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Culture Clashes, Theology

May I judge?

I hear repeatedly that we’re not supposed to judge another.  Young people express themselves this way, and that’s not surprising – after all, not judging others fits hand in glove with the postmodern dogma of tolerance that’s so rampant today. Different strokes for different folks, so let the other be; who am I to say that what you’re doing or thinking is wrong…. I’ve heard Christians appeal to Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount to provide Biblical justification for the position, for Jesus told His disciples:

“Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1).

Case closed: do not pass judgment on another. Inconsistent But the Internet is full of comments passing distinctly unfavorable judgments. These leave me puzzled.  We’re quick to repeat the mantra "do not judge" but judgments abound. Something is not consistent here. This sort of thing happens more often. In our relatively small community we hear numerous details of what happens in the life of the person in the next pew, or in the congregation up the road.  And very quickly we have a judgment ready on what we hear. It affects what we say to one another, and affects too how we think about or treat the person(s) about whom we heard a story. Do not judge rashly A quick judgment is simply unbiblical. Solomon put it like this:

“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17).

The Lord in the 9th commandment gave the instruction not to “bear false witness against your neighbor,” and the Heidelberg Catechism summarizes the instruction of this command with this confession:

“I must not … condemn or join in condemning anyone rashly and unheard” (Lord’s Day 43).

That counts for what we say on Facebook too. We do well to repent before God and man of our easy judgmentalism and seek to learn that God-pleasing habit of doing to others as we’d have them do to us (Luke 6:31). As we hate being on the receiving end of perceived gossip or slander, so we need studiously to avoid being on the giving end of gossip or slander. Test the spirits This does not mean, however, that I’m to be neutral concerning all I hear. The postmodern mantra that I’m to be OK with whatever anybody else thinks or does is simply not biblical. Consider, for example, John’s instruction to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1). So much gets said, and people believe so many things.  But I’m to test whether what they say and believe is “from God.” John emphatically wants us to have an opinion on that – and then reject what is not from God. Testing, of course, involves so much more than hearing one thing and swallowing it dumbly as the final word on the subject. Testing involves listening carefully, understanding the details and circumstances, and then evaluating in the light of the revelation of the Lord of lords. You’re meant to have a considered opinion. That’s why, in 1 Cor. 5, the apostle Paul was emphatic to the Corinthians that they needed to pass explicit condemnation on the brother in their congregation who lived in sin, sleeping with his father's wife. They were not to be neutral on this man’s behavior but were to take a stand and excommunicate him. That’s because in this instance the details were abundantly clear (it wasn’t hearsay but indisputable facts evident to all parties), and so the saints of Corinth were obligated before God to form a judgment and carry it out. That obligation was so self-evident that Paul put the matter in the form of a rhetorical question: “is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” (1 Corinthians 5:12). Judging: that’s your duty…. Jesus wrong? Is Jesus wrong, then, when He in the Sermon on the Mount tells His disciples, “Judge not, that you be not judged?” (Matthew 7:1). Actually, Jesus does not tell us not to have a judgment on what we hear or see.  Instead, Jesus’ point is that we’re not to judge rashly. That’s clear from Jesus’ next line, “For” – yes, note that connecting word!

“For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged...” (vs. 2a).

If you are quick to condemn another, do not be surprised when others will be quick to condemn you;

“...and with the measure you use it will be measure to you” (vs 2b).

So if you hear one side of a story and condemn before you’ve heard the other side, be prepared to have folk condemn you on hearsay before they’ve heard your side of the story! Similarly, if you, from a self-righteous height, condemn others' behavior while you are yourself entangled in sin, do not be surprised that you’ll find no sympathy when others find out about your sin. Jesus puts it like this:

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (vs 3).

That, Jesus adds, is hypocrisy (vs 5). As long as you try to hide skeletons in your own closet, you are in no position to draw attention to skeletons you think you see in someone else’s closet. Clincher But Christians are not to hide skeletons in their closets! True Christians are repentant of their sins, and confess those sins to God and to those they’ve hurt by their sins. Then you’ve pulled the log out of your own eye – and at the same time have great understanding and empathy for another’s weaknesses and failures. Then you’ll test the spirits, and you’ll have an opinion on what you hear, and carefully avoid condemning the other in a spirit of lofty self-righteousness – and certainly avoid trumpeting your condemnation to John Public. The person who knows his own weaknesses and failures will instead sit down beside the sinning brother to show him his wrong and lead him on the way back to the Lord. It’s Galatians 6:1:

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”

Judge? May I judge another? It depends on what you mean by the word "judge."  I am not to condemn rashly and unheard. But I am to have an opinion on my brother and help him in the way the Lord wants him to help me.

This article was first published back in 2014. Rev. Clarence Bouwman is a pastor in the Smithville Canadian Reformed Church.

Assorted

Why should we study Scripture together?

