God will destroy you if you don’t follow all the laws in Deuteronomy?

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I had a someone post a comment to a post yesterday, and I thought it worth visiting in a bit detail. In this post, I wrote a sermon review of a pastor named Daniel King who came to town as a guest speaker. The sermon was bad, bad, and more bad, and was your typical word-faith heresy. For example, we heard “The Secret of Obed-Edom will teach you how to activate God’s plan for wealth creation in your life. Hidden in this book are the secrets of Godly promotion and how to achieve unprecedented wealth in your life” The rules of the prosperity gospel are simple- God wants to do nothing but give you blessings, health and wealth. If anything bad happens to you- you get sick, get laid off from work, lose any of your money, or have a relationship fall apart, its because you are disobedient and don’t have enough faith. To acquire the wealth and prosperity, you need to have faith- which is evidenced by you giving money to the preacher to “activate” your faith. You can see a complete refutation of Daniel King and his secrets of Obed-Edom HERE, as well as the original comment, which I’ve posted below.

“I agree with Daniel King.In talking about blessings in Deuteronomy 28:1-14, there was nothing like poverty. lack, diseases and sicknesses. Rather theses were results of curses due to disobedience. Jesus also said the poor shall always be with us because of people like Austin who think that Christians should remain poor in order to go to heaven.”

 

Deut 28 1 and 15  is essentially the summary of the old covenant  blessings-cursing system which was in the process of being established. It was summary of the moasic law, in that

 

” If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God….However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:”

So according to Deuteronomy 28. If you follow all the commands of the preceding 27 chapters, you will be blessed in these ways.

You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven.The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you. Deuteronomy 28:3-8.

But what happens if you don’t follow ALL the commands from the entire book of Deuteronomy  that God gave the Israelites thousands of years ago? The law that not even the apostles could keep, and which Paul described as the law of death.

The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him.The Lord will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess. The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish. The Lord will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed.

The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will come at them from one direction but flee from them in seven, and you will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms on earth. Your carcasses will be food for all the birds and the wild animals, and there will be no one to frighten them away. The Lord will afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors, festering sores and the itch, from which you cannot be cured. The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind. At midday you will grope about like a blind person in the dark. You will be unsuccessful in everything you do; day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you.

You will be pledged to be married to a woman, but another will take her and rape her….Your sons and daughters will be given to another nation, and you will wear out your eyes watching for them day after day, powerless to lift a hand. A people that you do not know will eat what your land and labor produce, and you will have nothing but cruel oppression all your days. The sights you see will drive you mad. The Lord will afflict your knees and legs with painful boils that cannot be cured, spreading from the soles of your feet to the top of your head.

The Lord will drive you and the king you set over you to a nation unknown to you or your ancestors. There you will worship other gods, gods of wood and stone. You will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule among all the peoples where the Lord will drive you.

Because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the Lord your God has given you. Even the most gentle and sensitive man among you will have no compassion on his own brother or the wife he loves or his surviving children, and he will not give to one of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating. It will be all he has left because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of all your cities. The most gentle and sensitive woman among you—so sensitive and gentle that she would not venture to touch the ground with the sole of her foot—will begrudge the husband she loves and her own son or daughter  the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. For in her dire need she intends to eat them secretly because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of your cities. [portions from Deuteronomy 28:15-59]

So here are a few questions of the commenter. Why do you think any of that is for you? Why quote me Deuteronomy 28, and try to make the case that this is normative for you? Deuteronomy states that unless you follow every command in that book, dietary laws, tithing laws, festival laws, clean and unclean laws, animal sacrifices, etc, that God will destroy you, and that your fiance will be raped and that you will be forced to eat your own children due to sickness and starvation, and a host of other unspeakable horrors. Are these the consequences that you foresee happening?

You can’t claim that all these blessings were written specifically for you and that God is still working under the old covenant law system, while ignoring the consequences of what happens when you fail to keep up your end of the bargain. You don’t get Deut 28 blessings without accepting Deut 28 curses.  I would ask my commenter; are you being fully obedient? Are you obeying every rule and law in Deuteronomy? Are you living up to the standards that not even the apostles could?

