Posts Tagged ‘Judgment’

Love, Justice and the Cross © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 8:4-9 – INTERVIEW WITH AN ATHEIST ON PSALM 8 – Part 4 

The scene takes place on the top floor of a Skyscaper, in a luxury apartment belonging of a millionaire Atheist. From here the entire city can be viewed. It is breathtaking. The Atheist picks up a Bible and randomly turns to Psalm 8. Alarmingly, he finds King David, (author of Psalm 8) is transported to his apartment. A conversation ensues. (Disclaimer: This is my imagination and my own thoughts imposed upon the characters below as to what might have been said as I personally relate to Psalm 8. Both characters describe my own journey with seeking to understand and apply God’s Word, the Christian Bible, in the world in which I live). Continued… 

ATHEIST: You didn’t really answer my question. Do you really believe that you must turn from your sins, believe that Christ died for your sins, and that you must do this to get into some mythical realm called heaven? To me that sounds ludicrous. 

I strive to be a good person (which most atheists do). “Not believing in heaven means we want to be kind to one another to make life on earth more pleasant and not to be rewarded (or to avoid punishment) in the afterlife.” (quoted from Epi B) 

DAVID: You might be surprised to find that the Christian Bible doesn’t say that heaven is a reward for good works. Written to a Church in Ephesus, Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT) says, “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” I am sure that many Atheists are good people. 

Yes, I do believe that God visited us personally. He gave us His Son, who came to earth. Yes, I do believe He became one of us in order to take our place on Calvary’s cross, to receive upon Himself the punishment for sin. I believe He did that because He loved us and that He was the only one who came to save us, from ourselves and from judgment. 

ATHEIST: So you believe that, even though you acknowledge that I am a good person, that I will go to hell. Who would want to believe in a God like that? This is a major inconsistency in Christianity. If I am a good person He would let me go to heaven. Afterall I’ve lived a pretty good life. I deserve it. Not that I believe in a heaven. 

DAVID: I’m sure you are an excellent driver most of the time too, but when a police officer pulls you up for speeding, and you say, But officer, I am an excellent driver most of the time”as the police officer writes you a ticket he will look at you as if you just don’t get it. 

Living a good life is not the reason for going to heaven. On judgment day you will not stand before the Lord and say “Lord, I lived a pretty good life.” How lame would it be to stand accused before any judge and say “Well judge, I’ve lived a pretty good life” and expect the real problem for you being there to be pardoned. Romans 6:23 (NLT) says “For the wages of sin is death,…”  Time off for good behaviour doesn’t count when it’s a death sentence. 

ATHEIST: So, if I make one mistake, I am bound for hell. All the good I have done in my life goes for nothing.  

DAVID: I believe that seeking to be good is a good quest in life, but it is not the basis for going to heaven. I notice that there are people mentioned in the New Testament of your Bible, here in Matthew 7:22-23 (NLT) with the same false assumptions! Jesus says “On judgment day many will say to Me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in Your Name and cast out demons in Your Name and performed many miracles in Your Name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. ...’”  These are obviously very religious, very good people. He will probably look at them as if they just don’t get it?  

ATHEIST: So now you are confusing me. You have made mistakes too. So, according to your Bible, not mine, you are also going to hell. This is getting more ludicrous the more you quote from the Bible.  

DAVID: It’s simple really. The Bible pictures a courtroom where a verdict is pronounced on those who have made a choice not to include Christ in their lives. 

Romans 8:1 (NLT) says that “… there is NO CONDEMNATION for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”  

It’s like the law of double jeopardy. Christ paid the price for my sin so it’s been dealt with once and for all (Romans 6:10). Those who don’t know Christ, however, will be judged according to their works. It will be their works (good or otherwise) versus the work of Christ on the Cross (Revelation 20:12).  

The judgment will verify what the Bible has said all along – that human works, no matter how good, cannot satisfy the justice of God concerning our sin (Matthew 7:22-23, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 6:23). 

Since God is totally fair then He can only be satisfied by the work of Christ on the Cross for our sins. When we trust in what Christ has done, then, and only then, can He offer us a place in heaven, not as a reward, but as a gift. Romans 6:23 (NLT) goes on to say “… but the free gift of God is eternal life THROUGH CHRIST JESUS our Lord.” 

Our good works don’t erase our sin, any more than eating lettuce will somehow counterbalance the calories you have just consumed in eating an extra large pizza. Those who insist on their own good works rather than accept the work of Christ in paying the price for those sins will be condemned.  

