Toward the Tithe and Beyond | Desiring God – Review

http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/toward-the-tithe-and-beyond

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John Piper presents 7 Biblical reasons for tithing in this article. Quite contrary to the teaching of John MacArthur that Christians don’t need to tithe since they pay taxes to the government, Piper sees tithing as vital to a Christian’s being part of the Kingdom work. Tithing is also an antidote against covetousness, he says. Piper’s 7 Reasons reminded me of David Jeremiah’s 7 Reasons for tithing. Clearly, again contrary to what MacArthur teaches, Jesus made a distinction between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God. The book of Malachi that encouraged tithing against robbery of it so that there would be food in the house of God was not written to people in the theocratic times before the monarchy. Clearly tithing is not tax-paying. Piper’s article and appeal is a needed one in an age when Mammon tries to steal the true and total devotion that only belongs to Christ. Piper’s illustration from John Wesley’s life is touching indeed.

Take John Wesley for example. He was one of the great evangelists of the 18th Century, born in 1703. In 1731 he began to limit his expenses so that he would have more money to give to the poor. In the first year his income was 30 pounds and he found he could live on 28 and so gave away two. In the second year his income doubled but he held his expenses even, and so he had 32 pounds to give away (a comfortable year’s income). In the third year his income jumped to 90 pounds and he gave away 62 pounds. In his long life Wesley’s income advanced to as high as 1,400 pounds in a year. But he rarely let his expenses rise above 30 pounds. He said that he seldom had more than 100 pounds in his possession at a time.

This so baffled the English Tax Commissioners that they investigated him in 1776 insisting that for a man of his income he must have silver dishes that he was not paying excise tax on. He wrote them, “I have two silver spoons at London and two at Bristol. This is all the plate I have at present, and I shall not buy any more while so many round me want bread.”

See Also
Should I Give Tithe

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Multilingual Churches

There are various ways in which linguistic issues are being tackled by churches. For instance, there are those who wish to reach out to their own linguistic community and so traverse land and sea to reach their own community. Examples of such would be Hindi or Sindhi or Malayalee congregations making efforts to establish linguistic church communities in other nations. There are others who wish to only have their linguistic denomination in the foreign country they are living in. Sadly, not many of these may be willing to reach and draw in disciples from other linguistic communities.

However, there are examples of churches that hold services in a particular vernacular or more common language, but are not known as a Hindi church or a Chinese church or an English church. These are more open to reach out everyone around and when they feel the need to have services in more languages, they do so while keeping intact the vision of the one flock.

In Acts 2, we have a very vivid example of God’s way. When the disciples were filled with the Spirit, they spoke in tongues, but the Scripture testifies that people from various language groups heard in their own respective languages the words that the disciples were uttering by the Spirit.

And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs– we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” (Act 2:6-11)

Paul says to the Corinthians: “unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air.” (1Co 14:9)

Truly the Church is redeemed by Christ’s “blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev 5:9) and Christ wants all to hear the words of His Gospel of liberation in words that can be understood. It is very important for people to hear the words distinctly and understand their meaning.

So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading. (Neh 8:8)

Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? …So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air…. Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me. Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. (1Co 14:7-12)

Paul here talks about speaking in tongues and the importance of the gift of interpretation. The principle, however, is that people should be able to understand the meaning of the words in worship service. Of course, this also means that preachers shouldn’t use jargon and words (no matter how elite it may make themselves feel) that make no sense to the congregation. On the other hand, it also means that where the best possible solution is procuring the help of an interpreter to translate the message (as in bi-lingual or multi-lingual single services), the preacher must try to facilitate ease of translation rather than make it trying to the interpreter.

Employee Exploitation – What Does The Bible Say?

One of the greatest evils prevailing among job sectors is the evil of injustice against employees. Some examples of employee exploitation are:

  1. Not paying salaries or wages in time.
  2. Overtasking them and not providing time for necessary rest (Sabbatical Injustice).
  3. Drawing them into unjust employment contracts with terms that are selfish and indifferent towards the employee.
  4. Paying the employee less than what is justly his/her due.
  5. Abusing them and dehumanizing them or treating them in an inhumane manner; humiliating or treating them as inferior.
  6. Blackmailing or forcing them to do things against their conscience.
  7. Placing them in situations which they are unprepared for and would certainly fail (Uriah’s Predicament: David arranged for him to be placed in a position where he would certainly be killed).
  8. Demanding directly or indirectly illegitimate and illegal conduct from the employee.
  9. Enslaving them.
  10. Not relieving them of job with provision when they leave the company or organization.

God is against employee injustice and will hold accountable any employer who fails to do justice to employees. Following are some scriptures by which God declares His law of Justice and how He deals with the workers of iniquity:

Lev 19:13 ‘ You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob [him.] The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning.

