Friday, July 31, 2009

Once Declared "Evil To The Core" African Methodists Make A Stand

Thanks largely to the African Methodists of one of the United States largest denominations, the United Methodist Church will maintain the integrity of the scriptures by refusing to extend rights of membership to homosexual couples and individuals seeking such without repenting or turing from their lifestyle.

What was effectively rejected was known as Amendment 1. Under this amendment all one had to do was affirm or establish a relationship with Christ. They would then be "eligible to become professing members in any local church in the connection". The amendment failed to receive two thirds support of the membership in 27 out of the 44 conferences reporting results.

How Did Such Amendment Get On The Table?

According to the United Methodist Church website, A Methodist Pastor refused to receive a homosexual man into membership in 2005, because the proposed member would not repent nor seek to live a different lifestyle. According to the article a report was made to the Bishop and the pastor was placed on a leave of absence.

Later that same year (10/2005), the Judicial Council ruled that United Methodist pastors have authority to decide who becomes a member of a local church and reinstated the pastor. That case triggered appeals to the Judicial Council, but the court declined to reconsider its ruling.

Leading Up To This

The United Methodist Church seems to have been balancing this issue for a number of years in their General Conference's establishment of rules regulations and resolutions. In the 2000 Book of Discipline and 2000 Book of Resolutions the following statements were made:

Section: Inclusiveness Of The Church
"The United Methodist Church is a part of the church universal, which is one Body in Christ. Therefore all persons shall be eligible to attend its worship services, to participate in its programs, and, when they take the appropriate vows, to be admitted into its membership in any local church in the connection."

Section: "Human Sexuality"
Subsection: "The Nurturing Community,"

"Homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth. All persons need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. Although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching, we affirm that God's grace is available to all. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn their lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons."

What could possible have saved this organization was the policy adopted in Aug. 1998 which states the following:

Section: Law Dealing With Clergy
Sub-Section: Unauthorized Conduct
"Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches."

According to the Judicial Council clergy in violation of this rule could be charged with violating the order and discipline of the church. They can be tried in a church court, and penalties upon conviction can include loss of ministerial credentials.

Soulforce, a Christian gay rights activist group headed by apostate theologian Mel White, has previously stated:

"It is as much our moral responsibility not to cooperate with evil as it is to cooperate with good. The United Methodist Church has become evil at its core."

These statements were in response to the United Methodist rejecting gay inclusion by a vote of nearly 2 to 1 in May of 2000. 191 gay activists and one United Methodist Bishop were arrested as a result of the General Conference's vote. The Soulforce website says the following about The United Methodist church:

"The United Methodist Church, with over 10 million members, condemns homosexual persons by calling all sexual activity between people of the same gender as "incompatible with Christian teachings." The denomination also forbids its ministers from performing both marriages and commitmitment ceremonies for same-gender couples. Additionally, United Methodist Church doctrine bans "self-avowed practing homosexuals" from the clergy.

Delusion and Misdirection

One of the greatest delusions of the homosexual agenda is the confusion as found in the writings of Soulforce. To assert that the United Methodist Church "condemns homosexual persons" by not allowing them membership to the church is a LIE and obfuscation of the truth.

The only "person" that would be condemned under the United Method Church rule would be the person who love their SIN more than they love God. The real question is why should homosexual individuals be given preferential treatment in membership? For example in 2004 the United Methodist Church adopted the following regulations regarding REPENTANT pedophiles and their participation within the church:

ADOPTED 2004 READOPTED 2008 (Resolution # 8009)Resolution #355, 2004 Book of Resolutions:

"We encourage the Church to provide a safe environment, counsel, and support for the victim. While we deplore the actions of the abuser, we affirm that person to be in need of God’s redeeming love."

"Welcoming a child sex offender into a congregation must be accompanied by thorough knowledge, careful planning, and long-term monitoring..."A convicted and/or registered sex offender who wishes to be part of a church community should expect to have conditions placed on his or her participation. Indeed, offenders who have been in treatment and are truly committed to living a life free of further abuse will be the first to declare that, in order to accomplish that, they must structure a life that includes on-going treatment, accountability mechanisms, and lack of access to children"
The repentant pedophile is welcomed similar to the repentant homosexual. This is simply an example that issues of sexual immorality of all kinds have been addressed by this church. What is really at question by the dissenters is the word of the Lord against homosexuality. Unfortunately too many believers are not convinced that the bible condemns the practice of homosexuality and have no idea as to how to navigate the scriptures regarding such activities. I have addressed one aspect of that question in my article Homosexuality In The New Testament.

Closing Remarks:

Thank God there are individuals such as Bishop James Stanton of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, willing to stand against sin as referenced by Gcmwatch.com, it is incumbent upon the church both leaders and its members to stand and continue to stand against evil of all kinds and sorts. Homosexuality is not the ONLY issue facing the 21st century church but it is a major and one that challenges the future morality of the nation and the church. Whether science ever finds a homosexual gene or not, homosexuality is immoral and a practice that should be repented of so that fellowship with Christ and his church can be established. Those who reject the gospel truth against unrighteousness are the ones that are "evil to the core" not the ones who desire to uphold biblical morality.

Blessed!

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Salvation: Is The Message Revealed To Those Who Have Never Heard?

The Argument

The critic levels many accusations at Christianity. One of those accusations is aimed at the effectiveness of the proliferation of the message of salvation. You see Christianity holds that if one is not a Christian, one cannot be made righteous with God and therefore will be worthy of hell. In many circles it is also held that if one does not hear the gospel message one cannot be forgiven for their sins, set free or be righteous. Paul says that the gospel (the message of it) is the power of God unto salvation:

Rom.1:16~ "16-For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
He further states that hearing the gospel is the way that faith comes into the mind and heart of the believer:

Rom.10:17~"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
Immediately before this statement however he declares and questions rhetorically the process of how belief arises within the heart of a believer:

Rom. 10:13-15 ~ "13-For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14-How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15-And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!"
Paul's declaration has given rise to the thoughts that by ONLY the preaching of the Gospel can one be saved and that without IT faith cannot arise within the heart, and where there is no faith, one can not be saved. The writer of Hebrews picked up on this theme:

Heb. 11:6~"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
The part that we are not addressing in this post is the relationship of faith to salvation. We have discussed and will continue to discuss that in Are Works And Faith Inseparable? This post we are discussing the relationship of hearing the gospel and the message of faith to the community of humanity who may never hear or have never heard that message.

