Category: R thru S


The phrase “reprobate mind” is found in Romans 1:28 in reference to those whom God has rejected as godless and wicked. They “suppress the truth by their wickedness,” and it is upon these people that the wrath of God rests (Romans 1:18). The Greek word translated “reprobate” in the New Testament is adokimos, which means literally “unapproved, that is, rejected; by implication, worthless (literally or morally).”

Paul describes two men named Jannes and Jambres as those who “resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith” (2 Timothy 3:8). Here the reprobation is regarding the resistance to the truth because of corrupt minds. In Titus, Paul also refers to those whose works are reprobate: “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16). Therefore, the reprobate mind is one that is corrupt and worthless.

As we can see in the verses above, people who are classified as having a reprobate mind have some knowledge of God and perhaps know of His commandments. However, they live impure lives and have very little desire to please God. Those who have reprobate minds live corrupt and selfish lives. Sin is justified and acceptable to them. The reprobates are those whom God has rejected and has left to their own devices.

Can a Christian have a reprobate mind? Someone who has sincerely accepted Jesus Christ by faith will not have this mindset because the old person with a reprobate mind has been recreated into a new creation: “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christians are basically “new” people. We live differently and speak differently. Our world is centered on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and how we can serve Him. Also, if we are truly in the faith, we will have the Holy Spirit to help us live a God-honoring life (John 14:26). Those with reprobate minds do not have the Spirit and live only for themselves.

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While most major translations of the Bible don’t specifically use the word stress, Scripture does speak to things such as anxiety, worry and trouble and gives us clear answers on how we should deal with them. The dictionary defines stress as “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension.” Everyone suffers from stress at one time or another. In fact, research indicates that children who live in a stressful home environment are at greater risk to become highly stressed by life’s challenges. Stress can cause us to do things we would not normally do or cause us to shut down completely. Anything that causes stress is called a “stressor.”

Stress can be caused by either processive stressors or systemic stressors. Processive stressors are those that elicit what is called the “fight or flight” reaction. Systemic stressors are our bodies’ automatic physiological responses to stress. Stress takes its toll on all of us to varying degrees, and how we deal with it depends in large part on who we are. It is no wonder that many days we struggle trying to cope with the distresses that come from our jobs, our health or family issues. God has created us and knows that, because of our fallen natures, we can sometimes allow stress to rule our lives.

Many people become stressed because they don’t trust God to provide the basic necessities of life. Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:25, 27). This passage is a classic example of why we get stressed in the first place—we worry about providing for ourselves and our loved ones. We stress over money because we never seem to feel that we have enough. We worry about making ends meet, often living paycheck to paycheck. Or we become consumed by materialism and, in turn, stressed-out about maintaining our lifestyle. Materialism inevitably leads to stress because, when we seek the world’s goods, we have fallen for the “deceitfulness of wealth” (Mark 4:19), the lie that such things relieve stress and lead to happiness, contentment and joy. They do not.

The starting point for dealing with stress is Jesus Christ. Jesus offers us great encouragement in John 14:1: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” We desperately need Him in our lives. We need Him because He is the only one who can give us the strength to cope with the troubles in our lives. Believing in Him does not mean that we will have a trouble-free life or that we will not succumb to stress in our lives. It simply means that a life without Jesus Christ makes coping with stress an impossible and often debilitating task.

Believing leads to trusting. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to “trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Leaning on “our own understanding” often means adopting the world’s ways of relieving stress—things like alcohol or drugs or mindless entertainment. Instead, we are to trust His Word as our ultimate guide to a stress-reduced life. David says, “I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4). David knew that by seeking the Lord and sharing his troubles with Him that perhaps he would find favor with Him. The Lord in turn answered him and calmed him down.

Perhaps no passage in Scripture better captures how to handle stress than Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The Lord tells us not to be anxious about anything, but rather to turn everything over to Him in prayer. Lifting our burdens and concerns to a holy and righteous God daily will mitigate or eliminate the stress in our lives. Psalm 55:22 tells us to cast all our cares on Him because He will sustain us and never fail us. Jesus Christ offers peace if we come to Him with our worries and concerns. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).

