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Entries in Christ (8)

Tuesday
Nov132018

My Personal End Times: The New Heavens & the New Earth II

Revelation 22.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 11, 2018.

Today we will finish our series, particularly the New Creation that God will create.  Last week we looked at chapter 21 of The Revelation where it describes the New Jerusalem, that great city of Christ and the Righteous.  Chapter 22 continues that description, but moves to the center of the city where the Throne of God sits.

The whole point of Scripture is to persuade men to avoid a bad experience of judgment and to embrace a good experience of God’s love.  It is those who stop trusting themselves and the world around them, and start trusting Christ and the truth of God, who will experience the good that God has intended for us all.  These visions of what will be are intended to spark the hope of God in our heart, a strong faith in Him within our mind, and a powerful love for Christ throughout our whole life.

The throne of God is described

Though it is not specifically stated, this throne would be at the center of the New Jerusalem.  In Rev. 21:3 we see the city described as the tabernacle of God, which means that it is His dwelling place.  It emphasizes His presence with His people.  Also verse 22 states that Christ is the light of the city, again emphasizing presence and source.

We see that the river of the Water of Life flows from the throne.  In that creation the Waters of Life will have a physical existence, but throughout the Scripture this phrase was symbolically describing the Word of God.  To receive the Word of God and obey it was to drink from the Waters of Life.  Like the blessings of water flowing down to us from the mountains is the Truth of God coming down out of heaven.  This river is described as pure because it is not polluted with the ideas and thoughts of fallen angels or fallen humans.  Its source is God’s throne.  The phrase “clear as crystal” emphasizes the purity with imagery.

This image of a river from God has an Old Testament backdrop.  Psalm 65:9 states, “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.” (NKJV).  This is notable because Jerusalem had no river.  The river the Psalmist sees is spiritual.  Ezekiel 47 gives a vision of a restored Temple with a river that comes out from the south side of the Temple and flows from Jerusalem.  Also, Zechariah 14 speaks of living waters that flow from Jerusalem to the East and to the West.  It would seem that there are several layers to this concept.  Today, we spiritually drink from the Waters of Life that flow from the events 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem, people all over the world drink from this never ceasing river from God.  In the Millennium water will literally flow from Jerusalem and bring healing to the Dead Sea.  Ultimately, in the New Creation, The New Jerusalem will have the Waters of Life flowing from the throne of God.  Thus there is no longer any separation between men and God (this is the imagery employed by the temple).  Just because we experience these things spiritually today does not imply that none of this has a literal meaning as well.  In that day the spiritual and the physical will be united in harmony, just as God intended it.

Verse 2 describes the presence of the Tree of life.  The description is quite interesting.  It speaks of the tree being on both sides of the river.  Thus many see this as describing at least two Trees of Life.  Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden lest they eat from the Tree of Life and become stuck eternally in a sinful condition.  Here we see that God has fully restored our access to the Tree of Life.  Now this tree is no tree of this earth.  It has twelve different kinds of fruit that fruit each month, twelve times a year.  We are also told that the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  This does not mean that people can get sick and need healing in the New Creation.  Rather, the word that can be translated as healing can also be translated as health-giving, as in a preventative sense.  Thus the fruit is food and the leaves fortify the health of the body.  Obviously the mechanics and needs of that age are not described to our satisfaction and are left to the imagination and to our ability to trust God.  And so, that is where we will leave it. 

Verse 3 tells us that there will be no more curse.  For anyone who has ever cried out, “Why is the world this way,” God promises an end to that which makes life hard and difficult.  There will come a day when the curse will be completely lifted.  Of course, many reject God and follow the plan of Satan to overthrow the curse by overthrowing God Himself, but that plan is doomed to fail.  Trusting God is the only plan that is blessed with success.  The presence of God Himself and His throne is presented as the reason why the curse can no longer exist.  God does not dwell in a cursed place, though Christ did so for a season for our salvation.  Where God dwells there will always be life.

The experience of the servants of God is described

Though the scene is still centered upon the throne of God, it expands to include the saints of God.  Verse 3 states that they serve Him.  The picture seems to be one of direct service to God as opposed to the current state where our service is by faith and without being in His direct presence.  On one hand serving God involves our worship and honor of Him.  However, it will no doubt also involve any directives that He gives.  In fact the word used for “serve” is a word that speaks of service of one who is hired or paid for their services.  There will no longer be toil and suffering in the work that God gives us to do, but rather joyful and rewarding discovery.  Thus the “service” of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden should be the backdrop to this concept of our service to God in the New Creation.

We are told that the saints see His face.  Adam and Eve also began in the Garden of Eden and walked with God and talked with Him in the cool of the day.  This is the same kind of setting.  There is no more disapproval of God.  We have complete fellowship with Him and complete acceptance from Him.  It is interesting that the Old Testament underlines the point that sinful man cannot survive seeing the face of God.  However, God is able to purify us and make us into His Sons, who can look into His face and not die.

