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Monday
Jan162017

The Heart of a Righteous Person 2

Psalm 10:1-18.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on January 15, 2017.

We continue today looking at some psalms in the Bible in order to understand the heart of those righteous individuals who have gone before us.  Last week we looked at how the heart of a righteous person: speaks to God, speaks to people, holds fast to the lessons learned by the righteous found in the Bible, and receives the blessing of God.  Today we will deal with the difficulty that presses on the heart of all who want to be godly in this world.

It has questions

In verse 1 we see that the writer of this psalm has questions for God.  It is common for leaders and those who have been Christians for a long time to give the impression that questions are bad.  This can be because they fear a young Christian falling into heresy, but it can also be a fear of losing control on what they believe.  We need to stop this fearful, knee-jerk response to questions.  There is nothing wrong with asking a question if we sincerely seek an answer.  We may not get an answer.  But God is not threatened with us asking tough questions.  It is not necessarily a sign of unfaithfulness.  That said, a questioning heart can make some mistakes.  We can make the mistake of tying our trust in God to getting an answer that our mind will accept.  In this sense we have quit seeking truth and have started putting God on trial.  The devil loves to stir up questions about God’s intentions and actions.  A mature Christian will learn to struggle with them without losing faith.  There are answers to many questions about God that can be learned in the Scriptures.  However, some things are left unanswered.  Can you trust God when He says, “I will not answer that?”  Clearly you can because countless millions have trusted God to the end of their life with those very same questions.  Lastly, questions can be the result of lacking any trust in God and perhaps even a despising of His ways.  It can be a form of rebellion that seeks to stir up trouble among Christians.  In this sense they have already judged God.  No answer will be enough to satisfy their intellectual judgments.  Thus, God can handle our sincere questions.  But, He will not satisfy the minds of those who have rebelled against Him and are seeking to put Him on trial.

The first question has to do with why it looks like God “hides” during times of trouble.  We sometimes refer to this as the “hiddenness of God.”  Here the psalmist is not questioning God’s existence.  Rather, he questions why God isn’t presently dealing with a situation.  It seems as if God is hiding.  There are many answers that have been gleaned from the Bible over the years.  Some have pointed out that it is more important for our faith to be strengthened then our mind to be satisfied.  There is no way around the strange reality regarding humans that our faith grows stronger in adversity.  If God were to give us every answer and protect us from every difficulty then our faith would not be stronger, but tremendously weak.  God gives us enough to believe, but not too much to weaken that faith.  Another point that has been brought up is that our sins and disobedience create a separation between us and God.  We are often concerned about everything but the sin that God is wanting for us to deal with.  Thus He isn’t hiding from us.  Instead He is waiting for us to deal with sin.  We must also recognize that God values the freedom of His sentient creations to choose their own path.  He influences enough to give us wisdom, but not too much to override our freedom to choose.  In fact, connected to this is that God has always worked in conjunction with angels and humanity.  It is not His desire to control and force everything to be His way.  He leaves room for us to respond freely.  When talking about the hiddenness of God, it is also instructive to remember that God could ask us, me, mankind the same question.  Why do you hide from me?  Perhaps He sometimes gives to us the same amount of relational attention that we are giving Him.  Clearly God is far more merciful to us than we have been to Him.  While we were still sinners, Christ Jesus died for us. (Romans 5:8).

Verse 2 ends with a cry for justice.  “Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised.”  This extends the question about God’s hiddenness to the question of why He allows the wicked to succeed.  It is a grievous thing to bear for a righteous heart to see the wicked person steam rolling the innocent and getting away with it.  At this point the psalmist from verse 3 to verse 11 makes the case for why God shouldn’t let the wicked get away with it.  So we will quickly work through these verses recognizing what makes a person wicked.  As a side-note, let me say that a wicked person can recognize their sin, repent, and be saved.  Some people object to the label “wicked” because it sounds like a person can’t change.  The Bible uses language that describes where people are at, not what they are stuck in.  Thus it has no problem calling people evil, where in our generation it is rare for society to let the term “evil” be acceptable for hardly anyone.

