Hebrews Lesson 48 March 30, 2006
NKJ Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
We have been in Hebrews 5:11 talking about the sluggish believer for a couple of weeks and what makes a believer sluggish. The short version is that what makes a believer sluggish is his sin nature. When we get distracted by the sin nature and start walking by means of the flesh that shuts down our spiritual growth, our spiritual advance.
NKJ Galatians 5:16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
The Greek construction there is really important. It is a double negative (which you don't have in the English, but you do in the Greek) plus the subjunctive form of the verb which is the strongest way to voice impossibility in the Greek language.
Walk by means of the Spirit and you will not (or it will be impossible for you to) bring to completion the lusts of the flesh.
Then in the next verse we are told that the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit lusts against the flesh. There is this tug of war that takes place in the believer's life. We are involved in a spiritual warfare that involves three different enemies. Two of these enemies are what we are focusing on in this study right now. That is the flesh which is our old sin nature which is the enemy within, our internal enemy. Then what the Bible calls worldliness or the world system based on the Greek word kosmos which has to do with the structure of the culture, the pagan or human viewpoint culture, that surrounds all of us. Ever since the fall of Adam as society developed there has been this movement within culture to try to handle the pressures and problems of life to explain existence apart from God – to look to other sources of knowledge other than God. This is of course what got Eve into trouble in the first place. Rather than relying upon God's revelation for her source of knowledge about the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, she went to an alternative source of knowledge and listened to the serpent and his temptation.
As we look at this issue in Galatians 5:16. That's really the background for understanding the internal dynamics that create the sluggish believer that we are talking about here, or the sluggish backslider of Hebrews 5. When the believer begins to walk according to the flesh or the sin nature, at that point he is no longer following the leadership of God the Holy Spirit. He is walking by the sin nature. The sin nature is that internal enemy that has that has that attraction to the external modes of the cosmic system. The interesting thing is that the cosmic system - that culture within which we develop that we are born into whether it is western civilization, Western European civilization, American civilization, whether you are born in the South or you are born in the North, whether you are born in the West, whether you are born in the former Soviet Republic, whether you were born in Asia everybody as the result of different things such as language and religious environment of the culture around them - has norms and standards the history of those people have different ways of looking at the world.
That is something we call a world view. The Germans had a fancy word for it. They called it a velvenshaun(sp?). It is a worldview. Every culture has a worldview, a way of explaining everything in the world from ultimate existence and causation, how the world came into being to how we come to know the truth and what the truth is whether it is relative or absolute. All of these things come into play in a worldview. Once you define what truth is then that of course that impacts the whole concept of ethics and values. Ethics and values ultimately flow from your concept of truth. Your concept of truth ultimately flows from your view of ultimate reality in the universe. So ultimate reality in the universe then develops into truth - how you know what you know. Truth then affects your concepts of aesthetics, beauty, art, architecture, music, and all of these things. The culture addresses all of the aspects of life that we have around us. They influence us.
The job of a Christian and the job of the pastor as well as the job of the individual believer is to come to understand the cosmic system around us and how it contrasts with divine viewpoint world view.
NKJ Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
It is real easy for you and I to sit here and think about some Stone Age culture in New Guinea or some tribal culture deep in the rain forests of Amazon and then think that if I am going to go there as their missionary then I am going to have to learn their language. I have to learn their history. I have to learn different things about their art and how that relates to their religious beliefs. Who are the gods and goddesses that they worship? What are their legends? What are their myths? We have to learn all of that. We have to learn all about what is considered polite and impolite so that we don't say the wrong thing or eat with the wrong hand or whatever it may be. We have to learn all of those different things so that as we go into that culture so we can more accurately and effectively communicate the gospel. That is the end result.
But you see we are as it were missionaries in a 21st century post-modern American Southern Texas culture so we have to analyze all of those things that are around us. That is really hard because most of us have been involved that culture for so long that we think of that as normative. It is like fish swimming in the water. They don't know that they are in the water. It is all around them. And so it is difficult to pick up on these things.
As you become a believer and you begin to grow and advance and begin to learn the Word of God under the teaching ministry of God the Holy Spirit, you walk by means of the Holy Spirit and you begin to grow spiritually, and you begin to exchange human viewpoint garbage in your soul for divine viewpoint truth. Then you begin to see more and more of a move away from the culture around you to the point where at some point you are going to start feeling uncomfortable. As you counter the culture around you and especially in our situation where the culture is drifting at a rapid pace away from our historical Judeo Christian roots, we watch things that happen on the news and things that go on in Congress and we think that the world has gone absolutely crazy. We can't figure out why it is that they are doing the things they are doing. They don't see that certain things should be handled. You can't understand why you have foreign criminal immigrants coming into this country marching around demonstrating in the streets waving their national flags. How absurd is this? Do you think that you could go to their country and demonstrate against a policy in their country and wave an American flag and get away with it? Not at all! This is absurd. So why don't we do anything about it? Are we just all scared to death? Are we intimidated by the fact that somebody may think that we are insensitive and not modernist? How have we reached this point?
