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Entries in Wisdom (9)

Saturday
May062017

Rejecting Worldly Wisdom

1 Corinthians 3:18-23, and James 3:13-18.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on April 30, 2017.

Last week we talked about the spiritual powers behind the wisdom of this age and the tactical error they made in crucifying Jesus.  Today we are going to explore further the Holy Spirit’s injunction for believers in Jesus to reject this world’s wisdom and to embrace the wisdom of God.

Truly we live in a wonderful time technologically.  And yet, we also live in a horrible time in respect to the dangers that surround us from that same technology.  It seems apparent that as the good that technology can do for us grows, so the evil that it can do to us grows as well.  This direct proportionality cannot be avoided or sidelined as we broach the subject of wisdom.  Nuclear threats, cultural threats, government encroachment on freedoms, all of these dangers and more come from technology or are exacerbated by the technology at hand.  Thus, we need to understand that these passages, which talk about the wisdom of mankind and of the powers of this age, are just as relevant today as they were 2,000 years ago, even though their technology was quite primitive compared to ours.  As our technology increases, weaknesses within the mind and hearts of mankind will become more dangerous and our lives more fragile.  Thus it is critical for us to heed these warnings against worldly wisdom and the gracious offer of God’s wisdom, which is Jesus the Christ.

Christians can deceive themselves

Paul is writing to Christians in the Greek city of Corinth.  Just as Adam and Eve were pulled into rebellion against God through deception, so Paul warns believers to beware the deceptions found in the wisdom of this world.  In verse 18 the use of the word “seems” highlights the reality that most of what we call wisdom lies in the arena of what people think.  Many people seem wise and want to appear wise, but the underlying question is whether or not it is truly wisdom.  Thus the desire to be seen as wise is itself a trap that we must beware.  Thus Romans 1:22 says, “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…”  Now we are not just talking about being knowledgeable, or having great technology.  Wisdom is that aspect of knowing that informs what the next move should be.  Knowing determines how to do something, but wisdom informs whether it should be done or not.  Paul focuses on those who seem to be wise in this age.  They have learned to look wise among a particular people who have a particular world view.  He tells them that when you look wise in this world’s eyes then you are in danger of deceiving yourself.  If this age thinks you are wise then a big red flag should go up in our hearts.  We will talk about this more, but we do much damage to ourselves and others through trying to appear wise.

Paul challenges such desires and such wisdom by stating that we must first become a fool in order to become wise.  It is important to note that this is actually given in a command form.  He is calling for an about face for any Christians who appear to be wise according to the mindset of this world.  He is not encouraging Christians to do foolish things like drink and drive, or jump off tall buildings.  He is challenging believers to fully embrace the mindset and commands of Jesus (his wisdom).  The world will always see this as foolish.  Sure, at different times and in different places it may be in vogue to have a little bit of Jesus adorning our outward appearance.  But at its heart this world rejects the wisdom of Jesus.  Half embraces of Jesus are okay, sometimes.  But the wise of this world always take the idea of Jesus captive to their own reason, instead of becoming captive to the will of Jesus themselves.  To follow Jesus fully will always be thought foolish by this world and by worldly Christians, whether you are in the U.S.A. or in Iran.

In verse 19 the preposition “with” emphasizes being in the presence of God.  This world claims great wisdom, but in God’s eyes they are foolish, and when they stand before Him in eternity they will be made aware of that folly.  How can we claim to be in the presence of God while holding on to worldly wisdom?  Christians must quit trying to look wise to the world and think more about how they appear to our Lord Jesus. 

Now Paul gives two quotes.  The first is from Job 5:13, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness.”  The emphasis is on those who abandon the wisdom of God and follow the wisdom of this world.  This false wisdom always leads to some kind of trap in which we are forced to face our folly.  In this trap we are forced to make a decision.  Either we will hold on to the wisdom of this world, or we will repent and be saved.  A great illustration of this in the Bible is Haman in the story of Esther.  He hated Mordecai and the Jews.  Thus he used his great wisdom and skill to try and have him killed along with his people.  Haman had a huge gallows built on which he sought to hang Mordecai.  The story ends with Haman being hung on his own gallows by decree of the King of Persia.  We are not always trapped so drastically in this life.  But no matter what, when we die and stand before God, we will all face such a drastic moment.  Will the King of the heavens and the earth think I have done wisely or will He send me into judgment?

