Posts Tagged ‘salvation’

I'm still thinking about chapter 8 to an extent–that Jesus we follow who mixes and mingles and heals people that we typically reject. Jesus didn't consider himself better than them–which is exactly how we tend to think of most people. We tend to stick with our own because it's comfortable for us. I'm not necessarily saying that is wrong, but I'm not necessarily saying that is correct either. What I am saying is that if we are followers of Jesus then we need to give serious consideration to how we imitate him in the relationships we create and nurture.

It's not easy. There are people in this world we are naturally offended by and people who are naturally repulsive to us. In some ways, too, we will be repulsive to some people. It's OK. I have learned, and to a large degree, I am still learning, that I don't think the Lord expects that we will 'like' every person we meet. I think this is one of the reasons why there are so many personalities available in this world. It means there is someone for everyone. Yes. There are people I will be naturally drawn to; there are people you will be naturally drawn to. And in this, all people can be reached with the good news.

Luckily for us, this Jesus is different. In chapter 9, Jesus continues to rub shoulders with people that others looked down upon–in particular the tax collector named Matthew. Here's something for you to think about for a minute or two….who makes you uncomfortable? Who is out of your comfort zone? Who gives you the creeps? Who are the outcasts that Jesus would hang around that the world might otherwise reject?

So, then, on to some other thoughts. Jesus talks a lot in this chapter, but it's not like he's giving us a big long discourse as he did in chapters 5-7. His thoughts are memorable one liners that challenge the status quo and conventional wisdom of the day. I think he offers those same challenges to us as well. In other words, these things Jesus says are spoken to us as directly as they were spoken to those who would be his followers then.

First, notice that Jesus says, 'Your sins are forgiven' to a man who is paralyzed. I would think the more pressing matter would be the man's paralysis, but Jesus first addresses his spiritual condition as if one were somehow related to the other. The astonishing thing is, however, that Jesus mentions forgiveness at all. Indeed, as they reply, who can forgive sins but God alone? This is Jesus at his realistic best. Think about it, what other major religion in this entire world begins, continues, or ends with the leader of that religion addressing sin? Seriously? The very fact that Jesus addresses sin in a person's life indicates something about the nature of his being here. I think it says more about his purpose than it does about his nature (although, let's not take away from his nature).

Second, notice that Jesus says, 'Go and learn what this mean, I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' I can't tell you how much I love this statement because Jesus is claiming it for himself. Notice the 'I' in the sentence. Notice the 'I' in what follows: 'I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.' This means there is hope for us all. Jesus didn't come to earth and say, 'I'm interested mostly in all the folks who have it right.' No. He came and said, 'I came for all the people who are completely wrecked by life, by sin, by anything that wrecks life and humanity.' I love this because it means that I, too, am worthy to be called by Jesus precisely because I'm unworthy of Jesus.

Third, notice that Jesus says, 'But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.' Jesus, in other words, brought something new. He brought a new forgiveness–administered and received through himself. He brought new calling–because any wreck of life can be called to follow Jesus. He brought new reasons to fast and pray–centered around himself and his presence. Jesus brings new things to humans and gives us new reasons to do this things we do. I saw this thing the other day where someone was pointing out that all the traditions surrounding Christmas actually have their roots in pagan festivals and suchlike. The meme ended by saying something absurd like 'you don't have to believe in Jesus to celebrate and enjoy the season.' Well, that's ridiculous. What Jesus did was inspire his people to take all those pagan holidays and infuse them with new meaning and new hope.

Jesus makes all things new and that's what makes Jesus amazing.

He said some other things too. He healed a woman of a bleeding issue and raised a young girl to life. He said, 'your faith has made you well.' He then healed a couple of men from their blindness. Then he drove a demon from a many who couldn't talk. And at this point we hear other voices. The crowds marveled and said, 'Nothing like this was ever seen in Israel.' And we too are amazed at all that goes on in the chapter: the healing, the forgiveness, the claims, the miracles of many sorts.

Yet there are still other voices who are no so impressed with Jesus' words, but instead seem to be a bit sour: 'It is by the prince of demons he casts out demons.' Maybe we are being forced to decide how we will respond to the things we see Jesus do and the things we hear Jesus say. How anyone can see these things and hear these things and see nothing but the work of the satan is beyond me. How? Where does that sort of energy come from that can see a dead girl raised and consider it a matter of the work of the devil? Does the devil do this kind of work? Does he heal? Does he show compassion? Does he set the world straight and undo the things he himself brought about to the world?

Here's the kicker. The last thing Jesus says in this chapter, the last thing he does, the last thing he sees. He sees people just like those who would attribute his work to the satan and he has compassion on them because they are helpless and harassed like sheep without a shepherd. Again, this is the Jesus who says, 'Pray to the Lord of the harvest for workers.' Do you hear that? Even after these people basically say that Jesus is doing the work of the satan he still has compassion on them, he still wants them in his fold, he still wants them.

He still wants us.

He still wants us.

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IndexTitle: 50 Things You Need to Know about Heaven

Author: John Hart

Publisher: Baker Books (Bethany House)

Year: 2014

Pages: 144 (e-book/Nook)

Disclaimer: In full disclosure, you need to know that I was provided with a free e-book copy of the above mentioned book in exchange for my fair and unbiased review. I have also posted this review at Goodreads.com and Amazon.com.

I think the initial problem I had with this book is found in the title of the book. The word 'need' is kind of strikes me as misplaced because Dr Hart never really tells the reader why they 'need' to know these things about heaven. Unless, of course, it is because 'our ideas of heaven are drawn from many different sources [so] how do we know whether any of [the concepts in those sources] are true?' Maybe that was the point. However, it then begs another question: How then do I know that this particular author has provided me anything more substantial than the other sources? How do I know his authority to write this book is any more noteworthy than, say, a 10 year old kid who died, went to 'heaven', and came back telling us all that it 'is real'?

Truth is, there are all sorts of books and films and seminars and motivational speakers and Oprah episodes dishing about heaven. What's one more voice going to add? And, to be sure, are there really 50 things I need to know? "But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by earth, for it is his footstool" (Matthew 5:34-35). What more is there to say besides that? Well, at least 50 other things; I guess.

