We are a married couple, a New Testament professor and a theology professor, both Presbyterian ministers, who will comment on important topics that affect Christians. In line with the Apostle Paul's Letter to the Philippians (4:8-9), our perspective will be to encourage Christian maturity.
are many passages in the Bible that deal with the subject:“How to Keep a Clean Conscience”.One of those passages deals with keeping a
clean conscience in the midst of conflict.Many believers when they enter into conflict tend to assume:“I am in conflict….That means I must have sinned….”I have met abused women who have this sort
of mindset.Psalm 139 shows that just
because one is in conflict does not necessarily mean that one has sinned.
139 is one of the favorite psalms for the church throughout the millenniums.It may be divided into six sections: 1. The Psalmist David marvels at God’s
omniscience regarding himself (vv.1-6).2. He marvels at God’s omnipresence with himself (vv. 7-12).3.The
Psalmist marvels at how God created him (vv. 13-16).4. The Psalmist marvels at the summary of
God’s thorough knowledge of himself (vv. 17-18).5.On
the basis of parts 1-4, the Psalmist prays and reveals the occasion of this
Psalm (vv. 19-22). 6. On the basis of parts 1-5, David prays (vv. 23-24).
1.The Psalmist marvels at God’s Omniscience
regarding the Psalmist (vv. 1-6).
the Psalmist marvels in the tenderest manner at how God knows the
Psalmist.God knows when the Psalmist
sits and rises.God knows the Psalmist’s
thoughts.God knows the Psalmist’s path
and lying down.For me, as a person who
has had speech problems throughout my life, the following insight especially
touches me: God knows the word on the Psalmist’s tongue even before the
Psalmist speaks.Sometimes, I do not
know the word that will come off my mouth.I take comfort that God does know the next word that will come
from my mouth.The psalmist concludes
this section:“Such knowledge is too
wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain it” (v. 6).
2.The Psalmist marvels at God’s Omnipresence
with the Psalmist (vv. 7-12).
“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm
And the light around me will be night” (vv. 7-11).
the Psalmist marvels in the most tender manner at how God is present to the
Psalmist.Where can we flee from the
Holy Spirit?Where can we flee from
God’s presence?When I was a child, I
was afraid of the dark.I took great
comfort in v. 12:“Even the darkness is
not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day.Darkness and light are alike to You.”Such a verse of God’s presence would calm my
fears at night as a child.
3.The Psalmist marvels at how God
created the Psalmist (vv. 13-16).
For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb (v. 13)….
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them (vv.
the Psalmist marvels in the tenderest manner at how God created the
Psalmist.God wondrously formed the
Psalmist’s inward parts.God wondrously
weaved the Psalmist in the womb.One can
understand why the Psalmist would exclaim:“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well” (v. 14).
4.The Psalmist marvels at the
summary of God’s thorough knowledge of the Psalmist (vv.17-18).
to how the Psalmist marvels about God’s knowledge of the Psalmist:“How precious also are Your thoughts to
me, O God!How vast is the sum of
them!If I should count them, they would
outnumber the sand.When I awake, I am
still with You.”
5. On the basis of parts 1-4, the
Psalmist prays and reveals the occasion of this Psalm (vv. 19-22).
way one would think that this Psalm would have been completed at verse 18.But it is not finished.The Psalmist has expressed earlier in this
Psalm some of the most tender thoughts found within the Bible.In contrast, now, the Psalmist prays one of the
most non-tender prayers in the Bible.The Psalmist prays a violent prayer:“O that You would slay the wicked, O God; Depart from me, therefore,
men of bloodshed.For they speak against
You wickedly, And Your enemies take Your name in vain.Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord?And do I not loathe those who rise up against
You? I hate them with the utmost hatred; They have become my enemies” (vv. 19-22).
we find the occasion of this Psalm.The
Psalmist David is in trouble.He is in
conflict.He is being hunted down.He prays specifically:“Depart from me, therefore, men of
bloodshed” (v. 19).The Psalmist is
being hunted down by murderous people.
light of this lethal hunt, David does some spiritual inventory.He wants to know if the trouble he is in is
because of something wrong in himself.Is there a sin that David has done that has caused this murderous hunt
of the Psalmist to proceed?That is why
the Psalmist David has called upon our Omniscient God, Our Omnipresent God, and
Our Creator God to search the Psalmist out (parts 1-4).
calling upon our Omniscient God, Our Omnipresent God, and Our Creator God to
search the Psalmist out, David has come to a singular conclusion.The problem is not in the Psalmist.The Psalmist is not being hunted down because
of the Psalmist’s sin.The problem is
100% with the murderous thugs chasing him.The Psalmist takes singular aim at the problem.He prays a violent prayer against his
should we understand such a passage?Should
we pray violent prayers against our human enemies?We should bless our human enemies (Matt.
