Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Jesus on Piety

A few months ago I posted a writing on being pious. This writing, for whatever reason, has been the source of some contention in my private life and unpopular to say the least. That being said, in the context to which my posting was written I do not budge or retract what I said. It so happens that a fellow Christian brother has been studying the same issue in his private life and has recently written an article discussing what he believes are Christ's views on piety. As followers of Christ (i.e. Christians), I believe that my brother Jim Nowlin has provided a very concise and scripturally backed article discussing whether or not Jesus Himself would have been considered pious enough to enter heaven based on some Christian's standards. Please read and enjoy the following:

Significant confusion exists in the religious world concerning the Holy Bible. Even among those who understand and appreciate God’s revelation, there is much misunderstanding relative to the application of God’s word to real-life situations. The purpose of this study is to consider the teachings of Jesus to help ensure that we properly apply God’s word both in our teaching and in our lives.As the basis of this study, let’s consider the following questions:
Question #1. Did the religious leaders of Jesus' day consider him “pious” enough to serve as one of the leaders in the first century synagogue?
Answer #1. Based on God’s revelation, the answer given by the honest Bible student must be, “Absolutely Not!”
Question #2. Did Jesus concern himself with how this perceived lack of piety would affect the religious leaders who practiced binding both God’s word and the opinions of men as matters of faith?
Answer #2. Again, based on God’s revelation, the answer given by the honest Bible student must be, “Absolutely Not!” To the contrary, Jesus openly condemned those who sinned by binding regulations which were not specified in God’s word. Furthermore, He openly condemned those who acted in such a manner that they would be perceived as pious. Then, He went right on living according to God’s revelation regardless of the consequences. As a result, it is clear that Jesus was not perceived as pious enough by the religious leaders in the first century Jewish world to have been placed in a leadership role in the synagogue. It is also clear that Jesus was not concerned with the religious leaders’ perception of Him.
As evidence of these conclusions, let’s consider the following:
A) Jesus stood firmly against binding man-made regulations and traditions as matters of faith.
1) One of the first century Jewish practices of which Jesus obviously did not approve was the matter of binding man-made regulations such as the “traditions of the elders” as matters of faith. Relative to the matter of “cleanliness,” for example, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day likely referred to passages such as Exodus 19:10-14, Exodus 29:4-17, Exodus 30:18-21, Exodus 40:31-32, Leviticus 1:9-13, Leviticus 6:27, Leviticus 8:6-21, Leviticus 9:14, Leviticus 11:25-40, Leviticus 13:6-58, Leviticus 14:8-47, Leviticus 15:5-27, Leviticus 16:4-28, Leviticus 17:15-16, Leviticus 22:6, Numbers 8:7-21, Numbers 19:7-21, Numbers 31:24, Deuteronomy 21:6, and Deuteronomy 23:11 which require a variety of cleansings and washings in situations prescribed by God’s word, to take the liberty of adding additional required cleansings and washings as matters of faith even though they are not prescribed in Holy Writ. The thought process likely included the rationale that since God’s word indicates the importance of washing in many situations, adding the requirement of additional washings must be even better. One can never be too cautious, they likely surmised, when it comes to making sure one does not sin against God.
The problem lies in the fact that both adding to and taking from God’s word constitute sin (Deuteronomy 4:2, Deuteronomy 12:32, 2 Kings 22:1-2, Revelations 22:18-19). Since Jesus condemned the scribes, Pharisees, and elders of the people for binding more than God’s word binds and openly refused to approve of their practices (Matthew 15:1-20, Mark 7:1-23, Luke 11:37-53, Matthew 23:1-36), He was certainly not considered pious enough to be one of the leaders in the first century synagogue.
