National policy of religious tolerance facing headwinds
A decision to prevent citizens of Indonesia from being able to access a Bible application for cell phones and mobile devices is sparking arguments amid that nation’s openly tolerant campaign to allow people to choose their own faith and practice it.
The worldwide Christian ministry Barnabas Fund is reporting that the Bible application for the Minangkabau people was removed from the Google Play Store for residents of Indonesia following a demand from Irwan Prayitno, the governor of West Sumatra.
He claimed it was causing discomfort in the Minangkabau people who are living in his province, the majority of whom are Muslim.
Only about 1.43% of the people there, about 69,000, are Christian.
The Indonesian Ulema Council supported the censorship by the nation’s Communication and Information Ministry, with a statement of secretary general Anwar Abbas that said, “The guidance of the Minangkabau people is not the Bible. Hopefully there will not be a Bible [published] in the Minangkabau language.”
“The decision to ban the Minangkabau Bible App failed to take into account the rights of Minangkabau Christians,” the Barnabas Fund reported.
And the decision was criticized by the chief of the nation’s longtime Agency for Pancasila Ideology Education, which advocates for tolerance.
That agency’s opinion is that holy books could be translated into any language as long as they were not misinterpreted.
The chief of the agency said, “Every individual is given the freedom to observe their beliefs as long as they do not cause disruption in the public. And, of course, some of the residents of West Sumatra are also Christian, and the governor himself is governor to everyone, not a certain ethnicity or religious belief.”
Pancasila is a formal doctrine instituted in Indonesia to encourage tolerance for religions – and discourage extremism. It prevailed for many years, with Christians and Muslims living as equals. That started changing only a few years ago.
Then, Barnabas Fund reported, the nation saw “a rise in hard-line Islamic ideology in recent years. A generation ago, Muslims and Christians lived peaceably as equals in accordance with Pancasila.”
“In 2019, the government took several steps to counter the spread of fundamentalism by urging members of the public to report extremist content posted online by civil servants and taking action to replace school textbooks deemed to contain radical material.”
That battle against “hard-line Islamist ideology” includes requests to the public to “report extremist content posted online by civil servants and taking action to replace school textbooks deemed to contain radical material,” Barnabas Fund said.
Indonesian Communications Minister Johnny G. Plate said the intention was “to bring together and improve the performance of our civil servants, as well as to foster higher levels of nationalism.”
Indonesia has the world’s biggest population of Muslims, and reports suggest that 19% of civil servants and 3% of military personnel favor an Indonesia under Islamic rule. About 18% of private employees and 23% of students share the view.
The Jews celebrated their Passover Feast in remembrance of God’s deliverance from death during the time of Moses.
Origination of Passover
Moses had been instructed to lead God’s people out of Egypt and save them from the evil and ungodly Pharaoh. Because of Pharaoh’s disbelief in the power of the One True God, Yahweh sent a series of ten plagues upon the Egyptians: the Nile turned to blood and at various times the land was filled with frogs, gnats, flies, hail, locusts, and darkness. In one awesome act of God’s ultimate authority, He sent one final devastating plague: every firstborn of every household would be annihilated.
In His mercy towards His people, God would shield the Israelites from such unmerciful judgment if they would follow the instructions He gave to Moses and Aaron. The specific instructions are outlined in Exodus 12:1-11. In sum, each family was to take a lamb and all households were to slaughter their lambs at the same time at twilight after a certain number of days. Then they were commanded to paint the sides and top of their doorways with some of this blood. Once this was done and all the meat of the lamb was eaten in accordance with God’s instructions, God would spare the Israelites from death. This is what the Lord said:
“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn — both men and animals — and I will bring judgement on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord — a lasting ordinance” (Exodus 12:12-14)
The Seder Meal
The highlight of a contemporary Jewish Pesach, or Passover, is the Seder.
The Seder meal consists of six highly symbolic elements: matzah, a roasted shank bone, parsley or green herbs, the top of a horseradish, charoset, and an egg. On each plate are three pieces of matzah (a special type of cracker or unleavened bread). Two of these pieces represent the traditional loaves used in the ancient Temple during festivals and the third piece symbolizes Passover. The roasted lamb bone connotes the sacrificial Passover lamb. Herbs symbolize springtime growth. The horseradish represents the bitter years of slavery in Egypt; charoset, a mixture of fruit and ground nuts soaked in wine, represents the mortar used in Egypt; and the egg represents the chagigah (a secondary sacrifice prepared along with the Passover lamb).
The Biblical Accounts
Accounts of what happened can be found in all four gospels — Matthew 26:17-27:10; Mark 14:12-72; Luke 22:1-65; John 13:1-18:27.
Can God change your life?
God has made it possible for you to know Him and experience an amazing change in your own life. Discover how you can find peace with God. You can also send us your prayer requests.
You’re driving down a busy highway at night. The traffic is dense — you’re tired — work’s been unusually hectic. Suddenly your car lists to one side. – Oh no! A flat tire!
You stop and find the spare. Half an hour later after changing the flat, you’re back in the driver’s seat. – “All that waste of time! I hope my friends are still waiting for me!”
Now that you’re back on the road, you think of the fun you’ll have this weekend. – You deserve time off! — you’ll enjoy this break to the fullest. You smile.
Suddenly, a huge dark truck begins tailgating you! Your first thought is “Idiot!” – You accelerate — to your horror, the menacing truck matches your speed.
You read about a mad killer somewhere on this highway killing people with a kitchen knife. – What if he’s in the truck behind you?
You slow down, hoping it’s just a coincidence the truck’s keeping up with you. – Hopefully he’ll pass and leave you alone. – He doesn’t!
Instead he slows and flashes his lights at you — he thrusts his arm out the window gesturing towards you.
“What’s he want?” You’re frightened now! — Nothing like this has ever happened to you before.
You get an idea.
– Cops often work this highway. If you drive over the s – The truck’s matching your speed!
You’re terrified and push your accelerator to the floor. – You didn’t know your car could go 120 miles an hour!
You check your mirror — that truck’s matching your speed. He’s unshakable!
A half hour and this high speed chase is still going on! – Wouldn’t you know there are no cops anywhere! Your exit is still 3 miles away.
You’ve got to keep on racing – It’s a good plan. The only plan that hopefully will deliver you from your aggressor.
You succeed in taking the exit — you’re rejoicing! You’ve finally shook off that truck, then you notice those same lights are still following you. – Your blood turns icy. “What now?”
Your gas tank’s almost empty – there’s nowhere to go except to the mansion where your friends are waiting.
You hope John has his shotgun with him. He seldom leaves it behind — he’s an avid hunter.
No matter where you turn, the truck stays right with you.
Finally you’re at the mansion — John’s waiting for you. – You leap from your car and shout “Get your shotgun!” John sees the truck. – He runs into the house and grabs his gun. – Hope’s finally in sight!
John points his gun at the driver of that dark, menacing truck, and orders him out. – The poor guy comes out of his truck shaking.
What would you be thinking about this driver at this time? – Would you welcome him with open arms? Or want to strangle him? – The shaking man yells, “It’s not me! It’s not me! It’s him!”
Confused you and John look at each other. “Who?”
“There’s a man in the back of your car. I saw him slip into your car while you were changing your tire. He had a kitchen knife in his right hand. I followed you to warn you about him!” – Is he telling the truth?
Slowly all 3 of you approach your car. – John opens the back door, his shotgun ready. – Sure enough, a man’s crouching behind your seat, a kitchen knife in his hand.
Imagine your feeling when you realize the one you accused had nothing but purest intentions. He wanted to save you from certain death. – He’s not the one who deserves judgment. He’s your hero, your savior!
What a picture of how people respond to Jesus!
Most people run from the One who can provide the safety they need and harbor the very murderer bent on destroying them.
Jesus has done and is doing everything He can to save you from sin and Hell (the 2nd Death) while you run from Him afraid He’ll ask you to give up too much of the world to serve Him.
Christ’s doing everything He can to get your attention before it’s too late, but you’re not pulling over.
At the same time, Satan, “the thief and murderer,” who you should fear is invading your homes and families – planning your destruction. – John 8:44-45–“For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me!”