Deu 24:14-15 “You shall not oppress a hired servant [who is] poor and needy, [whether] one of your brethren or one of the aliens who [is] in your land within your gates.  Each day you shall give [him] his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he [is] poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the LORD, and it be sin to you.

Jer 22:13 “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness And his chambers by injustice, [Who] uses his neighbor’s service without wages And gives him nothing for his work.

Mal 3:5 And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness Against sorcerers, Against adulterers, Against perjurers, Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, And against those who turn away an alien — Because they do not fear Me,” Says the LORD of hosts.

Jas 5:4 Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.

The Lord of Sabaoth is the Lord of all work and wages of righteousness on the earth and will hold accountable all who oppress those who are placed under them.

Mat 24:45-51
Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed [is] that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat [his] fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for [him] and at an hour that he is not aware of,  and will cut him in two and appoint [him] his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

God is especially very serious about providing times of due rest to employees so that they are not burnt out.

Exo 23:12 “Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female servant and the stranger may be refreshed.”

The sabbath day was for refreshing and recovery and healing, quite contrary to what the Jews began to think- they opposed even healing on that day. Sabbath was made for man and not man for sabbath.

Providing a proper leave and rest system is binding on employers.

Now, the employer certainly has the right to give to workers more than they deserve. This would be just an act of Grace. 

Mat 20:15 ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things?’

However, a just and righteous employer will never find a way to give to employees less than their day’s wages of labour (The denarius mentioned in the Parable was a laborer’s daily wage).

Regarding provision on relieving from job, God specified laws:

Deu 15:13-14 “And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed; you shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your winepress. [From what] the LORD has blessed you with, you shall give to him.

Col 4:1 Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

Two Kinds of Rewards: Earthly Vs Heavenly

The Bible talks of two kinds of rewards: reward on earth and reward in heaven.

Regarding reward in heaven, Jesus said that GREAT will be the reward of those who:
1. Are PERSECUTED for righteousness’ sake because of Jesus (Matt.5:12; Lk.6:23)
2. LOVE their enemies, do good and give expecting nothing in return (Lk.6:35)

The Bible deplores the state of those who seek after and are “men of this world whose reward is in this life” (Psa 17:14 NIV). Though referring chiefly to the religiously plump but fruitless state of the Jewish leaders against the outcasts like Lazarus in the Parable, Jesus did make sure to warn that the pursuit of reward on this earth could make one end as a destitute in the hereafter life.

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. (Luk 16:25 NIV)

He also stated in His teachings:
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets. (Luk 6:24-26 NIV)

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” (Joh 6:27 NIV)

But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” (Luk 12:20-21 NIV)

Paul instructed Timothy:
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1Ti 6:17-19 NIV)

Now, there are at least three kinds of rewards that people go after:
POWER
PRAISE
PLEASURE

POWER: People pursue wealth as a source of power, or they pursue influence or brute force or any religious philosophy or occult of power to become powerful. Such pursuit may have some reward on earth but is ineffective to obtain anything for the life beyond. However, the Bible says that power belongs to God (Psa.62:11). True power is not the power of wealth or influence or might; true power comes from above.

PRAISE: People like to be admired, liked, followed, praised, adulated. They like to be respected and honored and be highly praised. But, this can be a trap and a snare that prevents us from being “fools for Christ’s sake” (1Cor.4:10). The problem of the Jews was that they sought the honor and praise of men and so could never please God. But, Jesus said that true honor only comes from the Father (John 5:44). Jesus declared that HE DID NOT RECEIVE HONOR FROM MEN (John 5:41). His passion was to glorify the Father on earth and to finish His work (John 17:4). The most joyful words that will be spoken about the faithful on the Last Day will be: ,`Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ (Mat 25:21 NKJ)

PLEASURE: People also pursue pleasure, comfort, luxury and delight. The Book of Ecclesiastes gives ample examples of the vanity of pleasure. Solomon describes it as mere chasing after wind. Desire to please people and be pleased led Solomon into many compromises and his downfall. Contrary to this wild pursuit of Solomon, his father David confessed: You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psa 16:11 NKJ).

The sons of Korah sang: For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness. (Psa 84:10 NKJ)

We are saved by faith but we are rewarded according to our works, not works of the law but works of the Father (Matthew 16:27)

Some important rewards promised in the Scriptures:

“But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. (Mat 6:3-4 NKJ)

Oil and Wine“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Mat 6:6 NKJ)

“But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Mat 6:17-18 NKJ)

And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.” (Mat 10:42 NKJ)

Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.(1Co 3:8 NKJ)

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. (Col 3:23-24 NKJ)

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. (Heb 10:35 NKJ)

Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. (2Jo 1:8 NKJ)

“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” (Rev 22:12-13 NKJ)

It would be very unwise to try to guess what rewards He has in store for us. For the Scripture says, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1Co 2:9 NKJ). Eternity has eternal surprises in store for us.

