Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Halting Between Two Opinions

How long will you halt between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him. (1 Kings 18:21)

Ahab was King of Israel, and the Kingdom was in a most deplorable condition, perhaps a condition darker than any other in history. Ahab was the incarnation of evil, and his influence combined with that of Jezebel, had been blighting and spoiling everything of potential greatness for God’s people.

There were clouds of darkness all over the land. Images of Baal and Ashtaroth were everywhere. Temples of idolatry had been erected and the altars of God torn down. Just when evil seemed to be at its height a most remarkable man appeared on the pages of history. He was one of the most outspoken and fiery of all the prophets; Elijah the Tishbite. That is how he is introduced in the previous chapter, “Elijah the Tishbite.” That’s all we know of him.

So, this man from somewhere, no one knows where, somehow, for what reason we do not know, broke in upon the scene with a message that was fiery and forceful, a message from God, a message of judgment, a message for which he made no apology, and offered no conditions, and suggested no compromise.

The message was briefly this; As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before Whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years but according to my word. And having delivered that message, Elijah vanished.

But the Word of the Lord, which is ever powerful, which never returns to God void, but is brought into actual fulfillment, that there should be no rain and no dew for three years, came to pass. And the people, who in their material prosperity had not only forgotten their God but had actually rebelled against Him, were now brought back face to face with God through this process of judgment which had been foretold by the prophet.

Our story is that of the hour in which Elijah faced Ahab. It is a wonderful story, dramatic and startling. Ahab at last stood face to face with the man whose predictions having been fulfilled, had brought such havoc on the nation.

Ahab asked him, Is it you, you troubler of Israel? And with quiet, calm dignity, he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but you, and your father’s house, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and you have followed Baal.

We view this event in history through the lens of time and distance and feel pleased that we are not caught up in idolatry of any kind. We do not, in our generation, in our culture, worship idols of golden calves or pagan gods. We leave that to other times and other lands. But are we free from idolatry? Isn’t an idol something, anything, that takes the place of the One True God in our affections? Isn’t it anything that is more important to us than God Himself? Therefore is it not possible for self to become an idol, when, in this generation, we spend our days in search of finding and fulfilling only ourselves?

I wonder if individual freedom and human rights have become the idol of this generation when we set aside the pursuit of God and replace it with the pursuit of self. We want to be free to follow our passions and desires that flow from self wherever it may lead. And so we question the necessity to have values that are founded in anything else than ourselves, and so the people of our time, live as though the essence of morality and behavior is to be free from any values that do not fulfill their own desires.

Even in evangelical churches, at times, there seems to be a bias against the intellect and against theology, and a subservience to personal fulfillment. The reason that the people of Elijah’s day fell into idolatry was that they didn’t or wouldn’t differentiate between revealed truth and pagan belief and made decisions based on desire rather than truth as revealed from God. Our biblical faith is about truth. God has revealed Himself through the Scriptures and has spoken concerning our responsibilities to Him, and to disregard that is presumption and disrespect of the highest order.

Without this teaching in the church, there can be no church, because the teaching of the Scriptures defines the church. When we empty ourselves of an interest in the Scriptures we have emptied ourselves of any serious consideration of who we are. We have lost the vision of God as holy and are being consumed by a world that hates Him. When we have emptied ourselves of serious theology and serious worship then we have allowed popular sentiment to define truth. In our culture there are all kinds of groups and organizations involved in raising money for this and that cause, and good works are seldom offensive to anyone. It is belief in the truth that is troublesome.

Lord help us to be faithful to Your word and define truth according to Yourself. Even though our lives may be an enigma to others help us to be faithful and learn that self denial is the prerequisite for discipleship. We cannot serve ourselves and You as well. May we learn to deny ourselves daily, take up our cross and follow You.

May 2010
Arthur Franklin

This article was written by a member of my writing group ( see our blog here: ) and he was gracious enough to give permission for me to post it here.


Anonymous said...

You can have your theology to (try)keep you holy in the old testament way thru' the word, or you can simply be holy 'cause it's your new nature - "It is no longer I that lives but Chhrist lives IN me..."

Who has bewitched you that that which is begun in the Spirit, you try complete in the keeping of the law?

Maureen said...

