Trying to make the truth something else

Wine into water © Ziprashantzi |

Seen on Twitter: Jesus turned 120 gallons of water into wine. The church has been trying to turn it back into water ever since. @PeteGreig

If you are convinced Jesus turned water into grape juice you probably don’t see the humour – sorry. However, the point I want to make is we who follow Jesus have a very bad habit of adding to what He said, altering what He said, or finding a reason why that was then and this is now so we can ignore what He said.

I bring this up because I see plenty of it in the areas of sex and marriage. Some of it is “allowing” things we should not, but there is also the other side, trying to call things sin which God never called sin. I see both of these as wrong, and both as harmful. Today I am focusing on adding to God’s list of sins.

This is nothing new. Speaking of the scribes and the Pharisees, Jesus said:

They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” [Mt 23:4 ESV]

The Pharisees added hundreds of laws to what God gave them. They would have argued their additions were based on the Law, and were designed to make sure people did not break the Law. One Messianic Jew explain it to me this way: if the rule is “don’t touch the oven” then adding a rule to not enter the kitchen is designed to make sure no one can touch the oven and thus sin. The problem with this is God forbid doing this very thing in Deuteronomy 4:2. The Pharisees apparently felt they knew better than God did.  They must have felt they had a good reason for violating the Law by adding to that Law. Those who add to the rules Jesus gave us no doubt feel the same way. They think their intentions are good, but God says otherwise.

The real danger of telling people not to do things they can do is people then spread their self-control too thin. Recent studies have shown self-control is a finite thing, and in many ways it’s like a muscle. Exercising it can build it up, but over working it exhausts it for a time. God understood this, and gave us the strength to resist real temptations. However, He did not give us enough strength to resist the real temptations plus a bunch mankind made up. Adding rules to what God says pretty well assures us people will fail at something, and it may well be one of the things God really said to avoid.

Paul also had something to say about this:

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations– ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used)–according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” [Col 2: ESV]

Legalists who add to God’s rules are, according to Paul, practising a self-made religion. Their limitations and seeming self-control may seem impressive, but Paul says these things can’t help control the things the flesh desires. This is no doubt why it is far too common for those who ascribe to such strict limits to be exposed for some sort of sin. Their pious additions to God’s rules don’t protect them; rather it make them more likely to end up in sin.

By the way, neither this nor yesterday’s post should be taken as a lead in to me announcing some new-found “liberty”. My concern is to find the truth; the God ordained place of balance between “anything goes” and “everything is sin”. These are the two lies of Gnosticism, and both are alive and ruining lives today. It is easy to let an excess in one direction push us too far in the other. Don’t let this happen to you – the truth is in His Word, and we don’t need to add to or modify the Bible because of what we see happening around us. Let us learn to live the truth regardless of the excesses and abuses around us.

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Links to blog posts that stood out to me this last week:

Assume Love

I Could Do It Better: Ever said that? Ever thought it? Read this.
I Know Things Should Be Done a Certain: Similar to a recent post I did – but better done.

Black and Married with Kids

The “Real” Benefits Of A Couple’s Retreat: A great tool for building your marriage.

Engaged Marriage

A Simple Love Story (and the secret to a happy marriage): How long has it been since you and your bride had a date?

The Generous Wife

Moonlit Moment: Yes, women like this stuff.
Escape Into Grey: My bride’s comments on Fifty shades.

Hot, Holy and Humorous

7 Tips for Having Sex at the Parents’ House: Great sign to post!

Intimacy in Marriage

Crappy Marriage? What if it Doesn’t Get Better?: A must read if this is your fear.

Journey to Surrender

The Power of Positive: Doing: The action part of positive.

Marriage Gems

Top 15 Reasons Romantic Partners Fight: A thought provoking read.

Marriage Life

What Comes Naturally: “Just because something comes naturally to us doesn’t make it good. Or from God. And just because something doesn’t come naturally to us doesn’t make it bad.”
This Side of the Fence: A thoughtful post on the issue of homosexuality.

Marriage Works

Serve Your Spouse In Love: This is how it should go.

My Beloved Is Mine

Inner Demons?: If she has committed adultery, how are you doing with the thoughts the enemy wants to use to destroy your marriage?

Mystery 32

Porn for Women: Another post great on “mommy porn”.

One Flesh Marriage

Sex With a Bun in the Oven: A great post on sex during pregnancy.
Then Comes Baby in the Baby Carriage: An inclusive and well done post on sex and marriage with a new-born.
Momma Had A Baby: A dad’s view of how a baby changes mom and sex.


Romantic Act of the Day

How do You Talk About Her in Public?: It matters a lot – here’s why.
Brush Her Hair : Most women love it, and Rich tells you how to do it right.

The Romantic Vineyard

Stop Grey From Becoming The New Black And White: Yes, another one!

Safe at home

TMI: When We Say Too Much: An important lesson I am still learning.

…to Love Honor and Vacuum

Sex Shouldn’t Need Batteries: Christians and Sex Toys: I don’t agree with Sheila on this one, but it’s well reasoned and reasonable.
Don’t Forget How Much They Want Us to Fail: This is beyond belief! The world REALLY wants to see Christians fail. 

