The Coronavirus plague and lockdown gives us time and opportunity for a serious think about life and death, and how to prepare for it.
Save time wrapping gifts at Christmas so you can get to more important stuff.
“Great care should be taken not to ascribe independent spiritual significance to all the details of a parable. It is impossible to state precisely how far an expositor may go in this respect. The question of just what in the parable belongs to the ethical or doctrinal contents, and what to the mere delineation, does not admit of a clear-cut answer. A great deal must be left to common sense. The interpreter must make it a point to discriminate carefully. Failure to do this often led and is bound to lead to fanciful and arbitrary interpretations. In a general way, the rule laid down by Immer may be of some service: ‘What ministers to the fundamental thought or the intention of the parable, belongs to the doctrinal contents, but what does not minister thereto, is mere delineation.’…”
“…It will be instructive in this matter to study the explanations which the Lord gave of the parable of the Sower, and of that of the Wheat and Tares.”
From Louis Berkhof: ‘Principles of Biblical Interpretation’
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Donald Trump’s campaign promises may indeed prove empty. Such a disappointment would certainly not be the first time in history. Or he may prove a tyrant, or instigator of war, or simply inept. He may even be the AntiChrist (though this is unlikely, for scripture hints that AntiChrist will be adored and lauded by all from his first public emergence, and the same can definitely not be said for Mr Trump). On past record, at best, or hopefully worst, he may be expected eventually to adequately fill the shoes of a hypocrite. Yet it is always preferable to be a hypocrite than an apostate, better to attempt much and fail in more, than attempt nothing, better to be a fool than a thief, better to pay lip service to God, than openly vex the saints. Thus, in the case of Trump’s election victory, a Christian must ask himself, “What then can I be thankful for, if not this?”, and assuming one prayed beforehand that God’s will would be done in the matter, “Is the outcome an answer to my prayers?”
As a Christian, my primary, indeed my only criterion in secular elections is the prolonging of freedom to preach the gospel on earth. I believe this to be the highest good and goal of mankind, and those who oppose it to be the most abominable and greatest enemies of man and God. In a more noble age we would have had presidential candidates (on either side) of a higher moral calibre, but we do not live in a noble age. Yet with Trump, if he delivers on his promises, Christians will get some of what we want and have particularly been praying for, namely a degree of protection and relief (however small) from Islam and from the politically correct forces who misguidedly seek to appease Islam and/or build a hedonistic utopia by gagging and culling Christians.
I felt as unhappy, unsafe, forsaken and scandalized living under two terms of Obama as many Christians now claim to feel under Trump, and for eight years I had to content myself with the solace of Romans 13:1-7, 1 John 5:14-15, and Mark 9:29. Thus a great many Christians, not just in America, but all around the world, and including myself, concluded that the Obama years and the attendant ascendancy and toleration of like regimes and ideologies which shamelessly promoted and protected the most hideous crimes committed against the loveliness of Christ and His Bride, were (with scriptural precedent) a divine judgment and a righteous chastisement and curse upon vapid 21st Century Christianity, and, feeling a personal failing and responsibility for that, many set about literally attending upon much prayer and fasting to a degree not seen in the church for fifty years or more. Thus these saints can now reasonably be entitled to believe that such an extraordinary (and widely predicted to be impossible) election result as the 2016 outcome is indeed either further chastisement and exhortation to further prayer and fasting (never a bad thing), or an answer consequent to their prayers, the stuff of miracles, as the raven feedeth the prophet, indeed, a reward to good and faithful servants.
On paper at least, a Trump presidency gives us, God’s saints, a respite not to be sniffed at, a new hope that the Word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified for at least the next four years, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men (2 Thess 3:1-2). It should be taken not as a license to complain, bemoan and despair, but as a challenge and opportunity for greater and higher personal service.
