Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Should I “tithe”? How much should I give?

What does it mean to “tithe”?
While under the Law of Moses, the Israelites were commanded to give a tenth of what they earned back to God. The term “tithe” means “tenth”. The text of Leviticus reads:
 “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord's; it is holy to the Lord. If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it. And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman's staff, shall be holy to the Lord” (Lev. 27:30-32 ESV).
Should a Christian “tithe” today?
The commandment to give a tenth was for Israel for a specific purpose. This command falls under a law/covenant that we are not under today. The Old Testament Law was given to the Nation of Israel (the Jews) in order to separate them from the rest of the nations of the world and to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah. All of the laws, the requirements, the feasts, the sacrifices, the priesthood, how to worship, the Sabbath and more, were designed to lead one to the Messiah (Jesus). Now that Jesus has come, that system has been done away. Notice what the Apostle Paul wrote the Galatians: 
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:23-26 NAS).
The Old Testament Law was like a math tutor hired to get a student ready for a test. Once the student masters the material and takes the test, the tutor is no longer needed. The student may look back at what he learned, but ultimately, the tutor's purpose has been fulfilled.

Are Christians supposed to give?
Yes! Several passages show that giving should be part of the Christian’s life and part of the activity of the assembled Church. In 1 Corinthians 16 the Apostle Paul encourages the church in Corinth to give every Sunday.
 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper... (1 Corinthians 16:1-3).
Although the command in this passage is specifically for one church to gather funds to help Christians in another region, it seems that a pattern is being established for the church to give when they meet. Notice, he says that he also “directed the churches of Galatia” to do this.

How much should I give?
No where in the New Testament is an amount or percentage specified. God wants us to be generous givers and God knows our hearts. If we are pushing ourselves to greater generosity all the time, God will be pleased. The second letter to the church in Corinth reads:
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord,  (2 Corinthians 8:1-3 NAS). 
Paul complemented the giving of the Macedonian Christians, because they gave “beyond their means”, this is a great example for us as well.

How should I give?
Oftentimes it is hard for us to give. We selfishly want everything for ourselves and have a hard time sharing. God never wants us to give with a bitter heart.  We must give cheerfully and plan ahead on how much we are going to give. God does not wants our “leftovers”.
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV).
God has given us so much! Let’s always be generous people who cheerfully give to others and back to Him.

By Cliff Sabroe
Image from Forbes

Monday, April 25, 2016

Is it a sin to judge? Please explain Matthew 7:1.

One passage of Scripture that both Christians and non-Christians are familiar with is (Matthew 7:1). It reads “Do not judge so that you will not be judged”. This article is going to answer four questions regarding this passage.
  1. What is the context of (Matthew 7:1)?
  2. Is judging always sinful?
  3. When is judging wrong?
  4. When is judging allowed?
What is the context of Matthew 7:1?
This verse falls in the middle of Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount”. The main idea of this sermon is found in (Matthew 5:20) which states “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven”. The scribes and Pharisees would often bind heavy burdens on people, judge them hypocritically and condemn sinful actions while they themselves were guilty of sinful attitudes and thoughts. The Pharisees would often hold people to a standard that not even they could keep. When you observe the verses following the 7:1 this becomes more clear. 
“For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye”.
Jesus’ statement is intended to be absurd. The illustration is of one trying to remove a splinter out of another’s eye while have a large beam protruding from their own. This is how the Pharisees and scribes carried themselves. They were so concerned about the sins in everyone else’s lives that they could never see the giant sins in their own.

Is judging always sinful?
Got expects us to make what we would refer to as “judgment calls”. He also at times requires us to notice and deal with the sins in another’s life. The idea of approaching a person when they are sinning does go against our normal feelings of “mind your own business”, but as Christians, we are to help others leave sin and follow Christ. At times, to help a person out of a sinful situation you must “judge” a behavior as wrong. In the following passages it will be observed that “judging” is a requirement.
  • “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.“So then, you will know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:18-20)
  • "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)
  • “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted” (Galatians 6:1)
  • "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother” (Matthew 18:15).
In all these passages we are told to identify sin in the lives of others. This is not to be done in a mean or cruel way, but nevertheless a person must “judge” in these situations.

