June 10, 2010

Little White Lies series "The Holy Spirit will reveal to me what Scripture means if I really, sincerely, genuinely, honestly desire to know what it sa

This is the last topic in our series, Little white Lies. I have been addressing the power of little white lies that are really influential in believer's lives today. First I talked about the little white lie, "God Helps those who help themselves." Then I talked about, "My sins don't have consequences anymore because I'm saved." Today will be the first of three days in which I am going to talk about, "The Holy Spirit will reveal to me what Scripture means if a really, sincerely, genuinely, honestly desire to know what it says as I simply read my Bible!"
I want to begin by grounding this in Scripture, so let me start with(1 Corinthians 2:10-16)

10these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
14The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 "For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.

Two big questions that need to be answered: Why is this a lie? and why is it important -i.e. how does it hinder my walk with Christ?)

What does conscience mean to you? Is it a quasi-spiritual part of your soul that communes with the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth? Is it a state of being? Is it something that allows you to discern God’s will for life? This is something that everyone needs to think seriously about as they strive to bear the image by living out the will of God without abusing the liberty they have in Christ.
The conscience and the Holy Spirit are not the same things. Remember that commandment that says not to use the Lord’s name in vain? I think this commandment is probably broken here more than in any other place in life; people misrepresent their own conscience as the authority or influence of the Holy Spirit. For example, people will say not to utter “Oh my God” or other uses of His name that are less than holy. The commandment to not take the Lord’s name in vain does not mean to avoid using the Lord’s name as an explicative. That is completely out of context, and the word translated as “vain” has nothing to do with the meaning of “cursing.”
People in ancient Israel were not going around saying “Yahweh!” when they hit their thumb with a hammer. They didn’t say “Oh my El Shaddai!” when they were shocked with fright. What they were in danger of doing was using His name to give authority to something that they wanted to have unchallenged. The surrounding nations would say things like, “Thus sayeth Baal…” Obviously Baal never said anything; he was fictitious. Men were just trying to push their own agendas. God said, “Don’t even try doing that with Me! I am a holy God, and you will not use My name in a manner to try and manipulate Me or others!”
So, when people today say things like, “God says in the Bible…” they need to make sure they study what they are quoting. It’s ironic that people who quote this commandment and apply it to cursing are actually breaking the commandment. They may mean well, but meaning well does not excuse poor stewardship of the spoken Scripture.
People who mean well may do so according to their own understanding or their own worldview that is not necessarily founded on the worldview that Scripture presents. Speaking for God out of an understanding of Scripture that has no solid exegesis, but is based on personal life experience, can be a deadly practice. Personal experience is not a substitute for studying the Word of God.
Let me remind you that the point of this book is to help you develop a sense of joy as you experience the profound responsibility and freedom of bearing God’s image and living out His will for life in general. All of this “talking” does nothing if it does not lead you to a point where you can experience those truths. So what does this chapter have to do with bearing the image of God and living out His will? First, let’s look at what Scripture tells us about our conscience.

For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.
1 Peter 2:19

But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.
1 Peter 3:15–16

How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Hebrews 9:14

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Hebrews 10:19–22

We are commanded to keep it clear in 1 Peter 2:19, 3:15–16, and again in Hebrews 9:14, 10:19–22, we are told (in the context of the passage)that our conscience can be cleansed. This means we do have some responsibility of the development of our conscience. We can submit it to Christ or develop it on our own. But even after we submit it to Christ, we are still responsible for developing it in Christ.
Scripture tells us that it is our work to develop our conscience through discipline under the instruction of God’s Word. I am going to share a number of scriptures here, so pay attention to the context of our discussion.

Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
Hebrews 5:11–14

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
2 Peter 1:5–9

My son, let them not vanish from your sight;
Keep sound wisdom and discretion,
So they will be life to your soul
And adornment to your neck.
Then you will walk in your way securely
And your foot will not stumble.
When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Proverbs 3:21–24

Therefore, our conscience can be trained according to a biblical worldview or a secular worldview. Scripture further warns us that if we choose the latter, our conscience will become defiled and thus seared and hardened (proud and obstinate).

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron.
1 Timothy 4:1–2

To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.
Titus 1:15

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Hebrews 3:13

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
Ephesians 4:17–19
This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme.
1 Timothy 1:18–20

Paul warns Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:18–20 not to become like others who have blasphemed God because their conscience was not strong enough to guard the faith they received. In verse 19, he distinguishes between the faith (a gift of God, not of ourselves, Ephesians 2:8) and a strong conscience (a product of our own learning, 1 Corinthians 8). We are his representatives, and we are commanded to speak the truth in love, but the truth we are commanded to speak is already written down and revealed in full.

Eugene Peterson gives a great paraphrase of Paul’s instruction to his young protégé in 2 Timothy:

Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.
2 Timothy 1:13–14

Paul is pretty emphatic to Timothy that the message he is entrusted with is a product of God’s grace, not of any man’s eloquence or education. This is where we need to be careful with the audacity with which we preach. We need to spend a good amount of time studying the Word and will of God before we speak on His behalf. It helps to have a community of fellow students around you that can challenge your thoughts, hold you accountable to the context, and share with you insights you may have not been open to. As students consider seminary, I like to remind them of this point.
So what’s the point of all this? We'll talk about this tomorrow...

With you for His glory