Stress of all kinds is a natural part of life (Job 5:7, 14:1; 1 Peter 4:12; 1 Corinthians 10:13). But how we deal with it is up to us. If we choose to try to do it on our own, we face a long, uphill battle that will not end well. The only way we can deal with stress is with Jesus Christ, first by believing in Him. Without believing in Him we are on our own, and success in coping with stress is almost impossible. Second, we need to trust Him and obey Him. We should trust Him to do what is right because His ways are always best for us. Disobedience and sin can produce stress and cut us off from the only means of peace and joy. By obeying His commandments we reap the blessings of true contentment from a loving God. Finally, we need to seek His peace daily by filling our minds with His Word, lifting all things to Him in prayer, and sitting at His feet in awe and reverence. It is only by His grace, mercy and love that the stress in our lives can be managed.

The Bible has many examples of sadness as the result of the fall and applications on how we may glorify God through our sadness. Sadness is either the direct or indirect result of sin, and, since we live in a fallen world, sin is a normal part of life (Psalm 90:10). The psalms are filled with David’s pouring out to God the sadness of his heart. Like David, we often feel that God has abandoned us in our times of sadness caused by those who reject and oppose us. “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Psalm 13:2). But God is always faithful and, as David concludes, our trust in God is never unfounded. “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me (Psalm 13:5-6).

In Psalm 16, David rejoices in his lot as a follower of the one, true God, including a “delightful inheritance” (v. 6), and gladness, rejoicing and security (v. 9), while those who reject Him and follow other gods will find an increase of sorrows (v. 3). But David also endured an increase of sorrow when he found himself outside of God’s blessings because of sin. “For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away” (Psalm 31:10). But in the very next psalm, David rejoices in the mercy of God who forgives those who come to Him in repentance. David’s sorrow turns to multiplied blessing: “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2). In verse 10, David sums up the matter of sadness and sorrow due to sin: “Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.”

The parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-24 also shows us how we are to deal with sin-caused sadness. The characteristics of repentance are conviction of sin, confession of sin to God and others affected by the sin, desire and attempt to make restitution, turning from the sinful ways and pursuing godliness. Our sin should lead to godly sorrow which quickly turns into repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Not all sadness is caused by sin we commit, of course. Sometimes it’s just living in a sin-cursed world among fallen creatures. Job was one who experienced great sorrow and sadness, through no fault of his own. His wealth and ten children were all taken from him at one time, leaving him sitting on an ash heap covered in boils and sores (Job 1–3). To add to his misery, his three “friends” came to comfort him by accusing him of sinning against God. Why else, they reasoned, would a man find himself in such circumstances? But as God revealed to Job and his friends, sometimes God causes or allows circumstances that cause sorrow and sadness in our lives for His holy purposes. And sometimes, too, God doesn’t even explain His reasons to us (Job 38–42).

The psalmist tells us, “As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30). If God’s ways are “perfect,” then we can trust that whatever He does—and whatever He allows—is also perfect. This may not seem possible to us, but our minds are not God’s mind. It is true that we can’t expect to understand His mind perfectly, as He reminds us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Sometimes God’s perfect will includes sadness and sorrow for His children. But we can rejoice in that He never tests us beyond our ability to bear it and always provides the way out from under the burden of sorrow we bear temporarily (1 Corinthians 10:13).

No greater suffering has ever been experienced than that of Jesus, a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). His life was one continued series of sorrows, from the cradle to the cross. In His infancy His life was in danger from Herod, and his parents had to take Him and flee into Egypt (Matthew 2:19-20). His entire ministry was characterized by the sorrow He felt from the hardness and unbelief of men’s hearts, from the opposition of the religious leaders, and even from the fickleness of His own disciples, not to mention from the temptations of Satan. The night before His crucifixion, He was “exceedingly sorrowful unto death” as He contemplated the coming wrath and justice of God which would fall upon Him as He died for His people. So great was His agony that His sweat was as great drops of blood (Matthew 26:38). Of course the greatest sorrow of His life was when on the cross His Father hid His face from the Son, causing Jesus to cry out in agony, “Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Surely no sadness experienced by any of us compares with that of the Savior.

But just as Jesus was restored to the right hand of His Father after enduring sorrow, so can we be assured that through hardships and times of sadness, God uses adversity to make us more like Christ (Romans 8:29; Hebrews 12:10). While life among sinful humanity in this world will never be perfect, we know that God is faithful and that when Christ returns, sorrow will be replaced with rejoicing (Isaiah 35:10). But in the meantime, we use our sorrow to glorify God (1 Peter 1:6-7) and rest in the Lord God Almighty’s grace and peace.