No? I didn’t think so. So don’t try to put people under the law and return us to this system which was a shadow of things to come, which is a new and better covenant under Christ.

Also, no one said that you needed to be poor to go to heaven. That is a very strange thing to say, but it is interesting. In the word-faith system, people are poor because they don’t have enough faith, or are disobedient. You heard the commenter say it just now- if you have poverty and lack and sickness- pretty much everyone living in third world countries, it’s because you are disobedient in some way.

That is a scary and tragic way to look at the world, and a scary and tragic way to use scripture.

The Myth of the Widows Mite

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The Myth of the Widow’s Mite

[Repost from a few years ago. Edited for clarity and brevity. Also note that much of this was cribbed directly from John MacArthur sermons, at points verbatim. I don't give him credit in the article itself, but I am here. I took his sermon and dissected it and took some stuff out and added other stuff in and then posted my end result here. If something sounds awesome, assume it's him. If it sounds awful, assume it's me]

I’ve read endless commentaries on this story and have heard many pastors preach on it. Usually it has to do with some form of the merits of sacrificial giving, and I can’t get behind that at all. That understanding doesn’t make sense to me, even though that seems to be the universal application for this text. This story is seemingly always used to tell us that we ought to give the way this widow gave, or some variation thereof, and I cannot see any basis in the text for reaching that conclusion. All these pastors are wrong. All the commentaries are wrong. And I’ll show you why.

“And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury.  And He saw a certain poor widow putting in two small copper coins.  And he said, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them, for they all out of their surplus put into the offering, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.’” Luke 21:1-4.

To set the stage, this is all going down on Wednesday of Passion Week, which is the final week of Jesus’ life. On Monday He entered the city, on Tuesday He cleansed the temple, and all day Wednesday He has been teaching the multitudes in the temple area and has been confronted by the false religious leaders of Judaism. By this point his ministry had winded down and was effectively over. There are no more gospel invitations or any more clarifications to the crowds and to the leaders. All these leaders have rejected him. There is a finality to it, and all that’s left is Jesus preaching an extended message of destruction and judgment upon them, which will come to pass in 70AD. In fact, the last words of chapter 20 are clearly words of judgment, “And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, 

“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” Luke 20:45-47.

Luke is pretty gracious though, because Mark gives us the fuller account of the dangers of these false religious leaders, some 39 verses after this incident. He pronounced judgment on the leaders and therefore judgment on the nation for following those leaders and rejecting Him. And so what we see is that sandwiched between the condemnation of the false leaders and the pronunciation of judgment is a little story of a widow dropping two copper pennies into an offering receptacle in the temple. It is somewhat of an odd place to find such a story, and so we need to ask why it’s there and what it has to do with anything. How does something like this fit?  Why does Jesus inject this moment of reflection on a widow giving an offering in the temple into this section between a diatribe against false leaders and all the people that follow them, and a pronunciation of judgment on the temple, on the city and on the nation?

Universally commentators will tell us that Jesus  is giving us a little glimpse of true worship in the middle of the false worship that dominates the temple.  They tell us that it’s a beautiful little story in the midst of ugliness.  A little light in the midst of darkness, an illustration of giving till it hurts, contrasted with the selfishness of the spiritual leaders.

That’s not what’s happening here.  In spite of the popularity of these views, none of these explanations makes any sense. Here’s why;  Jesus never makes any of those points that peopel try to make about the widow and her offering. Jesus never said anything about what’s left behind, what percentage, what attitude, or  that we should do likewise and give everything. He does not say the rich gave relatively too little and that they had too much left over.  He doesn’t say the rich gave too low a percent.  He doesn’t say the widow gave the right amount.  He doesn’t say the rich had a bad attitude and the widow had a good attitude, or good spirit.

In fact, He doesn’t say anything about their giving except that she gave more than everybody.  He doesn’t say why or with what attitude, or whether she should have, or shouldn’t have, or they should have, or shouldn’t have.  Her outward action is all that you see.  Nothing indicates that it is more/ or less good, bad, indifferent, humble, proud, selfish, unselfish than anybody else’s act.  There is no judgment made on her act as to its true character.  There is nothing said about her attitude or her spirit.  She could be acting out of devotion.  She could be acting out of love.  She could be acting out of guilt.  She could be acting out of fear.  She could be acting out of pride. We don’t know because Jesus doesn’t say anything.  He doesn’t say anything about the rich, doesn’t say anything about the widow, doesn’t draw any conclusions, doesn’t develop any principles, doesn’t command anything, doesn’t define anything. Why? Because none of that matters.