We are told that His name will be upon our forehead.  Of course that might seem strange to us and predispose us to reject this as literal.  However, customs always seem strange to those who are not from that culture.  When we stand in that place, we will be a new people with new customs entering into a new world for all eternity.  What strange things will we encounter and participate in then?  There is little detail given about it.  The emphasis is that we are marked by God as a sign that we belong to Him and no other.  On one hand it gives outward assurance to something that we must take by faith in the present world.  Our position in Christ will not be a matter of faith then.  It will be an objective reality.  On the other hand, Satan and his angels have lost their bid to steal the bride of Christ, and thus it represents an eternal declaration of our inseparability.  We are identified with Him forever!

Verse 5 says that there will be no more night.  This is explained as a result of the presence of Christ.  His glory is a source of light that never wanes or is blocked by the rotation of the earth.  In fact, we are not told how far His glory shines.  Perhaps, just as this universe is marked by a great and black darkness with only small points of light here and there, we will find that the new universe will be marked by a great and white light that fills the whole of the cosmos.  Keep in mind that even the present universe is filled with the whole spectrum of electromagnetic radiation.  The darkness we see is actually the limitation of our eyes to see the whole spectrum.  It is possible then that nothing changes but our ability to perceive all the light of God in every spectrum.  Symbolically this means that we will never be separated from God or return to a state of ignorance and deception again.  We will forever bask in the truth and knowledge of God. 

It also says that we will reign with Christ forever.  Literally it says, “into the ages of the ages.”  Like a book left unfinished, so eternity opens up new chapters for humanity to write with God.  God will have kept His promise to the many generations of believers that have put their faith in Him throughout all the ages of this earth.  Every time a dictator rises up and crushes the people beneath them, we grow fearful that it will never come to an end.  However, God promises us that He will bring the reign of evil everywhere in the universe to an end.  We will then reign with Him.

The promises made to Christ’s followers

Before we close, I want to point out some important promises that are stated in the last part of this chapter.   In verse 7 it says, “Behold, I am coming quickly!  Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”  The word translated “keep” has the idea of paying careful attention to something.  It was used of a shepherd keeping his sheep.  It involved careful observation and wise response to what we see, including protection.  We will be blessed if we take the time to carefully observe what God’s Word says, and respond wisely in our lives to what it says.  We also need to protect God’s Word from being twisted in our minds and changed by those who speak like Satan did in the garden.  “Did God really say …”  There is a blessing and a happiness that can only come from taking God’s Word seriously and recognizing that the enemy of God has a vested interest in getting us to fail in our duty to “keep” God’s Word.

Verses 12 and 14 state, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work…  Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the Tree of Life, and may enter through the gates into the city.”  Here we see the emphasis that what has been described is a reward for those who work for Christ.  Yes, we have a foretaste of our reward in this life.  We have the fellowship of other believers and the Holy Spirit within our heart encouraging us.  We also have the good life-experience that often comes with living righteously, although not always (persecution is always not far away and yet, even then, God shows His goodness to us still).  Yet, at His Second Coming, Christ is coming to give us our reward.  Of course there is a flip side to this.  He also comes to give the wicked their “reward,” which in reality is a punishment.  Do not lose heart in following Christ.  You will be rewarded.  I would point out that the emphasis on His coming quickly means that we won’t have time to be lazy and get ready when we see Him coming.  You will either be ready or not.  Thus believers are called to be ready always, always prepared for His coming.

Lastly, verse 17 says, “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’  And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’  And let him who thirsts come.  Whoever desires, let him take the waters of life freely.”  What a beautiful promise.  God has not created obstacles to having the living waters.  It is our rebellion and sin that has created barriers.  However, through Jesus, God has removed the barriers and these things are now freely available to those who will come to Christ and simply drink.  It does not cost so much that only the rich man can have it.  Rather, any who will can come and drink the waters of life.  Of course that does not mean it is completely without cost.  It will cost us our pride and identification with this world.  It will cost us the desires and lusts of our flesh.  When we believe God’s Word and live it out in this world, we are spiritually drinking from the Waters of Life.  In the New Creation we shall both spiritually and physically drink the life giving waters of God.  Why would you hesitate or pull back?  Let today be the day that you say, “Yes, Lord, I want to drink life!  I want to hear your word, do it, and live!”

The New Heavens part 2 audio

Monday
Oct082018

Your Personal End Times- The Millennium Part I

Various Passages.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 7, 2018.

Last week we established from Revelation 20 that Christ will rule with the resurrected saints over the earth for 1,000 years.  However, that passage gave us practically no description of what the millennium would look like.  This is most likely because the rest of the Bible is full of descriptions of what the millennium will entail.  Today we are going to go back into the Old Testament and fill in some of the picture of what we will experience as resurrected saints during this 1,000 year reign of Jesus Christ upon this earth.

