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Entries in World (6)

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

Monday
Apr242017

Checkmate and the Rulers of this Age

1 Corinthians 2:6-12.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on April 23, 2017.

In the game of Chess many different strategies can be employed, both defensive and offensive.  Regardless of how sophisticated a strategy may be, the proof of one’s superior ability is to put the other player’s King in a conquered position called checkmate.  They have no moves available to keep the opponent’s next move from taking their King.  Now, in using this illustration, I do not want to give the impression that the Devil is God’s equal in a cosmic game of Chess.  However, we do need to understand that the Devil has made many tactical blunders throughout the course of history, first of which is his choice to rebel against the Creator.

In our passage today we see that the cross may not have been the checkmate per se.  However, it was an irrecoverable error and all moves since are moving towards an inevitable checkmate in which he is out of moves.  Even the moves he employs since the cross are only possible because God is giving time for pawns on the Devil’s side to rebel against the rebel and come back to the Creator.  So the real question today is not so much how many moves or time is left.  Rather, the pertinent question is this, “Which side are you on?”  Are you on the side of the Father and His Son, Jesus?  Or, are you on the side of the Devil and his angels?  Let’s look at our passage today.

Jesus and the Crucifixion are God’s Wisdom

We are going to focus on verses 6-8, but to do that I want to point out verse 2 of this chapter.  Paul told the Corinthians that when he was among them he was “determined not to know anything among you except, Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”  The distinction is important because Jesus is the wisdom of God both in his being, and in his doing.  He is the wisdom of God before He ever opens His mouth.  When He speaks we are receiving the very wisdom of God.  And, when he acts, the decisions that he makes and the things that he goes through, are all part of demonstrating the wisdom of God.  Now, no matter how Christians want to be perceived by the world, we must hold firmly to this foundational understanding: God’s wisdom is very different from the world’s wisdom.  Not only this, but the world’s wisdom will never accept the wisdom of God in Jesus.  Yes, it may take hold of it and twist it into something and someone different, so as to embrace it. But it will always be an idol of their making and just as vain.

Paul wanted the Corinthians and us to understand that the rulers of this age were ignorant of the amazingly wise thing that God was doing in Jesus.  The Corinthians had embraced Jesus, but held onto wisdom and pathways of thinking that came from the rulers of this age.  You can’t keep the wisdom of this age and really follow Jesus.  The word translated as “ruler” here is used of both earthly and heavenly beings.  Now a human interpretation of this term would most likely be true.  If Caiaphas, Pilate, et al, had known what they were doing they wouldn’t have crucified Jesus.  However, there is very good reason to believe that Paul is also speaking of the Devil and his angels.  They are the true rulers of this age.  What evidence leads me to believe this?  First of all, Jesus often references the spiritual powers that were working.  In the Gospel of John he references the “ruler of this world” that was coming,” and who was about to be “cast out.”  Paul in Ephesians 2:1-2 says, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.”  This “ruler” is clearly a spirit being and only ruling in the air as opposed to the heavenlies.  Later in Ephesians 6 Paul speaks further, “Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  Again Paul is clear that these rulers are not flesh and blood, but rather spiritual hosts of wickedness.  There is another reason to recognize the spiritual rulers being referenced in this passage.  The “fallen angels,” as they are often called, operate in rebellion to the God of heaven.  As such, they have historically promoted an alternate wisdom to mankind.  As the serpent twists the truth in order to bring Eve into an alternate understanding, so they have always twisted the truth and used a wisdom that is particular to them in order to manipulate mankind.  The ancient nations even bragged that their wisdom was from the “gods” and their rulers were “demi-gods.”  The Corinthian culture is part and parcel with this Gentile penchant to be enamored with the wisdom and philosophy of the gods they served.  Paul is showing the Corinthians that these great “gods” were ignorant and so were the human rulers who were leaning on their wisdom.  They are not ignorant of everything.  Rather they are ignorant of the wisdom of God found in Jesus.  The spirits at least knew who Jesus was, and they knew that he was there to fight them.  But they did not understand how he was going to bring about the kingdom of God.  This was a mystery.  Yes, the wisdom of this world is vast and immense.  But, in the end, it is at war against the wisdom of the God of heaven.  More than that, it does not lead mankind to utopia or salvation.  It leads us to fight against what will save us, the wisdom of God.  Thus the wisdom of these great spiritual rulers has led them to a tactical blunder that will lead to their eventual checkmate.  The Book of Revelation makes clear that their end is the Lake of Fire, as does Jesus in Matthew 25:41.