2 Corinthians 5:16-21 — So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right – You and I didn’t choose whether or not we’d be born – we were just born. – We didn’t choose our parents or where we’d be born. – I didn’t choose to be William Walter Woods from Walla Walla, Washington. – I was born in Walla Walla to be near my mother.
On the contrary, Jesus chose to be born in Bethlehem. – He chose His mother to be the Virgin Mary — His step-dad to be Joseph. He chose to be a Jew and to be born in a stable.
He left Heaven to live a perfect life without sin and take your punishment for your sins. – Romans 6:23 — For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jesus is the Eternal Son of God: of one substance with the Father, co-equal, co-eternal, co-existent with the Father, became a human being in every way, except for sin. – He was a man of suffering, of pain, of anxiety, of temptation – who was crucified and died for our sins.
2 Corinthians 5:21 makes clear Christ “had no sin.”For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
He didn’t inherit the guilt of original sin. He lived a sinless and pure life from His conception until His death. – He didn’t allow the evil that surrounds all of us to enter into His deeds or His heart.
No matter what temptation, how hard the struggle or how great – He remained perfect! — 2 Corinthians 5:21 — He “has no sin”.
He reflects the perfect image of God — Hebrews 1:3 —The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. – Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory and Being …
Paul said in Romans 3:23 — “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” . – “we” are the sinners.
Not just the drunkard, the addict, the liar, the thief, the blasphemer, the idolater or murderer. We’re all sinners!
Who’s a sinner? Everyone who’s broken a single commandment of God!- You and me – we’re the sinners!
“I’ve lived a good and decent life and my good deeds outweigh my bad deeds!”
Isaiah 64:6–“We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”
. – You can’t live good enough to make it to Heaven! – Ephesians 2:8-9 — “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”
Because it was impossible we escape Hell, Jesus stepped into history and provided the sacrifice needed to save us. – Hebrews 9:22 — “In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.”
Two thieves spotted what looked like a sweet deal.
They found an unguarded 2007 Volkswagen cargo van with a moveable platform and crane. – It looked like easy pickings — the driver was asleep — the van was unguarded.
They overpowered the driver, tied him up, dropped him in a vacant parking lot, and drove away.
They drove about 24 miles and decided to investigate the van’s cargo. What can it hurt? They made a score, and needed to see their loot.
Soon they unloaded the containers, broke them open, scattered the contents, and found nothing of interest. – They found nothing of interest, but that doesn’t mean they found nothing.
The crooks opened containers of radioactive cobalt-60 pellets taken from hospitals in Tijuana and headed for a nuclear holding plant outside of Mexico City. . – There’s one other thing those crooks found in those pellets – DEATH!
Those cobalt-60 pellets were small, but deadly. They carried enough radioactive punch to kill anyone who came into close contact with them.
Death would come in 2 or 3 days. – The crooks didn’t know, but opening those containers made them walking dead men.
Their story isn’t much different than Adam and Eve who thought the forbidden fruit wasn’t such a bad thing … – or David who believed a little look at Bathsheba couldn’t hurt … – or Achan who thought a few bars of silver and gold taken from Jericho wouldn’t cause any problem the rest of us.
Because of sin, we were all walking dead. – Big sins, little sins, every sin separated us from God and condemned us.
This is why human’s walking dead need a Savior.
We’re better off than the thieves who stole the cobalt-60. – There was no cure for them, but Jesus has provided the antidote for our lost condition.
Jesus is the Judge we’ll someday face. – We know we’re guilty and we know the penalty.
God’s Law demands we be punished (sentenced to Eternal Death, separation from God in Hell). – Jesus has assumed the punishment for our sins – GRACE! (UNMERITED FAVOR!)
Through His life, by His suffering, death, and glorious resurrection from the dead, Jesus has become our Heaven-sent Savior, Who can cleanse sinners of all that’s contaminated and condemned us.
We have to decide to accept His Pardon and gifts He wants to bestow on us. – We must accept His Identity by Identifying with Him! – With Holy Spirit-given faith we’re no longer walking dead, we’re eternally saved souls.
THE OLD ACCOUNT WAS SETTLED LONG AGO!
Easter is not about bunnies and chocolate eggs! Easter is HIS RESURRECTION DAY! AND BECAUSE HE LIVES I CAN FACE TOMORROW!
Today, I want to gather with God’s saints and remember what Jesus has done for us and that He is soon coming to get us and take us to His Place where we’ll live with Him for Eternity.
Jesus tasted death, the grave and the consequences of sin in Hell for 3 days for you and me!
He didn’t stay in the grave! HE AROSE AND THAT’S WHAT WE ARE CELEBRATE!
The organization BioLogos, which advocates that Christians accept secular evolutionary claims, recently published an online essay entitled “How to Spot Fake Science.”1 The not-too-subtle implication of the article is that Christians skeptical of ‘consensus science’ claims are being duped by pseudoscience. Based on their published material, BioLogos clearly thinks that criticisms of evolutionary theory fall into this category. Ironically, however, a number of the stated characteristics of pseudoscience apply to evolutionary claims.
According to the article, one characteristic of pseudoscience is that “explanations are made up after the fact to fit whatever outcomes are observed.”1 Closely related to this is the tendency to invoke “built-in explanations for the cases when the idea fails.”1 Evolutionists do this all the time. This tendency to “explain away” contradictory data was illustrated by a recent article purporting to explain why crocodiles have remained the same for 200 million years.2,3 The very first sentence in the news article claims that “a ‘stop-start’ pattern of evolution, governed by environmental change, could explain why crocodiles have changed so little since the age of the dinosaurs.”2 Of course, if evolution were true, one would expect creatures to not remain the same for hundreds of millions of years. Creationists would argue that crocodiles have not evolved simply because evolution isn’t true. The fossils show abrupt appearance, stasis, and extinction—not evolution.4
Another trait of pseudoscience is that “scientific-sounding terms or jargon are used in imprecise, incorrect, or undefined ways.”1 Evolutionist invocations of ‘natural selection’ is a classic example of this. When one reads the evolutionist technical literature, it is very clear that evolutionists are ‘fuzzy’ regarding the precise meaning of this term, despite its centrality to evolutionary theory. Is natural selection real, or just a metaphor?5 Does it act on a population or on genes? ICR President Randy Guliuzza has repeatedly shown that evolutionists routinely use the phrase natural selection in contradictory ways, even within the same papers.6-7
Creation author David Coppedge has rightly ridiculed evolutionary storytelling as the claim that “stuff happens.” He observes that
. . . the Stuff Happens Law (natural selection) explains everything. It explains why evolution is fast sometimes, and slows to a halt at other times. It explains why animals get bigger sometimes, and smaller sometimes. There is no observation in biology that cannot be explained by the two words, “stuff happens.”8 But if evolution explains everything, does it really explain anything? One can always come up with an after-the-fact ‘story’ to explain observations that contradict evolution. But according to the BioLogos article, isn’t that one of the characteristics of pseudoscience?
Another characteristic of pseudoscience is that “[i]deas from outside the realm of science are presented as scientifically established.”1 Evolutionists do this with a vengeance, especially in the field of cosmology. Speculative ideas such as inflation theory are invoked to solve problems with Big Bang cosmology even when there is zero evidence for those ideas. Some evolutionists are willing to invoke other (unobservable) universes, in part because it’s demanded by inflation theory,9 and in part because they (mistakenly) think that it removes the need for a Creator.10
The subject of origins is inherently religious or philosophical, and some evolutionist philosophers of science have acknowledged that evolution is a religion.11 Some supernatural (“beyond nature”) cause must be invoked to explain our universe. Evolutionists claim otherwise, but their own theories compel them to invoke entities that are effectively supernatural, such as other universes. Because creationists candidly acknowledge that a supernatural Creator is required to explain our existence and unashamedly acknowledge that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Creator,12 creation critics are quick to label creation science as “pseudoscience.” Yet these critics often overlook the fact that the charge of pseudoscience can just as easily, and with more far more justification, be applied to evolution.
Abanindranath Tagore, Journey’s End, tempera on paper, 1913.