Of course, the real question is this.  Where do you start?  It is like swimming in the ocean.  There is no way we can do justice to the multitude of passages that speak of the coming kingdom of God.  So let me briefly summarize a few passages in this light.  We could go back to Genesis 3 and see God’s promise to Eve that one of her seed would crush the serpent’s head.  The idea is that the one who deceived them and tricked them out of paradise would eventually get his from a particular human.  We could also look at Genesis 11 and 15, where God makes a covenant with Abraham.  Basically God tells Abraham that all the nations of the earth will be blessed by what God does through Abraham’s offspring.  There is also 2 Samuel 7 where God makes a covenant with David, promising that one of his offspring would sit on the throne of David forever.  There is also Psalm 2 where God states that He has anointed a king who is to rule over the whole earth.  Also, it is stated that the world will rebel against this choice and challenges people to put their trust in God’s king.  Thus we see that God has a vested interest in helping mankind against Satan, our spiritual enemy.  He has promised to bless the whole world by anointing a particular individual to be a righteous king over all the earth and crush the serpents head.  This will be a king and a kingdom that lasts forever.

However, today we are going to start in the book of Isaiah, while keeping in mind this backdrop of promises that God has made to mankind.  Here we will see that the Millennial rule of Christ is the promised hope that has been given to the saints of every century and will be established at His Second Coming.

The reign of the Messiah- Jesus

Let’s start in Isaiah 2:1-4.  Though the Old Testament does not explicitly state the name of the Messiah, we now know that it is Jesus.  Of course Jesus is an anglicized transliteration of a Latin/Greek transliteration of a name that is either Hebrew or Aramaic in form.  It would be something like Yeshua or Yoshua, but let’s not get sidetracked.  All these prophecies are pointing towards Him.  He is the one whom God has anointed King of all kings, Lord of all lords. 

In our passage Isaiah describes this coming kingdom and states that it will be a global kingdom.  The language is very clear with phrases like: “established on top of the mountains,” “exalted above the hills,” and “all nations shall flow to it.”  Mountains and hills were often used as symbolic descriptions of kingdoms and empires.  Powerful kingdoms were like mountains towering over the surrounding area, dominating it on every level.  Later in Daniel 2, God gives Nebuchadnezzar a dream in which all the kingdoms of the world are crushed and smashed to pieces by a kingdom that is sent from God.  This kingdom is described as a stone that is cut by God (without human hands) and grows to become a mountain that fills the whole earth.

Now, we are going to see throughout this study that a person can give everything in these passages a spiritual meaning and say that it is already fulfilled or still being fulfilled.  Thus a person can say that Isaiah 2 and Daniel 2 are just talking about a spiritual kingdom, which is the Church today.  Clearly the Church has spread to fill the whole earth, hasn’t it?  I would say that there is a clear spiritual fulfillment of these passages, but that does not mean they will not be physically true as well.  The same God who made humans composite beings of spirit and body, also works among us both spiritually and physically.  When Jesus says in Luke 13:28, “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out,” he clearly envisions a day when this will happen.  The plain sense of the passage is that Abraham and the others will be just as physical as those listening to Jesus (that is, a resurrection will have occurred).  Also in Acts 1:6, the disciples ask Jesus if he will restore the kingdom to Israel at this time.  Jesus does not tell them that the kingdom is only spiritual and will never be physical again.  Rather, he tells them it is not for them “to know times and seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”  Thus, there is going to be a day when Israel and Jerusalem will be the hub of the world and all the nations will flow to this place on earth where Jesus will be physically reigning.

Verse 4 makes it clear that it will involve a judgment of the nations.  Of course, we saw this in Revelation 19 and chapter 20.  However, Jesus does not just judge the nations.  He also judges between them.  Think of all the disputes that have built up through the years between many different ethnic groups.  Those who miraculously survive the Great Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ will come before Christ.  There he will separate the sheep from the goats.  Those who are allowed to come into the millennial kingdom will also have long standing disputes with other settled by Jesus.  In fact, it is said that he will rebuke many nations.  Often our bloody feuds with others are nothing but pride masquerading as piety.  Jesus will put an end to these disputes.

He will be so effective that we are told that there will be no more war.  The nations of the world will “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”  It is clear that the United Nations will not stop war in its present condition.  It also beggars belief that it could be reformed in any way that would get rid of war.  However, God promises that Messiah will be able to cause war to cease, and not just for a few years.  The only hope for a world that rejects the One Anointed by God is to put a “superman” in power who will represent the greatest wisdom of man.    Whether this is some kind of artificial intelligence or a combined link with “ascended masters,” we cannot know.  Yet, that really is the only path forward for a world in rebellion that refuses to repent.  This man who will supposedly have all the answers will pretend to want peace, but in the end the God of heaven describes him as a beast.  Mankind cannot force peace upon the world.  Only the Spirit of God can bring it.  I find it interesting that the United Nations has a sculpture given to it by Russia in which a naked man is hammering a sword into a plowshare.  It seems to give tribute to the Bible, but in truth it represents a humanistic rebellion.  Yes, mankind has no problem with the goal of no war.  However, they will attempt to accomplish it through humanist means, not divine.  Thus the naked man represents the Greek ideal of mankind doing in the flesh the wisdom of its mind.