The Current Reality:

Interestingly, by best efforts at estimation, only 2.1 billion persons, approximately 1/3 of the worlds population, is Christian. Before we proceed there are problems with that estimate and additional qualifications that must be made. Religious Tolerance.Org states that some of the problems with estimating how many Christians there are worldwide is as follows:

1- The definition of 'Christian' is not agreed upon by many of the groups involved therefore drawing the line between 'Christian' and those who belong to 'sects' is problematic. [Example: Groups such as Mormons and Jehovah's Witness claim to be Christian's although they are in actuality non-Christian cults.][Religious Tolerance.Org didn't say that part, I did.]

2- No-one can really tell if a person is a Christian at heart, or if they are just paying lip-service to the name.

3- "The percentage of Christians in the world peaked at about 30 % in the 1980s, leveled off, is now declining, and will probably approximate to about 25% of the world's population by 2025. As a result of their extremely high rates of population growth, the proportion of Muslims in the world will continue to increase dramatically, amounting to 20 percent of the world's population about the turn of the century, surpassing the number of Christians some years later, and probably accounting for about 30 percent of the world's population by 2025." ~ Samuel Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations and the remaking of world order," Touchstone Books, (1998)

Christian growth is on the decline and even if it were flat, at the most liberal estimate it still holds that approximately 60% of the worlds population is non-Christian. Those numbers have varied over the years throughout history however, at any given time it could be said that 50% or less of the worlds population were Christian believers.

What Does That Mean?

It means that most of the world is non Christian and according to the most popular definition of salvation will be lost in their sins. The question that arises from this, is what of the eternal disposition of the peoples and individuals who have never heard the gospel? In some cases it could be that certain individuals will never and have never heard the message of the cross and are therefore determined to go to hell.

That concept, as strange as it may sound, is not totally foreign to the church and many believers, especially them that hold belief in Evangelical and Reform Christian Theological circles. In fact this is the assertion of Dr. John Calvin the father of Calvinism regarding this and related issues:

“...(God) does not create everyone in the same condition, but ordains eternal life for some and eternal damnation for others.” (Cited in Alister McGrath, Christian Theology, p. 396)
This is descriptive to what is called the doctrine of Double Predestination (the elect are predestined to be saved while the non-elect are predestined to hell) To be fair many Calvinists do not hold to this ascription as it is stated, however it is a telling backdrop for what many assert regarding the nations and individuals who have never heard the gospel and have never received the message.

Is There Another Understanding?

Thank God, Yes, there is. Without a doubt belief in Jesus is essential for salvation. The word records:

John 14:5-6~"5-Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? 6-Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
The question is how can and does that belief come to an individual? And can salvation come to an individuals who has never heard the message?

What We Know:

We know that God has spoken to us through Jesus:

Heb. 1:1-2 ~ "1-God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2-Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds"
We also know that that God was in Jesus reconciling the world unto himself and has given the church that same ministry of reconciliation:

2 Cor. 5:19 ~ "To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation"
We also know that Jesus will present to himself a "glorious church":

Ephes. 5:26-27~"26-That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27-That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."
We also know that the church is ultimately those who believe and hold fast to their profession of faith through their actions. The church may include many in the earthly or physical church but there is a greater and ever growing gap between those in the "glorious church" and those in the natural or physical church that we see currently.

Teleologically & Cosmologically Speaking:

Atheist Richard Dawkins in his book, "The Blind Watchmaker" summarizes the study of Micro-Biological Science as the study of complicated things that APPEAR to be designed by an intelligent designer or creator. In other words what is obviously apparent in creation, even at a microbiological level displays evidence of a designer. Dr. Dawkins then spends the rest of the book trying to show that observations can be deceiving and in this case incorrect, and that all things, even complicated structures, are simply matters of chance and blind occurrences of natural processes. Never mind in the interim that Dr. Dawkins undermines the value of empirical science, as he is a scientist that can interpret information subjectively and based upon his presuppositions and try to explain away the complexity of design (Teleology). Even in that however his summation does not change the observation that there is order and an apparent design within creation.

The Christian accounts for that design by declaring that God is responsible for it based on the declarations made through the written testimony of history (the Bible)and secondarily many empirical scientific observations. Many of these observations are not however limited to the Western world and biological science laboratories. They are made public and known throughout all creation and to all people to some degree or extent. This observation of nature is called the observation of the cosmos (ie:cosmology)

What does this mean? It means that God can speak to people, and reveal his truth, to individuals and nations, through creation. The awe of the universe is testimony to the glory of God declaring his works as the Psalmist says.

Ps. 19:1-6 ~ "1-The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. 2-Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. 3-There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. 4-Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, 5-Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. 6-His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof."
This Psalm gives the declaration that God speaks through what is observable in nature and the human conscience. Through observation individuals can understand that not only do they exist but that God (ie: a creator)exists also. This is not secret but is done for all men to see wherever people can observe and wherever conscience can be exercised. Paul, in the New testament, reverberates this same sentiment and closes the gap even tighter by declaring that people are "without excuse":

Rom. 1:19-20~ "19-Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20-For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:"
What About Them That Can't See?

God, yet through the existence of life, speaks so that all whether they can observe physically or not, are able to experience his handywork. Sometimes we feel that the only way God reveals himself is through the senses, however his revelation to man is far greater than the sensory capacity of any individual. This is one way that the blind can come to "see" who Jesus is.

What About Personal Revelation?

One of the most touchy areas in which God reveals himself to individuals is the area of personal revelation.As surprising as it may seem, personal revelation was the method by how Paul and the original Apostles became convinced of the authenticity of Jesus. The case could be made that personal revelation of this sort is only reserved for those who Jesus calls Apostles however it should also be noted that Jesus was also personally revealed to women who were not called or given the title of an Apostle, UND Professor John P. Mier in his work "A Marginal Jew Vol. 3" points out that this is partially due to the fact that there was no equivalent word for a female apostle in the Hebrew or Aramaic language:

Lk. 24:10~"It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles."
Although Paul points to the gospel as the chief vehicle that leads to salvation he himself was not preached to in the traditional sense. He was converted by an experience where Christ was revealed to him on Damascus road:

Acts:9:10-12 ~ "3-And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4-And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5-And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 6-And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. 7-And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. 8-And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. 9-And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink"
He recounts his experience later in his epistle to the Galations:

Galations 1:15-20 ~ "15-But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, 16-To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17-Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. 18-Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. 19-But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother. 20-Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. 21-Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; 22-And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: 23-But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. 24-And they glorified God in me"
Prior To The New Testament

We see this revelation of God toward humankind as far back as Genesis

When Enos was born(Gen. 4:26)men began to call upon the name of the Lord, what was revealed to them that facilitated these actions?