Now the second quote is from Psalm 94:11, “The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”  This psalm is a cry for God’s judgment to take down the wicked (the wise of this world) and to raise up the righteous.  When it says that the thoughts of the wise are “futile,” the word used is the same one used in the famous line from Ecclesiates, “Vanity, Vanity…”  The word has the idea of emptiness, nothingness, meaninglessness.  The thoughts of the wise end up empty, no matter how full they appear for the time.  Solomon,  the wisest man in the world in his day, realized that without God all our wisdom is vanity.

We should not boast in people

Starting in verse 21, Paul brings this to his point in hand.  The Corinthian’s worldly wisdom had led them to boast in certain Christian teachers over the top of the Apostle Paul.  Their desire to seem wise within the Greek world affected their ability to receive the wisdom that Paul was giving them.  They would compare the looks, rhetorical ability, and charisma of these teachers, instead of comparing them to the Scriptures.

Paul approaches this problem by pointing out the foolishness of it.  God is the one who had given the Corinthians all of these teachers: Paul, Peter, Apollos, and others.  God must have had a wise purpose in sending these very different men, who had varying appeal to the wisdom of this world.  When Paul says in verse 21 that “all things are yours,” he means that they were holding on to one person while diminishing and pushing away others.  Yet, God intended for them to have them all.  This is very typical today.  We gravitate towards those teachers who make us feel good and wise and push aside those teachers who don’t.  This is a foolish kind of wisdom that will lead to our own spiritual destruction if we are not careful.  It is bad enough when we boast in one godly teacher over another.  But such a mindset sets us up for being caught up with false teaching.  What if the devil comes along and is the essence of worldly wisdom?  Will we not be easily caught up and trapped in his nets of reason and shackled in his chains of logic?  Thus, they don’t belong to them in the sense that they can do anything they want with them.  He means that they were all given for their benefit.  So their "choosiness" was resisting the wisdom of God.

In verse 23, Paul takes this thought full circle.  God has given the believer everything for their good, but everything (including the believer) belongs to Christ and Christ belongs to God the Father.  Thus everything comes from God and belongs to Him.  This calls for humility under God’s wisdom.  We don’t always know why He has sent certain gifts into our life, yet it is not mine to receive or reject as I wish.  This is because our life belongs to God.  We are to live it for His glory and purposes.  We need to get our eyes off of people, what they think about us and what we think about them.  This is a trap in which we will find ourselves securely fastened.  Only by the grace of God will we be delivered.

We must embrace the true wisdom of God

Now, let’s go to James 3:13-18.  James is dealing with the same tendency of believers to use the wisdom of this world instead of the wisdom of Jesus.  These Christian groups were breaking out into squabbles and fighting amongst themselves.  Thus his letter serves to rebuke and instruct them.

The question in verse 13, “Who is wise and understanding among you,” opens up a world of issues.  Just like Paul using the word “seems,” so James is pointing out this area of our thinking.  The whole problem in the area of wisdom is exactly summed up in who would raise their hand to such a question?  The question itself highlights the problem.  We all think we are wise and tend to use worldly wisdom in who we model ourselves after.  When we operate from a worry of what other think, we are on a sinking ship that is sailing to destruction.  Yet, this question is also a challenge.  If you really want to be wise, then listen to the wisdom that God has given James for you.

If you are really wise then prove it by your good conduct and meekness.  Fighting, slandering, and boasting are not good conduct.  The New Testament is filled with the apostle’s descriptions of what is good conduct versus what is evil conduct.  We cannot be doing bad things to others and claim to be wise.  Such wisdom is worldly and rejected by God.  Not only must we do the wise thing, but it should be done in a wise way, meekly.  Meekness is a gentle spirit and a mild disposition.  This is the opposite of a person who is fighting and squabbling with others.  It is hard to be meek in the best of situations.  But it is even harder when you know you have the wisdom of God and others are rejecting it.  God does not want us to force His ways on others.  He does not want us to toss meekness out the window and focus merely on results.  Instead He wants us to speak the truth in love with a gentle spirit, with the Holy Spirit filling and enabling us.