The phrase “soul ties” is not in the Bible; rather, the idea of soul ties is a man-made speculation which some teachers superimpose onto Scripture in an attempt to explain certain human behaviors. Soul ties are said to be connections from one person’s soul to (or into) another person’s soul, a concept that has no basis in Scripture.

The Bible does speak of close friendships, such as that of David and Jonathan. “The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:1 KJV). This is simply a way of expressing Jonathan’s total commitment to, and deep friendship with, David. To try to make this passage teach a mystical binding of the actual soul is unwarranted.

The Bible also warns against entering ungodly relationships. “My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them. … do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths” (Proverbs 1:10, 15). This passage and others like it caution us against the wrong types of friends but stop short of describing any type of spiritual union of souls.

We also have clear warning against fornication in Scripture. “Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.’” (1 Corinthians 6:16). Note that the body is joined; the Bible says nothing of the souls being joined.

The Bible presents evil as addictive; however, nowhere does the Bible speak of “fragmented” souls or “dividing” one’s soul. In short, the Bible gives us clear direction for our lives, and we know the remedy for sin is to confess it and forsake it (1 John 1:9; John 8:11). There is no need for overly complex human theories such as “soul ties.”

In the 1800s, before Darwinian evolution was popularized, most people, when talking about “races,” would be referring to such groups as the “English race,” “Irish race,” and so on. However, this all changed in 1859 when Charles Darwin published his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

Darwinian evolution was (and still is) inherently a racist philosophy, teaching that different groups or “races” of people evolved at different times and rates, so some groups are more like their apelike ancestors than others. Leading evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould claimed, “Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1859, but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory.”

The Australian Aborigines, for instance, were considered the missing links between the apelike ancestor and the rest of mankind. This resulted in terrible prejudices and injustices towards the Australian Aborigines.

Ernst Haeckel, famous for popularizing the now-discredited idea that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,” stated:

At the lowest stage of human mental development are the Australians, some tribes of the Polynesians, and the Bushmen, Hottentots, and some of the Negro tribes. Nothing, however, is perhaps more remarkable in this respect, than that some of the wildest tribes in southern Asia and eastern Africa have no trace whatever of the first foundations of all human civilization, of family life, and marriage. They live together in herds, like apes.

Racist attitudes fueled by evolutionary thinking were largely responsible for an African pygmy being displayed, along with an orangutan, in a cage in the Bronx zoo. Indeed, Congo pygmies were once thought to be “small apelike, elfish creatures” that “exhibit many ape-like features in their bodies.”

As a result of Darwinian evolution, many people started thinking in terms of the different people groups around the world representing different “races,” but within the context of evolutionary philosophy. This has resulted in many people today, consciously or unconsciously, having ingrained prejudices against certain other groups of people.

Scientists today admit that, biologically, there really is only one race of humans.

However, all human beings in the world today are classified as Homo sapiens sapiens. Scientists today admit that, biologically, there really is only one race of humans. For instance, a scientist at the Advancement of Science Convention in Atlanta stated, “Race is a social construct derived mainly from perceptions conditioned by events of recorded history, and it has no basic biological reality.” This person went on to say, “Curiously enough, the idea comes very close to being of American manufacture.”

Get rid of this evolutionized term.

Reporting on research conducted on the concept of race, ABC News stated, “More and more scientists find that the differences that set us apart are cultural, not racial. Some even say that the word race should be abandoned because it’s meaningless.” The article went on to say that “we accept the idea of race because it’s a convenient way of putting people into broad categories, frequently to suppress them—the most hideous example was provided by Hitler’s Germany. And racial prejudice remains common throughout the world.”

In an article in the Journal of Counseling and Development, researchers argued that the term “race” is basically so meaningless that it should be discarded.

More recently, those working on mapping the human genome announced “that they had put together a draft of the entire sequence of the human genome, and the researchers had unanimously declared, there is only one race—the human race.”

Personally, because of the influences of Darwinian evolution and the resulting prejudices, I believe everyone (and especially Christians) should abandon the term “race(s).” We could refer instead to the different “people groups” around the world.

