Friday, March 30, 2012

Absorbing Offense - Christian Forgiveness

The kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. One servant owed more than $6 BILLION, and he could not pay. Begging for patience he promised to pay all; out of pity for this servant, his king not only let the man go, but forgave him the debt. The servant went out and immediately found a fellow servant who owed him $12 THOUSAND. He seized him, and began to choke him, and demanded the man pay what was owed. When the debtor begged for patience, his pleas were ignored and he was thrown into prison until he paid the whole debt. (confer Matthew 18:23-35)

The above story is not the entire parable, but it contains important points I wish to make to you, dear saint, to stir you up towards good works and compassion towards the brethren (I will address the rest of the parable later in this article). The topic at hand is what happens to our sins against God, and what happens to others’ sins against us. Does this debt just vanish? Or does someone else pay it? Look at the above parable, the debt against the first servant is absorbed by the king (Matthew 18:27), the debt against the second servant is required to be paid by that servant (Matthew 18:30). Someone has to pay the debt, it cannot just go away; when a sin is just ignored, the Bible says, “He who justifies the wicked…is an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 17:15).” Sin must be paid for, and it will be paid for (Romans 2:4-5).

Did you notice the disparity between what a sin against God costs and what a sin against us costs? The debt owed to the king was several billion dollars, the debt owed to the servant was 0.000012 billion dollars. Clearly the king in this parable represents the Father (Matthew 18:35), and because God is infinitely more worthy than us, who are worthless (Romans 3:12), we must recognize that a sin against God is much more weighty and pressing than a transgression against ourselves. The Apostle Paul makes this point by writing to Corinth, “he caused [pain]…in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you (2 Corinthians 2:5).” Whichever sin is committed against us, no matter how big we think it is, it is nothing in comparison to our sin against God. This is why three Gospels tell us in three different ways to pray, “forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us (Luke 11:4, Mark 11:25, Matthew 6:12).

So what happens to our sins? In another parable Jesus tells that there were two debtors, one owed $60 thousand, and the other owed $6 thousand. When they could not pay, the moneylender cancelled the debt of both. (confer Luke 7:41-42) Their debts were just canceled? No, not just canceled, cancelled on account of the moneylender who absorbed that $66 thousand. Now, let me make a brief caveat, sin cannot be calculated as money can, each one of your sins has been worth you going to Hell for, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), a single lie makes you a liar, and all liars will have their place in the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8), and we’ve all sinned much more than a single lie, and we can’t pay for any of our sins (Zephaniah 1:18, Psalm 49:7-9). Our debt was infinite, it required an incalculable payment. We were storing up wrath for ourselves on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment would be revealed (Romans 2:5). God has promised to repay perfectly in vengeance the sin debt against himself (Deuteronomy 32:35). Truly the danger to our souls for our infinite debt was only matched by the heinousness of our sin. The only one worthy to pay our debt was the infinite and eternal Creator God, and we had offended him and made him our enemy; we were without payment, without hope, and without God in the world. But while we were yet sinners he came to our rescue. As our Creator was fulfilling the law to learn the obedience which was required for our substitutionary payment, he forgave the sins of a crippled man and recreated his legs to walk, saying only, “Man, your sins are forgiven you. I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home”, to which the Creator’s enemies were quick to say, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus did these things, “that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Jesus Christ is God, and is able and willing to forgive sins. (confer Luke 5:17-26)

At the appointed time, the Creator, Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, the Son of God, put on flesh, learned obedience, and went to a cross as the payment for sin. He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Romans 4:25). God has made us alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14). In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the satisfaction for our sins (1 John 4:10).

Therefore beloved, we ought to love one another as God loved us (1 John 4:11). No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us (1 John 4:12). You must put away sin, all of them; anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk; rather forgive one another, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive (Colossians 3:8,13).

How many times and to what extent must we forgive? Jesus said, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him (Luke 17:3-4).” Absorb the debt of others' sins against you just as Christ absorbed your debt; you are never so Christlike as when you forgive someone, “it is the glory of a man to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11).” The Apostle Paul exhorts you, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:31-32).” And beloved, have you noticed that most of these passages do not place the requirement of repentance for forgiveness? Sometimes it is necessary to absorb even the offense of lack of repentance when you are certain the person is a brother. (confer Philippians 4:2)

But what if you won’t forgive? Solomon exhorts and then insults you, “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools (Ecclesiastes 7:9).” The Apostle James implores you, “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20).” Paul tests you for the genuineness of your conversion, “Turn to forgive and comfort him…I beg you to reaffirm your love for him, for this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything (2 Corinthians 2:7-9, compare Hebrews 5:9).”

Will you be Christlike in absorbing offense against yourself, paying it in your own soul, and forgiving sin? Christ whom you profess has done so completely, “I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me (Jeremiah 33:8).” He has in a single sacrifice perfected all those who were once his enemies, but are now being sanctified. Will you not forgive those who have a small debt against you when you have been forgiven such a larger debt? Can you not overlook their offense and forgive them as Christ has forgiven you?

Is your answer still no? Look back to the parable we began with, the servant who will not forgive his fellow servant after being forgiven so much by his king is found out. Are you this servant who holds others accountable to pay when your debt is supposedly canceled? Christ then says he never knew you, and this is your fate, “You wicked servant! Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ In anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart (Matthew 18:32-35).” The wages of sin is death, each sin is infinite. It will require an infinite and eternal retribution to pay for only one sin against the King, and dear reader, we both know that our debt is closer to the $6 BILLION mark than the lesser debt.