ATHEIST: So, your so-called just God demands that I obey Him or He’ll send me to hell?  

DAVID: Jesus says it’s not an obedience in terms of good works or being a good person, and as I said, that even those who cast out demons and perform miracles in His Name will not be accepted for doing so if they don’t know Him personally and obey Him.  

ATHEIST: OBEY WHAT?  

DAVID: 2 Thessalonians 1:8 (NLT) speaks about God’s judgment “… on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to OBEY THE GOOD NEWS OF OUR LORD JESUS.”  

ATHEIST: Obey the good news about Christ! Are you kidding? How is that good news that people are judged for not obeying Him? 

DAVID: The good news about Christ is found in John 3:16-18 (NLT). It says “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him WILL NOT PERISH but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world NOT TO JUDGE THE WORLD, but to save the world through Him. “There is NO JUDGMENT against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has ALREADY BEEN JUDGED for not believing in God’s One and only Son.”   

He’s the only One who has come to save us! We can’t save ourselves. No-one but Christ can. What are you trusting in – yourself or Christ? 

ATHEIST: So, I have no choice according to your Bible? If I choose to be an Atheist then I am lost. 

DAVID: Of course, you have a choice not to believe in the Christian message, and to ignore that there is a God or Heaven or Hell, but the invitation the Bible gives is always to know and trust in Jesus Christ. In John 10:27-29 (NLT) Jesus says “My sheep LISTEN to My voice; I KNOW THEM, and they FOLLOW ME. I give them eternal life, and they will NEVER PERISH. No one can snatch them away from Me, for My Father has given them to Me, and He is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.”  This is why I wrote Psalm 8 so long ago and declared, “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!” 

ATHEIST:  Sheep is right. You see God in everything. I see God in nothing. So why doesn’t an excellent bolt of lightning strike me dead right now, since I choose not to believe in Christ? 

DAVID: Your Bible tells you. 1 Peter 3:9 says, The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” 

Pastor Ross 

P.S. Thanks Epi B for your perspective as an Atheist. I found it helpful to include your comments in my posts. Since I am not an Atheist, I had to simply use my own journey to Christ as a basis for representing Atheism. Great to have your contribution and to read some of your posts.  

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Accused! © Ross Cochrane

PSALM 7:6-17 – WHEN YOU ARE FALSELY ACCUSED (Part 3)  

Narrator: David has been falsely accused. His reputation has been slandered.

What would it look like today? In Part 3, David is still at the Police station, sitting at a table and being questioned by a Police Officer. A Psychologist waits behind a one-way glass screen recording impressions to determine David’s state of mind.  

Police Officer: I notice that you have refused to have a lawyer present. You will need someone to represent you.   

David: I put my trust in God alone. I am asking Him to Arise, in anger! To Stand up against the fury of my enemies! To Wake up, and bring justice! The Lord judges the nations. He will declare me righteous, for I am innocent, He will end the evil of those who are wicked, and defend the righteous” (Psalm 7:6-8 NLT). 

Police Officer: That’s all well and good but you need someone to defend you?   

David: God is my defense. He looks deep within the mind and heart, and He is a righteous God. God is my shield, saving those whose hearts are true and right (Psalm 7:9-10 NLT). 

Police Officer: A Psychologist will test your mental health? Have they tested your blood yet? Perhaps a judge will give you a lighter sentence if you plead insanity or that you were on drugs.  

David (looks at the Police Officer): God is an honest judge. He is angry with the wicked every day. If a person does not repent, God will sharpen His sword; He will bend and string His bow. He will prepare His deadly weapons and shoot His flaming arrows (Psalm 7:11-13 NLT).  

Police Officer: So you are saying that your enemies are to blame, not you?  

David: By their labeling, blame, fear mongering, slander and innuendos they seek to bring me down. Their malice leaves me open to no other course but to seek God to answer their defamation of my character. The wicked conceive evil; they are pregnant with trouble and give birth to lies (Psalm 7:14 NLT).  

My actions have all had a justifiable motive and their vulgar abuse is continually insulting and defamatory. My enemies know that what they are saying is false and their statements have a reckless disregard for the truth.  

Police Officer: David, you will need a good lawyer, or your case will fall over. Without a lawyer, you are in trouble and you will dig your own grave.  