By Jill Carattini
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Frodo, the young hobbit, has been given the burden of bearing the one ring of power. It is a ring that has the potential to put all of Middle Earth under terror and shadow, and the darkness is already spreading. With a fellowship of friends, Frodo determines he must start the long, dark journey to destroy the ring by throwing it into the volcano from which it was forged. It is a journey that will take him on fearful paths through enemy territory and overwhelming temptation to the ends of himself. Seeing the road ahead of him, he laments to Gandalf the Wise that the burden of the ring should have come to him in the first place.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”(1)
A fan of Tolkien’s epic fantasy once wrote the author to say that he preferred to read The Lord of the Rings particularly during the season of Lent. Though I don’t know all this reader had in mind with such a statement, Tolkien’s portrayal of a journey into darkness with the weight of a great burden and a motley fellowship of companions certainly holds similarities to the journey of the church toward the cross. The forty-day period that leads to Easter is both an invitation and a quest for any who would be willing, albeit a difficult one. The deliberate and wearisome journey with Christ to the cross is a crushing burden, even with the jarring recognition that we are not the one carrying it. On the path to Holy Week, the fellowship of the church far and wide is given time to focus in detail on what it means that Jesus came into this world that he might go the fearful way of the Cross. It is time set apart for pilgrimage and preparation, forty days with which we decide what to do with the time that is given us.
In fact, Christian scriptures attach special meaning to the forty-day journey. Considered the number of days marking a devout encounter with God, we find the occurrence of forty-day journeys throughout the stories of the prophets and the people of God. For forty days Noah and his family waited on the arc as God washed away and revived the earth. Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai, where he received the Law of God to share with the Israelites. Later, he spent forty days on the mountain prostrate before the LORD after the sin of the golden calf. Elijah was given food in the wilderness, which gave him strength for the forty-day journey to Horeb, the Mount of God. Jonah reluctantly accepted forty days in Nineveh where the people, heeding his warning, repented before God with fasting, sackcloths, and ashes. For forty days the prophet Ezekiel laid on his right side to symbolize the forty years of Judah’s transgression. And finally, for forty days Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. As Mark reports: “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”
It is with this same Spirit that any are invited to take the forty-day journey into the shadows and difficulties of Lent. In every forty-day (or forty year) journey described in Scripture, the temptations are real, the waiting is difficult, and the call to listen or to look, to obey or deny is wearying. But there is something about the journey itself to which God moves the journeyer. Jesus himself was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days, while Moses, Ezekiel, Noah, and even Jonah were each instructed to set out on the journeys that brought them closer to the heart of God, whether they were able to accept it or not.
Similarly today, the forty days that lead to Easter Sunday are not without burden or cost. “The Cross of Lent,” as Augustine referred to it, is one to bear year round, but one we learn to bear all the more intensely along the way to the cross during Lent. Here, the church invites the journeyer to remember that we are dust, that we follow Jesus to his death, that we recollect the acts of God to be near us, and we let go of the things that keep us from holding the Son who saves us. Of course, these are burdens that none will never bear alone. But each day we are given is one we decide what to do with. Jesus has given one option:
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”(2)
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1994), 51.
(2) Luke 9:23-24.
Problems in marriage are inevitable. Even chronic. And so, at times, is unhappiness. There are three key ways to handle an unhappy marriage.
After studying 645 couples where one spouse rated their marriage as unhappy, a research study from a team of family scholars found that two-thirds of the couples who chose to stick it out together reported a significantly happier marriage five years later.
So what makes the difference if you choose not to divorce?
The marriages that got happier fell into three broad approaches: the marital work ethic, the marital endurance ethic and the personal happiness epic.
In the marital work ethic, spouses actively work to solve problems, change behavior or improve communication. When the problem is solved, the marriage gets happier. Strategies for improving marriages range from arranging dates or other ways to spend more time together, to enlisting the help and advice of relatives or in-laws, consulting clergy or secular counselors, or even threatening divorce and consulting divorce attorneys.
In the marital endurance ethic, by contrast, spouses don’t solve problems with concerted action on the part of either spouse. Stated another way, you don’t “work” on an unhappy marriage; instead, you endure it. “Just keep putting one foot in front of the other” because with the passage of time, things get better. Job situations improve, children get older or better, or chronic ongoing problems get put into new perspective.
Finally, in the personal happiness epic, marriage problems don’t seem to change that much. Instead, you find alternative ways to improve your own happiness and build a good and happy life despite a mediocre marriage. This often contains elements of both the marital work ethic and the marital endurance ethic approaches as well.
Marriage as a Shared Story
Creating a happy marriage depends on more than just your interactions with your spouse; it also depends on how you view marriage in general.
Marriage is not just the sum of the personal interactions that you find either satisfying or distressing. Marriage is a social status and a shared ideal—a story you have about your own life, your family, your spouse and your love.
The attitudes and values that people and societies have about marriage and divorce affect how satisfying people find being married. In communities where marriage is highly valued, husbands and wives get more from marriage than they would in a community where marriage is seen as a merely private matter.
People who are deeply committed to marriage as a lifelong vow have happier marriages not only because of what they do in their relationships, but because of what they think about being married in general. Read that sentence again.
Stated another way: The happiness you get from any role in life—being a parent, holding a job, being married—depends in part on how satisfying you find the day-to-day interactions and tasks. But it also depends on whether you see the role itself as important and valuable.
In general, we have many goals for our own marriages, and those of others: We want marriage to last, we want children to enjoy living with their own two married parents, we want these marriages to be happy, and we don’t want unhappily married people trapped in miserable lives.
Over the past 40 years, these goals have seemed to be in conflict: If we discourage divorce we create lasting marriages at the high cost of individual misery—almost certainly for adults and often for the children. We need to find ways how to handle conflict.
Based on the findings of this study, this conventional wisdom is untrue.
Does divorce typically make unhappily married people happier than staying married? No.
Does a firm commitment to staying married, even though unhappy, typically condemn adults to lifelong misery? No.
So, is divorce always wrong and staying married always right? The answer’s not so simple.
Both divorce and marriage initiate complex chains of events whose outcomes cannot be predicted with certainty at the outset.
But know this…marriages are not happy or unhappy—spouses are.
And with the passage of time, the feelings of people about their marriages can and do change.
A bad marriage and a good marriage is not always a fixed opposite, but the same marriage at two different points in time (or in the eyes of two different spouses).
Divorce may make an unhappy spouse happier, but there is no guarantee (and much doubt) that it will.
Marriage is no panacea, but neither is divorce.
To sum all this up: People and marriages are going to be happier in communities with a strong commitment to marital permanence. While some marriages are so destructive that divorce or separation maybe an outcome, marriages are more likely to be both happy and stable when marriage is highly valued.
Surround yourself with other married couples who value marriage as well.
Stick it out through the tough times.
And live life together with others.
It makes the ride so much more enjoyable along the way.
‘I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold’ ~ Zechariah 13:9
Life is a test, and within it are series of tests. Just like a litmus test is used to figure if something is acidic or basic, tests in life produce only two outcomes. However, to understand the outcome of the tests, we must understand the Tester and the reason for His testing. Solomon writes, ‘As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like animals. Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so does the other’ (Ecclesiastes 3:18-19). If the fate of all men is death, then life is the soluble mixture of our experiences where we, litmus papers, are dipped by God for testing. As we journey through life, some tests are subtle while others are apparent, and so it is only God who judges the outcome, ‘For who can bring him (mankind) to see what will happen after him?’ (v22). When God tests, He only declares two outcomes; ‘Well done good and faithful servant’ (Matthew 25:23) or ‘you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting’ (Daniel 5:27).
Whatever the form, format, or unit that God uses in our tests, He is only concerned with taking note of two things; our faith in Him and our faithfulness to Him. Peter writes, ‘Though for a while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. So that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed’ (1 Peter 1:6-7). When Jesus beckoned to this same Peter to defy scientific laws so that he ‘walked on water and came towards Jesus’ (Matthew 14:29), Peter probably thought he would do it just for fun, or just to see. Little did he know that even in that situation, Jesus was testing him. Jesus was measuring something vital and so when Peter ‘saw the wind, he was afraid and beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord save me!’’(v30). Jesus response simply was, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’(v31). At that time, the test showed little faith, and Peter was found wanting. Likewise, our life is not just for living or for just going with the flow in our experiences.