Assassins of Faith Vs Keepers of Faith – A Study

Excerpt from the Author’s Explorations of Faith: Studies of the Heroes of Faith in Hebrews 11 (2009)

ASSASSINS KEEPERS
Doubt
Desire
Division
Confession
Conduct
Communion

THE SCRIPTURE warns us not to be slothful but to be diligent in faith (Heb. 6:12; Judg. 18:9). Faith is not only to be guarded (Rev. 14:12) but also to be contended or fought for (Jude. 3); for it is only by fighting that one keeps one’s faith (2Tim. 4:7). The crisis of faith is a condition brought in by at least three faith-assassins: doubt, desire, and division.

Faith-assassins Doubt. Doubt is helpful in the pre-faith condition by narrowing one’s direction towards truth. That is to say, as doubt breaks all the false beliefs of the past one by one, a person is set in the direction of knowing the truth. In this sense, doubt is the precursor of faith. However, the moment faith is torched by truth “all the darknesses of doubt are dispersed”, to use Augustine’s expression. Doubt no longer has any place but its place is taken by the certainty, peace, and repose of faith. But even in the pre-faith condition, doubt cannot be segregated from seeking faith. Absolute doubt, in the sense that the possibility of truth is hung in perpetual doubt, can never come to truth for though it may see it face to face yet its doubt would prevent it from recognizing it as so. A mind committed to doubt can never submit in faith to truth. Therefore, absolute doubt is the greatest enemy of true faith.

There are chiefly seven Greek expressions that have been translated as “doubt” in the New Testament (KJV): aporeo (Jn. 13:22) meaning “to be perplexed”; diaporeo (Ac. 2:12; 10:17) meaning “to be thoroughly perplexed”; meteorizo (Lk. 12:29) meaning “to suspend as in mid-air”; airo psuche (Jn. 10:24) meaning “to keep the soul in suspension as in air”; dialogismos (Rom. 14:1; 1 Tim. 2:8) meaning “to reason” or “to argue”; diakrino (Mt. 21:21; Rom. 14:23) meaning “to judge differently” or “to discriminate”; and distazo (Mt. 14:31; 28:17) meaning “to waver”. We can learn of the different ways in which doubt finds intrusion in one’s life by looking at the usage of these words.

First, doubt appears in the form of perplexity or a loss of answer. This is indicated by the word aporeo. For instance, when Festus introduces Paul the prisoner to Agrippa the King, he says that the Jews were accusing Paul of some questions related to the Jewish religion; but since he was not well acquainted with this religion he was at a loss of answer or doubt (aporeo) how to judge him (Ac. 25:20). Obviously, the KJV would have done better to translate the word as “was perplexed” or “confounded” instead of “doubted”. But, still it is also true that perplexity is a condition of doubt since it contains the element of uncertainty. Festus lacked the confidence to judge Paul because he was confounded by the complexity of the problems that this trial presented to him. Therefore, he doubted about this matter of judging Paul. He was at a loss of answer. An intense form of this perplexity is indicated by the word diaporeo which means to be thoroughly (dia) perplexed. Perplexity indicates the condition of doubt as dilemma. It is the condition of neither knowing nor not knowing. It is the condition of being totally unable to understand something that seems to be significant and demanding an answer. Undeniably, faith does sometimes come across situations that confound and perplex it for a want of answer. There are things that can happen to us that we can’t explain by any rational means, for instance. Or, there can be a question put forth before faith which it immediately lacks an answer for, though it knows that there must be some answer to it. However, in many cases when complexity presents itself to us the temptation is to turn away to simpler things. This is a natural instinct. One tries to avoid unwanted complications, especially when they appear insoluble or even too demanding. One tends to walk around the problem and if incapable of, tries to turn on it. This is what happened with those disciples who turned away from Jesus because they felt He was becoming too complicated for them to get along with (Jn. 6:60, 66). But when Jesus turned to the twelve and asked them if they would also go away, Peter gave an answer which is a classic response to this dilemma of faith. He answered: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Words of eternal life” (Jn. 6:68, MKJV). Peter understood the fact that there cannot be a turning away from something without a turning away to something else. There is no middle ground. Peter knew that this was an either/or situation. One could choose Christ and eternal life or choose to relinquish both. He made the wiser decision to stay with Christ despite the inability to understand several things. A more practically existential situation confronted Job, as seen earlier. It was practically existential because the absurdity or perplexity of the suffering that he went through was thoroughly personal and its answer too evading (Job 7). Yet, he knew that there could be no turning back from God. God was where his world came to an end. God was his no-returning point. Therefore, despite all the confoundedness of his suffering, Job held on to God in faith. And when his wife reprimanded him for holding on to his faith and told him to curse God and die instead of bearing the brunt of this absurd life, he answered her saying “You speak as one of the foolish ones speak. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10, MKJV). In other words, he in turn demanded from her an explanation for considering experience of evil as sufficient proof for turning away from God, even if such evil came from God. The finality of his faith in God could admit no doubt in God.