Melchizedek was known as a priest of the most high God (Gen. 14:18)and was even contrasted to Jesus himself within the NT (Heb. 7:1) How did Melchizedek come to know who God was?

Naaman, a Syrian, came to the prophet Elisha on the word of his wife's servant seeking God's deliverance for his incurable leprosy. (2 Kings 5)How did Naaman credit God with such power? Was his seeking simply a matter of convenience or desperation?

The syrophonecian woman pleaded with Jesus for her daughter's deliverance (Mk. 7:24-30). How did she know the works of God moved through Jesus life until he had power over devils?

The Assyrian capital Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah. How did they recognize and prioritize the warning of God as important?

The argument could be made that all of these individuals heard the message of the Lord and knew of God and his acts before they had their experiences, but that yet does not address the fact that none of these individuals had a special relationship either with to or toward God before these events. In fact most of them were outside the people of "promise" or the chosen of God.

Every Nation That Fears And Works

In Acts 10:35, Peter states that there is an acceptance of God of "every nation that feareth him, and worketh righteousness is accepted with him". (There's that word WORKS again)Back to the point...Traditionally, we have understand this to mean that anyone, without regard, can accept the message of Jesus and be saved. The question is however, was there a greater emphasis on this verse even toward those who may have never heard the message but yet received God into their midst?

One thing is for sure, God has the salvation of the world, even those who have never heard the message of the cross under his control. His mission is still the same today as it was back then...In fact here's what he said:

Lk. 19:10~ "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."

Questions:

What of them that have never heard...can they be saved too?

Should a person take the attitude of, "If God wants to speak to me, he knows where I am?"

Did Paul place too great of an emphasis on preaching the word, especially since the message wasn't so much as preached to him at his conversion?

Does experience equal or exceed a more cognitive acceptance of the gospel message?

Is there a second standard of salvation for some? If so is that fair?

These are tough questions, can we give some tough answers?

Blessed!

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Are Works And Faith Inseparable?

Here Are Some Common Assertions:

"I am saved and I will always be saved no matter what I do."

"Once I am a child of God I will always be a child of God because God doesn’t cast out his children."

"I am one of the elect, I was predestined to be saved therefore I can't miss it no matter what!"

"All I have to do is receive from God, I don't have to do anything else."

These are sentiments that are commonly adorned by Christians in many circles. From these type of thoughts spring the age old debate over whether one can lose their salvation. Then there is another part to the argument, how is one justified, by faith or by works? Because there is so much ground to cover in a topic like this I will look into the possible synergistic relationship between faith and works, and the thought that one is only saved by faith without any works being present. I will try to avoid other non related topics if at all possible. I will try to limit myself to one facet of the question; Can faith and works be separated?

Was There A War Over Justification Between James & Paul?

These are two verses that deal specifically with the same individual:

James 2:21-24~“21-Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22-Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23-And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24-Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”

Romans 4:1-3~“1-What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? 2-For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. 3-For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 4-Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5-But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness”

What are we to make of this apparent contradiction where James says that Abraham was justified by works and not faith only and Paul says Abraham was justified by faith and not works in accounting Abraham righteous?

First we should note that there was no war between Paul and James over this issue or any other for that matter. Both were dealing with the issue to two different audiences for two entirely different purposes. The critic asserts, that the message be the same no matter what the audience if it’s the truth?

Let’s begin by looking at what these scriptures have in common:

1- They both quote the Old Testament in relationship to the issue: Gen. 15:6~“And he believed the Lord; and he counted to him for righteousness.” James even takes it a little further quoting the last part of 2 Chron. 20:7 when Jehoshaphat called Abraham God’s “friend”.

2- Faith is presented as an essential part of salvation

3- Both scriptures deal with justification and what it means to be justified.

4- They were both written to strengthen the believers in their respective missionary endeavors.

How are these scriptures distinguished from one another?

1- James was writing to Jewish believers primarily prior to 45 AD.

2- Paul was writing primarily to Gentile believers in Rome prior to his visit during his 3rd missionary journey in 68 AD.

3- James was encouraging believers that works accompanied faith and that they were inseparable. The aim was at the personal walk, practical actions and personal works.

4- Paul was writing to his audience to build their defense against Judaizers who required newly converting Christians to accept Jewish “works of the Law” as a method to obtain righteousness.

5- James deals the resultant actions that accompany life changing faith

6- Paul deals with the circumstance of faith at the moment of salvation.

As you can see these men approached the same subject emphasizing different aspects of the same scriptures. What is Justification that is in question?

Justification~In Christian theology, justification is God's act of declaring or making a sinner righteous before God.

For the Gentile believer the message was clear that justification was by faith and they need not be entangled with anyone trying to convince them to exercise the “works of the law” in trying to obtain or solidify their salvation.

For the Jew having already believe in Jesus the message was clear that they were to continue in their good personal works and interactions towards one another. James had made known right before that the law (OT) was insufficient in and of itself because if one offended in one point one was guilty of all. (James 2:10)For James the resultant actions of faith were works whereby individuals were able to identify justification of life and of the spirit. Therefore the believers faith spoke through their actions and good works. For Paul the justification of God was instant and without assistance regardless of anyone’s ability to externally identify the work of God in the life of the believer at that moment. For both men good works in practical living were the accompaniment of such faith and justification. Paul specifically clears up any potential misunderstandings of his position regarding practical holiness and resultant work of sanctification in the life of the believer (see: Rom. 6:1-2) by saying that those who experienced the grace of salvation in Jesus could not live any longer in sin because we were now dead to sin.

Can Faith And Works Be Separated?


The bible speaks of faith in two distinct terms. 1- The daily practice of the believer and 2- the general and overall belief of the believer. One who walks by faith does so because they also have a faith belief. Although there is some intertwining, I am focusing on that practical or daily part of the faith walk.


