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Weekly Word

Entries in Deception (5)

Wednesday
Nov012017

Having Confidence at His Coming

1 John 2:24-29.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 29, 2017.

If Jesus were to return today would I be joyful without restraint, or would I be fearful with shame?  This is a powerful question.  The idea of facing Jesus (He who knows what is in a man) face to face can be intimidating.  Yet, it is important to recognize that God’s desire is not for this to be a scary and fearful thing.  Rather, He wants it to be a joyous event in which you can confidently come into the presence of Jesus, the One who paid the price for your sins.  He loves you and, whether it is at your death or the 2nd Coming, we need not fear that He will reject us.  The whole purpose of Jesus was to bring us into a close relationship with the Father, to make us a part of His family, and to cast out the fear of any rejection.  Now this is not a braggart’s confidence that we see in this world.  It is not a confidence built on our great self-attainment.  No, it is a confidence that is made of far stronger metal.  It is that which comes from an experience of the love of the Heavenly Father who as adopted us into His family.  I pray that you will allow the Holy Spirit to remove fear from your heart and replace it with a confidence in Him.

Let the Truth Abide in You

In verse 24 Paul has just finished warning believers of false teachers and even “antichrists” that would try to deceive them and lead them astray.  This verse is a conclusion to that section (“Therefore”).  Though John’s statement in verse 24 does not explicitly state what it is he wants them to have dwelling in them, the statements all around it leave no question that he is thinking of the truth they had received from the beginning.  It is interesting that believers are told to “let that (truth) abide in you…”  The truth of God comes into our hearts and naturally wants to dwell there and grow.  Thus Jesus used the parable of the seed of God’s Word being sown into the soil of people’s hearts.  Am I allowing that seed to take root and grow, as it will naturally do, or am I doing things that are adverse to this?  We can reject the Truth, but we can also displace it by filling our hearts and minds with the false-truths of this world.  Let us cling to the Truth of God.

John is writing to people of whom he is intimately aware of the Truth that they received “from the beginning.”  He knows that they received solid, undefiled truth.  However, over time they are being tempted by other so-called truths and twisting of what they knew.  Yet, Christianity is not just about receiving the Truth about life.  It is about receiving the revelation that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  He is the only way to the Father, and in Him Truth is a person, not just a statement of fact.  This connection between Jesus and the Truth must be understood by all His followers.  John sees this as so important that he ties our fellowship with Jesus and the Father to our holding on to the Truths about Him.  If the Truth of the Gospel (Who Jesus was and What He was doing) dwells in our hearts then we will abide in the Son and the Father.  The opposite is implied that if we let go of that Truth then we will no longer be dwelling in the Son and the Father.  To embrace the Gospel is more than embracing a set of propositions.  It is embracing a relationship with the only being of whom it can be said He is Truth.  To use another analogy that Jesus gave us in John 15, to believe the Truth of the Gospel is to connect to Jesus with a living relationship.  We draw life out of our relationship with Him.  You cannot have one without the other.  We cannot claim intimacy with the Son and Father, and yet toss aside the Truth which we received from the beginning.  As I said earlier, this statement is to people whom John knows well what it was they received.  The tragedy is that many in this world have received everything but the Truth.  Some are raised in atheism, and others in false religion, and others yet who are raised in perversions of Christianity.  These people should not hold on to what they received from the beginning.  The key is that we are holding on to the Truth that the Apostles of Jesus transmitted to us in voice and in writing, and refusing to be separated from them by any voices that have risen since then.  To remain in fellowship with Jesus is to hold fast to the teaching received from His apostles.  This cannot be avoided.

In verse 25 he reminds us that this is the promise that God gave us, eternal life.  Those who embrace the Truth about Jesus and the Truth of Jesus are now connected to eternal life.  When we speak of eternal life it is easy to focus solely on length of time.  It is true that eternal life is of unending duration.  However, if you read the passages of the Bible that speak of “eternal life” it will be clear that it is more about quality of life than it is about quantity.  We don’t just live, but we experience the very life of God (i.e. eternal life).  We live in a world that owes its existence to God and yet is separated from the eternal life of God.  It is dying even as it lives.  But in Christ we are living even as we die.  The eternal life that we are connected to is not intimidated by death, but in the end will swallow it up in victory.  This is the life that Christians can experience right now.  No, I won’t live forever in this mortal flesh, but I have a relationship with a kind of life that is greater than mortal death.  This life is extremely important and we need to live in Christ in order to experience it.  This world works daily to try and extend life, deferring the consequences of our fleshly desires.  Though we may open such a Pandora’s Box through technology, it will not give us the life that we desire.  It will only bring us to greater sin and sorrow.  Jesus is the only way to true life.  God’s plan will work, but man’s plan will only forge ever stronger chains for mankind.