Another way in which doubt presents itself to us is suspense. The word comes from the Latin suspensus meaning “suspended” (akin to the Greek meteorizo and airo psuche, see above). The word indicates a condition of uncertainty fraught with intense curiosity, fear, or anxiety. Jesus told His disciples to stay away from such a condition (Lk. 12:29). Feelings of anxiety due to uncertainty may come to suspend our souls in doubt, but they should not be allowed to take hold of our lives; in other words, worry or anxiety should not become the condition of our lives. For such anxiety can easily lead to despair and a total shipwreck of faith. Similarly, unwanted curiosity can also be fatal to faith as seen in Eve’s case. For when the devil told her that the forbidden fruit was forbidden not because God sought her welfare but because He didn’t want her to be like Him, she immediately was convinced by his words (Gen. 3:4-6). Her curiosity regarding the forbidden fruit led her obey the devil’s lie. If God has forbidden us something, there is no danger greater than trying to conduct a scientific analysis of the forbidden thing. It is no surprise then why the Ephesian believers burnt all books of curious and magical arts[1] when they accepted the Lord (Ac. 19:19, KJV, Amplified). This is so because such curiosity can lead to a departure from faith. It is in this regard that the Mosaic Law commanded the Israelites to destroy all images and things related to false belief to prevent their influence from corrupting the Israelites (Deut. 7:3-5). The images represent the symbols of false beliefs that stand against the faith of God. They are doors to disbelief. Therefore, sympathetic curiosity towards what is logically known to be wrong must be avoided. By “logically wrong” is meant those ideas that contradict the rational sense. For instance, in the story of Eve she turned towards the illogical belief that she could become like God (who is spiritual and infinite in wisdom) by eating a physical fruit and to the false idea that God was either jealous or afraid of her becoming like Him; as if she could become like Him and that God was afraid of His own creation. Similarly, the sympathy towards idols is absurd since an idol is not only a lifeless object but also symbolic of the vanity and falsehood of man. Therefore, one must guard oneself against any fear or excitement that is both irrational and godless.

The third kind of doubt is more intriguing. It appears in the form of reasoning or argumentation and is indicated by the word dialogismos meaning that form of argumentation that is controversial, unending, or false. It is in this sense that it is sometimes rendered as “imaginations” for its speculative nature is averse to any conclusion. In other words, dialogismos is doubt that expects no final answer. The imagination keeps going on finding no final ground to stand on; thus, hanging suspended (meterorizo) in curiosity and doubt all the time. I think our age understands this form of doubting better than any age before since, in our age, it is this kind of a scholar that is highly appreciated while the one who claims to have the answer is labeled as fundamentalist and narrow-minded. While in the past the wise man was he who had more answers and fewer questions, now he is one who has more questions and fewer answers. The modern wise man is like the Greek sophist who excelled in clever arguments but had no belief in absolute truth: his arguments generated more doubts than solutions. Our English word “sophistry” comes from this “sophist” and means “clever, misleading, and deceptive argument”. Obviously, this form of doubt or methodological skepticism is deliberate, proceeding from the bias that detests absolute solution to any problem. That is the reason why the Scripture warns several times to keep away from such love for show of cleverness and unhealthy disputing that signifies pride and rebellion instead of humility (Phil. 2:14; Rom. 14:1; 1Tim. 2:8; cf. 1Tim. 6:3-5).