5:44).However, we as Christians should
know who our enemy is.The Apostle Paul
writes who our enemy is:“For we wrestle
not against flesh and blood [humans], but against the rulers, against the
powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces
of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).
war between the devil and Christians is true and real.We can pray violent prayers against the
devil.We can pray:“Depart from me, demons of bloodshed.”We can pray:“O that thou would slay the wicked demons, O God.”We can pray:“Do I not hate those demons who hate Thee, O Lord?And do I not loathe those demons who rise up against
Thee?I hate those demons with the
utmost hatred; these demons have become my enemies.”
the past I have been asked:“How can you
tell the difference between the devil’s accusation and the Holy Spirit’s
conviction”?The answer is easy.If one follows what the Psalmist does in this
passage by calling on our Omniscient God, our Omnipresent God, and our Creator
God and asks God to point out one’s sin, God will point it out.If God points it out, then ask God to forgive
you.We have a great promise:“How much more will the blood of Christ,
who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse
your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”(Heb. 9:14).
one has a vague sense of dread….If one
has a sense of “Oh me, oh my, how sad am I,” then one knows that it is the
devil’s accusation.Here one can pray
violent prayers against the devil.
6.On the basis of parts 1-5 the
Psalmist concludes in prayer.
the Psalmist David prays a prayer to God.The Psalmist prays a prayer of spiritual inventory and hope.He does this with a clear conscience:“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try
me and know my anxious [the psalmist is anxious] thoughts; And see if there be
any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way” (vv. 23-24).There is no reason whatsoever to have a
All through the Bible we see God
depicted as full of feelings. For example, God groans as a sufferer in Genesis
6:6 over human evil.
Conversely, in Proverbs 12:22, we see God delights in honest people.
It's the same all through the Bible: God is presented as full of emotions,
although these don't change God's consistent character. So is God infinite? Of
course! eternal? Yes! Immutable? Exactly! We see that God's character doesn't
change throughout the Bible.
But are all these biblical instances simply anthropomorphisms,
making God look more personal than God really is?
That's certainly what the great
non-Christian philosopher and interpreter of Plato, Plotinus, seemed to think.
Plotinus, who was born in A.D. 205, pictured God as a divine creating principle
who "does not think, because there is no otherness; and it does not move;
for it is before movement and before thought. For what will he be able to
Plotinus' god does not delight in honest people as the Bible's God does in
Proverbs 12:22. In fact, this god "does not desire us, so as to be around
us, but we desire it, so that we are around it,"
god not being intensely involved in human history, as we see in the Bible, but,
instead, being the still point around which the universe moves, where
"when we do look to him, then we are at our goal and at rest and do not
sing out of tune as we truly dance our god-inspired dance around him."
Sounds more like the unmoved mover of the old movie 2001, doesn't it?
It's an interesting question and it's
been a controversial one throughout Christian history. The first great
theologian after the time of the New Testament, Irenaeus, who died about three
years before Plotinus was born (c. A.D. 202), and who, in A.D. 177-78, became
the overseer of the early Christian gathering in the ancient city of Lyons, in
what is France today, wrote to his people, "It was not an impassible
Christ who descended on Jesus, but, since He was Jesus Christ, He Himself
suffered for us; He who lay in the tomb also rose again; He who descended also
ascended, the Son of God having been made man, as the very name
If we look up "impassible" in Webster's
Unabridged Dictionary, we read: "incapable of suffering pain...harm. Incapable
of emotion, impassive,"
making us wonder: Does God have feelings?