It is also easy to get stuck on the terminology used.  Yes, we do not typically use swords anymore (or not nearly as much).  However, the point is clear.  During the millennium mankind will recycle all the weapons of war (tanks, missiles, guns, etc.) and use them to make farming equipment.

The wisdom of Jesus the Messiah

Next let’s go to Isaiah 11:1-2, 6-9.  Here we see the wisdom of the Messiah on display.  In verses 1-2 the image of a menorah (the seven-branched candlestick in the temple) is brought to mind.  The seven lights were a picture of God’s complete wisdom giving complete light to the world.  Each of these seven lights is given a name which makes even clearer that the source of the light (knowledge/truth) is the Spirit of God Himself.  No matter how wise mankind becomes or how great an artificial intelligence we create, when we cast off God’s word and forge a path of our own, we have become fools and our path is folly.  Jesus was and will be successful because He operates from a wisdom that has its source in God.  Notice that verses 3-4 highlight his judgment.  He will not judge by the sight of his eyes or the hearing of his ears.  No one will be able to manipulate him, and he does not have an ulterior motive.  Rather, He judges with righteousness and equity, which is bad news for the wicked and great news for the righteous.

In verses 6-9 we are told that the animal kingdom will no longer be deadly either.  Just as humans were not created to kill one another, so animals were not originally made to destroy one another.  When sin entered the world, it brought a curse and drastic changes to the world itself.  Scripture tells us that the whole of creation groans in expectation for the manifestation of the Sons of God.  The wisdom of Christ will turn back the effects of sin and the curse.  Isaiah gives a list of things that we would not leave alone together in this world because one of them would kill the other: a wolf with a lamb, a leopard with a young goat, a calf with a young lion, a child near a cobra’s hole, or sticking its hand in a viper’s den.  All of these things would strike fear into the owner or parent’s heart.  Yet, they will lie down in peace together.  Their nature will have been changed.  How Jesus will accomplish this is not described, but it seems that, if these things were a judgment of God upon wicked mankind, such judgments are simply being lifted by God Himself.  We are also told that the lion will eat hay like an ox.  Whether such is possible in today’s conditions is irrelevant.  The whole point is that the nature of things is going to change.  The statement may be just as much about the hay itself as it is about the lion.

Now let’s go to Isaiah 35:1-7.  Here we see descriptions of the desert places blooming with life.  Again, we could spiritualize this whole passage to be a blooming of a spiritual desert.  When Jesus came to Israel, it was spiritually a desert, but he caused it to bloom with spiritual life.  The gospel has the ability to bring life into the most spiritually dead of lives.  Again, this would be true, but there is also a natural aspect to this as well.  Through his knowledge and divine power we will see the curse upon Adam turned back.  There will be an increase in the fertility of the earth and an increase in places where water will “burst forth in the wilderness.”  Amos 9:13 says it this way, “’Behold the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.”  Many skeptics have scoffed over the years at the idea of Israel being a “land flowing with milk and honey.”  However, it looks like it does because the land is under a curse, much like the whole earth is under a curse.  In that day, the curse on the land and on the earth will be lifted and we will know fruitfulness as we have never known.

Verses 3 through 6 speak to the condition of mankind that has struggled under the heavy load of disease and poverty.  These things will become a memory as Messiah heals.  Some think that this only points to the miracles that Jesus did when he walked on the earth in the past.  However, the miracles he did then were so that we could recognize that he really is the Messiah.  When he comes again, he will have just as much healing power as he did before. 

Just think that the saints of every age will be resurrected so that they can participate in this exciting period of humanity’s existence.  I will close our time today by giving a reminder.  This is just a small part of the plan and hope that God has put before us.  We will take some more time next week to keep looking at this amazing period called the millennial reign of Christ.  However, even then what can we say about the New Heavens and the New Earth that lay beyond it?  Christians are to be those who live today in the light of this coming kingdom because its king is already living in our hearts.  Is Christ living within you by the Holy Spirit of God?  Turn from any wickedness, turn towards Christ, and put your trust in Him.  Then you will be blessed by God with all these things.

Millennium part 1 audio

Tuesday
Jul102018

Seeking the Things that are Above

Colossians 3:1-11.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on July 8, 2018.

Last week we talked about not turning to legalism as a legitimate expression of Christianity.  Yes, there are certain things that Christians should not do and others that they should do.  But lists of things we shouldn’t eat or drink, and special days we should observe in order to be holy has nothing to do with Christ. 

