April 2016

headshotby: Christian Bonner

Are we drawing people in closer to Christ or pushing them away?

A person I follow on Facebook posted a picture of a well-known Christian book being used to level a piece of furniture with the caption, “I finally found a good use for this book”.

Now I am not here to debate the book itself or if it should be read, but what I want to discuss is what we as Christians do with our freedom of speech and social media.

I get disappointed and alarmed when I see posts like these below:

“IF YOU DON’T LIKE WHAT I POST TO MY WALL, THERE’S AN UNFRIEND BOTTON RIGHT OVER THERE”!

or

A controversial and antagonizing statement, like the book one I just mentioned, with no explanation, being out of context, and especially inappropriate use of Scripture.

and

Articles being used to call out a long list of teachers/musicians with a very sarcastic comment about heresy, but are actually a few years old.

Also, I recently saw the following statement on a meme on a fellow Christian’s wall:

“IF YOU EVER FEEL STUPID…JUST REMEMBER, THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY THINK __________ WOULD BE A GOOD PRESIDENT”.

If after reading the above and you are still a little unsure why I get disappointed and alarmed please allow me to explain. To me, it seems like Christians are getting more and more aggressive in expressing themselves, especially with each other. Almost as if kindness, understanding, and grace have gone right out the window, while still demanding it for ourselves.

I fully support being bold in our faith and with each other.  As a matter of fact, here are a few places in the Bible that either encourage us to be, or tell of someone being bold:

2 Corinthians 10:1- “Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you.”

2 Corinthians 3:12- “Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech.”

Psalm 138:3- “In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul.”

Proverbs 28:1- “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.”

Acts 28:31-“proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”

And Philippians 1:20 says, “according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body whether by life or by death.”

I like all of these scriptures and the variety of angles that boldness can take place in our lives. But I think somewhere along the line we confused boldness with aggression.

Miriam Webster defines bold as: not afraid of danger or difficult situations

And  aggressive as: ready and willing to fight, argue, etc.: feeling or showing aggression-using forceful methods to succeed or to do something

Boldness is not being afraid of difficult situations, but it definitely is not creating them either!

I also think in addition to confusing the two, we have forgotten to use what I call a Biblical filter.  Please hear me, this filter in no way should be used to water down the truth.

Like I said before, we are to be bold in our faith, but how about asking ourselves, “is what I want to say/do going to draw others to Christ, drag them in, or completely push them away”?

I understand we shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells to be bold, but when did being bold turn into aggression?

When did assuming that we all have this amazing knowledge occur, leaving no more room for grace?

How can we preach to the unsaved that God forgives all, that there is hope, and it doesn’t matter what you did, but then turn on our fellow believers with such aggression that makes the unsaved scared to come in?

As a matter of fact a family friend that is not a Christian posted a pretty intense post against Christians in response to some reactions to a recent ruling. One of the sentences she wrote says, “The amount of hatred I’ve seen on my timeline this past week is literally scary.”

Personally, I have never been drawn into someone when they are being rude, aggressive, or demeaning, why would others be? Even in our permitted ability to express our opinions, they should be expressed as just that, opinion, not fact and definitely not something that makes people feel terrible or afraid to disagree if they fall into the category of your negative opinion.

Here is what I know:

We are meant to study the Word. 2 Timothy 2:15 states, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth..”

We are to be open to correction. Proverbs 10:17 says, “He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, but he who hates correction goes astray.”

We are to teach and be taught. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

And

2 Timothy 2:23-26 say, “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will”.

In my opinion, those last verses describe perfectly how we are to execute the above as Christians:

We are in a place of leadership and constant example, whether we or interacting in person with our friends, in full time in ministry, or are stay at home moms using social media to connect to the “outside” world. My “friends” that see my posts, when I choose to make any statement, I am leading them, whether that is my intent or not. If we wear the title of Christian, we are responsible for what we say and do and it should always draw people closer to the Lord, not push them away. The Bible says we are a light to the world and an example to other believers.

Philippians 2: 14-15 says, “ Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world”.

And

1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”

We need to work diligently to become who Christ has designed us to be.