It all has to do with understanding worldview and changing shifts of thought. The more we become biblical in our thinking the more it sets us against the culture around us. So that gap occurs. And so what happens to a lot of Christians is they reach a certain point where they sense that gap that develops between them and the culture around them and they feel that pressure of isolation. They have to reach a point whether they are going to go all the way with the Word of God 100% and be a biblical thinking Christian and living it out in their lives and really be at odds with the culture around them or they are going to find ways of comfortable assimilation with the cosmic system around them so that these differences don't appear to be that radical. They begin to compromise and jettison biblical truth in order to go back in the culture around them.
Now this is the same kind of thing that was happening to the recipients of the letter of Hebrews. You had believers, Jewish believers, who were formerly priests. The majority of them were Levites. They had trusted in Jesus as the Messiah from the Old Testament and they had separated themselves from the practices of Judaism in the 1st century. Due to a number of different things you had political pressure that was brought to bear upon them. They weren't really patriotic anymore. What is happening? This is the early 60's in the 1st century. What is happening is that the problems with Rome are coming to a head. The pressure is building and so you are either with us as the Sanhedrin leading the Jews or you are against us. So this is a challenge to their patriotism at some level. So there is pressure brought to bear. There is still a certain amount of persecution whether it is overt persecution or just social ostracism. There is still persecution that is being brought against these believers.
The temptation is that they will hit that point of compromise and say, "Well this is fine but let's go back and pick up our traditional Judaist roots, be Jewish patriots, and go back into Judaism because after all they rationalized that it is really all began with the Old Testament.
That is why in the first warning passage the writer says,
NKJ Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.
Where were they going to drift to? They weren't going to drift into Greek or Roman paganism. They were going to drift back into Jewish legalism and ritualism away from the truth of God. They had obviously already begun this drift. As I pointed out last time in the Christian life it is an uphill battle and you are either in neutral or in drive and there is no brake. You are either going forward or backward. There is no point of just sitting and resting. They had obviously shifted into neutral and already begun a regression in their spiritual life which is what the author brings out in this reprimand that he began in verse 11.
Talking about Melchizedek, he says….
NKJ Hebrews 5:11 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.
Literal Translation: About whom (Melchizedek and the Melchizedekean priesthood) the message with reference to us is great or much.
There is a tremendous lesson of application from Melchizedek and the royal priesthood of Melchizedek and how that relates to the royal priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ and the impact on us. But you can't listen to it. The reason he is saying, "You can't listen to them." is because they have become dull of hearing. It is hard to explain not because it is difficult doctrine, but because they have become dull of hearing in their spiritual regression.
So we started looking at this whole issue of the characteristics of the sluggish backslider. I developed this chart that ended with a discussion of cosmic degeneracy. I am looking at this not from the viewpoint of the problems and pressures that come from your sin nature. Every one of us knows that we struggle with the sin nature. If you don't know that we can have a talk afterwards and I will engage in a little counseling. We all have trouble with the sin nature. We have lust patterns. We have arrogance. All of this plays in terms of this internal pressure that we all have from the sin nature to live a life independent from God. The good news of the gospel is that once we are saved the power, that tyranny of the sin nature is truly broken so that we don't have to follow it. We can make other choices. We can choose to walk by means of the Holy Spirit. So we have this very real problem of the internal pressure of the sin nature. That internal pressure of the sin nature is like a magnet that is inside of us that is attracted to the iron filings around us of cosmic degeneracy. So that inner sin nature tends to drift in the same polar directions as the sin nature towards either legalism or licentiousness.
So we developed this chart where if you move toward licentiousness it develops into immoral degeneracy. This not only affects sin and behavior and ethics, but it also affects your whole view of how you know what you know or your view of knowing the truth.
Now some of the things that I am going to bring seem very subtle to a lot of folks. It sort of makes your head spin a little bit.
