Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
We have begun a New Year. It is no longer 2022 but 2023. That is a boundary. The Bible says that boundaries are a God given gift to be respected. A classic verse on the subject is Proverbs 22:28:
Do not remove the ancient landmark that your fathers have set.
What is that about? It means that in ancient Israel farmers marked the boundaries of their lands (allotted by God through Moses) by large stones or piles of stones. A greedy neighbour could sneakily move those stones over time and enlarge his land at the expense of his neighbour.
The world is filled with myriads of boundaries at God’s design. Because God designed them they are good and not to be understood in a negative way as many might see words like ‘division.’ They are good and we’d do well to respect them. Some boundaries like those at Creation are fixed and immoveable: day and night, land and sea, etc. Other boundaries are moveable. Yet it is only in our pride that we seek to move what God has fixed. This is because in our desire to be as God (Gen 3:5) we don’t respect God or others but move those stones to our own advantage. (Even the Creator-creature distinction is a boundary, Ro 1:25. We can’t actually move it but we try!). How we respond to God’s boundaries can be appropriate and inappropriate, good and evil. All sins and troubles, particularly of the inter-personal kind, stem from, in pride, breaking God’s boundaries.
Considering just some of the good God-given boundaries that we find in the Bible:
Perhaps with this in mind you might now see more boundaries in Scripture and identify them in the world around us.
May we repent of boundary breaking, seek the boundary Maker for forgiveness, and find the Holy Spirit’s renewing power to respect the boundaries that God has established for our good.
"Christians" and Christians
Very recently I came by two different sets of statistics related to the visible decline of Christianity in the West, one was a local newspaper article and one was by the BBC.
The BBC article reported that for the first time less than half of the population of England/Wales identified as Christian down to 46.2% in the 2021 Census from 59.3% in the 2011 Census (Britain does their censuses every decade). What is more, those who claim no religion are approaching those who claim to be Christian at 37.2%. However, a more accurate indicator as to the state of Christianity is not the census but those who attend a church service semi-regularly at 1.5%. As not everyone who goes to church is a Christian (i.e. they may be a “seeker” or nominal, as shall be seen), an generous estimate as to the number of Christians in the UK could be as liberal as 1% (670,000). 46.2% vs. 1% is a BIG difference!
In Canada there is a similar trend. Our recent census figures show 53.3% identify as Christian compared to 67.3% in 2001. The more accurate gauge as to the true number of Christians is church attendance. The following chart shows the decline of those who attend weekly service:
Today, partly because all religions are included in studies and partly because the measurement moved from weekly to monthly (itself telling) it can be difficult to truly gauge numbers. One study put monthly religious attendance at 23% (including all religions). Stats Canada (2019) noted 31% of professing Christians were in church monthly (2.283 million or 6% of the population). We might halve that to get a rough weekly figure of 1.14 million or 3% of the population. So liberally in 2019 (pre-pandemic), 3% of the population may have been Christian vs. 63.2% in the census. That is a BIG difference!
That means 3 out of 100 people you meet in Canada may be Christian!
What the media, ever the naturalist, fails to distinguish is between true Christians as God sees them and visible Christians as the world sees (2 Ti 2:19). The world likes terms like practicing vs. non-practicing Christian, etc. Muslims think of the entire West as Christian, either because of its past or its censuses. Rather the Bible speaks of Christians and non-Christians.
Just because I call myself a cat doesn’t make me one. Just because I sit in a garage doesn’t make me an automobile. So too, just because I call myself a Christian or go to Church doesn’t make me one.
We must not think naturistically like the world but see spiritually as the Bible teaches. We need to have discernment. The Bible has not left us blind to discern the marks of a genuine believer.
Jesus said we would “know them by their fruits” and that not everyone who said “Lord, Lord,” would enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt 7). Likewise in 2 Cor 13:5 Paul urges the Corinthians to “test yourselves” and the possibility of failing “to meet the test.” Not all “Christians” are Christians. Similarly, Revelation speaks of “synagogues of Satan,” Jewish gatherings that visibly should have embraced their Messiah and been friendly but had rejected Him and so spiritually were not friendly. Indeed like many things in life we need this distinction to see the difference between real Christians and true Churches and nominal Christians and false Churches.
The Bible is filled with “tests of assurance,” marks that we are to use to evaluate (not be judgemental) as to whether someone is a Christian. You might read 1 John, which is filled with them, but the following may suffice. We know a Christian by three basic marks: by their lips (Ro 10:9–10), by their lives (Gal 5:22–23); by their baptized into the visible Church (Acts 2:38, 41).
Let’s wisely evaluate both our own lives and those who claim to be “Christian.”
 This group is commonly known as “the dones;” those who are still spiritual but not religious. They constitute an interesting demographic for evangelism.