But dear reader, if you will repent of your sin, trust in the Resurrected Christ, you then have assurance in the sufficiency of his payment, the complete appeasement of your debt. This repentance will play out in forgiveness, in reconciliation, in love of the brothers. Fret yourself not with keeping tabs on those who are not Christians, for Psalm 37 tells their fate,

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
__Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
__but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.
In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
__though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.

- Psalm 37:8-10

But for you, forgive as you have been forgiven, and
Wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. - 1 Thessalonians 1:10

Friday, March 23, 2012

One Response to the Hunger Games

The Last Roman "Triumph"

From Foxe's Book of Martyrs, Chapter III

As was customary on such occasions, there were bloody combats in the Colosseum, where gladiators, armed with swords and spears, fought as furiously as if they were on the field of battle.

The first part of the bloody entertainment was finished; the bodies of the dead were dragged off with hooks, and the reddened sand covered with a fresh, clean layer. After this had been done the gates in the wall of the arena were thrown open, and a number of tall, well-formed men in the prime of youth and strength came forward. Some carried swords, others three-pronged spears and nets. They marched once around the walls, and stopping before the emperor, held up their weapons at arm's length, and with one voice sounded out their greeting, Ave, Caesar, morituri te salutant! "Hail, Caesar, those about to die salute thee!"

The combats now began again; the glatiators with nets tried to entangle those with swords, and when they succeeded mercilessly stabbed their antagonists to death with the three-pronged spear. When a glatiator had wounded his adversary, and had him lying helpless at his feet, he looked up at the eager faces of the spectators, and cried out, "Hoc habet!" "He has it!" and awaited the pleasure of the audience to kill or spare.

If the spectators held out their hands toward him, with thumbs upward, the defeated man was taken away, to recover if possible from his wounds. But if the fatal signal of "thumbs down" was given, the conquered was to be slain; and if he showed any reluctance to present his neck for the death blow, there was a scornful shout from the galleries, "Recipe ferrum!" "Receive the steel!" Privileged persons among the audience would even descend into the arena, to better witness the death agonies of some unusually brave victim, before his corpse was dragged out at the death gate.

The show went on; many had been slain, and the people, madly excited by the desperate bravery of those who continued to fight, shouted their applause. But suddenly there was an interruption. A rudely clad, robed figure appeared for a moment among the audience, and then boldly leaped down into the arena. He was seen to be a man of rough but imposing presence, bareheaded and with sun-browned face. Without hesitating an instant he advanced upon two gladiators engaged in a life-and-death struggle, and laying his hand upon one of them sternly reproved him for shedding innocent blood, and then, turning toward the thousands of angry faces ranged around him, called upon them in a solemn, deep-toned voice which resounded through the deep inclosure. These were his words: "Do not requite God's mercy in turning away the swords of your enemies by murdering each other!"

Angry shouts and cries at once drowned his voice: "This is no place for preaching!--the old customs of Rome must be observed!--On, gladiators!" Thrusting aside the stranger, the gladiators would have again attacked each other, but the man stood between, holding them apart, and trying in vain to be heard. "Sedition! sedition! down with him!" was then the cry; and the gladiators, enraged at the interference of an outsider with their chosen vocation, at once stabbed him to death. Stones, or whatever missiles came to hand, also rained down upon him from the furious people, and thus he perished, in the midst of the arena.

His dress showed him to be one of the hermits who vowed themselves to a holy life of prayer and self-denial, and who were reverenced by even the thoughtless and combat-loving Romans. The few who knew him told how he had come from the wilds of Asia on a pilgrimage, to visit the churches and keep his Christmas at Rome; they knew he was a holy man, and that his name was Telemachus-no more. His spirit had been stirred by the sight of thousands flocking to see men slaughter one another, and in his simple-hearted zeal he had tried to convince them of the cruelty and wickedness of their conduct. He had died, but not in vain. His work was accomplished at the moment he was struck down, for the shock of such a death before their eyes turned the hearts of the people: they saw the hideous aspects of the favorite vice to which they had blindly surrendered themselves; and from the day Telemachus fell dead in the Colosseum, no other fight of gladiators was ever held there.

Crown of Boasting

God has blessed me in the ministry of reconciliation for the past six years; I look back at so many evangelists I’ve known in that time who started running strong but quickly fell aside; I hear stories of those who claim to have been zealous gospel preachers in their youth but who have settled down in their old age. This was one of my greatest fears for a long time, because I did not want to be a preacher only because it was an interesting hobby, I did not want to make evangelism my idol as I’ve seen so many do, and I most certainly did not want to shame Jesus Christ by falling aside and loving something else more than him, as he prayed for us so did I pray, “Let not those who trust in you be put to shame through me, O Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel!” (Psalm 69:6)

I am writing this article to share my scriptural basis for evangelism and why I feel so blessed that Christ has given me a solid understanding of how to sustain evangelism. It begins four years ago, at an evangelistic meeting as many of us were introducing ourselves, I realized that I wasn’t just an evangelist, I was a pastor who evangelized. In other words, I loved people more than preaching. This seemed completely out of place at the time, but this has never changed. Boasting only in Christ, I’ve watched this group one by one fall from being zealous evangelists; there but for the grace of God go I.