When is judging wrong?
According to Matthew chapter 7,judging would be wrong if it is done hypocritically, we must first remove the “plank from our own eye”. Judging another is also sinful when a persons intentions are being doubted or if a conclusion is drawn solely by the appearance of another (just because a person “looks like a sinner” does not mean they are). When we make judgments that God would not make we are sinning. Another point to consider is that we must make sure we are not passing judgment in a boastful or ungodly way (if our ego is inflated through passing judgment on another we are sinning). 

When is judging allowed?
We can pass judgment if it is done in a godly way with godly intentions. At times we have to confront a person in sin and identify sin in their life. This is acceptable if it is done in a loving way. If you are going to judge, make sure you judge in the same way that you would want to be judged; make sure that your standard of consistent judgment is the Word of God.

God is final judge in all things, only He can be a completely righteous judge. Remember, you are not God! God judges man according to His standard, the Bible. If we allow God’s Word to judge the actions of another as sinful, in a loving and godly way, that is acceptable. Just always be sure to make sure you consistently apply God’s Word to yourself and not just others. 

By Cliff Sabroe - Quotes from NASB95 Bible

Monday, April 4, 2016

What is gluttony? Why is it a sin? ...What does the Bible say about food?

Food is a Blessing
  • (Matthew 6:11) “Give us today our daily bread”.
  • (Matthew 6:31) “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’”.
  • (Exodus 16) - Manna was from Heaven.
  • (James 1:17) “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above”.
  • (1 Timothy 4:3-4)“...foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving ... For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving”.
Food Can Be a Curse
We were all created with a physical appetite. Our appetite is a good thing, but like any “natural desire” it is a problem if we are controlled by it. (2 Peter 1:6-7) states, 
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control...”
What is Gluttony? (The Sin Nobody wants to Talk About)
Gluttony is "the habitual gorging of food and drink”. It is characterized by overeating with a complete lack of self-control. 

What does the Bible say about Gluttony?
“Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” (Pro. 23:20-21)
“He who keeps the law is a discerning son, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.” (Pro. 28:7)
“One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." (Titus 1:12).
Gluttony is not being overweight. (You can be skinny and enslaved to food or overweight and not). It is not eating a big meal (like thanksgiving), for even Jesus participated in feasts. It is not eating certain types of food (like junk food or fast food). Gluttony is being controlled by your appetite, to the point where you no longer have self-control when it comes to your food.

Food is a great blessing from God, but it can also be a curse if we allow it to lead us to the sin of gluttony. Let us make sure we are the ones in control and not our appetites.
Do a self-evaluation. Could you give up food if needed? Do you find your life enslaved to constant (not occasional) food cravings? There are no verses that state it is a sin to have a certain BMI, or to enjoy food or even eat big meals. Christians, however, should be characterized by self-control in all areas of their lives.

By Cliff Sabroe

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

My spouse is not a Christian...am I supposed to divorce him/her and marry a Christian instead? I

The Bible speaks to this question in a couple of different places. It seems that during the First Century it was common (as it also is today) for one person in a marriage to become a Christian, while the other stayed an unbeliever.

A Christian husband or wife would always desire their spouse to be a Christian too. Sadly, there are some marriages in which only one chooses to believe. Some have thought (for many different reasons) that it would be better to divorce the unbeliever and marry a believer. This post will answer whether or not this is advisable.

