judgment


The proof that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ: the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit on earth in Christ’s Body, the Church.

The Day of Pentecost

Test the Spirits- I John 4

4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (ESV Bible)

According to the Biblical narrative, Pentecost literally represents the “crowning act” of the Incarnation on planet earth. The presence of God’s Holy Spirit in the new temple on earth is the only proof that we need that Jesus is who he said he was and did what God testified in Scripture that he did. We do well to forget about all other hopes for ever proving the Gospel story to the world’s satisfaction.

Rather as another celebration of the Day of Pentecost arrives, we should concentrate on what Jesus and his first disciples tell us about the inseparable connection of the Spirit’s coming to the story. The better we know the story-line in Scripture, the better we will understand the connection and the role of the Spirit in certifying Jesus as the exalted and enthroned Christ. Read for example God’s decree in Psalm 2:

“I have set my King on my Holy hill of Zion!

Read the Apostle Peter’s application of Psalm 2 to explain the coming of the Spirit in the very first sermon following the Ascension of Christ. (Acts 2: 32-36)

There are simply too many scriptures to list in one post that all come together in the story at this momentous historical event. Read the Apostle John’s record of the words of Jesus speaking of this event and what it would mean for his disciples in his ‘Upper Room Discourse’ on the night in which he was betrayed. (Gospel of John, 16:1 – 16).

Beginning with those first disciples, the incredible courage that enabled them to confront the very leaders that rejected Jesus and had him crucified was visible proof for all to see that the Spirit was in them and His power was their strength. This is seen throughout the Book of Acts, the epistles of Paul, and the Jewish epistles.

The ball, as they say, is in our court now. The burden of examining carefully the proof is on you and me. We are charged with “testing the spirits” in the visible community of the followers of Christ. This has always been necessary beginning with the first generation of Christians for the spirit of the world, which is the spirit of Anti-Christ, is present along side of the Holy Spirit.

So, how do we test the spirits? By observing the life of the churches! Beginning with the work the Spirit has come to do, reproduce the righteousness of Christ in His people; examine the very thing Christ himself gave us as the first thing to look for: His love for oneanother. (Read I John 3- 4) 

Little children, let no man deceive you.

I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life

14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; [1] believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? [2] 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (Gospel of John, ESV Bible).

Take a fresh look at this text from what we call the “Upper Room Discourse”; the intimate conversation Jesus had with his disciples, following the inauguration of the New Covenant and just before he went out to his enemies to be crucified.

What did Jesus mean when he said,” I go to prepare a place”?

Why was it necessary that he ascend into heaven for the duration of this present age? What is he accomplishing in his new role at the “right hand of the Father?” These are very important questions to meditate on and see what answers you can come up with in the Biblical narrative. You can start by reading Revelation 5 and get the heavenward perspective. Here are some more starters-

  • His office/function as our Mediator between the Father and humankind.(see Hebrews)
  • His perfect communion as the beloved Son on behalf of his followers on earth.
  • His role as carrying out the Father’s Kingdom rule as he told his disciples: “All authority has been given me in heaven & on earth”.
  • His role as the Head of the Church which he actively engages in through His Spirit (see letters to the 7 churches of Asia minor of the Apostle John, and the Ephesian letter of the Apostle Paul).
  • His role of judging the nations (see John 5:16-47).

These consequences, and much much more, directly flow from the victorious Christ above to us here on earth because he did win the decisive victory on planet earth & then ascended into heaven to carry on the battle:  ” Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when he puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign till he has put all enemies under his feet!”

The tragedy is, The Ascension is probably the most neglected event in the Church’s liturgy. Please don’t neglect it on May 9, 2013!

see related post: What is Jesus Doing?

see also the article at Wikipedia

 

A Faithful Minister grapples with the meaning of tragedy. In 1756,  a

Rev.Samuel Davies (1723-1761)

Presbyterian minister was sharing with his congregation in Virginia his conclusions from Scripture after agonizing over the tragic losses in the great earthquake which had struck Lisbon, Portugal in December of 1755.  In 1759 this same Minister, Samuel Davies, would become the 4th President of Princeton University, then known as the College of  New Jersey. His Biblical text:

“Those who flee in terror will fall into a trap, and those who escape the trap will step into a snare. Destruction falls on you from the heavens. The earth is shaken beneath you. The earth has broken down and has utterly collapsed. Everything is lost, abandoned, and confused. The earth staggers like a drunkard. It trembles like a tent in a storm. It falls and will not rise again, for its sins are very great!”

