Tag Archives: Authority

God is Always on the Throne

23 Jan

Check out the podcast here.

Last week, we covered a lot of ground. We started by looking at the parental relationship and the implications of being a bad child. Solomon spoke of being a virtuous king and the responsibility that comes when you’re the one determining punishment. We saw some important aspects of our relationship with the Lord. I encourage you to conduct a critical self-evaluation of your faith and also suggest you ask someone you love and trust to provide you with some feedback regarding your walk of faith. This morning, we’re going to look at who is ultimately in charge.

Our passage today comes from Pro. 21:1-9. I hope you’ll take the time to read it.

throneSo, who’s in charge? That’s a great question that many people ask, particularly in times of national or international crisis. Solomon reminds us that, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” What’s that really mean? Are we all just puppets in a crazy game controlled by God? The answer lies in the very difficult concept of God’s sovereignty. I really believe that if you take God out of the equation, life would implode. It is God who keeps everything in motion. In Is. 46:10 God said, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.”

Ultimately, God’s purpose will always be accomplished. Don’t confuse sovereignty with God’s will. When we consider the model prayer offered by Jesus in Matt. 6, He prayed that God’s, “will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s will is not always accomplished here. One significant example is people dying without receiving the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. 2 Pet. 3:9 tells us that God is, “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” So, what can be gained by people dying apart from Christ? I can honestly say I don’t know. God uses everything at His disposal to accomplish His ultimate goals. He often uses you and me to accomplish it. That is the privilege of free will. God wants us to choose to do His will just like you want your kids to choose to do what’s right instead of forcing them to. Sometimes you might use enticements or rewards for your kids to do what you want. You supervisors and managers will sometimes do the same thing – a bonus or time off. But it really does your heart good to see people do what’s right because it’s the right thing and they choose to do what is right. When you consider a higher plain, God will lead and guide people to do what will ultimately accomplish His plan. For us, it’s spending eternity with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I don’t know what lies beyond that and does it really matter?

 We saw God’s way, now look at man’s way. “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts.” Back in Pro. 16:2 Solomon said, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives.”  There’s not much difference in the two verses. Evaluating the motives of people can be very difficult. I confess that I sometimes am not a good discerner of people. I tend to believe what people say at face value, but I do learn to read them. When you consider motives, you can do the right thing for the right reason, the right thing for the wrong reason, and you can do the wrong thing for the right reason. Does that sound like gibberish? Let me give you some examples to help you understand. Here’s the right thing for the wrong reason. You financially support the work of the ministry because you can take a tax deduction. Your kids are good and obedient all day so they gain favor to go out that night. You volunteer to teach a class so everyone sees how smart you are.  What about the wrong thing for the right reason? You steal food to feed your family. You lie to someone to avoid hurting their feelings. You withhold the truth from someone so you don’t alienate them. The best and wisest thing to do is the right thing for the right reason. You give to the work of the ministry knowing that ministry costs money and God has blessed you with financial resources. You speak the truth in love regardless of the consequences knowing that truth sets people free. That’s where God wants us. If you’re not sure, pray like David when he said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Ps. 139:23-24)

This leads right into the next verse. “To do righteousness and justice is desired by the Lord more than sacrifice.” When I read this verse, I immediately thought about Samuel and Saul. In 1 Sam. 15, the prophet Samuel was sent to anoint Saul as king of Israel. Samuel gave Saul this command from the Lord: “Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” (1 Sam. 15:3) Those instructions are clear. So, Saul got together his troops and went to battle and defeated the Amalekites. The Bible says, “But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.” (1 Sam. 15:9) Saul is the king of Israel and blamed the people for his disobedience. The conclusion is found in 1 Sam. 15:22-28 that tells us by one act of disobedience, Saul is stripped of his throne. Obedience is the utmost and highest principle in the Bible. As I often say, everything we do can be placed securely under the umbrella of obedience. Giving, prayer, Bible reading and study, serving God and others, as well as a boatload of other commands and principles in Scripture.

