Friday, October 13, 2017

64 - I Have Spoken In Proverbs

Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.
For everyone that asks receives, and he that seeks finds, and to him that knocks, it shall be opened.
Mat. 7:7-8



Unanswered Prayer


Poetry

In the previous post, we learned that there are different kinds of poetry.

The Jewish peers of Christ had a style of poetry in which the meaning of lines which did not necessarily follow each other needed to have a continuity.  It seems as if 7:7 and 7:8 are that kind of a poem. 

Perhaps they should be read like this:

Ask, and it shall be given to you; For everyone that asks receives.
seek, and you shall find; he that seeks finds
knock, and it shall be opened to you; to him that knocks, it shall be opened. 

Proverbs

Someone has said that ... Proverbs should be called ... Probablys.  It is the nature of a proverb to generally be right, but if it isn't, no one should be very surprised.

We think of the many prayers which we have prayed which have not been answered; we recall the times we have searched for an answer and never found it; many are the times we have knocked at heaven's door and the door did not open. Then we recall these words of Christ and start to wonder if the Bible can be trusted.

Admittedly, I did not find even one commentary that follows my line of reasoning.  They all insist that, because Christ spoke these words they must mean what we understand them to mean.   Some say that God answers every prayer but sometimes He says no to our requests.  I say that that belief is just closing our minds to the real facts!

However, let's not close our eyes to facts.  Here is an example.  A wonderful 12-year-old girl is diagnosed with cancer and immediately the parents turn to prayer.  There is nothing casual or superficial about their prayers; how could there be.  Their daughter is all they think about; they ask the church to pray for their daughter's recovery but the precious child dies anyway!  There was nothing wrong with all those prayers - they just were not answered!

The argument is made that the results were best for all concerned and that perhaps the parents will learn to follow Christ more closely because of it.  This may be true but it does not change the fact that the prayers were not answered.

This does not make Christ a liar, it only 
shows that He was quoting some everyday proverbs.  In another situation Christ said, These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs. John 16:25 KJV.   It would take a lot of pressure off of the Bible if we did not worship it as an infallible god.

Narrow Is The Gate


Enter in through the narrow gate; because wide is the gate, and broad is the way which leads to destruction, and many are those who enter in through it. 
How narrow the gate, and confined the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it! Mat 7:12-14
Consequently, by their fruits you shall know them. 
Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Mat 7:20-21

There is a "fine line" between working to earn our salvation and accepting the idea that we can be redeemed simply by believing that Christ died for us.  

We can see that regardless of how dedicatedly we work we will still fall short of the requirements that Jehovah demands.  Even Mother Terrassa and others in her category of self-denial did not do enough to wash their souls clean of the natural inborn guilt.  They still needed to accept the fact that it was Christ's death that made their salvation possible.

On the other hand, there are many who insist that all they have to do is believe that Christ died for them and voila, they are set for heaven and they can live any way they want to.  This depressing fact is seen far too often in the lives of those who live for fleshly pleasures and then, when something goes wrong they come running to Christ for help.

Christ and the other New Testament teachers do not allow for that kind of thinking at all.  Paul wrote: work out your own salvation (we must work at our salvation) with fear and trembling. Phil. 2:12.  Christ stated the matter just as clearly: Consequently, by their fruits you shall know them. Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Mat 7:20-21. Our lifestyle will show which path we are on.

There are many in the evangelical group who seem to have captured the right balance between works and faith and they are teaching that "fine line".  

To enter the Christian religion one must believe that Christ's death and resurrection are all that one needs to have the inborn sins removed.  According to Christ, there are not a variety of ways of getting to meet His Father.  He said I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6 

Unfortunately, being "born again" and having Jehovah's breath invade us still leaves us with a desire to please ourselves. That is why Paul wrote if we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Galatians 5:25.  These are two separate, but intertwined elements of the Christian life.  Surrendering ourselves to Christ, to live as He would have us live, is an act of the will and of practice.  It does not happen automatically!

If anyone is seriously wondering what the Christian life should look like, there are two lists ready for the reading.  

Ironically those lists do not include things like:
  • Women must wear a doily on their head to pray
  • When we fold our hands to pray, the thumbs must point upward
  • You must pray at certain times of the day
  • You must not eat red meat on Friday
Remember, if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Gal 5:18. However, you are certainly not free to do whatever you might feel like.

Now the works of the flesh (things to avoid) ... are: 
  • adultery
  • fornication, 
  • immorality, 
  • lewdness, 
  • idolatry, 
  • sorcery, 
  • hatred, 
  • contentions, 
  • jealousies, 
  • outbursts of wrath, 
  • selfish ambitions, 
  • dissensions, 
  • factions, 
  • envies, 
  • murders, 
  • drinking bouts, 
  • revelries, 
  • and the like.    
But the fruit of the Spirit is: 
  • love, 
  • joy, 
  • peace, 
  • longsuffering, 
  • kindness, 
  • goodness, 
  • faithfulness, 
  • gentleness, 
  • self-control. 
those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts.  Galatians 5:19-24 


Friday, October 6, 2017

63 - Lumber and Jewels



Judge not, lest you be judged.