As I’ve continued to read my Bible, I’ve found that my statement of being a pastor first, and an evangelist second, is not just biblical, but extremely biblical. I have in front of me a list of seventeen passages which say exactly what this article is going to say, and I’m sure my list is not exhaustive. The call is not hidden in the Bible, in fact it’s seen in one of the most popular evangelistic verses quoted, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...teaching them…” (Matthew 28:19-20) The call is not just to preach the gospel, it’s not just to make converts, but the call is to make disciples, to train them, to see them obedient to Jesus Christ. Paul rephrases the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 this way, “Christ we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” (Colossians 1:28-29)

The biblical model is not just to love making converts, for anyone can make a convert (Philippians 1:15-18), but to love those converts and rejoice in their faith. My favorite Bible verse says, “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20) This is not to imply that Paul’s converts here are perfect disciples, far from it, Paul quickly clarifies, “For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God? We pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith.” (1 Thessalonians 3:8-10) And to one of the worst churches in the Bible, Paul writes of his motives, “by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord…” (1 Corinthians 15:31) The joy and boasting that Paul has in his disciples is founded in the work that Christ has done in them and through them.

And are they Paul’s disciples? Paul takes a definite possession of his converts (Philemon 10, 1 Corinthians 4:14-15, Galatians 4:19, 2 Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:4, 2 Corinthians 11:28), he was the means by which the faith came to them, he taught them, he exhorts them, he corrects them, he worries about them, he prays for them; he forever recognizes that it is Christ working in him that brings this, but that does not diminish his joy one bit, in fact in another place, it increases his joy, “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.” (1 Corinthians 3:5-8)

And by no means is this just the sentiment of the Apostle Paul, just in the 1 Thessalonians verse we see that this joy is shared by Paul, Silas, and Timothy. In another Epistle, John shares the sentiment, “I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 3-4)

Peter takes personal possession of Mark in 1 Peter 5:13, but he makes sure that we realize it's our responsibility and privilege to do the same for those under us, “I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:1-4)

The winner of souls, the maker of disciples, is lauded throughout scripture. Proverbs 11:30 says, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.” “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3) Elsewhere this passage is pointed at an individual, Levi the priest, “He walked with me in peace and righteousness, and he turned many from iniquity.” (Malachi 2:6) Beloved, may these be verses which God is pleased to apply to you.

I hope it is not I who have convinced you, but the scriptures themselves, that loving others through discipleship is the goal of evangelism rather than simply making a convert. Making converts is wonderful, but are they worth boasting over? Paul doesn’t boast in numbers, he boasts in Christian fruit, “we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.” (2 Thessalonians 1:4) It is God the Father who calls Ephesians 2:8-10), it is Christ who died (1 Corinthians 1:13), and it is the Spirit who works (Philippians 2:12-13), we do nothing (John 3:27, 6:63), our boasting is confined to the work we see God doing in our disciples, but boast we do, and exhort them to walk all the more in the truth revealed to them, “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” (Philippians 4:1)

My beloved, I pray you are working in such a way as to be able to boast in your disciples, that you have means to strive together with your brothers in the faith, that you see growth in them and are looking forward to giving an account of them on Judgment Day. (Hebrews 13:17) Beloved, far be it from me to tell you how to do this, my exhortation is only to do it. I could suggest youth ministry, college ministry, senior ministry, homeless ministry, Bible study, orphan ministry, widow ministry, hospital ministry, chaplaincy, street evangelism where you learn people's names and pray for them, etc etc, but beloved, do not let me stifle you, only find someone who needs Jesus and make them a disciple. And may they find such love in you that they cannot but boast in the work Christ has done through you in their lives, “that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.” (2 Corinthians 1:14)

Do the work of an evangelist, but love the church first and foremost. Do not boast in numbers, but in people. Charles Spurgeon, famous on earth and in Heaven, with much to boast over both on earth and in Heaven, said it this way, “A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.

And because of God you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”(1 Corinthians 1:30-31)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

St. Patrick's Day - Savannah - Update

Friday and Saturday Vernon, Evan, and I were blessed to preach in Savannah to an estimated one-million revelers. We had great conversations, sermons, and responses and the exhortation of the Apostle is more true than ever, "Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58)

The following are the prayer requests I sent out to my beloved church, with pictures added. Most of these pictures are courtesy of Vernon. I must apologize for not being much of a photographer on this trip, I missed some great conversations Vernon had. Pray for the youth pastor of a local church there, he definitely knew the true gospel, and was striving for ways to arrest the descent he sees of so many youth into the animism and paganism that is overtaking Savannah; we encouraged him, Vernon with the message of Patrick the evangelist to Ireland, and myself with a copy of "The Way of the Master".

Friday, and Saturday Morning:

We've had a great first day here in Savannah. On Friday we set-up on River Street, and almost immediately had people stopping to ask questions. My best conversation was with Neil, a South Korean student who grew up Catholic and rejected God for the religion of evolution. After taking him through the law, he admitted to believing there was a god, but that it couldn't be the God of the Bible. We had a long discussion on evolution and creation, and I kept bring it back to the law. I concluded with, "'Till sin be bitter, Christ will never be sweet." He took my card and I'm hoping to hear from him again.

After this, the sky opened up and everyone ran for cover. We ended up in a massive impromptu party in a tunnel with our crosses, just standing there garnered us all sorts of glares. After about an hour the rain let up and we headed back out.

As I was preparing to preach, a Jewish Evolutionist came by and said, "One question: how old is the earth?" I responded with just a tad over 6000 years. He didn't like this answer, nor did several others walking by. This led to a great long conversation; the argumentative people kept changing with new people entering all the time, and we kept going over the gospel. At the end we got mired into a discussion with an Emergency Room Surgeon named Zackary who thought you couldn't be a scientist and a Christian. He didn't want to even consider his conscience, but I kept bringing him back to his conscience that he had sinned against the Creator God who holds the universe in the palm of his hand. Finally as we were going nowhere fast I left him with the same thought I left Neil, that until sin is bitter, Christ will never be sweet.

