Helping the Least of These

In Matthew 25 Jesus saysye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Typically, when people address this passage they isolate it from its surroundings. But check out what comes right after this passage–the woman dumps perfume on Jesus’ feet.

What is the disciples’ reaction–“what a waste! This perfume could have been sold and we could have fed so many poor people with it!”

Hey, we could have helped the least of these with that!

According to another Gospel, it was Judas who lead the way with this idea. We know how he turned out. Not only was he not nice to the least of Jesus’ brethren, he betrayed Jesus. But hey, he could have sold perfume and helped one of the leasties!

Usually when we read the Matthew 25 passage about the judgment of helping others, the point is–so go help others.

But helping others isn’t the point. The unrighteous can list all manner of times they gave drinks to people, and fed and clothed others. Jesus sees them as workers of iniquity.

What gives?

What gives is whether or not you are doing this out of love for Christ our out of selfish ambition and pride.

It’s easy to judge others and self-righteously conclude how much more gooder you would have been with their stuff than they were. Just handing out stuff to poor people isn’t the point. This is where the “Social Gospel” needs to be careful.

But that’s not the point. The point is this–are you becoming like Christ?

In the end, it’ll just be you and Jesus standing there looking at each other.

Will He recognize Himself in you, or will He declare He doesn’t know you, depart?

Judgment of Sheep and Goats

Matthew 25 contains one of, I think, the coolest, most insightful, and perhaps terrifying bits of all the Bible.

All the nations are gathered before the Lord and He separates the sheep and the goats based on how they treated “His brethren.”

As is typical with most cool parts of the Bible, there is much arguing over what it means.

As you know, Israel is in the midst of turmoil. There are many who think that this is a judgment on actual nations for how they treat Israel. This is why many believe America should side with political Israel today (even though it is easily argued that geo-political Israel may not actually be Jesus Christ’s brethren).

This interpretation has always confused me. If America sides with Israel and bombs their enemies for them, do all Americans go to heaven? Perhaps just the bombers go to heaven? The outcome of the judgment is eternity with the Lord, or weeping and gnashing of teeth. Whole nations do this for bombing Israel’s enemies or not? Really?

I believe it is best to view “all nations” as signifying “all people of all races and nationalities.” All of them will be judged by the Lord as individuals.

Judgment is based on their treatment of Christ, which is viewed by their treatment of His family on earth (Believers), which will signify their heart and genuineness of faith. Faith is demonstrated by works. Faith works by love. All judgments of God are judgments on works.

You don’t get saved by being nice and doing good works–that’s what the second group shows–“when didn’t we show love to you?” is their astounding question! They thought they had that one nailed down.

Remember the Apostle Paul in Philippians saying how he was such a good Jew he even attacked the enemy of the Jews, the followers of Christ? He thought he was serving God, until he met Christ, then it was all dung.

The righteous, meanwhile, have troubles coming up with examples of when they gave Jesus a glass of water! Backing up my point made a few weeks ago–if you did attain perfection, you’d be the last to know it.

Righteous people always seen how much more there is to be done, how much more there is in Christ. Self-righteous lost people only see their high points.

This is truly one of the most sobering passages in the Bible. Not all who say to him “Lord, Lord” will enter. This one could shake you to the core if you didn’t have to go play Candy Crush right now.

The Plus Side of Being a Heretic

Yesterday I asked the question: where is the verse that says Christ took the wrath of God for us?

More than likely, by asking the question, you have already determined that I don’t think Christ took the wrath of God for us.

All I did was ask the question where the verse was.

It isn’t there, by the way.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some verses that the idea can be extrapolated from. But to say that “Christ took the wrath of God for us” is not to speak in accordance with anything God said.

As I said earlier this week, I like to say things the way God said it in the Bible. To me, that’s the safest place to base doctrine.

If God didn’t put it that way, I hesitate to put it that way.

I’m cool with the “chastisement of our peace was upon Him.” I’m cool with the idea of “it pleased the Lord to bruise him.” I’m OK with that, because that’s what God says.

But “Christ took the wrath of God for us” is putting words in God’s mouth, which I don’t think is a good idea.

