jump to navigation

A Tree and Its Fruit January 19, 2018

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
Tags: , , , ,
4 comments

Here are my thoughts on Matthew 7:15-23.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus warns His disciples to be wary of their religious leaders, since they are deceptively dangerous – like a ravenous wolf dressed in a sheepskin. Indeed, they promote sinfulness in their teachings, revealing their sinfulness – like a thornbush that naturally produces thorns.

He then asserts that those who merely offer a verbal profession of faith in Him have not been saved; if they had been saved, their deeds would have revealed their genuine faith in Him.

Thoughts: This passage caused me to ponder the following question: how can we tell if we are bearing good fruit? Our attempts to answer this question are hampered by the following realities:

  • only God can answer that question with complete certainty
  • the standard that He applies in assessing the quality of our fruit may not constitute a quantifiable metric.

For example, consider a long-term missionary living among a tribe of unbelievers who passes away without converting even one member of that tribe. Has this missionary necessarily borne less fruit than an evangelist whose sermons cause many to dedicate their lives to Christ? This – admittedly extreme – example leads me to believe that in terms of bearing fruit, a believer must begin by assessing their personal relationship with God. If we sense that we are becoming more like Christ – as revealed by our thoughts, words and deeds – then that could be a sign that we are bearing good fruit. We must also be attuned to any clues that God provides in that regard; for example, He may use other believers to evaluate our fruit.

Advertisements

False Oracles and False Prophets April 29, 2017

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 23:33-40.

Summary: In this passage, God speaks through Jeremiah – condemning the false prophets and wicked priests in Judah for asserting that He speaks through them. He has repeatedly commanded them to refrain from prophesying in His name, yet they have refused to obey Him. Thus, He resolves to punish them – especially since they have misled His flock in the process.

Thoughts: This passage caused me to ponder the tendency of at least some believers – including myself – to put out a fleece in the midst of trials. As human beings, we rely on evidence that we can perceive with our senses; thus, it is natural to look for signs when we are caught in a bind. One thought is that we need to overcome this inherent bias towards the physical world and gravitate towards the words that God has already spoken to us in the Scriptures (albeit in general terms); in fact, we can often glean insights from His (general) Word in our specific circumstances with the aid of the Holy Spirit. Broadly speaking, perhaps we should ask Him to:

  • grant us sufficient evidence – in the midst of a particular trial – based on our current spiritual state
  • enable our faith to grow so that we would need fewer signs during the next trial.

Lying Prophets April 28, 2017

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
Tags: , , , ,
1 comment so far

Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 23:9-32.

Summary: In this passage, God speaks through Jeremiah – condemning the false prophets and wicked priests in the southern kingdom of Judah. Indeed, their sinfulness exceeds that of their counterparts in the northern kingdom of Israel – as they actually sanction the sinfulness of their flock. Consequently, He resolves to punish them.

Jeremiah also exhorts the people of Judah to ignore these false prophets and wicked priests. This stems from the fact that God does not speak to them, and so they themselves formulate the prophecies that they proclaim. Indeed, a genuine prophet of God would realize that He wants to communicate a simple message to His people: they must repent of their sins.

Thoughts: In verse 14, we see that the prophets and priests in Judah sanctioned the sinfulness of their flock. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point:

Jeremiah shows how these men surpassed other prophets in impiety by dissimulating when they saw on one hand adulteries and on the other fraud, plundering and perjury…As these prophets banished shame as well as fear from the wicked and ungodly, they strengthened their hands and gave them more confidence, so that they rushed headlong into every evil more freely and with greater liberty.

I assume that these false prophets and wicked priests condoned acts of injustice and oppression. Now I am curious as to whether they attempted to furnish a theological justification for these actions. Did they view the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow as people who were cursed by God? Did they assert that these disadvantaged people were separate from the church of God – and so He had no concern for them? Or did they passively condone these actions while secretly acknowledging their inherent sinfulness?

Here, we see that Jeremiah contends with a plethora of false prophets and wicked priests in communicating his message to his compatriots. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 16:

As Jeremiah forbade the people to listen to such men, they must have been very confused: “What does this mean? Why does God allow these unprincipled men to occupy a place in the temple and to exercise a prophetic office there though they are all cheats, perjurers, and impostors?”

I have blogged about the difficulties that the people of Judah faced in attempting to discern truth from fiction. Since the messages conveyed by Jeremiah and the false prophets were diametrically opposed, one could only assess their veracity by looking for confirmatory evidence. Now the people of Judah knew that the Babylonian forces were pressing their siege of Jerusalem. In light of their predicament, how did the false prophets justify their optimistic messages? Were they convinced that God would never sanction the destruction of His temple? Were they assured that their foreign allies would break the ongoing siege of their capital? How did they respond when the Babylonians overran Jerusalem?

A secondary application of this passage concerns the delicate balance that modern-day pastors must strike when crafting their sermons. On one hand, they must learn from the negative example of the false prophets and wicked priests in Judah: if they neither spur their congregants to live holy lives nor exhort them to regularly assess their walk with God, then they display a lack of concern for their spiritual growth. On the other hand, if they harp on the themes of sin and guilt, then their congregants would probably grow spiritually weary and despondent. Truly it is difficult to know – on an arbitrary Sunday – what God wants to say to an arbitrary congregation. Thus, we must continue to pray for our spiritual leaders – that they would know how to discern God’s voice on a daily basis and respond to Him through their sermons.