Now verse 26 turns our attention back to those deceivers that would try to separate us from the Truth (i.e. the eternal life of the Son and the Father).  There are many deceivers today.  Some wear religious garb and give sermons on whatever day of the week they hold dear.  Others have websites that promise all manner of secret knowledge that will fill that sense of lacking that you have.  When I look at most of the TV and movie programming, the music, and books of this world, I see a continual onslaught of the idea that we can be good without having to believe in a God, Sin, and a Savior.  We are pointed to ourselves, or mankind as a whole, as the answer to fixing everything and having a great life.  We are encouraged to put our faith in mankind’s ability to achieve all this through the power of science and developing technologies.  Such deceivers, whether they know it or not, serve only one purpose: to separate us from the Truth, whether we have received it yet or not.  It is to separate us from a relationship with Jesus in which we experience eternal life in the now.  How are we to keep from falling to such deceptions?

John points to the anointing within all God’s children (vs. 27).  His main point is that you do not need some guru to come along and explain everything for you.  They already had Jesus and the Truth about Him.  They were not missing out on any special knowledge.  If you are a Christian, but feel that you are missing something, the answer is not to pursue information “out there.”  All you need to do is get back to the Truth and the Faith once and for all delivered unto the Saints, that is the Word of God.  When you are reading God’s Word and daily walking in a living relationship with Jesus, you are not missing anything.  Deceivers many claim to be Christ or to be from Christ, but none of them have come, riding on the clouds of heaven and descending to the Mt. of Olives.  Too many Christians are hungry for a miracle worker or a wise teacher, when we already have the anointing of God Himself, the Holy Spirit, dwelling within our life.  The metaphor of anointing reminds us of the special calling to which we are called.  “The anointing” points to the Holy Spirit coming into the life of a person in order to live for God and accomplish His business.  This Spirit dwells in believers and leads us to become more like Jesus. John’s point is not to say there should be no teachers.  They wouldn’t have come to know the Gospel without teachers and all churches had teachers in their midst.  But once you have come to know the Truth and have entered into relationship with Jesus through God’s Spirit, you have all that you need to be acceptable to God and live a full life.  You are not lacking anything.

When a person lives such a life they are ready for the return of Christ (vs. 28).  You can have confidence that you are ready for His return, a confidence born of the Holy Spirit and not the false spirit of this age.  The Pharisees had great confidence, but it was based upon their own ideas, and their own works.  Analyze your own confidence.  What is it based upon?  If it is something other than the witness of the Holy Spirit within you, and the Word of God, then you have a confidence that is like those Pharisees.  The Holy Spirit will lead us to put our confidence in Jesus and His work (past, present, and future) in our life.  That daily relationship of learning to take our feelings, desires, and hopes before Jesus, and learning to trust Him over them, is crucial to growing a proper confidence.  Those who are confident in Christ will rejoice at His coming.  But those who are confident in themselves and the things of this world will be ashamed.  Ashamed because they did not truly trust in Him, or ashamed because they deserted Him and lived for themselves.  Ashamed because they will be separated from Him and not have eternal life.  Now the words in verse 28 are literally, “and that we might not be made ashamed from Him.”  The preposition is often translated as before.  Though this is true, the preposition in the Greek actually emphasizes separation.  Such a person will not just be ashamed before Jesus, but also be separated from Jesus and His eternal life.

Are you ready for the return of Christ?  Will it be a time of rejoicing and celebration, or one of fear and shame?  If we have continued with Him through temptations, trials, and sufferings, then we will have nothing but a confident rejoicing when we come before Him.  It will be a final uniting with one who has helped us through all the good and the bad of this life, and more than that, the one who loved us enough to lay His life down for us.  Such a being you would never have to be afraid of unless you had deserted Him along the way.

Confidence at His Coming audio

Friday
Oct132017

The Cry of 'No H8'- II

Galatians 5:19-21; Proverbs 26:24-28; 1 Peter 4:7-8.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 08, 2017.

Last week we talked about the Christians duty to love their enemies and to reject hatred.  We are called to live our lives by the truth and the love of Jesus.  This is easier said than done when destructive events happen in the life of an individual or a group.  If we were to investigate the roots of those destructive events within the perpetrators, without doubt we would find hatred in all its forms.  Many events are physically destructive: bombings, shootings, kidnappings, etc.  But, hatred may also target a person for political destruction, relational destruction, destroying someone’s business life, or social standing within any group.  These things can be just as devastating in the life of those affected as if someone had tossed a bomb into our life.

Those who suffer at the hands of hate can easily give in to the desire of the heart to hate back and to get even.  Why does Jesus teach that this is wrong, and even further that we must love them?  Well, let’s go under the hood of hatred (so to speak) and walk through some of the biblical reasons why God is dead set against using hatred to accomplish justice.