2) Another situation in which Jesus encountered the religious leaders’ binding more than God’s word binds is relative to the type of activities in which one could be “lawfully” engaged on the Sabbath. God’s word made it clear that His people were not to “work” on the Sabbath in passages such as Exodus 20:8-11, Exodus 31:14-16, Exodus 35:2-3, Leviticus 23:3, and Numbers 15:32-36. Since God’s word commanded that one not “work” on this specific day of each week, the scribes, Pharisees, and elders of the people devised a list of specific activities in which one could be engaged on the Sabbath along with another list of activities which they considered unlawful on the Sabbath, again just to make sure individuals did not sin against God’s law of the Sabbath. The problem with this thought process is that a proper application of God’s word is the one and only determinant as to what constitutes sin.
Furthermore, God’s revelation itself is the only basis for determining what constitutes “work.” Jesus made a point to effectively condemn their binding more than God binds relative to the Sabbath in Matthew 12:1-8, Luke 6:1-11, and Luke 14:1-6. However, since He violated the traditions of the elders which they considered just as binding as God’s word, He broke God’s law in their eyes. As a result, Jesus was certainly not considered pious enough to be considered for one of the leadership positions in the first century synagogue.
3) Furthermore, the religious leaders in the first century likely considered God’s teaching in such passages as Psalms 1:1-2 and Psalms 26:5 and determined that it was a violation of God’s law for one to associate with “sinners” in any context. Regardless of the fact that this was not God’s teaching in these passages, the religious leaders apparently bound such regulations as matters of faith. Again, their rationale likely included the assumption that it was prudent to be more restrictive than God’s revealed word in order to make sure they did not sin against Him. Furthermore, it clearly does not look good for one of the leaders of God’s people to associate with sinners, right? Jesus condemned these thought processes by disregarding their tradition of binding more than God bound on this subject in passages such as Matthew 9:11, Mark 2:16, Luke 5:27-32, Luke 7:36-50, and Luke 15:1-32. As a result of Jesus’ refusal to abide by man-made laws and traditions as He spent time with the sinners to lead them to the truth of God’s word, He certainly was not considered pious by the religious leaders of His day.
4) As additional evidence that Jesus was not pious enough for the religious leaders of His day, He not only ate with sinners, he likely even drank unfermented wine (“oinos”) during His associations with these individuals. Even though these sinners may have drunk fermented wine or even wine with some type of additional drug in it from time to time, Jesus refused to concern himself with the possibility that some might accuse Him of sin based on passages such as Proverbs 23:20 and Deuteronomy 21:19-20 as a result of such associations. The religious leaders likely indicated that it just did not look good for one who might be considered one of their leaders to place himself in such situations, especially since some might engage in sin in such contexts.The fact that Jesus was condemned in Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34 for associating with such indicates that Jesus did not refrain from drinking the unfermented juice of the grape just because some might assume the worst in their attempt to find fault. Undoubtedly, this action by Jesus was one of the reasons the religious leaders of His day perceived that He was less than “pious” enough for them. Again, instead of concerning Himself with their perceptions, Jesus simply continued doing what was right and good based on God’s revealed word regardless of the effects on those who set out to condemn everything He did.
5) As the final example of Jesus’ refusal to support the binding of man-made regulations and traditions as matters of faith, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day likely referred to passages such as the following to prove the importance of fasting in the lives of God’s people: Judges 20:26, 1 Samuel 7:6, 1 Samuel 31:13, 2 Samuel 1:12, 2 Samuel 12:16-23, 1 Kings 21:9-27, 2 Kings 18:6, 1 Chronicles 10:12, 2 Chronicles 20:3, Ezra 8:21-23, Ezra 9:5, Nehemiah 1:4, Nehemiah 9:1, Esther 4:3-16, Esther 9:31, Psalm 35:13, Psalm 69:10, Psalm 109:24, Jeremiah 36:6-9, and Daniel 6:18. As a result of the obvious importance of fasting in the history of God’s people, surely it makes sense for individuals to let their light shine for God’s glory through the fasting process, as rationalized by the scribes, Pharisees, and elders. To the contrary, Jesus taught openly against the practice of “appearing” to be fasting so that others would realize how pious they were in Matthew 6:16-18, Matthew 9:14, and Luke 5:33, regardless of the result. Since Jesus taught against the practice of “putting on a show” so others would see how righteous they were as was the practice of the religious leaders of the day, Jesus was certainly not pious enough in their eyes to ever become one of their leaders.
