Wednesday, 9 September 2015
Now Playing: The Uncomfortable Pastor
Recently I was stimulated to wonder about Romans 7:3. The verse in the New American Standard reads: “So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.”
Now the discussion there is really not marriage, divorce, or marriage to someone other than the original spouse. What is written there originates from what was known to be true and right and serves as an illustration of the truth which is affected by our salvation from eternal condemnation.
The Apostle Paul is discussing the jurisdiction of the Mosaic law as it relates to a Christian. A law has jurisdiction as long as a person lives. A person who has trusted Christ has died to the old life; hence, that law no longer controls, but Christ influences and produces a fruitful life for God in that person.
But where today do Christians believe what Romans 7:3 says? If a wife, as in the example, leaves her husband through divorce and marries another man, who calls her an adulteress today? (She is actually free to remarry only if her husband has died.) In fact, we would claim that we are now beyond that. We don’t stone for adultery, we hardly even consider it a problem, let alone a sin. (We criticize another religion for stoning, but we must not let the abhorrence of that obscure God’s values!) What would have to change in our society, even in the church, that we might designate anyone an ‘adulteress’? (Of course, the same scenario applies if the husband were the one leaving and should be called an ‘adulterer.’)
Let’s grant for the sake of our conversation that adultery is no longer recognized, regardless of whether it should be so. If it is no longer recognized, then what is the effect on the teaching the Apostle Paul is presenting? If we are saying that the Apostle Paul’s illustration is obsolete, then is not also his teaching obsolete? Is it logical to reject the illustration he used to establish his point and still hold the point to be valid? Does the failure of the illustration suggest also the failure of the theological truth? Is not the illustration itself part of what the Holy Spirit has inspired to be written as divine truth?
So if we grant that adultery is no longer recognized so that the principle that only death frees from the marriage attachment is irrelevant, then perhaps we should go the entire distance and agree also that there is no such thing as freedom from the law for a Christian. The one great burden of the Apostle Paul in writing to the Galatians was to release them from bondage, from legalism, from the law by virtue of now being in Christ. (People who have been divorced have testified circumstantially that they are not really free from that first marriage. There are ongoing entanglements with that living person.)
If we have not been released from the law through Christ, then salvation is a matter of works, of self-effort, of comparison with others and with standards we can never meet. Then “By grace you have been saved through faith” is only so much ink.
Now, you may not have made the faith leap that I have just described here. You may have totally rejected the reality of adultery because of legal constructs available today--if an activity is legal, it must be acceptable to God. But if so, you are living a contradiction or at least a confusion.
It has perhaps been difficult for you to follow this trail, and for that I would not be surprised. The point that I see here is that attempting to adjust or change moral standards at least results in a consequence of theological murkiness. If you have had difficulty following this trail, that only illustrates the situation.
The point is that behavior reflects doctrine. The point is that behavior adorns the gospel of God or defaces it. Does adultery have any effect on the gospel? None other than the Apostle Paul said so under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Understanding adultery biblically helps us to understand and appreciate freedom from the law in Christ.
Do you call sin what God calls sin? By what standard do you decide? By what standard have you repented as a sinner and come for remedy to the Son of God who died for you? By what standard of sin did He die for others?
Let us adorn the Gospel of God by our behavior.
Posted by turbooster
at 12:01 PM MDT
Wednesday, 26 August 2015
A Preacher's Frustration
Now Playing: The Uncomfortable Pastor
No doubt after reading this, some will conclude that I have a bad mood today. The reality is that I have been thinking about this topic for years. Finally, I put the fingers to the keyboard.
After some time ‘retired’ I have heard some nutritious expositional sermons, some topical sermons with emphases not promoted by the biblical texts, and some others. One other was delivered for an anniversary of a pastor’s lengthy service; it referred to some Bible verses, but neither the outline nor the emphases were from a biblical text. Basically the message was that the pastor receives revelation from God and the congregation needs to fully support him in that. Seems dangerous and gives opportunity for costly error.
And then this morning I woke up to a radio program on which the speaker, a pastor, introduced the new series of sermons responding to questions from teenagers. The first question wondered how one could know God’s leadership in one’s life, and the answer was that He often guides us by means of our fears. I could play with that for a while.
So there’s definitely a mix out there.
