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Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Five Absolutely Vital Questions

Apr 1, 2015

Socrates long ago said that the unexamined life is not worth living. Yet tragically most people simply glide through life without any serious self-examination or intense introspection. Too many people keep themselves occupied with entertainment and trivial pursuits instead.

Not many people actually take a bit of time out of their busy schedules to reflect, to ponder, and to ask some hard questions. And there are plenty of these sorts of questions worth asking ourselves. The great pity is that so many folks may not get around to such questions until it is too late.

question 4Some of the most important questions you will ever hear come from the Bible. It is incumbent upon every one of us to not only consider them, but also to answer them carefully. How we respond to these questions will impact on how we live, not only in this life, but in the life to come.

There certainly are a lot of very powerful questions that can be found in Scripture. But let me here just highlight five of them. The first two come from the Old Testament, while the last three come from the Gospels.

One. “Who is on the Lord’s side?” Exodus 32:26
This is the question Moses asks of the Israelites at the golden calf episode. I have used the KJV here which puts it in the form of a question, but you will notice that other translations have it more in the form of an invitation or command. But the meaning remains the same. Here is how the NIV puts it in context (vv. 25-26):

“Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies. So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, ‘Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.’ And all the Levites rallied to him.”

With hard core sin in the camp, and Yahweh’s just judgment about to be unleashed, Moses issues an ultimatum here: ‘You are either for the Lord, or you are against him. Take your pick.’ Jesus of course offered a similar stark contrast: “Whoever is not with me is against me” (Matt. 12:30; Mark 9:40; Luke 11:23).

And that will forever be the case. We are either on the Lord’s side or we are not. And if we are not, that means we are actually against the Lord. We all need to ask ourselves whose side we are on. Our eternal destiny depends on it.

Two. “How long will you halt between two opinions?” 1 Kings 18:21
The immediate context for this is vv. 20-21: “So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah went before the people and said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him’.”

Here we have the famous contest between Elijah and the Baalists; between Yahweh and Baal. Like the previous question we considered, we once again have a clear choice being offered. And once again there is no middle ground, and no third option.

We either follow the one true living God, or we follow a false god. There is nothing more than these two options. So what will it be? Will you follow the true God, or a god of your own devices? We all must choose very carefully here.

Three. “What is truth?” John 18:38
Here we have one of the most important questions ever asked, and it was asked of the most important person who ever lived. Verses 37-38 offer the fuller context: “‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate. Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’ ‘What is truth?’ retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, ‘I find no basis for a charge against him’.”

The amazing thing about this is that it seems that Pilate did not even stick around to follow up on this absolutely crucial question. The great philosophers of the world would likely have died for such a meeting, but not Pilate. Talk about a wasted opportunity.

Regardless of his lack of concern for an answer, this is no mere rhetorical question, but a fundamental question that impacts all of us. We all should be seekers of truth, and when you have someone claiming to be ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ you had better stand up and take notice.

Four. “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Luke 18:18
Wow, talk about an absolutely vital question. The full verse says this: “A certain ruler asked him, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” In this famous encounter (vv. 18-30) we learn about how the rich man was not really interested in getting his question answered.

Jesus lists some of the Ten Commandments, and the wealthy ruler says he has kept all those. Then Jesus zeros in on his real need in vv. 22-23: “When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.”

Jesus made it clear that the cost of being his disciple was everything. If you were not willing to leave all for his sake, then you could be none of his. Just like in the first two questions above, a genuine choice was required. And once again there was no half-hearted approach allowed: it was either all or nothing to be on God’s side.

Five. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Mark 8:36
This question by Jesus is another important question which can be asked of every single one of us. The context of this one is vv. 34-38:

“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels’.”

Once again we have a question featuring a very stark contrast: we either live for self, or we live for Christ, but we can’t do both. To live selfishly and only look after Number One means we are not a disciple of Christ. He made it clear that the renunciation of self is the key to being his true follower.

This is a similar word to what was given to the rich ruler. In both cases Jesus makes it crystal clear that we must ask ourselves, what is really important in life? What is our real priority in life? So four out of five of these penetrating questions have to do with taking sides, with making a commitment either to God or to self.

Any one of these questions should be asked by all of us. The five together make for a powerful biblical and spiritual check-up. Now that you have read these five questions, a further question arises: Will you just ignore them, and go on living an unexamined life, or will you pause and take the required time to deal with what are some of the most important questions you will ever encounter?

The choice is up to you.

[1340 words]

3 Responses to Five Absolutely Vital Questions

  • Hello Mr. Muehlenberg, I look forward to your “issues of the day commentary” on Facebook, tremendously. Thank you.
    Would like to know if you have read any of Richard Sibbes works from the 1600’s? He is marvelous. Reminds me of you, alive for the Lord & true in his words.

  • Dear Bill and CL Meury

    Here are two more contemporary puritans

    Geoffrey Botkin at

    westernconservatory.com

    and

    www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Geoffrey_Botkin

    and Joseph Boot and his new book The Mission of God a Manifesto of Hope

    www.amazon.co.uk/Mission-God-Manifesto-Hope/dp/1927684072/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1427872193&sr=1-2&keywords=joseph+boot

    “Culture is the public manifestation of religion. Today, Western culture is facing an epochal turning point. Having largely abandoned the triune God and His Word in private and public life, the edifice of our civilization is crumbling. The humanistic and utopian architects of our “progressive” order erroneously assumed that our social order could remain stable and flourish without its foundation. The coming decades will accelerate our rapid decadent demise into pagan religion, economic decline and social decay, unless a renewal of Christian vitality is seen in the church by a recovery of biblical faith and truth in every area of life. The Mission of God is a clarion call for Christians and God’s church to awaken and recover a full-orbed gospel and comprehensive faith that recognizes and applies the salvation-victory and lordship of Jesus Christ to all creation; from the family, to education, evangelism, law, church, state and every other sphere. Joseph Boot declares that the only hope for our time is the reign of Jesus Christ and His kingdom, arguing that, like a mustard seed, this kingdom grows as believers declare the good news and assert the crown rights of Christ the king, in the power and grace of the Holy Spirit.”

    Happy reading and listening.

    Also, I have just remembered there is Dr Peter Masters at The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Spurgeon’s old church. He has been there for 46 years. He is currently doing a magnificent series on Romans, here are two sermons on Romans 1 in the series as tasters, which are beautiful in their simplicity and purity.

    www.metropolitantabernacle.org/Sermons-on-Romans/Society-at-its-Worst

    Romans 1 : 18 How God’s wrath is revealed in the Gospel and the reason for it. Also how disrespect for Him in society leads to increasingly extreme sensual sin. What it means to be given up to sin, and the mission of the church to rescue people in time.

    and

    www.metropolitantabernacle.org/Sermons-on-Romans/Society-s-Steps-to-Judgement

    Romans 1 : 24 – Three times it is said that God gives up and gives over people to their sin. Here are the reasons and the outcome. Here also is the list of 22 sins that increasingly fill an atheistic society like ours, and the opposite traits in Christ’s people.

    Blessings
    Naomi

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