Lying on the devil and the Lord

In John 8:44, Jesus characterized the devil as a liar and the father of lies! But did you know that many who preach the Gospel are guilty of lying on the devil and the Lord? Let me show you what I’m talking about!

In John 10:10, Jesus said: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (ESV) Now, I am sure most of you reading this have heard this text preached and taught and nine times out of ten, you heard the preacher or teacher say that the thief in that verse is the devil. Often, I have heard preachers refer to the text by saying: “The devil comes to rob, kill, and to destroy, but Jesus came that we might have a more abundant life! Yes! The devil wants to rob and steal your property! But, go and shake three people’s hand and tell the devil: ‘I’m taking it back! You can’t have my stuff!’ Can somebody shout: Glory!” But is that really the message of the text? I am suggesting to you that it is not and when that text is preached or referred to in that manner, the preacher or teacher is guilty of lying on the devil and the Lord!

First of all, look at the context of the verse. The first mention of the thief is in verse one, where Jesus describes the thief as anyone who does not enter the door of the sheepfold, but climbs up and tries to get into the sheepfold any other way. In the next verse, Jesus says, the one who enters through the door is the shepherd of the sheep. So, the contrast is between the thief who tries to get access to the sheep by some way other than the door and the shepherd who comes through the door. Note that the thief is not after what the sheep have; the thief wants to steal the sheep! In verse eight, Jesus says all who came before him are, or were, thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. So, we can surmise from verses 1-8 that the thief, the thieves and robbers were trying to get access to steal the sheep. Contrasted with the shepherd, who comes through the door and coupled with Jesus, who calls himself the good shepherd (verse 11), we can deduct the thief, the thieves and robbers that Jesus was talking about were illegitimate or false shepherds! By the way, another term for “shepherd” is the term “pastor.” So, in proper context, in this passage, the thief, the thieves and robbers, (bad) shepherds, and (bad) pastors, all refer to the same person or group! Note that Jesus made no reference whatsoever to the devil or demonic forces! He was making a contrast between the thieves and robbers (bad shepherds, bad pastors) and himself: the good shepherd! In keeping with the context and unity of the passage, the thief in verse ten must refer to the same person or group of persons mentioned in verses one and eight!

In looking at the Greek text, performing a word study helps to further clarify who the “thief” is in verse ten. A word study on the word, “kill” reveals the following: In the English, the word “kill” in any form, is found only 10 times in the entire Gospel of John. Of those 10 times, 9 times, the Greek word, “apokteino,” which means, “to kill in any way whatever,” is used. However, in verse ten, the word for kill is “thuo,” which means, “to sacrifice.” This definition holds true for the usage of the word in other places in the New Testament (NT). It only occurs 13 other times, besides in our text in the NT and our text is the only occurrence in the Gospel of John. In every case, the word is used to denote the killing of an animal for the purpose of offering up a sacrifice or of eating a meal in connection with a sacrifice. The use this particular word for “kill” in verse ten, seems to suggest that the thief does not just kill, but rather the thief’s killing is for or in connection with making a sacrifice as an act of worship. With that being the case, we can deduct from our word study and by observing the proper context of the text that the “thief” in John 10:10 is NOT the devil, but rather is a religious person. This ties in perfectly with Jesus’ depiction of the thief as being the religious leader(s), who was (were) sacrificing the people for his (their) own personal benefit and profit. Oh! Do you see that? We’ve been lying on the liar and the Lord! The thief in John 10:10 is not the devil, but rather the pastor or religious leader who illegitimately gains access and kills (sacrifices) the sheep for his own personal profit and gain!

In verse 11, the contrast changes from the good shepherd and thieves and robbers to the good shepherd and the hireling or the hired hand. Jesus said in verses 11-15: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (ESV) Again, Jesus makes a contrast between himself and the religious leaders of that day who came before him. He describes himself as the good shepherd in comparison to the religious leaders, who he called robbers, thieves, and hired hands who didn’t care anything for the sheep, but were just in it for the money! If the devil is implied anywhere in this discourse, he could possibly be the wolf in verse 12, but he is definitely not the thief in verse ten!

In addition to the evidence presented, stealing is not the devil’s M. O! The devil’s bread and butter are lies and deception! There was an interesting conversation that took place between Jesus and the devil during the wilderness temptation. In Matthew 4:8-10, we read: “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” (ESV) Did you notice Jesus did not dispute Satan’s claim of ownership of all the kingdoms of the world and their glory? If Satan was lying and all the kingdoms of the world and their glory were not his to give, Jesus would have known it and the temptation wouldn’t have been a temptation at all! I brought us to this text to point out the fact that the devil doesn’t need to “steal our stuff” because he has already stolen and has all the kingdoms of the world and their glory to give to us if we would just fall down and worship him! The devil already has all of that and we think he wants to rob us of our two cents! Seriously?

