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Weekly Word

Entries in Obedience (3)

Tuesday
Jun212016

Marching to the Drum

Genesis 6:9-14, 22.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on June 19, 2016 for Father’s Day.

Throughout history the drum has been a valuable tool in marshalling large groups of men.  Today there are many different drummers that are drumming out different beats and marching in different directions across our land.  In this confused environment the wisdom of our culture is simply this: follow your own heart.  It was David Thoreau who wrote, “If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away.”  As encouraging as such words can sound to an individual both statements overlook an important issue: Just who is drumming this drum and just where are they leading me?  Yes, it is good to be true to your inner self as far as that should go.  But it is even better to be true to our Creator, Savior, and Lord, Jesus, who alone knows what makes for our good.  He alone can lead us to a destination that is good and along a way that is good.  All others are really just the variety of ways that the devil seeks to entice us from the path of the victory that God has for us.  God has a plan to make any man a victorious father and husband.  If he will listen to Him, he will find all the grace that he needs.

Today we are going to look at what the Bible had to say about Noah.  He was a man who did not follow the drummers of his day.  Instead he risked looking foolish in the eyes of man in order to be led by God.  His bravery and obedience provided salvation for his family when all others were lost.  May his life be a template to all Christian fathers today.

A Godly Father

Noah was a godly man and it is important for believers to pursue godliness.  This is elementary.  God is our heavenly Father.  If we want to be a good father then we should seek to be like Him.  So what does it mean to be like God?

We are told that Noah was a just man.  This can also be translated as righteous.  This is a person who is upright and straight as opposed to bent over and crooked.  This imagery describes whether their life lines up with the straight and upright Law of God.  Later prophets would describe the Word of God as a plumb line.  The Word of God reveals to us the character and ways of God.  God Himself has always been the measurement by which we analyze our own character and actions.  Noah demonstrated an ability to act toward others in a way that was in alignment with the character of God.  Yes, this is a tall order.  However, kids need more than a father with a pulse.  Rather, they need a father with a spiritual pulse, who seeks to be like God.

Noah is next described as a perfect (blameless) man.  The word translated as “perfect” or “blameless” is the idea of that which is complete, and sound.  It refers to that which has come to maturity and has integrity.  Thus it would be better described today as a man of mature integrity.  Such a person is not pretending to be one thing in public and yet privately filled with evil intentions.  This person is not an incomplete work, but rather is growing into the likeness of God Himself.

We are also told that Noah “walked with God.”  This is an important word picture in the Bible.  In the Old Testament the phrase is used of those who were exceptionally close to God and received visions or appearances of God.  These godly men did so at the expense of sticking out from the people around them.  In the New Testament the phrase is used of those who have been born again by the Spirit of God.  The Holy Spirit leads them to believe on Jesus, fills their life with the power to follow Him, and strengthens their hearts to endure whatever they may incur on the path.  We walk with God through reading the Word, spending time in prayer, both speaking and listening, and then obeying God.  You may wonder even now if you are walking with God.  Romans 8:3-4 describes it this way, “He [God] condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”  Thus the godly man is not a man who is following what his flesh desires (aka following your heart).  Rather, he is a man who is following God.  Do we fall short?  Yes, we do.  However, a godly man is not perfect in the sense that he makes no mistakes.  He is perfect in the sense that he is where he should be for the work that Lord has done in his life.  For example, a new born may be perfect even though it cannot walk and talk yet.  However, we recognize that something is wrong if that baby does not learn to walk and talk.  A godly man wants to be like his heavenly Father.  It is not about the measurement at any given time, but about our response to God’s directing.

A Father Who Resists The Surrounding Culture

The culture around Noah had deteriorated from having a clear knowledge of God’s way and walking in them to everyone everywhere doing what was right in their own eyes.  This is how it has always been.  No culture from the beginning of man has done anything but cast off the knowledge it has of God’s ways, and then creates its own ways. Eventually they become so darkened that any knowledge of God’s ways becomes completely lost.  Thus it is not so much the culture we resist, but the tendency of culture to disintegrate from any truth of God within it.  Without an intervention from the Spirit of God such culture will eventually destroy itself.

