Jesus and the Coronavirus: Invisible Realities

I admit that nearly all cultural situations of unrest amaze me. It is astonishing how much the invisible Coronavirus is given attention, air time, and conversation time even at the most intimate places such as the dinner table at home. This invisible reality is treated as real, even though it is unseen. Though Jesus is far greater than the Coronavirus, this invisible reality is not treated with the same amount of respect and seriousness. He is not spoken of at the dinner table of every American. His name does not command the closure of public events. And his name is not the topic of every news station in America.

Nevertheless, one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess, that the invisible reality of Jesus was more serious than they thought. Jesus is real, and He is here. Let all people understand this!

[Daily Scripture Verse: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” 1 Peter 1:8]

Was Jesus a Happy Person?

For all of the times that the New Testament calls us to rejoice, it is extremely interesting to note that the Synoptic Gospels never describe Jesus as a joyful person. Not even once do we read a verse that speaks of Jesus’s joy. The book of Hebrews mentions it, but that is reference to His exaltation by means of crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus looked forward to the day he would exalted – but this hardly speaks of his emotions in everyday life. Nor does it suggest that he found joy ‘in the little things.’

Rather, by all counts, Jesus would probably be described by the average person in his day as an “up-tight,” “mean,” ”judgmental,” and “angry” person. He preached about judgement and hell more than any New Testament writer. He called people names like ‘fools,’ ‘snakes,’ ‘sons of the devil,’ and ‘hypocrites.’ He flipped over a table in the temple out of anger. And he said that he came to bring division and a sword (Matthew 10:34).

Yet, we rarely seem to hear of this biblical Jesus.

It’s not because Jesus wasn’t gentle. He was/ he is. It’s not because Jesus wasn’t compassionate. He was/ he is. And its not because Jesus wasn’t loving. He was/ he is.

But its precisely because Jesus is loving, that he sought to deliver the mass of deceived religious people from their delusion. This “love” is not seen as such by the deceived. How can you be loving someone when you are calling them a snake?

Jesus was certainly a joyful person. But the Gospels show us an angry and condemning Jesus because the salvation of souls was the most important thing to Jesus. Jesus was broken over the deception in His land, and it was always on the forefront of his mind and ministry. It is only natural for us to appear “angry” today – for the deception in our land is just as great as it was in Jesus’, and we want people to be saved. We want them to find their joy in God; not in a life without God as the center and authority of it all. Don’t be fooled, we rejoice in the Lord. But be aware, that we rejoice in the Lord. Therefore, we sorrow for those who “rejoice,” but are in fact dead in their sin and too deceived to realize it. We may look like and sound like we are angry all of the time – but if you were to see us in the “secret place,” your opinion would change. When we are around a group of deceived religious zealots – we weep. When are communing with our God and with our true family – you will see our unending joy.

[Daily Scripture Verse: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” Matthew 13:44]

Francis Chan and Exegesis

I will always support, respect, and love Francis. He is one of the few (Matthew 7:14) people that get it. Actually taking up your cross, and passionately following Jesus. I love listening to his voice. I love that he is practicing what he has preached. True Christianity will always recognize the disparity that must exist from the nominal Christianity of the culture, and it will always rebel against it. Think Elisabeth Elliott, think A.W. Tower, think Leonard Ravenhill, think Paul Washer. Going to church every Sunday, maybe a small group or two – is not biblical Christianity. These people have understood that. They have laid down their lives for the Gospel; but they wouldn’t want to be praised for it. They would say, “We are unworthy servants, and have only done what was our duty (Luke 17:10).”

But as someone who has encountered biblical scholarship in a manner similar to Paul’s life altering Damascus road experience, it pains me to say Francis Chan has never wrestled with real exegesis. He may have dabbled with a little Greek and a little Hebrew, but his interpretive “life” was never “transformed” by it. Biblical scholarship is seen primarily as a hinderance to faith and/ or a waste of time. The pain I feel from others believing in this error creates a fire in me, to never let such ignorance take root in the people that I meet and come across.

