And He opened to them the scriptures: A harsh sermon

A while ago, I gave the following sermon in a church, as part of my practical for a Bible diploma. Previously, I had asked the pastor of the church why he never preached on sin. He told me that sermons on sin were the old days and people need to be encouraged rather than be condemned. Besides, he said, many of his congregation are either elderly, sick or hurting in one way or another. What they needed was a boost of their image (not his exact words). They need to be told that when God looks at them, he jumps with delight (his words). The pastor would never have allowed me to give this sermon in his church if he had known all I was to say. He wasn’t remiss, for he did go the outline of the sermon a few days previous to my presentation.

After church, he called me into his office. Four or five of the elders were already there. The pastor told me that that my sermon was bad. One of the elders said I was “very harsh.’’ One of the parts of the sermon I think she was referring to was:

‘’Therefore, it is not unreasonable to say that one can be poor as well as evil, frail as well as evil, jobless as well as evil.’’ I indicate this part of the sermon in bold.

Well, here is the sermon that sank my pastoral aspirations. I’m not, of course, sad that it did.

He Opened the Scriptures to Us

A while ago, I was involved in a week of Christian mission work in Walmer township as part of my Bible Study course at PE Bible Institute. Most of the people we visited were elderly frail women – the young people and men were at work. Many of them attended church and said that they had accepted Jesus as their saviour. They weren’t murderers, child abusers, sex perverts, drunkards, or thieves. They all appeared to live a quiet life, minding their own business, and being kind to those around them. Some would say they were prime candidates for heaven.

One of our observations on the mission was that these women were too preoccupied with their poverty to pay much attention to religious practices like Bible study.

You may ask: How can anyone think of God on an empty belly?

The problem with this kind of reasoning is that it’s not only the poor, the sick, the suffering, the grieving, the lonely, the desperate, the jobless who have little or no time for God. It’s also the employed, the rich, the healthy, and the successful who have little or no time for God.

Therefore, it is not unreasonable to say that one can be poor as well as evil, frail as well as evil, jobless as well as evil. Evil, in the Bible, is another word for “sin”.

The situation today is no different to any other time in history. For example, consider Noah’s generation: Was everyone, except Noah and his family, murderers, child abusers, sex perverts, drunkards, thieves, blasphemers, atheists? Were there any poor, sick, frail, suffering, grieving, lonely, desperate, jobless people who were not murderers, perverts and drunkards? Yet sickness, frailty suffering, grief, loneliness, desperation, and joblessness saved nobody from God’s judgment.

What does the Bible say about Noah’s time?

Gen 6: 5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was evil continually.

Notice that God’s focus is on evil thoughts and intentions, because out of the abundance of the heart (our thoughts and intentions) the mouth speaks and the body acts. The emphasis in Gen 6 is not on the physical or social conditions of a person, but on whether he obeyed the laws of his conscience. In the early chapters of Genesis, these are the laws that God planted in the heart – what we call the natural law.

People in Noah’s time were evil because they didn’t obey God’s law written on their hearts.

Let’s take a closer look at the Bible.

The focal point of the Bible is sin and God’s plan to save us from sin. To understand sin, It’s crucial to study the scriptures diligently so that we learn what God requires for us to be saved from the punishment we deserve. We need to open our minds and our hearts to the scriptures.

Our reading today deals with the authority of the scriptures and its central message, which is that all have sinned; and without repentance, there is no forgiveness, but only condemnation. We have offended God, and unless we repent of our sins, we remain under God’s judgment. Jesus says, “He who has ears, let him listen”, because faith comes by hearing, by hearing the word of God” (Romans 10:17). So, to the word of God, the scriptures, we must now turn. I read from Luke 24:32 – 48:

32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.”

 35 Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread. 36 And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 37 But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!

 38 “Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? 39 Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” 40 As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.

 44 Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46 And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. 47 It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’

Let’s look at verse 32 again: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” asks the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Why were their hearts burning? Was it the joy of understanding for the first time the meaning of the Messianic prophecies? Or was it much more? Were their hearts on fire because they were in the presence of the risen Christ? I think yes; that was it. They had met the risen Christ. They met God.

Where else in the Bible do we encounter a burning God? Remember Moses and the burning bush. The remarkable thing about the bush was that it burned and burned, and was never consumed. What a terrifying thing! Who would not take fright and flight at such a sight? But Moses turned to see; and that turning to see changed the whole direction of man’s destiny.

Jesus approached the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They turned to see. They didn’t see as clearly as Moses saw the burning bush. But what they felt was enough to make their hearts burn.

