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The Theology of Calvin . . . and Hobbes (Judgment)

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2022 in Calvin & Hobbes

 

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Living for Jesus in an Un-Christian World: A Study of the Epistle of Jude (Principle #2)


5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.
8 In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings. 9 But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10 Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them.
11 Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.
12 These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. 13 They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.
14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15 to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16 These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.
17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

A number of years ago lightning struck the English church of the liberal bishop David Jenkins, a man who had publicly denied the Virgin Birth and the deity of Christ. Some conservative Christians rejoiced in what appeared at the time to be an act of God’s judgment against unbelief. Philip Yancey asks, however, “Why should David Jenkins provoke divine wrath when the outright blasphemer Bertrand Russell lived unpunished into cranky old age? If God consistently sent lightning bolts in response to bad doctrine, our plant would sparkle nightly like a Christmas tree.” (Philip Yancey, Disappointment with God)

The Nature of God
We learn in this section that the God who delivers is also a God who destroys! We all love a delivering God. We struggle with the very idea of a God who can destroy people, especially His people (v. 5). We have forgotten that “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). We skip over verses that tell us that our God is “a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). We euphemize God’s threats of judgment (Ezek. 18:4, 20 – the soul that sins shall die; Jn. 3:36- the wrath of God abides on him) in the Bible, sometimes contrasting the God of mercy in the New Testament with the God of wrath in the Old Testament (an old liberal fallacy, by the way). We swallow without thinking the universalists’ error that God’s primary attribute is love — and He, therefore, is incapable of executing His wrath on the wicked, and especially on His own people! But we are wrong. The God who delivers is also the God who can destroy!

Three Historical Examples
Jude gives three illustrations of God’s judgment in verses 5-7. He brought destruction upon His own people in the wilderness and in the Promised Land. He also brought judgment upon a category of angels “who abandoned their positions of authority” (v. 6). Much speculation has surrounded this example Jude uses of AWOL angels, but his point must not be missed: they are “kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the Great Day.”

The third example of God’s judgment Jude gives is that of Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 7). Their story is told in Genesis 19. Although many who support a pro-homosexual lifestyle have worked hard to deny that God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah was for their sin of homosexuality, such efforts fail in light of the biblical text itself. They “serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire” because of their “sexual immorality and perversion.”

Historical Ignorance
These present false teachers, who have caused Jude to write his battle plan for these believers, have not paid attention to God’s acts of judgment in history. Instead, these dream-driven heretics pollute themselves, abuse celestial beings, and slander what they don’t understand (vv. 8-10). Although we know very little about the dispute between the archangel Michael and the devil about Moses’ body, he serves as an example of careful respect for spiritual beings. These false teachers show no such respect.

Jude moves from his example in the angelic world to three this-world illustrations of rebellion against God’s authority:

(1) the way of Cain – We read of Cain’s jealousy and killing of his brother Abel in Genesis 4.

(2) The Balaam story is a fascinating one found in Numbers 22. There is much more here than a man’s conversation with his donkey, for Balaam’s greed led to his rebellion against the Lord.

(3) Korah’s rebellion (against Moses and Aaron) is recorded in Numbers 16. The Lord desires “to consume them in a moment” (v. 21). The congregation is told to get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram “lest you be consumed in all their sins” (v. 26). Moses predicts that the earth would open its mouth and swallow them up because “these men have rejected the Lord.” (v. 30). The earth indeed opened up, swallowed them down alive, then closed over them. But the Israelites rebelled against Moses and a plague killed 14,700 of God’s people the next day (v. 49)!

Wow! Jude pulls no punches when he rails against these contemporary false teachers! They have so polluted God’s truth that they deserve the very ground they stand on to open up and swallow them alive!