Hatred is a work of the flesh

In Galatians 5:19-21 we are given a list that is referred to as “the works of the flesh.”  This list is contrasted with the “fruit of the Spirit.”  Hatred is in the first list, which is clearly not exhaustive.  Thus the source of hatred cannot be found in the Spirit of God.  It is found within the sinful nature of us humans.  We are the source.  It is easy to blame everything, but ourselves.  However, God’s Word does not leave that option open to us.

Last week we defined hate as an intense ill-will towards another person or group.  Though this is a motivation of the heart, it always leads to outward actions of some sort, even if it is merely avoidance.  So when a person first embraces the inner advances of hatred, it may seem innocent and justified at the time because we haven’t done anything, yet.  Human courts at this point in time do not hold people accountable for thoughts and feelings.  In fact it would be impossible to do without error at this time.  They are held accountable when the hatred breaks out into an illegal action.  Yet, God has gone on record that he will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ (Romans 2:16).  So we should not sit comfortably just because we “haven’t done anything.”  God calls us to a higher “righteousness” than not doing certain things.  Like a seed, hatred will not remain static.  It is extremely industrious and your flesh will keep pushing you until the wicked fruit of hatred is brought to maturity.

Now, the problem here cannot be solved with a law.  No law, whether from God, or mankind can get rid of all hatred.  We would have to get rid of all people.   Scientists are working on ways to figure out how to read people’s minds and thoughts.  But even if we were able to identify it with our technology, the truth is that all people at one time or another have thoughts or feelings of hatred.  There is much in our inner life that surface in our heart and yet we mentally reject as acceptable and something we want to embrace.  We would have to have a world where everyone is connected to an Artificial Intelligence that can alert the authorities to an outbreak of hatred within a person.  Such a world would be chaos instantly.  God’s Word does not point us back to the Law as a solution for our salvation.  The Law is helpful for helping us to see that we have problems.  But, it is powerless to help us heal or to give salvation.  At the best we can only cut off those actions of hate that rise above the surface.  However, the roots will grow increasingly large under the surface.  Your flesh wants to hate.  It will be drawn to that direction.  But, the Holy Spirit wants to lead you towards loving people in truth.  So the answer is to repent of our sins and turn to the Spirit of God for direction.  It requires saying, “No!” to our flesh and, “Yes!” to the Spirit of God.  Yet, even this is not the foundation of our salvation.  The foundation of our salvation is the fact that Jesus paid the price for our hatred and other sins at the cross.  Those who repent of their self-justified life and put their faith in Jesus have their guilt removed from them.  They are freed to follow the Holy Spirit and become progressively more like Jesus.  Now let’s look at a couple of proverbs to help us pull apart some of the inner workings of hatred.

Hatred deceives everyone

In Proverbs 26:24-28, we are reminded that hatred is deceptive.  When it happens in our heart, we embrace a life of deceiving others.  Because we fear others knowing what is in our heart and mind, we become deceptive in our life with others.  This can be simply for tactical advantage, or it can be because we know it is wrong and we fear others knowing about it.  Thus we are told that hatred masks itself or disguises itself.  We create a false persona towards those we hate, but it is often impossible to separate this false persona from the people we love.  Pretended love, pretended fellowship, pretended concern for truth, justice, and the good of all, are all deceits that make things worse for all.  Yet, it looks loving on the surface.

In verse 24 we are told that the hater “lays up deceit within himself.”  Hate is a growing thing that we can harbor in our heart.  Every day a person can be making more and more deposits of hateful thoughts and emotions.  You cannot harbor these things without deceiving yourself.  You may at first understand that there is something wrong with hating.  But if we allow it to remain and grow we will become hardened to love and become convinced of the “noble causes of justice” that our hatred drives us to pursue.

We are also told that those who plot the harm of others will eventually be caught in their own plots.  Like Haman in the book of Esther, they will be hung on the gallows that they made for someone else.  I know that there are people who are consumed with hate and seem to get away with it all the time.  They have mastered the art of hatred.  However, it will get them in the end.  Don’t let yourself be fooled.  If you pursue a life of ill-will towards another, no matter how justified, you will find yourself standing before a holy God who will be just as stern with you.  Hatred promised you justice, but didn’t tell you that you would also be hung on your own petard.

Hatred stirs up strife and discord

Another proverb about hate versus love is found in chapter 10, verse 12.  The Apostle Peter quotes part of this proverb in 1 Peter 4:7-8.  So we will look at both. Here is the proverb.  “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.”  Proverbs 10:12.  This statement about hate is very straightforward.  It will not leave well enough alone.  It stirs up strife and discord, first within the individual that gives in to it and second among those around us, who are often innocent bystanders.

