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John F MacArthurOne of the more popular maxims of today’s Church is ‘let go and let God’.

This is a relatively recent saying. Its origin is unclear; regardless, John MacArthur says this equivalent of ‘Don’t worry, be happy’ is unbiblical.

In ‘The Person and Power of God in Your Spiritual Growth’ he explains why. A few excerpts follow, emphases mine below:

The first key to God’s work in our sanctification is His personhood

Most pagan deities are described as impersonal, remote, and indifferent. That is not surprising, because false gods are fabricated by men out of fear and superstition. Even those that have personal characteristics are not portrayed as desiring fellowship with their worshipers. And understandably, their worshipers have no desire to fellowship with them.

The God of Scripture has unimaginable love for fallen, sinful mankind, which has rebelled against Him, blasphemed Him, and vilified Him. He has such great love for them “that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17). It is not the Lord’s will “for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

For those who belong to Him, the God of Scripture has even greater love and the closest of personal relationships. Throughout Scripture, God is referred to as His people’s Father—on a national level in the Old Testament (cf. Isaiah 63:16, 64:8), and individually in the New (cf. Matthew 5:16, 45, 48; 6:1, 9; 23:9). Adam and Eve, Moses, and many other Old Testament saints spoke with God directly. “The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11).

The second essential truth emphasized in Philippians 2:13 concerning God’s part in believers’ sanctification is His divine power. Above all else, it is God “who is at work” (Philippians 2:13) in the lives of His children. He calls them to obey, and then, through His sovereign power, energizes their obedience. He calls them to His service, and then empowers their service. He calls them to holiness, and then empowers them to pursue holiness.

God Himself is the believer’s supreme and indispensable resource and power. The wonder of all wonders is thatit is God who is at work” (Philippians 2:13) in them. Paul summed it up in Colossians 1:29 when he said, “I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”

Note that our relationship with God is intensely personal. No other world faith can offer this one-on-one rapport.

Furthermore, the idea that God expects us to be passive or inactive individuals — the way ‘Let go and let God’ is often interpreted — has no foundation in Scripture.

John F MacArthurMany unbelievers and some lukewarm believers think that fearing God is unhealthy.

They also think that God is somehow ‘bad’ for encouraging this fear.

Yet, the fear of which the Bible speaks is an awe that we mere mortals, prone to sin, cannot comprehend.

To believers, ‘fear’ and ‘dread’ differ in meaning from the way we understand these familiar words in a secular context.

John MacArthur has a useful blog post on the subject called ‘The Gravity of Sin’, well worth reading in full.

The section called ‘The Fear of the Lord’ stood out for me and it might help us explain this holy fear to others (emphases mine):

Although God is loving, merciful, and forgiving, He nevertheless holds believers accountable for disobedience. Like John, Paul understood well that “if we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8–9).

Knowing that he serves a holy and just God, the faithful believer will always live with “fear and trembling.”

An important Old Testament truth is “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10; cf. Proverbs 1:7, 9:10). It’s not the fear of being doomed to eternal torment, nor a hopeless dread of judgment that leads to despair. Instead, it’s a reverential fear, a holy concern to give God the honor He deserves and avoid the chastening of His displeasure. It protects against temptation and sin and gives motivation for obedient, righteous living.

Such fear involves self-distrust, a sensitive conscience, and being on guard against temptation. It necessitates opposing pride, and being constantly aware of the deceitfulness of one’s heart, as well as the subtlety and strength of one’s inner corruption. It is a dread that seeks to avoid anything that would offend and dishonor God.

 

Bible croppedContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? You decide.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 13:10-17

A Woman with a Disabling Spirit

 10Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11And there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 14But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.

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Luke 13 is a continuation of Jesus’s calls to repentance in Luke 12.

Last week’s Forbidden Bible Verses post looked at the conclusion to Luke 12, Jesus’s likening the Final Judgement to appearing before a magistrate. He advises ‘settling along the way’ — making amends with God via repentance whilst we are alive, rather than face condemnation in the life to come.