For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with what measure you measure, it will be measured back to you.


And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not notice the plank in your own eye? 

Or how will you say to your brother, 'Permit me to remove the speck from your eye'; and look, there is a plank in your own eye? 

Hypocrite! First remove the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye. Mat 7:1-5


A Plank



Judge not, lest you be judged.  This is the Bible verse that seems to be most popular in our present day. But most (of) the people who quote this verse don’t understand what Jesus said. They seem to think Jesus commanded a universal acceptance of any lifestyle or teaching. Guzik   That this is not at all what Christ meant is made obvious by His words, by their fruits you shall know them.  How could we know them if we did not make a judgement of their lifestyle?  It may not be "politically correct" but it is right for us to say that certain ways of living are wrong.  We may condemn, or better still, we should condemn wrong lifestyles but not the person who is living them.


What Christ is saying is do not judge others as to their character.  Doing that is as if we are taking Jehovah's place in judgement.  That is not ours to do.

  
For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged.  When we stand at the judgement bar of Jehovah and He sees that we were very harsh in condemning fellow humans He might just take the standard we set for others and use it for measuring how we lived our lives when He passes out judgement on us.


why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not notice the plank (to be classified as a plank it must be at least 1.5 inches thick and 7.5 inches wide) in your own eye?  In making this statement Christ is again using a hyperbole. 



It is a universal trait that we set lower standards for ourselves than we do for others.  A modern example of this might sound like this.  You meet your friend and say, I saw you in the cafe last night and I noticed you drinking a bottle of beer.  What you don't say is that every Saturday evening you go to the bar and get so sloshed that you can't even find your way home.


how will you say to your brother, Permit me to remove the speck from your eye?  How can you, the habitual drinker, suggest to your friend, who had a bottle of beer, that he should seek professional help?

Hypocrite!  This word comes from the Greek "hupokritēs" which means an actor under an assumed character (stage player). Strong G5271.


Christ says, You hypocrite, First, remove the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye.  Before you have any right to even notice what your friend is drinking you should spend some time in prayer, join the AAA, and overcome your own problem.


Pearls


Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.  Mat 7:6

Do not give what is holy to the dogs. the holy or sacred thing; i.e. any thing, especially, of the sacrificial kind, which had been consecrated to God. Clarke. Some Bible scholars say that the Jews would have understood Christ to mean, after the meat has been sacrificed as an offering to Jehovah don't give it to the dogs.


Some draw this parallel: The bread and the wine of the communion service are holy and non-Christians have no right to partake of them.  Of course, we do not think of non-Christians as dogs but to the Jews of Christ's time, that Christ was referring to the Gentiles, was perhaps the meaning that they got from His statement.  The Jews were in the habit of referring contemptuously to Gentiles as dogs—unclean animals with whom they would not associate if such association could be avoided. © Mark D. Nanos (www.marknanos.com)


There are different styles of poetry; in some poetry, it is not the last word of the first and second line or the first and third line, that must rhyme.  In some poetry, it might be the meaning (not the sound of the words) of the first and third lines that must be connected.  

These words of Christ are perhaps that kind of a poem.  Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.   

There are some versions of the Bible that do not allow for the following arrangement, but some do.

The members of this sentence should be transposed thus: -

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs,
Lest they turn again and rend you:
Neither cast ye your pearls before swine,
Lest they trample them under their feet.
Clarke


Actually, if we stop to think about it, this arrangement makes sense.  Because dogs were thought of as unclean animals people would certainly not tame them or keep them as pets.  

Since they were wild there is a good chance that they would turn on a person and tear you in pieces.  In the East, dogs are wilder and more gregarious, and, feeding on carrion and garbage, are coarser and fiercer than the same animals in the West. Dogs and swine, besides being ceremonially unclean, were peculiarly repulsive to the Jews, and indeed to the ancients generally. Barnes

and turn again and rend youas dogs do. Religion is brought into contempt, and its professors (those who profess Christ) insulted, when it is forced upon those who cannot value it and will not have it. Barnes

The current day application of these words is that Christians should be discriminate about with whom they share the deeper doctrines of the Bible.  There is nothing that some crude people would rather do that smear Christians and the Bible's teachings in the mud in which they themselves feel so at home.  

neither cast ye your pearls before swinethe impure or coarse, who are incapable of appreciating the priceless jewels of Christianity. Barnes

lest they trample them under their feet—as swine do.