Malignant Metaphors
Jude then uses six strong metaphors to describe the effects these false teachers are having upon God’s people:
They are blemishes at the Christian love feasts, eating with these believers without hesitation.
They are shepherds who feed only themselves.
They are unstable clouds who provide no rain.
They are unfruitful trees twice dead.
They are wild waves foaming up their shame.
They are wandering stars awaiting God’s judgment.

Although much could be said about each of these metaphors, Jude is making the point that these false teachers are unashamedly mixing in with God’s people, making promises they cannot keep, shamelessly producing no fruit, and, therefore, merit the blackest darkness of God’s judgment!

However, these false teachers did not take God by surprise. Enoch predicted their judgment (v. 14) and the apostles foretold the coming of ungodly scoffers in the last times (v. 18). The negative effects of these grumblers and faultfinders divide God’s people, for they do not have the Spirit (v. 19).

How interesting that Jude the former scoffer who became a servant of Jesus Christ warns these believers about those who seek to confuse and disrupt God’s people!

The Ugliness of Unbelief
If the principle in verses 5-19 is that we should speak clearly of God’s judgment against unbelief, why is unbelief so bad? Many in our culture define “belief” as a person’s “opinion,” and “we certainly don’t persecute people for their opinions, do we?!”

Certainly some beliefs are mere opinions. “I believe the Cubs will win the World Series this year.” But what if I said to you, “I don’t believe you when you claim you did not steal $20 from me”? Am I merely expressing an opinion? Or am I not making a statement about your character, about whether you can be trusted, about your honesty? If my statement is only a statement of my opinion, then why do I feel a need to ask for your forgiveness when I find my twenty-dollar bill in my car?

Unbelief in the Bible is cosmic treachery, spiritual rebellion. It is essentially I-am-God-ism! It is disrespect of God’s person, a challenge to His integrity, an attempt to de-throne His rule.

When someone in effect says, “I will not affirm reality as God describes it! I will not speak the truth as God gives it! I will not submit to His will!”, these statements are not mere opinions. They are preparations for God’s judgment, as surely as Cain’s murderous action, Balaam’s greed, and Korah’s insurrection!

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2021 in CHRISTIAN LIVING

 

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Pondering the Psalms (Psalm 1, Part 8)

My friend Frank and I have an agreement, a covenant, which we have followed for several years. We read the same chapter in God’s Word each day for a week and then drop each other a short email about what we have learned. We then move to the next chapter the next week. I describe our modest online Bible study here. You might want to try this with a friend or relative.

We’ve now embarked on a journey of reading through the book of Psalms! So this week we’re reading Psalm 1 each day for a week, then on to Psalm 2, etc. Whew! I’ll post a few comments on our Psalm of the week that I pray will be an encouragement to you.

Let’s think about the last verse of Psalm 1 today.

1. We get God’s conclusion of the whole matter in this last verse! We’ve learned that the blessed person makes several key negative choices. But he is also marked by delighting in God’s Word and using his mind to meditate on God’s truth.

2. We discover that God loves similes. The righteous are fruit-bearing trees while the wicked are like wind-blown chaff.

3. The wicked will not survive God’s judgment but be separated from God and His people forever.

4. Now we learn of God’s summary of the matter. All of humanity will be divided into two and only two categories: (1) those who are described as “righteous” and (2) those who are described as “wicked.” And God responds to both groups. He “watches over the way of the righteous,” we are told. This certainly seems to imply His approval, His protection, His covenant love. But, we are told, “the way of the wicked leads to destruction.” Destruction in the Scriptures is not annihilation. When my son was a teenager he “destroyed” our car by running it into a ditch. But the car still existed.

Today’s Challenge: If the gospel is true — and it is — then all of humanity falls into one of two categories. If you are in the category of “the righteous”, may I ask you for whom in the category of “the wicked” are you praying?

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2021 in Psalm 1

 

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Pondering the Psalms (Psalm 1, Part 7)

My friend Frank and I have an agreement, a covenant, which we have followed for several years. We read the same chapter in God’s Word each day for a week and then drop each other a short email about what we have learned. We then move to the next chapter the next week. I describe our modest online Bible study here. You might want to try this with a friend or relative.

