Monday, June 28, 2010

Forgiveness Part 2: Rebuke & Repent

Luke 17:3-6

If (we are sinned against) – We have to establish it in the first place; have they truly sinned against us? Perhaps it is just miscommunication or not a sin at all. This doesn’t usually start unless we bring the matter to them. If they bring it to us, the process is already started but we cannot hide behind their lack of coming to us with the offense, we must go to them and tell them of how we were sinned against. If we are indeed sinned against, and it is something we would continue to hold against them, then we must rebuke them, to give them a chance to repent.

Then (we rebuke) – rebuke means correct not condemn, bringing it to their attention, they may not even realize it, and if they do it is still right to bring it up. We rebuke with the sense that we are hoping that they will repent.

If (they repent) – The goal of the rebuke is to give an opportunity to repent and repentance gives us the opportunity to grant forgiveness. It is important to discuss repentance in this context. When someone repents, what are they doing?

• Confession of the sin (confession means saying the same thing God says about it)
• Taking responsibility for the sin (I was wrong, not justifying the action)
• Asking forgiveness (not “I apologize”, or “I’m sorry”, but “I sinned against you, would you please forgive me”. If we ask for forgiveness and they say it is not a big deal, or don’t worry about it, say to them it is a big deal, will you please forgive me, and continue till they say that they forgive you. It is biblical and very helpful to use these words.
• It does not mean we have to wait for some fruit (17:4, all they do is say it at this point)
• Our faith is not the issue, obedience to this command is (vs.5-6) – we are not permitted to judge another’s repentance. If someone had sinned against me seven times in a day, in other words, they kept on and on, and kept asking me to forgive them, I might think that they were not really sincere. Yet Jesus still commands me to forgive them.

Then (forgive them) – If we say “yes I forgive you”, what are we promising?

• Forgiveness is not a feeling (we can forgive even if we don’t feel like it).
• Forgiveness is not forgetting. What does God’s forgiveness look like? Jeremiah 31:34 – When God forgives sin He promises never to hold our sin against us. “Remember no more” means God won’t bring it up to our account again. God chastises me for my sin, yes, disciplines me, yes, punishes me, NO, because Jesus already took the punishment for my sins on the Cross.
• What about the judgment seat of Christ? It is not about condemnation, but commendation (see our sermon Crown Him with many Crowns)

So what we do when we forgive someone is that we never hold their sin against them. In practical terms this means we don’t unnecessarily bring it up to them, to our own selves, or to others. It is a promise we can keep even if we don’t feel like it. It is also something we cannot refuse if someone is repentant.

We have to deal with this, we don’t just “let it go” because we can end up holding onto that thing and it becomes bitterness and it colors everything we think about them. We have such a problem with bitterness because we don’t have forgiveness, and we don’t have forgiveness many times because we don’t have a rebuke. This is a command of scripture, BOTH parts, not just the forgive part, but also the rebuke, but it must first be done privately. More on that next time.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Forgiveness Part 1: An Understanding

Forgiveness is something we receive, we believe, we give, we develop, and we remember. This is a broad, multi-faceted subject, and we could discuss many related things, such as

• forgiveness of sin is the foundation of our reconciliation (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21)

• we are forgiven forever; past, present, and future (cf. Romans 4:7-8 / Hebrews 7:23-28)

• Judicial forgiveness is about God being our Father (cf. Ephesians 1:3-7 / Colossians 1:12-14), while Parental forgiveness is calling on God as Father, which is vital to our fellowship with God (cf. 1 John 1:8-9)

What we want to do over the next few posts is to focus on forgiving others who have wounded us, in situations where they repent, and in other situations where they cannot or will not repent. The points we just referred to above will have bearing on this.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Things that Don’t Work (Radio / Podcast)

…they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
(Colossians 2:23 – ESV)

Colossians 2:16-23 – Legalism / Mysticism / Asceticism (monasticism) – do not work. We tend to think, “If I would or could do this, then”, but spiritual maturity is not gained through the methods often employed by some in the church. However, a measure of maturity is the sense of your own sinfulness.