It’s too easy to take for granted the blessings God has heaped on us, so let’s stop for a moment and think about several of them. We still have the blessing to freely worship. Not only on Sunday, but during the week too, we’re free to gather together for fellowship and study. We also have the blessing of God’s Word in our own language. Unlike so many believers in the history of the New Testament church, we have the Bible in a language we can understand – and these Bibles are cheap and readily available. Finally, we have the blessing of literacy. The fact that you’re reading this puts you at a far greater advantage than many believers in the history of the church. What incredible riches our God has lavished on us! Do we have a heart for searching out God’s Word? Yet it does seem that many church members take these things for granted. In every church I’ve served, there is always the mass problem of Bible study. Every consistory discussed it. It’s the problem of encouraging individual believers to study the Bible for themselves. It’s also the problem of encouraging believers to study the Bible together. I’d venture to guess that, on average, probably 25% of the communicant members in the churches I’ve served regularly studied Scripture together. Actually, 25% is on the generous side. What can consistories do about it? Here’s the problem: office bearers can badger members into Bible study groups for a time. But if their heart is not in it, typically they won’t persevere. The heart is the issue – and how do you change someone’s heart? You can’t. The Holy Spirit does that. He does it, however, through us. He says in 1 Thess. 5:14,

“And we urge you brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”

We’re to do these things with the Word of God in our hand. In this article, I want to lay out the Bible’s answer for why believers should study Scripture together. There are two audiences I want to address. The first is the office bearer who wants to encourage Bible study in his congregation. The second is the believer who may be lagging in conviction about the value of this practice. Psalm 119 as a prayer for the way we want to be So, why study the Bible together? When our thoughts turn to Scripture and our attitude towards it, Psalm 119 is a frequent destination. This Psalm extols the Scriptures in exuberant terms. It also speaks of the believers’ emotions/affections about the Bible. For example, nine times the Psalmist speaks of his delight in God’s Word. Seven times he testifies of his love for the Scriptures. He witnesses to the joy that comes from the divine writings. It’s important to read all these things with our eyes on Jesus. He is the fulfillment of all these holy emotions – he exhibited them with an unparalleled depth and consistency. Moreover, Christ did that in the place of us who often sag in our feelings about God’s Word. His love and joy in the Word are credited to us by God. When we see Psalm 119 that way, it puts it in a new light for us. It speaks of our Saviour’s obedient life for us, but also his sanctifying power in us. We look at Psalm 119 as a prayer for the way we want to be. In our new nature, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we want to be like Christ. We want to reflect our union with him – we want to love the Scriptures like he does! When we do, we won’t have to be coaxed into Bible study. It’s something we will love to do because, being united to Christ, we love God and we love his Word. Personal Bible study will come from the heart, and so will group Bible study. Then the rest of what I’m going to write will sound perfectly persuasive. Getting to know our God The chief attraction of Bible study together is a better view of the glory of God. The Scriptures are all about revealing to us the glory of the Triune God, particularly in the gospel. I’m talking about his beauty, his splendor, his magnificence, his awesomeness. Scripture reveals God to us in all his transcendent excellence. When you study by yourself, you will see it. But when you study with others, you will see more and see further than you will by yourself. One person can only see so much. One person can have blind spots. But when several Christians gather together around God’s Word, they’ll find more to be amazed at about our God. He will receive more praise and honor. That’s what we want, isn’t it? Encouraging one another However, there is not only a vertical aspect here. It turns out that what brings more glory to God is also for our benefit. When we gather together with fellow believers around God’s Word, there’s encouragement to be found. We support one another. We pray together. We enjoy fellowship. When it’s going as it should, Bible study can feel like Psalm 133:1, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” We could also think of what Scripture says in Ephesians 4. There God speaks about how Christ has given the gift of office bearers to the church. He says their work is to “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” They do that work with the Scriptures. Bible study together will likewise build up the body of Christ and with exactly the same blessings described in Ephesians 4:13. Bible study together will lead to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of Christ. It will enable us to grow together in maturity. It will help pull us into the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Two objections Some church members have keenly developed reasons for not going to Bible study. They could go (they have the health and the time), but they refuse to. Let me briefly address two reasons I’ve heard over the years. One objection is that it’s all the same: “The same people talk and they always say the same thing. It makes for a boring hour or two. So it’s just not worth the time or effort.” I’m familiar with this one because I used it as a young man. I remember saying this at a friend’s house and his mom reamed me out. She said, “If you don’t like the way it is, then it’s up to you to make it different. You lead by example. You’ll only get out of it what you put into it.” She was exactly right. Another reason comes from a darker place: “Everyone at these Bible studies is so dull. They don’t have a good basic understanding of the Bible. It’s just frustrating listening to them ramble on in their ignorance. Their lack of knowledge about the Bible is exasperating.” The essential problem here is pride. One’s pride leads to impatience with other believers. Bible study presents an opportunity to share our insights with one another. One may have to pray for growth in holiness to do that humbly and judiciously, but rather than flee from that challenge, we should embrace it. Moreover, we need to be open to the possibility that there is something to learn from other believers – perhaps we don’t have the exceptional level of knowledge we thought we had (cf. Phil. 2:3). Conclusion The Bible has famously been compared to a love letter from God. Of course, love letters are mostly a thing of the past, but the idea is still current. If you were to receive a love letter, you would treasure it and read it carefully several times. The Bible is God’s love letter to his people. Why would any recipient not want to read and study that letter as often as possible, both on your own and with other believers? If you’re part of a Bible study, stay consistent with it. If you’re not part of a Bible study, go and find one in your local church. With your meaningful contribution, God will be praised and you’ll be blessed.

