Matthew 7.21-23 – A Warning
Posted: 7 July 2010 in Matthew, Scripture

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

The above is a blunt warning against trying to baptise our own projects. It is all too easy for petitionary prayer to become a shopping list, whereby we let God know what is needed for us to bring our plans to fulfillment. We call God Lord, and then act as if we are the lords, with God merely being there to facilitate our plans.

This passage from Matthew calls us to order. God is not interested in having us pursue our own projects, no matter how religiously inspired they may appear to be. Instead we must strive to know his will through prayer, Bible reading, and generally listening out for his voice in our everyday lives. We must the do his will – no matter how contrary it may be to anything we had in mind.

Speaking for myself, I sometimes find the one word “no” or “yes” forming itself in my head in response to prayer. I cannot be absolutely certain that what I am hearing comes from God, but a prima facie reason for supposing that it might do so is that I do not always like what I hear.

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Matthew 15.12-13 – Being born of God
in Matthew

Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.

This is just a passing thought. Being born of God as a prerequisite for salvation is an idea normally associated with the Gospel of John. Here, however, is the same idea. The metaphor is different – the necessity of our being a plant which God has cultivated (brought into existence) – but the meaning is the same.

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Matthew 7.13-14 – Universalism
Posted: 6 July 2010 in Matthew

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

A priest friend of mine is a staunch universalist. The obvious problem with the universalism is that it cannot very easily be squared with what the Bible has to say on the subject of salvation, and the above passage is an example of that. Another example is Matthew 25.31-46.

I am not one of those who thinks that we can take whatever we find in the Bible, and indiscriminately apply it to the world we live in today. Clearly we cannot do that, and there are hopefully few people who think that Paul’s uncritical acceptance of slavery is in any way applicable in today’s world.

Nevertheless, if something is going to be set aside as not being applicable in the twenty first century, a better reason is needed than simply not liking what scripture has to say for itself – especially when it is reporting words which come directly from the lips of Jesus himself. There is nothing in the two passages mentioned above to suggest that they are in any way culturally conditioned, and so universalism must be set aside as false.

We cannot properly revere God unless we accept as revealed truth whatever he has to say for himself in the Bible. In the twenty first century it is too easily forgotten that God is not inviting us to take part in a debate: He is telling us what the situation is.

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Daniel 9.4-13 – God’s Judgment
Posted: 5 July 2010 in Daniel

And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets…. O LORD, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day….. all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth.

The idea that God’s activity in history can include judgment, and the attendant punishment is not a terribly fashionable one today. It is certainly possible to see why. It is all too easy for somebody to see divine retribution at work when misfortune befalls somebody, or something, which they have taken a dislike to. So AIDS becomes God’s retribution upon the gay community; the events of 9/11 become God’s judgment upon American capitalism, and so on. (Although another reason might be that twentieth century theology manufactured a God who was too soft and cuddly.)

Nevertheless, it remains a fact that God’s judgment, as something active in history, is a concept far from being foreign to either the Bible or to Jesus. In the book of Proverbs it is often likened to a parent’s attempt to bring recalcitrant children into line:

“My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction.” (Proverbs 3.11)

The last sentence in the passage quoted from Daniel suggests the same thing. So what we have here is not a bad tempered deity out to seek his revenge, but a merciful God whose purposes include the salvation of his people.

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1 Thessalonians 2.11-12 – Coming to Faith
Posted: 2 July 2010 in 1 Thessalonians, Scripture

As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.

Elsewhere on the web yesterday somebody was asking her readers whether they were sure they had chosen God. I think she knew the answer – namely that God has chosen us. The Bible is everywhere insistent that nobody chooses God – instead it is God who chooses and calls whom he wishes. Even our response of thanksgiving for our faith is only possible because God has gifted us with a desire to worship him.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1.17)

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