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Weekly Word

Entries in Soul (2)

Tuesday
Aug152017

Faith in the Time of Discipline

Hebrews 12:3-11.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 13, 2017.

There is always friction between generations.  Though generations today may disagree on how to teach and train children, you will not find very many people who would say that it shouldn’t be done at all.  The question is not about teaching kids, but about how and what we teach them.  Thomas Sowell, the American social theorist and political philosopher has said, “Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late.”  He is not the first to recognize the importance of socialization.

Today it may seem like our culture is kicking back against this as they tell parents to teach their kids all religions so that they can choose for themselves, or even better, don’t teach them religion at all.  Similarly it is becoming vogue to avoid seeing the gender of your child as something that is biological.  The mark of a progressive parent is to help your child transition from a biological gender to the gender of your feelings.  Of course, the social discussions taking place around them and with them begs the question if these kids are being overly influenced in this area.  Regardless, my point is that these two examples are not really rejecting the idea of training kids.  The truth is that they object to training them in certain ways and with certain ideas.  Thus in the areas that they want to deconstruct they promote jettisoning it and in the areas they want to construct they promote very heavy training, if not outright propaganda.  In truth they indoctrinate children with their truth that gender is a state of mind, and that all religions are the same, if anything at all.

Our passage today focuses on one of the great difficulties of trusting God, and that is the fact that God treats us as His children.  Just as human parents teach and train their child, so He teaches and trains those who will trust Him in order for them to be like Him.  May we learn to embrace this fact with faith.

Consider Jesus and His example

In verse 2 we were told to turn our focus upon Jesus.  In verse 3 another word is used that takes this focus further into the mind and tells us to “consider” our Lord Jesus and what He went through.  Believers in God can not only look to Jesus to show us the way, but also we can make connections between what He went through and what we face in our life.

First, we are told that Jesus endured hostility from sinners.  Do you remember in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:11-12) where Jesus told His disciples, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  Now Jesus said that knowing that great persecution lay ahead of Him.  He was not merely taking His place in a list of those who have trusted God through the ages.  He is the Lord Himself, perfect and without fault.  He is the Son who is to inherit all things, and yet sinners brazenly persecute Him too.  It is easy for wicked people to tell themselves that the righteous are not as righteous as they pretend.  This becomes the justification for why they can mistreat them.  But this idea is completely undercut with Jesus.  This hostility between those who want to follow God and those who despise them for doing so is a fact of life.  But the key is that Jesus endured it.  The word means He persevered and stayed the course of faith even when to keep faithful was like a heavy burden on His back.  Too easily, we reach the end of our patience and throw off faith like a heavy weight.  “I won’t carry it anymore!  This is too much, I quit!”  When we look at Jesus and see that He didn’t quit, knowing full well what was ahead of Him, we are to take courage from it.  The godly have always suffered at different times in their lives because of the fallen world in which we all live.  But, Jesus tells us to rejoice because God will reward us along with all who have endured such evil.  Don’t look at Moses, Elijah, et alia and say that you aren’t as good as them.  Don’t look at Jesus and say that it must have been easy for Him.  Instead, trust God and take your place (whatever you are called to face) among God’s faithful followers.

In verse 4, when the writer mentions bloodshed, he is literally talking about death.  Jesus didn’t just endure hostility from sinners.  He was also executed and killed by them.  Jesus endured with faith to the point of death.  But notice that the struggle is not with the sinners themselves.  The real battle is with sin itself.  We are reminded that we haven’t resisted against sin to the point of death yet (if we had we would be in heaven and not reading Hebrews).  The sin we resist is not the sin of those sinners who are being hostile.  The sin we resist is our own temptation to jettison faith and give in for the sake of comfort and ease, to make the pain stop.  We are to recognize that Christ shows us to trust the Father even if it costs us our life.  Many Christians throughout history have resisted sin to the point of bloodshed.  But they did it by thinking about what Jesus endured, and keeping their eyes on the goal of being with Jesus and like Jesus.