More than likely, I am now heretic scum for having even dared ask the question.

In fact, I actually wrote yesterday’s post two weeks ago. Since then I have been looking at stuff about the subject.

I have seen the statement made many times (“Christ took the wrath of God for us”) and have yet to see one Bible passage that actually says that.

But I did find a commentary on Romans 3 talk about the atonement and he said Christ took the wrath for us and then listed all kinds of verses, none of which said “Christ took the wrath of God for us.”

Immediately after saying that Christ took the wrath of God for us and listing all manner of verses (none of which said that), the author says “It has ever been the first step to heresy–the denial that divine wrath for sin fell on Christ.”

So, there ya go! Don’t disagree with me otherwise you’ll disagree with lots of other people.

Anytime someone has to use “if you deny what I believe you are on your way to being a heretic” you’ve run into “in the box” thinking.

“Heresy” is a word that means “party, sect, or disunion.” In other words, a heretic is someone who doesn’t agree with your group!

Being labeled a heretic by someone aint all bad, especially if the one calling you a heretic is a nutjob! Paul even said heresies were good because it would show who was approved.

I’m pretty sure God will be happy to see that you put some time, energy, thought, and care into what you believe, even if it puts you at odds with one group or another that thinks you’re a heretic. At least you think about what you believe.

Did God Pour Wrath on Christ? Chapter and Verse Please

It is standard Christian belief that God poured out the wrath that we deserved on Christ.

Whenever I hear “standard Christian beliefs” I get nervous.

I am of the opinion that the more people say a thing, the more likely it is that thing is false. There is a red flag attached with lockstep.

The idea is extended so that the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath, just can’t wait to kill people for having fun. Then Jesus came and held back the Father from killing us, so God killed Jesus instead, and is much happier now that the orgy of anger is over.

How this got to be standard Christian belief is beyond me.

I was recently thinking on this and looked up those times where “wrath” and “Christ” are brought up together in the Bible (used the default KJV).

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

That’s the only occurrence of “Christ” and “wrath” showing up together. It’s a cool verse, and says nothing about Jesus taking our wrath for us.

I searched “Jesus” and “wrath” and got the above verse plus

And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

So, neither verse says anything about Christ taking our wrath, but both clearly state Christ delivers us from wrath.

I looked up “son” and “wrath” and came up with one additional verse

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

Again, a cool verse that also does not say Christ took God’s wrath for us. What it does say is that belief in Christ removes wrath.

What about “blood” and “wrath,” thinking of the shed blood of Christ. One verse.

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

His blood was shed to save us from God’s wrath, but again no mention of Christ taking God’s wrath.

“Cross” and “wrath” return no verses. “Crucif-(with all endings)” and “wrath” return zero verses.

Isaiah 53 would seem to be a crucial passage here. No mention of “wrath” or “anger” there.

I also skimmed all the verses with “wrath” in it in the NT. Nothing there about Christ taking God’s wrath.

Seems to me, when the cross, or crucifixion, or Jesus Christ and what He did for us, is spoken of, it is most often in reference to the love of God than the wrath of God.

I wonder why we shove wrath in there instead of Love?

Feel free to counter-argue. This is a theory I am testing, examining one more oft-repeated, seldom thought about Christian statement. One of my favorite hobbies!

The Hereticism of Thinking Outside the Box

Thinking outside the box is encouraged by most.

Until you actually do!

Christians are very particular about their beliefs, which seems like a good thing.

Except you should know that most individual’s beliefs are based on other individual’s beliefs.

Even more, they are based on specific individuals who are believed by those whom those individuals have decided to believe. And those only believe what they believe because their group believed others who believed it, and on and on.

It’s been a real long time since programized churchy institutions and their members have consciously thought about most doctrine.

Mostly we believe stuff because the people we choose to believe, believe that stuff.

To break away from that stuff, to even ask a question about that stuff, will immediately generate a negative, fearful response.

They aren’t too concerned about you seeking truth, wisdom, or what the Bible says, they are more interested in keeping you “in the box,” as it were.