The first story in Luke 13 concerns those who are asking about the spiritual state of the Galilean victims of Pilate’s persecutions and those who perished when the tower of Siloam fell (near the healing pool of Bethesda/Bethsaida in John 5). Jesus tells the people that they had no greater spiritual afflictions than they, therefore, what happened was not a divine punishment. However, Jesus emphasises that those who are wondering about other’s spiritual state should spend that energy examining and improving their own, lest they face condemnation in the next life.

He then relates a parable about a fig tree which has not yet borne fruit. The gardener — vinedresser — advised his boss the landowner to allow him to give it special attention for a year to see if it would bear fruit. If it did not, then he would fell the tree. Jesus’s message here is that God gives us a certain time to repent; if not, we face the consequences of eternal condemnation. We can pray for sinners to be infused with grace and wisdom so to do. However, we cannot pray that God will pardon the unrepentant. Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

Reprieves may be obtained by the prayers of others for us, but not pardons[;] there must be our own faith, and repentance, and prayers, else no pardon.

Now we come to today’s passage, Jesus’s merciful healing of a disabled woman on the Sabbath. This, too, although a healing miracle, symbolises God’s acceptance of the repentant sinner who believes in Christ.

Jesus was teaching in an unnamed synagogue (verse 10). Among the congregation was a woman who was stooped over and could not stand upright; a demon caused her longstanding condition with which she suffered for 18 years (verse 11).

Keep in mind that in synagogues then — as is true in Orthodox synagogues today — women had to sit separately from women. John MacArthur surmises that, in Jesus’s day, the women sat at the back, so she would have been out of sight from the leaders at the front.

Jesus called the lady to come forward and told her she was healed (verse 12). As He laid His hands upon her, she was able to stand up for the first time in nearly 20 years and praised God (verse 13).

The leader of the synagogue then stood up and denounced our Lord’s healing by saying that He had six other days of the week to do it; work was not permitted on the Sabbath (verse 14).

Jesus expressed His righteous indignation at the synagogue leader’s denunciation by saying that hypocritical Sabbath observers were kinder to their livestock than to a human (verse 15). Furthermore, He added, this lady was a Jew — one of their own (verse 16). In other words, who would deny her this merciful healing miracle? Only a hypocritical legalist.

With that Jesus shamed the legalist synagogue leaders and the people rejoiced at His words (verse 17).

MacArthur unpacks this scene for us (emphases mine):

He endeavors to bring on the head of Jesus a violation of the law of God. But of course, there’s nothing in the law of God that says you can’t help somebody on the Sabbath. Any deed of mercy, any necessity was perfectly acceptable on the Sabbath and their Jewish law even said it. The Mishnah even said that you could do anything for a person or an animal that was necessary or merciful. And Jesus, Himself, in the 12th Chapter of Matthew had told them, you know, you’ve got the whole idea of the law of God wrong. Do you remember when David’s soldiers were hungry and they went into the temple and ate the show bread, because they were hungry. And feeding men who were hungry was more important than the symbolism of the show bread.

It really was the hatred they had for Jesus. He was going to make up a rule that you can’t heal on the Sabbath. There could never be such a rule in Judaism, because nobody could heal anyway. So how would that rule develop? So the Lord answers him in verse 15. The Lord answered him and said, “you hypocrites,” He was direct, as always, you spiritual fraud, “does not each of you on Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him?” Well, He got them, because they did that.

In fact, in the Mishnah, the codification of Jewish rabbinic law, it prescribes that you can do that. You can take your animal if you put no burden on his back and lead him to water or to eat. It even gives you a maximum of 200 cubits that you can go. And they even have some prescription about how wide the well is so you can see how they encumbered these things. But it was perfectly fine to do that. You phonies.

Of course, the crowds that lauded Jesus for His mercy and compassion turned against Him by the time it came for His trial and crucifixion.

