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I am witnessing to an unbelieving family member, and they are angry with me because I gave them the Gospel. Now I am told I should apologize to them because I offended them, based on Matthew 5:23-24. Please let me know what the Bible says I should do about my relationship with this nonbeliever. Also does Matthew 5:23-24 speak to a Christian who has a difference with a non Christian about what the word of God says.

You are not responsible for the reaction of those with whom you share the Gospel. Nothing in all of God's Word suggests you are to lament or apologize to those who reject the Gospel of Christ--family member or not. Matthew 5:23-24 has nothing whatsoever to do with witnessing, but rather with offensive conduct that has deterred the effect of the Gospel and interfered with our fellowship with Christ.

When treating the subject of people rejecting the Gospel, various explanations for their reaction is given--and it is NEVER because they were simply told the Gospel. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 says, "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them." In this case, Satan has blinded their minds. He has done so because of their hard hearts.

Taking the matter even further, Jesus pointed out that this was actually a judgment from God, who hid the truth from them because of the hardness of their hearts. "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight." (Matt 11:25-26). He prayed this when people did not believe what He had said and done. He did not apologize to them and state the Gospel in a less offensive way.

In the parable of the sower, Jesus described those who rejected the Word as hard ground--like a beaten path. "Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved" (Luke 8:12). God will not allow such people to believe, for they have no heart for His truth.

2 Thessalonians 2:10-11 traces a rejection of the Gospel back to a refusal to accept the love of the truth from God. " . . . because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved."

There is no example anywhere in Scripture where men modified their presentation of the Gospel to entice people to believe -- or where they were apologetic when their testimony was rejected. Pilate did not receive the word of Jesus. Herod did not receive the word of John the Baptist. The Jewish council did not receive the word of Stephen. Felix and Agrippa did not receive the word of Paul. The whole city of Bethsaida rejected the word of Jesus . . . etc. Yet, no effort was made to regroup or state the Gospel in less offensive words.

The truth of the matter is that God is actually glorified when hardhearted people reject the Gospel. It confirms before men and angels how obstinate they really are, and how gracious God really is in tolerating their rejection in this world. Here is how it is stated in the Scriptures. "For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ" (2 Corinthians 2:15-17). Notice, the Apostle was not classed with those who "peddled" the Word of God. That is someone who adjusts its presentation to make it palatable to unbelievers.

The counsel you received it not right, and should be ignored. If it were true, Jesus would have to apologize to Pilate, and Stephen to the Jewish council. The person who is upset with you did not reject you, but the Gospel that you declared. For that, he is responsible to God. Unless you are living in a sinful way, or your life is a contradiction of the Gospel you preach, you have nothing whatsoever to do with the unbelief of those to whom you witness.

I have read your postings concerning the Dungeons and Dragons game, and find  them grossly innacurate. First of all Dungeons and Dragons is only a game. It is nothing less and nothing more. Second, it seems to me that you are blaming the game for corrupting our youth... this is perposterous . . . Here's an excellent example: People who work upon the Sabbath Day are evil. According tto the Bible, breaking this law, commiting this sin is punished by death. When was the last time you killed  someone for working on the Sabbath?

I am answering your communication concerning Dungeons and Dragons, in the behalf of Ben Alexander, with whom I work. 

First, we appreciate you taking time to forward your thoughts on the matter. In the arena of thought, it is good to exchange various perspectives. I know you will allow the same freedom to us that you obviously have taken.

You are correct in saying that people make their choices, But it is not that simplistic. There are areas where influences are brought to bear upon the individual--influences that force one into certain choices. That is why Satan is said to "blind" the minds of men so they cannot believe. Since you are familiar with the Bible, you must know these things. it is written, "In whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan can deceive people into making the wrong choice, as he did Eve. We are warned to make sure this does not happen to us. "But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:3).

