Thursday, October 26, 2006

Forgive and Forget?

There are times when we forgive and forget - I do not mean forget that someone offended you but you forget to love them after you have forgiven them.

Biblical forgiveness is never just "not holding that sin against the person" and then not having anything to do with them any more or holding a grudge against them - just to show them that while you have forgiven them, you have not forgotten and you will bring a little retribution of your own.

We look at two passages - the first one describes God's forgiveness and the second of the forgiveness that is demanded of by the believer.

Psalm 103.1-5: Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits- 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

Colossians 3.12-14: Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Psalm 103 describes God's forgiveness as not only "not holding our sins against us" but granting us benefits: healing diseases, redeeming, crowning you with love and compassion and satisfying your life with good things. Colossians 3 tells us that God's people are to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient, putting on love - even to those who they must forgive.

What does Scripture teach us? Forgive and DO NOT FORGET - that is do not forget to satisfy the one who has offended you with good things, being kind and gentle and patient - above all loving them. This may take time but that is how radical Christian forgiveness is as we experience it from Jesus and read of it in His Word.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

An Essential Part of the Gospel

Revelation 14.6: Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth - to every nation, tribe, language and people.

Revelation 12-14 make up one vision which begins with the war of the dragon on the child Jesus and then the church and ends with the "new song" of victory that the people of God will sing in glory. After a description of the war which Satan will wage on the earth, especially against the church (Revelation 13) and a word of encouragement for the people of God (Revelation 14.1-5), John now sees an angel who would proclaim the eternal gospel.

We may ask - how did the proclamation of the gospel sound? What was said? Verse 7 the first angel said: Fear God and give him glory ... worship him. In verse 8 the second angel tells of the fallen Babylon - the kingdom described in Revelation 12-13, Satan's kingdom, will fall.

Most striking is verses 9-11 which speak of a warning of the coming judgment for those who have the mark of the beast. We read the angel talking about unbelievers: He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.

3 points:
1. Part of the proclamation of the gospel is understanding the wrath that sinners are under and will experience if they do not fear God, give him glory and worship him through Jesus Christ alone. The gospel is incomplete without the mention of sin and wrath. While God is love, He is also angry and will punish willful sin and rebellion.

2. God's anger and wrath must be seen in the context of the wrath and anger of Satan and sinners alike against God. Revelation 12-13 make this clear. God does not judge a neutral people - they have the mark of the beast and seek to willingly follow Satan - and not worship the rightful Creator and King. God is angry and will punish a people who seek to rebel and hate God. God is righteous and just.

3. In saying all this, verses 6-11 are a warning to those who are still alive. In other words, Jesus gives opportunity to repent. We must, with compassion, humility, and love call sinners to repentance. How awful eternal hell is for the unbeliever. Our hearts need to be softened once again to the plight of the unbeliever and his/her rebellion towards God and when softened, we will seek to proclaim and warn and plead the whole gospel - Christ is the only answer.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Is Remarriage Biblical?

Remarriage can be a controversial subject in the church with views ranging from no remarriage while the former spouse lives to remarriage not being an issue at all. This past Sunday, we looked at Mark 10 and 1 Corinthians 7 and talked about remarriage. Here is where I stand.

1 Corinthians 7.8-40 is divided up into 4 groups: unmarried and widows, Christian marriages, missed marriages (a Christian to a non Christian) and virgins. This becomes very important to understanding the text.

Unmarried and widows: Paul teaches us that it is better not to marry (this will be explained in more detail in verses 25-40) but if they are unable to control themselves, they ought to marry. The question is who are the unmarried Paul is referring to in these verses? I hold while they may include virgins (never married), it must also include those who have once before been married. Paul deals specifically with virgins later in verses 25-40. So, the other category of unmarried would have to include those who were previously married. Those virgins, previously married and widows have allowance of remarriage. As well, unmarried is a broad term that would include those previously married.

Christian marriages (verses 10-11): Paul says if two Christians are married, they must remain married. If trouble enters the marriage and one wants a divorce, there are two options: reconciliation or separation with no possibility of remarriage. In other words, if two Christians are married - you have all the tools you need in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit to work out your marriage and reconcile. If you cannot reconcile, you cannot remarry. Therefore, the Christian is not able to say This marriage is not working out - I will go and marry that person. Marriage is for life with no possibility of remarriage if separated as long as the other former spouse lives.

Mixed marriages (a believer who is married to an unbeliever (presumably saved after marriage took place and the spouse remains unsaved) (verses 12-16): Paul tells the believer that if the unbeliever wants to remain married, do not divorce - stay in the marriage. That, I believe, is the essential meaning of the difficult verse 14 - do not leave your spouse because your relationship and your children are holy - they are set apart by God.

