Saturday, April 30, 2011

Judging Others

Judgments are not easy to make. This is especially true when those judgments involve people. Judgments carry the weight of a moral decision. Judgments reflect our understanding of what is right and what is wrong, what is moral and what is immoral. People make right judgments and wrong judgments. Some people choose to refrain from making judgments but the situations and circumstances of life demand that we make judgments whether these involve, as an example, the destructive impact of greed on the environment or the destructive impact of sexual fornication on the marriage in the family home. A correct, moral judgment may come from the lips of an individual with a flawed moral character but that does not invalidate the judgment itself. There’s an important distinction to be made between understanding and conviction as concerns judgments.

Giving an account

Judgments can be made with the solid understanding of the source of authority. The source of that authority to make a judgment may come, for example, from civil law or the scriptures. A judgment with a firm conviction can be morally correct and right. However, without understanding the one making the judgment will find it difficult to give an account of the reasons for his judgment. Yet, it is not invalidated because of lack of conviction. This discomforting position of making judgments is common not only with atheists, (do not mistake this as a judgment atheists are not moral) but with those who profess their morality as being from God. This discomfort, in the absence of any authority or standard, may account for the response of ridicule and mockery from atheists and fear from Christians to situations which demand judgment verdicts.

Just as discomforting and troublesome for some people as to make judgments is to hear other people making a judgment. This is especially true when the person making the judgment is a Christian. The great discomfort in hearing a Christian make a judgment is based on an even greater misunderstanding (see Matthew 7:1,2) Jesus commanded Christians not to judge.

What Jesus commands

Did Jesus command his disciples not to make judgments? A look at his command to his disciples suggests his disciples were to be careful about when and how they make judgments. Disciples are not to make judgments hastily or rashly. Jesus did say he did not judge anyone. Jesus did say He did not come to judge the world. So, did Jesus Himself ever judge anyone?

The gospel according to John in chapter eight relates the account of a woman caught in the immoral act of adultery. It is clear those who brought the woman before Jesus had no interest in making or carrying out a judgment. They did not bring the man caught in adultery with the woman. Invariably, the question whether Jesus judged the woman draws a quick no followed by the clarification Jesus just loved her and did not condemn the woman. However, there’s an implied judgment in his words when He says to her, Go, and sin no more.
This instance involving a woman who had fallen in adultery modeled for the disciples of Jesus when and how we are to make judgments. Jesus modeled the marks of a spiritual: 1) the wisdom to discern, 2) the confidence to judge, and 3) the authority to speak. This characteristic of Jesus to make judgments is a mark of a spiritual. It is vital to judge with understanding and conviction when restoring one who has fallen in sin. (Galatians 6:1,2) The judgment of the woman which Jesus modeled was to save and restore, not to condemn her.

The apostle Paul makes a judgment

The apostle Paul, a disciple of Jesus, modeled what Jesus taught His disciples about making judgments. When Paul learned of the immoral conduct of a so-called brother in the church at Corinth (see I Corinthians 5) Paul judged him. Paul judged the man even though the apostle was not present at Corinth. Paul was neither hasty nor rash in his judgment of the immoral individual. The intent and desired purpose of Paul’s judgment was not to condemn the man, but that the man might repent and be restored. Furthermore, Paul urged the Christians in Corinth to judge the immoral individual themselves. After-all Jesus stated the work of the Holy Spirit was He would convict the world about sin because they don't believe in me. The unbelief which had crept into Corinth was not limited to a single immoral, but it had come to to contaminate and defile the whole body of Christ, that is, the royal priesthood of believers in Corinth.

The church in Corinth did as Paul instructed and judged the immoral individual. The man repented of his immoral behavior. The church did not back down from making the hard but necessary judgment on the immoral. The disciples did not shrug off or dismiss their responsibility in uncertainty and fear saying, no one of us is perfect. The apostle John wrote perfect (meaning, complete) love (I John 4:17-19) in the believer casts out fear. Paul wrote in his second letter to the church for them to welcome the brother back into fellowship now that he was forgiven and restored.