The Bible and “Race”

The Bible does not even use the word race in reference to people, but it does describe all human beings as being of “one blood” (Acts 17:26). This of course emphasizes that we are all related, as all humans are descendants of the first man, Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), who was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). The Last Adam, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:45) also became a descendant of Adam. Any descendant of Adam can be saved because our mutual relative by blood (Jesus Christ) died and rose again. This is why the gospel can (and should) be preached to all tribes and nations.

Can the Bible be used to justify racist atitudes?

The inevitable question arises, “If the Bible teaches all humans are the same, where was the church during the eras of slavery and segregation? Doesn’t the Bible actually condone the enslavement of a human being by another?”

Both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible mention slaves and slavery. As with all other biblical passages, these must be understood in their grammatical-historical context.

Dr. Walter Kaiser, former president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Old Testament scholar, states:

The laws concerning slavery in the Old Testament appear to function to moderate a practice that worked as a means of loaning money for Jewish people to one another or for handling the problem of the prisoners of war. Nowhere was the institution of slavery as such condemned; but then, neither did it have anything like the connotations it grew to have during the days of those who traded human life as if it were a mere commodity for sale. . . . In all cases the institution was closely watched and divine judgment was declared by the prophets and others for all abuses they spotted.

Job recognized that all were equal before God, and all should be treated as image-bearers of the Creator.

If I have despised the cause of my male or female servant when they complained against me, what then shall I do when God rises up? When He punishes, how shall I answer Him? Did not He who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same One fashion us in the womb? (Job 31:13–15)

In commenting on Paul’s remarks to the slaves in his epistles, Peter H. Davids writes:

The church never adopted a rule that converts had to give up their slaves. Christians were not under law but under grace. Yet we read in the literature of the second century and later of many masters who upon their conversion freed their slaves. The reality stands that it is difficult to call a person a slave during the week and treat them like a brother or sister in the church. Sooner or later the implications of the kingdom they experienced in church seeped into the behavior of the masters during the week. Paul did in the end create a revolution, not one from without, but one from within, in which a changed heart produced changed behavior and through that in the end brought about social change. This change happened wherever the kingdom of God was expressed through the church, so the world could see that faith in Christ really was a transformation of the whole person.

The forced enslavement of another human being goes against the biblical teaching that all humans were created in the image of God and are of equal standing before Him.

Those consistently living out their Christian faith realize that the forced enslavement of another human being goes against the biblical teaching that all humans were created in the image of God and are of equal standing before Him (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). Indeed, the most ardent abolitionists during the past centuries were Bible-believing Christians. John Wesley, Granville Sharp, William Wilberforce, Jonathan Edwards, Jr., and Thomas Clarkson all preached against the evils of slavery and worked to bring about the abolition of the slave trade in England and North America. Harriet Beecher Stowe conveyed this message in her famous novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. And of course, who can forget the change in the most famous of slave traders? John Newton, writer of “Amazing Grace,” eventually became an abolitionist after his conversion to Christianity, when he embraced the truth of Scripture.

“Racial” Differences

But some people think there must be different races of people because there appear to be major differences between various groups, such as skin color and eye shape.

The truth . . . is that these so-called “racial characteristics” are only minor variations among people groups.

The truth, though, is that these so-called “racial characteristics” are only minor variations among people groups. If one were to take any two people anywhere in the world, scientists have found that the basic genetic differences between these two people would typically be around 0.2 percent—even if they came from the same people group. But these so-called “racial” characteristics that people think are major differences (skin color, eye shape, etc.) “account for only 0.012 percent of human biological variation.”

Dr. Harold Page Freeman, chief executive, president, and director of surgery at North General Hospital in Manhattan, reiterates, “If you ask what percentage of your genes is reflected in your external appearance, the basis by which we talk about race, the answer seems to be in the range of 0.01 percent.”

In other words, the so-called “racial” differences are absolutely trivial— overall, there is more variation within any group than there is between one group and another. If a white person is looking for a tissue match for an organ transplant, for instance, the best match may come from a black person, and vice versa. ABC News claims, “What the facts show is that there are differences among us, but they stem from culture, not race.”

No big difference between any two people

The only reason many people think these differences are major is because they’ve been brought up in a culture that has taught them to see the differences this way. Dr. Douglas C. Wallace, professor of molecular genetics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, stated, “The criteria that people use for race are based entirely on external features that we are programmed to recognize.”

If the Bible teaches and science confirms that all are of the same human race and all are related as descendants of Adam, then why are there such seemingly great differences between us (for example, in skin color)? The answer, again, comes with a biblically informed understanding of science.