Why is hatred so discordant?  It is because hatred has the ability to watch people like a hawk, and to watch the situation for any favorable edge to bring about the demise of another.  It seeks any occasion: of fault for accusation, of open ears for gossip, and of imagining the worst motives for others.  It does not remain solely focused on those who initially stirred it up within us.  Like a wounded animal, hate becomes a weapon and way of life that lashes out at anyone who gets too close.  Any person who is willing to listen becomes a sounding board for our inner discourse.  This litany of errors of the other person may have some truths in it, but hate drives us to propagandize such errors into far more than they usually are.  It always consumes us with the worst possible motives of our target.  In this sense hatred truly becomes neurotic.  For every time it is correct in its analysis, there are dozens of errors in our own thinking, and harsh judgments.

In this way hatred is the opposite of a peacemaker.  In the beatitudes Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the Sons of God.”  This will not be true for the person who embraces hate.  Instead of being a source of life and hope in a situation, the person of hate makes it worse and cuts off all hope of making peace.  They have become not like Christ, but more like the devil.  Now the passage in 1 Peter 4 only quotes the love side of this proverb.  He reminds believers that love covers a multitude of sins.  This is not the same as covering up sins.  This is not about avoidance, but about forgiveness.  Love forgives and moves on.  But hatred will never forgive and never moves on.  Peter warns believers that the end of all things is at hand, or near.  In other words, he is reminding them to love because the time of judgment is near.  Hatred makes us blind to our own coming judgment.  We can only see the judgment that we desire on the other person or group.  The judgment of God is coming upon this entire world, and we will want to be on the right side of that judgment.  The ends you were pursuing will not justify the means of hatred that you employed when you stand before Jesus.  Only the person who has trusted His way and followed the Spirit of God, who rejected hate and embraced love, who let the words of life flow through them to be a channel of the life of God, will be justified in that day.  Hatred blinds us to just how ugly our own sin is, and how dangerous a position we are in before God.  We become like the man, whom God forgave a gazillion sins, who then goes out to not forgive another who has sinned against us 100 times.  We undercut the mercy of God by our own lack of mercy.  It is only just that a person who has fed on hatred their whole life, be given hatred at the moment of their own judgment.

Peter also mentions the need for serious prayer.  The prayer is called serious in the sense that it is sober.  The restraint is in reference to our flesh and inner life.  God is not interested in prayer as a movement of your lips and the recitation of particular words.  He wants serious, sober prayers that are honestly wrestling with the inner life in response to the Word of God and the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  If you have been injured and hurt, do not embrace hurt.  Rather, through prayer, lay your petition before God.  Through prayer, calm your tumultuous heart so that you can talk with others about what has been done to you.  Through prayer, reject the tendrils of hate that seductively wrap themselves around your heart and let God’s Spirit replace it with His love.  Ask God to help you to guard your own heart and to love as He loved.  Trust completely in the justice that He has promised all who follow Him, rather than the deceptive promise that hatred gives to us.

No H8!-- II audio

Saturday
May062017

Rejecting Worldly Wisdom

1 Corinthians 3:18-23, and James 3:13-18.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on April 30, 2017.

Last week we talked about the spiritual powers behind the wisdom of this age and the tactical error they made in crucifying Jesus.  Today we are going to explore further the Holy Spirit’s injunction for believers in Jesus to reject this world’s wisdom and to embrace the wisdom of God.

Truly we live in a wonderful time technologically.  And yet, we also live in a horrible time in respect to the dangers that surround us from that same technology.  It seems apparent that as the good that technology can do for us grows, so the evil that it can do to us grows as well.  This direct proportionality cannot be avoided or sidelined as we broach the subject of wisdom.  Nuclear threats, cultural threats, government encroachment on freedoms, all of these dangers and more come from technology or are exacerbated by the technology at hand.  Thus, we need to understand that these passages, which talk about the wisdom of mankind and of the powers of this age, are just as relevant today as they were 2,000 years ago, even though their technology was quite primitive compared to ours.  As our technology increases, weaknesses within the mind and hearts of mankind will become more dangerous and our lives more fragile.  Thus it is critical for us to heed these warnings against worldly wisdom and the gracious offer of God’s wisdom, which is Jesus the Christ.

Christians can deceive themselves

Paul is writing to Christians in the Greek city of Corinth.  Just as Adam and Eve were pulled into rebellion against God through deception, so Paul warns believers to beware the deceptions found in the wisdom of this world.  In verse 18 the use of the word “seems” highlights the reality that most of what we call wisdom lies in the arena of what people think.  Many people seem wise and want to appear wise, but the underlying question is whether or not it is truly wisdom.  Thus the desire to be seen as wise is itself a trap that we must beware.  Thus Romans 1:22 says, “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…”  Now we are not just talking about being knowledgeable, or having great technology.  Wisdom is that aspect of knowing that informs what the next move should be.  Knowing determines how to do something, but wisdom informs whether it should be done or not.  Paul focuses on those who seem to be wise in this age.  They have learned to look wise among a particular people who have a particular world view.  He tells them that when you look wise in this world’s eyes then you are in danger of deceiving yourself.  If this age thinks you are wise then a big red flag should go up in our hearts.  We will talk about this more, but we do much damage to ourselves and others through trying to appear wise.