The wicked are boastful and proud (2, 3, 4).  They “boast in their desires” (fleshly ones) with a “proud countenance.”  This area of arrogant pride is not so easily dismissed.  I was listening to a radio program the other day where a commentator said, “I want a coach who is arrogant and cocky.”  Whether in sports, Hollywood, business, or politics, the world promotes those who are arrogant and cocky.  People often desire these traits because such people are so driven to obtain their desires that they will do anything.  Who doesn’t want to be on the winning side?  Well let me put the question another way.  Would you want to be on the winning side in Iraq today if that was to join ISIS and its proud leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?  Is winning so important to you that you would throw out biblical principles, or better the ways of God?  How we obtain success is even more important than the success itself.  In fact, this begs the question, “What is success?”  If getting what I want is success then that is a sad definition.  “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world (because he wants it) and lose his soul?”  Many “successful” people that we envy have lost their souls in the process.  No one will think that these ones have succeeded in eternity.

The psalmist recognizes that the wicked bless the greedy.  The word is more than just greedy.  They are greedy for what you have.  Thus covetous might be a better word.  Instead of being a blessing to those who are hurting they bless the wrong people because they themselves have become wrong in their hearts.

In verse 3 it says that they “renounce the LORD.”  It is more than just a statement.  Such statements come from a heart that has already renounced the Lord and His ways.  They reject what God says to them and despise what God asks of them to do.  Because they have rejected God, they never think about what God thinks in their plans.  However, a righteous person is always thinking about what the Lord would have them do.  They often agonize before God in prayer about the emotional difficulties with such decisions.  Let’s say a wicked person cuts a righteous person off on the freeway and the righteous person gets mad and hits the high beam on their lights for two seconds.  Now I am not saying all people who cut someone off on the freeway are wicked.  But I am using this as an illustration.  My point is this.  The wicked person will not give a second thought about their decision to cut-off another person.  The will just keep driving and curse the person who high-beamed them.  But the righteous person will feel bad about high-beaming the person who cut them off and spend time agonizing on whether they went too far before God.  They will even ask God for forgiveness for losing control of their anger.  Of course it is not our job to determine what the other person is.  It is our job to keep our hearts right before God, even when we fail.

Verses 5-6 repeat some of the same reasons.  The wicked couldn’t care less about the decisions or judgments of God in heaven.  Their pride causes them to sneer at all their enemies with the attitude that they can’t be moved or hurt.  “I shall not be moved!”  This attitude sometimes comes from tiring of being the good guy.  We can reject the path of the humble and chose the path of the pride because we never want to hurt again.   Of course this is often just trash talk.  We will all face adversity and difficulty, even those who do their best to avoid it.  What is interesting is that the righteous are actually able to say, “I shall not be moved.”  They can because they are trusting in God and, when the dust of this life settles, the righteous will be left standing with Christ and the wicked will be blown away as the chaff.  In this life the righteous have much adversity.  But none of it can move us if we keep our trust in Jesus.

In verse 7 the psalmist points out that the mouth of the wicked is full of all manner of evil.  They curse God and people.  They practice deceit in what they often say.  They speak oppression for others.  There is nothing to find in their mouth but trouble and iniquity.  It would be better off if they never spoke because of what happens when they do.

Verses 8-11 basically depict the wicked person secretly preying on the helpless of society.  This dog-eat-dog mentality is the logical conclusion of a materialistic, evolutionary world-view.  If there is no day of judgment to an all-powerful God, then why would I live my life by rules that seem to make me the prey to those who don’t?  Thus the wicked see the righteous as unbelievable fools.  Such people become their meal each day.  Yes, the righteous see the same problem, but refuse to join the ranks of the wicked in order to protect themselves.  There is something that holds them back.  So let’s read on.

It has faith

The rest of the psalm moves back to addressing God.  At the end of the day the righteous would rather trust God then trust the snake-oil that the wicked have purchased with their souls.  Yes, it may appear for a season to be working, but in the end the piper must be paid.  Though the righteous don’t have all the answers, and they don’t understand every why to God’s actions, or lack thereof, they still trust Him.

