Do It Now

Alexander MacLaren > Quotes > Quotable Quote

“No unwelcome tasks become any the less unwelcome by putting them off till tomorrow. It is only when they are behind us and done, that we begin to find that there is a sweetness to be tasted afterwards, and that the remembrance of unwelcome duties unhesitatingly done is welcome and pleasant. Accomplished, they are full of blessing, and there is a smile on their faces as they leave us. Undone, they stand threatening and disturbing our tranquility, and hindering our communion with God. If there be lying before you any bit of work from which you shrink, go straight up to it, and do it at once. The only way to get rid of it is to do it.”

― Alexander MacLaren

Part 3 – Zeal without Knowledge

(Zeal Without Knowledge Rom. 10:1-3)

PART 3

Their Condemnation: They were not submitting to God’s righteousness. Strange how people think sometimes. Here are people who believe in God, say they want to obey God and they demonstrate sincerity, zeal and passion for God. But instead of submitting to God’s plan, they come up with their own plan; their own creed; they write their own doctrine! Instead of obeying God, they obey men. Instead of respecting and obeying the Word of God, they respect and obey the doctrines and commandments of men.

This was their condemnation. Instead of submitting to God and participating in the righteousness He offers in Christ, they devised their own religion, with their own rituals and traditions, insisting that everybody submit to their system (see Acts 15:1).

But zeal did not justify their disobedience. Their sincerity and passion did not excuse their ignorance and disobedience.

And I believe there is something very basic here, and this is something that crosses over all dispensational lines and applies to every one of us à We cannot save ourselves by ourselves! We cannot solve our own problem (sin). We cannot perform or work our way out of sin and into heaven, without submitting to God’s plan (Rom. 1:16,17). There are two things we must have – and these two things are not of human origin: (1) The blood of Christ to forgive us, and (2) All the instructions from God about what we must do to have the salvation purchased by that blood! It is essential for us to trust, surrender, believe and obey God, to be personal recipients of His grace in Christ. We cannot save ourselves by ourselves; we need the blood of forgiveness, and we need God’s instruction to guide us to the blood!

Displays of emotion and zeal do not compensate for ignorance or disobedience! Our zeal must be directed by the wisdom of God’s instruction in the gospel.

You see, it is possible to be sincere, zealous and even militant and passionate about God and religion, and yet be wrong . . . and lost! How could this happen? By not submitting to the righteous plan of God.

Finally, I want us to think about the order of things: Knowledge, Submitting to the righteous plan of God, and then Zeal! Knowledge – Submission – Zeal.

If you know what God’s Word says – and you submit to God’s word in your heart and life – your zeal is grounded where it should be!

Contrary to this pattern or order – what often happens in modern religion is this. You become involved with some denomination, or attached to some preacher – – you find your excitement, your emotion and zeal in this. You develop a team spirit and zeal that is human in origin.

The zeal is there, but it is not according to knowledge. If you know what God’s Word says – and you submit to God’s word in your heart and life – your zeal is grounded where it should be!

Our plea to you is not to criticize your zeal, but to ask you to examine the basis of your zeal! Is your zeal according to knowledge?

Part 2 – Zeal without Knowledge

(Zeal Without Knowledge Rom. 10:1-3)

PART 2 – They had zeal but “not according to knowledge.”

They thought that zeal for God meant following all manner of tradition and ritual which God never commanded. Jesus said this about them: “…you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition…in vain [you] worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men,” (Matt. 15:6,9).

In the time of Jesus, in the time of Paul and without any doubt in our age, there are those who sincerely think they are serving God, but they are acting (though with zeal) against the instructions of God. Paul said, in Acts 26:9, “I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” Paul had zeal, but he wasn’t acting on correct knowledge.

So in Romans 10, Paul is talking about his countrymen who were lost. They had not obeyed the gospel, according to verse 16. They had zeal, but that emotion and passion was not based on, not directed by a knowledge of the truth of God, imparted in the gospel.

Paul does not deny their zeal. He exposes their ignorance: “for I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.”

Now we have considered the context of this passage; the concern of the apostle, and the condition – their zeal without knowledge. Next we ought to think about . . . their condemnation.

Three Part Series, Rom. 10:1-3

Zeal Without Knowledge

Rom. 10:1-3

Three Parts

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.” Rom. 10:1-3

This was written by the apostle Paul to the church at Rome. To learn what this means and therefore make proper applications, please consider The Context, The Concern, The Condition and the Condemnation.