Dear Anon: I don't see where in this article it says that we must follow the law to be holy. I do see that it says we must follow the God of the Bible, Jesus Christ, and not popular culture or anything else that would interfere with our devotion to Him. (Not to be holy, though, because we are only holy in Him.) I do see that it says we must know Him, i.e. understand Who He is. And I don't know any other way than to search the scriptures to find this out. My experience has been that until I truly understood what the Bible said about Grace, I was still under obligation to the Law. I had a religion, and it followed the status quo "Christianity" of the day. I wasn't following Jesus. Not until I began to understand that, just as you have quoted, "it is no longer I that live but Christ lives in me." Praise God that He made that clear to you, and to me.

Jesus also said "if you love me you will follow my commandments." I don't think He meant we should follow them to prove that we love Him. I think He was saying that if we find ourselves following them, and wanting to, that we will know we love Him. I also don't think He meant the Ten Commandments specifically. I believe He meant that we would follow Him daily, loving Him first, and then our neighbour as much as we love ourselves. We only love Him because He first loved us, and the more I understand His love for me, and His mercy and grace, the more I can show it to others.

I don't know if you have noticed or not, but there is a definite tendency today, esp. in famous televison ministries, to preach and teach a god that is not the one true God. Word of Faith, Name it and Claim It, that type of teaching is man centered and not God centred. I am currently reading a book with my little "church" group called "The Attributes of God" by Arthur Pink. And it is ALL about God. I cannot tell you what an encouragement it has been to me, as it gives such a glorious picture of a Mighty, Sovereign, Holy, Gracious God that cares about the smallest details of my life, and Who has fulfilled ALL the law on my behalf, setting me free to be just who I am in Him. This is the God I follow, and I don't hear much about Him these days from any of the big name, well followed, well heeled "preachers" of the day.

Grace and Peace to you!!!

Anonymous said...

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

The gospel announces that God is not what we think. God has no swagger, no pride, no bluff, no defensive face-saving, no pushing to the head of the line — what this whole world is made of. God is humble. He does nothing from rivalry, though we picked a fight with him, nor conceit, though we puffed ourselves up against him. God made himself nothing, took the form of a servant, humbled himself in obedience all the way to death on the cross. For us. That gospel doctrine in the Bible creates a gospel culture in a church.

Gospel doctrine – gospel culture = hypocrisy.

Gospel culture – gospel doctrine = fragility.

Gospel doctrine + gospel culture = power.

In one of the most beautiful passages I know of outside the Bible, Jonathan Edwards distinguishes gospel culture from non-gospel culture:

“Spiritual pride is the main door by which the devil comes into the hearts of those who are zealous for the advancement of Christianity. It is the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit, to darken the mind and mislead the judgment. It is the main source of all the mischief the devil introduces, to clog and hinder a work of God.

Spiritual pride tends to speak of other persons’ sins with bitterness or with laughter and levity and an air of contempt. But pure Christian humility rather tends either to be silent about these problems or to speak of them with grief and pity. Spiritual pride is very apt to suspect others, but a humble Christian is most guarded about himself. He is as suspicious of nothing in the world as he is of his own heart. The proud person is apt to find fault with other believers, that they are low in grace, and to be much in observing how cold and dead they are and to be quick to note their deficiencies. But the humble Christian has so much to do at home and sees so much evil in his own heart and is so concerned about it that he is not apt to be very busy with other hearts. He is apt to esteem others better than himself.”

Jonathan Edwards, Works (Edinburgh, 1979), I:398-400. Style updated

Anonymous said...

Jesus said, “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). The visitation of Jesus to the soul, at various levels of intensity, is the privilege of our lives. Take John Flavel (d. 1691), for instance, as he was traveling by himself one day:

“Thus going on his way, his thoughts began to swell and rise higher and higher, like the waters in Ezekiel’s vision, till at last they became an overflowing flood. Such was the intention of his mind, such the ravishing tastes of heavenly joys, and such the full assurance of his interest therein, that he utterly lost a sight and sense of this world and all the concerns thereof . . . . He found himself almost spent and nature to faint under the pressure of joy unspeakable and insupportable.”

Flavel explains that Christ came to him through simple faith and meditation on the gospel. J. C. Ryle: “There is more of heaven on earth to be obtained than most Christians are aware of.”

May Jesus be real to us, more real than we have ever known he could be.

Anonymous said...

“As for the salvation of sinners, ah, my hearers, we can never expect God to bless our ministry for the conversion of sinners unless we preach the gospel as a whole. Let me get but one part of the truth, and always dwell upon it, to the exclusion of every other, and I cannot expect my Master’s blessing. If I preach as he would have me preach, he will certainly own the word; he will never leave it without his own living witness. But let me imagine that I can improve the gospel, that I can make it consistent, that I can dress it up and make it look finer, I shall find that my Master is departed and that Ichabod is written on the walls of the sanctuary. How many there are kept in bondage through neglect of gospel invitations.”

