Do I Have To? (ATP)

What is the sabbath meant to be as God commanded as opposed to how the Jewish leaders saw it in Jesus’ time? Are we still to keep the sabbath as Christians? How would we do this now? 

Mark 2:24 (NIV)

The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

Mark 2:27 (NIV)

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

These two verses give the contrast between how the religious leaders look at the things of God and how God looks at the things of God. This is a very clear and stark contradiction, one we would do well to thoughtfully consider.

Man, since the beginning of time, has been looking for the easy way out of doing what they should. We have become experts at looking for ways around what is best for us to do. The law, although God’s intent was good, ended up being used as a tool for the enemy to bind us once again. The law’s main purpose was to expose sin and show us what righteousness truly is.

When we get to this part of the gospel we see all things beautifully played out. I want you to keep in mind as we go forward, (consider all thoughts of this Faith Fix through this) how one views religion is how they will view God. When you understand that, why the enemy desires to utilize religion becomes woefully obvious. If God’s rules can be seen in a light that creates bondage, then people will view God in this same light.

I have seen this way too much! Even well-meaning Christian leaders, left to their own devices, can get off course. When people embrace rules above relationship, they lose sight of the fundamental attributes of our Heavenly Father. Holiness, for us, is about being in God’s presence. 1 Peter 1:16 (NIV) says, “For it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” This is not an arbitrary rule, just because God sees it this way. We were created in His image. Therefore, the sinful nature is not what God designed us for. It, because of its essence, separates us from Him. Sin makes us lose our imaging quality of our Heavenly Father. 

When they tried to trap Jesus here Jesus explained through a rebuke, “Man was not made for the sabbath!” God’s purposes for the law and specifically here the Sabbath, had nothing to do with following certain rules, but for the blessing of humanity. Yet, humans don’t always like to listen and so God makes it a law. Why? Because man’s obedience to God’s directions and as well as to natural processes is necessary to fulfill His plan for using humanity. Long life will not be had by someone who never learns to rest. Effective service will not be done by one who doesn’t learn to rest. Have you ever tried doing something strenuous or important on very little sleep? 

To take this idea of rest further is something we see that we should be doing in this New Testament era. In a busy life, we need time to rest in God’s presence. We need to reflect on both what He’s done and what He’s doing. Rest makes us slow down to hear that still small voice. Yet, people seem to have a very hard time with doing this. 

We see the Sabbath differently in the New Testament because we have light on it that they didn’t have. We see that it isn’t about following a certain set of rules, but that it can be more flexible as long as we understand and embrace the heart of it. The Sabbath, though observed on a certain day, was not about a certain day. It was about the heart of separating a day. Devotion to God is a sacrifice. It is in part about giving that time (significant to most) its proper place in our lives so that we remember God, remember His people, and endeavor to grow in relation to them both. 

So is a believer required to keep the Sabbath? It depends on what you mean by that. If you mean a specific day of the week where you can’t do anything, my answer would be no. Should a Christian maintain the heart of the Sabbath? Absolutely yes! I love what a pastor friend of mine said to me once in a conversation. I don’t go to church because I have to. I go because I am blessed to do it!” I will take this further. We aren’t blessed to do it because we expect some sort of gift. We are blessed to do it because God made His people and allowed us to do it. If we get too overly concerned with following the rules we will miss God’s heart on it.

I’m going to sum up my views on the law of God with a silly and simple illustration. Have you ever been bowling? If you have then you’re probably aware of the bumpers that they sometimes put in the gutters for the little kids when they’re bowling. These bumpers keep the ball on the right course down the alley. Though they are there to keep the ball out of the gutter, if the child is to learn to bowl accurately they will need to be taught to try and do that anyway. The sure strike doesn’t come because the ball can’t go in the gutter, it comes when one learns the principles of where to roll the ball. Though the bumpers are fine when children are having fun, notice they are never used in a professional bowling game.

Some people choose to stay infants in the things of God. These are certainly those who will perpetually need rules to guide them. God’s heart is that we would be governed by our conscience, renewed in His truth and by His Spirit. To grow in maturity means that one learns to not just look at the rule, but the heart of the rule. One thing is clear in scripture, the heart of man cannot be governed by rules. If that’s our goal, we will always miss His.

