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Monday, August 14, 2006

The Sin of Speculation

by Aaron Ireland

Mat 6:25-34

v34 - "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."

Perhaps calling speculation "sin" is a slight overkill. It is not my intention to paint every kind of hypothetical thinking as sinful, but to highlight the notion of the existence of a sinfulness that exhibits itself as distrustful speculation and consider the ramifications of our entertainment of it. These are my own thoughts that I desire to have placed on record in order to open them up to the scrutiny and discernment of the Body of Christ in light of 1 Cor 14:32. I believe that they are both based in scripture and shared by others. In light of this I bring this offering and from here we will begin.

The tendency of fallen man is to lust for knowledge and the center of this lust is the speculation of how things "might be" at the expense of how they "are". It is a kind of fantasy realm of thought which has the potential to elevate boredom while at the same time create a sense of safety as we plan for unseen and potentially dangerous instances as well as dream of preferred futures that may or may not happen. While this may seen innocent, in extreme cases speculation this can lead us to question everything to the point of inducing paranoia. These questions can be crippling to a Christian as they can create doubts in the goodness and mercy of God and can also lead us to lazy from of philosophical entertainment (Acts 17:21).

Questions in themselves are not bad, however it would be wise to be careful of ones that start off with "What if..." and "Why..." Also, we should always be prepared to receive an answer that we won't like and beware of the compulsion to demand an answer for our questions. Often times "silence" will be your answer, although experience says that few can truly appreciate "silent answers". The ability to ask questions are a gift from God, and His tool for leading us into truth.

"The true Christian insists upon stripping things down to the hard core of reality. He wants to know truth as it is: About life. About sin: Whether it is; What it is; How to get rid of his. About his relation to God: both possible and actual. Where he stands with respect to judgement to come. About heaven and about hell" - A.W. Tozer (The Voice of Reason)

Regarding eternal matters, beware of questions that are not answered in scripture.

"If you tell me 'why' 100% of all the people before the Fall sinned, and I'll tell you why 100% of the people after the fall have sinned. And the scripture doesn't tell us 'why', it tells us 'that'. And how much time is wasted on trying to produce 'why's that the scriptures don't give answers to? If the scripture doesn't tell us why, let's not discuss it. Let's stick with what it says." - Paris Reidhead, commenting on St Augustine's doctrine of "Original Sin" (The Right Use of the Law

As we consider our text, we find that we are exhorted to "seek ... first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness", with the promise that "all these things shall be added unto (us)" (Mat 6:33). What are "all these things"? Provision of necessities, viz. Food, Drink and Clothes (v31). Notice also that we are to "behold the fowls of the air" and notice that our "heavenly Father feedeth them" in spite of the fact that they "sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns" (v26). As an extended interpretation, could it be that "perceived necessary explanations" could be included in the list of "all these things"? After all, this is another thing that "the Gentiles seek" (v32) Perhaps God is often waiting for us to allow Him the right to decide the difference between what is a "necessary explanation" and what is not, before He gives it (1 Cor 2:14-16).

Many of us tend to "gather into barns" our own "crops" of opinions, ideas and philosophies, at the expense of memorising scripture itself. And this at the expense of awaiting God's explanation.

"Wherever man attacks the concrete Word of God with the weapon of a principle or idea of God there he has become lord over God." - Dietrich Bonhoffer

So, what's the big deal about "speculation" anyway? Speculation puts words and events into "future" history that don't belong there, out of a fear of what "might be" based on what "could have been" (see Rev 21:8). It could be said that oftentimes the root cause of speculation is the "fear of the unknown" and is evidence of the existance of a distrust of God. Consider this in the light of Heb 11:6 "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."

Speculation says, "Imagine if God did..." (Past) Faith says, "Look what God is." (Now) Speculation says, "What about if God does..." (Future) Faith says, "Look at who God is." (Now)

God dwells in the eternal "Now". This may be a little confusing, but here goes. "We" pass through "Now" from the "Future" to reside in the "Past". If I were looking into the future from 200 years ago, you would exist in the future and not yet in the past or present (unless you're really really old). Looking now into the past back from 200 in the future, you would exist in the in the past, but not in the present or future (momentarily putting aside millennial doctrines and the resurrection). God, on the other hand, is present in every moment that can be called "Now" (Rev 1:8) and not only that, He is the exactly the same at everyone of these moments (Jas 1:17). This is why He introduced Himself to Israel as "I AM" as opposed to "I was" or "I will be" (Ex 3:13-14).