Isaiah 24:18-20

There are several blogs as well as an op-ed in the Washington Post that are speaking of this tragedy in 1755 and its effects on philosophers and clergymen alike and suggesting contrasts with the way such news is received today. Basically,  Samuel Davies is representative of Pastors all along the east coast following the time of the Great Awakening (ref. Jonathan Edwards sermon, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God”). They openly and clearly spoke of such tragedies as ‘judgments’ of the Providence of God and they got their ideas from their interpretation of the Holy Bible.

Without posting any of the sermon here, I will make the entire sermon available to E4Unity readers and urge you to read it in light of recent tragedies that have come to pass in our world. It also makes a serious read for the true spirit of the Lenten season.

Sermon Lisbon Earthquake

Farewell Sermon, July 1, 1759, to Hanover, Virginia congregation.

Note: Young Samuel Davies is one of a number of outstanding Ministers in Church history who died an ‘early’ death. He was only 37 years old.

 

” That they may behold my glory” – The Prayer of Jesus 


Gifts of the Ascended Christ

 

The greatest desire that Christ expressed in his prayer was that his people might be with him to behold his glory. It is clear that in this prayer the Lord Christ was referring to his own glory and the actual sight of it.

Only a sight of his glory, and nothing else, will truly satisfy God’s people. One of the greatest privileges the believer has, both in this world and for eternity, is to behold the glory of Christ.

Ever since the name of Christ was known on the earth, there has never been such direct opposition to the uniqueness and glory of Christ as the present day. It is the duty of all those who love the Lord Jesus to testify according to their ability to his uniqueness and glory.

I would therefore try to strengthen the faith of true believers by showing that to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ by faith is the climax of all Christ’s requests for his disciples in this present world. Here in this life, beholding the glory of the Lord, they are changed into his own likeness by his Spirit (2Cor.3:18). Hereafter, they will be like him for they will see him as he is (1 John 3:2). This knowledge of Christ is the continual life and reward of our souls.

If, therefore we would have a more active faith and a greater love to Christ, giving rest and satisfaction to our souls, we must have a greater desire to see more of his glory in this life. We should not look for anything in heaven other than what we have some experience of (by faith) in this life. If we were fully persuaded of this we would be more often thinking about heavenly things than we usually are.

- John Owen (1684) from The Glory of Christ, the theme of the final year of his life (d.1683).

If Owen found it difficult in England in his day, how much more in our day to keep the greatest gift of all our constant priority. The Advent season is the perfect time to evaluate the year and one’s own choices to judge how well we have resisted all the distractions of the world and kept our eyes on this Leader who is both the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

 

Watch ‘Jesu, Joy of man’s desiring’.

For Brazilians: YouTube honoring Nilson Fanini (1932-2009)  “Verei Jesus como Ele e’ ” e tambem “Para Que vejam a minha gloria” http://youtu.be/3HLhhHNDvxg

Related Post: What difference has looking made?

 

 

Hell is an essential part of LENT.

To not speak of hell is not an option for those who want to be faithful to the Biblical story. It shows up in many places where the word itself is not specifically used. But the concept is there in both the Old as well as the New Testaments.

So we must speak and to answer my own question of how, I will say first, with dignity and respect for all of you who will read this post. I confess that this is hard to do and not something that is very common in our religious history. Just think of the latest example. The ad that was rejected by the Super-bowl committee for the game/soon to be movie, “Dante’s Inferno“.(see Dante’s “Divine Comedy“)

But this version of hell as well as the classic it takes it’s name from is not exactly the concept and theme that is so central in the Biblical narrative. I’ve heard that Jesus the Christ himself spoke more about this theme than anything else other than the Kingdom of God. I listened to a free-download of a sermon (abbreviated), said to be the most famous sermon ever preached in America. It is “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God“, preached by Jonathan Edwards on July 8, 1741. Maybe you’ve heard of it.