In verse 14 James points out that if we persist in such self-seeking and envious “wisdom,” then we are lying against the truth.  God says we are not wise to do such things, and yet we keep doing them and calling ourselves wise.  Christians and their lives should agree with God and not lie against Him.  In the end our self wisdom maligns the Truth and the Character of God.  We can become a reason why people reject Him.  They already have worldly wisdom.  Why would they also embrace Jesus?  The truth is that Christians cannot follow the wisdom of Jesus and the wisdom of this world.  To become a Christian is to reject the world’s wisdom, to pick up our cross, and to follow Him.

In verses 15-16, James points out that the wisdom of this age does not come from God.  It has an earthly source; that is it is only focused on matters of the earth.  It also has a sensual source.  The word translated here focuses on those senses of our flesh versus what the Spirit of God desires.  Lastly it has a demonic source.  Instead of wisdom coming down from heaven, it is folly masquerading as wisdom and coming up from the demons of hell.  So James reminds us of our three greatest enemies: the world, our own flesh, and the devil.  Christians must not live by a wisdom that is derived from such sources, and don’t be deceived.  The wisdom of this world is derived by these sources.  I can’t follow Jesus and cling to demonic wisdom.  I will love one and hate the other, no matter how long I try to walk the fence.  The true origin of what masquerades as wisdom in our day and age is found here.

In verse 17 and 18, James turns to God’s wisdom.  God’s wisdom is evident and can be easily judged by us and others.  He says that it is pure.  It is unadulterated in its desires and motives.  It is not mixed with selfish motives, but simply follows the Spirit of God.  It is also peaceable and gentle.  Thus our choice to strive with one another and push our own interests above others is rebuked.  The wisdom of God is willing to yield.  Instead of fighting with another to win the argument, we step back and leave room for the Holy Spirit to work.  It is full of mercy as opposed to harsh judgment, and it is full of good fruit.  This is a metaphor for the good conduct mentioned earlier.  Lastly, God’s wisdom is without favoritism and hypocrisy.  It is easy to see that each of these points is obvious, and yet they are easily failed.  Our wisdom pulls us away from what God has made obvious.

James ends with the point that the person, who has the wisdom of God, will sow the truth about Jesus peacefully so as to bring peace to them.  The nature of a seed is that we put it in the soil and then let nature take its course.  Too often we forget this wisdom of God.  May the Lord help us to see the ways in which we have held on to the wisdom of our modern age in resistance to the true wisdom of God.

Rejecting Worldly Wisdom audio

Tuesday
Dec222015

Lessons of Christmas- The Wisdom of It All

1 Corinthians 1:19-31.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 20, 2015.

The sending of a baby to a small country under the domination of the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago may not seem to be the wisest plan for saving the world.  Well, it didn’t seem any wiser at the time either.  During the Christmas season we are reminded that the wisest and most powerful people of this world cannot save the world and are absent in God’s plan.  Thus God makes salvation available to the lowest among us and to the highest regardless of these things.  In itself, this can be a problem for those who think they deserve it and others don’t.  The wisdom of Christmas is that God makes salvation available to those who will humble themselves, like he did, and trust His Wisdom and His Power.  Let’s look at this passage.

God Rejects The Wisdom of Mankind

This passage is written to the Christians in Corinth, who grew up in the Greek culture and were influenced by pride in its wisdom.  Thus the fact that God would reject man’s wisdom is at the same time obvious and inconceivable.  It is obvious because it is exactly what we would expect from a Being that can create the universe, or multiverse if you prefer.  However, it runs contrary to our experience and our nature.  We are used to opening doors to opportunity by our knowledge and wisdom.  We are not used to putting our wisdom aside and embracing God’s.

Paul points out that the message of the cross was and is foolishness to those of this world who are perishing.  Of course the message of the cross is God’s plan of salvation, which starts with the incarnation, and the baby Jesus.  This message of how God is saving mankind seems foolish to people of this world.  Thus, even if God were inclined to work in a way that fit in with our wisdom, the fact that we reject His wisdom would disincline Him. 

