Monday, July 25, 2011

The False Message

But false prophets also arose among the people,
just as there will also be false teachers among you,
who will secretly introduce destructive heresies,
even denying the Master who bought them,

bringing swift destruction upon themselves.
Many will follow their sensuality,
and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned;

and in their greed they will exploit you with false words;
their judgment from long ago is not idle,
and their destruction is not asleep. 2 Peter 2:1-3

......... Less is More .....

A very popular seeker friendly pastor stated; “As a pastor, I’ve watched churches adopt many contemporary styles in worship, programming, architecture, music and other elements. That’s okay as long as the biblical message is unchanged.”

The problem here is obvious to us all … the biblical message has changed
. All of a sudden political correctness and tolerance trumps Biblical truth. And of course in the modernist or postmodernist worlds there is no absolute Biblical Truth. Jesus was not the supernaturally conceived Son of God who came to forgive man for his sinfulness; but rather a most loving good teacher.

God is not the Creator of the universe who came in the form of a man; but rather just another man who evolved to greatness. One basic idea of this emerging church is to speak to men in their language, and they have carried the blending of Biblical truths with men’s supposed wisdom ... to a unbiblical end. Men’s philosophies or fantasies are now presented as the Bible. For a clear example, let’s look at some verses from a much loved paraphrase that is often presented by pastors in our confused emergent church generation as God’s Word.

As we look at these passages from a most important section of God’s Word, I have placed the Message Bible alongside the New King James Version. I want to make it clear that I am not a Greek scholar; but rather a lay Bible teacher following the leading of the Holy Spirit. I would welcome insights or corrections from someone out there with this expertise. Hopefully, the Message diversions will be apparent to all. No, I do not recommend only the KJV. Personally I use many different translations, including a Greek Hebrew Study Bible, and the New Living Translation. A foolish practice for Christians is to buy a paraphrase like the Message Bible and then be confused into thinking it is a Bible. When men's words replace God’s Words, the power of God’s Word is lessened. Most knowledgeable Christian’s personal comments on the Bible have just as much power as the Message Bible. Actually they could be more valuable since they are not likely to be confused with the Bible, as the Message often is. Pastors quoting paraphrases as if they are God’s Word is dangerous and quite misleading. I have a hundred examples, but let’s just look directly at the text. My purpose here is to raise a red flag. Buyer beware!

Earlier today, perhaps the greatest teacher on cults in the past century told me that the most dangerous cults are always those that come in the name of Christ and disguise themselves as ministers of the Gospel. Think about that!

John Chapter 3

1-2 There was a man of the Pharisee sect, Nicodemus, a prominent leader among the Jews. Late one night he visited Jesus and said, "Rabbi, we all know you're a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren't in on it." MSG

1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." NKJV

I don’t know why the author added the word “sect.” If anything it only makes this verse less clear. John’s words were much clearer. He was a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews. A prominent leader among the Jews is less clear. The Pharisees were not prominent leaders but rather religious leaders who ruled the people. To rule meant that they had the ability to severely discipline them; jail, try and punish, and even to the degree like when they attempted to stone Jesus, and ultimately forced his crucifixion. Their power had been compromised by Rome, but they still ruled the people. Why does he use the word “late” rather than he came “by night” Does he know it was late? On many points these changes may be viewed as minor and overly critical, but as you will see when you view the changes in the bigger picture, the original meaning can be distorted. Finally, how does; “No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren't in on it.” make this verse more clear than “for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him?” In these first two verses, my conclusion is that the original is shorter, clearer, and easier to understand than The Message. In fact, in all of the verses below you will notice that Message is always longer that the original. Recently, "religious people adding their views to the scripture," was a primary criticism by an unbeliever I was witnessing to. This is a key reason some falsely conclude the Bible contradicts itself.

3 Jesus said, "You're absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it's not possible to see what I'm pointing to—to God's kingdom." MSG

3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." NKJV

Here we have a clear misinterpretation of scripture. Jesus does not tell Nicodemus; “You're absolutely right” … but rather he is talking most assuredly about a new subject … being born again and seeing the kingdom of God. Jesus has changed the subject and gone directly to His main point; and is explaining to this religious leader that he is spiritually lost. Less is more!

4 "How can anyone," said Nicodemus, "be born who has already been born and grown up? You can't re-enter your mother's womb and be born again. What are you saying with this 'born-from-above' talk?" MSG

4 Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" NKJV

Nicodemus makes it clear this is news to him here. He does not challenge Christ with the mother’s womb statement, as the message somehow implies; but respectfully asks him about that which is unclear to him. The “born-from-above talk” phrase makes it sound as if he is making light of or confronting Jesus as the other Pharisees had done previously. Less is more.