Legalism (vs.16-17) – No rigorous self-imposed devotion to types and shadows will make you more spiritual. It is Christ’s life being formed in you by abiding in Him. It is not done by formula or ritual. One aspect of legalism is that the doctrines of men are promoted as the laws of God.

Mysticism (vs.18-19) – It isn’t some mystical experience that will get you to grow; it is God’s life in you that is growing. These movements often appeal to elites or an elitist notion, not something for the whole body. Jesus wants us all to grow together.

Galatians 4:17 – they shut you out from the elite so that you will strive to become a member of the elite. The gnostics had a type of higher knowledge theory, and so, too, many today sell a deeper life or a higher level or whatever, so as to get others to come after them and their new improved doctrine and not after Christ (Acts 20:20-32).

Asceticism (monasticism) (vs.20-23) – Some so-called spiritual disciplines and contemplative prayer are simply self-made religion. We are not called to be monks but missionaries. Self-made religion is man reaching to God, trying to justify himself by keeping a list of rules. Christianity is God reaching down to man in love through Christ.

Spurgeon wrote of “a carnal repentance – a repentance that is of the flesh, and after the manner of the sinful nature of men. In this repentance the depravity of the heart remains the same in essence, though it takes another form of showing itself. Though the man changes, he is not savingly changed: he becomes another man, but not a new man. The same sin rules in him, but it is called by another name, and wears another dress. The stone is carved into a more sightly shape, but it is not turned into flesh. The iron is cast into another image, but it is not transformed into gold. This carnal repentance is caused by fear. Does not every thief repent of robbery when he is convicted and sent to jail? Does not every murderer repent of his crime when he stands under the fatal tree?” This kind of fear-filled living is a dark parody of the true Christian life.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Will He Make It? (Radio / Podcast)

For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;
(James 1:7 – ESV)

Can a "saved" individual spend his life submitting to his old man, and have hope of spending eternity with the Father?

If that “saved” person was actually saved then obviously the answer is yes, but the question is if this so called “saved” person is really saved at all.

These are age-old questions in Christianity, regarding the matter of degree. Where is the line, if any, to be drawn regarding sanctification? Is someone who never even sets foot in a church once, who never gives up any of his old life of sin, a genuine, born again Christian? If the answer is no, where do we draw the line? Is it up to us anyway, and if not, do we just let anyone into our church fellowship, even the stubbornly and defiantly unrepentant person who says they are a believer? Perhaps it might be more suitable for us to ask what degree does the light of Christ need to shine from a person in order to reveal that the Light is actually within a person?

Now to get back to the originally worded question, I imagine he could, but he wouldn't have any earthly assurance. This might be akin to a drunk who makes it, but all his works in terms of rewards are as nothing. He makes it on God's grace alone like the rest of us, but since he didn't live a sanctified life, he forfeits blessings on earth and rewards in heaven, and his assurance was shaken while here in this life, perhaps. It is a good question, and one in which I fear too many rest on some "decision" earlier in life.

Perhaps there are some who never realize the release from the shackles of sin at all in this life and will still make it to heaven. I believe it certainly is possible. To do justice to the question however, we must look at the full picture. We don't know for sure how many might be like this, and there are going to be more that are the other way around. They lead bad lives that don’t reflect the light of Christ to any visible degree, and yet they think they will be in heaven based on some “decision” that “they” made earlier in life. They were only fooling themselves. They need to ask the real question, “If you didn’t like who God was and want to love Christ, and by extension want to live a life pleasing to God on earth, why in the world would you want to have to live that life in heaven?”