In every conduct of our lives, God is only interested in two things- our level of faith and faithfulness to Him because, ‘without faith, it is impossible to please God’ (Hebrews 11:6). That is why Jesus would say, ‘your faith has healed you’ to ‘a woman subject to bleeding for twelve years’ (Mark 5:34), to ‘a blind man, Bartimaeus’ (10:v52), and a man healed of leprosy (Luke 17:19). To a sinful woman, Jesus said, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace’ (7:v50). These people were facing prolonged trials, fateful even, because they were in tests of adversities that never seem to lift. It is through them we see that faithfulness also interlocks with faith in that, ‘anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek him’ (Hebrews 11:6). Those who believed in Jesus approached Him in faith that He exists and is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek him. Their healing and forgiveness of sins was thus their reward.
Sometimes though, our reward is not earthly. Of the great men and women of faith, Paul observes, ‘These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect’ (11:v39-40). Therefore, faith through testing not only rewards but also qualifies.For if we cannot please God, we cannot be qualified to be in His presence. Therefore, He ensures our faith is refined so that, ‘To the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints’ (1 Thessalonians 3:13). Not wanting anyone to miss out on this glorious eternal gift, God uses tests to ‘perfect that which is lacking in your faith’ (v10). So throughout life, God tests us and takes note of the;
Responses we make: Sometimes when trouble hits us, they seem like storms in our lives, but in reality, they are just tests. When a woman told Jesus that her ‘daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession’ (Matthew 15:22), ‘Jesus did not answer a word’ (v23). Likewise, when we make our request to God and He does not immediately say a word, it is not that He is unbothered, but could be that He is testing our faith. Because true faith recognizes God’s sovereignty and man’s frailty. Jesus eventually tells the woman that, ‘It is not right to take children’s bread and toss it to their dogs’ (v26). The woman then responds, ‘Yes, Lord but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table’ (v27). Even when things did not go her way, the woman still recognized Jesus as Lord and Master. She also acknowledged her frailaity comparing it to that of an animal, and acknowledged God’s mercies irregardless of the crumbs He sent- because no one is deserving to eat at the Master’s table in the first place. In hearing her response, Jesus tested and gauged her response and eventually said, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted’ (v28).
Instructions we take: Other times, God gives us explicit and clear instructions to follow in order to test our faith. ‘Some time later God tested Abraham . . . God said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about’ (Genesis 22:1,2). When Abraham followed the instruction and ‘took the knife to slay his son’ (v10), the angel of the Lord stopped him and said, ‘Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son’ (v12).
When God asks us to give up something dear, it is not that He is in need of it, but is rather testing our faith. When He sees our faith and complete obedience to His instructions, He restores and multiplies. To Abraham, God says, ‘I swear by myself . . . I will sure blessyou and make your descendants as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. . . and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed because you obeyed me’ (v16,17,18). Abraham’s faith was found in good measure when tested based on the seemingly unfavourable instructions he followed. ‘By faith Abraham, when God tested him offered Isaac as a sacrifice . . . Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead’ (Hebrews 11:17,19).
Sins we tolerate: Although God does not bring sin into our lives to test us, temptations arise from the lust of our flesh or by the devil’s cunning devices. ‘Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts any man; But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed’ (James 1:13-14). Irregardless, how we respond when temptations cross our way directly correlates with our faith. Being tempted is not sin, but giving in to temptation is sin. So God tests our faith by the sins we tolerate in our lives. He says, ‘See, I will refine and test them, for what else can I do because of the sin of my people?’ (Jeremiah 9:7). When we continually tolerate sin in our lives, God sees us as, ‘hardened rebels . . . the refining goes on in vain; the wicked are not purged out’ (6:v28,29). So God says, ‘I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another’ (Isaiah 48:10-11).
Choices we make: ‘Are you still holding your integrity? Curse God and die!’ (Job 2:9). Job facing loss and anguish is presented with two choices. His wife urges him to let go of his integrity, his faith in God, and curse Him so he can die- so that his troubles can come to an ‘end’. How far one is willing to go to rid off their misfortune is a measure of their faith and faithfulness to God. In life, we are presented with choices. Some take the wide road contrary to God’s will in order to become rich, famous, admired, comfortable, or ‘happy’. Our choices reflect our faith in God and our readiness, or lack thereof, in the Kingdom class. Job replies, ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? In all this, Job did not sin in what he said’ (v10). Job knew his adversities were a test and that the choice he made would not only determine his outcome, but his perception of God. He eventually says of God, ‘But he knows the way I take; when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold’ (23:v10).
‘The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart’ ~ Proverbs 17:3
The defeat is not yet final, but Christ has dealt the decisive blow.
The contention of this series of articles is that the Bible is set in the land of wild things. That is, the Bible is more fantastical—beautiful, dangerous and strange—than we give it credit for. What we incorrectly call the natural and the supernatural, as if they are distinct and isolated realms, are actually part of a single, fascinating, and intertwined world. In the Bible, heaven and earth constantly interact and are alive with all kinds of creatures, forces, and powers—both seen and unseen.
What are these powers? What do they do in the world? How do they operate? How do they relate to God, to humans, and to the story of rescue and redemption the Bible tells? It’s past time we re-engage the Bible’s overlooked story of the powers.
* I am especially indebted to G.B. Caird’s small book Principalities and Powers for the main outline of this series (based on his Chancellor’s Lectures in 1954 at Queen’s University).
RECLAIMING THE WORLD
On the very first Sabbath day in the history of the world, God rested. In the ancient world, when a deity “rested” it meant they took up residence within their temple and began to rule:
“For the LORD has chosen Zion,
he has desired it for his dwelling, saying,
‘This is my resting place for ever and ever;
here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.’”
— Psalm 132
But it wasn’t long before God had to start working again, for the fallen powers and principalities and even his own wayward image-bearers had immediately begun disrupting the life and flourishing of his cosmic temple.
God’s new work was to pursue re-creation—the restoration and renewal of all he’d intended from the beginning. But this labor proves to be harder and slower than the first time around, due to the recalcitrants now impeding his plans.
The world rulers of this darkness seeking only to steal, kill and destroy.
Divine image-bearers strangely refusing to image the divine.
So when the Father sends the Son into the world to redeem the world, the Son continues the divine striving. When Jesus is accused of healing a man (i.e., working) on the Sabbath he says, “Yes, of course I’m working on this day. I work every single day! And my Father is working too!” This is the creational endeavor of rebuilding and recovery. This is the storyline of the Bible: God working to undo the work of those seeking to undo his own good work in the creation.
The life and ministry of Jesus is the culmination of God’s great undertaking: to win back the world.
GOD AT WAR
Read a Gospel, any Gospel. What do you find? A great battle between the kingdom of Satan and the kingdom of God.
We need to rethink what we’ve supposed the good news of Jesus to be all about. Again, as with so many elements of the biblical story, we’ve minimized and narrowed (he came to save me) what is big and comprehensive (he came to defeat sin and death and reclaim the creation—which includes me). Again and again in the stories about Jesus we find confrontation with evil and with evil ones. Jesus announces and is advancing a kingdom, a reign, a new authority.
Mark tells us that Jesus begins his entire ministry in the wilderness “with the wild animals” to be tested by the Accuser. Jesus immediately goes out to where the wild things are to face down the malicious spiritual forces that have been running the world. His initial victory here launches him into a public ministry in Israel that is both invitational and combative at the same time. His mission is a rescue operation, fighting spiritual oppressors and freeing slaves.
From Outreach MagazineShalom and the Future of Church Ministry
The authority of Satan as the ruler of this age is seen in physical disease (“a daughter of Abraham whom Satan has kept bound for 18 long years”), in demon possession, in false teaching, in moral failure, and preeminently in the murder of Jesus on the cross (“this is your hour, and the dominion of darkness”). Jesus exorcises and teaches and heals to overpower the Strong Man, with the goal of releasing and restoring those people who’ve been suffering under the Dark Lord.