That said, not only is this account of Luke’s one of merciful physical restoration but a pointer towards the compassion God has for us sinners. As Matthew Henry puts it:

This cure represents the work of Christ’s grace upon the souls of the people. (1.) In the conversion of sinners. Unsanctified hearts are under this spirit of infirmity they are distorted, the faculties of the soul are quite out of place and order they are bowed down towards things below. O curvæ in terram animæ ! They can in no wise lift up themselves to God and heaven the bent of the soul, in its natural state, is the quite contrary way. Such crooked souls seek not to Christ but he calls them to him, lays the hand of his power and grace upon them, speaks a healing word to them, by which he looses them from their infirmity, makes the soul straight, reduces it to order, raises it above worldly regards, and directs its affections and aims heavenward. Though man cannot make that straight which God has made crooked (Ecclesiastes 7:13), yet the grace of God can make that straight which the sin of man has made crooked. (2.) In the consolation of good people. Many of the children of God are long under a spirit of infirmity, a spirit of bondage through prevailing grief and fear, their souls are cast down and disquieted within them, they are troubled, they are bowed down greatly, they go mourning all the day long, Psalm 38:6. But Christ, by his Spirit of adoption, looses them from this infirmity in due time, and raises them up.

4. The present effect of this cure upon the soul of the patient as well as upon her body. She glorified God, gave him the praise of her cure to whom all praise is due. When crooked souls are made straight, they will show it by their glorifying God.

Therefore, as the psalmist said, let us rejoice and be glad.

Next time: Luke 13:18-21

The latest news on Mariam Ibrahim is that she, her husband Daniel Wani and their two children are being housed in the library of the US Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital.

Christian Today has a summary and the Daily Mail has more on the family’s plight since Mariam was freed from prison, where she gave birth to her daughter Maya in shackles.

Maya will undergo an ultrasound within the next few weeks to determine her state of health.

The family are now awaiting clearance from the Sudanese government to move to the United States. Diplomats are working with the government to expedite matters.

Christian Today adds:

Ibrahim was accused of trying to leave the country using false documents, and it is unclear whether she faces criminal charges for that case. Also, her brother, Al Samani Al Hadi, has filed new charges against her. He is one of the family members that caused Ibrahim to be arrested after she married Wani.

Let us pray that all goes well for the family so that they can begin a new life of hope in the US.

July 15 is St Swithun’s Day in England.

Although this great bishop died on July 2, 862 — the date of death normally determines the feast day — his burial place was changed a century later on July 15, after he was canonised.

It is this translation — change, movement — of burial place which is behind the legendary saying which predicts 40 further days of whatever weather occurred on July 15.

Britannia Biographies tells us that Swithun was one of the most learned men of his time. He spent his ministry in Winchester, first at the monastery attached to the cathedral, later becoming the prior there, then as bishop of the diocese.

However, Swithun was also well known for the churches he had built in areas where there had been none and for repairing existing churches which had become damaged.

Swithun also had a bridge built in the eastern part of Winchester. He used to sit nearby in an effort to encourage the workmen there. One day, malicious workmen on the site broke a basket of eggs belonging to an elderly woman. Swithun is said to have miraculously restored the eggs.

Swithun also mixed in royal circles, acting as tutor for King Aethelwulf of Wessex as well as his son, who later became King Alfred. Aethelwulf had to fight off invading Danes; despite this, he was known for his wise rule. He was also very religious and intent on spreading the Christian faith throughout Wessex. His youngest son, Alfred, was able to repel further Danish invasions by negotiating the Danelaw in 886, which partitioned England and gave Danes control over the eastern regions of Anglia and parts of Mercia. Alfred is also known as the Father of the English Navy. He codified law and translated Latin books into Anglo-Saxon. His rule was such that he is known as Albert the Great, and visitors to Winchester can see his statue there.

Therefore, evidence of Swithun’s influence can be seen through these kings’ lives. In the 10th century, Winchester Cathedral — previously dedicated to Sts Peter and Paul — was rededicated to their beloved, holy bishop.

Incidentally, Vic the Vicar! has the readings for Swithun’s feast day.

As for the weather legend, prior to his death, Bishop Swithun left instructions that he be buried in the cathedral grounds:

where ‘passers by might tread on his grave and the sweet rain from heaven might wet his grave’.

After his canonisation 100 years later, a golden shrine to Swithun’s memory was erected in Winchester Cathedral and his remains were translated — moved, transferred — there in 971. It had already been raining too frequently for the cathedral workers to transfer his remains near July 2, so this was done on July 15.

The ensuing legendary 40 days of rain caused the people of Winchester at the time to assume that Swithun’s spirit was most unhappy at being transferred from a humble resting place outdoors to a gilded one inside the cathedral.

