You Can Burn the Paper but You Can’t Burn the Word (Jeremiah 36:1–32)

“It was the ninth month, and the king was sitting in the winter house, and there was a fire burning in the fire pot before him. As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot. Yet neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words was afraid, nor did they tear their garments. Even when Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them” (Jeremiah 36:22–25).

In 1820 Thomas Jefferson completed a work he titled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. The title tells all. Jesus’ life, not his death or resurrection, is the concern. The significance of this is further brought out by the word “morals.” It isn’t that Jesus teaching doesn’t concern morality, but that He is merely put on the level of other great moral philosophers. And though Jesus was from Nazareth, here this functions as the identifier of His person, rather than that He was from Heaven, the eternal Son of God.

In 2005 Christian Smith, a sociology professor at Notre Dame, described American religious belief as “moralistic therapeutic deism.” We are a young nation. It was a short journey. With Jefferson, you can see that the seeds for much of this were sown as early as the Revolution. Scratch out “therapeutic” and you’ve got Jefferson’s religion—moralistic deism.

books-4733993_1280.jpgWhat I haven’t told you yet, but what you may well be aware of, is that Jefferson didn’t write one word of this book. It was a cut and paste project. Jefferson literally took knife and glue to New Testament, purging the miraculous and the supernatural. The work is commonly known as the “Jefferson Bible” and is held by the Smithsonian Institute. Jefferson didn’t burn the Bible as a whole, he simply relegated the parts he didn’t like to the wastebasket. Neither was his act a public one as Jehoiakim’s. It was made and kept for his own private use. One can understand why he didn’t broadcast what he had done in that era. Still, though his actions were less violent and more reasoned, they were just as wicked and blasphemous.

Liberal theology of the 19th century replicated the Jeffersonian method, searching for the historical Jesus. They didn’t use a physical knife, but with the knife of the tongue they told us what parts of the Bible could not be true and gave explanations for how the Jesus myth grew. On the other side of their little project, like Jefferson, what was left was a kind of moralism labeled the “social gospel.”

While the evangelical church held firm against the intellectual elite’s attack on the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, she compromised to the masses regarding the sufficiency of Scripture. Though the Bible is so revered and never subjected to scissors or fire, it is instead left to be buried under the collected dust of neglect. The Bible, in many churches, is little more than a prop. When it is referenced, it’s only to prop up our own ideas. Say what we will about Jefferson and liberal theologians—at least they rigorously read and studied the Bible. That’s much more than can be said for a great swath of Evangelicalism today. We may believe in the miraculous, but like Jefferson, we like our Bible’s cut and pasted. We fool ourselves that we’re not as vile as Jehoiakim, throwing the parts we don’t care for into a fire of oblivion. 

Evangelicalism says she’s friends with the Bible, but you sense she’s embarrassed. She wants her friend present but silent. When Scripture is allowed to speak freely and fully, it’s given the cold shoulder, or what we might call a soft burn. But like Jehoiakim, she’ll find all her efforts futile. She tries to burn the word with pyrotechnics. But her light show is only impressive in the dark. When the Sun blazes, no one will ooh and ahh. She tries to pin the Word with a wrestling show. This is like one imagining they’ve pinned a rhinoceros who happened to be sleeping; the illusion won’t last long. She waters down the word and juices up the music; but her tunes will run dry and she’ll be made to drink of the cup of God’s judgment, undiluted.

God’s words come out the fire unscathed every time. Man can burn some paper; that is all. Fear Him who is able to destroy body and soul in hell. Tremble at His word.

“A voice says, ‘Cry!’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:6–8).

Meridian Church · Jeremiah 36:1–32 || Writing And Reading || Josh King

Shaking our Confidence to Strengthen our Faith (Habakkuk 1:12–2:5)

This post was originally published on December 22, 2014 and was lightly revised on March 30, 2020.

Habakkuk: “We shall not die.”

Yahweh: “The righteous shall live by his faith.”

—Habakkuk 1:12; 2:4

Habakkuk laments. God responds. Yet, God’s response seems to rattle more than settle Habakkuk. God’s answer to evil appears only to be greater evil. Habakkuk is flabbergasted as to how God can use the more evil Babylonians for reproof such that the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he.

But before Habakkuk launches into further lament, expressing his greater confusion, he takes comfort in recalling who God is. He reasons, “Are you not from everlasting? We shall not die.” How does God’s being from everlasting result in the conclusion that they shall not die? God is from everlasting, and what he does is from everlasting (2 Kings 19:25; Isaiah 46:9–10). Also, God is from everlasting, therefore, what He does is everlasting. He makes a covenant with Abraham that is an everlasting covenant (Genesis 17:7). God’s covenant love for his people is from everlasting, and is everlasting. When Habakkuk cries out “my God, my Holy One” he is speaking the language of covenant, just as when a husband says “my wife.”  Habakkuk’s addressing God as “the LORD,” or Yahweh is not insignificant or unrelated. Yahweh is the covenant name of God, given by Him to His people for them to remember Him by throughout all their generations (Exodus 3:15). Habakkuk knows God as holy, righteous, good, and faithful because of who God has revealed Himself to be for His people. He calls Yahweh his Rock (cf. Psalm 62:6–7). Habakkuk comes before God, on the basis of God. In the midst of confusion, Habakkuk finds comfort in who God is, and yet, it is who God is that is the reason for his confusion. His theology and his reality don’t seem to jibe.

