I watched as the truck, if it could still be referred to as such, teetered like a see-saw on the speed bump. It was the early nineties, in the midst of the “lowered truck” era.

For those unaware of that era and phenomenon, please allow me to explain.

In those days people would take a perfectly good truck, a truck with enough power to get from point A to point B all while hauling a piece of furniture on the back, and they would alter it in such a way that it would sit just an inch or two off of the ground.

Thus, the truck teetering on the speed bump, with a bunch of young guys sitting around scratching their heads trying to figure out how to extricate it without “damaging” it.

Mind you, the truck was fancy, very “dolled up.” The factory paint job had been replaced by a deep red with abundant metallic flake. The windows were tinted so dark that only God could see through them, from the inside or out. The sound system had been, ahem, “upgraded” so badly that the bass would rattle windows from a mile away.

In other words, the truck looked fancier than ever, but was useless to accomplish its actual purpose. Its real power was gone.

I thought of that truck recently as I once again shook my head over something that also seemed fancier than ever but had been robbed of its real power. It was a sermon, actually, from a nationally known voice. The part of the message in question was, ostensibly, from Proverbs 6:30.

“You know the devil is a thief, right? He can’t take your promise. So now he wants to steal your thoughts! But in Proverbs 6:30 it says ‘people do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving. But check the next verse, verse thirty-one, ‘Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold.’ So today we came into this service to catch a thief, and to let him know, give me my joy back, gimme my peace back, gimme my wisdom back, give me the joy of my salvation! Restore it sevenfold! I caught a thought!”

The organ music was on cue in the background at the high points. The delivery was superb and dynamic. And just like that shiny red truck, it was teetering helplessly while robbed of its real power.

Scripture, without any help from anyone, is utterly powerful, which Paul made abundantly clear in 2 Timothy 3:15-17. But its context is the “suspension system” of the Bible, that which all of its truth rests on. When robbed of that, it too will teeter back and forth helplessly, no matter how much it is “dolled up.”

The particular passage in question is a powerful warning against adultery:

Proverbs 6:29-34 “So he that goeth in to his neighbour’s wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent. Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house. But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away. For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts.”

The point very clearly is that whoever steals food can make it right, and people will be willing to cut him some slack due to his hunger. But whoever commits adultery has no excuse, no way to pay for what he has done, and can never satisfy the offended husband with gifts. He is literally putting his own life at risk.

It has nothing whatsoever to do with the devil, nothing to do with him taking our thoughts, nothing to do with us being able to make him give back sevenfold what he has stolen.

Many people who read this column are preachers, Sunday school teachers, and others who proclaim Bible truth to others. When you do, deliver it with power and passion, yes. But do not ever rip it from its context. The Bible was changing lives for nearly 2,000 years before we arrived on the scene and will be doing so long after we are gone. Preach it accurately, contextually, and grammatically, and it will change lives.

Rip its contextual suspension out from underneath it, and it will teeter helplessly like a fancy lowered truck on a speed bump.

Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Mooresboro, N.C. He is a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books. He can be reached by email at 2knowhim@cbc-web.org.

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