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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sin, Righteousness, Judgment, and ISIS

a call


The infamy of the atrocity in Paris by purported ISIS terrorists, whether or not they are associated with ISIS being immaterial, evokes sadness, lament, empathy, bitterness and rage rightfully, but little understanding particularly among the saints in Christ. Much of the response from Christians is often to parrot what is heard in the news and social media, from friends and others who know not God. The dialog is often more of a reveling in the flesh, that is, a mindset which focuses and sees only what is readily apparent without any thought to those things not as readily visible or apparent. It is a dialog which does not reflect the understanding and teaching as one expects from those in whom dwells the Holy Spirit. This is not a condemnation of America or her friends. Certainly, it is not a condemnation of friends and family who have suffered the attack in Paris. It is not a condemnation of the saints in Christ. Rather it is a call, beginning with the disciples of Jesus and then nonbelievers, to examine themselves and their understanding of what they profess to know and believe of the scriptures and the teachings of Jesus in our response to ISIS; the unbelieving.


a judgment


The thoughts, intentions, teachings and actions of ISIS and those who applaud ISIS are evil.
This judgment can not and is not one readily made by domestic government leaders and world leaders lest they offend someone. Some may try to shade evil differently to make it appear something other than what ISIS itself is fully committed to unleashing on the world about itself. Others who might so much as think ISIS is something bad cut short their familiar broad, diatribe against all faith and its adherents for the moment only to resume once all is back to normal and perhaps they can chat, philosophize and rant over a hot coffee or a cold beer.


difficult to understand


Although the extreme and radical makeup of ISIS and similar factions such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are rightly dismissed, shunned and condemned by some Muslims as well as by other ill informed non-Muslim individuals who find it difficult to judge ISIS as evil; the truth is there is an element which all of these share in common.


What they share in common is unbelief. They do not believe in Jesus.


I understand. This is incomprehensible. It is hard to accept and even after hearing and understanding it one may still reject it all in favor of one’s own academic response and solutions to the problem of evil that is represented, embodied and embraced by ISIS. Similarly, it is no less difficult for some to understand or accept why it is that they struggle to declare the works of ISIS as sin. It is no less difficult for some to understand or accept why it is that they struggle to declare and uphold what is righteousness. It is no less difficult for some to understand or accept why it is that they struggle to declare and make a judgment against evil and to declare and make a judgment for righteousness.


the prophetic fulfillment of words - - for the world


When Jesus, in his final hours, saw the sadness which came over his disciples after he told them that he was going away he elaborated for them something which he had revealed to them a little earlier. The promise of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus would ask the Father to send, would soon come upon. He had very briefly told them what the Holy Spirit would do in them and through them.


But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. (John 14:26)


Now he provided for them a bit more detail concerning the work of the Holy Spirit, but this is not to say it was an easy matter for them to grasp or understand.


And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;
9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me;
10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me;
11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. (John 16:8 - 11)


What is significant about these words which Jesus spoke to his disciples about the work of the Holy Spirit is that he related his words in a very direct and specific manner about how the Spirit would convict the world. The prophetic fulfillment of these words, in turn, was very specifically and directly related to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. There is the weight of consequences of these things on the world of atheists, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims and all others. Life and death in the world by whatever new, pop and acceptable label or euphemism one might adhere to them are the go and stop of everything, literally. Jesus cast the purpose and meaning of life and death in the work of his own life and death.


The result of the work of the Spirit was that he would convict the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgment. This work is evident in the infamy by ISIS in Paris as in any other part of the world and in any individual person. There is no hope, joy, rejoicing or love in life and there is a equal determination to ensure nobody has hope, joy or rejoices in love and life.


Sin - - because they do not believe


Yes, our hearts go out for the citizens of Paris and France, but the prevailing mood in Paris and in much of Europe and America, is to mock the mention of sin. Along with the mockery of sin is the dismissal of it as something antiquated, stodgy and the standard favorite; it is man-made. For all intents and purposes mockery and the dismissal of sin amount to the same: unbelief. Whether or not one accepts these words of Jesus the ineffective arms length attempts to handle and deal with the horrendous evil of ISIS is precisely because of unbelief which Jesus equates with sin.


Here is the deep-rooted unbelief in the message of Islam for Muslims, not just of the ISIS variety. It is that despite the Muslim claim of belief in Jesus as a prophet (a seriously ignorant and mistaken notion, see Numbers 12) there is a denial of his own words and the fulfillment of those words concerning his death, burial and resurrection. This Muslim view of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is shared in common by the world leaders who profess to stand united in opposition to the evil of ISIS, but they lack a coherent, consistent conviction about that sin. Yet Jesus said, . . . unless you believe that I am He, you will perish in your sins.


Righteousness - - because I go to the Father


Something which is unique to the gospel according to John is that it records this about Jesus multiple times. Jesus stated that 1) He knew where (origin) He came from, 2) He knew why (purpose) He was here, and 3) He knew where (destiny) He was going. He has shown the way to the Father. (John 14:6) What is profound about this perspective between past, present and future is that it is what enables a person to view, assess and determine the truth. Even when something might appear to be different between the perspective of past and present; truth; perspective, reveals its undeniable nature. Murder, whether for greed or misguided faith or other, is the same evil whether it is viewed in the past, present or future. It is this perspective; this truth; the truth about our own sins, concerning our past, present and future which Jesus said will make the one who knows the truth; free. (John 8:32) When? How? Why? It is when the perspective that is truth exposes the false bravado of mockery and unbelief.  Then, it is for the individual to struggle and determine for themselves what they will do in the face of the implications and significance of the one who stated 1) he would lay down his life and 2) take up his life again. Why does it seem incredible that the one who can give life and can sustain life is able also to restore life, not just to a dead person as was common among the prophets, but to restore life to his own dead body? It is the pride and arrogance of twenty first century man to believe (an offensive term for the scientist) he alone can conceive and exert his will to create, manipulate and restore life in the laboratory.


