Spiritual

Gateways that go nowhere

Top Image GatewaysGateways usualy open into something, but every so often I come accross gateways that go nowhere.

When something interesting, troubling, enlightening or important comes my way, I like to write a short article about it. Just the other day, someone sent me a booklet titled, ‘Gateways of the Threefold Nature of Man’. A quick scan revealed that the author had built a fanciful ‘spiritual’ teaching based largely on two texts from the book of Revelation. Here they are:

Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me”. This verse is part of a letter the Lord Jesus dictated to the church of Laodicea. The author of the ‘Gateways’ booklet claimed that Jesus discussed this verse with him and revealed that He, Jesus, was actually referring to the door to a believer’s spirit.

The second key verse for this author was where Jesus wrote to the Ephesian church and told them that, “You have forsaken your first love” (Revelation 2:4). He identified this as meaning the ‘Gateway of First Love’ leading to the Tree of Life located right in the centre of the human spirit. Good grief! If you don’t understand this, then don’t worry becuase I don’t get it either.

Now how can a responsible reader of scripture extract this sort of thing from the texts mentioned? I think that the answer to this question is, ‘because of a flawed understanding of biblical inspiration’. Some folk, most probably like the author in question, believe that the Bible is a form of holy magic book where texts contain mystical information quite unrelated to the intended meaning of the passage. This is a form of the irresponsible allergisation, which I address in my book Truth is The Word.  It is a way of interpreting the Bible where any text can mean anything the reader fancies it to mean.

So, what do those verses mean?

Take the two examples I have cited here. In Revelation 3:14-22 the Lord Jesus reprimands the church of Laodicea for being lukewarm and worldly. Yet despite their pathetic spiritual condition, He offers to come into the church to commune with them if anyone is prepared to open the door to his presence. And no, this is not a text to use as part of an altar call inviting individuals to respond to Jesus – this is also faulty interpretation.

The Revelation 2:4 quote is where Jesus commends the church for its healthy condition, but then writes that He had just one thing against them in that they have forsaken their first love. The biblical text does not explain just what He meant by that statement, but in the context of the letter and the whole book of Revelation it is much more likely to mean that they had lost the love they used to have for him when first they believed.

My two main take-away points from this recent re-exposure to faulty interpretation are:

  1. We get into a terrible doctrinal mess when we play fast and loose with interpreting the Bible. The foundational elements of sound biblical understanding remain as Context, Christocentricity, and Exhaustive Reference. (See HERE for an explanation of what I mean).
  2. We should be sceptical and critical of any theory, system, or understanding of a Bible verse based on flawed interpretation. At best, it will be an expression of an individual’s own philosophy or imagination.

Bear in mind that it is one thing to believe that the Bible is inspired and quite another thing to interpret it responsibly.

If you have any particular biblical passage that you still can’t understand even after applying the three principles I have mentioned, then post your problem as a comment to this article and I will try to help you with it.

 

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Spiritual Warfare 2 Feature image

Spiritual Warfare – The Real Battle

Top image Spiritual Warfare Part 2

In my previous article, I wrote about the implications for Christians and the church for those who believe in and practice spiritual warfare as it is commonly presented. In this follow-up article, I want to deal with what I understand as the real nature of spiritual warfare.

Although the term itself is not found in scripture, Paul does allude to some sort of conflict between the powers of darkness and the church. For instance, in Ephesians 6:12 he wrote, ‘For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’. Jesus also alluded to this conflict when He declared; “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). There is also Daniel’s account of a celestial being who appeared to him and told him that the ‘prince of the Persian Kingdom’ had detained him until Michael came to help him (Daniel 10:13).

There is a spiritual conflict between the forces of darkness and the church

There is no doubt that, according to the biblical testimony, demons exist, are opposed to the things of God, and take every opportunity to harass the church. Peter confirmed this when he warned us that ‘your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8). However, Jesus spoke about the forces of darkness attacking the church but not overcoming her, and Paul wrote of putting on the whole armour of God ‘so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes’. He concluded with the injunction to ‘stand your ground, and after you have done everything, (to) stand’ (Ephesians 6:11-13).

The devil attacks and we defend, not the other way around. Teaching that encourages us to go on the offensive with all sorts of imagined tactics does not stand on firm biblical ground.
‘Yes, but what about Jesus’s teaching on binding the strong man so we can plunder his house?’ Yes indeed, what about it – The reference is to Luke 11:21-22 (Matthew 12:29 and Mark 3:27), which reads; “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armour in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils”. Here, some Jewish teachers had just accused Jesus of being in league with the devil and driving out demons by the power of Beelzebub. Jesus’ rebuttal was that if He was part of the kingdom of darkness then why would He weaken that kingdom by driving out its citizens. To ILLUSTRATE this He used the example of a robber who would have to subdue the owner of a house before he could plunder his possessions. The point is clear; how could He, Jesus, drive out demons if He had not already overcome the householder (the devil). It is silly to use this illustration as a warrant for ‘binding strongmen’ through prayer warfare, and other extra-biblical ‘spiritual warfare’ techniques.