If faith and works can be separated there are some inescapable consequences. What are they?

I will begin by saying that if faith can be separated from works (what one does because of what they believe) then salvation stands on one leg and that is the leg of either works or faith only. In the western world the idea of salvation through faith is a much more common notion because of the works of reformer Martin Luther. This notion of faith only salvation is termed Sola Fide(Latin: Faith Alone the only means in reference to justification) A scriptural text normally used to validate this doctrine is from the Pauline Epistle of Ephesians:

Ephes. 2:8-9~“8-For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: 9-Not of works, lest any man should boast”

Although there are a host of biblical passages that may set this notion on its ear, the argument most damaging to the Sola Fide position is that if we can truly separate faith from works then what is the real practical effect of faith? In practical terms it should be noted that those who continue to live and exercise faith should have additional responsibility to bear the experience of out faith publicly. Many however approach this in the opposite manner teaching that because there is nothing that one can do to be saved that there is also nothing one can do to become unsaved. A monergistic thesis such as that then reduces works to non essential or adjunct elements within the process of salvation affixing a desired but flexible standard of presentation to the world through the walk of the believer.

The question is then, is what does the gospel teach about the relationship of faith and works?

Clarification Of Works From The “Works Of The Law”

One point that should be clarified right away is that when we see the word “works” in the scripture we often think of things that we can do such as being good, nice, lending a helping hand etc. These are moral interactions and duties that all people that have relationship with Christ or not perform. Their works are commendable and are worthy of noting. I have thoroughly addressed that issue in my previous post on "Works, Do They Have Any Value With God?".

However there is another understanding of works that is essential for every bible reader approaching this subject. That is understanding the difference between personal works and the “Works Of The Law” or of sacrifice to wash away sins. It is at this point that I believe that many individuals get confused. How? We know that the scripture has said that the “works of the law” have been made of noneffect. ie: There is no sacrifice such as those of bulls, goats, sheep, oxen etc. that can be rendered to save souls:

Heb. 10:3-5~“3-But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4-For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. 5-Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6-In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.”

This understanding is especially important because of the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. The mystery in this is that God’s acceptance of Temple sacrifice actually ended in approximately 30- 33 AD when Jesus died upon the cross. Remember what Jesus declared from the cross:

John 19:30~“30-When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.”

That declaration was the fulfillment of temple sacrifice and the system of the “works of the law”. From that moment on, there was no ceremony that anyone could do to make themselves acceptable with God as it pertained to the remission of sins. The Levitical priesthood and its mission was fulfilled. The mission of remitting sins through the blood of unblemished, first year animals was ended:

Heb. 9:11-14~“11-But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12-Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13-For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14-How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

Within the Pauline Epistles Paul taught from this standpoint concerning the “works of the law” Many times within scripture and the gospels the word “works” signifies this process. In the NT the message is that these types of works cannot bring salvation as the finished work of Christ on the cross is superior and provides the sufficiency of salvation, reconciliation and peace with God.

Gal. 3:9-14~“9-So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. 10-For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. 11-But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. 12-And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. 13-Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: 14-That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”

Personal or Practical Works Of The Believer

With all of that said, it is at this point that many individuals miss the further message. The area of personal actions or “works” are clear in the gospels as being not only a authenticator of salvation, but also something that runs hand in hand along with how one is saved both before God and man. The gospel is clear about such personal actions:

Mt. 5:16~“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

In this very simple verse from one of the greatest messages that has ever been taught, (The Sermon On The Mount) Jesus used the example of a candle, used to light a home or the city at night, contrasting it to the actions, duties and behaviors of the believer. In this particular verse he is not speaking of "works of the law” but interpersonal works of action whereby the truth is represented. The part to note in this verse is that Jesus said that the works were done for the following reasons:

1- So that men could see.
2- So that the Father (God) would be ultimately glorified

John allows us to see that the light was actually Jesus himself being the life and the “light of men” (Jn. 1:4) In essence the light that we're supposed to let shine is Jesus himself through our lives. If we possess that light, by virtue of that, we also possess Jesus, and by virtue of that, good works were unavoidable consequence, process and part of that relationship in general. The point is that works carry a much closer relationship to salvation than many care to note or have noted in many Christian circles. Yet another scripture often hailed as the Christian Constitution of Faith, drives the point home even more closely:

Rom. 2:1-11~“1-Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. 2-But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. 3-And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? 4-Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? 5-But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; 6-Who will render to every man according to his deeds: 7-To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: 8-But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9-Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 10-But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: 11-For there is no respect of persons with God”

Then there is a response that is necessary and appropriate in the life of the believer in expectation of the righteous appearing of the Lord in the day of Judgement:

1 John 3:3~“And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”

Of course this purification is in the expectation of Christ’s appearance (Second Return & Subsequent Judgement) and eventual conclusion of all things. Then there is the promise that without personal holiness that the Lord will not be seen in peace:

Heb. 12:14~“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:”

What may be controversial is that the reward and punishment will have its root in personal actions. Look at this:

Rev. 22: 11-14~“11-He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. 12- And behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. 13- I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. 14- Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”

Now many claim that Rev. 22 refers to the judgement of the righteous for reward, and that the judgement for the unrighteous is contained in Revelation 20 1-15 that we dealt with in our previous post “Does the Bible Teach A Literal Hell?” While that hermeneutic may be true, we should note that it is not uncommon for apocalyptic literature to layer themes and use repetition to drive home the meaning of what is being communicated. Either way one cannot avoid the fact that even in the judgement of the unrighteous, individuals will be judged “according to their works” (Rev. 20:12)

What is telling in all of these type of judgements, a faith position is not in question. Only the works or actions of an individuals are called into question and judged.


"The Law" In Galations 5:18-24


18-But if ye are led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19-Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20-Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21-Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22-But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23-Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24-And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts."

Apostle Paul's writing to the Galations begins with an inclusio at verse 18 saying:

"But if ye are led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law"

He then lists 17 works of the flesh and says,"I tell you as I have also told you in times past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." (v.21b) . He then names 9 characteristics that are indicitve of the "fruit of the Spirit" (v.22) and closes his inclusio saying "against such there is no law" (v.23)

Many theologians at this point claim that the "law" referenced is the "restraint" of the OT Law. Many assert that what is being declared is freedom from legalistic bondage of daily living. However the key is in what the chapter is talking about from the beginning. Paul begins Galations 5 talking about the "yoke of bondage". Scholars agree that this a reference to Judaism or the Levitical or ceremonial law for righteousness. It would therefore be inconsistent for Paul to switch to discuss a different aspect of the "law" at the end of chapter 5 without any notice.