David: My enemies dig a deep pit to trap others, then fall into it themselves. The trouble they make for others backfires on them (Psalm 7:16a NLT).  

Police Officer: Very well. But if you have no lawyer, then this is on your own head.  

David: The violence they plan falls on their own heads (Psalm 7:16b NLT). 

Police Officer: Well, good luck with seeing that happen.  

Psychologist recording impressions of the interview: From a psychological point of view, the Accused holds a most disturbing belief that God will inevitably and violently judge his enemies. He seems to be a little too eager for God to usher in vengeance upon them. This sense of ultimate vindication by God may border on the fanatical.  

The Accused has an extreme view of right and wrong but, in my mind, this does not indicate irrationality. He has absolute conviction about his moral position but is also willing to be examined by God for divergent viewpoints and he wants ultimate justice, either on him or his enemies.   

Narrator: David’s prayer sounds prophetic. The Bible speaks of the Last Judgment. Firstly, it speaks of a period where God is patient for people to believe in Christ for their salvation and receive God’s forgiveness.  2 Peter 3:9 (NLT2) says, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise (of judgment), as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” The Bible is equally clear, however, that ultimately, there will come a time when it will be too late and there will be a final judgment. 

In John 5 (NLT2) Jesus says, “The Father … has given the Son absolute authority to judge, … “I tell you the truth, those who listen to My message and believe in God who sent Me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. … those who listen will live.”  

Narrator:  

Thankyou, Lord Jesus, that You died for my sins and in You, I am forgiven. Help me to be blameless in my motivations and actions. Lord, I am not always in the right and sometimes I unintentionally am guilty of wrongdoing towards others without realizing it. Help me to accept when I am wrong and make any reparation that is needed. Search my heart, Lord. 

Lord, I come to You for refuge and protection, my shelter and safe-place. I can always come to You. You are my Lord and only You have authority over my life. You are my God and thankyou that I can draw close to You as my heavenly Father 

thankyou for the Salvation I have in Christ. Only You can truly save me. I can always come to You for help when I am feeling oppressed by my circumstances. 

Lord, rescue me and others from the power of evil and at times I would appreciate it if you rescue me from myself. No matter what happens to me, help me realize that I am dependent on You. Thankyou that I find my security in You. 

But let’s get back to the Police Station. 

David: I will thank the Lord because He is just; I will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High (Psalm 7:17 NLT). 

Pastor Ross 

Chosen 6

Authority and Identity © Images created by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 20:25-28 – AUTHORITY AND IDENTITY

He was an arrogant, overweight tyrant, angry and loud, whose throne was a wheelchair. His bass-baritone voice rang out through the Aged Care Kingdom over which he thought he presided. A self-made millionaire, he still ran his business from his phone, barking his orders out in quick succession and with an abusive tongue.

He was dying of an aggressive cancer, and its poison had intruded into his heart and words. Although tears betrayed his deepest fears when I prayed with him, around others, his fears only served to steel his desire to exert his authority with offensive and cruel vitriol.

In Australia, at present, we have a Prime Minister, a man whose title historically exemplifies the Christian standard of service to his country. The so-called debates in Parliament show a group of people intent on wielding their authority. There appear to be no ministry officials here, only children expressing their indignation. Have we kept the term minister without the outworking of its essential function?

When James and John ask Jesus for roles of authority and power in the coming kingdom, they are not thinking of ministry. Are the other disciples indignant because of the arrogance of their request or jealous?

Jesus calls them together and says, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, (Matthew 20:25-26 NLT).

Is Jesus taking a Socialist or Communist kind of approach? To reduce all ranks to their lowest common denominator? Isn’t being an Apostle in the Church of higher rank than others in the Church? Wasn’t Timothy given authority to be a Pastor in a Church?

The emphasis is not so much on the rank but on how that authority is exercised.  Rulers have authority. This is not in dispute. Flaunting that authority or misusing it usurps its purpose because the influence of authority is designed by God to be exercised with a servant heart.

A sceptre, crown and throne make no difference to the heart of a true servant king and it is not the outward accompanying accoutrements of authority that are to be despised. It is attitudes such as indignation, pride, greed and personal status for the sake of lording it over others that are sinful.

Jesus now sits on a throne at the right hand of the Father but it in no way counters His choice to be a servant of all. In fact, His Kingship is expressed in service.