The real weapons we use

If we are not supposed to ‘fight the devil’ with binding strong men, breaking curses, spiritual mapping, and so on, then what are the weapons of our warfare? Well, Paul described how he fought the good fight as follows: ‘In purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left…’ (2 Corinthians 6:6-7). Then in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 he expanded with: ’For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’. Now add to this the analogy he presented in Ephesians of the armour of God and we have quite a good description of the real weapons of spiritual warfare – truth, righteousness, the proclamation of the gospel, faith, salvation, and prayer. Of course, the Lord Jesus also included healing and deliverance in our arsenal.

So, we fight the devil by disciplining our minds to resist sin, by living pure lives, and by exhibiting understanding, patience, and kindness. We fight by loving, by speaking truthfully, by teaching the truth that demolishes all proud pretensions, and by proclaiming the good news of salvation in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. We wage war by exercising faith, by praying, by healing the sick, and by delivering the demonized. All of these in the power of the Holy Spirit.
This then is how I understand the nature of spiritual conflict and the real defensive weapons at our disposal.

So, the call is to go out into the world, wearing our full spiritual armour and:

  1. Refrain from sin (resist the devil and he will flee from you – James 4:7)
  2. Live a biblical life and with love
  3. Tell others about Jesus, and
  4. Exercise faith by healing sick and delivering the demonized.

All in the authority of the Lord Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit!

 

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Feature image Dependence on the Holy Spirit

Dependence on the Holy Spirit

Top image for post on Dependence on the Holy Spirit

Many years ago, I established the three foundational principles of our local church as:

  1. The authority of the Bible,
  2. the centrality of Jesus Christ, and,
  3. dependence on the Holy Spirit.

In this article I want to focus on just the third of these principles, which reads;

‘We believe that we are to trust and obey God the Holy Spirit, embrace all that the Scriptures reveal of Him and His ministry, and rely on His empowerment for life and ministry.’

To depend on the Holy Spirit is to look to Him to reveal Jesus to us in and through the medium of inspired scripture. It also includes an expectation that He will communicate with us ‘prophetically’, within the bounds of biblical truth. We expect Him to guide and instruct us specifically, when He chooses to do so, where scripture provides only general principle or precedent.
If we truly depend on the Holy Spirit then we will accept our inability, apart from His anointing, and be willing to seek and receive His empowerment.

This empowerment is:

  • Firstly, to enable us to live Jesus-manifesting lives in terms of our witness, values, priorities and general life-styles. Galatians chapter 5 describes these attributes as the Fruit of the Spirit.However, the Holy Spirit’s empowerment is also to
  • Enable us to minister to others, in the power of the Holy Spirit, in a Jesus-manifesting way. Paul describes these supernatural endowments as Gifts of the Spirit.

Our dependence on The Spirit is not either for daily life or for spiritual ministry, but for both – fruit and Gifts.

Historically, conservative Protestants have tended to major on the Fruit while Pentecostals and Charismatics have majored on the Gifts. Both of these positions display only a partial dependence on the Holy Spirit, while full dependence demands reliance on His empowerment for both life and ministry, fruit and gifts.

To end where I started, I want to point out that we should not attempt to separate the three foundational principles from one another. We need to understand and practice ‘Spirit-dependant’ within the context of ‘Bible-based’ and ‘Christ-centred’. The Bible does not prescribe the Holy Spirit’s work, but our understanding and application of His ministry certainly should be. We have a limited ability to comprehend the human inbuilt bias towards self-serving manipulation. Therefore, we need to be informed and limited by the scriptural revelation. It is not that we do not trust the Holy Spirit, but rather that we should have a healthy awareness of our own limitations.

Similarly, the Holy Spirit constantly points us to Jesus and a focus on His life and ministry will surely keep us both Bible-based and Spirit-dependant. The Bible reveals Jesus to us and we encounter and come to know Him primarily in and through the scriptures. Yet, the Holy Spirit illuminates and reveals Jesus, the Living Word to us through the Bible, the Written Word.

Bible-based, Christ-centred, and Spirit-dependent form a concise condensation of the foundational principles on which the church and our individual lives stand.

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.