But this morning (I just rose for the day) I am grateful for kind words spoken and written by many at our farewells. Because what I more easily remember is certain individuals who by word or by deed demonstrated that they had learned nothing over a period of many years through Bible teaching in areas where they were not thinking biblically then and still are not now. No progress where there should have been movement toward greater Christlikeness. The opportunity was there.
I could conclude that it really doesn’t matter, at least horizontally, whether a person seeks to faithfully and accurately teach God’s word. Perhaps there is hardly any effect. Perhaps it is wasted effort.
That conclusion would, however, be inaccurate for two reasons that I will put forward. The first is that Romans 10:14-17 gives the sequence of faith creation, and the proclamation of God’s Word is the indispensable stimulus. Even there the testimony is given that not all have believed. We want all to believe. But there will be those who don’t—it’s not unusual.
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
The second reason is that the preacher, though preaching to people and for their benefit, is really preaching to the heavenly audience of the God who placed him. Ultimately what matters to the preacher is that he is faithful to God to preach the message of God. The complaints of others don’t matter, the responses of others don’t matter, really nothing on the horizontal level matters in the purest sense.
Look at the record from Acts 5:27-32:
When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. “He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. “And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
Nehemiah sought the reward from God—he knew that it would not come from people (Neh. 13:31). Jeremiah, looking at the response, preferred to quit—he couldn’t because God’s Word needed to be proclaimed (Jer. 20:9).
So I conclude that it is not wrong to have a desire for people to respond. Is it possible to serve without that desire? Probably not. But there will likely be a grief in that direction.
Ultimately the preacher’s focus must be vertical. There is a satisfaction in considering the great privilege of vocalizing God’s message in the world. The vocation may be misunderstood and unappreciated, but there is none higher in this world, yet at the same time we are not above the apostles of old (1 Cor. 4:9-13). Preachers await not the acclamation of men but the unfading crown of glory (1 Pet. 5:4), and they must serve as slaves of Jesus Christ (Col. 3:23-24). Now if only I can remember that!
Posted by turbooster
at 9:20 AM MDT
Updated: Wednesday, 26 August 2015 11:15 PM MDT
Wednesday, 12 August 2015
Now Playing: The Uncomfortable Pastor
We are now living close to some of our grandchildren. This is something new for us. One policy grandparents should or do follow has been expressed to us by people from a wide spectrum; it would seem to be an almost universal approach. It is basically this: when you are with the grandchildren, spoil them rotten; at the end of the day when you have managed to turn them into thorough brats by your doting and when you have reached the end of your patience, you can send them home, because, after all, they are not your responsibility. After verbalizing this policy, those speaking often produce a sinister chuckle.
Allow me to suggest that that policy has a very bad aroma! Many Christian parents would like to see their children grow up to be responsible citizens and people who believe, love, and serve God. Do we really think that as senior citizens we are now permitted to encourage these grandchildren in the ways of selfishness, self-centeredness, and ungodliness? When were we given permission to abandon lives of righteousness and at this point stimulate wickedness in children for whom we are ‘not responsible’?
Have you ever listened as someone shares about their grandchildren? Their grandchildren are awesome! Sometimes the description is not so positive when given by other people who know the same children from other settings and other relationships. Our eight grandchildren are good-looking, intelligent, and gifted in various ways. But I can also tell you that they are devious and rebellious. They sometimes do not know what is best for themselves, but they are concerned that no one else tell them what is. They well exemplify (as did we) the truth King David wrote when he testified that he had been sinful from the moment of conception (Ps. 51:5).
So this brings me to ask: What is the role of grandparents? Maybe I haven’t been paying attention, but I really haven’t noticed much literature addressing this issue. I did hear a talk show recently (unfortunately I was driving somewhere and can’t even state the source) on which the grandparents’ role was described something like making life fun for the little ones. That may have some merit at least some of the time, but surely that is not the end of the matter.
Do you suppose the Bible says anything on the subject? You won’t find a biblical book, chapter, or even verse addressed specifically to grandparents, as far as I can tell. You may have to think creatively, but there is something there. And I’d like to get you started.
We may not know exactly what the example is, but at the beginning of 2 Timothy the Apostle Paul mentions Timothy’s faith which was evident beforehand in his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. Many wonderful sermons have been preached, especially on Mother’s Day, about the training Timothy received from his mother and grandmother. Nothing like that is written specifically, though we may not be far wrong to suppose something like that took place. In any case, Timothy’s grandmother was mentioned in a complimentary way as it related to her faith. Perhaps we could conclude that grandparents should encourage grandchildren toward faith in Jesus Christ.
