Friday, November 6, 2020
A Lesson Learned from A Foreigner
In Matthew 15:21 - 28, Matthew tells the story of a Syro-Phoenician woman who pleads to Jesus for a miracle. The story reads as follows,
Matthew 15:21 Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.
Matthew 15:22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
Matthew 15:23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.
Matthew 15:24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Matthew 15:25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
Matthew 15:26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.
Matthew 15:27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.
Matthew 15:28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
When we look at this account closely, this is what we see. Jesus' initial silent treatment of this Canaanite woman was intentional. It was not to mistreat the woman but to teach the disciples and us a few lessons. It seemed the disciple's response was one of disdain. It was pretty much like "get rid of her." After the disciples speak out to Christ, Jesus speaks to the woman. His answer to the woman can seem very rude. However, it was in line with His intention of teaching the lesson to His disciples. What things did this event teach us all?
1. Jesus' love crossed gender lines. The disciples needed to learn that God did not see females as inferior to males. God created them, and in Jesus, God was redeeming them also. He listened to the woman and answered her prayer.
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye is all one in Christ Jesus.
2. Jesus' love crossed ethnic/racial/national lines. Again, the disciples needed to learn that God does not favor one group over the other. If the disciples were to go out to the world with the gospel, they had to leave their bigotry, nationalism, prejudices, and discriminative attitudes behind. Only Jesus can do this. Tolerating is not enough; you must love (agape) others.
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
Colossians 3:10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
Colossians 3:11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
3. Faith is in anyone who believes regardless of their background.
Romans 10:11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
Romans 10:12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
4. God will test your Faith. It will seem to you that He is ignoring you. He will appear to pay no heed to your petition. However, those who have faith will keep asking until God replies. That is what Paul did about his infirmity.
2 Corinthians 12:8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
5. The Canaanite woman admitted submitting herself to Christ as a puppy to its Master. Dogs have two distinct qualities about them that most owners like. They are loyal to and dependent on their Master. Are we loyal to God and dependent on Him? Puppies follow their Master everywhere, as sheep follow their shepherd.
John 10:3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
John 10:4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
This passage perhaps gives us the perfect image of discipleship. A disciple is a puppy sitting at his Master's feet and feeding off the crumbs that fall from the Master's table.
Friday, October 30, 2020
Stewards of Reconciliation
The year 2003 saw the release of a film about South-Africa entitled, "In my Country." Based on an autobiographical book written by journalist Antjie Krogg entitled "Country of My Skull," the film fleshes out the White South-Afrikaner author's personal experience with the vestiges of Apartheid. Accordingly, the film depicts the author as a journalist assigned to report on cases brought before the "Truth and Reconciliation Commission," or TRC, established by the government. The film tells the story of the journalist's struggle with her White South-Afrikaner family as she provides news coverage of the controversial commission and an African-American journalist who struggles with his anger skepticism regarding this new form of justice. While somebody documented the TRC's proceedings in newspapers worldwide, not many outside of Africa followed the trials. The commission's principal method for bringing about peace and harmony between Black and White South-Africans was reconciliation. Hearing each case before a room full of Black South-Africans and reporters, the commission asked each Black South-African to sit in front of the room facing the panel with a counselor by his or her side and describe how the victimization took place. As the victim spoke, the audience listened intently but did not cry, although they groaned audibly. Occasionally the victim cried out in pain as the offending police officer or guard recounted his story of torture and death. You see, to receive amnesty, the guilty White South-Afrikaner officer must tell the absolute truth. He must describe how they committed the act of torture, abuse, or murder. Furthermore, the TRC expected that the perpetrator disclosed all participants involved in the crime, and to name the authority figures ordered the work done. If the TRC determined that the crime was not politically motivated, the guilty parties were forced to stand trial for their crimes.
One incredibly moving story which the film highlighted occurred when an eight-year-old boy walked into his parents' bedroom one night. As he entered the room, he witnessed two police officers murder both of his parents while he stood still, speechless. The TRC counselor had to tell the boy's story for him, for he had not spoken since. There he sat, wide-eyed and tear-less as he heard the officer tell his story. The audience - listening with calm and bated breath - awaited the officers' account -- and told it they did (the details are too graphic to recount). At the end of his story, the first officer requested amnesty, as if he felt it was his right - as if he deserved it - because he had now cooperated with the commission. The second officer, however, was clearly of a different mindset. He told of his participation in the crime and added that he was to have shot the boy but could not. "I aimed my gun, but he just stood there calmly looking at me, silent, and I could not." "I disobeyed a direct order in not shooting him, but I just could not." Jumping up from his seat, this police officer said, "at night, I see his face, looking at me -- saying nothing." "I can't sleep, I can't eat." At this admission, the officer approached the area where the boy sat facing him. and said, " I would do anything to take back what I have done -- I'll pay in any way I can -- I'll send him to school and pay his fees, I'll even pay for him to go all the way to college -- I am sorry, so sorry." With that, the officer began to sob, as the audience was silent, waiting. The little eight-year-old boy who had been listening stood up and approached the kneeling officer, and after looking at him for a moment, threw his arms around him, hugging him. The audience and panel, seemingly through their tears, approve. Although the means of forgiveness and amnesty have been provided through the TRC by the government, it is the eight-year-old boy who is the steward of forgiveness and reconciliation that day.