Paul challenges such desires and such wisdom by stating that we must first become a fool in order to become wise.  It is important to note that this is actually given in a command form.  He is calling for an about face for any Christians who appear to be wise according to the mindset of this world.  He is not encouraging Christians to do foolish things like drink and drive, or jump off tall buildings.  He is challenging believers to fully embrace the mindset and commands of Jesus (his wisdom).  The world will always see this as foolish.  Sure, at different times and in different places it may be in vogue to have a little bit of Jesus adorning our outward appearance.  But at its heart this world rejects the wisdom of Jesus.  Half embraces of Jesus are okay, sometimes.  But the wise of this world always take the idea of Jesus captive to their own reason, instead of becoming captive to the will of Jesus themselves.  To follow Jesus fully will always be thought foolish by this world and by worldly Christians, whether you are in the U.S.A. or in Iran.

In verse 19 the preposition “with” emphasizes being in the presence of God.  This world claims great wisdom, but in God’s eyes they are foolish, and when they stand before Him in eternity they will be made aware of that folly.  How can we claim to be in the presence of God while holding on to worldly wisdom?  Christians must quit trying to look wise to the world and think more about how they appear to our Lord Jesus. 

Now Paul gives two quotes.  The first is from Job 5:13, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness.”  The emphasis is on those who abandon the wisdom of God and follow the wisdom of this world.  This false wisdom always leads to some kind of trap in which we are forced to face our folly.  In this trap we are forced to make a decision.  Either we will hold on to the wisdom of this world, or we will repent and be saved.  A great illustration of this in the Bible is Haman in the story of Esther.  He hated Mordecai and the Jews.  Thus he used his great wisdom and skill to try and have him killed along with his people.  Haman had a huge gallows built on which he sought to hang Mordecai.  The story ends with Haman being hung on his own gallows by decree of the King of Persia.  We are not always trapped so drastically in this life.  But no matter what, when we die and stand before God, we will all face such a drastic moment.  Will the King of the heavens and the earth think I have done wisely or will He send me into judgment?

Now the second quote is from Psalm 94:11, “The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”  This psalm is a cry for God’s judgment to take down the wicked (the wise of this world) and to raise up the righteous.  When it says that the thoughts of the wise are “futile,” the word used is the same one used in the famous line from Ecclesiates, “Vanity, Vanity…”  The word has the idea of emptiness, nothingness, meaninglessness.  The thoughts of the wise end up empty, no matter how full they appear for the time.  Solomon,  the wisest man in the world in his day, realized that without God all our wisdom is vanity.

We should not boast in people

Starting in verse 21, Paul brings this to his point in hand.  The Corinthian’s worldly wisdom had led them to boast in certain Christian teachers over the top of the Apostle Paul.  Their desire to seem wise within the Greek world affected their ability to receive the wisdom that Paul was giving them.  They would compare the looks, rhetorical ability, and charisma of these teachers, instead of comparing them to the Scriptures.

Paul approaches this problem by pointing out the foolishness of it.  God is the one who had given the Corinthians all of these teachers: Paul, Peter, Apollos, and others.  God must have had a wise purpose in sending these very different men, who had varying appeal to the wisdom of this world.  When Paul says in verse 21 that “all things are yours,” he means that they were holding on to one person while diminishing and pushing away others.  Yet, God intended for them to have them all.  This is very typical today.  We gravitate towards those teachers who make us feel good and wise and push aside those teachers who don’t.  This is a foolish kind of wisdom that will lead to our own spiritual destruction if we are not careful.  It is bad enough when we boast in one godly teacher over another.  But such a mindset sets us up for being caught up with false teaching.  What if the devil comes along and is the essence of worldly wisdom?  Will we not be easily caught up and trapped in his nets of reason and shackled in his chains of logic?  Thus, they don’t belong to them in the sense that they can do anything they want with them.  He means that they were all given for their benefit.  So their "choosiness" was resisting the wisdom of God.

In verse 23, Paul takes this thought full circle.  God has given the believer everything for their good, but everything (including the believer) belongs to Christ and Christ belongs to God the Father.  Thus everything comes from God and belongs to Him.  This calls for humility under God’s wisdom.  We don’t always know why He has sent certain gifts into our life, yet it is not mine to receive or reject as I wish.  This is because our life belongs to God.  We are to live it for His glory and purposes.  We need to get our eyes off of people, what they think about us and what we think about them.  This is a trap in which we will find ourselves securely fastened.  Only by the grace of God will we be delivered.