Francis Chan is the product of John’s MacArthur’s own Master’s Seminary. Yet over the past couple of years Francis Chan has turned away from the teaching of his seminary and is traveling down the road of Continuationism. The ONLY REASON for this is because

MASTER’S SEMINARY DID NOT TEACH FRANCIS HOW TO DO EXEGESIS

They simply desired to impart their views of Scripture onto him. You could arguably called it ignorance at best, or indoctrination at worst. It was only a matter of time before someone who loves God and the Scriptures as much as Francis does, inevitably encountered biblical texts that would contradict the teaching of Cessationism. And because Master’s Seminary only taught Francis how to accept their teaching rather than the Bible’s, they have failed Francis in catastrophic ways. Besides the social struggles that this transition has/ will cause Francis, it has also caused him personal and internal theological struggle.

Now I know that Francis is and always will be in the Lord’s sovereign hand. But it will be interesting to see how the next 10 years of Francis’ life play out.

In Francis’ final message to America, Francis said some incredibly encouraging and zeal igniting things. Without diminishing those positive things, he also said a couple o concerning things, like “I am Jesus.” “I will do greater things than Jesus.” “I healed people.” These statements, simply put

COME FROM MISINTERPRETING THE BIBLE

Yet Francis’ love for the Bible causes him to accept these things as true wholeheartedly – even while he is misusing the Bible he loves. It is a tragic thing to witness.

But in the end, I trust God to bring people into his life to guide Francis away from these errors, while at the same time striving to leave his zeal and love for the Lord intact – undamaged and stronger than ever before.

May we seek to honor God’s Word, and understand it aright – so that we may bring as much glory to God as possible. Praise be to the Lord!

[Daily Scripture Verse: “Jesus replied, ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures (Matthew 22:29).”]

You May Unwittingly Uproot the Wheat…

The idea that the follower of Christ cannot know the heart/ motives of others comes from two primary places. One is the correct observation that we as humans are not omniscient, and the second comes from the incorrect interpretation and application of the Parable of the Weeds.

We already responded to the first reason in the previous post by noting that just because we don’t know all things does not mean we don’t know some things. It is not an issue of omniscience. The issue is whether or not the Scriptures say that we can know other people’s motives/ heart – whether or not this is something we have access to.

Many followers of Jesus believe that we do NOT have access to the knowledge of other people’s motives and heart. Matthew 13:24-30 is a huge piece of evidence for this belief. It reads:

“Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Even though some may consider this to be a slam dunk prohibition against “judging others,” there are things to address in this text.

There are a number of ways to approach this passage. First off, we could begin by pointing out the verses that directly follow this passage. Verses 34-35 say that Jesus is speaking in parables – and that these parables are ‘hidden things.’ So we could argue that a flat-plain-literal interpretation of the text which prohibits us from judging others, is actually contrary to how Matthew 13 wants us to interpret the text. This approach says that Matthew 13 itself urges us to NOT take this parable literally – it wants us to look for ‘deeper meaning’ – to go beyond the obvious meaning and look for something ‘hidden.’

We could take this approach, and while there may be a little truth to it, I think that there is a better way to approach this passage. The best way to approach this passage is to recognize the canonical context, and its immediate context.

The canonical context recognizes that other passages of Scripture explicitly say that we ARE allowed to judge others (John 7:24, 1 Corinthians 6:2-3), and the immediate context takes into account the entire book of Matthew. The immediate context recognizes that the author elsewhere states that knowledge of human hearts is essentially possible by examining their “fruit” and their words, for out the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt 12:33-35). A good person brings forth good things, and an evil person brings forth evil things – pretty simple – the fruit matches the tree.

Furthermore, it recognizes Matthew’s keen interest in the topic of what we may call ‘false conversion.’ The seemingly most godly people of the day (the Pharisees) are in fact ungodly ‘hypocrites.’ We also learn from the Gospel of Matthew that one of Jesus’ own disciples (Judas) was a “traitor” (Matthew 26:48). This is a huge concern for the author of Matthew. He is convinced that many are on the road to judgement (Matthew 7:13-14) even though they think that they are on the road to life (Matthew 7:21-23). The Parable of the Weeds is simply Matthew 7 in different dress. There are ‘tares’ in the midst of the wheat (Matt 12:24-30). And once we recognize that the Gospel of Matthew is acutely aware of the overwhelming presence of false converts and ‘tares’ in the crop, we can see that Parable of the Weeds is NOT seeking to hinder the true Christian from uprooting the weeds.

