Where in The Bible Does God Attend Anger Management Classes?

Editor’s Note: I love to bring in different voices to this blog. Today, you have the privilege of hearing from Seth Clarke. Seth is one of my best friends in the whole wide world. He works on staff at Ekklesia with me and is an excellent Bible student. Also, I don’t think there’s a bigger Disney or Dirk Pitt fan on the planet earth than Seth. Enjoy!  -Kyle

Belief-in-an-Angry-God-Now-Linked-to-Mental-Illness-2I was friends with a guy who got into the Hollywood scene. He originally attended seminary to become a pastor, but decided that Hollywood was the way to go instead. Then one day he tweeted, “Jesus telling people not to cast the first stone would have been cool, if his dad hadn’t told them to do it in the first place.

Unfortunately, this is a viewpoint that many Christians and non-Christians hold. Many think that the God of the Old Testament was angry; He wanted blood! He wanted vengeance!! HE WANTED TO WATCH THE CAST OF JERSEY SHORE BURN!!!…But then came Jesus, the God of the New Testament. He was all about peace, love, harmony, and organic foods.

God the Father had a crew cut, was clean-shaven, and fought in Korea. Jesus rocked the long flowing hair, beard, and listened to Simon and Garfunkel.

Both these views are skewed.

Lets sort out the first problem. God is Jesus. Jesus is God. You cannot separate the two. How do I know? He says so.

  • “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30)
  • “I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58)

So if God and Jesus are the same, why are they so different tempered? Did God have a change of heart during the 400 years between the Old Testament and New Testament? Did he attend anger management classes? Did he stop listening to rap music? Yoga?

No.

Understand that God never changes.

  • “For I am The LORD, I do not change.” (Malachi 3:6)
  • “Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven’s lights. Unlike them, He never changes or casts shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)
  • “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Also understand that God’s anger in the Old Testament is a righteous anger aimed at evil. It is good. It is just. It is the proverbial Superman to the world’s Voldermort. (Calm down my fellow nerds, it’s just an example.)

And we even see Jesus use this anger.

In John 2:13-22 people were using the temple to sell stuff and make money. Jesus got so angry that he yelled, over turned tables, and whipped people to get out! Can you imagine going to the store when all of a sudden a man starts yelling, knocking things over, then pulls out his Indiana Jones whip to scare people out? That’s scary enough by itself, without the righteous wrath of God!

So if Jesus and God are the same person and never change, then what’s the deal with God’s anger in the Old Testament? I would like to argue that God is actually a very loving God in the Old Testament. He forgives a countless number of times. He loves the people of the world. He wants them to succeed in life. He wants what’s best for them.

You want some examples? I’ll give you some examples.

Here are some in just the first book of The Bible:

  • God gave man the whole world. Literally. “And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26)
  • God told man not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, not because he wanted to tell man what to do, but because he loves us and did not want us to die, “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)
  • God made woman so that man would not be lonely. (Genesis 2:18-22)
  • God agreed to spare an evil, vile, corrupt city of large population if there were merely ten righteous people in this city. (Genesis 18:23-32)

God demonstrates his love in other books of the Old Testament:

  • God freed the slaves of Egypt, who then complained, turned away from him, and worshiped idols, and he STILL forgave them. (Exodus 1-32)
  • God spared David. A king who had everything, who slept with another man’s wife, got her pregnant, tried to cover it up which failed, then killed her husband and made it look like an accident to try to cover it up again, then once the husband was dead he took her as his own wife. (2 Samuel 11 – 12:15)
  • God allowed the rich man, Job, to be tested but not killed, and then rewarded him with twice as many riches as he had before. (Job 1-42)
  • God continually offers redemption and grace to a stubborn and rebellious nation of Israel. (Isaiah 43)

But the biggest examples to me that the Old Testament God loves us are found in christophanies. Christophanies are God appearing in the pre-incarnate form of Jesus Christ. Again, if Jesus and God are one, then Jesus existed before he was born in flesh. Christophanies occur in the Old Testament when God wants to appear before man in a physical form. God the Father cannot appear before man, for he told Moses “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20) Some examples of chistophanies can be found in Genesis 16, 18, 32, and Exodus 3.

So why would God want to appear to us who sin against him daily? Simple. Because he loves us. Because he doesn’t want to abandon us. Because he wants to be with us. He is the Father who wants to be with his children, no matter how badly those children misbehave.

Therefore I would urge anyone who is reading the Old Testament to shift their paradigm and look at who God really is.

A God who loves us.

A God who created us. Not so we could be ruled over and punished, but be cared for and watched over.