Finally I stood up and preached on the foolishness of the cross to the perishing. We had some very angry hecklers who started dancing and screaming, but they drew a massive crowd and I didn't finish preaching until the police came to shut the hecklers down because they were on the verge of violence. At that point it was almost 2am and so we called it a night. The only act of violence was minor, a drunk threw a beer at Evan but in his inebriation missed and only hit the very bottom of Evan's cross.

The parade this morning drew thousands of people, we quickly handed out our 1500 Patrick specific tracts then headed to lunch. On the way we passed a big park with many people in it, so stopped to share the message of Christ with them. Preached on the law which promised life, but brought death when transgressed, and now leads us to Christ.

Keep praying for us, there are lots of inquisitive lost people here, as well as angry hardened people, pray for our boldness and for the word to go out and call lost sheep home.

Saturday:

Thank you for your prayers this weekend, they most definitely were answered. One of my favorite proclamations of the gospel is, "He is Risen!" because in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ he has proven to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Saturday we proclaimed to Savannah that Jesus Christ is the Resurrection and the Life, that there is eternal life for the one who turns from sin and trusts in the gospel. We received many different responses, but indifference was rarely one of them.

The parade started at 10:15am, we very quickly handed out 1500 St Patrick's Day specific tracts. We watched the parade from a restaurant, then headed out to engage people with the gospel. We brought two crosses, they say "Repent & Believe" and "Foolish to the Perishing" on the front and both say "He is Risen" on the back. Almost instantly we had crowds gathering around us asking questions. The most common question was, "Why are you holding a cross?" My answer is usually, "I'm hoping it will start conversations." Frequently the follow-up question is, "Has it started any?" To which I reply, "If you died tonight, do you think you'd go to Heaven?" Many great gospel presentations ensued.

Pray for David, a young soldier who may have some serious mental and/or demonic issues. We talked for about half an hour and during that time he claimed to be both an atheist and a born-again Christian. He was certain that he was not just a good person, but a great person. Pray that the seed planted will take root and call David out of the darkness into the light of Christ.

We talked to three young men, 20 years old or so, one was so convicted after the law that he walked off without saying anything. I tried to get him to stay for the gospel, but he wouldn't. The other two stayed and were intrigued by the gospel, but both had grown up in dead churches and told sad stories of hypocrites who showed no fruit of the Holy Spirit, and so both denied any power in Christianity to change lives. I implored them to trust Christ and that God is true even when every man is a liar.

Afterwards we set up with our crosses at Ellis Square, a mid-sized park that became a major hangout as the day progressed. It was far too loud anywhere to preach, but many stopped to hear the gospel. One man was so furious that he spent several minutes screaming at me, he kept saying things like, "You're a fool!" "You're an idiot!" I pointed to the cross which says the message of the cross is "Foolish to the Perishing" and explained that God has chosen the foolish things in the world to shame the wise. He was finally escorted off by a man who was easily seven feet tall; Vernon affectionately named this reveler the "Jolly Green Giant".

Evan spoke with a young lady who seems to be in a church that is preaching the truth, but she does not seem to have yet repented. Pray that their conversation will call her to repentance. I spoke to a similar girl who has been through "The Way of the Master" training course but has at least a toe still in the world. I exhorted her to tell someone about Jesus that night: history has several examples of evangelists saved under their own preaching.

The son of a pastor came next, he asked if I believed in predestination. I said, "the word is in the Bible." He said he believed he was predestinated to not be saved. I said that sounded like a wicked excuse to sin. We talked for a while longer and he seemed convicted and ran off. He left his girlfriend though, and we continued the gospel conversation. She said she wasn't a Christian, but that I was definitely sharing Christ in the wrong way. I asked her how she was sharing Christ and she said she wasn't. I replied that I liked the way I was doing it better than the way she wasn't. She went away thinking.

The last good conversation of the night was with a Catholic young man who asked to take a picture with the cross. He then asked, why are you doing this? I said, so I can ask you if you're going to Heaven. He said he hoped so, but after the good person test he showed visible contrition. Pray for him, because his girlfriend told me his motives in taking the picture with the cross were not good at all, but we know that what was meant for evil God can easily turn for good, that many are saved.

We've had a great evangelistic time here, and great fellowship. Thank you once again for the prayers, continue to pray for those who heard the message of the cross, that it would not be foolish to them, but the power of God to salvation. May the Lamb who was slain receive the reward of his suffering!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Public Acknowledgement of Sin, and Subsequent Repentance

Saints,

After much prayer, counsel, and scripture reading, I have been convicted that I have misrepresented Christ and his word in the skipping of step three during the church discipline issue of March 5th, 2012. This letter is my public repentance and a record of what has gone on between me and God.

On March 4th and 5th, I believed I had exhausted all means of moving to step three of church discipline (bringing the matter before the church and calling for public repentance), and because the accused was unreachable, I moved on Titus 3:10-11, to warn once, then twice, then to have nothing to do with the person, knowing they are warped, sinful, and self-condemned. Fortunately, even while I moved directly to step four (declaring the person to be unrepentant and an unbeliever), several who read this treated my step four as step three, and God protected the church-discipline proceedings from my sin.

Upon prayer and scripture reading, I was especially convicted by the danger which a skipped step places the sinner in, as evidenced by the sin (my sin) which is committed in Matthew 18:31 when steps were skipped, “When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.” The proper response for these fellow servants was to confront their friend first privately, then with witnesses, then in a larger setting, and only finally turn him over to the master.