So we have rationalism and mysticism. You can trace mysticism and rationalism all the way back to at least the Tower of Babel and the development of Babylonian mythology. It is the idea that somehow man has internal impressions that give him insight into reality in the universe - truth. He just knows it. Ethically, morally this is governed by licentiousness. In a sense it is throwing off any kind of guidelines or any kind of external structure related to logic or reason.
That is one end of the human spectrum of how you know things. I have been working on this today, thinking this through. We have these different ways of knowing that man has come up with down through the centuries – mysticism and then on the other hand you have rationalism and empiricism.
In contrast to immoral degeneracy as we talked about we have moral degeneracy. This is what happens when you may be morally correct but you are still dominated by legalism and self righteousness. It leads to a different kind of degeneracy. You could almost say that Shurea law in Islam is moral degeneracy. As Paul pointed out in Romans 7 and what he is saying in Galatians 5 is that the more moral man tries to become is that ultimately immorality peaks out from behind the covers. Ultimately you have to deal with the 10th commandment that you shouldn't covet anything that your neighbor has – mental attitude sins. No matter how hard you try because you are trying to do it yourself, arrogance always manifests itself in the works of the flesh. Galatians 5:18
Just as immorality has a parallel in the realm of knowledge, morality or this idea of building intense obsessive structures of knowledge also has its parallel in the realm of epistemology and knowledge. So you have man seeking to find truth on the basis of autonomous reason and empiricism. They key word there is autonomous. This can lead ethically to asceticism and self righteousness. Of course you have blends that go back and forth but I am building the stark contrasts here. I know that you recognize that people don't always fit into tight categories. Most of us have moments where we fit on one side of this and other moments when we are on the other side.
Immorality produced in the ancient world the fertility prosperity worshippers as a classic example of immoral degeneracy and the Pharisees as a classic example of moral degeneracy.
Then we went through a chart that should be familiar to many of you. There are basically four ways of knowing, not three systems of perception, four ways of knowing truth. How do people know what they know? When you make the statement, "I feel like God wants me to do X." how do you know that? How do you know it with 100% certainty? How do you know anything?
Now man apart from God has come up with basically 3 systems.
1. Rationalism starts with innate ideas. "I know certain assumptions." The under girding presupposition that is unstated (Descartes never talked about it. Plato never talked about it.) is faith in human ability to properly guide his logic. So the method in rationalism is always rigorously logical based syllogisms, based on principles of logic and reason.
- Empiricism doesn't start inside the mind with principles of reason. It starts externally through what we see. So we build sense of knowledge, our bank of knowledge on what we see, what we experience, and what we feel. There are many things that we can learn from both rationalism and empiricism that are true, but you can't get to ultimate truth there. That's the issue. There were a lot of things that Adam and Eve could learn through the independent use of reason and logic and empiricism in the garden. They could classify different trees. They could classify different animals. They could name different animals. But they couldn't understand or interpret the nature of that one tree. So because they couldn't interpret that one tree, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they couldn't really interpret all of the other trees because you had to understand the framework there.
God said, "You can eat from all of the trees except one."
So you see that you can't understand all of the trees unless you understand the relationship to the one. You can't understand the one unless you understand its relationship to all of the trees. You can understand a lot of other things about them but that one fact that if you eat from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil you will instantly die spiritually. You can only learn one way. God has to tell you. That is the fourth category that we call revelation. God has to specifically inform us of those key elements that give us that one piece of knowledge that enables us to truly interpret everything that is going on in our life and everything that is going on in history. So it's not that rationalism and empiricism are wrong. It is that independent use, that autonomous use that man on his own apart from any revelation can come up with truth and knowledge.
- Mysticism is the idea of inner, private experience. I have impressions.
I really got into a lot of study of this back in the late 80's when I was doing an investigation of the charismatic movement and faith healers. Faith healers that stand up in front of audiences and call people out saying, "I saw a blue light hovering over people." I went out to Southern California in 1988 or 1989 and stayed with George Meissinger and went to a spiritual warfare conference that was at the Vineyard Church. That was John Wimber's church. That was the hot new thing in the charismatic movement back then. They had resurrected some old fossil from the healing revivals of the late 40's by the name of Paul Cain. This guy was really interesting. In a huge auditorium in Anaheim where there were about 1500 people they had the lights turned down rather low. He went into what they called worship time.
He would start saying, "There is someone over here. God is telling me that you are wrestling with some problem."
It is the same technique that psychics use. You go to a tarot card reader, palm reader, or any psychic. They really have empathetic personalities. They are able to read people and non-verbal communicate. They throw out generalities and the people don't realize by the expression on their face and in their eyes and mouth how much information they are giving away. They are really fishing. They are able to ask the right questions. They understand percentages.