So the answer to the original question or any similarly worded question is this. In theory, yes, some will make it, but in practice, many won’t.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Speaking the Language (Radio / Podcast)

I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.
(1 Corinthians 9:22 – ESV)

All things to all people” means appreciating cultural and community customs, not accommodating doctrine or changing the substantive content of our preaching. This entails being a gentleman, understanding local history and language, not bringing offense to local standards that are matters of choice for the Christian, etc. It does not mean compromising your doctrine or diluting the message. We try and not give any extra offense to people, but the message of the cross will always be against the current of any society and every soul that is unregenerate.

Paul would not change his doctrine or message to appeal to different groups (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:22-23), but he would change his behavior and manner of approach. He was willing to offend people over the gospel, but wanted to offend them only over the gospel.

Paul could “speak the language” of his particular audience. He would do it without compromising the essentials. If he was talking to Jews, he could reference the Law, keep kosher, and show how it points to Christ. If he were speaking to Gentiles, he would speak of not having to be under ritual and such, but about how faith works. To those who were a little over scrupulous, he would avoid the meat sacrificed to idols and other things that might offend those who didn’t understand their liberties yet. To those who were suffering under persecution he may talk about how he was being chased by a mob of angry people and how he had been beaten and perhaps about his thorn in the flesh or other bodily ailment (cf. Galatians 4:13). To a Roman he could talk about what being a Roman citizen meant and how allegiance to Caesar cannot triumph allegiance to Christ. He could speak many actual languages, which of course was a help.

He tried to identify with them on some level and then show them that whatever their situation may be, the gospel was the answer to their most important questions. Paul brought them into the story by identifying with them, so that they might identify with Christ. He showed them that he understood and was concerned about their circumstances, and then would lead them to see how the gospel meets their real needs.

He gains the right to be heard because he heard them as they were first. He already knew who they were, in a sense, sinners, and what they needed, the gospel. Yet they didn’t know that he really understood their situations and was genuinely concerned for them, so he identified with them so as to gain an audience for the gospel.

It is kind of like how you love your spouse, they know that you love them, but you have to break through to each other in a way they can appreciate depending on the circumstance. Sometimes it is easy sometimes it is hard. God does this with us as well. Think about it, contextualization is a very big deal, and that is why it can get perverted on both sides, over and under, because Satan knows it is a great tool, and absolutely necessary. So he is constantly attacking it, getting some people to dismiss it and act as if that is pious, while others go too far and act like they used to before they were saved, and I don’t mean riding a motorcycle, I mean getting drunk and destructive with the gang.

Paul was willing to adapt regardless of what inconveniences it might mean to him personally. But he would not adapt his message, or practices, in a way that would contradict what he was preaching. We can adapt to all kinds of disadvantages personally to witness to unbelievers, so long as that doesn’t mean participating in things that are abhorrent to God.

Contextualization is not compromise, but often compromise is mislabeled as contextualization. Paul was not catering to what his audience wanted, but giving them what they needed. This is the big issue in contextualization, to make sure we are using enough of the cultural elements to make the message clear, at the same time making sure that we are not clouding it.

Some believe that contextualization means making Christianity look just like the culture. Biblically based contextualization is not marketing, although much of what passes for contextualization or “missional” is simply an effort to be trendy and edgy. Biblical contextualization is simply the process of making the Gospel understood. Missionaries and Bible translators do this. Preachers do this. They preach in English, not Greek or Hebrew. They wear the clothes of today, like suits and ties, not robes or togas. They usually illustrate their sermons from modern life, not from the life of ancient biblical times. If the audience is different, say children, or those with lower levels of academic attainment, they simplify their sermon. The problem is not the practice of contextualization; it is a misunderstanding of what the word means.

This is the challenge: If you don’t contextualize enough, no one’s life will be transformed because they won’t understand you. But if you contextualize too much, no one’s life will be transformed because you won’t be challenging their deepest assumptions and calling them to change. Contextualization without compromise is the goal!