Dr. Wes Bredenhof blogs at Yinkahdinay.wordpress.com.

Satire

Ode to hurt...or why my tolerant nature can't stand your opinions

I’m hurting I am, and I want you to know, That the pain I am feeling, isn’t likely to go. I’m hurting I am, it’s your opinions you see, I just can’t accept them, I do not agree. D’you not pay attention, d’you not see the news? This post-modern world has no place for your views. They’re outdated, outmoded, outrageous no doubt, And lots, lots more words beginning with out. Reactionary, Dark Ages, Stone Age repression, And other assorted clichéd expressions. That’s what I think of your bigoted rants, Which contrast so starkly with my own tolerance. You’ve made me so angry, so hurt, even bitter, What can I do, but to go onto Twitter? Hashtag #BigotedIntolerantPhobe, Said something that hurt me, so I’m telling the globe. I’ll put it on Facebook, Instagram too, The world needs to know the pain caused by you. Pain that keeps giving and won’t find relief, For I simply can’t cope with a different belief. But being free-thinking, I’m perfectly fine, That others have thoughts that are different to mine. I must draw the line though, with views such as yours, Against which there really ought to be laws. Don’t get me wrong, I’m 100 percent, Committed to free speech and the right to dissent. But it’s Twenty-Nineteen and I can’t understand, Why opinions like yours still haven’t been banned. The law ought to treat them as Hate Crimes, it should, Then you’d have to keep them all up in your head, yes you would. And not only Hate Crimes, but Hurt Speech I say, On account of them really upsetting my day. Enough is enough, I’m really perturbed, My tolerant nature has been greatly disturbed. From now on I beg, keep your views well hid. Did I tell you they hurt me? Yes you hurt me, you did.

Rob Slane is the author of A Christian and Unbeliever discuss Life, the Universe, and Everything.

News

Trump speaks up for the unborn at the March for Life

On January 24, Donald Trump became the first US president to attend the March for Life in Washington, DC. As the New York Times noted:

No president has personally attended the march in its 47-year history. Past Republican presidents might have been inclined to attend, but either on the advice of staff or their own instincts saw it as a step too far…

Historically, no matter how many hundreds of thousands came, the March for Life was always ignored by the mainstream media. That changed when Trump, after taking office, decided his administration was going to take an active part in it. In 2017 Mike Pence became the first sitting vice-president to address the crowds. Then in 2018 and 2019, Donald Trump spoke to the marchers via live video from the White House. This year he came in person. His actions have forced the media to acknowledge this massive event. In this year's speech, the president made three main points. He highlighted his administration’s pro-life advances:

“During my first week in office, I [stopped funding for abortions overseas] and we issued a landmark pro-life rule to govern the use of Title X taxpayer funding. I notified Congress that I would veto any legislation that weakens pro-life policy or that encourages the destruction of human life. At the United Nations, I made clear that global bureaucrats have no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that protect innocent life. Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House…..We are preserving faith-based adoption and to uphold our founding documents, we have appointed 187 federal judges, who apply the Constitution as written, including two phenomenal supreme court justices – Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.”

He also reminded listeners of what the Democrats want to do to the unborn:

“When it comes to abortion – and you know this, you’ve seen what’s happened – Democrats have embraced the most radical and extreme positions taken and seen in this country for years and decades, and you can even say, for centuries. Nearly every top Democrat in Congress now supports taxpayer-funded abortion all the way up until the moment of birth. Last year, lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother's womb right up until delivery. Then, we had the case of the Democrat governor in the state of Virginia, the Commonwealth of Virginia. And we love the Commonwealth of Virginia, but what is going on in Virginia? What is going on? The governor stated that he would execute a baby after birth. You remember that. Senate Democrats even blocked legislation that would give medical care to babies who survive attempted abortions.”

