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Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Fourth Option

People talk about God, and about what God wants from us. What they say may come from several places.

Sure, what we say can (1) originate with God. We hope it does. Peter says, “Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God”. Amen, so be it.

But we know this is not always the case.

Origin and Motivation

We can also (2) speak our own opinion (“I, not the Lord, say …”), something which may either reinforce truth or contradict it, and may well be equal parts truth and falsehood. And even believers may inadvertently (3) speak on behalf of the powers of darkness (“Get behind me, Satan”).

That’s without getting into motivation at all.

Motivation really complicates things. One may tell a small truth to sell a bigger lie. Satan is the father of lies, but one may lie in the service of righteousness. (Yes, that has a dodgy feel about it, but we can point to biblical examples).

Testing, Testing

Then there’s the fourth option: the lie that originates with Satan, yet serves the direct and immediate purposes of God. We find this example in Moses’ final instructions to Israel:
“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Confusing, no? The false prophet would appear authentic. He would pass the God-given test of an Israelite prophet, in that the sign or wonder he named as evidence of his prophetic office would actually take place.

And yet the “prophet” would be trying to lead the people of God away from Jehovah. And God would be using him to test the hearts of his people.

Testing Today

Does confusion about the source of a revelation still happen? Sure. We may not have prophetic oracles and miraculous confirmation of their calling, but Christians can be just as superstitious as Israelites. If you don’t believe me, check out YouTube:

URGENT WARNING!! GOD SHOWED THIS MAN THE JUDGMENT DAY

I Was Taken To Hell In My Bedroom While Praying

Celebrities I seen in hell

I SAW GOD AND THIS IS WHAT HE SHOWED ME!!

God Revealed ISIS to Man In Near Death Experience

Recommended viewing? Not so much.

There are plenty more where those come from. It would seem people are still having very subjective experiences and attributing them to divine revelation. Most of these, I suspect, are relatively innocent fantasies cooked up by sincere, emotional, untaught Christians or sad, ignored people just looking for a little attention. Others may be the result of drug use, a possibility I discovered while taking painkillers after surgery and experiencing vivid hallucinations. Hey, they seemed VERY real at the time.

But however such things may originate, the only real way to test their validity is with the written word of God.

The False Prophet

The false Israelite prophet said, “Let us go after other gods and let us serve them”. But the word of God is unequivocal: “You shall have no other gods before me”, and “I am Jehovah, and there is no other, besides me there is no God”.

Problem solved.

No matter how compelling the story, no matter how dramatic and convincing the purported proof, no matter how much “confirmation” may have appeared through circumstances, the written word of God was ALWAYS to trump external evidence — even when that external evidence told Israel what they really, really wanted to hear. Remember, the magicians of Egypt were able to duplicate many of the miracles of God “by their secret arts”.

Orthodoxy Overboard

Now, really, as incentives to chuck orthodoxy overboard go, rank idol worship seems a bit, well … obvious. I’d like to think Christians today wouldn’t fall for anything so inelegant. Such temptations have always been and they will always be. Most of us quickly recognize and dismiss their baubles as obviously contrary to the word of God through which we have been saved and are kept. They are as jarring as pink hair on a Fortune 500 CEO.

No, today much subtler idolatries are offered to Christians. There is the god of Consensus, a deity that always has her manicured finger in the perfumed winds of public opinion. There is the god of the Law of the Land (who is increasingly at odds with the law of God but likes to present as the greater authority, even though the only clout he has is wholly derivative and serves only to provide convenient cover for Christian cowardice). Then there is the god of Science, a fickle deity that issues new, contradictory, frequently unsubstantiated and increasingly strident pronouncements every few years. There is the god of Nice, whose adherents believe nothing is actually immoral unless you can prove it hurts someone, even if God himself expresses loathing for it, and who appeal to the god of Science for an ever-shifting standard of proof both intangible and unattainable. There’s even a god of Personal Property to ensure we can justify hanging on to most of our stuff, though all our early church counterparts seem to have elected to give theirs away.

I could go on.

Sure, on some level we recognize such temptations to idolatry are wrong. But do we see behind them the activity of a loving God testing us to know whether we love the Lord our God with all our heart and all our soul?

We should.

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