Use The Right Term

Words mean something. It’s very important that we use the right word in the right context. This is especially true when we are talking about things that are or aren’t in the Bible. 

Specifically, here are the three terms that I think are vitally important:

  • Biblical. These are things the Bible specifically tells us that we must do. 
  • Unbiblical. These are things the Bible specifically tells us that we must not do. 
  • Non-biblical. These are things the Bible doesn’t specifically address.

For example, I tell a story in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter about a friend of mine who wanted to discuss particular titles for people in the church. I simply explained that the titles of “senior pastor” or “lead pastor” aren’t in the Bible, so I didn’t have a strong opinion on which one should be used. This is a non-biblical issue. 

However, we can create a big problem if we insist on making non-biblical issues seem like they are biblical issues. Jesus confronted the Pharisee and the teachers of the law on this issue. These religious leaders had non-biblical traditions, but they gave them biblical authority (Mark 7:1-13). As a result, they begin to behave in unbiblical ways.

The ceremonial washing of hands is a tradition that is non-biblical. But the way that they looked down on people who didn’t wash their hands this way, is an unbiblical attitude.

One biblical commandment is to honor parents, but Jesus called out the Pharisees for honoring another one of their non-biblical traditions that caused them to turn their backs on their parents. As a result they became guilty of the unbiblical practice of dishonoring their parents. 

Before you begin adopting certain attitudes, practices, or beliefs, it’s a good idea to make sure that you have learned whether they are biblical, unbiblical, or non-biblical.

Letting Go To Hold On

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In Stephen’s sermon, he notes something interesting about Abraham: “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still living in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you’” (Acts 7:2-3). 

That word “before” especially caught my attention—“before he lived in Haran.” 

In Genesis 11:31, we read that Terah (who is Abraham’s father) is the one who takes Abraham and Lot to set out for Canaan, but that they only made it as far as Haran. Could it be that God did speak to Abraham in the land of Ur, and that his influence on his father was so deep that Terah decided to answer the call too? Yet God called Abraham—not Terah—so Terah apparently was not as committed to obey God’s call. 

Terah’s youngest son Haran died before they began the journey. Terah didn’t get very far into their journey toward Canaan until in grief over his dead son, he stopped and he settled. 

Was Terah angry at God? Was he fearful about what may happen to the rest of his family on the long journey? Was he so wrapped up in his grief over his youngest son that he couldn’t move forward? 

Whatever the case, not only did Terah stop, but so did Abraham. 

But God, in His incredible graciousness, spoke to Abraham again, renewing the call to follow Him. 

Stephen said that Abraham left Haran “after the death of his father” (Acts 7:4). But let’s do the math: Terah was 70 years old when Abraham was born and lived to be 205 years old (Genesis 11:26), but Abraham arrived in Canaan when he was 76 years old (Genesis 16:3, 16). That means that Terah was still physically alive when Abraham left him. 

In other words, Abraham had to love God more than his grief-stricken, grief-paralyzed father, to the point that he had to consider his father as dead. He had to do this in order to follow God. 

Jesus says something similar to those who would be His followers today: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father… he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). 

That’s a sobering word! We have to value obedience to God above all else. We have to believe that God is our supreme reward, and that absolutely nothing on this earth compares to the surpassing greatness of knowing Him. 

Jesus gave us this promise—

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for My sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:28-29)

Abraham shows us the principle that we should all realize: Following the call of God is so worth it! Letting go of this world so that you can hold on to your Savior is the best decision you could ever make! 

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