Posted by: The Simple Guy | September 20, 2014

Why The Struggle?


We looked at these verses in the last post:

 

Col 2:1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face,

Col 2:2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,

Col 2:3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

I mentioned how at first I was confused by Paul’s desire that people he had never met would know about his struggle on their behalf.  But as I looked at the original language I realized he was not emphasizing his part in the struggle, he was emphasizing the importance of the struggle or endeavor.

Then we looked at how he characterized the struggle.  He wanted their hearts to be encouraged and bound together in love so that they could attain the riches of the full assurance of thinking together in a way that recognizes Christ.  Knowing Him is the purpose of the struggle.  It appears that we cannot know Him by ourselves, but we must be together.  Meditating on that idea since the last post, my mind went to John 17 where Jesus prayed for us.

Essentially His prayer to His Father was this:

Father, I have shown the world who you are.  Now show the world who I am.  Do this two ways.  First, by what I am about to do.  (his sacrifice in our place, and resurrection for us)  Second, through the people You have given me.  I want them to be in complete unity together.  I want the world to know us through them, since I won’t be here to see.  I want them to come to be with us.

So realizing that His plan is for us to know Him through knowing each other made these verses that emphasize togetherness and His riches come to life for me.

Then I noticed verse 4.

Col 2:4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.

I think life together protects us from missing the point, as we have to stay real.  I think isolation leads to a fall as our own weaknesses are exploited.  Fellowship results in the discomfort of being shown where I am inconsistent.  Iron sharpens iron, you know.

We stay together as we love one another.  Then I see Christ in you, and you see Christ in me.  Isolation results in a theoretical religion where I can talk myself into anything.

 

There are not several bodies of Christ.  We are the body of Christ.   Christ is not divided.

Lets work on life together so that we can see Christ in each other and the world can know us by our Love.

 

What do you say?

The Simple Guy

1Co 1:10-13

(10) I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

(11) For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.

(12) What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”

(13) Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

 

Posted by: The Simple Guy | September 17, 2014

The Main Thing:


Col 2:1-3
(1) For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face,
(2) that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,
(3) in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

 

I have been thinking over these three verses for the last couple of days.  The first verse seemed almost self-serving, or overly dramatic at first.  Paul wanted them to know how much he was struggling for them, even though they had never met??  If I wrote you a letter like that, what would you think of me?  But what he really says here is I want you to know the importance or priority of the struggle I have for you.  This corporate struggle, contest, or endeavor we are involved in as the family of Christ is the priority over everything.

The fact that it is corporate, and singular (together, and not our own separate struggles) is apparent in verse 2.  The word “encouraged” is a verb form of paraklete (the word used for comforter – see my post on 2 Corinthians 1)  It is to come along side, for help, or even for rescue.  The phrase “being knit together” is one word that means to come together and walk side by side.

For what purpose?  To reach some specific riches.  What are they?  Absolute certainty of understanding and knowledge of God’s (revealed) mystery. Namely Christ.

That’s a mouthful, let’s unpack it a little.

Understanding is the word “synesis” and means literally “to flow together”.  Has the idea of a train of thought or thought process.  Things fit together.

Knowledge in this case is “epignosis”  a compound “upon” and “know”  I means to recognize or to realize.  It is the “aha!”

So in this case, we gain riches as our thoughts flow to a recognition of Christ.  Not just a mental assent to specific facts, but the recognition of  “Hey, I know that guy!”

So imagine if the governor of your state walked by, and you suddenly realized, “Hey, I recognize that guy!  I knew him at such and such place, and we got along great!”  Suddenly you realize the riches you have available to you as a friend of the governor!

But this is better than that.  Because Paul is telling us about the mystery here.  Remember?

Col 1:27
(27) To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (emphasis added)

This isn’t someone I know.   This is someone in me, and I am in Him.

Verse 3.  In Him are hidden all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  (and He is in me, and I in Him)  But this isn’t my genie in a bottle to wield however I please.  Jesus is here for a reason, doing something intentional.  What is He doing? That is what is referred to as this “great struggle” or supreme contest or endeavor.

So what is this supreme contest?

Paul told us in chapter 1 what Jesus is about.

Col 1:15-22
(15) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
(16) For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
(17) And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
(18) And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
(19) For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
(20) and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
(21) And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,
(22) he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, (emphasis added)

He is redeeming all things to himself.  And the part we play in this, is that He intends to present us holy, blameless, and above reproach to himself.  US.  not ME

This time through Colossians I have been struck by the resources at our disposal.  Jesus the unstoppable is restoring all of creation to Himself.