In the New American Standard Bible the word grandfather appears only twice (including plural forms, and so for the other words mentioned here as well), grandmother only once, granddaughter five times, grandson fourteen, and grandchild four. So that relationship two generations removed is not mentioned frequently. However, it is curious that in 2 Kings (e.g., 14:3) and 2 Chronicles (e.g., 28:1) numerous times the word father actually includes the meaning of ancestor or forefather. In other words, father could include the relationship of grandfather.
Now in Proverbs fathers are mentioned at least twenty-seven times. Many of these statements involve exhortations to observe the instruction of fathers. I’m not going to try to prove here that the word father in Proverbs actually means grandfather, but if we acknowledge that elsewhere, why might we not suggest it here? Grandparents certainly could be involved in the moral and spiritual training of their grandchildren. There is no prohibition of training that comes from the generation twice removed. Grandparents have sometimes not done well in raising grandchildren (when the parents for whatever reason are absent), but there is no reason why they might not do well if they will live and train in the revealed will of God.
2 Kings 11 and 2 Chronicles 23 give the account of Athaliah, the only woman who ruled for a time as sole sovereign over Judah. Her description is insightful. We are told in 2 Kings 8:26 and 2 Chronicles 22:2 that she was the granddaughter of Omri, who was earlier the king of the northern kingdom of Israel. He was a very wicked king, who was the father of Ahab, who himself was so wicked that he provided the standard of wickedness by which later kings were measured. One of his great acts of wickedness was to marry Jezebel who introduced Israel to certain kinds of idolatry. The generation after was Athaliah.
Do you think grandparents influence the second generation? They likely do via DNA and also via environment, especially if the grandchildren share in the environment. And then there is the statement in Exodus 20:5 “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me.” (Cf. also Ex. 34:7, Num. 14:18, and Deut. 5:9.) Surely Athaliah was responsible for her own beliefs and deeds, but she was influenced by her grandparents as well. And when she was assassinated, all of Jerusalem rejoiced. Selah!
In Matthew 18, Mark 9, and Luke 17 Jesus used a little child as an illustration. He was using the child as an illustration of a believer. And we understand that. But since he used that child as an illustration, we should pause and look at the consequences to ourselves that our treatment of our grandchildren might have. It is obviously not a game--it has serious consequences. In Matthew 18:6 He said, “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
So, have all the fun you can with your grandchildren! Live before them the life of someone who is established in the will of God! Tell them the truth which your life exhibits to them! Be part of the solution in passing on the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to the generation twice removed!
Posted by turbooster
at 4:26 PM MDT
Updated: Wednesday, 26 August 2015 9:24 AM MDT
Sunday, 2 August 2015
Now Playing: The Uncomfortable Pastor
A word of introduction is in order, because you should understand the background from which I write. One of my pet peeves is that of a writer refusing to share background information that might enlighten the views he/she takes. I might appreciate, even if not agree with, an opinion if I have some understanding of its origin.
I grew up in a rural eastern Montana community and attended Grace Bible Institute in Omaha, NE, Nebraska University in Lincoln, NE, and Grace Seminary in Winona Lake, IN. I served as pastor in four different churches, two of which were parts of denominations. Even in those two churches, I was somewhat of a loner. This is at least partly because I have tended to not uncritically immerse myself in human theological constructs, but rather my goal has been to inductively discover God’s message as it comes to us in the Bible. My intention has been to be faithful to Him by living and teaching His message.
I have diagrammed sentence-by-sentence every verse in Greek New Testament and numerous portions in the Hebrew Old Testament. The Hebrew diagramming is ongoing. This exercise has given me confidence that I have a better grasp of the biblical text’s message than just to read an English version. My preaching ministry was based on that.
To discover more about family, hobbies, etc., you may refer to turbooster.tripod.com.
Recently we retired from the pastorate, but as a continuing ministry I hope to write on various subjects. Some of these might be reflections on frustrations in the pastorate, some may be essays on current topics, some may be simply interests of my own that may resonate with others. In any case, I hope that what I write may challenge, explain, or even entertain.
With this introduction, enjoy!
Posted by turbooster
at 9:34 PM MDT
Updated: Monday, 3 August 2015 2:56 PM MDT
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