The next kind of doubt is diakrino meaning “to judge by analysis” or “to make a difference”. In relation to doubt it means “to make a different judgment”, “to think otherwise”, or “allow for some other possibility as well”. It is in this sense that it is used in Matthew 21:21 when Jesus tells His disciples “Truly I say to you, If you have faith and do not doubt (me diakrithete), you shall not only do this miracle of the fig tree, but also; if you shall say to this mountain, Be moved and be thrown into the sea; it shall be done.” (Mt. 21:21, MKJV). Similarly, James says: “let him ask in faith, doubting nothing (meden diakrinomenos). For he who doubts (diakrinomenos) is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed” (Jas. 1:3, MKJV). Obviously, this kind of doubting is antithetical to faith since it introduces a rival element (a foreign particle) into one’s framework of belief. This kind of double-thinking is what leads to distazo or to the inability of holding on to faith, thus becoming unstable (as in Peter’s case when he walked on water and then started sinking due to fear); for the natural thoughts of the mind are set in conflict against the supernatural truths of God leading to a weakening of faith. The imbalance and instability caused by diakrino can be compared to an airplane (on flight) that loses its balance due to some technical failure to keep up with the laws of aerodynamics. That technical failure may be compared to diakrino when the plane wobbles between the law of aerodynamics and the law of gravity, for instance. The loss of balance is due to the plane’s inability to totally comply with the law of aerodynamics. The problem is solved if the airplane keeps to the purpose of its design, which is to be in air till it lands safely on the ground; the tragedy is when it fails to do that by giving in to anti-elements. Now, the anti-element may not be false in itself; for instance, the law of gravity is true as well as the fact that Peter could not naturally walk on water. However, in matters of faith the natural must submit to the supernatural and not vice versa. Even as the airplane is designed to fly in air, a man of faith is designed to sail on the winds of God’s promises. Abraham was a man of faith. He was not a man of a double-opinion or double-thinking. Therefore, there were no regrets about his obedience to God; neither was there any possibility of a return for him. The Scripture testifies about him that “he staggered not (ou diekrithe) at the promise of God through unbelief (apistia); but was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Rom. 4:20). Apistia is the antonym of pistis which is faith. Thus, Abraham didn’t allow an anti-faith element to make him double-think about and doubt the promises of God.

Desire. The second enemy of faith is false desire. Desire is the drive of the human will. Therefore, it is always seen as desire to do something or to get something in the sense that the mind is set on that particular thing, ultimately leading to action in that direction. In this sense, to will something is to desire that thing. In fact, the Greek word thelo is translated as both “to will” and “to desire” in the New Testament. However, in human experience, desire is often ambivalent as the Scripture says: “For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do” (Gal. 5:17, Amplified). And again, “I fail to practice the good deeds I desire to do, but the evil deeds that I do not desire to do are what I am [ever] doing” (Rom. 7:19, Amplified). Obviously, there are two kinds of desires at work here and the either one gives in to the other in the struggle for letting out. One is lawless; the other, lawful. One is brutish; the other, rational. One is carnal; the other, spiritual. One is godly; the other, ungodly. One is sinful; the other, holy. While spiritual desire is rationally sound, emotionally stable, and conscientiously clear; lawless desire bypasses reason, corrupts the feelings, stalls the conscience, and captivates the memory. That is the reason why the Scripture says, “Beloved, I implore you as aliens and strangers and exiles [in this world] to abstain from the sensual urges (the evil desires, the passions of the flesh, your lower nature) that wage war against the soul” (1Pt. 2:11, Amplified).

The fatal blow of desire is its luring the mind to justify wickedness. This is when faith is jettisoned and deception sneaks in. Sometimes even a whole nation can fall prey to the rule of passion by rebelling against truth. In his Republic Plato quotes Damon as saying “when modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the State always change with them.”[2] We may not totally agree with Plato’s view against musical innovations; but when one sees the unrestrained wand of passion displaying gestures of rebellion in any art-form, one cannot but suspect that values are being redefined. The Word warns, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20).

The simplicity of Abraham despite the blessings of God on his life is evident from his contentment to live in tents all the days of his life (Heb. 11:9). It is also evident from his contentment with what only God gave to him and not desiring even a shoe lace by any other means. He made a covenant with God to never be blessed except he was blessed by God; therefore, when the king of Sodom came to him offering the spoils of war, he replied: “I have lifted up my hand and sworn to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor and Maker of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a shoelace or anything that is yours, lest you should say, I have made Abram rich” (Gen. 14:22, 23, Amplified). Abraham knew God’s promise of blessing to him and wanted nothing more than that. That is faith.

The Scripture warns us that they who are minded to be rich fall into temptation and many foolish, irrational, and hurtful desires that lead to perdition (1Tim. 6:9). One example of it is Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the prophet, who ran after Naaman the Syrian and, in the name of his master, took from him stuff that his master had refused; but when Elisha questioned him where he had gone, he replied “nowhere”. This man had seen even the dead raised through Elisha’s prayer and still found the courage to lie to him. His conscience and memory were smeared by lust and greed to the extent that he believed that everything was okay despite his sinful act (2Kgs. 5:20-26). Similarly, David when captured by the lust for Bathsheba forgot all bonds of wickedness. He not only committed adultery with her (breaking God’s covenant) but also got her good husband ruthlessly murdered. This man, who once was so zealous for God in faith that he single-handedly defeated the giant Goliath, had now fallen prey to a woman’s beauty (2Sam.11). One doesn’t know what irrational justification his mind was framing in order to not lose the opportunity and companionship of lust. But it broke the heart of God. The same was also true of Judas Iscariot who sold the Lord for 30 pieces of silver after being with Him for three and half years. It is foolishness to think that one’s environment or conditions of living determine the strength of one’s faith. Adam and Eve were in a perfectly sinless environment before they fell into sin. Lucifer was an angel of God. Judas, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the chief priests saw Jesus in person and yet went against Him. Many of us often imagine that if we were as close as the disciples were to Jesus much of our spiritual struggle would be solved. Many desire at least one vision of Christ in this life. But one must understand that all such spiritual and sacred experiences put together can easily be suspended by the onslaught of lust; for lust hijacks all emotion, intelligence, memory, and conscience. Therefore, one must guard himself of all ugly desire that, though seemingly fulfilling, is disastrous in the end.