Verses on a Christian being married to a non-Christian:
  • "...if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away" (1 Corinthians 7:12-13).
  • "In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior" (1 Peter 3:1-2).
  • Just because one's spouse is not a Christian, is NOT cause for a divorce.
  • It is possible for the unbeliever to later become a Christian through the teaching and example of their believing spouse.
  • If you are married to a non-Christian, love your spouse with the love of Christ, set a good example in all that you do. Show your spouse how important God is to you, teach them when you have the chance, and Lord willing, one day they will choose to follow God too.
Post by Cliff Sabroe - Scripture quotes from NASB 95. Picture from LifeHopeandTruth

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Why is my new Bible missing verses?

First off, don’t worry, you have not fallen victim to some massive Bible destroying conspiracy. There are basically two different families of English translations. You have the King James Version/ New King James Version and on the other side you have the English Standard Version, New American Standard Version, the NIV and others. All of these versions are fairly accurate translations, although some are more accurate than others.

As archaeological discoveries are made we are able to find older and older manuscripts. It is assumed that the older the manuscript, the more accurate to the original it is. When the King James Bible was formed the manuscripts the translators used were not as old as the ones that formed the New American Standard Bible and others. Over time when copying by hand verse endings may have been added or footnotes may have been mistakingly copied as part of the text. This is why you will sometimes see verses in one Bible and not in another. It is not that the newer versions took them out, but that as older manuscripts are found, we discover a more accurate rendering of a passage. 

None of these variant passages are significant when it comes to doctrine. Even with the differences, there are no key teachings removed or added, and in the grand scope of Scripture they prove to be very insignificant. You will notice that in your Bible usually there will be a footnote explaining why a verse is not in your particular translation. For example in (Acts 8:37) you may see a note saying “NU, M omit v. 37. It is found in Western Texts including the latin tradition” (Nelson NKJV).

The translators of our English Bibles are very transparent when it comes to why a verse is removed or added. It can be a very rewarding study to research the origin of our different English Bibles. 

By Cliff Sabroe
Image from TheBlaze. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

What does baptism do? Why do Christians baptize? Should I be baptized too?

There are many verses in the Bible that mention baptism.  Below you will find a few passages and an explanation of what they teach:
  • Mark 16:16 - "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned"  - Baptism is necessary for salvation.
  • Acts 2:38 - "Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" - Baptism is for the forgiveness of sins and the receiving of the Holy Spirit. 
  • Galatians 3:27 - "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" - Baptism clothes us with Christ.
  • Romans 6:3-4 - "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life" - Baptism puts us in Christ.
  • 1 Peter 3:21 - "Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you-- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience-- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ"Baptism saves us through the resurrection of Jesus. 
  • Acts 2:41 - "So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls." - At Baptism God adds you to the church.
  • Acts 22:16 - "Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name." - Baptism is how one "calls upon the Lord" for salvation and has their sins washed away.
  • Baptism is necessary for one to be in Christ, receive grace, be saved and be added to the church. Baptism is how one asks God to save them. 
  • A person must trust in Jesus' redemptive work on the cross to be saved. Baptism is how we do that. Baptism replicates Jesus' death, burial and resurrection.
  • God justifies the one being baptized by His grace. 
  • Baptism is not a work by which we earn our salvation, but instead it is an appeal to God for the salvation He offers. 
By Cliff Sabroe
Scripture references from NASB and ESV. Image from ourimgs.com

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Is it a sin to smoke weed? What does the Bible say about using other drugs? Can a Christian Get High? What if it is legal?

This question was answered during the West Visalia Church of Christ 2015 Youth Forum. 

Here in California it is common to see “Medical Marijuana Dispensaries” or corner medical clinics advertising “Medical Marijuana Cards”. As with most narcotics, when used under the close observation of a legitimate doctor they probably can meet a medical need. For example Vicodin is commonly prescribed for pain. If used properly it can provide relief to a patient recovering from an injury, however, it is commonly abused too. Although there is still an ongoing debate about its use, Marijuana could probably meet a medical need, however, some “Medical Marijuana” users are not taking it for medicinal needs, but instead just to get high.

The question under consideration is not the legitimate medicinal usage of drugs, but instead, is it okay for a Christian to recreationally use drugs for the purpose of being stoned? What does the Bible say?

