Lawyers and Bondsmen

Thursday, Feb. 11                                                      

Let’s start with the mediator.  In our courts, the defense lawyer is a mediator.  He is pleading the case for an accused man.  The question is one of guilt or innocence.  The defense lawyer takes the view that the accused is innocent, whether or not he personally believes him to be innocent.  He does everything in his power under the guidance of the law and the judge—whose job is to make sure that the law is upheld—to end up with a “not guilty” verdict.  If he succeeds, the accused is set free.  There’s a problem here:  If he is not guilty, he shouldn’t have to spend time in jail; if he is guilty he might flee in order to avoid judgment.  So we have the policy of letting a man go free during the trial if he will promise not to flee.  That pledge is backed up by a cash amount that the court holds during the trial.  [The root meaning of the Greek word “guarantee” in Heb. 7:22 is “pledge.”]  The pledge money or bond would be forfeited if the man fled to avoid judgment.  The rationale behind this is that a man who is innocent would not flee, and a man who is guilty might flee but he would lose a good chunk of money.  This transaction is called posting bail.  When the accused can’t post bail a bondsman comes into the picture.  He uses his own money, a loan to be paid back with interest.  When the trial ends, the court returns the money to the man who was on trial, who then returns the loaned money (with interest) to the bondsman.  So a guarantor is like a bondsman.

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A Terse Verse

Wednesday, Feb. 10                                                  

Last week our preacher, Tom Thieme, spoke on the subject of Christ being a priest after the order of Melchizedek.  In the midst of this passage is Heb. 7:22.  “Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.”  Tom took time to clarify the difference between a guarantor and a mediator, which I appreciated very much.  The oath and the new covenant are both significant in regard to the high priesthood of Christ, but I would like to bypass that for now and just focus on the word “guarantee.”  The terms “mediator” and “guarantor” are metaphors.  They conjure up scenes in a  courtroom.  Like parables and analogies, metaphors are limited.  Carried too far, they lead to erroneous conclusions.  Both “mediator” and “guarantor” are terms used by the author of Hebrews to reveal the role of Jesus in the redemption process.  Just as with parables and analogies, these two terms come from common human customs, and are meant to help us understand concepts that are outside of our cultural realm.  I’m going to go a bit farther than Tom went and it will take more space than normally occupied by a single blog, so tomorrow we will pursue what a mediator and a guarantor does, and later on how they help us understand Jesus’ role in the redemptive process.

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Sinners by Choice

Tuesday, Feb. 9                                                                      

The Westminster Confession of Faith is the cornerstone of most evangelical belief systems.  It is founded on Biblical truth and is mostly correct.  It is not “inspired” of course, and one might find an occasional statement that is questionable, but in general it can be relied upon.  The Westminster Confession of Faith declares that we are “sinners by nature and by choice.”  Most of us have no problem with the first part of this declaration.  The only ones that would deny being a sinner are those who have a mental problem.  It is universally agreed that we all sin.  We may have a variety of ideas as to what constitutes sin, but we agree with the premise.  And we can always blame our ancestor Adam for that and thus excuse ourselves from blame.  Not so with the second part of this declaration—the “sinners by choice” part.  This is more of a problem.  We attempt to escape the ramifications of this by a variety of rationales.  “We are born sinners, so it’s not our fault; it’s Adam’s fault.”  “Satan made me do it.”  “God made us this way.”   “God is good.”  “God is forgiving.”  “God is a loving God.”  All of these are attempts to avoid any personal responsibility for our sinfulness.  We don’t want to experience the wrath of God.  So is the Westminster Confession of Faith wrong here?  I don’t think so.  The entire Bible teaches that we are responsible for our sins.  Despite the enormity of the judgment—eternal damnation in a lake of fire and separated from God forever—it is administered by a righteous God.  He would not be God if he did not condemn sin.  We have no alternative unless we accept the divine answer that “Jesus Paid it All.”

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Contempt for Pride

Monday, Feb. 8                                                                      

I often fall into neutral—mental slumber, if you like—when singing hymns.  They are so familiar and it is easy to mouth the words without really thinking about them.  I suppose I’m not the only one to do this.  It happened again when we sang “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” yesterday.  The Holy Spirit has ways to awaken a person from slumber.  In this case it was the phrase “and pour contempt on all my pride.”  I’ve been more concerned lately about the degree of pride in my life.  It comes out in a variety of ways, often very subtle ways.  To my chagrin, I realize that I fall way short of pouring contempt on my pride.  I’m more apt to pour out excuses, or simply ignore it as though it’s irrelevant.  “Contempt” is a strong word, which of course is why it caught my attention.  I have contempt for a lot of things, but I’ve never before used the word in relation to my pride.  If I really have contempt for my pride, I will do something about it.  And when I find out I can’t deal with it, I need to turn it over to God.  He’d love to deal with it.  It makes me realize that the hymn writer must have had a marvelous relationship with God.  I want that.