We’ve now embarked on a journey of reading through the book of Psalms! So this week we’re reading Psalm 1 each day for a week, then on to Psalm 2, etc. Whew! I’ll post a few comments on our Psalm of the week that I pray will be an encouragement to you.

Let’s think about verses 4-5 today.

1. Please notice that a simile is also used of “the wicked.” While the blessed person is likened to a productive fruit tree, the wicked person is “like chaff.” And not just any chaff, but chaff “that the wind blows away.” They have no stability and, needless to say, they don’t produce any edible fruit! Try living on chaff for a while!

2. It is certainly true that our good works play no part in saving us. However, believers are called to good works once they are in God’s family. The normal Christian life is to be one of fruitfulness, both personal (note the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5) and public (spreading the seed of God’s Word, doing good works both to believers and unbelievers). The last thing any of us should want is to see our works burned up as wood, hay, and stubble on the Day of Judgment (I Corinthians 3:15).

3. Don’t fail to note that “the wicked” will not stand in the judgment. This doesn’t mean they won’t be there. It means they won’t survive God’s holy judgment. These are also described as “sinners” who won’t stand “in the assembly of the righteous.” For all eternity evil and evil doers will be excluded from the people of God.

Today’s Challenge: All who have not yet trusted Christ are in the category of “the wicked.” What steps are you taking to reach “the wicked” that you know? Are they on your prayer list? Let one of them know that you are praying for them today!

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2021 in Psalm 1

 

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The Theology of Calvin . . . and Hobbes (God)

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Posted by on September 30, 2021 in Calvin & Hobbes

 

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IF THE GOSPEL REALLY IS TRUE . . . We Have a HOPE! (Part 8 Final)

I don’t agree with Karl Barth on much, but his question — “Is it true? Is the Christian faith true?” is essential to biblical Christianity. We’ve seen that certain conclusions follow IF Christianity is true. For example, we have a message for the world which is both good news and bad news. Second, we have every reason to challenge other worldviews and religions as to their response to the gospel. Third, if the gospel is true, we have a complete justification to make the Bible our absolute guidebook for life. Fourth, we agreed that we desperately need the people of God, the church. Our fifth conclusion was that we can honestly face the suffering in the world without becoming cynical or callous. We have a theodicy which helps us understand evil and suffering.

Let’s look at a sixth — and final — conclusion and it is this —

IF THE GOSPEL IS TRUE, THEN . . .

We can be biblically hopeful about the future because our God is sovereign. Someone has posted the following on Facebook —

I think that’s a terrific way of thinking about the Christian life! Despite life’s challenges, the follower of Jesus is, in a sense, neither a pessimist nor an optimist. He or she is a realist who is eternally grateful that his cup “runneth over”!
%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%We have an eternal hope that God will wrap up history, exercise righteous judgment, reward the godly, forever separate the ungodly from His kingdom, and will usher us into an eternity of worshiping and serving our blessed Savior! There is no greater hope, is there?

What might be some characteristics of one who is biblically hopeful? Several occur to me: (1) We will not overestimate man’s abilities to solve his own problems. We will care about our world and cooperate to alleviate man’s suffering, but will recognize that only the Lord can meet a person’s deepest needs;
(2) We will cling tightly to the truths of Scripture and allow its worldview to be our worldview. This means identifying and rejecting the “wisdom of the world” and being determined to stand with God’s people, even when they are suffering;
(3) We will affirm with the Apostle Paul that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Cor. 4:17) What’s the “them” in that text? Logically, the “them” refers to our troubles, our outwardly “wasting away” (v. 16)

Today’s Challenge: Do a bit of a word study of the term “hope” in the Scriptures. What are several truths you can share with those who read this blog?


