The Consoling Personal Word

The consolations of God - Ninth in a series

The entire word of God is consoling. Even its rebukes are life-giving to the one who has ears. In addition, at times the Lord imparts a special word to a believer.

The special word I refer to is not a "rhema" as some Christian teachers have suggested. In the New Testament, God's word is sometimes defined as "logos" and others times as "rhema." Some examples in Scripture of each are:

  • In the beginning was the Word [logos], and the Word [logos] was with God, and the Word [logos] was God. (John 1:1)
  • Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word [logos] of truth.(II Timothy 2:15)
  • And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word [rhema] of God (Ephesians 6:17)
  • If ye abide in me, and my words [rhema] abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (John 15:7)

By definition, "rhema" is God's speech or discourse and "logos" denotes doctrine or divine reason or plan.

God often speaks through the Bible to us by causing certain passages to stand out that have specific application to our lives. Some say this is God's special word or "rhema" to us. So, perhaps at times the logos becomes the rhema?

The special word to comfort or guide us that I refer to may echo a Bible passage, or may not. My dad told me that after he had learned of mom's terminal illness and was in deep distress, God spoke his name and then said, "Everything will be all right." Dad was driving, and not expecting any revelation. He was extremely practical. This private word did not mean that mom would get well, but it was such a definite counsel, expression and impression that, after hearing it, Dad gained strength and peace to cope. And he continued to love and serve God after mom's death.

Some would say, "Well, couldn't he have known that simply by reading the Word of God?" Yes, certainly, but that would not have worked the same result.

Anyone who faithfully reads the Bible will hear the voice of God and be guided to apply his wisdom to their circumstances, and anyone may also receive a special word. Yet, to make a point of seeking that personal word can be a devastating practice.

Seeking a word from God apart from his canon, the Bible, is a dangerous pursuit and ought not to be encouraged. For that reason, in this post I will also warn against certain charismatic practices that may engender counterfeits of the special, personal word.

An excellent book, War on the Saints, by Jessie Penn-Lewis and Evan Roberts, published in 1912, and now online, free, addresses this topic.

Here is a somewhat difficult-to-read excerpt from the foreword in my print copy of the book, that addresses how saints become susceptible to Satan's counterfeits of God's special words and why the book was written:

The adventists of Thessalonica, who refused their normal obligations in the interest of a complete self-preparation for the Lord's Coming, have had their representatives in many strange sects in Europe and America, who have been carried into amazing extravagancies of creed and conduct. St. Paul's brusque judgment, 'If a man will not work, neither let him eat' (2 Th 3:10) applies to them all. The ascetics of Colossæ whose punctilious rigorism co-existed with a perilous moral laxity, have had their successors in every Christian generation. Medieval monks and modern sectaries come together here. Both illustrate, in varying ways, the same spiritual malady. Such total prostration of the individual before the mandates of the Divine Spirit seems to argue a genuine humility, but the implied assumption of plenary and direct personal inspiration discloses and fosters a spiritual arrogance none the less morally disintegrating because it is unsuspected. Experience has ever endorsed the great Apostle's verdict. Over the whole woeful pageant of self-willed pietism with its eccentric, arbitrary, even monstrous demands on its victims, the words may be written: 'which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.' (Col 2:23)

An aftermath of the Welsh Revival at the dawn of the present [20th] century was the rise of a number of extreme cults, often stressing a return to "pentecostal" practices. Mrs. Penn-Lewis, who had witnessed much of the Revival as the representative of The Life of Faith, saw clearly the peril of these fanatical teachings, and in collaboration with Mr. Evan Roberts, who played so prominent a part in the Revival, wrote a book, War on the Saints. In this book these extreme and overbalanced beliefs and practices are categorically branded as the work of an invading host of evil spirits. The word "deception" might be said to be the key word of the book…”

War on the Saints made a great impression on me when I read it many years ago. I wrote down a number of its insights, and here are three that teach us, yes, honest souls CAN BE DECEIVED (the point of the book):

  1. Deception has to do with the mind, and it means a wrong thought admitted to the mind, under the deception that it is truth.
  2. The thought that God will protect a believer from being deceived if he is true and faithful, is in itself a Deception because it throws a person off guard, and ignores that there are conditions on the part of the believer which must be fulfilled for God's working.
  3. Heresies in the Church often have begun with a great crisis in which a man is brought to give himself up in full abandonment to the Holy Spirit, thus opening himself to the supernatural powers of the invisible world.

Beware of any personal word from the Lord that follows from a meditative state, irrational exuberance or other upset. Nevertheless, the Lord may impart a special word. As well, he is not limited to consolation in this practice.

Objections to Christmas Answered

Thanksgivings on Special Occasions - Third in a series

Christmas originated as a way of lifting up God's Son as the Light of the world, to counter pagan celebrations. In 320 AD Pope Julius set December 25 as the official date of Jesus' birth; then the Emperor Constantine proclaimed it as an ‘immovable feast’ in 325 AD —so it does not change in date from year to year as Easter does. Constantine also decreed that Sunday would be the Roman day of rest.

Not all Christians today nor across the centuries have seen Constantine’s proclamations as binding, yet even after 17 centuries some still are honored. The U.S. established Dec. 25th as a federal holiday in 1887 after 14 states had made it a legal holiday. All non-essential government offices, schools, banks and many businesses close, giving families an opportunity to travel and have reunions. A good thing!

Nevertheless, in Daniel, we read: And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand… (Dan 7:25) This prophecy seems to say that the Antichrist will have the power to change or to erase ‘immovable’ dates.

