Enduring Temptation

February 26, 2011

The problem in Corinth was idolatry. Some Christians in Corinth were attempting to have their feet in two different worlds. Yes, they had been baptized, and they participated in the Lord’s Table, but they also participated in the social culture of idolatry. They were apparently at fellowship meals of idols, what Paul calls the table of demons (1 Corinthians 10:21). They had participated in God’s benefits, but they compromised their loyalty in daily life.

Paul uses an analogy from the Exodus. God’s people coming out of Egypt were “baptized” under the cloud and in the Red Sea. They ate the same spiritual food – manna, the bread from heaven (Exodus 16:4). They drank the same spiritual drink – water from the Rock. Yet, when they participated in idolatry, twenty-three thousand fell in a single day (1 Corinthians 10:8). They had participated in God’s benefits, but they compromised their loyalty in daily life.

Paul cautions them not to put Christ to the test. Don’t grumble against God. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12, ESV). The last phrase warns us that we can be presumptuous about our standing before God. Sin can lead us away from God, and our pride prevents us from recognizing it.

It is in this context of spiritual peril, that we receive a wonderful promise. Temptations are common to all. We are in no position for special pleading. We cannot say that my temptations are different and unique from everyone else’s temptations. We will face temptations, but we will face them with a wonderful promise.

The wonderful promise is based on God’s faithfulness. God won’t let us be tempted beyond what we can bear, and He will provide a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). The promise is there so that the Christian can endure temptation. We are to bear up under it without giving in to it.

No, I won’t do that perfectly. But I am cautioned about attempting to live with my feet in two different worlds with two different sets of loyalties. I shouldn’t be presumptuous about grace. I can’t rely on a “cheap grace” that leaves me as I am. Grace is to transform us.

When I endure, my character is strengthened. When I fail, I set myself up for other failures. When I fail, I must turn to the spiritual resources that God has given me – my spiritual armor – to fight the next battle. For there is a spiritual battle going on for my heart, my allegiance, and my life.

Paul’s message is a challenge to our culture. Too many want to be spiritual and do as they please. Cheap grace is permissive; true grace is transforming. God wants me to learn how to endure temptations by relying on His faithfulness. He has given His promise to help me endure.

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NIV 2011

February 18, 2011

The print edition of a major update to the NIV is expected to be released in March 2011. Electronic versions of this new edition are already available. The new edition is simply called the NIV. In order for consumers to know which edition they are purchasing, they will have to check the copyright notice in the front. The previous edition ended with a copyright date of 1984. The new one will have a date of 2011. Zondervan expects to move all of their NIV products to the new edition over the next two years. After the release of this new edition, the 1984 edition of the NIV and the TNIV will no longer be published.

The path to this updated version has been bumpy and controversial. Two previous editions met with criticism — the NIVI released in Britain (the “I” stood for inclusive) and the TNIV (the “T” stood for “Today’s”). The debate centered on gender inclusive language. Most modern translations (e.g., NKJV, NASB, and ESV) attempt to be somewhat gender neutral. The question is the extent to which this may legitimately be done. For example, sometimes “brothers” may include women, but not always. The new NIV frequently uses “brothers and sisters” where the Greek has “brothers.” But there are situations where it may be difficult to know whether women should be included. For example, the new NIV has “believers” for “brothers” in Acts 14:23 for the group that travelled with Peter to Cornelius’ house. Controversy also erupts over changing singular masculine pronouns like “he” to plural pronouns like “they.”

“Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. ” (John 14:23, NIV 2011, my emphasis)

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. ” (Revelation 3:20, NIV 2011, my emphasis)

We end up with singular pronouns being mixed with plural pronouns referring to the same person. Other passages to notice are that Phoebe becomes a “deacon” in Romans 16:1, and women are told not to “assume authority” rather than “have authority” in 1 Timothy 2:12. These are passages that are likely to spark discussion.

The new NIV has responded to some of the criticisms of the NIVI and TNIV and pulled back a bit from those editions, but it remains to be seen whether it is enough to avoid controversy and gain the same level of use. Readers of the Bible need to understand how to distinguish the previous NIV from the new one and the nature of some of the changes. Readers of “thought for thought” translations like the NIV are wise to compare with more “word for word” translations to see if we indeed have God’s thoughts and not just the thoughts of a translation committee.


The Parable of $100,000

February 13, 2011

The Bible reader must be careful. The message must be properly understood and not distorted.

Sometimes passages do need further enlightenment that will change our perspective. This may come from taking into account all that scripture says on a subject, allowing scripture to interpret scripture. It may arise from new insights gained from history, customs, geography, understanding literary forms, or the biblical languages.

Yet, there is also the danger that we will fail to understand and apply simply because we don’t like what it says—our own willfulness gets in the way. Maybe scripture challenges our beliefs and attitudes, and we shrink away. Søren Kierkegaard told a challenging little parable of $100,000:

Suppose that it was said in the New Testament—we can surely suppose it—that it is God’s will that every man should have 100,000 dollars: Do you think there would be any question of a commentary? Or would not everyone rather say, “It’s easy enough to understand, there’s no need of a commentary, let us for heaven’s sake keep clear of commentaries—they could perhaps make it doubtful whether it is really as it is written. (And with their help we even run the risk that it may become doubtful.) But we prefer it to be as it stands written there, so away will all commentaries!”

But what is found in the New Testament (about the narrow way, dying to the world, and so on) is not at all more difficult to understand than this matter of the 100,000 dollars. The difficulty lies elsewhere, in that it does not please us—and so we must have commentaries and professors and commentaries: for it is not a case of “risking” that it may become doubtful to us, for we really wish it to be doubtful, and we have a tiny hope that the commentaries may make it so.

Let us be careful readers and students of the Bible searching for the truth (see Acts 17:11). Yet, let us not protect our hearts from scripture’s rigorous demands, but allow it to challenge and change us. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, NASB).


Psalom

February 4, 2011

It was a wonderful experience having Psalom sing last Sunday afternoon. Konstantin had a wonderful way of getting us to sing along with Psalom as well. The quartet is a ministry of Konstantin Zhigulin. Konstantin is a musician by background. When he became a Christian in 1994, he began composing hymns for use in Russian speaking congregations. These hymns are sung widely in churches of Christ in the Russian — speaking world. The music is so beautiful and encouraging, two American Christians – Mark Shipp of Austin Graduate School of Theology and Jeff Matteson, former missionary to Siberia — began translating several of Konstantin’s hymns into English, so that they could be shared with American churches. But as Konstantin said last week, his main emphasis is the development of congregational a cappella singing in Russia.

Psalom had two albums available last week. I know quite a few of us purchased the CDs and the song book last week. Some of you may wonder whether it is still possible to purchase the CDs and also how you might keep in touch with this ministry.

Psalom has a web site:

www.psalom.org

The site provides information about Psalom. There are some samples of their music under “MP3 audio.” They have some videos of performances in Russian under “Videoarchive,” and there is ordering information for their CDs under “Contacts, Donations and Store.” Their album “Peace to You!” is available at iTunes and also at Amazon.com as an mp3 download. That album was not available last week, but it is also in English. By the way, the songbook that was available is based on that album.

I hope that we learn some of Konstantin’s hymns. It was a wonderful experience having Psalom here. And thanks to all of you who made the fellowship possible. Konstantin had mentioned he was uncertain about eating prior to singing (fearful that we might all be sleepy), but he said he got it. The meal is about family, spiritual family, and he appreciated that Psalom received such a welcome.