We must embrace the true wisdom of God

Now, let’s go to James 3:13-18.  James is dealing with the same tendency of believers to use the wisdom of this world instead of the wisdom of Jesus.  These Christian groups were breaking out into squabbles and fighting amongst themselves.  Thus his letter serves to rebuke and instruct them.

The question in verse 13, “Who is wise and understanding among you,” opens up a world of issues.  Just like Paul using the word “seems,” so James is pointing out this area of our thinking.  The whole problem in the area of wisdom is exactly summed up in who would raise their hand to such a question?  The question itself highlights the problem.  We all think we are wise and tend to use worldly wisdom in who we model ourselves after.  When we operate from a worry of what other think, we are on a sinking ship that is sailing to destruction.  Yet, this question is also a challenge.  If you really want to be wise, then listen to the wisdom that God has given James for you.

If you are really wise then prove it by your good conduct and meekness.  Fighting, slandering, and boasting are not good conduct.  The New Testament is filled with the apostle’s descriptions of what is good conduct versus what is evil conduct.  We cannot be doing bad things to others and claim to be wise.  Such wisdom is worldly and rejected by God.  Not only must we do the wise thing, but it should be done in a wise way, meekly.  Meekness is a gentle spirit and a mild disposition.  This is the opposite of a person who is fighting and squabbling with others.  It is hard to be meek in the best of situations.  But it is even harder when you know you have the wisdom of God and others are rejecting it.  God does not want us to force His ways on others.  He does not want us to toss meekness out the window and focus merely on results.  Instead He wants us to speak the truth in love with a gentle spirit, with the Holy Spirit filling and enabling us.

In verse 14 James points out that if we persist in such self-seeking and envious “wisdom,” then we are lying against the truth.  God says we are not wise to do such things, and yet we keep doing them and calling ourselves wise.  Christians and their lives should agree with God and not lie against Him.  In the end our self wisdom maligns the Truth and the Character of God.  We can become a reason why people reject Him.  They already have worldly wisdom.  Why would they also embrace Jesus?  The truth is that Christians cannot follow the wisdom of Jesus and the wisdom of this world.  To become a Christian is to reject the world’s wisdom, to pick up our cross, and to follow Him.

In verses 15-16, James points out that the wisdom of this age does not come from God.  It has an earthly source; that is it is only focused on matters of the earth.  It also has a sensual source.  The word translated here focuses on those senses of our flesh versus what the Spirit of God desires.  Lastly it has a demonic source.  Instead of wisdom coming down from heaven, it is folly masquerading as wisdom and coming up from the demons of hell.  So James reminds us of our three greatest enemies: the world, our own flesh, and the devil.  Christians must not live by a wisdom that is derived from such sources, and don’t be deceived.  The wisdom of this world is derived by these sources.  I can’t follow Jesus and cling to demonic wisdom.  I will love one and hate the other, no matter how long I try to walk the fence.  The true origin of what masquerades as wisdom in our day and age is found here.

In verse 17 and 18, James turns to God’s wisdom.  God’s wisdom is evident and can be easily judged by us and others.  He says that it is pure.  It is unadulterated in its desires and motives.  It is not mixed with selfish motives, but simply follows the Spirit of God.  It is also peaceable and gentle.  Thus our choice to strive with one another and push our own interests above others is rebuked.  The wisdom of God is willing to yield.  Instead of fighting with another to win the argument, we step back and leave room for the Holy Spirit to work.  It is full of mercy as opposed to harsh judgment, and it is full of good fruit.  This is a metaphor for the good conduct mentioned earlier.  Lastly, God’s wisdom is without favoritism and hypocrisy.  It is easy to see that each of these points is obvious, and yet they are easily failed.  Our wisdom pulls us away from what God has made obvious.

James ends with the point that the person, who has the wisdom of God, will sow the truth about Jesus peacefully so as to bring peace to them.  The nature of a seed is that we put it in the soil and then let nature take its course.  Too often we forget this wisdom of God.  May the Lord help us to see the ways in which we have held on to the wisdom of our modern age in resistance to the true wisdom of God.

Rejecting Worldly Wisdom audio

Tuesday
Nov082016

Society under Siege: Christian Persecution

John 15:18-20; 16:1-4.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 6, 2016. 

In A.D. 1560 English preacher and historian John Foxe published a book called Book of Martyrs.  He felt that it was important for Christians to understand the history of persecution and those who had given their lives for the sake of serving Jesus.  Let me quote from the first paragraphs of this book.

“By the time the apostle John put the finishing touches on the book of Revelation, he alone among the original disciples remained alive.  All of them suffered for Christ, with most dying violently for His sake.  The witnesses of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ willingly exchanged their lives for the high privilege of declaring that life-transforming miracle.  As has often been pointed out, people don’t usually endure torture and painful death for something they know to be a lie.  Those who told the world, “He is risen!” stood by their claim in the face of threats, suffering, and death.  Their examples in dying left a lasting legacy.  They set a high bar of faithfulness for generations to come...  Make no mistake; the shoot that grew from the root of Jesse was abundantly watered by the blood of the martyrs, some whose names we are honored to know; others whose stories wait to be told in the great account of God’s ways in the throne room of heaven.”