Let’s review some principles already covered. “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, is sin.” Don’t be proud or your torch will be snuffed out. “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.” The way to gain advantage in this world is to work hard. The word diligent means careful and conscientious in one’s work. The assumption is that the work is not sinful and the hard work puts you in a favorable position. If you’re hasty: that is, you cut corners, take the easy way instead of the right way – you’ll come to poverty. “The acquisition of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death.” Dishonesty and fraud get you nowhere. Cheating is stealing whether it’s knowledge or material goods. “The violence of the wicked will drag them away, because they refuse to act with justice.” This verse is tied to the previous one. Solomon is talking about the violence that the wicked use against others. The violence they engage in will come right back to them. “The way of a guilty man is crooked, but as for the pure, his conduct is upright.” It’s a contrast between the guilty/wicked and the godly/pure. Evil people do evil things. Righteous people do righteous things. The only power in us to do what is good, right, holy, and pure comes because God has granted us the power of the Holy Spirit when we accept the gift of His one and only Son. When we go back to Genesis, we learn that. “The Lord said to Noah, “Enter the ark, you and all your household, for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time.” (Gen. 7:1) Noah was righteous and that’s why he was spared.

Let’s spend some time on the next one. Solomon says, “It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” He makes a comparison between two things. Living in a relatively uncomfortable place at peace or living in a comfortable place with an uncomfortable situation. No one lives on a roof, right? In biblical times, the roof of a dwelling was typically flat and often served many purposes. In 1 Sam. 9:25, “Samuel spoke with Saul on the roof.” In 2 Sam. 11:2, David walked around the roof where he saw a beautiful woman bathing. In Ps. 102:7, David was, “like a lonely bird on a housetop.” In Acts 10:9, “Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.” The roof was a great location for prayer, meditation, meetings, and was sometimes used as a place to sleep.

It’s better to be on that rooftop than it is with a contentious woman. Just what is a contentious woman? This woman is quarrelsome, prone to argue, disagreeable, and is no fun to be around. What does she argue about? Anything and everything. She fights against everything done. She is desperate to be the boss, to be in charge and to control everything that happens in the home. If the man tries to exercise his authority, she gets all the more contentious. He finds it more comfortable to retreat to the roof. As we have seen, Proverbs is a book of wisdom and perhaps this is the wisest thing for the man to do. Go to the roof where he won’t be tempted to engage in her contentions. Little is accomplished by arguing with someone that will not hear the other side, will not listen to reason, and will not accept what they consider defeat. I can imagine that it’s difficult living with some spouses. I know that some people come from dysfunctional homes where the love of God was not prevalent. I know it may be tough to be at home because of what you have to deal with. Wisdom dictates the best course of action. You still need to be the man that God has called you to be. Have you loved your wife unconditionally? Have you demonstrated it? A dedicated time of earnest prayer away from the fussing and fighting is better to do than quit. Too many people take the easier road and that’s to give up. I’ve heard a ton of reasons why not holding true to the marriage covenant is the only course of action. When you say, “I do,” that’s a very serious commitment that should only be broken by death.

Don’t take the road that Adam took when he blamed Eve. Take responsibility for the relationship as the one that is in authority. And don’t what if: what if she won’t follow? What if she leaves me? I assure you that God understands what you’re going through and He understands the seriousness of the marriage covenant. We just saw in 21:1: “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” When God told Abraham that Sarah was to have a baby and she overheard and then laughed, God asked, “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14) It really comes down to a matter of trust and no one ever said it was easy, fun, or would change overnight, but don’t exclude the power of God from the equation. Waiting on God to move and work in people’s lives is tough, especially when they’re in your own home or family.

We are privileged to play a part in God’s plan for humanity. Whatever that role may be, we’re part of getting accomplished what God wants to accomplish. Our motives should be pure and holy as we seek to fulfill the purpose He has for our lives. Do right in all facets of life because it’s the right thing to do. Be obedient to His leading, but line His leading up with Scripture. God’s not wishy washy, so don’t you be either. We quickly covered a number of principles for daily living that we’ve seen before in Proverbs. It’s best to be honest always. We closed out with a very difficult relationship. If the woman in your life is contentious, show her the unconditional love of Christ. If you’re the contentious woman, I pray that you would allow the power of God to transform your life because He is always on the throne.

Sweet Success

4 Apr

HoneyYou can check out the podcast here.

Last time we were in Proverbs, we learned that trusting people can be a difficult thing to do, but God is not asking you to trust Him without good reason. When you get to know the God of the Bible, you’ll see He is exactly who He says He is and you really can trust Him. When you trust Him, you’ll be blessed – you’ll find favor with God. When you gain knowledge of God through the Bible, you’ll also gain understanding which leads to wisdom. That wisdom is easily recognized by people around you and provides them a limitless refreshing fountain of life if they’ll only listen to the godly wisdom that is contained within you. Fools don’t have that persuasiveness of speech; they just have nonsense. When it comes to eternity, don’t be a fool. This morning, we’ll see some sweet success.

