The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall

biggerYou can listen to the actual message here.

Last week, we covered a lot of ground. We saw where wickedness starts and that’s in the soul of humanity as we are born into sin through one man’s disobedience. Wicked people do wicked things because they don’t know any other way. Righteous people look at pleasing God rather than any short-term gain from wickedness. Don’t shut your ear to the cry of the poor, but make the Gospel an intentional aspect of any acts of mercy you engage in. We looked briefly at gift giving, exercising justice, and staying on the path of righteousness. Don’t love pleasure so much that you forsake God. We looked at the results of Achan’s sin and finished by looking at the vexing woman and hopefully we now have a better understanding of the depth of wickedness in man. This morning, we’ll look at laziness, righteousness, and happiness.

Take the time to read our passage for today found in Pro. 21:20-28.

We start off with some financial talk. “There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up.” Believe it or not, this is a verse to support budgeting. Wise people are wise across the board while foolish people are foolish across the board. Remember the idle man from 19:15 suffers hunger and the sluggard from 20:4 doesn’t prepare his crops so he has nothing to harvest. Wisdom dictates you don’t spend what you don’t have. Foolishness dictates spend what you have and don’t worry about tomorrow. If you’ve got money in your pocket, spend it. That’s why there’s, “precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise.” Oil was an important commodity in Bible days. It could be used for a number of things. It was used for cooking, as fuel for lamps, it was part of grain offerings, was used for anointing, was used for sanctifying the priests in the temple, and was a symbol of wealth. The fool is foolish in all his activities. His desires are ungodly and unfruitful which leads right into the next verse. There is a misguided notion in America that everyone has the right to be happy. There is no such right afforded by the U.S. Constitution and no guarantee of happiness afforded by the Bible. The pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right granted by the Creator as recorded in the Declaration of Independence. I submit to you that when you pursue God, you will find what you are looking for.

Solomon tells us, “He who pursues righteousness and loyalty finds life, righteousness and honor.” I love the two verbs in this verse – pursue and find. Pursue means follow after or chase. When you chase righteousness – the character or quality of what is right in God’s eyes – you will find, “life, righteousness and honor.” It’s a trifecta of godly qualities. Life refers to the eternal life in God through Jesus Christ. In Matt. 5:6 Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” If you want satisfaction, chase Christ. I think happiness is a quality that can be achieved when you have the mind of Christ and see things through the eyes of God. Happiness is dependent upon circumstances, but when you have in your mind that God is in control, it allows you to focus on what is important and that is living a life of total and complete obedience to the King of eternity.

There’s no easy transition to the next verse. Solomon says, “A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they trust.” As we have seen before, wisdom trumps strength every time. When WWII ended and the United States entered the cold war, military strategy had to change to keep pace with the extraordinarily strong USSR. President Eisenhower instituted the 41 for Freedom missile submarine. Then in 1980, Ronald Reagan used the phrase, “Peace through Strength” during the campaign that would see him elected president. Mighty people think their city will protect them. When Joshua led the battle of Jericho, the walls came tumbling down. Jericho thought their walls would protect them, but when God is on your side, it’s doesn’t matter how strong the walls are. Throughout history, we’ve seen the mighty defeated by the wise. Build walls around the city and wise people developed the catapult. Line up your troops for battle and the wise people used guerrilla warfare. If you can grasp this concept and submit to a wise and good man, the strongest of the strong will be defeated.

And now the power of restraint. This is a principle we’ve seen six times before in Proverbs. “He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.” Guard means keep watch over. Think about keeping watch over your kids. You’ve got a protective eye on them to ensure no harm comes to them and to make sure no one takes them. Don’t let your mouth get you into trouble. Don’t let your words take you to places you don’t want to go. No, you don’t have to say anything and once the words leave your mouth, there is no turning back. Lots of damage can be caused by what you say. If your first instinct is to say something, hold off for a second let your mind catch up. When you think about this in a relational sense, more hurt and harm have been done by words than anything else. The next verse says, “Proud,” “Haughty,” “Scoffer,” are his names, who acts with insolent pride.” This goes hand in hand with the spoken word. Insolent means rude or disrespectful. It’s really hard to demonstrate these qualities without using words. These terms are not used in a favorable light. We could avoid all kinds of trouble if we’d just learn to keep our mouth shut.

Next, Solomon revisits the sluggard. “The desire of the sluggard puts him to death, for his hands refuse to work; all day long he is craving, while the righteous gives and does not hold back.” This is a really stark contrast. We have the poverty of the lazy versus the generosity of the righteous. Think back to 21:17, “He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not become rich.” Righteous people work diligently and give without holding back. The sluggard doesn’t want to work and that leads to death. It’s a theme presented over and over again. Sometimes we have a tendency to think that people who work hard want to keep everything for themselves. Solomon says not true. Sometimes people work hard so they are in a position to give back. Sometimes even when people aren’t in a position to give back, they give back anyway. The sluggard craves all day what he is not willing to work for and his craving will be unfulfilled.

