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The Sheep and the Goats September 16, 2018

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 25:31-46.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus states that at His Second Coming, He will:

  • be joined by all of the holy angels
  • reign in Jerusalem
  • judge all of the people who are still alive
  • separate believers from unbelievers.

He will then invite believers – who are blessed by His Father – to live under His earthly rule. Indeed, He has chosen them from the foundation of the world, and they have demonstrated this fact by performing good deeds for fellow believers – thereby performing them for Him.

He will then banish unbelievers to hell, as they have not performed good deeds for believers – thereby failing to perform them for Him.

Thoughts: Here, Jesus blesses believers for the deeds that they have performed for Him. Ryle offers some thoughts on this point:

People’s deeds are the witnesses which will be brought forward, and above all their works of charity. The question will not merely be what we said, but what we did: not merely what we professed, but what we practiced. Our works unquestionably will not justify us: no one will be declared righteous by observing the law; but the truth of our faith will be tested by our lives.

Now in John MacArthur’s sermon on this passage, he asserts that Jesus specifically references good deeds that were performed for fellow believers; this assertion is supported by the phrase “brothers of mine” in verse 40. Thus, I am curious as to whether Ryle would concur with MacArthur’s viewpoint. Also, it is good to consider the following question: do good deeds performed for unbelievers constitute spiritual fruit? I would answer that question in the affirmative; that being said, this passage implies that if one is a genuine believer, then they will perform good deeds for other believers. Thus, we must aim to bless other believers in this life.

Jesus also condemns unbelievers for the deeds that they have not performed for Him. Ryle offers some thoughts on this point:

Who can describe the misery of eternal punishment? It is something utterly indescribable and inconceivable. The eternal pain of body; the eternal sting of an accusing conscience; the eternal society of none but the wicked, the devil and his angels; the eternal remembrance of opportunities neglected and Christ despised; this is misery indeed.

These are stomach-churning points that we, as believers, do not ponder. Of course, the notion of unbelievers enduring “eternal punishment” is inherently sickening. I believe that this relates to our inability, as finite entities, to grasp the concept of infinity. How can suffering never end? How can God never show mercy to those who have rejected Him in this life? Does He ever think of those whom He has eternally condemned? Does He ever grieve their failure to accept His offer of salvation? While these are painful questions, we must not allow them to hinder our witness to the unbelievers in our orbit.

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Submit Yourselves to God October 3, 2015

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on James 4:1-12.

Summary: James begins by asking his readers to consider why they engage in wars and civil unrest; indeed, he knows that their souls earnestly move after sin, and their will and affections are strongly inclined against the knowledge of the truth. While they have inordinate and passionate desires, they never obtain them. Now they attempt to obtain them by the following means:

  • murder
  • public rioting
  • envy

yet they cannot arrive at happiness and are at a loss, since they do not use the lawful means of prayer. He then addresses their potential objection that they do go to God in their daily prayers by asserting that they actually desire the convenience of a worldly life; thus, God does not hear their prayers.

Next, James challenges his readers by asserting that their love of the world has caused them to be alienated from God. He appeals to their consciences by stating that those whose affections have been emancipated to the pleasures of the world – including believers and non-believers – are openly defying God. The Old Testament supports the generality of this point, as it states that the sinful nature envies intensely. In contrast, God has given believers the Holy Spirit, who is superior to the pleasures of the world; to support this point, he quotes from Proverbs 3:34, where it is stated that while God is in direct defiance of the proud, He provides spiritual help to those who are contrite. Thus, they should:

  • place themselves under God – and not under Satan, causing him to be discouraged
  • have holy communion with God – and He will turn to them in mercy
  • perform good works – since they are tainted with the guilt of outward sins
  • mortify their sinful desires – since they have divided thoughts
  • afflict themselves for their sins
  • perform acts of sorrow
  • have godly sorrow – since they rejoice in their external comforts
  • fear and revere God – and He will exalt them.

Now James commands his readers to refrain from speaking evil of one another. Indeed, those who speak evil of one another are passing sentence on them – implying that God’s law is imperfect and exempting themselves from obedience to it. James concludes by asserting that only God can give laws to the conscience and punish it for sin, as He has absolute power to do what He pleases with men; indeed, men are sorry judges compared to Him.

Thoughts: In verses 1-3, James exhorts his readers to not be fixated on earthly things. Manton offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 2:

Do not always be troubled when you cannot have what you want; you have reason to bless God. It is a mercy when worldly desires are disappointed…Your hearts have been set on great things, and you thought, like the fool in the Gospel, that you would enlarge your barns and exalt your nest; and suddenly God came in and blasted all those worldly projects. Praise God for such providence. How complacent or sensual or worldly your spirit would have been!

I can distinctly recall past instances where I earnestly desired something; moreover, I essentially planned my future around attaining those goals. I prayed that God would be glorified through my attaining those goals, yet my prayers essentially constituted feeble attempts to appease Him – instead of expressing a genuine desire to glorify Him. When I did not attain those goals, I was devastated and adopted a grim outlook on life. Thus, I find Manton’s commentary on this point to be quite challenging, as I am called to actually praise God whether or not I obtain any of my present or future goals. One thought is that I should contemplate at least two outcomes for each of my goals when I pray, where the second outcome entails my not obtaining the goal in question. In my prayers, I need to determine how I can still bring glory to God even if the second outcome is realized. I certainly hope that God will enable me to make progress in this regard in the years to come – even if I endure additional disappointments along the way.

In verses 11 and 12, James commands his readers to refrain from judging each other. Manton offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 11:

To make more sins than God has made is to judge the law. You imply that it is an imperfect rule; people want to be wiser than God and bind others in chains of their own making…We are not in the place of God; it is not in our power to make sins or duties…We should not dogmatize and subject people to ordinances of our own making, pressing our own austerities and rigorous observances as duties…Man is a proud creature and would like to make his moroseness a law for other people and put forward his own private ideas as doctrine.

Unfortunately, I can identify with this passage, as my natural inclination is to judge other believers. As I tend toward a relatively conservative lifestyle, I naturally judge other believers who adopt relatively liberal lifestyles. For example, since I am a teetotaler, I secretly judge other believers who drink casually – yet avoid drunkenness. Also, since I am relatively frugal, I secretly judge other believers who are more willing to utilize their disposable income to purchase designer clothing, gourmet food, and high-end gadgets. Thus, I struggle to respect the freedoms that others exercise in Christ; I know that I have the same freedoms, yet I refrain from exercising them and judge those who do exercise them. Instead of judging other believers, I need to focus on how I can bring glory to God and benefit them – implicitly and explicitly.