Be Blessed,

Pastor Jeff 

My Husband’s Tithe (ATP)

Question: I’m a mom and I stay home with my kids. I don’t “work” enough to really make a significant contribution to our family. When we tithe or give monetary donations to others I often feel I am not. It’s an area of serving and doing the Lord’s work where I feel as though I’m not doing it.

The truth is, the Bible doesn’t give a one size fits all plan for how to run a household. The Bible talks about man having a wife, i.e. Adam and Eve, as a helper comparable to him. There’s scripture about the importance of being pure and loyal towards one another, and of course many scriptures about mutual love and submission to one another, but the closest scriptures I’m aware of that even address what the daily life of a wife might look like are Proverbs 31:10-31. This being said, we have to remember that even those are more about character and righteousness, really those scriptures are expressing the value of a wife who is of utmost character. Even this wasn’t a prescription for your daily “to do” list. Why do I mention all of this? Well, because there are many things that a husband and wife have to figure out between themselves and the Lord. 

This is an area where we really have to understand the scriptures about two becoming one. (Genesis 2:24, Mathew 19:4-6) We don’t live and count our lives separately when we’re married. If the way your household runs is with your husband working and earning a paycheck while you work to care for your home and children, then that’s how it runs. If you and your spouse are in agreement about this, that’s a perfectly good option for families. If not, then getting in agreement is key. Besides this, if you’re home so the paycheck can be in his name, then you’re earning that paycheck as well so to speak. It’s not “his” tithe or “his” offering but it’s your joint tithe and offering. This might change in the event that you or your spouse were perfectly able to earn a paycheck having no other obligations like child-rearing, but refused. It’s not to say there’s only ever a need for one person to earn and income, but that’s between you, your spouse, and God. 

It’s important to keep in mind that God isn’t concerned about the paycheck you don’t have, He’s concerned about you doing right with what you do have. So if money isn’t what you as an individual have to offer the Lord because motherhood doesn’t pay, what do you have to bring as an offering of sacrifice to the Lord? Bring that. Whatever it is that your family has peace doing, that’s what you do and do that confidently before the Lord knowing you’ve sought His best in your life.  I love the reminder we get in Colossians 3:23-24, that says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” As you care for your family, do it for the Lord and be confident that He sees and values your heart and your efforts. 

Be Blessed,

Pastor Renée 

What’s The Point? (ATP) 

In the Bible there are instances where Jesus healed people and afterwards He said “Go and Sin no more.” If we are by our very nature sinful how can we do this and why would He say this? It seems impossible. 

This is a great example of why, as people of faith, we must study the Bible, not just read it. Reading is fine to start, to become acquainted with the text, however we must graduate and move on. 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB) tells us, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” To be approved is to make sure one understands, not just accepts on hearsay.

The Bible is simple enough for babes and difficult for the most astute scholar. However, one cannot assume that they can just read and understand it all. What am I saying? Let me explain it like this: you can learn the basics about driving and get most places just fine. But it’s another thing completely to know why a car works the way it does and what to do in every scenario. I worked in a factory many years ago and once I was getting trained on a machine to make parts. There were these older men who had been working on these same machines for 30 to 40 years. These guys knew these machines so well that if they needed some kind of adjustment they could just bump it a certain way and make it do what they wanted. I could barely operate them by specific instructions! This can explain the scriptures too! The more we know about God’s character, the more we will understand what He is saying. If our understanding of God is distorted, so will our understanding of His word be. 

There is a universal truth about sin. Then there is the reality of it. Some people will say, “sin is sin, it’s all disgusting in God’s eyes.” While this statement is technically true, there IS a difference, for instance such as harming a child verses something like spiritual jay walking. When Jesus said, “Go and sin no more,” there are a few things we must understand. Firstly, this statement was made situationally. Though we have the account in scripture, we certainly don’t have every minute of the conversation nor do we have the fullness of Jesus’s knowledge of it, either naturally or supernaturally. There are at least a few ways we can understand this.

While all sickness is not necessarily a result of a specific sin, some certainly are. So for starters, this could be referring to that. When He said to sin no more He may have been addressing a specific sin that He and the hearer knew of. It may have been an open sin (that all the hearers would know, like the woman caught in adultery) or it could have been spoken in a way that only that person would know. We don’t know for sure, and honestly that doesn’t matter. We can be sure of this, when the Lord gives instructions, they will be clear to us. 