A faithful minister doesn’t ever set aside truth, but he sometimes sets aside liberty. In contrast, 2 Corinthians 2:17 gives us an idea of people who are not faithful ministers, but hucksters who use God’s Word as a tool for selfish gain, whether money, influence, popularity, self esteem, or comfort at the expense of telling the whole truth. Their idea of contextualization was to avoid whatever truth was necessary to get what they wanted. The word picture is someone who places the good looking bits on top of the basket and hides the less attractive parts. Paul’s idea was to bring the truth in a different basket. The most important stuff remained the same.

In Acts 17, Paul uses the Greek culture of pantheism in Athens to his advantage. They were always interested in hearing new philosophies and ideas (vs.18-21). Paul was well versed in rhetoric (Acts 22:3), and so he used that style with them (vs.22ff). He quoted from their literature (vs.28). He knew they didn’t mean the real God, but he applies what they already believed (vs.29 – cf. 1 Corinthians 15:32 / Titus 1:12). Jesus contextualized by using illustrations about farming, fishing, shepherding, etc. He ate with the sinners, yet did not defile himself with them.

Regarding contextualization, here are some other examples of Paul in action: Paul forbid Titus from being circumcised (Galatians 2:3-5), and then later the Jerusalem council agreed it was not a requirement (Acts 15:1, 5, 19-20, 28-29). Why then, after these things, did he circumcise Timothy (Acts 16:3)? Also, in Acts 21:18-26 – James, who presided over the Council of Acts 15, asks that Paul will stand by the right of Jewish Christians to keep on observing the Mosaic Law. Paul did as they asked. Why?

Titus was pure Greek, and the whole principle of Gentile freedom was at stake. Circumcision was obviously not even a consideration for him; it would only harm, and had no advantage.

However, Timothy was both Jew and Greek (Acts 16:1), and he would have a different set of circumstances. With Timothy it was not about accepting it for salvation, which is what Paul means and is warning about in Galatians 2:2-3. Unless circumcised, Timothy could not have been allowed to preach in the synagogues. Paul voluntarily removed this stumbling-block to the ministry of Timothy to the Jews. It was a question of efficient service, not an essential of salvation. Timothy was not being circumcised to keep the Law but to keep the Jews at bay.

As for Acts 21, Paul agreed and participated in Jewish purification ceremonies, which he knew were not necessary for his own life, because he hoped would help build a bridge of ministry to the Jews. He did it because they asked him to do it and because he knew it would help those weak brothers who took the Nazarite vow (Numbers 6:1-21) to see him in the right light. It was a strategic decision by Paul, and it seems he did this more than once (cf. Acts 18:18). Perhaps it was suited only to that time and place in redemptive history. The principle of not giving unnecessary offense, however, is still valid.

I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings – Paul wants to share his passion with others; he desperately wants to see people saved, and he wants them to enjoy the wonderful good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a way of life. Paul knew he was given a commission and he had an obligation to fulfill it (Romans 1:14).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Scripture is What We Need (Radio / Podcast)

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
(Psalm 19:10 – ESV)

Scripture contains everything necessary for our spiritual life. It is surer than any experience. It contains divine principles that are the best guide for us. It makes the thoughts of God clear not cloudy. It is perfect and therefore lasts forever. It is true and capable of producing righteousness. Scripture is infinitely more precious than anything this world has to offer. Psalm 19 is a clear testimony to the power of God’s Word.

Psalm 19:1-6 – general revelation (in the world)

Psalm 19:7-14 – special revelation (in the Word)

Vs.7-8 – attributes of the Word

7a – its teaching makes you turn
7b – its witness makes you wise
8a – its guidance gives you gladness
8b – its instruction gives you insight

Vs.9-11 – appreciation of the Word

9-10 – its nature makes you hungry
11 – its nurture makes you holy

Vs.12-14 – application of the Word

12-13 – it exposes sin, makes you pray
14 – it evidences salvation, makes you praise

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©