But more important than that in verse 21 we are told that the wisdom of mankind was not able to help it know God.  No matter how great our telescopes, communications, philosophy, and understanding of the universe, it will not help us know God.  In fact, the only way we have ever known anything about God is because He has revealed it to us, whether you look at the Garden of Eden, the prophets through the ages, or Jesus.  That is why in verses 19-20 God makes it abundantly clear that man’s wisdom will not lead to salvation.  Sin is a problem that cannot be solved with technology or philosophy.  No amount of time will enable social engineers to create a utopia that is truly good. 

At Christmas the message of God’s love comes into the world in a way that seems foolish to the world, but it will be effective against this sin problem.  Man’s wisdom continues to cycle through different wise ideas to help mankind.  But none of them will work.  The founding fathers of the United States of America understood this.  Instead of trying to create a perfect government, they created checks and balances to help keep the sin of men in check.  Over the years we have incrementally weakened and even dissolved many of these checks and balances.  Democracy is not the hope of the world.  At best, it can only restrain evil.  So this story will continue even as mankind doubles down and increases the stakes by calling for Global governance.

In verse 22 Paul points out a particular problem.  The Jews represented the religious wisdom of those who knew God and were supposed to be following Him, whereas the Greeks or Gentiles represented those who did not know God and instead were a more secular wisdom (even though they had religious notions).  The Jews believed in God and so looked for powerful signs of what God was doing.  However, the problem with this is that no matter how many powerful signs God did, their hearts did not want to go where He needed to take them.  Thus, the religious wisdom of those who know God can be driven by human wisdom.  “I will only accept what I determine is God.”  In this model God has to become a kind of court Jester who keeps us constantly entertained in something.  Yet, we don’t want what He is offering.  Thus, such religious wisdom must always come to a point of deciding between God’s way or your way.  On the other hand the secular wisdom of the Greeks and nations of the world believed that salvation could be achieved through the refinement of knowledge and philosophy.  They sought out ideas that “worked.”  God is saying that the solution that will work is one that will not appeal to the religious wisdom or the secular wisdom.  No matter who they are, the wise of mankind will not like the solution God gives.  The wise men of this age or any age to come will never save us, period, whether from religious circles or secular.

God Uses His Own Wisdom

Having established that God will not use man’s wisdom to save us, the obvious is then looked at:  God will use His own wisdom.  Paul points out that God’s wisdom is a stumbling block to the religious.  Yes, they may be looking in the right direction, they may be on the right path, they may even know what they are supposed to be looking for.  However, in the end when God acts to save mankind they trip over it because they didn’t recognize it.  Salvation is offered in a way that is not in harmony with their thoughts.  Yet, God will not let them ignore it.  When they trip over it they will either despise it or they will choose to embrace it.

As for the secular wisdom, the salvation of God is foolishness.  Think of it this way, Jesus coming into first century Israel is a template for the message of Christ going into all the other nations.  You won’t be able to ignore it and a choice must be made.  Yet, our wisdom will always lead us to reject it.  Paul says in verses 24-25 that this “foolishness” is the Power and Wisdom of God.  This “foolishness” is wiser than the greatest wisdom of mankind.  No matter how foolish you think this plan is, it is far wiser than you can imagine.  Only arrogance and pride would cause us to persist in clinging to the ship of this world’s wisdom at the expense of God’s.

God Displays His Wisdom Through Us

Here we are 2 millennia later and countless millions have chosen to believe the message of God in Jesus.  Of course, only God knows how many of them have truly believed, instead of just going along with something in order to fit in.  Yet, in those who believe, the wisdom of God is put on display to a world that cannot see it otherwise.  Paul reminds these Corinthian Christians that most of them were foolish and weak by the world’s standards.  There was a time when we as a nation understood this.  Do you remember the words that are at the statue of liberty?  I won’t quote them all, but the critical part is this.  “'Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp,' cries she with silent lips!  'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.'”  Today we are more apt to cream the crop of the nations so that our businesses and nation may be the greatest.  But this is not what God does.  He lets the cream rise to the surface and then takes the bottom layer.  Why?  He does so because you can do nothing with those who are so full of their own wisdom they don’t need God.  Whereas the lowly know full well that their only hope is in God.