A time is coming when Christ as a conqueror smashes Satan’s hold on the world and those who wield the power of evil motives will be judged decisively. Servanthood in no way diminishes the King exercising the righteous judgment of God.

Yet God chooses to exercise Judgment by first offering Love to a lost world. Without it, we would be left destitute and without hope.

The Servant King is not a doormat, but one who truly expresses the love of God. The gentle lamb is not diminished by also being the Lion of Judah. Gentle Jesus, meek and mild is not an accurate statement of servanthood. There is much strength when the greatest expression of the heart is servant love.

It is from such a servant King, Lion and Lamb, God almighty yet Son of Man, that we find our identity. My authority comes from servanthood and loving others, which only enhances whatever status I may or may not have. Looking at life through the eyes of a servant to the Servant King changes my perspective.

Matthew 20:27-28 (NLT) says “… whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Pastor Ross

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The Earth weighed in the balance © by Ross Cochrane using Blender

Matthew 19:27-29 – WHAT ON EARTH IS JESUS TALKING ABOUT – Part 4

My grandson looked at the image above and when I asked him what he thought it was about, he said, “Jesus is better than the world”. That’s exactly what it is about and about judgment.

The rich young ruler refused to follow Christ. Jesus says it is impossible for a rich man to get into heaven without God’s help. Here was a young man, with his life full of potential, blessed with riches, living a good life and gifted with leadership going away sorrowful, rich and without eternal life because he would rather follow the pursuits of the world.

The first question that comes to Peter’s mind is “What about us?” So Peter says to Jesus, “We’ve given up everything to follow You. What will we get?” (Matthew 19:27 NLT).

I guarantee he didn’t expect the answer he received.

“Yes,” Jesus replies, “and I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon His glorious throne, you who have been My followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 

And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for My sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:28-29 NLT).

WHAT ON EARTH IS JESUS TALKING ABOUT?

Let’s continue to break this down.

  1. THE WORLD WILL BE MADE NEW (see Part 2)
  2. CHRIST WILL SIT UPON HIS THRONE

Throne speaks of Rulership and particularly Judgment. Is this the Great White Throne mentioned in Revelation? It appears to be a throne of judgment.

Matthew 25:31-33 takes up the same language and indicates a future time by saying “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit upon His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in His presence, and He will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at His right hand and the goats at His left.

Christ is coming again, but this time to judge the world.

  1. ISRAEL WILL BE A DISTINCT, TRIBAL NATION

Interesting. Israel exists today but not the 12 tribes. Neither did they exist at the time this statement was made. They had been dispersed throughout the nations, lost in the ocean of humanity across the face of the earth. So, will this happen in the future? Does this take place on earth? Is this talking of the Jewish remnant of scattered tribes all over the world who will somehow be united?

The message of this passage is not about Israel as such but about reward for following Christ and judgment for not following Him. Jesus doesn’t explain the details.

Some scholars have supposed that Jesus is talking about the Church, i.e. those who have believed in Christ, judging unbelievers rather than Israel.

Jesus puts His words together carefully. Somehow, I can’t help thinking that God is not finished with Israel yet.

  1. THE APOSTLES WILL HAVE A DISTINCT ROLE IN SHARING WITH CHRIST IN HIS RULERSHIP AND JUDGMENT OF THE 12 TRIBES OF ISRAEL

But hang on! There are no longer 12 Apostles. Is Paul included or Matthias? (Acts 1:12-26). Hopefully not Judas! Is Jesus describing rulership roles in heaven somehow? Isn’t Christ the only one qualified to rule and judge? In what way do they judge the tribes – for their unbelief?

One thing is certain, the Apostles will have positions of honor and authority as a reward for the sacrifice they made to be obedient and follow Christ. Jesus doesn’t explain the details, but 1 Corinthians 6 indicates that all believers will have a similar role.

1 Corinthians 6:2-3 says, “Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? … Don’t you realize that we will judge angels?”

Jesus came to save the world, but that’s because when He returns to the earth, He will come as a judge.

John 3:13-18 (NLT) says, “… everyone who believes in Him (Jesus) will have eternal life. For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” 

The takeaway truth in Matthew 19:28-29 is that in knowing Christ there is great reward but not knowing Christ brings great loss. The Bible is clear about both. The Love of God offers Salvation from judgment. The Justice of God demands that you either trust in Christ to pay the price for your sin or pay the price of justice. 

