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Weekly Word

Entries in Apostasy (2)

Friday
Nov272015

The Wisdom Behind Contentment

1 Timothy 2b-10.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 22, 2015.

Last week we looked in depth at being a person that is thankful and gives thanks.  Today we are going to look at the other side of the coin and that is contentment or the lack thereof.  It has been said many ways throughout history, but Benjamin Franklin summed it up nicely when he said, “Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.”  Thus the question of what it really means to be rich has a very complex answer.  The modern world has much invested in stirring the discontent of the individual, all the while promising great riches and the like.  Whether it is in advertising, or politics, much money and energy is moved by the stirring of discontent.  However, most generally, it leaves a wake of emptiness and devastation behind it. 

There is certain wisdom in contentment that is seen in a story that a former United Kingdom ambassador, Philip Parham, shared regarding a rich industrialist who comes upon a fisherman who is sitting lazily by his boat.  It goes like this:

“Why aren’t you out there fishing?” the industrialist asked.

“Because I’ve caught enough fish for today,” said the fisherman.

“Why don’t you catch more fish than you need?’ the rich man asked.

“What would I do with them?”

“You could earn more money,” came the impatient reply, “and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch even more fish, and make more money. Soon you’d have a fleet of boats and be rich like me.”

The fisherman asked, “Then what would I do?”

“You could sit down and enjoy life,” said the industrialist.

“What do you think I’m doing now?” the fisherman replied as he looked placidly out to sea.

Illustration from Our Daily Bread, May 18, 1994, https://bible.org/illustration/lazy-fisherman.

Some Are Not Content With God’s Word

In our text this morning the Apostle Paul has been sharing with the young minister, Timothy, things that he should teach.  It is at the end of verse 2 that he tells Timothy to teach and exhort all the things that came before.  However, he also, points out that Timothy will run into people who reject these things and desire to teach and exhort something different.  These teachers would be within the Church of Jesus, but they would refuse to promote the sound teaching that had been once and for all handed down to the saints by Jesus Christ and His Apostles.  They have received the Truth, but they are not content with it.  They would rather pick and choose what parts they will believe and then “fix” those parts with which they disagree.  Thus they end up teaching something which is otherly from what Jesus and the Apostles taught. 

Of course today we stand at the heights of 20 centuries of such men who have come and gone, while leaving behind their accretion of human wisdom.  They have created much doubt and division within the body of Christ, and leave some extremely dogmatic over questionable things, and others unable to trust whether they can believe anything.  There is no doubt that the Bible we have is from the Apostle’s hands, and with very little differences, and none of them meaningful.  But, there is some doubt about what exactly was meant in certain passages.  Paul is talking about people who have rejected clear teaching from those who know.   This is still happening today.  However, we should also recognize that much of our disputes today are over areas that could be explained in several different ways.  So let me just sum this up by giving the caution.  Be careful of always searching to find an explanation that you like regarding unclear passages.  This kind of risk can lead down very dangerous paths.  Rather, it is better to pray for understanding, keep an open spirit to the Spirit of the Lord, and be content with being faithful to what you do know.  We err in trying to explain everything.  Let’s be honest.  God has not explained everything to us in the Bible and we are often driven to fill in all those gaps with our own human reasoning.   If your faith depends upon those “fillers” then you are on shaky ground.  Learn to rest in the Lordship of Jesus and your discipleship.  By striving to “master” the Scriptures we can be in danger of becoming the master, rather than the disciple.  Even if you do settle on a view of a questionable passage, you should hold it humbly with the recognition that you could be wrong.

Paul goes on in verse 4 and following to reveal the spiritual problems that give rise to such men.  First they are prideful rather than humble.  They have an over-inflated view of their mind or of some man that they admire.  When Jude tells us that the Faith was “once and for all delivered unto the saints” in the first century, he puts us in a place of humility.  We are the receivers, whereas Jesus and the Apostles were the givers.  How can the 21st century follow the wisdom of the first century?  The question is flawed because it ignores the Truth.  The Gospel is not first century wisdom.  The Gospel is Timeless wisdom brought down from heaven to contradict the wisdom of all centuries that have and will ever exist.  Thus the Gospel is a rebuke to the wisdom of this age. Until we see ourselves as beggars of truth and come to God’s Son and His Apostles as those who have set a banqueting table for us, then we will be doomed to the same fate of these teachers Paul warns against.

He also points out that they have an unhealthy fixation with disputes.  The word for “obsessed” in the NKJV has the idea of an illness of the mind.  This is a person who not only strives against God’s Word, but also against people.  They love to dispute controversial issues and argue over words and their meanings.  Instead of accepting the Words of the Spirit with contentment, they quibble and become judges of their fellow man and even God Himself.  Such internal, spiritual problems always surface in relationships.  Thus they envy the honor and esteem of others.  They stir up strife between brothers.  They literally “blaspheme” (slander) both God and man.  They live upon evil suspicions of others, always assuming the worst of them and innocence of self.  Thus they create constant friction within the group in hopes that it will lead to their own benefit.

