Excuses, We All Have Them

In Lev. 16:5-10, we see where Israel of old had their scapegoat on whom the sins of the people were placed. In like manner, we have our scapegoats. We just rename them and call them excuses. They are easy and readily available. So, if we want to extricate ourselves from any course of action or fault, we just come up with a good excuse. However, there may be some things about excuses we have not thought much about.

In Lev. 16:5-10, we see where Israel of old had their scapegoat on whom the sins of the people were placed. In like manner, we have our scapegoats. We just rename them and call them excuses. They are easy and readily available. So, if we want to extricate ourselves from any course of action or fault, we just come up with a good excuse. However, there may be some things about excuses we have not thought much about.

Excuses anger God

First, we need to remember excuses anger the Lord. Remember when God called Moses to deliver the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage? Moses made several. He said, “I can’t do it” (Ex. 3:10-12). Further, Moses said, “They will ask who sent me” (Ex. 3:13-14). He also said, “They will not believe me” (Ex. 4:1). Then came, “I can’t talk well” (Ex. 4:10-11). Usually we read this account and are not impressed by Moses’ excuses. But, our own excuses always sound good to us. We think when we make our excuses God will accept it. However, excuses don’t alleviate the anger of the Lord. The point is not how good or poor the excuses are – but the Lord’s reaction. God was angry with Moses because he was not going to do what God told him to do.

The consequences remain

Second, excuses don’t change the consequences. In the parable of Luke 14:15-24, our Lord told us of three excuses. We might have thought they were good reasons, but the Lord said differently. One man had bought a piece of ground, another a yoke of oxen, and another married a wife. We smile at the shallowness of these, yet the same principle is stated. The excuses did not appease the master (Lk. 14:21). The Lord’s point is that because of the excuse making those who made excuses missed something. No matter how good the excuse, when it is given, it prevents us from partaking of the blessings of the feast. Therefore, the master sent his servants out into the highway and hedges to invite the outcast of society to the feast so that the house was filled.

Responsibility is not removed

Third on the list; excuses don’t eliminate the responsibility even though we like to think they do. Generally, excuses are an attempt to do away with responsibility. “I never was responsible.” Adam and Eve used this. Adam was called by God, “What have you done? Have you eaten what I told you not to eat?” While Adam must finally admit he ate the fruit of the forbidden tree, before he does, he tries to excuse his responsibility. “The woman gave it to me. It is her fault. And, You gave me the woman, so the fault lies somewhere between You and Eve, but not me” (Genesis 3:9-11). Eventually, Adam had to admit he had eaten. Eve had to bear her share of the burden for encouraging Adam. But Adam was still guilty. In the final analysis the responsibility is mine. Crying about it won’t change a thing.

Most are not truth

Consider, what is the true nature of excuses? Most of the time they are not the truth. Excuses have been defined as “the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.”  They do not really tell why we do or don’t do a thing. So, we manufacture an excuse; take something that is part of the truth and blow it up to make another thing more important. Most of the time we make excuses because we do not want to do or say something. We don’t say, “I didn’t want….” so we make excuses.

Finally, since most people easily see through our flimsy layer of excuses, how much more does our Father see right through them to our heart? Our great danger is in deceiving ourselves. We lie to ourselves and cut ourselves off from ever solving the problem from which we are excusing ourselves. The remedy is to get our “want to” right. Face the truth about our excuses and rid ourselves of them.

Don’t Accept Generic Brands

Companies spend thousands of dollars advertising their brand. It seems to have become a necessity although most of the “brand names” are easily recognizable. But with the introduction of “generic” brands the manufactures want to be sure people are aware of “the real thing.” These generic brands are like their name brand counterparts, but you don’t generally see or hear the generics advertised. The greatest appeal of generic brands is that they do not cost as much. While the generics may be like the name brand, they are not identical, and the careful consumer can distinguish easily between “the real thing” and the imitations.

If we take the principle, the same could be said in the religious world. There is the “real thing” and the “generic.” While on the surface they look the same, a close examination shows the differences.

The Real Thing

After being arrested for healing a lame man and preaching the gospel, Peter and John were asked on trial before the Jewish council, “…By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” (Acts 4:7). Peter had already answered this question at least twice before they were arrested. To the lame man at the gate of the temple he had said, “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene–walk!” (Acts 3:6). Later, when they were preaching on Solomon’s porch, Peter had proclaimed, “And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know” (Acts 3:16). So, when the Sanhedrin asked, “By what name,” the answer had already been given, but Peter was not ashamed to announce it again—“let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead–by this name this man stands here before you in good health.” (Acts 4:10). Notice that Peter did not offer some generic response of a power or name that was like “the real thing.” He didn’t point to some imitation that was close.

Conclusion

Then, Peter concluded his remarks with this definitive statement, “For there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). In that one affirmation of divine truth, the Scripture condemns all religious groups, “churches” and doctrines that do not conform to the name, authority and pattern of Christ.

