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Wordwise Insight, Issue #033
September 14, 2007
Greetings

WORDWISE INSIGHT is the free, informative monthly newsletter of Wordwise-Bible-Studies.com

IN THIS ISSUE...

BIBLE INSIGHTS. Spiritual Babies, and "Better," and more

READER Q & A. Will playing praise music drive demons away? and more

MEDIATIONS ON OUR HYMNS. Lo, He Comes



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BIBLE INSIGHTS

SPIRITUAL BABIES
There are a couple of passages that speak of the stunted spiritual growth of certain believers. Though there should be signs of development, they remain spiritual babies, existing on a diet of spiritual baby food. One such passage is First Corinthians 3:1-4 in which Paul says that the divisions in the church at Corinth show some of them to be “babes in Christ” (not a complimentary term in the context!).

Another passage is Hebrews 5:11-14. There, the concern is that the readers are not using and applying the truth they know. “Solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (vs. 14).

Either because of sin in the life that is not confessed and forsaken, or because of a lack of diligence in applying God’s Word to daily experience, the individual can fail to progress out of spiritual babyhood. Think of what human babies are like, and you will see a number of applications to carnal, immature Christians!

1) Babies live on milk and mush. They can’t handle adult fare.

2) Babies have to be bottle or spoon-fed by others, and sometimes have to be coaxed to eat.

3) Babies are in many ways weak and helpless, carried about by others, and handed from one to another (cf. Eph. 4:14).

4) Babies sleep a lot.

5) Babies are selfish and self-centred.

6) Babies fuss over little things, and make a lot of noise about them.

7) Babies can’t discern between what is helpful and what is harmful.

8) Babies lack self control (e.g. of bodily functions).

BETTER
A good key word for the book of Hebrews might well be Better (a term used a dozen times in the book). The writer wants to show his Jewish readers that in Christ we have a better High Priest, with a better sacrifice, and better promises based on a better covenant, and so on. In the opening verses (Heb. 1:1-3) he refers to the prophets who “spoke in time past,” demonstrating how the Son of God is infinitely superior.

1) He is “heir of all”–His unique ownership

2) He is the Creator of the universe–His unique power

3) He is “the brightness of His [the Father’s] glory–His unique splendour

4) He is “the express image” of God–His unique nature

5) He is “upholding all things”–His unique work

6) He “by Himself purged our sins”–His unique salavation

7) His is seated “at the right hand of the Majesty on high”–His unique place

THE LEARNER-SERVANT PRINCIPLES
On the website there is an article about discipleship called The Learner-Servant Principles. Extensively referenced to Scripture, and with many diagrams, this material will give you a unique perspective on the subject. The seven basic principles are interconnected. They show the essence of discipleship as it is revealed in God’s Word, four key things God expects of us, and how sin contrasts with the four. As well, you will gain a helpful understanding of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and walk in the Spirit. The framework described can also be used to analyze passage after passage in the Bible. Please study the material, put it to use, and pass it on!

TRUTH IN OUR TRIALS. Check out the extensive outline study on the subject of suffering at Truth About Suffering.


READER Q & A

QUESTION: Barbara asks, “I am told by people either in a deliverance ministry or in just praying for others, whatever the need, to play worship music all the time. (These people also do this in their own homes.) That demons don't like worship music, and it's a way of driving them out, keeping them out, etc. What are your thoughts on this?”

Answer: That’s a great question, Barbara. I had never come across this idea before, but it bears thinking about.

I often wonder where people get such notions–and how they can be so definite and dogmatic about them, when the Bible is silent. Since Satan and his demon army oppose the purposes of God and seek to destroy the people of God (Eph. 6:12; I Pet. 5:8), we are certainly safe in assuming they do not like to see people worshiping the Lord “in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:24). But that’s not the same as saying they don’t like worship music. The two are very different.

A great deal of so-called worship music is mere entertainment. The real audience for this music is not God (as it should be) but the participants themselves, who gather to have their ears tickled in the name of religion. Sometimes the music is designed to promote fleshly excitement and a kind of emotional binge that again falls far short of true worship. In either case, I cannot imagine the devil being too unhappy!

I am no fan of “deliverance ministries.” (Forgive me if I tread on your toes, here.) I think those who practice such things make too much of evil spirits, and step way beyond what Scripture says into unhealthy speculation. I can recall a guest speaker at a camp saying, when the offering didn’t meet his expectations, that demons had a hold of people’s wallets, and he needed to exorcize them! Well, that’s ridiculous! And when we lay the blame for such things at Satan’s door, we may be letting a lot of worldly, carnal Christians off the hook!