The invitation of Matthew 19 is for every one of us to recognize our need for Christ and that we are unable to navigate this world or the next without Him.

Pastor Ross

 

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Wave of Judgment © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 19:29 – WHAT ON EARTH IS JESUS TALKING ABOUT? Part 3

He called out to the others, urging them to catch the wave. “I can see the beach. We can maneuver away from the rocks. They were all experienced surfers. Even without surfboards, they could ride the wave in. They would survive.

The wave came, powerful and relentless. He knew that he would drown unless he could harness the energy of that wave and ride it all the way into shore, traveling in trim across its face, interacting with its power in order to be saved.

They were all too tired, weary from being in the water too long but now they were moving away from the clear line of sand. This would be their only chance. They must take it while there was still opportunity.

The wave rose above him. In perfect harmony with its rise and rhythm, He positioned himself to gain the lift and forward movement to skim across its face. He could feel the embrace of the water beginning to drag him forward and then he was racing in towards the beach.

Gripped by its sheer, enormous power he was now funneling through the water, just avoiding a wipeout by maneuvering in harmony for greater speed.

Resting on the surface of sheer force, he felt the fingers of fluid motion driving him forward in a delicately balanced roller coaster ride up and down the wave, cruising in to the shore.

He looked back for the others but none of them had followed his lead and he knew that the very wave that could have saved them had instead judged their reluctance to move by swamping them beneath the depths of the ocean. They had fought to get to the surface again but their opportunity was lost.

Jesus says, “Ride the wave with Me.” The rich young ruler refused to follow Christ. Jesus says it is impossible for a rich man to get into heaven without God’s help. Here was a young man, with his life full of potential, blessed with riches, living a good life and gifted with leadership going away sorrowful, rich and without eternal life, swamped by the very wave that could have saved him.

The world is drowning. The last wave is coming, but there is only one wave left before we go under. To refuse to ride it in to the shore and be saved is to be judged by the same wave that could save us. It’s inevitable.

John 3:35-36 (NLT) says “… anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”

Pastor Ross

 

 

 

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What on earth? © Image created by Ross Cochrane on Blender and GetPaint.net

Matthew 19:24-29 – WHAT ON EARTH IS JESUS TALKING ABOUT? Part 2

The rich young ruler refused to follow Christ. Jesus said it was impossible for a rich man to get into heaven without God’s help.

Peter must have thought, Well, if it is impossible for this young man, blessed with riches, living a good life and gifted with leadership to receive eternal life then what about us?” So Peter says to Jesus, “We’ve given up everything to follow You. What will we get?” (Matthew 19:27 NLT).

“Yes,” Jesus replies, “and I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon His glorious throne, you who have been My followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 

And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for My sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life (Matthew 19:28-29 NLT).

But what on earth is He talking about? 

So let’s break this down one step at a time.

  1. THE WORLD WILL BE MADE NEW

Is this a reference to how history changed dramatically after the death of Christ and because of the influence of the early Church the gospel spread, or is this a totally new creation of the world in a future time, a new heaven, and earth?

The death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ had a huge impact on the world. It set the renewing process in motion starting with the renewing of the lives of those who believed in Christ and, according to Jesus, will one day culminate in the renewing of the world into a new heaven and earth.

Isaiah 65:17 says,  Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore.”

It’s all part of a continuum and Jesus outlines the unfolding of history up until the end times. We haven’t seen the full implications of the renewal yet. When Jesus answers a question, He doesn’t mess around but notice that His answer is an overview of the plans of God for the world.

When Peter is talking to the crowds in Acts 3:19-21, he says Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and He will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. For He must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through His holy prophets.” Peter once again gives an overview. Changed lives … changed earth.

2 Peter 3:11-13 says Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, He will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth He has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.”

Revelation 21:1-5 says Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God, Himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” The culmination of the renewal process.

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” What I tell you is trustworthy and true.” 

And then there is Romans 8:18-23 which says, Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who His children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time...”

Christ invites you to be a part of the renewal of the end times. This renewal comes from knowing Christ. Every time someone gives their life to Christ they are included in the renewal plans of God which will inevitably culminate in an entire renewal of the planet itself. The invitation of Matthew 19 is to choose to be included in that plan.