There’s only one comment that Jesus makes, and that is that she gave with her two copper coins relatively a great deal more than all the others because all the others gave out of their surplus, which means they had some left.  She gave out of her poverty all she had to live on.  That’s all there is.  No comment that the Lord appreciated her.  No comment that the Lord loved her or commended her.  No comment that she was now in the Kingdom of God.  No invitation to the disciples to reach in to their little money bags and go up there and throw in everything they had because it was good enough for the widow, it should be good enough for the disciples of Jesus.

Who among us would argue that it’s normative for God to expect you to give 100 percent of what you have so that you have absolutely nothing left and you are utterly and completely destitute? Anyone?  Because that’s the only obvious principle here if you’re going to draw a principle.  Besides, why would you inject the principle in giving in a context like this?  This is no place to interject, “Oh by the way, a few words on giving.” What in the world does that have to do with anything?  Jesus makes no comment about giving except that she gave more than everybody else relative to what she had.  .  No one’s attitude or spirit in the giving is discussed.  And no principle regarding giving is drawn by our Lord.  The narrative is not intended to deal with any of those matters.  The reason the Lord doesn’t say anything about it is that’s not what it’s about.  And if you look at the context before and after, this is all about the condemnation of wicked spiritual leaders and a corrupt religious system that is about to be destroyed.  In fact, in verse 5, the passage immediately after this, some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts, and He said, “As for these things which you’re looking at, the days will come in which there will be not one stone upon another which will not be torn down.”

So I think it’s pretty clear what this text is not about. This passage has nothing to do with Jesus commending a widow for giving much, and exhorting us to do likewise. That is nowhere in the text at all. That’s just made up. It doesn’t even have to do with giving at all, and I’ll make the case that this is not a obscure of difficult passage to understand. It’s not even a particularly deep or insightful observation, but rather is simple.  In the midst of his pronouncements of judgment and woe Jesus saw a widow give more than everybody else.  In other words, her involvement in religion cost her more than it cost anybody else because it cost her everything.  That’s all it is. It’s just an observation which the disciplines weren’t confused about, as they didn’t even ask any questions about it.

Another thing to think about is that it seems the assumption in interpreting this as a model for Christian giving is that Jesus was pleased with what she did. But we don’t see that anywhere. It doesn’t say that at all. It doesn’t say that Jesus was pleased with her gift. It doesn’t say Jesus was pleased with her attitude or with the heart and mind that she gave this.  It doesn’t say anything about His attitude at all, though I would make the case that if anything what this widow did in giving her two copper coins displeased Jesus immensely. I think it angered him and her giving this made his blood boil. When I consider my own life, as a Christian man who loves his God and cares for other people and cares about their needs, I have no tolerance for a morally bankrupt religious system that compels a poor, destitute widow who only had two coins left to buy her food for her next meal to give those two coins to said religious system.

The very idea outrages me.  Something has gone terribly wrong in a system that encourages and even demands that. How else am I supposed to feel when I see an impoverished woman give to her religion her last hope for life to go home and perhaps die? I feel sick and repulsed just thinking about it. Listen- any religion that is built on the back of the poor is a false religion.  What a sad, misguided, woeful, poor victimized lady.  It’s tragic and painful, and I think that’s exactly how Jesus saw it. He saw that corrupt system taking the last two pennies out of a widow’s pocket who in her desperation hoped that maybe in that legalistic system her two coins would buy some blessing. The rabbis had said that with alms you purchase your salvation and so here she is,  trying to buy her way into heaven, trying to buy relief from her desperation and her destitution. [Contemporary “evangelists” call this ‘seed faith’- “Give me your money and God will multiply it back to you.”]  God doesn’t want a widow to give up her last two cents and you can’t find that concept anywhere in the Bible at all. In fact, that’s the last thing God would want a widow to do.

