Aspirin is good and effective medicine. However, it is useless against cancer. In the same way some of the advice that Eliphaz and the other friends dole out is, in its own right, correct, good, and true. Although, because their counsel is applied incorrectly, it becomes useless. Eliphaz’s basic presumption that Job is being divinely “corrected” and “disciplined,” sounds good to the religious mind, but it is simply wrong. God is not trying to rehabilitate Job; he wants to honor him and to glorify his faith.
I suppose what Eliphaz said was true enough. Although, even the truth, when spoken at the wrong time or in the wrong circumstances—that is, when spoken without love—is a lie. “If the wrong man uses the right means,” goes an old Chinese proverb, “then the right means works in the wrong way.” Paul wrote, “What you have heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus” (II Timothy 1:13). Why would Paul bother to add the words “with faith and love” unless it was possible to “keep the pattern of sound teaching” without them? In the end, we might see that the mishandling of truth is an even greater travesty, in the eyes of God, than blatant sin. When truth lies, it becomes a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and though it dresses up in the clothes of the Spirit, underneath it is thoroughly carnal.
When Paul wrote, “If you live according to the flesh, you will die” (Romans 8:13), he was not warning primarily against gross sins such as drunkenness or stealing or sexual immorality. He was not even railing against the more genteel iniquities such as gossiping and desention (which incidentally, the New Testament brands as being equally serious: see Galatians 5:19-21, where “envy” and “orgies,” “selfish ambition” and “witchcraft” appear side-by-side in a list of what are termed “obvious” sins). No, Paul’s warning was against Christians giving themselves to any behavior that had its origin in the flesh rather than in the Spirit. Could that have included the misapplication of truth, and insensitive and judgmental counseling of others? Would he also have included hypocrisy and phoniness, insincere love, and conformity to peer pressure? I imagine his being outraged with singsong evangelism, the sterile, robotic mouthing of the gospel of Christ. Then there is also the pasteboard smiles, vacuous laughter, and good deeds motivated by guilt or by the need to impress others. Maybe he would also have expressed sadness over a satisfaction with the lack of reality in the Christian faith.
It really does not matter if you call yourself a “Christian.” If your inner attitudes and your lifestyle are primarily those of conformity to the world and the flesh—when in your heart you know better and have been given grace to follow the Spirit—then your life will be no real life at all, but a living death. You will die a little more every day. You will hate yourself (and God too) a little more every time you choose to settle complacently into the world’s rut rather than obeying the life-giving prompting of the Spirit. Jesus warned, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.”
If we continue to disregard the voice of the Lord deep within us, what else can we expect but that our hearts will grow cold and hard? Every time we shut out Christ’s words, we make it that much harder to hear Him the next time.
Michael Card’s song, Know You in the Now, draws an honest view of the life many Christians live, and provides an excellent prayer for us to pray:
Echo of history
A light so many strain to see
The One we talk so much about
But rarely ever live it out
Could You tell me why
Was it for this that You came and died
A once a week observance
Where we coldly mouth your words
We should confess
we lose You in our busyness
We’ve made You in our image
So our faith’s idolatry
Lord, deliver me
Break my heart so I can see
All the ways You dwell in us
That You’re alive in me
Lord I long to see
Your presence in reality
But I don’t know how
Let me know you in the now
A.W. Tozer encourages us by pointing out that “within the fold of conservative Christianity, there are those increasing numbers of persons whose religious lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. They are eager for spiritual realities and will not be put off with mere words, nor will they be content with correct ‘interpretations’ of truth. They are athirst for God, and they will not be satisfied till they have drunk deep at the fountain of Living Water.”
“Our problem is that we let everyone else do our seeking for us. All of our evangelistic endeavors center on the initial act of ‘accepting’ Christ and we never crave anything more. We are caught up in the coils of a plausible but false logic that insists that once you find God you don’t need to seek Him any more.”
When I was a Pastor, my greatest desire was that the people would experience God for themselves—not lean on me for their guidance and teaching. I remember a young co-ed at WMU who wanted me to pray and discover what it was God wanted her to do . . . I lovingly assured her I wouldn’t, even if I could . . . that was her job. My wife and I moved to Ann Arbor to join and Ecumenical Community, but very soon afterward, they had a split over doctrinal issues. What was said about the whole thing was watching many of the members falling away from their faith in God. Why? Because for many people their Christian experience and life was the community. Once it was no longer there, their faith collapsed. Sadly, they had never experienced the reality of their Father and were left floundering in the realities of their lives alone.
we are called to follow the Messiah, not any particular leader or group of other believers. Yes, we need the fellowship of other believers, in fact Scripture instructs us to never neglect gathering with them, but that should not be the foundation of our faith! We are to be rooted in Christ, and Christ alone!
If you are interested, you can download the whole study of Job.
Other Bible Studies and Commentary are available at Doulos Studies.