Twog #4 (Forgiveness)

Subject: Matthew 18:21-22

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!

Let me preface this by saying that the context for this post is an article I wrote earlier titled Loving Your Neighbor.

In that piece I complained about my inconsiderate neighbors. Long story short I recently had to move because the place wasn’t habitable. Moving is very stressful, and I hadn’t been well for some time. I learned on a Monday that I would have to leave, and immediately sat down to pray. Within 24 hours I had signed a lease on a new place.

I’ve moved a lot over the years, and have never found a place so easily. It was amazing, and I thank God. Not only that, the apartment is more than I could have hoped for — it’s below market rent and fully deluxe with laundry, garage and great location. The Lord always provides more than we could even ask (or imagine). His grace is abundant beyond measure.

So how does this relate to our subject verse? Well, the upstairs tenant has a nicotine addiction. I mentioned this in my other post about smokers who move into non-smoking apartments. I have to live in a non-smoking environment because my number one allergy is tobacco smoke.

This guy has been the neighbor from hell. He’s a younger man who stays home all day. Every 20 minutes he comes downstairs for a cigarette break — from 9 o’clock in the morning to 3 o’clock the following morning — that’s 18 hours a day, and 54 cigarettes (almost three packs).

And he moves up and down the stairs like a herd of elephants. It’s driving me crazy. I’m losing my mind. I prayed to God — “Lord, you gave me this great apartment, but …”

I started looking for a new place. I thought about confronting him, but I got the impression from our first encounter that he’s got issues. I started to send an email to the property manager, but deleted it because I don’t want to be tagged as a complainer and have my rent increased.

The tobacco smoke is killing me!

This morning it sounded like Patton’s tanks rolling through Casablanca in 1942. That was the camel that broke the straw — no, I mean the straw that broke the camel’s back. I held my tongue 4860 times — that’s 54 cigarette breaks a day for 90 days (I’ve been here three months).

I bolted outside like the running of the bulls during the festival of San Fermin. There he was … smoking a cigarette at the base of the stairs. But before I could unleash my tongue I noticed that movers were loading his stuff into a moving van.

Hallelujah, Jesus … and pass the butter!

Peter was told to forgive seventy-seven times (or seventy times seven in some translations). I’ve needed the patience of Job to forgive this guy almost 5000 times.

Here’s the thing about that. Some theologians say you only have to forgive a person if they ask to be forgiven — that God’s forgiveness is conditional on our confession and repentance. Also, Peter asked about forgiving a brother not someone who is unsaved. I saw a Christian woman on the news who would not forgive the man who killed her son. What about that?

Pastor and blogger David Murray wrote an interesting article, Let’s Stop Forgiving Those Who Don’t Want Forgiveness.

Then there’s the matter of loving your neighbor. This guy’s nicotine addiction became my problem. That’s not very loving, and it’s in violation of the lease agreement.

I pray that the next tenant will be more considerate.

Answer Key

1 Samuel 25

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ

Christ at the Fair

Let’s go to the fair! The San Diego County Fair, that is — located in beautiful Del Mar (where the surf meets the turf).

Dominique is a 14 year-old seeker. He decided to spend this summer day at the fair. As he wandered through the crowds (60,000 on an average day) his senses were overwhelmed by the sounds of screaming thrill riders, and the tempting aroma of freshly baked cinnamon rolls and deep-fried bacon.

There was one attraction, in particular, that caught his eye. It wasn’t a food booth, or adrenaline-pumping carnival ride. It was a castle. Modestly built by volunteers with plywood and nails, there were no crowds standing in line to see this exhibit.

Dominique circled the structure once, twice — even three times — but he just wasn’t sure about entering. Oh, there was a carny barker hollering for folks to come on in, but most people just ignored him. Thousands of visitors walking by completely disinterested except for the few who would say something like, “Maybe later”.

The barker’s favorite response was, “I’m okay,” and he would think to himself, no you’re not! He was fortunate to even attract 100 people to his exhibit. Why, the cinnamon stand next door could sell 100 cinnamon rolls in one hour. (They go through 4 tons of butter cream icing for goodness’ sake!)

