Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Wheat and the Chaff

I had a nice sweet blog planned yesterday. I was going to blog about living with food allergies (which I will still do at some point). I was going to blog about the tagging I got from a reader, but I can't. I was going to blog about ANYTHING other than what God was telling me to write about. I admit it. I didn't want to write this because, yes, I'm going there again. How many of you know that you just can't say no to Him when He has something to say?! A blog that I read, written by a woman that I admire - Candy, posted about persecution and crazy people. Here's the blog link. Check out the post about crazy people, persecution, and Meez.

It really hit home. I knew that we are counted blessed if we are persecuted, but who really wants that. Seriously, I've seen other people get mean comments and shut down their blogs. I don't want to make waves! But, I have to. God isn't going to let me really rest until I do. So, here goes.

Luke 3:16-18 (Amplified Bible)
16John answered them all by saying, I baptize you with water; but He Who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of Whose sandals I am not fit to unfasten. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
17His winnowing shovel (fork) is in His hand to thoroughly clear and cleanse His [threshing] floor and to gather the wheat and store it in His granary, but the chaff He will burn with fire that cannot be extinguished.
18So with many other [various] appeals and admonitions he preached the good news (the Gospel) to the people.

In order to understand this, you need the definition of chaff. Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary defines it as...

the refuse of winnowed corn. It was usually burned (Ex. 15:7; Isa. 5:24; Matt. 3:12). This word sometimes, however, means dried grass or hay (Isa. 5:24; 33:11). Chaff is used as a figure of abortive wickedness (Ps. 1:4; Matt. 3:12). False doctrines are also called chaff (Jer. 23:28), or more correctly rendered "chopped straw." The destruction of the wicked, and their powerlessness, are likened to the carrying away of chaff by the wind (Isa. 17:13; Hos. 13:3; Zeph. 2:2).

***I love old dictionaries. I have a really old Webster's Dictionary that has Biblical definitions for everything. I need to dig it out from the flood zone stuff and use it. ***

There are several ways to look at this passage in Luke. Many take it as how God will separate the believers from the non-believers in the Day of Judgement. Oh, how glorious (and yet sad to see those who made the wrong decision) will that Day be when we are in front of our Lord! Some people look at it as how we will be refined by the Refiner's fire in the Day of Judgement. I think that's also a correct assessment. I'd like to deal with the chaff of false doctrine though.

I read a lot of Christian women's blogs. I love hearing from other believers. However, I have noticed that sometimes, we place our own expectations on others. Does this fall under false doctrine? I think so, if it's causing someone to stumble. Don't get me wrong. We need to challenge each other to come up higher in our walk with Christ. But if you cause someone to feel like they will never be good enough to be considered a member of the Body of Christ, then you are preaching false doctrine.

I used to belong to a nameless Christian women's group. At first, everything sounded great. As long as you believed that Christ was your Savior, and His blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins, you could join. You were welcome. Then, as you peeled back the layers of the group, you realized that you had to fulfill other conditions to really be a "member". You had to only wear skirts. You had to wear head coverings. You were never allowed to disagree with your husband (taking the submissive wife position a little too far). You had to homeschool. You had to only read one version of the Bible. On and on the conditions went. Yet the Bible says

John 3:16-18 (New International Version)

16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

I left that group when they started persecuting women for not agreeing with their conditions. It seemed that they were causing drama on a daily basis. I have enough drama in my life. I don't need it from a group that was supposed to edify. God said that you must believe in His Son for eternal life. That's it. There is a reason why the Bible goes on to talk about feeling condemned right after. Personally, I think that it is because God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that we would mess it up and try to put our own conditions on salvation. I have also noticed some of that legalism on people's blogs. Does that mean that I am to never ever read their blogs again?

For that matter, I've noticed many pastors coming out with theories or teachings that I don't agree with. I've had people tell me that I have to learn how to separate the wheat from the chaff with those people. But how much chaff should we be putting up with to get to the wheat? If a teacher has one good point, and many wrong ones, do we still listen to that message?