Pro. 16:24-25 says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

I like this first verse. Solomon rephrases something he’s already talked about when he says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Even though we’ve seen words to this effect in Proverbs, I wanted to spend some time here because I think the word picture is so beautiful. A honeycomb is the storage place for honey and that’s the word Solomon intends. Honey is an incredible substance. On their trip to see the second in command in Egypt, Jacob (Israel) told his boys to, “Take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds.” (Gen. 43:11) The Promised Land was a land flowing with milk and honey. Samson killed a lion with his bare hands and then later returned to find the lion full on honey which he scooped out and ate as he walked. (Jud. 14:8) Jonathan’s eyes were brightened after eating honey in 1 Sam. 14:27. Honey was a regular part of John the Baptizer’s diet. (Matt. 3:4) Honey’s health benefits are widely publicized and it never goes bad. We use the word honey as a term of endearment.

Pleasant words are a honeycomb; they are comforting and soothing. There are many things I find pleasant, but may have no impact on eternity. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Solomon compares pleasant words to something that tastes good. The quickest way for a restaurant to fail is to have lousy food. A good, dark, strong cup of coffee brings me intense delight and comfort. And I’m sure you’ve heard the term comfort food. This type of food is supposed to transport you back to childhood where all your dreams were reality and you had no responsibility, no demands, no pressure, and no stress. Pleasant words are supposed to have an even bigger effect than that. Pleasant words can have a healing effect like a balm. I wonder if Solomon is thinking about the words penned by his father David in Ps. 19:7-11. The Law of God and the Word of God are eternally important for us. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) That’s why Solomon says pleasant words are, “Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

Does this next verse sound familiar? Verse 25 is exactly the same as 14:12, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Why would the Holy Spirit inspire Solomon to say the same thing again? We’ve had a number of verses so far that convey the same overall meaning. Do you take it for granted? This is a caution against doing things on your own and it needs to be said again. When I tell you a cross reference for this verse is found in Pro. 12:15 it’ll all make sense, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” Solomon is always contrasting wisdom and folly or righteous and unrighteous. When you consider your own ways and do not take the input of others, the end result is not generally good. There seems to be a right way to do things, but when you rely on yourself, it’s typically not good. It might turn out okay occasionally because even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

Solomon is trying to get us to realize that we need other people in our lives. We don’t see loners in the Bible. The most vibrant, engaged Christians are those that are actively engaged in community. The followers that are growing the most are those that are engaged in fellowship with others that help them grow. The most authentic believers are those that are willing to place themselves under the authority of others; they don’t just do their own thing. If the way you’re going seems right to you but you’re alone, how will your course be corrected? If you just follow your heart, where will you be led? The Bible says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9) Sometimes it seems like we’re that three-year-old trying to tie his shoes saying, “I can do it myself.” It seems like we’re so desperate to do things on our own and we not only ignore godly guidance, we have a tendency to be offended if offered advice from someone older or more experienced. At the risk of tiring out this example, we have these mentors or guides in every aspect of life. The coach tells you what play to run or if you don’t come to practice, you can’t play. The teacher tells you to use a #2 pencil. The IRS tells you that your return must be postmarked no later than April 15th. The military tells you exactly how to wear your uniform. IKEA tells you how to put together their furniture.

We have little to no issue with this. After all, we want to play and we want to win. We want the computer to see our answers so we can pass the test. We don’t want to get a monetary penalty for filing late. We want our cool IKEA furniture to look right. When we transfer these same instructional ideas to the church, what happens? The music leader tells you your solo is cut or you’re singing flat. Someone offers some marriage advice or parenting guidance and all of a sudden, it’s none of your business. We have some misguided notion in the church that the only people that can offer advice are perfect people. Of course my marriage isn’t perfect, but how about learn from what I’ve messed up on and from what works for us. My kids aren’t perfect and I’ll tell you where I messed up so you won’t make the same mistakes I did. All of us tend to learn more from our mistakes and the mistakes of others, so why is it we’re so hard pressed against spiritual advice? “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