Beloved, I skipped the “larger setting” or bringing it before the church, and moved directly to the dangerous step of turning the person over to the Master. I sincerely apologize for the damage this may have caused the name of Christ, and the unity of the body. I have learned much from this sin and subsequent conviction, and pray that you are able to learn from my mistake, sin, and experience instead of having to walk this road yourself.

In the future I will make every effort to see church discipline carried out in precisely the way which it is described in Matthew 18:15-20 and 1 Timothy 5:19-21, among others. Church discipline is a wonderful gift given to the church by Christ by which we may reclaim brothers who are in sin, and I pray that I will never fail to follow it faithfully again, and that you likewise will strive to uphold Christ’s word perfectly.

Believer, rejoice with me in the words of that great hymn,
My sin, oh the bliss, of this glorious thought:
My sin, not in part, but the whole
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, Oh my soul.

For Christ and his bride,
Canyon Shearer

Post Script: Concerning the matter at hand, step three was completed inadvertently to my actions and sin, and many others have witnessed the dangers I noted, as well as other fruit that has emerged in the time that has elapsed, and so we have unfortunately reached step four, not in my faithfulness, but in the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Thinking Through Church Discipline

Introduction

Someone sins against you, or their sin becomes apparent to you; what do you do? Should you immediately find his pastor? Should you tell your friend? Should you post it to your prayer list? Should you stand him up in church and point your finger at him declaring his sin to the world?

No, if you do any of that, you are sinning against God and the person whom you are backbiting. God hates backbiters (Proverbs 6:16,19). There is a real danger in the church today of people who refuse to practice the process of church discipline laid out in Matthew 18:15-20. If someone sins against you, you are to go directly to them in private, it is not until step three, taking it to the church, that you are even required to mention this to the person’s pastor.

This is a hard process, it hurts, it hurts emotionally and spiritually, and you may even receive a black eye for it (Proverbs 9:7). Spiritually you may gain your brother, or you may earn yourself an enemy (Proverbs 9:8). But in all of this you are emulating Christ, who sought his greatest enemies, confronted them in their sins, and he received for his efforts spittle, violence, berating, and death, but when these people did turn, he received them as brothers, and the joy that was set before him.

Because it is hard, most churches won’t do it. I learned from a false teacher yesterday that she wanted a pastor who would never confront someone in their sins; of course that’s her desire, it’s so she can walk in every form of sin and commandeering attitude and be free from the fear of earthly rebuke. But if you love the church, you must be willing to call them to repentance, to desire for them to be saved from sin, and for them to love the discipline of God that produces righteousness, and to have an extreme fear of heavenly rebuke that is remedied only in the perfect love of Jesus Christ.

So beloved, will you honestly and sincerely endeavor to hold faithfully to biblical teaching on church discipline? This blog will hopefully encourage you towards that end.

The Goal

The goal of church discipline is to NOT finish church discipline. We never want to get to excommunicating a member, declaring them an unbeliever, and turning them over to Satan for the destruction of their flesh. WE DO NOT WANT THAT. If you want that, then reader, stop here and examine yourself. The Apostle Paul was willing to give up his own salvation and be condemned himself, if his friends and family could be saved (Romans 9:3); if you cannot say the same, then you have not met Paul’s God, because Paul’s God put on flesh and gave his life not just for friends and family, but for horrible wicked sinners; that’s love demonstrated (Romans 5:6-8).

Our goal is to see sinners saved, both from the effects of bad theology, and if it is bad enough, from the consequence of facing a furious God with no Mediator.

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. - James 5:19-20
The First Step

The first step is not to go right to your pastor or elder or supervisor or Sunday School teacher or mom or ANYONE else; you must go to the person who has sinned. I’ve seen pastors crushed by the tattle-tale mentality of many churches, where every minor issue is brought to top-tier attention, and often without the sinner even knowing anyone had an issue against him.

I remember years and years ago when I was in elementary school hearing a teacher scold someone by saying, “Don’t tattle.” I was perplexed because I thought the teacher was saying, “Overlook people doing things wrong.” Granted, she didn’t explain herself well at all, but looking back I assume what she meant, and what is biblical, is “Don’t tattle, handle this situation on your own first.”

The “I’m gonna tell” mentality that permeates many people in churches today is a backbiting divisive nasty belief that MUST be crushed. You’ll not only overburden your pastors/elders damaging their shepherding efficiency, but you’ll spread dissention, distrust, and ultimately you might even destroy a church.

Beloved: “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 (Matthew 18:15).” I promise if you take this route, you will win many brothers.

The Second Step

The first step in the second step is to ask if the first step has been accomplished. If someone comes to you with a complaint against someone else, and they haven’t gone to that person privately, you must refuse to listen to them or even consider their issue.

If the first step has been legitimately taken and the sinner will not listen, then the second step can be accomplished. Now you involve one or two other people. Should it be your pastor/elder now? It can be, but there is no requirement for it to be. Preferably the person or persons you bring to be the second witnesses will know nothing of the details, this way they can not only hear the accusation, but they can see the response as well. A large part in repentance is not necessarily what you say, but your attitude. A believer will respond in love, joy, peace, kindness, but an unbeliever will respond with self-justification and rivalry, and maybe even flee from the conflict. We’re not just looking for repentance, we’re looking for teachability as well, look at what Jesus said,
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... - Matthew 18:16-17
If you’ve never read the vision in Ezekiel 8-9, I’d encourage you to do that today. In that story God sends angels to decimate Jerusalem, while an evangelist precedes them marking any who will mourn over their sins, and these are saved from the angels of war. The call is not for sinlessness, for we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, the call is for a recognition of sin and the ability to have sin pointed out to us; then we can work through repentance and reconciliation, and seek a Saviour.