Paul states emphatically that God will allow no human to glory in front of Him.  The Creator of all things has chosen to save us in a way that glorifies no one, and this grates on the nerves of the mighty to no end.  God loves to choose the weak and foolish, because it highlights the impotence of the strong and wise of this world and forces them to continually hear the truth, “Your wisdom cannot save you!”

Jesus is God’s gift of Wisdom and Glory to us.  At Christmas God gives us the embodiment of His Wisdom and His Glory.  In Jesus, God asks the world to turn from their wisdom and embrace a better wisdom and glory.  He sent Jesus, not because we deserved it, but because He wants to save us.  Thus the Church of Jesus is a reminder to the world of its need to embrace the wisdom of God. 

However, we are not just a reminder to the world.  In Ephesians 3:8-11, Paul points out that God is also teaching the angelic powers through us lowly humans.  Yes, even angels need to learn the same lessons as mankind does.  Their greatest wisdom will only lead to destruction.  But the wisdom of God will lead to life.  There is much interference in the nations of the world today by humans with political ambitions.  However, there is also interference from spiritual beings with an axe to grind.  Thus we are coming to the apex of history.  In this let me ask, what about you?  What do you say?  In Jesus, God has set the fruit of salvation low so that even you can grasp it if you will.  Put your faith in Him today.

 

Lessons-Wisdom audio

Tuesday
Dec082015

Lessons of Christmas- The Mystery of It All

1 Peter 1:10-13.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 5, 2015.

As we enter the Christmas season, we have been looking at lessons that it teaches us.  Last week we talked about the Goodness of God displayed at the birth of Jesus.  Today we are going to look at the Mystery of God.  It has been said that God works in mysterious ways.  Although this is true, there is much more to it than that.  Whether you are a person who likes mysteries or not, there is something about mystery that engages our mind.  Our natural curiosity wants to try and solve it.  One thing about a good mystery is that it usually has a surprise twist that provides the hidden information to solve the mystery.  We see these same elements in the plan of God, which has some parts that are very clear and others that are not.  At the birth of Jesus there was the mystery of who the messiah would be and how salvation would be accomplished.  A big part of the mystery was the timing.  When would all this happen?  Lastly, I would point out the mystery of God’s dealings with Israel and the nations of the world.  All of these mysterious things come together at Christmas in an even greater mystery: the incarnation.  In Jesus was united God and man in one being.  He is the one who is both fully God and yet fully man.  This is a mystery. 

In 1 Peter 1:10-13, Peter points out these things to the believers of his day.

Salvation Was A Mystery

Through the years prophets in Israel had spoke on behalf of God.  They explained past, present, and sometimes future things.  Of course God himself gives the first prophecy in the Garden of Eden when he explains that the “seed of the woman” would crush the serpents head.  This first word of hope to mankind let us have a glimpse that God was doing something about our situation.  Over the centuries a large body of prophecies had been accumulated.  These words were not a complete picture, and in fact they left many questions in the hearts and minds of those who pondered them.

The prophets themselves were in the same boat as those to whom they spoke.  They did not understand everything they were being told.  Yes, Adam and Eve knew that God would help one of their seed to give them victory over the serpent, but they didn’t know how and when.  Peter reminds us that there has always been mystery in what God is doing.

Yet, this drove the prophets to search and inquire into it carefully.  Up to Moses, the Words of God were handed down orally.  Thus to search and inquire into the matter could only be done by finding an elder who was faithful to the old ways and would explain what God had done and said in the past.  Such wise men like Noah had held onto the promises and prophecies of God despite the fact that the rest of mankind had cast them aside.  With Moses God began directing the prophets and others to write these things down.  Once that was done the writings themselves could be searched and compared.  Ultimately we see the prophets exemplified in Daniel who was searching the scroll of Jeremiah and came to understand that the exile into Babylon would only last 70 years.  Thus he knew that God was going to help his people return to Israel.  He also received many visions and prophecies regarding the future.  Yet, Daniel had many questions.  In chapter 12 of the book of Daniel, we see him asking God for more understanding and yet the Lord tells him, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.”  Even though he was the holy prophet of God, he had to trust God in the midst of many mysterious, unknowns regarding the plan of God.  We live in days where it is easy to connect with faithful, godly elders.  We can also search the Scriptures with the help of powerful computers.  Along with this, God is as close as He has ever been when we pray.  So have we grown weary of the mystery?  Have we come to the place where we quit hoping for the resolution of God’s plan?  There are even some in the Church today that teach that prophecy and searching it out for understanding is a problem.  The problem is not trying to understand prophecies.  This has been the impulse of godly people from the beginning.