However, if your spouse leaves, do not stop him. Notice in these verses, Paul says that they are no longer bound and Paul nowhere gives the command that they are not allowed to remarry. The command not to remarry is made to two believers, not a believer who is married to an unbeliever who will leave. The Christian in this relationship, no longer bound to the unbeliever, is then free to remarry (verses 8-9).

Virgins (verses 25-40): what does Paul say to virgins? He says many things but two that I want to point out: 1. Paul says that a Christian virgin must marry another Christian (verse 39) and 2. when they get married, they are bound as long as he lives. In other words, we fall under the same category as 2 Christians getting married - there is no room for remarriage - they are bound for as long as they live. And if they do marry another, they commit adultery (see Jesus' words in Mark 10). So, the command not to remarry in the context of 1 Corinthians 7 falls under the specific headings of Christian marriages and two Christians virgins who will marry. It is here Paul speaks of the two commanded not to remarry.

(Incidentally, Paul's words not I but the Lord (verse 10) and I, not the Lord (verse 12) become important. Paul is not saying that his words are less important. He is saying that the Lord dealt with 2 Christians being married when he walked on the earth (the commit adultery if they remarry another) but he did not deal specifically with a Christian who is married to a non Christian.)

So, as a pastor, would I remarry a couple? I would not remarry a man(or woman) who is a Christian and has divorced his Christian wife. He must reconcile with his wife or remain unmarried. I would remarry a Christian who was married to a non Christian and the non Christian left her. If she found another Christian man, she is free to remarry as she is no longer bound to her non Christian husband. And when I do premarital counseling, I would emphasize to the two being married - they must both be Christian and when they do get married, they are bound for life.

Understanding that these are broad categories, we will need Biblical wisdom and love to deal with the specifics of relationships.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Caring For Others

Philippians 4.19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

This is a well known verse and is usually used when we run into personal difficulties. We take this promise and say - Thank you God that you will take care of my car bill, or my tuition or my health - thank you. And we should thank God that he will meet (or fill up) all our needs. We should thank God that it is according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus - in other words, we will be well supplied when in need because our God is a rich and gracious God.

But I think there is something more to this verse. The context tells of God supplying our needs especially when we are seeking to help others in their troubles. It is a verse which encourages us to look beyond ourselves and see that our God is so rich, he will give us what we need to minister to God's people in trouble.

In the context, we read Philippians 4.14-15: Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; ...

In other words, when does God promise to supply our needs? In our selfish nature, we turn that promise into God looking after us as we seek to look after ourselves. And while God will do this, God's Word is even deeper and more penetrating - God will supply our needs when we are looking at other's needs so we can help them when they are in trouble.

Am I able to say: it is good to share in the troubles of others - the cost - financial, emotional, spiritual, physical? Where will I get the strength, the wisdom, the words, the resources - where will I get what I need to help those in trouble? God's promise: And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

God will supply your needs - as you seek to help those in trouble.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Philippians 3.18-19: For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.

In the last posting, we saw Paul was going to send Timothy to the Philippians church because Timothy did not look to his own interest. While Paul loved and cared for the church, that did not stop him from "weeping" for the church's enemies.

As Paul surveys the world - their destiny, their gods, and their shame - he falls before God and weeps at their ruin, their short sightedness, and their hardness of heart.

And so Paul weeps.

He also weeps publicly before the church calling her to not envy or hate but weep. Weep because one day they will stand before the Almighty and see that their gods are silent and their shame is screaming out before a holy and just God.

How do we evangelize? How about putting down books on methods and techniques and how to say the right things exactly and getting down on our knees, asking God to break our hearts so we begin to weep for the lost. How about praying that God would fill us with such joy about his second coming (Philippians 3.20-21) that the gods of this age will slowly fade from our hearts.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Looking Another Way

Philippians 2.20-21: I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

Paul is writing about Timothy's love for the people of God. Two aspects of this verse are interesting. First, Timothy gave up his own interests and genuinely loved the people of God. The temptation is to look after ourselves - make sure we are provided for, cared for and loved. Look at me - my life and my issues. Timothy took a genuine interest in the Philippian's well-being.

Second, the interests of Jesus Christ is the welfare of His people. What a thought that Jesus cares for His people intimately. Today, if you are His child, Jesus is caring for you and he may be providing a Timothy in your life. If He is, thank Him and then thank your "Timothy".

This all leads to praise to God for His loving care and to a challenge - how will we spend our lives? Will it be as a Timothy - or will we look after our own needs?