This battle the Messiah is fighting is not the battle Israel was expecting. The reorientation is hard to understand, even for the Twelve:
Who is this that commands unclean spirits? Who is this that can calm the wild, uncontrollable seas of chaos? Who is this that can heal and restore with a touch, or even a word? Who is this that is overpowering the powers?
Just as Palestine was a territory controlled by a Roman legion, so Jesus takes on the Legion of spiritual powers and authorities destroying the people of God. He is the Son of Man—that is, the truly human one come to reclaim the human vocation of image-bearing and ruling. Yes, it is the reign of God that he brings, but God has always wanted to rule in and through his designated agents. It is the seed of the woman that will crush the serpent (Gen. 3). It is the Son of Man that will put all things in subjection under his feet (Ps. 8; Dan. 7).
So Jesus teaches his disciples to pray a battle prayer, demanding that God bring victory in this contest. (Boldly, the verbs here are all imperatives, i.e., telling God what to do.) It is time for God to make his name known throughout the world, for God’s rule to extend to the earth. This prayer is about a new day coming and the bread of a New Exodus being given. Debtors must be released and the power of sin must be broken. It is an urgent appeal for God to protect his people from the Evil One and save them from the time of trial.
This clash comes to its climax when Jesus enters Jerusalem on a wild, unbroken colt, demonstrating that he really is king of the city and ruler over the powers. Jesus directly confronts the false and corrupt rulers of his people, both Jewish and Roman.
But then ha Satan enters one of the Twelve and drives him to betrayal. The powers intend the worst for Jesus, this disruptive human one that has been pushing them back and reclaiming creation for the Creator.
They know he is the Holy One of God, as we hear them shriek when he casts them out. But they also know he is vulnerable, flesh, able to die.
So the powers do what they know, do what they’ve always done. They steal, kill and destroy once more.
THE SECRET WISDOM OF GOD IN CHRIST
The Gospels narrate the story. The letters of the apostles clarify the implications. Paul explains to us what has happened:
“We do, however, speak wisdom among the mature. But this isn’t a wisdom of this present world, or of the rulers of this present world—those same rulers who are being done away with. No: we speak God’s hidden wisdom in a mystery. This is the wisdom God prepared ahead of time, before the world began, for our glory.
“None of the rulers of this present age knew about this wisdom. If they had, you see, they wouldn’t have crucified the Lord of glory.” — 1 Corinthians 2
The powers were blinded by their own lust for control, their thirst for destruction. They didn’t understand God’s deeper wisdom in Christ. Working through their human allies, they thought they could simply eliminate the Stronger One who had come into the world.
From Outreach MagazineThe 7 Irrefutable Laws of Servant Leadership
Though they couldn’t see it coming, the tables were being turned. What they thought was their moment of greatest triumph was precisely their moment of utter defeat.
The weakness of God in Christ was more powerful than the strength of the powers.
The paradox of God’s work in Christ—losing to win, dying to live—was incomprehensible to those obsessed with their own lust for dominance and carnage.
New Testament scholar G.B. Caird* identifies the specific threefold victory of the Messiah over the world rulers of the darkness:
1. The powers had a hold over the human race because of their successful accusations of our own pervasive wrongdoing. But Christ decisively dealt with the charges against us:
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” — Colossians 2
2. The powers operate at a high level of organization. Their pernicious effects are nested into the structures of society: institutions, economic systems and governments. They are intertwined with the essential frameworks of a fallen cosmos. Defeating them requires giving humans a new option for corporate identification and action. This is what Christ and the renewed family of God provide. The Messiah is a new or second Adam, affording humanity a new basis for unity and taking away a crucial tool of the powers.
3. Finally, Jesus destroys the deceptions and falsehoods at the heart of the kingdom of corruption. Paul writes that the god of this age has blinded the minds of all those who worship what is not God. This spiritual veil compels people to give their allegiance to imposters. Jesus has shown us the truth about the world and about who God is. The light of revelation that Christ brings evaporates the lies that empower so much of the success of the false rulers.
This definitive victory of Israel’s Messiah and world’s true Lord on the cross was confirmed and demonstrated by his powerful resurrection and ascension. Jesus came and did God’s work. He came and fought God’s fight. Therefore his death was reversed, his claim to be king was vindicated, and he was raised up to his rightful position over all things.
The powers have met their match. Their defeat is not yet final, but the decisive blow has been dealt.
The secret wisdom of God in Christ is the dawning of a new day for the world. People are being liberated. The creation itself will soon be set free.
So our final question must turn back to us. What do we do now? How do we take up our own roles in the ongoing defeat of the world rulers of this darkness?
Well, let’s take the Word of God and open to Ephesians chapter 5. Ephesians chapter 5 verses 18 and 19 tell us this: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;” – this is Spirit-filled music. Certainly, we’re all aware that music dominates our culture, aren’t we? Rarely is anyone away from it.
If you’re in the car, music is playing. If you’re at home, music is playing, on the radio, the television, stereos, CD players, MP3s, iPods, etc. If you go into a store, music is playing. If you go into a restaurant, music is playing. You see people walking down the street, riding bicycles, jogging with ear plugs listening to music. Music is a powerful emotional stimulator. Truthfully, music is a gift from God. It’s part of His creation, and what a wonderful gift it is.
It is a common grace. That’s an expression that theologians have used for centuries to describe things that are good gifts from God given to everybody; common grace, like the rain falling on the just and the unjust. Music is a common grace. It is a gift from God for everyone to enjoy. It is a benefit to mankind. It is a ready means to quite the troubled soul, to settle the anxious heart, to give expression to strong feelings when words are not enough.
It was music that calmed the troubled heart of Saul in 1 Samuel. In Ecclesiastes the troubled king – looking at life and concluding that everything is vanity and nothing but vanity – says, “I gathered around me male and female singers.” Music is a comfort. Music is an encouragement. It can be high and noble. It can be beautiful and majestic. Music can elevate the soul and emotions that are honorable, and pure, and lofty and good, or it can be base and crass, ugly, degrading, catapulting the soul downward into feelings that are dishonorable and impure – and just about anything in between.
But as the world gets worse, as evil men grow worse and worse, the world carries its music with it. As a fallen world catapults deeper and deeper into corruption, headed toward the day when the Lord comes back to destroy this world and to create a new heaven and a new earth, music degenerates with humanity. Therefore, music in our day is dominated by a more degenerate kind of society than years ago. The degenerate – in fact, seemingly, the more degenerate people are, the more impact they have in music.
Music has become a settling ground for degenerate people. Not just music, but just about all the arts; but certainly, music has degenerated in our culture, both in its composition, and its performance and its personnel. And it seems that, in most cases, if you want music that is beautiful, and noble, and lofty, and pure, and good, and intelligent and magnificent, you have to go back in time to a less sensual era, a less blatantly corrupt era.
If you were here 30 years ago, you might have heard the choir sing what they sang today. If you were here 30 years ago, you might have heard the congregation sing, “There is a fountain filled with blood.” The music that the church sings is timeless, and its truth is eternal. We go back, even in the culture, to the classics because we want a nobler, loftier, more elevated experience in music; the further we go forward in our culture, the more base it becomes. And I submit to you that nothing that you do is more serious than worship; nothing.
Worship is the highest expression of a believer’s life, and therefore the music that accompanies your worship should be the highest, and the noblest, and the loftiest and the best. In all cases with secular music, it reflects the attitude of the society in the time it was produced, but that’s not true with our music. The music of the redeemed expresses the unchanging truth of the Word of God, that transcends culture. We don’t succumb to the ever-increasing corruption of a fallen world displayed in its music.
The music of the redeemed is different; it is reflective of the truth of God that never changes, and I think it displays the elements that are true of God: order, design, intelligence. The music that is reflective of God is systematic, sequential, poetic, harmonic, rhythmic, possesses resolution. It expresses the unchangeable reality of God and His truth. Salvation has given us a new song, and it is a timeless song. I have the distinct feeling that when we get to heaven we’re going to be singing the same things we’re singing here.