In our passage today we will see that we need to turn to Jesus rather than a list of regulations.  He needs to become our life, to become everything.  When it comes to the Christian life, we must never forget that Christ is everything to us.  He is the foundation on which we stand, the image towards which we are being transformed, the power by which it is all done, and the hope that lies before us.

So as we look at this passage, let us hear the words of life that teach us how to truly live.

We have died with Christ and been made alive with Christ

Back in chapter 2 Paul had reminded us that the fact that we have died to the world with Christ should refute the regulations of legalism.  Here in verses 1-4 of chapter 3 he continues to the other side of this truth.  We have been made alive with Christ.  Thus our life and how it is lived must be connected to Christ and not this world.  This means our focus or concern should be towards heaven where Christ is.  Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father.  His perspective and commands will be quite different from a person who is here on earth.  Ultimately it is the things of heaven, the things of Christ, that should concern Christians.

Now this could give rise to the phrase that a person is “So heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.”  However, this is not what Paul is getting at.  He is not talking about ignoring the earth, but rather about looking to Christ for our directions on how to operate in this world.  God is deeply concerned with this earth and the people on it.  That is why Jesus came and died on the cross.  When we look at life with His concerns and walk in His purposes and direction, then it does much good for this earth.  Thus to be heavenly minded as Paul means it, is to live in this life directed by the leadership of Christ.

In verse 3 he mentions that the things that make for our life are hidden from the world.  Christ cannot be seen by the world and His instructions to us cannot be seen either.  His connection to us through the Word of God and the Holy Spirit is not something that can be touched or seen.  Sure they should see how we live and the effects of these things in our lives, but they cannot actually see the influence.  Thus the world will not understand the reasons and motivations, which come from heaven.

In verse 4 we are told that when Christ is revealed from heaven in glory, it will suddenly become clear what we were living for.  In fact the glory of Christ will be our glory too!  It takes faith and trust in God’s Word.  We must believe that He will do what He has said He will do.  Christians are those who walk in the faith that though our life may not make sense to the world around us, it is directed by God Himself and will be rewarded in due time.

We put off the old man

Starting in verse 5 Paul uses several metaphors for the Christian life.  One of these is that of the old man.  It is a metaphor for our old life of listening to our flesh (body, mind, and heart) and following its desires.  We are told to put it off like we would do with the clothes that we sleep in at night, in order to then put on the right clothes to go about our day.

In fact, in verse 5 he opens with an even harsher metaphor- “put to death.”  The terminology can be a bit foreign to us.  The term “members” refers to the parts of us that are centered upon the things of the world.  These are expressed in certain sinful activities and conditions of our heart.  They need to be sacrificed on the altar to God by dying to their pull on us.  Paul lists several things.  Fornication is any sex outside of a committed marriage between one man and one woman.  Uncleanness is any impure desire or motive.  Passion is those afflictions of our mind and heart that push us towards sin.  Yes, passion can be a positive thing, but it is clearly about sinful things in this list.  Evil desire speaks for itself.  Covetousness is called idolatry because we allow ourselves to become a slave to the thing we covet rather than a slave of God.  It becomes god in our lives.  All of these things need to be put to death in our life.  This is something that has to be done daily, as they surface in our hearts and minds.  Like weeds we will not be able to completely remove all traces of them in this life.  But we can keep them from growing and bearing evil fruit in our life.  If we follow these things they will not bring us true life, no matter how alive one may feel when they first give in to them.  In the end these things will leave you empty and hopeless regardless of what Ashley Madison has to say.

In fact in verse 6 Paul reminds us that these are the things that are bringing the wrath of God.  Just in case we thought these were nice suggestions on how to have a better life, we are reminded that those who practice such things are in jeopardy.  This world may be progressing in technology, which gives it the allusion that we are somehow becoming better.  But, morally we are not progressing.  We are wallowing in the same muck and mire that mankind has always wallowed in.  The message of the Gospel is this, “Save yourself from this wicked and perverse generation by fleeing to Jesus before it is too late!”  We will all face the wrath of God one way or another.  We will either be alive when it is poured out at the end of the age or we will face it when we die and come before God.  Believers can face both situations with confidence because Jesus has taken the wrath of God that should fall on us, upon Himself.  We can stand in His presence with confidence because of Jesus and Him alone.

In verse 7 he reminds us that these things should be a part of our past.  It is how we used to live, before Christ.  This is the old life, but now Christ is our Master and Savior.  His Spirit has taken up residence within us.  Let us not fool ourselves.  We cannot continue to follow the ways of the world and the ways of our flesh and find life.  They can only lead us to destruction.  Like Joshua of old we must choose today whom we are going to serve, and may it be Jesus that we chose to serve.

