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Weekly Word

Entries in Destruction (3)

Friday
Nov272015

The Wisdom Behind Contentment

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What would I do with them?”

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

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

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

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

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

Some Are Not Content With God’s Word

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

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

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

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

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

The Root of Discontent Is Exposed

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

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

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

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

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

Contentment mp3

Tuesday
Aug262014

Misunderstanding Greatness

Luke 9 is filled with situations that deal with the issue of greatness: the greatness of Jesus, the greatness of his disciples, and the world’s idea of what greatness means.  Today’s passage is Luke 9:51-56 and focuses on Jesus being rejected by a Samaritan village.  When Jesus is rejected several of the disciples want to destroy the village.  This story forces us to ask the question, “How should a great person react to rejection?”  Isn’t greatness defined by how many people receive you?  In truth, Jesus was great.  The crowds initially flocked to him for self-interest.  But, the closer he came to the cross the fewer people there were around him.  So let’s look at this passage.

The Resolution of Jesus

It says in verse 51 that when Jesus knew it was time to be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.  This Hebrew idiom of setting ones face towards something is a picture of resolve.  If you want to go somewhere you first turn yourself in that direction.  Christ intentionally headed towards Jerusalem and his crucifixion.  It was the next major stop along his destination of sitting at the right hand of the Father.  However, this Samaritan village was along the way.

Now let me just point out that when it says Jesus was to be received up (also to be taken up) it is pointing to the ascension into heaven.  This same word is used in 1 Timothy 3:16, “He was…taken up into glory.”  It is easy sometimes to know the wonderful things ahead of ourselves and not pay attention to the difficult things that lie in the path to it.  Jesus is headed towards ascension, but rejection and crucifixion lie on the path to it.  It takes firm resolve and a steadfast spirit to stay on such a path.  In order to be glorified our Lord must first be killed.  He bravely marches towards his death because he knows it is a necessary step towards the heavenly work he is doing now.  If he is not crucified and resurrected, then he will not be able to be that high priest who intercedes for us before the Father.  Thus, it is important for us, as believers in Jesus, to understand the purpose of God in this day and age.  We have a glorious future ahead of us that God has promised.  And yet, there are many difficult things that we will encounter throughout our life on our way to that glory.  We may not understand all that they are as Christ did.  However, we must prepare ourselves to be resolute and steadfast.  I have to learn to firmly march towards things that I do not want to deal with in order to reach the good things that God has for me on the other side.

A Samaritan Village Rejects Jesus

Though John 4 records the Samaritan village of Sychar receiving Jesus, here we have the opposite.  As Jesus is headed towards Jerusalem, certain ones are sent ahead to prepare a place to stop, rest, eat, and most likely minister as well.  This would prevent a situation where they all arrive weary and hungry while someone looks for a place to stay.  Plus, it would enable the word to get out to the surrounding area that Jesus would be there.  He could minister to far more that way.  Yet, at some point, the destination of Jesus comes up and the villagers are not happy.  Jesus is headed to Jerusalem.

The racial and religious difference between the Samaritans and the Jews comes to a head here.  The wall of hostility between the two was because of the attitudes of both sides.  They were willing to embrace Messiah if he promoted their side of the religious argument.  Of course Jesus was not a partisan in this debate.  He pointed out the errors of the Samaritans and the Jews.  In fact, the religious Jews were rejecting Jesus for many of the same reasons.  He wasn’t supporting their view.

Now it is most likely that it was the elders of the village who were standing in the way of Jesus staying there.  Either way, the effect of that decision is that they will miss out on a blessing.  The blessing of healings, being set free from sin, and salvation, could have come to this village.  Pride and stubbornness often cause us to miss out on blessings that God has for us.  He is not going to force them upon us.  Yet, we push them away because of things we are not willing to experience.  Are you so tied up in the interpretations and traditions of your ancestors that you are missing what God is trying to do today?  Even the secular world has its own traditions and views of life.  Yet, whether for religious or non-religious reasons, our pride and stubbornness can wall us off from God’s blessing.

James And John Rebuked

James and John’s violent reaction to the offense of rejection is rebuked by Jesus.  But let’s look a little deeper here.  Why would James and John be so offended that they want to destroy the village?  We are given no description of what is going on inside of James and John.  However in Mark 3:17 we are told that Jesus had nicknamed these two, “Sons of Thunder.”  They both seem to have had stormy, quick tempered personalities.  We definitely see such here.  There is probably some bigotry going on here as well.  Jesus had been rejected in other places too.  But this Samaritan village receives their greater wrath.