The parable is meant to hinder the Judases and the Pharisees of this world from judging others. Matthew 13 recognizes that the weeds have ALREADY infiltrated the crop. It recognizes that the parable itself will be misused by the tares who hear or read it. It is not as if the Parable will only be read by true Christians (the wheat). The tares will hear this parable as well (as they have!). [I think of a guy at my church right now who exhibits no genuine love for God, yet goes around trying to see who in the congregation is saved or not]

These hypocrites have planks in their eyes, yet they are trying to remove the speck from others eyes (Matthew 7:5)! Can you imagine Judas going around and judging others – how utterly absurd that would be. Who is Judas(!) to judge others? But it is likely that this precise situation gave rise to the Parable of the Weeds. The Gospels give us a situation where the disciples of Jesus were arguing amongst themselves about who will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Luke 22, Mark 10, Matthew 18). We can assume that the Parable of the Weeds arose from a situation similar to this – a situation where Judas is judging others.

We can picture Judas saying, “Thank God I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers, and tax collectors. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get (Luke 18:11-12). I have prophesied in the name of the Lord, I have cast out demons in His name, and I have even done miracles in the name of the Lord (Matthew 7:22).” But Jesus knows Judas’ heart, and commands him to stop judging others (Matthew 7:1). Judas may look like a good disciple of Jesus and may look righteous from the outside (prophecy + miracles), but he is fact spiritually dead inside and void of anything good (Matthew 23:27-27). He may travel with Jesus over land and sea to make a convert, but he makes that person twice the son of hell he is (Matthew 23:15). Who is he to judge anybody?!!!

Judas is the epitome of a tare in the crop. He may have put on an acceptable appearance to some, but he did not fool the truly righteous. He was an evil person, that brought forth evil things. His life of perversion was consummated in his betrayal of the very God he claimed to worship.

In conclusion, the command to ‘leave the tares alone’ is a command to the tares themselves already present in the crop who seek to take the spec out of others eyes although they have a plank in their own. The command is not applicable to those who have already removed the plank from their eyes and now have the ability to see clearly – to those who have the ability to remove the tares without uprooting the wheat also. They are above reproach.

Judging is inseparable from the Christian life. 1 Corinthians 6:2-3 tells us that we will judge the world! We will even judge the angels! John 7:24 teaches us that there is such a thing as righteous judgement – which means that there is also un-righteous judgement as well. This is what the Parable of the Weeds is condemning. The Judases of this world are not permitted to go into the crop to pull up the weeds – for they themselves are the weeds!! With the giant plank in their eyes, they will not be able to discern the weeds from the wheat!! But for those who have taken the plank from their own eyes and are in Christ, they are command to go into the crop and remove the weeds…to judge the world. May we do so in the power and love of God.

Daily Scripture Verses: “First take the plank out of your own eyes, and then you will see clearly to remove the spec from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:5).
“Do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world (1 Corinthians 6:2)?”

Only God Can Know the Motives…

Like the person who picks and chooses what they want to believe from the Scriptures, and what they want to reject, when we say that only God can know the motives of the heart we are are trying to ‘have our cake and eat it too.’

Their is an inclination within the Christian to say that ‘only God can know the heart’ because the Christian has humbled themself before God. They have recognized their position in relation to God – God is greater. They recognize the reality of sin, and the possibility of being wrong. They are humble and recognize that God knows all things, but that they do not.

Therefore, the humility factor comes in and causes the Christian to say “at the end of the day, I do not know all things and I cannot be sure whether or not this person is regenerate.” And one single verse in the Gospels, taken out of its context, is taken to mean that Christians ultimately should not judge the heart or salvation of others because they may unwittingly “uproot the wheat along with the tares.”