Well, Dominique finally got up the courage, and entered the castle. Inside, he discovered there was no one there. One wonders, after 15 years, how this attraction has even survived with so little interest.

He took a seat just as a mother and her 5 year-old daughter (Leanne) entered the exhibit. After they were seated, the barker came in and asked them if they ever told a lie. Dominique and Leanne raised their hands.

Now, you might think his question seemed odd, but the barker, you see, is a Rabbi* — a Messianic Jew. The exhibit that he mans is the Bible Story Castle which probably explains why so many people just walk on by like the many who are on the wide road to destruction.

Granted, most fair-goers are probably thinking about cotton candy and carousels — not church — but it does, I think, reflect the general attitude that many people have about the Bible, or Christianity for that matter.

The Rabbi then asked his audience of three, “Do you know what sin is?”

Dominique: No.

Leanne’s mother nudged her, and she answered, “Yes”.

Then the Rabbi showed them a picture of Jesus on the cross and he asked, “What is Jesus doing?”

Dominique: I don’t know.

Leanne: He’s taking our place.

Dominique: But how do we know these stories are true?

Leanne: Because the Bible says so.

The Rabbi said afterwards that Leanne was the voice of an angel.

“As she spoke,” he said, “I couldn’t help but think of the two thieves. One said yes to Jesus, and the other said no. Just like Dominique and Leanne.”

Parents are called to raise their children up in the way of the LORD (Proverbs 22:6). Dominique and Leanne are the archetype of every generation. We have so much influence over them when they are young. Then we release them to the public school system where they are exposed to an anti-Christian world view, and classmates whose parents are unbelievers.

Leanne has yet to be taught that Sally has two mommies, or that her gender is whatever she feels — that she can be a boy or a girl, and it’s okay.

This is why I bang the drum so loudly … take your children out of the public school system.

Dominique walked out of the castle to join the throngs of people eating corn dogs and fried Snickers. He left just as confused as when he entered, but maybe Leanne planted a seed of faith in his heart.

Who knows? Out of the mouth of babes, they say.

* Tom Cantor is Rabbi of Israel Restoration Ministries, a Messianic congregation in Santee, California. Founded in 1992, the ministry holds services at the Museum of Creation and Earth History. Cantor is not well-received in the Jewish community where he spends millions of dollars (his own money) on Jewish outreach. Services are streamed live Sunday evening, 5 pm (Pacific). The Rabbi teaches the Gospel according to Moses. Reading from the Torah he demonstrates how Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the Law.

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ

In Search of the True Church

Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you (Romans 16:16).

Before we get started, I wanted to give a shout-out to WordPress blogger Altruistico. He writes that he is a re-born Christian of non-denominational faith. Serving the one true church, that of Christ Jesus, upon whom the true Church is built.

I believe the Holy Spirit crossed our paths for that has been a theme in my current series of articles — what is the true church of Christ? In this anniversary year of the Reformation I’ve been taking a closer look at the institutional church.

In my last post I asked the question:

If the Pope is the Man of Sin, and Martin Luther an anti-Jewish nationalist then where does the disciple of Christ go to worship? Hint: God must be worshiped in spirit and in truth (John 4:19-24).

The church is the bride of Christ. It is not an institution, but a spiritual body of people like you and me who have been saved by grace through faith.

There was no Baptist church in Ephesus, nor Methodist church in Corinth. There were no Presbyterians in Galatia, nor Catholics in Thessalonica. Christians met in their homes to worship God, break bread and fellowship. You might say that the house church is the true church of God. They weren’t even called Christians, but were disciples of Christ – a sect of the Nazarenes — who followed the Way (Acts 9:1-2, Acts 11:26).

In this series of articles I have been rather kindly towards the Catholic Church, and admittedly critical of the Protestant Church. My charge against the Reformation is that it split the Church in two. It unleashed confusion and division — opening the door to a flood of heresy and false teaching. The shortcomings of Roman Catholicism were only magnified in Protestantism. One might conclude that neither represents the true body of Christ.