Starting with Stephen, John Foxe described many stories down through the centuries up to his current time in the 1500’s.  The Christian martyrs were only stepping into a long line of righteous people down through the ages (starting with Abel) who paid with their lives for believing and living for God.  They were hated without a cause.  If you are going to try and follow Jesus then you need to come to grips with the reality that those who have chosen wickedness have always sought to shut up and kill the righteous.  This has not changed in the “modern age” of today.

The World Hates Followers of Jesus

In John 15 we are given an account in which Jesus described what was lying ahead for his followers.  In it Jesus refers to “the world.”  Though we don’t have time to do a deep study on this term, suffice it to say that sometimes the word can refer to the globe itself and sometimes it can refer to most of the people of the earth.  However, in the New Testament the phrase is often used in a different way as Jesus does in this chapter.  Here Jesus uses it to describe a global system of thinking and living in this world that has been developed and is controlled by wicked, spiritual beings that are in league with Satan.  Thus there is a spiritual dynamic that has caused the shape of the world’s governments, cultures, economies, and people.  All of these are by in large under the sway of these spiritual beings.  They are able to do it through their twisted teachings and ideas.  When persecution comes to believers, it is always at the hand of an individual or group of humans.  But, whether knowingly or unknowingly, they are merely the tip of the spear. 

It has always been understood that the Gospel of Jesus is a light to those who have been living in the darkness of ignorance created by these spiritual forces.  By the Gospel’s light, humans can be called out of bondage and slavery to this world system and brought into the kingdom of Christ.  Thus the Church is a divine rescue mission, much like that of Desmond Doss portrayed in the new movie “Hacksaw Ridge.”  Though his battalion had been obliterated by the Japanese, he continued to go back into danger to save the wounded.  He stated that he kept praying each time he went back out, “Lord, help me get one more, just one more!”  Jesus is not telling us that the world hates us in order to make us hate people.  Rather, he wants us to understand completely what we will run into while we try to save people.  It will be a war-zone.  Thus Jesus commands His followers, “Love your enemies.”  May we have the same heart of courage that Desmond Doss had as we go back into this world system each day.

Why does Jesus use the conditional “if” in verse 18?  It can’t be because he is not sure that there will be persecution.  He makes that abundantly clear later.  It seems that the conditional is used because not all believers will have the same experience.  The hatred of this world is not in question.  What is in question, is the how and degree of hatred we will encounter.  Depending on your time and place of living, you will encounter resistance that goes from mild, passive aggression all the way to an in-your-face brutal attack.  Here in the United States of America we have been very sheltered.  But across the world Christians suffer severe brutality at the hands of people who are caught up in this world system.  It would be easy to think of ourselves as the blessed ones.  But, the truth is that the Church is always most dangerous to the spiritual enemy when it is being persecuted.  It is always more vibrant and capable of displaying Christ when it is openly attacked.  Much like Samson, we can find ourselves without power and blinded.  But the grace of God will always work powerfully through the repentant one.

The hatred of the world system is not really against Christians. Jesus highlights that the source of the hatred is because Jesus has chosen us out of the world.  The choice of Jesus marks believers.  They become targets to those spiritual beings that hate Christ and any who would dare follow Him.  Jesus was the first man to live perfectly outside of this world system.  He began a divine rescue mission in Israel that has gone to the ends of the earth.  This counter attack has raised the hackles of these wicked, spiritual powers.  Their precious system of bondage and control is threatened by those who follow Jesus.  Many persecutors don’t even understand their own hatred because it has a spiritual source.  That is why the unswerving faith of many martyrs has led to the conversion of some who tormented them.  It is only through Christ that we can tell someone who threatens our life, “You can cut me into a million pieces.  But, each one of them will cry out, “Jesus loves you!”  Thus Jesus reminds us that we cannot be greater than our master.  If we truly follow Jesus then we will be mistreated by most and only loved by some.  If we make avoiding persecution our goal then we will veer off the path that Jesus has blazed before us.  Thus His words, “Pick up your cross and follow me!” are a statement that implies that there is a certain amount of persecution ahead of all who dare follow him.

The World Hates God the Father

The world not only hates Jesus, but in verse 21 and following we see that it actually hates God the Father too.  This is a critical point.  The Pharisees claimed that they loved the Father and that was why they put Jesus to death.  Of course this same excuse has been used down through history.  Religious people often persecute others in the name of God.  This doesn’t make it right.  Nor does it make Christianity (following Jesus) wrong, either.  Jesus tells us that the world actually doesn’t know the Father.  Now that would be one thing if Jesus were just talking about the Romans and other nations outside of Israel.  But Jesus is talking even about the leaders of Israel.  For all of God’s revelation through Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets, Israel still had no clue what God was really like.  The problem does not lie in God.  The problem lies in us.