With the understanding in mind that Paul is addressing the "works of the law" and Temple ceremonialism, the scripture comes to life explaining that if we are led of the Spirit we are not under the Levitical system any longer. The challenging part is the realization that he is actually saying that our deeds will keep us out of the Kingdom if we allow ourselves to live after the flesh. Nevertheless, Paul declares that what the Spirit produces within the life of the believer is evident and does not violate even the letter or intent of that law which is right relationship with God.

Treatment Of Matthew 25: 31- 46

In my previous post this was one of the most controversial and thought provoking verses:

Mt.25:31-46~ "31-When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32-And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33-And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34-Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35-For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36-Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37-Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38-When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39-Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40-And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41-Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42-For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43-I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44-Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45-Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46-And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."

This verse describes the Son Of Man (the messianic title of Jesus referencing Daniel 7:14) sitting upon the throne of his glory (actions of God) and the King (of hosts). This verse is a clear reference to God in the "Day Of Judgement". In this scenario we see both “goats” and “sheep” They were judged in relationship to actions (works) towards two groups of people

1- “the least of these my brethern”
2- “one of the least of these”

Although I am not convinced that this scripture was limited to the treatment of the apostles in their missionary work and endeavors or solely limited to how one treats Israel, I render what scholar and internet apologist J.P. Holding says about this particular verse and agree with the fact that the concept of judgement within scripture is based upon a vastly different paradigm than it is within Western society :

“Who are the "brethren"? The poor, the sick, as the soft in heart suggest? No

Matthew 12:48~But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

The poor, the sick, and so on is not a group in a one to one identity with those who do God's will. Who are those who do God's will? In the above, it is clearly the disciples of Jesus. Matthew 25:31-46 is all about judgment based on how one treated the disciples of Christ. The passage needs to be read in light of these earlier ones:

Matthew 10:14-15~And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.

Matthew 10:40-42~He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.

A disciple traveling to and fro with the word in the ancient world is very likely to be in the condition of those described in 25:31-46 -- sick, poorly clothed, and as Jesus predicts, in prison.

"Well, then, what about the atheist who treats Christians nicely? So he gets to heaven, according to this, right?"

If this passage were taken in strict isolation, and meant to be taken that way, and written in the context of an individualist society like ours, one might have a case for that odd individual getting a golden ticket, but it's not so simple. The parable of the sheep and the goats draws upon a certain paradigm found within Judaism of Jesus' day [Keener, Matthew commentary, 603f], which held that the nations (cf. 25:32) would be judged based upon how they treated Israel (4 Ezra 7:37), and the related concept encouraging repressed minorities that God will judge the world based on their treatment of them. In holding this it was never assumed that this was the sole and exclusive basis for judgment. The specific matter of treatment of Israel was isolated to make a point of its importance in context (and here, the context is the end of the age of the law and the beginning of the age of the Messiah; see here -- when the Gospel message would be brought to the Gentile world as a whole).

Moreover, the identification of Jesus with the disciples draws us even closer to the "faith" position. One's response to the disciple is the same as one's response to Jesus, and in a collectivist society, one would not assist a member of a divergent party in the way described unless one accepted and agreed with their message. As Malina and Rohrbaugh note (Social-Science commentary, 151) this parable draws the classic ancient distinction between "ingroup" and "outgroup". There would be no such thing as a "friendly pagan or atheist" who would have sympathy for the Christian.” ~ Courtesy J.P. Holding Tekton Apologetic Ministries Eblock Vol. 1 No. 4 "Please Excuse This Interruption" Bart. D. Ehrman’s “Jesus Interrupted” Pre-Empted

Summary:

“Works of the law” cannot justify one before God

Practical works are a natural outgrowth of saving faith and cannot truly be separated from saving faith.

Any faith that does not produce good works is unauthentic

Faith alone is specifically for the point of salvation but is ineffectual as a position in continued Christian living where there is no spiritual discipline.

Reward will be based on the works of the believer, not the faith of the believer.

The judgement of the wicked, which could include who some think are believers, will be based on their works, as what they express outwardly should be a natural outgrowth of their inward disposition.

I’ve tried to stay on point and deal with the question.

My Answer:

I do not believe that faith and works can be separated. Although I don’t believe that anyone can do anything to save themselves as Jesus has done that on the cross for all those who receive it. I do believe that where there are no good works, either salvation has been lost or never received. I’m not talking about ebbs and flows within the life of the believer, I’m talking about living out the faith unto God every day in daily practice.

What do you think?

Blessed!

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Does The Bible Teach A Literal Hell?

"The Greek word for punishment in Matt 25:46 is KOLASIS - which means corrective discipline. TIMORIA is the Greek word for vindictive punishment. I suggest you look into the original lanuages and study this subject more closely."~Savedbygrace

"FYI Harvey - Is 5:14 is about SHEOL - the grave - not Hell. There is not one single mention of any place called hell in the OT. Are you reading the KJV or NKLV? I sugget(sic) you get yourself a LITERAL - word for word Bible."..."Also, it is a LAKE of fire - not a torture chamber or prison of fire. There are no bars on a Lake to keep anyone in. This LAKE {referring To Revelation 20:13-14}is the baptism of fire that will purify and cleanse away sin and it's effects." ~ Savedbygrace

Another gentleman responded saying that teaching that hell is an everlasting place of punishment was wrong. Regarding the preaching of everlasting condemnation he said: "The latter on the other hand needs to be debunked, eviscerated, shown for the attempted psychological rape it is, and ultimately stamped out of civilized society." ~ Nightmare

What Does The Bible Say?

For the unregenerate, teaching hell is "psychological rape" and should be "stamped out of civilized society"??? WOW!

Although many would say that due to the suffering and evil that we readily observe that hell is here on earth. There is yet another place, however, prepared wherein the eternal wrath of God will be displayed upon all of them that do not submit to the Lordship of Jesus, through repenting and turning from their sins.


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Monday, July 13, 2009

"Works" Do They Have Any Value With God?