Pastor Ross

 

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What on earth…? © Image by Ross Cochrane using Blender and GetPaint.net

Matthew 19:27-29 – WHAT ON EARTH IS JESUS TALKING ABOUT? Part 1

It’s interesting that one of the questions that come to our minds when we give our lives to Christ is WIIFM? (What’s in it for me?). What compensation will I receive for my sacrifice of everything? Like you can invest in sacrifice. Like following Jesus isn’t fulfillment enough.

In Matthew 19:27 the rich young ruler has just walked away with sorrow in his heart, unwilling to forsake his riches to follow Christ. Jesus tells His disciples how impossible it can be for a rich person to receive eternal life and come under the authority of God.

Peter must have thought, Well, if it is impossible for this young man, with his life ahead of him, blessed with riches, living a good life, and gifted leader to receive eternal life then what about us?” So Peter says to Jesus, “We’ve given up everything to follow You. What will we get?” (Matthew 19:27 NLT). Apparently, even for Peter, following Christ is not return enough?

One thing is always sure about Peter. He doesn’t worry too much about appropriateness. Caution and tact aren’t obvious character traits in Peter.

Is Peter being mercenary or just wanting assurance about whether he and his fellow disciples will have eternal life? Is that why Jesus holds back from rebuking Peter directly for having selfish motives?

YOU CAN INVEST IN SACRIFICE

In fact, Jesus says you can invest in sacrifice.

“Yes,” Jesus replies, “and I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon His glorious throne, you who have been My followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 

And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for My sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life (Matthew 19:28-29 NLT).

Wow! That was unexpected! But what kind of reward is this? Strange kind of reply. 12 disciples, 12 thrones, 12 tribes. How are the Apostles judges over the 12 tribes of Israel? Are the tribes going to be re-established? Is this a metaphorical picture or is Jesus being sarcastic or exaggerating to get a point across and if He is, what is He trying to say? Is this a future prophecy?

WHAT ON EARTH IS JESUS TALKING ABOUT?

What about the hundred times in return? In what way? The apostles would experience persecution and execution. How is this a hundred times as much return for the sacrifice they have made? Sure, eternal life afterward is more return than anyone could hope for, but what is Jesus getting at?

Some commentaries suggest that all this judging of the 12 tribes on 12 thrones happened with the early Church with the Apostles judging Israel by the inclusion of the Gentiles and ushering in the understanding of the New Covenant. Others suggest this is somehow linked to the writing of the New Testament. How they arrive at this, I don’t know. It seems to me if Jesus meant all that, He would have said it.

BUT WHAT DID HE MEAN?

I’m left with more questions than answers with this reply of Jesus. Perhaps you are too. So in the next few blogs I am on a quest to discover what on earth Jesus is talking about? I invite you to come with me. 

Pastor Ross

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Bleed for Greed © by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34:25-31 – BLEED FOR GREED (Part 2)

  1. DECEPTION WITHOUT CONSCIENCE

No doubt every male is a little surprised by the requirements of the deal Shechem and Hamor propose, but then again the advantages are lucrative? “… if we do this, all their livestock and possessions will eventually be ours. Come, let’s agree to their terms and let them settle here among us.” 

Their greed gets the better of them and “So all the men in the town council agreed with Hamor and Shechem, and every male in the town was circumcised” (Genesis 34:21-24 NLT). As if circumcision, devoid of meaning, isn’t bad enough,…then comes the horror in the aftermath of their decision …

  1. VENGEANCE WITHOUT COUNSEL

“… three days later, when their wounds were still sore, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, who were Dinah’s full brothers, took their swords and entered the town without opposition. Then they slaughtered every male there, including Hamor and his son Shechem. They killed them with their swords, then took Dinah from Shechem’s house and returned to their camp” (Genesis 34:25-26 NLT). This is not unlike the horrors of ISIS.

The sons of Jacob butcher every male in the town! Circumcision was used as a means for murder. Innocent men are massacred, deceived by promises of riches and by the misuse of a holy Covenant ritual. Blasphemy heaped upon murder and lawlessness. This is not justice, only vengeance!

Dinah has other brothers; Reuben, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun but they do not participate in the massacre. Perhaps Simeon and Levi thought that if they killed only Shechem, who had raped their sister, Dinah, it would bring the whole town upon them in retaliation. And so since Shechem, despite his crime, was somehow still the respected leader of the community, house by house, Levi and Simeon commit their atrocity of murdering every unsuspecting male. Although Simeon and Levi were the main instigators perhaps their servants joined in the bloodbath under their authority.

