Thursday, November 15, 2018

Forgiveness is an Action

If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3b).

In this passage, Jesus teaches about forgiveness. There are several aspects of forgiveness we need to note. First, although most Christians today believe we are obliged to forgive people whether they repent or not, this is not the teaching of Jesus. For our own psychological well-being, we need to turn such people over to God, but we need not pretend that the problem has been resolved, unless there is true repentance.

Second, though Jesus tells us to rebuke a brother when he sins, this does not mean we have to rebuke everyone we encounter over every little fault. Remember the Bible also tells us love overlooks a multitude of sins. However, faithfulness to God sometimes requires us to deliver a reproof.

Third, Jesus commands us to forgive a person if he or she asks for it. In fact, Jesus said that even if we are sinned against seven times in one day, we are to forgive each time that person asks for forgiveness (v. 4). How can we know if the person has really repented? Repentance may be measured by different sorts of restitution, when necessary. Ultimately, though, only God can read the heart. We are required, however, to accept a person’s apology. If it is not genuine, God will deal with the situation.

Fourth, forgiveness means acting as if all is forgotten. Forgiveness is a practical act, not a feeling. I may not feel warm and forgiving, but I can act as if all is forgiven and forgotten. At the same time, if a person has sinned against God and has refused to repent, I am not to pretend that nothing has happened. I may not continue to feel angry about it, but for the sake of God’s glory and in order to bear witness to God’s holy intolerance for sin, I must continue to act in the light of the person’s refusal to repent.

Today we have studied four perspectives on forgiveness. Use them to test yourself: From whom do you need to ask forgiveness? Is there anyone you have refused to forgive who asked you for it? Have you forgiven but not forgotten? If a situation warrants it, honor Christ by refusing to forgive an impenitent sinner and, if applicable, by upholding the judgment of the church against him.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

SBG - Episode 24 - "The Decree of God - God's Creation and Problems with Evolution (Pt. 2)"

Our host, Matthew Dowling, continues the discussion of the first external decree of God, which is God's creation. He discusses, in particular, the problems with biological evolution.

Heeding the Word of God

Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them’ ” (Luke 16:29).

Jesus told the Pharisees the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man, said Jesus, dressed in fine clothes and lived in luxury (Luke 16:19). By way of contrast, a beggar named Lazarus sat at the rich man’s gate. He was covered with sores and longed to eat scraps from the rich man’s table (vv. 20–21). Even as people did not take pity on Lazarus, neither did the dogs. Helpless as he was, even the dogs took advantage of him in their licking of his wounds.

The Pharisees complained that Jesus spent time with outcasts. But in fact, Jesus had been speaking to this very issue. The Pharisees, due to their separatist mentality, would not minister to the poor and indicted any who did.

After death, Lazarus was taken to heaven, while the rich man was cast into the eternal fires of hell. He saw Lazarus and Abraham far off, and asked Abraham to send Lazarus to dip his finger in some water to cool him off (v. 24). Abraham replied that the rich man had enjoyed the good life on earth, and even if he wanted to, he was not able to help him because “a great chasm has been fixed” that no one could cross (v. 26).

Then the rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers, that they might repent. Abraham told the rich man that the warnings had been given by Moses and the Prophets. The rich man objected and said that the message would be more effective if given by someone from the dead. But Abraham replied that if they refuse to listen to Moses and the Prophets, they would also ignore someone returned from the dead (vv. 29–31).

Jesus makes it plain: Miracles do not convert people. People are saved by the work of the Spirit granted faith. These people believe the Word of God, and heed the voice of Moses and the Prophets—and the New Testament as well. The Pharisees had turned a deaf ear to the proclamation of the Good News and the coming kingdom.

In the Protestant church, the centrality of the pulpit and the power of preaching is rightly emphasized. What is your expectation of your pastor’s sermon? Honor your pastor and God’s Word in your zeal to heed the Word rightly taught this week.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

SBG - Episode 23 - "The Decree of God - God's Creation and Problems with Evolution (Pt. 1)"

Our host, Matthew Dowling, continues the discussion of the first external decree of God, which is God's creation. He discusses in particular the problems with stellar and chemical evolution.

Divorce and the Pharisees

Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Luke 16:18).

Jesus had just told the Pharisees that they needed to love God more than money (Luke 16:13). In typical fashion, they scoffed at Jesus’ words because they could not recognize that they were lovers of money. Jesus warned them that though they were expert in looking good in the eyes of men, they were actually evil in the eyes of God.

He went on to tell them that, since the time of John the Baptist, the Good News was being preached throughout the land and everyone was “forcing his way into it” (v. 16). The Pharisees, unfortunately, did not see any need to press into the kingdom Jesus was proclaiming.

Jesus told them that if they truly kept the Old Testament law, they would recognize the kingdom. One major problem for the Pharisees, though, was that they had set aside the written law of Moses in favor of their traditions, which they fondly imagined came from “oral laws” passed down from Moses. Jesus directly attacked this oral law tradition. One example of this attack was upon their views of divorce. The Pharisees, who were the supposed righteous pillars of the faith and Law, were actually violating that law every day, especially in marriage. Why? Because they had capitulated to the whims of the people. Under Rabbi Hillel’s leadership, they had permitted divorce for the slightest reasons, claiming the oral law permitted it.

Jesus defines the original intent of marriage as monogamy until death. God never intended for any marriage to end in divorce, and thus in creation, no provisions were made for it. But, because of sin’s hardening of hearts, God did condescend through Moses to permit it upon the grounds of adultery and abandonment only.

In order to obtain the people’s favor, the Pharisees became poor stewards of the very law they were charged to keep. They became an abomination in God’s sight for the manner in which they negotiated the Law of God.

Is there a parallel today with church leaders granting divorces for unbiblical reasons? Just because it is “legal” to seek a divorce, is it “morally permissible” for believers to do so? By what authority does your church and pastor counsel those whose marriages are failing?