ISSUES OF FAITH: Picking and choosing the words

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

I MUST BE honest with you — there are several parts of Scripture that make me uncomfortable.

In fact, there are a lot of texts that I simply wish weren’t part of Scripture.

To start with, the first commandment (Exodus 20). My conscience would be so much quieter if God’s heart didn’t reveal through His Word that my heart, my worship, my praise is to not be divided, but for Him alone.

It would make all the times I was selfish, consumed by my desire and controlled by my self-centeredness a lot easier to sleep with.

Or how about during the Sermon on the Mount? Wouldn’t His Word be a lot easier to apply if He didn’t say that the sins of adultery and murder were not simply physical acts but that of our heart and minds (Matthew 5:21-28)?

Oh and the list goes on: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44)”; “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you (Matthew 6:14); or “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).”

As our minds circle for ways to squirm out from under the weight of these uncomfortable words we remember earlier in Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount when we read, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the law until everything is accomplished (Matthew 5:17-18).”

As we look out over the landscape of Christendom, especially in America, the issue of the authority of scripture is the dividing line, just as it was 500 years ago.

To that end, the church is hemorrhaging because the authorship of the Bible is being stripped from its message.

No longer, in many sanctuaries, is the Bible taught as the word of God but viewed as a salad bar where you only take from it what you like. It is as if so many of us have forgotten the desire of our Lord displayed in His decree, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:5-9).”

We hear the will of God touch our ears and then our consciences and our hands are holding onto the words of Satan in the garden, “Did God actually say…” (Genesis 3:1).

I do not speak for any other religion, philosophy or creed except of that in which I have been called and ordained.

My heart grieves for the fracturing of the church, where biblical Christianity is vilified and the stripping of God’s Word of its authority is celebrated.

Remember, that in this present age, we do not wrestle against flesh and blood in these matters and never have.

We wrestle against the rulers, authorities and powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).

The enemy will always be whispering enticing words into our itching ears, trying to push us around by this world’s constantly changing teachings (2 Timothy 4:3; Ephesians 4:14).

But we must stand firm on the Word; that it is God breathed. We can do nothing less.

Like I said above, there are many parts of scripture that I am uncomfortable with, and to be honest I wish weren’t there. But what those parts of scripture teach me is that I am not God, not perfect and desperately in need of a savior. A savior that I have been given in Christ Jesus, who took on flesh, submitted Himself to the same law that condemns me and exchanged my condemnation with His perfect righteousness.

With that in mind, if those passages that I am uncomfortable with were in fact removed as my sinful nature desires, so would the significance of Christ’s all atoning death on the cross.

If we remove all the passages that expose our sin, we remove the reason He climbed Calvary. We take Jesus right off the cross.

Please do not do that to provide me some sort of temporal artificial contentment. Do not do that for me.

Don’t dismiss the passages that confront my weakness; fits of rage; envy and selfishness that show me my need for a savior.

Don’t do that for me, and I make the promise, here and now… I will not whitewash the verses that confront your lust; hatred; intoxication with the world and the like.

Together let’s be reminded of our need for a savior, so that we can stand shoulder to shoulder in the shadow of the cross and see the depth of His love for us sinners.

Join me in holding fast to the Word and once again to say to the world and the gates of hell, “Here I stand!”

To God be all the glory.

_________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Dr. Patrick Lovejoy is pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. He can be contacted at 360-457-4122 or [email protected]

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