PART 1 – The Context

The tenth chapter of Romans is part of a section in the book of Romans that begins with chapter nine and ends at the end of chapter eleven. These three chapters deal with a problem both Jews and Gentiles in the church faced. It is a problem that we may not immediately identify with. But it was reality for both Jews and Gentiles who sought common ground in the church, though their background differed significantly. Gentiles struggled with the pride of some Jews who maintained loyalty to their traditionally conceived theocratic status. Jews had lingering questions about the annulling of the Mosaic law, the end of their theocratic status and the inclusion of Gentiles. These three chapters in Romans are concerned with these very real problems and questions in churches established by people obeying the gospel in the first century.

God doesn’t confer salvation on nations, but on individuals who choose to obey Christ, Jew or Gentile. If there are individual Jews who are lost, they are lost because of their own unbelief and disobedience.

The Concern expressed by Paul in this passage is, a concern for the lost; specifically, his Jewish countrymen who had not obeyed the gospel. His desire and prayer was, “that they may be saved.”

This is worthy of note. The tenth chapter of Romans begins the same way as chapter nine. Paul expresses his personal pain and concern for his Jewish countrymen. This was on his mind; this was a heavy weight on his heart. His people were lost! In chapter nine he said: “…I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart, for I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” Then chapter ten begins: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.”

Paul was bothered by the fact that people were lost! They were not lost because God had rejected every single Jew. They were not lost because God favored Gentiles over Jews. They were not lost because God had cast away His people.

If you want to know why these Jews were lost, stay in chapter ten; look at verse 16 à they had not obeyed the gospel. The problem for all men (Jew and Gentile) is sin. The solution is the gospel of Christ, heard, believed and obeyed. Many of Paul’s own kinsmen “according to the flesh” were lost, because they had not obeyed the gospel. This caused great grief and sorrow for Paul.

Next, consider Their Condition. Let us carefully observe, Paul had no doubt about their sincerity, their emotion and enthusiasm about God! He knew what he was talking about. Because he himself, before obeying the gospel, was extremely zealous.

In his career as a militant, Pharisee and persecutor of the church, he proved himself to have extraordinary zeal for what he believed was right. Galatians 1:14 says, he was “more exceedingly zealous.” In Philippians 3:6, “concerning zeal,” Paul admits his activity “persecuting the church.” And in Acts 22:3, he says that at that time he was “zealous toward God.” Therefore, in writing about lost Jews in Romans 10, Paul expressed no doubt about their sincerity, their emotion, their enthusiasm. He knew their condition, because he had been there.

They had zeal. There was a fervency and passion about their religious beliefs and behavior. Who could claim to teach the Jews anything about zeal! They had it. Paul displayed great zeal in his career as a Pharisee. Paul admits the zeal of Jews who had not obeyed the gospel.

More in next post

Babel

Many years ago – a noteworthy French Poet wrote this piece:

“Bring me,” quoth one, “a trowel, quickly, quick!”

   One brings him up a hammer.  “Hew this brick,”

   Another bids; and then they cleave a tree;

  “Make fast this rope,” and then they let it flee.

   One calls for planks, another mortar lacks;

   They bear the first a stone, the last an axe.

   One would have spikes, and him a spade they give;

   Another asks a saw, and gets a sieve.

   Thus crossly crost, they prate and point in vain:

   What one hath made another mars again.

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

   These masons then, seeing the storm arrived

   Of God’s just wrath, all weak and heart-deprived,

   Forsake their purpose, and, like frantic fools,

   Scatter their stuff and tumble over their tools.                            

DU BARTAS. – Babylon.

Breaking News – ALMS!

“Don’t Do Your Alms to be Seen of Men”

by Warren E. Berkley

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). The story is told of an old Pharisee tending to business in his Jerusalem shop. A public announcement was made (with trumpets?) about a benevolent need. The ostentatious Pharisee tripped all over himself, pushed customers aside and shouted: “Excuse me, I must close the shop now, to take my contribution to the needy ones … Excuse me … Out of my way please …” On his way out, he picked up a huge, heavy sack, but while running down the street, he fell, the sack opened … and all the rocks fell out!


The Old Testament instructed the Jewish people in the duty of benevolence, and promised a blessing on those who considered the poor (Psalm 41:1). The scribes and Pharisees took this duty of charity and turned it into a performance, designed to elicit the applause of men. In their infamous tampering with the ways of God, they kept the duty but changed the motive! Their concern was not to glorify God and help the needy. They wanted “to be seen” by men; to be praised, exalted, and become well-known. A simple walk of obedience to God had been replaced by a public relations style of grandiose self-righteousness; in alms-giving, prayer and fasting. But …


For every basic defect in the hearts of these vainglorious men, the Lord had something incisive to say. In our text, He isn’t minimizing true benevolence. In fact, His main focus is not “charitable deeds” or “alms.” He deals with the immature motive, i.e. “to be seen …” and in convicting them He challenges and warns us: we must not take a good work and turn it into a performance designed to elicit applause for ourselves! Throughout this context, He wants His disciples to learn to do the right things for the right reasons. As the true disciple engages in either benevolence, prayer, or fasting, there must be purity in motive (Matthew 6:1–15). Our charitable deeds must be generated by obligation toward God, and a merciful response to another’s need; not an attempt for recognition. And when that is our intent (gaining recognition), we may gain that reward but miss the higher reward of God’s approval and pleasure (see verse 2).


