Beware Leavened Doctrine

“Every word of God is pure,” but the same can’t be said of all the words human beings say about God’s words (Prov. 30:5, KJV). This is one of the problems Jesus called attention to in His earthly ministry. The religious leaders of His day bound heavy burdens on their followers, got distracted by seeking recognition, shut the kingdom against God’s people, greedily profited off the offerings made to God, misrepresented the truth, and focused on minutia while ignoring weighty matters of the law. In short, they were hypocrites (Matt. 23).

In Matthew 16, Jesus told His disciples, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6, KJV). The disciples were confused at first, but after some discussion they realized He wasn’t telling them to “beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:12, KJV).

How Leavening Works

The New Testament speaks of leavening representing hypocrisy, malice, and wickedness (Luke 12:1; 1 Cor 5:8). And when we consider the physical affect of a leavening agent like yeast, we see leaven as something souring, spreading, fermenting, and puffed-up.

Matthew Henry suggests that the warning “take heed and beware” in Matthew 16 is given because disciples are especially vulnerable to this type of deception. We can easily fall victim to those like the “Pharisees, who are great pretenders to devotion, and Sadducees, who pretend to a free and impartial search after the truth” (MHC on Matt. 16:5-12).

We’re not talking about a corrupting influence from outside the church. These people operate within, corrupting the doctrine that came direct from God. Read more

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The Girdle of Truth

The first piece in the armor of God is a girdle, or belt, of truth. We’re told, “Stand therefore, girding your waist with truth” (Eph. 6:14, LEB). Girdles hold an interesting place in scripture. There are five Hebrew words used to talk about things you can belt around your waist (Easton’s Bible Dictionary).

Some girdles were used as a purse or pockets. Others to belt your clothes on. Different types of girdles were part of a soldier’s attire (2 Sam. 20:8), worn by princes and important people (Eze. 23:15), or by priests (Ex. 28:4, 8; 29:9). Girdles often symbolize strength and readiness. But what does it mean to have a girdle made of truth?

The Girdle of Truth | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: JESHOOTS.com via StockSnap

Where We Get Our Girdle

Truth in a Christian context is defined by God. The truths that come from Him aren’t subjective and don’t fluctuate. They’re reliable. And they’re what we put on like a belt around our waists as we prepare for spiritual battle.

Jesus gives a succinct definition of truth in His prayer recorded in John 17. He prays to the Father, “Sanctify them in your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17, WEB). The words of God are precious; the only reliable source of truth.

Give diligence to present yourself approved by God, a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed, properly handling the Word of Truth. (2 Tim. 2:15, WEB)

When we’re looking for truth, we look to God’s Word — both in the Bible and in the person of His son Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Word (John 1:1-3, 14) and He also is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He provides the truth that forms the first piece of our armor. Read more

Being A Faithful Servant

Our salvation requires action. Even the most liberal versions of Christianity expect people to believe in and confess Christ even if they say you don’t have to do anything after that. And scripture takes it several steps further, saying that believers are also to repent of their past sins and then commit to following Jesus.

God wants relationship with us. Like all relationships, this is a two-way street. We’ll never be able to out-give or out-love God, or even come close to matching what He offers us. But He still wants us to give Him what we do have to offer: our hearts, minds, and souls. He wants commitment and faithfulness from those who’ve asked to be in relationship with Him.Being A Faithful Servant | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Parables and Responsibilities

Near the end of His life, Jesus’ disciples asked Him about signs signalling the end of the world and His second coming. After answering this question in Matt 24:3-44. He moved on to what’s expected of His followers while they wait. He tells them to watch and be ready, then He beings a series of parables.

Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his lord has set over his household, to give them their food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his lord finds doing so when he comes. (Matt. 24:45-46, WEB)

The people waiting for Christ’s return are supposed to be doing something. In this particular parable, it has to do with how they treat their fellow servants. God cares about how you interact with the people around you. Having a relationship with Him is meant to transform that area of your life. Read more

Knowing The Truth and Loving The Truth

In John 8:32, Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (WEB). Truth from God is a powerful thing. And it’s something God wants to share with everyone, because He “desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4, WEB). Knowing God’s truth is connected with the salvation offered in Jesus Christ and is a key component of the Christian faith.

according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began (Tit. 1:1-2, KJV)

But head knowledge isn’t enough. It’s absolutely essential that you study and know about the One you believe in, but knowledge doesn’t get you into the kingdom. Paul says you could even “understand all mysteries, and all knowledge” but without love it would mean nothing (1 Cor. 13:2, KJV). We’re meant to go beyond knowing about God’s truth to doing something with that knowledge. If you don’t care about the truth enough to put it into action, then it’s not making the difference in your life that God intends.Knowing The Truth and Loving The Truth | marissabaker.wordpress.com

We Lose What We Don’t Love

Paul writes in second Thessalonians about a wicked one “whose coming is after the working of Satan” (2:9, KJV). He warns this one will come

with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thes. 2:10-12, KJV)

Paul doesn’t say these people didn’t know the truth. They weren’t ignorant about God’s message. But they did not believe the truth and they did not love it. Matthew Henry writes, “They could not bear sound doctrine and therefore easily imbibed false doctrines … Had they loved the truth, they would have persevered in it and been preserved by it; but no wonder if they easily parted with what they never had any love to (commentary on 2 Thes. 2:4-12, point #5). Read more

Books That Tell Truth Through Lies

As I was going through blog posts in my inbox yesterday,  I noticed two of my fellow bloggers were writing about reading recommendations and lists. Juni Desireé was posting about the top 10 books on her reading list for this year, and Socratic MBTI offered three quick recommendations for “enriching” books to read. In the past, I’ve shared a couple lists of my own, including my favorite fantasy books, but that was way back in 2013 (I’ve been blogging that long!?!). Sounds like it’s time for another recommended books post! Fiction That Tells The Truth

Books That Tell A Truth Through Lies | marissabaker.wordpress.com

I’m taking the title of this post from one of my favorite ideas — that even though “fiction” is defined as imaginary or untrue it is, in fact, a vehicle for telling the truth.

