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Archive for October, 2010

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” Matthew 25:21

Success is good, failure is bad—or so we generally believe. Defining success and failure is fluid. For Jesus in Matthew 25, success was all about using the talents He distributes. His judgment isn’t so much how much was gained as was the talent used. The same commendation of well done, good and a faithful servant was spoken to the successfully wise that accepted what His judgment would bring for inaction. The undiscerning and fearful buried the talent without using it. His error was inaccurately estimating the master’s judgment.

Society has its ideas of success too! Good is whatever was successful and finding out how that good was achieved becomes the topic of discussion. We read articles of success stories. We attend seminars given by successful people. We want the successful to come teach us what they did to achieve their goals so we might emulate the same. Think about it, how many people who fail are we willing to learn from? How many unsuccessful individuals do we desire seminars of? How many poor people do we want to be our financial counselor? Success is good, failure is bad and we know the difference when we see it! The person making tons of money is successful and that is good so we want them to teach us how they accomplished it. To many in Nazi Germany, the success of Adolph Hitler was good and they blindly followed the man in his maniacal, evil plans. The evil success of Hitler was good to too many.

The point being, society is a terrible barometer for judging success or failure. Wealth, numbers of followers, the applause of men; these are all terrible standards of how to conclude success and determining the good. One of the greatest so-called failures in history was of a man whose life’s work concluded in death and crucifixion. To the natural eye the work of Christ is a colossal waste of time if there is no resurrection from the dead. All the good words He spoke and followers He attracted resolved to utter failure as all forsook Him in the end. Even at the end of His own life He asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Did Jesus believe His life’s work was a failure? Hardly! It’s only as we use society’s standard of success and failure that we falsely determine His life’s work was not good but bad. What did Jesus do to get to the point of seeing His end would not be a failure? He prayed to His Father, “Not as I will, but as You will.” Jesus accepted the judgment of the Father. It was enough for Him to know the Father’s will and to do it. Success was not determined by how many followed Him, how much wealth He accumulated, or even by the greatness of His notoriety. Success was doing the Father’s will as the poor, despised, rejected, afflicted and forsaken—all signs of failure and the bad of this world.

‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ is a conclusion of success. The judgment was not decided out of wealth contributed or ability, it was determined because the servants accepted the judgment of their master and acted accordingly to his will—just use the talents. If anything I learn, I learn to ask, what is your will Lord and resolve to accept His judgment on all I do. I may end up rich, poor; popular, despised; accepted of many or rejected; received or forsaken—whatever the success or failure, I accept the judgment from His hands—that is my option.

J. Robert Hanson


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NIV Hebrews 10:4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

Marriage is under a tremendous assault in American culture. Special interest groups, pressing freethinking social agendas, place enormous pressure on politicians and educators in attempts to revise the definitions of many time-honored tenets that have been well established for centuries—marriage is at the forefront of these campaigns. Media and entertainment conglomerates, propagating reworked ethics, continually violate this institution that was once considered dignified and honorable. In the not-so-distant past, a man and woman sleeping together out of wedlock were once considered “morally wrong.” Today’s “liberated” television programs present a different view. “Living together first” has become a required preamble to a marriage commitment and is deemed morally acceptable if not advisable. I’ve read bloggers comment that this way of thinking is both enlightened and progressive; anything else is a return to the Dark Ages of intellectual thought. Like it or not, it’s these ideals that aggravate religious fundamentalist nations against the decadence of western culture and expression. I’m not pointing this out as an excuse and justification for violent aggressions; extremism is never justifiable for taking the lives of fellow human beings. I present this to show just how far western society has morphed in so short a time.

The vanguard principle of this cultural transformation is marriage and its definition. If a society can successfully redefine what marriage is then just about anything is open to alteration. When the honor traditionally bestowed to marriage can be diluted, a society can easily cast off the constraints of a “righteous” Sovereign. This is because that special bond between a man and woman is critical to the very fiber of morality and social order. In America, the makeover of marriage has weakened and jeopardized what God instituted back at the beginning of creation.