Think about Noah and his family after the flood.  They all know the truth about the ancient world and what God has said and done.  But within 100 years their grandchildren are being led by Nimrod to try and connect to the wicked “gods” of the pre-flood era at Babel (Babel means Gate of God in their language).  Nimrod led his generation to rebel against the God of heaven and join in league with Satan.  Why?  He had been spiritually deceived by those evil spirits.  They always get into people’s minds and lie about the Creator in order to get humans to leave the freedom of Christ and come into the system of bondage and slavery that Jesus called “the world.”  Thus the Jews in the days of Jesus had the truth at one time, and yet, little by little, they had rejected the heart of what the Bible was saying and instead recreated God in their own image.  Thus multitudes had grown up in a system of ignorance and darkness.  Their actions proved that they didn’t really know God.  Otherwise they would act like Him and not like Satan. 

A part of you may protest that there isn’t just one system in this world.  It is true that there are many different cultures, religions, philosophies, etc. in this world.  On the surface they may all look vastly different.  Yet, they do have one thing in common; they all reject the truth of God and supplant it with wisdom supplied by these fallen, wicked, spiritual powers.  The deception is that you think you are different.  The Pharisees thought they were different than the Romans.  When in fact, they were connected to the same deceiving, lying spirits.  Jesus was a divine litmus test to show Israel and the rest of the world this principle.  Litmus paper has a property that it will change colors to show whether the solution you put it in is acidic, basic, or water.  All of the solutions look the same.  But when you dip in the litmus paper, the truth is known.  Thus God sent Jesus into a “Holier than thou” culture to show it that they were just as acidic as the Romans.  In His grace, God gives moments of clarity to a nation so that they can see the truth of what they have been choosing.  Don’t choose the world.  Choose to follow Jesus regardless of the fall-out.  The cross itself is proof of God’s love for sinners who are in bondage.  It is proof of the righteousness of Jesus, and the way that we should go.  Whose side are you on?

In verse 24 Jesus points out that because of what he did, they would be without excuse. God does not hold us accountable for what we do not know.  But He is faithful to put truth in front of us throughout our life.  In that case, we know far more than we would like to be accountable for.  If we reject God’s truth then we become accountable.  Today the world has had nearly 2000 years of the grace of Jesus demonstrated to it.  As we approach the Day of Judgment, we must see that the world is without excuse.  That is why in Acts 2:40 the apostle Peter proclaimed, “Save yourself from this crooked generation!”  Are we not just as perverse and twisted as they?  Is not the nature of mankind becoming more and more twisted every day?  Instead of becoming like this world we must learn to flee the destruction and run into Jesus.  Put your trust in Him today.  Otherwise, you will only perish under judgment without excuse.

The World has been Deceived

I will finish by looking at the first part of John chapter 16.  There Jesus reveals the deception that the people of the world are under.  Jesus tells them that the day will come that they will be kicked out of the synagogues (that is the Jewish version of a church) and they will be put to death, all in the name of God.  You see the leaders of the Jewish religion were deceived.  Do you not see that even Christianity itself is just another useless religion if it doesn’t actually follow Jesus?  Religion that is not connected to God can only destroy your soul.  Why?  It does so because at its root we are deceived away from Christ by those Spiritual Powers that rule this world.  Yes, the Pharisees were “good” Jews by the definitions of their “world.”  Many Christian leaders are “good” by the definitions of the Church system today.  I tell you that Jesus knows these problems.  He has true leaders and true Churches that are following Him.  It is only by following the ways of Jesus and the Spirit of God that we can be saved from this world system.  Otherwise, you will be sucked into a delusion that has been tailor-made for you.

If you are a Christian today, you need to stop playing any games with God.  It is not about your denomination.  It is not about everybody having to believe everything that you do.  Yet, at the same time we have to quit playing the game of “Don’t say anything to disturb my precious beliefs, or I’ll kill you.”  We may not actually say that last part, but it describes what is often in the heart of people who have become religious instead of becoming like Jesus.

Am I following the true Jesus, or am I following a cardboard cut-out Jesus?  Maybe I am following a bobble-head Jesus that smiles and always gives the thumbs up sign.  These “false” Christs cannot save us.  When you are in the middle of severe persecution, you will need something far more substantial than that.  Thus Jesus warned us ahead of time, so that we could know that we are on the right path when persecution comes our way.  It may not be what we want, and we should never romanticize persecution.  Christians in the Middle East are at the ends of themselves and what is happening to them is grossly evil.  Yet, when we find ourselves in the face of great persecution, may we pray, “Lord, help me save one more, just one more!”

Christian Persecution audio