Why were these great angels ignorant?  Paul states that it was a hidden mystery that God had kept from the very beginning.  The incarnation of the Son of God and his substitutionary death had been kept secret from the devil.  He had no idea that Jesus wanted to be killed and that it was part of his plan.  By crucifying Jesus, he and his angels commit a capital offense and bring a capital judgment upon themselves and those humans who join them.  From the Garden of Eden on, they have abused the knowledge that God had allowed them to know.  In Job 38 we are told that the Sons of God shouted for joy when the foundations of the earth were laid.  Thus, the “angels” who are called “Sons of God” were created and present for the creation.  The extra-biblical, book called 1 Enoch, which is quoted by Jude and Peter in the Bible, pointed out their involvement in the pre-flood world.  The fallen angels had taught mankind technological arts and used them to pervert mankind away from God.  Thus the weapons of warfare and the arts of seduction (clothing, adornment, and make-up) came from these technologies.  As I said before, the post flood cultures bragged that this information had survived and was the reason for their greatness.  Yet, God had hidden certain things concerning salvation from them.  They don’t know everything.  They are not God.  He most likely hid it because He knew that there would be a rebellion.  So what can we learn from this?  We can learn to be confident in the wisdom of God, and we can remain humble before the world.  Yes, we know the mystery of the incarnation and the cross.  But, what more do we not know?  This is not a time for arrogance, but rather humility.

I would also point out that technology is not itself the problem.  We see this today.  Technology can be used for good or for evil.  However, we need to understand that the drive behind increasing technology comes from a manipulative, spiritual origin.  When man is in rebellion to God, no amount of technology can save him.  In fact, it will only make things worse.

Paul also points out the ancient origins of this mystery.  Although I have already spoken to this fact, I would remind us of a couple of verses in the New Testament.  1 Peter 1:19-20 says, “… the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.  He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.”  Revelation 13:8 says, “All who dwell on the earth will worship him [the wild beast], whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world.”  Notice that the crucifixion and subsequent resurrection were always the plan.  Even before He started Creation, God had already planned to save mankind.  In the unseen councils of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have agreed to the plan of the cross, which condemns all wickedness and redeems all who will humble themselves and put their faith in Jesus.

Verses 9-12, bring this to a point.  Jesus and the Gospel have been revealed to mankind by the Holy Spirit.  The mysteries of God and the wisdom of God that had been made known through the Apostles had its source in the Holy Spirit of God, and not the evil spirits of the Gentile nations.  The Corinthians were trying to follow the man Jesus on the outside all the while listening to the wisdom of evil spirits on the inside.  This will never work.  In fact, all Christians of every generation have had to wrestle with this tendency.  American Christians today wrestle with following Jesus while keeping a cultural wisdom that has its source in evil spirits.  The same is true of any other nation as well.  The wisdom of God has been given to all mankind through the man Jesus and by the Holy Spirit of God.  With it we are able to spoil the greatest beings of the universe outside of God.  We can be saved, seeing through their lies and the destructive tendency of their wisdom.  We can deliver ourselves and rescue others.  We have everything that we need to know for this age.  Sure, God has things prepared for the age to come, after Jesus comes back.  Until then, we can be confident in what God has given us now.  But if we choose the path of arrogance and a particular fascination with demonic wisdom then we will find ourselves in the same plight as the Jewish leaders in the first century.  So we end with the question, “From what spirit are you getting your wisdom?”  The answer to this makes the difference between death and life.

Checkmate audio

Tuesday
Dec232014

Seeing the Light in a World of Darkness

This week many will be celebrating Christmas, but will they truly understand what the celebration should be all about?  Today we are going to look at Mattew 1:18-25 and see some of the events of that first Christmas.

When we look at the news events of 2014- outbreaks of Ebola, terrorism and the rise of new terrorist groups, the slaughter of young kids, Russia threatening Ukraine, even unrest on our own streets in Ferguson and beyond- we are reminded that some things haven’t changed so very much.  Israel was under the rule of a maniacal king who even killed members of his immediate family.  Rome was controlling the area under the tyranny of its military might. Scores of little children were killed that year in Bethlehem in senseless violence.  At the root of all these things, whether then or now, is a thing that God calls sin.  At Christmas we do not just celebrate Hope and love, rather we also celebrate the answer that God has given mankind for the darkness that exists in our heart and covers this planet.