I talked to a guy named Andre Cole who used to be with Campus Crusade for Christ. In fact he wrote a book. I think it was called "Psychic Powers" or something like that. He would talk about how a good psychic or a good faith healer understands all of the percentages just like a good poker player. He understands all the probabilities and all the degrees of chance for drawing the next card no matter what he is holding. If they are playing stud poker where the cards are visible, he can work his way through that. That is the way these psychics are. That is the way some of these faith healers are. That is what they are doing.
That particular night I didn't see anything unusual except he was calling out different people in the congregation. He was making certain claims about their background, their problems.
"Somebody close to you is dealing with a problem – alcohol or drugs or three or four other things."
All of a sudden he would hit the right thing and a face would light up.
They are sitting there thinking, "Who is he talking about?"
They are going through their catalogue of five brothers and sisters and their cousins and co-workers. People have a tendency to want to be helpful so they don't want to put the guy on the spot.
The next day I came to the meeting and they are all excited because he talked about the fact that he saw blue lights come in and hover over people. That is how he knew who to talk to. So I factiously refer to them as blue light specials. Everybody was excited because when the blue light specials came on it blew the power. That is what everybody was saying the next day.
I said, "I didn't see the power go off last night. What are they talking about?"
To this day they talk about it. I have read accounts of it. I was there. I didn't see any of that. This is mysticism. The thing is that every one of us has certain impressions that we get of things. All through our lives we get these impressions. We only remember the ones that are validated. We don't remember the 9,000 other ones that didn't get validated because nothing memorable or significant happened. We have this one impression where we thought something was going to happen and it happened. We remember that. That is part of what happens here. People get involved in mysticism in the Christian life in divine guidance and trying to relate that to the Holy Spirit. Mysticism is a way to try to arrive at truth not on the basis of logic or reason, but on the basis of this inner light or impressions that come from God.
In contrast to this Biblical truth has always argued that God speaks externally and objectively. We have gone through studies of this. Even when it is private, God has always validated His revelation externally.
Now last time I concluded by pointing out that when we talk about revelation we have to recognize that revelation falls into one of two categories. It is either general or special. General revelation is non-verbal and non-specific.
NKJ Psalm 19:1 To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Revelation though is specific. Listen to what I am saying here. By specific I don't mean propositional where God says, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." That is propositional revelation. It is verbal but you see there is also non-verbal revelation in the Old Testament. They had dreams and visions. They saw things. Also you had the Urim and the Thummim that the priests wore. They were two stones that were on the breastplate of the priest. We don't know precisely how they worked, whether one glowed or the other glowed or they vibrated. This is the way that God would answer true or false or yes or no questions related to divine guidance.
"Should I do this?"
Then one would glow or the other one would glow. One would glow for yes. One would glow twice for no – or something like that.
You see that is how a lot of people try to treat the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit. It's not biblical. It's mystical.
If you think that you have decision making to go through and God is going to answer you by giving you some kind of a vibration or buzz and if it vibrates at a low frequency it is "yes" and if it vibrates at a high frequency it is "no" or there is some sort of impression - that is still special revelation. You are getting some kind of communication from God. Special revelation either ceased or it didn't cease. Once you cross this bridge that is why it ultimately dominoes as it did historically into the charismatic movement. You are starting to base knowledge on subjective experience. That is an important thing to talk about.
What do we mean by experience? You have to be careful. Let me tell you that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is an experience. Regeneration is an experience. The filling of the Holy Spirit is an experience. Walking by the Holy Spirit is an experience.
Everybody is looking at me like – huh? It is.
Look up what experience means in the dictionary. It is an event. That is one meaning of the word. Regeneration is an event. Everybody who is here who is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has had that event in their life. The word experience is also used to refer to the basis for knowledge. So you have got to be careful because you will hear some people say in one sentence a shift from one meaning to the other. What they have done is a con job on the audience. It is a logical fallacy where they have shifted the meaning of the word and used the word in one sense in one sentence and another sense in another sentence. But, they didn't tell they didn't tell the congregation they were shifting the semantic value of the term. When you look at things like when Louis Sperry Chafer talks the indwelling of the Spirit as an experience he is not saying knowledge is experiential. He was saying that it is an event in the believer's life. You have to be careful about these things. We are not referring to the fact that these things are known experientially. They are known through the study of the Word, but they are real experiences. You don't know then experientially, but they are events that happen in a person's life.