May I suggest that we all down-load this mp3 version and listen to it as it represents faithfully the Biblical concept as well as any sermon can. No book and certainly no one sermon can ever take the place of the Biblical narrative itself. This is certainly true with a major theme such as hell. To lift out even this theme and try to present it separated from its original context in the story-well, you get the picture. This is what led to my original question. How are we possibly able to speak this essential part of the divine message into our present twenty-first century of electronic games with images and sounds so common to every Play-station owning kid?

Free Mp3 Download  (34 min) with Introduction,  narrated by Max McClean.

Billy Graham’s 1949 sermon honoring Edwards ministry, 200 years earlier;  The Jonathan Edwards Center@ Yale University.

An excursion into a universal experience.

I find myself following a train of thought into the Lenten season of discovering why churches have found this time before Easter ideal to talk openly about- Sin. And like the sacrament of confession, to do so together, as a spiritual family.

So, after we just had a very public “apology” for infidelity by one of our fallen sports heroes, and just before the first Sunday in Lent, I went looking for a serious, in-depth treatment of this thing we call Sin. I found much more than I was hoping for in Paul Tillich’s book, The Eternal Now” (Scribner’s Sons, 1963).

In Chapter 4, entitled “The Good that I will, I do not”, taken from the Apostle Paul’s statement in his Roman epistle :

” For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.”
Romans 7:19-20

I think Tillich just about hits the Biblical image of Sin and what Christians must understand if they in turn are to fully appreciate the “good news” of what God has gifted us with in the New Being. Here are some of the better thoughts. I hope you will take time to read them all and receive the intended blessing.

” In these and countless other cases, we experience a power that dwells in us and directs our will against itself.

The name of this power is sin. Nothing is more precarious today than the mention of this word among Christians, as well as among non-Christians, for in everyone there is a tremendous resistance to it. It is a word that has fallen into disrepute. To some of us it sounds almost ridiculous and is apt to provoke laughter rather than serious consideration. To others, who take it more seriously, it implies an attack on their human dignity. And again, to others — those who have suffered from it — it means the threatening countenance of the disciplinarian, who forbids them to do what they would like and demands of them what they hate. Therefore, even Christian teachers, including myself, shy away from the use of the word sin.”

” We know how many distorted images it can produce. We try to avoid it,or to substitute another word for it. But it has a strange quality. It always returns. We cannot escape it.It is as insistent as it is ugly. And so it would be more honest — and this I say to myself — to face it and ask what it really is.”

” It is certainly not what men of good will would have us believe — failure to act in the right way, a failure to do the good one should and could have done. If this were sin, a less aggressive and less ugly term, such as human weakness, could be applied. But that is just what sin is not. And those of us who have experienced demonic powers within and around ourselves find such a description ludicrous. So we turn to Paul, and perhaps to Dostoevski’s Ivan Karamazov, or to the conversation between the devil and the hero in Thomas Mann’s Dr. Faustus. From them we learn what sin is. And perhaps we may learn it through Picasso’s picture of that small Basque village, Guernica, which was destroyed in an unimaginably horrible way by the demonic powers of Fascism and Nazism. And perhaps we learn it through the disrupting sounds in music that does not bring us restful emotions, but the feeling of being torn and split. Perhaps we learn the meaning of sin from the images of evil and guilt that fill our theaters, or through the revelations of unconscious motives so abundant in our novels.”

” It is noteworthy that today, in order to know the meaning of sin, we have to look outside our churches and their average preaching to the artists and writers and ask them. But perhaps there is still another place where we canlearn what sin is, and that is in our own heart.”

Paul seldom speaks of sins, but he often speaks of Sin — Sin in the singular with a capital “S,” Sin as a power that controls world and mind, persons and nations.”

