An interesting article about those who claim they hold to the “Old Paths.”
In the Bible, God is called by many names. One of those names is Emmanuel. Emmanuel is a name that has significance for this time of year – the Christmas season. The first time we see the name Emmanuel is in Isaiah 7:14. It says:
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
This prophecy refers to the time when God became flesh and dwelt among us – when Christ was born in Bethlehem – which is what we celebrate at Christmas.
We see the fulfillment of this prophecy in Matthew chapter 1. Verse 23, which quotes Isaiah 7:14, tells us what the name means:
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
Emmanuel is “God with us.”
Throughout the Old Testament, we see God introduced his various names at different times. The names have special significance in relation to the events at the time the name was introduced. God didn’t just randomly say “sometimes I’m called Jehovah, and sometimes Yahweh, and sometimes Emmanuel.” He revealed specific names at specific times to reveal more about his character or his plans. To get a better understanding of the significance of the name Emmanuel, we need to understand the events leading up to the time when the prophecy in Isaiah was given.
The time period was about 700 years before the birth of Christ. The book of Isaiah begins with God rebuking Israel for their rebellion, for their sin. God calls them a “sinful nation, a people laden with evildoers.” He promises judgment and destruction of the unrighteous. In this book we see prophecies of God’s judgment on Israel and other nations, but we also see some of the best-known prophecies of the coming Messiah, in particular in chapter 53. It is in this light where we begin to see the significance of the name Emmanuel – God with us.
Isaiah 7:14 reminds us of the proto-evangel, the first gospel message, in Genesis 3:15, which says:
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
God promised a Messiah all the way back in Genesis 3, and here in Isaiah, a few thousand years later, God is still promising the Messiah – Emmanuel – God with us. Every generation since Adam & Eve has been looking for the coming Messiah. When Eve gave birth to Cain, she thought he might be the fulfillment of the promise in Genesis 3:15. Down through the years, when a new king was anointed, or a new prophet came on to the scene, people wondered if he might be the Messiah. We see this all the way to Jesus’ day. In John chapter 1, the people thought John the Baptist might be the Messiah. They came to him and asked “Who art thou?” Of course, John denied being the Christ. A couple weeks ago, Pastor spoke about John, and we heard that even John sent his disciples to Jesus to ask “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” The people were still looking for the fulfillment of God’s promise. There was always a remnant that was waiting on God’s promise. God’s chosen people were looking forward to the day that God would dwell with them. They were looking for Emmanuel – God with us.
God coming to dwell with man certainly was a big deal for the Israelites. But what does it mean for us? Why is it important to us that he is Emmanuel – God with us? It is important for at least two reasons.
The first reason is, just as Israel was a sinful people who needed deliverance from their sin, so are we. We all have sinned. An honest evaluation of our lives in light of the Ten Commandments would reveal that every one of us has broken most if not all of them multiple times over. We are told that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. We are also told that the one whose blood is shed must be perfect, without blemish. We certainly cannot die for ourselves. No other human can die for us either, for no other human is without blemish, without sin, except for God in the flesh, Emmanuel, God with us. Only Jesus was perfect, without sin, and only he could take our sins upon himself and suffer God’s wrath, so that we could be free from the guilt and punishment of our sins. For this reason, the coming of Emmanuel, God with us, was important for Israel and important for us.
The second reason it is important that he is Emmanuel, God with us, is that we are his children under his care. God never promises an easy, trouble-free life for the Christian. In fact, it is just the opposite – filled with trials, persecution, and tribulation. But just as a child receives comfort from the presence of a parent during troubling times, so we receive comfort from the presence of God during the troubling times. God promised to never leave us or forsake us. Even when Jesus was getting close to his ascension to Heaven, he told his disciples that he would not leave them alone, that he would send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.
Even now, he is Emmanuel, God with us.
There might be times when we feel like Elijah sulking under the juniper tree, thinking that we are the only ones who are trying to do right. God will bring others into our lives. Do not be discouraged. Be encouraged. He is Emmanuel. God is with us.
We might be worried about test results for some ailment or physical issue. God numbers every hair on our head and is the great physician. Do not be anxious. Be calm. He is Emmanuel. God is with us.
This time of year often seems bleak and despairing for many. God makes his light shine into the darkness. Do not be dismayed. Be hopeful. He is Emmanuel. God is with us.