The most vibrant, effective ministries are the ones where there is a spirit of unity, a spirit of mutual love and respect where Jesus is elevated to His appropriate place above all other things. It’s a place where the focus is on the main thing. It is entirely unrealistic to think we will have success in every single thing we do. Thomas Edison figured out 2000 ways the light bulb didn’t work before finding one that did. Our first year going to Romania was not what we would define as a success, but the lessons learned were invaluable in refining the goals for how we do mission work in Romania. Every trip we learned something that didn’t work and that forced us to self-examine what we were doing. Each year at C4, we learn things. I don’t want us to get so routine and stagnant, that we just continue on regardless of how ineffective we might be. Just because we’ve always done it, doesn’t mean we’ll continue. The church is a living, breathing organism. We are made up of people that are learning and growing Do you want to be more effective in life? In ministry? In Eternity? Surround yourself with people who want the same thing. Don’t be satisfied with the status quo. There is no room in your life for people who will tell you what you what you want to hear, who will lie to you, who won’t hold you accountable. That’s not love. That’s foolish. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” Fools think they’re right and don’t bother getting the guidance of others.

Wise people seek out wiser people to check themselves. Wise people seek course corrections from other people. When you have people in your life that will tell you the truth in love, you’re going to grow. Don’t automatically ignore good counsel from others because you think you know it already. That’s a really dangerous place to be in. If you follow this guidance, I guarantee you’ll have sweet success.

A Matter of Trust

21 Mar

trustYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we learned that God has provided us with the latest, up to date, accurate road map that offers a guarantee on finding the destination . . . if we’ll just use it. Staying on God’s highway will cause you to depart from evil. It doesn’t mean evil will be eliminated from your life, but it won’t take hold of you because you evaluate it from God’s perspective. Solomon tied the dreadful sin of pride with robbery – an angle you may not have previously looked at. The prosperity of the thief is short lived, so that’s not even an option for the Christ follower. Society tells us life is all about us, but that’s a deviation from God’s plan. Life here on earth is all about God and life in eternity is all about God. You’ve probably heard that you can’t trust anyone, but this morning, we’ll see how trust plays into real life.

Proverbs 16:20-23 says, “He who gives attention to the word will find good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord. The wise in heart will be called understanding, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. Understanding is a fountain of life to one who has it,
But the discipline of fools is folly. The heart of the wise instructs his mouth and adds persuasiveness to his lips.”

Who can you trust? It’s a question often asked. Some people will say, “You can’t trust anyone.” Others will say you can’t trust certain people. There are people that have betrayed your trust that resulted in you trusting no one and then conclude, “I have trust issues.” You’ve heard me say, “You can trust me.” So what’s Solomon talking about? He says, “He who gives attention to the word will find good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.”  So we have to first know what the word is. Pro. 13:13 says, “The one who despises the word will be in debt to it, but the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded.” Solomon is talking about a willingness to place yourself under the authority of the written Word of God. Just because someone doesn’t like the Bible, understand it, believe it, or follow it, doesn’t mean it’s not applicable. People can disagree and hate the Bible, but it doesn’t make it less applicable to them. Even if they don’t know everything in it, they’re still accountable to it and so are we as believers. When you pay attention to the commandments, teachings, and principles of Scripture, you’ll find good. Good in this verse means pleasant and joyful; that which pleases the senses or give moral satisfaction. Paul uses the Greek form of the word good when he says, “So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” (Rom. 7:12)

We don’t need to be afraid of the word of God because it brings life changing instruction for us. “Blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.” That means that you lay aside what you don’t understand and you simply place your confidence in the One that created all that you see around you. You place your complete confidence in the One that hand crafted the human body. You place your complete trust in the One that keeps the stars in the sky, that causes the earth to continue rotating that gives us night and day, that gives us glorious sunrises and sunsets. You’re placing your complete confidence in the One that knows tomorrow as well as He knows yesterday. It is a choice and the choice is yours. Remember, this phrase is attached to the previous phrase about giving attention to the word. It’s the written word of God. When you read it, study it, and get to know the Author of it, it becomes easier to place your complete confidence in the Lord.