Human will is not invincible, and you do well not to imagine that it is. On one occasion, we are told of people who could not believe Christ. Their lack of ability is traced to their hard hearts, and God blinding them because of it. "For this cause they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 'HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES, AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART; LEST THEY SEE WITH THEIR EYES, AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED, AND I HEAL THEM'" (John 12:39-40).

While Satan is not invincible, and, to a degree, man's will is free, there are certain areas where Satan has more influence than others. One such place is mentioned in Scripture. It was in the city of Pergamum. Jesus said of that city, "'I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith, even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed" (Revelation 2:13). He also worked around the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden. As soon as Eve was close to that tree, she confronted the temptation of Satan (Gen 3:1-7).

In our judgment, games, such as Dungeons and Dragons, give more of an advantage to Satan than to God. A tree is known by its fruit, and this game does not have a good track record for producing good. You may choose to think it is nothing more than a game, but that it not the case at all. That is like saying the tree of good and evil was nothing more than a tree. Men can choose to be around things Satan can work with, but they will not do so without suffering the effects of their decision. 

Satan is a tempter. You should know that from your knowledge of the Scriptures. Whatever you may think of the matter of choice, greater men than either one of us have fallen prey to the devices of Satan because they trafficked in his domain. It is true that "the flaw is in the individual." But that is precisely why care must be taken not to subject ourselves to environments and things that Satan can use against us. We are solemnly told, "Do not give the devil an opportunity" (Ephesians 4:27). If what you wrote is true, there is no point to that word from God.

You may choose to believe Satan cannot make a person do evil--or, as you put it, dare to say that. But when men choose to be where Satan's works, they become vulnerable to his devices. Satan can enter into people like Judas (Luke 22:3). He can "move" David to number Israel, even though it was not right (1 Chronicles 21:1). 

As to your analysis of the Sabbath day, you need to do a little more homework on the subject. Your understanding is precisely what Jesus Christ's enemies said of Him, charging that He had violated the Sabbath day by doing what they considered "work." He replied, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save a life or to kill?" (Mark 3:4). He also said, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Consequently, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27-28). He also said, "Which one of you shall have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?" (Luke 14:15). Much more could be said on this subject, but this will suffice.

I suggest before you make extraneous comments on the Word of God, you become more thoroughly familiar with it. In the meantime, it is your responsibility to avoid the appearance of evil, and areas where Satan is comfortable working. That, of course, is a choice only you can make.

I know that gambling is a sin but what about buying and selling stocks on the stock market? Isn't that the same thing?

You are in an area of conscience here, where specifics have not been supplied by the Lord. First, all stocks are not gambles. Some have proved stable over the years, and are even the basis of many retirement plans. Such stocks fall into the same class as gaining interest on money in a savings account. In the parable of the talents, Jesus spoke commendably of investing money with "the bankers" (Matt 25;27; Luke 19:23). In my judgment, it is stretching the text some to apply it to stocks and bonds, but some have done so. 

If there is a sin in playing the stock market, it would flow from greed and covetousness, or a desire to obtain quick gain (Eph 5:3; Col 3:5; Heb 13:5). Those who have a desire to be rich have a solemn warning from God. "But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition" (1 Tim 6:9).

In the matter of stocks, all of this is up to the individual and God, for He has not spoken on stocks. He has spoken in terms of principles, which each believer is to apply to themselves. The principle provided in Romans 14:5 applies here. "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." You must not violate your own conscience. That is the responsibility of everyone, all the while not allowing covetousness to rise in their hearts.

I have been trying to reconcile what I learned in Bible College about where we go at death (paradise) with "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord."

Well, you have your work cut out for you. I am very familiar with that line of reasoning, and once taught it myself. The word "paradise" is only used three times in the Bible. This is true in every major Bible translation. 

1. Luke 23:43. Jesus promised the penitent thief he would be with Him "in paradise."
2. 2 Corinthians 12:4. Paul, referring no doubt, to himself, said he was "caught up into paradise," where he heard words that were not utterable in human speech.
3. Revelation 2:7. Overcomers are told they will be given the right to eat of the tree of life, which is in "the paradise of God."