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When God answers Habakkuk a second time, he explains how he will judge the Babylonians but that is all. He makes no explicit promises of salvation, discloses nothing of His plan to make it right in the end, offers no explanation of how everything will work out, and states not how He can remain righteous in all of this. God simply contrasts the proud man with the man who lives by faith. The man of faith lives, and he lives by his faith. By implication, and as it is spelled out in the rest of chapter 2 concerning the Babylonians, the proud man dies. With this, God is calling for Habakkuk to go deeper into what Habakkuk has already expressed he believes about God—that He is the everlasting, holy God of covenant, and that He is a sure and steady Rock of salvation.

In the midst of injustice, tragedy, and suffering, you don’t need to understand the situation; you need to believe in who God has revealed Himself to be. We don’t need situation specific answers; we need to lean into the revelation of who God is, what He has done, and what He promises to do.

Don’t Buy “Dragon Slayer” (Colossians 2:8–15)


“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” —Colossians 2:8 (ESV)

False teaching promises freedom and enslaves. It promises life and give death. Heresy is a lie dressed up as truth. She promises fullness, but she’s a vacuum. She’s a harlot; she’s not lady wisdom.

The worst kind of captivity is the one you’re blind to and embrace as freedom. Man rebels against God desiring to be free and finds bondage to sin, Satan, and death. But more subtle, more crafty, is the illusion of freedom, deeper spirituality, and fullness that looks like it’s fighting for God’s kingdom against the forces of darkness.

The false teachers trying to make inroads at Colossae had a fascination with angels and spiritual forces (Colossians 2:8, 18, 20). This is why Paul has stressed that Christ is supreme over all thrones, dominions, and authorities, including those that are unseen (Colossians 1:13, 16; 2:15). Much false teaching today enslaves by promising liberation from the demonic. Demonism doesn’t always look like a goat; often it disguises itself as a lamb.

Jennifer LeClaire, writing for Charisma Magazine, tells of a friend who had a “vision” (see Colossians 2:18) wherein a squid was perched atop her head. She writes, “I knew enough about the unseen world to understand a spiritual attack was underway [emphssis added].” As you study Colossians, it becomes apparent that the false teachers were promising some kind of fullness of knowledge that was in addition to the authoritative and final apostolic revelation of Christ. LeClair is claiming exactly that kind of knowledge. What kind of spiritual attack was afoot?

“What I didn’t know was that a sneaky squid spirit would soon start stalking me.

Right about now, you might be scratching your head and asking, with all sincerity—or with all mockery—‘What in the world is a squid spirit?’ Essentially, it’s a spirit of mind control but its affects go way behind what you would think.

In his classic book, Demon Hit List, Eckhardt lists mind control and defines it this way: ‘Octopus and squid spirits having tentacles; confusion, mental pressure, mental pain, migraine.’ ”

Balderdash! LeClair then elaborates on how one falls prey to a sneaky squid spirit. Additionally, she provides intel concerning their tactics and how to combat them. The problem with all this? None of it is “according to Christ,” the Christ who has conquered (Colossians 2:15), the Christ we’ve received (Colossians 2:6). The problem with such teaching is that it says Jesus isn’t sufficient when He is the only One who is. Our eyes are diverted from the revelation of Christ as given in the Scriptures, to that which is “of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh (Colossians 2:23).” We thus come into bondage, having traded the armor of Jesus Christ for a shiny and flashy display piece dubbed “dragon slayer” that is useless, save to draw glory to ourselves.

Why Beg for Crumbs when you Have the Bread of Life? (Colossians 1:24–29)

The mystery of the gospel isn’t very mysterious for the saints, therefore, beware of the mysterious. The mystery religions of Paul’s day had a hierarchy of knowers. One ascended the ladder by means of rites, experiences, and acts of piety. It seems that false teaching blending pagan mystery religion and Jewish mysticism was attempting to make inroads at Colossae (i.e. Colossians 2:18–19). Be certain, it’s made its way well into the church today. Beware of spiritual Christian caste systems.

You don’t need the mysterious when the mystery entrusted to the apostles has been revealed to you. Jesus is sufficient. This means the Scriptures are sufficient. You don’t need angels, saints, or oil to get a spiritual high. Talk of second blessing is laughable when the first one gave you everything. Prophecies are puny compared to the revelation of the mystery given to the church through Christ’s apostles. Anxiety for a fresh word is like the billionaire worrying if his social security will come through. Why beg for crumbs when the apostles hold forth the Bread of Life?