What was this early teacher, Irenaeus,
who had personally known disciples of the Apostle John himself, so concerned
about? He wanted to make sure his people didn't become confused and think that
God's Spirit had come down from heaven at Jesus' baptism, suddenly taken over a
human named Jesus (zap!), hung around empowering him to do all his wonderful
miracles and say all his marvelous insights, and then, during the crucifixion
when things got tough, left the poor sap to die on the cross as God cleared out,
which some were telling Irenaeus’ people that Jesus' dying words "My God,
why have you forsaken me?" meant. The Spirit of God, they contended, had
left the man Jesus to get mugged on the cross for human sins, rather than the
Father God, in whose presence sin cannot exist, having to turn away from God
the Son when Jesus took on all the sins of humanity, becoming sin for all of us
in his substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf (2 Cor 5:21). Irenaeus was
assuring his people that Jesus was fully God and human from his birth, right on
through his death and resurrection. The great scandal of the cross is that God
died for us, as the Apostle Paul in his letter assured Titus, the man whose
skull is still on display today in Herakleion, Crete. So we Christians are
awaiting "the blessed hope and appearance of the glory of the great God
and our Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself on behalf of us, in order to
redeem us from all sin and cleanse us" (Titus 2:13-14). It doesn't get
more clearly stated than that. There was no trickery going on here.
On the other hand, some 1500 years
later, the Christian creed called The Second Helvetic [meaning Swiss]
Confession, while explaining, "We worship not two but one Christ the Lord.
We repeat: one true God and man," added these words: "THE DIVINE
NATURE OF CHRIST IS NOT PASSIBLE, AND THE HUMAN NATURE IS NOT EVERYWHERE.
So what does that mean? (And who cares and why did they care?) What the Swiss
reformers who wrote this great document were concerned about was the exact
problem that Irenaeus was addressing, that no one be confused that Jesus Christ
was somehow the uncomfortable partnership of a man and a Spirit of God, who
could come and go at will. Jesus was no freak of nature. He was a fully human
and fully divine person with a real human mother in whom the Holy Spirit of God
placed the divine seed, which was the means, or the conduit, for one Person of
the Great Triune Godhead, the Trinity, to enter our world and be born just as
we are. Jesus was truly the child of God and the child of humanity, completely
adequate to represent humanity as the substitutionary sacrifice for human sin
to put us back in good standing with God, as well as overcome evil and begin
the rescue of this off-the-track world of ours.
So, which is it? Is God passible or
impassible? Is Irenaeus or the Swiss Reformers right? They’re both right. How
is that possible? God has real emotions. The Father loves us deeply (John
3:16). The Son cared for us to the extent of entering our world and dying for
us (Eph 5:2). The Spirit can be grieved by what we do (Eph 4:30). But the
eternal God cannot be damaged, wounded, or killed. To die for us God had to be
born human, taking on human flesh and frailty and become like us while
remaining God (John 1:14).
So, should we conclude that God is
indeed both impassible and passible? I think so. God is impassible in that God
is invulnerable – in other words, what Superman would like to be without the
Kryptonite (not to mention without ever being born, aging, or dying; being
located in one spot; not knowing everything; not being all powerful; not being
able to create the universe out of nothing, etc., etc., etc.). It's what The
Second Helvetic Confession means, when it assures us there is nothing that can
hurt God. But, at the same time, God has genuine feelings for us, what Irenaeus
means when he assures us God is passible, that God loves us, feels compassion
for us, and enters into our sufferings when God takes on human flesh and
becomes Jesus Christ, the one who suffered and died for our sins to put us back
right with God. In many cases, this controversy is over which meaning of the
word "impassible" is being emphasized. God is indeed invulnerable
(impassible), but God's feelings for us are real (passible).
I found several important lessons in
exploring this question. First, words are flexible. The same word can mean
different things to different people, so it's always important to check things
out. Second, when there is a disagreement, there is often a deeper meaning
going on that will illuminate us if we take the time to explore it. And, third,
I am once again impressed with how much the God who created us loves us. God
didn't have to make us in the first place and certainly didn't have to salvage
us when humanity rebelled against God. But so great is God's love for us, that
God came and lived among us and suffered what we suffer and even died to put us
back right with this moral universe and with God's self. It's a wonderful
thought to consider as we move toward Easter.
Those who are interested in my further
thoughts about the Trinity may punch up “An Evangelical Statement on the
which I composed in consultation with a number of other evangelical scholars
from a variety of denominations and the fields of theology, biblical studies,
church history, classical studies, and other areas.
Nhm, Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, C.A.
Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the
Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1968), 625, col. 1, meaning #2. All
translations of the Hebrew and Greek Bible texts are by the present author.
Rtson, Karl Feyerabend, Langenscheidt Pocket Hebrew Dictionary to
the Old Testament (Berlin, Germany: McGraw-Hill, 1969), 325, col. 2.
