Sunday, April 29, 2007

Unity and Disagreements

In my last post quoting Herman Sasse, a reader commented:
"Whether the doctrinal disagreement is hidden behind a pious lie or out in the open, the result is the same: a lack of unity."
I would expand this a bit - the result is not just about the lack of doctrinal unity, but whether the Spirit is present in such circumstances.

If two or more groups are open about their differences, then at least they're both being honest and telling the truth. Disagreements that are "out there" and are being worked on can hopefully be resolved in a way that's in harmony with the Word of God. During this time, the Holy Spirit may also use this to open their eyes to a multitude of things they might not've learned otherwise.
"Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness."
Galatians 6:1
However, if the dissenting groups instead choose to cover up their differences and pretend that all is well - then not only is there a lack of doctrinal unity, but they've added lying and possibly hypocrisy to their list of sins. If the disagreements are of a nature that that one or more people should be expelled from the church but are tolerated instead, the letters to the churches in Revelations 2ff shows what God has said about such things in the past, and how He promised to deal with not only those who refused to repent, but those who tolerated these sinners in their midst.

I would also note that "doctrinal unity" in and of itself isn't a desirable goal, it's how that unity is accomplished, and what you are in unity with that's important.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me."
John 17:20
If true unity is being one with the Godhead, then it can only be accomplished by the working of the Spirit in the people of God who believe in Him. "Visible" doctrinal unity means nothing when it's based on a unity with something other than God in the Spirit of truth. In such circumstances where people are lying to each other or themselves, the Spirit will be present as a convicting, not a unifying presence.

All quotes from the Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001, Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hermann Sasse quote

"The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, is never present where lies are told. There is actually more unity of the church present where Christians of differing confession honorably determine that they do not have the same understanding of the Gospel than where the painful fact of confessional splintering is hidden behind a pious lie."
-- Hermann Sasse, "Union and Confession"

Friday, April 13, 2007

Getting hit for the wierdest things...

The hit counter on this blog keeps track people who've visited here, what they were searching for, what search engine they were using, and other pieces of useful information. I'll check it out once in a while, and have see how this blog's been found while people were looking for something else - such as "tim, toolbox" and other theologically-related terms.

But, a search on "pepto, bismol, commercial, gospel"? I'm not even sure what the connection of those four words could even be!

Just another mystery of the universe I suppose. :)

Saturday, April 7, 2007

If They Will not Listen to Moses and the Prophets...

In the previous blog I wrote about why Christ didn't say anything when He was in front of the Sanhedrin.

What Christ experienced there is remarkably similar to the parable of Lazarus and the rich man:
“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.

And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’

But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’

And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house — for I have five brothers —so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’

But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’

And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’

He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”

Luke 16:19
This parable paralleled real life. John 11 records how Lazarus died while Christ was a ways away. When Christ arrived, He raised Lazarus from the dead, and many believed in Christ as a result.

But what did the religious authorities do?
"but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
John 11:46
Incredible as it may seem, even though Christ brought Lazarus back from the dead, the religious authorities were more concerned about their position than believing in Christ.

However, the results of their disbelief doesn't stop there:
"When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus."
John 12:9
As if it wasn't enough that Lazarus had died and been raised from the dead - now they wanted to kill him yet again!

The hardness of these people's hearts was incredible. No wonder Christ said they wouldn't believe anything He told them.

And so we see a example how, if people won't listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they believe even if someone came back from the dead.

All quotes from The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Why was Jesus Silent?

On this Good Friday, I thought it would be instructive to look at what Christ said when He appeared before the Chief Priests and Scribes they asked Him if He was the Christ. Christ's response is telling -
"If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer." Luke 22:67
The religious authorities had an agenda when they called Christ in, and there was nothing Christ could've said which they would've believed, nor would they answer any of His questions. In short - they had the mindset of "my mind is made up, don't confuse me with facts."

This is the classical way an unbeliever manifests their lack of faith.

Why was this? Because they did not understand the wisdom of God:
"But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."
1 Corinthians 2:7
Scriptures tells us that Christ would not be alone in this experience, that there will be others in positions of religious authority who abuse and mistreat the faithful, and it'll be for the same reason - because they do not have the Father - or Christ - in them:
"They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me." John 16:1
This isn't surprising considering that spiritual truths can only be understood by the working of the Spirit within a person. These religious pretenders can be found anywhere - including positions of authority in the church. While this can certainly be cause for concern, it's not reason to lose faith, indeed such challenges can be used by Christ to deepen one's faith when He works things out by the power of His Word.

In short, the people of God will share in the sufferings of Christ for the same reason He was mistreated and abused. In such situations, Christ shows us an example to follow, and the reason to follow it:
"When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly." 1 Peter 2:22
Some day the works of all people will be exposed for all to see, nothing will be hidden, and when a person is judged, the ruling will be complete, certain, and without possibility of appeal. It was for this reason that Christ asked the Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him, because they didn't have a clue as to what the ultimate and eternal implications of their actions would be.

While it's hard to trust Him to do whatever needs to be done when things are falling down around your ears, and the ones pulling down the walls are wolves in sheep's clothing, one has to remember that the strength of our faith does not rest on the faithfulness of anyone other than the Living God Himself.

I know, it's one thing to say it, but another to practice it. God knows that we are but dust (Psalm 103:14), which is why Christ was sent to accomplish what we could never do on our own, and then why the Holy Spirit was sent to keep us safe until we're called to be home with Christ.