Overnight, on November 8th 2016, the world has been turned upside down, the mortar kicked from between the bricks, and barrier walls loosened, the deck reshuffled, the tidal flow reversed, and any perceived entrenched obstacle which may have hitherto hindered or restricted Christian ambition and activity has now (or will, following the inauguration next January) likely realign itself in the opposite direction to facilitate egress. If your yoke was hard and your burden heavy under Obama, could it honestly be more so under Trump? “But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows and saying, ‘We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented’. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He hath a devil’: The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners’. But wisdom is justified of her children. Then began Christ to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: ‘Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes” (Matthew 11:16-21).
God doesn’t need to have foreknowledge of your good works, because He’s not going to save you by works anyway.
Titus 3:5 “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us”
Book review here (not by me):
But here’s my comments: There’s probably a lot of rubbish in this book, I suspect that it’s much too slanted towards Roman Catholicism and watery High Church Anglican, nevertheless, there could be a few ideas of worth in it. I’ve long held to the concern that what is missing in modern Christianity is something of “a more embodied, holistic, ‘earthy’ Christianity that held together faith and reason, head and heart, physicality and spirituality, Word and sacrament, monastic meditation and scholastic speculation.”
Roman Catholicism is an erroneous and exploitative cult built around superstitious lies, ceremony, and sleight of hand, yet living in Italy for eighteen years and having been exposed to the interiors of a number of Catholic churches, either as a tourist or at the funerals of Italian friends, I’m frankly impressed by the level of respectful and well-ordered Medievally-based piety and devotion (whether feigned or not) which is demonstrated by Catholic worshippers, clergy and church staff, a piety and seriousness that is almost totally lacking in most modern evangelical Protestant or Baptist churches, and puts us, the true believers, to shame.
Visit the tomb of Francis of Assisi and you’ll find the cathedral interior kept in near darkness of perpetual mourning, while ushers and security staff every few yards order you to stop chatting, keep quiet and show some respect, or be forcibly removed from the building. Contrast this with a modern Protestant or Baptist evangelical church at the start of every so-called service: coloured lights blazing, guitarists tuning up noisily, the deafening roar of two hundred people in conversation instead of quietly praying, reading or thinking, people sipping bottled water or even thermos mugs of coffee, or chewing gum, or snacking chips in the pews instead of fasting in readiness to be fed with the bread of life. Trust me, anyone who chugs coffee during the sermon isn’t listening, and frankly doesn’t deserve to even be there. If your thirst mid-sermon is for caffeine and not for the word of God, then I don’t believe you’re even saved.
Likewise Muslims, a people renowned for favouring a medieval lifestyle, and who tell us that pencilling in and highlighting personal notes in our Bibles only proves its worthlessness and our irreverence, for (they ask) what true believer would so deface a book truly written by God? Islamic adherents touch their Korans as little or as gently as possible, and never write in them, nor put them on the floor, (neither indeed do Roman Catholics handle their Bibles much, for the same reason. Some Catholics I know who were invited to a Baptist Bible study were somewhat taken aback that we Baptists riffled back and forth through our Bible pages so fast, so familiarly and casually, without, it seemed to them, any reverence): Because they respect the holiness of the book, and are in awe of it, or at least, even if they are hypocrites, take the trouble to make a show of such. Of course, the Muslims and the Catholics are wrong and misguided: They miss the point that the holiness and power is in the words themselves, not in the paper and ink, and thus create an idol of the book, instead of simply reading it. But they have a point. It’s not a sin to write in your Bible’s margin notes, in fact it’s a good thing, but we Christians today would do well to remember that we don’t even deserve to have the Word of God. We deserve only Hell and everlasting silence from God’s mouth. Such a thought should affect how we value and treat our Bibles, the book which records and preserves the conversation our gracious and merciful creator has condescended to have with us.
Returning to the Armstrong book, I find some personal accord with its claim that Medieval Christianity took merit from a ‘holistic’ approach. Or in other words, as my old pastor used to say, “Every problem is a spiritual problem”. I live in a world which God made, which sits in a universe which God made, and my soul, which God made, lives in a body which God made. That means that while not everything is divine, everything is spiritual, the property of God, made from dust which God breathed Himself into, and currently living under a curse of God. “The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now… waiting for the adoption”. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise”. I’m tired of hearing nature documentaries on TV telling me that everything an animal does is about mating.