The epistles were mainly written to Gentile Christians whom the apostles were led of God to equip to live the Christian life. Since these folks often had no background in the Old Testament, and could not simply go to their local Christian book store and ask for texts on crucial subjects, this instruction was vital. It needed to cover all the essentials. But it is significant that, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, nothing at all is said in the letters of Paul or the others about deliverance ministries, or about casting out demons. Nothing.

The most detailed passage on the subject of Satan's attacks is Ephesians 6:10-18. There, Paul describes the equipping God gives to protect us against the devil, comparing it to the armament of a Roman soldier. I have preached a series of messages on this passage many times. It presents a practical and common-sense approach to the subject, without any fanciful superstitious overtones.

The twice-repeated instruction given elsewhere is to “resist the devil” (Jas. 4:7; I Pet. 5:8). This simply involves taking a stand upon the Word of God (as Jesus did, Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). We have no business mocking the devil, rebuking him, or even talking to him. Even the powerful angel Michael did not try to do that. When opposed by the Satan, he left matters with the Lord (Jude 1:9). So should we. (I dearly wish Adam and Eve had walked away instead of engaging the serpent in a conversation!)

As to music driving demons out, or keeping them out, that is pure superstition, with no foundation in the Word of God. It sounds something like wearing garlic around your neck to keep vampires away! Or like another idea I heard about: pasting pages of the Bible on the walls of a home to keep the devil out. Actually, the devil likely knows the Bible better than we do, and he readily quotes it if he thinks it will further his malicious plans (cf. Matt. 4:6, quoting Ps. 91:11-12).

But again, note the difference between a ritualistic act and a heartfelt one growing out of a personal relationship with the Lord. When God’s people sincerely worship Him–with music or without it–they are expressing faith in His Word, and acting in obedience to God (Ps. 111:1; Rev. 4:11). That is the essence of what it means to “resist the devil” (Jas. 4:7).

A word needs to be said at this point about an incident in First Samuel Chapter 16. Following the repeated disobedience of King Saul, the Lord had Samuel anoint young David to replace him–though it was still some years before David would ascend to the throne of Israel. And when David was anointed, he received a special empowering by the Spirit of God (vs. 13). In contrast, the Lord departed from Saul, and allowed an evil spirit to go and torment him (vs. 14). This spiritual oppression seems to have been accompanied by times of black emotional depression.

However, the servants of Saul knew that young David was a skilled musician, and he was brought to the palace to play before Saul. “And so it was, whenever the [evil] spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him” (vs. 23).

A quick glance might suggest to some that this is the kind of thing that is being claimed by the deliverance folk. However, several things must be kept in mind. 1) It is a basic rule of interpretation and application that we should not use a narrative passage to prove a doctrine, or to suggest what happened must apply to all. The incident described happened to David and Saul, but there is no indication God wants others to do the same thing. 2) Nothing is said about the music being worship music. Nothing is said about any words being sung either. Given the instrument used, we can deduce that it was likely soft, pleasant, relaxing music. That is all.

Two further thoughts. 3) Though the distressing spirit departed for a time, Saul was not changed spiritually. For the remainder of his life he was plagued by dark moods and a murderous hatred of the future king. 4) God may well have done this unusual thing more for David’s benefit than for Saul’s. It established David in the court as a person of influence. It highlighted his God-given abilities, and prepared the way for him to take up his reign some time later. Bottom line: This incident does not prove that Christians playing worship music today will drive demons away.

Another problem is this. We live with more noise today than at any other time in history–and part of that noise is musical! Not only do we have music in our homes, and in our cars, but music plugged into our ears when we go jogging, or walk down the street. Then there is music in stores, music in restaurants, music in elevators, music in banks. (I can recall trying to do some calculations in my bank book in the latter, with music so loud I could hardly think clearly!)

We have largely lost the blessing of solitude and silence. Elijah experienced a fire, an earthquake, and a hurricane wind so strong it “tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces.” Yet the Lord did not manifest Himself to His prophet in any of these, but rather in “a still small voice”–a gentle whisper, in other words (I Kgs. 19:11-12). I listen to Christian music too, at times. But if I don’t also have times of quiet, I may miss the gentle whisper of God to my soul.