C. H. Spurgeon, quoted in Iain H. Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism (Edinburgh, 1995), page 157.

OK Maureen...I'm done for the day!

Maureen said...

Hello Anon #2. Thank you for your comments. I will add this quote from Arthur Pink:

"In some of his letter to Erasmus, Luther said, 'Your thoughts of God are too human.' Probably that renowned scholar resented such a rebuke, the more so, since it proceeded from a miner's son; nevertheless, it was throughly deserved. We too, though having no standing among the religious leaders of this degenerate age, prefer the same charge against the majority of the preachers of our day, and against those who, instead of searching the Scriptures for themselves, lazily accept the teaching of others......To countless thousands, even among those professing to be Christians, the God of the Scriptures is quite unknown......The 'god' of this twenteith century no more resembles the Supreme sovereign of Holy Writ than does the dim flickering of a candle the glory of the midday sun."

He is the great I AM, Alpha and Omega, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Compared to Him we are less than nothing, yet His love for His people is from everlasting to everlasting. What a Friend we have in Jesus!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The modern follower of the religion called Christianity forgets that for the greater part of 2000 years and even in this day, a huge number of followers of Jesus, the anointed of God, have not and do not have the benefit of the so-called "Word" of God, but they do have the WORD. That is The Person.

Holding to the book is law living. Theology is merely what one thinks it is. e.g. I may have come to a Calvinistic theology whilst you may have come to an Arminian (sp.?) one whist we both read from the same physical book! Who is correct?

Jesus himself stood before the religious who read the book and rebuked them for not seeing the Reality stood before them.

Yes, I understand what the author is getting at. My point is that religion is religion and it doesn't matter whether one adheres to the standards that one's theology demands or not. Both miss the mark as they are both "flesh" positions and are not of the Spirit.

A true believer does not need to know theology or doctrine from a book or the mind(s) of men and demons!!!

Why? Because it is his/her nature. And the Teacher will guide them into all Truth.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon,

I can trust the Bible and I can also trust the Holy Spirit to help me respond to God's Word. We are to "study" to show that we are approved....right? What do you think we are to study?

I don't mean to be unkind, but you remind me of those who I call The New Flower Children. In some ways they act very much like hippies on drugs. These are hyper experiential post modernists who are all goo goo eyed about loving a false Jesus “buddy”, not the real Jesus of the Bible who is Lord and Master. They are not lovers of truth nor are they obedient to sound doctrine and they constantly bash the Bible in one way or another either blatantly or subtly and often both. They try very hard to separate Christ from His written Word, which cannot be done because the real Jesus of the Bible is the Word of God (John 1:1, John 1:14, Rev 19:13).

Anonymous said...

I am not in disagreement with you on the fact that the writings are authored by the Holy Spirit and that there are ways that He would have us behave.

My argument (for want of a better word) is that the Church in general relies on theology and doctrines to guide the life of it's adherents.

Who says which doctrinal stance or theology is correct.It is Jesus plus something.

For those of us fortunate to have scripture we have a greater responsibility to correct behaviour, however that looks - remember that the religious saw Jesus as a wine-bibber and consorter of prostitutes.

What are we to study? Christ in us, The Hope of Glory. If having the written word is one of His ways of teaching us, so be it but don't make it the rule.

Too much of christianity is guilty of bibliolatry - a very strong delusion.

Maureen said...

Bibliolatry: yes, I agree with you there. A lot of folks live by the letter without the enablement of the Spirit, or at least they try to.

But how do we study "Christ in us" apart from the word of God? I don't believe we can separate the two. What I love when I am reading scripture is how it confirms what is already in my heart, plus leads the way to a further understanding of Christ. He is sprinkled throughout all of Scripture.

I have been the way of relying on feelings, and subjective experience to be my guideposts in my walk. And that led to disaster. Then I went too far the other way, becoming far too "doctrine dependant" and quenching stirrings of the Spirit within me. Now I hope I have arrived at a place where I am living in the freedom that Christ gives, letting Him lead me in all that I do, and I value scripture as a way that He does that.

Yes, you are correct in saying that much of the church relies only on the written word, but let's not toss it out with the bathwater. I may have left the building, but I took my bible with me. And regarding all those that do without scripture, God will give them what revelation they need, in whatever way He chooses. But I'm willing to bet that many of them would give their right arm for a bible.