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His Master's Voice
|Copyright © 2007 - All rights retained by author|
|Written by: C. W. Booth|
July 2, 2007
He Who Delivered Jesus to the Roman Trial Has the Greater Sin
Over the past few weeks I have been studying and teaching in John. As I went into Chapters 18 and 19 I was saddened to read that the beatings Jesus endured actually began at the hands of the temple officials, before they turned Him over to the Romans. Jesus was interrogated numerous times, and always found innocent of every charge, except of the one charge of calling Himself the Christ. Yet, the temple officials beat Him anyway.
That the temple officials collaborated with the Gentiles to arrest Jesus is amazing. That they ultimately turned against everything that they held to be sacred is staggering. They were so very concerned not to make themselves ceremonially unclean (because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover meal) that they did not even enter Pilateís residence, the Roman governor and a despised Gentile. Yet, they were willing to sin by telling lies, inciting riotous behavior, and conspiring to commit murder.
But even more shocking is what happened when Pilate, who time after time, attempted to find creative ways to release Jesus. The temple officials shouted to Pilate, "If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar." These religious leaders of Israel were threatening to accuse the Roman governor of not being sufficiently loyal to Caesar.
And then, the ultimate insult to Jesus who is the True Vine, the giver of the Law, the one who called Israel to be His chosen nation, the reason that a temple was built and priests appointed: the temple officials screamed, "We have no king but Caesar." No king but Caesar? Caesar was the false god and ruler of the Roman empire. That about sums it up. As their real God and King stands before them, bleeding from beatings and near death from the scourging, a crown of thorns battered into His head with a rod, and covered in Herodís royal "gorgeous robe," He was prepared to be the sacrifice for all Israel and the world, and they shouted back, "We have no king but Caesar."
Jesus summed this all up for Pilate, "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin." In other words, "Pilate, your authority to place me on trial is legitimate and from God (though you are sinning by condemning an innocent person), but those who conspired to have Me killed and delivered Me to you had no authority to do that, and so, they are more sinful than you."
And then, I thought, who did deliver Jesus to Pilate? It was me, my sin, that caused Jesus to leave Heaven, come to Earth, suffer, and die. My sin. Jesus was talking about me when He said, "he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin." And yet, even as He said, that, He was planning to erase my sin, to declare me innocent, and to set me free. What kind of love is this? What kind of God owns us? God is love, and He never changes. Amen!!!!!
July 10, 2007
Popeís Latest Pronouncement
Rarely do I involve myself in the differences between Protestant and Catholic theologians, though I do some day hope to complete an article comparing the doctrines of the two belief systems. Rather, I like to remind others, like myself -- who are persuaded that Lutherís actions were an appropriate response to faulty doctrine and improper ecclesial behaviors -- that the Catholic Church had its same foundation in the apostlesí faith as does ours and had the distinction of being known as the church for centuries.
Differences between Catholicism and Protestantism were spotlighted last week when the Pope reissued a positional stance. He asserted that the Vatican II conference was misunderstood and he desired to correct that misunderstanding. He stated that: 1) no other churches but Catholic churches had the "means of salvation" because they are not "true churches" at all, and 2) masses (church services) must be conducted in Latin. (source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070710/ap_on_re_eu/pope_other_christians)
Interestingly, the reason given in the above article for stating that Protestant churches were not true churches and lacked the means of salvation is "because they do not have apostolic succession -- the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ's original apostles," or more properly, that they do not allow for the primacy of the Pope, who is said to be the succeeding apostle. For me, this comes back to politics as much as it does religion or doctrine. Christís body is the family of all believers, the family of which is the very definition of "church." Any gathering of believers is a gathering of the true church. Though generally misunderstood as to its context, a phrase and principle of Scripture nonetheless holds true: "Wherever two or three gather in My name, there I am in their midst" -- Jesus, Matthew 18:20. Jesus is the Head of the Church, and is the one who declares whether the gathering is a "true church." I remain unswayed that any man can declare himself head of any given church, much less all churches (you are invited to read: "Apostles and Prophets: Validating Modern Claims of Leadership" at http://thefaithfulword.org/catspiritualgifts.html#apostles ). For that reason, I see this as a political issue.
Similarly, the question of whether church services must be in Latin or in common languages is a political issue more than it is a doctrinal one. If it were but a doctrinal issue, then all would obey the commands of the apostle Paul in the Scripture he has penned, "So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. Ö If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me." (1 Corinthians 14:9, 11)
If Christ, the very Head of the Church, commanded Paul to tell us to speak only commonly understood languages during church services, then this debate about whether to use Latin or not is no longer a doctrinal matter. It is a political one. For what other reason could there be, except to assert a political force, to set aside Christís commandment regarding the use of common and readily understood language in church?
