Choose the Right Weigh

Choose the Right Weigh


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“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” ~ Psalm 139:23-24

Most of us judge ourselves in our own courts, where we are the judge, the jury, the prosecutor, the defender and the defendant. As our consciences play the role of prosecutor, we mount a sterling defense to each charge that our consciences present.

Typically, we are able to supply ironclad “alibis” and well rationalized “extenuating circumstances” to absolve ourselves in each case. And, when even that fails, as the jury we are greatly sympathetic with the defendant.

Finally, when all is said and done, the judge usually pronounces us, “not too bad” or “pretty good” and certainly better than most people we can think of. Yes, it is true that some of us are much harsher judges of ourselves than that. But the point is that by ourselves, in our own courts, with our own rules, we make the wrong judgments.

Our text, however, reveals a different approach. The Psalmist refuses to have his case tried in his own personal court. He will not seek to render judgment on himself. Rather, he puts himself in God’s court and allows God to be prosecutor, defender, jury and judge.

The Psalmist is unconcerned about how he looks in his own eyes or how he judges himself. The Psalmist realizes that the only one who knows the truth, and will speak the truth, and will judge in truth, is God, and God alone. Indeed, Scripture informs us that:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” ~ Jeremiah 17:9-10

Who can know his heart? Who can know the truth of him/herself? Who can judge him/herself aright? No one can. Only God can.

In other words, we can only know ourselves through God! We can’t know ourselves through introspection, we can’t know ourselves through meditation. We can’t know ourselves through our friends’ opinions. Only God knows who we really are; only through Him can we get a glimpse into our own personalities.

It is a simple truth that if one’s scale is faulty then all the weights measured with that scale will be wrong. In our own imperfection, we can never see the truth of ourselves (or others!). The only way to get an accurate, true measurement is to ask God to measure us on His perfect scale. And then ask Him to mercifully cut all the chaff, all the dross, all the offal from our personalities.

Let us seek God and trust His judgments and rely on His perspective, so that we can find the truth. Let us get to know our true selves by knowing God, for He alone KNOWS us.

The Man with the Palsy | Deeds vs. Declarations: How do you see your brother?

The Man with the Palsy | Deeds vs. Declarations: How do you see your brother?

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2And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. 3And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, ‘This man blasphemeth.’ 4And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? 5For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? 6But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. 7And he arose, and departed to his house. ~ Matthew 9:2-7 (Also in Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26)

Qualifications for the Kingdom, Part 2: Deeds vs. Declarations: How do you see your brother?

When Jesus forgave the palsied man of his sins, the scribes (who were part of the religious elite) questioned in their hearts His authority to do so. Jesus, knowing their thoughts asked them: “For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, ‘Arise, and walk?’” (Matt. 9:5).

The religious leaders had great socio-political influence and the common people were generally afraid of upsetting them (John 5:12-16, John 9:18-23). They determined who was breaking the (Mosaic) law and who was obeying it. Those who broke the law and those who had certain physical ailments (like blindness (John 9) or palsy) were excommunicated (made social outcasts).

Jesus, however, constantly contended with the religious leaders because they made no effort to uplift the people and reveal to them God’s love, grace and mercy; they never actually tried to help those in need: neither spiritually nor physically.

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in… Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith… Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. ~ Matthew 23:13, 23, 28

“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” ~ James 2:14-17

Therefore, one of the reasons Jesus asked the question (v. 5) was to remind them of how easy it was to just talk about who was a sinner/lawbreaker and who was not. (The other reason was to initiate a legal debate.) Verbal declarations are easy (whether positive or negative); the true challenge was in helping people in spiritual and/or physical need. The scribes had a problem with Jesus forgiving the man’s sins, but what had they done to help him spiritually or physically… Nothing! It’s always easier to talk than walk. They simply ignored people, like the palsied man, in their plight. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had nothing to offer those in need.

Jesus then did what they wouldn’t and couldn’t do, he helped the palsied man, by healing him miraculously. Indeed, both the power to forgive sins and the power to heal come from God alone.

