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The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant June 24, 2018

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 18:21-35.

Summary: In this passage, Peter asks Jesus if there are limits to forgiving a believer who has sinned against him.

Jesus responds in the negative. Indeed, His kingdom can be represented by a king who regularly settles his accounts with his satraps. One of them owes him an inestimable debt; thus, the king declares that his entire family should be enslaved and his possessions should be liquidated.

This satrap responds by pleading for mercy. As the king loves him, he forgives him his debt.

This satrap then searches for one of his servants who owes him a relatively small debt. Upon finding him, he goes about choking him and demanding that he repay that debt.

His servant responds by pleading for mercy. Yet he refuses to forgive him his debt, and he imprisons him.

Other servants are excessively grieved by the actions of this satrap, and they meticulously recount them to the king.

The king then summons this satrap and asserts that he should have forgiven the debt of his servant, as he has forgiven his debt. He then turns this satrap over to his inquisitors.

Similarly, they should forgive any believer who sins against them, as God has forgiven them for their sins against Him.

Thoughts: Here, we see that Jesus calls believers to refrain from setting boundaries on forgiveness. Ryle offers some insights on this point:

It is clear from this parable that one motive for forgiving others ought to be the recollection that we all need forgiveness at God’s hands ourselves. Day after day we are coming short in many things, “leaving undone what we ought to do, and doing what we ought not to do.” Day after day we require mercy and pardon. Our neighbors’ offenses against us are mere trifles, compared with our offenses against God.

Ryle makes an interesting point by comparing the sins of our neighbors and our sins against God. In order to obey Jesus’ command in this passage, we must begin to comprehend the magnitude of “our offenses against God.” The difficulty of this task is compounded by the fact that we cannot perceive Him with our senses, though. When we offend another believer, their response to our actions can elicit feelings of shame and regret. Yet we cannot readily discern God’s response to our offenses against Him. Perhaps this sobering fact points to the importance of the Holy Spirit in our walk with God; the third member of the Trinity can enable us to perceive His grief over our sins and spur us to truly seek His forgiveness.

Reading through this passage also spurred me to ponder my sinful tendency to bear grudges against other believers over perceived slights. My current view is that most of these perceived slights do not constitute actual offenses against me. While I was offended by these perceived slights, I now believe that I was overly sensitive in those instances. Moreover, I now believe that in general, believers do not set out to offend other believers. Thus, if those with whom I associate these perceived slights did not set out to offend me, then I do not need to forgive them – since they did not sin in those instances. Moreover, I should not bear grudges against them; this is a major challenge, though, and I need God’s grace to overcome this obstacle in my walk with Him and seek their best interests.

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The Parable of the Sower April 8, 2018

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 13:1-23.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus sits in a fishing boat by the sea and presents several riddles to a crowd. He begins by telling them a parable about a sower whose seed lands in the following places:

  • hard, beaten paths – where it is snatched up by birds
  • soil that lies on top of limestone rock – where plants die because their roots cannot penetrate the rock to access water
  • soil that contains weeds – where plants die because their roots must compete those of the weeds for moisture and sunlight
  • soil that is deep and clean – where plants grow abundantly.

He then informs His disciples that He tells parables because parables enable those who:

  • accept Him – including His disciples – to attain a deeper understanding of His kingdom
  • reject Him to become more perplexed regarding His kingdom – thereby fulfilling a prophecy in Isaiah 6:9-10.

He then explains the parable about a sower to His disciples, asserting that the sower represents those who preach the Gospel message. Moreover, when the Gospel message is preached to those who:

  • reject it, Satan causes it to have no impact on them
  • respond with exuberance, they later fall away due to trouble and persecution
  • are occupied by worldly things, these worldly affections prevent them from praising God
  • accept it and genuinely repent of their sins, they will praise God.

Thoughts: In verses 16 and 17, we see that Jesus pronounces the disciples “blessed” as they are able to hear directly from Him. In some sense, I envy this privilege of His disciples. The “prophets and righteous people” whom Jesus references looked forward to the day when the people of God could hear directly from the Messiah – instead of hearing indirectly from Him through their words. We, as modern-day believers, look backward to Jesus’ earthly ministry. While Jesus has spoken to us through the human authors of Scripture, we know that it would be better to see Him and hear His voice. Perhaps this should spur us to long for the Second Coming when we will see Him with our own eyes and hear Him with our own ears.

Verse 23 shows that the one who “understands” the Gospel message will praise God with their lives. When I read this passage, I pondered the following question: what does it mean for a believer to understand the Gospel message? Perhaps one should consider the connection between the four potential responses to the Gospel message that Jesus describes in this passage. In order to understand it, we should be cognizant of the following facts:

  • Satan is still active in this world
  • believers experience trouble and persecution
  • worldly things distract believers from praising God.

I believe that “understanding” the Gospel message implies receiving it in humility in light of these facts. We must calmly and soberly respond to the Gospel message, trusting that God will empower us to praise Him with our lives. Indeed, we bear fruit by facing these facts and overcoming them on a daily basis by His wisdom and strength.

As a believer who grew up in a Christian home, I have attended church for many years and listened to countless sermons. Based on my experiences, I believe that those who have studied the Scriptures for many years readily grasp the main point of an arbitrary sermon. Yet it appears that at least some of those whom Jesus addressed in this passage did not grasp the main point of the parable of the sower. This raises the following questions:

  • Did any of them ponder the meaning of this parable?
  • Did the Holy Spirit enlighten any of them in this regard?
  • Did any of them immediately forget it, dismissing it as a mere riddle?
  • Did the Pharisees and teachers of the law pressure any of them to ignore it?

I hope to meet at least some of them in the next life and learn how they initially responded to this parable.