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Weekly Word

Entries in Humility (10)

Monday
Dec112017

Confrontation of a False God-II

1 Kings 18:30-39.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 10, 2017.

Last week we saw how the prophets of Baal, a false god of the Canaanites, were unable to get an answer of fire from the heavens.  Today we will look at Elijah’s turn, but in truth it is the One, True God’s turn to prove who He is.  As the day is well past, Elijah steps forward and starts the process of setting up the sacrifice, so that he can call upon the God of Israel to show Himself to the people watching.

Israel is drawn back to God

Several phrases throughout this passage make it clear that God does not want to “wow” the crowd.  Rather, He desires to draw Israel back to Him.  We see this in Elijah’s initial address for them to “come near” and also in Elijah’s prayer that Israel would understand that God is turning their hearts back to Him.  This is an important theme throughout the Bible.  Sin has separated man from God, but God calls out to mankind to draw near to Him through His sacrifice, Jesus the Christ.  Every time a person turns to the Lord in repentance, or a group of people turn back to Him in revival, it always begins with the grace of God turning our hearts and calling us to Him.  Of course people must respond.  God will not force people to come back to Him.  But it always starts with His grace to make it possible.  This call comes through the prophet of Elijah.  Come near, and see what God will do.  They deserved judgment for abandoning God and worshipping Baal.  But, instead, God is going to give a great demonstration of His power to them, while calling them back to Him.  Elijah is not the only prophet whom God did this through.

This same theme is highlighted by Jesus and His Apostles after Him.  Let us draw near to the throne of God for mercy.  In John 7:37-38 we see, “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”  Also, in Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says, “Come to Me, all of you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  The Spirit of God is continually calling us to draw near to Him.  He wants to satiate our thirst and give us relief from the burden of our sins.  But do we hear him?  And, better yet, do we respond to Him?  He calls us near so that we can experience the goodness of who He is.

Before Elijah can set up the sacrifice, he has to repair an altar of the Lord that already existed on that site.  It had fallen apart and was in disrepair because of the abandonment of worshipping Him.  The people had grown weary of sacrificing and praying to Yahweh, and so had left off for more popular altars.  Never forget that when we abandon the things of God, their disrepair is a symbol of our lives spiritually.  Think about the abandonment of God’s exclusive institution of marriage for life.  All across this land are the tattered remnants of broken marriages left in the dust, which give us a picture of the hearts that have abandoned it.  We see the same thing with the raising of children.  Broken homes and children raised by single parents and grandparents have become the norm.  The broken kids who come out of dysfunction help us see our hearts.  Of course, we should encourage and help those who step up and care in a situation that is not optimal.    But that does not counter the point I am making.  How about the many churches around the country that are empty and in disrepair?  Sure, some of it is the fault of the churches and those who lead them, but not all of it.  There are many good churches around the country that are preaching the truth of God, but people don’t want to hear it and have abandoned being connected to a church.  The disrepair of such places becomes a prophetic symbol of our hearts and lives.  So Elijah repairs the altar because the altar is the place where an individual or a people gather to meet with God.  How is your altar today?  Is it in disrepair?  I am not talking about a literal altar.  We no longer sacrifice animals as they did in those days.  Our altar is a spiritual thing.  Wherever we draw near to God in prayer becomes our place of altar.  But the altar is about more than prayer.

First it is a place of preparation.  Yes, Elijah repairs the altar.   But then he has to put the wood upon it and then prepare the animal and lay its parts out.  Elijah also adds a strange aspect to this sacrifice.  He has a trench dug around the altar and has water poured out over the sacrifice and filling the trench.  Notice that the altar is not a speedy quick-order place.  It is a place where we spend time preparing ourselves to hear from God.  Don’t be so quick to walk away from the altar when it seems like God isn’t listening.