Based on this "fact", there is no need to speculate as to what God "might do" as we only have to look at what He "has done" throughout history (as described in Scripture) knowing that He will be consistent with what He has done. Not only that, but we also know that He "does" what He "says He will do" (Heb 6:17-19). Because of these facts, "faith" could be defined as having confidence that what God has "already provided" in the past, will "manifest itself" in the future, in spite of it being "not visible" now, in spite of having "no other proof", than His Word and His Prior Acts (Heb 11:1). Consider our salvation, for example. God provided our salvation in the event of the crucifixion of Christ, before we had even sinned. At a fixed point in time, we appropriate that salvation by repenting of our sin, putting our trust in Christ, being baptised and receiving of the Spirit of Life. There was a point where we didn't "possess" the salvation that was given at Calvary. We made a choice, in our unsaved condition, to believe that God had already provided this salvation, that was not yet manifested in our life, but based solely on a glimpse of his integrity, with no other assurance that we would or had received it until after we had actually received His Spirit (Rom 8:16). That is saving faith (Eph 2:8-9). Either He provides what He said He will provide or we are going to be left looking silly.

How far does His integrity go? Consider now the case of God's threat to wipe out Israel and make Moses into a nation (Ex 32:7-14) to answer this. It would appear that this instance contradicts the integrity of God. God had already promised that the "sceptre shall not depart from Judah" (Gen 49:10) but here He is telling Moses, "let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation." Here we have God, as a husband catching his wife in the very act of adultery, reacting to the event of the blatant idolatry of His betrothed Israel with their self-made Golden Calf, which they had even named "Yahweh". In His understandable jilted jealousy, He expresses His desire to not only divorce His people, but to wipe them from the face of the earth, every tribe, including the aforementioned Judah. He then offers to make a new and great nation out of one that did not participate in the idolatry. Now, considering that Moses was of the tribe of Levi, and the sceptre would not depart from Judah, and God for all intents and purposes was about wipe out Judah with the rest of Israel, it would seem that God had painted Himself into a verbal corner. How can these two statements be reconciled while keeping God's integrity intact?

In order to illustrate the answer to this question, I will relate a true story. A family was driving through the country and the children started acting up in the back seat. The father turned around in a fit of rage and roared, "Right! The next kid to make a noise is getting out and walking home!" Suddenly the gravity of his words hit him, and he began to silently pray that they would remain silent so he wouldn't have to follow through with his threat while at the same time retaining his integrity before his children. Thankfully they didn't call his bluff.

Now obviously every illustration breaks down at a point, but consider that God knew Moses and trusted that the heart He'd formed in him over 40 years of tending sheep in the wilderness wouldn't call His bluff. If we reread God's words to Moses, we see that the condition that God attached for Himself to be able to wipe out Israel was for Moses to "let (Him) alone" (see also Is 45:11). In an incredible display of His omnipotence and omniscience God entrusted the validity of His redemptive plan to the decision of one man. And apparently it was in safe hands. In short, he took advantage of an opportunity to display His mercy, maintain His integrity and prove Moses character all at the same time.

So we can see that God is utterly consistent, even when at time He appears erratic. All the more reason to be ever vigilant to distinguish between placing our trust in our "speculations" of what God "might do" and the "facts" of what God "did do" and "is doing", knowing that He is the same "yesterday, today and forever". We can do this by considering where our opinions have their origin, in the light of scripture, out of our vital union with Him (Heb 4:9-13), be they "eternal" or "internal", "heavenly" or "carnal", as opposed to "good" or "evil", "efficient" or "wasteful".

"The man who lives under the sign of the tree of life, cannot know of himself, that which he must know, and which has therefore to be told him (to be explained and interpreted to him). The reality of Divinely given life speaks for itself. The possibility of Divine likeness does not do so. It obviously does not commend itself. Man has to be told specifically and in fact is told that from that tree he must not eat. It's not an opinion. Not an evaluation he makes, he needs to be told, and to receive the word that comes to him, from God, as being the statement of the Lord. This is the relationship that God has wanted to establish, from the first in the garden, that man is not to make his own independent assessments or determinations by the operation of his own mind, which is eating of the wrong tree, but that he recognises that there are things that he can not know." - Karl Barth (as quoted by Art Katz in "Gleanings From The Garden")

Knowledge that may have been beneficial in leading us out of yesterday's defective opinion, may be merely a "lesser deception" compared to the undiluted truth that God is leading us toward. Therefore that same knowledge that helped us I can be toxic to our walk tomorrow.

How then can we be safe from deception? Paul mentions a healthy attitude, "...let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged" (Rom 3:4). In other words if you never allow yourself the luxury of thinking that "any man" has a handle on truth, but always consider the possibility of them being wrong. Be prepared to judge their words in the light of scripture (2 Tim 3:16-17), their behaviour in the light of the "fruit of the Spirit" (Mat 7:15-20; Gal 5:22-24) and the "spirit" of their work (1 John 4:1-6). If we do this, then the possibility that our words and deeds will stand under scrutiny will be greatly increased. [A thorough study of 2 Timothy and 1 John would be most beneficial in this area.]