Although this became a local legend initially, it spread throughout England and continues to be well known today. The ancient rhyme is as follows:

St. Swithun’s day, if thou dost rain,
For forty days it will remain;
St. Swithun’s day, if thou be fair,
For forty days ’twill rain na mair.

Britain’s Met Office told the Daily Mirror on St Swithun’s Day 2014 that there is no truth to this prediction:

“While the story is compelling, it’s not entirely backed up by historical records and, similarly, when it comes to the weather folklore it’s not backed up by weather statistics.

“Numerous studies have been carried out on past weather observations and none of them have proved the legend true. In fact, since the start of records in 1861, there have neither been 40 dry or 40 wet days following the corresponding weather on St Swithin’s Day.”

However, note that their data deal only with 1861 to the present. Who knows what happened before then?

In fact, several European countries have a similar saying relating to their own saints. In France, it is St Gervais Day (July 19). In Germany, Seven Sleepers Day (July 7), commemorating a group of young martyrs from 3rd century Ephesus, is said to determine the weather for the next seven weeks.

In what used to be Flanders — today’s northern Belgium — the month of July was known as Wedermaend, which means ‘month of storms’.

It would seem, therefore, that there is some truth to these sayings and legends.

WeatherOnline takes a different line to the Met Office. Perhaps the Met should read their informative article on the jet stream and European summer weather. Excerpts follow (emphases in the original, purple highlight mine):

Whoever told the story about the St. Swithun’s day saying was obviously well aware that summer weather patterns establishing by the beginning to the middle of July tend to be persistent throughout the coming few weeks. In fact this is statistically true in 7 to 8 out of 10 years.

The meteorological interpretation is quite straightforward. The position of the frontal zone around the end of June to early July, indicated by the position of the jet stream, determines the general weather patterns (hot, cold, dry, wet) for the rest of the summer. Like a little stream in its bed, the frontal zone tends to ‘dig in’ shortly after the summer solstice.

Try and prepare your own summer forecast with our expert maps. The 500mbar maps usually give a good idea about the position of the frontal zone. Have a look at them over the next two weeks and produce a DIY summer forecast valid until mid-August with a confidence of 70 to 80%.

No wonder the St. Swithun’s day rule is also know in other western European countries.

I shall try forecasting and report back at the end of August! Here’s WeatherOnline‘s map from July 16, 2014:

Height/Temp. 500 hPa GFS We 16.07.2014 12 GMT

John F MacArthurJohn MacArthur’s blog post of June 30, 2014, ‘Sin and the Work of the Spirit’, warns Christians against easy conversions and describes what conversion really means.

MacArthur takes the epistle 1 John for his primary text and supports it with passages from Paul’s letters and other books of the New Testament.

He explains:

John’s portrait of true faith highlights the conflict between sin and saving faith. Over and over, he makes clear that true believers cannot and will not continue to live in open, unrepentant sin after salvation.

Adding:

The new birth—what John calls being “born of God”—epitomizes the work of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 3:3-8). The Spirit implants in those He regenerates the essence of His divine life, which John pictures as a “seed.” Just as a human birth results from an implanted seed that grows into new physical life, so also spiritual life begins when, at the moment of regeneration, the divine seed is implanted by the Spirit within the one who believes.

Also (italics in the original):

The new birth is also a monergistic operation, which means God’s Spirit alone accomplishes it (as opposed to synergistic, which means that human effort participates in the process).

MacArthur’s post is a good one for Christians to read and understand, especially if they are new or returning to the faith.

With regard to St John’s epistles — letters — I did a series on them two years ago. It is a pity that the Lectionary editors could not include more in their readings for public worship.

They can be found on my Essential Bible Verses page and are as follows for 1 John. Many of them contain excerpts from John MacArthur’s sermons and reveal John the Divine’s blueprint for Christian living:

1 John 2:3-11 – Commandments, obedience, light, darkness, love of neighbour

1 John 2:12-17 – speaking to converts as they are in sanctification, countering worldliness

1 John 2:18-29 – antichrists, false teachers, belief in Christ

1 John 3:9-13 – sin, love one another, unbelievers, Cain, first murder, hate

1 John 3:14-18 – love one another, hate akin to murder

1 John 3:19-24 – assurance, conscience

1 John 4:1-6 – discernment, antichrist, the world, faith, belief

1 John 4:7-13 – Christian love, Christ as propitiation

1 John 4:14-21 – perfect love, God loved us first

1 John 5:7-13 – Holy Trinity, unbelief, Christ’s blood and water

1 John 5:14-21 – truth of and confidence in Jesus Christ, faith, prayer, sin, Satan and the world, beware of idols

John F MacArthurJohn MacArthur’s most recent post on the Grace To You blog is called ‘Who Is Responsible For Your Spiritual Growth?’