Either way, James and John ask Jesus if they can call down fire from heaven and destroy the village.  Yes, they were probably offended on behalf of Jesus.  But they were men just like you and I.  They were offended on their own behalf too.  They don’t want to scare the villagers, or give them a sign to impress them.  Rather, they want to destroy them.  They ask Jesus because he is the master and because it is in keeping with what happened earlier in Luke 9.  Jesus had given his disciples authority to heal, cast out demons, and proclaim the arrival of the Kingdom of God.  He hadn’t given them authority to do this.  Thus they are more than asking permission.  They don’t have the ability to bring fire from heaven.  They are asking for God to back up their pronouncement.  Have you ever prayed such a prayer?  “Lord, give me the power and strength to crush and destroy those who stand against me!”  We need only look at how our Lord responded to those who stood against him to know his response to us.

Now the newer translations only say that Jesus rebuked them and they left.  This has to do with the fact that when the older translations were done we didn’t have all the manuscripts we do today.  It seems that early on some notes were added (whether by Luke or others we do not know) to explain further. 

So, the words “like Elijah” appear to have been inserted.  This explains the reason the disciples would have thought of such a drastic action.  They are clearly thinking back to the story of the prophet Elijah in 2 Kings 1.  After Ahab’s death, Ahaziah ruled.  One day he falls and is injured.  So he sends messengers to the false god Baal-Zebub in the Philistine city of Ekron for a prophetic word concerning whether he would recover or not.  Elijah intercepts the messengers and tells them to tell Ahaziah that he is going to die.  When Ahaziah hears the news he is angry and sends 50 troops out to capture Elijah.  The captain of the troops refers to Elijah as “man of God.”  To which Elijah responds, “If I am a man of God then may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.”  Fire does come down from heaven.  Ahaziah sends out another 50 men with the same results again: fire comes down and consumes them all.  When Ahaziah sends out a third group of fifty soldiers, the captain is a humble man.  He tells Elijah why he has been sent but also begs for his life and the life of his men.  Elijah then relents and goes with him.  In this story Elijah represents God’s Law and is not going to be killed by Israel’s king.  When we approach God in arrogance and the might of men we can only expect to be judged by His law. But when the man approached in humility and begged for grace, he was received.

Now that situation is very different from the Samaritan village.  We can be too quick to use examples of godly men for our own justification.  Christ had been rejected before and no such thing was ever encouraged.  He had told them when he sent them out that if they are rejected they are to shake the dust off of their feet and move on.  In the case of Elijah they sought to apprehend the man of God outside of God’s will.  But, here they do not want to apprehend Jesus.  They are simply saying, “Go somewhere else.”

Jesus rebukes this attitude.  Whether these words were added or not, anyone who has studied the teachings of Jesus knows that this is exactly the reason he would rebuke them.  The spirit of Christ was not motivating them to destroy the villagers, but rather it was the spirit of Satan.  What manner of spirit am I?  That is a powerful question.  The Bible says in Proverbs 3:11-12, “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor detest His correction; for whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.”  They wanted to judge quickly out of hurt pride and revenge.  This is not how God judges mankind.  When God’s judgment comes it will not come out of pride and hurt.  It will come from a pure holy understanding that nothing more can be done to reason with those who have chosen rebellion.

Even the teachings of Christ stand in opposition to this vengeful request.  Love your enemies.  Do good to those who do you wrong.  Bless them that curse you.  Jesus commands this, not because it is okay.  But, he commands it precisely because the long suffering judgment of God has been appointed for a specific day and it will come upon them.  This is the day of God’s grace.  This is the day where God wrestles with man and cries out, “Why will you die?  Come let us reason!”  The spirit of this world is quick to judge and quick to destroy.  But, the Spirit of God is slow to judge in order to leave room for repentance.

Thus Jesus rebukes his disciples because he is here to save people not destroy.  It is impossible for fallen men to perfectly perform the judgment of God.  Only Jesus can do that.  He is the one whom God will send to judge the world and many will be destroyed in that judgment.  Judgment is final and we are too quick to pronounce eternal judgments.  There is no overturning it and no coming back from it.  Thus God is slow to judge.  Don’t let your emotions misrepresent God.  We too often get God’s greatness mixed up with our own.  Jesus says to us, “Pick up your cross and follow me.”  This will take a steadfast resolve and a humble understanding of what a great person does when they are rejected. 

Misunderstanding Greatness Audio

Tuesday
Aug212012

No Peace For The Wicked

Though Jesus has given his peace to his followers, this does not mean that the earth itself will experience peace.  We have to bear in mind that this is a world in rebellion against God.  Yes, Jesus provides peace.  But it is peace with those who embrace him.  Just as Israel rejected Jesus, so the nations today reject Jesus.  There is no place for Jesus in their plans and the only reason their politics make room for him is to get his the votes of his people.  This is precisely why this world cannot create a lasting peace.  When you reject the Prince of Peace then you forfeit its presence.