Now I did skip over a very important phrase.  We are told to consider Jesus in order to avoid becoming “weary and discouraged in our souls.”  Both words give voice to the reality that our inner person struggles with trusting God.  When we face hostility and even death, we can grow tired of trusting God.  We can be discouraged in the fight against our flesh.  Such a soul is on the verge of giving in to unbelief and sin.  Where does one get the strength and desire to keep going on?  For a time we may have it from our own sheer will power, but this is not put forth as an answer for the believer.  Your strength will always come to an end.  The only way we can avoid spiritual weariness and discouragement is to keep our eyes on Jesus and draw strength from Him.  Your soul needs spiritual nourishment that it cannot get from the things of this world that your flesh craves.  When you feel discouraged, ask the Lord Jesus to strengthen you by His Spirit and also talk with other believers.  Sometimes they can encourage you with their stories of how God helped them.

Consider how the Lord disciplines His children

In verses 5-11 we are reminded of our calling and position in Christ.  We have become sons of God.  John 1:12-13 says, “But as many as received Him [Jesus], to them He gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”  The truth is that every child must be taught the way to live in this world.  Now some versions use the word “chastise” in this passage.  The problem with this is that “chastise” has come to be used of corporal punishment only.  Originally it meant to make chaste or pure.  The Greek and Hebrew words that lie behind this translation refer to everything that is done in order to train up a child.  Thus it involves instruction, training, correction, rebuke, and sometimes punishment.  That is why I have used the word “discipline.”  God does all of the above in our lives.  We belong to the Lord and as such He is going to work in our lives in many different ways in order to help us grow up and become like Him.  Every time you go through a difficult stretch, you need to be careful of thinking that God is mad at you or doesn’t love you anymore.  He loves you very much because you are His child.

Verse 5 tells us that we can forget God’s Word to us.  It is important to recognize how forgetting God’s Word can lead to losing faith in God.  The writer quotes from Proverbs 3:11-12, which is written in the form of a parent addressing a child with wise instruction.  The key is that God’s Word tells us that not only are we made to be the sons of God, but that God will actually treat us as His children by being faithful to do all that a good parent would do in order to prepare their child for adulthood.  The enemy of our soul wants us to forget who we are and to create a rift between us and our Heavenly Father.  Your flesh even wants to lash out in anger at God when He allows difficult times in our lives.  But God’s Word tells us that He loves us and that nothing in this world can separate us from the love of God, except our own choice (Romans 8).

Now the proverb in verse 5 brings up the issue of despising God’s discipline.  It tells us not to despise God’s discipline because it is proof that we are His children.  Now the word “despise” typically carries the sense of a strong, visceral reaction- which we would do well to avoid.  But the word it translates here actually has the sense of not caring at all about it.  It is the picture of a person who could careless that God is “disciplining them because they are His child.”  Instead of being encouraged by it, they see it as worthless or something not worth holding on to, as they toss the relationship away.  How great and amazing it is that the God of the universe has made us His children.  You are special and He is bringing you to His greatness.  But you must trust Him.  Just as the One and Only Son of God, Jesus, was allowed to face difficulties even to the point of death in this life, so we too must face things in our life that our flesh will despise.  We must resist the temptation to throw away the priceless love that God offers you.  Don’t let the difficulties of life cause you to treat God’s love for you as a thing of little worth.  Like Esau we can sell our faith for a pot of beans, or for an immoral, sexual liaison, or for a drug induced high, or for the praise of the world, or for any other work of our flesh.  God’s work of discipline is proof that He accepts you as His child, rather than the opposite.  Why doesn’t He spoil you and me rotten?  He doesn’t do it because it would ruin us.  He cares about what we become because we are not illegitimate children.

In verses 9-10, we are reminded that God’s discipline is superior to human discipline.  Whether parents or teachers or professionals, we often look up to humans who train us in ways that our flesh doesn’t appreciate, but our minds recognize as valuable.  How much more ought we to embrace the discipline of God.  He is not subject to the jealousies and selfishness of humanity.  He trains us for our benefit.  Only God can bring us to that which is good and profitable for us, both in body and in soul.  It is more than profitable.  We also are able to obtain a portion of the Holiness of God.  He is not just teaching us to look a certain way.  He is changing us from the inside out.  We are separated from those who reject His discipline and fashioned into His image, to His glory and for our good.  This is the essence of holiness.  God is completely other than fleshly humanity.  But in His grace, He gives Himself to us and makes us like Him.