In verse 14 we see that the righteous trust that God is not hiding.  But rather He is keeping track of the actions of mankind.  Psalm 56:8 says, “You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle; are they not in Your book?”  The Book of Revelation refers to books being opened at the great judgment, and that men will be judged by the things written in them.  It may feel like God doesn’t care and isn’t observing your situation, but in the end you can trust that He is intimately aware and even recording all that you do and all that has been done to you.  So don’t give up.

Not only is God keeping track, but He is also keeping track in order to repay people for their deeds.  He is going to repay the wicked.  Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death.”  This is not just physical death, but spiritual death as well.  God doesn’t just repay the wicked, but He also repays the righteous.  “The gift of God is eternal life.”  Thus God will help the fatherless, who have no one to stand up on their behalf.  The same is true for the widow and the poor person.  We can know that God will make everything right in the end.

So verse 16 declares the faith that God is the King forever.  He is the ultimate authority, and no matter how great the wicked may succeed (even the devil), it will not remove Him from His place of authority and power.  He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.  So, it may trouble us that God allows the wicked a time of power and authority, but He has set a day in which all things will be set right.  We must trust Him.  In fact, it is partly a tribute to His grace that He gives the wicked their moment in the limelight, for they will spend eternity in darkness, separated from any good thing of God’s.

Lastly the righteous have faith that God will help the humble, vs. 17.  God has heard the cries of the humble (notice it doesn’t say righteous).  Even the wicked think they are right in what they do.  But God will judge on the side of the humble.  This is a reminder to the righteous to avoid the path of pride and arrogance because it leads to destruction.  Yes, we can question God, but we must remain humble if we want to avoid destruction.  It doesn’t say that God will help the humble by answering their every question.  So what is the help God will give?  First He will strengthen their hearts.  Such difficulties of God’s hiddenness and the success of the wicked can cause our hearts to faint and give up.  But God has strength for the heart of those who trust Him without giving up.  By His Spirit He encourages us from time to time if we are listening.  The psalmist also says that God will help the humble by making Himself hear.  This is a humorous way to put it.  But it is also a way of making it absolute and concrete.  Yes, though it seems like God is deaf to our cries today, there is a day when He will make Himself hear.  We need to wait for that day in trust.  Don’t grow weary in waiting.  They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.  They will mount up on wings with eagles; they will run and not be weary; they will walk and not faint!”  Why?  We will do these things because the Lord our God is with us and will deliver us.  Amen!

Heart of a Righteous Person 2 audio

Thursday
Sep242015

When The Lord Questions You

Luke 20:41-47.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 20, 2015.

In the previous chapter we saw how Jesus wept over Jerusalem because of the hard hearts the people there had, especially the leaders.  This chapter has given us snapshots of the last week before the crucifixion, in which Jesus speaks to the people in the temple area.  This last attempt to turn their hearts runs into stiff opposition from the religious leaders.  Today we see that Jesus somewhat turns the table on them and asks them his own questions.  However, we should be careful of thinking that Jesus is only giving them a taste of their own medicine.  Rather, he specifically asks about a passage that is key to explaining who the Messiah really is and why they stumbled at the way Jesus spoke of his connection with The Father.  They claim to know so much.  But, if they would simply admit that there are some unexplained things in the Scriptures, they would be in a better position to accept what God was trying to reveal to them.  Jesus was the Son of God come down to do for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Jesus Exposes Their Willful Ignorance

There is nothing wrong with being ignorant.  All of us have areas of ignorance, no matter how smart we are.  No one can know all that mankind “knows,” much less all that is possible to be known.  Being ignorant is not a problem.  But, willful ignorance in the face of God’s revelation is a sin that we should be quick to repent of. 

The religious leaders questioned Jesus in order to undermine the authority that Jesus had with the common people, and to find fault with him.  Now God can handle our questions.  We can question Him, but we must recognize that when we are done He may have some questions for us.  This is part of the error of those who scoff and mock the Bible with questions that are clearly intended to manipulate how it looks rather than to find truth.  Go ahead and mock God’s Word, but also recognize that God will in turn have His time of questioning you.  Would you survive the same tactics against yourself that you employ against Him?  Honest questioning for the sake of Truth is not a threat to God.  But dishonest questions as a covering for sin and rejecting God will be shown for what they are.