” Have you ever thought of Sin in this image? It is the Biblical image. But how many Christians or non-Christians have seen it? Most of us remember that at home, in school and at church, we were taught that there were many things that one would like to do that one should not. And if one did them, one committed a sin. We also remember that we were told of things we should do, although we disliked doing them. And if we did not do them, we committed a sin. We had lists of prohibitions and catalogues of commands; if we did not follow them, we committed sins. Naturally, we did commit one or more sins every day, although we tried to diminish their number seriously and with good will. This was, and perhaps still is, our image of sin — a poor, petty, distorted image, and the reason for the disrepute into which the word has fallen.

The first step to an understanding of the Christian message that is called “good news” is to dispel the image of sin that implies a catalogue of sins. Those who are bound to this image are also those who find it most difficult to receive the message of acceptance of the unacceptable, the good news of Christianity. Their half-sinfulness and half-righteousness makes them insensitive to a message that states the presence of total sinfulness and total righteousness in the same man at the same moment. They never find the courage to make a total judgment against themselves, and therefore, they can never find the courage to believe in a total acceptance of themselves.”

‘It is dangerous to preach about sin, because it may induce us to brood over our sinfulness. Perhaps one should not preach about it at all. I myself have hesitated for many years. But sometimes it must be risked in order to remove the distortions which increase sin, if, by the persistence of wrong thoughts, wrong ways of living are inevitable.”

“I believe it possible to conquer the dangers implied in the concentration on sin, if we look at it indirectly, in the light of that which enables us to resist it — reunion overcoming estrangement.

” Sin is our act of turning away from participation in the divine Ground from which we come and to which we go. Sin is the turning towards ourselves, and making ourselves the center of our world and of ourselves, Sin is the drive in everyone, even those who exercise the most self-restraint, to draw as much as possible of the world into oneself. But we can be fully aware of this only if we have found a certain level of life above ourselves. Whoever has found himself after he has lost himself knows how deep his loss of self was. If we look at our estrangement from the point of reunion, we are no longer in danger of brooding over our estrangement. We can speak of Sin, because its power over us is broken.”

Perhaps Tillich’s words may sound a little strange, his vocabulary isn’t exactly what evangelicals, for example, are used to hearing. But when he talks of “reunion overcoming estrangement”, he is speaking of the Christian Gospel, of what the New Testament writers all witness to. That God was ” in Christ, reconciling (re-connecting) the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them… For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”.

This is the direction that I am taking in these 40 days of Lent and I will try to blog about what I discover.

(Read more of Tillich’s essay)

see also Francis Schaeffer’s TRUE SPIRITUALITY-”Law of Love”

A related excursion, Richard Sibbes on “The Conflict of the Soul

 The Gift of God’s Love.

Regardless of whether your faith tradition participates in the Lenten season, the fact that so many Christians world-wide find this an excellent time to prepare for Passion week, should catch our attention. For those of you who do participate, whether or not you actually view this as a Sacrament, great spiritual advantage awaits those who enter into the intended purpose: exposing one’s inner self to the light of God’s searching Spirit which leads to Godly sorrow for sin and true repentance before our heavenly Father. (see 2 Corinthians 7:8-11)

Nothing will give us the courage and motivation to do this which is against our deepest human nature, than to be confident of the Love of God which has been proven at the very event that awaits us beyond lent: the Cross of His only begotten Son.

Look inside for 3 poems

Thank you Christian Books for this look inside for us to enjoy!

The Love of God hymn

One of the ads set to be shown during the SuperBowl next Sunday involves the testimony of Tim Tebow and his mother concerning her courageous choice to give birth inspite of her Doctor’s warning of possible serious consequences. The sponsor of the ad, Focus on the Family, has been under attack from certain sections including NOW.

Here is a another story that I really believe has a tremendous message. It is also about a football player, a former player in the NFL. It is about a mother whose baby was taken from her shortly before she died after she had been shot four times. It’s about the man who killed her who has become a muslim in prison and now talks of “judgment”. It’s about a courageous grandmother and about forgiveness and about much much more.