How does this burning fit in with repentance? Do we have to meet Jesus on the road before we can turn to Him?

What is the first step to salvation in Christ? Many Christians don’t know what it is.

Is it being born again? Is it asking Jesus into your life?

What does the Bible say? The first step is acknowledging that we have rebelled against God and gone our own way. That rebellion is the root of sin. 6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own (Isaiah 53:6).

The natural man, in the bowels of his being, hates the idea of God as a King/Lord/Judge. Jesus says (John 7:7), “the world cannot hate you, but me it hates, because I testify that its works are evil.

The world mocks the idea of sin. As a result, few – as Jesus says – will be saved (Mathew 22:14). Few are those who yearn to learn, yearn to burn IN Christ. Where do we find the fuel for the fire? In the word of God – the scriptures. Nowhere else.

Jesus and his disciples believed the scriptures to be God inspired. They believed that the scriptures were “God-breathed” (in the Greek), which is what “inspire means. The breath of God is the Holy Spirit.

A question: Just because Jesus and His Apostles believed that the scriptures were the word of God, does this prove that the Bible is really God-breathed? Couldn’t the writers of the Bible have made some or all of it up? That kind of question reveals how important it is to study the Bible, and books about the Bible. That kind of question also often reveals a hardened heart and closed mind.

Almost all of the scriptures – from Genesis Chapter 3 to the last book of the New Testament (Revelation) have as their focal point the sinfulness of man, God’s requirement that he repent, and how to repent. In other words, the Bible is mainly about 1. why we are sinners, 2. why we should repent, and 3. How God has made it possible for us to repent.

Let us now look at one text from the Old Testament that Jesus must have opened up to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. It is Isaiah 53. I read one of the verses from Isaiah 53 earlier on. Here it is again:

6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.

Let’s look at Isaiah 53 in more detail. The title of the chapter is “The suffering servant”.

 3 He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.

 4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrowsthat weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
5 But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.

 6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.

As many of us know, this is an accurate description of the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus. The staggering thing is that it was written several hundred years before the crucifixion. May we never cease to be astonished and thrilled by prophecy.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these verses in Isaiah:

Verse 5:

 He was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.

He was pierced for our sins. Important here is that the Son of God first had to become a man, for only flesh can suffer, can bleed, can die. What is the reason for God the Son becoming flesh? One of the reasons is that only flesh can be tempted, suffer and die. The Bible says: “For in that he Himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to comfort those who suffer and are tempted (Hebrews 3:18).

In the Old Testament, God revealed himself to Moses, the prophets and the psalmists. God revealed much more about sin to Moses and the prophets than He revealed to Noah. God revealed a way of covering sin, which he did not reveal to Noah. This covering of sin was called sacrifice. The Hebrews of the Old Testament covered their sin in the blood of bulls and goats sacrificed on the altar. Christians in the New Testament, on the other hand, cover their sins in the blood of Christ. In fact, Christ does not only cover our sins, he removes them for good. Blood is the scarlet thread running through the whole Bible.

Christ not only sacrificed His life for us, He also gave us life through His death. We must never separate the idea of sacrifice from the idea of gift. Christ gives us His body and blood. Now it’s our turn: we turn (repent) to Him and give Him our life. That is what Jesus means by love.

Let me stay with the blood. The world despises the blood. Many Christians, on the other hand, are scared of the blood, scared of the cross. How many Christians pray something like this: “Jesus,

bless me with your cross.”

Let’s look closer at another verse in Isaiah 53.

Verse 6:

6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.

St Paul, in his epistle to the Romans (5:6-11), opens up this verse. He says:

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came exactly at the right time and died for us sinners. Now, no one is likely to die for a good person, though someone may be willing to die for someone who is especially good. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right with God through (faith in) the blood of His Son, He will certainly save us from God’s judgment. For since we were restored to friendship with God by the death of His Son while we were still His enemies, we will certainly be delivered from eternal punishment by His life.”

We read in Paul that God sent Christ to die for us; in Isaiah we read the same thing.

the LORD laid on him the sins of us all”?

Who is the Lord in the Isaiah passage, namely, “the LORD laid on him  the sins of us all”?

And:

Who is God in the verse in Romans: God sent Christ to die for us?

The LORD (in Isaiah) and God (in Romans) is the Father of the Son. I mention this relationship between God the Father and God the Son because I want to make a critical point regarding the divine origin of the scriptures.

In John 17:8, Jesus, in His prayer to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, says the following:

I have given to them the words that you have given me.”