But if a fellow believer is struggling or misunderstands something, we should walk alongside them, in love and grace. Love and grace do not eliminate the responsibility as Christians to be bold with each other but it certainly does invite us into a safe place to learn, repent and grow. And in regards to an un-believer, our treatment to them, direct or not, is just as valuable as it is to each other.

My friends, please remember to be humble in how we live out our boldness of faith. If what we do doesn’t draw people in, then it is a waste.   Weren’t we originally drawn in with Christ’s gentleness and love?

 

 

beach photoBy:  Miryea Gist

If someone were to ask you what the theme of the book of Job was, what would you say? Perhaps you would ascribe to Job the same theme the majority of Christians today give it: suffering. If you were to go a little deeper, perhaps you would describe it to be a book about God’s sovereignty in light of suffering, or of Jobs faithful obedience in the midst of immense trial. While these subjects are undoubtedly essential features of the book, they merely scratch the surface of what the purpose of the book of Job truly is. To read and interpret the book of Job as simply “the book of suffering,” would be to undermine its more significant theological themes. Because this is the way many believers have been taught to understand the book, we oftentimes unintentionally, yet tragically overlook God’s greater agenda.

There are four key themes in Job many neglect to apprehend that I intend to address in this blog. Those themes being; the necessity of Scripture, the insufficiency of man’s wisdom, theological theodicy, and the total supremacy of God. My prayer is that the disclosure of these themes will guide us to a deeper knowledge of the God we serve, and His great, and wildly overlooked objective regarding the book of Job.

The Necessity of Scripture

Chronologically speaking, Job is the very first book of the Bible ever written. This knowledge is vital because in many ways, it is the introduction to the rest of Scripture. One of the main purposes for the book of Job, is to operate as a conviction for why you need your Bible. We see the conviction of the importance of Scripture manifest itself within many of Job’s monologues. Job prays for God to care for him (7:17-19), for forgiveness of sins (7:20-21), for a mediator that will show God sympathizes with him (9:32-35), for imputed righteousness (9:2), for a resurrection (14:4-14), and for communion with the Heavenly Father (9:34-35). Job earnestly desired, wished for, prayed for, and pleaded for the Gospel. (I happen to agree with my Bible professor stating that if somehow Job were able to read Romans during his life he would simply weep hysterically, tears of immense joy). So what exactly does Jobs desire for the gospel teach us about the necessity of Scripture? Simple. We have access to the very thing Job yearned, and wept, and begged for. The questions he asked regarding the Lord’s character; His faithfulness, providence, justice, mercy, love, goodness, etc. are all found within the pages of Scripture. Job’s sorrow did not only stem from his suffering, but from the knowledge of his sin against a holy God, and the need for a Savior. Because of Christs work on the cross recorded in the gospel, we are able to live in steadfast assurance of God’s character and our salvation.

The Insufficiency of Man’s Wisdom

God is right. Every believer should agree with this statement, yet do our lives reflect this truth? The book of Job seeks to present God as right in all He does by contrasting His wisdom with mankind’s insufficient knowledge. In the book, we are introduced to Jobs three friends as they come to “comfort” him. (In reality, we see that the purpose for their visit was not one of selflessness, but of self-interest. They came not to mourn with Job, but to understand what Job had done to deserve God’s wrath in order to avoid judgment themselves…but that’s another blog for another time!) Interestingly enough, each of Jobs friends adopts and represents a worldview. We have Eliaphaz the historian who looks to the past to predict the future (4:1-5:27), Bildad the scientist, operating by cause and effect methodology (8:1-22), and Zophar the philosopher, attempting to use his “wisdom” in order make sense of, and predict the actions of God (11:1-20). All three friends claimed wisdom by offering various rationale for Job’s suffering, as well as their own methods to earning God’s forgiveness. We see however, through the Lord’s rebuking of Job’s friends that they had “…not spoken of [God] what was right (Job 42:7).” Despite his foolish friends, The Lord allowed Job to receive true wisdom from one man by the name of Elihu. He was the first man to sympathize with Job, while simultaneously revealing Job’s self-righteousness. Elihu asserts God’s justice and questions Job’s perceived right to question the Lord. He reveals the complexity of God, and man’s inability to comprehend His ways (Job 34:10). The book of Job shows us just how limited man’s knowledge truly is, and how we in our own power do not possess the resources, insight, or skill-set to understand God. Therefore, who can question any of His ways? Job proves that God is not only right when we agree. God is not only right when our lives are going as planned. God is right in the face of disaster. God is right when death occurs. God is right when our lives differ from our plans. God is right when we cannot make sense of our current situations. God is right when He withholds our desires. God is right when He allows calamity. God is right when He sends tribulation. This book is about proving God is right, in a world gone wrong.