Would you trust your soul’s salvation to some imitation or generic brand? Or is Christ your only authority?

May a Creed Be Considered Expedient?

In the struggle for independence, our forefathers pledged “life, fortune and sacred honor.” They did so as an expedient way to bring about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This lead to a country founded on freedom never before known. We treasure these freedoms that brave men and women died to obtain. But long before this nation came into existence, Jesus said, “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free…if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:32, 36). There can never be real political freedom without spiritual freedom, and Jesus knew it. The really strange thing, to this writer, is that some people, having been set free, unaware of what they are doing, go back into slavery.

“…therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1). Some of the Christians in Galatia were trying to go back to the law of Moses, from which the death of Jesus had set them free (Gal. 3:19-29). By going back to the old law, they were cutting themselves off from Christ and His blessings: “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Gal 5:4). I would feel very confident in stating that leaving Christ was not their intent, but that, in effect, was the result. Christ promised them freedom, but they, by going back to the old law, refused it.

Religious Division Looks For Expedient Way Out

Rom 6:18 tells us, Jesus came that we might be “freed from sin.” He did this by His death onCreeds are supposed to be expedient the cross (Rom. 5:6-10). Jesus not only makes us free from the guilt of past sins; He also makes us free from the practice of sin as we follow His will. That is why Paul wrote, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Rom 8:1-2). But there is another freedom that was important to Jesus, and it should be important to us also. That is the freedom from man’s creeds.

At the time Jesus lived, Jewish religion was divided into “sects” (what we would call denominations today). There was the sect of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodians, the Essenes and probably others. Each of these had their own particular beliefs, which were different from the others. For example, the Sadducees did not believe in spirits, neither angels nor the resurrection from the dead (Acts 23:8). In order to record all their conclusions and have them available to help others follow what they believed, Jewish scribes put their beliefs into what they called “The Talmud.” It contained much of the Old Testament scripture along with commentary of the learned lawyers (doctors of the law) (Lk. 5:17). It all seemed very innocent. They believed certain things, so they wrote them down. On the surface, that seems simple and harmless enough. But it became a disaster.

An Expedient Way?

The Jews were always looking for a reason to discredit Jesus because of what He taught. On one occasion they observed His disciples eating with “unwashed (impure, NASV) hands” (Mark 7:2). They criticized Jesus by saying, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?” (Mark 7:5). The law didn’t require a Jew to wash his hands before eating. But their “creed” did. Regardless of their reasoning, they were legislating where God had not.

Jesus response came from the prophet Isaiah. “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men” (Mark 7:6-8). Was there anything wrong with washing their hands before eating? Of course not! But there was a great deal wrong with taking what seemed a good idea, and making a law or rule of it, and requiring others to follow it. That is precisely what the Jews were trying to do.

Looking for Unity

I don’t believe there is any question that the Jews, when they made their creed, were sincere in trying to help people understand God’s will, at least in the beginning. But there was an inherent flaw in their reasoning, and in the reasoning of all whom would make a creed today. They seek to place the thoughts and ideas of man on the same level with God’s word. Even if their intentions were good, their explanation of what God meant could not take the place of what God said. In that same sense, every creed of man falls into the same category as that of the Jews. They “make void” the word of God.

In the late 18th century and the beginning of the 19th, there began a movement in this country among people in many different denominations to find a basis for unity. The conclusion; the principle thing separating believers in Christ were the creeds written by men. Each denomination had its own, different from the creeds of the others. Barton W. Stone, Alexander Campbell, John Smith, Walter Scott and dozens of other men like them, felt it was necessary to “go back to the Bible.” Some of these, in their zeal to explain their new beliefs, put them into creeds! Fortunately, they quickly saw the error of that and determined the Bible alone would govern them. The decision was made that no man-made set of rules, or creed, would be allowed.

We fail to learn from the past, and thus we see the same thing happening in churches across the land. What we see is peopleThe End Justifies The Means Is Not Expedient expressing their views as to how worship services should be run or what they believe and expecting those meeting with them to abide by these “creeds.” However, the concept that the end justifies the means is a concept most people operate under. As with the past creeds, it is done with the assumption that doing it this way is an expedient. While, as with past creeds, the things these creeds contain may not, in and of themselves be wrong. But, it is a problem of making law where God has not.

Let us look at what determines a thing to be expedient

In order for a thing to be expedient it must be lawful.

The apostle Paul wrote, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Cor 6:12). Later on in the same letter he says, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify” (1 Cor 10:23). In these passages Paul teaches expediency must come within the realm of that which is lawful. If something is not within the scope of that which is authorized; if there is no precept, approved example, or logical conclusion in the scripture to authorize the practice, it has no Divine authority.

For a thing to be expedient it cannot be specified.

When God specifies there is no choice but to obey or disobey. In matters specified, faith demands obedience. Expediency in human wisdom involves the right of choice within the realm of those things included in what God has authorized. To go beyond that which is specified or offer a substitute is to add to what God has said instead of aiding obedience to His word.