B) As additional evidence of Jesus’ perceived lack of piety, He stood firmly against the first century practice of teaching one message in public and then espousing contradictory views in private. His teaching was always the same regardless of the audience.
1) Several examples have been provided by the Holy Spirit to indicate that Jesus’ public teaching and private teaching were always one in the same, including Mark 10:2-12 and Luke 12:1-3, and that Jesus condemned individuals who dealt with God’s word in any other manner (Matthew 23:1-36). Please note that since Jesus refused to approve of the scribes’, Pharisees’, and elders’ practice of communicating different “rules” for different audiences, He certainly was not considered pious in their eyes.
C) Furthermore, Jesus refused to even consider the “praise of men” in the process of determining which issues were matters of faith. He made it clear that God’s word is the only determinant of truth regardless of who agrees with it.
1) Jesus made it clear that we should not concern ourselves with the fact that some individuals may agree or disagree with teaching based strictly on God’s revelation. He taught the truth regardless of who might believe or reject it because He understood that God’s word is not determined in the minds of men, but that God’s word is settled in heaven (Psalms 119:89). Jesus did not cater to those who considered the praise of men in the process of determining which issues were matters of faith (Matthew 15:12-14, John 12:42-43). Rather, since He taught simple obedience to God’s word (John 14:15, John 15:14), He was definitely not pious enough to ever become one of the leaders in the first century synagogue.
D) Finally, Jesus clearly refused to even consider the teachings of the religious leaders of His day in His quest to determine the truth based on God’s word.
1) It was clearly the custom of the scribes, Pharisees, and elders of Jesus’ day to quote rabbinic opinions and traditions as an integral part of their public teaching. For example, the thoughts of various rabbis on a given subject were the basis for the most widely respected and utilized scriptural commentary in the first century, the Babylonian Talmud. An example of the Talmud may be found online at
However, as indicated in Matthew 7:28-29, Mark 1:22, and Matthew 15:7-9, Jesus did not employ this teaching method. He understood that the comments of mere mortals were nothing more than opinions and that God’s word alone is our guide (John 12:48) regardless of human opinions. Since Jesus simply referred to God’s word in His teaching without the confirmation of and agreement with the religious leaders of the day, He certainly was not considered pious by those who might have considered Him for a leadership role in the first century synagogue.
In summary, Jesus was SO not pious enough to be chosen as a leader of God’s people in the first century synagogue that the religious leaders of His day ultimately decided it would be better to have Him killed than to submit to His leadership and authority. Since it is God’s grace in conjunction with our faithful adherence to God’s revelation which keeps us in fellowship with the Creator Of The Universe (1 John 1:7), let’s all continue to pray that today’s religious leaders will stand against binding man-made regulations and traditions as matters of faith, that they will stand against private teaching which contradicts public teaching, that they will refuse to even consider the praise of men in the process of determining which issues constitute matters of faith, and that they will refuse to follow the doctrines and teachings of the religious leaders of the day in the process of determining truth – JUST LIKE JESUS DID. Even though one might consider stating an OPINION in his teaching from time to time, it is our responsibility to make sure we clearly communicate such statements as opinion. We must realize that we cannot bind our opinions as matters of faith and expect to continue in fellowship with our Creator (Deuteronomy 4:2, Deuteronomy 12:32, 2 Kings 22:1-2, Revelations 22:18-19). May God help us simply follow Jesus’ pattern of setting each other apart from the world through the truth of God’s word, since it is God’s word alone which is truth (John 17:17).