“Grand-standing” is a term coined in the political arena, but may describe what a few “preachin’ brethren” have been guilty of. I know we must proceed with caution when we speak of another’s motivation, but sometimes there seems to be evidence that the commotion and prating of some preachers is vain and ambitious in cause. Jesus calls for restraint (“take heed”) and this should prompt self examination in all of us. While some of these “grand-standers” may preach the truth and expose error, they will answer for their attitude and motive (see Phil. 1:15, 16; 1 Corinthians 4:15). Proclaiming or writing gospel truth was never meant to be a theatrical performance. “Beware of doing good deeds conspicuously to catch men’s eyes,” (Phillips).


I think there is one final by-product of learning what Jesus taught in this text. Have you ever heard someone complain, “The people in this church are just not doing anything!” Perhaps. And yet, if benevolence and good works are being practiced in keeping with the Lord’s teaching, a great many genuine acts of love and benevolence will take place that you never see or hear about! (Note, “in secret,” and “go into your room,” verses 4, 6).
“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.”
And all of this reminds me of the man who called a press conference to announce his anonymous gift to a charitable foundation! Oops …

Berkley, W. E. (1994). “Don’t Do Your Alms to be Seen of Men.” (D. Truex, Ed.)Christianity Magazine, 11(4), 18.

Book Review

“The Church of Facebook” by Jesse Rice

by Warren E. Berkley

When it first was released, I read this book by Jesse Rice. First, the word “church” is not used in the true Biblical sense. Second, this book is not really an approach to the subject that draws mostly from Scripture.

It is a journey/history of social media, sometime tangled up in academic research and conjecture through applying various physiological and social studies. If you can wade through some of that, there are benefits.

Rice calls upon the reader to carefully consider Facebook and other social media, not just as another communication method. Rather, a “hyper-connection” that could change the way we interact with people in ways that (1) may reveal disturbing things about who we are and (2) may transform us into people who have lost some valuable connections.

With any new technology, the user must apply a discipline whereby the new tool is applied without taking us down a destructive path.

Here are some quotes from the Rice book:

At the root of human existence is our great need for connection: connection with one another, with our own hearts and minds, and with a loving God who intended intimate connection with us from the beginning. Connection is the very core of what makes us human and the very means by which we express our humanity.

Facebook even goes so far as to “suggest” friends for us; we are literally empowered and encouraged to go “friend-hunting,” to simply and easily add to our collection by clicking “add to friend.” And there are many more choices—reconnecting with long-lost friends, connecting informally to those with whom we’d normally have a purely professional relationship (bosses, coworkers, teachers), even starting our own groups and fan clubs. That’s a lot of choices. That’s a lot of control over our social worlds. But are we better off for it?

Stone notes that our habit of continuous partial attention is having a detrimental effect on the quality of our attention. By trying to keep from “missing out” on anything, we become overstimulated and unfulfilled. In addition, Stone says that all of those choices are actually undermining our sense of control and making us feel increasingly powerless. This can happen when we begin to feel at the mercy of our technology—a knee-jerk, out-of-control kind of experience.

Today’s online social networks are congeries of mostly weak ties—no one who lists thousands of friends on MySpace thinks of those people in the same way as he does his flesh-and-blood acquaintances, for example. It is surely no coincidence, then, that the activities social networking sites promote are precisely the ones weak ties foster, like rumor-mongering, gossip, finding people, and tracking the ever-shifting movements of popular culture and fad. (Rice quotes Christine Rosen)

“In effect the hyper-connection of Facebook changes the nature of our relationships by turning our friends into audiences and us into performers.”

Throughout the Rice book, one repeated statement is, “There is a force that is capable of synchronizing a large population in very little time, therefore creating spontaneous order.” You may decide, after reading the book and reflecting on what you have witnessed, that the use of social media through the keyboards of many, is creating spontaneous disorder!

I cannot endorse all that is in the book. In fact, I cannot understand all that is in this book. The academic studies are tedious. But there are some worthwhile sections that will provoke useful thought about our use of social media. It is here. Let’s be disciplined and godly in our use of it.

The Conscience

Note – I found this in my computer archives. I may have written this, but I’m not certain enough to claim authorship.