His glory as the Redeemer is the main point.  He is the Reconciler.  Our reconciliation to Him and to each other is the outward evidence of what He is doing in the world.

This is the supreme contest we have the privilege of sharing in.

Your thoughts?

The Simple Guy

Posted by: The Simple Guy | September 11, 2014

When Christ Appears


It has been a LONG TIME since I have posted anything.  Not sure if anyone even reads any of this anymore.  But I wanted to bounce an idea off of any of you believers in Christ who may still stop in from time to time.

Our church is currently going through the book of Colossians.  I think Colossians is about “The Mystery Revealed”

I think these are the key verses of the book:

Col 1:26-27
(26) the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.
(27) To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

I think that Paul was writing to combat two separate errors that look different from each other, but have one common factor.  They both focus on the external.  One error was the Judaizers, who wanted Gentiles to act like Jews.  The other error was a worldview that saw the world through the dualism of Greek philosophy and would separate the spiritual from the physical.  This idea’s misguided conclusion was that God only cares about the spiritual and doesn’t care about the physical.  So as long as you have some sort of mysterious spiritual experience, the physical doesn’t really matter.

But in chapter 1, Christ is introduced as the supreme cause and reason for all of creation, and as the one who is redeeming all creation unto Himself.

Col 1:15-20
(15) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
(16) For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, wheather thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
(17) And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
(18) And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
(19) For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
(20) and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

So the physical world matters to God, and Christ is the center of it all.

Then Paul lays out for us how we fit into that picture, Christ is to be revealed in us, and God gets the glory.  (Christ in you, the hope of glory)  Remember, to glorify God is to show who He is.

In chapter 2, he talks about how we grow up in Him, and he is the Head.  We are the body.  I find it interesting to note all that is “in Christ” in this chapter (2:3, 2:9, look it up), and then remember that in 1:27, we saw that Christ is in us.

Then we are warned to not let anyone disqualify us by external checklists (law keeping, or measuring your mystical experience).  Externals look religious, but have no value in solving my internal problem.

Col 2:23
(23) These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

So what stops indulgence in the flesh?

Col 3:1-4
(1) If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
(2) Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
(3) For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
(4) When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

So now we come to the idea I wanted to bounce off of you.  Did you notice that last verse?  When does Christ appear?  Did you notice the verb tense of His appearing?  Present tense.  That’s right, now.

I always thought that was about the great blue yonder in Heaven some day. . .

But when I read this verse with the “revealed mystery” in mind . . .

God is glorified in me when I die and Christ lives in me.  That is the Gospel at work.  If I died with him, I live with him.  That is present tense resurrection power.

What do you think?

The Simple Guy

Posted by: The Simple Guy | June 26, 2013

Am I Getting the Cart Before the Horse?


Rather disturbed by the Supreme Court decision today about marriage.

However, since I don’t follow current events much (we don’t have TV, I don’t read the paper – I’m too busy being a Dad) I find it somewhat striking that God taught me something that relates to this new development only a week or so ago.

Heather has been helping our younger children begin to memorize Romans chapter 1.  So Heather and I were discussing the chapter the other night.  What I am about to say is similar to what she told me she was seeing, but as she was explaining it I didn’t quite get it.  (So Honey if it sounds like what you said, I was listening, just not quite firing on all cylinders yet)

However, in an effort to stay involved with the focus on Romans, I sat down with the children and have been studying Romans with them as well.

As we discussed Romans Chapter 1 as a family, this thought occurred to me.  It may take me a bit to explain it, so bear with me.

Some background first:

In Ephesians 5:32 Paul makes the statement while talking about marriage that marriage itself refers to Christ and the church.  I have discussed that before here, and if you look at the topic on the side bar you will see what I mean.  Basically that God has instituted marriage so that we will have a living example in the flesh of the type of relationship he desires with us.  Not the King / subject  relationship, or Employer / employee relationship, or Owner / pet relationship, but the husband / wife relationship.   We are to guard this because it is a picture of something more important.  It displays how we are to be devoted to Him, and how He loves us.

He desires intimacy with us, but we are not the same.

Now look at the progression here in Romans 1.

