“What can you know about preaching? You’re a woman!”
“What can you know about engineering? You’re a woman!”
Unfortunately I have heard both of these statements in my life, as I am both an electrical engineer and a preacher. There are many people who have the idea that those two professions, and probably others, are best left to men. But when you really think about it, what effect does a person’s gender have on their ability to design something, or to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ? None, in my opinion.
When I hear statements like those above, it is a type of argument called “ad hominem.” The basic idea of an ad hominem argument is that it is a personal attack, usually on a quality of the person which has nothing to do with the topic at hand. In the two examples I mentioned, the attack is on my gender, not my skills or abilities or my gifting from God in those areas.
When people have a discussion about something, because we are humans we have a tendency to try and “win.” We may employ many tactics to do so, and ad hominem is one of them. (We’ll be looking at a few more in the coming weeks.)
So, even though I feel that ad hominem is wrong and unfair, what does Scripture say about this? In 2 Timothy 2:23, Paul writes, “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” Also, in Titus 3:1-2, it says,”Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.”
In light of these passages, what should we do? We should “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” as we’re instructed in Romans 14:19. It is commendable to get into discussion to learn more about what the other person is saying, and to test each other as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). Have an open mind, and look at the facts of the situation rather than at characteristics that have no bearing on how they serve God and work for His Kingdom.
Hitting rock bottom. At the end of your rope. Less than nothing left. What do all these things have in common? They will happen to someone who is a prodigal.
What is a prodigal? A prodigal is someone who spends wastefully and recklessly. It is a person who has no regard for responsibility, especially financially. A prodigal lives a wild and reckless lifestyle, and will eventually run out of money and hit rock bottom with nothing left.
We see a story about this in Luke 15:11-31. A man had two sons, and the younger son got his inheritance money early and became a prodigal, living the good life and spending all his money on frivolous things. While the word “prodigal” is not written in the text of this story, the idea of being a prodigal is exactly what the younger son does. He finally realizes how wrong he was when he gets a job feeding pigs and is so hungry he’d love to eat their slop!
The idea of being a prodigal goes against what God wants for us and our lives. Jesus warns us that we cannot love money while also claiming to love God. In Matthew 6:24 He says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” If a person has the attitude of a reckless prodigal, he or she is serving money and not God.
In Proverbs 21:5 we read, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” Being diligent is the opposite of being a prodigal. Diligence leads to being profitable, whereas being a prodigal and being hasty with money leads to poverty and having nothing left.
The idea of being a prodigal does not have to only involve money. A person can be a prodigal with anything that they recklessly waste. Think about your life. What are you doing with the gifts and material things that God has given you? Are you being a prodigal and recklessly wasting them, only to find yourself in a moment where you feel like you have hit rock bottom? Or are you embracing what God has given and using those gifts wisely?
Fortunately for the son in the story of Luke 15, his father was watching and waiting for him to return. There is forgiveness for having prodigal actions! This prodigal son was not only allowed to come back in the house, but he was given a party and the royal treatment so to speak.
Think about where you stand as a prodigal or not this week as we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday here in America. Thankfully, when we do have prodigal tendencies, we can always be thankful that God is there to welcome us back home, with open arms!
Every once in awhile, you come across one of those words that has a meaning that no one can actually define but everyone seems to know what it is. This is mainly due to the context in which the word is used. The word for this week is a perfect example. Most of you are familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32. As soon as you hear "Prodigal Son", you immediately know what I'm talking about because of the story (context). However, when we separate the word "prodigal" from the story, most of us wouldn't be able to define it. I gave a group of guys who take part in a Bible study I lead that very task a few weeks ago. When asked to define "prodigal", their answers were along the lines of "disobedient, lost, and rebellious". While a prodigal individual may be described by those very adjectives, an important part of the meaning of the word is often left out.
Initially, I thought that I would just look it up in the Bible using my Greek New Testament. Surely, the word is in the story for which it is often used as a title, right? Well, a funny thing happened on the way to figuring out the Biblical meaning of this word. I found out it's not even in the Bible! Super! So, that means that its usage in the Luke 15 parable is simply a matter of tradition (is anyone else singing the song from Fiddler on the Roof in their head when they see that word?). That doesn't mean we should cease using "prodigal" in this Biblical context. We live and speak by traditions in all areas of life. It does mean that we must look elsewhere if we want to find its meaning.
