Growing In Godliness Blog
Author: Brock Henry
Why the Prophets are Crucial Reading for Christians
By Brock Henry
If we are to be like Jesus, we must know the prophets like Jesus.
Based on the number of prophets Jesus quoted and the number of times He quoted them, it seems safe to assume that Jesus spent significant time studying the prophets. Contrary to our shying away from them, Jesus apparently immersed Himself in the prophets.
Why are these ancient texts so crucial, though? Why should we (and why did Jesus) spend so much time in them?
The overarching answer lies in the text of Ephesians 2:19-20: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone…”
If Christ is the cornerstone of the building of which we are living stones (1 Peter 2:5), then the apostles and the prophets are the foundation on which the building is grounded. The prophets undergird the very structure in which Christ is the defining feature.
Therefore, the prophets are not incidental to who we are as Christians; they are foundational.
Consider, though, two additional reasons for us to dive deep into the messages of the prophets: First, they teach us about God, the Creator. Second, they teach us about ourselves as created beings.
Here are three crucial lessons the prophets teach us about God:
God is faithful. We will wander away from God, but He will never wander away from us. “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
God is patient and long-suffering. In large part, God repeated the same messages over and over to His people, because He wanted to give them time to repent and to come home. “Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have sent you all My servants the prophets, daily rising early and sending them” (Jeremiah 7:25). God has demonstrated a willingness to endure significant rejection and great personal agony in order to give people continued opportunity to come home.
God is willing and able to punish obstinate sinners. God is merciful, yes, but He is also just. And a just God punishes those who willfully refuse to obey. “For I solemnly warned your fathers...yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked, each one, in the stubbornness of his evil heart; therefore I brought on them all the words of this covenant…” (Jeremiah 11:7-8). If we are punished by God, we will deserve it, and it will be in spite of the fact that He provide us with ample opportunity to repent.
Second, here are three crucial lessons the prophets teach us about ourselves:
We want to go our own way even when it’s not in our best interest. “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way...” (Isaiah 53:6). And as we know from the Proverbs, our own way can lead us straight to disaster: “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
We are not sufficiently wise to direct our own steps. No matter how much we think we know and understand, we do not have sufficient perspective to appropriately choose a path for ourselves. “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Insisting that we have sufficient wisdom to direct our own steps is equivalent to a blind man insisting he has sufficient sight to drive a car.
Our thoughts and ways are infinitely lower than God’s. Because of our insolent pride, our egos may be as high as the heavens, but our abilities are not. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
To recap, the prophets are crucial to us as twenty-first century Christians for at least three reasons:
They are foundational to our Christianity.
They teach us about the Creator.
They teach us about ourselves as created beings.
But, let’s finish where we started...with Jesus (and us).
If we are to be like Jesus, we must know the prophets like Jesus. He knew the prophets, because He studied the prophets, and He studied the prophets, because they were important.
In the end, though, Jesus studied the prophets not simply because they were important, but because they were central to His very mission: “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17)
If that is the case, we must study the prophets then, because Jesus is central to our mission.
Worldliness vs. Godliness
By Brock Henry
“You and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness.” (C.S. Lewis)
Few distinctions are more clearly delineated in Scripture than the one between worldliness and godliness. In no uncertain terms, Scripture indicates that the character promoted by the world is diametrically opposed to the character promoted by God.
This does not stop us from blurring the lines, though.
As Christians, we often swallow, with ravenous enthusiasm, the poisonous lie promulgated by Satan himself that we can have our cake and eat it, too. We delude ourselves into thinking that piety and frivolity are symbiotic.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Godliness and worldliness are not parallel paths; they are wholly divergent. And so we stand at a crossroads every time we make a decision.
Either we will take the path that leads to life and godliness, or we’ll take the path that leads to death and worldliness. (cf. Deut. 30:15-20; Joshua 24:15)
There is no middle ground. Only life or death. Only hot or cold. God will vomit out of His mouth those who are lukewarm (Revelation 3:16).
At The Heart of the Distinction
When you boil it all down, there is one defining feature that distinguishes the worldly character from the godly one: Motive.
Worldliness, at its core, is selfish. Godliness, on the other hand, at its core, is selfless. One looks inward, the other looks outward. One says, “my will be done.” The other says, “Your will be done.”