Of course, the altar is also a place where a sacrifice is made.  The secret is not the animal used, but the heart that prepares it, and the God to whom it is sacrificed.  God had told people to approach Him in that way.  It seems strange to us, but it is highly instructive.  First, it highlighted for them and for us the coming sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, as the Lamb provided by God.  It is also instructive because it always costs us something to approach God.  When our hearts are willing to give to God that which is valuable to us, He sees it from heaven and smiles upon us.  Elijah sacrifices a bull, but it is not the only thing being sacrificed.  The water is very precious on the heels of a 3.5 year drought.  I don’t know if it came from King Ahab’s personal stash, but everyone watching could not help but think of this as a tragic waste.  So what do we sacrifice today?  We no longer sacrifice animals because Jesus is the “once for all” sacrifice for our sins.  We put on the altar of our heart those things that would separate us from God.  Some of those things are sinful.  We should put them on the altar so that God’s fire can burn them out of our lives.  However, some of those things are not sinful in and of themselves.  We still put them on the altar and let them go because we would rather have God than those things.  Some of those things that we put on the altar, that are not sinful, will be given back to us.  We see this with Abraham and the near s sacrifice of Isaac.   When God saw that Abraham would rather have God than the son whom God had promised him for so long, then God told Abraham to stop and gave him a substitute sacrifice.  This is an amazing picture of Christ.  But it also shows that God is not interested in taking things from us.  But rather, He wants our heart to be in right relationship to those good things in our life.  They are not God and they are not our source.  Only God deserves that highest place in our heart.

The altar is also a place of humility.  Elijah publicly risks himself.  Ahab can now put him to death or in prison.  What if this public demonstration fails?  Elijah does not have the ability to bring fire down from heaven.  He hasn’t been practicing in the desert and is now ready.  It took great trust, faith, and humility for Elijah to stand up in the face of a whole nation and declare that the God of Israel is greater than the false god Baal.  The altar is never about our great ability to approach God.  It is about our desperate desire to know God and His great grace to respond to our faithful obedience.

Lastly the altar is a place of prayer.  Once Elijah has everything in place, He calls out upon the Lord.  His prayer is in verses 36-37.  He makes it clear that this is about raising the honor of God and the truth about what has been going on in Israel.  He also makes it clear that this is about God turning the nation’s hearts back to Him again.  Oh that our hearts would be turned towards the Lord in the country, rather than to the world and what we want to do.  There is no shortcut to these things.  There is only a continual going back to the Lord, preparing ourselves in humility and speaking to God about those things in our life.  What is your will Lord?  I trust that You will answer, even when I go long periods of silence.  In fact, when we are waiting for a word from the Lord, it is easy to forget to be faithful to His last set of instructions.  God has told us to live lives that are faithfully following Jesus, not our imaginations of Jesus.  We are to be faithful to Jesus and to share the Gospel with the world around us.  You no longer have to climb up into the heavens to reach Him; He has come down to us in our worst hour.  Instead of running from Him, draw near!

At the end of Elijah’s prayer God responds in great power as fire falls from heaven upon the sacrifice and burns up everything even the water in the trench.  This causes all the people watching to break out in shocked praise of God.  The Lord, He is God!  This phrase is shouted by the people several times.  There was no question on that day just who was God.  It is indeed an amazing time when God demonstrates His great power.  But this demonstration is leading somewhere.  God is about to allow the rains to come back to Israel.  Men love to give credit to everything but the One True God.  In those days they would have accredited it to Baal the storm god, this was precisely his area of strength, water and fire the elements of storms.  Yet it wasn’t Baal who answered by fire that day, and thus the people would know later when the rains begin, that it was Yahweh, not Baal, who had done it.  In our day we would be giving the credit to nature, or to our scientist’s ability to manipulate it.  But, we should remember that God is the God of nature.  As the creator, He is the One who is ultimately in charge.  Nature is following the laws that He put in place from the beginning.  Now we cannot just run out and try to force God to show up in power.  Elijah states clearly that he is following the instructions that God has given him.  So what are our orders?  Though this is a real event that literally happened, there are also spiritual lessons here.  We can use this event as a metaphor for ourselves.  God needs faithful believers who will risk their lives on the altar and publically stand up for Him, whether He promises a powerful sign or not.  When we sacrifice our lives publically before the world and through prayer call upon the God of heaven, the fire from heaven will come down upon us.  This is the Holy Spirit of God.  Instead of destroying us, we are filled with the power to live godly lives and speak powerfully to the world around us.  This is the way that God has determined to turn hearts back to Him.  May we take time to repair the altar in our lives and begin walking with the Lord, rather than telling Him how He should be running things.

Confrontation II audio

Tuesday
Jul262016

They That Wait upon the Lord

Isaiah 25:1-12.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on July 24, 2016.