Did the writer of Proverbs 3:29 (NLT) have these events in mind when he wrote many years later, “Don’t plot harm against your neighbor, for those who live nearby trust you.” 

It seems significant to me that years later, the tribe of Levi would become the priestly tribe of Israel and they would look back at their ancestor as a murderer of innocent people. Perhaps God used this terrible event to remind the priestly tribe of Levi of their need to involve God in matters of justice, not abuse the ritual symbols.

  1. PLUNDER WITHOUT CONSTRAINT

But the train of lawlessness has not run it’s appalling course because…

“Meanwhile, the rest of Jacob’s sons arrived. Finding the men slaughtered, they plundered the town because their sister had been defiled there. 

They seized all the flocks and herds and donkeys—everything they could lay their hands on, both inside the town and outside in the fields. 

They looted all their wealth and plundered their houses. They also took all their little children and wives and led them away as captives” (Genesis 34:27-29 NLT).

Ruthless! All the brothers join in! First murder, now pillage and enslavement! Why? “Because their sister had been defiled there” is their excuse, but there is no measure of justice in Levi and Simeon’s deceptive barbarous revenge, nor is there in the brothers’ additional atrocities of robbery and slavery. And still Jacob is nowhere to be seen!

Paul would one day write in Romans 12:17 (NLT) “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.” Brutally murdering all the males in the town, kidnapping women and children as slaves! There is nothing honorable here.

So far in this Chapter of Shame, it seems lawlessness prevails, from rape without consequences, to deception without conscience, to blasphemy without covenant reverence, to vengeance without counsel, to murder without cause, to plunder without constraint, and then to slavery without compassion. A train-wreck of sin upon sin.

  1. INEPTITUDE WITHOUT CONTRITION

It is at this point that Jacob finally speaks up. Where have you been?

“Afterward Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have ruined me! You’ve made me stink among all the people of this land—among all the Canaanites and Perizzites. We are so few that they will join forces and crush us. I will be ruined, and my entire household will be wiped out!” (Genesis 34:30 NLT).

He is not pleased. But notice, Jacob is not repentant for his absolute lack of leadership. He is not remorseful for not seeking to retrieve Dinah when she was raped and kidnapped. He was not apologetic for his silence concerning justice for Shechem’s crime, He is not regretful of not gathering his sons around the altar he had built to seek to find God’s way of dealing with this terrible situation when he first heard of it. And now he’s not even concerned that his sons have just committed a crime against humanity, an atrocious violation of justice. He’s only concerned about his reputation! Unbelievable! He does stink!

  1. JUDGMENTS WITHOUT THE CROSS

Then a bell tolls loud enough to hurt Jacob’s ears and echoes to him from the very beginning as his sons retort angrily,

“But why should we let him treat our sister like a prostitute?” (Genesis 34:31 NLT).

This question burns on the page at the end of the chapter. Why should we allow this to happen? This is a piercing question which needed asking at the beginning of this chapter immersed in morally flawed judgments.

Shechem does deserve the discipline of justice served upon him for his rape of their sister. But equally, Simeon and Levi deserve justice served upon them for their revenge rampage. Their brothers deserve justice served upon them for their looting and slavery of women and children.

But perhaps most of all Jacob needs justice served upon him for his lack of any kind of spiritual direction. He needs justice served upon him for not seeking to save his daughter after she was so brutally abused. He needs justice served on him for his lack of parenting and leadership guidance to his sons just as much as Hamor does for his lack of discipline of his son, Shechem. Both fathers bear the results of inaction and lack of leadership. The man of faith was no better than the pagan.

I am reminded that despite the atrocities done in His Name, that God is just. But look carefully because His justice was satisfied at the Cross when Jesus was judged and died for my sin. He took my shame and sin and I received His grace. The disgraceful and unjust crucifixion of Christ was used by God to bring me His forgiveness. He died for our sins.

I don’t know the specifics of what happened after this terrible chapter. Did Jacob run to the altar and ask for forgiveness because, more than ever, he and his sons need it now? All I know is that God has the only means of dealing justly with my sin.

This section of Genesis 34 screams of my need to get involved when moral leadership is required long before things spiral out of control and end with unimaginable regrets. It invites me to bring justice to bear on my circumstances but only by seeing my circumstances through the eyes of the Cross, where God’s justice collides with His love. Only through the eyes of the Cross can justice be administered fairly and it is the only justice that gives me an opportunity still to experience God’s mercy and grace.