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Beautiful Verse: Reflections from Isaiah

I continue to be enriched and made happy by the slow and steady study of Isaiah that I have undertaken. What a beautiful book and my eyes have been opened to and my mind reminded of some of the most beautiful verses and simple statements of faith that I have ever seen. One such reminder occurred in my preparation for Sunday School this week as I read through Isaiah chapter 26. In verse 12 of this chapter Isaiah makes a most profound yet simple statement of his trust and belief in God when he states: "O LORD, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works. (ESV)"

It is important to understand that Isaiah was living his life with the knowledge that God was soon to let loose a combination of enemies on his home land and was the man who personally delivered the message of impending doom and horror that was soon to beset these people. Isaiah knew that God's wrath was upon his people and that there was no escape other than to believe that God was going to care for those who trust in Him. God and God alone allowed Isaiah to be able to stand up and say so boldly "O LORD, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works."

How important for us to follow the example of Isaiah and to understand that God works through the Holy Spirit in us who have accepted that gift through baptism the same way that He did Isaiah. I strive so hard to keep, maintain, and understand that only God can ordain or grant me the peace in life to be truly happy. How hard I try to trust in Him to help me understand that even though when I open my eyes I see a world and people who care not for God's will and who laugh at the fact that Christian's believe in a murdered yet risen Savior that He has promised me that everything will be fine. I fight a continuous struggle to give my concerns over to God and to follow what He leads me, and me alone to do. I look at my family and their needs and I do trust that God is guiding me to make the proper decisions and choices for my families spiritual well being and that He will guide me in making sure of my children's spiritual growth. God will, can, and has ordained peace for me. I just have to get out of the way and let Him grant it to me. Easier said than done which is why the second half of this verse rings so loudly.

Isaiah states "for you have indeed done for us all our works." How do I accept the peace that God has to give me? By coming to an understanding and belief in that statement by Isaiah. How do I keep myself from being constantly tormented and worried over the state of my own wretched heart? By understanding that God, through the sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ, has given me a gift that if I simply trust in the fact that Jesus was enough to cover my sins that I am promised a home with Him in Heaven. God has indeed done all of our works for us. I am incapable of living a life that is sinless. We all are. That was the necessity of Christ and why He was punished on the cross. That work alone makes me eligible for salvation and all that is asked of me is that I believe and accept the fact that Christ died for my sins. Christ asked us to believe and be baptized so that we may dwell in His body and have our hearts circumcised. He gives us His Holy Spirit which if we just listen, follow, and trust will lead us to the peace which Isaiah felt. It makes me so sad to see people, friends, and loved ones who don't have this peace simply because they are on a perpetual slide of failure trying to justify themselves and at times making up laws which they feel will give them more peace. We all know these people who believe that if they follow this law, this law, and this law to a tee that it will make them more righteous. Think about those people and their attitudes and ask yourself why they are not at peace. Why are you not at peace?

I want that peace that Isaiah felt. For those of us who have been led to do works that we know were not contrived or meant for any reason other than to glorify God, it is a joyous feeling. How dare we cheapen those moments by taking credit for them ourselves or even worse look at others who have not been led to do the same things and judge them for it. There is no peace in that. There is no God in that. There is only you and your wretchedness or desire to justify yourself for sins in your past.

Should I possibly find myself more holy than the person who does not teach Sunday School? Foolish. Should I possibly find myself more worthy of Christ's forgiveness because I bring my children to church. Foolish. Should I possibly consider myself more righteous because I study my Bible? Foolish. These acts are simply ones to which Christ attached certain promises but make me no more or less worthy of avoiding God's judgment than the person who never does these things. This is a dangerous game and one that Isaiah warned against in earlier chapters of Isaiah. In the same breath, to not accept these promised gifts by doing these things as instructed in scripture is also foolish.

To receive the peace of knowing that God has already provided for us we need look no further than scripture. It is full of scripture letting us loose from law and our own works and binding us to Christ on the cross. Jesus has done all of our works for us already. Imagine a church full of men, women, and children who truly believe and trust in this promise. Imagine a world where this message, the gospel message, is preached without any man made designs, flaws, or self-righteous intentions. To do so in my opinion is to imagine Heaven.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Are Any of Us "Right"

The following is a response to a gentleman who recently attempted to berate the Church of Christ as proclaiming that they are the only worshippers of God who are going to Heaven. I would love to get some feedback (ammo, lol) in order to further help this man to see that our differences make us more in need of the same Savior.