Jesus Saves Us from Our Sin

There are many things that we may wish God had fixed, however, in Jesus His focus is upon the sin of mankind.  The angel told Joseph that his name would be Jesus because he would save his people from their sins.  Jesus literally means “God saves.”  This is a critical part of His nature that we need to recognize and live out ourselves.  At His heart, God is a being who saves things and people.  There are some parts of the Christmas message that may seem to have fallen short.  Joy to the world and peace on earth?  Even though the words of Jesus could bring Peace to anyone in the world, many have rejected it and in doing so rejected his peace.  The lack of world peace is proof that Jesus won’t be winning any beauty pageants soon- most contestants give lip service to wanting world peace.  But, let’s back up and make sure we understand what we are talking about with this word “sin.”

In general sin is defined in the Bible as transgressing the boundaries or laws of God.  The Garden of Eden is the foundational story here.  The trees represented the boundaries created by God.  The serpent (who is later revealed as the Devil and Satan, Revelation 12:9; 20:2) deceives and tricks Eve and Adam to rebel against God’s boundaries and laws.  As innocent as this may seem, it is the root of all our problems today.  We have been infected with an insidious mental virus that motivates us to not accept such boundaries and laws, even when they are good for us and others.  Now sin is not just the things we do, but also the things we don’t do that we should.  God created us to be like Him.  Thus when we reject that aspect of our own nature we sin by omission.  Now sin is not just a legal problem.  Some believe that if we could just get rid of “God” and this idea of boundaries and laws, then we could create Eutopia on earth.  Now think about that in the natural.  What country today, if they got rid of all laws and boundaries, would then quickly become anything but a hell-hole of seething violence and bondage?  In other words, the laws do not create sin they only stir it up.  God created this world to operate in a certain way.  He created mankind to operate in a certain way.  But sin twists and perverts the way things were meant to work for no other purpose than to rebel against God’s creation.  This causes problems that cannot be overcome by humanity.  Instead we will build ever stronger prisons for ourselves through our attempts at even becoming God ourselves.

When we talk about sin the first thought that comes to our minds is the sins of others.  Yet, the Bible says, “none are righteous, no not one.”  So sin is not just this collective thing that hangs over the head of mankind.  It is also a very personal thing that riddles our hearts.  The whole purpose of the Law of Moses was not to fix Israel.  But rather, its purpose was to trap religious and spiritual people who think that they are good enough because they compare themselves to others.  Everyone who tries to live by the Law of Moses found themselves being labled a "sinner" over and over.  Even in our own society under man made laws we see the same effect.  We break laws all the time.  Yet, we tell ourselves that it is okay because we aren't as bad as others, or the laws weren't important.  Now this is with a man-made law.  Laws are necessary for us to be able to live together in a society.  Yet, our own heart chafes at them, not just because they are unjust, but often because they keep us from doing what we want.  There are dangerous attitudes that can develop when we approach this issue.  On one hand we can try to make laws the answer because of man's sin.  On the other hand we can try to treat laws like they are the problem.  This "sin nature" problem is pointed out by laws, but cannot be fixed by it.  Like a metal detector, it can point out where the metal is, but it can't pick it up for you.  There is a part of us that wants more laws to restrain others and yet we don't want any of those laws to hold us back.  Similarly, we want God to "fix the world" but we don't want Him to mess with us in doing it.  I am a sinner too.  Jesus was sinless.  Yet, he came into the world under the specter of sin.  His mother would not be believed by society.  He would always be the "Illegitimate" child of Joseph and Mary and even that would be a question regarding who the true father was.  We chafe at being called a sinner when we truly are.  Yet, Jesus lived his whole life under this shadow.

Another part of the story of Jesus is that he breaks down the "us vs. them" mentality.  The "righteous" Jews had developed an attitude of spiritual elitism over the other nations.  But in Jesus we see that we are all sinners.  Whether secular Romans or religious Jews, the sensual woman at the well or the "spiritual" medium in Ephesus, the truth of Jesus confronted the sin of all people and yet gives the offer of being saved from it.

Thus sin is pictured as a lack of light.  This spiritual darkness covered the whole world, not just certain parts of it.  It started with rejecting God's Word about His boundaries and laws.  Then succeeding generations left such light behind in ever greater bounds; causing the shadows to quickly become pitch darkness.  In the days of Jesus, even people who wanted to please God were having trouble finding reasons to continue living for Him.  The only thing they had left was the promise of God's "Anointed One" who would be the Savior, a bright light of Truth coming into this dark world.