That said, the introduction, a mere three paragraphs, is entirely too short for such a subject. This is the perpetual problem with the popular level book market in today's world of Christian book publishers and stores: very little depth. I think this book is no exception. It is 144 pages of hurry up and get a book on the market before someone else does. I found that in reading the book I grew weary of a lot of the retread: repeating the same parables or verses or ideas. That is, there was simply too much repetition in the book. (!) There is so much repetition, I think, because there's just not all that much to say about a subject that the Bible says so little about. So many of the questions are questions that the Bible cares so little about that the author has to offer a great deal of speculation in order to arrive at a satisfactory length chapter. Sure there are Bible references in every chapter and at the end of every chapter for 'further study,' but I was unconvinced that even those extra references were going to be helpful in developing this subject properly.

Another aspect that was extremely irritating to me was the constant use of a variety of Bible translations. Personally, I believe the text would have flowed more smoothly if I didn't have to stop and think about what translation the author was using when quoting Scripture (that is, by figuring out what the letters after the verses meant, CEV, NIV, TLB, etc). If you need to use a different translation to make your point then maybe, just maybe, the point is beyond making. Stick with one version and note textual variances if necessary–or use your own translation directly from the original languages. Most people read one translation–not all of us have fifteen different translations laying about for comparative readings.

Finally, my last criticism is this: some of the questions really had nothing to do whatsoever with 'heaven'–if heaven is defined properly. So the author entertained questions about whether or not we will be bored in heaven; what is 'soul sleep'; do some people go to purgatory; and how can I explain heaven to my children. And there were more. At times I thought I was reading a book of salvation theology–who's getting in, who's not. I think maybe this book should either be titled differently or it should have about half as many questions. I'll say it this way: there is simply not enough information in the Bible about some of these subjects to warrant so many questions or to fuel so much speculation about their answers. Pulling snips and pieces of Bible out of context and developing an entire theology around those pieces is, in my mind, not much different than the way most people in the world get their (false) ideas about heaven in the first place. 

Now, on to a couple of the more commendable aspects of the book. You may have guessed so far that I didn't care all that much for the book. That's not entirely the truth. I actually like the format–questions/answers–I just don't think most of the questions asked/answered have anything to do whatsoever with heaven as it is properly defined in Scripture. I think many of the questions asked/answered are drawn more from pop-culture and the 'various sources' referenced in the short introduction. Maybe the book would be better titled something like '50 Misunderstood Ideas about What Happens After We Die' or something like that. The title is too narrow; the scope of the book too large. So for me there was somewhat of a disconnect.

Nevertheless, there is a place to answer some of these questions and, for the most part, I think the author does very well answering them. I was very satisfied that the author made proper reference to the fact that heaven is not where we will spend 'eternity,' but I wish he had dwelt a lot more on this idea of the 'new heavens and the new earth' (see chapter 5; I noted that this conversation should have been in the first chapter, not the fifth). Genesis and Revelation provide very nice bookends to this remarkable story in the Bible about our creation, our fall, our redemption, and our ultimate reward. This, it seems to me, is a far more interesting discussion than whether or not there will be animals in 'heaven.'

Second, there were other times when the author's keen attention to Scripture's detail was riveting. For example, in chapter twenty-two when he was discussing the New Jerusalem, I was very happy that he noted the connection between the cube shaped Jerusalem and the inner room of the temple. At this point I think his exegesis was dead-on especially after he went on to note that it is heaven that comes down to earth and not the other way around. On the other hand, I found his subsequent thoughts about the New Jerusalem having vertical levels and floors to be utterly ridiculous (p 68). Why talk about new heavens and new earth if we are going to live in a cube with floors with a mere acre of land?

Third, in chapter 35 I found his discussion of whether or not we can trust the testimony of those who claim to have died and gone to heaven and come back to earth with a story to tell compelling. His key: "Jesus himself suffered death and was raised to tell about it. Shouldn't his testimony be worthy of our trust?" Amen. He's right and maybe that's what needs to be understood most about this book. There's a lot of nonsense (endless creation of computer code, new musical instruments being created continuously), some sketchy (typically Calvinist) theology, and some silly questions (likely designed to get the book to 50 Questions) but throughout the book the author does manage to stay on point by showing us Jesus. And here we are in complete agreement.

So, then, I didn't enjoy the book nearly as much as I had hoped to; nevertheless, it is a quick, easy read, the author is fairly consistent with this theology, and, despite my questions about some of his exegesis and application, he does fill the book with a lot Scripture (I personally believe there simply needs to be more context around those references and a little more care paid to how some references are 'used' to make a point) and this, too, is a good thing.

PT Forsyth wrote, "The Bible is not a sketch-book of past things nor a picture-book of the last things. It has been especially discredited by treating its imaginative symbols of the future as if they were specifications or working plans attached to God's new covenant and contract with man" (PT Forsyth, The Justification of God, 197). Indeed, we must be careful when sketching our own ideas about things the Bible is only taking a passing, if not indifferent, notice of.

2/5 stars.

podcastWelcome to the Life Under the Blue Sky Skycast (podcast). Below find the audio from last Sunday’s sermon (May 3) from the Acts 4:5-12 Lesson. The manuscript and study notes can be found elsewhere at this blog. The sermon takes about 35 minutes.

Be blessed. You can download the sermon at No Other Name or use the convenient inline player below.

As always, subscription options are available by clicking the link below.

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Soli Deo Gloria!

Day 10, Colossians 1:11-12: Strengthened with God’s Strength

“…being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”

Well, I haven’t worked on this series of ’90 Days’ posts for a while, so I’m hopeful that I won’t foul up too badly. 😉

So, then, how do we ‘live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God’? Can we? Should we bother trying? We are weak people, weakened daily by the pressures of daily friction involving our friends, co-workers, family members and any and all in between; strangers and enemies too. The fact that Paul says we are ‘being strengthened’ (he says something closer, and rougher, akin to ‘by all power being continually empowered’) means that we are necessarily weak, prone to weakness, constantly being drained of whatever we may call power or strength.

I think it also means that we have no strength in and of ourselves. We constantly need to be replenished. We are wearing down constantly and but for the strengthening and empowerment of God we would likely whither into nothing. This echoes,  I believe, what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

And this is no mere strengthening or empowerment. No the apostle says we are being empowered according to his glorious might precisely so that we do not run out of endurance are flag in our patience or become wishy-washy in our joy or lackadaisical in our thanksgiving. Instead, we are strengthened with his strength so that we can persevere in joy and patience and thanksgiving and endurance. I wonder sometimes, when I am weak, do I remember that as long as I try to persevere and endure in my own strength I am doomed to fail? This is why He strengthens us.

We are the ones who grow bored in the flesh. Ailments, pressures, anxieties, people-the flesh has a way of wearing us down, burning us out, beating us up and we fail. But God strengthens us according to His strength, according to his glorious might. I wonder if this means that we always have enough strength even when we find ourselves particularly weak. I wonder if this means that our weakness isn’t quite as bad as we like to imagine it?

That’s not all, though. The Father has also qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. This is nothing less than an unqualified, unconditional expression of God’s grace. He has qualified us. He has qualified us. He has qualified us. It’s all quite remarkable as he will point out in verse 13. Not only qualified, made sufficient, but transferred from the dominion of darkness and into the kingdom of light (13). He has qualified us. This is no small, individualistic thing. We are in this together. We stand qualified together. What a great love the Father has showed us to qualify, make sufficient, those who were at once weak and defiled and slaves.

It was said elsewhere, “Once we were not a people, but now we are a people. Once we were not shown mercy, but now we have been shown mercy.” We are a totally new people, qualified by God (I believe he is talking here of an instant, the moment we first believed), and now continually strengthened by His glorious might.

So if we are qualified by God, who then has a right or an obligation to doubt or qualify our qualification? It is God the Father himself who has qualified us. We stand, even now, qualified by God. I read, “H.C.G. Moule therefore rightly argues that the reference is “properly to the believer’s position and possession even now. This Canaan,” he explains, “is not in the distance, beyond death; it is about us today, in our home, in our family, in our business,… in all that makes up mortal life” (pp. 65, 66).

Two of the biggest problems we face as Christians are thus weakness and anxiety. First, weakness of the flesh. This is an outer turmoil, so to speak. It comes to us in any of a million forms a day, but we are constantly being strengthened according God’s strength. Weakness will not trump God’s empowerment no matter how weak the weakness. Second, there is a sort of inner turmoil we face, which is, the constant anxiety over our salvation. Paul counters this by noting for the Colossian church that we are qualified by God. As such, our qualification neither rests upon our shoulders nor is rendered moot because of fleshly weakness. We can have such confidence in God’s work to qualify us. It is God who does this work for us. He qualifies us. He changes our status from unqualified to qualified. He rescues us. He, not we.

And finally, this is a community idea. We stand even now as those who have already inherited the kingdom of light. We already share in that blessing and we stand together. We are strengthened. We are qualified. We share in the kingdom. Maybe it would be a good idea for the church, for the saints, to celebrate the community aspect of our faith more often. I don’t mean in a superficial, and merely Sunday morning, kind of way, but an always, everyday, praying, encouraging, suffering kind of way. The practice of Christian faith must come alive and stop being stagnant. We share in the Kingdom of Light. The Kingdom of light is visible not only to the world around us, but also to one another.

Interesting, very, very interesting.

Another pastoral implication is that human beings are not the source of our own salvation–or anybody else’s. It’s tough enough for me to know that I can’t save myself. But it’s also hard to believe (and perhaps this is a problem only for us pastors) that I am not the source of someone else’s salvation. I can tell the story, I can trot out my little arguments, I can sit with them and try to be a good example to them. I can go out into the night and seek them, but I am not the Christ. I’m only an ambassador. I witness under the conviction that Christ wants this life, that Christ is already active in this life long before I got there, and that Christ will continue to work in this life long after I’ve gone on to whatever Jesus has in store for me next. But only Jesus saves.

Sometimes we pastors try to be the messiahs for our people rather than to the the Messiah save them. In such moments we imply that their salvation is through a competent, capable pastor who enables them to get their act together. No. Salvation is allowing Jesus to intrude among us, as he is, rather than as we would have him to be. In my experience, any pastor who is overworked to the point of disillusionment and exhaustion is probably due for a refurbished soteriology.” (Who Will Be Saved? 130-131)

What, you mean the preacher not only cannot save people but isn’t even responsible to? Wow.

jerry

Jonah 2, Luke 2

I suppose at first glance, it might be rather difficult to see a connection between these two chapters. Indeed, I don’t suppose that every daily reading will necessarily have a connection. But like yesterday, I see something in these two chapters that makes them very similar.

In Jonah, you have a man at his wits end. He is literally at the end of his rope, the bottom of the barrel. He had ‘sunk down like lead, into the sea.’ He was engulfed by waters and had seaweed wrapped around his head. He is in great distress and yet he still has enough sense, there inside a great fish, to cry out to the Lord. And the Lord, from whom there is no place to hide (‘even if I made my bed in Sheol, there you would find me’), still has enough compassion left to answer Jonah’s prayer: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me, from deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” Well, that may or may not be poetic hyperbole. I don’t know. Whatever it is was, Jonah’s prayer was heard and answered according to Jonah himself.

Jonah recognized that he had serious issues where he was at. He was, in a sense, in a tomb. Encased as it were in death. ‘Deep in the realm of the dead.’ Buried down deep. What does he do? He prays. He twice tells us, “…I will look again toward your holy temple…”; “…and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.” Jonah was looking toward the place of grace, the place of mercy, the place of compassion, and the place of forgiveness. Jonah was no idiot. All he does in this prayer is talk about how God had mercy on him: You listened to my cry, you answered me, you brought my life up from the pit, and you saved me.You…resurrected me! Jonah knew all this as he faced the temple and yet he was willing to turn his back on Ninevah. If God could raise Jonah from the dead, could he not also raise Ninevah?

In Luke, we see the same thing happening. The author of the book is directing our attention to the temple. Here’s Jesus, born in the shadow of Caesar Augustus, in a small place; here’s Jesus, his birth not announced to royalty, but to shepherds; here’s Jesus, his birth not announced in a court, but in a field by heavenly messengers. But Luke is working his way toward the temple also. Jonah looked that direction, and so does Luke. “Why were you searching for me?” Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Jesus asked his bewildered parents.

It always comes back to the temple in a way. It always comes back to the ‘place’ where God is. In Scripture we are always being pointed back in the direction from whence we came. If we exited Eden to the east (the same direction one would exit the temple) then we must travel back to the temple, in a manner of speaking, and return to God’s presence. Is that why Jesus was so at home in the temple; that is, because that is the place where all of us should desire to be? Shouldn’t we also be able to say, “Don’t you know that I have to be in the house of our Father?” Jesus was taken to the temple on the eighth day, and we are told that his parents went to Jersusalem every year for Passover. The next time we read about Jesus is when he is 12 years old ‘at the meeting house’. The impression Luke seems to give us is that Jesus, like Anna and Simeon, never left the temple. Why not? Why would anyone want to leave God’s presence? He gives us a picture of salvation; salvation is in God’s presence, in God’s temple. (See Revelation 21)

This is what is ironic about Jonah. He knows that ‘those who cling to worthless idols forfeit God’s love’ but he didn’t seem to concerned about telling them the alternative narrative, the one that takes them away from worthless idols and towards the temple where God ‘is’; towards salvation. If it is true that ‘salvation comes from the Lord’ then the right question to ask is: Does everyone know the Lord from whom salvation comes? Have we cleared the path and made straight paths for people to get to the Lord?

Thus we come back to Luke’s Gospel and the strange prophet named Simeon (a man of whom we know nothing else). He nailed it, and I think this is the connection between the two chapters, “For my eyes have seen your salvation [Salvation!], which you have prepared in the sight of all the nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” But we don’t own that salvation. It is a gift for us to share. Jonah didn’t want to share it. Jesus would do nothing but share it. And God, the Lord from whom salvation comes, desires that everyone have a share in it.

Jonah would sooner be dead than point people back to the temple he himself looked towards. Jesus, the light of revelation for the nations, died so that people could look towards the temple. Here is Jesus, the answer to Jonah’s prayer.

Friends,

Here is text from a sermon I preached in July 2005. I see a lot of themes in this sermon that I am only just beginning to understand. In particular, this series of sermons was titled “ALL THINGS NEW.” I had no idea at the time where this would eventually lead, but now I am beginning to see how it all ties together. Anyhow, thanks for stopping by. Any feedback is always appreciated.

Jesus Explains Why Things Must be Made New
Matthew 9:14-17

Introduction

A little later John’s followers approached, asking, “Why is it that we and the Pharisees rigorously discipline body and spirit by fasting, but your followers don’t?” Jesus told them, “When you’re celebrating a wedding, you don’t skimp on the cake and wine. You feast. Later you may need to pull in your belt, but not now. No one throws cold water on a friendly bonfire. This is Kingdom Come!” He went on, “No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes; you want fabrics that match. And you don’t put your wine in cracked bottles.” (Matthew 9:14-17)

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“This is standard practice for you, a perpetual ordinance. On the tenth day of the seventh month, both the citizen and the foreigner living with you are to enter into a solemn fast and refrain from all work, because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. In the presence of GOD you will be made clean of all your sins. It is a Sabbath of all Sabbaths. You must fast. It is a perpetual ordinance. “The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father is to make the atonement: He puts on the sacred linen garments; He purges the Holy of Holies by making atonement; He purges the Tent of Meeting and the Altar by making atonement; He makes atonement for the priests and all the congregation. “This is a perpetual ordinance for you: Once a year atonement is to be made for all the sins of the People of Israel.” And Aaron did it, just as GOD commanded Moses.” (Lev 16:29-34)

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There was a little old church out in the countryside: painted white and with a high steeple. One Sunday, the pastor noticed that his church needed painting. He checked out the Sunday ads and found a paint sale. The next day, he went into town and bought a gallon of white paint. He went back out to the church and began the job. He got done with the first side. It was looking great. But he noticed he had already used a half gallon. He didn’t want to run back in town and being the creative person that he was, he found a gallon of thinner in the shed out back, and began to thin his paint. It worked out great. He finished the remaining three sides with that last half gallon of paint. That night, it rained: it rained hard. The next morning when he stepped outside of the parsonage to admire his work, he saw that the first side was looking great, but that the paint on the other three sides had washed away. The pastor looked up in sky in anguish and cried out, “What shall I do?” A voice came back from the heavens saying, “Repaint, and thin no more!”

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If we consider this account of Jesus’ life here in Matthew to be a strictly chronological undertaking, then chapter 9 follows closely on the heels of Jesus’ greatest sermon ever, The Sermon on the Mount. It also serves as one of two narrative chapters that sit between two large teaching sections in Matthew’s Gospel, 5-7 and 10-13. Chapter 8 is a powerful chapter that clearly defines the power of Jesus: he heals a leper, he heals a man from a long distance, he calms the raging waters of the Galilee, and he casts a legion of demons from a man possessed by them. Crowds love Jesus, he is popular. And they are questioning: Who is this? But things are changing.

By the time we get to chapter 9 we see that Jesus is starting to rankle the so-called authorities. In the first 8 verses Jesus confounds them by declaring that a certain paralytic’s sins are forgiven. He then makes matters even worse by daring to go into the house of a well-known sinner and eat dinner with him and a few of his rowdy friends who were certainly not making preparations for the advent of Messiah.

“Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?” Yes, Jesus, why did you eat with tax-collectors?

Then we arrive at our selected text for today. Jesus has just been accused of eating with the wrong company, now he and his disciples are accused of not not eating.

It makes little difference what Jesus did: eat, not fast, eat with the wrong people, not fast enough-whatever he did people found a way to criticize him. I suspect in a lot of ways Jesus still takes the brunt of such criticism today. If a house falls over in a hurricane or a child starves it is all God’s fault. If peace breaks out in the world it’s because we have super-wonderful ambassadors who struck a powerful peace treaty-give them a Nobel. He either too busy or too lazy or sleeping or impotent or indifferent. Everyone has something to blame Jesus for and often we hear their complaints.

We should get used to it. Jesus will always be criticized for not getting it right. And if the Master is criticized for not getting it right, do you think his disciples, his students, are going to fair any better? In fact, they were criticizing Jesus’ disciples here which was merely a way of criticizing Jesus.

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But the problem did not lie with Jesus and his disciples. Look closer at verse 14. Listen to the King James Version: “Then came to him the disciple of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?” The disciples of John and the Pharisees did not even know why they were fasting! It does make one wonder, indeed, why they were fasting. Did they not read the signs of the times correctly? Were they looking for something they missed? Was their fasting merely an ascetic practice that mattered little to anyone but themselves? But Jesus declared later that those in Jerusalem did miss their appointment with God, the day of His visitation.

I am a firm believer that whatever we determine about fasting, or praying, or giving, or whatever-it is not to ever be done with ourselves in mind. The consensus among different authors is that the fasts they were referring to here occurred twice a week and that, by this point, were little more than ritual tradition. Jesus did have words for them in chapter 6, “When you fast, do not look somber like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”

Now, for John’s disciples it may have been a little more or a little less the same, but even John spent plenty of time announcing to those who listened that the Lamb of God was already among them: They too were fasting for the wrong reasons. They were fasting in anticipation of someone who was coming and didn’t listen to their leader John when he announced that the one they were waiting for had already arrived.

Jesus is not opposed to fasting, but I think he is at least concerned that we do it for the right reasons. And his point in this context is simple: It’s not the time for fasting. How can you expect someone to fast when it is not time to fast? So not only is there a right reason to fast, there is a right time. And these disciples and the Pharisees got it all wrong. Jesus certainly expects that there will be a time to fast-but it was not now. He is at least saying that fasting has something to do with Him and that His presence or absence determines the appropriateness of the fast. Jesus is essentially saying: Now that I am here, even something like fasting takes on a new meaning, a new importance. He establishes the rules of our religious ritual and the meaning of our religious piety. Apart from Jesus our fasting and praying and preaching and singing and breaking bread mean absolutely nothing. Apart from Jesus they are merely empty rituals.

Jesus says, There is a time to fast.

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Jesus uses two further illustrations to make his point that it is not the time or the season for fasting-when he was originally asked the question. You see, we live in the time when the bridegroom has been taken away. He is not here, and we are awaiting his return. We are in the time when fasting should be happening. Then he goes on to criticize the disciples of John and the Pharisees on two points.

The first point he criticizes them on is this: It was time for something new. I sense him saying: Here’s the problem, and what is your solution? To fast? Well, that will no longer cut it. We need new solutions to these problems that the old way of doing things cannot handle.

I sense him saying, “Look around. What do you see? You see people like Matthew here, whose house I am at, these so-called sinners that you despise me for eating with, and your response is to abstain from food?! How does that solve the problem of hopelessness among sinners? How does that solve the problem of their being considered outcasts? Fasting when people are starving for grace is just a patch that will not work. I did not come to be a patch for people; I am not a patch for the system you Pharisees have worked out, I came to be an entirely new garment. The old tear remains the same, a simple new patch will not do. I’m not here to fix the rip with a patch; I’m here to provide a new garment.”

He was saying that there are times when things need to be completely overhauled, abandoned and something New must take it’s place. Jesus was that Something New.

The second story he tells, or illustration he uses, is that of new wineskins. And the gist here is this: If I tried to cram this Newness that is breaking out all over the place into the old ways of doing things, such as your weekly tradition of fasting without even knowing why you are fasting, then fasting would become completely worthless, it would lose all meaning altogether, it would, in short, simply burst all over the place. But I will transform even the meaning of fasting. Don Carson gives a vivid description of the imagery contained here:

Skin bottles for carrying various fluids were made by killing the chosen animal, cutting off its head and feet, skinning the carcass, and sewing up the skin, fur side out, to seal off all orifices but one (usually the neck). The skin was tanned with special care to minimize disagreeable taste. In time the skin became hard and brittle. If new wine, still fermenting, were put into such an old skin, the buildup of fermenting gases would split the brittle container and ruin both bottle and wine. New wine was placed only in new wineskins still pliable and elastic enough to accommodate the pressure.” -227

You cannot put new wine into old wineskins. But, if you put new wine in new wineskins then the new wine and the new wineskins will both be preserved. He is not suggesting that it was necessary to preserve the old way of doing things-why preserve the old when He was the New? He was suggesting that it was necessary for there to be newness all around. So, if Jesus is a not just a patch for a broken old, threadbare way of doing things, what is called a ‘shadow of things to come’, and if Jesus is new wine that old wineskins cannot manage-then what is the point? The point is that Jesus was bringing and has brought a newness that could not be confined. And, to that end, everything had to be made new. I submit to you that he was not just talking about the broken tradition of fasting-fasting at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons-but he was, as Don Carson suggests, claiming the entire system of Judaism was defunct. In other words, he was claiming to be able to do what the religious system of the Jews could not do: Save people.

______________________

 Now, let’s draw out some application to this small paragraph.

First, if Jesus was not compatible with Judaism, Judaism from whence sprung the roots of Christianity, then Jesus is not compatible with anything. That is, there is no such thing as Jesus and…, or Jesus plus…. Jesus is saying here that He is sufficient for the needs of people like Matthew, the sinner, in whose house he sat.

But I think frankly there is a lot of this very thing going around in modern Christianity. We are told we need Jesus and purpose, we are told we need Jesus and strict discipline, we are told we need Jesus and a whole host of things. Jesus is saying: I am sufficient. There is one Mediator between God and men the Man Christ Jesus. And this is new because it used to be the sacrifice of bulls and goats. Jesus says: I am sufficient.

His grace is sufficient. We don’t need Jesus plus anything. But, too, you cannot pour Jesus into people who insists that they need more than Jesus.

Second, when we do fast or pray or worship or preach it is not because of us. Jesus is the reason not only for Christmas but for everything. Jesus is the reason why we do or do not fast. He is the reason why we pray and worship. The Bible says that we should do all things as if we were serving Christ.

Frankly, too much of our Christianity is about experiencing life to the fullest or living our best life now or living the life we’ve always dreamed of. And there are a lot of important people making a lot of important money trying to convince us that this life is about satisfying our personal ambition and potential. It’s too bad many of them are Christians. Look, the bottom line is that if we are doing these things merely for ourselves then we are getting gypped because they are not about us. Jesus said, “they cannot fast while I am here…they will when I am gone.” So if he’s gone now, and we fast, we do so because he’s gone; not because we stayed.

Third, I don’t think it is fair or necessary or even biblical to determine a person’s devotion to Christ or the level of their spirituality based entirely upon whether or not they are devoted to certain rituals or practices-especially when it is clear that some practices are clearly, merely a patch to cover some old threadbare, ripped up garment. This was Paul’s argument in the letter to the Galatians where some people said, You need Jesus plus circumcision. Only then can your true spiritual state be determined. There is simply no room, no point, in going around rattling off to everyone how much of this or that we did then and there. Why boast? Why brag?

The Bible plainly says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 326-27) And in Romans 13:14: “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ…” Jesus is no mere patch-He is not here to just fix rips and tears-He is an entirely new garment. He’s did not come simply to fix up a broken system; he came to give a new Way. And a person’s level of devotion cannot be determined based upon how often or not they take communion or how often or not they pray or go on mission trips or how many Christian novels they read in a year. Honestly, we would probably do well, mind you, to worry about our own spiritual devotion and worry less about the level of devotion in others. It’s not a competition and Jesus makes it clear that those who make it a competition are those who are doing it for all the wrong reasons in the first place.

Finally, and this is the most difficult aspect of these verses to come to grips with, especially as it relates to our present situation. But I noticed that only those who refused to acknowledge Jesus as the bridegroom had issues with his particular religious customs. It’s not that they were offended that he forgave sins, but that he forgave sins. It’s not that he ate dinner with sinners, but that he ate dinner with sinners. And it is not that he did not fast-he did fast 40 days!-it’s what he was saying about their particular fasts that offended them. For them, Jesus was not righteous enough!

These people ate dinner. They wanted their sins forgiven. And they fasted. They were upset that Jesus was not giving their particular sins, or dinners, or fasts any special attention. I go back to my original point: People don’t like Jesus. And it is the same way now. Certain people in the world will always be offended at Jesus because Jesus does not come down and stand at their side and say: Here’s the Guy! People get offended now because we Christians understand that even now there is a reason to be joyful and celebrate. And certain people cannot stand that even in the midst of persecution and terrible times and tornadoes Christians find a reason to be joyful-and neglect those things that they hold so dear-as if those things they hold so dear will make us better Christians, more saved, or better prepared to meet the Lord.

The bottom line is that people do not like Jesus. That’s why they were angry. They were jealous. And sometimes when people get angry or jealous the only way they can satisfy themselves is by lashing out and criticizing every little thing that is done or not done by those they are angry at and jealous of. Today, in today’s world, Jesus is too righteous. And those who call upon His Name hear about it every single day.

* * * *

But I’m gonna stay with Jesus.

The Bible makes this point, and to be sure, Jesus is not advocating spiritual anarchy. Fasting mattered to him, and to the church he created. But here’s the point that the Bible makes: May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts [and here’s the thrilling part]…what counts, is a new creation.

Jesus is all about Newness. Neither fasting nor not fasting means anything. What counts is a new creation.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

This is part 5 of my current sermon series based on Colossians. In this sermon, I am dealing with the issue of people who want to pile rule upon rule upon rule as requirements for salvation. The apostle says, “don’t let anyone judge you.” Sound words in our age of internet ‘discernment’ (read: judgment) ministries. What people fail to recognize is that when we add to the requirements of salvation, we are not judging others but Christ and we are, in effect, declaring that Christ’s work is not sufficient. I do apologize for the poor audio. I am working on that. The sermon takes around 30 minutes. God bless.

Click here: Colossians 2:16-23 Sermon Audio

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Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

I’m not going to say much about this. I just happen to find it profoundly ironic.

Christian Post has two stories on its front page. The link-lines appear in the following order and with the following words:

Rick Warren Launches ‘Purpose Driven’ Plan in Uganda

Evangelical Leaders: Jews Need Jesus Christ

So, Jews need Jesus, but Africans need Purpose! That’s a helpful way of looking at things; it simplifies matters.

Concerning the latter article:

The statement, sponsored by the World Evangelical Alliance, expressed friendship and love for the Jewish people, but unapologetically declared that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ.

“We want to make it clear that, as evangelical Christians, we do not wish to offend our Jewish friends by the above statements; but we are compelled by our faith and commitment to the Scriptures to stand by these principles,” read the evangelical statement on “The Gospel and the Jewish People.”

Concerning the former article:

Churches, business and government leaders gathered Friday and Saturday to listen to the best-selling author of The Purpose Driven Life explain how to live a life of purpose and make a difference in the world.

“Our hope and prayer is that lives will be transformed and churches will be strengthened,” Warren said in Uganda, according to the program’s publicity team.

“My message to individuals is to build your life on purpose, instead of prestige, possessions or pleasure. My challenge to churches is to cooperate, not compete,” said he added, “and my challenge to business and government leaders is to use their influence for the glory of God and partner with local churches in solving community problems.”

For all those Africans: Not one mention of Jesus in the article. Not one. At this point, I think I have greater hope that the Jewish people will be saved than I do the Africans.

Sadly,

jerry

PS–The following is a list of those who affirm that Jews need Jesus (how does Chuck Colson get his name on every document produced by the church?):

Evangelical Christian leaders who affirmed the statement include the Rev. Dr. Lon Allison, director of the Billy Graham Center; Dr. Mark Bailey, president of Dallas Theological Seminary; Doug Birdsall, executive chair of Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization; Dr. Yonggi Cho, senior pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea; Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship; Dr. Jerry B. Jenkins, owner of Christian Writers Guild; Dr. Haddon Robinson, president of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary; Gordon Showell-Rogers, general secretary of European Evangelical Alliance; and Dr. Lon Solomon, pastor of McLean Bible Church in McLean, Va., who is Jewish.

Friends,

Well, Obama is at it again. According to The Christian Post, Obama has commented on the salvation of his mother:

While answering a question about his Christian faith, Obama said he believes that Jesus Christ died for his sins and through God’s grace and mercy he could have “everlasting life,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

But he also believes Jews and Muslims and non-believers who live moral lives are as much “children of God” as he is, according to The Associated Press.

As an example, he spoke about his late mother who was “not a believer.”

“[S]he was the kindest, most decent, generous person that I have ever known,” Obama said, according to the Times. “I’m sure she is in heaven, even though she may not have subscribed to everything that I subscribe to.”

Well, I’m not going to comment on the eternal destiny of his mother, but I am going to say this to anyone else who may happen by: That is not what the Scripture says gets us ‘into heaven.’ It is an absolute contradiction in terms to say that we can ‘have everlasting life’ through ‘God’s grace and mercy’ and in the same breath say that a person is also in heaven because they are the ‘kindest, most decent, generous person that I have ever known.’

The Bible is rather clear on this point: Kindness, decency, generosity do not matter a lick when it comes to heaven or everlasting life. All that matters is grace–God’s grace. We are told to have faith in the work of Jesus Christ. We are told that He is the Only Way. There is no other way. It cannot be both our kindness and God’s grace. It cannot be our generosity and God’s grace. It is either one or the other.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved…For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9, NIV)

It cannot be both ways and to teach it any other way is to preach a false Gospel. I know we all want to believe that we can behave, act kindly to others, save a dog or a cat from misery, plant a tree, give generously to the poor, or blow ourselves up in a cafe in Jerusalem and that that will be sufficient in God’s eyes to gain us eternal or everlasting life. But that is wrong and not the Gospel of Christ. The Gospel says we are helpless to do anything in God’s eyes that will make up the deficit of our sin. The only way we can be saved is by the grace of God–Him reaching down and offering us forgiveness of our sins because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. It is only God who justifies us; we cannot justify, in any way, shape, or form, ourselves.