Charles, you are correct. There are many people these days who worship in the Church of Christ who when approached by someone who challenges their beliefs are unable to defend their faith and choose to say "you are right, no one is wrong." This however does not make you or any other false indoctrination correct but rather points to an obvious and sad failure of the church to successfully and fervently feed their sheep. In the recent history of the Church of Christ there has been a slow yet momentus shift away from true gospel teaching all done in the name of "relevance" and political correctness. Sadly, this is not just a Church of Christ problem and I am sure if you were honest with us you could report a large number in your own congregation who are ignorant when it comes to doctrinal issues. That is not an insult by the way but rather a sad state of the union if you will.
The Church of Christ has gotten away from preaching true gospel teaching in many sections of the world and spends FAR too much time teaching on issues such as instrumental music, why we are right and they are wrong, and many gimmicky lessons taught to grow numbers, not feed sheep. So, in a sense, you are correct.
That being said, you are talking to the wrong people and I may even guess preying on spiritually weak individuals. Should you approach me with your query listed as a question regarding the CofC being the only one's going to heaven I would simply point out to you with scripture why I think that the Church of Christ has it close to true regarding worship matters. Sadly, regarding doctrinal issues, the Church of Christ is lagging behind in teaching it's congregations at this time. I have good news though. There is a rumbling and we are aware that a return to the gospel is the only solution and the only way to squelch men such as yourself.
Here's the facts, we are all sinners in need of a savior (pick your scripture---). None of us can live by law or save ourselves (that includes worship style). Should we begin thinking that we can save ourselves simply by our worship style then we have done no better than the Galatians who thought because they circumcised themselves they had a more direct connection to Jesus. In conclusion, who is wrong? We all are. None of us are going to be able to stand before God and state that at every worship service we attended we did so in Spirit and truth (you cannot deny that). None of us are any less depraved than the other.
The truth regarding what a good or correct church is, is evident in what happens outside the church. That is not to say that the church that teaches people to live the best morally, to have the best marriage, to have the best work relationships, or to be most blessed financially has it right. If you want to know if you are part of a good church, ask yourself how many members leave the doors each Sunday prepared and ready to teach nothing more than Christ crucified to all the world by using God's word to convict and break hearts. I would challenge you to listen to the sermons, not songs, being taught at your church and listen for the true gospel message. Is it being taught? If not, are we brave enough to point it out? Is Jesus being properly extracted from every scripture? If not, find a church where that is happening. It's your duty.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Pop-Pop Pants

Kip is now getting big enough to start wearing pants. As Joy got Kip ready for church last night, Ethan was paying attention. Ethan proceeded to say that Kip's pants "look like Pop-Pop's pants when he goes to bed.". Apparently my dad likes to hike his pants up before bed. He needs to remember that little boys pay LOTS of attention. Here's Kip in his Pop-Pop pants.