On this point, let me make a radical claim; church discipline can work both ways. It may be that the accused is not the one in error, but the witnesses are. I can give you an example, someone was once accused of rejecting the adage, “God hates the sin but loves the sinner.” Discipline got to step two, at step two the accused approached the group (slightly more than three, but less than seven), and admitted that he was against Southern Baptist tradition, and that he wanted to examine the scriptures, because he did not want to be found misrepresenting God. They did examine the scriptures, some more diligently than others, and at the end of the day one of the accusers, while reading Hosea 9:15, turned to a biblical understanding of God’s hatred towards the practitioners of sin.

The point of that little story is that the accused demonstrated Christian character and fruit, and it was readily apparent to some of the called witnesses that he was not deserving of further discipline because of his teachable and humble spirit. This is one reason why we have two or more (I wouldn’t suggest going over the scriptural three, though some do) witnesses, because the first witness may be wrong. If all witnesses agree, then the goal is to show the accused that scripture and saints stand in opposition to his beliefs and/or actions.

The Third Step

The first step in pursuing the third step is to make sure the first step has been completed. The second step is to make sure the second step has been completed. Once you are certain that one person has personally and privately confronted someone in their sin, they were unresponsive, one or two others witnessed their sin and confronted them, and they were unresponsive, now you take it before the local church body. At this point you have some conscientious decisions to make, how many in the local church? Some churches only bring it before sparsely populated meetings; that is wrong, and not what is in view. Others don’t think it can be done because of the small size of their church; Jesus says this only needs two or three gathered in his name (Matthew 18:20). As much as possible the pastor should inform, at the same time, the entire church (1 Corinthians 5:4) of the issues, and with the entire church calling the accused to repent:
If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church... - Matthew 18:17
The Fourth Step

The fourth step obviously starts with step one, two, and three; step four, except in an exceptional case which I’ll discuss in the next section of this article, cannot occur without those steps being taken. If he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector (Matthew 18:17).

After these steps, Jesus Christ is in agreement with the church in declaring the person to be outside of the camp. Elsewhere the Bible says this person is turned over to Satan for the destruction of their flesh (1 Corinthians 5:5), again with the goal being that they turn and live. The call is to avoid this person and treat them as an unbeliever (Romans 16:17), let them be ashamed, not out of malice, but out of love and desire to see them saved (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15).

When the Process Fails

The third step, as evidenced both by Jesus in Matthew 18 and Paul in 1 Corinthians 5, is to be done in front of the gathering of believers. Some schismatics and sinners will flee from rebuke, they fly from any hint of potential damage to their pride. If you cannot, under any circumstances, get this person to step three, are they safe from chastisement and have they escaped discipline?

By no means. Scripture provides an option for reaching out to a sinning professed believer who is unreachable through step three of prescribed church discipline. In no wise should this be normative and in no wise should it be done brashly. Matthew Henry states, “They are not easily and soon to be given up and cast off, but competent time and means must be tried for their recovery. Upon continued obstinacy and irreclaimableness, the church has power, and is obliged, to preserve its own purity, by severing such a corrupt member which discipline may by God’s blessing become effectual to reform the offender, or if not it will leave him the more inexcusable in his condemnation.”

This is in regards to Titus 3:10-11 concerning divisive people within the church. None is so divisive as one who runs from church discipline while still claiming to be a member of the church universal. Adequate time must be given to attempt to win this person, though the passage does not say it, myself and commentators agree the two warnings must have some degree of separation.

John Calvin put it this way, “neither shall we have a right to pronounce a man to be a heretic, nor shall we be at liberty to reject him, till we have first endeavored to bring him back to sound views.”

Now you may say that that Titus 3:10-11 is just shortened version of the model of church discipline in Matthew 18, but John Gill, Matthew Henry, Charles Spurgeon, and John Calvin did not see this. John Gill said, “this is not to be understood of private admonition, by a particular person or persons; as in the case of private offences (Matthew 18:15,16) but of public admonition, in the name of the church.”

This is not a job for individuals, Spurgeon said, “When it comes to unbelief of fundamental and vital doctrines, we who are like Titus, set in office over a church, must deal with such deadly evils with a strong hand.” Calvin said similarly, “He does not mean that of a private individual, but an admonition given by a minister, with the public authority of the church.” The note in the Geneva Bible says, "the ministers of the word must at once cast off heretics, that is, such as stubbornly and seditiously disquiet the Church, and will give no ear to Ecclesiastical admonitions."

May Titus 3:10-11 be our last resort, for it concludes by saying, “such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” John Calvin clarifies, “we must not rashly or at random pronounce any man to be a heretic; for he says, ‘Knowing that he who is such is ruined.’ Let the bishop therefore beware lest, by indulging his passionate temper, he treat with excessive harshness, as a heretic, one whom he does not yet know to be such.”

How to Escape Church Discipline

We’ve looked at these passages, and if you’re in sin, a faithful church will see to it that everything possible is done to reclaim your soul. Maybe you thought you could escape by running from the church, but then you realized that there is a contingent for processing those who do such. Scripturally, you can avoid church discipline. Some think it’s through a legal option:

You Should Sue

A church that has set you outside the camp publically has declared that you are not a Christian, do not bear a Christian character, and that no Christian should associate with you. That is most certainly defamation of character. But don’t forget what Charles Spurgeon said, “If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him. For you are far worse that he thinks you to be.”