The culture around us today is corrupt.  It is ruined and losing any usefulness to a godly person.  The society around Noah had no redeeming qualities either to God or His people.  It was examined and found wanting by God.  Thus judgment was coming.  This whole dynamic has been exampled in the modern era by the United States of America.  We have been tossing aside the Word of God for generations, and replacing it with our own wisdom.  The impact of culture has become spiritually toxic.  It influences people into paths that destroy the godly work that the Spirit is doing with in them.  Men, we must take our stand against this in our own life!

Their culture became incredibly violent.  Violence is the idea of wronging people without concern, being cruel, and also oppressing them.  When God’s ways are tossed aside, man is left with only himself.  The competing, selfish ways give rise to Tyrants and Oppressors.  These are those who have the power to force things in society to conform to what they see as good.  Most people are crushed in such a world, with only the “Olympians” rising to the top of the mountain (Olympus).  God despises such pride and arrogance, not just because of its rejection of Him, but because of how it crushes the souls of men.  He will flatten such a mountain no matter how big it becomes.  We must not take shelter in such arrogance and make ourselves an enemy of God.  Come out from such people and walk with the Lord.

Although this next point is not mentioned in the text, such cultures become a confused culture.  Like little kids trying to chart their own course into the unknown, such societies wage war against those things that are their strength and strengthen those things that will destroy them.  Thus in our culture there is a tendency to pit men against women, and to diminish the influence parents have on their kids.  Fathers, go to war against such influences in your heart.  Lay your life down for your wife, and show respect and appreciation in an appropriate fashion to the women around you.  This amazing design of God (male and female) is a part of our strength.  Strong families in which parents raise their children while sacrificially loving each other will build up a nation.  But fractured homes in which we are all following our hearts breaks apart any firm foundation.  We end up doing the enemy’s work for him by destroying our own strengths.  In the name of freedom and power, our society undermines the very institution that can truly give both to men and women, and that is a godly marriage.

A Father Who Leads His Family Into Grace

God gives grace to the humble, but takes His stand against the proud.  Thus we are told that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.  If we too want the grace of God upon ourselves and our families, we must learn humility.  All the things that we have talked about (seeking to be godly, and resisting the culture) require a man to humble himself and listen to God.  Father’s we must ask ourselves, “To where am I leading?”  What lies at the destination of the path that I am plotting and modeling to my children and the world around me?  It is not just me who experiences the destination of my life.  All those who are with me and in relationship with me experience it to.  In fact this is the reason of many fractured homes.  Instead of harmonizing around the goal of walking with God, we all pull in our own separate ways eventually straining the bonds to the point of breaking.  Men, do not let the enemy of your soul plunder what God has for you, and not just for your sake.  Do it for the sake of your family, and for the sake of other families that know you, perhaps even for the sake of our nation.  May God intervene and turn our hearts around as a nation.

Marching audio

Monday
May232016

Old Man New Man

Ephesians 4:20-32.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on May 15, 2016, for Pentecost Sunday.

Today is Pentecost Sunday, which is the commemoration of the day that the Holy Spirit was poured out upon all of God's people in Jerusalem following the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.  Today it is easy for us to be so fixated on a particular experience with the Holy Spirit that we can lose sight of all that the Spirit of God is trying to do in our life.  If you are a believer in Jesus, you have been made spiritually alive by the Holy Spirit.  It is impossible to put your faith in Jesus without his aid.  Thus that same Holy Spirit is at work in your life whether or not you have had a particular kind of experience.  Over the course of history we see that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit does not always happen the same way and look the same.  I mention this because one of the problems in the Church today is that people can actively reject the leading of the Holy Spirit in their life, all the while seeking a religious experience in a service.  It is important for us to come to grips with the reality that we cannot be filled with the Holy Spirit while we continue to embrace the life of our old nature, and that those who have been filled with the Spirit and turn back to their old nature grieve Him and negatively affect His work.