As it was in Jesus’ day, people around us today are in great need, both spiritually and physically (though the spiritual needs are of far greater importance, the Bible makes it clear that the physical needs of our fellow man should never be neglected, e.g., Matthew 25:31-46, James 1:27). It is easy for believers to talk about the situation the world is in; hold meetings and conduct talk-shops. But it is our deeds that are really important, not our declarations: “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26b).

What will we do to help those in need? If the society is in decay, what will you do to stop it? The world grows darker only when our (believers) lights grow dimmer. Church attendance is crucial (Hebrews 10:25). However, it is often what we do outside, rather than inside, of church that has the greater impact. Which is easier, to talk and moan about the unsaved, or to live the Gospel for them to see, to speak the Gospel for them to hear and to help them in their needs because of the Gospel?

Jesus did all he could to help the palsied man, both spiritually and physically. Let us do ALL we can do to minister to the needs of people that come our way. The least we can do is, like the palsied man’s friends, carry those in need to Jesus (Mark 2:3). Qualification for the Kingdom is evidenced in deeds, in how we treat others, not just in what we say. Those who are qualified for the Kingdom of God do, those who aren’t qualified, don’t… They just talk.

But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. ~ 1 John 3:17-18

Therefore, we must ask ourselves the question: How do we see our brothers/sisters? Are our brothers/sisters worth enough to us that we will do whatever we can to meet their spiritual and physical needs? Or, is it enough to just talk about them, to discuss their plight, what they’re doing wrong and what not doing right?

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**This is the 2nd installment in a 3-part series on Qualifications for the Kingdom given in Matthew 9:2-8, Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26**

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History has no Slaves

History has no Slaves

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A few months ago, a prominent public figure claimed that a pact had been made between the devil and Haitian slaves to help them defeat their French colonial masters in the early 19th century. And that Haiti has suffered from various natural disasters over the years as a direct result of this pact with satan. Here are some reflections on this matter.

“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)

It is clear in Scripture that the presence of the righteous can make a TREMENDOUS difference in the way God deals with a community.

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people. ~Proverbs 14:34

Indeed, Jesus tells us that His disciples are the “salt of the earth”, which can be interpreted as fulfilling a preservative function to stave off the rot caused by man’s sinfulness.

However, Jesus wants us to ALSO understand that both the unrighteous living in Sodom, AND the unrighteous living anywhere else face the same fate: Hell. Therefore, when destruction comes upon any group, the salient question is not whether or not it was due to their righteousness. Rather the question to be asked is “Will I see God when I (inevitably) die, just as those who died in the tragedy?” Or, more crucially, for Believers, “What am I doing to rescue those around me who face eternal damnation, whether or not they die tragically?”

Specifically, tragedy of life/death has no bearing on where one spends eternity: a tragic life/death is not a sign of sin; a peaceful life/death is not a sign of righteousness. Has anyone died more tragically than Jesus? Has anyone been more righteous than Jesus?

Q. Did the Haitians make a pact?
A. Don’t know and don’t care.

“I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3,5)

Whether Haitian slaves made a pact with the devil or not it is not pertinent since any pact made two hundred years ago, does not prevent present day Haitians from receiving Jesus as Lord and Saviour. And if the present day Haitians accept Jesus then they will be with God in Heaven. This same principle applies to ALL peoples everywhere, pact or no pact.

Q. Can a few make a pact that perpetually condemns a nation?
A. No, because “Every tub must sit on its own bottom”.

All of the people of Sodom (except Lot) were in a present (relative to the day of their judgment) state of rebellion against God. So, none that died suffered for the sins of their ancestors: they were condemned for their OWN iniquity.

But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them. ~Genesis 19:4-5

Though we can, and often do, suffer (poverty, war, alienation) for the sins of our ancestors, we are JUDGED for our own sins. We are not slaves to our History. We can make our own choices and we can choose righteousness that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. For example, a man might suffer physically because of his mother’s drug use while he was a baby in her womb, but he will be judged by God for his own sin, not his mother’s… unless he is saved by the Blood of Jesus Christ!

And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. ~Revelation 20:13

Finally, we should all be careful of making the mistake of conflating material success with spiritual salvation. While righteousness can certainly have an impact on material wealth, it is certainly untrue that material wealth/success is sufficient evidence of righteousness (Matthew 19:16-30).