Many readers will find it useful, especially as he cites a number of passages from Paul’s epistles.

This paragraph, in particular, stood out:

God is responsible for supplying everything you need for life and godliness, and you are responsible for actively using that power to grow in sanctification for His glory. The paradox is found in the believer being both fully responsible, and yet fully dependent on God’s supply. We may not fully comprehend the paradox, but we can exercise faith that it is resolved in the infinite wisdom of God and respond in obedience to His commands.

Please take a few minutes to read his article in full.

Bible kevinroosecomContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? You decide.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 12:57-59

Settle with Your Accuser

 57“And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. 59I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”[a]

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As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Luke 12 is a hard-hitting chapter.

Jesus warns against secrets, says that God is to be more feared than man and that we are to acknowledge our Lord openly.

The Parable of the Rich Fool follows, in which Jesus condemns materialism. He says that believers are to put God’s Kingdom first; everything else to satisfy our temporal needs will follow.

Jesus then relates to His disciples the parable of the servants who are unprepared for their master’s return. Similarly, severe punishment awaits those who persist in sin, thinking that they have plenty of time to repent.

The chapter goes on to recount Jesus’s warning that His divine truth will divide families. This continues to be true today:

51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Jesus then rebuked the hypocrisy of many of the people whom He encountered in His ministry. He said they could interpret the weather but were ignoring the greatest blessing they could ever receive — His presence, as God had predestined from the beginning of time. A similar passage can be found in Matthew 16:1-4, which I wrote about in 2010.

Therefore, His question about discerning what is ‘right’ (verse 57) is a call to repentance — now.

To illustrate this, He uses the analogy of appearing in court. Law-abiding people fear this, and rightly so. However, as off-putting as a temporal court is, Jesus tells us God’s court on Judgment Day will be even more so.

This is why He advocates settling with one’s accuser on the way to court (verse 58) — in other words, embrace repentance. Turn away from sin before it’s too late, because, just as those who are convicted for debt are imprisoned until the last penny — lepton, in His time — is paid, those whom God finds guilty of sin will receive a punishment with no reprieve (verse 59).

Matthew Henry’s commentary gives this advice:

let us give diligence to be delivered out of the hands of God as an adversary, into his hands as a Father, and this as we are in the way, which has the chief stress laid upon it here. While we are alive, we are in the way and now is our time, by repentance and faith through Christ (who is the Mediator as well as the magistrate), to get the quarrel made up, while it may be done, before it be too late. Thus was God in Christ reconciling the world to himself, beseeching us to be reconciled.

John MacArthur says:

2 Corinthians 5 talks about that God is in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. He’s provided reconciliation. God wants you to settle out of court and the way you settle is to make peace with Him through His Son, through faith in Christ, whom God made sin for us that we might be made the righteous of God in Him. God punished Him, the just for the unjust, that we might be brought to God. Grace is available. Forgiveness is available. Freedom from sin is available. Freedom from punishment, the hope of eternal life, escape from judgment. You can settle with God out of court. If you don’t, you’ll get to court and you will pay in full down to the last cent. Don’t even be there. Settle your account. Put your trust in Christ. He says to them, “How…how could you waste such an opportunity? You didn’t discern the time and you didn’t discern the threat”…tragedy. Isaiah 55, “Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call on Him while He is near.” 2Corinthians 6, “Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation.” Don’t miss it.