Besides that, the abundant life that Jesus came to give in John 10:10 is denoted by the Greek term; “zoe.” Zoe refers to the quality of life, not the quantity of life. Jesus didn’t come so that we might have more stuff in life; Jesus came that we might have more meaning and purpose in life! Jesus said: “Watch out and guard yourself from all types of greed, because one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15 NET)

In conclusion, I think the reason why we have lied on the devil and the Lord in John 10:10 is because many of us do not study the text for ourselves; we merely preach and teach what we have heard others preach and teach. Instead of a voice, many pulpits are occupied by a parrot! Preacher, teacher: If you hope to be approved by God in your handling of the word, you must wrestle with the text for yourself! Don’t even take my word for the conclusions I have drawn in this post. Do the research for yourself! We all should be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 and study for ourselves to see whether the things we hear is the truth! If we don’t, if we uncritically accept and repeat everything we hear others preaching and teaching, then we, like them, will be guilty of lying on the devil and the Lord!

Rightly Dividing 2 Timothy 2:15

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Tim. 2:15 KJV) 

I was listening to someone teaching, not too long ago, from 2 Timothy 2:15. The thrust of the lesson was that one should study to make sure they correctly teach and/or preach the word of God. Of course, I had heard this text taught and preached countless times before, but this time, because the presenter did, what I thought at the time, such an excellent job with the text, I was prompted to go and take a deeper look for myself.

When I took a closer look at 2 Timothy 2:15, I discovered, what could be called, a comical irony! The very text that is so often used to promote diligent study and caution against mishandling the word of God has itself traditionally been mishandled! Let me show you what I’m talking about: Usually, the main focus or the main point of the teaching of this passage is that we should “study” to make sure we are correctly interpreting, teaching, preaching, and applying the word of God. And when we think of the concept of studying, we think of intense reading and careful analysis of the scriptural text. But, is that the concept Paul had in mind when he wrote these words to Timothy? Is that what Paul actually meant and said in the text? Well, not really!

The word the KJV translates as “study” is the Greek verb; “spoudason” and it literally means, “make haste, hasten” also “to exert one’s self, to endeavor, to give diligence, to be zealous, to be eager.” So actually, the term “study” is too narrow! The actual meaning Paul wanted to convey was for Timothy to quickly and eagerly make every effort to be diligent so as to present himself approved unto God! The idea Paul was trying to convey to Timothy directly and to us by implication is that the preacher/teacher, disciple, believer should eagerly make every effort to present themselves for God’s approval in correctly handling and teaching the truth or the word of God.

We might also note at this point, that Paul told Timothy to be eager or zealous to make every effort to present “yourself.” Therefore, such effort encompasses more than just correctly preaching and teaching the word! It also involves disciplining oneself in all other areas of the Christian life as well! It was inclusive, not just of his handling of the word, but also of his personal piety and interaction with other people. Being eager and making every effort to present one’s self approved unto God also includes making every effort to get the proper amount of rest, nutrition, and exercise so as to keep the body as healthy as possible.

Do you know of people who are correct in their preaching and teaching, but don’t apply what they preach and teach to their own personal lives? Such people are not being zealous or making every effort to correctly divide the word of truth. The power of the word comes, not just from correct interpretation, but also from correct application and demonstration! A sermon lived gives tremendous plausibility to a sermon preached!

So, there really is more to this verse than what we have traditionally gathered! Yes! Studying is part of the message, but it is not all! But, even if we restrict the meaning to just study, as we have traditionally done, just a simple Bible quiz given to many church memberships in America today would reveal that most church members, not only do not study the Bible, they don’t even read it! No wonder so many people are so weak and anemic in their faith today! No wonder there are so many who believe the Epistles were the wives of the Apostles!

The Rest of the Story!

Paul HarveyFrom May 1976 until the early part of 2009, American radio broadcaster and commentator Paul Harvey was on the air with a popular commentary called: “The Rest of the Story.” During these segments, Harvey would talk about various topics of public interest laced with true-life stories. He was famous for his use of the dramatic pause and other speaking techniques to get his point across. Harvey would never finish the complete story in the first half of the broadcast. Usually he would introduce the topic or story during the first part of the program, but would delay the conclusion of the story until after a commercial break. When the commercial was over, he would begin the conclusion with the words: “And now. . . the rest of the story!”