It saddens me to see that level of politics reemerging in the global spotlight by church officials. I fear this is not a step forward, but backward, and at a time when the enemies of Christianity would enjoy and exploit additional schisms between those who name Christ as Savior.
July 15, 2007
Perfection on Earth
Having been named "a perfectionist" many times in my life, by many individuals, I am not so sure I deserve such a title. No, that is not denial of a criticism, nor is it false modesty (assuming one sees the label as a compliment). I just do not think I have ever achieved perfection. Though I have deluded myself at times into thinking I had come close.
Recently I repaired a 50 year old gate of the fence that circumscribes our back yard. It was an ordinary gray chain link fence and an ordinary gate whose support pole had become bent and broken. After separating the good length of pole from the broken portion, I reset it in concrete, replaced the dysfunctional latching mechanism, and straightened the throw of the gate.
Following the repair, I stepped back, surveyed my handiwork, and said to myself, "That thing is just about perfect now." Within moments of my thought, it dawned on me that I was mistaken. Seeing the gate, and the fence with clearer vision, I then said to myself, "Perfect? The gate is still crooked, brown with rust, and utterly unsightly as it bears a new white aluminum pole grafted into the center of it all to hold the new latchÖhow is that perfect in any sense of the word?"
A perfect sacrifice in Scripture is one that is without spot, wrinkle, disease, or deformity. A perfect person is one who keeps the law, the Word, the commandments of Christ without violating them in any sense, and always obeying with pure motives. A perfectionist, me? I think not.
As a result of my self-deception with the gate, I was compelled to paint the gate and the fence it breeched. Not that painting it will gain it that title of "perfection," but because it will bring it closer, a progressive improvement. And so it is with me. I am not perfect, though redeemed by Christ, Who is perfection. I am not perfect, but my ongoing efforts of improvement, to make me more like Christ, is "the good" of which Romans 8 speaks. The fence is the very symbol of progressive sanctification. A little closer to being what it should have been all along, but not quite there yet.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)
Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you. (1 Timothy 4:14-16)
[Note: the above essay was originally posted as a blog entry which I wrote and put online July 15, 2007. As such, it was subject to public commentary as is customary with blogging. As a practical matter, I normally delete the comments entered on the blog site when building this essay archive. If you wish to read the comments posted by others about the essays, you are invited to go online, read them, or post your own comments.
However, on a few occasions the comments and perhaps my own responses to the comments are so core to understanding the essay, or the implications of the essay, that I have chosen to incorporate them, as I have done below.]
Comments to the July 15, 2007 post entitled: Perfection on Earth
Begin Comment 1:
Good post! Sanctification is so easy to warp in a way that makes it about us instead of Him! Thanks for the reminder.
What were you distinctions of the word from yesteday's lesson? One was to restrain and I can't remember what the other one was.
Also, I thought I picked up on a connection to the milk and meat in connection with those distinctions. Did you say the milk is salvation and the meat is obedience? I'd like to ponder these points a little bit more, if you could clarify them for me.
I've been meditating on Romans 2:14-15 in connection with my time in Japan. The Japanese people do not have the blessing of the knowledge of the law whatsoever. But to what extent do they have a witness in their own hearts? Even though on the surface they appear to be a good or moral society, I don't buy it. I think sin lurks beyond the surface in a way that I was not able to fully see in my short time there.
End comment one by "stan"
Begin Comment 2:
Stan, thanks for the props. At the time, I covered two distinctives of the Word: one is that it restrains us from evil while showing us the proper path and the proper vision of what we must be (Proverbs 29:18), and it is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:15-17). As for meat and milk, that was brought up by another class member, but is a good point. Elemental aspects of the gospel (like repentance) are milk, more stretching material (such as proper motives and heart attitude) are meat from the Word.
Certainly sin lurks and thrives within the Japanese as it does all men from all nations and cultures. The Japanese do value many ethics that align with biblical righteousness, perhaps more so than the typical Westerner. What is both different about, and the same about, the Japanese and Westerners is their perception of "sin." Westerners understand what sin is but do not feel they are sinners because it has become increasingly acceptable in our culture to lie, lust, and covet (watch any sitcom). Similarly, the Japanese do not feel they are sinners because the concept of sin is alien to them. Japanese honor moral behavior because they think the ancestral spirits are imposing a form of harmony on the universe, and certain behaviors (such as stealing) violate that harmony and will bring bad luck or distress. While they would not count stealing as a sin (sin implies accountability to a deity) they see stealing as a breaking of harmony, ritual, and cultural norms. The Japanese highly value societal teamwork, altruism, and self-denial, concepts which are increasingly unfamiliar to Westerners.
To explain to a Japanese person the concept of sin, requires that you establish the lordship of the Spirit that created all the universe, and all other persons and spirits. That Spirit is almighty God, and He has established rules (including belief in Himself) that must be followed. Three such rules that the Japanese typically violate and can be used to demonstrate their culpability to sin are: worship of the one true God and not other gods/spirits, no drunkenness, and speaking open truthfulness at all times (honne vs. tatemae).