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=4874549

Oh yes, about that SuperBowl ad. Check out this video from the Washington Post about another pro-life ad from players of the New York Giants winner of the SuperBowl in 1989.

I don’t know, but I have my doubts, especially this year.

Thanksgiving is a North American civil holiday and not an actual religious holiday per se. Thanks to the nature of our American tradition and the function of religion in that tradition, for many it is the time that all faith traditions emphasize the importance of thanksgiving to the Creator and ultimate source of all blessing in life. So in theory, Muslims in the United States could easily embrace this American tradition and the function that it plays in our National identity and culture.

Did you know that there is another celebration, very significant to Muslims world-wide, that begins the day after Thanksgiving (this year) and this is the main reason for my doubts. It is simply a matter of the “prior” engagement that Muslims no doubt will be occupied with, much like my wife is now occupied with as she prepares for a house full of relatives for Thanksgiving. The Muslim festival I’m referring to is not just one day, but four days, and is called the “Festival of Sacrifice“.

This week Mohammedans celebrate their “Festival of the Sacrifice,” their Id al-adha, with slaying of animals and donations of the flesh to the poor. In New York City the festival has an unusual significance. It is due to the fact that the city has some 18,000 Moslems—Polish Tartars, Albanians, Turks, Hindus, Arabs, Malays, Filipinos. Some 700 assembled at Brooklyn last year for the first time for prayer, prostration and sacrifice. See the link above for more information of this festival which has some similiar features so prominent in our Thanksgiving activities, though we usually don’t refer to the slaughter of so many turkeys as a religious sacrifice. One final picture from Pakistan which is so prominent in our daily news, may be worth a “thousand words”.

What did the wise man of Proverbs have in mind?

Yours truly, E4Unity

Yours truly, E4Unity

I’m going to have another birthday in a few days so I guess that explains why I’m doing a little more cogitating than usual, thinking about life and how to live in a manner pleasing to the Creator and Sustainer of all life.
This phrase which comes from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament,
caught my eye and off I went looking for just what the wise man meant.
There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death”. (14:12 and 16:25)
If you have a couple of minutes I’ll try to tell you the gist of my thoughts and then tell you what I discovered, from all people, Charles G. Finney, who seems to have come to the same answer.
I always took it for granted that in keeping with so many of the wise sayings about life by the wise man of Proverbs, that this “right way” of living was in stark contrast to all those he labels as “foolish”, “wicked”, “sinner”, “scoffer”, or even “backslider”, etc. It just made sense that this expression also referred to a specific, observable class of individuals who seemed to be radically different (by observation) than these others. And yet it struck me that he says these folks, living a way that seems to them to be the right way to life, ended up instead coming to the same end- death.
So I thought about other parts of the Biblical narrative, wondering if the answer was not clearly revealed in other places both in the New as well as the Old Testaments. Could it be, I mused to myself, that this has reference to the “religious” folks- those that not only believe this is the right way to live, but actually practice a specific codified system of rules of an organized religious order? In the context of the Old Testament, the keepers of the Old Covenant-those who lived by the rule of law?
Now I’ve speant a lot of time in Paul’s letter to the Romans over the last forty years or so, and I remember that part of Paul’s thesis in that letter is that there is something that the law, as perfect as it is, just can’t produce: the right way of living before God (righteous living). So to make a long time of meditating as simple as I can, that is exactly the conclusion I came to, not only reflecting upon one book of the Bible, but reflecting on the entire story-line. The reason why the announcement to the Shepherds that Jesus had been born was such good news, “tidings of great JOY to all peoples” makes sense to me now as I prepare for Advent season. Read the following Scripture and see if you see what I see:
“2) For the law of the Spirit of life has set you  free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (3) For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,  he condemned sin in the flesh, (4) in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”  (Romans 8:2-4)
FinneyTo see what Finney said about
this in July, 1859, Go Here! (approaching his 67th birthday)

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