The problem that you get into with the top three is that all paganism, all culture and all the worldliness around us operates on one two or three of those systems of knowledge at some point or another. Everybody around us that is pure pagan meaning someone operating on a non-Biblical view of life is basing their ultimate view of reality, knowledge, truth, values, morality, aesthetics, beauty, art, and music on rationalism, empiricism, or mysticism. Everybody is doing that. And we were before we were saved because we didn't have any option.
Now that we are saved what we are trying to do is make revelation the sole source of knowledge. That is hard for us because when we get out of fellowship our default position is carnality. We default to whatever makes us more comfortable depending on our culture. If you were in 18th century enlightenment then your default position epistemologically goes toward rationalism. If you came out of a New Age mystical home life and background where your mom wore beads and had crystals hanging everywhere and came in and told fortunes, then your default position when you get into carnality is going to be what? Mysticism. Some of this has to do with personality. Some of this has to do with a lot of different factors.
You have to be objective enough to evaluate yourself. Just as you know your weaknesses in terms of sin, you have to know where your weaknesses are in terms of epistemology. So there is always this pressure from the world to conform one way or the other. As soon as you get out of fellowship, what happens? You start basing your decisions in life on autonomous rationalism or empiricism or mysticism. What does that do? It erodes your knowledge of the Scripture. It destroys your epistemological foundation in Biblical truth. And what happens? You become dull of hearing. That is the process. It can happen to every single one of us.
Now so far all I have done is address this one area which is the pressure from mysticism. But I ain't done yet. (Good Texas phrase!) We have to deal with how rationalism and empiricism put pressure there.
But before we leave mysticism I want to raise a couple of questions because there have been many well-meaning believers and many theologians who have had a quasi-mystical view because at some point we get a little bit infected with the world system.
So you have different people who say, "You really can't tell. If the Holy Spirit is guiding you …"
You don't have the word "guide" anywhere in the Scripture. You have the term leading of the Spirit that is used twice. It is used in similar context in Romans 8:14 and Galatians 5:17. The leading of the Spirit is just another word or synonym for walking by the Spirit. If I am walking by the Spirit what am I doing? I am following the Spirit. If I am following, what are they doing? They are leading me. You see I can talk about walking behind them or following them or leading them; but I am saying the same thing three different ways. For example in Galatians 5:16…
NKJ Galatians 5:16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
Part of the problem of the lust of the flesh that the Galatians were dealing with was legalism. Legalism and asceticism are part of the trends of the sin nature. Then Paul says that if you are following the Spirit, if you are walking by the Spirit; then you are not under the law. But if you aren't following the Spirit, then you are going to put yourself under the Law. That is all he is saying. He is not talking about divine guidance. He is not talking about figuring out where you ought to go to college, who you ought to marry, whether you ought to buy this house or that house, or have this job or that job. Neither one of these passages in Romans 8 or Galatians 5 are talking about that. Galatians was written first. These are the only two places this terminology is used. He establishes the meaning of the leading of the Spirit in Galatians 5. That is the same context. He is talking about the struggle between walking by the Spirit and walking by the flesh in Romans 8.
Then when he says, "You - if are a son of God, an adult son - you are what?"
You are led by the spirit. Yeah, you can't get to adulthood in the spiritual life unless you have been walking by the Spirit, following the Spirit and walking in the Spirit's footsteps which is Galatians 5:22 where it talks about marching in step with the Holy Spirit or following in the Spirit's footsteps which indicates an objective trail.
Have you ever been on a campout or somewhere when you were a kid where you were trying to walk in the footsteps of the person in front of you? That's an objective trail that is laid out. You can't go wherever you want to if you are going to follow their footsteps. You have to go precisely where they tell you. It is objective knowledge. It is not internal heebie-jeebie liver quiver pseudo Christian epistemology. You are following the leading of the Spirit which is done through the Word of God.
Let's assume for the sake of argument that God the Holy Spirit leads through these impressions. How do you know it's the Holy Spirit? How do you know it's not the Holy Spirit? How do you know if you are making a decision and you feel really certain on the inside that it's the right decision, how do you know that's the Holy Spirit?
Unbelievers have the same thing. They go through the decision making process and they say, "I just felt that it was the right thing to do."
If you as a believer are going to say that this impression is it is the Holy Spirit? You have to give criteria for how to know it's the Holy Spirit or not the Holy Spirit. If you can't define why it's not the Holy Spirit, then you can't say it is the Holy Spirit. That's how it works. It is called logic.
But if you are a mystic you reject logic so you won't hear what I just said.
"You have got to know it. You have got to have that inner feeling. You have got to have that impression. If you just experienced what I have experienced you would know it was God."