The system that had developed in Judaism abused poor people on an economic level and a spiritual level. God’s law was never given to impoverish people, but to help them, and that’s why it’s so wretched to see that this woman was part of a system that took the last two cents out of her hand on the pretense that this was necessary to please God; to purchase her salvation and to bring her blessing.  She was manipulated by a religious system that was corrupt.  This is not an illustration of heartfelt, sacrificial giving that pleases the Lord and this is not a model for all of us to follow.  And so something very different is going on here.  This is not about Jesus honoring giving, this is about a victim of a corrupt system who is literally made absolutely destitute trying to live up to that system and earn heaven.

Verse 1, “And He looked up,” I think this is important. If you read around this chapter, you see that Jesus just spent a chunk of time leveling blistering attacks against the false teachers, compounded with feeling physical drained and we get the image that he’s tired and exhausted and sad and resigned. So you get the image of Him sitting there in a moment of thought before He turns to pronounce the judgment for all his disciples to hear.   And when He looked up, Mark 12:41 says, “He saw opposite, the treasury observing how people were putting money into the treasury.” Jesus had said in Matthew 6 that you were to do your giving in secret but the religious system had developed a very public prominent way to do it and Pharisees came along and had trumpets blown announcing their arrival to give, according to Matthew 6.  And so Jesus looks up and there He sees the people coming, the treasury and how people were putting money into the treasury.

Then there is the woman herself; a poor widow. That should sound very familiar to us because a few verses back we see Jesus saying   “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes and love respectful greetings in the market places and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses” These are people who are building their  success monetarily on the backs of widows. And so what happens? Jesus indicts them for their severe abuse of widows, along with the Sadducees, the Pharisees and the scribes who operated the system that abused the poor and the defenseless for whom they had only disdain. We know that these people view any poor widow as being under the judgment of God, -as that’s why she was a poor widow.  Furthermore, widows were women and women were second-class, and Pharisees every day prayed, “Lord, make me not a Gentile or a woman.”  And because they were widows, they were defenseless and easy prey.

So what does this scene in particular show us? You have Jesus talking about poor widows being devoured and then nearly in the same breath he sees an example of this abuse. To reiterate again; That was all. Nothing is said about her attitude, nothing is said about her spirit, nothing said about whether she did it in desperation or devotion, whether she did it in legalism or love, it doesn’t say anything about that.  The Lord doesn’t commend her, doesn’t make her an example, doesn’t validate what she did, doesn’t say it was a worthy spiritual act that greatly pleased Him.  All He said was, this religious system is preying on widows, this cost her more than everyone else. She put in relatively, comparatively more than anyone.  The religious leaders were devouring widows and the more desperate these poor widows became the more they thought they needed to buy God’s blessing. Belittled by the establishment because they were thought to be in that state because of divine punishment, second-class women, they were defenseless, easily exploited and the system exploited them to the max.  And so they took the last two cents of the poor woman and it was all, the end of verse 4 says, she had to live on, it was literally her life.  She would probably go home and die.

Jesus isn’t commending her; she’s a victim. He’s not proud of her.  He’s not making her an example of sacrificial giving.  This is an absurdity.  He is observing the corruption of the system that is going to be destroyed under the leadership of these corrupt condemned leaders.  They’re exploiting the most defenseless, the most impoverished.  Jesus certainly is not saying she gave her last cent and that’s what you should do, of course not.  He doesn’t want you to give up everything you’ve got and go home and die. He’s observing the false religion that preys on the weak and the desperate and the defenseless and holds out hope to the hopeless if they just give their money.  I don’t think Jesus was happy.  I think Jesus was angry.  And that’s why He says in verse 6, “As for the things which you’re looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.” And the disciples say, “When’s it going to happen?”  And He says, “It’s going to happen,” and He describes it in the remainder of the chapter.