Some might be faced with unemployment and struggling to put food on the table. God takes care of the sparrows, even more so his children. Do not be fearful. Be confident. He is Emmanuel. God is with us.
There could be some here whose spouse or children have forsaken them. God will not forsake us. Do not be saddened. Be cheerful. He is Emmanuel. God is with us.
Emmanuel is a term of hope and deliverance. Roughly two thousand years ago, Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 when he became flesh. He has since returned to Heaven, but God is still with us in the person of his Spirit. And one day soon, God will be with us forever more in all three persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Be of good cheer. He is Emmanuel. God is with us.
I saw this list of rules on Facebook, and sadly realized that I have experienced most if not all of them.
- I am right and you are wrong. Always.
- Unity Means Agreeing With Me That My Pastor Is Right.
- The less certain something is, the more certain you must appear to be about it.
- If you cannot win an argument with logic you must simply outlast your opponent. Once he gives up, declare victory.
- There is no fight that is not worth fighting.
- The less fun it is the godlier it must be.
- Women’s primary purpose is to serve as a temptation to men. They are also somewhat useful for housework.
- All God’s people shall say “amen.” This is never an inappropriate response.
- If it is new it is bad. If it is old it is good. (with the exception that if it is really, really old then it is likely to be Catholic)
- There is no situation that a good dose of ministerial yelling can’t fix.
- Old Testament rules about sex, tattoos, women in pants, and the death penalty still apply. Old Testament rules about lobster don’t. (That is why we call this the Age of Grace)
- Invitations shall continue until the Spirit is satisfied that enough people have come to the altar as revealed to the pastor. The Spirit shall be extra hard to satisfy on any Superbowl Sunday.
- ON THE INTERNET, BIBLICAL TRUTH IS BEST COMMUNICATED VIA CAPSLOCK
- Mormons are considered to be Christians for the following purposes:
a) National Elections
b) Political Talk Shows
c) Songs for God and Country Sunday
- Neither this nor any other list of rules can be considered exhaustive; a majority shall always be unspoken, arbitrary, and subject to change at the whim of the authority.
- It’s much better to have an innocent person die than to tell a lie to a Nazi.
- A man is to be as much of a leader of his own house as his pastor will let him be.
- Thou shalt not speak out against other fundamentalists on any subject that really matters. Keep disputes as trivial as possible lest you risk having your own dirty laundry exposed.
- Spare the rod and spoil the child. (A “rod” being defined as a paddle, stick, belt, spatula, wooden spoon, rubber hose, truncheon, flail, or anything else that happens to be handy)
- A man may not wear glasses connected by a chain for if they should slip off his nose and dangle about his neck, someone may be made to think that he is wearing a necklace and that is the appearance of evil.
- Pastors should preach as frequently as possible on sin – preferably the sins of other people
- Gays are responsible for pretty much every bad thing that happens in America. Africans are responsible for the rest.
- We reject the authority of the Pope to speak ex cathedra on matters of doctrine. That’s what local church pastors are for.
- We believe in individual soul liberty – although we’ve never seen a good reason for anybody to actually use it.
- Dancing is an abomination unless it takes place in a classic film or on the stage of a Gilbert & Sullivan musical at a fundamentalist college.
- The joy, joy, joy, joy must reside down in your heart. (Where? down in your heart!)
- In movies sex is bad but violence is fine. (The Bible contains both but we’d rather you didn’t mention it)
- Prayers must be said before all meals, ball games, and road trips. As long as you’re not using the Lord’s Prayer this is not considered vain repetition.
- When swimming, a woman shall wear enough layers of clothing to double her weight when immersed.
- A Christian taking government aid is a sure sign they are not trusting God. (Not that our church is going to start paying its employees enough to live on, mind you. )
- If you send your child to public school you may as well brand 666 on their forehead and get it over with. No child can emerge from that den of liberalism anything other than a Gay Satanist Democrat.
- There are not two sides to every story. There is only the truth and the lies made up by those liberal compromisers who Satan is using to attack our ministry.
- We deny the mysticism of the Catholics and the signs and wonders of the charismatics. We do, however, have a litany of strange coincidences to get us totally stoked.
- When a pastor gets caught doing wrong his job is to deny, deny, deny. Your job is to back him up to the bitter end.
- “Fellowship” = “Food”
- In a business meeting all in favor of the pastor’s motion shall signify by saying “aye.” All opposed shall shut up if they know what’s good for them.
- If there’s hair touching your ears, there’s sin in your heart.