Lastly, in verse 11, we are told to see the result of God’s discipline over the occurrence of it.  When we are in the moment of discipline it is not joyful.  The occurrence can obscure our vision of that to which it is leading us.  We have to learn to see beyond the instruction that our flesh doesn’t like, and the rebukes that our heart is hurt by.  We have to learn to see beyond the hardships that He allows us to encounter and see the joy that is on the other side.  We will not be children forever.  He will finish His work and we will be adult sons of God at the resurrection.  God’s work in us will yield the amazing fruit of righteousness that is characterized by peace.  In a world where we are being stirred up to anger, division, and self-seeking, is a God who tells us that we were not created to be so.  You will never find peace by tossing aside your faith and confidence in the Lord.  But with Him there will be peace in the time of trouble.  There will be peace in the midst of the storm.  There will be peace, though the world be raging, in the shelter of God’s arms.

Faith in Discipline audio

Tuesday
Oct302012

Living Honorably In This World

Generally, we talk about honor only when we are referencing the military.  However, in 1 Peter 2:11-12 all Christians are called to live honorable lives.  What is honor?  At the root of honor is the concept of value.  We ought to live in a way that is good and valuable to society, regardless of whether that value is recognized.  To have honor in a dishonorable society is a unique pickle.  True honor is not defined by what the crowd values.  It is inherently valuable and “ought” to be valued by all men.

It is precisely this situation that Peter talks to in this passage.

Living Honorably Begins With The Inner Battle

Verse 11 points out that there is a battle that goes on inside of each believer.  God is not interested in people who appear to have value, like a kind of “fool’s gold.”  Rather, he wants our outward honor to come from battles that have been won inside.  If we try to act honorable without having fought those inner battles we will not have true honor, nor will our conduct truly make a difference.  It will eventually implode because it lacks foundation, and we all know that foundations are valuable.

First he calls them “beloved.”  This is important because in verses 9 and 10 he had reminded them of the book of Hosea.  They were like the adulterous Gomer that had sold herself into slavery to follow her adulteries.  Yet, Hosea, who represents God, had purchased her back to himself from the auction block.  Imagine that guys or gals.  What if you had to go buy your wife or husband back because they had purposefully sold themselves into prostitution?  Would you do it?  God has done that for us.  Those who were not loved through Jesus now become “Loved.”  You are loved by God and therefore should be loved by his people.  You have been given a place in his family.  Like a concerned older brother, Peter “begs” them to fight this inner battle.  He is coming alongside them and urging them towards the good and warning them against the bad.  No matter how this inner battle goes, we need to always keep in mind that if we have believed in Jesus then we are God’s beloved.

Next he reminds them that they are foreigners and strangers.  If you follow Jesus and fight this inner battle then you are going to stick out as strange in the cultures of this world.  Like any foreigner living in a foreign land we can forget our heritage and be assimilated.  Though this is not evil in the natural sense, it is bad spiritually.  In a world that is not fighting the “inner battle,” we stick out when we do.  It can be easy to give up and be assimilated.

So what exactly is this war?  Peter says that the lusts, or strong desires, that are based in our fleshly bodies war against our soul.  Did you ever think that your 5 senses are being used by your lusts to fight against your soul?  What would you be willing to sell your soul for?  What is your price?  The faith in Jesus that resides in your soul is hated by the lusts of the flesh.  Like a little baby that is used to getting its way, it screams and fights for control.  But unlike a little baby, the lusts of the flesh are able to kill faith and destroy our soul.  Jesus said in Luke 21:19 that when we are going through trying times we can take possession of our soul by being patient.  Trusting God in the fire and knowing that he will bring you through; waiting on God beside the Red Sea and knowing that he has a plan of deliverance; these are the things that are the valuables of our soul.