I don’t know why pastors insist on reading into this text and eisegeting into it these ideas of the joys of giving all we have. There’s no denying that those ideas are imported. If you saw a widow give her last two cents to some religious organization in the hope that she could purchase salvation or purchase blessing, or buy healing, or buy prosperity, you wouldn’t commend her, you’d want to stop her and you’d want to shut down that religious system that preys on the desperate.  This act did not please our Lord.  She’s simply been taught falsely and she bought in to a system that destroyed her.  No praise is given of her act or her attitude.  She’s caught in the corruption of the system at the hands of those wretched leaders.  She has given her last coins to a false religion.  Jesus is angry.  And that’s why He’ll destroy this den of robbers, which goes down in AD 70.

This has to do with a woman giving all she had to a corrupt system, Jesus observing that she had indeed given her all, and reinforcing the idea that what this woman was doing was not right and that she was being preyed on by widow-devourers who were engaged in an ongodly spiritual scam which Jesus condemned and rejected. That’s it.That’s all there is to it. It’s simple and it’s easy to understand and it doesn’t need to be tinkered with or bred with assumed external interpolations in order to be made clear. This passage is not for us. We are not to emulate this woman who is being taken advantage of. If anything it’s a warning to us that we do not do the same, and put not our trust in broken systems that enslave us to works righteousness and the law, but rather put our trust in the loving mercies of Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins and for salvation.

Can Fort McMurray congregants articulate the gospel and other basic tennants of our faith?

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I wrote a post recently about my encounter with a local Church kid [two posts down]. I had the opportunity to speak to him about his faith and about the gospel, and he made a mess of things. In response to this story, one of my commenters wrote this

“The reality is that the MAJORITY of the adults that attend these Institutional Churches have no real understanding of the Gospel or the Cross.

I challenge any of your readers with this: Ask 5 grown adults in ANY Institutional Church, it wont matter what denomination it is, to clearly articulate and lay out for you the basics Tenants of the Faith.”

I think that’s a pretty bold challenge, and one I’ve often thought about. While we know that having an intellectual knowledge of Christian doctrines does not necessarily translate into having a love for God or of having a saved soul, it’s also true that having that intellectual understanding often is  a mark of a deep love for God and for his Word. I think it’s a sign of sanctification and maturity that people know at least the basics- otherwise what on earth are they being taught?

I wrote in a previous post “mush before milk before meat” that it seems that many churches will spend 10 weeks preaching on leadership, or 4 weeks on a sex series sermon, or 12 weeks on finances and 8 weeks on interpersonal relationships, all the while three quarters of their church members are theologically and doctrinally ignorant.

They can tell you all sorts of mystical, magical things about listening to the still, silent voice of God, but they have no conception of how to answer a basic apologetic question, like “where did we get the Bible from, how do we know it’s true, and who decided what books should be in it?”

They can probably tell you about the amazing way they felt during worship, and how God “showed up” this one time, but couldn’t tell you how the Old Testament relates to the New, couldn’t name a single church father, and couldn’t tell you anything about the first 400 years of Church history.

They can tell you about how to narcissistically insert themselves in the Biblical stories as if somehow these stories are about them, but they would run for their lives if asked to explain the Trinity, or God forbid offer even a basic refutation to the theistic challenges of a Muslim, Oneness Pentecostal, or a Jehovah witness.

They can tell you about the awesomeness of the latest books from Joel Osteen,  Joyce Meyers, and any other spiritual lunatic that comes around, but they can’t speak with authority on what the five solas [Fide, Gratie, Scriptura, Christus, Deo Gloria] are, why they matter, and how the relate to each other.

They can tell you about a lot of things, but can they articualte a clear presentation of the Gospel? And how many of them would not only not know, but rather would actively argue against fundamental Christian doctrines like the exclusivity of faith in Christ for salvation, issues of biblical sexuality, the nature of God, the nature of sin and mankind, and a host of other things? How many of them, when pressed, would reveal to have some really bizarre and idolatrous views of Christ and his work and his means?

Its a good question, and speaking from my experience alone, one worthy of deep thought and reflection.

That comment does reveal a pretty good question- namely how many pastors in the local Fort McMurray area would feel confident and comfortable that if they asked ten of their churchgoers five or six questions on very basic doctrinal issues, that their members would give clear, biblically sound responses? How much more so if we asked the teens?

If you’re not a pastor- how do you think your peers and the teens in your own church youth group would do?