In closing, MacArthur also explains how the courts system worked in Jesus’s time. Some of it remains unchanged in certain countries even to this day:

The magistrate is the archonta, the archon, the ruler, the person of power, and this is sort of a preliminary hearing which would occur. You’d go and the guy would lay out his case and the magistrate would then remand the thing to the judge and put him to court …

The judge is just that, kriten, the judge. The constable, proctor is the word, and the constable was the person who had the responsibility to exact the punishment. He is called an exacter of penalties. A proctor, here called a constable, is one who enforced the payment of debt by imprisonment. It’s always been interesting to me. I’ve been in Northern Ireland and I toured with the Northern Ireland Police, who have no small job, and they are called constables and the police are the constabulary. They are the ones who enforce the payment of debts by imprisonment. That’s what they do and that’s exactly what this Greek word means.

Next time: Luke 13:10-17

R Scott ClarkDr R Scott Clark of Westminster Seminary California and Heidelblog recently wrote a three-part series on how to graciously turn down invitations to un-Christian events.

He also explains the biblical significance in doing so, drawing largely on St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, specifically, chapters 8 and 10. He also cites the Reformed (Calvinist) confessions of faith.

His series is called ‘You’ve Been Invited To A [Fill In The Blank]: Should You Go?’ — Parts 1, 2 and 3.

In light of my post on Christian summer solstice celebrations, I highly commend Dr Clark’s series to everyone wrestling with difficult and sensitive invitations.

Below are excerpts from Part 1 (emphases mine):

How should we respond? There are two things that we must do: communicate our genuine love for those involved and our resolute commitment to honor Christ and his Word in every circumstance. Let’s start with the latter. How do we honor Christ in a difficult circumstance, when by saying “No” we may seem to be unloving and thus perhaps judgmental, uncharitable, and even unchristian? The answer is that if we act on biblical principles we honor Christ even when it is painful to do so.

Believers are already in communion with the Lord. Just as the Israelites (infants and adults) were baptized into Moses, and just as they communed in the wilderness between redemption and the promised land, so we have been identified with Christ and are sojourning between redemption and consummation (1 Cor 10:1–13). So, too, we’ve been initiated into Christ’s covenant community (the visible church), identified with his death in baptism. We’ve made profession of faith and have eaten his ascended, proper and natural body and blood (John 6:53; Belgic Confession Art. 35) by the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit, through faith. Our loyalties have been bought with a price. Therefore we honor God with our bodies (1Cor 6:20).

As Paul says, we are free from the opinions of men and from bondage to the same but we are not free to damage brothers and sisters by leading them back into sin and we are not free to participate in rituals which rival those instituted by Christ.

In Part 2, he says:

Unfortunately, sometimes those who profess the Christian faith give unbelievers reason to think that is how the world works, that we really do relate to God on the basis of our personal obedience when the truth is quite opposite: after the fall we are accepted only and ever on the basis of Christ’s perfect righteousness earned for us and imputed to us and received through faith (resting, trusting) alone.

Of course unbelievers may be misinterpreting our assertion of the fundamental spiritual (and consequently epistemic) difference between believers and non-believers as a claim that we have nothing in common. Perhaps, however, we have unintentionally given the impression that we have nothing in common? Sometimes Christians (and even some in the Reformed community) sometimes speak about the antithesis in a way that gives that impression.

There is a most profound difference between believers and unbelievers. It is the difference between spiritual blindness and sight, between spiritual life and death. The only reason the dead come to life (Ezek 37) and the blind are made to see (Matt 11) is free, sovereign Spirit of God who raises the dead and grants sight to the blind. The dead have no prior claim on God and he does not give sight to the blind because of any quality in them or even because of the quality of their faith. Therefore, we must not ever ascribe the difference to anything but God’s free favor and sovereign good pleasure.

In Part 3, Clark reminds Christians of their status as dual citizens — of earth and heaven:

The limits of our participation in are determined by our dual citizenship. We are free to do a great many things but insofar as our heavenly citizenship (Phil 3:20) limits us there simply are things we cannot do. As Americans (or where ever the reader might be) we love our country but we love another country, a heavenly city-state (Gal 4) even more and we are ambassadors from that place to this. We must live before our unbelieving friends, neighbors, and relatives as if we represent the heavenly kingdom because we do.

It is not always easy to turn down dubious invitations, especially when we are young and eager to make friends. We do not wish to be seen as bigoted or biased.

In such cases, we could claim a prior commitment on that day. Even if asked, we are not obliged to state what that commitment is. It’s no one else’s business but our own.