Peter says that they need to abstain from the lusts.  Literally, we should create a separation between us and them.  This tactical maneuver is meant to protect our faith and not lose our soul.  Joseph does this literally when Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce him.  In our lives we have many outward temptations, but they are working through inner lusts.  If a computer is a temptation to let sexual lusts take over then what are some means that we can do to abstain and separate ourselves from that temptation?  Lust always tells us that “Jesus isn’t enough.”  It tells you that you need something that God says you don’t.  Or, that you don’t need something that God says you do.  Boiling it all down, it is the same argument as Satan used in the Garden with Eve.  Leave God behind and satisfy yourself.

Let me remind you of the gospel, good news, of Jesus Christ.  Before you ever get to doing something good for God, you already have all that you need in Jesus.  When you put your faith in Jesus and follow him, you have all wisdom, power, joy, love, hope, and anything else that you will ever need.  Jesus is the wisdom of God, the power of God, the joy of God, the love of God, etc…  To have Jesus is to have everything you will ever need.  This simple truth can be forgotten by those who fall to temptation.  But it can also be forgotten by those who fight against it.  God does not love you because you have conquered temptation so well.  Nor does he despise you because you have done so poorly this week.  God completely love you, before you ever do anything in this battle.  He loves you because you have believed on His Son whom he sent.  The problem is not solved so much by doing more as it is by believing more.  Don’t let the lie of lust cause you to doubt these truths.  And, don’t let successes in this battle cause you to fall to the lust of pride.   Simply trust God.  When you fight them you are protecting what you already have between Him and you.

Living Honorably Moves to Conduct And Action

Honorable conduct is that which is morally good and brings glory to God.  Of course we need an unchanging means to measure the goodness of our conduct.  Society cannot be a good judge of what is good because society is always changing.  God has given us his sure word so that we can always know what is honorable no matter what society we are in.

Honorable conduct must always be lived out in the midst of those who are not honorable and are lost.  Peter refers to the Gentiles.  Literally this is all the nations and people.  In that day none of these nations and people knew God.  They were all lost.  We have to live out God’s morality before people who are plunging madly ahead into pleasing the lusts of their flesh.  This is not easy.  In fact we will be often rejected.  That is what Peter means when he says that some “speak against you as evildoers.”  They may call you bigots, haters, ignorant, Judgmental, Intolerant, Out-of-touch, etc. but we are to continue living out what is good.  Why?  It really is valuable, honorable.  They really do need us to live for God before them.  They really do need to see it and rub up against us in their lives.  It is the only way they are going to have any hope.  It is not important that this world embrace us.  But it is important that they observe us living out what is good before them.

Peter reminds them of a coming “day of visitation.”  The day of visitation is a reference to a biblical concept that from time to time God inserts himself into a person’s life, or a nation’s affairs.  When he does it is an opportunity for grace and mercy.  If we receive him and follow him we will find miraculous grace.  But if we reject him we find ourselves handed over to judgment.  This is precisely what happened to Israel when Jesus came.  Those who embraced him found grace and the miraculous activity of God.  But those who rejected him went on to experience the judgment of God as they were handed over to the effects of their rebellious hearts.  If we have lived out the truth before the lost, they have a chance to believe in the day of visitation.  There will be something within them that remembers that strange person who lived differently because of Jesus.  They may be saved.

Food For Thought

We don’t appreciate good things until they are taken away.  Don’t let the rejection of today cause you to quit fighting the inner battles and living honorably.  You won’t win any accolades of this world, but you will make a big impact in some one’s life.  Those who speak ill of you today, may come knocking at your door tomorrow.  Will you help them or be offended?  God help us to work for Him and not ourselves.

Lastly let me just say, God is faithful to visit individuals and nations at His appointed times.  We need to be faithful knowing that God is faithful.  America has had several visitation by God and I don’t know if we have another one coming.  But it is our job to be faith because no matter what, this world is headed for the biggest visitation of them all—the second coming of Jesus Christ.  Maranatha!

Living Honorably audio