1. Christians must obey the law.
  • (Romans 13:1) “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities”. 
  • Most illicit drug use is against the law in this country. For a person to use an illegal drug or even prescription medication in a way other than its intended purpose is violating the law and sinning. 
2. Christians are to have good self-control.
  • (Proverbs 25:28) “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls”.
  • (Galatians 5:22-23) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law”.
  • (1 Peter 4:7) “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers”.
    • When a person is under the influence of drugs whether cocaine, pot or even alcohol, their inhibitions are lowered and they are in less control of their actions.  God wants us to be “sober minded” and to be in control of ourselves. If a person is high, they are more likely to sin. 
    • Our task as Christians is to live pure lives and make good choices. Many times people do things while on drugs that they normally would not do. When stoned, a person’s judgement is impaired and harm may befall them and others because of their intoxication.
    • Another point to consider in regards to “self-control” is the addictive properties of most drugs. It is easy to become dependent and addicted to most drugs. 
    • Although some drugs might not be physically addicting, the feelings of euphoria  and temporary pleasure associated with their use can be. Many times a person becomes dependent upon drugs to get through stress, relax or even just function on a daily basis. God is to be our master, but when addicted to drugs we are often servants of a “high” and not our Savior.
3. Sorcery and Witchcraft in the Bible 
  • (Galatians 5:19-20) “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions...”.
  • (Revelation 21:8) “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
    • There is a good possibility that drug use was associated with the sorcery mentioned in the Bible and that the so-called “spells” that people implemented were actually the affects of ancient drugs.
    • Concerning this point the Christian Courier writes: 
      • The Greek word, pharmakeia (Gal. 5:20) derives from the term pharmakon. The original term had to do with “medicine” (like an ointment), or “a potion,” whether for good (as used by a physician), or for “evil” (as in the administration of poison). The term could signify a drug. Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian, tells of a man named Arcesilaus, who “fell sick,” and while “under the influence of a drug [pharmakon] which he had taken, was strangled” by one of his own brothers (IV.160). With the passing of time, the term came to be associated with pagan ceremonies, sometimes in connection with the use of drugs. The term could simply take on the sense of charm, spell, incantation, or enchantment (Liddell & Scott, Greek-English Lexicon,1741)....In principle, the term might well apply today to those who use drugs as mind-altering substances for recreational (or even religious) purposes. (Jackson).
    • Although there are other sins associated with sorcery (pagan and idolatrous worship, the occult etc.), it seems that drug use (whether personal or in attempt to poison others) may have been inferred when discussing the sin of “sorcery”.
4. Drunkenness is a sin.
  • (Ephesians 5:18) “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery...”.
  • (1 Corinthians 6:10) “Nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God”.
    • In numerous passages in the Bible being drunk is condemned. Why is this? Because when intoxicated, one no longer has “self-control” (see point #2). (Proverbs 20:1) “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise”.
    • Without a doubt, it should be assumed that the mind altering state drugs produce would be sinful just like “drunkenness”. In the same way that alcohol lowers inhibitions and impairs judgment, drugs do as well.
  • Many of the plants created in nature or chemicals created by man are not inherently good nor evil. There are legitimate medical uses for many of the drugs in use today and there is also a great opportunity for abuse.
  • The Bible does not condemn medicine, in fact Paul told Timothy to “use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (1 Timothy 5:23). Legal Doctor prescribed drug use for a legitimate condition would NOT be in violation of Scripture. (Although one should still be cautions with medicine that alters judgement, mood or can be addicting).
  • Using drugs in order to chase a buzz, forget problems, get high or just “feel good” is not only usually against the law, but would also be against the teachings of Scripture.
Post by Cliff Sabroe - Scripture Quotes from ESV Bible. 
Christian Courier. Wayne Jackson - https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/473-does-galatians-5-20-condemn-the-use-of-all-drugs