Like all men, everywhere, the Japanese are slaves to sin (but do not know it) and need Christ to release them from that slavery. However, the Japanese culture lends itself to a form of outward morality which can be hard for a Westerner to comprehend.
For more details about this, please read the article: http://thefaithfulword.org/japangospel.html
End comment two by C. W. Booth
July 23, 2007
Grafted into the True Vine and the Removal of the Dead Wood
Yesterday, with the help of my wife and son, I removed a dead, Ö, a dead something. I donít know if it was a tree or a bush, so letís just call it a tree sized bush. It took an enormous amount of effort. It took me hours to tune the carburetor of the old chain saw just to get it to the point it would run (thatís a lot of starter cord pulling). It took exhausting hours to cut through the numerous branches and trunks, hack them down to size, bundle the small ones, and move the larger ones from the side of the house, and my back just is not as young as it used to be.
Frankly, it would have been less trouble to let the tree sized bush rot in place. It was not visible from inside our house, or from the backyard. It did not bother us at all. However, it was right in the face of our next door neighbor, mere feet from her front door. And she is thinking of selling her house; and though she never mentioned the bush-tree to me, just imagine greeting her prospects with a view of a dead tree sized bush. And everyone from the street could see it. So, down it came, with effort.
Removing this dead wood reminded me of John 15. Jesus had just entered Jerusalem on a colt, washed the disciplesí feet, and had finished the Passover/last supper/communion. And then He instructs them that He is the true vine, the true source of Israelís existence--Israel being the original branch to grow from the vine--and He is the true God. We Gentiles are now grafted in to the true vine, since the original branches have been pruned out of the way for lack of the fruit of faith. And if we are not productive, we too will be pruned out of the way. And like my dead tree sized bush, the wood is good for nothing but burning.
Each time I walk past the stump(s) of the dead tree sized bush, I suppose it ought to act as a reminder for me to be productive. Who wants to be cut off from serving the Lord and unceremoniously discarded?
Below is my rudimentary compilation of the "true vine" symbol, and the analogy of the vine, as it is developed across Scripture. By the time Jesus called Himself the true vine, the term was rich with Scriptural implication and meaning. It is staggering to note how many of these passages are prophetic of the ministry of Jesus as the Messiah.
Genesis 49:8-11, Judah will become the lion, the father of the ruler, and all will be obedient to the ruler, and it is the ruler who will tie his colt to the vine, and He will wash His garments in wine--the "blood of the grapes."
Leviticus 19:10, the cast off of the vineyard is for the benefit of the need and the stranger (Gentiles), after the children (the Jews) have partaken
Numbers 6:1-8, Nazirite vows of dedication required avoiding all of the fruit of the grapevine. There are very many theories as to why the Nazirite was forbidden the fruit of the vine. Let me add another of my own making. The Nazirite was symbolically to be set apart wholly to God, in other words, to be entirely holy. If Jesus, the Messiah, the sacrifice for sins, was the vine and His blood was the fruit of the vine, then what need has a perfectly holy person with sacrifice? True, the Nazirite was entirely holy in symbol only, yet, the symbol is a powerful one.
Joshua 24:13-14, vineyards were provided to the chosen people for which they did not work, labor, or earn. If Jesus is the vine, and Israel the chosen ones, together they symbolize that Christís salvation is given, not earned.
Psalms 80:8, Israel is the also called a vine, the original branch to grow from the true vine, the symbolic offspring of the true vine.
Isaiah 5:1-7, when the vine, planted by the true vineyard owner, does not produce fruit in keeping with the reputation and expectations of the owner, it is cursed.
Matthew 20:1-2, kingdom of heaven is called a vineyard, quite similar to how Israel was described. And this vineyard has laborers. Who are they?
Matthew 21:28-31, disobedient son is one who does not work in the vineyard, obedient son does. Obedience is a precious word to God, and helps identify those who are the laborers in the vineyard of the kingdom.
Revelation 14:11-20, a day is coming when the vineyard will be fully cultivated, the blood of the grape will run free
Romans 11:13-36, we Gentiles are grafted into the true vine, grafted into Israel, grafted into Christ, because Israel rejected her Messiah. The only difference between Gentiles and Jews is their faith, or lack thereof.
John 15:5-6 Unproductive branches are pruned off. Similar to Paulís warning about being worthy of the Vine.
John 15:3 Jesus tells them they are clean. Why? They are washed in the blood of the crushed grape, Jesusí blood.
John 15:4-6 Grapevine branches have only one good use, to grow fruit. Nothing else can be done with the wood, except incineration (Ezekiel 15:1-8). As grapevine branches we have only one good use, to bear fruit for the vine.
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