This One Is For The Serious Bible Student!

Back To This Week's Lesson:
The scripture you use pertains to saints. The bible was written to (the) believer and not non believers. It says a brother that would mean a brother in Christ Jesus. In the end our good works will mean nothing. Eph. 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through fait, and not of works, lest anyone should boast. Read also verses 10-13. We are to be about the work of God .What ever we do in word or deed we should do all in the name of Jesus. MJ did not not do these things for the glory of God. To God be the glory. Peace out. K. Nichols~July 13, 2009 9:53 AM


I received this comment in my recent post The SIN Factor In that post the material works of Michael Jackson were pointed out by many of our commentors. Based on a few of the opposing inquiries and assertions it was obvious to see that funadamentalism, as it pertains to works, has taken its toll on certain individual's ability to recognize and understand the relationship of good works to a sinner's life and ultimately the judgement of God. There were two basic assertions made as it pertains to the works of a sinner:

1- A Person's Works Mean Nothing To God. (Although this statement was made without qualification it's easy to see that it was pertaining to the works of a sinner in particular)

2- The Bible Wasn't Written To And For The Benefit Of Sinners.

First of all, the good works of a sinner need not intimidate a Christian although a Christian should be ashamed to serve Christ and not present good works to a God who is worthy of our entire being including our works. Works done by men in general, although are not salvific, they are yet encouraged by God, noted by God and are blessed by God whether one is a Saint or a sinner.

Does God Not Acknowledge The Works Of Men?

The plain and simple fact is that God certainly acknowledges the works of men and mankind among both saint and sinner. Since God acknowledges works of sin to provide eternal judgement of those works, and works of righteousness to provide eternal reward, it is incumbent upon the critic to set forth a biblical case as to why God would suddenly overlook the good works of sinner while simultaneously acknowledging and punishing their bad works called sin.

The heart is an abundant treasure for either good or bad. The best good that can come from the heart is repentance with the intent to serve the Lord. Although this is not the point of this article, it is diffucult for the observer to know when God has accepted the soul and heart of individuals and we are simply limited by human abilities. In some cases there could be repentance which we are unaware of. Such testimony of an instance is found within the book of Acts when Peter encountered Cornelius. I have set forth a clear and biblically centered case regarding Cornelius in Cornelius, Was He Already A Believer? on the Dunamis Word 2.

The scripture records:

Acts 10:34-35~"34-Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35-But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him."

In Peter's reconciling of the promise of God upon non-Jewish ethnic groups, Peter came to the realization that God had no variance or class agenda "but in every nation"(Gk: ethnos ie: ethnic group of people), that "feared him"(Gk: phobeo- reverence or treat with obesiance)and did righteously, "worketh righteousness"(Gk: ergavzomai - to make righteous their business, labor or work) that God would bless them. The critic asserts that the "blessing" is upon them that "feared him" therefore blessings are reserved for the works of saved folk only. They key here is in understanding how could a nation of people that didn't know him come to fear him, reverence him and give obesience to him mysteriously?

The Unqualified Blessing Of Abraham

One of the first biblical constructs of unqualified blessing is contained within the blessing we find upon Abraham in Genesis 12. There were 7 blessings outlined upon him and his seed:


Genesis 12:1-4~"1-Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2-And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3-And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

The 7 blessing were:

1- Make of thee a great nation
2- I will bless thee
3- I will make thy name great
4- Thou shalt be a blessing
5- I will bless them that bless thee
6- Curse them that curse thee
7- In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed

Many people,without cause, immediately reserve the blessing that was pronounced upon Abraham for the saint or one who is in communion with God. If one were to consistently apply that method of hermenutic the "curse" would also have to be reserved for and only upon the saint also. From diligent study we realize that quite the contrary is true however, and efforts to make the scripture apply to only one class of persons do not hold spiritual water and as assertions do not hold value. By virtue of our assessment here, we can also see that scripture is not contained to them that have relationship to God or are within his Kingdom. The word of promise, both blessings and curse extend to and are made available to the whole world, saint and sinner alike.

Anatomy Of The Blessing

The facts are that the first 4 blessings are by God's declaration and are upon Abraham and his seed directly. The last 3 blessings are communal and are upon Abraham as it relates and pertains to the interractions with individuals within the community. For those communal blessings there are no qualifications as to who will receive or qualify to receive the blessing, or who will receive the curse or any limitation upon the families that will be blessed because of Abraham.

Since this verse pronounces "unqualified blessings" and "curses", upon the works of individuals, the works of the sinner in obtaining that blessing or curse CANNOT be excluded.

Quick Note: We know the ultimate blessing is the blessing of salvation that is received through the lineage of Abraham through Jesus Christ, and made available for the whole earth, however the promise here is not to the exclusion of non savific blessings. In other words there are more blessings indicated through this verse than blessings only pertaining to salvation.

The Principle Of Right Judgement Of Works & Actions:

In one of the most compelling parts of an argument like this is the acknowledgement that the judgement of the "wicked' has always been proportionate to the sin committed by the sinner. This is what I call the principle of right judgement. This principle is established in the book of Deuteronomy:

Deut. 25:1-4~1-If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked. 2-And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number. 3-Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee. 4-Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn

In order to understand this verse and what is being said we must note the following

1- Not every wicked man is "worthy to be beaten"
2- The wicked is only beaten according to his "fault"
3- The Punishment was not to be to the utter embarassment or humilation of the one being punished.

Jesus acknowledged this same type of sentiment in Luke:

Lk. 12:41-48~"41-Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all? 42-And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? 43-Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 44-Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. 45-But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; 46-The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. 47-And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48-But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."

Jesus viewed the unrighteous works of the believer as accounted among the "unbeliever" or the wicked servants. The key here is that the works of both the wicked and the righteous were evaluated, weighed and adjudicated as to what punishment sould be given. Therefore the "works" of an individual mattered whether one was righteous or not.

Works Of Individuals Are Acknowledged By God:

Finally it is not without saying that works of individuals are both encouraged, acknowledged and promoted by God and they too in many instances are without qualification:

In the previous post Oregonsistah set forth these scriptures:

1 John 3:17-18~"17-But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18-My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

This scripture contextually deals with the compassion of the Christian towards another Christian, but one should ask is the intent of this scripture limited to Christian compassion only? It is better understood that this scripture is a model or standard whereby the saved (Christian) ministers to the unsaved both by example and practice and is not a restriction in ministering to the outside community. Once again a radical left wing hermenutic will promote classism even in applying the standard of love. However it is abundandtly clear that the Christian is to both be and show love both within and without the Kingdom of Christ.