In verses 8 to 9 Paul continues with a list of deeds that many would think of as “little sins.”  We are tempted to coddle them and allow them to remain in our life.  We can justify them in our heart more easily.  But Paul warns against such deeds of the old man.  Anger- I used to get angry about things, but Christ is calling me to leave anger behind.  I am to be directed by heaven, not my anger.  Wrath- My flesh is focused on justice and getting people back, but heaven reminds us that this is not our job and that we must let it go lest we fall under the wrath of God ourselves.  Malice- This is typically a deeper-seated, festering ill-will towards others.  Christians are to root this out and reject its seductive logic.  Blasphemy- It is not just untrue things we say of God.  It basically means to slander or say untrue things about any other.  Filthy language- Our old life learned all manner of crude and vulgar ways to express ourselves.  Such talk should be left in the dust.  We must let the Lord purify our speech.  Lying- How easy it is to lie to one another in order to get what we want or to protect ourselves.  Whether it is active lying where we state untruths or passive lying where we mislead people so that they make the wrong conclusions, lying is a form of manipulation that brings destruction into our life and the lives of those around us.

Jesus was none of these things.  If we have truly rejected the world with Him and are living only for Him, then these things should change.  There is no way around this truth.  Yes, it doesn’t just happen in an instant.  But it does happen nonetheless.

We put on the new man

We will talk more about this next week.  But let’s end on the positive.  If we are to take off the old man then clearly we must put on the new man.  Paul points out in verses 10-11 that the new man is renewed in knowledge.  Knowledge is key to our transformation.  We know that these things hold nothing but God’s wrath for us.  So why would we then hold on to them?  We also know that Jesus is not like these things.  So why would we continue in them?  We also know that Christ died to set us free from these things.  So let’s be renewed in body, mind, and heart.

He also mentions that we are renewed according to the image of Christ.  The renewal is not just a “new me.”  It really is a taking on the image of Jesus.  We are taking Him on and being transformed.  In that sense, Jesus is the new man.  We are all taking on the One New Man, Jesus.  WE are the students becoming like the master, as His Holy Spirit works within us to enable the transformation.

He ends this section by pointing out that the old distinctions are irrelevant when Christ is our everything.  It doesn’t matter what race or station of life a person is or comes from.  A believer in Jesus sees one thing.  Is Christ living within that person as well as me?  Christ is everything and all those distinctions are nothing.  How we interact with people, both believers and the lost, should have nothing to do with race, economic station, gender or what else.  It has only to do with Christ.  What does He think and what does He want.  The power of Christ has come to break all of these distinctions down so that Christ indwells every kind of person on the earth, and we can receive another believer as a brother or a sister in Christ, not because of earthly things, but because of the heavenly reality that Jesus dwells within us both.  Does Jesus dwell within you today?  Pray and ask Him to forgive you of your sins and become your Lord and Savior.  Let us put off the old man and put on the New Man!

Seek the Things Above audio

Tuesday
Oct182016

Society under Siege: Drug Abuse

Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:12-13; Galatians 6:6-7.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 16, 2016.

Although drugs have been around in one form or another throughout the history of our nation and even all of mankind, it has really been since the 1950’s that our society has become inundated with them.  Of course through the years we have made a distinction between medicinal drugs and illicit drugs.  Our purpose is not to go into that today other than to recognize that there can be a legitimate use of drugs.  Churches today are challenged by the difficulty of helping people who are stuck in drug addiction and whose lives are spiraling out of control.

Those who desire help to get out of the grip of drugs have many problems.  Some of them are the physical addictions that can occur.  Others are the mental, coping mechanisms that are unhealthy and continually turn back to the false peace of a drug.  The shame and guilt that such a person feels can push them further and further away from the very people they need around them. I believe that this onslaught of drugs in our nation is orchestrated and promoted by the evil, spiritual powers that seek to destroy the Gospel of Christ.  War is not easy.  But, if we are to help people, we cannot surrender to the temptation to either push people away because they keep turning back to drugs, or redefine what is good.  Some segments within the Church are being swayed by reasoning that overlooks the dangers of drug abuse and how people end up stuck in it.

How We Live Matters

In Romans Paul has written to the Corinthians about many ways that they are living and the morality or theology behind them.  Their theology and lives were being affected by the culture around them.  This is true of the Church in the United States of America.  Increasingly modern Christians have been surrendering certain areas by saying that they are no longer moral issues.  We determine that abortion is no longer immoral and thus encourage women in a destructive path.  We are beginning to do the same with drugs.  Many ideas are coming together to promote a theology of drugs that basically says it is not a moral issue.  This is a tactical mistake.