So, the words that Jesus spoke during His life on earth were words that he received from His Father. Jesus reminds us of this fact throughout the Gospels. This is truly amazing. Jesus empties himself not only of his glory, but also of his very thoughts and words so that His Father can be glorified. In order to glorify His Father, the Word of God (John 1) empties Himself of his thoughts to think and speak only what His Father speaks. Now, if the Son of God only speaks what His Father speaks, even more so should we speak only what Christ speaks.

Thus, everything that a Christian speaks about Christ must be solidly based on the scriptures, on the Word of the Father and the Son. The pastor, preacher or teacher is much more accountable in this regard.

This reminds me of Jeremiah (23:1-3):

Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture, says the Lord. You have scattered my flock and driven them away… behold I will visit on you the evil of your doings, says the Lord.

Let us return to Luke 24, our main text:

46 And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. 47 It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations,beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’

There it is again: repentance.

Our main task today was to open the scriptures so that we can better understand how repentance fits into the larger picture of God’s plan of salvation. Before I close, allow me to speak more directly.

I often come across the expression: “God accepts you as you are.” That would be quite a comfort if that were true. But it’s not true. God will indeed meet you where you are. But God does not accept you as you are. Not at all. Why not? Because He expects you to be different, to do a 180 degree turn around. He desires you to be what you ought to be, AND to do what you ought to do. And that is to truly repent of your sins and put your complete trust in the cross, in the blood.

Now, the question is not “how do I repent?” but “do I want to repent?” If you want to, God will do it for you.

Why does Jesus say that many are called but few are chosen? What He means is that only the few truly desire to repent and to carry through with the desire not only to turn to Christ but to follow Him wherever He commands.

Now, here’s the crunch – which separates the Reformers like Calvin. Luther and Zwingli from other Christians. You don’t repent because you are qualified to do so; you repent because God gives you the desire and the power to do do. That is the basis of repentance, and of the whole Christian life. It is the failure of your life that interests God. Without failure there can be no repentance.

“What is the attitude of a “guilt-laden” person toward God. Does it follow that if you feel guilt that you feel more than mere remorse, that you feel repentance? I don’t think so. “Guilt” is the human condition; but, so is pride. Guilt – except in rare conditions such as psychopathy – begets remorse: “I feel (really and honestly bad about this or that”. But  repentance is a different mental state altogether, namely, its about longing for forgiveness and falling on your knees before a holy God and pleading for forgiveness. “Woe is me, for I am undone” (Isaiah, 6:5).

I end with a quote from an article “The Burning Bush” by a Jewish Christian, Art Katz:

The concept of burning brings with it a sense of judgment and of a God who is a consuming fire. Burning heat and a God in the midst of it is a strange kind of apparition. It has got to upset things as we understand them, and if you have seen that, you never turn back to see things as you have seen them before. Our God will only send those who will first encounter Him in the revelation of His burning glory. If we do not glimpse Him in His glory, we cannot serve Him rightly. We will have some other motive, some flaky thing, some personal ambition that has to do with our religious success thereby corrupting and spoiling everything. There is only one true motive for pure, godly service and that is to have but one jealousy, passion and motive, namely, the glory of God.

I end with a prayer based on Jeremiah 31:16-201:

Do not weep any longer, for I will reward you,” says the Lord. There is hope for your future,” says the LORD.
I hear you say, ‘You disciplined me severely, like a calf that needs training for the yoke. Turn me again to you and restore me, for you alone are the Lord my God.

I turned away from you my God, but now I am sorry.
I can kick myself for my stupidity! I am thoroughly ashamed.

 “Are you not my darling child?” says the LORD.
“I often have to punish you, but I still love you.
That’s why I long for you, and surely will have mercy on you.

Come back my child. How long will you wander, my wayward child?

The Lord will cause something new to happen—
you will embrace your God.”

1Here is Jeremiah 30:16-20 on which I based the above prayer

16 This is what the LORD says:

   “Restrain your voice from weeping
and your eyes from tears,
for your work will be rewarded,”

16 This is what the LORD says:

   “Restrain your voice from weeping
and your eyes from tears,
for your work will be rewarded,”
declares the LORD.
“They will return from the land of the enemy.
17 So there is hope for your descendants,”
declares the LORD.
“Your children will return to their own land.

 18 “I have surely heard Ephraim’s moaning:
‘You disciplined me like an unruly calf,
and I have been disciplined.
Restore me, and I will return,
because you are the LORD my God.
19 After I strayed,
I repented;
after I came to understand,
I beat my breast.
I was ashamed and humiliated
because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’
20 Is not Ephraim my dear son,
the child in whom I delight?
Though I often speak against him,
I still remember him.
Therefore my heart yearns for him;
I have great compassion for him,”
declares the LORD.