Rom. 12:9 ~ "Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good."

If our standard of love was to be without dissimulation (Gk: anupovkrito ~ unfeigned, without hypocrisy and undisguised) then we cannot justify that this scripture is exclusively for displays of love from Christian to Christian. To insist on that type of treatment for this verse or any contained within scripture is absurd.

Further the New Testament church understood the correlation between works and faith. James set it forth like this:

James 2:15-17~"15-If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16-And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17-Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone."

To say that God somehow overlooks "works" of anyone at any level is beyond scripture and feeds into conjecture and our desire to compartmentalize the actions and behaviors of God.

In another example, Jesus gave the scenario of the judgement to the disciples. You will see 2 groups of people. Sheeps and goats. Everyone thinks they know who the sheeps are (the children of God)but the question is who are the goats and why were there duties the same as the Sheep's?

Mt.25:31-46~"31-When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32-And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33-And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34-Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35-For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36-Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37-Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38-When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39-Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40-And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41-Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42-For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43-I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44-Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45-Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46-And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."

The things we note from this scenario of judgement;

1- Only them that had works were called "righteous" v.37
2- The blessing was extended to them because they had done these works to the "Lord" through serving "the lest of my brethern" v.40
3- Those that were "cursed" were cursed because they did nothing.
4- Those that were cursed failed to serve "the least of these" v.46, which is a language change from v.40

The works of righteousness stand before us and with us:

Rev. 14:13 ~ “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”

Comparative Sins, Righteousness & Judgement

In one of the most startling comparisons found in the New Testament Mt. 11:20-24 and Lk. 10:12-16 we find that Jesus compares both the sin and judgements of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum to the judgements of Sodom and Gommorah saying that the latter would be judged greater than the former cities because they rejected Jesus and his word in a more personal fashion.

Mt. 11:20-24 ~ "20-Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: 21-Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22-But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. 23-And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24-But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee."

From A Humanistic Standpoint

Works, whether of righteous or unrighteous individuals can help save lives and change fortunes of the receipients. Some individuals have tapped into that free flow of of giving without qualification. Paul understood this concept and Luke records his comments toward the principle:

Acts 20:35 ~ "I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."

A person's "works" mean something both to God and men as God does not overlook any actions among men. God is not capricious or arbritrary in his judgements towards men...His judgements are right therefore all things and considerations are included within it. If a sinner feeds the hungry that meal should be equally accepted as if the righteous were providing the food. Certainly the good deed will not be overlooked either by god or mankind. Assertion to the contrary are ridiculous notions.

The ultimate judgement of the soul is made on one essential point that cannot be purchased with anything other than repentant faith, however God acknowledges even the least gesture of grace compassion and mercy extended among men toward men because we have been created in HIS likeness and image above all of creation and extension of service towards one another is among the higher calls in life.

Summary Questions:

Does God Despise Blessing Sinners? NO

Does God Have A Covenant Relationship With Sinners? NO, not until the sinner repents, then he/she becomes a Christian.

Can A Sinners Works Save Him? NO. (Ephes. 2:8-9)

Can a Sinner's Works Cause Him/Her To Be Blessed? Absolutely.

Are The Works Of Sinners Acknowledged By God? Certainly. God acknowledges, blesses and even curses individuals for their works.

Do the Works Of Sinners Have Value Before God? Absolutely and without question. In fact in some instances sinners bring blessings into their lives through acts of grace or kindness and noone but God orchestrates true blessings upon the lives of people.

Was The Bible Written For The Benefit Of Sinners? Certainly. The message is the power of God unto salvation (Rom.1:16) unto salvation and blessing for all to adhere to. The desire os that one will be saved by it's message but application of biblical principles in life will even bless a sinner.

Conclusion:

The Christian performs works as an outgrowth of a committment to Christ. As stated works cannot save but as one should be able to see, this is a common sense argument.

Many of us can identifiy sinners in our life that have been blessed, acknowledge that the blessing is from God and are yet unsaved. Still many others can acknowledge individuals who serve the community faithfully and rightfully but are yet not saved. Those things happen around us everyday and those works and actions are very important to many individuals including them that are saved.

It is a shame that many in the church would be so predjudicial as to pervert the biblical message of serving humanity just because certain "works" were not done by persons that served the Lord. Please keep in mind that 2 of the wealthiest men in the United States (Bill Gates & Warren Buffet) do not honor or fear the Lord. Their works will not buy them salvation at any price however, no one can challenge the effectiveness of their gifts, the works that they have rendered to the world and in many cases the benefits that believers and their families and churches have received as a result of the efforts of these men.

God values the works of all men who take the time to selflessly display the kindness and concern for others. The Christian should set the pace for this, but oftentimes falls into the trap of self-righteousness and classism. When will the church turn to bless the world that we live in? I'll tell you when, when we repent and begin to serve one another and all of humanity!

Blessed!


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Thursday, July 9, 2009

The SIN Factor

Matthew 12:34-35 ~ "34-O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. 35-A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things."

I had not planned on taking time to go further into the Michael Jackson story or related issues surrounding his death, that is at least until I sat down to watch Bill O'Rielly's "The Factor"on FOX Wed. July 8th 2009.

In one of the most strange and insulting interviews that I have ever seen by a "supposed" professional news talk show host, Mr. O'Rielly set out to receive a response from Rev. Al Sharpton on a prior interview with Republican Congressman Peter King Of New York. Remember Peter King openly alleges (against a unanimous 12-0 jury decision) that Michael Jackson was a serial pedophile and child molester and that news coverage of his memorial and events leading to the memorial were excessive and shows that America has totally lost its sense of value and morals. (I got news for him, America had lost much of that long BEFORE Michael Jackson's death, and it began with arrogant individuals like himself...If he could pulled his pious and racist head out of the sand long enough, he may see that, if only but for a minute)

In the response interview segment, Rev. Sharpton's only point was that it was irresponsible for a "lawmaker" (Congressman King) to repeatedly disrespect the rule of law (which he is sworn to uphold) by continuing to make criminal allegations of Michael Jackson's guilt especially since he was acquitted of all 10 counts that were brought against him in the 2004-2005 trial in Santa Barbara, CA.