For example, Ps 102:26-27 [cited in Heb 1:12]; 1 Sam 15:29; Mal 3:16; James
1:17; Heb 13:8, etc.
Anthropomorphism is ascribing human form or attributes to a being not human,
especially to a deity (Random House
Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary (New York: Random House, 2001), p.88.
Plotinus, "Ennead VI," in Plotinus,
vol. 7, Loeb Classical Library, trans. A. H. Armstrong (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
U., 1988), VI.9.6:43-44 (p. 327).
Irenaeus, Against the Heresies (Book
3), trans. Dominic J. Unger, OFM Cap (New York: Newman, 2012), 18:3 (p. 89).
"Impassible," Random HouseWebster's Unabridged Dictionary, p. 959.
While Webster's empirical meanings ("to perceive or examine by
touch," "to be emotionally affected by") would apply to the
incarnate Jesus Christ, God-Among-Us in human form, some of “feeling's” other
meanings, "to feel sympathy for or compassion toward," "to
be...conscious of," "to have a general or thorough conviction,"
would more accurately describe all Persons of the Trinity (Ibid., p. 706).
"The Second Helvetic Confession," in The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): Part I: Book
of Confessions (Louisville: The Office of the General Assembly), 11:5.067,
5.069 (pp. 69-70).
Today one hardly hears anything from the
church or larger Christian community against the dangers of marijuana. This was
not the case during the Jesus revival in the 1970s when marijuana first became
popular.We found constant statements
against marijuana in the Jesus people newspapers. For example, “Veteran of over
200 Trips says: “I had to do something always because I didn’t want to be
bored…,” a Baptist youth whose drug use left him “almost dead, physically and
mentally.”The same issue included “An Open Letter to
Timothy Leary,” from an “ex-follower,” responding to the ex-college professor
drug pundit who became a poster child for the ‘60s drug movement, asking: “Oh,
Dr. Tim, where have you gone? You and all your false prophets. You started a
psychedelic revolution—a religious renaissance, or so you called it. You set
yourself up as our great high priest….Where are all your prophets now? Now,
when I need help?...I just wanted to tell you that your new religion of
Tuning-in, Turning-on, and Dropping-out isn’t doing it for me….I’m losing a lot
of my friends. They say I don’t communicate—in fact, they tell me I don’t do
much of anything anymore. Do you still have any friends, Dr. Tim? Don’t bother
writing me, Dr. Tim. A lot of my friends are turning-on to Jesus and I’ve been
watching them carefully. They’ve got something that you or I don’t have, Dr.
Tim. They’re full on the inside and they say that Jesus is with them all the
time making them feel like that….They say they are resting in God thru Jesus
is the church’s voice now?
The apostle Paul in his letter to the
Ephesians challenges them to walk wisely and use their time well. Being filled
with the Holy Spirit helps a believer understand God’s will. But becoming
intoxicated with alcohol or marijuana is not
the way to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
For this reason, we encourage you not to support the use nor legalization
The reason drunkenness and use of any
mind-altering substance is wrong is because the ability to be filled with the
Holy Spirit in users decreases, the ability to understand God’s will decreases,
the ability to do God’s will decreases, with the result that ‘wild living” or
“lawlessness” increases (Eph 5:16-18). “Wild living” (asotia, also translated “debauchery”) also occurs in 1 Peter 4:4.
There Peter exhorts his Christian readers not to act as they did as unconverted
Gentiles who live in “licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing,
and lawless idolatry” (1 Pet 4:3). He called these actions “excesses of
dissipation” which cause blasphemy. Paul also warns elders they should strive
to have “a faithful child,” not one “wild” or outside of their control (Titus
1:6). Drs. Janice Phelps and Alan Nourse explain in The Hidden Addiction and How to Get Free that within 15-30 minutes
the person stoned on pot loosens inhibitions and loses awareness of time. There
is definite loss of memory of the immediate past so that a person who starts
expressing an idea gets halfway through a sentence and then can’t remember what
he or she started to say.
In effect, marijuana and alcohol reverse
the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:19-25). The addicting substance overpowers the
human will and excludes the Holy Spirit who genuinely frees the human will.
Drs. Phelps and Nourse describe a dinner gathering where marijuana is produced.
They observe that within 30 minutes the previous interesting conversations all
disintegrated. People began talking with no one listening. Eventually, everyone
gave up on conversation.