It is hard to fathom the joy we will experience at the Second Coming of Jesus.  Yes, it is true that he will bring judgment upon the nations of the world.  However, at the same time He is restoring things to rightness.  He will be removing oppression and tyranny and replacing it with healing and deliverance.   This is an important point because the United States of America has become a prime example of how even good government can be corrupted over time.  Thus the decree of God is that no national leadership will be found to be righteous in that day.  Even in the name of liberty, our true, God-given liberties are taken away.  The average person then finds themselves living in an oppressive and tyrannical environment, whether it be the hard form found in nations like North Korea, or the soft form found here in my own country. 

Thus Isaiah describes a people who have waited for God’s deliverance from wicked leaders and powerful men.  They have endured long trials and weariness to the point of giving up.  However, when Jesus comes their joy will be immense.  Waiting for the Lord to act is a theme throughout Isaiah.  The well known passage in Isaiah 40 says, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  Regardless of what your situation requires, be it flying, running or walking, the Lord will give strength to those who trust in Him.  Those who trust in Him will not be put to shame in the end.  They will have the final joy because God is for them.  Thus the coming judgment of God begs the question for each of us.  Will that day be a day of rejoicing because I trusted in Jesus, or will that day be a day of grief because I put my trust in my own pride and the pride of mankind?

Joy Will Fill The People

Isaiah depicts a joyous time of jubilation similar to some of the statements made in the book of Revelation.  Though God’s judgment is a sobering thing, it will be for the joy of mankind.  In verse 1 we notice several things about the exclamations that Isaiah makes.  First, is the rejoicing in the fact that God is “my God.”  It will be a day when joy will not just be a general thing, but a very particular and personal thing.  Those who have trusted in God will marvel in the realization that God was not just the God of Adam, Noah, and Abraham et. al.  They will have personally witnessed the amazing fulfillment of God’s Word to His people.  God will have proven Himself in our time and not just  in the ancient past.

It will also be a wonder-filled joy.  The “wonderful things” of verse 1 are a reference to the miraculous, supernatural work of God.  The omnipotence of God has a way of removing the most impossible problems and delivering from the most powerful enemy in only a moment.  Thus the powerful acts of God demonstrated in Egypt before Pharaoh (who by the way was considered the son of the Gods) are a picture of how His great work in the face of Antichrist and the “gods” that back Him up (i.e. Satan and his fallen cohorts).  They will be impotent as God delivers His people from under their oppression.

The last part of verse 1 mentions God’s “counsels of old.”  These are the directives that God has given to His people in the past.  Of course Isaiah would be looking back to Scriptures and mainly the first 5 books of the Bible (Torah).  Yet, we can add to that today the counsels that were given through Jesus and His apostles 2,000 years ago.  It is easy to grow weary of counsels that stretch over thousands of years.  Our humanity wants to have deliverance now.  Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” (NKJV).  God’s way doesn’t always make an immediate change, especially if we are waiting for Him to deal with the wicked of the earth.  Yet, these counsels will prove out to be faithful and true.  Those who continue to trust the ancient counsel of God will find themselves in exactly the right place.  But those who have cast off the ancient counsel of God will find themselves in the wrong place, and caught up in the judgment of God.  Thus the warning of Psalm 1 is very appropriate.  We must remain in the way of the Lord while we wait for Him.  Yet, the ungodly, the sinners, and the scornful tempt us to join their way, to walk upon their paths, and to sit with them in a seat of judgment against God and His people.  Thus the object of the trust and faith of the sinner will prove to be a delusion and impotent.  But, those who wait upon the Lord will find that it is true and will prove faithful in the end.

In verses 2-5 we see the “terrible nations” and the “terrible ones.”  These are those who are following the path of their own wisdom and of Satan.  They use their power to dominate others and to rule over them.  Such cities have always existed and in fact, the history of the world can be seen as a history of the nations which clamor to be “king of the mountain.”  These empires had become proud and arrogant oppressors of the peoples of the earth.  The days before Christ’s coming will be no less.  In fact the greatest empire and thus the greatest tyranny this world has ever seen is still in the future.  We are cruising at an ever increasing speed towards this reality.  Freedom is being stamped out upon the earth and absolute tyranny is taking its place.  This is the judgment of the “City of Confusion” in Isaiah 24 and the Kings of the earth and their armies.  Whatever survivors that may be left from the nations will no longer walk in pride, but they will have a reverent fear and awe of the Lord and His powerful reality.  They will recognize that the ways of God that they had rejected for so long were the true paths.

