I don't have anything against Twitter. No, that's not quite right, I don't have anything against Twitter in principle. In principle it's a useful forum in which people can engage one another minus the verbal diarrhea to which people like myself are prone. And to be clear, there are many people using the platform that I've come to admire deeply. These are people who understand the narrow path, who refuse to be categorized by political or denominational stripe because Scripture, not the culture around them, is their final word on matters. You know who you are; it's been a tremendous blessing to know you.
In practice, however, Twitter is where some of humanity's most ungodly characteristics come out to play. It's where people, in direct opposition to the above admonitions from our apostolic fore-bearers, are slow to hear, quick to speak, in a rush to become angry; it's where foolish arguments seem to be the norm, rather than the exception.
I wish I could say that I haven't been a part of this; but I have. Despite the fact I know in my head and heart that such behaviour is both stupid and wrong, here I go again admonishing complete strangers for opinions that I can't possibly grasp in 280 characters or less. And to what end? Has God asked me to correct peoples' theology or political proclivities? Has Jesus said to me "the plank in thine eye is removed, go ahead and remove the motes in the eyes of others"? No, of course He hasn't.
My engagement in such fruitless debates has a word: sin. And as with most sin, one of the surest ways to overcome it is to remove the temptation altogether. I can't very well get into foolish arguments on Twitter if I don't have an account, can I?
Unfortunately, this takes away my ability to share my blog with an enormous community of believers, which is the only reason I signed on in the first place, and the reason I've justified staying connected for as long as I have. So if you're reading this today and you enjoy my writings, I'd invite you to submit your email address and opt in for future updates. From there any means you choose to share this site is very much appreciated.
My Yeshua our Lord bless you with His wisdom and grace.
Here in these verses we have the end-game. The Lord redeems people from every tribe, language and people for Himself, ushering in His new creation: one that will no longer be stained by sin and death.
The somewhat bizarre platonic notion that, when we die, our spirits will go off to the ethereal realm and experience eternal disembodiment is simply not true. For a time, perhaps, we will be separated from the corporeal, but only for a time. Early Christians simply took it for granted that Christ's return is about the establishment of His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven, not the abandonment of the creation 'experiment' in favour of a disembodied eternity. Somewhere along the way, though, we lost our way, and started to believe things that have no basis in scripture.
No matter, here we are today; we have our bibles and are capable of correcting course. Now, what we ought to remember today is that Christ's construction of His Kingdom, while perhaps mysterious to us, is perfectly sensible. He's going in order. What are the most important elements of a Kingdom? I would think:
1. Its King,
2. His Subjects, and
3. The Land in which the Kingdom rests
And what has He established thus far?
1. The King, who won His crown on Calvary, and
2. His Subjects, who continue to grow day-by-day.
The Land comes next, once part 2 is complete. The Lord will establish a new heavens and a new earth. And your end-game, believer in Christ, is a new, indestructible body. Happily, you may put aside any notions of an eternity of playing harps in the clouds (sounds awful, doesn't it?) to rest. You were made for the Spirit, but also for the physical. Heaven awaits, and it's better than we dare dream.
Herod holds the unfortunate record of being the only person in scripture to whom Jesus has nothing to say. This “king” is the worst kind of man. His extravagant wealth is plundered directly from the pockets of God’s people; a people to whom cleanliness is everything are forced to live in filth and destitution while he reclines in detestable luxury.
He is a vacuous, vain and exceedingly empty human being, uniquely responsible for the execution of the greatest man (besides Jesus) who ever lived: an execution brought about by a promise made in frivolity and kept in cowardice.
For Herod, Jesus has no words. And though Herod has or will ultimately come to understand how profound and damning that is, at the time, he can’t care less. Jesus is crucified; Herod goes on his merry way.
But what about you? Are you fearful of God’s wrath? Do you find Jesus’ words disconcerting? Do they make you uncomfortable? Good! Jesus has plenty to say to you! Jesus does not demand perfection, but He does demand repentance – a sustained and repeated decision to turn away from the world’s ways to His own.
Jesus loves us, so like any good parent, He rebukes and disciplines. Does a child enjoy punishment? Does a plant enjoy pruning? Of course not! But a child subject to loving discipline grows into wisdom. A plant properly pruned and lovingly tended bears increasingly better fruit with each passing season. So we may rejoice that God takes the time to discipline us. It is a clear indication that, though we may be a long, long way from shore, we’re not in Herod’s boat.
I’m willing to bet that Amos' words would have confused a great many faithful worshipers – the most religious most of all. What is meant in saying “I hate your festivals… but let righteousness roll like an ever-flowing stream”? Is it not righteous to make burnt offerings and sacrifices? Is this not what the law commands?
One senses the growing impatience of our Lord here. Despite centuries of careful instruction, the seed is still not falling on good soil; rather it seems to be landing in the shallow dirt of external religiosity and getting tangled up in the thorns of wealth and privilege.
Let there be no doubt, to offer sincere worship is a righteous act; to offer sincere corporate worship is most pleasing to our Lord – a fragrant offering that will not be turned away. But to confuse religious activity and theological box-checking with righteousness is to make a serious error. And as to such error, our Lord warns:
Alas, those who desire the day of Yahweh, why is this for you the day of Yahweh? It will be darkness and not light!
Righteousness does not come about by great demonstrations of religiosity, nor by the stroke of a politician’s pen. Justice and righteousness are rivers that flow from redeemed hearts, hearts that have been turned over to our Lord Yeshua for safe-keeping. If we put our trust in Him, righteousness will follow. If we don't, then whatever it is we're doing, even if theologically correct, is wrong.
“Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike.
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
Like many, I was turned off for years by Christians who seemed to be perpetually preoccupied with the gifts of the Spirit. Rather than focusing outwardly on Christ and His teachings, some of them seemed to me to be obsessed with performing magic tricks for the purposes of self-edification.
Make no mistake, there are Christians out there who match this description. And naturally they would gravitate to Spirit-filled churches in the same way a legalist might find his way to a Baptist church, or a cheap grace advocate to a charismatic church. There are abusers everywhere; there are also highly-flawed believers who, like you and like me, need repeated correction from our Father in Heaven before they start getting anywhere near the biblical mark.
Nonetheless, we should not let such things distract us from the Bible’s teachings. Just because there are “Christians” who deny the physical resurrection of Christ and happen to be preoccupied with social justice, does not mean I ought to steer clear of Christ’s clear teachings on feeding the hungry or clothing the naked. Because there is a such thing as legalism is no argument against practicing obedience.
Loved ones: just because there are people out there who abuse or mishandle the practice of spiritual gifts does not mean that we ought to back-burner a relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Read the book of Acts and the letters that come afterwards. The gifts of the Spirit are not an aside that we can take or leave anymore than we can take or leave Christ’s teachings. If we neglect the Spirit, we are doomed to remain in spiritual infancy:
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly.
Do you want to move mountains? Cultivate a relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Colin McComb lives in Edson, Alberta with his wife, Gail, and their three lovely children.