Theological Theodicy

It is vital to note, that God is not only right in what He does, but that He is also good. This theme is especially important because it reveals the righteousness of God in that He is completely justified in all He allows to take place in both heaven and on earth. As complex a topic as it is to grasp with our own human minds, the book of Job exists to reveal God’s sovereignty over disaster, and goodness in the midst of affliction. The book of Job acts as a defense of God’s goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil. As presented in the book of Job, we should not view suffering as an indication that God is unjust. Instead, we should see it as the one who is perfect in knowledge, perfectly permitting circumstances for our good and His own glory. If the Lord has approved suffering, and if He has deemed it profitable to endure hardship—it is good. And because we serve a God who is holy and perfect in all He does—a God who is incapable of doing evil—we can trust that every single event that takes place in our lives was permitted by a good God. Theological theodicy within the book of Job allows believers to experience an unexplainable peace amongst affliction, because the book of Job advocates for a good God.

The Total Supremacy of God

Unfortunately, I believe that many Christians are guilty of this common misinterpretation of the book of Job: We read the first couple chapters of the book, and automatically, (oftentimes ignorantly) assume that Satan is running the show. Many believers unknowingly apply a deistic view of God to Job by perceiving the book as a story of the time Satan had his way, while God sat back and hoped Job would be able to resist the temptation to deny his faith and curse God. If you have had this interpretation of the book of Job, you have been guilty of inadvertently awarding Satan equal power to the Father. I too, am guilty of this misinterpretation. However, observing closely the dialogue between God and Satan throughout the book, it is easy to see who is truly in control.

The book of Job revolves around two courtroom scenes with God on trial in heaven and on earth. Within the first chapter, Satan already appears before God (Job 1:6). However, Satan did not simply present himself to God, for he is unable to do so. One does not merely enter a courtroom and present himself in front of a judge without first having been summoned. It is essential to recognize God’s supremacy in dealing with Satan within the very first courtroom scene, by acknowledging that it was God Himself who not only allowed, but ordered the devil to enter His presence. The dialogue between both God and Satan in this scene only further supports God’s predominance. Satan never speaks first—God says, and Satan answers. God always starts and never reacts, Satan only reacts and never starts. One thing I failed to realize before thoroughly studying Job was the fact that God initiates everything, and that the enemy was not presiding. Only with God’s sovereign permission was Satan allowed to test Job’s faith, and only by God’s sovereign safekeeping was Job able to resist his attempts and remain steadfast. Make no mistake, not for a single moment is God not in complete and total control, not only in the book of Job, but in the universe, and in the lives of mankind. Job shows us that there is no such thing as passive allowance, but that the Lord’s dominion extends throughout every single occurrence.

Much More than Suffering

Yes, suffering is an obvious feature of the book of Job, but I hope this post has proven that it is merely the means to expressing much greater theological themes. God chooses to further His agenda via suffering, He chooses to reveal Himself through trials. He uses Job’s suffering to reveal that He is accessible (through Christ’s work on the cross) while showing the necessity of Scripture. He uses Job’s suffering to expose that He is right through the insufficiency of man’s wisdom. He uses Job’s suffering to prove that He is good, regardless. And He uses Job’s suffering to display His total supremacy and sovereignty.

Let us repent of our surface-level interpretations of Scripture, and seek to delve deep enough into God’s word, that we may begin to experience just how theologically rich an overlooked book like Job, truly is.

 

**Miryea Gist is a junior at The Masters College majoring in English with a minor in Bible. With her degree, she plans to teach middle school English as well as continue to enjoy, and further develop her passion for writing. Born and raised in Arizona, she was home schooled from first through twelfth grade, and is the eldest of two.