But just because we do not know all things, does not mean we cannot know some things. And this verse, when left it’s context, does NOT prohibit the follower of Christ from “uprooting the tares” in this world. Furthermore, the flip side of this prohibition/ caution is rarely discussed as well.

IF WE CANNOT KNOW THE MOTIVES OF A PERSON’S HEART, THEN THERE IS NO BASIS FOR OFFERING ENCOURAGEMENT TO OTHERS FOR THE GOOD THAT WE SEE

For on what grounds can we determine that the good we see is REALLY good?

So we can see that this sceptism works both ways. If we cannot determine the tares, then we cannot determine the wheat. And if we cannot determine the wheat, what a sad position to be in.

How miserable – to never know whether or not someone is really our brother or sister in Christ. To always be walking on eggshells. To never know. To never be able to encourage others in the good that you see in them. Certainly this will affect the way we treat them. We will always be more keen to criticize them – to look for their faults. We never know when they will turn on us. Especially when there are Scriptures that talk about falling away…….

This way of living causes strife and uncertainty. Yet the Scriptures declare that we can come to a “knowledge of the truth” and that we can “know God.” It also says that we can “know” them by their fruit.

IF WE CAN KNOW OUR FATHER, THEN WE CAN KNOW OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS

When we claim to know God, it is a package deal to know our brothers and sisters as well.

Daily Scripture: “Now this is eternal life – that they may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3

Worshipping People

The title of the post is supposed to carry a double meaning. It refers both to the people who receive worship and to the people who do the act.

The death of Kobe Bryant has been one of those deaths that cause a stir in the culture. It is truly incredible to see the reactions of millions of people across this country. To see how much of themselves they invested (emotionally) into this human. Even weeks after his death, videos mentioning his name are getting millions of views.

It discourages me to see how much worship this unworthy man receives in comparison to our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death means so much more, but how many people are talking about Him? Even so, the Kobe ‘worship’ also encourages me in way. It demonstrates humanity’s desire to invest in something outside of itself. The world’s worship of Kobe Bryant makes Christianity look normal. For in what way is it really different? We are both investing our emotions, time, and finances into a person. That could be a discouraging reality (what makes Christianity different from the world), or it could be an encouraging one. Because of course there are many ways in which our worship is different from the world’s.

But I think that it is worth pointing out, and is something that can encourage us today: Don’t be disheartened in how weird true Christianity (following Jesus) looks to the culture – for the culture is just as weird as us. They gather together and sit around talking about how great Kobe Bryant was. We gather together and sit around talking about some One so far higher and greater than Kobe. If we are weird, then so are they.

Daily Scripture: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light (KJV).” 1 Peter 2:9

Why Was Jesus Crucified?

The theological answer is obvious (and incredible) – for our sins. The historical reason is incredible as well.

If Jesus “so loved people (John 3:16),” and did not come “to condemn people (John 3:17),” and taught us to love even “our enemies (Matt 5:44)” – why was he crucified? What was it about Jesus that got people mad enough to want him dead? What could have possibly warranted the death of the most loving and gentle person who has ever walked this earth?

Simple answer: HE THOUGHT HE WAS “BETTER” THAN OTHERS.

The word “better” is not meant to carry connotations of pride – Jesus was not filled with pride – he was humble (Phil 2:6-11)! But the truth is that Jesus thought he was quote-unquote “better” than others.

A person might argue that Jesus had the right to think this way, but that we do not, because he really was better – he was God in the flesh. But this doesn’t exactly complete the picture that Scripture paints for us. For he taught that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees (Matt 5:20). And if Jesus was really human (he was/ is), Matthew 5:20 is a human-to-human comparison, not a human-to-divine comparison. Jesus was genuinely a more righteous HUMAN than the Pharisees, and he demands this surpassing righteousness from his followers as well. He commands us to be “better” than others.

Perhaps this explains why church history has maintained that all the apostles died martyrs deaths. For this is what happens when a person considers themselves to be “better” than the culture’s most “godly” people – when your righteousness exceeds that of a Pharisee. The Pharisee cannot accept it – for to accept your righteousness – would be equivalent to denouncing their own. And they cannot allow that. In their perverted mind, they are perfectly fine and innocent before God. They are not like “other people – robbers, evildoers, and adulterers (Luke 18:11). Ps- this includes blasphemers like Jesus (cf Matt 26:65) – they are definitely not like that. God and them are on the exact same page.