- Anything that annoys the pastor annoys Jesus too.
- Any church members who is not “here and in their place” during special meetings will be punished by being used as a sermon illustration.
- Nobody is allowed to criticize our ministry unless they have gone out and built a ministry of equal size. (Then we’ll ignore them because they’re liberal)
- Microphone feedback during a sermon is a sure sign of satanic attack against the preacher.
- The truth shall not be allowed to get in the way of any good sermon illustration.
- Any growth in our church is a sure sign of God’s blessing on our ceaseless soul winning efforts. Any growth in your church is due to seeker sensitive gimmicks and soft preaching on sin.
- Alcohol is allowed in your home if 1. It is hidden in cough syrup 2. You pretend not to like it 3. You consume no more than 4 bottles a week.
- Context? Our proof texts don’t need no stinkin’ context!
- The moving picture house is a bastion of wickedness. Watching the same (G Rated) movies at home is just fine.
- If you can’t find a Scripture verse that proves your point, substitute a quote from another fundamentalist instead. It’s practically as good.
- The only proper color for a man’s Bible is black. Men who choose any other color are likely to be the sort who also part their hair in the middle and enjoy cooking a little too much.
- Every date is a potential mate. Not that we’re trying to put pressure on you or anything.
- As much as we dislike Muslims, we do admire the way they keep their women in line.
- Bad things that happen to me and mine are persecution and attacks of Satan. Bad things that happen to you and yours are God’s judgment for your sinful ways.
- The King James version was written to bring the Bible into the language of the common man of the 1600’s. If today’s common man can’t understand it that’s his own stupid fault.
- Adding even one word Bible is sacrilege of the worst kind. Unless, of course, your pastor told you to write it in the margin. Then it’s all good.
- When you really want to be taken seriously, use lots of Comic Sans. This goes double for your church website.
- The fact that toddlers will instinctively dance to music with a beat is evidence of their Adamic nature.
- Rock music is perfectly acceptable to play in church so long as the person doing it is an evangelist who is demonstrating exactly how wrong it is to play rock music in church.
- All families must have as many children as physically possible. This will only lead to economic hardship if you lack sufficient faith.
- Halloween is a demonic holiday wherein people dress up in costumes and beg for candy on the 31st of October. Harvest Festival is a God-honoring event wherein people dress up in costumes and beg for candy (by complete coincidence) also on the 31st of October.
- While we believe that no good Christian should ever go to a godless, atheist, state-run university, that does not stop us from proudly rooting for their godless, atheist football team.
- Gluttony is barely a sin and only worth mentioning from the pulpit in the context of a joke.
- Always assume your fellow fundamentalists have the best possible motives for their actions. Always assume everyone else has the worst possible motives for theirs.
- You talking about my church’s scandal is gossip and backbiting. Me talking about your church’s scandal is instruction and warning.
- Body piercings, tattoos, and unnatural hair colors are counter-cultural and therefore evil. Culottes and arranged marriages are counter-cultural and therefore required.
- If something is unfamiliar or difficult to understand, it’s best to take a stand against it by default. Reasons can be invented later.
- Anything that becomes popular with more than 70% of fundamentalists must both be made obligatory and used as a test of fellowship.
- The only emotions allowed to be displayed in a church service are anger, guilt, and sorrow. All others are likely to be caused by latent charismatic tendencies.
- Not only is privacy not a right, it’s strongly discouraged. The only people who have the right to keep secrets are the pastor and his mistress.
- Anything can be rationalized if you claim that doing otherwise will cause souls to end up in hell (no matter how illegal, immoral, or downright silly that thing may be).
- Every character in any Christian book or movie must act like a Christian. Even the murdering, raping, and pillaging villains must never be seen to curse or fornicate.
- When you pick on our guy for something stupid he did, it’s judgement. When we pick on your guy for something stupid he did, it’s discernment.
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. 2 Peter 1:5-9
I used to think the phrase in verse 9, “and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins,” meant that the person forgot he or she was saved, that the person forgot he or she was a Christian. However, recent events have opened my eyes to what I believe is the correct meaning of that phrase.
Notice that the one who forgets is also the one who lacks the things mentioned in the previous verses. The things lacking are charity, brotherly kindness, godliness, patience, temperance, and knowledge. A Christian lacking charity and brotherly kindness is one who mistreats others – even other Christians. This Christian thinks himself or herself to be better than the one he or she is mistreating. In other words, this Christian has forgotten that he or she is guilty of the same sins and needed to be saved just as the one being mistreated did.