Sarah Young says she hears from Jesus. Like a modern apostle, she passes along her revelation in a book she titled Jesus Calling. It’s sold over ten million copies. Therein she says, “This practice of listening to God has increased my intimacy with Him more than any other spiritual discipline, so I want to share some of the messages I have received. In many parts of the world, Christians seem to be searching for a deeper experience of Jesus’ Presence and Peace. The messages that follow address that felt need.”

Jesus is the final word and His apostles are His final word on Himself as the final Word. No others are necessary.

In contrast consider John Piper’s testimony of hearing God speak to him. He begins, “Let me tell you about a most wonderful experience I had early Monday morning, March 19, 2007, a little after six o’clock. God actually spoke to me. There is no doubt that it was God.” After many paragraphs that could cause concern that Piper is siding with the likes of Young, he clarifies:

“And best of all, [these words] are available to all. If you would like to hear the very same words I heard on the couch in northern Minnesota, read Psalm 66:5–7. That is where I heard them. O, how precious is the Bible. It is the very word of God. In it God speaks in the twenty-first century. This is the very voice of God. By this voice, he speaks with absolute truth and personal force. By this voice, he reveals his all-surpassing beauty. By this voice, he reveals the deepest secrets of our hearts. No voice anywhere anytime can reach as deep or lift as high or carry as far as the voice of God that we hear in the Bible.”

You don’t need more than Jesus. You don’t need more than His word.

Mail Call and No Letter? (Colossians 1:1–2)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

—Colossians 1:1–2 (ESV)

Paul writes this letter, but he writes as an apostle of Christ Jesus. We say Colossians is one of the Pauline Epistles, but we mustn’t say that louder than we say it is the Word of God.

Whom is the risen Christ addressing through His apostle in this letter? The saints and faithful brothers at Colossae. Ahh, of course. Apostolic letters are for saints, long dead ones. Mail call has come and you’re left without a letter. All the cool kids got a Valentine, but none for you. Figures.

Saints is a term we’re afraid of for two reasons: 1. the heretical teaching of the Roman Catholic church and 2. fear of any accusation of arrogance should we use it as the Bible does. But we are Protestants. We exclaim sola scriptura! We shouldn’t retreat from Biblical terms. We should reclaim and defend them.

It is not humility, but pride which keeps saints from our lips. Failure to use the term saint means we’re finding our identity in who we were out of Christ more than who we are in Christ. The saints are those who are set apart in Christ. If you are in Christ, you are a saint. Sainthood is not a result of personal holiness; personal holiness is a result of sainthood.

But alas, this is a letter for ancient saints, those who resided in Colossae. We’ve got the same name, but the address is different. The New King James Version has a subtle but meaningful variance in translation from the ESV quoted above. “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse (1:2a).” The NKJV unnecessarily adds “who are,” but has “in Colossae” instead of “at Colossae.” The same English preposition is used in both instances, just as it it in the Greek text. The more important locator is in Christ. If a tornado hits a city, and you are in that city and in a storm shelter, being in the storm shelter is the more important of places. What Paul writes has far less to do with Colossae than Christ. A sinner might stand in Colossae in 61 AD and this letter have nothing to do with them, but everything to do with you standing on another continent in the twenty first century because you are in Christ.

This letter was meant to be cyclical, passed along to other churches (Colossians 4:16). Paul wasn’t an apostle of certain churches, but of the Church. The Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Christ Jesus being the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). If you are in Christ, you are saints, and this letter is meant for you. Any insight you might gain into Colossae and the church there, serves then not to distance you from this letter, but to better understand what Christ wants to say to you through His apostle.

The Apologist: What is Still the Watershed of the Evangelical Word

Holding to a strong view of Scripture or not holding to it is the watershed of the evangelical world.

…We must say most lovingly but clearly: evangelicalism is not consistently evangelical unless there is a line drawn between those who take a full view of Scripture and those who do not.

We who bear the name evangelical need to be unitedly those who have the same view of Scripture as William Cowper had when he wrote the hymn, “The Spirit Breathes Upon the Word.” In contrast to any concept of the Bible being borrowed through cultural orientation, the second verse of that hymn reads:

A glory guilds the sacred page,
Majestic like the sun
It gives a light to ever age;
It gives, but borrows none.

—Francis Schaeffer, No Final Conflict

The Apologist: Better a Few Evangelicals than Many -icals

We must say that if evangelicals are to be evangelicals, we must not compromise our view of Scripture. There is no use in evangelicalism seeming to get larger and larger, if at the same time appreciable parts of evangelicalism are getting soft at that which is the central core—namely the Scriptures. —Francis Schaeffer, No Final Conflict