You have just declared that you are a subjective impressionist. You are a mystic. You have rejected any external criterion whatsoever. Just because you think it is God isn't enough. Just because you think it's the Holy Spirit, just because it fits a preconceived notion isn't enough. So to claim in any sense that the Holy Spirit communicates to you directly anything other than the assurance of your salvation which is Romans 8…
NKJ Romans 8:16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
He doesn't bear witness to our spirit that we ought to go to A&M rather than the University of Texas. He doesn't bear witness with our spirit that we ought to marry Mary instead of Sue or Joe instead of Bill. He doesn't bear witness with our spirit that we ought to work for Exxon instead of Shell. See? It only says that His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are a child of God, that we are saved.
Furthermore the next question we have to address is how do you verify the guidance objectively? If you can't verify that it is God, you can't say that it isn't God. We are caught in that trap again.
How do you distinguish this sort of impression, this vibration from special revelation? You have to do that. If it isn't special revelation, what kind of revelation is it? There are only two categories.
It is this lack of objectivity that is inherent to the subjective or mystical experience that is the major difficulty for any form of mysticism to justify claims to knowledge. You just can't do it. There is no criterion. For the mystic there is an implicit claim that inner non-rational impressions are the ultimate criterion. You can't argue it. That is the problem. You can't discuss it. It substitutes emotion or inner lightism for external truth. It also confuses (this is really important) concepts of mysticism with supernaturalism.
Remember that the spiritual life is a supernatural way of life that demands a supernatural way of execution. The ministry of God the Holy Spirit who indwells us who has made us a temple for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is such that He is teaching us His Word, He is illuminating our minds to the truth of God's word and He is bringing the doctrine in our souls to bear in our minds when we have to make decisions and application. But it is done in a covert way and not in an overt way.
But mysticism isn't supernaturalism. People get confused on that. People will say that I am arguing for rationalism. No, I am not. I am arguing for supernaturalism – not rationalism, not mysticism, not empiricism but supernaturalism based on revelation. Don't muddy up the water with pagan terminology.
Mysticism is a satanic counterpart to biblical supernaturalism. It is a red herring to convince people who are more empathic that that empathy is somehow the voice of God or the impression of God. And you have had this down through history. You have had good and godly men coming out of pietism. We talked about this last time. We had the rise of pietism after the reformation. You had the holiness movement in the 19th century. This impacted people like J. Hudson Taylor, a great missionary. He opened up China, but he had mystical tendencies. So did George Mueller of Bristol. He is the one who had the orphanage. He had these elements there. CT Stud is another one if you come out of a Baptist background. But that was typical of that era as well. As Christians we are always struggling with this pressure from soft mysticism on the one hand and what I will term soft rationalism and empiricism on the other hand.
One thing that I want to point out from mysticism is this tendency to want to interpret things like prophecy in a mystical framework. What we want to do is take the frame of reference that we developed from paganism and use that to interpret what is going on in the Word of God.
So you will often hear people (and you really see it a lot today) go in and look at something going on in the Scripture and say, "That's ecstatic."
It is like the prophets in the worship of Apollo at Delphi were doing. No, it isn't. What they were doing is a counterfeit. It is not the same thing. Now you will hear people say that prophecy in the Old Testament was ecstatic.
Leon Wood who was a Baptist theologian at Grand Rapids Baptist College in Grand Rapids, an excellent Old Testament scholar, wrote a number of tremendous books – "Introduction to the Old Testament" and "Survey of the Old Testament". In a tremendous article that he wrote some years ago on mysticism and prophecy, he argues that God never used pagan methodology to communicate His Word. He writes concerning the fact that many people wanted to think that what the prophets did was some kind of ecstatic frenzy as in mysticism. He writes…
In ecstatic frenzy the subject seeks to withdraw his mind from conscious participation in the world so that it may be open to the reception of the divine word.
In Hinduism they chant. Hmmmmm….. They focus on that until they get into some other state. In some places they use drugs. The Hasidic Jews have their version of it. Every world religion has their charismatic brand.
To achieve this ecstatic state, poisonous gas may be employed
They discovered that there is some kind of outlet under Delphi that the oracle would breathe the gas and speak in tongues and have visions.
a rhythmic dance, or even narcotics. The desire is to lose all rational contact with the world and so make possible a rapport with spirit realm.
Already before Israel's conquest of Palestine, Moses calls himself a prophet and states that a Prophet like himself would arise after him.
That is a reference to Jesus Christ.