Salvation has given us God’s truth, and with it, music consistent with that truth, consistent with His nature. It is for us more than a common grace; it is a spiritual blessing given only to the elect, only to the redeemed. Now, before we look at the verses that are the text for today, I just would like to comment on some misconceptions – maybe correct them. First of all, there is the misconception that music is worship. For a lot of people, you say, “We’re going to worship,” automatically that means music.
But music is not worship; that is not true. Music is a means to express worship. It’s not the only means; it’s not even the most important means. The most important means to express worship is obedience. And even, connected to that obedience, is love. But music is a way to express worship. It gives wings to us. It elevates us. It lifts us when words are not enough, and it allows us to borrow somebody else’s words when our own are not as prosaic as our hearts wish they were.
Another misconception is that music produces worship, motivates worship, induces worship; that is to say, that worship is an emotional experience and the right kind of music will whip up that emotion. That is true. Music will play on your emotion, music will stir your emotion, but that is not necessarily worship. Music will give expression to love, it will give expression to adoration, it will give expression to honor, it will give expression to worship, but it doesn’t produce it.
What produces it is the truth in the heart and the work of the Spirit of God. People sometimes ask me about musical preferences, and I will just tell you this: I don’t – I don’t need music to that whips up my emotions. I am content with any kind of music that allows me to give expression to the truth that I believe. I want to think about what I’m singing. Patricia and I visited a church recently where I was trying my best to worship, but I was so blasted and bombarded by smoke and mirrors, and flashing lights, and spinning wheels, and jumping people, that it was impossible for me to worship.
I was so distracted, I couldn’t keep my attention in any direction. I don’t need to have my senses blasted. My worship comes from the truth that I love and that I understand. I don’t need emotion to induce that; I need emotion to respond to that. Another misconception is that music must appeal to the non-believer, or they’re going to get bored with our worship. That also is a misconception. I want to say this in a gracious way, but the music that you hear among the people of God is not designed for the unbeliever; not designed for the unbeliever.
We’re glad you’re here, glad you’re listening; don’t expect you to like it, particularly. We would assume that it’s not your favorite kind of music, and that you’re probably fairly bored with it; and that certainly, if you’re not bored with the music, by now you’re bored with me. I understand that. The songs of the redeemed belong to the redeemed. I don’t say that in an unkind way, but you’re on the outside looking in. The songs of the redeemed never, in Scripture, are said to be for any direct evangelistic purpose.
There’s an indirect effect; when you see a worshiping group of people, who with all their heart love their God and love their Savior, and are pouring out their hearts in praise, that has an impact. But it’s the truth of the transformation demonstrated in the worship that has the impact. There’s no mandate for the church to make its music appealing to the sons of Satan; it’s our music. So, music is not worship. Music does not induce worship.
Music is never intended for the satisfaction of non-worshipers. It is the gift of God to believers to give expression to their love and their gratitude to the God of their salvation. That’s why the Bible calls it “a new song;” “a new song.” The world, as I said, is filled with music; it’s a common grace, but we have a new song. In fact, if you go back to the Psalms – we talked about the Psalms being Israel’s hymn book – the word new appears many times in the Psalms – more with the word song than any other substantive.
As a new people, we have a new song. Our music has dramatically changed from the music of the world. In Psalm 33 we read – verse 1: “Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones; Praise is becoming to the upright. Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; Sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy.” God wants music that is loud, skillful, joyous, and expresses the new song; and what is the new song?
It’s the song of the redeemed, it’s the song of the new life, it’s the song of salvation. Psalm 40 – a personal testimony from the Psalmist, David: “I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.” This is basically a testimony of His salvation. “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God” – ours is a new song.
Psalm 96:1: “Sing to the Lord a new song.” Psalm 98:1: “O sing to the Lord a new song.” Psalm 149:1, I read earlier: “Sing to the Lord a new song.” Isaiah 42:10, the prophet says, “Sing to the Lord a new song.” We sing a new song because we are new creations. Our music is not like the old song. It’s not like the songs that are the common grace songs. It’s the song of joy and praise, and thanks for the gift of salvation, the forgiveness of sin, and the promise of eternal life.
And it’s always been a part of the worship of God’s people. If you go all the way back, for example, into 2 Chronicles chapter 29, the wonderful story there of Hezekiah – finally a good king in Judah – and Hezekiah comes back and the Lord uses him to bring a wonderful restoration of worship. In chapter 29 of 2 Chronicles and verse 20, “King Hezekiah arose early, assembled the princes of the city, went to the house of the Lord.”
Going to restore worship, and there are animals brought for sin offering; the slaughter of the bulls, verse 22, the priests took the blood, sprinkled it on the altar. Slaughtered the rams, sprinkled the blood; slaughtered the lambs, sprinkled the blood; same with the male goats. Laid their hands on them, the priests slaughtered them – verse 24 – purged the altar. And then verse 25: “He stationed the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with harp, with lyres, according to the command of David and Gad the king’s seer, and Nathan the prophet; for the command was from the Lord through His prophets.”
The Lord commands music; music in response to the initiation of worship, based upon forgiveness through a sacrifice. “The Levites” – verse 26 – “stood with the musical instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. Hezekiah gave the order to offer the burnt offering on the altar. When the burnt offering began, the song to the Lord also began with the trumpets, accompanied by the instruments of David, king of Israel.
While the whole assembly worshiped, the singers also sang and the trumpets sounded; all this continued until the burnt offering was finished. Now at the completion of the burnt offerings, the king and all who were present with him bowed down and worshiped. Moreover, King Hezekiah and the officials ordered the Levites to sing praises to the Lord with the words of David and Asaph the seer” – who both wrote psalms. “So they sang praises with joy, and bowed down and worshiped.”
Singing is not worship, but it accompanies worship; it is a means of worship. This is the worship of the redeemed. Our music is not like the old song. And music was a critical part of Old Testament life. According to 1 Chronicles 23:5, there were about, I suppose, nearly forty thousand people serving in the temple; four thousand of them were in the music department – one in ten. In Exodus 15 verses 20 and 21, Miriam, the sister of Moses, led a woman’s chorus.
In 1 Samuel 10:5, the prophets made up a male chorus with instruments. In 1 Chronicles 13:8 and 1 Chronicles 15:28, the congregation sang praise to God with instruments; it says, “with all their might” – loudly, as the Lord likes it. First Chronicles 16, David made a tabernacle choir. There was a temple choir, as I said, of 4,000, according to 1 Chronicles 23:5. And when the children of Israel were taken into captivity in Babylon the temple was destroyed.
They came back, you remember, under Zerubbabel, they rebuilt the temple. Ezra 2:65 says that when the temple was rebuilt, they reconstituted the choir. Smaller temple this time, smaller choir, only 200 in the choir. But the revival that came when they returned from captivity is recorded in Nehemiah, as you know, chapter 8 on through chapter 12. They had a great revival – the Word of God was read, restoration came – and it tells us in the twelfth chapter of Nehemiah that the revival featured an antiphonal loud singing – antiphonal means people singing back and forth.
This was the ultimate sort of consummational praise in response to the revival. The Old Testament talks about all kinds of stringed instruments: azor, dulcimer, harp, sackbut – which is like a lyre – drums, timbrel, bells, woodwinds, trumpets, clarinets, flutes, pipes, ram’s horns – music was a main means of expressing worship. If we look forward – as we just looked back – to the millennial kingdom, Ezekiel gives us a description of worship in the millennium.
In the time, the thousand-year kingdom, when the Lord comes back and reigns on the earth, there is going to be a great time of worship in the rebuilt temple. It’s going to be a monumental choir that is going to take place there. In fact – I’m not going to read it to you – but in the fortieth chapter of Ezekiel, verses 44 to 47, there is a choir loft that is described there that could hold four thousand people. So, a four thousand voice choir in the Old Testament, a four thousand voice choir to come in the great time of millennium.