As we look at this passage today, we will focus on the work of the Holy Spirit to deliver us from the "old man," and enable us to be a "new man."

We are learning a new way of life

In the verses leading up to this section Paul has been talking about the gentile nations, which is the unbelieving world around Israel.  They had hardened their heart towards God, and thus were ignorant of the life that God had for them.  Paul shows how their futile thinking separated them from that life God had.  In Jesus, we who believe have been called out of that futile thinking and separated state, into the mind of Christ and connection with the Father.

Putting off the Old Self.  Sometimes this phrase is illustrated with clothing.  When we wake up in the morning we take off our night clothes (pajamas) and we put on our day clothes.  Thus the believer is waking up to the daylight of God's truth.  This calls for a different attire, which is the actions of our body and the intentions of our mind.  Yet, this illustration can be somewhat misleading.  In life we continually cycle back between night clothes and day clothes, and there is nothing wrong with this.  However, God does not intend for us to put back on our "night clothes."  In Jesus we dwell in an eternal, spiritual day.  Thus wPaul uses the phrase "old man" in verse 22.  Another way to see this is to think of it as the old self.  The old self represents the old way of life before the truth of Jesus.  I was ignorant of God's truth and used my futile thinking (influenced by the futile thinking of the world around me) to live my life in a way that was contrary to God.  My own sinful desires deceived me into embracing them and thus I further corrupted my life and mind.  Our fleshly desires deceive us into adopting all manner of thoughts and actions that increase the separation between me and the Life that God has for me.  This is why we are called to lay aside the old man or old self.

Putting on the New Self.  In verse 23 Paul states the positive side of this.  We put off the old so that we can replace it with the New Man or New Self.  The New Self is not just a better you, bu rather is Jesus himself.  Those who put their faith in Jesus begin a process of cooperating with the Holy Spirit's makeover of our life.  He intends to make us like Jesus.  The new me is being patterned after Jesus.  The mind and thinking of Jesus is not separated from God, neither is it ignorant of His plan.  Rather, it cooperates with God in accomplishing His will.  The Spirit of God operates to soften our hearts so that they can be made righteous and holy.

The "List of Sins."  It is common in the New Testament to run into lists of sins.  Paul begins such a list in verse 25.  It is amazing that some who call themselves believers ignore these lists under the guise of being under grace and not under the law.  Of course we are no longer under the Law of Moses.  However, we are under the Law or rule of Christ.  In Romans 8:2 Paul calls it the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.  The Holy Spirit is not counseling us in the sense that He is giving us a good opinion or advice, something that we can regard or disregard.  He is God working in us to lead us where we ought to go and teach us how we ought to be.  If we refuse Him, we do so at our own injury, as well as the injury of others.  Christ wants us to be free from those deceitful desires of our flesh that separate us from God.  How can we give into those deceitful desires and still claim to not be separated from God?  Paul calls these sins to task: lying, sins of anger, stealing, unwholesome talk, bitterness, rage, brawling, slandering, and all forms of evil.  We are called to lay such things aside and leave them behind.  We cannot avoid this by saying we are under grace.  No, we are under Christ and in that place have been given grace.  Grace is not given to those who reject the Holy Spirit.  It is given to those who recognize what He is doing and are embracing it.  Yes, we do fail at times and God offers grace for the repentant.  But a person who is not repentant cannot use grace as a shield for rebellion.

The Principle of Opposite Virtue.  There is another thing to notice in this list.  Paul is pointing out that in our life of sin before Christ, we gave ourselves to such sins.  Part of putting off these sins is to adopt the virtue that is opposite the sin, or the virtue that counteracts that sin.  Thus in verse 25, liars should practice speaking the truth.  This will be extremely difficult at first.  But those who listen to the Spirit and fight the good fight are given the grace to do so without fear.  In verse 26 we see that those who sinned out of anger need to channel that energy into righteous action.  In fact, in light of verse 31, we should get to a point where we are not acting out of anger at all.  Rather we are energized by the mind of Christ and the Spirit's power.  In verse 28, theives should use their hands at a legitimate job and use the money to give to others rather than take.  In verse 29, those who practice unwholesome talk (corrupt or rotten speech) should speak only that which builds others up in Christ according to their needs.  This whole issue is worth investing hours of prayer and seeking God for wisdom regarding how we can replace our own sins with the virtues that nullify the hold these sins have on us, as long as we pursue them.