He uses the singular nabhi in reference to this one, and so is correctly taken to mean Christ as supreme Prophet thus to arise. But the context shows that he has reference in a secondary sense also to prophets who would appear in later history.
The point that he is making is that Moses spoke to God, how?
God said, "I didn't speak to you in veiled utterances, but I spoke to you face-to-face and mouth-to-mouth."
It wasn't ecstatic utterance. So we see that the whole idea here is that Moses the prophet par excellence in the Old Testament didn't operate on ecstatic frenzy. Mysticism was never the modus operandi of the Old Testament prophets.
We are back to our two views here. Let's go to the other side. The soft mystics have been catching it the last few weeks. Now we are going to go after the rationalists. Now rationalism is the idea that human reason must judge the validity of Scripture and spiritual life must be submitted to these autonomously derived categories of truth.
Now I will give you an example. I was thinking about this today. It has to do with apologetics. This is another problem that Christians have. We know logic and reason are good, but all of a sudden we tend to do just like the pagans do. We elevate logic and reason to some ultimate reality. The classic example of this is in apologetics.
One of the best papers I have ever read in understanding this was written by Charlie Clough back in the late 70's called "Giving an Answer". It is Framework Pamphlet #1 for those of you who are going through that. Framework #1 is a study of the theoretical differences in different models of apologetics. There are three different views of apologetics. For those of you who don't know this(this is going to go way over some heads but I hope the illustration communicates something.), you have three different views of apologetics. One is the pre-suppositional view which was held by a man name Cornelius Van Til who was a professor at Westminster Seminary. It was a tremendous view of apologetics. Then you have a more rationalistic view. This was held also by a reformed philosopher theologian named Gordon Clark and also held by another excellent apology by the name of Norm Geisler. We used to call him Stormin' Norman. I have never seen a man with more energy who could write more books. And Norm has done some great stuff. In fact he was in Houston a couple of weeks ago and I went to hear him. But you see for Norm Geisler and for Gordon Clark and some of these other guys the ultimate point of contact between the unbeliever and the believer isn't the internal image of God that is being suppressed in unrighteousness. (Romans 1) It is logic. It is the law of non-contradiction, the law of identity. This is the point that you appeal to with the unbeliever. What you are showing is that his position is illogical. Where did logic come from? Logic isn't independent from God. Logic is within the mentality of God. What that system does is inadvertently separate logic from God and establishes it as an autonomous category.
This is a problem that we have to face also. We have a tendency to make logic and reason independent from the revelation from God so that we start and develop theological systems that are logically consistent. But they aren't biblical. They may start with a biblical point but they start building conclusion upon conclusion that all follows from the original thesis. Somewhere along the way you are no long anchoring anything in the revelation from God and you get off base. That's as wrong as mysticism on the other hand. Paganism always pressures biblical thought to conform to its mode of thinking. We fight it on every front every day. We have all heard pastors who have built intricate edifices of theology.
We ask the question, "Where do we find that in the Bible?"
It sounds logical. Calvinism the whole structure of convent theology is a classical historical example of this.
But you start asking questions. You see all of the proof texts there? But does that verse really teach that? No, it doesn't. But the system is powerful. It's logically coherent. One reason Calvinism is so popular today is that people living today in our post-modern random relativistic world want a tight theological religious system that they can go to for answers. But, it has got to be a biblical system. You see the Bible is inherently consistent, a rationally coherent system. But stick to what texts says. Don't get away from it. That is what happens. You build these autonomous systems. The Pharisaical system was great. It had all kinds of intricacies. You could study forever. It was intellectually challenging. That is why it attracted the Apostle Paul so much. But it wasn't biblical. It had cut the anchor to biblical exegesis. It was just an autonomous system. That is just as wrong because you no longer have a relationship with God. You are having a relationship with a bunch of propositions. That's it. You just love the intellectual intricacies of it and the intellectual stimulation that it gives you.
The biblical path is as different from either one of those as the creator-creature distinction that we keep gong back to. It is supernatural. It is based on God's work as a creator. There may be places where it almost sounds like mysticism or it sounds like a logical system. So what happens is you come from an external frame of reference and now you are wearing those mystical glasses or you are wearing those rationalistic glasses of Platonism which is what Augustine did in the middle ages. So what happens when you put on those glasses of rationalistic Platonism? All of sudden, that is what you see everywhere in the Bible. You take those off and put on mystical glasses and everything you see is mystical. But what you have to do is get rid of those world view glasses from the pagan culture around you and look at the Bible in terms of what it says and not interpret it in within this other framework. It causes so much confusion and disaster in the life of the church.