Another reason why there will be so much joy is because God will have defended the helpless.  Isaiah uses two words, the poor and the needy.  God will be their refuge.  Now, not all the poor and the needy will turn to God for refuge.  In fact, though the poor and needy are often crushed under this world system, for the sake of survival and “getting mine,” many fight for the scraps beneath the table.  They basically trust the way of this world and trust in their own ability to make it.  Like the Olympic trials they fight and clamor to see if they can climb up into that ultra society of “winners.”  Of course most do not make it, however, there are levels of honor and perks all the way up.  This “dog-eat-dog” mentality that uses others as rungs on the ladder of progress belongs to sinful man and fallen angels.  There is coming a day when God will rise up in defense of all those that have been and are being taken advantage of.

Thus Isaiah gives two images.  The first is a storm that blasts and howls against a wall.  The poor and the needy are often torn apart and destroyed by the powerful blasts.  They are unable to survive it.  The second image is that of an oppressive heat wave.  In fact this week the Middle East had several places recording a temperature of 129 degrees F.  The oppressive heat makes even the shade of no relief.  This oppression sucks the life out of people and leaves them with little ability or desire to do anything, but die.  Yet, no matter how loud the terrible ones howl (the storm), nor how powerful their oppression (the heat), when God intervenes there will be immediate relief.  Like a cloud that comes between the sun and the ground, the change will take place that quickly.  It is easy when you live in the land of comforts and ease to hear this and scoff.  However, even in America there are people who hear what I am saying and recognize that it is exactly how they feel.  Friend, don’t let the oppression of this world’s system suck the life out of you.  Turn to Jesus today and put your faith in Him.  That is the only thing that will ever prove faithful and true to you in the end.

The Lord Will Make A Feast

Starting in verse 6 we see that this will be a time of celebration.  The old tyrants have been thrown down.  Peace and freedom lies ahead.  Thus the Lord prepares a feast for the peoples of the earth that have survived without taking the mark, and His people who have returned with Him.  This feast will take place upon Mt. Zion, which is in Jerusalem, because this is the mountain referenced at the end of the last chapter.  All the “mountains” of the earth, that is the kingdoms, will be flattened.  But the “mountain” of the Lord will be raised up.  This pictures a gathering of people in the land of Israel.  Of course this deliverance is not just for Israel, but for all the peoples of the earth.  And, all will join in the celebration.

God supplies for each one choice food and drink.  Under this world system the elite at the top are the ones who get the choice food.  But here God brings forth the best food and drink for all those who had endured oppression to enjoy.  Instead of being the means of provision for the oppressors, God will provide for the “common person” uncommon food.

Verse 7 speaks of a covering that will be destroyed.  I believe that it is connected to the statement in verse 8 that death will be swallowed up forever.  Thus the veil here is most likely a reference to The Curse of Genesis 3.    The Curse has hung over mankind like a veil or shroud for most of its existence.  Yet, God will remove and destroy it.  Another aspect of this covering is that Satan has used the fear of death as a means to manipulate mankind.  He has used the threat of the shroud to create a veil over the minds and hearts of mankind.  This veil of ignorance and manipulation by spiritual powers will have also been destroyed by God.

Those Who Wait For The Lord Will Be Vindicated

In verse 9 Isaiah brings us back to the celebration.  Vindication is that moment in which faith is proven true.  Yet, all people are putting their faith in something.  Thus those who put their trust in something other than the Lord will not find vindication, but rather humiliation.  What they put their trust in will ultimately fail.  But the righteous will recognize that their wait for the Lord was not in vain.  Thus the declaration “He will save us.”  The verb here is a form that means God has done it but isn’t done doing it.  Thus it means that in light of what He has done, we know He will complete our salvation.  God is our savior in every way.  He cannot and will not fail.  He is able to deliver and defend you from every enemy.  It may not be in the way at the time that you desire.  But if you will wait on Him instead of going the way of your own heart and mind, you will find that He will be true to you in the end.