They were calling Jesus a heretic because he called himself the Son of God.  I will share a couple of examples.  In Luke 19 Jesus told a parable about the owner of a vineyard.  At the end the owner sends his son to the caretakers and they kill him.  It was clear to the religious leaders that the owner was God, the vineyard was Israel, and they were the caretakers.  Notice that Jesus casts himself in the parable as the son of the owner.  This was not lost on them.  They resented and rejected his characterizations.  In John 10:30 Jesus said, “ ‘I and my Father are one.’  Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.  Jesus answered them, ‘Many good works I have shown you from my Father.  For which of those works do you stone me?’  The Jews answered Him saying, ‘For a good work we do not stone you, but for blasphemy, and because you, being a man, make yourself God.’”  It is being disingenuous to say that they misinterpreted Jesus.  He knew what he was saying.  His “oneness” with the Father was a bold claim of sharing in the divine nature of God.  We also have Luke 22:70 when Jesus is on trial.  They ask him point blank if he is the son of God.  What is the response of Jesus?  “You rightly say that I am.”  This was not their main point for rejecting Jesus.  They had already done this from the beginning.  Yet, it became the leverage they needed to cover their evil desire to execute him.  So is it really blasphemy to claim that the Messiah would be the Son of God?  This is the heart of what Jesus is asking them when he points them to Psalm 110 in this passage.

First of all let’s establish the fact that the Messiah would be the son of David.  This was accepted by all parties involved.  It is in 2 Samuel 7:12-17 that God promises David that his kingdom and throne will be established forever.  God would not reject the claim of David’s family to the throne like He did with Saul.  Thus David’s line becomes essential moving forward.    The prophets picked up on this and added further revelation.  In Isaiah 9:6-7 we are told that One would sit on the throne of David who will be called: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.  Several of these titles pose some problems if you are contending that the Messiah will not have a divine nature.  Thus this coming Messiah would fulfill all that was missing in those earthly kings of David’s line.  Each successive king quickly proved that they were not the messiah and so Israel waited.  In Micah 5:2 it says, “You, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to me the one to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.”  Again this coming messianic ruler is spoken of in terms that go beyond a mere human.  Yes, we can interpret it to mean that the prophecies about his coming are of old, though he is not.  But, it is phrased in such a way that doesn’t negate that his existence would be from ancient times.  Lastly, at the announcement to Mary of her coming pregnancy by the angel Gabriel, it says in Luke 1:32, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.”  So the messiah is the ultimate Son of David.  But it was being revealed to the people of the first century that he was more than a man.  He was the Son of God.  This was not in contradiction to Scripture and only made some Scriptures more understandable.  This leads us to Psalm 110 which Jesus quotes from in today’s Scripture portion.

The question that Jesus asks is this.  How can you say that the messiah is the son of David when David calls the messiah his Lord?  How can an earthly descendant of David also be his lord?  Now when we look at the verse we need to recognize that in the Psalms there are two different words being translated as Lord, in fact you will notice the first “LORD” is in all caps (or small caps) and the second is only capitalized.  This is because the translators are letting you know they are two different words.  Here is a rough translation that helps us see this.  “YHWH said to my adonai….  The first is a reference to the name of God given to Moses at Mt. Sinai.  Historically it has been translated as Jehovah or Yahweh.  The second is a term that refers to a king, master or teacher.  The word always places the person in authority another class (i.e. king to citizens, master to slave, teacher to disciples etc…).  Thus David is literally revealing that he saw the messiah (who would be a descendant of him) as his king and master.  When Jesus asks them how they can call the messiah the son of David, he is not doing it to say they are wrong. But, instead, he is taking them back to a messianic passage and saying, if statement one is true then how do you understand statement two.  Now the answer that is being revealed in the days of Jesus is that the body of Jesus was biologically from the line of David.  As a side not on this biological aspect of Jesus, we should note that the creative act of the Spirit in causing Mary’s pregnancy is not explained further.  Thus even the biology of the body of Jesus is at least partially from David and possibly also from God.  Yet, the spirit of Christ is from before David and has existed from the beginning. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Jesus was the prophesied “Right hand” of God accomplishing salvation for himself. 

