dinsdag 30 december 2014

The coming judgement of God

Isaiah 66:15-16

15 The Lord will come down like a whirlwind with his flaming chariots. He will be terribly furious and punish his enemies with fire.  16 The Lord's fiery sword will bring justice everywhere on this earth and execute many people.

As someone who knows God as loving, kind, gentle and tender. As someone who knows God takes no pleasure in the death of the ungodly and teaches us to love our enemies and overcome evil by good Bible passages such as these are difficult to understand. We could of course try to allegorise and spiritualise this scripture by saying it refers to spiritual enemies such as demons, but the truth of the matter is that verse 16 clearly talks about the execution of people.

We may also think of those who perished in the flood, in Sodom, in Egypt’s plagues or during Israel’s occupation of Canaan and we can no longer deny that God does bring judgement on people and executes many of them or ordered their execution.

Honestly, I find this difficult to reconcile with God’s love for people for whom He gave His son while they were still ungodly, helpless and enemies in order to save and reconcile them to himself (Rom. 5:1-11). Yet at the same time I do understand that God in His love hates the evil that hurts and damages His creation and in particular what hurts and damages the people He created.
I therefore tend to see the judgement of God as a last resort, something He only does when there is no other option left. After all He says in Ezekiel 18:23

I, the Lord God, don't like to see wicked people die. I enjoy seeing them turn from their sins and live.

So therefore God in His love and patience waits as long as possible to bring judgement on the wicked, giving people a chance to repent. This is confirmed in the New Testament when Peter explains why God is waiting with this final judgement talked about by the prophets in 2 Peter 3:1-15

1 My dear friends, this is the second letter I have written to encourage you to do some honest thinking. I don't want you to forget 2 what God's prophets said would happen. You must never forget what the holy prophets taught in the past. And you must remember what the apostles told you our Lord and Savior has commanded us to do.
3 But first you must realize that in the last days some people won't think about anything except their own selfish desires. They will make fun of you 4 and say, “Didn't your Lord promise to come back? Yet the first leaders have already died, and the world hasn't changed a bit.”
5 They will say this because they want to forget that long ago the heavens and the earth were made at God's command. The earth came out of water and was made from water. 6 Later it was destroyed by the waters of a mighty flood. 7 But God has commanded the present heavens and earth to remain until the day of judgment. Then they will be set on fire, and ungodly people will be destroyed.
8 Dear friends, don't forget that for the Lord one day is the same as a thousand years, and a thousand years is the same as one day. 9 The Lord isn't slow about keeping his promises, as some people think he is. In fact, God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost.
10 The day of the Lord's return will surprise us like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a loud noise, and the heat will melt the whole universe. Then the earth and everything on it will be seen for what they are.
11 Everything will be destroyed. So you should serve and honor God by the way you live. 12 You should look forward to the day when God judges everyone, and you should try to make it come soon. On that day the heavens will be destroyed by fire, and everything else will melt in the heat. 13 But God has promised us a new heaven and a new earth, where justice will rule. We are really looking forward to that!
14 My friends, while you are waiting, you should make certain that the Lord finds you pure, spotless, and living at peace. 15 Don't forget that the Lord is patient because he wants people to be saved. This is also what our dear friend Paul said when he wrote you with the wisdom that God had given him.

So let us not take Gods patience and love for granted, thinking that judgement may never come because for all of us it will come one day so let us be wise in how we live.

woensdag 24 december 2014

Christmas 2014

HE WHO follows Me, walks not in darkness," says the Lord in John 8:12. By these words of Christ we are advised to imitate His life and habits, if we wish to be truly enlightened and free from all blindness of heart. Let our chief effort, therefore, be to study the life of Jesus Christ.
The teaching of Christ is more excellent than all the advice of the saints, and he who has His spirit will find in it a hidden manna. Now, there are many who hear the Gospel often but care little for it because they have not the spirit of Christ. Yet whoever wishes to understand fully the words of Christ must try to pattern his whole life on that of Christ.

These words by Thomas a Kempis, a Dutch Christian born around 1380 AD in his book the imitation of Christ (Ch. I:I) are as relevant today as they were 6 centuries ago. Following Christ is not a matter of sound theologizing, outward religious observance, evangelistic  zeal or exhuberant worship. Instead it is a matter of faithful following the Good Shepherd in daily obedience. It is not about being charitable and religious around Christmas time but It is about walking in the footsteps of Christ 24/7. We must remain on the way of Christ from the day we put our faith in Him and acknowledged His Lordship over our lives until the day we die in Him. It is the only way to work out our salvation in fear and trembling, keeping our flesh under control by the power of the Spirit of God so that having run our race we may not be disqualified for going off track. Let us therefore firmly focus on Christ and re-commit ourselves daily to obeying Him by loving God & Neighbour and not obeying the desires of our self-centered nature

zondag 14 december 2014

The spiritually mature do not judge by appearances

9 For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. 11 To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; 12 and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; 13 when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.14 I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.15 For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me

1 Cor. 4:9-15

The Corinthians had been so impressed by eloquence, position, wealth and status of some pretentious 'super apostles' that they started to look down on Paul because of his poverty, his lack of eloquence and his 'weakness'. Paul here invites them to let go of such a worldly way of thinking and look at Paul's faithfulness in the midst of hardship and toil as an example to follow. After all, his ministry was blessed for they had become his spiritual children as they heard the message of Christ from him.

Its so easy to judge by appearances. We have all been conditioned during our upbringing, in school, in the media to measure success in terms of wealth, position, status, beauty and popularity. Like the Lord Jesus he followed Paul had none of these. As the Corinthians Christians were still immature in their faith they were easily impressed by false apostles who according to worldly standards appeared a lot more blessed and successful in life. However, Paul points out that poverty, hunger, homelessness and so on do not mean that someone is a disqualified servant of God, it simply means that God has decided to exhibit our faithfulness this way just as He exhibited Job's faithfulness in the midst of his hardships. Faithfully following Jesus Christ regardless of the circumstances is all that really matters from a spiritually mature perspective. Therefore Paul says 'be imitators of me'.

dinsdag 9 december 2014

Working out your salvation in fear and trembling

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

Philippians 2:12-16

17 Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. 18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.

Philippians 3:17-19

4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 6and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

Hebrews 6:4-6

When people receive the gospel with joy and become born-again as a first step on their journey towards the wonderful destination prepared for them by Christ, all heaven rejoices. Unfortunately some forget to work out their faith with fear and trembling and are side-tracked by the things of this world. As John Bunyan so vividly described in his work ‘The Pilgrim’s progress’  they get seduced by this world’s vanity fair.  Instead of fearing to wander away from the small narrow road of salvation, instead of trembling at the thought of losing their way, they lust after the things the world does: Status in the eyes of the world, a good career, their own house, a comfortable home, a high salary, nice outings, relaxing holidays…… all good things if God gives them to us after we first prioritize on Gods kingdom and living in accordance with His righteousness and think equally of Gods interests and our fellow humans in how we spend our time, money and energy. Unfortunately the spiritual life in some is overshadowed and eventually destroyed by their own appetite for more for themselves. Their appetite has become their god and they end up indulging in sin and became enemies of the cross. Eventually some wander away so far that they can no longer come to repentance. A very sad fact as their end is their own destruction.

The Calvinist doctrine that once-saved one is always saved may sound comforting but it does not agree with these scriptures. I would think its better to base one's beliefs on what the apostle wrote than on what was written by John Calvin and his followers.

Let us therefore work out our salvation in fear and trembling and not let go of the ideals set before us by Christ himself. Let us continue to prioritize on God and His kingdom, on following Christ and walk in His righteousness.