Isaiah ends the chapter with a reminder that just as the humble will be raised up, so the pride of the wicked will be pulled down.  No matter how great and powerful the position and place of the world may be, it will not stand before God’s judgment.  Though the world be as powerful as a mighty ocean, God is the swimmer who will pull the waves down beneath Himself and us.  He will bear us out from the crushing depths and rescue us out of the waters.  No matter how strong the walls of their city God will pull down all their defenses.  The powerful of this world, whether in business or in government, are not leading us down the right path.  Reject the way of the proud and walk in the way of humility that Jesus has shown us.  His counsels will be proven true and faithful.

Wait upon the Lord audio

Tuesday
Dec152015

Lessons of Christmas- The Miracle of it All

John 1:1-3, 14.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 13, 2015.

The modern, scientific world basically rejects the idea of miracles.  Unless one is a strong Christian and a scientist, miracles sound like the antithesis of sound reasoning.  However, much of this is a matter of semantics.  The common argument against miracles will go something like this. Miracles are against the laws of science and cannot be duplicated upon demand.  Therefore they are mythical, whether through insincerity or not.

So what do Christians mean by the word miracle?  Well, we do not mean the “miracles” of nature, like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly.  As amazing as many of the processes of nature are, they are not technical miracles.  Scientists can observe and test to determine the underlying fundamental principles that enable metamorphosis.  In fact all over the world metamorphosis is happening all the time.  There are two main concepts behind the words that are often translated as miracle.  The first has to do with the observation of something amazing.  It is a memorable thing that sticks out among the stuff that naturally occurs.  Another word has the concept of being a sign.  This memorable thing points to something about God and the world. 

This leads us to three main parts to defining a miracle.  First, it is something for which God is immediately responsible.  Everything of nature follows certain laws and operations (physics) that God hardwired into the creation.  Thus he is technically responsible for all actions of nature, but this is a secondary responsibility.  In a miracle, something happens that would not have happened if God had let nature run its normal course.  The red sea parting or Jesus walking on water were not things that would have happened naturally.  There is a supernatural source to the happening of this event.  Second, though the event has a supernatural cause, this does not mean that it breaks scientific laws.  Miracles are not magic.  Rather, God Himself introduces power and laws that are generally above our understanding of physics.  Even if we could completely understand the physics of our world, we can’t completely understand God and how He interacts with it.  Thus miracles would always be beyond mankind’s ability to comprehend.  Plus God does not intend to give miracles in order to extend our knowledge of physics.  He doesn’t owe us an explanation.  Third, miracles always occur in a religious context.  They are given to God’s people, or to substantiate God’s Word.  Thus the struggle between Moses and Pharaoh is accompanied with miraculous signs in order to help Pharaoh see the truth about God and His people.

Now at Christmas we have several miracles among which some are: the virgin birth and the angelic visitations.  However the greatest miracle of all time is the incarnation.  Just when it looked like mankind was doomed to failure and destruction under the wrath of God, God becomes a man.  This was a cosmic game-changer.

The Word Became Flesh

In chapter one of the gospel of John Old Testament wording and imagery is used throughout in order to connect it with Jesus.  He starts out by referencing something called “The Word.”  This is an allusion back to Genesis 1, where God is seen speaking things into existence.  “And God said, let there be…”  The Word is the purpose, logic and reasoning of God coming from within Him and going out from Him.  John begins to define this Word in a way that makes clear it is not just words and it is not just a force.  As we walk through the first two verses, John establishes the preexistence of Jesus in a sequential manner.

First, he establishes that The Word existed at the beginning of creation.  “In the beginning” is the title of the Book of Genesis in Hebrew.  In Genesis 1:1, The Word existed already.  Second, The Word was in relationship with God the Father, “with God.”  It didn’t just exist.  It existed in relationship with God.  Third, we are told that The Word was divine.  It may appear that he is just equating them.  But he is clearly distinguishing two that are both God (and divine).  In verse two this is restated.  Lastly, John states that The Word was the agent or means of creation.  The Father speaks and the Word goes forth to accomplish it (in verse 14 & 18 it is clear the word is a personality).  What is not made clear in Genesis 1 is being revealed here in John 1.  Thus John describes two distinct persons existing together and yet God.  Later in verse 14 and 18 he defines this further as God the Father, and the Only Begotten Son.  All created things were made through Jesus in his divine capacity.  The Son is not a created person, but a reality that had been kept secret until the incarnation.