The word "prodigal" comes from the Latin prodigere, which means "to squander". Webster defines it as "extravagantly wasteful". This meaning goes a step further than simply being lost or disobedient. Obviously, one cannot be considered wasteful unless he has something valuable to waste in the first place. In the Luke 15 parable, the younger son receives his share of his father's estate and "squanders his wealth in wild living". His wastefulness, or prodigal activity, drives him from a point of wealth to a situation of extreme poverty in which he feeds pigs for small wages and finds himself desiring to eat their food.. We can conclude that he was a Jew for two reasons: 1) it was Jewish custom for fathers to divide their estate into certain portions and this would have been known by the sons all their lives, and 2) Jesus was telling this parable to the Pharisees and teachers of the law, so he would've appealed to their cultural customs (which were also his). I bring up the fact that the prodigal son was a Jew because Jews consider pigs to be unclean animals according to their law. He had been so wasteful with his gift that it drove him to a point of compromising not only the morals he wanted to ignore, but also the ones he would've wanted to hold onto. What a lesson for us! We are foolish when we think we can live wastefully and still manage the damage. Almost every time, we find ourselves compromising a lot more than we had planned.
Fortunately for us, the point of the parable in the second half of it is that we have a loving Father who allows us to be wasteful, grieves as He watches us experience the natural consequences of our choices, and then welcomes us back to Him with no strings attached when we finally let go of our pride and return to Him in humility. That does not give us a license to be prodigals! I mean, we can certainly choose to be wasteful and He will give us that freedom and won't love us any less. But we must heed the warning of this parable. If we choose to live wastefully regarding our inheritance, we WILL lose it. It's not something we can squander and get back whenever we need without true humility and repentance.
I think it's important here to be clear about what I mean by "our inheritance". Too often, Christians and non-Christians alike focus solely on heaven and hell. In my humble opinion, this parable is not directly about eternity. Eternity only comes into play for the prodigal who never returns, and even on that point there is much disagreement within the Church universal about whether he would still receive his eternal inheritance or not. Friends, I'm not going to focus on that right now because to me, the parable and the very word "prodigal" is about life right now! If inheritance for believers is strictly about heaven, then just kill me now and get it over with. I know we're here to glorify God and all that, but I just want my inheritance. Hopefully, you get my sarcasm. Our inheritance is right now! When you come to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of your life, he gives you a new nature, a fresh perspective and direction for your life. You can find no greater joy than following him and walking in relationship with him. All other things in this world that appear to bring you greater joy initially are just temptations of the flesh. They may work temporarily, just as the prodigal son enjoyed the fleeting pleasures that his wealth bought him. But as soon as those pleasures were gone, so was his joy.
If you have a personal relationship with Christ and you view him as Savior and Lord of your life, your gift/inheritance is a joy-filled life where you no longer have to chase worldly pleasures. "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:30). That doesn't mean circumstances will always feel easy or joyous, but it does mean that nothing and no one can replace your true joy (inheritance) no matter what happens. To live as if anything else can replace it is to live as a prodigal, wasting the inheritance. If you do not view Christ as your Savior and Lord, you are not a prodigal. You are simply lost and have not found that true joy yet. Either way, God has offered this inheritance to every single one of us. It is divided equally to all, but it never runs out from His end. The only ways we can ever be without it is to never take it in the first place, or to take it and waste it. Whatever category you find yourself in today, know that the Father grieves for you, and He lovingly waits until you will let go of your pride and humbly come to Him.
For further study read James 1:19 – 25
If you claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ are you allowing anything into your life that is hindering your relationship with Christ?
Are you a person that says you’re a Christ-follower but in reality you are no different than a non-believer in the way you live your life?
If the Holy Spirit revealing anything to you right now that you need to change in your life? If the Spirit is then make the choice to do what the Spirit is telling you.
Hear God’s Voice and Obey. Don’t be like the Prodigal Son.
One of my favorite board games is Monopoly. My dad, brother, and I played it so much growing up that we have nearly all of the rents memorized, so when we play it together we just hand money around without ever telling each other how much is owed! One of my favorite parts about the game Monopoly is the “get out of jail free” card. Whenever I get one, I feel like I have an extra measure of security. If I do get sent to jail, I can get out right away without having the pay the fee!