A natural behavior of one who thinks too highly of himself or herself is to mistreat others who he or she feels are worse. If only those others were as good as him or her would those others be worthy of charity and brotherly kindness.
This Christian also cannot see afar off – or in other words, he or she cannot see the forest for the trees. He or she cannot step back and see how he or she is lacking these things because of being too close to the situation. He or she will deny anything is wrong with himself or herself because the problem cannot be seen up close. He or she will refuse to hear anyone who tries to open his or her eyes.
How does a Christian get into a position like this? Quite simply, it is because the gospel has been forgotten. Maybe it hasn’t been forgotten in the area of trying to reach the lost, but it most certainly has been forgotten in the area of reminding the Christian from where he or she was delivered. When we reduce the gospel to a formula whereby we initiate new members to the “club,” we do great harm to ourselves because the gospel is the power of God unto us which are saved. When we no longer remember that the gospel is the power behind our good works, we think we are the power. And then our pride grows to the point of forgetting we were/are wretches, and then we look down on others.
Let us not forget the gospel. We need to preach it to ourselves daily. It is the power of God in our lives. When we begin to grasp the gospel for what it is, we will add brotherly kindness and charity. We will begin to love others. We will begin to treat others as we want to be treated. We will begin to show grace to all that we meet.
A church member is sitting in a restaurant waiting for the toast he ordered. It is delivered burnt. He thinks Satan is using the burnt toast to attack him.
This same church member is sitting in a restaurant and sees a member of another church receive his order of toast and it is burnt. He wonders what terrible thing this other fellow did for God to use the burnt toast to punish him.
This same church member is sitting in a restaurant waiting again for the toast he ordered. It is again delivered burnt. He finds out the cook used to be a member of his church. He wonders why the cook is so bitter and is using the burnt toast to attack him.
How do you react to burnt toast?
I am grieved. There have been two recent events where those who name the name of Christ have belittled another. If that wasn’t bad enough, after being called out for the despicable behavior, instead of apologizing and confessing the sin, these people went on to make excuses as if that would justify the sin.
Sin is not justifiable. Pain from losing a loved one is understandable. Being low on patience because of a pregnancy is expected. Conflicts with family members will certainly raise the stress level. However, none of these should be used to justify the sin of belittling another. We are called to love one another. We can love because God first loved us. When we receive the love of God, but then do not share that love with others, we are like unto the man who had his debt forgiven, but then went out and demanded his debtors repay all they owed him.
Blaming our sin on the loss of a loved one dishonors the memory of that loved one. We make ourselves into an idol when we make excuses for our sin. We are saying we are above God’s standard. Sin is never justifiable. There is no excuse – we are without excuse.
Another reason I was grieved is because I saw myself from a few years ago. Excusing sin is a result of bad theology – a theology that preaches the gospel only as a means of entrance into “the club” but then ignores the gospel and focuses on getting the club members to keep the club rules. When the gospel is replaced by a list of rules and a list of standards for the church members to try to keep, the church members begin to think they are capable of living up to some “holy” standard. They foolishly begin to compare themselves to others and begin to think they are better than others because they are keeping the list better or keeping “higher” standards. They begin to forget that they sin every day. They begin to think their right standing with God is maintained by how well they keep the list rather than by the work of Christ. This inevitably leads to a holier-than-thou attitude, and when one begins to think he or she is better than others, then when that one sins against another who is deemed less right with God, the sin can be excused. This ought not to be.
We need to preach the gospel to ourselves each and every day. The gospel is not just the key to gaining entrance to the kingdom. It is the key to loving others. When we remember Christ’s work for us and how he loved us, if we remember how great our sin was for which Christ died, how could we not love others for whom Christ died?
People know we are disciples of Christ because of our love one towards another. Can people see you are a disciple when you belittle someone and make excuses? Jesus Christ suffered for those sins. He loved you so much that he endured the shame of the cross for you. Can you not show that love to others? No excuse is a good excuse.
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. James 1:2-4
Many times, when someone does us wrong, we are tempted to lash out at the person, or worse, at anyone who is near. Social media seems to have helped facilitate the lashing out behavior. I see many posts on sites like Facebook or Twitter where a person will air his dirty laundry for all to see because someone did him wrong and he is angry. Being done wrong does hurt, and it is easy to be tempted to hurt someone back. We are also tempted to tell anyone who will listen so that we can receive a measure of pity for our pain.