 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2021 in gospel

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #51 “Critical Imperatives for the Christ-Follower” (A Study of Romans 12) Part 23

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and have been reading chapter 12 during the last while.I count 24 injunctions or commands or imperatives for the believer here in Romans 12. I’m aware that the expression “critical imperative” is redundant, but I think it’s useful for what we see here in this great chapter.

We’ve seen that the believer is to offer his body as a living sacrifice, not to conform to the pattern of this world, to be transformed by the renewing of his mind, to think of himself with sober judgment, to use his gifts to build up the body of Christ, to hate as God hates, to be devoted to the body in love, to honor one another beyond yourselves, to keep one’s spiritual fervor, to be joyful in hope, to be patient in affliction, to be faithful in prayer, to share with the Lord’s people who are in need, to practice hospitality, to bless those who persecute them, to use our emotions for the Lord and for each other, to live in harmony with one another, to reach out to others regardless of their status, to not repay evil with evil, to do right before everyone, to live at peace with everyone when possible, and not to take revenge but leave room for God’s wrath!

Let’s continue our multipart study by looking at verse 20.

The twenty-third critical imperative is straightforward —

23. Believers are TO CARE FOR THE NEEDS OF THEIR ENEMIES! (v. 20)

“Am I a soldier of the cross?”, we used to sing in Sunday School when I was young and the last of the dinosaurs were becoming extinct. Soldiers have enemies. The fact that I can’t name one single enemy is disturbing to me.

Why? Because the gospel of Christ divides people into those who believe it and those who oppose it. And if I’m doing a good job of sharing and living the gospel before others, I should probably be making some enemies along the way.

But let’s assume I’ve got an enemy or two. How should I treat that person? Enemies should be executed — or at least imprisoned, right?

In his book of poetry entitled You! Jonah! Thomas Carlisle records Jonah saying, “I hate God’s enemies with a perfect hatred! Why can’t God do as much?” But today’s critical imperative tells us that we should feed our hungry enemies and give them something to drink when they are thirsty! What?

Ah. Here’s the conclusion: “In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Great! That’s exactly what I want to do! But have I understood that verse correctly?

The description of “heaping burning coals” is a reference to Proverbs 25:21–22.

21If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;

22For you will heap burning coals on his head,
And the LORD will reward you.

[The following is from several commentators. Please forgive the long sentences.] “In Egypt, there had been a custom to carry a pan of burning coals on one’s head as a sign of repentance. Kindness and forgiveness to those who abuse us, ideally, will make them ashamed of themselves, and hopefully bring them to repent. The strongest, most powerful response to persecution and hatred is to love your enemies. Not to do him hurt, not to aggravate his condemnation, as if this would be a means of bringing down the wrath of God the more fiercely on him, which is a sense given by some; as if this would be an inducement to the saints to do such acts of kindness; which is just the reverse of the spirit and temper of mind the apostle is here cultivating; but rather the sense is, that by so doing, his conscience would be stung with a sense of former injuries done to his benefactor, and he be filled with shame on account of them, and be brought to repentance for them, and to love the person he before hated, and be careful of doing him any wrong for the future; all which may be considered as a prevailing motive to God’s people to act the generous part they are here moved to.”

It must refer to the burning pain of shame and remorse which the man feels whose hostility is repaid by love. This is the only kind of vengeance the Christian is at liberty to contemplate.

We need desperately to shun the example of Jonah and love our enemies as the Lord Jesus taught us. Carlisle caught Jonah’s sentiment exactly when he wrote:

And Jonah stalked
to his shaded seat
and waited for God
to come around
to his way of thinking.

And God is still waiting for a host of Jonahs
in their comfortable houses
to come around
to His way of loving.

Today’s Challenge: Got any enemies? You might be surprised. Look for an opportunity to show kindness to him or her so that they will repent and come to the Lord!