I've found the deciding factor. It's the Holy Spirit. The Amplified Bible brings this out wonderfully.

Romans 14:16-18 (Amplified Bible)
16Do not therefore let what seems good to you be considered an evil thing [by someone else]. [In other words, do not give occasion for others to criticize that which is justifiable for you.]
17[After all] the kingdom of God is not a matter of [getting the] food and drink [one likes], but instead it is righteousness (that state which makes a person acceptable to God) and [heart] peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
18He who serves Christ in this way is acceptable and pleasing to God and is approved by men.

Notice that we are to consider the kingdom of God as righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit - not the stuff. It's not the skirts or jeans or head coverings, or even the version of the Bible you read. It's the righteousness of God, and the peace and joy you feel in the Holy Spirit.

Here's how this works in practical life. Candy's blog, which I LOVE (see the link above), is one that I read frequently. She is skirts/dresses only, KJV only, and eats dairy. I don't really wear skirts or dress (or own them for that matter), I love several versions of the Bible, and would cause a biological hazard (as well as be hospitalized) if I ate dairy. Yet, I am so greatly blessed by her blog. I've read the discussions she's had about the areas we don't agree on, and I respect them. But, I've prayed about these things, and for me, for now, I'm settled with where I am. I don't embrace every version of the Bible. God has stopped me from reading most versions. But, there are some that He has shown me great things in. I always have to check with Him to be sure what I hear is true. That should go for everything, no matter what we believe. That Holy Spirit check that I get when I'm doing something wrong, or that Holy Spirit release I feel when I'm doing something right, is what guides me.

Here's another practical example. There is a well known pastor that I used to listen to a lot. I heard his teachings when he first came out on the national scene. I was truly blessed by the things he was saying. This is when I was a baby Christian, and hungry to find out just even how to begin serving God. This pastor laid a great foundation for me. As I grew in Christ, and he grew in popularity, I started noticing some contradictions. He was saying things that were against what I was reading in the Bible, and against what he himself had said just a few years prior. Eventually, I had to stop listening to him. The chaff was outweighing the wheat. Does that mean that I discount his foundational messages? Not at all. Those messages are wheat. I have to pray that he comes back to his first love - God. Again, I had to let God show me and guide me through His word and the Holy Spirit what my actions were to be.

One last example. Causing other people to stumble. That one is hard. Sometimes you have to ask God if you are challenging a person or causing them to doubt. We aren't to water down the Word of God, but we are to be loving about it. I was saved at a very difficult time in my life. My first marriage was falling apart. Right after I got saved, we almost lost our son to a bad reaction to a vaccination. Work was challenging in a high school drama kind of way. So, I get saved. A well-meaning person in the church counseled me about how life was going to change. My ex-husband wasn't saved, and I didn't know how to handle the situation. This person told me that if I really was a Christian, I should be able to pray him into salvation in the next month. Well, months later, with no change in him at all (things were actually getting worse), I found myself doubting that I was really saved. I started going to the altar every service to get saved. I had people laying hands on me to figure out why it wasn't working! It's a wonder I have any hair so many people prayed over me.

Finally, I called the church in desperation and asked for a mentor. I figured that having a person I could talk to one on one would help me learn what I was doing wrong. This Godly woman blessed me so much. She took the time to explain just how wrong that first person was. But, that one comment set me back probably a year. We have to caution ourselves that we are not causing others to stumble like that. We are to challenge, not condemn. We know which we are doing by being faithful to God and listening to the Holy Spirit.

I hope I've made sense with this post. I know that I'll be back on this subject again when God says it's time. In such a time as this, we need to learn how to measure everything we do against His word and His leading. Time is running short! Jesus said this...

Revelation 22:12-13 (Amplified Bible)

12Behold, I am coming soon, and I shall bring My wages and rewards with Me, to repay and render to each one just what his own actions and his own work merit.
13I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last (the Before all and the End of all).

Praise Him! I can't wait!

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