Rom 1:18-27 ESV
(18) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
(19) For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
(20) For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
(21) For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
(22) Claiming to be wise, they became fools,
(23) and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
(24) Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,
(25) because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
(26) For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;(27) and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

So part of what I see here is that God’s wrath is revealed against men who suppress the truth of God by their own unrighteousness.  How so?  Well, what we know of God, we do not honor him and are not thankful.  That is what He is really angry about.  Now we tend to get angry about what happens a few verses later.  But lets stay with the first part for now.

So, since we, the created thing, (symbolized by the bride) do not honor Him, the Creator, (symbolized by the groom), and we are not thankful, instead we worship nature – our own kind – He has allowed us to reap the result of this by having same attracted to same, rather than our natural God ordained attraction.  He takes this personal.  You know why?  Because to Him, IT IS!!  He is the one we are “cheating on” when we worship anything but Him.

Perhaps so we can see the distortion we are guilty of in our relationship with Him??

How is it any different when created thing honors created thing rather than the Creator?

So in essence, we get to see a futile and fruitless attraction in our own relationship so we can understand the futile and fruitless attraction in our lack of honor and gratitude to God.

So the question I have been pondering for the last week or so is this.

Am I more disgusted and repulsed by someone’s homosexual desires than I am by my own lack of gratitude to God?

Doesn’t this text imply that this would be backwards?  How many of us are all upset at the degradation of our the institution of marriage, but have not spent one single minute today in true and undistracted, grateful worship of the One to whom we owe our very existence?

Father, forgive me.

Odd to me that I would be pondering this in advance to the Supreme Court decision when I had no idea it was even before the Court.

Just my thoughts.

Yours?

Craig

Posted by: The Simple Guy | May 14, 2013

Job – God’s Triumph


We are just finishing up in our study of the book of Job.

As we looked at God’s answer to Job I realized some exciting things.

Let me explain:

Job and his friends have had their say from chapters 3 – 31, and it ends in a stalemate.  Job has lamented his suffering, and proclaimed his innocence.  Job’s friends play the same song over and over.  “You must have done something wrong. . . God only punishes wickedness, and only blesses righteousness”

Then Elihu speaks for 6 chapters.  He speaks on a bit different level, and I don’t know what to do with it for sure.  He is angry, and chastises both Job and his friends.  It does appear to me that he seems to say God does things for his own reasons, and sometimes suffering is for our own good.  But he makes some rather harsh statements, that I have a hard time reconciling with God’s own statements saying Job is blameless.  So I have to just sort of shelf the whole Elihu thing, and ponder it for a while.

But then we get to God wrapping things up from chapters 38 – 42.

God answers Job with questions designed to make Job think in a way he hasn’t thought before.  The questions lead in a direction.

In Chapter 38:1-30 God asks questions about how He made things.  Summed up: (sort of), “Are you the Creator of all?”  Implied, “I Am”

Chapter 38:31 – 40:2 God asks questions about how thing are sustained, from the galaxies, to all of nature.  Summed up: (sort of) “Are you the Sustainer of all?”  Implied: “I Am”

Chapter 40:3-5 Job is speechless.

Now God makes His main point.

He begins with a challenge:

Job 40:6-14 ESV
(6) Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
(7) “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.
(8) Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?
(9) Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?
(10) “Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity; clothe yourself with glory and splendor.
(11) Pour out the overflowings of your anger, and look on everyone who is proud and abase him.
(12) Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low and tread down the wicked where they stand.
(13) Hide them all in the dust together; bind their faces in the world below.
(14) Then will I also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you.

Look specifically at who is to be brought low in verses 11 and 12 –  the proud, the proud, and the wicked.

And then, in verse 13,  look at where they are to be bound – below.

“Then I will acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you.”

Now God speaks of two more beasts.  The greatest of land creatures (40:15-24), and the dragon (chapter 41).

The question is in essence, “Can you defeat the dragon?”

And this is the sum of who the dragon is:

Job 41:33-34 ESV
(33) On earth there is not his like, a creature without fear.
(34) He sees everything that is high; he is king over all the sons of pride.” (emphasis mine)

He is the proud one.  The one of audacity.  We have seen him before:

Job 1:6-12 ESV
(6) Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.
(7) The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”
(8) And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”
(9) Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason?
(10) Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.
(11) But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”
(12) And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

Notice in this passage, who brought the subject up (verse 8):

And then let’s look at God’s first question to Job regarding the dragon:

Job 41:1 ESV
(1) “Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook or press down his tongue with a cord?”