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Knowledge Without Wisdom

Sunday, Feb. 7                                                   

“We focus so much on the accumulation of knowledge that we neglect the application of it.”—Doug Burch.  The world promotes knowledge as the key to success, contentment, and the way to have a positive impact on our world.  I constantly see quotations in our local newspaper along this line.  Here is a recent example:  “This is the tragedy of the  world that no one knows what he doesn’t know—and the less a man knows, the more sure he is that he knows everything.”  There is some truth in this, but the tragedy is not accumulating knowledge.  The tragedy is not making wise decisions on the basis of that knowledge.  Maybe that’s implied in the quotation, but it’s certainly not expressed.  And if it were, it likely would not be from a Biblical perspective.  Psalms and Proverbs have a lot to say about knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.  Psalm 111:10.  The Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  Prov.1:7.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge . . .”  Knowledge is factual information, truth.  It’s possible to acquire facts while still having little or no understanding.  When a truth is understood, then the application should follow.  A proper application is wisdom.  So a person can have knowledge and understanding without wisdom.  Note the last half of Prov. 1:7:  “But fools despise wisdom . . .”  The world’s disdain for God is total disaster.  Wisdom is abandoned and knowledge is wasted.  As Doug suggested, we need to make use of our knowledge.  Our world’s way is the wrong way.  Remember the old adage “Your actions speak louder than your words.”  Now that is a wise statement!

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He Took the Cup

Saturday, Feb. 6                                                                     

“The night before he was betrayed, he took the cup.”  I just about weep every time I read this.  What a God we serve!  Here is Jesus who was to be betrayed by one of His own disciples within hours—and knew it—a man  who would suffer in our place because of our sins, and the One whom the Father had to turn away from because of those sins.  Here he is thinking of His beloved followers, knowing that they would abandon Him and that He would not be able to console them or encourage them while they were going through their own devastating crisis.  John’s words graphically pin point the scene (John 13:1).  “ . . .  He loved them unto the end.”   This “last supper” epitomizes the truth that “God is love.”  We don’t need much more “gospel” than that!  My debt is paid and I’m  a new creature, changed from a rebel to a saint.  I become the brother of Jesus, and I will bask in His love for all eternity.  The significance of that final supper with His disciples cannot be over stated.  The “ritual” of the Lord’s Table should never be a mere ritual.  Jesus’ sacrifice is the single most crucial point in history.  It is the most glorious event ever.  Remembering it is heart felt by this once miserable sinner—still a sinner, but no longer miserable.  Saved by grace!

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Friday, Feb. 5                                                             

Yesterday’s blog focused on the receiving end of praise and criticism.  Now I want to focus on the giving end.  The life of a Christian is not one of ease and comfort.  We have a new and glorious and satisfying relationship with God, a love relationship that prepares us for our obligations—obligations to God, to our fellow believers, and to the unregenerate.  We are given all the tools that we need to fulfill those obligations.  Let’s focus on the relationship with fellow Christians.  Bottom line:  we are our brother’s keeper.  We are responsible for him and must care for him.  There are lots of Biblical instructions concerning both praise and criticism and there is no way I can cover them all.  For one thing, we need to be living a godly life.  “You who are spiritual” (Gal. 6:1), i.e., currently in good fellowship with God.  We must be humble, not thinking of ourselves as superior (Gal. 6:1, 3).  And we are to be gentle (Gal. 6: 1).  Col. 3:12-13 adds a few other character traits:  compassion, kindness, patience, and a spirit of forgiveness.  Once you’ve sharpened up those tools, then you are able to help a needy brother.  The Galatians passage mentions only one way to do it—to help carry his burdens (v. 2).  But it obviously includes a caring attitude, encouragement, admonition, and prayer.  The goal is to restore a brother to fellowship with God and with his fellow believers  (v. 1).  It may be a long road.  And it will mean sacrifice—time, effort, patience.  Paul encourages us not to be  weary in the process (v. 9).  That’s caring for fellow believers.  The end result is worth the effort.

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