Division. By division is meant the lack of real spiritual fellowship and communion with God. This causes alienation and distancing from the knowledge of God. As a result, faith suffers loss. Division manifests itself in three forms: discord, dissension, and disunion.

Discord. Discord means a lack of agreement or harmony between two persons. While discord between men may be expressed or unexpressed, discord between man and God needs no expression since God knows what’s in the human heart. Discord between God and man is a matter of perspective and will-towards-something rather than ratio-empirical disagreement (as in matters of scientific or philosophical research). This is so because the relationship is not of the nature of this spatio-temporal pluralistic world where things stand divided from each other in space and time. God is unlike the world and its objects; He is not far from us, as the Scripture says, and we live and move and have our being in Him (Ac. 17:27, 28), which means His presence is more real than the world around us. Therefore, discord or concord between God and man is unlike discord and concord between worldly things, in the sense that it is not primarily a matter of ratio-empirical dispute. It is a matter of perspective, a matter of faith. Discord with God is not justifiable since it is not based on rational judgments but on the choice of will propelled by desire. Therefore, the Word says that God has given up those who, falling to evil desire and reprobate thinking, disgusted themselves by abominable practices (Rom. 1:21-28). The Bible says that the carnal mind is unsubmissive to the Law of God (Rom. 8:7). This lack of submission is not in the sense that it has some logical reasons for not submitting to God but in the sense that the intentions and actions of the carnal mind are opposite to the Law of God. The perspective-shift (from carnal to spiritual or vice versa) can be in a split of a second or gradual. It may be a reaction to a temptation or a moral decline through negligence. Whatever way, the perspective-shift is indicative of a shift from faith to practical disbelief.

Dissension. Dissension is the violent and aggressive form of discord in which the disagreement is vociferously expressed. While in the former case, discordant questions may not be expressed for fear of causing obstacle to the faith of others (see Ps. 73:15), in this case all shame and fear is set aside. The Bible uses different words to describe dissension; some of them are: murmuring, complaining, scoffing, mocking, blaspheming, strife of words, evil talking, perverse disputing, railing, speaking in hypocrisy, ungodly talking, etc (Phil. 2:14; Ps. 1:1; 1Tim. 4:2; 6:4, 5; 2Tim. 3:2; Jude 15, 16). Jesus warned His disciples that on the Day of Judgment men will have to give an account of every idle word that they speak (Mt. 12:36). Dissension comes from a heart of unbelief. It was because of such vehement and vexing ungodly talks that the Israelites were destroyed in the wilderness (1Cor. 10:10). All their opposition was based on their lusts and whims and not on any logic. God had shown such wonders to them that He had never shown before. He foiled the skill of the Egyptian magicians, broke the strength of pharaoh and his forces, tore the Red Sea into two, and walked before them as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. I do not know of any nation on earth as a whole who had seen so much of God and yet disbelieved Him so much. They broke God’s commands whenever they liked and spoke whatever came to their mouth against God’s servants. Jude tells us that God destroyed them because of their unbelief (Jude 5).

Disunion. Disunion refers to a break-away from faith in God, thus from God. This is the severing of relationship with God. This disunion is the final end of a life of ungodly speech and action. It is the moral failure to hold on to faith and a good conscience and is characterized by a blasphemous lifestyle (1Tim. 1:18-20). This is what the Scripture also calls as a departure from faith by giving in to seducing spirits and the doctrines of devils (1Tim. 4:1). The doctrine of the devil is nothing but ultimate rebellion against God and His truth. The life without faith in God is a life of falsehood. It is a life of self-opposition (2Tim. 2:25). Therefore, says the psalmist, the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous (Ps. 1:5). The sinners who walk after ungodly counsel and associate to scoff at the revelation of God will not be justified (cp. Ps. 1:1). But the just shall live by faith (Rom. 1:17).