Biblically, marriage is the first institution devised by God with standards and morals. Nations could come and go, rulers would rise and fall, even civilizations could demonstrate decency or decadence, but what has never changed is the expectation of fidelity and trust embedded into the marriage vow. And, until recently, the main safeguard for the dignity and honor of this sacred institution has been the church. The writer of Hebrews informs the reader “Marriage should be honored by all!” This principle is not limited to believers in Christ. Neither is it restricted to only those practicing the institution of marriage. “Honored by all” means every individual witnessing this ancient practice must hold it in reverence as ordained and initiated by the Wise Creator. The struggle for holding this reality as valid is the church’s risk, as God’s household is the pillar and foundation of the truth of God.[1]

For people who read the Bible, it’s not like hearing these distortions on marriage comes as a great surprise. The Apostle Paul warned Timothy this would happen in the last days when he wrote that there would be:

1 Timothy 4:3 “men who forbid marriage….”

Men tinkering with and forbidding this time-honored institution was never what was in question. Paul was pointing out it was going to happen as sure as the sun rises each morning. What is surprising to some is how quickly churches in Western Culture have compromised the meaning of marriage as defined in Genesis 2:24:

24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

Regarding marriage, the safeguard for its honor is found in the church. Israel, as a nation, once held the responsibility and failed miserably to uphold it. There were many laws, ordinances, and precepts given to the Israeli for displaying the virtues of marriage. And while the gentile nations surrounding Israel practiced abominations in regards to matrimony, God’s people were given specific guidelines to see they did not do the same. Through the nation Israel this sacred institution was to be properly displayed to the surrounding nations and held with honor. When Jesus came, living among the Jews, He saw just the contrary. He expressed those concerns in answering a group of men questioning His views on divorce and remarriage. Jesus said:

Mark 10:7 “…from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, 8 and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

What do you suppose Jesus sees at present as He looks at today’s modern-day churches? Would Jesus challenge our pastors and teachers with the same directness as He confronted the Pharisees of the Jewish religion? Defining the sanctity of marriage and delineating how the church should hold this institution in honor are difficult questions to answer. Bible scholars and theologians have argued over these issues for centuries. Since the reformation it has proved impossible to gain a consensus on specifics. And it is not in my capacity to determine laws and ways of how to resolve what churches should do to agree about this subject. Nor is it in any way my intent or desire to make anyone feel guilty or condemn for choices made or the way others are counseled; heaven knows how many poor decisions I’ve made in the past.

Ultimately, every church is accountable to Jesus Christ and Him alone as to how it deals with the subject of marriage. What directions does the Bible present to a fellowship in relating to situations of compromised wedlock? How far is a church to go in relegating guidelines for discipline? When does a fellowship need to step forward to preserve purity? What kinds of effort can be made for the restoration of those who overstep scriptural boundaries? All of these are questions that are difficult to answer, and yet cannot be ignored or sidestepped if the church is to be a Safeguard of Honor for marriage.

J. Robert Hanson


[1] 1 Timothy 3:15

 

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NAS Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners.

The little phrase “to bind up the brokenhearted” has a great wealth of meaning. Jewish readers study Isaiah 61 and see a reference about the coming Messiah. Christians reading Luke 4 recognize Jesus quoting the same passage at the beginning of His public ministry; fulfilling Messiah’s first coming. What’s most fascinating? As He finished presenting the text in the synagogue He didn’t end with a message or exposition of meaning, He just closed the manuscript, made the announcement, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” and sat down. Without much fanfare the truth of that passage had just been accomplished before every eye in the house of worship.

For humanity today that action means that the binding of the broken heart is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Healing is immediately available for use in treatment. Let’s take that little phrase and isolate a couple of the words used in the ancient Hebrew language. The word bind means to tie something up. In the context of Isaiah 61:1 the idea is of a physician wrapping up a wound for the process of healing. The word brokenhearted in Hebrew is the word “shabar.” There are various definitions used for this text: “to break in pieces, rend violently, crush, rupture, to be broken, be maimed, be crippled, be wrecked,” and to “be shattered.” Brokenhearted is more than just a simple breaking of an object into a few pieces. In fact, the meaning is stronger and more serious than the compound fracture of a human bone! In the Hebrew the word is extremely powerful—the thought is that an object has been shatter irrecoverably into a myriad of pieces. When we read, “He binds up the brokenhearted,” the burden of that verse is that Messiah heals the impossibly irrecoverable, shattered into many tiny pieces, life. Jesus is the only one who can apply the wrapping for healing an unbearably shattered (brokenhearted) situation.

J. Robert Hanson

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