Paul tells us that such people have a depraved mind.  They had received the truth, but it has been robbed from them and corrupted with the poison of human reason.  Later in verse 11 Paul tells Timothy to flee such ways.  In verse 5 Paul also points out that they somehow think they will gain by such ways.  The gain is most likely both money and influence.  They promote discontent in others to enrich and empower themselves.  There is a great discontent brooding within the body of Christ today.  Due to deception, error, and pride, the Church has fractured into hundreds of denominations.  Some are full blown cults that undermine the basic doctrines of salvation.  Others involve subtler distinctions that should not have led to separation.  Now there is nothing wrong with distinctions in the body of Christ.  This is healthy.  However, we must not let it disintegrate into what is being described in this passage.  The spiritual problem of pride and human wisdom dredges up much wickedness in the Body of Christ.  When will we stop letting those who are not walking according to the humble ways of Christ lead us down such paths?  Paul tells Timothy to withdraw from such men.  Instead many Christians suspend their trust in Jesus and trustingly follow a dynamic teacher.  God forgive us for such sin.  We are under the command of Jesus to flee such wickedness and work to promote wholeness in the body of Christ.  Yet, wholeness does involve separation from some.  A good church will protect the body of Christ from the harm of error and human wisdom without descending into pride and arrogance itself.

The Root of Discontent Is Exposed

In verse 6-10, Paul turns the motivation for gain of the false teachers, and redeems the true “gain” that we ought to seek.  Thus he states, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”  The false teachers use “godliness” and God’s Church as a means for promoting themselves.  However, if they were content with God and what He had given them, they wouldn’t be doing what they are doing.  Of course the gain Paul has in mind has nothing to do with money and power over people.  Rather, it is in a mind and life of peace with God and others.  We should not strive with one another like the disciples often did in front of Jesus.  We should not let selfish ambition, even to be the favorite of Jesus, cause us to harm one another.  Thus much evil ambition promotes itself under the banner of godliness, worship, and spirituality.  The spirit of discontent will poison your mind and corrupt the way that you are living for Jesus.  But, when you reject discontent and embrace contentment you can rest in the provision and love of our Lord without fighting with one another.

Paul then reminds us that we can’t take anything with us when we die.  Why do we strive for so much that we can’t hold on to?  It has been said that the only thing we can take into eternity is the souls of those whom we’ve helped to believe.  You can spend your life trying to obtain the temporary or we can spend our life making an eternal difference.  Even, this can be corrupted as we seek to be “the best” at something.  Many that we call the best in the Church will be shown to be far less than they appeared.  And, many that we call the least in the Church will be shown to be far more than they appeared.  It is foolish to strive for such temporary distinction, when it is what the Lord says in eternity that will really matter?  Thus learn to have contentment with what God has given you and fully embrace it with thankfulness.

In verse 8 Paul points out that we do not need much in order to be content: food and clothing.  Actually “clothing” could be better translated as covering (whether clothes or shelter).  Regardless, the word for “enough” is the same word used in 2 Corinthians 12:9.  “My grace is enough for you.”  It is sufficient, enough to satisfy.  Jesus says it is enough, but your flesh cries for more.  Oh, friend, don’t despise the good Jesus has given in hopes for the lesser things your flesh desires.  When the world or a worldly Christian tells you that you don’t have enough, your flesh will gladly latch on to it.  It always wants more and is never satisfied.  Thus we are ripe for temptation and destruction when we let it lead.  Do you remember the words of the Lord in Matthew 6:31f?  ““Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

Lastly, Paul talks about those who desire to be rich.  The word for “desire” here is not the normal word meaning lust. Rather, it points out that you want something and mentally plan to obtain it.  The person here has made it their plan and intention to work towards not just money, but also the abundance of possessions of any kind.  Such people have not learned to have faith in God even though they have very little.  In fact their faith is dependent upon having abundance.  Discontent leads to a desire to fill one’s life with more than you really need, rather than trusting the supply of God.  Thus Paul tells us that he had learned how to live with little and how to live with much.  His faith in God enabled him to go through the trials of both without losing his faith.

