John 10.2-14 – The Good Shepherd & his sheep
Posted: 9 August 2010 in John

But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers….. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture….. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep….. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

In this parable the sheep obviously represent the disciples of Jesus, and one of the interesting things about the parable is the reason given for Jesus’ sheep following him – namely that they recognise his voice. Other sheep, which are not his, do not recognise his voice, and do not come to him. So how does it come to pass that Jesus possesses these sheep, who can recognise his voice? The answer to that question is given in John 10.29, where it is said that they are given to him by the Father.

“My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”

In other words they were pre-existing, and the way in which people respond to Jesus reveals whether they are amongst those given him or not. The mission of Jesus is a two edge sword. It reveals those who are amongst his sheep, and, coming to him, are saved, whereas those not chosen for salvation refuse to come, and are condemned:

“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3.18)

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Jude 1.1-5 – Designer Christianity
Posted: 7 August 2010 in Scripture

Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called: Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied. Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.

The Epistle of Jude is a warning about making light of God’s revelation, or recasting it so that it says whatever we would like it to say. Admittedly the implications of what the Bible has to say are not always immediately obvious, and (for example) several centuries went by before the doctrine of the Trinity received its definitive and final formulations in the Nicene and Athanasian creeds. But still, it is sheer arrogance to think that we can set aside the labours of previous centuries, and substitute our own limited understanding instead. Yet that is exactly what I see happening on the internet today. Christians routinely set aside doctrines such as the Trinity, or the divinity of Christ, because it is revealed truth, and therefore not wholly within their understanding.

What do they think revelation is for, if not to give us an objective standard, and to prevent us creating our own customised religion, with our own customised god?

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Deuteronomy 6.10-12 – Secularism & its cause
Posted: 5 August 2010 in Deuteronomy

And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

The above passage is nothing if not psychologically realistic. When people start to feel comfortable and self sufficient, they start to lose any sense of their dependence upon God. That, more than anything else, is responsible for the widespread secularism in western Europe, and much of the rest of the western world.

Although the churches are forever coming up with initiatives which are supposed to help reverse that situation, the only person really able to effect a cure is God. When it comes, I doubt if anybody today is going to enjoy the experience of having our complacency over turned, anymore than they did in Old Testament times.

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John 9.1-3 – Theodicy & The man born blind
Posted: 4 August 2010 in John

“And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”

Theodicy, or accounting for unmerited suffering, is usually considered to be one of the biggest apologetic challenges to confront Christianity. This passage is another reminder to modern man that God creates us, and governs the universe, in accordance with his own designs and purposes, and without reference to any ideas we may have about the fairness, or appropriateness, of what he decrees. Theodicy becomes a problem when the idea goes around that God is under an obligation to take due cognizance of our desires.

As with Job, the reason for the blind man’s suffering is to be found in God’s providential care. Here it is flatly stated that the man was born blind so that God could be glorified in his works. Perhaps this seems difficult to square with the love of God. But then we should remember what happened on Calvary Hill in 33AD. If, during his earthly life, even God’s Son was not spared suffering, because his Father’s purposes required it, by what right do we expect that God should spare us any suffering in our own lives?

“For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth.” (John 5.20)

“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22.42)

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Deuteronomy 4.33-40 – The Election of Israel
Posted: 3 August 2010 in Deuteronomy

Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live? Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him. Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he shewed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire. And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt; To drive out nations from before thee greater and mightier than thou art, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance, as it is this day. Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else. Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, for ever.

Here Moses is reminding Israel of their election by God. Why did God choose them? In a sense no answer is given to this question. He could just as easily have chosen another nation, but he chose Israel for no other reason than because it was his good pleasure to do so.

But, in another sense, the question, “Why did God choose Israel?” is answered. He chose them so that they could serve him, and worship him, as the God who called Israel out of Egypt. As part of their vocation Israel would, centuries into the future, give birth to the One who was to be a “light to the Gentiles and for salvation to the ends of the earth.” Today, as in the time of Moses, God has his elect, and today he reveals himself to them through the pages of his most holy scriptures. We have every reason to be thankful to God for these scriptures, and for the undeserved favour of being called into his service.

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