How can you love anyone if you cannot even listen? Joy and self-control
Finally, marijuana can become an idol. I
remember one young man who had been a phenomenal evangelist but who never fully
stopped smoking marijuana (“he could stop anytime,” he said) becoming so
addicted that he revolved his whole life on its obtaining and consumption. He
told us: “I love everything about it—the way it looks, the way it smells, the
way it feels.” As Drs. Phelps and Nourse observe, he had arranged his whole
life to fulfill his addictive needs, and “absolutely nothing—pride, economics,
health, or relative values—was allowed to get in their way, ever”.
Marijuana slowly results in less and less desire to please God. The person
appears more and more self-centered, but in reality increasingly focuses on
centering his or her whole life on using marijuana like “communion.” Marijuana
users become a new “church.” Instead of the body of Christ bearing more and
more fruits of the Spirit---love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control -- the body of Cannabis bears more and
more works of the flesh: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, use
of drugs, hatred, strife, anger, quarrels, drunkenness, carousing (Gal
5:19-22). For example, Gil Kerlikowske, the White House director of national
drug control policy, said a study by his office showed a strong link between
drug use and crime. Marijuana was the most commonly detected drug found in 54%
of those arrested. Marijuana was the most popular drug used by men who’d been
arrested in New York, Denver, Atlanta, and Chicago. The
Apostle Peter describes such people as “those who indulge their flesh in
polluting desires, and scorn authority” (2 Pet 2:10). They are “waterless
springs and mists being driven by hurricanes” (2 Pet 2:17). The drug
precipitates a “hurricane,” a powerfully controlling wild force making the
human will in contrast a “mist”—a weak and insubstantial breeze. Peter observes
“those who scarcely have escaped living in error, being slaves themselves of
corruption, are promising so-called freedom. However, the freedom is actually
slavery because one is enslaved to what one succumbs (2 Pet 2:18-19).
Therefore, use of such a harmful drug is specifically included as a work of the
flesh along with idolatry and hatred and other actions which, if kept up and
never changed, according to Galatians, can keep us from inheriting God’s
kingdom (Gal 5:21). Behind this and other drugs enters an unwanted guest, the
The Apostle Paul specifically tells the
Galatians not to use drugs. Pharmakeia
in 5:20 is often translated “witchcraft” or “sorcery,” but Liddell and Scott’s Greek Lexicon defines it first as “use
of drugs” then as “poisoning or witchcraft.” Pharmakeia is not Wicca per se, rather it is ancient witchcraft,
especially Satanism, that would use drugs to poison or induce altered mental
What can you do to erode away the
magnificent calling we have from God? Take marijuana or become drunk. Then the
Holy Spirit can no longer fill you up with good fruits, you will lose the
ability to use your time well or to understand and do God’s will, slowly
poisoning your body so the Evil One can slip in and become a controlling
hurricane, your free will becoming merely a mist, your life wild, directed by
forces other than God.
Is this what we want to promote in
others? Is this what we want America to become? As Christians, we should be a
positive influence in our society. We can at least use our vote responsibly.
Our ultimate goal should be to restore transgressors in a spirit of gentleness,
as Paul explains in Galatians: “brothers and sisters, if even someone is caught
in any wrongdoing, you, the spiritual ones, restore such a one in a spirit of
gentleness, looking to yourself lest you also be tempted. Carry one another’s
burdens and thus fulfill Christ’s law” (6:1-2).To “restore” is to repair such a person back into the fabric of
Christianity. “Restore” is also used in ancient times for mending fish nets (Matt
4:21). People addicted to alcohol or marijuana do not have a fully free will or
a real sense of reality. Reasons may not work with them. Rev. Joseph Kellermann
says: “It is not true that an alcoholic
cannot be helped until he wants help.” To
save a life, restoration may include mandating addicts into an in-house program
until their will is free. (Massachusetts has a chapter 35 law that helps family
members do this.) Do not simply criticize someone wallowing in their weakness.
Help them out— consistently -- trying to respect their wills, but gently. At
the same time, be careful that you yourself do not become tempted. The Miracle
Grow treatment is God’s power, which is ours through prayer and a loving
Christian community. For example, over 75% of Adult and Teen Challenge
graduates remain drug-free permanently, versus 4% of non-Christian program
graduates. Christian programs are effective because they create environments
where people are encouraged to be filled with the Spirit and be guided by the
Spirit. We have a great resource in our God, but let us do what we can that is
preventative so that many people do not get trapped. That is what our ability
to vote against legalizing marijuana will help ensure.
