Joke of the Week
The manager of a large city zoo was drafting a letter to order a pair of animals He sat at his computer and typed the following sentence: “I would like to place an order for two mongooses, to be delivered at your earliest convenience.”
He stared at the screen, this time focusing on the odd word “mongooses.” Then he deleted the word and added another so that the sentence now read, “I would like to place an order for two mongeese, to be delivered at your earliest convenience.”
Again he stared at the screen, this time focusing on the new word, which seemed just as odd as the original one. Finally he deleted the whole sentence and started all over. “No fully stocked zoo should be without a mongoose. Please send us two of them.
April Fools’ Day
April Fools’ Day comes next Saturday. If you become the butt of an April Fools’ Day prank, on Sunday you may hear, “April Fools’ is past, your the biggest fool at last.” You won’t lose any sleep over that, since the taunt means nothing. The word fool is pretty innocuous nowadays.
But the Bible has a lot to say about fools, both to non-Christians and believers. And what it says is anything but trivial.
- “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” The atheist is a fool. Did he become a fool because he was an atheist, or did he become an atheist because he was a fool to begin with? It seems the former: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:21-22).
- Some are fools, not because they are atheists, but because they are deceived by the things of this world and neglect to get right with God. Perhaps the most relevant passage of Scripture on being a fool for us well-off Americans is the Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12:13-21. Many of you know it. A rich man had acquired so much that he decided to retire and take it easy for the rest of his life. He built more storehouses to hold his grain, the source of his wealth. We would say he was wise in that he forsook the incessant toil; we would say he was prudent in that he planned ahead. But the Lord took his life that very night. He had saved up and had made plans to ensure that he would have enough to live on comfortably for the rest of his life. But he had not stored up treasures in heaven; it seems he never gave God a thought. God calls him a fool (Luke 12:20). There are plenty of fools like him today.
- Christian, don’t think the only fools are unbelievers. Christians can be fools too. Paul calls fools those Christians in Galatia who thought they had to perform works prescribed by the Mosaic Law in addition to trusting in Christ in order to receive God’s verdict of “Righteous, not guilty! (Galatians 3:1-6) A recent poll (LifeWay Research, September, 2016) revealed that 49% of Americans think that their good works contribute to their salvation. Christian, don’t be one of them. Rest your entire eternal destiny in the Lord Jesus and his life and death for you, rest on nothing more.
Wisdom is the opposite of foolishness, Where can I find wisdom?
Wisdom doesn’t end with turning to Christ as Savior. Paul tell Christians, “Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Where can we find wisdom to know the will of the Lord, to know how to live in this wicked, ever-changing, confusing world? The Book of James is the New Testament book of wisdom, like Proverbs in the Old Testament. You are blessed in that Saluda Press has published a Study Guide for the Book of James. It is pictured at the right. Don’t hesitate and remain clueless as to how to live a Christian life; buy the book now. Go to the top of the page and click on Buying My Books; follow the steps, and the Study Guide will soon be on it way. Or, if you prefer to buy on Amazon, it’s available there for the same bargain price of $9.95 + $4.00 shipping.
Luther’s 95 Theses for 21st Century Christians
This is the 500th anniversary year of Luther’s posting his 95 theses on the cathedral door in Wittenberg, Germany, an event recognized as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. We in the third millennium ought to become familiar with his theses, for the issues Luther dealt with, necessary changes being made, are alive today–not the matter of indulgences, but the issues that underlie them. Here is the next installment published in Rogland Writes. The thesis is stated, followed by my comments.
- The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in these cases were disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven.
Luther acknowledges in the second part of Thesis 6: the pope has the right to remit “guilt in cases reserved to his judgment.” As he pointed out in Thesis 5, those are matters of canon law.
The important assertion in this thesis is the first phrase: the pope’s ability to remit the guilt incurred by sins against God amounts to “declaring and showing” that God has already remitted or forgiven that guilt. Here Luther boldly affirms that only God can forgive sins against his holy law.
But what of the Lord’s words to his apostles?
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matthew 18:15-18
Jesus later said to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” John 20:21-23
As pointed out in a footnote in the ESV, the last sentence in the Matthew passage might better be translated, “whatever you shall have bound on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you shall have loosed on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” The Latin Vulgate Bible, the official Bible of the Catholic Church and the Bible Luther used at this time (he had not yet translated the Bible into German) translates it thusly. The Latin, and the Greek from which it was translated, should be interpreted to mean that the action of the church, whether in forgiving or remitting, is to be in accord with what God has already done. The church can declare sins forgiven or retained, but only as a declaration of what God has done. In this it speaks for God; it does not bind God by its actions.
The church can do no more than give an assurance of pardon to the penitent. Some Protestant churches contain an assurance of pardon in their liturgy. More should do so. While many feel no need to be forgiven, some earnest Christians who fall into sin, sometimes serious sin, doubt if God will forgive them one more time. They grieve over their sin; they are truly repentant; they come to God for forgiveness; but the devil torments them with the thought that they have sinned one time too many to be forgiven, or that they have committed the unpardonable sin. They need assurance that God has forgiven them.