The statement we know could not possibly mean never sin again. 1 John 1:8 (NASB) tells us, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” However there is also another angle to this. Though we will sin, we ARE to be diligent to try not to sin. This also could be His meaning. Too many people justify sin, claiming that they will sin because it’s inevitable. This is a crazy way of thinking but since I have seen it too many times, it is clearly an issue with humans.

So where should we stand in all this? We should endeavor first not to sin. 1 John 2:1-2 (NASB) says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” We try not to sin, but if we do we can be sure we have an advocate who covers us. We must realize that Jesus died for us to give us hope. See without Him, if we sin there was no hope of redemption. Now we are freed because if we do sin, it doesn’t completely ruin our path to God. We have hope! It is this very hope that helps us get back on track and not sin in the future. 

In closing, sin is never something we should just be ok with. How we respond to it matters, whether it’s our own or sin we see in someone else. The love of Christ sets us free from the bondage of sin. Romans 6:1-2 (NASB) asks us, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” The principle is that we should endeavor to not live in sin, essentially, to go forward in God not purposing to sin. Christians who endeavor not to live in sin understand the greatness of what Christ has done. Not in their perfection, but as they live out their perfecting.

Be Blessed,

Pastor Jeff 

Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200 (ATP)

Was Jesus tormented in Hell after the cross to take our spiritual punishment?

This is a question that I have pondered greatly to some extent. I have even done some research into it. At the very least, with this I can say it is a fringe doctrine. 

By saying fringe, I’m not just saying that it’s unimportant because I do think it can have some implications in what it adds to the way we think. I’ve been saying a lot lately as I minister how it’s important to remember that everything we believe has a history and if you really want to know what you believe, you’d better learn that history. When I say fringe what I am saying is, this is not a widely accepted idea. Now, not being widely accepted does not equate to wrong, but when we understand this we should be leery. 

All new theological ideas should be scrutinized. That is not equivalent to being thrown out, but if someone presents us with something “new”, they do and should bear the burden of proof. An example of this is Pentecostalism as a denomination. In the late 1800’s this was a very controversial practice within the Christian community. Fast forward to today, it is a widely accepted set of beliefs, supported by many serious and some incredible scholars. Not that everyone believes it but it’s not in the “just wrong” category anymore because it’s withstood the scrutiny. However, when we look at Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, these religions remain in that cult category, universally rejected across the Body of Christ as Christian religions.

I say that to say that although some people embrace the idea of Christ suffering in hell and dying spiritually, it is rejected at large. In fact, I don’t know of anyone in the trusted Christian scholarly world that actually supports this idea. I’m not saying there isn’t, I just haven’t found any. To me, that raises red flags. Before I take you into the scriptures I believe teach the opposite, I want to add that I also cannot find any scripture that clearly, or even close to clearly, backs up this doctrine. This is also concerning to me. Remember, if someone is going to present a doctrine, especially one that is rejected at large, the burden of proof is on them. Proof is not interpretation either. 2 Peter 1:20 (NASB) says, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.” This is an incredibly important standard to live by. Embracing this standard keeps us from deception and error.

The idea that Christ suffered in hell has its root in the thought that if He did not die spiritually, then we could not be born again spiritually. Romans 8:3-4 (NASB) explains to us pretty clearly what happened on the cross. “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, HE CONDEMNED SIN IN THE FLESH, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” The regeneration of our life is one of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:11 (NASB) says, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” This life He’s giving to our mortal bodies is the new life that we call being born again. Remember Romans 12:2, that we are being transformed by renewing our minds or 2 Corinthians 3:18 that we are being transformed from glory to glory? These are both referring to this process that the Spirit is working in us now. We are not just reborn, we are also being reborn!

