Thursday, October 18, 2018

Culture and the Forgiveness of Self

Do you ever notice how often culture is given as the quick default explanation. The mere mention of culture means the explanation need not be substantive, only that it is, well, _ culture. You might recognize similar, older variations of this explanation such as, it’s a guy thing, it’s a girl thing, it’s an American thing, it's a (fill in ethnic group identifier) you wouldn’t understand. 'Nuf said. End of story. This response is not intended to strengthen or solidify any explanation. More likely it's just a way to escape the heat. The reference to culture is often the fallback in studies and discussions. It is heard in the study of the scriptures and in the workplace discussions. Often what it reveals is that the individual has little or no knowledge or understanding of the subject. The mention of culture may hold the opposition and the inquisitive minds at arm’s length, but not for long.

Forgiveness, or to be more specific self-forgiveness for an offense, is a test of culture. Offense and forgiveness are not mere academic subjects. They are as different as day and night, love and hate, and light and darkness. The offender can expect, if he or she should happen to be caught in an offense to receive a range of reactions. The reactions may range, depending on the severity or social stigma of the offense, from a mocking snicker to vile contempt. The offended gets pity and consolation. The offense which the offended suffers, especially when it is personal and on a physical and emotional level can be, to understate it, difficult to leave in the past.

the amorphous anomaly of culture
Sometimes an unfortunate or untimely death is the immediate, conclusion in the matter of an offense from a legal standpoint and prosecution. This does not necessarily make for a resolution or healing for the person who has suffered the offense. This represents, for the amorphous anomaly of culture, the need for a solution. However the peculiar anomaly of culture does not posses the authority of a judicial process. Here is a working, though not necessarily textbook, definition of culture.

Culture is the amorphous anomaly sort of like the NFL Pittsburgh Steelers' original Terrible Towel by which fans, or members of society, can and do interact with one another. They may not necessarily hold, cherish or even respect each other’s beliefs and practices. They will interact with one another as long as their interaction is in the public arena of a stadium or a city park. Culture looks and acts like tenets of faith and elements of the civil law, but it has the authority of neither faith nor law. Culture is not to be mistaken or liken to peer pressure because the latter, no matter how mild, is still pressure and it is imposed on another person against their will. Culture does not belong to any particular faith or politic so that neither one can be claimed or imposed by culture. The inherent nature of culture is that it is elements which might have its origin with a particular faith or people, but those elements are share for inclusion, not exclusion of anyone. Those who participate and rejoice in cultural celebrations do so because they are attracted and drawn to it. Culture is a reflection of confidence and joy of a group or society in which a passerby can participate freely without compulsion, fear or intimidation.

a guideline on culture
There may be no no better guideline on culture and the participation in culture than these words, verse 8, especially, from the apostle Paul in his letter to the Christians in the city of Philippi.

7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure,whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4).

practice that on which you dwell
Note the parenthetical enclosure of verse 8 between verses 7 and 9 on "the peace of God" and "the God of peace," respectively. This peace reverberates with the confidence and joy previously mentioned. As much as Paul urges the saints in Christ in Philippi and in the twenty first century to "dwell on these things" he most assuredly would not restrain them from practicing those things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, with excellence and worthy of praise. There are, to be sure, those who are of the world who may esteem these things and might, as a matter of a celebration of culture, partake and rejoice in any one of these things along with the saints in Christ.

However the testimony of the disciple of Jesus goes beyond, as I have noted, merely dwelling on these things AND doing these things. This is as the disciple of Jesus has learned, received, heard and seen in his brothers and sisters and the apostle Paul. This is why the disciple not only dwells on and does those things that please and honor the LORD God, but he and she refrain and abstain from having any part in those things that are not true and honorable even when they are not celebrating and rejoicing together with their brothers and sisters in the faith that is in Jesus.

This message is vastly different from the message of culture no matter how noble it may appear to be for those who know only the quasi-authority of the culture in which they are immersed.

Culture can be quite effective. It is driven and touted as being capable of making things equal and right. Yet it can do no such thing because it has no authority. The grand message of culture for the one who has been offended in order for them to overcome and move past the trauma of the offense committed against them is _ you have to forgive yourself. Yes, it is obvious. If they did not commit the offense, exactly what is there for them to forgive towards themselves? This, then, calls for an alternate message: you have to allow yourself to heal.