Mark Lindley, “Veteran Of
Over 200 Trips says: ‘I had to do something always because I didn’t want to be
bored,” Hollywood Free Paper (vol 3:
Issue 7, 1971), p.3. “An Open Letter to Timothy Leary,” p. 4.
Janice Keller Phelps and Alan E. Nourse, The
Hidden Addiction and How to Get Free (Boston: Little, Brown, 1986), 151-54.
It is not
often we stop at a theater service desk and thank them for a movie. But we
loved the movie Queen of Katwe that
much! It deserves an Oscar! We recommend you go see this movie while it is
brother James told his listeners that “religion that is pure and undefiled
before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their
distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (1:27 NRSV). Queen of
Katwe is about Phiona Mutesi, the daughter of a poor widow, who is coached by
Robert Katende, an orphan who himself has worked hard to become an engineer in
Uganda. However, not having familial connections, he is working for a Christian
ministry as he waits for a position. In this ministry, he serves children they
call “The Pioneers.” We are pleasantly delighted to see the group and
individuals regularly praying. The widow Harriet is a strong woman who remains
poor because she chooses to be moral. A poor woman, she is urged to seek a man
who becomes (temporarily) her “Sugar Daddy” or else she will have to continue
to persevere in a life of great difficulties. Although her oldest daughter
succumbs, the widow steadfastly maintains her ethical standards in her worst of
times, and eventually forgives her daughter who has fallen. In contrast to her
sister, Phiona is able to rise past her circumstances by excelling in chess.
Chess strategy becomes an archetype for life strategies: teaching one to plan
ahead, not give up too soon, learn how a small person can become significant,
and not be intimidated by opponents. God has gifted Phiona. As a result, the
Pioneers’ ministry supports her determination and hard work, thus, in the end,
enabling Phiona’s success. The message the ministry and her chess prowess
underscores is she belonged not in poverty, but where her capabilities could
take her. This is a woman’s empowerment movie that will also be enjoyed by men.
Queen of Katwe is a magnificent and truly encouraging movie and is based on a
For Aida, it
was also a memory journey back to her early years in the Dominican Republic.
Although she has never been to Uganda, she recognized many of the practices in
the movie from 60 years ago in the Dominican Republic, apparently having come
from the African context: poor houses with tin roofs and dirt floors, deep
gullies by the sidewalk to allow passage of sudden heavy rains, women carrying
food to sell on their heads, outside markets with sellers of fruits and vegetables,
vendors coming to car doors. For a few hours, the viewer enters into a
different but intriguing world (without having to pay thousands of dollars for
airfare and hotel and then merely seeing tourist sites in the guide’s places
adapted for tourists). We are reminded that visiting orphans and widows may be
a costly cross-cultural enterprise, as it was for the coach. The poor orphan
and widow may be living in another environment than their wealthier Christian
sister or brother. But, without entering this other world we cannot practice a
worship that is pure and undefiled. This movie helps us see that truth.
The following is
a guest blog written by hospice chaplain Paul Bricker
One of the most
famous passages in the Bible is the Great Commission found in Matthew
28:16-20.I want to share a few thoughts
about it, passage by passage.
It begins with verses
16-17:“But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which
Jesus had designated.And when they saw
Him, they worshiped Him, but some were doubtful.”
This passage shows
the two types of Christians that should do the Great Commission.The first are Christians who worship
Jesus.This is what one would
expect.Christians who worship Jesus
should share the Gospel with others.However, there is another type of Christian who should obey the Great
Commission.The second type of Christians
who should obey the Great Commission are those Christians who doubt.The Scripture clearly shows that the apostles
who are given the Great Commission consist of those who worship the Lord Jesus
and those who doubt.The eleven were
like this even though they had spent three years with Jesus and seen Him do
mighty acts.They saw Him crucified and
they now see Him raised from the dead. Still some doubted.They were acting like “Gomer Pyle”
Christians:“G-o-l-l-y, we are at this
mountain that Jesus told us to come to. G-o-l-l-y, I wonder if this is really
Jesus in front of us…”
What this means
is that every Christian should share the Gospel.All of us are either worshippers of Jesus or
doubters of Jesus or some kind of combination of the two. The Lord Jesus
commands us to “pray at all times and faint not” (Luke 18:1).This is the same teaching.We are either praying or fainting or some
combination of the two.The Lord Jesus
is like a mother bird.The baby birds
might not enjoy leaving the nest.The
mother bird “encourages” them to fly.The Lord Jesus is “encouraging” his disciples to share the gospel.