Bible ourhomewithgodcomContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? You decide.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (‘Anxiety-Free Living’, Parts 1 and 2).

Luke 12:22-31

22And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

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Luke 12 is a thought-provoking chapter in which Jesus warns against secrets, says that God is to be more feared than man and that we are to acknowledge our Lord openly.

The Parable of the Rich Fool follows, in which Jesus condemns materialism. Today’s passage continues that theme. Believers in Christ are to put God’s Kingdom first; everything else to satisfy our temporal needs will follow (verses 22 and 23).

Matthew Henry explains:

God, who has done the greater for us, may be depended upon to do the less. He has, without any care or forecast of our own, given us life and a body, and therefore we may cheerfully leave it to him to provide meat for the support of that life, and raiment for the defence of that body.

Jesus asks His disciples to think about ravens (verse 24).  They are not productive beings in the way that humans are. Yet, God sees fit to provide them food and gives them the instinct to feed themselves, reproduce and flourish. Birds are among the least of God’s creatures, yet He ensures their survival, Jesus says; therefore, our Creator will provide much more for us because we are  members of His Kingdom to come.

The bottom line, He teaches, is not to be consumed by anxiety because, no matter how much we worry, we cannot add to our lives by doing so (verse 25). In fact, chronic anxiety might make us physically ill and shorten life.

There is a fine line between anxious periods in life and habitual worry. Some people wake up in the morning with no troubles and wonder what they will be anxious about that day. That shows a lack of belief that God will continue to take care of them.

Jesus posits: if we cannot extend our lives by worrying, why, then, do we worry (verse 26)? What purpose does it serve us? It is useless on earth and shows that we doubt God’s omnipotence in caring for our basic needs.

By way of illustration, Jesus goes on to discuss the lilies (verse 27). God takes care of these plants, His creation, and gives them beauty such that even King Solomon in his finest clothes wasn’t as aesthetically pleasing as they are. All that is God’s doing.

I read an article recently in the Radio Times, in which a British actress who presented a televised nature show about birds of northern Britain wrote about her first-hand experience with our feathered friends. After describing each one’s appearance and traits, she asked, ‘Who could have come up with that?’ I felt so sorry for her; she never had an answer. She clearly disregarded God the Creator who makes all things.

It is impossible for a believer to tend his garden without marvelling not only at birds but also at God’s gift of beauty in every flower: the petal structure and their configuration in full bloom. Similarly, those who plant vegetables take delight in His provision of food with various textures and colours; we eat with our eyes, and God answers that need.

Jesus says that just as God ensured that grass grew for the people of his time (they used it to fuel their ovens), so God will take even greater care of those who believe in Him (verse 28). Note how Jesus adds, ‘O you of little faith!’ He is condemning a constant state of worry as lack of faith.

The parallel for this discourse is in Matthew 6:25-34. The last verse has this counsel from Jesus:

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

How true. Each day brings its own challenges, so let’s learn to avoid anticipating them. The essential is to believe that God will guide us through them.

Jesus tells His disciples not to worry about sustenance (verse 29), because God knows that everyone, including unbelievers, needs these to survive; therefore, He will ensure that we all have what we need (verse 30).

Furthermore, those who keep the glorious afterlife in mind will have not only what they need for survival but many more blessings (verse 31).

John MacArthur unpacks this for us (emphases mine):

This is the issue, folks. Fear, worry, anxiety is about a lack of faith…a lack of faith. And Jesus used this a lot, Matthew 6:30, Matthew 8:26, Matthew 14:31, Matthew 16:8, even refer to it back in Luke 8 when He said to the disciples who were worrying about drowning, you know, “Where’s your faith?” Do you think the God of the universe who is calling you to be His apostles and preachers is just going to let you drown? What are you being anxious about? What are you fearing? What are you worrying? Why the panic? If you know My promise and you know My power, then it’s a question of trust. If you don’t trust Me, now you’ve got a sin problem. Do you not trust my knowledge? Do you not trust My wisdom? Do you not trust my compassion? What is it about Me you don’t trust? Do you not trust My power? Do you not trust My care? Well what is it about Me you don’t trust? Or maybe you think the devil is stronger than Me, there’s a blasphemous thought.