If their need for forgiveness is false and mistaken culture lacks a formed and authoritative response. The sure-purpose salve for the one who feels (important operative word) hurt though not necessarily hurt is _ well, it can’t hurt. The offended ought not, and would likely not accept, any counsel to the effect that he or she refrain and abstain from anything unseemly, because, well, _ that's a judgment of the worse kind, a moral judgment. Such a judgment would be to invoke an authority with which culture is not vested.

the implications of self-forgiveness
If that looks or feels like something disjointed and disconnected you are correct. Do not be surprised. Why should anyone expect anymore or anything different from the annals of culture as though culture could be codified like the tenets and statutes of faith and law? This is to be expected. Just as no one is bound to submit out of their own will to faith or law so, too, no one is bound to submit to culture. There are, of course, consequences which is especially true in the matter of law when one determines for themselves to violate the law. Word wise culture is not much more than a mantra and a slogan in lieu of faith and law and the authority possessed by the latter.

The champions of culture purport to speak a language of love, forgiveness and equal rights. Admittedly, these are such lovely and wonderful things, but there is an implication in the message of love  and the forgiveness of self. The implication is that there is no one else to forgive the offended and infinitely less so to forgive the offender. Do not expect forgiveness from anyone. The offended is to understand that there is no God. Even it there is a God you don’t need God to petition Him for forgiveness. You don’t need God to forgive you. Just forgive yourself.

The implication of forgiving one's self is one of being alone. It is a lonely existence and an even lonelier life. There is only you among the other insignificant billions of human souls. It is no wonder that the messengers of culture who speak of love and tolerance roam the formless, bodiless comfort of culture; a vague semblance of faith, law and even less of life and love.

the falsehood of self forgiveness
Furthermore, forgiveness as prescribed by culture is extended to those who are liked, admired or loved, only. Hence, offenders need not request or expect forgiveness. This is just one exposure of the sham and the farce of the culture of forgiving yourself and of love and tolerance. Admittedly this same carnal mindset about forgiveness is heard from some saints in Christ who either, 1) never understood the grace and love of God, 2) forgot the love and grace of God, or 3) they have chosen to reject the grace and love of God. They alone are the sole individual who can and who may or may not forgive. It is in those instances that they are heard to defer the offender who requests their forgiveness to “ask God, He, not I, is the one who can forgive you.” This is the same absolution of self by the devotees of culture.

the forgiveness of God in Jesus
I can understand if God is as remote and unreal and unneeded as is the forgiveness of God for sinners. The scriptures declare that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. You may resent those words, but whether you are the offended or the offender, the answer to the question as to whether you are a sinner goes beyond feelings and reassurances of self-forgiveness. It goes far back before that life altering experience of an offense, that is, sin.

Jesus declared that He has authority to forgive sins as well as to heal. The verification and proof of these claims is in His resurrection from the dead. As free as is His forgiveness it still remains for you and you alone to determine whether to accept that forgiveness or reject that forgiveness. You elect to search for another for forgiveness. Perhaps your search for another to forgive ends with you as the only one who can forgive you. Acceptance of forgiveness through Jesus comes with and is synonymous with submitting to Jesus as Lord and Savior. You may think this sounds no different than culture, but the gospel, unlike culture, does have authority. It is an authority which is forced on no one, but it is accepted by those who choose and determine to submit to Jesus as Lord and Savior. The declaration by Jesus that He is the way to the Father and that no one comes to the Father but through Him is dismissed by some as arrogance. Think of this confident and bold assertion by Jesus, namely, that there is no one else. There is no one else coming for you. There is no other who loves you like I love you.

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

The same forgiveness which is received by the believer is the same as he or she is called to extend to those who sin against them. Again, if you are without God and outside of Jesus and the fellowship of those whom He has forgiven this may offend you. Jesus said, “Does this offend you?” to the multitudes that followed him.