Righteousness, as Jesus defined it, lived it and died in righteousness is doing the will of the Father. Of course, in lieu of doing the will of God one may choose the feebleness of culture or the strong arm of government to say or do what is right according to culture or government. Doing the will or bidding of culture or government calls for neither a heartfelt conviction nor a willingness to appeal to the hearts of men especially sinners. Culture, a parasite of faith and law, has the authority of neither faith or law to impose its will on society. Its strong arm is peer pressure, not exactly an appeal for the hearts of men. The powerful, strong arm of government, as the preferred authority of some, has no need or interest in appealing to the hearts of men. The apostle Paul, while reminding the saints in Christ that we are ambassadors to the world, proclaimed the righteousness of Jesus and the kingdom of heaven for the hearts of men:


Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ,as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (II Corinthians 5)


The implications in the words of the apostle Paul are profound. When a disciple of Jesus looks into the mirror he/she may look no more like righteousness than Jesus looked like sin, but that righteousness is what he/she has become because of the sin Jesus was made to be. Clearly, this is the radical transformation, re-invigoration of image lost, not a physical image, but the image of love which is God (I John 4:16) and which male and female share with him. It is an image easily overlooked and even dismissed when our focus is on ourselves in our outward physical bodies and not on Jesus and the love of God. This is why Jesus made it clear to anyone who would think of following after him that if a person’s love and concern in life are more about their love of parents, brothers and sisters and even their own life than they can not be his disciple.


This is why the saints in Christ, Christians, are no more concerned or preoccupied with the destruction of anyone’s idols or holy places than they cherish and possess any of these things or to value them above human life.


Jesus declared that he was going to the Father (a declaration to which Muslims in their unbelief give lip-service) because he had fulfilled the will of the Father; He had fulfilled all righteousness. His purpose was not, as Muslims ignorantly maintain, to be spared or to save himself from death. Hence, not only Muslims but those who follow the dictates of government and its leaders are themselves in the grip of what all mankind, plants and animals share in common: death. Specifically, it is the fear of death (Hebrews 2:15) which is not overcome through the murder of a single human being or the slaughter of masses. Righteousness, the will of God as Jesus taught and demonstrated, is not the teaching of Islam and it is not what ISIS seeks to fulfill. Muslims and ISIS cannot profess to declare and uphold righteousness in the name of Allah and simultaneously despise, deny and reject Jesus in whom they profess to believe.


Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.
(Hebrews 12:14)


Judgment - - because the ruler of this world has been judged


Just as it is difficult for some to call evil sin and to declare and uphold righteousness they believe they can at arms length deal with and wrestle with sin, by whatever term they wish to call it, as maybe nothing more than a philosophical difference, perhaps an impersonal anomaly. Does ISIS seem like an impersonal anomaly?


Jesus, as much as he asserted his own oneness with the Father was unabashed and unapologetic and asserted the personal embodiment of the evil in this world as making its residence in the ruler of this world. Yes, he is called Satan. Jesus declared the ruler of this world has been judged. This takes us full circle to the great difficulty which those who would like to fight against evil cannot even identify it, personify it or judge it. This is the effect, no_ the sin, of unbelief.


conclusion


It is not for Christians to impose ourselves on the world or those who are of this world. However we can all hear. We can all speak at all times. We can speak as those filled with the Spirit for the enlightenment and encouragement of those who hear. We can speak to specific instances such as the wound on the people of Paris and France. We can denounce the evil and the sin that is ISIS not in one-word or one-liner epithets and rants in the manner of the world, but as with the Spirit of God in us. We can judge evil as sin. We can judge in favor of and uphold righteousness.


Yes, the cry is anticipated: religion is the problem. This is no more true than to shout out an ignorant judgment that all Muslims are radical terrorists nor does such a cry propose or suggest a response to the problem of evil. The cry against religion (not a term I am given to using [and no, the alternate term “relationship” is not it either]) reflects the same inability to articulate a comprehensive, coherent statement as those who can not condemn, uphold or declare what is sin, righteousness or judgment accordingly. ISIS is a perfect example of the work of the Holy Spirit to convict the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgment and that is the condemnation they are under because of their unbelief of Jesus. Like ISIS; so too the individual. It is not merely to be convicted by the Spirit, but to submit in humble obedience to his call to trust and believe in Jesus.


The final word concerning the work of the Holy Spirit to convict the world and the nonbeliever is that all are without excuse.


There is a cacophony and a discord of uncertainty and confusion among domestic and world leaders towards those whom they purport to lead out and away from evil. The reason for that confusion is not a mystery. They are incapable to identify evil much less call it sin. They are incapable to declare and uphold righteousness. They are incapable to make judgments against evil or for righteousness. Evil has a free unrestrained rein when no one has the conviction and boldness to judge and condemn it as sin. This is the work which the Spirit continues to carry out; to convict the world and the unbelieving of sin, righteousness and judgment.


Peace, grace and mercy to Paris and the citizens of France in Jesus, the Son of God, Lord and Savior.

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