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The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall

6 Feb

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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28 Aug

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The False Prophets are Coming!

22 Apr

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.

A Day that will Live in Infamy

7 Dec

Wordless Wednesday

17 Aug

Independently Dependent

5 Jul

America is 235 years.  In the scope of other nations, relatively young. We celebrate this day by going to parades, cooking out, playing some games or relaxing; many people will end the day by watching fireworks. As Americans we enjoy freedom, but it was not always this way.

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” (Abraham Lincoln – Gettysburg Address) It was not independence that motivated early Americans, but individual rights. People living in the colonies in those early years were British Americans; citizens of Great Britain. Their main concern was the British Parliament imposed taxes on them to pay for the French and Indian War (7 Years War). There was the Molasses Act, the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, Townshend Act, the Tea Act and others. The Colonists called them the Intolerable Acts. Effectively, everything that was bought or sold, imported or exported had a tax placed on it or was regulated. These excess taxes led to the famous phrase, “Taxation without representation” and later “Taxation without representation leads to tyranny.” The Colonists had no representation in the British Parliament. They had no voice, no influence, and no input. The British government would do what they wanted regardless of what the people wanted or believed. This led to the Battle at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775 when, “The shot heard ‘round the world” was fired from the North Bridge. Hundreds of Colonists gave their lives to regain these rights. It was during this time of conflict that Patrick Henry, a politician from Virginia gave a speech before the Virginia Provincial Convention. Here is how he concluded it:

“The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable – and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come. It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace – but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to declare absolute freedom from England. On July 4th, the final wording was ratified and signed by the 56 members of the Continental Congress representing the 13 colonies. The United States of America was born out of a desire to be free from the tyranny of a repressive government bent on controlling its citizens. Abraham Lincoln said, “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”

What is freedom? Freedom is often misunderstood in America. We speak of being free, but are we really free? Some define freedom as the ability to do what one desires to do. In the first amendment to our constitution, we speak of freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the press and the mostly forgotten freedom to petition the government to redress wrongs. This was something the colonists were not able to do with King George. Even with these freedoms guaranteed by our constitution, are we really free? Many would respond by saying yes, we are free. Yet with our so called freedom, we also have restrictions. These restrictions are known as laws. Every civil society has laws and our founding fathers were not attempting to exercise undue restraints on our freedom. Yes, the Bill of Rights guarantees individual freedoms, but even these individual freedoms are restricted. Your individual freedoms cannot trample on the individual freedoms of another. Our laws are designed to protect people and give us the ability to live among one another in relative peace. We are free, but if you choose to exercise the broadest definition of freedom and ignore the measures we have in place to maintain good order and discipline, we have a whole segment of society set up to ensure that what freedom you do enjoy will be taken away.

Although we live in the greatest country on the planet, Americans may never know true freedom. In the pledge of allegiance, we speak of liberty and justice for all. America’s freedom was won by the spilled blood of our fighting men and women. But there can never really be liberty apart from the One who is really able to guarantee our freedom. Some will use their freedom to reject God which does not bring freedom. Some will use their freedom to denounce the activities of the very people that bought their freedom. We celebrate our independence, yet most Americans remain slaves to sin. We must move from the throne of tyranny to the throne of grace. As Christians, our freedom was won by the spilled blood of Jesus Christ. In Jo. 8:36 Jesus said, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

So what of this Christian freedom? Some would argue that this freedom in Christ gives us the liberty to do as we please, to live our lives in any way that we see fit. 1 Pet. 2:16, “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.” At the core of our Christian freedom is complete obedience to God and His Son. It is an awesome responsibility to carry the truth found in Christ. It is a privilege to share in God’s plan to reach humanity with the only real truth that will free men from the oppression of sin. Instead of hoping that someone will share the truth of our freedom with others, we must, like the prophet Isaiah act in obedience and say, “Here am I, send me.” Many Christians are content to sit back and watch others to do the work while they enjoy the benefits of that work. Thomas Paine said, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” It has been said that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. We say we love God and we love Jesus, but does it stop at that? We love sports and talk this week will surround David Ragan’s first NASCAR win last night. People are still talking about Florida’s overtime win against Georgia last October. If we are truly Christians, we must carry the Gospel message with us, telling others what will bring true freedom. Living and spreading the Gospel is sometimes tiring, sometimes lonely, sometimes stressful, but always worth it. Is. 40:31 says, “Those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

We have a responsibility. As a nation, we have the responsibility to stand up to nations that do not have freedom. We have a responsibility to stand up to tyrannical, oppressive leaders to promote the freedoms we enjoy in America. Our freedom in Christ is far more important than the freedom we enjoy as Americans. We have freedom from the control and bondage of sin. We can live our lives wholly committed and sold out to the freedom and liberty found in Christ. This is our responsibility; our duty; our privilege. Is. 61:1, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners.” We have the keys that can unlock the prison doors of people’s lives that will allow them to be truly free. Many Christians use this Christian liberty to do nothing. As with our American freedom, there are some content to let others to carry on freedom’s work. Some will even criticize how that work is done, but don’t want to get into the fight for Christ themselves. We must fight for freedom! We must join shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, hand in hand to carry this truth to whoever we can! 2 Cor. 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

True liberty, true freedom will never be found in a government or in a country. True freedom can only come through the finished work of God in His One and only Son Jesus Christ. Our responsibility is to share this truth with others, to live out this truth in our daily lives, to be committed to the truth found in Christ. Ja. 1:25 says, “But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” As Americans we celebrate our independence, but as a child of God, I declare my total and complete dependence on God and His Son Jesus Christ and I can boldly say, free at last, free at last, thank God almighty I am free at last.

Happy 4th of July!

4 Jul