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5 thoughts on “And He opened to them the scriptures: A harsh sermon

    • Which parts of my post relates to your URL? I see nothing about repentance there.

      By the way, here is the (a?) story of the birth of Krishna:

      “Krishna was born at the stroke of midnight in His four-armed Vishnu form, dressed in silk and jewels, carrying the four weapons: the conch, disc, club and lotus. His parents prayed for Him to turn Himself into an ordinary baby so they could hide Him from Kamsa. The Lord advised Vasudeva to take him to Vrindavana and exchange him with a girl that had just been born there. Then He turned Himself into a baby.”

      http://surrealist.org/gurukula/storymatters/krishna.html

      I see lots of similarities with the Christian manger story. To name a few:

      1. Born, 2. Parents, 3. from 4. Lord, 5. Him, 6. the, 7. a, 8. was.

      Those similarities remind me of Moses too. Conclusion: Moses was a secret believer in Krishna via the Egyptian religion.
      Hmmm.

  1. I don’t see repentance either but I see craziness and not somehow ‘a good craziness’. The author of the book connected to the Krishna link did have some strange ideas. Dear Raphael if they have to consider writing of this kind of author we have to think that they are running out of options 🙂 Wowwww………He was the author of an infamous theory…perhaps not the only one 🙂 of a superace and so on…

    Walter Siegmeister (1901–1965),[1] later and better known as Dr. Raymond W. Bernard A.B., M.A., PhD, was an early 20th century American alternative health, esoteric writer, author and mystic, who formed part of the alternative reality subculture.[2]
    Early life
    Dr. Siegmeister was born into a family of Russian Jews in New York City.[3][4] His father was a surgeon who started out as a bio-chemist student in Germany. Siegmeister graduated from Colombia University and in 1932, took a Ph.D in education at New York University.[5] Under the name Bernard, he later settled in Florida.[6]……….
    According to Harwood, Siegmeister believed in the Essene religion, and wrote about many subjects including dietetics, regeneration, alternative medicine, longevity, radiation, historic figures and ancient mysteries. One of his most popular books was The Hollow Earth. He wrote a new introduction to Julius Hensel’s Bread From Stones.
    Contemporaries
    Siegmeister’s contemporaries included authors, George R. Clements (also known as Kenyon Klamonti, Karl Kridler and Hilton Hotema), Theos Bernard and Alexis Carrel, who wrote about similar subjects. Through his writings, and infamous Hollow Earth theory, he told of his idea of a subterranean world occupied by non-human races. This was later developed by other writers documenting an inner-earth and underground civilizations. Siegmeister also told of his search for the safest place on Earth from radioactive fallout in order to build a paradise.[9][10] The idea was later developed in the writings of Johnny Lovewisdom and then Viktoras Kulvinskas.[11]
    After a business partnership with George R. Clements, selling crop land, Siegmeister went to Ecuador in 1941[12] where he met John Wierlo (Johnny Lovewisdom) who had arrived in 1940, where they spoke of plans for a paradisian utopia and a super-race in the Ecuadorean jungle.[13] However Wierlo later claimed he was not planning on creating a super-race, only a Camp of Saints.[14]
    On returning to the USA, Siegmeister, now called Dr Robert Raymond, continued to sell his health books, before returning to South America, where he sold more health books under the name Dr Uriel Adriana, AB, MA, PhD. After his mother died in 1955, he moved to Brazil to buy land and create a super-race. In Brazil, he renewed his interest in UFOs, Atlantis, aliens, underground tunnels and the hollow earth theory. Siegmeister believed Brazil contained the entrances to the tunnels leading to the hollow earth.[14] In 1964, he found a New York publisher for The Hollow Earth which was based on his book Flying Saucers from the Earth’s Interior. The book became popular, however Siegmeister died of pneumonia in 1965.[14] His hollow earth ideas were later developed in the writings of David Hatcher Childress.[14]

    • Maria

      One of the flaws of argumentation is the Argument from spurious similarity, which claims that if two things resemble one another, they are related. In the case of religions, it is often spuriously argued that similarities indicate that one was the cause or effect of the other.

      The flawed logic lies in the confusion between correlation and causation. For example, say someone says he loves God very much and you see him being very good and kind to people, that is, the two things correlate. Ah, one might say, the person’s love of God is the cause of his kindness to people. Alas, one could be deceived, because the real (invisible) cause of his kindness is his secret belief, “I scratch your back, you scratch mine.”

      Tee hee.

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