As far as music in the house of God, even there we need to have times of silence. In one church where I pastored we customarily had a pastoral prayer, when I prayed for the needs of people the Lord laid on our hearts. But at the end of this, I had a time for silent prayer, when those present could each talk to the Lord. It became an island of quiet reverence in the service, giving it an unhurried feel. The Bible says “God is not the author of confusion but of peace” (I Cor. 14:33). I cannot see how trying to pray in competition with some music is a help. And whatever kind of music it is, if it creates confusion, or hazy thinking, the demons will surely rejoice!

NEXT MONTH: A question that is concerning many Christians. Is cremation biblical? Is it proper for the Christian?

SEEKING A NEW PASTOR for your church? Check out the Pastoral Questionnaire.

BIBLE STUDY: Available now on the Wordwise website is a discussion Bible study on The Lord's Prayer. Why not check it out at The Lord's Prayer.


MEDITATING ON OUR HYMNS

SIMPLY DREADFUL!

One day, years ago, I came within punching distance of legendary Canadian boxer George Chuvalo. A craggy mountain of a man, Chuvalo fought the best of his time, including Muhammad Ali. He rarely lost--was never even knocked off his feet. And one sunny spring day he brushed past me on a Toronto side street. There he was! George Chuvalo! I wanted to say, "Hi, champ!" But I was startled, and a little awestruck. The words just would not come. And in seconds, he was gone.

It may sound peculiar to say I felt dreadful, but in a small way I did. That's one of those words we have misapplied to the point where it has lost its original intent. Dreadful! Today we use it to berate what seems offensive or ridiculous. Like, "Wasn't that a dreadful outfit Mabel was wearing!" But that is not what the word means. It describes something that causes one to be full of dread--nervous and apprehensive, anxious and fearful.

Have you ever been tongue-tied when suddenly face to face with a celebrity? A sports hero? A famous entertainer? A member of the royal family? Before the fact, we can imagine all the witty and clever things we'd say if we met. And afterward, we think of what we wished we'd said. But at the moment, we are struck dumb. Or we babble and stutter, and nothing seems to come out right. It is a kind of fear. We are afraid, not that they will harm us. But afraid of saying the wrong thing, of not behaving appropriately. Magnify that a thousand times and you may have a small inkling of what it will feel like to stand before the Lord of the universe in all His majesty.

Sometimes, in a well-intentioned attempt to make Almighty God more accessible, we diminish His majesty. The Bible does not do that. When God appeared on Mount Sinai to give His Law to Israel we read, "All the people who were in the camp trembled" (Exod.19:16). The psalmist tells us that is appropriate, saying, "Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord" (Ps. 114:7). Charles Wesley (1707-1788) understood that. In 1758 Wesley adapted a poem written a few years earlier by another author, and produced "Lo! He Comes."

A song about Christ's return, it begins, "Lo! He comes, with clouds descending, / Once for our salvation slain; / Thousand thousand saints attending, / Swell the triumph of His train." Later comes this line: "Every eye shall now behold Him, robed in dreadful majesty." Properly understood, dreadful majesty presents a powerful image. There will be no casual banter then. No sophisticated chatter. The Apostle John, confronted by the glorified Son of God in his apocalyptic vision, says, "His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead" (Rev. 1:16-17). As Christians, we tend to think of Christ's return as a time of triumphant joy, of singing and celebration. It will be. But there will be tears as well (Rev. 21:4).

"Behold, He is coming with clouds," says John, "and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him" (Rev. 1:7). They who pierced Him? Who is that? The Jews who cried for His execution? The Romans who carried it out? Yes. But behind all that, whose sins put Him there? Yours and mine (I Pet. 3:18). We had a part in that terrible event, as surely as if we wielded the hammer that drove home each iron spike. Ah, there will be mourning in that day. There will be lamentation. Welling tears of sorrow will mark our dread-filled awareness of what our sins have done. Before the singing will come the sound of fearful weeping, in the presence of a glorious majesty so infinitely great.

THE BEST BIBLE STUDY TOOL EVER. At least, the best one I have ever discovered, is fully described on the website. Strictly speaking, this is not an idea for your church program but for you, personally. However, if you try it, you may want to share it with your Sunday School class or Bible study group. If a number of you begin using it and trading insights, you may be amazed at what will happen! See Best Bible Study Tool.

Is your church thinking of purchasing A NEW HYMN BOOK? Check out Choosing a Hymnal for Your Church on the website, for nearly three dozen excellent tips and ideas to help you make your choice.

Check out EXPLORING CHRISTIANITY, a Wordwise Bible study series to help seekers, or new Christians! A wonderful "review" for long-time believers as well! The free 10-part series is now available at Exploring Christianity.



If you have a question or an idea to share, please go to the Wordwise website and use the question form.
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