Taking all three of these passages, I do not see how a person could possibly define "paradise" from the standpoint of location or time. In the first, it spoke of the place Jesus went between His death and His resurrection. In the second, it was a lofty realm of communion. In the third, it has reference to our final abode. 

There is no question about the preciseness of Paul's expression, "present with the Lord." I see no disharmony with that and being in "the paradise of God." Those who die do go be with the Lord. They will not be with Him in the fullest sense of the word, for that will come when we "are like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" at His coming (1 John 3:1-3). The fulness of our salvation will take place in the world to come, after the passing of this one.

We are told of some souls that were martyred for Jesus. They are said to be "under the altar," and were even told to rest a while (Rev 6:9-11). I see this as a key to the subject you are considering. They were elevated above their place in this world, but not as fully as they would be in following the fulfillment of all things.

It is possible to be "with the Lord," but not as closely as we will be. As an example, multitudes were with Jesus as they followed Him. Of that multitude, there were "other seventy" which Jesus chose and sent out (Lk 10:1). Of the same multitude, there were twelve who were given an even closer relationship with Him. Of the twelve, there were three (Peter, James, and John) who were with the Lord in a closer sense. Of the three, there was one who enjoyed an even more unique relationship, being 'the disciple whom Jesus loved." All of them were "with the Lord," but not all had reached the fulness of that presence.

So it is when believers die. They do go to be with the Lord, but they will be with Him in a fuller and more complete way when their bodies are changed, and they stand complete before Him, like Him in every aspect of their persons.

Is it a sin for Christians to drink alcohol? If it is, then why did Jesus turn water into wine? 

The subject of drinking liquor is not approached in this manner in Scripture. From the Christian perspective, the question is "Is it RIGHT for a Christian to drink alcohol?" Believers are admonished, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31). Again we are exhorted, "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" (Col 3:17). 
The question, then, becomes whether or not we are honoring God by drinking alcohol--whether or not He receives glory from it, and whether it can be done in His name. 

As to Jesus turning water into wine, the subject as been long debated by students of Scripture, whether it was hard liquor, or the fresh juice of the grape--for the word "wine" refers to both. In my judgment, this issue cannot be resolved by a mere study of language. One should be acquainted with the Lord's general attitude toward hard wine, and how it is consistently set forth as making men vulnerable and weak, eventually causing them to become irrational and sinful.

Each believer is responsible for his own decision in the matter of drinking "wine." Nothing in the Bible forbids a Christian to do so -- but there is also not a syllable of Scripture that encourages any person to think it is all right to drink it. There are some facts of Scripture that can help us in making our decision. First, under the Law priests were strictly forbidden to drink any strong drink in the course of their duties. The penalty for doing so was death (Lev 10:9-10; Ezek 44:21). Nazarites (which we assume Jesus was, and know John the Baptist was) were never allowed to consume strong drink in any form (Num 6:2-3). All through the Israelites' journey through the wilderness, they never once drank "strong drink"--God never supplied such a thing to them (Deut 29:5-6). When Samson's mother was told she would bear the son Samson, she was commanded not to drink any wine or strong drink (Judges 13:4-7). The angel even told her husband to make sure his wife did not drink any wine or strong drink (Judges 13:14). Solomon warned "Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise" (Prov 20:1). He also said it was not proper for kings to drink intoxicating drink because it would move them to forget God's law and not make sound judicial decisions (Prov 31:4). Isaiah said wine caused people to err in vision and stumble in judgment (Isa 28:7). John the Baptist was strictly forbidden to drink any wine or strong drink (Luke 1:15). On the cross, Jesus refused to drink a mixture of wine and myrrh (Mk 15:23). 

The Christian is not under a hard a fast law never to drink wine. There are places in the world where wine is a common drink, in the place of defiled water. As I understand it, a Christian would not be sinning to drink some wine under such occasions. Nor, indeed, can it be proved from the Bible that a Christian is sinning by taking an occasional drink of wine. However, as I have already said, the real question is not whether it would be wrong, but whether it would be right. God has left that matter up to the individual. Drunkenness, of course, of consistently condemned by God.