How many of us consider ourselves stewards of reconciliation? Unfortunately, not many of us. The sad truth is that only a few of us would choose to forgive a wrong of such magnitude as experienced by the Black South-African victims. Yes, as Christians, we've professed Christ, but we still but seem to have difficulty forgiving even minute injustices. However, Christ wants us to be His ambassadors or stewards. In 2 Cor. 5: 20, the scripture calls us "ambassadors for Christ" and "ministers of reconciliation" (see verse 18). It seems that, just as Christ has been an ambassador or steward on behalf of the Father to us, He wants us to follow in His footsteps. Let us read what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5. It reads as follows:
2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
2 Cor. 5:18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
2 Cor. 5:19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
Friends, although forgiving and reconciling seems impossible to us -- our natures finding it extremely distasteful -- yet "Christ died for us while we were yet sinners" (Rom. 5:8). So, if we are "in Christ," He works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure, and His commands are not grievous (Phil. 2:13, I John 5:3). What is God's command? He commands that we dispense His grace and tell the world that Christ has already reconciled them to Himself at His death on Calvary.
As Christians, one of the first things that we learned is that God created the world, so it all belongs to Him, and that He is the rightful owner. We also learned that since He paid for us back (redeemed us), we are to be His stewards or managers, and this is where the concept of tithe and offering comes in. But, how about thinking about stewardship in a new manner. How about considering ourselves not only as stewards of the material or tangible goods - such as land, money, and talents - that He gives us but as stewards of the fruit of the gospel. What is the fruit of the gospel, you say? It is reconciliation and forgiveness.
God has said as our lesson quotes, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights... (James 1:17 NKJV). He offers you and me the work of perhaps a higher order than we've previously thought -- stewardship at a higher level than we've yet known. I don't know about you, but I think the offer is worth the risks. So, how about you, will you take it?
Thursday, October 15, 2020
Jesus Christ: Our Antibiotic
The word antibiotic comes from the Greek anti, meaning "in place of" or 'against' and bios meaning 'life.' Antibiotics are also known as antibacterial. They are drugs used to treat infections caused by bacteria. Bacteria cause such illnesses as tuberculosis, salmonella, syphilis, and some forms of meningitis. Before bacteria can multiply and cause symptoms, our immune system can usually destroy them. We have special white blood cells that attack harmful bacteria. Even if symptoms do occur, our immune system can usually cope and fight off the infection. However, there are occasions when it is all too much, and our bodies need some help - from antibiotics.
The first antibiotic was penicillin. Since penicillin, scientists have developed other antibiotics. Today, there are several different types of modern antibiotics to treat various infections, and they are only available with a doctor's prescription in industrialized countries.
Although there are many different types of antibiotics, they all work in one of two ways: A bactericidal antibiotic kills the bacteria. Penicillin is bactericidal. A bactericidal interferes with the growth of the bacteria; a bacteriostatic stops bacterium from multiplying.
So, antibiotics target not only microorganisms such as bacteria but also fungi and parasites. However, they are not effective against viruses. With the overuse or misuse of antibiotics, there is a chance of the bacteria becoming resistant - the antibiotic becomes less effective against that bacterium type.
Usually, the patient takes the Antibiotics by mouth (orally); Injection or applied directly to the affected part of the body are alternative methods. Most antibiotics start having an effect on an infection within a few hours. It is important to remember to complete the whole course of the medication to prevent the disease from coming back. If you do not, there is a higher chance the bacteria may become resistant to future treatments.
If Sin were a bacterial infection, then Jesus would be an antibiotic of sorts (Jesus is not against life). Why antibiotic and not a vaccine? First, vaccines are preventive, antibiotic remedial. We are already sick with Sin (Romans 3:10 – 12; 5:12). We need a remedy. Second, vaccines are typically a dead or weakened specimen of the same creature, making you sick. We inject vaccines to make us immune to the disease, which is a different way of saying they are to boost our immune system to fight the disease, should we be infected. Again, we are already infected, and God intends to kill the Sin in us. God does not inject weak Sin in us to make us stronger.