We can avoid the need to make judgments. We can call what is defined as sin by some other term. We can, as previously stated, exempt ourselves claiming we are not perfect. We can claim it's a personal choice, a personal opinion. We can claim a particular behavior is not something we would do, but we're alright if someone else chooses to do act and live that way. In the end our unwillingness and inability to make a judgment speaks more of our selfishness and fear which hide our lack of understanding and conviction. Yet, love desires to bear its fruit in and through each one of us.

Judge a brother, save a brother

Jesus taught and modeled for his disciples how and when to make judgments. He did so in order that those who trust and believe on Him should do so with understanding and conviction. The apostle Paul demonstrated the judgment of the immoral individual at Corinth in the same manner as did Jesus. Furthermore, Paul urged the Christians at Corinth to judge the individual in order that he might repent and be restored to the fellowship of believers in Christ. Once the brother was restored Paul urged the church to, reaffirm your love for him.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Properly Baked Cake

Do you ever approach something with the attitude: I just want to get it done. I just want to get it out of the way. What this attitude reflects is a dislike or displeasure, but vital need in doing that something that needs our action.

When we apply this to our faith in God some people have a ready file to show they got it done a while back. It may have been in their childhood. It may be through mere association with others who profess a faith like them. They've taken care of it. It's out of the way. They are, as they understand, free to carry on with their lives.

There are others whose faith in God means an endless, tiresome exhausting task of work. No matter how small or how big the task they are sure to do it and add it to their works account ready for presentation to God at the appropriate time as proof of their faith in Him.

What these two, faith and works, represent are what I call the "alone" extremes to which people go to get the God thing right and out of the way. They are the extremes of "faith alone" and "works alone."

The Jews in Jesus' day came to Him and asked him (John 6:28,29) for the quick, easy work they needed to fulfill the God thing. Jesus replied that they were to believe in him whom God had sent. In other words, as Jesus states, belief is a work. It is something one does. It is not merely a thought between our ears.

Ironically, Jesus' reply to the Jews has resulted in some who take that and run to the "faith alone" extreme. These two, faith and works, are not opposed or contradictory to each other as some mistakenly understand when they read the letters by the apostle Paul to the Romans and by the apostle James in the letter which bears his name are favorites. The "faith alone" group favors Romans for its emphasis on faith and belief. The "works alone" group favors James because of its emphasis on works. This same approach of viewing one better or more important than the other is not limited to these two. It extends to repentance, confession, etc.

As I drink my coffee, cake comes to mind. It may help illustrate the importance and significance of a humble and sincere obedience to the one whom God has sent. Suppose you invited some friends over for coffee and cake. As they sit at the table you serve a bowl of eggs to one of your friends. Another you serve a bowl of shortening. Another receives a bowl of flour. Another one a bowl of water.

You announce, "Enjoy!" They look strangely at you.

Finally, one brave soul informs you this is not a cake. Another joins in and tells you these are cake ingredients. Another tells you these ingredients are to be mixed and baked in the oven to create a delicious cake.

You gather the bowls with ingredients mix them up. Thirty minutes later you remove it from the oven only to realize the bowl of eggs is on your kitchen counter. No problem, you say, as you break the eggs and spread them over the hot almost-cake. You serve it to your friends. After a while another brave soul informs you this is not a properly baked cake.

Which of these ingredients, flour, eggs, etc., is more important in baking a cake? Clearly, it is not a matter of which is more important but that all these ingredients work together to create a cake.

Similarly, to put one's trust of belief in God and put that belief into action is to understand faith. It is no more important than works or belief more important than repentance. The act of breaking and spreading eggs over the almost-cake is to misunderstand not only the importance of all these ingredients in baking a cake, but to misunderstand the importance of belief over confession, etc.

As an example of this scrambled mixup of imitating the New Testament obedience to the gospel there are some who discard one thing over another as being unimportant. Others will state it is important, but it doesn't need to be done. WHAT?!?!?! Specifically, you may have probably heard baptism discarded as something unimportant. Does anyone believe a person could openly confession Jesus as Lord, be baptized and tell him he can repent of his continued fornication or other sin some time later. Is there anyone who would tell him repentance is not important, or it's good to "DO" it, but not important. This teaching is what leads some to think they have gotten the God thing take care of and it's out of the way. Someone took the liberty to wrongfully teach them of their own accord what they thought as being important and what was unimportant.