60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, "This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?" 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, "Does this cause you to stumble? 62 "What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 "But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father." [1]

This is the call of Jesus that far transcends and exceeds the amorphous anomaly of culture and its paltry offering of forgiveness of self. It is significant that Jesus did not mention forgiveness when He spoke about the call of the believer with respect  to his enemies. Jesus calls all who believe in Him and follow Him to love their enemies. Talk about difficult statements! It may be hard to forgive yourself let alone your enemies, but this is what the disciple of Jesus is called to do. The refusal to forgive his enemies his not for the disciple forgive himself or herself, but in repentance to call upon the name of the Lord their God for forgiveness and renewal of their commitment to Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Forgiveness of sins in Jesus does not depend on whether or not you feel forgiven. It  depends on whether you accept it. This is the reality. Then, rejoice in the Lord and the fellowship of his saints!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Adonai and Adoni (Psalm 110:1)

(The link above is the same as the article below under the same title. The article appears in the website of Restoration Fellowship founded by Sir Anthony Buzzard in 1981. I first came across the work of Restoration Fellowship about fifteen years ago and have addressed some of their material. I encourage you to read it before your read my own comments. gt)

those who struggle
The discussion and question concerning deity is old. I am mindful that those who differ between one another concerning their understanding of deity love God. As such the struggle which each one experiences is a true characteristic of those who seek and love God. They follow in the footsteps of Jacob who was renamed Israel meaning one who struggles with God.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Men and women: prophets and prophetesses

(This article also appears under the title: Principle and Practice, Prophets and Deacons)

Much of the discussion concerning prophets and deacons is often framed by gender and exclusivity. It is assumed that these offices are the sole domain of males and they exclude females. This is much the same as to advocate for the presence and ministry of women in the church, but without a lack of understanding of the scriptures. This is equally true of those who oppose the presence and ministry of these women in the church, but who lack an understanding of the scriptures. The inability of the former and the latter to present a consistent understanding and explanation for the edification of the saints is uncannily similar.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Being baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire

Was the baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire limited to the apostles only? No. Is it a deep, dark and obscure mystery which God did not intend for believers to understand. No. This article will look at the expression baptize you will the Holy Spirit and fire as it appears in the gospels as cited below. I have no interest in labeling or blasting anyone. If the are wrong or mistaken on their understanding it is my hope that they will better and more fully understand. If they are doubtful as to their understanding my hope is for their edification. If they do not know one way or the other my hope is for them to acquire wisdom, knowledge, understanding and confidence that they might fully rejoice in the Lord and the fellowship of the saints. Whatever anyone else might believe, seek to impose on them or cause them to doubt my hope is that they will teach with conviction what they have come to understand for the edification of their brother and sister in Christ.

The testimony of John the baptist
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11)
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8)
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Luke 3:16)
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33)
The testimony of Peter
You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:16)
The testimony of Jesus
Can you drink the cup I will drink, or be baptized with the baptism I will undergo? (Mark 10:38)
I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! (Luke 12:50)
You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5)

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Real Time with the Father

But He answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working." [1]

Therefore Jesus and was saying to them, "Truly truly I say to you, Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. [2]

The above passages (John 5:17, 19) are favorites. Particularly, the passage of John 5:19 is often cited by some believers to deny the deity of Jesus. It is, according to them, an admission of the human ineptitude of the Son who can do nothing of Himself. There is an even greater travesty, namely, that other believers are squeamish about the passage. They avoid it in the fear that it might affirm the denial of the deity of Jesus which they rightly, but sheepishly and timidly, proclaim about Jesus. That is not something to which they are prepared to reply. This fear may be what gave rise to the popular, but mistaken, compromised teaching of Jesus as “one hundred percent man” and “one hundred percent God” as well as talk about the “God part of Jesus” and the “human part of Jesus.”This, interestingly enough or bizarrely enough depending on your perspective, is actually the confluence, the merging, of belief and unbelief concerning the deity of Jesus.

Monday, August 6, 2018

The Devil's Delusion

I recently read David Berlinski's book, The Devil's Delusion, Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions. His academic background and mathematics and his ability to express himself with the written and spoken word are neither of which I profess for myself. This brief article is not intended as a review of his book. Berlinski wrote The Devil's Delusion in response to Richard Dawkins' own book, The God Delusion. Dawkins goes far and wide to do his best to inflict some notion of misery on believers by vomiting his vile contempt about God. I was neither fazed nor impressed or dismayed by it.