A God who ultimately would send his one and only son to be brutally murdered, so our relationship with him could be restored once and for all.

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

Seth Clarke is a theology student at Calvary Chapel Bible College, musician, movie-buff, husband, and disciple of Christ. He’s currently devising a plan to join the cast of The Avengers but he’ll probably get beat out by Ben Affleck. Follow him on Twitter @Seth_Clarke.

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Out of Context: Matthew 7:1 – Judge Not

In our next installment of Out of Context, we are going to examine what some have deemed to be the trump card to any rebuke, Matthew 7:1.

“Judge not, that you be not judged.”

Plank-in-eyeMany people use this verse as a blanket to protect themselves from any moral correction. I’ve even had it quoted to me multiple times to make me stop talking about sin. “Ah but Jesus says, ‘Don’t judge.’ You’re sounding really judgy right now.”

This interpretation gives the impression that no sin can be pointed out—that we’re above or outside moral accountability. We’ve even created a title for someone who does not follow this verse very well—they are “judgmental,” like the angry adults from Footloose who wouldn’t let Kevin Bacon just dance.

Is this true? Are Christians not allowed to call out someone else’s sins?

THE CONTEXT

Here’s the context to Matthew 7:1.

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

We find this passage in the middle of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Jesus used this famous sermon to overturn the traditional ideas of the Law—that it’s all about external behavior—and to show the people that it’s really all about the heart. God cares more about the heart than the outward appearance of righteousness. Those who focus only on appearing righteous, they’re deemed hypocrites (6:2, 5, 16; 7:5).

Which brings us to Matthew 7:1, “Judge not.” Normally we just stop there and wave it in the faces of our accusers. But Jesus doesn’t stop at the first two words. He continues to explain His point, “That you be not judged.” He shows the reason we shouldn’t judgenot because it’s bad but because we will be judged too.

So judgement is reciprocated with judgement. How is this boomerang judgment done? “With the measure you use” (7:2). If we judge someone else’s sins, we’ll be judged by the same standard.

Who will judge the judger? He doesn’t indicate that it will be another person. The implication is that the judger will be judged by God. If you’ve been judging others by a different standard than you judge yourself, then you’re in big trouble.

Jesus then uses a fairly humorous illustration to drive His point home. He says the person who judges with different standards is like a person with a log in their eye who’s trying to take a speck out of someone else’s. Kind of ridiculous right? If you have a 2×4 sticking out of your cornea, you’re probably not in the best place to help get a small piece of dust out of your neighbor’s eye. You should probably go to a hospital.

Jesus ends, indicating who He’s talking to, “You hypocrite”—the person who says one thing and does another, the person only focused on appearing righteous. He commands that the hypocrite first remove the log out of their eye. This will enable them to take the speck out of their brother’s eye. It’s important to notice that He doesn’t forbid them from removing the speck. He just wants it done in the correct order.

THE IMPLICATIONS

So what does this all come down to? It shows that Jesus is less focused on “judging” and more focused on the heart.

A hypocrite calls out someone’s sin when they haven’t dealt with their own. The hypocrite thinks they’re more holy and above everyone else. They look down on others because of their sin. They think they’re always right and everyone else is always wrong. They commit the same sins they’re condemning in others. They may even celebrate the downfall and sin of others. They don’t realize that the same Bible is judging them too.

Does this passage forbid judging sin? No. He still wants the speck out of the person’s eye. Also, if you look at the following verse, 7:6, it says, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs.” Jesus is speaking metaphorically here of those who do not value or treasure the truth. How are we to determine who are dogs and pigs if we aren’t allowed to make a judgment call?

Instead, Jesus is giving the proper procedure to judge sin. Be humble. Deal with your junk first. Admit your sinfulness and your need for a savior. Repent. Know that you are no better than anyone else. If you do that, then you will be able to clearly see and help someone out of their sin with a heart of compassion, love, and grace.

The church should be a place where people are accountable for their sins. This is why Proverbs talks so much about how to give a rebuke and how to receive a rebuke. But we don’t do it with our own standards. We do it with the standard of God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:1-2). Sin is cancerous. If we truly love people, we will help keep them away from what will kill them.

A couple final caveats for judging.

1. We do not judge non-Christians. Paul writes, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13). It’s not our place to call out the sins of the world. If someone doesn’t believe in Jesus, how can we expect them to live like Him? The point is not to have a society full of moral people. The point is to get everyone saved. You get saved through faith in the Gospel, not morality. Living like Christ comes after being saved by Him. Instead, we’re to make sure that those who’ve been redeemed are living like redeemed people, starting with ourselves.