 

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2021 in Romans 12

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #50 “Critical Imperatives for the Christ-Follower” (A Study of Romans 12) Part 22

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and have been reading chapter 12 during the last while.I count 24 injunctions or commands or imperatives for the believer here in Romans 12. I’m aware that the expression “critical imperative” is redundant, but I think it’s useful for what we see here in this great chapter.

We’ve seen that the believer is to offer his body as a living sacrifice, not to conform to the pattern of this world, to be transformed by the renewing of his mind, to think of himself with sober judgment, to use his gifts to build up the body of Christ, to hate as God hates, to be devoted to the body in love, to honor one another beyond yourselves, to keep one’s spiritual fervor, to be joyful in hope, to be patient in affliction, to be faithful in prayer, to share with the Lord’s people who are in need, to practice hospitality, to bless those who persecute them, to use our emotions for the Lord and for each other, to live in harmony with one another, to reach out to others regardless of their status, to not repay evil with evil, to do right before everyone, and to live at peace with everyone when possible!!

Let’s continue our multipart study by looking at verse 19.

The twenty-second critical imperative is straightforward —

22. Believers are NOT TO TAKE REVENGE BUT TO LEAVE ROOM FOR GOD’S WRATH! (v. 19)

We learned in critical imperative #19 that we are not to repay evil for evil. There may be occasions where revenge seems (and may well be) right, but we are not to substitute human revenge for the wrath of God.

Our culture would prefer not to think about the WRATH of God. But preachers like Jonathan Edwards reminded his contemporaries of this critical — and biblical — aspect of God when he preached his famous “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”

I wrote an article on God’s wrath a few years ago entitled “Warning a Wrath-Deserving World: Evangelicals and the Overhaul of Hell.” If interested, it can be accessed here.

There are many biblical texts on God’s wrath (I touch on most of them in the article referred to above). Vigilante justice is a very engaging and attractive movie plot these days, but hardly the kind of response God expects from His children! Righteous people don’t respond with revenge. All judgment is not finished on this earth. There will be a final judgment of God! And we are to wait for it!

Today’s Challenge: You might think to yourself, “There’s no way I would plot revenge against anybody for anything.” Great! But what if someone hurt you or your family? God’s judgment may be delayed, but we are not to preempt His righteousness no matter how just we may feel.

 

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2021 in Romans 12

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #6 The Final Judgment of God (Romans 2:7-11)

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and are reading chapter 2 each day this week. Here is something that I noticed in reading this chapter:

Please notice that the two sets of parentheses are supplied by me. When I work on a passage, I try to see the structure and this paragraph divides nicely into two categories. I’ve also put this in chart form:

This is a fascinating text! If I’m understanding the passage correctly, this is a description of God’s final judgment on all people, Jew and Gentile. And there will be — and are presently — two and only two categories of human beings: (1) those who persist in doing good, and (2) those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil.

What are some observations you would add to this brief look at Romans 2:7-11? Feel free to leave a comment below.

 

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2020 in Romans 2

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #3 “I Give Up!” (Romans 1:21-28)

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and are reading chapter 1 each day this week. Here is something that I noticed in reading this chapter:Does the Lord ever say, “I GIVE UP!” Of course not! But He does say “I GIVE OVER!” Note in this section of Romans 1 God’s reaction to man’s rejection of his Creator:

(1) God “gave them over” in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another (v. 24). This “giving over” was God’s response to their exchanging God’s truth for a lie and for worshiping created things instead of the Creator.

(2) God “gave them over” to shameful lusts (v. 26). If verses 26-27 aren’t a condemnation of homosexual behavior, I don’t know how clearer God could have said it!

(3) God “gave them over” to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done (v. 28). Why did He respond this way? Because they “did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God (v. 28)!

These are somber verses. But they seem to describe perfectly much of our world’s present state. Oh, how we need to pray for our friends and neighbors and relatives to come to know the true Creator so that they will not be “given over.”

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2020 in Romans 1

 

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