How To Not Follow Balaam’s Error

Maybe it was one of felt board lessons I heard in one of the eight to ten Sunday school lessons I endured. Or maybe I was just distracted by the talking donkey. Either way, I’ve never thought of Balaam as a bad dude. I’ve always thought he just had a dark moment where he committed the sin of donkey abuse, but for the most part he was faithful in speaking God’s Word.

Numbers 24:13 seems to back up my perception of Balaam being a faithful prophet. I mean what an awesome verse for a preacher to put on his wall:

“If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the Lord, to do either good or bad of my own will. What the LORD speaks, that will I speak…”

In other words Balaam was a prophet. And if he were to remain a prophet then no amount of money could persuade him to speak something other than God’s Word. That’s stout.

Problem is, Balaam really wanted that house full of silver and gold. But he also wanted to have the perks of being a prophet. And so this is why his story ends with him giving advice on how to destroy the Israelites without using prophetic voice (See Number 31:16). He found a way to still look like a prophet but also make bank off Balak.

Balaam was a wicked dude.

Our Balaam Hearts

If I’m being honest, I can see Balaam rear his ugly head in my heart.

In Numbers 22:12 the Lord speaks very clearly to Balaam. He tells Balaam that he’s going to do the opposite of what Balak is asking. Then Balak comes back with a little more cash and a promise of honor. In verse 19 Balaam goes back to the Lord to see if he missed anything.

Do you see it?

Being faithful to God’s Word is going to cost Balaam. And so he wonders if maybe he can convince God to tweak His Word just a bit. Not much. Just enough to get Balaam his prestige and prosperity.

Balak has stolen Balaam’s gaze. He’s the cool dude with all the cool toys that Balaam wishes he could play with. And he’s come to town promising to let a little of his cool rub off on Balaam if only the prophet will do him this little favor.

The desire to tweak God’s Word to keep ourselves in favor with our culture is a temptation that all of us likely face. We are prone to do this in distant relationships and even in the face of absolute strangers. None of us are immune from wanting the perks of a prophet without the pain of declaring uncomfortable prophecy.

Rescue From Balaam

Thankfully, the Lord is working in our hearts to boot out our Balaams.

The root cause of Balaam’s error is found in 2 Peter 2:15. There we see that Balaam was in love with shameful gain. It was his love for Balak’s life that caused him to want to change God’s Word.

The more we are enamored with Christ the less we’ll be prone to desire Balak’s shiny junk. And the more I believe that God is all I need, then the more I’ll affirm that His Word is sufficient.

If our hearts are satisfied in the Lord we won’t ask him a second time to change His Word. We’ll believe that He is enough and that He knows best. The converse is also true. The more dissatisfied I am with the Lord the more likely I’ll be to want to get Him to change His Word.

Let’s be the type of people that say with Balaam, “I’m not able to go beyond the word of the Lord”. But let us be people that say that because we are truly enthralled by the Lord.

Today in Blogworld 10.23.14

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Asking yourself these questions might also keep you from sleep. These are hard-hitting.

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I’m gonna try a few of these fist bumps:

Does 1 John 2:27 Mean I Don’t Need My Sunday School Teacher?

In 1 John 2:27 the apostle tells his readers, “you have no need that anyone should teach you.” He says this because they have been “anointed by the Holy One”. As a result of this anointing they don’t need anyone to teach them.

What about us?

Is this an affirmation that if I have the “anointing of the Holy One” that I’m fine missing Sunday School? After all, if I’ve got God Almighty teaching my heart then, I don’t need nobody teachin’ me nuthin’.

What is the “anointing”?

In order to answer this question we first need to be clear on what this “anointing” is? I’ve heard some interpret this passage as if what John is saying is that some people receive direct revelations from the Spirit—and this is the anointing. And as a result, they don’t need teachers.

In actuality, such an interpretation would undercut John’s message. When we consider this verse in its context we see that John is likely dealing with a group of false teachers that are claiming special knowledge. They’ve abandoned the gospel. They haven’t “let what [they] heard from the beginning abide in [them]”.

Special messages that lead to a claim of special and/or secret knowledge from God is the very problem that John is facing. What John means when he says that they have been “anointed by the Holy One” is that they have been given the Holy Spirit. The consistent use of this word is “in relation to an anointing whose agent is God and whose medium is the Holy Spirit”. (Kruse, 103)

Because John’s readers have received the Holy Spirit they have within them all the knowledge they need. They don’t need something new or special. They simply need to remain faithful to the gospel that they’ve already received.

If I have the Spirit do I need teachers?

Why, then, does John say that his readers do not need anyone to teach them?

Again context is key. In verse 26 John says that he is writing these things “about those who are trying to deceive you”. It is contrast to these deceivers that John writes verse 27. His point, then, is that they already have what they need. So, when John says they do not need anyone to teach them the “anyone” is speaking of those giving new revelations.

We have the Spirit and we have gospel…we don’t need new stuff. So does this mean we don’t need teachers?

Absolutely not. It is the same Christ who gave the Spirit that also gave some to be teachers (Ephesians 4:11). It is hard to imagine that Christ would have gifted the church with teachers that we do not need.

In fact John is teaching them through his letter. But what ought to be noted is the way in which John is teaching them. This help us to see the function that teachers of the gospel are to have.

Gospel teachers aren’t new truth dispensers. We are dispensers of the very old truth. All believers are given the Spirit (that is John’s point) and when the gospel is proclaimed by teachers the Spirit within them affirms what is being taught.

And so this tells us how teachers ought to be teaching. Our goal is to lead people to a further grasp of the gospel. That’s it. You start teaching new and special things then nobody needs you as a teacher. But if you are a teacher that is laboring to help people grab hold of Jesus and apply the gospel then you are much needed in the kingdom.

Today in Blogworld 10.22.14

Christian, Don’t Begrudgingly Affirm God’s Word

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B.J. Novak (Ryan from the Office) has an interesting new children’s book out: