Posts for January 2012
4 Posts found

John 9.6-33 – God’s Revelation and our hardness of heart
Posted: 4 January 2012 in John

When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing….. Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them. They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet….. Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see….. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.

This passage is a good indication of the way in which people can resist believing something they don’t want to accept, no matter what the evidence. The events related in John 9 happened at a time prior to the age of science, so the scribes and Phatisees could not come out with, “oh well, science will explain it someday,” which is an assertion regularly heard from the new atheists. The only explanation they had available to them for such a miraculous event was the direct intervention of God into history, but still they didn’t want to believe it had happened. That is what is meant by “hardness of heart,” and it is always culpable in the eyes of God, who thereby reveals his power and glory to us. We, who live after the time of Christ, and also after the time of the great prophets, have God’s revelation made available to us primarily through the scriptures. The test for us is whether we are prepared to submit ourselves to the evidences and wisdom of God contained therein, or whether we prefer our own “wisdom” and limited understanding, because some of what we read makes us feel uncomfortable. If the latter is our preference, we stand an extremely good chance of calling God a liar.

It is noticable how it is the blind man – the person who has no power or position to lose – who had no trouble in first reading the signs of the times, and then submitting himself to God. Those of us whom God has providentially maintained in a state of relative poverty (despite of our attempts to defeat his intentions) ought perhaps to be thankful to him for that. Otherwise we, who live in a state of original sin, might too easily have been seduced by the false idols of power and prestige.

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Matthew 25.31-43 and John 14.15 – Faith and Works
Posted: 3 January 2012 in John, Matthew

“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me….. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.”

“If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

The passage from Matthew seems to say pretty clearly that we will be judged upon the basis of our works and the kind of life we have led. At first sight that might seem to sit ill with the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Of course the difficulty is fairly superficial, and the verse from John gives a clue as to why.

To have faith in God, is also to love God, and the acid test of our love for God is the strength of our desire to obey him and keep his commandments. That desire must be real. To obey his commandments only gradgingly is not to love God. An atheist could lead a life of outstanding altruism, but he nevertheless would not be saved, because salvation is through faith in Christ alone, and by the grace of God alone. Not surprisingly, that is an idea atheists sometimes have difficulty with.

God is sovereignly free, and salvation cannot be earned. Firstly God must endow us with the gift of faith, which itself is not something which is ours to pluck out of thin air. But if we do have the gift of faith, then the strength of that faith is measured by the extent to which we willingly obey God. It is in that sense that we are judged upon the basis of our obedience, as Matt 25 suggests.

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2 Chronicles 33.1-7 and Ecclesiastes 12.13 – The First Duty of Man
Posted: 2 January 2012 in 2 Chronicles, Ecclesiastes

“Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem: But did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, like unto the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel. For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them. Also he built altars in the house of the LORD, whereof the LORD had said, In Jerusalem shall my name be for ever. And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger. And he set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen before all the tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever.”

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man”

If the first duty of man is to worship God (which it is), there can hardly be a more serious offence in his eyes than idolatry. That is why Jesus mentioned the commandment to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” as being the first and greatest commandment. Atheists are sometimes heard to complain that it would be unfair of God (if he existed) to condemn them to hell if they had led a good life. There are a number of possible responses to that, but one of them is that they have simply ignored the first and greatest commandment. It matters not at all if they have their own ideas about what the first commandment ought to be, because it is not a decision which is theirs to make. That does not mean (of course) that the second of the two great commandments can be ignored; it is, after all, one of the two great commandments – just not the first.

Unlike atheists, liberal Christians are not guilty of ignoring the first of the two great commandments. Nevertheless, they show every sign of wanting to reverse their order, and doing that runs the very real risk of turning Christianity into a social program – with God maybe getting a look in on Sunday morning. With that ordering of priorities it is not difficult to see how Christianity might be transformed first into deism, then into a practical atheism, and finally into a full atheism. That, of course, is precisely what has happened in Europe during the course of the last three centuries or so, with humanity, and the accompanying philosophy of humanism, being the idol which has displaced God from his throne.

So the question finally comes down to whether we truly believe that this jealous and holy God exists, and, if we do, just how seriously do we take his worship as being our first priority? It has been well said that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer 17.9).

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Joshua 2.1-10 – Being faithful servants of God.
Posted: 1 January 2012 in Joshua

And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot’s house, named Rahab, and lodged there. And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither to night of the children of Israel to search out the country. And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country. And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were: And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them. But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof. And the men pursued after them the way to Jordan unto the fords: and as soon as they which pursued after them were gone out, they shut the gate. And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof; And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.

Rahab is unusual in the Bible. She is one of the very few Gentiles to whom salvation is made available prior to New Testament times. The Gibeonites in chapter 9 make their peace with Joshua, but that their motive is fear of the Israelites’ military prowess, rather than faith, and a genuine fear of God. There are examples of other Gentiles who are used by God for the accomplishment of his will, but who are subsequently destroyed in punishment for their pride and sin. One such is the King of Assyria in Isaiah 10. Rahab, however, is someone who has been called by God, and who has had it put into her heart to love and serve the Lord of heaven and Earth. As such, she and her family are saved from the destruction which awaits the rest of Jericho’s population. Why Rahab should should have been privileged in this way, and been given the gift of faith, lies hidden in the secret counsels of God. Without faith, the other inhabitants of Jericho continued to rebel against God, even though they had heard how he had defeated the enemies of the Israelites, and subsequently, they received the just reward of their rebellion.

Implicit in the fact that the gift of faith was made available to Rahab alone, is the further fact that it must have been God’s intention to destroy the remainder of Jericho’s population. If it be asked why that should have been so, I suppose the answer must be that given elsewhere in the Old Testament. Namely that they were not to be an ongoing temptation for the Israelites to worship idols. In spite of that being part of God’s intention in history, Israel was nevertheless destined to betray its vocation as the chosen people of God, and consequently Israel too was to reap the rewards of idolatry, when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 587BC.

The lesson for us, I suppose, is that a similar fate could await the Christian Church, unless it remains faithful to its calling, and witnesses to the truth of the Gospel, unpopular though its message may be in the ears of modern man. The one thing it must not do is to accomodate the eternal word of God to the transient spirit of the age, and effectively become guilty of idolatry. Otherwise God’s wrath will fall upon it, and upon the world it has ill served.

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