Thus the person who is intent on riches falls into temptation and snares.  This is the time of proving whether your faith is real or not.  We will either restrain ourselves and give thanks to God, or we will be caught in a destructive trap and fall.  Praise God that a person who falls can be restored through repentance and those who are spiritual should always work to help such a person.  Yet, why suffer such things knowingly?  The desire to be rich also opens us up to many more foolish and harmful lusts.  The whole world of the rich and famous is a minefield of bombs (vices and temptations) that you will not get out without having paid the uttermost.  Thus the person ends drowned in destruction.  The words translated there are literally “destruction, even utter destruction.”  The flood here is an allusion back to Noah and the ark.  God’s wrath was poured out upon those who were following their flesh rather than the Spirit of God and its warnings.  Such destruction begins in this life but it is not yet carved in stone.  This is the time of discipline when a disciple can repent and follow the master.  This is the time when we can be saved from destruction or persist and go on to eternal destruction.  Thus the wisdom of contentment is not a quaint thing.  It is the deliverance of your very soul from the hands of the Tempter!

Contentment mp3

Tuesday
Feb172015

What is the Kingdom of Heaven Like?

Today we will be looking at Luke 13:18-21.

In this passage we have two parables that explain what the Kingdom of Heaven will be like.  They are very small parables and so only give a small view of the Kingdom.  However, in Matthew 13 we have these same parables along with 5 others.

Now it is important to understand what Jesus is referring to when he uses this phrase, “Kingdom of Heaven.”  Jesus is speaking about the Church Age that was about to begin.  The faithful remnant of Israel had been awaiting the day when the Messiah would come and rule over Israel and the whole earth in righteousness and truth.  God had promised to bring the rule of God that exists in Heaven to the earth.  Of course they did not understand that this Kingdom would have two stages.  The first stage is a time when Christ would only interact with His people spiritually.  He would not judge the nations and rule over them literally.  However, He would rule over a remnant of every nation, tribe and tongue as the Gospel was received by people everywhere.  The second stage will be when Jesus comes back literally (visibly, physically) to the earth.  He will judge the wicked rulers and armies of the nations and establish a visible administration upon the earth.  Now that Jesus was here and they believed Him to be the Messiah, the questions on their mind had to do with when he would do this.  Yet, Jesus knows that they don’t completely understand what is coming.  Thus his descriptions of the coming Kingdom of Heaven are not exactly what they were expecting.  Let’s get into the passage.

It Is Like A Mustard Seed

The Gospel and the Word of God are often referred to as a seed.  This makes sense because they are information and have the power to cause spiritual life and growth.  Yet, in this passage it is clear that the seed is a reference to the visible size of the Church or Kingdom of Heaven.  When it is planted it will look small and unremarkable.  Yes, Christ initially had a huge following of people who listened to him.  However, the closer he came to the cross less and less people followed him.  On the Day of Pentecost there are only 120 believers assembled together.  This small seed may not look like much but it had a destiny that was given by God.

This very small seed would grow into a remarkable tree.  In fact on the Day of Pentecost we see the remarkable growth that the Kingdom would experience- 3,000 people were saved on that day i.e. 25,000% growth.  This small group would grow into a large community that would spread throughout the whole earth, which is much greater than any would have thought.  If you look at the statistics of the Church today we see large numbers that claim to believe in Jesus in every corner of the globe.

The parable also points out that the tree will be a place of rest and shelter.  Especially in the Middle East, a tree is a source of shade from the intense heat.  Both people and animals can use trees for resting but also for protection from predators.  It is important to recognize that the Old Testament uses the image of a tree to speak of the empires of Assyria and Babylon.  In fact in Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar has a dream where he and his kingdom are described as a large tree covering the whole earth.  He is told that the tree will be cut down and its branches stripped off.  This is interesting because whether we want to admit it or not the Church has become like a great empire throughout the earth.  The nations have long recognized this truth and the institutional power that is wielded by the Church.  We can see this in the fact that the Vatican has over 110 embassies throughout the world and 80 nations have embassies to Vatican City.  It is here that we begin to sense a sinister turn to the revelation.  Why would Jesus use a metaphor that was used of wicked empires in the past?  We could say that the Church would be different and not be wicked.  Yet, history teaches us that the institutional aspect of the Church has not been good at following Jesus. 

We also must notice the reference to the birds resting in the branches.  Yes, it can be a simple reference to the beasts of the earth and the birds of the air (common folk and those who rule over them and are of higher station).  Yet, Jesus had used the image of the birds in the Parable of the Sower.  Here the birds of the air are the evil spirits of the Devil who are working to eat the seed of the Gospel out of people’s lives.  Also, in Revelation 18 verse 2 we see a statement during the judgment of Mystery Babylon, who is a promoter of false doctrine and false worship in league with the Last Days empire of the Antichrist.  “And he cried mightily with a loud voice saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!”  Notice the clear connection between the literal “demons” and the metaphorical “hated bird.”  Now I admit that based upon this parable alone one might hesitate to say that the birds of Luke 13:19 are intended to be pointing to demons.  In fact, I tend to see a double meaning here.  Yes, the Church would become a good thing that would give rest and shelter to the weary and righteous.  However, all earthly institutions have a kind of institutional creep in which at best it loses focus on its true purpose and at worst is taken over by those who are opposed to the purpose.  On top of this we have the prophetic announcements that there will be a great apostasy in the last days leading up to the rise of Antichrist.  Typically apostasy has not simply left a church.  Rather, apostasy always tries to take over the group and only leaves if made to.  We can also recognize that in Matthew 13, four of the seven parables have unquestionable sinister elements.  Thus the Church would be a good thing.  But the visible institution would eventually evidence evil spirits roosting throughout it.  With that said, let’s move to the next parable.