The Conscience

               There is a phrase that is heard, or thought, sometimes when a person is trying to decide whether or not to do or say something – “Let your conscience be your guide.” That is all well and good except for one small matter. Really, NOT SO SMALL. We will get into that in a moment.

          Before we get into this discussion about letting our conscience guide us, let’s get the definition – “The moral sense which distinguishes right from wrong.” (Webster’s National Dictionary of the English Language,1966) This is a great definition. I like it a lot. The problem with this for me is, Who’s moral’s? Not to coin a phrase but, “not all morals are created equally.”

          For some, doing good has been taught them since birth – manners, courtesy, politeness, love for their neighbor and all creation, is second nature, like breathing, automatic. They don’t even think about it. It comes naturally. While, with others, cruelty and torture of humans and animals and general nastiness of life is their moral basis. They think that there is nothing wrong with it. Then there are those whose consciences are described as being seared (I Tim. 4:2). They are insensitive to any inroads by those who speak the words of love offered by God.

          The point to be made with the above is that our conscience, that moral sense of right or wrong, is based on our training, either from outside sources or our own will. Ezekiel 18 offers examples of someone who had been good and changed to wicked or a wicked person changed to good and, a person who denied their training in wickedness to be a good person and vice versa. So the training can be absorbed or denied, accepted or rejected.

          The Apostle Paul, tells us in Act 23:1, “And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” Well, up until that day Paul has actually led two extremely opposite lives. Up until Acts 9 he had been one who was a “Hebrew of Hebrews.” He had been persecuting the Christians. He threw them into prison and was approving when they were killed. After chapter 9, he argued for those same Christians and their King, Jesus. Now, he opposed the Jews, wishing to convert them to Christianity. And, he did both “in all good conscience.” He changed the training of his conscience from the law of Moses to the law of Christ.

          The point of all this is that we must make sure where a person’s training is coming from when we say, “Let your conscience be your guide.” Was the philosophy of someone like Hitler or Stalin the mentor for the person you are talking to? Genocide, human experimentation, and/or world domination might be the goal and the persons conscience would have a “whatever it takes” attitude. On the other hand, if Jesus and His word is the trainer then “Love God” and “Love Your Neighbor” would be the guiding principles to take the gospel, the good news of Jesus sacrifice and resurrection and returning again in judgment, to the whole world. Not the killing of whole groups but the salvation of the same. Not human experimentation but transformation of the human spirit to be like Christ. Yes, world domination but not by a person but by Jesus Christ the King.

         So many times in the Bible those of God are warned to avoid human traditions and vain philosophies. These lead to evil things, evil thoughts, evil words, evil actions. We all need to follow the advice that Paul gave to Titus in 2:1, “…teach what accords with sound doctrine,” THEN you can “let your conscience be your guide.”

          Think on these things.

Now What?

Warren E. Berkley

“Now What?”

The story is told of an author, William Saroyan, who had achieved great success in his field. His works had been acclaimed in the literary world, his name was a familiar entry on best-seller lists, and he had even been awarded a Pulitzer Prize. But now he lay dying in New York City of cancer, which had spread to several of his vital organs.

One evening, as Saroyan reflected on his condition and what the future held for him, he placed a phone call to Associated Press. After identifying himself to the reporter who answered his call, he posed a question that revealed the honest, searching sensitivity that had characterized his career. It was a final statement to be used after his death (which occurred later in May of 1981).

He said, “Everybody has got to die. But I have always believed an exception would be made in my case. Now what?” And then he hung up the phone. (Cited in Reader’s Digest, Dec. 1981, p. 136.)

Coming to terms with our mortality is a challenge of common experience. There is a will to live most of us have in strong measure. We may not even want to think about or talk about death. Though, in the academic data center of our minds, we know death lies ahead. We attend funerals, read obituaries, drive by cemeteries and pay life insurance premiums. Yet often, when we hear the dreaded diagnosis, or actually feel our bodies giving up – we don’t want to believe it. We may struggle to hang on or deny what is certain to be.

I’ve been present at – so far as man can determine – the very moment of death. I’ve witnessed people draw one final breath, then go still. I was present when my father died. I was in the room next to my mother’s bed when my mother drew her final breath. The experience is sobering but does not completely bring me to terms with my own mortality. It is more emotion, and can fade away from personal reality.

What is real is my conviction and the hope produced by that conviction, that just as Christ was raised to glory, His people will be raised to glory. See, it is not some dramatic present experience here on earth that eases the fear of death. It is something that happened over 2,000 years ago, with all the testimony and evidence I have that it really happened. Knowing that, I am able to come to terms with death – but only as one in Christ.