The proof is in the pudding. Most people that you are around probably have a good idea about who you really are. It’s very difficult to hide your true identity from those people that you spend a lot of time with. Your family, co-workers, and classmates probably are not fooled by who you really are. Sometimes, people of faith go undercover. Don’t be afraid of revealing your true identity of faith. Don’t apologize for being a follower of Christ. If you’re a true follower, you’ll never be able to hide it anyway because you will be different. That’s what Solomon is saying here, “The wise in heart will be called understanding, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.” Let’s break this down and start with, “The wise in heart.”  The heart is the same heart that Solomon refers to as the center of who you are that we’ve seen numerous times. If you’re wise in heart, it’s who you are regardless of how you came to be like that. Contextually, we’re talking biblical wisdom as we’ve seen before. I think we’ve established throughout this study that real wisdom comes from God; real wisdom comes from  understanding the Bible and when you have that understanding, other people will recognize it in you. That’s why you will be called understanding.

Our behavior says a lot about who we are. If you have some time, I encourage to look at Acts 11:19-26. The people recognized their actions and called them Christians. It happened in Antioch first because the people were acting like Christ and other people called them Christians. We didn’t come up with the description ourselves. Other people saw Christ in these early disciples and concluded they were like Him. When you are wise in heart, the conclusion is that you are controlled by Christ. Since you’re controlled by Christ, you have the fruit of self-control. Since you have self-control, you’re able to control what, when, and how you say things. This is the, “Sweetness of speech” in the verse. The Hebrew word for sweetness can also be translated pleasant and persuasiveness is better translated learning. When we take it all together, Solomon is conveying the idea that when wisdom fills your heart, you’re able to increase learning in others. People will be drawn to you to find out what makes you tick; they’ll seek you out for answers to life’s issues because you exude wisdom, not in a haughty arrogant way, but a confidence in knowing who you serve.

This leads directly into the next verse. “Understanding is a fountain of life to one who has it, but the discipline of fools is folly.” We’ve seen where understanding comes from. I’m not talking about understanding how atoms split to make energy or how an engine works. I’m talking about understanding what really matters. I think we’ve been pretty clear about that. The only thing that matters here is preparation for eternity. We all need a fundamental understanding of what is at stake so we have the proper perspective. When Jesus came to earth and walked around Galilee and Jerusalem, it wasn’t just to teach great things or provide an example to follow. He understood the importance of what He was called to do. I think many of us discount the importance of what we are called to do. That fountain of life flows freely from those who have the understanding of their purpose. The purpose I’m talking about is far more important than a vocation. We have a vocation to fund our primary calling and that primary calling is the same for every believer. We are to point people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. When a believer has that purpose in mind, it’s like a free flowing fountain that satisfies all who drink from it.

The opposite is also true. “But the discipline of fools is folly.” Discipline here doesn’t mean punishment, it means learning. You’ve heard of academic disciplines. That’s the meaning here. Solomon is talking about areas of learning, but it can also be applied to the nonsense that fools teach. Foolish people tend to get more and more foolish because as they live their lives in their foolishness, they tend to move farther and farther away from wisdom. Solomon gives us another restated verse when he says, “The heart of the wise instructs his mouth and adds persuasiveness to his lips.”

Trusting people can be a difficult thing to do, but God is not asking you to trust Him without good reason. When you get to know the God of the Bible, you’ll see He is exactly who He says He is and you really can trust Him. When you trust Him, you’ll be blessed – you’ll find favor with God. When you gain knowledge of God through the Bible, you’ll also gain understanding which leads to wisdom. That wisdom is easily recognized by people around you and provides them a limitless refreshing fountain of life if they’ll only listen to the godly wisdom that is contained within you. Fools don’t have that persuasiveness of speech. They just have nonsense. When it comes to eternity, don’t be a fool.

Absolute Corruption

7 Mar

Absolute PowerYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Solomon told us about royal rules. We want leaders who are sensitive to the Lord’s leading and will listen to God. Nobody wants to be taken advantage of in business and God doesn’t like it at all. Being in leadership comes with expectations. Whether it’s in government, the church, school, or the fast food restaurant, we want leaders who exemplify the righteousness of Christ. We don’t want our leaders to act wickedly or unrighteously. There are royal rules that need to be followed if leaders are to act in a godly manner. This morning, we’ll see how absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Pro. 16:14-16 says, “The fury of a king is like messengers of death, but a wise man will appease it. In the light of a king’s face is life, and his favor is like a cloud with the spring rain. How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver.”