I will answer your question by asking two questions. First, do you think Jesus turned water into strong drink, knowing what the Scriptures had said about strong drink? Second, can God be honored by drinking strong drink after one knows what He has said about it? God leaves the matter up to the person's conscience, and so do I. 

Is there such a thing as a balanced teaching on tongues? If so where can I find it?

The only place any inspired teaching at all occurs on tongues is First Corinthians 12-14. It occurs there because it was a problem in Corinth. If you will absorb what is said in that passage, you will know as much as any one else on the matter of tongues. Much of contemporary teaching concerning tongues, both for and against, is highly biased because of church traditions, which are held in higher regard than the Word of God. Nothing in Scriptures suggests that tongues, of themselves, are to be rejected. Yet, those who speak with them are strictly charged to leave their hearers with a clear understanding of what they have said (1 Cor 14:5-16). Too, they are not the most excellent gift, and are inferior to prophesy, or speaking unto edification, exhortation, and comfort. In fact, believers are told to prefer to latter (1 Cor 14:3-5). The church is told not to forbid them (1 Cor 14:39). Their public use, however, is to be in strict conformity with the purpose of God, which is the edification of the body of Christ (1 Cor 14:12,26). 

As to the conferment of the gift (as with all gifts), that is strictly within the prerogatives of God, and Him alone, and is under the administration of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:4-7). Every gift, with no exception, is given for the general benefit of the church and is not intended for private benefit alone (1 Cor 12:7). The Scriptures also apprise us that these gifts are confined to this world, or are temporal (1 Cor 13:8). Men differ in their view of WHEN that will occur. But that is not the point of the text. Rather, it is that men are to seek to be grounded in things that will never end. God has nowhere charged us with defending their validity or obsolescence. Those are prerogatives men have taken unto themselves.

Corinth is the only church of Scriptural record that is said to have possessed them. Armed with those, and other, facts, you are as free as any one else to arrive at a conclusion that will glorify God. 

Although I am sure someone has written a balanced view of tongues, I am not personally aware of any such book. I suggest taking the Word of God as it stands, asking the Lord to help you understand what He has said, and maintaining a good conscience on the matter, not being divisive or contentious.

#1 How do you define the word "tongue" as it is used in scripture? 

#2 If a tongue is a language then we of course see people gifted in language. But perhaps the better question the miraculous impartation of a language not studied, a gift we "see" being given in these days? (your personal observations are desired here as I am trying to find out and settle this matter in my mind. I'm aware of your " when that which is perfect comes" work which I read with much delight.) (I'm also assuming you define "tongue" as a language.) Please correct me if this assumption is wrong

The word "tongue" does mean "language," or a means of verbal communication. In a lengthy discourse about "tongues," the Spirit points out they are intelligent utterances, with distinct sounds that can be understood (1 Cor 14:7-11). An unknown tongue is one not understood by the hearer, even though it is understood by the speaker--which is the point of the corrective teaching in the fourteen chapter of Corinthians. 

In the case of the spiritual gift of "tongues," the language is not learned, but is granted as a gift to the individual. It is not the result of study, but of Divine impartation. It is not the ability to learn a language, but the ability to use a language without ever learning it. The premier example of this is found on the day of Pentecost, as you well know. The peopled marvelled that they heard the wonderful works of God spoken in their own language by unrefined Galileans (Acts 2:11). 

The purpose of this gift, as with all spiritual gifts, is the general benefit, or edification of, of the body of Christ, and not for personal gratification (1 Cor 12:7). Further, edification comes through the understanding, which is the purpose of the instruction of First Corinthians 14. To my knowledge, spiritual gifts are never represented as being for the individual, but for the whole body. 

Since the giving of this (and all other spiritual gifts) is strictly in the hands of God, no person can say it ought to be present, or ought to be absent. That is simply an area in which God has not licensed us to operate. Where any of the gifts are required, and where faith is present, God will give them. where they are not needed (from God's view), or where faith is absent, they will not be given. It is really just that simple, and we must be willing to leave the matter there.