U.S. law notwithstanding, some still object to celebrating Christmas. They object to the mention of the “mass” in the word Christmas. Mass is the Roman Catholic term for communion. Yet we all understand that Christmas celebrates Christ's birth. We use common terms such as ‘baptism’ with other denominations despite each having specific connotations. We also accept and use the word Sunday which has reference to the sun god's day, associated originally with pagan worship, as Monday was the ‘moon's day’ and Tuesday was named for the god of war, and so on.

Many festivals were celebrated at the time of the 16th century Reformation such as the feasts of the apostles, of Mary and others, and practices had been added to church life that encouraged superstitions and heresy. It was time for purification and revival; the Catholics agree here.

The church has re-formed and evolved over time in its understanding and practices. For example, the Trinity was defined in the third century, definitions of heresies were added at various junctures, the "full humanity and full divinity" of Jesus was established in the 5th century, and some things that were not part of the New Testament church have become usual, such as church buildings, creeds and confessions, tiny cups and miniature crackers for communion, baptistries, Sanctity of Life Sunday, handbells, and thanksgivings on special occasions.

Many of us object to the debauchery—the “extravagant merriment… bacchanalian lasciviousness” in the season of Christmas. Merchandising and retail mayhem, puddings and candies, liquors, parties, jingle bells, ho-ho-ho, Secret Santas, gaudy decorations and blending the secular with the holy. Yet, there is also the divine joy of Christmas hymns, caroling, special decor, worship and family gatherings.

Objections are sounded against “adding to the Bible”– which Scripture forbids – (Deut 4:2; Prov 30:5-6; Rev 22:18) and degrading the worship of God:

  • “All modes of worship must be expressly sanctioned by God's word, if they are to be considered legitimate. Since Christmas observances, and other ecclesiastical festivals, are not commanded in the scriptures, they fail to meet divine approval, even if there were no additional objections to them." (Presbyterian Heritage Publications)
  • “The sons of Aaron are … condemned for bringing strange, or ordinary fire to God's worship; as doing that which God had not commanded, and yet had not otherwise forbidden... And this is the very plea which we make against ceremonies of human institution, in God's worship." (William Ames (1576-1633), prominent English Puritan)
    • “The strange fire of Nadab and Abihu was fire that did not come from the brazen altar; therefore, it is a type of failing to worship God on the ground of the shed blood of Christ." (ref)

Celebrating the birth and incarnation of the Lord at a special time of year as a tradition does not add “strange fire” that is, a different definition of what it means to be saved. Rather, it focuses us even more on Jesus Christ as Lord, born of a virgin, the Word made flesh.

Despite the commercialization, Christmas offers opportunities for evangelism that don't exist otherwise, and helps to teach church history and important facts about Jesus. Any special church service such as on Christmas Eve or Day can become a time for outreach.

Not all Christians celebrate Christmas, and no one should be forced to. Each year I look forward to Christmas, and celebrating it does help me to worship.

This blog series will continue some time in the New Year, DV, Deo Volente, God willing. Merry Christmas!

Christmas and Protestants

Thanksgivings on Special Occasions - Second in a series

About two months ago a blog series was begun on SistersSite, “Thanksgivings on Special Occasions.” The first post spotlighted the American Thanksgiving holiday. Now we look toward Christmas.

As was mentioned in the first post, the Reformation turned a fresh page on Church experience. Whereas the Catholics instituted many feast days with no basis in Scripture, the Protestants would only observe Sunday for worship and Thanksgivings on special occasions which would not take place on a Sunday.

Christmas was not one of those days of thanksgiving, for it antedated the Reformation by a dozen centuries. It was banned. But over time, it returned as a Christian holiday for Protestants by popular demand. Perhaps that is one time in history that mob rule in Protestant churches was not a bad thing. After all, Christmas may easily be viewed as a perfect occasion for thanksgiving to God.

Here is a very brief view to the origin of Christmas penned by the late R.C. Sproul, a reformed Presbyterian.

Is the celebration of Christmas a pagan ritual?

That question comes up every year at Christmastime. In the first place, there’s no direct biblical commandment to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25. There’s nothing in the Bible that would even indicate that Jesus was born on December 25. In fact, there’s much in the New Testament narratives that would indicate that it didn’t occur during that time of year. It just so happens that on the twenty-fifth of December in the Roman Empire there was a pagan holiday that was linked to mystery religions; the pagans celebrated their festival on December 25. The Christians didn’t want to participate in that, and so they said, “While everybody else is celebrating this pagan thing, we’re going to have our own celebration. We’re going to celebrate the thing that’s most important in our lives, the incarnation of God, the birth of Jesus Christ. So this is going to be a time of joyous festivities, of celebration and worship of our God and King."

I can’t think of anything more pleasing to Christ than the church celebrating his birthday every year.

The darkest time of the calendar year approaches. The winter solstice of 2019 will occur on December 21st. Also known as midwinter, it marks the shortest day of the year. One would think that, as a symbol, Christmas might better be aligned with the day after the winter solstice, for the increasing of the light—Glory to the newborn king! But then that date is the very opposite for the southern hemisphere, so it would not be universal.

A good article on the history behind the dating of Christmas is here.

Attention Readers

Have you visited the Biotech Blog on this website? Find information and resources to help you think about biotech as a Christian.

During the summer of 2017, I explored the topic of kidney donation. Is it right for a society to permit that? To encourage it? What do you think? Read the Live Kidney Donation Series!

Should you sign your driver’s license to be an organ donor? Is cremation OK with God? Do these practices undermine the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection?

Learn more. The conscience cannot function without facts.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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