So now the writer of Hebrews is going to say, "You have let your whole system of knowledge be determined by this outside pressures and now you have reversed course."
NKJ Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
Literally, the words of God. It is the plural of logos.
Does this ring a bell with anybody in terms of another passage? It is very close in vocabulary to I Corinthians 3:1-3 that talks about carnality.
It starts off with the verb opheilo. It is a present active participle. It is a concessive participle. "For though you ought." That is the idea. You are not but you ought to be. The word opheilo indicates obligation. There is obligation in the Christian life. Some will say that is legalism. No, you are obligated as a child of God, as a member of the royal family of God to live according to the code of conduct set forth in the Scripture for a member of the family. You know what it was like when you were growing up and you did something that embarrassed your parents.
They said, "No child of mine is going to act like that."
You see you were acting like you were a member of another family, not this family.
Now we are in the family of God and there is a code of conduct for the royal family. That code of conduct is our "ought". There is an obligation there. It is not legalism. It is a responsibility to be who we are. We have been bought with a price; therefore we are to live under the authority of the One who purchased us.
This is your obligation, to be a teacher. The word there for teacher is the Greek word didaskalos meaning a teacher, instructor, and communicator of the Word. In this context he is not talking about being a formal teacher or a pastor-teacher or a formal teacher or instructor in the local church. Parents you ought to be able to teach the Word of God to your children by this time. You can't? Well, what's the matter? You are overloaded in carnality and you are regressing. No, you ought to be able to teach your children by this time. You ought to be able to teach your neighbors. Look at Ananias and Sapphira as they opened up the Word of God and explained it to Apollos. That is what we are talking about in this context. We are not talking about a formal position in contrast to the way didaskalos is used in the Pastoral Epistles where it is talking about the formal position of teaching in the church. This is talking to everybody - all of these ex-Levitical priests. All of them ought to be teachers. Not every one of them had the spiritual gift of pastor teacher. Not every one of them would ever be in a formal position of teacher. But they ought to be after a certain level of maturity able to explain what the Word of God means to other people just because they have understood it.
It is a plural form of the pronoun there. He was clearly speaking with a southern dialect there. Y'all ought to be teachers. But you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God. You have got to go back to foundations. That is what I have been talking about the last three weeks when we looked at the epistemology chart. That is so hard for people to understand. It's not easy.
I keep quoting Headon Robinson who said, "It is hard to think but it is really hard to think about how you think."
That's what this is. How you think about the foundations? If you are thinking right things in wrong ways, it's wrong. A right thing done in a wrong way is wrong. If you do a right thing and are thinking right thoughts (the individual thoughts inside your thinking are right) but the structure of your thinking is autonomous rationalism, guess what? You are wrong. If you are thinking right things but the house of your thinking is mysticism, you may have right thoughts but they are in the wrong house so it is wrong. That is really tough to handle. That means that part of my job as a believer is not to just change the furniture out of the house which is what most Christians want to do, it is that the Holy Spirit has got to tear the whole house down. You have to rip out the foundation and start over. I have to learn how to think about everything in life all over again.
"Because for 18 years, 25 years, 30 years or 50 years I have been thinking about life wrong. The structure of my thinking is wrong – not just the details, but the structure."
I can tell I have burned a lot of brain cells tonight. It always does that because it is so hard to think about that.
How do you as a 21st century American product of this culture or if you aren't bicultural learn to think in terms of another culture? Now that is a really interesting study. If you take a kid, a baby, an infant or a 2-3 year old and the parents are American, British or German and they go live Asia or Mexico, then that child grows up bi-cultural. He is going to be able to think within two different cultures, two different languages. If they live in three different areas they can grow up they can grow up tri-cultural. If they grow up speaking all three languages then they grow up with three totally different worldviews. Just think if you know someone with an American parent and a Japanese parent and grows up in Argentina or Peru. They are going to learn an American worldview from one parent. They are gong to learn a Japanese worldview from the other parent. How disjointed, how opposite can you get? Then they are going to have an Argentinean worldview from the culture that they are around. It is so hard for us as an American to think like the Japanese.
But you see at the ripe old age of whatever you are, you have to start thinking like a Christian and quite thinking like an American pagan. That's harder to do than suddenly trying to adopt a totally different worldview and think like an Asian instead of a Western European. But we have God the Holy Spirit that makes that possible. It is a supernatural thing. It is not a mystical thing. It is not a rational thing. It is a supernatural thing that God does in transforming us into His image.
Let's close in prayer.