It Is Like Yeast

Leaven or yeast is used in cooking for causing bread to rise.  Thus in the culinary field it is a good thing.  Yet, in the Bible yeast is used symbolically as a picture of sin.  Sin operates by the similar principle of puffing up a person or group with pockets of empty vain things.  Sin also may start small but it will affect the entire loaf if it is not removed.  This is why Israel was to eat unleavened bread during the feast after Passover.  Those who were saved by Christ were to follow Him in His righteousness.  Thus Jesus is clearly saying that the Church as a visible institution would be stained with sinful people who would begin to affect the whole.  Yes, we could try to make this speak well by saying it represents the ability of the Church to work throughout and affect the whole world for good.  But the sinister things keep stacking up.

It is like yeast that a woman has hidden…  As if the image of yeast wasn’t bad enough.  Why is the woman hiding the yeast in the grain?  Clearly it is not supposed to be in the grain and she is doing what she shouldn’t.  Here intentions are not good.  At this point it is god for us to remember that in Luke 12 Jesus had warned his disciples to watch out for the “leaven” of the Pharisees.  The leaven referred to the corrupting influence of their false teaching.  This woman has sowed false teaching among the grain (the Lord’s harvest) and, like the Jezebel of Revelation 2:20, she will affect all who allow her and her influence to stay.

Next we notice that she is hiding the leaven in “3 measures of grain.”  As I said, the Grain represents the visible Church that is the harvest of the earth to the Lord.  Yet, the amount referenced would stick out to the original hearers as the amount that was used for the Grain Offering at the temple.  It was also used when Abraham fed the Lord and the angels before Sodom was destroyed.  Thus the worship and fellowship of the Church, both among itself and with its Lord, is affected by the work of this woman who promotes false doctrine.

Christ warns that the false teaching will affect the whole thing.  Paul warns against this in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, “Your glorying is not good.  Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?  Therefore, purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened.  For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.  Therefore, let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”  Paul was telling the Corinthians to remove the “leavened lump.”  This is first of all false doctrine and second of all anyone who will not cease promoting it.  The early Church had to fight in order to keep the Gospel free from the leavening influence of sinful teaching.  Over time, however, some leadership quit resisting false teaching and eventually began embracing it.  As false teaching took over an institution, true Christians would have to separate in order to spare themselves from the corrupting influence.  Some point to the multitude of denominations today as a condemnation of the Church because it does not love.  Although there is a sliver of truth in this, we are told to separate from those who call themselves Christians but promote false teaching and ungodly lifestyles.  Thus the multitude of denominations is proof that no institution is safe from the corrupting influence of this woman and her yeast.  In all of this, only the institutions and those who cling to them are corrupted.  The true Church of God always follows Jesus through the difficult path of the wilderness.  He always leads us forward in victory, if we will follow and listen to him alone.

Final Thoughts:

It is important today for Churches to stand with Christ uncompromisingly.  That does not mean we should lack love and service for the lost.  However, the Gospel has always been a call to the hurting of this world to save themselves from this wicked and corrupt world that is under the judgment of God.  It is a call to shelter from the storm.  We have to be about our Father’s business of calling all who will to enter into the shelter that Jesus provides.  He is our covering and shelter from the coming Judgment.  Pointing people to Jesus and following him is primary.  False doctrines have a way of making something other than Jesus primary.

We also need to keep up the work of the Lord in the midst of growing resistance and apostasy within the Church.  Stand for the Faith that has been delivered, once and for all, to the saints.  If you are in a church that will not put up with such warnings, but instead embraces the false doctrines of today, then find a group of believers that will stand for Truth.  They do exist.  Don’t listen to the Devil’s lie that you are the only one.

Lastly, we must do so until the Judgment day arrives.  Even when all the world is falling apart around us, our job is to simply remain faithful at the work the Lord has given us to do.  Work now while it is day, for the night comes when no man can work.  Don’t let the corruption that happens in the world and in the Church weaken your resolve to live for Jesus.

Kingdom of Heaven audio