What this means
is, no matter how tranquil one’s heart is, or how pressing life’s concerns are,
or how sorrowful one is, or how sick one is, one needs to share the Gospel.At one point I was house-bound with Lyme
disease.I could not get out to share
the Gospel.What I did was pray that God
would have the right telemarketer to call.When they called, I answered the phone by saying:“I have been waiting for your phone call
because I want to share with you what Jesus has done for me.”I spoke with people all over the United
States.I had prayer with people who
would share their burdens with me.I did
not feel like doing it, but I did it.
Verse18 explains:“And after Jesus came up, he spoke to them
saying: ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth’….”
This is the
Great Assurance.We battle personal
powers, economic powers, political powers, spiritual powers.In spite of these powers against us, we have
a Savior who has all power.When we are
facing powers that look like they are going to do us in, we have a Savior who
has all power.This is a great
commands:“Therefore, as you go, make
disciples of all nations…”
Here we find the
Great Commission.The commandment is to
make disciples of all nations.The
commandment is not simply “Go.”This is
not to say that missionaries are not to go.What this passage is stating is that “As you go in life, you are to be
making disciples….”When you go to the dentist
(try that with four hands in your mouth—I do), when you go grocery shopping (it
is okay to buy groceries for the single mother who is ahead of you in line),
When I went for
my first mortgage, the broker asked me:“Do you have any judgments against you?”I looked him straight in the eye and quoted Romans 8:1:“There is therefore now no condemnation for
those who are in Christ Jesus.”When I
have talked to financial planners, they have asked me:“Have you planned for your future?”I have answered him by quoting John
3:16:“For God in this manner loved the
world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should
not perish but have eternal life.”Then
I looked the financial planner in the eye and I asked:“Have you planned your future?”
say:“baptizing them in the name of the
Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I
have commanded you.”
Here we find two
participial phrases which describe how to make a disciple of the Lord
Jesus.The first is “baptizing them in
the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”I do not have extended classes before the
baptism.Teaching classes are included
under the second participial phrase:“teaching
them to observe all that I have commanded you.” However, I do explain the
basics. I explain Romans 10:9-10 with a person who wants to become a Christian.
I ask: “Can you confess with your lips: ‘Jesus is Lord’? Do you believe in your
heart that God raised Jesus from the dead?” I also share that baptism is a
sacrament which does not save you, but is a sign of being cleansed from sin:
“You are being baptized because you have been cleansed from your sins.”
Moreover, I share that they are being baptized not in the names (plural) of the Father, Son and Holy
Spirit, but in the name (singular) of
the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is who God is. God is Father and Son and
Holy Spirit, three Persons in one being. I share:“You have become a Christian.You need to show to the whole world that you
belong to Christ.Come Sunday and share
with the whole world that you belong to Christ and invite your friends and be
baptized.”Baptize them as soon as
possible.Do not teach them that
Christianity is a “sit down” religion.It is an action religion.It is a
participial phrase is:“teaching them to
observe all that I have commanded you.”This is very specific.Teach a
new believer what Jesus has commanded the apostles. Many Protestants have a
canon within a canon.They think that
the real teaching is in the letters of the New Testament.Often times Protestants hurry up and read the
Gospels and Acts so that one can start reading the real teaching--the letters.In this passage we find that we should teach
new believers the commandments that Jesus gave to the disciples.Make a list of Jesus’ commandments and study
Verse 20b concludes:“And lo, I am with you always, even to the
end of the ages.”
This is the
Great Assurance #2.The Lord Jesus is
with us and meets with us when we share the gospel. Earlier I shared how the
Great Commission is given to those Christians who worship the Lord and for
those Christians who doubt the Lord.Often I am full of doubt.I have
a troubled heart.I am fainting and not
praying.I am often that “Gomer Pyle
Christian.” I have little internal consolation.I do not worry one bit about such a condition.I go and share the Gospel anyway.When I share the Gospel under such lack of
internal consolation, something happens.I fellowship with Jesus.I go to
share the Gospel and this part of the passage comes alive to me.I experience His presence.I experience “I am with you always, even to
the end of the ages.”