I am certain you have encountered this next principle time and time again. You can’t fool God. People approach God the way they want to instead of how God has prescribed. You’ve likely heard people say that as long as they’re sincere, God will accept them. You’ve heard that a relationship with God is a personal issue. Solomon puts that to rest when he says, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination, how much more when he brings it with evil intent!” Let’s break this down. In Jewish culture, sacrifices were an important part of their lives. When they were offered by faith in repentance, God was greatly honored and pleased. When they were offered with impure motives, God detests that. Is. 1:11-17 says,

“What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?” Says the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. “When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts? “Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and Sabbath, the calling of assemblies – I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them. “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”

Did you catch the severity in there? God has had enough. He takes no pleasure in their sacrifices and calls them worthless and an abomination. The God of eternal patience cannot, “Endure iniquity.” When they pray, God will hide His eyes even though they repeat their prayers over and over. Stop doing evil, start doing good. Don’t tell me you have an understanding with God, don’t tell me you and Him are good, don’t tell me the work you have done for Him. You will be evaluated just like the Chaldean king Belshazzar in Dan. 5 when Daniel interpreted the writing on the wall and concluded, “you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient.” No matter how holy you think your sacrifice is, God will not accept it and He really won’t accept it when brought with evil intent.

One last one for today. A false witness will perish, but the man who listens to the truth will speak forever.” We’ve seen this before in 6:19, 19:5, and 19:9. Don’t lie.

We began this morning talking about budgeting – don’t spend what you don’t have. The foolish man doesn’t think about tomorrow and what might be needed, he spends all he has. Righteous people pursue God and find life. Wisdom is the conqueror over strength. Be careful what you say and sometimes not saying anything is the best. Don’t be foolish enough to think that it doesn’t matter how you approach a holy and perfect God. He will not accept the sacrifices offered with evil intent.

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The False Prophets are Coming!

FalseYou can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last time we were in 2 Peter, we saw that prophecy of Scripture does not come from any human source and neither does its interpretation. There can’t be different meanings for prophecies or Bible verses depending on who you are. As we move to Chapter two, we’ll see the link between them is prophecy. Peter told his readers to pay attention to the prophecies of Scripture because their source is God. Since the Holy Spirit inspired the prophets, the Scriptures should be trusted because both the revelation and its interpretation are from God. This morning Peter tells us that not all prophets come from God.

2 Pet. 2:1 says, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.”

Our reality is that false prophets are here. There is a but. Peter just finished saying that the source of prophecy and interpretation is the Holy Spirit. Here’s the contrast to what he just said. “False prophets also arose among the people.” This is not shocking, it’s not unusual, it’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last time. As long as God has been around, there have been forces and people that have attempted to discredit God, discredit His power, His ability, His love, and His judgment. People have tried to prove He doesn’t exist. This is the reality. Not everyone who comes in the name of the Lord is from the Lord. Just because someone says it doesn’t make it true. Please take the time to read Ezekiel 13:1-9. It is a powerful example of false prophets. False prophets should not scare you. I assure you God keeps tabs on all of them. False prophets have always been around. How can you spot a false prophet? Their prophecies do not come true. The prophecies of true prophets of God always come true. If someone tells you that God told them something, don’t automatically dismiss them as a false prophet. Line up what they say with Scripture. Remember no prophecy was made by an act of human will. The false prophets God told Ezekiel about were prophesying by their own inspiration. We combat this with truth.

Is it just false prophets? Nope, toss in some false teachers too. What’s the difference? Both are dangerous. Both are a sign that we are in the last days, but remember that Peter’s words are 2000 years old, Ezekiel’s even older. Mark 13:22, “For false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect.” In Ezekiel’s day, the prophets were telling the people, “Peace! When there is no peace.” (Ez. 13:10) They were lying, God did not send them. Are they still around today? There are people that claim to come in the name of the Lord, but they do not. What do they do, why are they so bad? Peter wrote about the need to live a godly life. False teachers arose in the church who denied the need to live a godly life and ignored the truth of the second coming. If there is no future coming of the Lord, then the foundation for ethics and morality disappear and the path is laid down to live a life of licentiousness. Jude 4: “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” This is a serious threat to the church. They, “Secretly introduce destructive heresies.” (2 Pet. 2:1) They’re not just poor, misguided souls who mistakenly interpreted Scripture. They are bad news; they are rotten to the core. They aren’t just lost; they’re on a mission from Satan. No, I’m not being overly dramatic. Their goal is to lead you astray and they do it secretly. That’s the kicker.

How do they do this? Can heresy actually lead someone off the path of righteousness? First we need to understand what heresy is. Heresy is any teaching that is contrary to what is generally accepted. Scripture is filled with examples of heresy. We see idolatry throughout the Bible. In 1 John, we saw the heresy of Gnosticism. In Galatians, religious leaders taught that you had to keep the Law and be circumcised for salvation. Gal. 2:4, “But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.” Recent heresies in the church are numerous. There is no absolute truth. There is no need for Christian living. There is no literal hell. All roads lead to heaven as long as you’re sincere. There is a difference between false teaching and bad teaching. Some errors are more serious than others. Some scriptural issues are more significant than others. Some doctrines are more important than others. These teachers were, “Even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” That’s the bottom line. The worst of it is that they deny Jesus Christ.

We’ll see exactly what this type of heresy leads to next week. In the mean time, the best way to combat heresy is to know and live the truth.