Solomon starts off like a trailer for an action movie. “The fury of a king is like messengers of death.” What guy wouldn’t go see a movie like that? This has all the makings of an Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone blockbuster. When you talk about absolute power, a king might come to mind. If you remember the statistics about ruling authority from last week, few royal figures today wield the absolute power that can be so frightening. This verse is talking about real power. The power can be far reaching and oppressive. Here’s something to think about: when was the last time you heard of a ruler with absolute authority that actually took care of his people? The absolute power quote really is, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” The quote is attributed to English historian and author Lord Acton who wrote that opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887. Someone that has absolute authority is very likely to abuse that authority. So when Solomon says, “The fury of the king is like messengers of death,” he’s talking about the far reaching power of absolute rulers. In biblical times and in the middle ages, kings typically attempted to expand their kingdoms. They generally did this by force, coercion, threats, and intimidation. The more ruthless the king, the more expansive the territory.

Fury means extreme anger. Their power was absolute and arbitrary. When the king wanted someone dead, they got dead. When the king wanted someone to live, they lived. There didn’t need to be any logical reason or thought behind it. When kings get furious, people die. Solomon says, “But a wise man will appease it.” The right words spoken at the right time can have a huge calming effect. In 1 Sam. 19, King Saul was so furious with David that he wanted to put him to death. Enter Saul’s son Jonathan who speaks to King Saul with wisdom and adoration for David and causes Saul to change his mind. 1 Sam. 19:6 says, “Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan, and Saul vowed, “As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.” Jonathan used wisdom when talking with Saul and appeased his anger such that David would not be killed. I encourage you to read the whole story.

How about some royal favor? It’s not good to be in the line of fire with a furious king, but what happens on the opposite side? This is the place to be. Solomon says, “In the light of the king’s face is life, and his favor is like a cloud with the spring rain.” This is where I want to be. With a furious king, you could be put to death just because. But in the light, it’s “like a cloud with the spring rain.” Talk about a contrast. Spring rain brings restoration, it brings new beginnings, it brings life! Remember Solomon is king of Israel. He doesn’t want Israel to do anything that will cause his wrath because he can be like other fury filled kings that were around in his day. It’s awesome to find favor with the king. It’s even awesomer to find favor with the King of kings. Favor with God is like that life giving spring rain that brings restoration and new life.

Solomon makes a great comparison. He says, “How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver.” What price do you put on wisdom and understanding? If only you could buy it. In our culture, wisdom and understanding of the things of God are not as prevalent as they used to be. Even if you could buy, I think few people would make the purchase. Listen to Rom. 1:18-23, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” That’s really what Solomon is saying. Remember Solomon could have asked for all the riches in the world, but he chose to ask God for wisdom. He ended up with both. Think about it this way. If you’re wise, can you use wisdom to gain wealth? Of course, but is achieving wealth the be all to end all? That’s what culture tells us, but the biblically wise person thinks eternally. There is no direct correlation between how much we have here and what we will have in eternity. All material possessions will be left on this earth when you die.

I asked a moment ago, what price do you put on wisdom and understanding? Wisdom is not something that you can learn. Pro. 2:6 told us, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Pro. 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” If you go way back to the beginning of this, Solomon said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Pro. 1:7) Wisdom is something we can obtain because as followers of Christ, God can and will give it to us. James 1:5-8 says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” There’s the caveat. It’s like saying, well . . . I’ll pray about it, but God doesn’t hear my prayers. God can do that, but He won’t do it for me.

Maybe you’re thinking, you know, it’s easy for Solomon to say it’s better to have wisdom than gold, but wisdom doesn’t pay the bills. Actually, it does. Exercising biblical wisdom could prevent you from getting into financial binds in the first place. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve counselled over the years that made financial decisions that could only be classified as stupid. They’ve determined what they want to do and they do it without thinking of the impact of their decision. Those unwise decisions generally lead to other issues that are brought to light under the intense pressure of trying to make ends meet. Heavenly wisdom enables you to make decisions from God’s perspective.

Power can lead to corruption and absolute power can lead to absolute corruption. You’ve probably heard the quote that says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Exercising biblical wisdom can placate the fury of kings. It’s great to find favor with earthly kings, but it’s far better to find favor with the King of kings. As Christ followers we have a responsibility to passionately follow Him who is the source of great wisdom. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” (Lu. 12:48) Biblical wisdom is essential in making sound decisions in our lives. When we utilize biblical wisdom, we utilize the incredible power of God and avoid absolute corruption.

Royal Rules

29 Feb


CrownCheck out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon spoke of financial issues again and said it’s better to have a little and be righteous than to have a lot because you were engaged in injustice. It can be pretty scary to place blind trust in someone, but we do it all the time with our doctors, lawyers, and teachers. Be sensitive to the Lord’s leading and align your goals and ambitions with God’s first. This morning, we dig into the responsibility of kings.