Now 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB) says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Where did this happen? On the cross! What does this mean? To understand what Jesus did, we have to understand the way atonement worked. We understand that God didn’t just randomly do stuff, but that there is connection back to the Old Testament. This is because the Old Testament is a foretelling of what would happen. Leviticus 16:21-22 tells us about the scapegoat which was a type and shadow of Christ. The sins were laid on the goat and it was sent out. Now let me ask you, if you read those scriptures, do you see where the scapegoat went and suffered in hell? No, it carried the sins far away. Remember Psalms 103:12 (NASB)? “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” The scapegoat was not sent to the wilderness to suffer, but to remove sin far from us. Our sin keeps us from God. Jesus our scapegoat, removed them from us so that we could come back to Him. How would it follow that He must suffer in hell? This leads us to the next truth, that there is a purpose in death and it’s not necessarily centered around punishment. 

We are often told that sin causes death but do we ever ask why? It is because sin is the corruption of our true nature which was made in His image. Sin separated us from God, causing this body to die. God permitted death in order that sin could not live forever. The redemption Jesus brought us we understand wasn’t instant and complete in this sense, that we still have to live in this body that is subject to sin. We are promised a new body someday, one that cannot sin nor be defiled by sin. This body WILL die and we were not powerful enough to overcome death. Jesus died so that He could be reborn, so that death could be overcome, so that we could be reborn. In this way Jesus conquered death for us. Just as our sins were put on Him, His life and resurrection are now put on us! 

Jesus never needed to suffer in hell because hell is not just about punishment, hell is also about placement. If I got into all this, this Faith Fix would never end so I am only going to touch on it. Basically, hell is punishment to those who reject God but we must understand why. When we embrace sin we reject God. When someone rejects God completely, He is not forcing them into His presence. Hell is the place of the absence of God for those who do not want His presence. Death happens so that sin cannot be immortal. Hell happened because there needed to be a place for those who reject God.

An interesting thing to consider is this, what happened to the saints who died BEFORE Jesus? They could not go to be with God because of sin, but God was not unjust to throw them in eternal punishment either. This is a misunderstanding of hell and scripture. My point is, Moses, Joseph, David were all sinners but they were not suffering in hell because hell was not made for the righteous. They were not righteous enough to be in God’s presence otherwise they wouldn’t have needed Jesus. They waited for Jesus (as the end of Hebrews 11 tells us) so they could experience that redemption. If they did not have to suffer in hell, logically, why would Jesus? 

There is a lot more I could say about all this but this can’t go on forever. What I want to suggest is this: we don’t have to believe everything everyone says, but we don’t have to hate them for it either. If someone faithful presents us with ideas, we should consider them. However, we also need to study them and seek God through His word. If something doesn’t sit right in your spirit, question it, study it, ask others, and get clarity. If someone presents you with something and cannot handle being questioned about it, you may have to question their motives. I don’t preach to get people to believe me, I preach to try and teach people the truth. If I’m wrong, which I have been and will be, I need to be corrected. If I can’t be corrected I’m full of pride. You and I will stand before the Lord one day. Let’s not do it as those who haven’t done their due diligence. God’s given us the truth to know the truth. We judge all things, including our spirit, only through the truth. Not the other way around.

Be Blessed,

Pastor Jeff 

Dead Faith? (ATP)

Question: If we are “saved by grace through faith” and “faith without works is dead,” then if we don’t have works, our faith is dead. If our faith is dead, how can we be saved? We wouldn’t be, correct? So, while we aren’t saved by our works, if we don’t have works, then we must not have faith. And without faith, we’re not saved?

First, let’s look at what you are referring to in scripture as well as a couple of the surrounding verses in context. Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” This is saying that no man has the right to boast as if salvation came from his own doing. It was God’s grace entirely and our trust in that grace that brought about our salvation in Him. Humans always seem to  think that they can do everything on their own. Human ambition and pride can get very ugly, especially as we are called to walk in His will and not our own. Paul is writing to the Ephesians to remind them of these truths. But look at verse 10, it’s so beautiful. We are God’s handiwork, and He created us to do good works that He paved the way for us to be able to do. When Jesus left this earth, He said that we would do greater works than He did while He was here. John 14:12, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Our purpose, and the purpose of Him leaving, was so that we could do greater works than He did. I believe this is mostly referring to the idea that all of us working together can do even more than Jesus did while He was here. He created a multitude of laborers instead of just one.