But in our modern world there is always the option to take it to the courts. Never mind that you’re completely ignoring 1 Corinthians 6:1-8; that’s probably why you’re in this predicament to start with. Take it to court.

But you may be interested to know that there is already legal precedent, and has been for nearly a millennia, with people who sue churches over being disciplined. In Alabama, in Yates v. El Bethel Primitive Baptist Church, the magistrate there declared that the state has no authority over church governance. Just recently in Texas, Westbrook v. Penley, the state clearly and convincingly articulated their limited jurisdiction and that they had no authority over the church or a pastor in the church. Church discipline stood.

So legally you can’t get out of church discipline. Your only hope, your only true option, is to do it biblically.

Listen and Turn

Should you turn, should you have sorrow, should you demonstrate even the smallest bit of Christian contrition, then the call is to reaffirm love, to welcome back into fellowship, and to rejoice that a brother has been regained, your soul is saved from death and your sins are covered.

Listen to the concerns of brothers who bring charges against you, if you are a believer, then surely you can see some truth in what they say, even if it is not what you want to hear. If discipline were fun, everyone would be constantly confessing their sins so that their brothers and sisters would help them work through them, but we need discipline.

For the Christian we have such a blessing to have a Heavenly Father and his Glorious Son who love us enough to discipline us (Hebrews 12:5-17, Revelation 3:19).
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. - Hebrews 12:11 (Compare Luke 6:40)
It is the churches goal to see all of its members obtain the grace of God, and to protect its members from bitterness and disunity; the only way to do this is through faithfully holding to the trustworthy Word as taught.

Oh, why will you die!? God has no delight in the death of the wicked! Turn, and live! (Ezekiel 18:31-32)

Conclusion

Church discipline is a wonderful gift given from Christ to his bride. It provides a solid avenue of correction, and a stated goal of full reconciliation without having to complete the discipline. I pray that you are encouraged to always start at step one and to never jump over this step, I pray that you are discouraged at those who have had to be taken to step four, and more discouraged by those who skip step one; I pray that you are encouraged by godly leaders who are able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:9).

It is essential that we pray for one another, that we exhort one another, that we be well acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. For all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:15-17). May our first love be Jesus Christ, may we love the body of Christ as much as we love the head. May we strive through church discipline to see to it that no-one among us fails to obtain the grace of God.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Jezebelian Resurgence

Your desire shall be to rule over your husband, and he shall rule over you. – Genesis 3:16
It is nothing new to see female teachers/leaders standing in places of authority; according to Isaiah 3:12 this is a mark of God’s judgment. It seems that throughout history, most female leaders were leaders of more liberal communities; there are precious few exceptions in history, and further research may reveal that they may not be exceptions, but to be fair, the Queen of Sheba and Queen Victoria seem to fall into the exceptional category.

The Southern Baptist Convention has been a standard-bearer on this topic in the past century. They have faithfully stood in alignment with the scriptures, and have ousted many churches that have called female hirelings to lead their flock. However, at least two dozen SBC churches currently have a woman as pastor and are still in good standing with the Convention. Percentage wise, the SBC is doing much better than most denominations.

It is easy to identify liberal churches that preach false gospels by their female leadership. They almost always support homosexuality and abortion. One would have to be very deluded (Romans 1:18,22) to attend one of these churches and think that they were being taught any semblance of biblical truth.

That’s where Jezebel comes in. The original Jezebel, of Elijah’s time, never claimed to be the leader of Israel, but masterfully ruled over her husband to work all manner of sin and destruction in Israel. “There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited (1 Kings 21:25).” She was dangerous because she feigned submission but worked iniquity throughout the land.

Enter Jezebel in the New Testament, written to the fruit bearing church at Thyatira, “I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols (Revelation 2:20).”  Historically, the SBC has been excellent, though not perfect, about identifying churches that sin openly in ordaining woman shepherds, and excommunicating them. But they tolerate antichristian woman leaders, like Beth Moore, to teach its members to sin. Beth Moore is not a pastor and would adamantly say she is not a pastor, just as Jezebel would say she was not the leader of Israel. But Beth Moore had no problem standing in front of at least 20,000 men at the Passion Conference and teaching them strange and unbiblical things. She has snuck in, and is masterfully inciting the SBC to sin in ways that would make Ahab blush; many women abound who teach and lead from a feigned position of submission; Jezebels.

But, dear reader, if you are reading this article because you personally know me, you know that I struggle mightily with calling myself a Southern Baptist. Once a bastion of truth and biblical sufficiency, the SBC is sliding quickly into apostasy; and I have a very difficult time identifying my association. Once I identified as Reformed, but learned quickly that I am not, I am a Baptist, but currently a Baptist without a denomination. We’re actually not a small group who find ourselves in this conundrum, so for sake of simplicity let’s use the moniker, “Reformed Baptist”, for this next point. I mean Reformed only in the sense that we’re TULIP and Sola believers.

The Reformed Baptist movement is safe from calling women teachers and giving them authority over men. Or is it? For several months now I have seen a resurgence in the danger of Jezebels in our midst, women who deny being pastors or teachers, but act as pastors and teachers; one says, "[Name deleted] is in no way asserting authority, or even posing as a teacher." These women are far from harmless, many lost their lives under the Queen Consort Jezebel, and under the Thyatiran Jezebel God made this threat, “she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead (Revelation 2:21-23).” Damaged churches and people will be in the wake of Jezebel’s efforts, and many souls will be murdered.