Pro. 16:10-13 tells us, “A divine decision is in the lips of the king; his mouth should not err in judgment. A just balance and scales belong to the Lord; All the weights of the bag are His concern. It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, for a throne is established on righteousness. Righteous lips are the delight of kings, and he who speaks right is loved.”

We don’t have a king. You’ve probably figured that out. I know the temptation exists to ignore this first verse because we don’t operate with a king in the U.S. I need to remind you who is writing these inspired words of God. He is the king of Israel so he knows what he’s talking about and understands the importance of the words he’s writing. “A divine decision is in the lips of the king.” While this has some significant application for today, I’m going to tell you the decision that Solomon refers to. When we began our study in Proverbs, we went to 1 Kings 3 and checked out Solomon’s early life. In 1 Ki. 3:5, God told Solomon, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.” We learned that Solomon asked God for, “An understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil.” God rewarded Solomon by giving him wisdom to discern and also gave him a pile of cash. Later in 1 Ki. 3, we come to Solomon’s first dilemma. Two harlots come to Solomon about a dead baby. They each say the dead baby belongs to the other. It’s a pretty complicated dilemma, but Solomon quickly dispenses judgment and all of Israel was floored by his wisdom. That decision is brilliant because it reflects the wisdom of God. That’s what Solomon is saying. When you are in tune with God, you’ll render decisions that come from a biblical worldview.

We don’t have a king, but we have leaders in nearly every facet of life. Our leaders should make decisions based on a fear and reverence for God because He is the standard of right and wrong, of morality and faith, of wisdom and justice. Our reality is most likely far from that ideal. So we should sincerely pray for our leaders to employ godly wisdom in their decisions. Remember, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (Pro. 21:1) I wonder what would happen if the church collectively and individually prayed for the world’s leaders to govern biblically.

Solomon shifts gears a bit and talks about the wheels of justice. Solomon declares, “A just balance and scales belong to the Lord, all the weights of the bag are His concern” The balance was used in the market place to weigh out a product against a standard. We do the same thing today. You go to the grocery store and you pay a price per pound for many items purchased like vegetables, meat, and sugar. Sometimes crooked merchants would use a faulty balance or weights that were rigged to deprive customers of getting what they paid for. Weights were standardized back in the day as they are today. You’d be pretty ticked off if you paid for five pounds of coffee and received only four pounds. There was a huge scandal in our area back in 2005-2006. The owners and operators of three gas station/travel plazas were indicted on charges of conspiracy and fraud. They had rigged the gas pumps to dispense 19 gallons for every 20 purchased. That’s 5% difference. Not much, but in just two years, the FBI estimated that amounted to about 7 million dollars. This is exactly what Solomon is talking about. God is concerned when people fall victim to unjust business practices. Why? Because God knows that you need to buy things to live and He takes a really dim view on people that engage in fraudulent business practices.

There are certain expectations we have for people. We have expectations for teachers to teach our kids what they need to know to live a productive life. We expect our employers to pay us for the jobs we do. We expect firefighters to show up if our house catches on fire. We expect our military to defend and protect us against all enemies near and far. When we talk about royalty, we have a disconnect because don’t have an earthly king or queen. You might have heard of Queen Elizabeth II. She’s the longest reigning queen in history. Of the 44 countries or territories with a monarch, Queen Elizabeth rules over 11 of those. What’s interesting is that the Queen doesn’t rule with absolute authority. She has limits to what she can do. Of the 44, only 6 monarchs rule with absolute authority and one of those is the Pope.

“It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, for a throne is established on righteousness.” What if I made a word substitution and said, “It is an abomination for leaders to commit wicked acts, for the office is established on righteousness.” If we apply this to our leaders, we get the understanding Solomon is going for. Paul said in Rom. 13:1-2, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” Our leaders should act responsibly and appropriately and if they don’t, they should be held accountable. Leaders ought not to lead with an iron fist, but with compassion, consideration, integrity, and honor. Dictators like Hitler, Stalin, and Qadaffi made people follow them out of fear. Those that opposed or stood up to them were killed. That’s not the way God wants it to be. Isaiah said it like this: “A throne will even be established in lovingkindness, and a judge will sit on it in faithfulness in the tent of David; moreover, he will seek justice and be prompt in righteousness.” (Is. 16:5) Solomon is setting up whoever might succeed him as king. Good kings mete out justice. Good kings have high moral character. A good and righteous king hates wickedness in others and won’t even consider wickedness in his own life even though he might be in a position and have the power to act wickedly and get away with it. Good kings rule with lovingkindness.