Note, that it is not my purpose here to turn people into "heresy hunters", but to exhort cautiousness in our choice of who we entrust with our spiritual input. It is possible that God can conceal truth in the most unlikely places, however it is unwise to run with a philosophy that says that "every bush is burning, but only those who take of their shoes will hear the voice from the flames". There are times that the our shoes must be left on in order to "shake the dust off" them (let those who have "ears to hear" these comments hear them). Remember, it is not about how God "can" speak and what He "would" say (speculation), but how He "is" speaking and what He "is" saying (fact).

Bear in mind that you are to judge yourself by the same standard, knowing that you come under the "every man" category also. Even Christ rebuked someone for referring to him as "Good Master" saying "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God" (Mat 19:16-17). We all know that the "punch line of this joke" is that Christ is God, but because this young man wasn't privy to this revelation, Christ applied this "eternal standard" which was later to be revealed to us through Paul's epistle (Rom 3:4). Such was his integrity. If Christ would apply this principle to himself, then who among the rest of us under the category of "every man" is exempt from being known as a "liar" apart from where his words are consistent with God's?

Why would people speculate?

Overcaution (Deut 12:32)

Some people form a hypothetical "safety barrier" around that which is clearly presented in Scripture as sin (eg. Gen 3:1-3 - Eve adds "neither shall ye touch" to God's command to not eat of the Tree of Knowledge).

Seduction (2 Tim 3:13)

Some seek to avoid responsibility to obey by rationalising. In reality they are oftentimes deceiving themselves (eg. 1 Sam 15:13-15 - King Saul justifies his allowing Amalekites to survive).

Arrogance (Is 5:20-23)

Some fail to recognise that their "righteousness is as filthy rags" (eg. 2 Sam 6:6-7 - Uzzah touches the ark to steady it, considering his hands to be cleaner than the dirt; Acts 8:18-23 - Simon the sorcerer offers money to receive the Holy Spirit).

Whether by overcaution, seduction or arrogance, speculation tends to result in self preservation. Consider the words of Jesus in Mat 16:24-25, "...If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."

Being speculative is like riding a bike with training wheels. As one is starting out, confidence is increased due to increased stability. However, as they get used to riding the bike they find that the training wheels reduce maneuverability. Then as speed is increased the wheels become dangerous as the rider attempts to lean into corners. The same training wheels that helped at the onset, now hinder greatly. This "speculative protection" denies the realisation that there is "no good thing" in human flesh unless God put it there (Rom 7:18). Mankind is in need of "total redemption" and there is nothing that can be added to it (Deut 12:32). Any attempt to do so "adulterates" so "great a salvation".

So what's the answer? First, acknowledge and confess your sin calling it as He calls it (1 John 1:8-10) It's okay to disagree with God's word, if you're prepared to admit that your argument is wrong and choose God's side in your disagreement (Ps 73:25-26). Secondly, remain as humble as a child in the midst of adults (Mat 18:1-4) You don't have all the answers and that's okay because if you did, they'd probably be wrong. Thirdly, see things as they are, as opposed to how they "should be" (Prov 3:7). God knows how things are and doesn't need us to tell Him how "we think" they should be. And lastly, trust the Lord as the only one adequate to guide you through the mess that is this fallen creation, one step at a time (Ps 73:23-24): in thought (Is 55:7-9), word (Mat 10:19-20) and deed(Pr 3:5-6).

In short, in the light of all we have considered "I beseech you ... by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Rom 12:1-2)

Does this describe you?

"His one purpose is the glory of God. And he's heard Christ say, 'If any man doesn't take up his cross, he cannot be my disciple.' And he's gladly gone with Christ out to the cross. And there he's brought his ego and his ambition and his vanity and his pride and all the things that once motivated him and controlled him to the cross. He has no plan and no purpose but the glory of Christ. This is the one that has heard Christ say, 'If any man does not forsake all he hath, he cannot be my disciple.' He doesn't give a seventh of his time and a tenth of his money. He holds everything as Christ's. All is Christ's." - Paris Reidhead (Agree)

If it is not, then why is that?

Recommended Reading and Listening:

"The Spirit of Truth" (text) Art Katz and Paul Vaulk

"Spirit and Truth Together" (audio) David Pawson

"The Voice of Reason" (audio) A.W Tozer

"The Right Use of the Law" (audio) Paris Reidhead

"The Timelessness of God" (audio) Ian Thomas

"Beyond Categories" (audio) Art Katz

"Gleanings From the Garden" (audio) Art Katz

"Agree" (audio) Paris Reidhead

"Prophetic Reality vs. Fantasy" (audio) Art Katz

"Romans 6 to 8" (text) Norman Grubb

"Apostolic Foundations" (text) Art Katz

"The Normal Christian Life" (text) Watchman Nee

"The Meaning of Life" (audio) Norman Grubb

Most audio listed is available free for download from with few exceptions. If you are experiencing any difficulties locating any of these materials feel free to contact the author at and I will be happy to assist you if I can.

©2006 Aaron Ireland - Non-commercial (free) distribution is both permitted and encouraged provided this notice appears.

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