The Scripture warns believers against this alienation from God’s truth. It is the sin that brings a division between God and man (Isa. 59:2). The sin of willful commitment to unbelief and disunion with God is unpardonable. It leads to death (1Jn. 5:16). The book of Hebrews tells us that there is no chance of renewal for those who, after knowing the irrefutable truth of God, fall away from the faith (Heb. 6:4-6); for it is evident in their case that their falling away from faith is self-willed and not because of weakness in understanding the truth. The truth was crystal clear to them. Similarly, Peter says that the final condition of those who turn away from the knowledge of Christ after having escaped the pollutions of the world is worse than the first; for, he says, it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than to have known it and then willingly turn away from it (2Pt. 2:20, 21). Such a life becomes blasphemous, godless, and a willful opposing of the ways of God.

KEEPING FAITH

Faith Leap by Ayan GhoshNow, there are three chief ways in which faith can be kept; they are: confession, conduct, and communion. Let’s look briefly at each one of them and see how Abraham not only kept his faith but grew stronger in it by following these and by refusing false doubt, ungodly desire, and any sin-induced division. We do not say here that Abraham never made mistakes but despite of all his weaknesses and shortcomings he was justified before God because of his holding on to the Lord. He loved the Lord and no matter what he had to go through, he didn’t stagger in faith, since he knew that he could never leave the Lord that he knew as the true and gracious God. For him there were no regrets and no turnings back.

Confession. Confession is the verbal establishment of inward belief (Rom. 10:10). It is the public testimony of private faith. And when confession is heartily and confidently done, then the internal and the external dimensions of human experience are reinforced in the integrity of faith. Abraham’s confession of faith is captured in his single statement to the king of Sodom. He said: “I have lifted up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take from a thread even to a shoe latchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich” (Gen. 14:42, 43). He confessed here that it is God alone who could have the absolute right of claim over all of Abraham’s blessings, that his sustenance came from God, and that everything of him was God’s and what was his was what God had committed to him. This shows his total trust in God and no side-glances at anything else. His mind was steadily focused on God and His promises. Of course, this doesn’t mean that Abraham never sought any clarification from God. But whenever he did that it was in humility of spirit and never in the haughtiness of pride characteristic of the dissenters. For instance, when God told him that He would bless him with a seed that shall become a nation, the Bible says that Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6). But when God tells him in the next verse that he was going to inherit Palestine, he asked for a way to know how that would happen. He knew that he was living in tents here and that there were little chances that this tent-living could be given up soon since the land belonged to the different tribes that inhabited it. But God showed him how he would do it giving assurance of it by means of a covenant. He told him that his seed would go to a foreign land whom they shall serve but then return back in the fourth generation to take this land into their hands by punishing the inhabitants of it. Accordingly, the next two generations of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob too lived in tents, went to Egypt and returned after about 400 years to take the Promised Land. Obviously, there were things that Abraham didn’t understand but he confessed what he knew and trusted God for things too difficult for his understanding. And God was faithful to reveal His counsel to Abraham. Similarly, spiritual facts like being saved, being forgiven of all sins, being heirs of Christ’s righteousness and the Kingdom to come must be confessed again and again in faith or else the devil will gain place by introducing guilt-feelings, doubts, and fears in the heart of the believer. One must acknowledge one’s sinfulness and inability to save oneself, submit to God, and then resist the devil.

Confession brings the mind in subjection to the line of verbal reasoning manifest in the assertion of faith-statements. It awakens the consciousness to the truths of God. It enlightens the memory with the optimism of divine assurance. It is the active choice of the believer to set his mind on the things of God. It is this reason why Christ confessed God’s Word and His purposes by quoting the Scripture when the devil came to tempt Him. He told him that “Man shall not live by bread alone” when the tempter challenged His divine sonship. He need not prove anything to either the devil or to anyone. By confessing the Scripture, Jesus declared to the devil God’s counsel of sending Christ as man to this earth; and that this material world is not an end in itself – bread is not the ultimate thing: to turn stones into bread would mean to look at any object of nature with selfish intentions.