3 Biblical Analogies
Scripture uses multiple analogies to describe the drastic nature of the distinction between godliness and worldliness. Consider three of them:
Light vs. Darkness: possibly the most vivid analogy Scripture uses to describe the distinction between godliness and worldliness is that of light and darkness.
John describes Christ as the “true Light” (John 1:9), and Jesus later confirms this epithet as valid when He simply states, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).
It’s important to note that Christ did not say that He has the light of the world; He says that He is the light of the world. Thus, light is a defining feature of Christ Himself, not just His message. (And as Christ is one with God, it’s not surprising that John later writes of God the Father, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5, NKJV).)
As a result, it only makes sense then that those who call themselves by Christ’s name should also be described as the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) and as “having the light of life” (John 8:12).
Because God defines Himself as light, and bestows this light upon all who faithfully follow Him, everything that stands in opposition to Him must necessarily be described as darkness:
• 1 John 1:6 draws a distinction between fellowship with God and “walking in darkness.”
• Christ indicates that those who follow Him “shall not walk in darkness” (John 8:12, NKJV).
• Paul indicates that we should, “Walk as children of light...and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:8-13, NKJV).
• Paul also writes that the godly have been “...delivered...from the power of darkness...” (Colossians 1:13, NKJV).
• To the Christians in Thessalonica, Paul writes, “You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5, NKJV).
• Peter writes that the godly “...were called...out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
In the end, godliness and worldliness are as different as day and night.
Truth vs. The Lie: a second analogy that Scripture uses to illustrate the distinction between godliness and worldliness is that of truth and a lie.
Just like Christ defines Himself by light, He also defines Himself by truth: “I am the way, the truth, and the life...” (John 14:6, NKJV). Similarly, Jesus prays to the Father that He would, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17, NKJV). Again, it isn’t that God’s word has truth, it’s that God’s word is truth.
Accordingly, those who align themselves with the Creator are described as “walking in truth” (2 John 4; 3 John 3-4) and as “obeying the truth” (Galatians 5:7).
Because God is truth, everything that stands against Him is described as the opposite of truth. Whereas Scripture indicates that it is impossible for God to lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), it describes Satan as the “father of lies” (John 8:44).
Thus, those who choose an ungodly character are described as being “...of [their] father the devil...” (John 8:44) and as “wandering from the truth” (James 5:19, NKJV). When man opts for worldliness over godliness, he “...exchanges the truth of God for the lie...” (Romans 1:25).
So, just as godliness and worldliness are as different as night and day, they are also as different as truth and a lie.
Purity vs. Defilement: a third analogy that Scripture uses to highlight the distinction between godliness and worldliness is that of purity and defilement.
Purity is yet another defining feature of God Himself (1 John 3:3). As a result, everything that emanates from Him is also pure, including His words (Psalm 12:6; Psalm 119:140), His commandments (Psalm 19:8), and His wisdom (James 3:17).
Who then is qualified to associate with God? Those who have adopted a godly character and have purified their hearts (Psalm 24:4; cf. James 4:8 and 1 Peter 1:22). Jesus reiterates this when He says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
If the godly character is described as pure, then the worldly character is described as defiled:
• Jude describes certain apostates as having “...defiled the flesh...” (Jude 8).
• The Hebrew writer equates “falling short of the grace of God” with bitterness, trouble, and “becoming defiled” (Hebrews 12:15, NKJV).
• Paul, in his letter to Titus, makes a marked distinction between the “pure” and the “defiled” (Titus 1:15).
• Jesus speaks of “...evil coming from within and defiling a man” (Mark 7:23, NKJV).
Thus, just as godliness and worldliness are as different as night and day and truth and a lie, they are also as different as purity and defilement.
The Bottom Line
If we are to be people of godly character, we cannot even so much as dabble in worldliness. Godliness and worldliness are not opposite sides of the same coin, they are in fact two entirely distinct monetary systems. What works in the kingdom of this world is not even recognized by God as valid currency in His kingdom.
“No man can serve two masters,” Jesus said (Matthew 6:24, NKJV). It’s not that doing so is a bad idea, it’s that doing so is impossible. Because we cannot be both godly and worldly, we must make a choice. No other decision has more gravity than this, as what we select will do no less than determine our eternal destiny.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Cursed are the defiled in heart, for they shall not see God.