Though these were new truths that God was revealing regarding His plan, we must note that none of it is contradictory to the Old Testament.  This is the problem.  The religious leaders claim to know the truth and will not accept what Jesus is saying.  Yet, Jesus shows them that the very Scriptures they claim to know point to the very things that he is revealing.  Thus they are choosing to reject this new light.  This is what I meant earlier by a willful ignorance.  You might ask yourself this.  Is God trying to open my eyes to something that I am resisting and rejecting?  We know that God is working everyday to open the eyes of people to the Truth and yet many reject it.  One day you will be questioned by God himself.  He will expose the flimsy arguments that we use and give back to us according to how we questioned Him.  I encourage those who don’t accept Jesus as both man and divine to be careful how they deal with God’s Word and Christians, His people.  Do you want to be dealt with in the same way by Him?

He Exposes Their Sin

In verse 45 Jesus turns back to the people and warns them about the sin of the religious leaders.  Those who are going to follow Christ must first learn to avoid the pitfalls that keep people from accepting Jesus.  First, Jesus points out the misplaced desire and love that these religious leaders have.  Their desire was for public attention and the adoration of people rather than to please God.  They were filled with pride regarding their godliness, and yet, they did not really love God.  Instead, they loved to be honored and have the best.  There is nothing wrong with wanting people to approve of our actions.  But when that desire goes outside the proper boundaries it becomes an inordinate desire.  They desired man’s applause more than God’s.  They desired the authority that they had for their own purposes and ends rather than for the purposes of God.  This same sin is rampant today within the churches of the USA.  Our churches are overwhelmed with people who have inordinate desires and misplaced loves.  At the end of the day they are serving their own ego at the expense of the work of God.

The religious leaders also were taking advantage of the desperate within society.  Devouring widows houses is a reference to the way they would worm their way into receiving the money of widows while they live and in their deaths.  The term devour depicts the beastly nature of their actions.  They preyed upon the desperate situation of the widows in order to enrich themselves.  They loved money rather than those widows for whom they were to be a protection.  The love of money has infiltrated the churches of this country to the point that it has become a mark of godliness to be rich.   Although there is nothing wrong with being rich, we must recognize how inordinate desires and love pulls us away from God and in the “name of God” we pursue whatever our heart wants.  As long as we slap a Jesus sticker on it in the end, we are living godly.  If God rejected such mockeries then how much more will He reject those who bring ridicule to the Son of God whom we are supposed to be serving?

Jesus also points out their false piety.  They pray long prayers, not because they love talking with God, but because they love putting on a show for the people.  They are not as pious as they depict.  Such pretensions are false and are revolting to God.  We tend to follow spiritual leaders who look pious and godly.  Many are being misled because they foolishly do not look to the Scriptures.  God has warned us and exposed the methods of the unrighteous.  Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of trying to please men.  Focus on pleasing God and let the chips fall where they may.

Lastly, Jesus states that these leaders will receive a greater condemnation.  Why is this so?  They will receive greater condemnation because they spend their days studying and writing about the Scriptures and yet reject the very things the Scriptures are trying to teach, and they reject the very one who authored the Scriptures.  They receive a greater condemnation because they declare that they have the truth and force others to come under error and miss the truth.

Friend, the day will come when God will judge each and every one of us.  How will it go for me in that day?  It will not be the fact that we have sinned that will be the issue.  No, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Rather, it will be the fact of how we dealt with that sin.  Did I submit and plead guilty before the court of heaven?  Did I then cling to Jesus, the Son of God, to be my teacher and savior?  These men refused to hear what God was trying to teach them from the Scriptures and thus they missed the blessing He had for them.  Make sure you don’ t miss God’s blessing for you!

WhenTheLordQuestions Audio