 

Resources: AnswersinGenisis

 

unclean-things“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (Isaiah 64:6). This passage is often used as a proof text to condemn all our acts of goodness as nothing more than “filthy rags” in the eyes of God. The context of this passage is referring specifically to the Israelites in Isaiah’s time (760—670 B.C.) who had strayed from God. Isaiah was writing concerning his nation and their hypocrisy. Yet he includes himself in the description, saying “we” and “our.” Isaiah was redeemed and set apart as a prophet of God, yet he saw himself as part of a group that was utterly sinful. The doctrine of total depravity is taught clearly elsewhere in Scripture (e.g., Ephesians 2:1–5), and the illustration of Isaiah 64:6 could rightly be applied to the whole world, especially given Isaiah’s inclusion of himself in the description.

The term “filthy rags” is quite strong. The word filthy is a translation of the Hebrew word iddah, which literally means “the bodily fluids from a woman’s menstrual cycle.” The word rags is a translation of begged, meaning “a rag or garment.” Therefore, these “righteous acts” are considered by God as repugnant as a soiled feminine hygiene product.

As Isaiah wrote this, the Israelites had been the recipients of numerous miraculous blessings from God. Yet they had turned their backs on Him by worshipping false gods (Isaiah 42:17), making sacrifices and burning incense on strange altars (Isaiah 65:3–5). Isaiah had even called Jerusalem a harlot and compared it to Sodom (Isaiah 3:9). These people had an illusion of their own self-righteousness. Yet God did not esteem their acts of righteousness as anything but “polluted garments” or “filthy rags.” Their apostasy, or falling away from the law of God, had rendered their righteous works totally unclean. “Like the wind, [their] sins were sweeping them away” (Isaiah 64:6). Martin Luther said, “The most damnable and pernicious heresy that has ever plagued the mind of man is that somehow he can make himself good enough to deserve to live forever with an all-holy God.”

Though self-righteousness is condemned throughout the Bible (Ezekiel 33:13; Romans 3:27; Titus 3:5), we are, in fact, commanded to do good works. Paul explained that we cannot do anything to save ourselves, but our salvation comes only as a result of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8–9). Then he proclaimed that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10; see also 2 Corinthians 3:5).

Our salvation is not the result of any of our efforts, abilities, intelligent choices, personal characteristics, or acts of service we may perform. However, as believers, we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works”—to help and serve others. While there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation, God’s intention is that our salvation will result in acts of service. We are saved not merely for our own benefit but to serve Christ and build up the church (Ephesians 4:12). This reconciles the seeming conflict between faith and works. Our righteous acts do not produce salvation but are, in fact, evidence of our salvation (James 1:22; 2:14–26).

In the end, we must recognize that even our righteous acts come as a result of God within us, not of ourselves. On our own, our “righteousness” is simply self-righteousness, and vain, hypocritical religion produces nothing more than “filthy rags.”

What does the Bible say that would apply to selfies?

The term selfie, which was the Oxford Dictionary’s 2013 word of the year, refers to a photo taken of oneself, usually with a camera phone, and posted on a social media site. Selfies can range from silly “duck-faced” snapshots to pornographic videos. A “selfie culture” is one in which people take a lot of selfies, of course. But, for the purposes of this article, we will further define a selfie culture as a widespread obsession with self-expression, self-esteem, and self-promotion, evidenced by the proliferation of self-portraits on social media. The Bible was written before the advent of camera phones, but God’s Word still has plenty to say about one’s view of self.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with taking a selfie and sharing it with others, selfie culture, as defined above, is steeped in narcissism. Need yourself to appear thinner before posting? There’s an app for that. The selfie mentality seems to find a boldness and arrogance behind the camera that would never be expressed in person: there are selfie sub-categories such as “selfies with homeless people” and “selfies at funerals.” By posting selfies, any person can taste a droplet of fame, which can quickly become addicting. However, this obsession can impact self-worth and true relationships when personal value is based upon the number of “likes,” followers, replies, or comments received in response.

When we apply biblical standards to the mindset commonly advanced in the selfie culture, we find an immediate clash of values. Jesus called John the Baptist “the greatest in the kingdom of God” (Luke 7:28). Yet John’s approach to personal fame is summed up in his famous statement “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Jesus was clear that to be great in the kingdom of God one must become a servant (Matthew 23:11). His life was the antithesis of the selfie culture’s obsession with self. Whenever the people tried to make Jesus king, He slipped away from them and went to lonely places to pray (John 6:15).