Lord, despite my propensity to take things into my own hands, help me to do what is right at the right time when I am faced with the moral dilemmas of life. Micah 6:8 says “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” What an incredible balance that is.

Pastor Ross

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Breaking and Smashing © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 2:12 –BREAKING AND SMASHING AT EASTER – Part 4

THE FOOLISH PLAN OF GOD

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (NLT) says “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God … This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. … Christ made us right with God; He made us pure and holy, and He freed us from sin.” 

KISS THE SON

In the New Testament Psalm 2 is associated with Christ and so prophetically it invites us all to put our trust in the Son of God. The promise of salvation still stands. We love John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” but remember John 3:16 is found in the context of verse 17 and 18. John 3:17-18 (NLT) says, God sent His Son into the world NOT TO JUDGE THE WORLD, BUT TO SAVE THE WORLD through Him. “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” 

David speaks to the rebellious kings, giving them time to come under his authority in Psalm 2:12 (NLT). He speaks of himself when he says “Submit to God’s royal Son, or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities— for his anger flares up in an instant. But what joy for all who take refuge in him!”  

Judgment will come swiftly, but first, he offers joy and peace and refuge to those who submit to him. This is a picture of Christ in the future. God’s Royal Son.

Literally, Psalm 2:12 says “Kiss the Son.” The kiss in the ancient world was a symbol of affection and submission. In the Greek language of the New Testament the word for worship, proskuneo, means “to kiss towards. To come forward to kiss.” Worship wipes away the tears of judgment.

In John 5:22-27 (NLT), Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, those who listen to My message and believe in God who sent Me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. … The Father has life in Himself, and He has granted that same life-giving power to His Son. And He has given Him authority to judge everyone because He is the Son of Man.” 

In John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.”

Romans 8:1 (NLT) says “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Derek Kidner says “Take refuge in Him. There is no refuge from Him: only in Him.”

The invitation of Psalm 2 is the same as Act 16:31 (NLT), “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, …” 

Pastor Ross

Breaking and Smashing © Animation created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 2:11 – BREAKING AND SMASHING AT EASTER – Part 3

MAKE A CHOICE

I am surprised how many people think of Christianity as just another way to heaven, all religions are the same and we are all basically good people. This notion has already been challenged on the world scene. But it has always been challenged in the Bible. Psalm 2 makes it clear that not all religions are the same and that one day, there will be a time of reckoning. The New Testament in the Bible associates this Psalm ultimately to Christ and His Second Coming as a conquering King.

Notice that king David, the writer of this Psalm, is not saying that all religions lead to heaven. He is not saying that all religions have basically the same message. He is saying just the opposite. He is saying “Make a choice who you will serve. I am your only hope and I have come to save you. When you serve me, you will also serve God, who appointed me as your king.”

“Serve the Lord with reverent fear, and rejoice with trembling” (Psalm 2:11 NLT).

David says “Serve the Lord.” That’s all there is to it and the alternative is unthinkable. Either serve the Lord with reverent fear or be smashed and broken (see Parts 1-2).

FEAR AND JOY

Serve with reverence. Rejoice with trembling. Seems opposites. Seems very oppressive. But there is no room for sentiment here where rebellion is concerned with David.

He leaves room for a heart attitude change, but when it all comes down to it, this is an act of will rather than some emotional decision. There will come a time when it will be forced on them. Their choices are die or serve the Lord. Submit to David as king or be crushed.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO FEAR THE LORD?

The Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is a deep sense of awe, respect, and reverence toward Him; submission and obedience to Him. It’s recognising that He has all authority and we do not. The New Testament indicates that it is a recognition of what Christ has done for us in love when He died on a Cross for our sins, and responding to that love. There is no other way for us to be saved.

Joy comes with a sense of relief from not having to face judgment. 1 John 4:17-19 (NLT) says, “And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face Him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love.” The opposite to experiencing the love of Christ is experiencing the fear of judgment.

The invitation of Psalm 2 is to welcome Jesus and submit to Him. That’s wise. Make a decision to rejoice in what He rejoices in. Love Him and serve Him above all else. The only unforgiveable sin is our unbelief. Hebrews 2:3 (NLT) says “So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus Himself and then delivered to us by those who heard Him speak?” Christ is the only way. He is the only One who loved us enough to save us.

Proverbs 9:10 (NLT) says “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.”

Pastor Ross