In chapter 12 of the letter to the Romans Paul reminds believers that their lives should be lived as a sacrifice to God.  Paul calls it a “living sacrifice” because the imagery is going from the very literal sacrifices they were used to seeing to the spiritual sacrifice of putting to death our fleshly desires for the glory of the purposes of God.  In fact, both Christians and those who do not believe live a life of dying.  The important question is, “To what am I dying?”  The Lost live a life surrendering to the desires of their flesh and their spirit/soul dies in its ability to connect with God.  Whereas the Christian surrenders to the desires of the Holy Spirit and their fleshly desires are put to death.  Of course, this is a daily thing.  So Christians are called to live life in a way that is following the Spirit of God and not the desires of our flesh.  Paul calls it our holy and acceptable sacrifice.

The term “holy” means that we are not for the common use.  Our lives have been set apart for a divine purpose and not a common purpose (i.e. what everyone else is doing).  Also, the term acceptable is often used in a negative way.  In other words, “OK, I guess that is barely good enough.”  That is not what this word means in this translation.  Our lives are not to be lived so as to be barely good enough.  Rather, the word has the meaning of that which is pleasing.  So our sacrifice is to live for God’s purposes, not our own (holy), and to offer that which is pleasing to God.  It is my contention that the Holy Spirit is not leading people to take drugs, especially recreationally, and that they promote a lifestyle that is anything but pleasing to God.

Paul also brings up the issue of conforming to this world’s way of living.  Conformity focuses on the outward shape without a true change of the nature of a person.  Thus a person who has murderous intentions in their heart can conform to the pressure of society to not act on that impulse.  However, their nature has not changed.  Conformity is temporary by nature.  Thus many people live a life of continually taking on new shapes that conform to the templates that the world gives us (like Play Dough).  So whether you take on the template of a driven business person, who doesn’t do drugs, or you take on the template of the person without a job doing drugs in mom’s attic, both are templates that this world offers in opposition to what Jesus has called us to.  So you may think you have your life in order, but many times you have conformed to the world in a different way.  Also, many people who take drugs seem to think that they are somehow breaking out of the system and going their own way.  This too is self-delusion.  Yes, we do need a better template, and Jesus can be that.  However, He is more than a template.

Paul places the word “transformation” against this conformity.  In fact, many churches have lost sight of this difference.  Transformation is a change of nature, not just outward shape.  We must be careful that our discipleship does not become focused on merely changing the shape of people’s lives.  Without an inner transformation they will only be taking on a religious template that is conformity to the world in the end.   Paul says that our transformation comes by the renewal of our mind.  This is precisely the problem.  We are told by someone that our lives should look a certain way.  But in the end we are not learning to listen to the Holy Spirit and say no to our flesh.  The Pharisees had just such a religion: all conformity and no transformation.

The renewal of our mind definitely starts with a moment of believing in Jesus and God placing a new spirit within us.  However, it continues day by day as we work each day to have our thinking renewed back to the way God intended it.  How do we do this? 

First, we have to counter the continual barrage of antichrist ideas and lifestyles that wear down our mind by meditating on the Word of God.  In John 8:32, Jesus tells us that “…the truth shall set you free.”  The problem with lies is that no matter how good they make your life in the short term, they cannot lead to long term good.  Why?  They can’t because they refuse to deal with reality, to deal with Truth.  Daily prayer is the place where we converse with God about what His Word reveals and what His Spirit is leading us to do.  It is the daily maintenance of the transformation that God is doing in our life.  We also need the fellowship of other believers around us.  When we are surrounded by those with a worldly mentality, we will be like the frog in the kettle, slowly being boiled to death.  Fellow believers give us a sounding board that can help us when we are knocked down or coming under deception.

When our mind is renewed to think like Jesus rather than the world, our life will be transformed.  Paul says that then we will prove what is the good, perfect, and acceptable will of God.  God’s will always leads to good in the long term.  The word “perfect” has more the idea of complete or lacking nothing.  When we follow God’s will we are lacking nothing that we need.  This is important when you think about how the Devil tempted Eve into eating the fruit.  He got her to believe that God’s will wasn’t perfect (enough).  Of course the word acceptable like we already mentioned means that which is pleasing to God.  Our life and the results of our decisions become living proof to ourselves and to the people around us that God’s will is good and lacks nothing. 

So take time to scrutinize God’s Word and determine what is good and then live it out.  This will confirm that God knows what He is talking about.  Take time to pray about how to do that and for the strength to do it.  You will be a living example to others that the “sacrificial life” is truly life indeed.

So What is Wrong with Drugs?

So we come back to this question whether you ask it in regards to our society or in regards to being a Christian.  Why not just legalize all drugs?  In some ways legalization is a red-herring.  It sounds like an answer, but not really.  When drugs are “legalized” there will most likely be more laws on the books regarding their sale, distribution, and use (think in terms of “legal” alcohol).  It is legal to drive a car across town.  But don’t think for a second that legality solves all the problems of an issue.  Thus there will always be laws and legalizing drugs will not solve the problems that come with drugs.  The real question is, “What is good for a person,” and, especially for Christians, “What reflects the image of God that we see in Christ?”  Contrary to popular conception, Jesus would not be hanging out in some mother’s attic with his disciples smoking weed.  Why?