2. Our desire should always be restoration. Whenever sin is confronted, there should be the hope of repentance. This idea is echoed throughout Scripture, like Galatians 6:1, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” We don’t gloat over someone else’s sins. We don’t celebrate anyone’s downfall. We don’t point out someone’s sin just to make ourselves feel better. If that’s your attitude, then you still have a log in your eye. Your desire should always be restoration with a gentle spirit.

3. Recognize your own sinfulness. You aren’t any more immune to sin than the person you’re helping restore. It could’ve easily been you who was caught in the affair, passed out drunk on the couch, addicted to pornography, filled with bitterness, or caught gossiping. Constantly check the mirror, look for logs, and pray that God would give you the grace to remove them.

Previous Out of Context posts:
Matthew 18:20 – Where two or more are gathered
Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Him who strengthens me
How to take a verse out of context

We Are Far Too Easily Pleased

“If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” -C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Theology vs. Experience: Which Should a Christian Focus on?

Worshipper

Is he supplicating or contemplating?

There’s a trend running around the American church that devalues theology’s place in an individual’s life. It holds that a relationship with God will produce all the truth needed. Theology may be for some people, (dusty academics hidden behind mountains of rotting books and pious pastors who have no people skills) but not for them. It says theology only engages the mind but not the heart. Because God is a relational God, He wants us to experience Him—He wants us to drown in His love like it’s a big love-ocean. They say you simply can’t get that kind of passion if you treat Christianity like the SAT’s.

While there may be some legitimate concerns underlying these sentiments, there is a subtle danger here.

They are right that what matters more is heart-transformation, not information infusion. What they don’t realize is that a Christianity entirely based on experience and feelings alone will lead people astray.

It’s a false dichotomy to think the mind and heart are exclusive. God created us to engage Him with our whole being. Focusing on one side can make the other suffer.

Here are a few warnings about focusing solely on spiritual experiences:

1. Spiritual Experiences are not unique to Christianity.

Buddhists fall into trances as they commune with the spirits. Through prayer, Mormons receive the “burning in the bosom,” a gut sensation that’s supposed to confirm the veracity of the Book of Mormon. Hindus and New Age experience tranquility through their yoga and meditation. The pagan Greeks experienced an “ecstasy” that would take over their body and mind, causing them to speak in tongues.

Those spiritual experiences are real, and they are real because the spirits behind them are real—and they’re definitely not of Christ. There is an enemy at work and they would love to distract people with real experiences that confirm lies. This is why John warns, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

He wouldn’t say that unless believers were already falling for it.

2. Experience is very individualistic.

Many times when experience is emphasized, it’s just individualism and consumerism wrapped up in spirituality. It’s all about experiencing God in your own personal way.

The customer is always right.

The problem is everyone experiences things in different ways. If one person experiences God as a mother figure, another hears God’s audible voice in the wind telling them words to write down in a journal, and another sees Jesus in bodily form at the local Denny’s every other Tuesday, how are we to decide whether or not these are accurate representations of God? Based on experience alone, there is no way. They have felt the emotions and cried the tears, so it must be true.

Following such logic, the aim of church then becomes about feeling God, not about gathering to know and praise Him. Inevitably such a perspective transforms from being about God into being about self.

3. Elevating experience can bring about a low view of Scripture.

A failure to anchor experience to the truth of the Word is why we have whole denominations throwing snakes at each other during church. They take one verse out of context and it’s reinforced by the intensity of their experience. Holding a rattlesnake may be one of the biggest adrenaline rushes you can feel, but that doesn’t mean your heart and God’s are hugging.

This goes beyond bizarre religious practices. If how I feel matters more than what is written, then it will affect how I live—how I view things like sin. A dating couple can justify sleeping together and co-habitating because they think they love each other. A person who was abused can justify their hate because they were hurt by an evil man. A husband can justify leaving his wife because he believes another woman is his soulmate.

When how you feel matters more than what is written, anything goes. This is why Jesus called us to “die to ourselves;” there’s something more important than how you feel. If you’re a Christian, it can’t be about you anymore.

A BETTER WAY TO GO

Theology is literally “the study of God.” If you want to have a vibrant relationship with God you must study Him—you must grow in theology—because what you believe about God will influence how you experience Him.

It really doesn’t matter if someone says they don’t “do” theology. Everyone is a theologian. The question is whether or not they are a good one.

A good theologian is not someone who has all the answers. A good theologian seeks to know God as He wants to be known, as revealed through His Word. A good theologian has a heartfelt faith and an intelligent one.