“That’s what fiction is for. It’s for getting at the truth when the truth isn’t sufficient for the truth.” ― Tim O’Brien

“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” ― Albert Camus

“A fiction writer weaves a fabric of lies in hopes of revealing deeper human truths.” ― Wally Lamb

That’s my favorite kind of fiction. Any good story can teach you something true about yourself or other people, but truly great stories are going to get at a “deeper human truth” than is often isn’t possible in any other form. Child-labor laws would have passed in Britain without Dickens, but would it have happened as quickly if people hadn’t read Oliver Twist? Would the phrase “Catch-22” have entered our vocabulary if Joseph Heller wrote an essay instead of a novel?

Many books exist to share truths or make us think about something we’d otherwise overlook. One of the more famous is 1984 by George Orwell, which I’ve never actually finished reading (I know, I know — I’ll go hide in the corner now). Many others teach us truths seemingly by accident while telling a story. Here are just a few examples :

*note: there will be spoilers for all these books.

The Lord of the Rings

Tolkien insisted his The Lord of the Rings trilogy was not allegorical or inspired by his personal life, but I think we can at least say that his faith (Catholic) and his history (serving in both World Wars) influenced his writings. It’s a classic battle of good verses evil that set the stage for every epic fantasy adventure written since.

Just in case you’ve escaped reading or watching LOTR, the formerly-vanquished dark lord Sauron has come back into power in Middle Earth and is attempting to regain control of a magic ring that will let him subdue all lands and people under his power.  Though there are great warriors involved in the fight, the final victory hinges on two little hobbits from the middle of nowhere who hiked a very, very long way to destroy the ring.

By taking us outside of our own world, Tolkien shares universal truths about what makes a real friendship, the sacrifices required to do the right thing, and the importance of resisting evil even when it seems hopeless. One of the truths that hits me the hardest when reading or watching Lord of the Rings is how helpless we are to resist evil on our own. Frodo was incredibly strong on an emotional and psychological level and he carried the ring longer than any other character could have, but he still couldn’t make it up to Mount Doom by himself. Sam carried him the rest of the way and Frodo still wouldn’t have destroyed the ring if Gollum hadn’t fought him for it and carried it into the fires when he fell. Even heroes are susceptible to evil’s pull and they can’t overcome alone.

Mockingjay

I’ve read the whole Hunger Games book series and just watched Mockingjay Part II this past weekend. Suzanne Collins grew up learning about military history from her father — a Vietnam veteran and history professor. She didn’t go the history professor route herself, though, instead majoring in theater and telecommunications, then earning a master’s degree in dramatic writing.

The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay all take a good, hard look at what the article linked above describes as “necessary and unnecessary wars.” They quote Collins saying, “If we introduce kids to these ideas earlier, we could get a dialogue about war going earlier and possibly it would lead to more solutions.” In this case, the writer approached her storytelling hoping to convey truths about and get a dialogue started on ideas relate to war.

My mother, brother and I were talking yesterday about how Mockingjay is a story that sticks with you. It’s not something you can just read/watch and move on from. This is largely owing to what is probably Collins’ least popular authorial choice — killing Finnick Odair. In the book I actually read right over his death the first time and then had to go back and figure out what happens to him. His death isn’t the driving force in a major plot point (like Prim’s death) and he doesn’t have a dying scene all of his own (like Rue does in the first book). He just dies senselessly and tragically while the action moves on without him. And that’s the point. In real life, death doesn’t always make sense or serve a specific purpose.

Ender’s Game

This book could have so easily been nothing more than a story about a futuristic society that trains children to kill aliens. But Ender’s Game was written by Orson Scott Card (one of my all-time favorite writers) and there’s much more to it than that. The real story isn’t about the alien threat — it’s about human nature.

Ender’s Game wrestles with the question of how far it’s “okay” to go when you’re at war, and it does so from the perspective of a child who’s been immersed in a militaristic system for the bulk of his formative years. Just in case the military training isn’t enough to make him comfortable with genocide, though, he’s taught the entire thing is a game — that none of the aliens will actually die if he wins.

As the story unwinds, we’re forced to confront ideas that can spill over into our own world. How violent can games become before they start affecting reality? When, if ever, are large-scale preemptive strikes an acceptable form of self-defense? What is an adult’s responsibility toward children?

Somewhat less obvious is the question of an individual’s responsibility within society. Ender was raised from a young age to think of the Buggers (this name was changed to Formics in later Enderverse writings) as enemies you must destroy at all costs. He should have been thoroughly brainwashed into believing this, and yet learning he’d succeeded in wiping out his enemy in real life rather than just in-game nearly destroyed him. He devoted the rest of his life to making others understand the Hive Queen’s perspective and trying to set things right by bringing back the Formics species. Perhaps that’s the real take-away truth from Ender’s Game — there are at least two sides (and often more) to every story and it’s not always easy to see who’s right.

Your Turn: What are some of the truths you’ve discovered in and through fiction?