Jesus is both bactericidal and bacteriostatic. He stops Sin from reproducing and also kills it. When Jesus dwells in us, He changes the way we think. He transforms us by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). He writes the Law in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33), thus getting rid of Sin's self-centeredness. This is what He wanted to do with the Israelites. But they refused (Exodus 19 and 20). So, God gave them the Law, not as a way to heal them, but to diagnose their illness (Exodus 20; Galatians 3:19). The Law was akin to a list of symptoms. When any of these symptoms are present, you need Jesus your antibiotic to kill the bacteria of Sin or making sure it does not keep reproducing. It is then that either the symptoms will go away or will not bother you. But the Israelites thought that getting rid of the symptoms meant they were Ok. However, the bacteria were still alive in them, creating havoc inside.
The antibiotic is free to us (given by grace); we take it by faith. We must take it for as long as we live in this world of Sin. Because as long as we are here, Sin always finds a way to resurface unless we take Christ. The date when Christ returns (Galatians 3:23, 25; 1 Corinthians 15:52 - 54), the Holy Spirit will complete the treatment. Until then, we will need that diagnosis list – The Law – so it will let us know when we have a symptom (Galatians 3:23 -25).
Jesus is better than an antibiotic. There is something cool about this Jesus antibiotic that the literal antibiotic does not have. Jesus, as an antibiotic, not only kills the bacteria of Sin but also gives life to the Host of the bacteria. We read in 1 John 5:11-13
1 John 5: 11 And this is the record: that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
1 John 5: 12 He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son hath not life.
1 John 5: 13 These things I have written unto you that believe in the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life and that ye may believe in the name of the Son of God.
Since eternal life is in Jesus, when He dwells in us, we have eternal life. So, Jesus not only eradicates Sin, but He also gives us life. Praise the Lord!
Friday, October 2, 2020
This commentary was previously published.
"The Call of Wisdom"
The lesson's title (a previous one) refers to verses 20 through 24 of Proverbs 1. Let us read it,
Prov 1:20 Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets:
Prov 1:21 She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying,
Prov 1:22 How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?
Prov 1:23 Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.
Prov 1:24 Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded;
Notice that wisdom in this passage is personified. Who could wisdom be? Verse 23 gives us a clue: "I will pour out my spirit unto you…" This sounds like what the Lord tells Joel in chapter 2. Let us read it,
Joel 2:28-29King James Version (KJV)
28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
Peter says that this verse was fulfilled at Pentecost. We expect this prophecy to be fulfilled again in a greater measure in the last days. Those who receive the "latter rain" will be rebuked, heed the rebuke, and love the rebuker - unlike the foolish, who refuse the rebuke and hate the rebuker (Proverbs 13: 1, 15: 12). God will pour His Spirit upon them. It is a clear reference to Laodicea, who the Lord rebukes about their condition, and some respond, and let Christ in them (Revelation 3: 15 - 22). Can wisdom be a person? Christ is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1: 30). It is Christ who cries out, "come unto me all ye who tore burdened and heavy laden, … I will give you rest" (Matthew 11: 28 - 30). So, if Christ wants us close to Him, the fear of the Lord cannot be us being so afraid of Him that, like Adam, we run away from Him (Genesis 3: 9). Or even like the people at Sinai, who refuse to come close to God. The following quote is a note from the translators of the NET version of the Bible. I think it is enlightening. Let us read it,
"1 in Heb "fear of the Lord." The expression יְהוָה יִרְאַת (yir' at yÿhvah, "fear of Yahweh") is a genitive-female construct in which יְהוָה ("the Lord") functions as an objective genitive: He is the object of fear. The term יָרַא (yara') is the common word for fear in the OT and has a basic three-fold range of meanings: (1) "dread; terror" (Deut 1:29; Jonah 1:10), (2) "to stand in awe" (1 Kgs 3:28), (3) "to revere; to respect" (Lev 19:3). With the Lord as the object, it captures the polar opposites of shrinking back in fear and drawing close in awe and adoration. Both categories of meaning appear in Exod 20:20 (where the Lord descended upon Sinai amidst geophysical convulsions); Moses encouraged the Israelites to not be afraid of God arbitrarily striking them dead for no reason ("Do not fear!") but informed the people that the Lord revealed himself in such a terrifying manner to scare them from sinning ("God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him in you so that you do not sin"). The fear of the Lord is expressed in reverential submission to his will – the characteristic of true worship. The fear of the Lord is the foundation for wisdom (9:10) and the discipline leading to wisdom (15:33). It is expressed in hatred of evil (8:13) and avoidance of sin (16:6), and so results in prolonged life (10:27; 19:23)."