However, when someone hurts us, we need to overcome the temptation to strike out in anger. We need to overcome the temptation to display our anger on social media sites for all the world to see. It is easy to give in to the temptation and sin. It is difficult to count it all joy as we are instructed.
So how do we count it all joy? Take your eyes off yourself. Quit being self-centered and thinking about all your woes. Look to Christ! Remember how he suffered for your sins – the just for the unjust. If you think you are suffering wrongly, think of Christ and how he suffered for you! This is not making light of your suffering, or saying your suffering does not matter, but it is putting your focus where it does belong.
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Romans 8:18
Jesus looked past the suffering of the cross at the joy that was to come. Look past your woes and count it all joy.
This is a great quote from the book “Extreme Righteousness” by Tom Hovestol:
As a parent of five, I too seek to protect my children from evil; this is my duty as a father and, up to a point, is necessary for my children’s maturation. However, I never want to be lulled into thinking that by limiting their access to certain people, places, and things I can lessen my children’s defilement, for they carry defilement wherever they go. Their fallen hearts go with them.
As parents, we want our children to know that the fear of God – not the fear of culture – is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). We must be careful what message we really believe about defilement. Sometimes our traditions inculcate a diabolical lie.
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:3
Satan can corrupt our minds from the simplicity that is in Christ. What is the simplicity that is in Christ? To find the answer, we must back up one chapter to get the immediate context of this verse.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s. For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed: That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters. For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible. Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present. For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 2 Corinthians 10:3-12
Look at what the context addresses:
- Verse 3 states we do not war after the flesh.
- Verse 4 tells us our weapons are not carnal.
- Verse 5 says to cast down high things (what man thinks are righteous & holy) that exalt against the knowledge of God. What man considers to be righteous and holy, God does not. Men will consider certain things as righteous, but God sees them as filthy rags.
- Verse 7 questions why we would look at the outward appearance – how things appear. Do you base your decisions on how they appear to others?
- Verse 12 points out that comparing ourselves to others is not wise. Do you think your standards are higher/better than the standards of others? Do you think others need to be following more rules like you do? Do you think that others who do not keep as many standards are lesser Christians or even lost?
As you can see, Paul is warning against trying to appear righteous by fleshly means – by trying to look righteous in the eyes of men. Let us look at the example Paul mentioned: Eve.
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. Genesis 3:1-3
Did you see what Eve did? She added an extra rule (neither shall ye touch it) to what God commanded (Do not eat). Did Eve think adding a rule to God’s rule would make her more righteous? It was through this that Satan beguiled Eve, and was able to get Eve to follow in Satan’s sin, and corrupted Eve’s mind from the simplicity that is in Christ.
Satan was full of pride and tried to exalt himself to God’s place. Eve added a rule, was beguiled by Satan, and became full of pride wanting to be like God (knowing good and evil). When you add your rules as a measure of righteousness and holiness, you are full of pride, exalting yourself to God’s place, and your mind is corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
It is time to return to the simplicity that is Christ. That is not found in a checklist of rules and standards that you follow. The rules and standards God gave us are enough.
Abstain from all appearance of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:22
This verse is often used to discourage Christians from doing anything that might appear sinful to another person. For example, going to movies is discouraged because someone seeing you go into the movie house might assume you are going to watch the R-rated movie rather than the G-rated movie. Also, drinking root beer from a brown bottle tucked inside a paper bag is discouraged because someone might think you are drinking beer. These are some of the things I’ve heard this verse used to discourage.
I’ve also often heard there is a distinction between the words evil and wicked. Wicked is sin, but evil is sin with harm’s intent. In other words, all sin is wicked, but it is only evil when you intend to harm another. If I get angry and throw a plate against a wall, that is wicked. If I get angry and throw the plate at the person who raised my ire, that is evil. I’m not going to debate that distinction here, but I want to apply that distinction to the verse above. If evil really means sin with harm’s intent, then the verse above cannot be used to discourage movie house attendance or root beer drinking, because those activities are not done with the intent to harm someone. If we are to be consistent in our theology, then we cannot teach the distinction between wicked and evil and also use the verse above to discourage activities based on how someone may perceive them. That would be inconsistent and confusing.
For a better understanding of what the verse really means, read The Real Meaning of 1 Thessalonians 5:22.