This is a biggie: How do you determine God's specific will for your life. I understand that His general will is found in scripture and that is specific will never contradicts His word.

There is a sense in which God's will is specific for you, and one in which it is not. In the first, the objective is to know where God has placed us, and honor Him in that place. In the second, the aim is to honor the Lord by making choices that are harmonious with His will, using faith and wisdom.

THE SPECIFIC SENSE. In the specific sense, He has placed His people in Christ's body where it pleased Him. That is the meaning of First Corinthians 12:18. "But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased." He has also given His people a "measure of faith," designed to fulfill their role in Christ Jesus. Thus we read, "God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness" (Romans 12:3b-8).

In this matter, we have no choice, but are to come into an understanding of God's choice. This understanding is not appropriated through a routine or mental discipline. It comes by living close to Christ, which sensitizes our spirits to be taught by Jesus. 

There are two ways to learn. One is through study and familiarization with the Scriptures. That is indispensable. The other is to be taught by God and Jesus, and that too is indispensable. We learn what God has appointed for us by being taught by the Lord.

One of the great promises of the Lord is, "And they will all be taught by God" (John 6:45). This is fulfilled for us in Christ Jesus, who Himself teaches us. "But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus" (Eph 4:20-21). Again it is written, "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him" (John 14:21).

As the Lord opens Himself to us, we begin to see our role in His Kingdom. The Bible calls this seeing light in His light (Psa 36:9). It means that God has arranged things so we can see our place only to the extent that we see the Lord. The clearer we see His Person and what He has done, the more we begin to see where we fit in. This is one of the intensely personal aspects of our salvation. In this relationship, Jesus becomes our teacher.

The 12th chapter of Romans approaches this in a very practical way, building upon the principles I have just mentioned. God knows His people desire to understand His will for them, and has encouraged them in the matter. Here is how He states it. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Rom 12:1-2). Notice the two things of emphasis. FIRST, our bodies (or our earthly life) are to be presented to God as a continual offering. Our purpose is commit ourselves fully to the Lord, ready to be used by Him at all times. This is also taught in Second Timothy 2:20-21).

SECOND, we are to zealously avoid thinking like the world--thinking without God being at the center of our thoughts. God's aim is for His thoughts to become ours. He knows we cannot make this happen, so He exhorts us to reject the temptation to think like the world. This involves seeking things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God (Col 3:1-3). As we do this, our minds will be transformed by the power of God and through our faith. In that marvelous transformation, we will be able to "be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Rom 12:2, NIV). I believe that is what you asked, and that is how it is realized.

Such answers are found in walking close to the Lord. "Walking" means living in the direction of the Lord--pointed toward Him, and with heaven in our eye. This kind of living is called "living by faith" (Rom 1:17), "walking by faith" (2 Cor 5:7), "walking in the Spirit" (Gal 5:15,25), "walking in the light" (1 John 1:7), "the fellowship of God's Son" (1 Cor 1:9), etc. 

In that walk, the Lord Himself will show you what you want to know. That is His work, and He will faithfully do it while you are close to Him. He will work through your faith, and in your thoughts. That is how He works. In my own perception, here is a way this understanding can come to you. First, you will feel the need for certain God-honoring work to be done. Second, you will personally desire to do it--having a strong inclination toward that work. Third, an opportunity will open to you to actually do it. It is possible to see something that needs to be done, but have no real desire to do it. It is also possible to really want to do something for which there is no need. One can also see a need for the work, have a strong desire to do it, but no opportunity to do so. But when these three things come together for you, and when they are motivated by faith in God, you are probably seeing God's will for you.

In a general sense, God is not said to have determined the specific means of employment we have, or the wife we choose, or the house we live in, etc. Those determinations, however, are to be made with God in mind. They come under the general exhortation, "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him" (Col 3:17). When such is the case, God will bless our choices.


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