The believers in the Greek city of Thessalonica were concerned about the timing of the Day of the Lord.  This was a technical phrase that the prophets used to refer to a day when God comes down to judge all the nations of the world and set up his own kingdom.  Paul had taught the Thessalonians that Jesus would return a second time and when he did he would judge the nations.  However in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, Paul basically pushes past the question of when the second coming will happen and moves onto more important matters.  So here is the first main point.

The World Will Not Be Expecting It When God’s Judgment Comes

In verse one Paul quickly dismisses the timing issue.  In short we really don’t need to know what date Jesus is coming back.  However, in verse two he turns to how it will come upon the world, “like a thief in the night.”  Then in verse three he lays out more specifics of how it will come upon the world.  This world will be caught by surprise even though prophets, the church and Jesus have warned that judgment is coming.  In Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus warned over and over again that his coming would be unexpected.  In fact, it won’t just be unexpected by the world but it will also come at a time that even Christians wouldn’t think (Mt. 24:36,44).  Thus he tells his followers to watch and always be ready so that the day doesn’t take them by surprise.  It will be a surprise in the sense of the timing.  But it shouldn’t be a surprise for believers in the sense that they won’t be ready.  Are you ready?

The reason the timing is not important is because it is better for us not to know.  If we knew a time then the generations before would be lazier and the witness of the gospel would be impacted.  God’s wisdom desires that each generation live ready for the coming judgment.

Paul gives a word picture of a thief in the night.  Jesus will come like a thief in the night.  Now Jesus is not a bad thief.  However in both situations if you are not ready then you stand to lose all that you have.  This world hasn’t given a second thought about the coming of Jesus.  It has plowed on amassing wealth, power, projects and knowledge.  However, when Jesus comes back all of this will be lost and for nothing.  Thus it will be like a thief.  His coming will ruin all their hopes.

We are receiving further warnings today.  First the gospel has practically gone to all the nations.  Also, we see a growing apostasy from the truth within the church.  Also, we see a continual increase of wickedness in all nations of the world.

The World Will Claim That Peace And Safety Have Come.

Everyone claims that they have the answer for peace.  The Muslims say that they will bring peace when the West is deposed and everyone agrees with them.  The West says that it will bring peace through its philosophical reasonings.  Whether religions or nations, there are many vying philosophies that claim to be an answer for mankind.  Will such a peace ever be created?  In verse 3 Paul points to the fact that the world will say, “Peace and Safety!”  Notice it is not clear whether they are saying it has been obtained or that it is within their grasp.  Perhaps like Neville Chamberlain in WWII they have achieved peace on paper.  Regardless, this declaration of peace and safety will trigger destruction.  Think of the sadness of this predicament.  The world rejects God in order to create its own safety and peace.  However,  just when they think they have achieved it, boom!  The rug is pulled out from under them, which leads us to the last point.

The World Will Instead Experience Ruin And Destruction

The collapse of the imagined peace will be the destruction of the nations and all their great plans.  This destruction will be a mixture of man-caused things and God-caused things.

Here Paul inserts another word picture.  A pregnant woman who begins to have labor pains has been lived and watched ever since the beginning.  Paul says that the destruction will come like labor pains upon a woman.  Thus the suddenness is more about the beginning rather than the duration.  It begins suddenly but lasts longer than a second.  Second of all, the pains increase with intensity as they decrease in the amount of time in between them.  So the pains come quicker and quicker and become harder and harder.  However, the world is not giving birth to something good.  It is giving birth to its own destruction and judgment.  Does it not seem, in this day and age, that major disasters and pains on the earth are coming quicker and quicker?  Does it not see, today, that they are also becoming worse and worse?  Isn’t it time to rebel against the rebellion before it is too late?

Isaiah 57:19-21 says, “’I create the fruit of the lips: Peace, peace to him who is far off and to him who is near,’ says the Lord, ‘And I will heal him.’  But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.  ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked.’”

The message of Christ is peace, just as the angels proclaimed at his birth: “peace on earth goodwill towards men.”  However, this peace has been rejected by the world and cast aside.  Thus God offers peace to him who is near and him who is far off.  Basically that means anybody.  But to the wicked, those who reject this offer and persist in their own way, there can be no peace.

If you desire peace today then you are going to have to save yourself from this wicked generation.  You are going to have to leave the rebellion behind, walk away from the revolution, and turn back in repentance towards God.  The last words Paul gives are serious: “They shall not escape.”  Think about the futility of that statement.  No matter what this world tries it is all impotent to change the future we are headed towards.  Peace will only come when Jesus is ruling on this earth.  The fact that he isn’t here yet means that grace is still available for us and for the lost.  Do we even care?  Just know this.  Jesus cared and if we love him we will care too.

 

No Peace Wicked audio