Grieving the Holy Spirit.  Because we are in a relationship with Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit, we can grieve Him.  He is leading us from the Old Man to the New Man.  Like Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land, so we can be stubborn and mule-headed, moaning and complaining.  Thus in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 Paul encourages believers by saying this, "Do not quench the Holy Spirit."  This literally says, "Do not put out the Spirit's fire."  The presence of the Spirit of God in your life is like a powerful fire that burns in you to become like Christ.  When we douse that power and embrace our old life, it causes the Spirit of God to be sorrowful.  He is not sorrowful out of petty, selfish reasons.  Rather, He knows the pain and sorrow we are bringing on ourselves and the people around us by embracing these sins.  In Galatians 6:7-8 Paul warns, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked.  Whatsoever a man sows that will he also reap.  If you sow to the flesh you will from the flesh also reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life."

Yielding to the Holy Spirit.  Thus we need to learn to yield to the Holy Spirit and stop grieving Him.  The Holy Spirit dwells in us in order to teach, lead, and fill our lives with power to obey.  He also marks us as belonging to Jesus (sealed with the seal of Jesus in verse 30).  He is teaching us to let go of evil motivations and desires, so that we can operate from the Love of God.  This is what verse 32 is describing.  The Holy Spirit will fill our life with God's kindness, tenderness, and forgiveness if we will yield to His direction.  It is when we yield that the power to do will come from the Lord.  Let's become like Jesus and not like the world!

Old Man New Man audio

Tuesday
Sep182012

Our Present Life

We continue our walk through the New Testament book of First Peter and will look at chapter one verses 13-15 today. 

After reminding believers of the testing trials of this life, Peter then moves to encourage them in their everyday life.  Starting in verse 13 we have three exhortations that appear to be commands.  However, only one of them is commanded, where the other two are put out as descriptions of how to do the main command.  Can you figure out which is which?  By consulting other versions you can discover that the main command has to do with our Hope.

We Must Hope To The End

Is that correct?  Is Peter really commanding them to Hope?  Is that possible?  It is just as possible as our other command to love.  We tend to think of love and hope as feelings.  Peter is not commanding them to have “hopeful” feelings.  Rather he is talking about an action that we can choose to do.  Thus, just as love is a decision, so Hope is a decision too. 

Hope always has a future thing for which it is waiting.  So the decision here is not even about deciding to feel.  Rather it is the decision to keep waiting for that promised grace that is to be revealed at the second coming of Jesus.  The object of our hope can change because of difficulties and trials in life.  We can give up and even place our hopes on other things (perhaps even things that are not godly).  That is the decision we have to make every day in the midst of tough times.  Will I keep hoping in the grace I will receive at Christ’s coming, or will I hope for something “realistic.”  Though we are daily receiving grace from God, it is still only a portion of the fuller grace that has been promised.  There is a wonderful day ahead of us where our status as children of God will be not just revealed, but we will also receive immortal bodies that are not tainted by the sin nature.  Peter commands them to not give up that hope.  The challenge is not just to fully hope in that grace as if we had a “hope-ometer” that needs to be pegged at 100% all the time.  Rather the picture is that of a finish line or a goal.  If we are going to obtain the grace then we need to keep our hope pinned on it until we reach it.

So how can we not lose hope in God’s amazing promise in the light of this world’s trials and reminders that we are not there yet?  This is where the phrases, girding up the loins of the mind, and being sober come into play.

