Monday, November 2, 2009

Verbal Clouds

Because he understood that the world financial markets hung on his every word when he served as chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan tried to be very careful about what he said and how he said it. He knew his words could be taken out of context and misconstrued in ways that could cause major market fluctuations. Yet he also knew that definitiveness and clarity in his pronouncements could similarly cause unintended results as people tried to anticipate future economic performance.
Thus, he felt the need to add the following introduction to one of his briefings: “I guess I should warn you, if I turn out to be particularly clear, you've probably misunderstood what I've said.”
Similar to lawyers and politicians, Mr. Greenspan learned the art of using lots of words to not really say anything that could come back on him. It’s what I like to refer to as a ‘verbal cloud’ – it appears to say something, but when you really get into it, it has no substance. ‘Smoke and mirrors,’ ‘sleight of hand’, ‘bait and switch’, ‘dissimulation’, ‘chicanery’. There have been lots of different ways of referring to the ‘verbal cloud’. They all involve erroneous implications, over-complication, or some type of double entendre meant to cause more confusion than clarification.
But that has never been the way God communicates His truths. He pretty much lays it out there in plain, easy to understand language.
Is there room for confusion or debate about language like: “Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12); “Love one another” (John 13:34); “[B]e quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19)? Sure, people will try to justify or excuse their behavior (or lack thereof) by ‘qualifying’ or ‘rationalizing’ what the Bible says, but that doesn’t really change how plain, simple, and straightforward the Bible really is.
For example, consider the ultimate truth of the Bible – the gospel. Have you listened to how convoluted, complicated, and almost incapable of understanding some people have made ‘the gospel’ message? They take parts of the gospel message and try to make it fit within the confines of their pre-determined concept of God, and everything gets messed up.
When you try to conform the gospel to ideas like: everyone eventually goes to heaven, there’s not a real hell, ‘God is love’ (without righteousness and justice involved), our ‘goodness’ relative to others (rather than juxtaposed against a holy and perfect God), etc., you lose a simple truth to a mish-mash of politically correct theological garbage.
So, how simple and plain is the real gospel? Paul laid it out in perfectly clear language: Jesus died for our sins; he was buried; he rose again. (See 1 Corinthians 15:3-4) That’s it!
Certainly each of those concepts can be expounded upon and details added, but that is the entire gospel in only 11 words. Any addition to that message which seeks to make it more palatable or ‘reasonable’ or logical is just wrong. It’s a lie. Such addition (or change) would be a verbal cloud, intended to obfuscate and divert your attention from the real object of the gospel message - Jesus.
So, any time someone mentions ‘the gospel’ but focuses on anything other than Jesus died for our sins; he was buried; he rose again, understand that they are conjuring up a verbal cloud.
Step back, look to the heavens, and let the Son shine through those ‘verbal clouds.’

Today: Present the gospel message in its simplicity – don’t add any ‘fluff’ or sugar-coat its reality. And when you hear someone else ‘profess’ the gospel, don’t let them ‘cloud’ the message.

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