A friend asked, “Do manipulated words manipulate people?”
We were discussing the ongoing war on words and representations and the division and pain it causes. We discussed that two things can be true at the same time, like it can be sunny and raining, I’ve experienced that irony often. But two totally opposite things cannot be true at the same time, like it is raining on my house right now and it is not raining on my house right now. There is a distinction that requires consideration of what is actually happening, reality which is truth, as well as how we feel about it and knowing how our feelings effect the interpretation of reality/truth. Some may be delighted it is raining, while others are bummed because they had plans. It’s still raining.
We moved on to who decides when the meaning of a word should be changed and why? Language is how we communicate important information and the means to understand each other. It is a gift from God. If we use the same words, but they mean different things, how can we understand each other?
Language manipulation began in the Garden when a serpent weaponized God’s instruction to eat of any tree except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil against Adam and Eve by using it as an attractive bait to remove God’s cover of protection through disobedience and separate them from God. Are there very attractive people and movements doing the same thing today? Absolutely.
Jesus teaches his followers that we can know the identity of a tree by its fruit. Notice that only those who follow Jesus’ teaching can know the truth that sets you free. So if you aren’t a student of Jesus, you can’t possibly know the truth in his teaching or be free according to John 8:31-32
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Jesus’ teaching grounds us and God’s Word is the root system that feeds us and holds us steady when the worldly winds blow. Others don’t typically see our Christian “roots”. They see the fruit. Fruit confirms the roots we cannot see.
An apple tree has deep roots you cannot see that firmly supports the tree. An apple tree will grow apples and nothing more. At the root, it is an apple tree and apples are the inevitable outcome. Can anything else come from it?
Matthew 7:15-20 New American Standard Bible
A Tree and Its Fruit
15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will [a]know them by their fruits. [b]Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will [c]know them by their fruits.
I believe the roots of Christianity are set in the Divinely inspired Word of God and if I want to know if something is a counterfeit theology I compare it to the original. Why do I share this? Because there are several expressions of theology that are not rooted in Scripture but share enough key words and phrases to “seem” authentic but the fruit speaks for itself. Outcomes cannot be denied.
False teachers will claim revelation knowledge (revealed only to them by God) and the only way to that knowledge is through them. But, if you dig into the history of their theology and trace it back to its roots you find it’s contradictory to the Word of God and you can reasonably see the theorist’s desired and inevitable outcome if allowed to fruition. Not only do some core precepts of their way of thinking about God and their relationship to God contradict with the Word of God, at its worst it is full blown heresy. Why does this matter? Let’s continue in the passage from Matthew…
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many [s]miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; leave Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
One must know the will of the Father to do it. But what if the will of the Father is not what is preached to a congregation? If they never pick up a Bible they can understand and read it for themselves, they’ll never know if what is being taught lines up with God’s Word or is a contradiction. I was asked for direction for someone’s friends who are arguing some very non-biblical ways of living, calling it true Christianity, and embracing attractive deceptions that they back up with passages clearly taken out of context.
This individual was frustrated by the idea they could hold up the same Bible yet have completely opposite, not just different, opposite interpretations. I shared with them a video linked below that a colleague of another denomination shared with me earlier this year prior to a conference. Since then I have been digging deeper into source material and references for context.
NOTE: The video does not represent the views or opinions of the United Methodist Church or myself. I offer you the option to view and consider the content and whether or not it holds up to Scriptural scrutiny. We aren’t limited to finding common ground in our differences, we are called to seek and confirm God’s truth in all matters with humility and curiosity. The more I learn, the more I have to learn because our world and people are complicated. My role as pastor is to challenge you to prepare to make disciples on every side of every debate through sincere and honest relationship. First, we must desire to understand each other and start there which means being courageous enough to hear and consider how all sides hold up to God’s Word. What is true? What is not? And with this truth, where do we go from here.
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If you would like to view the video mentioned in this letter, email your request and I will send you the link.
With hands to the plow,