God went fishing.  The dragon took the bait, and was defeated.

Job’s answer from God looks to me like this:

Are you the Creator?  Are you the Sustainer? Can you defeat the wicked and proud one, and put him in his place?  If you can do this on your own, then I will acknowledge that you can save yourself.

Job’s answer:

I spoke when I did not know.

I had heard of you, but now I see you.  (my Redeemer)

I do not have the power to save myself, and I repent in dust and ashes.

Then God turns to Job’s friends and says:

Job was right (he wasn’t suffering because of something he did wrong)

You were wrong and have accused him falsely.  This makes me angry, and you need forgiven.  Go to Job and ask him to pray for you.  (he will pray for you correctly, and I will honor that prayer)

And they did.

(Side note: Job is not a type of Christ here as mediator, but he is Christlike – as we are to be, in mediation as we extend God’s forgiveness to those who have wronged us. . .)

In their defense, they were good guys, they were just wrong.  They came from afar and sat with Job for a week before speaking.  They had the problem figured wrong, but they tried to help.  When God corrected them they obeyed immediately.

God blessed Job after he forgave them.

Satan meant for this to be the end of Job, but God doubled everything for him.

The Dragon is defeated.  Sometimes that means stuff happens that I don’t understand.  But our God is mighty to save.

Praise HIM!!

Thoughts?

Posted by: The Simple Guy | April 2, 2013

A key to God’s purpose in suffering


Hey all,

Just a short post to say I have not dropped off of the face of the earth.  Just sort of ran out of things to say.

However, in studying Job lately, I happened upon a neat little thought I wanted to share with any of you who might happen to still be reading. . .

Job is a book in the Old Testament, which would classify as wisdom literature.  It is written poetically, and follows the pattern of a play.  It is actually a very involved and beautiful play, and as such is beyond me in so many ways.

I have been looking at the different characters in the book of Job, and made a little discovery.  Let’s look at them.

The first character in the book of Job is:

Job.  He lives in the land of Uz.  (this means that he could have been a descendant of Uz, the oldest son of Aram who was the youngest son of Shem.  Or he could have been the son of Uz who was the oldest son of Nahor (Nahor was Abram’s brother)  I think this is more likely, as we also have a descendant of Buz in this story, and Buz was also a son of Nahor.

The second main character in this story is:

God.  (He needs no introduction)

The third main character is:

Satan.  He is the accuser in this story, that is actually what the name for him means in each instance of the story as well.

The next characters:

Job’s 3 friends:  Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.

Eliphaz is most likely not the one mentioned in Genesis 36 (the oldest son of Esau) because the son of Esau had a son named Teman.  The Eliphaz in Job was probably a namesake of the Eliphaz in Genesis, and a descendant of  Teman.

Bildad the Shuhite was most likely a descendant of Abraham’s youngest son Shuah mentioned in Genesis 25:2.

Zophar the Naamathite, well we don’t know who the Naamathites were.

There is a fourth friend who shows up toward the end of the book.  His name is Elihu.  (another form of the name Elijah)

Elihu is a Buzite.  Buz was the second son of Nahor.

I introduced each of these characters to you, so you will notice what I saw.  None of these people were Israelites.  I do not see one Israelite in the whole book.

So the children of Israel had a prominent book in their wisdom literature about suffering and God’s purpose for it, and it did not have a single Israelite in it.  Every other book in the Old Testament had their countrymen in it, and to some extent was about them.  But this book was not.

What did I get from this?  Among other things, “It’s not about you. . .”

One of the first things I need to remember when I am dealing with suffering is that God does all things for His purposes.  It is not about me.  Everything is for His glory.

Just my thoughts. . .

Yours?

Craig

Posted by: The Simple Guy | July 15, 2012

The Unpardonable Sin


Today I taught on the unpardonable sin.

Here is the text:

 Mat 12:22-37 ESV (22) Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. (23) And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” (24) But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” (25) Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. (26) And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? (27) And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. (28) But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (29) Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. (30) Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. (31) Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. (32) And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (33) “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. (34) You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (35) The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. (36) I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, (37) for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

I began by saying that today we were going to be looking at “the unpardonable sin.” We have all heard of it, but we have a lot of confusion about what it is specifically.

First, I do not believe that this confusion was shared by Jesus’ immediate hearers. I think they knew what he was saying.