Peter points out that these prophets wanted to know who the messiah would be and when he would come.  Over time God gave further clarification.  First we find that the messiah would come from Abraham, then Isaac, and then Jacob.  Later we are told that he would be of the lineage of David.  In regards to time, they are eventually given some inkling in Daniel.  In fact chapter 9 of Daniel is a prophecy that lays out how much time was left.  He also reveals that it would happen during the reign of the 4th Beast Empire.  Notice how similar their questions are to ours today.  Our waiting for Jesus to come back is very similar to what they waited for.

Peter points out that that, by the Spirit, they saw the sufferings and subsequent glory of the messiah.  These two incongruous ideas created a lot of questions and mystery concerning the plan of God.  The suffering and victory of the messiah may seem to be a contradiction, but it is more a contradiction of implausibility rather than impossibility.  God had promised a savior.  But when he came he would suffer.  Why?  He would be glorious on one hand and yet there would be nothing about him physically that would draw men to him.  They mystery was in how all these puzzle pieces fit together.  At Christmas God solved part of this puzzle for us.  Christ came first to save us from our own sin (the true enemy).  To do this he had to make himself vulnerable and let himself be tortured, even put to death, for our sake.  But how could he do all that and yet remain the King who would raise up the righteous and put down the wicked?

Why All The Mystery

There is a part of us, whether as an atheist or a frustrated believer, that wished God would make things clearer.  Yet, he has a penchant for mystery and long waits in between times of revelation.  Peter points out in verse 12 that it has to do with the fact that prophecy is not just for us.  We are serving others.  Either God has to make a clear explanation to every single person who ever existed within their time, or we have to put up with a bit of mystery.  There is no way around this.  Prophecy was never given to elite men for their benefit alone.  It was given to them in order to serve others.  First they served the people of their time by sharing the prophecies.  However, Peter points out that they also served the generation that would be alive when the messiah finally came.  Those who would see the resolution of prophecy needed served in this way.  Because of the words that were shared and written down, they would be able to see the connections between what was happening and what God promised.  It would help them to navigate especially difficult times with the understanding that God desired them to have.  Thus early Jews who were heard the good news of Jesus could either ignore the Scriptures and reinterpret the events, or they could embrace them and rejoice in Jesus.  Of course, Peter is talking about the mystery of salvation.  Through Jesus it became far less mysterious.  Of course we also recognize that Jesus and his Apostles prophesied about a future 2nd coming.  Thus, as I said before, we are in the same boat.  We have been served by Jesus and the Apostles in order to understand what God desires of us in these last days.  God was not interested in giving each generation full understanding.  No, that would come after the events occurred.  Rather, was giving each generation enough information that they would be encouraged and pass down the prophecies until that generation in which they would occur.  We are not just waiting for Jesus to come back.  We are also serving the next generation for him.

We are not just passing on information about God’s plans for the future.  We are also passing on an inner response of faith toward God himself and toward His promises regardless of how much we understand.  Some reject the prophecies because they are not clear.  However, the mystery also ensures that someone somewhere will still be interested in these things.  The intellectual puzzle laid alongside of the spiritual battle helps to keep faith alive until the event itself is revealed.  We think we need full disclosure.  But what we really need is trust and faith in God.  Peter points out that the prophecies were explained to the believers of his day by the Holy Spirit.  If we do not hand down the Word of God to the next generation in the power of the Holy Spirit, then our stream of influence is doomed.  Faith is kept alive by the help of the Holy Spirit.  Prophecy must never be a matter of intellectual curiosity and fleshly pride.  It must be a matter of a soul who has placed its hope in the hands of God.  There is one last aspect here that Peter doesn’t point out, but is shown in Ephesians 3:4-10.

