader to keeping ourselves pure. If we aren’t walking with the Lord, we will probably find someone with the same flaws to lead us.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Tim 4:3-4 KJV )
People tend to flock together with others of like mind. You don’t often find liberals and conservatives in close relationships. People join churches because the preaching suits their preconceived notions of who God is and what He expects. Controlling cults and weird religions promote leaders who are not pure because the congregation is not. If there is purity in the church, then the congregation will take Paul’s warnings seriously and there won’t be a problem.
Honoring a leader when we are not pure is not honor for that leader. Jesus didn’t entrust Himself to the masses of people because He knew what was in them. He knew their motivation wasn’t right. It would not have truly honored Him to let them proclaim Him as Messiah or King (John 2:23-25).
We need to make sure we are walking with the Lord and then we will be able to make sober judgments about how well our leaders are ruling. When they are doing well, we need to let them know and honoring them. If they aren’t then we also need to know how to correct the situation in a godly manner.

[1] WINFIELD, NICOLE. "Pope Francis' Humility: Stops by Hotel to Get Bags." Yahoo! News. Yahoo!, 14 Mar. 2013. Web. 22 Mar. 2013.