 Second, I think we can error in two directions with this topic. We can relegate it to history as something that was only possible in the past and just sort of skip over it. (A rather dangerous assumption if we are wrong) or we can make violating our own pet peeve topic the unpardonable sin. Be that the Sabbath, or tongues, the list goes on. Today I wanted to try to look at what is specifically said in Scriptural context about this topic, and hopefully shed light on it.

We started by looking at the immediate context, where the Pharisees conspired to kill him, and he withdrew because that was the fulfillment of Isaiah 42. He would not quench a smoldering wick, or uproot a bruised reed. He recognized the critical nature of where these people were, and left them alone so they had time.

Then a demon oppressed or possessed man was brought to him, who was blind and mute. Jesus healed him. There were two reactions. The broader reaction is an uncertain questioning by the people “Can this be the Son of David?” The Pharisees had a more exact and definite reaction. It was their determination that Jesus was working through the power of the Devil. There are two words used here for “said” the one in verse 3 is a verb derived form logos, and conveys a broad idea. A very commonly used word. The other word used in verse 24 is only used in the past tense, as a completed action. Very specific and definite. It is used by the centurion in Matt 8 when he tells Jesus to “say the word” and his servant will be healed. It is used by the scribe who says, “I will follow you where ever you go” It is used by Jesus when he calms the waves.  I would compare it to our saying “I do” at our weddings. Not a light thing at all.

Jesus answers them in a very interesting way. He says that a house, city, or kingdom that is divided is weak and its destruction is eminent. So, if that is what he is part of, its doom is pending, and of course the Pharisees who are supposedly speaking from a position of righteousness must be able to regularly demonstrate power over the demons. He is in essence telling them that in order to hold their position that Jesus is working through the power of the Devil, they must believe that the Devil’s power is in disarray, but they are even more powerless. This means that they are under the power of the Devil themselves, as they are not able to exercise power over the demons. Since they cannot command the demons, the demons are in authority over them.

On the other hand, if Jesus is in fact battling in the power of God, than the kingdom of God is upon them, the kingdom they have been waiting for, and they must come under his authority. He maintains that he is plundering the Devil’s house because he has the power to bind the Devil. He also establishes that there are no spectators in this situation. Everyone who is not for him is against him. Whoever is not gathering with him is scattering.

Then he says:

(31) Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. (32) And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

He basically says the same thing here twice. First he uses the word blasphemy, but second he uses the same word used in verse 24. I spent a lot of time this week digging into the Greek to find out what Jesus said here. While I don’t read Greek, both my Dad and older brother have 2 years of NT Greek each. I spent a lot of time going back and forth with them trying to find out what is actually said here. What I found is that the English is pretty accurate in this instance.

So the next thing I did was to go to the subject matter, and look at other times Jesus spoke of these things.

First, what does Jesus say in Matthew about when and when we are not forgiven?

Mat 6:14-15 ESV (14) For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, (15) but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Here we have a very similar statement, but rather than speaking of the Holy Spirit, now we see our forgiving of others tied to our own forgiveness.

Mat 18:34-35 ESV (34) And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. (35) So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

So Jesus ties our own forgiveness to forgiving others. The other topic Jesus includes here is the Holy Spirit. What did Jesus teach about the Holy Spirit?

Joh 16:7-11 ESV (7) Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. (8) And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: (9) concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; (10) concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; (11) concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

It would appear that Jesus is stating in part here that the work of the Holy Spirit in the world is to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Now it would appear that the Holy Spirit does a lot of other things in the believer, but it appears to me that this is the primary work of the Holy Spirit in the world, or to the lost, through the believer. In Matt 3 and 4 we find that the Spirit was upon Jesus, and that he worked through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In the verses that precede our text today, again we find that God’s Spirit is upon Jesus, and that he is working through the power of the Holy Spirit.

So I would say that the Holy Spirit was in the process of convicting the Pharisees of their sin, of Christ’s righteousness, and their own impending judgment. But rather than respond in repentance (as was Jesus’ and John the Baptist’s primary message, “repent”) they attribute the power of Christ to the Devil.

To go a little further in scriptural context, let’s look at the same topic in Hebrews 6. Like Matthew, the author of Hebrews is speaking to the Jews. Like Matthew, he is claiming that Jesus is the fulfillment of all they have been expecting. Like Matthew he is presenting Jesus as the only option for them to continue in the Faith of their fathers.