There are two kinds of fear: one that makes you run to God, and the other that makes you run away from God. He engages us and we respond with fear: run to Him or away from Him. Christ wants us to run to Him. One of my favorite authors had this to say about the fear of the Lord,
"The fear of the Lord is to hate evil." Prov. viii. 13. It is not to be afraid of Him and shun His presence, but to hate and shun that which is unlike Him. The love of God is that we keep His commandments. And as hating evil is identical with keeping His commandments, so the fear and the love of God are similar. God wants all men to love Him, and "there is no fear in love." E.J.W., The Present Truth [British] April 4, 1895.
If Christ stands at the door knocking, will you let Him in if you are afraid of Him? If you believe that He is loving, merciful, compassionate, etc., will you not let Him in? It reminds of me of the beautiful words of the hymn,
The Savior is waiting to enter your heart,
Why don't you let Him come in?
There's nothing in this world to keep you apart,
What is your answer to Him?
Time after time He has waited before,
And now He is waiting again
To see if you're willing to open the door:
O how He wants to come in.
O, will you not let Him come in?
Thursday, September 24, 2020
Do you like butterflies? They are beautiful. However, I bet if you answered yes to the previous question, you would respond, "no," to the next question, who likes caterpillars? No one would believe that such a beautiful insect could come from that ugly looking leaf eater. But, upon carefully observing this insect's life cycle, we realize that the creator formed the larva to enclose itself into a cocoon. There it metamorphoses or is transformed into a butterfly. Thus, the reviled becomes something beautiful.
The word metamorphosis means:
1. A marked change in appearance, character, condition, or function, also known as transformation.
2. A change in the form and often the habits of an animal during normal development after the embryonic stage. Examples of Metamorphosis include converting maggots into adult flies, caterpillars into butterflies, and changing tadpoles into frogs.
Meta is a Greek prefix for beside or after. Morph is a suffix that means form, shape, or structure. In essence, the word metamorphosis points toward the form an object will take after the transformation. The word trans is a prefix that means across, on the other side, or beyond. It can also mean to go through a Change or make a transfer. In the case of the caterpillar, its appearance and function change beyond recognition; how like Christ, when He assumed nature 4,000 years after the fall.
Isaiah 53:2 says, "For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him." When Jesus became a man, it was a significant change for Him, and perhaps for others who had seen Him before the incarnation. Many physical characteristics God has, Jesus no longer had. He was transformed into a human being, small and weak, in comparison to God. He had the same frailties, needs, and weaknesses we have. Accordingly, He covered His divinity with sinful humanity, yet did not sin, and according to Ellen White, "He was afflicted in all the afflictions of humanity." It is this combination of natures that qualifies Christ to be our Saviour.
Furthermore, Ellen White says of Him:
To save fallen humanity, the Son of God took humanity upon Himself, laying aside His kingly crown and royal robe. He became poor that we through His poverty might be made rich. One with God, He alone was capable of accomplishing this work, and He consented to an actual union with man. In His sinlessness, He could bear every transgression ... Christ did in reality, unite the offending nature of man with His own sinless nature, because by this act of condescension, He would be enabled to pour out His blood in behalf of the fallen race. (E. G. White Notes, page 29.)
Christ assumed the human nature of sinful man. Sin can be defined as self-love. This human nature, united with His divine nature of selfless love, did not Sin in Word, thought, or action. In Him, the battle was fought, and selfless love won out on the cross. In Himself, He redeemed the corporate life of humanity—what a wonderful Saviour, willing to condescend to the depths of degradation to save fallen human beings.
In Philippians chapter 2, from the NASB we read:
Phil. 2:5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
Phil. 2:6 Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
Phil. 2:7 But emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
Phil. 2:8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
So when Paul says, "Let this mind be in you" or as it is said in the NASB, "let this attitude be in you," He meant that we should we be willing to submit to the authority of God's indwelling Holy Spirit just as Jesus submitted to the Father. As Christ submitted to His Father even unto the death, so should we.
The mind of Christ or the attitude of Christ was that of self-denying love. Self-denying love is the principle that reigns in God's kingdom. This form of love (agape) is the only true love. With this love alone, man would be willing to lay down his or her life for another. It is the desire of the Father for us to have the mind of Christ, and He is more than willing to give it to us. Will we accept it?