Thus the birth of Jesus is more than a man that God chooses to use.  Rather, it is the eternal Word and divine Son stepping into the world and taking on the additional nature of humanity.  This all happens when Satan had all but captivated all the nations of the world, Israel included.  The knowledge of God was all but extinguished either by outright rejection, or by perversion.  Thus in verse 14, John says that The Word became flesh and dwelled among us.  The word “dwelled” is the same word used for the tabernacle in the wilderness with Moses.  God has always tried to teach us that He longs to dwell with us.  It is as if God waits until the last seconds to bring out His secret weapon.  He is going to suit up on our side.  It is a miracle because mankind couldn’t have done it.  No matter how hard we try, we will never be able to produce God, much less make ourselves Gods.  The more we try the less like God we will become.  It is a miracle because it can’t be explained by mere natural means.  Yes, Jesus could have been just a baby, but then what about the miracles he did as a man?  If you reject those, what do you do with his prophecies about Jerusalem and the rest of the world?  If you reject that what do you do with the resurrection?  And, if you refuse to believe that then you are open to what God is trying to show you.  This is all history and yet it can’t be explained with the natural.  Also, it is a miracle because it fulfilled all that God prophesied and underscored all He had been trying to teach.  What if God was one of us?  Well in Jesus He has become one of us.  He has become our champion.  He has stepped in between us and our enemy the devil.

He Humbled Himself

In some ways it goes without saying.  But the point is too important to skip over. The humility of this miracle is mind-boggling.  The divine becomes human and the immortal becomes mortal.  This miracle of God taking on the nature of a man is unexplainable.  These are things that only the designer of creation and mankind could fully comprehend.  However, that is not what is important.  The “how” is incredible, but it is the “why” that truly blows your mind.  While we are busy trying to become gods, God a long time ago became one of us.  This humility is explained in Philippians 2:5-8.  Jesus was not just moving to a lower station.  He is choosing to embrace those who had lost and deserved to die.  He is identifying with that which was crushed and captivated by the devil.  He would rather hang out with the losers than with the winners.  Why?

In Philippians 2 we are told that Jesus did not consider his prior state, being God, as something to be gripped tightly.  His nature is such that He is not clambering to be on top, but is the one to choose lowly things.  He voluntarily cooperates with the limitations of being a man, who is also under the law of Moses.  The phrase sometimes translated as “made himself of no reputation,” would be better translated “he emptied himself.”  It is not clear what exactly he emptied himself of.  He doesn’t cease to be God, but he does cease to operate as only God.  He takes on limitations and chooses to suffer pain, hunger, rejection, and death.  He submits not just to death, but to death on a cross, which was a social shame and excruciating.  He obeyed the will of the Father to the point of death on a cross.  Part of the miracle of the incarnation is the depths to which God is willing to lower himself in order to lift us up.  Jesus reveals to us that it is those who lose according to this world who are desired by God.  We are always looking at what is possible and how to get ahead and move up.  But Jesus is God’s word to mankind, “Let me defeat your enemy for you.”

He Came Full Of Grace And Truth

In verse 14, John describes what they saw when the incarnation came into the world to dwell among men.  “We beheld his glory.”  Of course John had seen the transfiguration of Jesus when he had been transformed into a glowing being.  But he is speaking of more than that.  Here he is referencing the whole experience of dwelling with Jesus.  His glory was constantly being revealed for those who had eyes to see it.

It was especially displayed in that he was full of grace and truth.  God shows compassion to those who are captivated by sin and whose lives have been devoured by the devil.  He comes like a gift from heaven to heal, set people free from demons, and speak words of truth that cut through all the confused and deceived wisdom of mankind.  Even more amazing, He does so regardless of the fact that we do not deserve it.

Rather, we deserved him to come into the world full of wrath and judgment.  The miracle of Christmas is that instead of flaming judgment raining down from heaven, we are given aid against our enemy and victory over him.  This is not the story of underdogs overcoming at the end and winning.  This is the story of mankind losing the battle to the devil and his angels.  And, yet, God chooses to have a celebration with the losers and despises the “winners.”

Have you lost in life?  God is calling you to stop trying to win the game of this life and come into relationship with Him.  Are you winning in this life?  Beware that you are not caught up in the judgment that God is going to pour out on the devil, his angels, and all those who have joined his rebellion against God’s Son.  Choose this day, whom you will serve.

Christmas: Miracle audio

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