Heb 6:1-8 ESV (1) Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, (2) and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. (3) And this we will do if God permits. (4) For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, (5) and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, (6) and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. (7) For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. (8) But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

We then focused on the agricultural aspects of both of these texts. In the same way that Matthew records Jesus speaking of trees and fruit, the author of Hebrews looked at the seasons of agriculture, the land drinks up the rain, and the plants bring forth fruit in keeping with their kind. If they are profitable seed, they bring forth fruit. If they are not, they are burned. Jesus said “make the tree good and the fruit will be good.” We “make” a tree by planting the right seeds, and nurturing the right type of plant. He calls to their attention the fact that they are bringing forth bad fruit in their speech and decision because they have the wrong seed. The evil in their hearts is resulting in evil in their speech. And we will all be judged by what we say because it comes from who we are.

To sum up. I think the unpardonable sin is to reject the work of the Holy Spirit that moves the unbeliever to repentance. You see, the Pharisees wanted their place in the kingdom of Heaven while nurturing the tree of the flesh. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Refusal to repent before Christ in response to the calling of the Spirit cannot be forgiven. There is no other path to redemption.

I believe that Jesus died to purchase the debt, or sin of the whole world. The debt we owed to God by being lawbreakers, we now owe to Christ. He determines who is to be forgiven and who is not. He resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. There is no other way to being right with God than to respond to the Holy Spirit and repent. Failing to repent is the one reason anyone will ever go to Hell. Not only is it the unforgivable sin, it is the only sin for which there is no remedy. If you reject repentance, you can’t get there from here.

I have always struggled in understanding what Jesus was speaking about in this text. But as I set aside my own ideas and just studied what is actually said, I was struck by the fact that this topic actually appears 3 times in Matthew, once in rejecting the Spirit, and twice in refusing to forgive. The proof that I have been broken before God and am truly forgiven is that I recognize that the debt I owed and have been forgiven is much greater than any grudge I may hold toward my fellow man. The proof that I have been forgiven is that I forgive.

Secondly, I believe that the agricultural aspect of these teachings indicates that there is a time to repent, and a time when it is not possible. God plows, prepares the soil, plants, and then the plant grows and bears fruit. Now I cannot say where someone else is in this process, but if the Holy Spirit is bringing one to the point of repentance through Jesus Christ, there is no guarantee that there will be another chance. Now is the appointed time. Today is the day of salvation.

This is an interpretation of The Unpardonable Sin that agrees with the nature of who God is, and fits with the Gospel.

Your thoughts?

Craig

 

Posted by: The Simple Guy | July 4, 2012

Pausing To Look Back


I will never forget that Friday evening in April.  The year was 1990.  I was 18 years old.  It was a difficult time for me, as it was my first year out of high school.  Most of my friends were still in school, and had sports, tests, assignments, their own lives were still going on in their comfortable routines.   Our church did not allow people to attend youth group after high school.  I understood, but that was where my friends were that night.  So alone . .

Not like they didn’t want me to be around anymore, but I was a spectator at games now instead of on the court or field.  I didn’t understand any of the inside jokes anymore.  I just didn’t fit in anymore.

I had a job, working in a local tire shop and was developing new relationships; but I didn’t want to get involved in what those guys were up to Friday night either . . .  Besides they were grown up and as badly as I wanted to think of myself as a man, they made it clear I was “the kid.”

A friend had invited me to her church’s high school/college age youth group and I was sort of interested in being around her but not sure she thought much of me.  Nothing else going on that night though . . . besides, the church was just down the road from the tire shop.  I could clean up after work and go right over.

So I showed up at the church on time.  Not too sure what to expect.  Her car wasn’t there.  Cleared up what she thought of me.  I chuckled to myself about the irony of  inviting someone to an event and then not being there yourself.  That’s one way to make sure I don’t turn up where she actually is.  Well it didn’t matter much, but I had a choice to make.  Turn off my truck and go on in, or drive away.  Like I said, nothing else going on, so I decided to try to have a good time.  I remember thinking to myself that since I didn’t know anyone, I had nothing to lose.  Have fun, and if I didn’t fit in, I didn’t need to ever come back.

So I walked into the room and looked around.  It was the church sanctuary, but the chairs were all missing, and a volleyball net was up.  Some young people were hitting the ball around, but no organized game yet.  A man, probably 30 years old introduced himself as Bill Harriman and welcomed me.  Said they would get started soon, go ahead and have a good time.