Jesus also rebuked what we could call a selfie culture among some of those who desired to follow Him. Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26–27). In direct opposition to our self-centered desires, Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25).

For the modern church living in the selfie culture, the New Testament expounds upon Jesus’ words, exhorting us to stand firm in the teachings we first received. Galatians 5:24 reminds us that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Those “passions and desires” are described in 1 John 2:15–16 as “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” The “pride of life” certainly defines self-absorption.

A selfie culture obsessed with self-expression cannot get enough of itself. Like lust or greed, an insatiable thirst for attention only grows when indulged. We are told not to chase after self-gratification and so distinguish ourselves from those who do not know God (1 Thessalonians 4:3–7). We are also instructed not to desire to be rich but to seek wisdom, godliness, and contentment instead (1 Timothy 6:6, 9–10; Proverbs 3:13–16).

Christians living in the selfie culture must beware of creating a “selfie Christianity.” Rather than challenge our culture’s self-absorption, many Christian leaders cater to it. The shift has been subtle but unmistakable. Rather than glorify the character of God, many sermon points now begin with the word you and focus on how God can help you in your life with your dreams. Instead of teaching the cost of discipleship as Jesus did (Luke 14:26–32), too many teachers promote seeking “your best life now” or tantalize with the promise of blessing for those who “pray this prayer after me.” Rarely is the depravity of man mentioned in the cathedrals that attract the carnally minded. Instead, the messages are light on Scripture and heavy on flattery and self-worship. Couched as “encouragement,” these selfie messages substitute biblical words like sin, repentance, and sacrifice with more pleasing terms such as mistakes, change, and believe in yourself. This selfie culture is seeing a fulfillment of 2 Timothy 4:3, which warns, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

The battle cries of New Testament Christianity have always been “Take up your cross and follow Jesus! Be crucified with Christ. Store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, not here on earth” (Luke 9:23; Galatians 2:20; Matthew 6:19). But the battle cries of selfie Christianity sound like this: “God thinks you are awesome! Follow your dreams! Speak positively, and God will bless it.” This pseudo-gospel has integrated with the selfie culture, and the heresy is going virtually undetected by millions.

Psalm 119:36 says, “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain.” The focus of the Bible is God, not us. The Bible is the historical account of God’s limitless love pursuing undeserving Man. It is the story of redemption, accessed only through repentance (Matthew 4:17; Acts 3:19). God does bless His people (Genesis 24:1; Psalm 128:1). He does delight in pouring out His grace, mercy, and blessing on those who fear Him (Ephesians 1:6; Psalm 112:1). But when we view God as a merely a means to obtain earthly blessing, we have bought into a false gospel. When Jesus is presented as the ticket to get what we want from God, “another Jesus” is being preached (see 2 Corinthians 11:4).

As we take our selfies and post them for others to see, we must take care to maintain godliness, modesty, and propriety. Selfie culture tends to foster a love of self. But Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Mark 12:30). When we love God, obedience follows naturally. We cannot love God biblically and continue to be infatuated with ourselves. The closer we draw to God, the more we see the depravity of our own hearts. Self-infatuation has no room for the love of God. We can only serve one master (Matthew 6:24). Jesus came not to refine our flesh but to kill it (Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20), and until we are willing to crucify our selfie mindset, we cannot be His true disciples.

232228-i-have-decided-to-stick-with-loveEthnocentrism is the belief that a particular race or ethnic group is superior to all others and all other races and ethnic groups are to be subjectively measured in relation to that race or ethnic group. It is a system of belief that leads to extreme pride and lack of concern for others. Simply put, ethnocentrism is another name for racism, which has been a plague on humanity for centuries and the cause of the death of millions. It is time for this to stop for there is no place among God’s people for the ethnocentric attitudes which lead to racism. Such attitudes are contrary to Scripture and displeasing to God.

Biblically, ethnocentrism is sin. All men and women are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27, 9:6), although that image is corrupted by sin. It is because we are created in His image that God does not show partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34). I think it important to note here Jesus did not lay down His life for a particular race of people, but by His death He “purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). The Israelites were ethnocentric by virtue of being God’s chosen people, but His choice was not based on their merit, but on His mercy and grace. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus came to save the world, both Jews and Gentiles. Paul bears this out by saying, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28) and “there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Colossians 3:11).