Filter everything through Scripture. God must be worshipped “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). It’s our duty to draw deeper into that truth, and allow it to transform our hearts.

Moral Obligations and Joe Paterno

 

Much will be said in the coming days and week about the scandal exploding at Penn State.  Jerry Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator from the program, is being charged with sexually assaulting multiple children over a span of time while in employment at the university.  Many witnesses and victims have come forth to testify against Sandusky.  Among them is a former graduate assistant who claims he witnessed Sandusky rape a young boy in the football team’s showers in 2002.  This graduate assistant immediately brought it to the attention of the head football coach, Joe Paterno.  Paterno notified the athletic director and the vice president of the university and that was that.

There was apparently no follow up, no confrontation, no call to the police, and not even an investigation into the identity of the boy and Sandusky was able to retire from the university with position and prestige.

As more and more details have surfaced about the horrendous actions that Sandusky allegedly committed, outrage over Paterno’s inaction has led him to announce Wednesday that he will retire from his position as head coach at the end of the football season. Update: As of Wednesday night, Joe Paterno has been fired by the board of trustees from his position as head coach.  Thousands of Penn State students rioted in response to Paterno’s termination.

NOTHING WRONG

Joe Paterno (84) is known as one of the greatest living legends of college football.  He has coached as Penn State’s head coach for 46 years and owns more wins than any other major college football coach in history.

All of this has been tarnished in just over the course of a weekend.

While Paterno committed no outright heinous act, people have accused him of failing to fulfill a moral obligation.  A coach should above all protect people, not just his football program.

I find this extremely intriguing.  Most sports scandals involve an act of commission: adultery, cheating, steroids, brawls, drugs, play-for-pay, or domestic violence.  They committed an act to get in hot water.

You do not see many scandals where the person is accused because of doing nothing wrong.  But that is precisely the problem; Paterno should have done something.

Paterno preached, “Do the right thing” to his players and yet he did nothing.

GOOD AND EVIL

Every time there is public outrage over a scandal I am reminded that even in the midst of our postmodern, relativistic, your-truth-is-your-truth-and-my-truth-is-my-truth society, we still have a moral standard and this standard is written on every human heart by God through the conscience (Romans 2:15-16).

People were disgusted with Tiger Woods’ extramarital affairs.  Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring and animal brutality caused even my loveable little sister to call for his head on a platter.  Coach Jim Tressel’s cover up at Ohio State and the University of Miami’s problems with amoral boosters have put a huge blight on college football.

You can quibble about the gray areas all you want but at the end of the day, right is right and wrong is wrong.  There is absolute good and there is absolute evil.  Ask any victim of sexual assault.

This includes even the things we fail to do.  James 4:17 says, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  Theologians identify such inaction as a sin of omission.

DO SOMETHING

When you fail to include the whole truth in a story because it could alter someone’s perception of you; when you know your wife needs help around the house but you decide to play video games or watch TV; when you know someone really needs a strong rebuke in love but you flounder in small talk; when you know someone weaker is being abused and subjected to a powerful monster but you shove it under the rug hoping it will work out on its own, it is sin.

I think it is so easy to lower our standards when it comes to sins of omission.  We justify, make excuses, or shift blame.  We think no one will notice or get hurt because we haven’t done anything wrong.  But that is precisely the problem; we should have done something.

THE HEART OF JESUS

Jesus was the opposite.  Instead of justification, excuses, and selfishness, His heart was full of compassion.

Continually in the Gospels, it states that Jesus had compassion for the lost and the broken.  This compassion was a deep pity, a true sorrow over their condition.  But it did not stop at emotion, Jesus’ compassion always moved Him to action.

When Jesus saw the poor, the broken, and the diseased following Him, “He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd,” and in response he sent his disciples to them to proclaim the Gospel (Matthew 9:36).

When four thousand men followed Jesus out to the Sea of Galilee, Jesus said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat.  And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way” (Matthew 15:32).

It was compassion that moved the Good Samaritan to forgo race, religion, and prejudice to bandage the wounded traveler (Luke 10:33).

It was compassion that caused the father of the Prodigal Son to throw off social restraint and dignity and run to embrace his slop-covered, wayward son (Luke 15:20).

It is compassion that causes the Lord to forgive all the junk in our lives if we come to Him (Lamentations 3:32; Micah 7:19; Zechariah 10:6; Romans 9:15).

Do we feel anything when we see a need?

Let us remember the heart of Christ, the essence of the Gospel—in the little things and in the big things—and do the good we know we are called to do as followers of Him.