The first person to catch my eye was this pretty girl sitting on the steps of the platform where the pulpit stood.  She was watching what was going on, and was chatting with a couple of other girls.  I went and introduced myself to her, and she was polite, but not too interested in me.  She seemed pretty uncomfortable with me standing there, so I went over and got involved in the volleyball “game”

As I walked away I told myself she was out of my league anyway.  Probably already spoken for. . .

I had fun anyway, and decided to come back the next week.  That next week, several people I knew were there. Apparently they were regulars, and just hadn’t been there my first week.  At that point it was pretty much a done deal.  I had found a place to belong.  I became a regular, too.  Started attending that church on Sunday’s too.

Well, in July that pretty girl and I started dating.  Her family was really fun, and I started spending most Sunday afternoons a their house.

Two years later on July 4th, I walked down the same steps I met her on.  Holding her hand.  Pastor Knepper had just pronounced us man and wife and introduced everyone present to Mr and Mrs Craig and Heather Jensen.  Since that moment I have never been alone.

Today marks 20 years since she vowed to be my helper and I vowed to be her man.

Hopefully we are not quite half way through our journey in this life together, and my heart’s desire is to one day present her to her eternal Groom better for our time together.  I am so grateful for the time He has given us to grow up together in Him.

Thank you Heather, my dearest love and friend.

Craig

Posted by: The Simple Guy | June 1, 2012

Matthew’s Conversion


We have been studying the Gospel of Matthew in church lately.  We have been in chapter 9.

For context, Matthew introduces the nation of Israel to the King of Heaven,  the Holy One of Israel.  Chapters 1-4 introduce him, and then we hear what Jesus taught in chapters 5-7.  I think that we can almost insert Matt 5-7 into most of the Gospels when they say Jesus was teaching, since there were no radio or television, cell phones, internet, or newspapers.  Jesus went about teaching the same basic message, and then added upon that here or there.  I have no concrete reason for this, just my idea.

His basic teaching was that the attitude of a kingdom citizen looked a certain way (the beattitudes).  He taught that this was different from the world, and that He had given them a mission to change the environment around them, with no turning back (salt and light).  He taught that He was the fulfillment of the law in the same way that he fulfilled the prophets.  He then gave them several “you have heard, but I say” statements in which he showed them that sin starts from within.  He then spoke of religious activity (prayer, fasting, giving) and showed that righteousness is measured by God by looking within (He who sees in secret will reward you openly).  As he brings them to the understanding that both sin and righteousness come from within, He has brought their focus back to where it should have always been.  To a people who had measured righteousness and sin by looking at the outward appearance, this is a drastic change.  They need to know how to even measure this.  He gives them some indicators.  Where is your treasure?  That is where your heart is.  You cannot serve God and money.  What are you worried about?  Your father knows what you need before you ask, seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.  What gets you worked up and caused you to step into God’s shoes as the judge?  Help your brother as one who has had a beam in your own eye, rather than acting like the judge who is over all.

This humility is the narrow gate.  Pride is the way of man, many go that way and are destroyed.

The kingdom has leaders.  How will we tell the true ones from the false ones?  You will know them by their appetites.  They will be ravenous wolves.  They cannot serve their ravenous appetite and God.  (their fruits indicate what kind of tree they are – the fruit is their evil selfish appetite – the same thing that was just addressed.)

Finally a stern warning.  Whomever hears this and listens will have a firm foundation when the storm comes (not if, WHEN).  Whomever does not listen will be destroyed.

From that point Jesus comes down from the mountain and begins to illustrate to the Jews his power to save the unworthy, rather than their worthiness to be in the kingdom.  He touches a leper and heals him.  (the lowest of the low, the most despised and repulsive – Jesus touched him).  In case we think this is a limitation (that He has to touch for His power to work), He heals the slave of a hated occupier centurion from afar.  And to add to the condemnation of those who don’t believe, He commends the faith of this heathen who believed that Jesus’ power was greater than his own.

He then heals Peter’s mother-in-law who apparently was unable to even ask, but she was healed and immediately served him.  A side note, we are healed to serve.

He then demonstrates power over every sickness and evil spirit.  He drives them away, and does not even allow the evil spirits to talk.

Then he tells the disciples to take him in a boat across the Sea of Galilee.  Across is a key word here.  Fishermen of that area did not like to get out in the middle of the Sea, they knew how quickly it could turn.  To their credit, they obeyed, but if we look at context and compare to other Gospels, it is just after Jesus told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, and they caught all of the fish.  Not a good time to argue, that hasn’t turned out so well.  But after obeying Him they wind up in trouble, and fear for their lives.  ” Jesus (implied we are here because you said so) don’t you care that we are about to drown?!?”