Jesus destroyed all barriers of race and ethnicity with His death on the cross. As Paul said in Ephesians 2:14, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” Ethnocentrism, whether based on historical grudges or on the erroneous teachings of men, is wholly contrary to God’s Word. We are commanded to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34), and such a command precludes any discrimination based on race or culture.

How can I quit?

Many Christians who have been heavy smokers for years can readily empathize with the plight of anyone trying to quit smoking and can fully understand the struggle experienced by those who desire to quit. It’s certainly not easy, but it can be done. Many two-pack-a-day smokers are now smoke-free and can attest to the fact that it can be done when we turn it over to God and rely on His strength and power.

There are numerous reasons why quitting the smoking habit is a good idea for everyone, but especially for Christians. If a Christian is unsure of why to quit smoking and unsure as to whether or not it constitutes sin, our article entitled “What is the Christian view of smoking? Is smoking a sin?” would be a good place to start. The reasons outlined in the article should provide ample motivation to a smoker who is still unsure whether or not to quit. If one has already determined to quit smoking, it should be understood that stopping smoking is known to be one of the most difficult things to do. Research has shown that nicotine is a very addictive substance, even more addictive than heroin, some say.

But that fact need not discourage us. Paul tells us in Philippians, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Philippians 4:13 (NKJV). Even though it is difficult, and full withdrawal may take time before one no longer desires cigarettes, as Christians we are to look to God from whom our help comes. We set our hearts on things above and pray the Lord will give us the strength to gain the victory in this trial. So many people leave the Lord out in their attempt to overcome bad habits, and that is a huge mistake. Prayer is expressly for these types of situations, where we can take our problems directly to the throne of God and to Him who can solve them.

Relying on the power of the Holy Spirit does not necessarily mean that medical stop-smoking aids cannot be used as well. Many have received great help through the various patches, gums, pills, etc. After prayer and consultation with a doctor, if God gives you peace about using a medical stop-smoking aid, there is no biblical reason why you cannot.

God has declared that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). Where we are weak, He is strong. Our desire for cigarettes will be reduced as we grow and gain strength in the Lord. The power of God will work within us to alleviate the pressure to smoke, all to His glory. God will give us the strength to put Christ first and ourselves last. In this we will find that what we give up will be more than compensated by what we gain.

Is smoking a sin?

The Bible never directly mentions smoking. There are principles, however, that definitely apply to smoking. First, the Bible commands us not to allow our bodies to become “mastered” by anything. “Everything is permissible for me—but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me—but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Smoking is undeniably strongly addictive. Later in the same passage we are told, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Smoking is undoubtedly very bad for your health. Smoking has been proven to damage the lungs and the heart.

Can smoking be considered “beneficial” (1 Corinthians 6:12)? Can it be said that smoking is truly honoring God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:20)? Can a person honestly smoke “for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31)? We believe that the answer to these three questions is a resounding “no.” As a result, we believe that smoking is a sin and therefore should not be practiced by followers of Jesus Christ.

Some argue against this view by pointing to the fact that many people eat unhealthy foods, which can be just as addicting and just as bad for the body. As an example, many people are so helplessly addicted to caffeine that they cannot function without their first cup of coffee in the morning. While this is true, how does that make smoking right? It is my contention that Christians should avoid gluttony and excessively unhealthy eating. Yes, Christians are often hypocritical by condemning one sin and condoning another, but, again, this does not make smoking honoring to God.

Another argument against this view of smoking is that many godly men have been smokers, such as the famous British preacher C.H. Spurgeon, who was known to smoke cigars. Again, I do not believe this argument holds any weight.  I believe Spurgeon was wrong for smoking. Was he otherwise a godly man and fantastic teacher of God’s Word? Absolutely! Does that make all of his actions and habits honoring to God? No.

In stating that smoking is a sin, we are not stating that all smokers are unsaved. There are many true believers in Jesus Christ who smoke. Smoking does not prevent a person from being saved. Nor does it cause a person to lose salvation. Smoking is no less forgivable than any other sin, whether for a person becoming a Christian or a Christian confessing his/her sin to God (1 John 1:9). At the same time, we firmly believe that smoking is a sin that should be forsaken and, with God’s help, overcome.