6 Comments on “Trying to make the truth something else

  1. This is an awesome post today. My wife and I were discussing this the other day in relation to “the book” everyone is discussing.

    I know everyone is different, but for me, my true freedom from lust and temptation came when I quit labeling it as a “sin.” What I mean is – thinking if I just told myself it was sinful did not reduce temptations…it made it worse. It brought about shame.

    Example: If I happen to notice a women who is dressed in a way to naturally attract my eyes, when I used to say to myself, “don’t look…it’s sinful…you might get aroused….etc.”, it became more obsessive and had the opposite effect.

    Now I just laugh and say that the reason I looked is because God made me that way. By not taking it too seriously, I in fact, don’t linger, lust, or get aroused.

    “balance between” you say — I agree.

  2. “The real danger of telling people not to do things they can do is that people are then spreading their self-control too thin, and something is going to give. Recent studies have shown that self-control is a finite thing, and that in many ways it’s like a muscle. Exercising it can build it up, but over working it exhausts it for a time. ”

    This comment is off base. Self-control is a Fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not limited – His power is not a “finite thing”…. The real issue here is the heart – it’s really about willingness to surrender to Christ’s lordship and the power of the Holy Spirit (especially when doing so won’t satisfy the flesh!)

  3. CJ – No argument that the Spirit gives us far greater self-control that those in the world have (If we let Him). And no argument that the Spirit is not limited. But does that mean we can have unlimited self-control? I don’t see that in the Bible, and it runs counter to commands like fleeing temptation.

    God gives all the self-control we need to do what He has commanded us to do, but not for that an all the man-made rules we try to keep on top of what God said. The evidence of this is all around us – those who try to go past what God says have a very high rate of moral failure.

    • Hi Paul ~

      It seems there’s a couple of different issues here. Self-control and legalism.

      In regards to self-control, it is my belief that we do have access to unlimited self-control. I see the Scriptures loaded with verses that support it. For example, I see it in:

      I Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
      “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

      The “way out” comes when we “remain in Him” as seen in:

      John 15:5 (NIV)
      “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

      One of the fruits we WILL bear is self-control (but that’s only IF we remain in Him.) The key is our humility – “He resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” When we’re determined to work in our own “strength” he lets us. When we are humble enough to acknowledge our weakness and our sinfulness (especially our fleshly thoughts and desires!), He pours His grace out in abundance. He gives us supernatural self-control (as well as the other Fruits of the Spirit!).

      I would highly recommend a study on this topic. Truly an encouragement!

      In regards to legalism…

      Years ago, I read a GREAT analogy written by Amy Scott on her blog, “Amy’s Humble Musings”…

      “The thing about two-year-olds is that you have to constantly be on your toes. They can be reckless and fearless. They push the boundaries, always on the lookout for a loophole or to see if Mom really means what she says. I’ve often told one of my toddling children to stay in the family room. Here’s what they do. They go to the edge of the family room where the carpet meets the tile in the kitchen, and then they put their fingers, toes, and miscellaneous body parts on the line. They look to see if I’m watching. They weigh all their options. If I’m far enough away, they might put a scraggly toenail over the line and wait. Christians are a lot like two-year-olds. They’ll read what the Bible says and then start looking for loopholes and lines. Instead of obeying the spirit of the command, they’ll look to see how much they can get away with before making a technical violation. Instead of just staying in the family room and enjoying it, they want to know what the rules should be if a meteor were to hit the house.”

      We do well when we ere on the side of caution – risking obeying extra-Biblical commands or laws with a heart to not offend or hurt others rather than exercise our “liberty”.

      Romans 13:10 (NIV)
      “Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

      It’s all about the heart.

  4. AMEN…the truth is in His Word!! Individually, we need to study to find out the answers. I pray that the Holy Spirit reveals truth as I read. I recently seriously pondered 1Cor 6:12. Everything is permissible, but is it beneficial? That’s where moderation comes in. GREAT thoughts.

  5. CJ – I agree that being all about exercising our liberty is a path that leads to bad things, but I don’t see extra-biblical rules as the solution. If we need those things to do what God said, then we are saying He did not give us what we needed, that we had to add to His Word to make it possible to fulfil it.

    If I CHOOSE to limit myself, because it’s what I feel God saying to me, personally, that’s fine. But as soon as I try to get others to do the same I cross a line. We become the law for those we seek to add laws to, we replace the Holy Spirit.

    As to self-control, I think God gives us the self-control to do what He has called us to. I do not think He gives us self-control for things He has not called us to – be that calling a general or a personal one. I see adding rules and asking God to bless is saying I know better than God.

    As to limits on self-control, Paul is clear he thinks such limits exist, at least for some in some situations. In 1 Cor 7 he tells those who can’t control them-selves sexually to get married. In 1 Tim 5:11 he says younger widows (those under 60) should not be put on the widows list, because they WILL want to remarry and won’t have the self-control to serve God as being on that list required. In the first he told those who lacked self-control to do the smart thing, and in the second he pretty much said most or all women would not have the self-control needed. He did not in either case criticise the lack of self-control or tell them to pray and seek help for that.

    That’s how I see it.

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