Conduct. Conduct is the factual establishment of faith. It is the behavior of faith. It is the phenomena of active faith. It is not mere asserting but the confirming of faith through action. It is the conformity of life with faith. It is the finalizing of the meaningfulness of belief. One can only live out that which one considers to be livable or meaningful and significant. Therefore, conduct is the establishment of faith in fact and in deed. There is not one instance in the Scripture where it is mentioned that Abraham disobeyed God. Whenever God told him anything to do, he immediately did it. We have seen his obedience of faith in regard to leaving Ur and also, at a latter point, sacrificing his only begotten son. His obedience is also seen in the case of sending Hagar away. When Sara told Abraham to send Hagar, his concubine away, we are told that this thing was very grievous in his eyes because of Ishmael, his son by Hagar (Gen. 21:11). However, when God told him to quit feeling grievous about this and do as Sara had said since God was in control of everything and was going to bless Sara’s son, Abraham rose up early in the morning, packed up things for Hagar and Ishmael and sent them away, without grieving, having been assured of the promise of God regarding the maid and her son. Abraham’s emotions were controlled and directed not by any worldly wisdom but by his faith in the truth and power of God. He knew His God very well and, therefore, he followed Him wholeheartedly. Of course, his half-truth about his wife (Gen. 12:13; 20:2) due to fear evinces his use of cleverness in escaping difficult situations instead of trusting totally in God’s ability to protect him. Similarly, his giving heed to Sara in cohabiting with Hagar, according to their custom, in order to have a child was a hasty and humanly rationalized way (Gen. 16). But one must remember that, in the former case, Sara was truly his half-sister and Abraham’s tactic was something to prevent a possible enemy’s foil act. It was not motivated out of a failure of faith at all. Anyone who has read about the tactics that believers of the underground churches employed in order to prevent the enemy’s success in sin should not be hasty to indict them as failing in faith as if God could not protect them. In fact, they did so because of their unflinching faith in God Whom they could at no cost deny. Obviously, no one generally stretches these things to such an extremity to say, for instance that footballers should give up their play tactics or army men should give up their war stratagems in order to walk according to faith. I am here only trying to prevent hasty and unjust accusation against Abraham; not to justify Abraham’s actions. What for me is important about Abraham is that God never accused him of what most people accuse him. Even if he failed, God would not have accused him since God knew Abraham’s faith and it is before his Master that he falls or rises, and even if he falls God is able to raise him (Rom. 14:4). One will also remember that Christ never condemned Peter for denying Him thrice but understood the love that was in the depth of his heart. Similarly, in taking Hagar as wife, this might have been so because God’s revelation of giving a son through Sara, specifically, is revealed only in Genesis 17. Further, Abraham’s listening to his wife to give her as she desired should not be interpreted as wavering from faith; for, even in doing so there was no indication of his disbelief in God about anything; there could not be. In addition, God never treated Abraham’s child through Hagar as the product of a mistake, but instead blessed him as well. At any cost, none of these things were indicative of any weakening of Abraham’s faith; the truth being that in every instance of God’s specific commandment, Abraham was obedient without question, hesitation, or second-thought.

Communion. Communion is the relational establishment of faith; the personalizing of faith in relationship. One can only be one with someone one is at one with; and one can only be one with someone who is like that one, i.e. basically personal then other points of aesthetic and ethical agreement or harmony: therefore, communion is the personal relationship with God through the harmony of faith. Communion with God is the living out of the I-Thou relationship with Him. It is the establishment of the fact of faith as relationality and not just as subjectivity. Communion can never be one-sided. Communion can never be fantastical. Therefore, communion is the objective establishment of faith in a real divine relationship. When Abraham was 95 years old, God spoke to him saying “I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Gen. 17:1). The command to walk before God was the command to be in perpetual agreement and fellowship with Him. The command to be perfect was the command to be wholeheartedly committed to God in this relationship. The Bible tells us that as soon as Abraham heard this voice (he was still called Abram till this point), he fell with his face prostrate on the ground. He didn’t even speak a word. Anyone who reads the life of Abraham can see him not only as a man of few words but also as a man of diligence and great reverence for God. His communion with God was so close that the Scripture calls him “the friend of God” (Jas. 2:23; 2Ch. 20:7); yet, it was only with reverence in heart that Abraham ever approached God. This can also be seen in the case when he intercedes for Sodom. His intercession is not like one demanding something from God by right though he was God’s friend. For instance, when he enquires the second time he says: “Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, who am but dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27) and goes on to make his petition. Remember God’s confession about Abraham just before this session; God said “Shall I hide from Abraham that which I do… for I have known him” (Gen. 18:17-19, MKJV). God could trust Abraham as a friend could trust his friend. That was the depth of communion between them because God knew the genuineness of Abraham’s faith and his absolute and indefatigable holding on to the truth of God. Abraham knew God and glorified God as God; therefore, he was blessed by God.

Thus, we see that through faith and obedience to God Abraham inherited the promises of God. The anti-faith elements of doubt, sinful desire, and division could not find place in his heart full of trust and faith in God. Abraham’s words, actions, and feelings were all tuned up with the will of God. Therefore, he only kept moving onward and never turning back in his walk before God. While the world groped in the darkness of unbelief and falsehood around him, Abraham recognized God’s call over his life and followed Him not knowing where he was going.

NOTES
[1] The Greek periergos means “busy about trifles” indicating curiosity about unwanted things. The English word “occult” used for all such curious arts comes from the Latin occultare meaning “hidden” or “concealed” indicating the non-normalcy and unhealthiness of all such practices.

[2] Plato, The Republic and Other Works, p. 113.