In between – in this period of time – the New Testament, for example, makes much of music. Matthew 26:30, remember, Jesus gathered with His disciples in the Upper Room for the final Passover, instituted the Lord’s Table, and it says, “And after they had sung a hymn, He went out into the Mount of Olives.” From there on the church sings. We have even some of the elements of the hymns they sung scattered throughout the epistles of the New Testament.
There are illustrations of the music of the church in Acts 16, 1 Corinthians 14. And then you come to the book of Revelation, chapter 5, chapter 14, chapter 15, and you go to heaven in those scenes, and there’s music in heaven as the saints are singing, “Worthy is the Lamb.” Music has always been a part, always will be a part, of our worship. It is a wondrous blessing from God, a gift. And we will enjoy music throughout eternity, singing the songs of redemption.
Well, all of that leads us to our text, so let’s look at it. Just three points I want to make. First is a contrast; a contrast. Verse 18: “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” If that seems to you as a strange contrast, I understand that. Why would he contrast being filled with the Spirit with being drunk? Well, the reason is because, in the ancient pagan religions, they believed that the way you communed with the deities was through losing control.
The idea was that you become drunk, you engage yourself in a kind of a deep drunkenness, and this will lift you, this will elevate you to commune with deities. You add to that indulgence at a gross level in terms of food – gluttony and vomiting in a pit in the middle of the floor, and then going back and refilling yourself. And you add to that temple prostitutes, with whom orgies are conducted, and you have a description of the typical Gentile pagan religious experience.
It is total abandonment to all things sensual; total abandonment of all control to a substance that causes you to plunge deep into a stupor of unthinking, irresponsible evil. That, they taught, was how you worship. That’s how you transcend the mundane. That’s how you commune with the deities. In the sixties, Timothy Leary tried to sell that, saying that drugs induced an elevated state of consciousness in which you could commune with God; that’s a very old belief.
Peter faced it in his ministry, and so he wrote in 1 Peter chapter 4 and verse 3, “For the time already past is sufficient for you.” In other words, you need to change your lives. Now that you’ve come to Christ, no longer living “for the lusts of men, but the will of God.” – verse 2 – you’ve had enough of “the desire of the Gentiles.” You’ve had enough of the old life; what was it like? “Having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.”
All of that was one package deal. When you went to worship an idol, it involved sensuality, lust, drunkenness, carousing and, of course, the abomination of worshiping a false God – you’ve got to stop this. He says, “In all this, they” – the Gentiles – “are surprised that you do not run with them with the same excesses of dissipation.” There’s that same word dissipation that was in Ephesians, that drunkenness led to dissipation.
They wanted the dissipation. They wanted the drunkenness to lead to the dissipation, because the deception was this is how you commune with the supernatural. And the truth is, they did commune with the supernatural, but the ones they were communing with were demons. That’s why Paul says in 1 Corinthians you can’t come to the table of the Lord and go to the table of demons. False religion was demonic. They did touch the supernatural, but they touched the supernatural at the demonic point.
Frenzied immoral drunkenness, gluttony, corrupt sexual behavior – all supposedly inducing communion with deities – did nothing but plunge them deeper into Satanism. Paul says, “We don’t do that; we don’t do that. You’re going to be controlled, not by a substance like alcohol – you’re going to be controlled by being filled with the Holy Spirit.” There’s a clear contrast between false religion and true religion, the religion of the flesh, the religion of the Spirit.
The command is to be being – literally in the Greek – “be being kept filled with the Spirit.” Now, there’s a lot of theology we could talk about with that, but I won’t take the time to do it at this point. Suffice it to say the “be being kept filled with the Spirit” is a command for continuity. Some people think being filled with the Spirit is some kind of ecstatic experience that hits you here and there and hither and yon; some people equate it with being slain in the Spirit or launching off into some kind of tongues.
That is not what this is talking about. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is compared to being filled with alcohol. When you’re filled with alcohol, it controls you. When you’re filled with the Holy Spirit, He controls you, and this is not a sometime experience – this is to be a way of life. If you were in a Gentile religion and involved in that kind of thing, you would drink yourself into oblivion, and then you would eat yourself to the point where you would need to get rid of it.
And you would go and divest yourself of the food and the alcohol in your stomach, and then you would go back again and fill up again, and fill up again, and fill up again – and the history of these orgies is just unbelievable – and then you would engage in all kinds of corrupt immoral behavior because you were totally under the control of that substance. We don’t worship except under the control of the Holy Spirit. Being filled expresses the idea of permeation – being dominated to the point of control – that’s the parallel.
What fills, controls, and we are to be controlled in our worship by the Holy Spirit. You know, the pagans were so used to seeing religion expressed in drunkenness and strange behavior that on the day of Pentecost, in Acts chapter 2, when the Spirit of God came, it says, “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to speak in languages.” What was the response of the people around? Acts 2:13, they said, “they’re drunk.”
Because the normal explanation for unusual religious behavior was that they were drunk, and, of course, on the day of Pentecost, they were filled with the Holy Spirit. This is the basic spiritual reality that defines what it is to live your Christian life. This is not some once-in-a-while deal. This is not some repeatable, ecstatic experience in which you speak in tongues or fall over backwards. This is just how you live your life.
Every Christian possesses the Holy Spirit. Every believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit: 1 Corinthians 6:19. If you have Christ, you have the Holy Spirit: Romans 8:9. The Spirit has come to dwell in you: 1 Corinthians 12:13. You’ve been sealed with the Spirit of God. The point is, since He lives in you, you are to yield to His control. It doesn’t mean having a wild, ecstatic experience, some kind of mystical trauma, some kind of ecstatic speech.
It’s very thoughtful, it’s very controlled, it’s very orderly, it’s very reasonable, and it is to be a constant reality. Filled in the sense of permeation. Now, to better understand that, the word filled is used – plēroō – to speak of winds filling a sail that moves the ship. The word is used very often in the New Testament in a dominating sense – like in John 16:6, it says he was filled with sorrow, which means that it just took over – no more balance.
Or Luke 5:26, filled with fear, or Luke 6:11, filled with madness, or Acts 6:5, filled with faith, or Acts 5:3, filled with Satan. It’s talking about permeation and control. And the command of Scripture is that we are to be filled, permeated, controlled, by the Holy Spirit. How do you do that; how do you do that? You – do you pray some prayer to the Holy Spirit to come? No, because He’s already there. How do you do that? Well, the answer comes in a parallel passage in Colossians 3, so turn to Colossians 3.
This is very practical. If you look at Colossians 3, in one verse – verse 16 – the verse ends – I want you to see the back half of the verse to begin with. It says, “admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to the Lord.” That’s a direct parallel of Ephesians 5:19, right? We just read it. “Speaking to yourselves in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”
That’s Ephesians 5:19. Here, Colossians 3:16b – same thing – “psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your heart to the Lord.” So, the results are the same in Ephesians and Colossians, but the means are different. In Ephesians, it says, “Be filled with the Spirit.” Here, it says, “Let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom.” So, you get the same results from two things: one, being filled with the Spirit; two, letting the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.
Conclusion: they’re the same. To be filled with the Spirit, to be dominated by the Spirit, to be controlled by the Spirit, means to be aware of what the Word says and obedient to it. We’re not talking about a mystical experience here. We’re talking about simply understanding richly – plousiōs, equal to abundantly – the Word that has come from Christ. You want to be filled with the Spirit? That simple; you have to know what the Spirit wills – right?
If you want the Spirit to control your life, you have to know what is the Spirit’s will? To know the Spirit’s will, you need simply to know what the Spirit has revealed in Scripture. We’re commanded to live under the control of the Holy Spirit, and the only way we can do that is to be obedient to the will of the Spirit; the only way we can be obedient to the will of the Spirit is to know what His will is; and so, we turn to the Word.
Worship is inseparable from holiness. Holiness is inseparable from obedience. Obedience is inseparable from knowledge. Knowledge is inseparable from Scripture. You know the Scripture, it leads to knowledge. Knowledge leads to obedience, obedience leads to holiness, and that’s what it means to be under the control of the Holy Spirit. That’s a life that worships; whether there’s any music or not, that’s a life that worships.