For a thing to be expedient, it must edify.

Paul understood this (1 Cor 10:23-33; 14:26 ). If something is a matter of choice or expediency (human wisdom or judgment) and its practice would tear down and destroy what God would have built up by creating disunity, dissension and division in the body of Christ, it is sinful and wrong. If God commands it, we must  do it no matter what the consequences. But if it is non-essential (God having left the choice to human wisdom) and we demand or enforce that which destroys the peace and unity of God’s children, we sin. All of the seeming good we might accomplish by such a course would not overcome the wrong done by it.

A thing must not offend the conscience of a brother if it is to be expedient.

Paul wrote, “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God” (1 Cor 10:32). We are taught to forgo a matter of personal liberty instead of leading a brother to sin. He sins by violating his conscience in partaking in that which he believes to be wrong (1 Cor. 8:7-13). If a method of doing something in the Lord’s church is a matter of expediency, we cannot force upon the consciences of others those things which our judgment may approve but which are contrary to their understanding and which, appear to them to be wrong or sinful without sinning ourselves.

An addition to God’s word or a substitution for God’s way is not an expedient.

Remember, an expedient must first be lawful. Every addition or substitution is relying upon human wisdom, and as such is unlawful. Such is not a matter of expediency, but is transgression of God’s will. Expediency involves the right of choice within the realm of that which is authorized in the New Testament. It is not a course of authority within itself.

If we apply this test to creeds, regardless of their purpose, we will find they do not pass the test. Therefore let us abandon every creed and simply rely on the Bible for our direction in our service to God.

Editors Note: Some of the information as to establishing expediencies is taken from “Walking By Faith,” by Roy Cogdill.

See Also:

What is Truth

Whose Responsibility is it?

Marriage Vows or What God Joined Together

or What God Joined Together

Marriage and the marriage vows are something that should never be taken lightly. What happens when two people come together under the idea of marriage? They stand before a man to recite wedding vows to each other. But, what does this mean? Consider if you will, the words both the male and female make: “Will you take this woman/man to be your lawfully wedded wife/husband, to live together in holy matrimony? Will you love her/him, comfort her/him, honor her/him, and keep her/him in sickness and in health…, forsaking all others for as long as you both shall live? Will you take to yourself to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, and to love and cherish each other till death do you part?”

Your Marriage Vows are before God, do you mean it?

When two people repeat their wedding vows, those involved in that marriage make this promise to each other and to God. They promise they will be together forever. However, far too many times, this is far from the truth. Separations occur and eventually divorce comes (annulments included).  But what is divorce? Obtaining a divorce is a legal (by man’s standards) dissolution of a marriage. It is a ceasing, a breaking of promises, to let go, or to release from bonds that terminates a marriage. But what is ceasing? However, what are things that break in divorce? Could we say that we are breaking two hearts in a marriage or breaking a family into jagged pieces? But what are we letting go? Could it be the bond that was first made on the wedding day between each other and between God? But, why the release?

Did not Jesus say to the Pharisees who came tempting Him with questions on divorce that, “…a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matt. 19:5)? Two lives join into one. Therefore, the bond of husband and wife is stronger than that between children and parents. And, to be as one means that they are to be the only ones together. Yet, if this is true, then what comes in between them? It should be said that when something comes in between the one flesh, it must be a painful experience seeing as how pain always comes when something is inserted between flesh. With a marriage, this insertion is planned and cannot happen by accident and once it is between flesh, it separates it and divorce is seen shortly down the road.

Marriage Vows Combine Two as One

Jesus said, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:6). Now, what could be so forceful that it could separate flesh? Perhaps a friend? Maybe they just drive each other crazy. Perhaps they are just not compatible. Jesus again speaking said to the Pharisees, “whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality (fornication), and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9).

What is fornication? It is illicit sexual intercourse. It is sexual intercourse whether it is with a man, woman, homosexual, lesbian, animal, etc. Jesus said that for this reason only can one divorce. Why? It is because sexual intercourse breaks the one flesh into two. Also, because there is a foreign flesh attempting to rip part of the flesh from the rest. It is because it breaks the covenant relationship between man and woman. In addition, it breaks the covenant relationship with God because once you are in a marriage, you are commanded by God to keep it (Rom. 7:2).

Men can attempt to justify this by saying that the laws of the land permit other actions. Well, so did the laws of the land in Jesus’ day (Matt. 19:1-9). But just because it is a law of the land, does not give us a right to violate God’s law. The apostles, which were led directly by the Holy Spirit said, “. . . We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Therefore, if God defines what a marriage is and what it is not and defines the reason to end a marriage, we must obey God rather than man for only God can dissolve a marriage.

Divorce Means Ignoring Your Promise to God

Divorce that comes outside of fornication, happens when men forget God (Rom. 1:18-32), when they forget His word (Psa. 119:11), and when they want to do what is right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6). May we each do the will of the Father (Matt. 7:21-23).