This leads us to the other scripture you mentioned in your question. James 2:17, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” You see, this is not referring to spiritual death and losing salvation. What this means is that without good works, your faith is as good as dead, or really we could say as effective as something dead. When Jesus left us here to do works, it was because we were meant to be effective at reaching the lost. Consider the great commission, “go to all the world and preach the gospel.” God is not willing that any should perish, and He put us here so that we would not be willing that any should perish. If we won’t work for the Lord and for His will to be done on earth, as it is in heaven, then what are we here for? Let’s continue reading, James 2:18-20, “But someone may well say, ‘You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.’ You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?” 

Really you could ask if someone says they’re saved but has no desire to serve God or reach people, are they actually saved? Because of God’s grace and unmerited favor, I believe He has great mercy on us even when we fail. But our failure doesn’t excuse His plan for us as His laborers on this earth. If we call ourselves Christians but won’t be His laborer, we’ve missed the very purpose and act of salvation. 

If we truly learn to trust Him and look at the bigger picture other than just our own lives, we will understand that there’s no other way to live in faith than to live for Him and do what He has for us to do. Don’t let your faith be as good as dead. Seek Him, turn to Him, and submit your way to His.

Be Blessed,

Pastor Renée 

Sinning By Worry? (ATP) 

Question: Is all fear and worry sin? 

In society worry has been treated almost like a badge of honor and in Christianity it has been treated like a sin. I don’t really believe it’s either. Let me explain. 

Over the years I have heard it preached that it is a sin to worry and to be in fear. However, I don’t believe you can be human and not experience fear and worry. It seems to me that God, who made us human, would have totally understood this. We live in a fallen world, and we have to experience consequences of that fallen world, two of such are worry and fear. I’m not sure that it is scripturally accurate to call those things sin. That can tend to put good Christians in bondage. That being said, I don’t believe it’s God’s heart for us to live in worry or in fear. Let’s look at the Bible because it has a lot to say about both fear and worry. 

Look at what the Old Testament has to say about fear. Psalms 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” David is expressing how fear comes as we walk through darkness but that when walking through that darkness we can make a conscious decision not to fear, knowing who walks with and protects us. This is faith, not that fear doesn’t come, but that we can make a decision that fear won’t rule over us, choosing to trust God instead and act accordingly.  Again and again in the Old Testament we see the people of God told not to be afraid but it’s always because of who God is that His people can go forth without fear not because they just won’t experience fear. Now, I want to bring your attention to the testimony of the Israelites when they were told to enter the promised land. Remember how they were told that the land was flowing with milk and honey, and that that was what God had for them, but when the spies went to spy out the land, they saw giants in the land. They called themselves grasshoppers in their sight, afraid of their own weakness. But even in this situation, it wasn’t the fear that was the sin. It was the decisions they made because of the fear. Their fear caused them to rebel against God and His plan. They never did inherit His promises. 

Now let’s look at worry. Just as with fear, God calls us again and again not to live in worry. Why is that, because worry is sin or because worry only hurts us? Look at Luke 12:25, “And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span?” Of course in this context, if you continue reading, you’ll see it’s regarding how you’re going to be taken care of, fed, clothed, etc. It’s not that worrying makes you a dirty, rotten sinner, it’s that worry can’t help you or any situation. 1 Peter 5:6-7 says, “…humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” I find it interesting that the Bible tells us it’s actually humility that causes us to come to the Lord with our worries and our fears and our anxieties and casts them onto Him asking for His help, knowing we can’t do it alone. He knew we would have plenty of opportunity to worry, to fret and to become anxious in this world. He was never looking to punish us for that, but to give us a source of help and peace.  

Look finally at 1 John 4:18 (NKJV), “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” Fear involves torment, that means it’s painful! God’s solution? Love. His perfect love. What is that love? That even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8), and that love is the reason we can trust God to get us to the other side of those things we worry about and fear. I think that it is important for us not to look at worry and fear as sin, but to look at them as things that only hurt and rob from usand our relationship with the Lord. Besides this, I think we need to start looking at how wonderful it is that God saw these things coming and gave us away of escape. Don’t condemn yourself for experiencing fear or worry, but focus instead on building your trust in the Lord through time spent getting to know Him. Remember, He no longer just walks with us, but in us! 

Be Blessed,

Pastor Renée