The New Testament ecclesia was not an institutional church. I think it interesting that Protestants view the Pope as the Man of Sin while Catholics see Martin Luther as the false prophet. Will Jesus spew them both out of his mouth? Consider our Lord’s warning to the church at Sardis:

I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Revelation 3:1-6).

The Seven Churches in Asia, to whom Jesus speaks in Revelation, are considered to be representative of the various states of the church during this age of grace. However, these were seven literal churches that existed in the first century. To the extent that they are representative of the modern church is that both share the same faults and failures. Notice that Jesus did not condemn all who were in the church at Sardis:

You still have a few who walk with me in white, for they are worthy.

This also answers the question of eternal security. Those who believe in predestination typically hold the doctrine of once saved, always saved. That is false teaching.

Jesus taught:

If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned (John 15:6).

A Calvinist will suggest that the one who is lost was never saved. Judas Iscariot was saved, but he did not abide. If he had repented he would have been forgiven, but he could not live with the heavy burden of unrepentant guilt. A person can be in Christ, but if they don’t remain they will be cut off.

What if I backslide? I would not want to be in a fallen state when Christ returns, but consider the parable of the Prodigal Son. He fell from grace, but recognized his sin and returned to his father. If you have fallen away, as long as you have breath, God will welcome you back.

Sardis might resemble your church. Not everyone who attends will be saved. Some are like spiritual zombies — their faith dead like a tree that bears no fruit. This is the distinction between justification and sanctification. We are justified by faith, but sanctified by the Spirit. Sanctification is manifested by the fruits of the Spirit, and good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

This was the stumbling block for Martin Luther. He saw himself as a wretched man, lost and hopeless, vainly seeking solace through the many hours of prayer and meditation. In 1510, he journeyed to Rome and crawled on his hands and knees up the 28 stone stairs that Jesus climbed when he faced Pilate’s judgment. (The stairs were moved there from Jerusalem.)

Luther reached the top with bloodied knees and a yearning spirit. He found no comfort in works of the flesh, and returned to Germany downcast and sullen.

Luther was not a Calvinist — if only for the fact that John Calvin wasn’t born until 1509 — but he framed the theology that would later become Calvinism.

Man is totally wretched and depraved. That’s how Luther viewed himself. He discounted good works (including prayer and study) because they left him feeling unjustified. He wrote that good works were as good as sin. Whatever good deeds we do are stained by our inherently evil state.

Paul rang in his ears:

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate (Romans 7:14-15).

This set Luther at odds with the Catholic Church and Scripture itself (James 2:24). He couldn’t harmonize Paul with James so he simply dismissed what James wrote. This is not rightly dividing the Word of God.

Pastor David Jeremiah said that Christians have to be careful with the doctrine of justification. “Some just let it fly,” he said. “They go on living in sin thinking there’s no work involved.”

I had to walk away from a recent sermon where the pastor was pounding the theme of salvation by faith alone. Orthodox Christians do not disagree in the sense that Jesus did all the work necessary to redeem us, but this is not what he was talking about when he told the church at Sardis that their works were incomplete. We are told to abide in Christ, to manifest the fruit of good works, and to persevere:

The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments …

Well, there’s so much more to say, but I have exceeded my 1000 word limit. In closing, I would like to give the last word to Altruistico. They’ve posted some great articles on church history (click on their Church tab). In this article they discuss what is the true church:

The ability to trace one’s church back to the “first church” through apostolic succession is an argument used by a number of different churches to assert that their church is the “one true church.” The Roman Catholic Church makes this claim. The Greek Orthodox Church makes this claim. Some Protestant denominations make this claim. Some of the “Christian” cults make this claim. How do we know which church is correct? The biblical answer is – it does not matter!

The “first church” is the church that is recorded in the New Testament, especially in the Book of Acts and the Epistles of Paul. The New Testament church is the “original church” and the “one true church.”

Written by Donnie Skaggs, Leann Hart, Don Poythress • Copyright © Capitol Christian Music Group, BMG Rights Management US, LLC

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