This week the word we’re looking at is antinomian (pronounced anti-NO-me-in), and it reminds me of the “Get Out of Jail Free” card in Monopoly. Antinomians believe that because they have salvation in Jesus Christ, they no longer have to abide by the law! The word itself states this, because it is from anti (again) and nomos (“law” in Greek).
The belief of antinomianism started in the early chruch but it has continued throughout the ages. It definitely appeals to our human nature - who wouldn’t want to be able to do whatever you want in life? Need money - go rob a bank! Want something that someone else has - go steal it! Who cares? You’re saved through Jesus!
But that is NOT what the Bible teaches us. Romans 3:8 says, “Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—’Let us do evil that good may result’? Their condemnation is just!” Paul is telling us that doing evil is never the right answer, even for those who are covered by God’s grace and faithfulness.
Paul also addresses the antinomian idea very thoroughly in Romans 6. In verse 15, he write, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!” I looked up the Greek text of this verse to more fully understand what Paul is writing, and the idea of the words used is that you have not become that way! When you committed your life to Jesus Christ, you were made a new creation and the person you have become is not one who disobeys the law, even if you have the “get out of jail free” card of God’s grace. When you strive to live in the nature of Christ, you cannot act in such a manner.
As Christians, we should want to obey the law even more than before we were Christians. Obedience to God’s law honors Him. While God promises that Jesus’ blood will cover all of our wrongdoings when we have faith in Him, we must sill strive for obedience. When we study the Scriptures, it is clear that the antinomian belief is purely a human creation and is not of God.
Our “get out of jail free” card is not to be antinomians and have no regard for the law. Instead, having faith in Jesus and his sacrifice for us on the cross gives the best “get out of jail free” card - the grace of God.
“I’ve got a secret, and I’m not telling!!”
I’m sure you can picture this phrase being said in an “I’m better than you” voice by kids on an elementary school playground - and perhaps you’ve even said it!We feel special when we know something that somebody else doesn’t - whether it’s as mudane as what gift Mommy is getting for her birthday from Daddy, or as seemingly exciting as guess who so-and-so has a crush on!
Gnosticism (pronounced NOS-ti-cism) is like the child with a secret. The word gnosticism is from the Greek word gnosis, which means knowledge. Gnosticism first came on the scene in the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D., so very shortly after the time Jesus walked the earth. It has come to be known as one of the first significant challenges to the Christian faith.
Early gnostics believed that they had secret knowledge from God, and that knowledge was only given to those who were “enlightened.” This secret spiritual knowledge was very important to the gnostics, and it made them believe they were better than others because God revealed it to them, and not to the average Joe on the street. Those who followed the gnostic faith were on a quest to obtain that secretly revealed knowledge.
The gnostics believed that this special knowledge would free them (known as “the elect”) from the trappings of this world. They believed that a person’s spirit is completely separate from matter (the physical stuff of the world), and that matter is evil. With their special knowledge, they thought they could free their spirit from matter.
Because of this belief that matter is evil, they believed that Jesus was not human. Their logic goes like this: God is good, and matter is evil; therefore, if Jesus is God then He is good and He could not be matter (human) because then he would have evil in Him. They believed that Jesus was fully God, but not at all human. This goes against the Biblical belief that Jesus is fully God and fully human.
There is lots of proof in the Bible that Jesus was truly human. First of all, Jesus was born to a human woman (Luke 1:35, 2:6-7)! In John 1:14, we read that “The Word [Jesus] became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Jesus was circumcised and grew up from a boy into a man (Luke 2:21, 52). Jesus experienced sadness (John 11:35, Luke 19:41), hunger (Matthew 4:2, 21:18), thirst (John 4:7, 19:28), and tiredness (Matthew 8:24). He also died, which is definitely a very human thing to do (John 19:30).
The gnosticism movement began when the Scriptures were still being written, so they did not have the evidence written in the Bible like we have today. However, they had something even better - Jesus himself! Even though the first gnostics were probably not alive when Jesus walked the earth, their parents’ or grandparents’ generation would have known of Jesus. It’s hard to say what happened that caused them to stop believing the truth of Jesus’ humanity.
However, gnosticism didn’t go away in those early centuries; it is still around today, though those who believe it may not call themselves by that name. This is why it is so important to be familiar with your Bible, because if the gnostics simply read any of those passages mentioned above (and many others), then they would know the Truth - the whole Truth that is available to and for everyone, not a secret to be kept!