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Entries in Wickedness (2)

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

Tuesday
Dec112012

The Most Wonderful Time of The Year?

Don’t get me wrong Christmas is a wonderful time of the year.  However, there are some ways in which it isn’t so wonderful.  Just think of those gift buying excursions that often turn into anything but wonderful: stop-and-go traffic, rude drivers, frenzied purchasing, etc…  The commercialization of Christmas will only continue to pressurize the holidays to the point where those who “buy” into its message will find themselves hating the holiday.

Now let’s remember Jesus.  He really is the reason for this season.  He said in John 7:7 that the world hates him because he testifies that its works are evil.  Now can you imagine buying a doll for your child that has a truth detector built into it?  Not only that, but it can detect good or bad motivation.  And, to top things off, it can flat out declare the most hidden sins of anyone within range.  Does that sound like a doll you want to bring into your house?  Can you see now how the commercialized message of Christmas has changed the original message of Christmas?  Let’s explore this further, beginning in Luke 2:34-35.

God Upsets The Present Order At Christmas

Mary had taken the baby Jesus to the temple in order to present him before the Lord.  During this time an old man named Simeon comes up to her and begins to prophecy about Jesus.  When he states that Jesus is destined for the rising and falling of many in Israel, it is clear that some will like it and some won’t.  The current way things were had developed by actions that weren’t always godly.  Many fortunes had been influenced by things that were wicked and deceptive.  The High Priest himself had been appointed by the Roman Prefect.  In many cases this process was helped along with bribes.  We see the same dynamic in Jesus’ trial 30 some years later.  Both government and religion revealed their seedy underbelly during it. 

Now the rising and falling that is referred to here is in relation to God himself.  The apostles would not have appeared to have been elevated in Israel.  In fact after the death and resurrection of Jesus, we see those who crucified him throwing the apostles in Jail.  But in God’s eyes things were different.  Suddenly Galilean fishermen were of higher esteem in his eyes than the High Priest in Jerusalem.

Simeon also refers to Jesus as a sign that will be spoken against.  As a “sign” the words and actions of Jesus would point to something.  What was that?  Jesus points us to the Truth, but specifically the truth about the Father in heaven and our predicament before him.  This clarity of who God is stood in stark contrast to the teachings of the religious leaders.  Their sin and twisting of the Scriptures was glaringly obvious.  Thus, they not only spoke against him, but they also crucified him.  This picture of a sword piercing through to our soul is told to Mary about herself.  But notice the wording implies that it will pierce others (in fact all).  Even Mary, who had been found worthy to give birth to the Son of God, was not sinless.  Her flesh would struggle with the actions and words of Jesus.  The sword is a metaphor for the word of God cutting through the outer image we put on and going down to the “heart” of our motivations, thoughts, and actions.  This Word would reveal the thoughts of the hearts of men.  It is easy to try and hide our motivations from each other.  This is how we protect ourselves and get ahead.  Those who are the most skilled often are rewarded with greater honors.  We can only judge by conjectures we make looking at surface projections.  Are they real?  Often not.  Thus Paul states in 1 Corinthians 4:5, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts.  Then each one’s praise will come from God.”  Here he specifically deals with trying to judge the thoughts and motivations of people’s hearts.  The praise of men is no guarantee that God is pleased with us.  In Christ, we no longer have to hide in the darkness of pretense.  However, neither should we use the grace of God as a license for flaunting willful sin.  Paul warns about this in 2 Timothy 3:1-5.

The World Uses The Things Of God To Cover Wickedness

Paul warned that things would become very perilous, both in the natural and in the spiritual.  People may say all the right things and do the right things, but if that is merely a mask that they are hiding selfish motives behind then it will eventually come to light.  True believers need to keep alert so that they can protect themselves from false teaching that pampers the flesh and has demonic origins.  After listing the many different sins, Paul points to perhaps the worst.  “Having a form of godliness but denying its power.”  Whether they are Christians or not, Godly ways and terms are co-opted and redefined to cover wickedness.  This is done by false religions, Christians who follow “another gospel,” and even by the secular humanists of our present day.  The things of God, such as: peace on earth, joy, love, and forgiveness are kept but the part of the gospel that could actually make those things a reality are rejected.  Only God’s Spirit can convict us of sin and regenerate our heart.  No amount of good works can regenerate a heart.  Without repentance from sin and faith towards Jesus the gospel is neutered.  It becomes impotent.  We live in a day and age where many Christians are bargaining with humanists in order to create a compromise.  But that compromise will be a eunuch that cannot save the world.

Final Thoughts

To have Christmas without God is the same as neutering Christmas.  It is to embrace pretense and run from the reality.  We must not allow ourselves to embrace a gospel and Jesus that is powerless to save us.

We must choose whether we desire to rise among men or to rise before God.  This is a huge problem in the church today.  We seek to be praised by the world.  But Jesus said he was hated by the world.  What are we doing differently?  Do not be deceived by the veneer of this world.  It has already been judged by God and his wrath is looming over it.  Don’t seek joy in toys.  Don’t look for peace in believing that all men are good.  Don’t put your hope in man’s ability to solve the world’s problems.  These are the paths of the destruction of our soul.  But all these things will be delivered to those who put their trust in Jesus the Christ alone.

The Most Wonderful Audio