In the first century things were revealed by God that had been kept a mystery from the beginning of creation.  The people of God as His Church are a message from God to both mankind and the Spiritual rulers that have abused their positions.  Those angels who were put in charge of the nations and were leading mankind away from God through the teachings of demons, are just as important in this as we are.  The wisdom of God is being displayed and explained in the mere existence of the Church, much more what it has to say.  There are still mysterious things that are yet to be revealed.  But to those who put their faith in God and trust Him, there is a joy of bearing the revelation of God’s wisdom as it has been revealed.  Part of God’s plan is to raise mankind to a position greater than those angels that ruled.  All authority is being stripped from them and given to Christ and His Church.  We are being raised up to reign with Christ in their place.  The elites of the world may scoff at such thoughts and the powers of darkness may bristle at such thoughts.  However, God has pledged himself to destroy the wisdom of the wise men of this world and the power of the powerful of this world.  Thus we see the present mystery of God’s choice of the lowly over the top of the great and proud.

The first Christmas reminds us that there is ahead of us a great day of rejoicing.  No matter what it may look like in the now, a great day of revelation is coming in which the wicked and powerful of this world will have no say in the matter.  God will do what He is going to do.  Blessed are those who put their faith in Him!  Maranatha!

Lessons from Christmas

Tuesday
Sep292015

When a Penny is more Than a Dollar

Luke 21:1-4.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 27, 2015.

Today’s passage focuses on the religious giving of a poor widow in contrast with the giving of the rich.  It is important to remember that Jesus had warned his disciples of the sin of the religious leaders.  These sins included “devouring the houses of widows.”  So we have a system that receives monetary gifts to God from the rich and the poor.  Some people may despise such a thing outright.  However, Jesus does not point out that the widow shouldn’t give anything.  Rather, he is helping us to see how God judges and views our giving.  It is irrelevant whether the system has been corrupted by wicked men or not.  We do not give to churches, pastors, board of directors, etc…  Instead true giving is given to God and recognized by Him as such.   Anything beyond this becomes sin.

Jesus declares that the 2 coins the widow put in (equivalent to ½ a penny) is more than all the money the rich put in.  So let’s look into this and we will be drawing out some lessons on how to give to God.

We Give To God By Supporting What He Is Doing

When we talk about giving to God, whether money or our time and energy, we clearly mean something different than giving to another person or a company we owe a bill to.  God is immaterial and so giving to Him is not like giving to a person.  He has no personal need of the money or service we may give.  We should also be careful of simply thinking that we give to churches who receive the money on God’s behalf (like a middle man).  Giving to churches is only one area where we can “give to God.”  So what do we really mean by giving to God?

In Luke 12 Jesus associated being rich towards Gods with giving charity to the poor and needy.  Although we can do that through a Church, it is not necessary.  This is also demonstrated in the Old Testament.  Psalm 65:15 says that God is the Father of the fatherless and defender of widows (elsewhere it mentions He defends the poor, needy, and outsiders).  In Deuteronomy 15:11 Israel is commanded to “be open handed to the poor and needy.  The understanding was that when we helped the widow, orphans, poor, needy, and strangers, we were doing it in honor to God.  God receives it as if we did it to Himself.  This is what Jesus was pointing out when he said, “In so far as you did this unto the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

Another area we see giving happening is when the people of Israel were to help cover the costs of the Temple, its upkeep, and care of the priests.  If I were to try and boil this down to a simple answer I would say this: We give to God by supporting what He is doing.  In the Old Testament this meant that you gave to the temple and helped the poor around you.  God accepted this as a giving to Him.  In this we see that He commanded them to give some amounts, but they could also give voluntary amounts because of their devotion.

How should Christians see this today?  Well we have to ask ourselves, what is God doing now?  Scripture clearly tells us that God has taken a remnant from Israel and created a new people called the Church.  Thus we give to God when we put our time, energy, and finances into supporting the work which God has called His Church to accomplish.  We also can give to God through helping the poor and needy.  Our lives should be an overall support of what God is doing in these areas.