Now, that brings us to the issue that’s on our minds – back to Ephesians 5. The contrast, and then the command to be filled with the Spirit, dominated by the Word, living in obedience to the Word – what are the consequences? How do you know when you’re doing this? The consequences, first of all, are given clearly in verse 19: “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.”
The first consequence is music; music. There’s a second consequence in verse 20: thankfulness. There’s a third consequence in verse 21: submission to one another in the fear of Christ. But the first is music – there’s a reason why Christians sing. We can’t stop singing. Now, three words here carry the action, three verbs – verbs always carry the action in any language, certainly that’s true in Greek as well – three verbs: speaking, singing and making melody; speaking, singing and making melody.
Speaking is a general word, but it’s the Greek word laleō. It actually means – it’s an onomatopoetic word; that is, its meaning is like its sound – la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-leō. It’s used of animals, it is used of the sounds of a baby, it is used of the chirping of birds – primarily; secondarily, it means to say or to speak. But it really could be simply translated making sounds; making sounds. And further defining those sounds, we are making sounds to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs by singing and making melody; so, what kind of sounds?
The sounds of singing – we sing. We can’t stop singing. The Greek verb is adō, to sing. Further defined, making melody – from the verb psallō, from which the word psalm comes from – it literally means to sing to the accompaniment of an instrument, or to play an instrument. We play instruments, we sing to the accompaniment of those instruments; this is an expression of the Spirit-filled life. Vocal, instrumental music is the initial expression of the worship of a Spirit-filled believer.
How blessed have we been here, right? To come filled with the Spirit, and to have one so gifted to lead us in the expression of that song. It’s in our hearts to sing; we will sing forever around the throne of God. We have had a foretaste of that glory here in our church experience. Now, there are several features about our singing. Among whom do we sing? Verse 19: “Speaking to one another” – “to yourselves” some translations put it – it refers to the believers.
We sing to ourselves. We sing among ourselves, is the best way to say it. It is a mutual ministry among the saints. It is not entertainment. It is not evangelistic. It is not for other people. It is among us. It is corporate worship. By the way, the Roman Catholic Church robbed the church of this, of course, for a thousand years, and when the Reformers came back and rediscovered the gospel, they also started to write hymns, and even produced hymns for the people to sing for the first time in a thousand years.
In Hebrews chapter 2 and verse 12, there is a wonderful testimony given: “I will proclaim Your name to my brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise.” Our praise is sung in the midst of the congregation. It’s for us, it’s our music, it’s our new song; it’s our form, our means, of worship. From where does this song come? End of the verse – says, “singing and making melody with your heart,” or “from your heart,” or “in your heart.” It comes from the heart.
It’s an overflow; it’s a bubbling over. Psalm 137 tells the story of the captivity of Israel, and Psalm 137 looks at their captivity from the musical perspective. Very interesting Psalm – listen: “By the rivers of Babylon,” – they’re captive in Babylon – “There we sat down and wept, When we remembered Zion. On the willows in the midst of it We hung our harps.” No more singing; there was no song to sing. “For there our captives demanded of us songs.” The Babylonians came and said, “Sing.”
“Our tormentors said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’” “We want to hear your music.” “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” They hung their harps on the tree limbs. It has to come from the heart; they were not redeemed yet. Well, when they were redeemed and they went back to the land – as you remember, I said a little while ago they had the great revival and the restoration of the land – the first thing they did was begin to sing.
Amos 5, the prophet Amos said, “Stop your songs; your hearts aren’t right.” Sometimes Israel sang with an impure heart, and sometimes they had no heart at all, but the kind of songs the Lord wants to hear are the songs that come from a pure heart. To whom do we sing? To the Lord – end of verse 19, to the Lord. When you come to church you’ve got to understand this: this is not a performance going on up here with the musicians and you’re not the audience.
God is the audience and we are all singing to Him. You understand that? When you sing a hymn, you sing it to Him. “O God, our help in ages past/Our hope for years to come” – who you talking to? You’re talking to God. When you’re singing, “There is a fountain filled with blood,” to whom are you singing that? You’re singing that to the one who gave His blood for you. Whether you’re singing it as a solo or a trio or a congregation, it’s all directed at Him; He’s the audience in the worship.
It’s to Him. Everything is, as Bach put it, Solo Deo gloria, for the glory of God. And so, we ask the question about all music, will it honor God? Will it glorify God? If not, then we don’t want to use it. With what do we sing? Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and I think while there’s not a hard and fast difference between these, there are some distinctions in them; and this is a way in which the Scripture – and it does it here and also in Colossians 3:16 – can give us some breadth in our musical expression.
Psalms – psalmos – could refer to the Old Testament Psalms, or any of those anthems that are directed at the greatness and the glory of the Trinity. Hymns – humnos – means a song of praise and generally related to salvation. So, you have great anthems on the nature of God, and then you have songs of salvation. Then you have spiritual songs; what are they? Likely referring to personal testimony: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,that saved a wretch like me” – that’s a spiritual song.
We sing great anthems about God. We sing the great songs of salvation, and we give personal testimony to the spiritual work of God in our lives in songs of testimony. What a privilege for us to have been doing this for the last 30 years because the Lord gave us Clayton to lead us, to lift us. Well, if you haven’t read Pilgrim’s Progress, it’s not too late; find an edition of it and read it.
Whenever John Bunyan describes Pilgrim coming out of a conflict – coming out of a dilemma, coming out of a disaster, coming out of desolation, being recovered, rescued from harm – it never says he was filled with the Spirit; it never says that. But 50 times in Pilgrim’s Progress it says, “he went on his way singing;” he went on his way singing. We sing because we are filled with the Spirit and that’s the immediate consequence.
Revelation 18:20 to 22 says that a day is coming when all music in the world will stop – just think of that – that’s Revelation 18. God says the music of the world will stop. Things will get so bad, so horrendous, so horrific, that – like the Jews who hung their harps on the willows in Babylon – the world’s music will stop. That’s an unbelievable thought. You just experienced the death of Michael Jackson and the bizarre outpouring of emotion in response to that – and it wasn’t because of him, because nobody could really understand him.
It was because of the music. It’s so seductive. There will come a time when all the music stops, and just at the time when all the music of the world stops, the whole new heaven and new earth will be dominated by the new song, the song of the redeemed. Ours will just be beginning when the world comes to an end. And when you get to heaven, I want to tell you a little about what’s going to happen. Listen to Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord your God in your midst, the mighty one will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness.”
Isn’t that amazing? We rejoice over Him with gladness; He’s going to rejoice over us? “He will rejoice over you with singing.” Did you know God is the ultimate soloist? Can you imagine getting to heaven, and having God step up and sing a solo of joy to you? “He will rejoice over you with singing” – because His own heart will be filled with joy to see you in His presence. Spirit-filled music – not the music of the world, but the music that we will sing forever – and one day God will even sing to us.
Father, we thank You again for a wonderful time this morning, thinking about all these things and many more things that come to mind. So grateful for the music that You’ve given us here in this church; grateful for all the wonderful good music, uplifting music. Our minds sweep back over Sundays, and Sundays, and Sundays, concerts and special events, and our lives have been filled with the best of music. And You’ve given it to us as a gift through Your servant, Clayton Erb.
We are deeply grateful, and we express to You our gratitude. We even thank You for all the influences in his life, starting with his own parents and family, and friends, and mostly the influence of the Spirit; for he, being filled with Your Spirit, could lead us by his own example. And so, we thank You that we’ve even been able to worship You this morning, and we thank You for what we look forward to ahead as we gather week in and week out.
And even in the middle of the week as we enjoy the wonderful expressions of music that give wings to our worship. We pray, Lord, for those who may not know the Savior, who are on the outside looking in, for whom these songs are foreign songs. We would pray, Lord, that You would bring that person to the cross of Christ, that You would cause that sinner to repent and desire the salvation that only Christ can bring, and that You would add one more voice to the choir who sing the new song.
We pray, Lord, that You would rescue those who are perishing, as the hymn writer put it; that they would come to the Savior and receive salvation, and sing the new song, the song of the redeemed that we will sing forever. This is an inexplicable gift of sovereign grace, and we thank You for it. And all God’s people said: Amen.