In a particularly strange exchange, Mr. O'Rielly challenged the statements of Rev. Sharpton who said that Michael Jackson was an influential post civil rights era entrepreneur that opened many doors for blacks in the entertainment industry and had a positive impact on American culture.

Specifically, Rev. Sharpton gave 3 basic facts in support of his statements. He said:

1- Michael was the first black musician/entertainer to break into the short film/video era with the directing of his short story videos which were the first of their kind opening opportunities for industry professionals to expand their talents and impact in the entertainment field.

2- He stated that Michael was a leader, employing and opening the doors for many black entertainers and musicians who would go on to have successful careers and carry on other efforts and ventures of significance.

3- He stated that Michael was the first musician to use his platform to raise significant amounts of money to aid children in Africa to the tune of over $50 Million in the "We Are The World" collaborative venture and further gave record setting amounts of his earnings to charitable causes around the world.


Rev. Sharpton asked Mr. O'Rielly "are these not FACTS" about what Michael Jackson did? Mr. O'Rielly responded by saying;

"THOSE THINGS ARE NOT IMPORTANT"

Mr. O'Rielly then stuck his foot further in his mouth (even though it was already out of his posterior by then) and questioned the race of Michael Jackson's children and Michael's parentage of those children by making this statement;

"If Michael was so dedicated to the cause of blacks, then why did he have white children?"..."You don't become an African-American icon when you do something like that,"

Now, I don't intend to argue either of these points biblically in this post. However these are some observations that I couldn't help but make. Alone either of these statements are horrific and worthy of never watching "The Factor" again. Combined, these statements show the persistent and ever evolving racism, jealously, rage and SIN bound in the hearts of people like Bill O'Rielly, Congressman King and others that think like them.

What Must Be Said

Aside fro the fact that O'Rielly is STUPID, his dogmatic assertions should be examined. First, he tells black people what type of icon, they should have and accept. I wonder who died and made Bill O'Rielly the king of black people all of a sudden, or who gave him his grand insights into what black people need to have? Further, NO ONE questions Angelina Jolie's and Brad Pitt's race or iconic status because they have adopted black children. Further NO ONE questions Madonna's iconic status or dedication and sincerity to the black child that she adopted. In neither case are these stars commitments to their communities or race questioned Why is the parentage of blacks, who wish to parent white children, suddenly called into question, because the children are white? Why is the desire to be a parent across racial lines, considered not being faithful to one's race?

Then let's go to O'Rielly's prior STUPID remark...You mean to tell me, that economic opportunity for blacks (who are American citizens) is UNIMPORTANT? Proving aid to those starving and dying with disease around the world is an UNIMPORTANT venture? Mr. O'Rielly, did you suggest or tell this to Bono? By your standards his works are UNIMPORTANT also???

I suppose the only thing that's IMPORTANT to Mr. O'Rielly is unwanted phone sex and sexting in the afternoons or between shows at FOX studios???

Mr. O'Rielly's statements are from a person who is blinded by hate, and feels that his agenda is the most important thing in the world for all men. Bill O'Rielly and people like him live and seeth hatred covered up with an emotional appeal that sounds good but that does nothing to address issues at hand.

It was to the O'Rielly /King types(Pharisees)that Jesus said:

Matthew 23:27-28 ~ " 27-Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. 28-Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity."

I pray that America will turn back to what works and we already know that's God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Only he can take the hate and pain away.

Blessed!

Update: Here is a portion of the transcript from the show as found on O'Rielly's Site Part 1 deals with O'Rielly's disregard for the works of Jackson while he was alive. Part 2 Deals with the "white children" issue. The video is in the transcript so you can view both Sharpton's and King's interviews in their entirety:

Part 1

SHARPTON: What I said was that Michael Jackson, in his career, pop culture, broke down racial barriers. First black to get MTV to run black videos, his. First black to get people like Rolling Stone to have blacks on the cover. These are facts. This is not my guess. That "We Are the World" was the first time a superstar got other superstars to help African hunger. This is a fact. You may not like it, Mr. King may not like it, but those are facts. And I think that for me to say that there is for you and anyone else to raise allegations about his personal life doesn't answer the facts of what he did. He brought people together. This is as irresponsible as someone saying we're going to honor President X in history, and I say but President X…

O'REILLY: All right.

SHARPTON: ...in his personal life did so and so. What does it have to do with the fact that he was president?

O'REILLY: I heard — did you…

SHARPTON: Did Michael Jackson not do the things I just outlined?

O'REILLY: Yeah, but they're not important.

SHARPTON: Well, then that's why…

O'REILLY: They're not important.

SHARPTON: They're not important?

O'REILLY: No, what MTV does isn't important. What Rolling Stone magazine does is not important.

SHARPTON: It is important to the millions of people that bought his records.

O'REILLY: And that's OK.

SHARPTON: He is the top record seller in the world.

O'REILLY: Good. Look, you used to work for James Brown.

Notice how O'Rielly caught himself and went from the works of Michael Jackson not being important to MTV and Rolling Stone Magazine not being important. Look at the video to see if you see the same thing that the transcript records.

Part 2:

O'REILLY: Answer me this. I heard a lot of people yesterday — and I think you were one of them, but correct me if I'm wrong — saying that Michael Jackson was some kind of African-American icon.

SHARPTON: Yeah, he was.

O'REILLY: Well, then why did he have white children?

SHARPTON: What does that have to do?

O'REILLY: What does that have to do? He chose to have in vitro by a white woman and a white man. What does that have to do?

SHARPTON: So in order for him to be an African-American icon…

O'REILLY: An icon? An icon?

SHARPTON: Wait a minute.

O'REILLY: Why would he have that choice? Why?

SHARPTON: Because he — I'm trying to answer you. Would you like an answer from an African-American?

O'REILLY: I would. Yes.

SHARPTON: Because he broke all records. He changed music. He brought people together.

O'REILLY: No, the kids, the kids.

SHARPTON: Well, we didn't say he was an African-American — father of African-American children. We said he was an African-American icon.

O'REILLY: An icon? But why would he have white kids then?

SHARPTON: What he did in his personal life and his personal — has nothing to do with his iconic status.

O'REILLY: It doesn't?

Let me know your thoughts.
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