Facebook, and other social media sites, have given an unprecedented opportunity for Jezebel to arise. Over the past months I have confronted several of these women, and, with the exception of one, they have all blocked me from viewing or rebuking their posts. One proved to be an Aryan, a denier of Christ’s divinity, another showed herself to be a lover of lies rather than a lover of truth, and one became abundantly clear to be caught up in Word of Faith teachings of the “Name-it & Claim-it” heresy. Each of these professed to be Reformed in their understanding of soteriology and ecclesiology.

Now, I have prayed over this for quite some time on the best way to handle this issue. I could name each woman by name, but I would never be able to name all of them. I could rebuke them individually, but they do not recognize my authority, nor could I ever confront all of them. I could contact their pastors or husbands and call them to confront the offender, but many of these Jezebels are not in churches, and if they are, they trample underfoot both their pastor and their husbands’ authority. So, dear reader, I have come to the conclusion that the best way to handle the current situation is for you to be able to identify these teachers on your own and confront them as you encounter them, praying that they come to repentance.

Markers That Identify Jezebel:

Superfluous material being posted to her Facebook page
. Without exception every offender I’ve run into posts more than five times a day in a didactic fashion. Often these are reposts of others on Facebook, sometimes they are original.

Content will be excessively lopsided. Here is where the “Reformed” movement attracts its wolves; we accept someone if they’ll say amen to Romans 9 or Ephesians 1 or Psalm 5:5, but is that the test of salvation? We know Christians by their fruit, but a Jezebel will treat Christianity like a club, excessively focusing on one doctrine, such as election, or the evils of Roman Catholicism, or one accepted teacher or preacher, such as a Puritan or modern Calvinist, and rarely touch on other topics. The Apostle Paul said, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).” Jezebel can never, and will never want to, say that she has declared the whole counsel of God; she focuses on one or two themes to the detriment of all others.

The vast majority of postings are legitimately helpful and true. Charles Spurgeon said so masterfully, “Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather, it is telling the difference between right and almost right.” Postings of Bible verses, Puritan quotes, John MacArthur (and/or similar) sermons, and the like will be the vast majority of content.

The wrong postings are radically wrong. When a woman teacher comes out to post her own opinions and/or heresy, the line will be readily clear to believers. One began teaching, “you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy…greet only your brothers (Matthew 5:43,47)…” The Aryan mentioned above latched onto antiChristmas lies and would preach them loudly and frequently even when they obviously contradicted not only scripture, but other antiChristmas lies. I’ve yet to meet one like at Thyatira who was teaching sexual sin, but don’t forget that any sin can be counted adultery against God (2 Peter 2:14, Psalm 73:27), but I do not doubt one bit that there are really female teachers out there teaching real sexual sins. Flee from sexual immorality and people who teach such things.

Jezebel is hostile to rebuke. Ahab’s wife, when shown to be a sorceress and idolater by Elijah the prophet, sent to that prophet, “May the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of [the slain] by this time tomorrow  (1 Kings 19:2).” On Facebook Jezebel is quick to remove comments that damage or question her position, and to fence herself off from rebuke and those who would disagree with her. Her Facebook page may be deemed a “controversy free zone”; this means she refuses to be corrected. Verbatim, one says, "[Name deleted] will not entertain differing opinions on her threads, chats, or PMs[private messages]..." Don’t expect a long drawn out conversation, if this Jezebel had as much power as Ahab’s wife, you’d lose your life (1 Kings 18:4), but in our day and age, you’ll just be blocked on Facebook.

Jezebel is overly concerned with her reputation. She will remove any content that is not well received, Facebook "likes" are a measure of success for her. If you do damage her reputation, expect a serious backlash, such as a lawsuit or a call to her cult-following to post insidious and unchristian things to and about you. Expect, as Elijah, to be chased into the wilderness.

Claims to edify the church. A “Reformed” female false teacher will be very careful not to use words like teacher, didactic/didaskolos, pastor, or similar words to describe her role, but I’ve found a string of them using “edify” to describe their work. From one of their pages, "[this venue] is for edification and encouragement."

They legitimately think they are operating in a role that is needed in the church, and that they are performing a service. Jezebel thought so too, she swayed her husband to call Elijah the “Troubler of Israel (1 Kings 18:17).” The Word of God and history have shown Elijah to be the true prophet, and Jezebel to be the false teacher, but that is not the way it was perceived or expressed during Elijah’s time. Jezebel will shout loudly that she is in the right and those who stand against her stand against God.

Jezebel is a real danger to the church today, and the Reformed Baptist movement is not immune; in fact it seems to be most susceptible at this time. Watch out for these false teachers, these false prophetesses (preachers), these seductive leaders; God has promised exceeding great punishments for her and those who follow her, please don’t be among them. God says, “To the rest of you, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come (Revelation 2:24-25).”

In conclusion, this does not refer to all female posters on Facebook, it is a small group and if I consider you to be one, I have already told you that I consider you to be one. If you are a female leader of females, then I applaud you in your necessary and vital role (Titus 2:3-5); if you constantly compile and post prayer requests for yourself and others, then I beg you to continue; if you post questions and/or things which have blessed you, then continue so we can fellowship together.

Not every woman who teaches something (either inadvertately or on purpose) has become a Jezebel. But, if your entire roll in life is to usurp the authority of men, then I implore you to test yourself to see if you are even in the faith, for you are still under the curse of the fall, and you will be thrown onto a sickbed, and your offspring, both physical and spiritual, will perish.

But for the one who will submit, who will repent, Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, “cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree,” so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the nations (Galatians 3:13-14).