Jesus chides them for not believing, and then rebukes the storm.  At once the sea is calm and the storm is gone.  They were afraid, but now they are horrified!

When they get to the other side, Jesus immediately displays power over the legion of demons that possessed the two men, but the city people beg him to leave.  (sometimes God works, and we don’t like it – that isn’t good . . .)

So in chapter 9 they get back into the boat.  (how’s that for a brief introduction?)  :)

I bet they didn’t remember ever getting into a boat with as much fear and respect as this time.

Mat 9:1-8 ESV
(1) And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city.
(2) And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”
(3) And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”
(4) But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?
(5) For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
(6) But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he then said to the paralytic–“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.”
(7) And he rose and went home.
(8) When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

At this point, Matthew does something very interesting.  In this story, Jesus ties the sinful state with the powerless condition we are all in.  He demonstrates His authority to dispel the sin, and His authority to empower the helpless person in the flesh.  I think this is the Gospel at work.  He demonstrates His power over the curse, and the cause of the curse.

Immediately following this story, Matthew says this:

Mat 9:9-13 ESV
(9) As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
(10) And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.
(11) And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
(12) But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
(13) Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

If Jesus could tell a man who was completely paralyzed to walk, and could forgive his sins, than Jesus could forgive even a tax collector.  Matthew also “walked”.

In the same way that the Pharisees said “How can he forgive sins?  Only God can do that!” said “Why is he with a tax collector?”

Jesus’ answer is amazing.  He gives them a homework assignment.  “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. “

If they had gone to the passage He pointed them to, they could have been where Matthew was:

Hos 6:1-11 ESV
(1) “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
(2) After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.
(3) Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”
(4) What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away.
(5) Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light.
(6) For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
(7) But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me.
(8) Gilead is a city of evildoers, tracked with blood.
(9) As robbers lie in wait for a man, so the priests band together; they murder on the way to Shechem; they commit villainy.
(10) In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing; Ephraim’s whoredom is there; Israel is defiled.
(11) For you also, O Judah, a harvest is appointed, when I restore the fortunes of my people.

So to conclude briefly:

It would appear to me that Matthew has pointed out that sin and righteousness come from the inside out, but we are hopeless and powerless to do anything about it.  We are like the paralyzed man who could not even make his own sacrifice.  He could no more atone for his sins than he could pick up his bed and walk.  The same power to dispel his sin is the power that enabled him to walk.

Matthew believed the same power, his faith made him walk – from the inside out.

How about you?

Craig

Posted by: The Simple Guy | May 27, 2012

Does the Bible teach polygamy is wrong?


My daughter asked me this question the other day.  I thought it was an interesting one to deal with.

“Dad, does the Bible actually say anywhere that polygamy is wrong?”

She went on to say that she knew that 2Tim and Titus require an elder and a deacon to only have one wife, but what about  anyone else?

 

So how would you deal with this question, considering that polygamy is common in the Old Testament.  Abraham, Jacob,  David, and Solomon practiced polygamy, just to name a few.

Well, I began by asking her if she knew what Jesus had to say about it.

“Jesus mentioned polygamy?” you ask – (that is what she said,too)

I asked her to read along with me as we looked at this passage:

Mat 19:3-9 ESV
(3) And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”
(4) He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,
(5) and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?
(6) So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
(7) They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”
(8) He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.
(9) And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

“Now wait a minute,” you say, “I didn’t see polygamy mentioned once there.”

Didn’t you?  Let’s look carefully at verse 5 again.

(5) and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? (emphasis added)

Notice both parties in this arrangement being described are in the singular, not plural.  Second, notice how many become one.  Two.  Two become one.

Now unless Jesus couldn’t do math, he is excluding polygamy from God’s design for marriage.

There are other details we can grab from this discussion.  Jesus has defined marriage for us here.  God created them male and female.  A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife.

One man, one woman, joined by God, inseparable.

So there you have your answer.

The Bible forbids polygamy.  Jesus said so.

 

I then emphasized for her the importance of starting the answer to any question of this sort by attempting to discover what Jesus has to say about it.   Our life in Him must start with “where is Jesus on this one?”

 

What do you think,

Any other ideas on how to answer a question of this sort from a biblical perspective?

 

Craig

 

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