Girding up the loins, or waist, of your mind is a strange phrase.  It is a picture of first century clothing.  The robes they wore would have a tie or belt that kept them held shut.  If you were going outside you would tie your robe shut.  Or if you were going to do some physical labor you might even need to hike up the robe and tie it off in a way that would not encumber your feet and legs.  When this is used of the mind it is clear that a mental issue is involved.  It speaks of preparation.  What mental preparations do I need to make so that I will not be tripped up and restricted in this challenge to hope to the end?  First I need to recognize that my own desires can pull me away from it.  Also, the schemes of our enemy, satan, are focused on aiding this.  Mentally I need to be aware of those things that would keep me from the grace God has for me and prepare for them.

The phrase “be sober” also points to preparation.  However, the issue is different.  In the first I need to make preparations.  In the other, I need to refrain from things that could affect my ability to hope adversely.  Think of how alcohol affects a person in the natural state.  It causes people to lose their inhibitions and self control.  It causes people to lose their awareness of things around them.  It can even eventually lead to losing consciousness and death.  Though the believer should stay away from drunkenness, Peter is speaking spiritually and mentally here.  We need to be sober in the sense that we are not “drunk” from drinking in the lusts of our flesh.  Those who live to please their flesh, will become spiritually drunk.  They will begin to lose inhibitions and eventually any control on their fleshly appetites.  This will lead to a loss of awareness of their true spiritual condition.  They will think everything is alright.  But to any sober minded person they will be clearly out of control.  Eventually a loss of spiritual consciousness can occur.  This is where a person is unable to receive any stimuli from the Lord, whether through the cautions of others, injunctions in the Scriptures, or the pressings of the Holy Spirit.  Such a person will lose sight of the hope and degenerate into only hoping for the “next fix” for their fleshly appetites.   Let’s face it.  Satan uses the love of our flesh for the desire of this world to get us spiritually drunk.  This tactic is quite effective on those who are not mentally prepared.

We Must Be Holy

The next two verses focus on how we need to be a reflection of the one we are following.  If God’s promised grace at the coming of Jesus is what we are hoping FOR, then Jesus himself is what we are IN or ON.  We can have hope for the future because of the one on whom our hopes are placed.  There is a relationship between faith and hope.  Whatever you are putting your faith in will affect what your hope is.  Yet Peter is more focused on how the enemy derails our faith and hope.  Satan uses the impure desires of our flesh for the things of this world.  Ife we are to truly follow Jesus then it will involve a focus on being holy.  So what does that mean?

The simplest understanding of holy is the idea that something has been set apart for a divine purpose.  It is not to be used for ordinary purposes even though it may be very ordinary.  It is not the inherent quality of the thing but the fact that it has been set apart that makes it holy.  If you have put your faith in Jesus then through him God has decreed that you are for His holy purposes.  In the Bible we see Belshazzar of Babylon using the holy cups and bowls of the temple for a drunken party.  This angers God and he loses his kingdom.  However, when it comes to people, we are not inanimate objects.  We can make choices to be involved in purposes that are contrary to God’s purposes.  We don’t pursue holiness as if we could attain it.  Rather we cooperate with the holiness that God has given to us in Jesus.  We can either walk in harmony with that holiness or we can fight against it.

This is why Peter gives the analogy of an obedient child.  A child doesn’t always understand why mom and dad won’t let it do whatever its little heart desires.  It has a choice.  Obedience is not a matter of becoming a son or daughter.  It is a matter of cooperating with the reality that I belong to God because I AM his child.  If we please ourselves then Satan will succeed in getting our hopes pinned on the lusts of this world and eventually robbing us of our heavenly inheritance.  Are you about your father’s business?  Or are you in the business of pleasing your flesh?

When Scripture says, “be holy for I am holy,” it is reminding us of our nature.  We were created to reflect God.  God is holy therefore our lives should reflect that holiness.   This is not out of some puritanical prudishness.  But rather out of protection against the spiritual unconsciousness that results in the life of those who pursue the lusts of the flesh.  Those are the things we pursued in our former ignorance, before we knew Jesus and God’s love for us.  But now that we know what he has done for us and is bringing us to we need to watch our lives guardedly and keep our hopes fixed on Jesus who brings the completion of God’s grace with him.  Maranatha!

Our Present Life Audio