If you dare to question why we have decided to be in the box to begin with, threatened people will threaten you with harm.

You might go to hell if you reject this!
You are heretic scum!
You have let down your religious forefathers!
Your forefathers are turning over in their graves!
How can you turn on us, we’ve done so much for you?

On and on it will go. Few will think with you. Most will be threatened that your thinking might make them think, and Lord knows we can’t have that.

It is funny that Christianity speaks of liberty, freedom, grace, and mercy yet we’re so filled with fear, anxiety, conformity, peer pressure, and legalism.

And by “legalism” I don’t mean not smoking and drinking, I mean adherence to human tradition over God’s Word, even by people who adamantly hate “legalism.”

People hate legalism, until you challenge their own legalism, then you find out that all believers are legalists to one extent or another.

When you find yourself in a theological argument, do you ever run to the–I wish you would talk to my pastor, or read this book, or listen to these sermons, or just shut up and let Calvin/Arminius/Luther/Piper/etc decide everything for you–line of reasoning?

You might be one of these legalists.

Do you know anything personally? Are all your beliefs in lockstep with a group? Do you believe things just because your guy said so? Do you not believe things because you know if you did your group would turn on you?

This is what Jesus meant when He said you have to hate father, mother, brother, sister , etc if you want to be His disciple.

Do you have the guts to actually live by faith? Or is the broad, crowded road more comfy for ya?

When was the last time YOU thought about what YOU believe?

Best Way to be Accused of Being a Heretic–Ask a Question

As a pastor, I am frequently asked questions about what I believe or what I think about what others believe.

My policy for answering such questions is to, as often as possible, quote scripture.

I like to say things the way God said them, not the way I would say it, not even the way my favorite theologian would say it.

God very particularly expressed Himself in the Bible. When we begin to rephrase what He said, I think we lose a lot.

Probably, upon reading this, most Christians would agree with my point.

But guess what happens when you begin to apply this point in questions to other people!

You will be branded a heretic by some, assumed to be on the path to hereticism by others, and probably just laughed off as a dope by the rest.

Don’t think so? How about the trinity?!

As you’ve heard many times, the Bible never uses the word “trinity” once.

Guess what will happen when you ask people why they keep using that word when God never did?

What, are you some kind of heretic? You don’t think Jesus is God?

Nope, just asking why we are using that word that God never used.

Didn’t even say it was wrong to use it, just asked why we use that word.

Go ahead, try it sometime! Ask people why they use the word “trinity” and observe the results.

They won’t even deal with your question, they’ll just realize you asked a question about the validity of “trinity” and they’ll immediately treat you like a moron.

This is one of many examples. I have another one coming your way on Friday!

How to Find Truth

A radio program I heard told me that eating beef was the most destructive thing a guy can do to the environment. This is allegedly based on the amount of land area it takes to raise and feed a cow.

At the end of the discussion, it turns out that three of the four people who conducted the study were vegetarians.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean their findings were wrong, but it sure does make a guy more skeptical!

I was reading a book written by economists about finding the truth.

These guys have gotten in trouble in the past because their facts often buck up against what people believe is true.

One of their tips for finding the truth is that you need to set aside your beliefs and just look at the data.

In other words, you can’t come with a hope that you’ll get a desired answer, because that will skew your objectivity. You can’t have a dog in the fight, cuz if you do, you’ll root for your dog.

Seems to me the same would hold true for finding right doctrine.

Undoubtedly it’s a horrible thing to tell Christians to “set aside your beliefs.” But I honestly believe that’s the best way to go about it.

If you already know that Once Saved Always Saved is true, when you read the Bible you will only notice verses that buck up your side. If you think OSAS is false, you will only see those verses that prove it’s false.

If a guy truly wanted to think about the issue and find out what the Bible says, his best option is to forsake all leanings and go read the Book and find out.

Easier said than done.

Setting aside a belief might terrify you. Going through the process of admitting you don’t know can be scary. You might even get labeled a heretic, or worse, for admitting you “don’t know” right now.

Personally thinking about what you personally believe is hugely important though. The more you take others word for it, or fight for your party, the less truth you are likely to hold in the end.