-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lesson Learned

How wonderful is our God!!! Just when you find yourself at low points in your life, he allows you to hear something that moves the Holy Spirit within you to discover a detail of life that you may have overlooked before that time. This occurred to me last night and as I think about it this is the second time in this short year that I have had to be reminded of the same lesson. This time with more clarity.
As a man who God has given certain talents and abilities to, I am often asked to lead certain areas of our congregation in worship activities. While I may be better at some than others, I often attempt to throw my hand up to help when needed. This includes activities outside and inside the church building and are moments that I truly relish in as an adult. Many times this leads to me not be able to just sit and worship with my family unless I specifically request to be able to do so. Allow me to add that when those requests are made, there are many men, young and old, who gladly step up and either add to their duties or take those I may wish to abandon at that time so that I may worship with my family. I attempt to extend the same grace as well.
Sadly, as is my human nature though, there are times when I may come to resent being only one of a few who actually do "step up" when a need that I see is had. Many of you who read this know what I am talking about. These are the thoughts of: "why does he never lead singing," or "I wish they would ask so-and-so to help with the Lord's Supper," or "look, he just sits there when it is so obvious that something is needed." I struggle at times to fight off a begrudging spirit and simply do what is needed and I God often convicts my heart to remember that it is an honor to lead children of God in worship to their Father.
At other times, I have led my willingness to take a role of leadership to lead to piety in my life in which I gain a false sense of security that since I am a worship leader, then I must be a better Christian than so-and-so. I have found that this often leads to embarrassment or even worse, putting a focus on self rather than Christ. Thank God that His word points me to Paul's letter to the Galatians that reminds me that if I am going to take that attitude, then I better follow every letter of the law perfectly from that point forward (listen carefully to Paul's letter to the Galatians my Church of Christ brethren - post upcoming). Christ then convicts me to remember it is only by His grace that I am even allowed to be in that church, at that time, and with that talent. "IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU DAVID!" I hear from His word.
Last night, as I was listening to the devotional delivered by one of the elders of our church, I learned a powerful lesson. The speaker was reflecting on a lesson heard at the Challenge Youth Conference two weekends ago. He took his inspiration from the lessons on Nehemiah's wall and led to a discussion about the walls that make up a house. He discussed that some walls are load bearing, and others are simply there to separate rooms. It was quite a good devotional and spurned me to think on the way home last night about my own life. I began asking myself in my own church, which kind of wall was I? I still don't have the answer to that question but I did have this thought that I want to share.
Each member of each church has a role. I began thinking about the people in my church who I don't see taking an effort to lead others and how I often think myself as better or harder working than them. For that, allow me to repent right now. I am wrong for that! I realized last night that I don't go and visit every member when they are sick, but someone in that church always manages to go. I don't always get around to speaking a kind word to each person who comes in the doors, but someone in the church always manages to. I don't always make sure the power is cut off, the contribution is counted, the doors are locked, the grass is cut, or that a hug is given when needed, but someone does. These are the people who make up the heart of our church. These are the people who always manage to tell me they love me when I may forget to tell them. These are the truly important people. These people bear as many burdens as the worship leaders and they have nothing to do with getting the power point presentation set up correctly.
Each person in the church is an important piece and they all make up what Scripture tells us is the Body of Christ. I will try harder to remember to thank each one of them for what they do and what they mean for the mission that we as a church have.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

CYC RAP 2009 - Nerd Up

What a great weekend we had at the 2009 edition of the Challenge Youth Conference. I plan to post a full recap in the near future but have spent the first two days of this week battling both personal demons as well as sickness.
The beautiful children who comprise the youth group of Kingsville Church of Christ in Detroit, AL put together a rap song while in Gatlinburg this past weekend. I can't wait for it to reach the charts of Contemporary Christian radio. Here is the video of the first ever performance of

CYC Rap, 2009 from Dave Brumley on Vimeo.

As an added bonus, if you would like to add this song to your church hymnal, here are the lyrics:

JORDAN: We went to Gatlinburg, TN on a trip to awesome CYC

SARAH BETH: We pigged out on Ashyln's pickle chips and now we have a pain in our lips

DALTON: So much fun at CYC, so much stuff you have to see


MEAGAN: (not sure) CYC, I made new friends because Dave made me.

SANTANA: Me & my church family is having fun at CYC, won't you come w/ me and my church family

ASHLYN: It's so much fun at CYC, won't you come & join me

SYLVIA: If you're not ready to stand alone with Jesus, then you're not ready to stand alone at all


To Be Trusted

I find it funny that after such a short time from posting about how we must not put confidence in man that I reminded of how badly I want others to put confidence in me. Without going into details I will simply say that it was revealed to me today that someone I admire and look to for my own spiritual support had not much more than zero confidence in me. Was I hurt, yes. Was I surprised, yes. Should I have been, no. That does not make it hurt any less. I honestly felt as if someone I loved had died and even worse, that I had killed them. Yet, when I search my heart, I find no fault of my own for this mistrust. I write that awaiting explanation from the person from whom I have lost trust which in turn causes even more angst but at the same time a desire to become more refined spiritually.
Oh to be like Paul who found the confidence to write these words;
1This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. 3But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. -
1 Cor. 4:1-5
Reviewing my feelings and how I feel about even people I love lacking trust in me it becomes ever so obvious of how far I must go to reach the goal to be even worthy to proclaim Christ crucfied fearlessly and without reservations as Paul so boldly did. I like to think of myself as a good steward of the gifts that Christ has placed in my life (wife, children, job, youth group, church leadership), yet I continue to want others to see it and believe in me. Why would I care though as long as I know that Christ sees it? As of now, I am not sure. If and when I figure it out, I will share it. Even when you see yourself as nothng more than a sinner, it still hurts when you find that others must see you the same way.