Jesus is God With Us

The miraculous birth of Jesus is called the virgin birth.  Although much extra-biblical stuff has been added to this, we need to set the record straight.  The Bible simply states that before Mary ever had sex (known a man) God caused one of her eggs to be fertilized.  If you have a problem with such a creative act then you really have a problem with everything to do with the Creation.  Fertilization is merely the insertion of the information needed to awaken life in the egg.  Thus the it is called a virgin birth because the woman having the baby had never had sex.  The Bible never claims that Mary was somehow "preserved as a virgin" in the birth of the Baby (i.e. as if she had never had birth).  Neither does the Bible claim that Joseph and Mary never later had children in the natural way.  It states quite the opposite.  Matthew reminds us of the prophecies of the Bible regarding the Savior.  These prophecies often pointed out what the Savior would do, but very few on what his entrance would look like.  One thing was clear from the book of Isaiah, He would be called Immanuel because he would literally be God with us.  It is easy 2,000 years later to scoff at such a thing as just another mythology amongst the many religions that spoke of Gods having demi-gods with women.  Such people see the other myths as the explanation or source of the Jesus story.  Yet, isn't it just as plausible that all of the mythologies have a source that is a real event even more ancient then they?  Isn't it just as plausible that all of these religions were trying to get back to something that mankind once had, in the Beginning?

There was a time when we walked with God back in the Paradise of the Garden of Eden.  When Noah and his family stepped off of the ark, they all knew this history.  It was there that God walked with Adam and Eve and explained his ways and designs for them.  Within the consciousness of mankind is the recognition that Eutopia or Paradise is not possible without God coming down to help us.  Thus, as the generations after Noah rejected the things taught by God, they did retain the idea of a god coming down to help mankind.  Thus, whether men look to other spirits, the occult, aliens or even transhumanism (where we make ourselves gods), we know the answer currently lies beyond our capabilities.

It is in the Garden of Eden that mankind chose the path of sin, darkness and rebellion.  This darkness not only affects our relations with one another, but it also affects our thinking.  Like a lost person we are unable to "think" our way out of the current darkness that smothers the souls of men.

One of the themes of the Bible is that God does not abandon mankind.  Starting in the Garden and throughout the ages, He had given promises to mankind (in what we call prophecies) pointing to a time when He would once again dwell with us.  A number of years ago a Christian scientist named Peter Stoner set out to use statistical probability to show the miraculous nature of all the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled.  He took 8 prophecies and determined that the probability of any one person fulfilling all 8 of them was about 10^17 that is 100 quadrillion.  To understand this number he used this illustration.  Picture the whole State of Texas being covered with silver dollars 2 feet deep with one of the dollars painted red.  Your chance of finding that coin in one try while being blindfolded is about 10^17.  This is a statistical impossibility.  Yet, there are more than 8 prophecies about the first coming of Christ.  There are actually around 300 depending on how you list them.  Most of these things were uncontrollable by Jesus and those around him.  By telling history in advance, God validated his prophecies so that when Jesus came we would know that he had come down and that he truly was, as Isaiah said, Immanuel ("God with us)."

The birth of Jesus fulfilled the prophecies about his coming.  But what if he had grown up to do nothing special or of any significance?  It is not just the things said about the child, but what he then went on to do.  Jesus is the singular man of all history that towers above the deeds of all others.  None even come close to comparing to him in his life and affect on the world.  It is the life of this child and the affect it had on the world that confirms he is the one.

So, has anything really changed since then?  Don't we see darkness all around us and sin defeating us and tearing us apart?  Yet, we are not in the same predicament.  Some very real things have changed.  First, God is now with us.  Though Jesus goes to the right hand of the Father, He sends the Holy Spirit to dwell within those who believe in him.  This same Spirit of Christ leads us and guides us in the midst of darkness.  It lights our way.  Second, the suffering of Jesus provides for us forgiveness from our sins.  Thus in the midst of a world that is under the doom of judgment we do not have to fear.  We can believe on the sacrificial death of Jesus for our sins and have confidence in the midst of darkness.  Third, His suffering and life provides for us the courage to be faithful in the midst of a world of faithlessness.  This example of what to do and how God will reward burns in our hearts.  Lastly, His love compels us to believe for the salvation of others.  God could have judged the world on the day Jesus was crucified.  Yet, he pauses judgment in order to open the door of salvation for "whosoever" would believe on Jesus.  God says to all who will allow Him to conquer sin in their life, "come join my family and you will inherit paradise with me in the Age to come."  Join Him today!

Seeing Light in Darkness 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