A life with that approach to belief and obedience of God does not mock God because God cannot be mocked. However, it does lead one to a life of misery and ruin because they are going about their own lives and not, as Paul wrote, "Christ living in me." The God thing, well, that's at home in their hidden file but ready, if they really must, for display. They mistakenly thought believing and obeying the one whom God has sent is something done once and not something they live in love thereafter.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Khalid Yasin: What Jesus said about Muhammed

Perhaps Khalid Yasin has a better understanding of his new profession of faith in Islam. It appears he was seriously mistaken about the faith he states he once had in Jesus. His professed faith in Jesus may sound good, but it is in total opposition and without substance to what Jesus said and did during his lifetime ministry.

Mr Yasin enumerates four points of what Jesus said to his disciples:

  1. I'm going to send you the Admirable one, Muhammed
  2. your minds are not prepared for all the questions you have
  3. you will know him because he will speak of me
  4. that which he hears from God will remain forever
Yes, Jesus did say all these things which Mr Yasin enumerates. However, his efforts to gloss over them and apply these in the manner in which he does is less than genuine. As an example on his first point, and the single point which is the focus of this comment, Mr Yasin makes a deft application of the Comforter/Counselor as a direct reference to Muhammad. I am familiar with the linguistic efforts by some to extract a rendering of "Muhammed" from Jesus' words which he spoke to the disciples concerning the Comforter, that is, the Holy Spirit, in chapters 14 thru 16 of the gospel according to John. Research in the original Greek language is certainly important, but the truth is Christian as well as Islam scholars can be just as convoluted in their extraction of words and meanings which often do little or nothing to clarify for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

There are several very clear, simple enlightenments on Mr Yasin's first point in plain English.

First, the terms Comforter/Counselor and Spirit/Holy Spirit/Spirit of truth are used by Jesus in the same sentence, same context, to equate all these as one and the same being of which Jesus speaks.

Second, the grammatical tenses indicate the coming of the this individual being was in the future from the time Jesus spoke these words. Some have stated the Holy Spirit was already present and therefore it cannot be the Spirit/Holy Spirit/Spirit of God. They cite King David and Zacharias and Elizabeth John the baptizer's parents as examples. True. The scripture testifies they spoke through the Spirit/Holy Spirit/Spirit of God in them. However, this does not began to compare with the promise of the Holy Spirit as spoken by Jesus. Jesus reiterated this prophecy of promise as spoken by the prophet Joel and which was fulfiled on Pentecost (Acts 2). This was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on sons and daughters, on all who believed in Jesus and obeyed him as Lord and Savior when Peter preached that first gospel sermon on Pentecost. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit of promise was no longer, as in the case of King David's or Zacharias and Elizabeth's, to a mere few individuals, but to all who are faith in Jesus.

Third, the present tense use by the apostle Peter in Acts 2 makes it clear to his audience that what they were amazed by was the fulfillment of what Jesus promised. Thereafter in the New Testament, the grammatical tense with reference to the Holy Spirit is of a fulfilled present reality as the One who dwells in the heart of the believer. The coming of the Comforter/Counselor/Spirit/Holy Spirit/Spirit of God, all synonyms of one another, was to accomplish two things, which Mr Yasin acknowledges, in the disciples: 1) to bring to their remembrance the things Jesus had taught them, and 2) to guide them into all truth.

Here's just one simple question to help further clarify the matter of the fulfillment of Jesus' words concerning the Comforter/Holy Spirit:

For John indeed baptized in water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now. Acts 1:5

Question: What part of Jesus' words not many days from now would lead one to believe He meant His words would be fulfilled six centuries later with Muhammed? Is that the clear, simple understanding of the passage? Does that make any sense? No. It does not make sense.

Mr Yasin is free to take whatever understanding and stake whatever belief he chooses.  However, it is an understanding completely in opposition to the words spoken by Jesus. Regardless of any one reader's belief or conviction the application of the passage by Mr Yasin to anyone other than the Holy Spirit or a time other than the first century in the manner in which Mr Yasin applies it makes no clear, simple sense of the passage.