 See Edwards Religious Affections if you’d like to do much deeper on this subject. Edwards was caught up in the 1st Great Awakening. He thought optimistically of all those who’d professed to be “converted.” In his book he looks at the Biblical marks of genuine conversion.
How do I recognize false teachers?
Though contemporary society can shy away from such a question as “too judgemental,” to do so is actually spiritually injurious; Jesus and the Apostles commanded us to be alert (Mt 7:15).
Often we can tell a false teacher by measuring their truth/teaching by the standard of the Gospel or the “faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Gal 1:8; Jude 3).
Another way is to watch out for polluted behaviour because bad beliefs produce bad behaviour (or faith produces the fruit of faith and visa versa).
Scripture lays down some other methods to be sure, however, in reading John 7:18 I was struck by another, which taken with the others, provides a helpful test:
The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.
This is in the context of Jesus telling the truth and seeking His Father’s glory in contrast with the religious leaders, but it sheds light on the false teachers we may face too. False teachers are: 1) proud (even if mildly concealed), 2) which works out in a promotion of their own thoughts (vs. God’s truth) and 3) for their own glory, or so that others would think well of them (think cult) rather than praise God. This can be true of preachers or people; but regardless of the context are three things we all need to be on the lookout for.
The Good Book
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Acts 17:11
The Bible means “The Book.” It is a book unlike any other for in it we have the very words of God. When it speaks, God speaks; authoritatively and truthfully on all matters upon which it positively touches. For those convinced of this from the Bible itself, the testimony of the Spirit, reason and logic, experience, etc, there is no other place to look for truth for in Scripture alone are found the words of life.
A friend of mine has a common saying, “if you’re not reading the Bible, you shouldn’t be reading anything else, for you’ll have no standard by which to evaluate its truthfulness.” This is not mindlessness or uncritical detachment; for the one who has placed their faith in revelation over reason it is recognition that God’s word is truth, spoken by the author of truth, to inform how we ought to understand reality as He’s created it. He’s given us minds, so we should use them, but the greatest wisdom is in trusting the mind of God revealed in Scripture.
There is the old adage, you are what you eat. Ps 115 says the same thing, “Those who make them [idols] become like them; so do all who trust in them.” If we indiscriminately take on board whatever we hear, read, listen to or watch, we are like waves tossed to and fro, we’re undiscerning fools that will be led away into great sorrow. We’ll become just like what we absorb. We must be anchored to the truth of God’s word and try every thought, word, deed, idea or attitude by it.
Here God’s Word is like a filter. It helps us sort between what is helpful and unhelpful, true and false. Many years ago it was said that the RCMP didn’t teach constables about every single counterfeit bill but rather taught them to know an authentic bill and so be able to try every bill by that standard. If we’re not spending time in the truth (and with the Truth) how are we to discern truth or goodness:
A Strange Religion
There are many things I, as a pastor, would rather write about, but it often behoves me, for the sake of my sheep and those who would be gathered in, to defend the faith, to protect and guard from error, so that the saints may be edified and sinners saved. This is where Jude found himself:
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3)
Liberalism (and I daren’t even give it the satisfaction of enjoining it to that blessed title, Christianity), is a new religion that was birthed in the nineteenth century (1800s). Like Satan posing as an angel of light or a wolf dressing in sheep’s clothing, Liberalism (lateral deists as a friend of mine calls them), guises itself as Christian, though in peering into the [initially] subtle differences, one finds an entirely different religion. We’d do well to know what Liberalism is, so in spotting it, we might turn from error fix our eyes upon the truth of Jesus.
A newspaper from the 1920s, an era where Liberalism and orthodox Christianity were in conflict, contrasted the chasm like differences between the two.
One author who wrote on the subject was J.G. Machen in Liberalism and Christianity (1923). In his classic work he argued that Liberalism was indeed a new religion.
To further illustrate the differences, consider the Fellowship’s Statement of Faith (1953) (and still today) contrasted with the much more orthodox United Church Statement of Faith (1925) and their most recent statement, Songs of Faith (2006), on the subjects of the Bible, Jesus and Mankind (these three are chosen because of their centrality in the faith):
Doctrinal error and moral misguidedness—accommodating to the world, syncretism—has meant that the once largest Canadian Christian denomination is now one of the fastest dying religions in Canada (the old statistic was that one church building closed each week; now the figure is that, with the Anglican Church and some others, 10,000 buildings will close in 2020 alone). While a dead orthodoxy can certainly lead to closed churches, a vibrant orthodoxy normally to lead to spiritual flourishing and healthy churches (as seen in the independent and non-religious study from Ontario in 2015).
Like Jude, may we cling to the “faith once for all delivered to the saints,” which along is true, which alone can save; and having come near the end of our Old Testament journey in Cover to Cover, may we take heed of the danger that will come to God’s people when we compromise with the world in belief and practice (i.e. Judges).
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