Not All Can Give The Same Amounts

In this situation we are talking about monetary giving.  But it is true in every area that we give that not everyone can give the same amounts.  This widow had very little money.  She could only give ½ a penny.  Whereas others came and gave who could give hundreds or thousands of dollars.  It is because of this that many churches, religious institutions, and religious leaders lose their way and become bloodsuckers on those who are under their leadership.  Monetary gifts that are large become a premium when we have lost our way.  Social rewards and leadership positions go to those who give the most when we have lost our way.  Such a corrupt process is what existed in the days of Jesus.  It is human nature to look highly on those who give large amounts of money.  The apostle James warns against such ways of favoritism in James 2.  “You have become judges with evil thoughts,” and “you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”  This is not love your neighbor as yourself.  Rather it is love those who give the most, more.  This should not be in the Church of God.  We are not all able to give great amounts.  This does not make us a lesser Child of God.  In fact Jesus is pointing out in this case that a ½ penny is more than thousands when it is harder to give.

Public Giving Can Become A Show

Although Jesus doesn’t point this out here, I will add this point because it is implied.  This is happening in the Court of Women outside the area where the sacrifices were offered.  Though the giving receptacles were on the side, they were visible nonetheless.  Thus Jesus looks up and observes people giving.  Public giving can become a big show that is more about being admired than it is about serving God.  What name do we put on the new wing of the Church?  Is it the biggest donor?  Why would we praise someone who give a great amount and never praise those who give small amounts?  Why would we praise each other at for giving to God?  It is one thing to encourage people in giving to God it is another to make a spectacle of it.  Public giving can be all about pride in our own ability.  It can be about the desire to impress others and be admired by them.  It can also create an emotional ownership over those things that we donate.  It is very common in churches for a certain person to donate a needed item and yet, then act as if the item belongs to them and they can dictate how it is used.  Such giving must be abhorred.  Compare that kind of giving to this poor widow.  It is most likely a public humiliation for her to approach the giving chest and throw in two little coins, when the next person comes up and pours in many large coins.  The noise alone would tell the difference in their giving.  There is too much showiness in the Church regarding this area of giving.

God’s Judgment Of My Giving Is Most Important

It says that Jesus “also saw” the widow.  God sees all giving that is done towards Him and all giving that isn’t.  He knows our heart and our ability.  Despite how little or how much we give, He has a judgment regarding how valuable our gift is.  As humans we say a person has given more because we see a dollar as more than a penny.  But that is the value system of this world.  God has a different valuation of our giving.  So are you giving for the recognition of religious men and religious institutions or are you giving to the One they are supposed to be serving?

Jesus says that the rich men were giving out of their abundance or excess.  Even if their motives are pure (no such judgment is given), they were giving what was relatively easy.  They would not go hungry that night because they gave.  Yet, this widow gave out of her poverty, or lack.  She was not able to cover all her needs and yet she still gave these two copper coins.  She probably would go hungry that night because she put in that money.  In fact Jesus says she put in all her living.  This causes a problem in our hearts.  Some would say that she is foolish to put in the last of her money to a corrupt system.  They would rebel and refuse to give.  Yet, even though this was true, God was working through even these corrupt leaders to reveal His plan to the world.  You see this woman wasn’t giving to a corrupt system.  She was giving to God.  That means her money is holy.  What do you think happens to leaders who abuse such gifts and use them for corrupt means?  The “system” is not the problem.  The sinful people running it are the problem.  Jesus is not coming back to save a system.  He is coming back to save people.  In fact her giving becomes a prophetic judgment against he system, but it is judged as righteousness to her.

The Wisdom Of Sacrificial Giving

This brings us to a challenge for our day and age.  Why is she giving “all her livelihood?”  This widow exemplifies the heart of a desperate person who has no option left but to either die or cast themselves upon God.  She could have spent her last two coins on one last comfort for her flesh.  But instead, she sacrifices it to God, and in doing so, she casts herself upon God.  This looks foolish to the world.  Surely, you are too poor to give to God!  But it is often the poor who sacrifice and give, whereas the rich give but a pittance of their money and often only when they are seen.

Such wisdom is not always evident in this world and in this Age.  However, in the age to come Jesus will manifest the great wisdom of such people as this poor widow.  How about you, are you giving all of your life to supporting the things of God?  Not just your money, but also your time, energy, and devotion?  Take time to pray today and ask God to give you wisdom about how you can be giving to Him by supporting His work.  Find a good group of Christians who are dedicated to serving God and stand alongside of them.  Don’t look down on those who can only “do” so much.  We are not all created the same.  But our value is in the eyes of our Lord.  It is to Him alone that we give.

PennyDollar Audio