5-6 Jesus said, "You're not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the 'wind-hovering-over-the-water' creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it's not possible to enter God's kingdom. When you look at a baby, it's just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can't see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit. MSG

5 Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. NKJV

Please … How in the world does he come up with this? Most assuredly is commonly translated truly, truly or verily verily. Clearly this wording to give more emphasis to what Jesus is about to say not point out to Nicodemus that he is not listening. This “wind hovering over the water creation” line is total babble. Born of water is natural birth, born of the Spirit is spiritual birth, or to be Born Again as Jesus explains. Any time someone takes three lines from the mouth of Jesus and converts the verse into six lines from their imagination and calls it Biblical, they are in danger of committing Biblical heresy. I think it may have been accomplished here. All of these two verses are over the top. The original is clearer and much easier to understand. This is the perfect example of Less is More!

Not a single word needs to be added to the Words of Christ.

7-8 "So don't be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be 'born from above'—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it's headed next. That's the way it is with everyone 'born from above' by the wind of God, the Spirit of God. MSG

7 Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit." NKJV

Once again “Less is more!” He doesn’t do as bad of a job of adding words here but the original text is exceedingly far better. “Born from above' by the wind of God”??? Give me a break. That is far-fetched, at best.

9Nicodemus asked, "What do you mean by this? How does this happen?" MSG

9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?" NKJV

Even here, changes are made for the sake of change, not for clarity.

10-12 Jesus said, "You're a respected teacher of Israel and you don't know these basics? Listen carefully. I'm speaking sober truth to you. I speak only of what I know by experience; I give witness only to what I have seen with my own eyes. There is nothing secondhand here, no hearsay. Yet instead of facing the evidence and accepting it, you procrastinate with questions. If I tell you things that are plain as the hand before your face and you don't believe me, what use is there in telling you of things you can't see, the things of God? MSG

10 Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? 11 Most assuredly, I say to you, we speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? NKJV

What makes the author think Nicodemus is not listening? I am convinced he was listening intently. God was speaking and He was possibly the only Pharisee who received Christ as his Lord and Savior. He was asking questions because he was seeking the Truth. That is not procrastination. Telling Nicodemus “earthly things” was a reference to information that was easily understood through human experience, logic and training; as compared to heavenly things which were things of the spirit such as miracles and spiritual birth. Once again, Peterson’s more is less.

13-15 "No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the One who came down from that Presence, the Son of Man. In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life. MSG

13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. NKJV

How does this expansion: “and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life” clarify or improve upon the original? … “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Did Jesus die on the cross so that men could look up to Him; or did He die as a sacrifice to save men from the consequences of their sin? This Truth is about believing in him and His sacrifice on the cross for our sins and accepting Christ as our Lord and savior. “will gain a real life?” Where does he come up with this idea: that our life here on earth is anything other than a real worldly life. It is not eternal life in heaven, but it certainly is a real life? It is no wonder that unbelievers are confused if pastors are encouraging them to read this babble. And new believers are liable to come to false conclusions. Less is not only more but less is also Truth; rather than a misleading deception.

16-18" This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. MSG

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. NKJV

The actual Word “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” is once again, much clearer. “Destroyed” is a poor substitution for perish, and “by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life” is less of an absolute than “whoever believes” and whole and lasting life does not make “everlasting life” more clear, but actually less clear for me. Those of other religions or no religion at all might believe their life on earth is a whole and lasting life already, but surely not an everlasting life. God did not come to put the world right or to help. He came to save the world from the sins of mankind. “One of a kind Son of God” seems ill-defined: “the only begotten Son of God.” These words have meaning. Condemned by God says so much more than “pointing a finger or telling the world how bad it is.” Why not just say: “eternally condemned” if one wants to clarify God’s condemnation?

19-21"This is the crisis we're in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won't come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is." MSG

19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God." NKJV

It is not a crisis but rather eternal condemnation by God for our sins and for following the evil one. A crisis could be a bad grade or an automobile accident. God-light did not stream into the world. What is this supposed to mean? Jesus is the light of the world. He came in the form of a man to die for our sins. He is Love and Truth. Satan is darkness, evil and the lie. Jesus exposes the evil darkness and brought the Truth to men. Due to their fallen nature, men loved darkness rather than light, because their sin feeds their lust and pride. Fallen man is not willing to accept the truth because he is too proud to admit his sins and he wants to be the god of his own life, and do whatever he wishes. Where does all of this God-light and God-work talk come from? Less is More!

Less of God’s Word always says more than when convoluted by the wisdom of men! I sometimes enjoy a paraphrase to listen to as I fall asleep but only if the text does not change the original meaning to support some mans revisions and conclusions.

I hope this has been a healthy exercise for you; it certainly brought up my red flags. I cannot understand how so many Christian Leaders have recommended The Message Bible. The only thing I can imagine is that they are doing a favor for a friend, or a book publisher ... and that is an abomination!

God Bless you my friends, Bob
Copyright: Robert West 2011

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