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18)

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. ~Matthew 19:23-24

There are many wealthy successful people/nations that have rejected God, AND there are many poor suffering people/nations that embrace The Saviour, AND vice-versa.

Let us who are Christ’s disciples concern ourselves with being the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world”, so that, by God’s grace, we can counteract the effect of sin in our society and reveal the way to Christ Jesus. And may we do so for peoples everywhere and leave the Final Judgment to God.

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. ~Joshua 24:15

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Measuring Up.

Measuring Up.

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Romans 12:3
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

NOTES

  1. No one above, no one below, we’re all on the same level.
  2. Growth is measured by matching works done to faith given.
  3. Use your faith to measure your own growth, not your brother’s growth.
  4. If you are growing, God will increase your faith to keep you growing.

CHORDS

Our natural tendency as a human community is to organize ourselves hierarchically: a few at the top, a few more in the middle and most at the bottom. But that is NOT how God has instructed believers to live. Jesus told His disciples, the future leaders of the Church “…neither be ye called masters…” (Matthew 23:8-10).

“But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.” (Matthew 23:8-10)

In other words, there is no one at the top: we are all on the same level with the Apostles! And in James we learn that God gives wisdom to whoever asks Him for it (James 1:5). That is to say, we ALL have the same capacity to fellowship with God and to know His perfect will.

Moreover, God declares that ALL our righteousnesses are like filthy rags before Him (Isaiah 64:6) and that His ways are much higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9). The point being that before God we are ALL equal. Therefore, no one should consider himself/herself above anyone else. Believers are all on the same level in the Body of Christ: there is no hierarchy; no one to look up to and no one to look down on.

So then the question arises, “How do we measure our Spiritual growth?” This is the question addressed in our verse, Romans 12:3, where God declares an individual’s FAITH is to be his/her measuring stick.

In the verse, God instructs us to rigorously assess our performance against the amount of faith that He gives us. In other words, we are not to measure ourselves by comparing our performance with our fellow believers; we are to measure ourselves by what we have done with the faith we have been given. If we have been given great faith, but have done very little in the Kingdom, then we don’t measure up.

“But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:7)

To measure up, we must exercise all the faith God has given us. If you have been given the faith to move mountains, then move them around. If you have the faith to be a missionary, but you are serving on a church committee then you have missed the mark. If you have the faith to sweep the church, don’t settle for sweeping a pew. If you have the faith to witness to many, don’t settle for telling a few. Make no mistake, God expects us to ‘stand tall’ to attain our full faith potential; He wants each believer to be able to say like Paul:

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith ~2 Timothy 4:7

The second feature of God’s appointed measuring stick (faith) is that it is of varying standard. This is quite unusual. In modern life great effort is made to standardize units of measurement so that a pound/kilogram in Peru is identical to a pound/kilogram in Nepal; that an hour of class at a university in Botswana is just as long as an hour of class in a university in Andorra.

God approaches the measurement of our spiritual maturity differently. Each of us has a different measuring stick, one that is as long as the faith He has given us. That means that I can’t measure my brother’s commitment with my measuring stick. I can only assess my growth with my measuring stick.

“Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:4)

To be clear, this is NOT moral relativism, because it is The One True and Living God, Jehovah, that provides the measuring sticks of faith. This also does not mean we are not to show a brother or sister an error; indeed we are instructed to (Galatians 6:1-3). What this does mean, is that we cannot judge the sincerity of anyone’s effort; we cannot determine the depth of anyone’s commitment. We cannot tell anyone that they should go on the mission field instead of in the choir stall. Indeed, many Christians have been pushed beyond the capacity of their faith and experienced the pain of failure.

Finally, it is God alone that gives us faith and it is God alone that increases that faith. The Bible has prescriptions for increasing our spiritual endurance our wisdom, our patience, but it gives us no prescription for increasing our faith. That is because only God increases faith. As we grow in the expression of our faith, as we reach the limits of the faith He gives us, God grows our faith some more. So we never get to a place where our faith matches our work in the Kingdom and there is no more need to grow. Instead, God continues to stretch us, He wants us to grow even more… because we have a looooooong way to go to get to the stature of His son Jesus.

Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ… But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ ~Ephesians 4:13, 15

CODA

How well have you used the faith given to you?

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