I’m not opposed to Mr Obama’s candidacy necessarily. What I am opposed to his is continual mangling of Scripture, and I will continue to point it out every single time he opens his mouth to say something about Christianity or the Scripture. It’s a good thing that he is not really a preacher because he has no idea what the Scripture really says about Christian faith. If being nice or generous gets us ‘into heaven’ then I think, and I say this humbly, someone has a lot of explaining to do for the testimony of the Bible. God, to be sure, wants all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). But this salvation is God’s gift to us, not a wage we earn. God does not delight in anyone spending their everlasting life in hell, but the truth is that many, most, will  do so precisely because they reject God’s free gift of salvation. Fact is, furthermore, we cannot earn our way into heaven; it just will not happen. We can never make up the deficit of our sins.

That’s what grace is all about in the first place. It’s free and cures us of the guilt and power of sin.

Soli Deo Gloria!

jerry

PS-I realize these are hard truths to come to grips with. I’m sorry to point this out to anyone who reads it and thinks that their good deeds towards dogs and cats and trees will be enough to earn them salvation. I’m sorry to point out the truth concerning hell. However, I am thrilled to point out to you that Grace is free and God is willing to save all those who call on His Name (Romans 10). Hell doesn’t need to be a reality for anyone. Put your trust in Jesus today.

Friends,

I have read the entire post by Pastor Silva and I am prepared to make some remarks about it in a longer post later. I’d like to make another quick observation about what I believe to be the Pastor’s main issue and the point of his writing.

The main question the Pastor seems to be trying to answer is this: What is the foundational and functional basis of unity in the Body of Christ? I honestly believe this is a valid question to ask. In this particular essay by the Pastor seems, on the one hand, to be very discontent with Roman Catholic theology only he does not spend any time at all actually critiquing Roman Catholic theology. I don’t happen to disagree that Roman Catholic theology is wanting in a lot of ways, but I can also make a strong case that the Pastor’s so-called Reformed Theology is too–as many in the evangelical world have.

On the other hand, the essay seems to be mostly concerned with ecumenical movements that are afoot and seeking unity with the Roman Catholic church. I don’t happen to be familiar with them (except the ECT that moved among us for a short period of time a few years ago) and so I won’t comment on them except to say that in many ways they are meaningless gestures and that in other ways ‘who knows what the Lord has in mind’.  

So the main question is: What is the foundational and functional basis of our unity in the Body of Christ? This is important because the Church has been struggling with it since the days when Paul wrote to the Ephesians that Christ had destroyed the dividing wall that existed between Jewish and Gentile Christians and the Jerusalem council struggled over how to include Gentiles and Paul wrote in Galatians that Gentiles did not need to be circumcised in order to be fully incorporated into Christ. For Pastor Silva, the foundational and functional basis of our unity in Christ seems to be doctrinal purity. I will quote his words:

What applies here in relation to our discussion of unity in the Body of Christ is the phrase–‘all those who believe in him by the doctrine of the apostles.’ [He is quoting from the footnotes of the ‘famous Geneva Bible used by the Pilgrims who founded this nation…’] This would be someone who believes in Christ according to what His Apostles taught. And this ‘doctrine of the apostles’ is what we Protestants now refer to as Biblical doctrine. Someone who believes in Jesus Christ according to what the Holy Scripture teaches is the one brought into that unity the Master is talking about in John 17:23…[Quote]…So we can see here that someone who holds firmly to the dogmas and sacramental system of the Roman Catholic Church has excluded themselves. [All emphases belong to Pastor Silva.]

But have they? I don’t disagree with Silva that there are serious errors in Roman Catholic Dogma and Catechism. What I do disagree with is the idea that ‘true unity in the Body of Christ’ is based on some supposed doctrinal purity or a point by point agreement in every theological dogma. I say this for a couple of reasons.

First, whose dogma shall we all line up and subscribe to?To which theological formulation shall we rise and fall? The Apostles’ Creed? Westminster Catechism? Nicene Creed? Church Dogmatics? Lutheranism? Silva-ism? Presbyterianism? Papalism? Shall it be Charismatic? Pentecostal? Ephesians? Galatians? Nazarene? The Way? Baptist? And then, which kind of Baptists? Free-will Baptists? Southern Baptists? Do you see the point? Is Pastor Silva suggesting that the only way any of us can achieve unity is by giving assent to a theological formula that he develops? Are all of these divisions lost because they do not all share a point by point agreement with the Apostles’ teaching [Edit] as formulated by any particular teacher, say a Pastor Silva.

Second, who is the arbiter of ‘correct’ theological formulation?The ‘Protestants’ that Pastor Silva refers to have no final authority as Roman Catholics do. We have no pope, nor do we want one (which is why such things as ECT can never work). So who then becomes the arbiter of this theological doctrine to which we all must subscribe? There are so many variations of ‘protestantism’ that it is impossible to decide which theological formulation is the ‘correct’ one. And how shall we decide? Who will decide? It is my contention that this is why God gave to the local church Holy Spirit gifted leaders who will humble themselves under His Word and teach it properly in accordance with His will. [Edit] And that is a ‘risk’ that the Lord is willing to take. That’s why later I will argue that at it’s core, Christian unity centers on the fact of the Atonement (Justification) and our trust in the Person (Jesus) who did the work and not necessarily man’s theological formulations of it. (And I think there is a difference.)

Third, even Pastor Silva does not do this, that is, agree at all points with a particular theological construct. I will give a mere example. First, Mr Silva evidently thinks he is a Reformed theologian (pastor-teacher) who subscribes to the ‘historic orthodox Christian faith that Luther and the Reformers risked their very lives to recover and defend.’ Mr Silva would then, evidently as a consequence of this position, he would accept the teachings of John MacArthur (who is noted for his dangerous pre-millenial eschatology and otherwise rather orthodox point of view) and D James Kennedy (RIP) (who used his pulpit to bully people into a political position instead of preaching Christ Crucified; preached a “Gospel in the Stars” series of sermons; and more. But he was orthodox!). Then, being the good Reformed pastor-teacher that he is (I wonder if he knows what a ‘pastor’ is in the NT), he denies one of the fundamental tenets of Reformed Theology, namely, the perseverance of the Saints: “The sad and pitiful fact is, there are so many of those today who consider themselves Christians [later he acknowledges that we should ‘examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith’] because they attend the Mass, keep the sacraments, do nice things for poor people, or once walked down an aisle, said a little prayer and they think–‘I’m in now, so now I can just do whatever I want to.” You know–the old ‘once saved; always saved.” He then quotes Scripture ‘proving’ that we are not ‘once saved, always saved.’ (Here we see Evangelical, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Reformed. Whose theology should we all buy again?)