About this verse, John Wesly wrote: Yet even then, when the beam (plank) is cast out of thine own eye, ... talk not of the deep things of God to those whom you know to be wallowing in sin. Neither declare the great things God hath done for your soul to the profane, furious, persecuting wretches.


Friday, September 29, 2017

62 - The Most Abused Prayer

But when you pray, do not babble like the heathen, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 
Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows what things you have need of before you ask Him.
Therefore pray in this manner: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
 "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. 
Mat. 6:7-15 EMTV


Introduction



But when you pray, do not babble like the heathen, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.  An example of this is found in the story of Elijah.  The prophets of Baal got the sacrifice ready and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us.1 Kings 18:26 MKJV. 

Christ warns, do not be like them.  There is no need to inform Jehovah of your needs For your Father knows what things you have need of before you ask Him. 
Prayer is not designed to inform God, but to give man a sight of his misery; to humble his heart, to excite his desire, to inflame his faith, to animate his hope, to raise his soul from earth to heaven, and to put him in mind that There is his Father, his country, and inheritance. Clarke.

Many churches repeat "The Lord's Prayer" every Sunday and consequently, the prayer becomes absolutely mundane.  Many parishioners repeat the words without paying any attention to what their lips are doing.  This must be an ultimate insult to the One who taught us that prayer. 

Among the many rules that Muslims have is this one which the Christian church would do well to learn.  When you pray be sure That the attention accompany the act, and be not suffered to wander to any other object. Clarke

Therefore pray in this manner: Christ says, Here is an example of how your prayer might sound.  That Christ did not command us to use these exact words in prayer is shown by the fact that "The Lord's Prayer" is never recorded as being prayed by anyone in the New Testament.  As far as records show Christ Himself never prayed that prayer.  This prayer is an example only and the exact words are not expected to be repeated every time we pray.

The Prayer


Heathen do not think of their God as being a Father.  To them "God" is a vengeful Being who must be appeased by sacrifices.  That same idea crept into the minds of some Jews and they also started to offer their children as sacrifices to the gods they had started worshipping.  

Our Father in heaven is a gracious, loving God who demands obedience. 


We address our prayers to Our Father, not to Jesus Christ; we pray to the Father in the Name of Christ. Christ is our "go-between" who is sitting at The Father's right hand to plead our cause.

hallowed be Your name. When we go to prayer the first thing is not to say, "gimme, gimme, gimme". First, we acknowledge the holiness and power of Jehovah. Of course, there are emergency situations when proper protocol may be put aside; but our attitude in prayer must be praise to Jehovah first.


Your kingdom come, Christ did not preach the death and resurrection of Christ; He preached His coming kingdom. According to Christ, and the writers of the New Testament, to qualify to be members of that kingdom one must live a holy lifestyle. So, if in all earnestness, we pray for that kingdom to come, our lifestyle had better match the words we pray.



Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  This is a tough one; we would like it much better if we could advise the Lord how He should answer our prayers. Our problem with that stance is that we cannot see into the future.

Now that we have laid the foundation for our prayer we come to asking for the three blessings which involve our lives.

1.  Give us this day our daily bread.  We ask for those things which we need for our physical well-being.  This is not only food but also perhaps for a job or divine guidance in choosing a new house.  Always remembering, of course, that we have prayed Your will be done or words with that meaning.

2. Then, climbing the ladder of matters which are important, we pray And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  This pertains to our sociological well-being; how do we get along with our neighbours?  If someone has wronged us, are we willing to forgive?  This sociological aspect to our prayers certainly includes the idea that we will not mistreat or cheat those we deal with.

Mark uses the words trespasses in place of debts.  But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in Heaven forgive your trespasses. Mark 11:25-26  

Please excuse a personal incident in this connection.  I was called on to give an afternoon devotional, and, to end the devotional I prayed "The Lord's Prayer" as we have it in the Book of Matthew.  As I was saying the words, forgive us our debts immediately a woman spoke up and said, it is not debts it is trespasses.  Well, I'll give her this, at least she was listening.

3. The highest rung on the ladder: And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  This relates to our spiritual well-being.  We can certainly do a lot to keep from being tempted by staying away from those places where we are tempted in our weak areas.  

Jehovah will never tempt us to sin, it is the evil one that will.   Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. James 1:13 


The End


In recording The Lord's Prayer Luke ends with deliver us from the evil one.  Or, in some versions, deliver us from evil.  He does not include the following doxology.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.  The whole of this doxology is rejected by ... the most eminent critics. ... It is variously written in several MSS., and omitted by most of the fathers, both Greek and Latin. Clarke

The one item mentioned here which most of us would rather ignore is this.  If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  Why do so many of us think that we can just ignore those words of Christ, and Jehovah will forgive us our sins anyway?  Christ said it does not work that way.