Well, there are many who are preaching and teaching the Gospel today without telling the whole story! They tell the first segment or the appealing part without telling all or the rest of the story! For instance, if you listen to many who exclusively  preach/teach prosperity and/or the “word of faith” messages, you might note the extensive use of Hebrews 11 as a proof-text. That chapter in the Bible has been called the “Great Hall of Faith!” In it, we read about Enoch, who, because of his faith and because he walked with God, was translated so that he did not see death! We read about the great heroes and she-roes of faith such as Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Joseph, Moses, and Rahab! However, usually when this text is preached, the preacher/teacher will climax and stop with Hebrews 11:32-35a. But why conclude at 35a when 35b and following tell the rest of the story?

Hebrews 11:35b begins by reporting: “And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance that they might obtain a better resurrection.” The rest of the chapter relates what happened to others who suffered cruel mockings, beatings, imprisonments, being sawed in two, and having no certain dwelling place, wandering around in deserts and caves! Whew! You’re not going to get many members or have a good offering if you preach that! But that is the rest of the story! The people at the end of the chapter were just as faithful as those at the beginning because the Bible says (verse 39): “And all these, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise.”

That’s the rest of story! No matter how faithful we are or how much faith we have, true biblical faith does not guarantee the earthly success and victory many would like to think it does! All the faith in the world will not prevent death from eventually knocking on our door! Yes! Through the grace of God, we may be healed today, but we are still going to die sometime tomorrow! King Hezekiah was sick unto death. But he prayed to the Lord and the Lord healed him of his sickness! But the rest of the story says that it was not an indefinite extension; it was only for 15 more years, after that, Hezekiah died!

We do the Gospel and the Kingdom of God a disservice when we preach and teach only the appealing parts of the story! We must be honest and tell people the rest of the story! There is tremendous blessing in being a Christian, but the rest of the story is that the blessing comes with trouble and persecution! Being a Christian does not exempt one from trouble and distress! However, being a Christian does enable one to have access to the Source the world does not have! The rest of the story is the Lord’s promise to be with us through it all! Jesus said in John 16:33: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  And that, my friend, is the rest of the story. . . Good Day!

The Source of Your Theology

theologySeveral years ago, I was invited to preach at a church where a friend and a fellow seminary classmate served as pastor. As we sat in his office, preparing to go out into the sanctuary for the worship experience, he informed me that he had a member present in the congregation that night who had some mental issues that might serve to be a distraction for me as I preached. He told me not to take anything the member said during the sermon personally or seriously because whatever the member said during my discourse would most likely be because of his mental issues. (It was a predominantly African-American congregation, therefore, it was OK and expected for the congregation to help the preacher preach! Can I get a witness?) Well, as I was preaching, sure enough, the member started blurting out in a disturbing manner. I don’t remember exactly what I was saying, but I will never forget what that member said! I had made, what I thought at the time was a profound statement, when that member loudly asked: “Where did you get those facts?” Now, because the pastor had fore-warned me, I was able to ignore the outburst and keep preaching without being taken aback. But, as I drove home that evening, that question wouldn’t go away and I found myself asking myself: “Where indeed did I get those facts?”

Many times we often say things we’ve heard other people say and we take them as gospel-truths when their validity may indeed be suspect. This is especially true when it comes to matters of faith and theology. We will often take the word of a preacher or a television evangelist as being a gospel-fact and not verify it for ourselves. When we do this, by default we adopt the theology of the speaker as our own and consequently neglect to exercise the due diligence to work out our own theology.

Now, you might be saying at this point; “That’s all well and good because I am not a theologian anyway!” You may not be a theologian by profession or training, but everyone engages in the theological process. The word “theology” literally means “god (theo)-study (logy)” Theology is the study of God. In its most primary definition, theology simply means; the study of “what you think about God.”

So, what do you think about God and what is the source of those thoughts? Do they come solely from your pastor or some other preacher? Do they come from what you heard your parents say, from your traditions or from common folk-lore? You’d be surprised, but there are many people today who form their theology from the gospel music they hear on the radio! A typical example of this is the belief that when praises go up; blessings come down! This notion didn’t come from scripture, but rather from a gospel song! Nevertheless, I have heard it preached by some preachers as gospel truth!

No matter where you get your ideas about God, the only true and real source is the Bible! However, even when the Bible is your source, you must be sure to correctly interpret and correctly apply what you read! We all would do well to engage ourselves in the task of rightly dividing (correctly interpreting and applying) the Word. Wherever and whenever we hear the word preached, taught, or otherwise discussed, we should adopt the attitude and practice of the believers who lived in Berea during the days of the Apostle Paul. In Acts 17:11 we read:  “And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.” (NLT) Now this is not to suggest that we should become overly skeptical in regard to what we hear, but rather that we should learn to become critical (analytical) thinkers. When it comes to your spiritual well-being, don’t take any person’s word for it just because of who they are or what position they might have. Be like the Bereans. Listen eagerly and intently, then search and study the Scriptures for yourself to see if what they are saying is really the truth!