Thirdly, the president spoke to the humanity of the unborn:

“All of us here understand an eternal truth: Every child is a precious and sacred gift from God. Together, we must protect, cherish, and defend the dignity and the sanctity of every human life. When we see the image of a baby in the womb, we glimpse the majesty of God's creation. When we hold a newborn in our arms, we know the endless love that each child brings to a family…. As the Bible tells us, each person is wonderfully made…. We cannot know what our citizens yet unborn will achieve, the dreams they will imagine, the masterpieces they will create, the discoveries they will make. But we know this: every life brings love into this world. Every child brings joy to a family. Every person is worth protecting. And above all, we know that every human soul is divine and every human life, born and unborn, is made in the holy image of Almighty God. Together, we will defend this truth all across our magnificent land.”

It was a rousing, encouraging presentation. It is also a speech that many will say was given for political reasons. This is, after all, a president under impeachment, currently being tried in the Senate, and already convicted in the press. So was his appearance at the March for Life simply a move to win back wavering evangelical supporters? Adam Ford doesn’t care one way or the other. In his January 24 newsletter he wrote: “So what? George W. Bush only didn’t go for political reasons. Is that any better?” While we don’t know what may or may not have been going on behind the scenes, what happened on that stage is something we can thank God for. Our Heavenly Father so steered things that one of the most powerful and famous people on the planet used his influence to speak up for the unborn. Amazing! You can watch the full 13-minute speech below.

Assorted

Tidbits – April 2019

Strong men can laugh

“Moderate strength is shown in violence, supreme strength is shown in levity.” – G.K. Chesterton

An iPhone Hack to Try

“Two months ago, I pulled the trigger on a revolutionary move for me: I deleted the internet from my iPhone. I have access to all my essential apps, but I no longer have social media or access to any websites. I can do a quick Google search, but nothing more. I. Am. So. Glad I did.

“It broke my addictive habit of staring off into iPhone-world, and I don’t miss it a bit. I wish I did, actually: it would justify the *3 hours* of time (according to Screentime) I’ve saved every day NOT looking at my phone.

“Here’s how to do it: Under Settings > Screentime > Content & Privacy Restrictions > Content Restrictions > Web Content choose “Allowed Websites Only” and don’t choose any except a few that you need access to (the only one I allowed was my bank account’s website, connected to my banking app).

“Do it. Try it for a week. Write me then.”

Nicholas McDonald, reprinted with permission from his email newsletter The Bard Owl (ScribblePreach.com).

Two jests are better than one

A horse walks into a bar and orders ten beers which he quickly downs. The bartender says, “Wow – don’t you think you’re drinking too much?” The horse ponders for a minute and then responds, “I don’t think I am.” And poof, he disappears.

It’s at this point that the philosophy students reading this joke start to snicker, familiar as they are with Descartes’ postulate: “I think, therefore I am.”

The rest of us might have wished for some mention of the postulate right at the start. But that would have been putting Descartes before the horse.

SOURCE: A Joke making its way around the Internet

On giving

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

Don’t do the “dismal science” dismally

“It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.”

– Murray Rothbard (echoing the wisdom of Prov. 10:19)

Curing the postmodern disease

During the two years RC Sproul Jr. taught university freshman English it became clear that many of his students had succumbed to the sickness of postmodernism. But Sproul was ready with a cure for their disease. In a 2006 speech he recounted how he administered the cure to one student:

“[A] student in the back blurted out, ‘There’s no such thing as objective truth.’ Just like that.

“And I said to him ‘you get an F in this class for this semester’ and then I went back to the conversation we were having. And, of course, in the corner of my eye I could see his blood pressure rising, and his face getting redder and redder. And he’s holding his hand up.

“‘Yes what is it?’

“What do you think he said? ‘That’s not fair!’

“I strung him along a little longer. I said, ‘I’m sorry. You must have misunderstood me. I’m not giving you the F because anybody stupid enough to say there’s no such thing as objective truth obviously deserves an F. That’s not my thinking at all! You misunderstood. No, I’m just giving you the F because I want to.’ And then I went back to the rest of the class.

“He got madder. By now some of the students had figured it out. Some of them hadn’t, including that one. And he said, ‘I’ll tell the administration!’

“Finally I had pity on him and I said, ‘What are you going to tell them? Are you going to tell them I have failed to measure up to some external, objective, transcendent standard of what’s right and wrong? Because you told me there is no such thing!’

“‘Oh… okay. Well… I guess there is.’

“‘Welcome back to the human race,’ and then we went on with our business.”

SOURCE: Speech entitled: “The Weapons of our Warfare: Beauty”

If it can’t be bad, it can’t be good

“Where people might say, ‘well, that’s a bad Hopper, or a bad El Greco,’ I’ve never seen anyone say ‘that’s a bad Pollock.’ Either they’re all bad, or they’re all good.”
– Robert Cenedella arguing that abstract paintings (such as the work of Jackson Pollock) with its uncertain standards, are not great art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture credit: neftali / Shutterstock.com


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