Just because atheist natural scientists have one-track minds, don’t assume that everything else in nature does too. Au contraire, I have no doubt that when a bird sings its heart out at sunrise and sunset, it is praising God and longing for the day of the redemption of the purchased possession and the creation of a new heaven and a new earth. Not that it has a soul, but because that is what God designed it to do. When a young plant strives up through the soil, and grows, and opens its petals to the sun, it’s doing it to praise God. Not that it has a soul or a brain, but because that is what God designed it to do, to show forth His praise and glory just as we humans should do after our wicked hearts are regenerated to faith.
The biological considerations of needing sunlight and attracting pollinating insects for reproduction are purely secondary, they are mechanisms of a cursed earth where the sun only shines half the time, in contrast with the heaven and earth to come where there’ll be “the tree of life, bearing twelve manner of fruits and yielding her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree will be for the healing of the nations, and there shall be no more curse, nor need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine, for the glory of God will lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof”. The Medieval mindset would have agreed with and appreciated that, and found spiritual succour and strength in it, and bright hope for tomorrow. The modern world, and even most modern Christians with their fashionable denigration of scripture and therefore ignorance of it, and their compromises with atheistic science, do not.
UnMedieval thinking contributes significant detriment to the church, and impoverishment of spiritual lives. Where a wholly modern secular view pervades and dictates the Christian mindset, there is no vision, so the people perish, and bring dishonour to the name of Christ.
Paul in Ephesus (Acts 19:8-9) “went into the synagogue and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God…
But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them…”
Preach election until your listeners are hardened. They will then leave, or ask you to leave, but the elect in that company (if so there be any) will cleave to Christ, and your commission as a preacher will have been fulfilled. The proof of a fulfilled ministry is not when you see souls saved, but when you see souls hardened. Arminian preachers who preach only to see smiling faces, possess no such measuring rod to assess the effectiveness of their ministry. Only the preacher of grace shall see the fruit of his ministry, the bad fruit of angry hardened hearts being as much evidence as good fruit of a job well done in the pulpit. The damned will go to their place, and without excuse. Paul knew that an angry mob “made full proof of his ministry, that he had fought a good fight, finished his course, and kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:5-8).
This is what Paul taught in Ephesus, which saved the elect, and hardened the damned:
Ephesians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus…
4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world…
5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will…
7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace…
9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself…
11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation…
18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened…
19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ…
“In the church where I ministered in South Wales I used to stand at the main door of the church at the close of the service on Sunday night, and shake hands with people as they went out. The incident to which I am referring concerns a man who used to come to our service every Sunday night. He was a tradesman but also a heavy drinker. He got drunk regularly every Saturday night, but he was also regularly seated in the gallery of our church every Sunday night. On the particular night to which I am referring I happened to notice while preaching that this man was obviously being affected. I could see that he was weeping copiously, and I was anxious to know what was happening to him. At the end of the service I went and stood at the door. After a while I saw this man coming, and immediately I was in a real mental conflict. Should I, in view of what I had seen, say a word to him and ask him to make his decision that night, or should I not? Would I be interfering with the work of the Spirit if I did so? Hurriedly I decided that I would not ask him to stay behind, so I just greeted him as usual and he went out. His face revealed that he had been crying copiously, and he could scarcely look at me. The following evening I was walking to the prayer-meeting in the church, and, going over a railway bridge, I saw this same man coming to meet me. He came across the road to me and said, ‘You know, doctor, if you had asked me to stay behind last night I would have done so.’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I am asking you now, come with me now.’ ‘Oh no,’ he replied, ‘but if you had asked me last night I would have done so.’ ‘My dear friend,’ I said, ‘if what happened to you last night does not last for twenty-four hours, I am not interested in it. If you are not as ready to come with me now as you were last night, you have not got the right thing, the true thing. Whatever affected you last night was only temporary and passing, you still do not see your real need of Christ.’
That is the kind of thing that may happen even when an appeal is not made. But when an appeal is made, it is greatly exaggerated and so you get spurious conversions”.
Copyright ©1969 Martyn Lloyd-Jones