But wait a second, doesn’t this sound familiar – isn’t this exactly what Jesus was saying? By denouncing the righteousness of the most godly people of his day, Jesus was declaring himself to be in fact “godly.” What differentiates Jesus’ (and his followers’) claim of righteousness from the Pharisees’ claim? Both parties are claiming to be righteous. Who’s claim is true? How do we differentiate the genuine from the false – how do we determine who is quote-unquote “better”? We will continue to pull upon this thread, and raise this question, as we have in many of my posts thus far. But for now it is enough to emphasize this: the results speak for themselves.

JESUS WAS ON THE CROSSJESUS WENT TO THE CROSS TO DEMONSTRATE HIS GENUINE RIGHTEOUSNESS, WHEREAS THE PHARISEES NAILED JESUS TO THE CROSS TO DEMONSTRATE THEIR PSUEDO-RIGHTEOUSNESS

The person with true righteousness will be marginalized and cast out of the community. A prophet is without honor in his own country (John 4:44). The Pharisee will view people like John the Baptist, who eats locust and honey out in the wilderness, as a lunatic who does not have the favor of God resting upon them. For if they were truly of God, surely their life would look more presentable and inviting on the outside – their life would show the blessing of God. But this is where Jesus (and the OT prophets) shatter that notion and teach us that all who desire to live genuine lives of godliness will experience trouble and suffering (John 16:33 & 2 Tim 3:12). This is because the primary enemies you will encounter are the ones you were first closest to – a person’s enemies will be of their own household (Matt 10:36). The neighbors you grew up with will condemn you and cut you down to size the second you challenge the authenticity of their love for God. This is why Scriptures says “Woe to you when all speak well of you (Luke 6:26).” So although Acts 2:47 says that the early church was respected by all people, and the Scriptures say that we are to be at peace with all people (Rom 2:18), Acts chapter 4 makes it clear that the early church was not respected by the teachers of the law and the religious leaders. The early church was respected by the irreligious laymen, but they were despised by the religious faithful.

If the Pharisees in the Gospels were correct, and their “righteousness” was genuine, then they would have been on the cross. But their true colors were shown. They murdered an innocent man. Jesus wasn’t just a man though – he was Israel’s God. Talk about “godliness” – physically murdering the God you claim to worship. And in it all, they considered their actions to be righteous. What a perversion.

The light of Jesus’ true righteousness exposed the darkness of their pseudo-righteousness. Their “filthy rags” were publicized – their dirty laundry was literally being aired. And they despised Jesus because of it. They sentenced Jesus to a CRIMINAL’S punishment, though he was innocent. They attempted to put the blame upon Jesus. They marked Jesus out as the WRONGDOER, when in reality they were the ones doing wrong. And ultimately, everyone who would follow Jesus must be prepared to receive the same treatment. “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also (John 15:20).”

We live in a day in age were Pharisees are more prevalent than ever before. With an estimated 2 Billion so-called Christians in the world, Jesus words in Matthew 7 should be preached as often as the Gospel itself. “Many will say to me on that day ‘My Master!’ But I will answer, ‘You are not my Servant, you a worker of iniquity! I do not know you!'” And if the Scriptures are true (they are), then how many of these 2 Billion so-called Christians are actually Pharisees? We can be confident that they answer is: MANY. We can also be confident that we will encounter these Pharisees, and that we will be persecuted by them as well.

But just as Jesus was vindicated by God when he was raised from the dead, so to will we be vindicated when God raises us from the dead. Those who accuse us of wrongdoing, will be shown to be in the wrong. Jesus is our forerunner, and he is our eldest brother who has gone before us. He has promised us the same vindication by our God on that day. So let us not lose heart as we call out and condemn the pseudo-righteousness in our land. And we will hear the words, “Well done, GOOD and faithful slave.”


{*Daily Scripture Verse: “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” John 15:19*}