My question is: What theology are we supposed to abide by? And since Mr Silva cannot make up his mind which one to follow, how are us ‘little folk’ supposed to know? Mr. Silva, would you please become the protestant pope and tell us? I don’t understand how someone can accept ‘Unconditional Grace’ and in the same breath deny the ‘Perserverance of the Saints.’ Of course that is easy to do when you are accountable to absolutely no one but yourself.

Fourth, there is no church hierarchy to make these decisions which is why the local church matters and has the ultimate say in their theological formulations and ultimately Christ will judge each person. It is at this point that the Roman Catholic Church most miserably fails. My question is this: Mr Silva, what authority did Christ give you to be the judge and jury of who is and is not Christian, to monitor every single congregation on the planet? Do you really visit every congregation you criticize or do you just ‘surf’ around until you find something that really irritates you personally? Do you think that because you have a blog on-line and read stories and write about them that somehow you are suddenly an authority on all matters theological? I really don’t get where it is that you gather such hubris, but I doubt it is from Christ or the Scripture. If you belong to a local Church, you should use your skills to govern the local Church. That is what a pastor does. As it is, you are trying to act like a protestant pope. In the local Church the Lord Jesus has entrusted faithful men to do the work of feeding and shepherding the flock. Not every flock, but only the one entrusted to them; the local church. I need to say more on this later because the Pastor’s issue is that he doesn’t understand how a church is organized according to the Scripture thus he assumes he has a right or an authority to make the judgments he makes.

He doesn’t.

Fifth, if I dropped a bible on an island, what would the church look like after the people read it and started to develop in Christ (assuming they all accepted Christ as their Savior and Lord)? I don’t know either. After they read the book they would probably say, “Wow, we need to repent before this holy God!” I doubt seriously they would say, “Wow, we certainly hope this God performs a miracle in our heart to save us.” They would say, “Wow, we are sinners. This Jesus died for our sins. We owe Him our lives.” Sola Fide!

The issue is this: What is the foundational and functional basis of unity in the Body of Christ? I contend that it is not doctrinal purity; it cannot be doctrinal purity. A look at the denominations present in this world demonstrates abundantly that doctrinal purity is not the basis–even if there is such a thing as ‘the faith once delivered.’ If it is doctrinal purity, then there is not a single saved person belonging to the Body of Christ; not even Pastor Silva.

Not one!

So what is it? Is there something more substantial, something more objective? Yes. “If you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.'” (Romans 10:9-13) It is not doctrinal purity that binds the Church as one in Christ; it is not doctrinal purity that saves a person from the coming wrath. It is only God’s grace that saves us. Sola Gracia! Not sola doctrinal purity which there has never been since the inception of the Church at Pentecost 2,000 years ago!

Pastor Silva cannot possibly know what is in the heart of every single person he condemns to hell. Only the Lord knows this and ultimately the Lord will judge each person according to their works. I wonder if Pastor Silva’s works will hold up too? Or is he building a house of straw because there is no room for Grace in his ‘reformed’ theological position? I conclude that Pastor Silva is seriously misguided theologically and needs to go back to work and see if the Spirit has anything to say about the Grace of God.

Later, I will go through his post and critique a few of his more salient comments and also point out a couple of areas where I am wholly in agreement with Pastor-teacher Silva.

Soli Deo Gloria!

jerry

PS-I can state this rather simply: What matters most in our unity? Is it the fact of Christ’s atoning death on the cross and our humble acceptance of that work by faith? Or is it our theological formulations of that work? I contend it is the former, not the latter which is not to say that there are not theological formulations we should avoid. There are.

hitler_cardinal4.jpgFriends,

I noticed this post was getting an inordinate amount of hits today considering how old it is. I also noticed a pingback to a blog where the author took this post so far out of context that I’m surprised the author is allowed to even carry a pencil. Be that as it may, I’m updating here just so there is no confusion about the nature of this post: It was a joke (hence the category ‘humor’). Please don’t make this post anything other than what it is. I was having a conversation with an atheist who was certain he had a ‘gotcha’ moment with the picture you see to your left. I was refuting his accusation with sarcasm and mockery not making a statement about how one is saved. For all who happen to visit and read this post after visiting I. Todyaso’s blog and linking here, please don’t be led astray: My post was a joke, not a statement of how one is saved. I Todyaso’s interpretation of this post is way, way, way, way off the mark. I’ll just say it: Whoever I Todyaso is they are WRONG!!!! Anyone who has read my blog knows what I believe and what I preach. And if you don’t, look around. Thanks again, jerry.

One named ‘Robert’ has been visiting recently, and debating me about the mysterious ways of God–something Robert clearly understands and I do not. Well, for all of you Christians who were concerned about the assurance of your salvation, I’m about to make matters worse–especially if you are not a Catholic.

One of Robert’s recent arguments is that Adolf Hitler, author of the Final Solution, was, in fact, a Christian of some sorts. His evidence that Hitler was a Christian is found at a web-page that contains numerous pictures of Hitler shaking hands with Catholic popes and celebrating Christmas among other things.  (The photo to the left is of Hitler with a Catholic Cardinal.)

Well, I came across something funny at Drudge just a few minutes ago that seems to actually validate Robert’s point. Consider:

pope-and-saudi-king.jpg

So, according to Robert’s rules of logic, the Saudi King must be a Christian, at least a Catholic one anyhow. I think we can all feel a little safer knowing that the Saudi’s are actually closet Christians!

I also found a picture that proves doves are Christians. Make what you want of this picture.

Here’s a picture that proves Chamberlain was secretly a Nazi. Here’s a picture that proves Castro is a Christian. Here’s one that proves the Vice President of Iran is a Christian. Here’s a page that proves the Christian faith of a whole mess of folks including several presidents of the USA and Hugo Chavez!

This is good logic and I am glad that there are people like Robert to point out to us that there are many Christians in the world and we don’t even know who they are–apparently God himself doesn’t even know who they are. It’s a good thing that all that is required to prove our Christian faith nowadays is a picture of a handshake with the Catholic pope. I had better get my application in the mail so that I can get my handshake before it is too late. It’s good that I don’t need to demonstrate my faith by the fruit I produce or by my professed allegiance to Jesus Christ. It is good to know that all that matters today is a kiss and an peck and a hug around the next with Benny or Johnny.

Thanks Robert for clearing this up for us as we were all so confused.

And I was concerned about assurance of salvation. I’m not even Catholic. I’ll probably never meet the pope. It’s hopeless.

jerry