The first reason is that drugs affect the mind away from Christ.  The Spirit of God has always used His Word and the experiences in our life to transform our minds.  The life-giving method of God is to speak truth to people in the midst of their difficulties.  Drugs, however, debilitate a person’s ability to reason, and not just when you are high.  The mind-altering effects are both physical and logical.  Our life becomes fixated on the desires of our flesh rather than on the Spirit of God.  Now we need to also recognize that drugs can open our mind to spiritual experiences.  Throughout history many cultures have used drugs in order to make it easier to contact the spirit realm.  Here is the problem.  God does not use this method.  No holy prophet in the Bible ever used drugs in order to get a message from God.  This was a method used by the pagan religions with their fallen angel “gods.”  So even if you use drugs for a “spiritual” purpose, you will only connect with deceiving, lying spirits that seek to use you against Christ and His people.

Another aspect of this mind-altering effect is a false sense of euphoria.  Though a person may be able to “feel good” for a short time, it becomes a feeling that is harder and harder to achieve.  So you head down a path that destroys your ability to have a real life and allows you to have a temporary “feel good” moment in the midst of crushing pain and sorrow.  This is even worse than the picture in the movie “The Matrix.”  At least there they weren’t aware of their condition.  But, the person on drugs is continually trying to escape the increasing hell of their life.  On the flip side, God offers a person the ability to have peace and joy even in the face of the worst situations imaginable.  When Jesus went to the cross, he did not “feel good.”  But he did have clarity about what His actions would achieve.  He would be paving the way for relationships that He would have with millions in the future.  He faces the “bad feelings” of living for God in this wicked world, in order to receive the eternity of joy with new brothers and sisters.

Lastly drugs impair our ability to function.  We become less and less able to deal with life around us.  Even when a person joins up with a gang or group of like-minded friends, we may be able to get along for awhile.  But, in the end the drugs are sucking out your life like a vampire, and putting the poison of death into everything that you have.  If drugs only did this it would be reason enough to reject them.

In 1 Corinthians 6:12-13 we have a passage where Paul is responding to some statements that the Corinthians themselves had written in their letter to him.  The first statement from the Corinthians is “All things are lawful for me.”  I can only assume they are referring to the fact that they are no longer under the Law of Moses.  Thus in their mind they could do whatever they wanted as long as they called themselves Christians.  Instead of arguing about the lawfulness of what they were doing, Paul goes along with them.  Basically he says, “Yes, all things are lawful for you, but not all things are helpful (beneficial). “  He then states it again but differently.  “Yes, all things are lawful for you, but I will not be brought under the power of anything.”  So notice the two points Paul makes.  Basically he is pointing out that legality is itself a red herring.  Legality is moot for the Christian.  What is important is whether or not something is good for me (i.e. helps me be more like Jesus) and that it doesn’t enslave me.   You can argue about whether or not you are “addicted,” but being enslaved to something is not about just a physical need for something.  Drugs and the desire for their effects becomes a controlling thing in people’s lives.  You will find yourself rationalizing things that you would have never done before you started taking them.  Even if you start out trying to keep focused on God’s things, this will die off as you keep pushing away the Spirit of God.  When our police officers go into the homes of people who are trapped in a life of drugs, they witness that people are complete slaves to the drugs.  It becomes their god and they sacrifice everything (family, kids, jobs, etc…) in order to please it.

Galatians 6:6-7 says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap.  For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”  If we do not follow Christ we are actively destroying our life.  I end with these verses because this is really what it is all about: not being deceived.  Can we use drugs medicinally?  Of course, we can.  However, medicine should never become a controlling and addicting thing in our life.  Medicine is not given to people because they enjoy how it makes them feel.  Rather, it is taken to help restore something that is wrong in the body.  Thus we have a system of prescriptions from doctors and controls on drugs that can be beneficial if used correctly.  I do not have time to deal with the fact that not all medicines are as good as they purport due to the desire of drug companies to make money.

Quit asking yourself what is biblically legal and start asking what will make you more like Jesus.  If we are not becoming more like Jesus then we are decaying into the destruction of our life, and perhaps even our soul.  In this way drugs are just another rabbit trail that the Devil uses to side-track us from Jesus and towards destruction.

The world has gotten good at the physical side of helping people through withdrawals and detoxification.  However, it is has little to offer for the spiritual side of a person.  Even 12 step programs can be so watered down that the spiritual truth gets pushed out.  Your child or spouse cannot be your higher power.  You need Jesus in your life.  You need to be touched by God and made alive to His Holy Spirit.  The only way to truly be free in this life is to ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins and then trust the way that He has told us to live.  This includes the apostles that He authorized to go out and teach the nations how to follow him.  Blessings.

Under seige: Drugs