Now He’s not saying these people didn’t have any faith. He called them “men of…what?…little faith.” They are the ones who believe in Him. He’s directing this, it says in verse 22, to His disciples, those who are true believers and those who are becoming true believers and He says it’s possible for you, He says, to worry and fear and be anxious, but understand this, if that is the case, you have a problem with trusting Me. That’s a serious problem because would you agree with this, He’s worthy of our trust, right? You can trust Him.

So, in verse 29 He says, “Do not seek what you shall eat, what you shall drink.” Don’t make that the pursuit of your life, that’s what He is saying. And don’t keep worrying. You know, in those days, I mean, they had to make it every single day. They had to find a way to get food every day…every single day. It was the preoccupation of their whole life. He said, “Stop, stop, that should not be the pursuit.” He doesn’t mean in a reasonable sense, don’t prepare your meals, don’t work to earn your living, you know, like Paul says, if you don’t work, you don’t eat. He is saying, “Do not make that the pursuit of your life, that’s not what you live for. Don’t live as if there were no caring God. Don’t live as if that God had no promises or no power or no knowledge of your situation. And don’t keep worrying.” And if you do, you don’t understand God’s priority, God’s provision, God’s privilege to determine the end of your life and God’s preference, His personal preference for you over anything else He’s created.

And there’s a fifth principle, and we’ll close with this one today. Worry is a failure to understand God’s paternity…paternity is a wonderful world from Latin pater, father. God’s fatherhood, don’t you understand that God is your Father, verse 30 and 31, “For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek, but your Father knows that you need these things.” God has a priority for us. He will make provision to see that priority fulfilled. He is the one who has the privilege to determine how long we live. He prefers us because He is our Father. It all works together. It all hangs together. It’s all sequential.

The verses which follow are included in the Lectionary:

32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Many churchgoers could be taking them out of context, because today’s passage — the preface — is not read in Catholic and mainline Protestant churches.

Henry analyses verses 32 through 34 not as advice to give everything we have to charity so that we are left with nothing and seeking charity for our own survival but, in his paraphrase of Jesus’s words:

” … sell what you have that is superfluous, all that you can spare from the support of yourselves and families, and give it to the poor. Sell what you have, if you find it a hindrance from, or incumbrance in, the service of Christ. Do not think yourselves undone, if by being fined, imprisoned, or banished, for the testimony of Jesus, you be forced to sell your estates, thought they be the inheritance of your fathers. Do not sell to hoard up the money, or because you can make more of it by usury, but sell and give alms what is given in alms, in a right manner, is put out to the best interest, upon the best security.”

Note that the sacrifice of estates anticipates a government penalty — a form of persecution — for confessing Christ as Lord.

Henry adds:

Grace will go with us into another world, for it is woven in the soul and our good works [fruits of faith] will follow us, for God is not unrighteous to forget them. These will be treasures in heaven, that will enrich us to eternity … Now by this it appears that we have laid up our treasure in heaven if our hearts be there while we are here (Luke 12:34), if we think much of heaven and keep our eye upon it, if we quicken ourselves with the hopes of it and keep ourselves in awe with the fear of falling short of it. But, if your hearts be set upon the earth and the things of it, it is to be feared that you have your treasure and portion in it, and are undone when you leave it.

MacArthur paraphrases an observation from one of Henry’s contemporaries, fellow Puritan Thomas Watson:

This life is like an inn, you spend a couple of nights there, but you never forget where your home is.

MacArthur explains St Paul’s outlook on life:

Paul said, “It’s nice to be here, but I would rather depart and be with Christ, but I have to be here for your sake.” But he also knew when it was over and he said, “I’ve finished the course, I’ve kept the faith, I’ve run the race, I’m ready to go. The time of my departure is at hand.” And until that day, He knew how to be in abundance and how to be in little and God supplied all his needs because He always does that for His own.

These New Testament verses, whether in the Gospels or the Epistles, deny the prosperity gospel which says that a true believer will become materially rich and secure. Jesus and the Apostles say that we may experience bounty or a precarious existence.

Whatever the case — in good times or in bad — we are to remember that God provides us with what we need to live. More importantly, we are to keep in mind that our true home is in His Kingdom.

Next time: Luke 12:41-48 

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