Here’s another royal quality that goes with what he just said. “Righteous lips are the delight of kings and he who speaks right is loved.” This is not how the king speaks, but for those that speak to them. Have you heard the term yes man? This type of person tells their leaders what they think they want to hear instead of the truth. They use empty flattery. Real leaders want honest feedback even if it might be displeasing to them. In an ideal world, your supervisor, work leader, manager, or whoever you report to wants you to speak truthfully. Real leaders take on board what is said. Undercover Boss uses this technique in a mildly deceptive way. The boss goes undercover in his or her organization to find out what is really going on in the company because it can be challenging to find people that will tell the truth to their leader. When you do speak right, you will be loved by your boss – at least you should be. It’s an entirely different scenario when leaders ignore or dismiss what they’re told. If you stay in the work force any length of time, you’ll likely work for someone that doesn’t care what you think, doesn’t want to hear new or innovative ideas, that’s totally satisfied with the status quo, or doesn’t think you’re competent enough to have a good idea. That makes for a tough work environment. The best leaders to work for or have are the leaders that love Jesus because the righteousness that is present in them compels them to be like Jesus. What does that look like? They love Jesus so they want to lead like Christ. They love Jesus so they want to lead righteously. They love Jesus so they want to lead courageously, respectfully, full of grace and truth. They love Jesus so they want to please Him. That’s a great leader to work for.

We want leaders who are sensitive to the Lord’s leading and will listen to God. Nobody wants to be taken advantage of in business and God really doesn’t like it at all. Being in leadership comes with expectations. Whether it’s in government, the church, school, or the fast food restaurant, we want leaders who exemplify the righteousness of Christ. We don’t want our leaders to act wickedly or unrighteously. There are royal rules that need to be followed if leaders are to act in a godly manner.

The Creepers Are Not Like Mike

4 Nov

archangel-michael-marc-huebnerYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Jude presented us with a sinful trifecta further proving that the creepers were not men of God. The creepers defile the flesh, reject authority, and they revile angelic majesties. We saw that last phrase was not easily understood. Jude continues to build his case against the creepers and offers a contrast to a very special being and we’ll also see why cross references are so important as we let scripture interpret Scripture.

Jude 9 says, But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

There are some difficulties with this verse. This letter contains several difficult verses and v. 9 is no different. Let’s do the best we can to understand what Jude is telling us. He begins with the word, “but.” We know this word represents a contrast. It’s really a comparison to something he has said. We’re familiar with comparisons and contrasts. In Hamlet, did he say, “I want to die.” No, he said, “To be or not to be, that is the question.” Did President Kennedy say, “We need your help.” Nope, he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” It was FDR that said, “There is nothing to fear except fear itself.” Using comparisons and contrasts is really effective in writing and speaking. In v. 9, Jude is continuing the thought from v. 8. He started with a comparison, “Yet in the same way.” Now in v. 9 he offers the contrast by saying, “But.” He compared the sins of the creepers to the sins of Israel, to Sodom and Gomorrah, and to the angels.

He says, “But Michael the archangel.” We saw from a couple messages ago that angels are very, very popular in our culture. Here are some interesting facts about angels. A basic definition of an angel is a spiritual being serving God and supporting mankind.  Ps. 103:21 says, “Bless the Lord, all you His hosts, you who serve Him, doing His will.” Neh. 9:6 and Col. 1:16 say that they are created beings. Job 38:7 says they were around prior to the creation account in Genesis so they were created before humanity. Ps. 91:11 says, “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.” The Bible distinguishes between good or faithful angels and fallen angels or demons. They have free will and are not impervious to temptation and sin. Job also tells us they had free access to God after their fall. According to Revelation there are, “myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands” angels. (Rev. 5:11) They stand, sit, see, speak, eat, and foretell the future. Angels are not to be worshiped according to Colossians and Revelation. Getting back to Michael, Paul said in 1 Thes. 4:16, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” Michael is a prominent angel, one of three named angels in Scripture, but the only one identified as the archangel. Archangel defines Michael’s authority as the chief angel. Rev. 12:5-9 tells us, There was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” There is a hierarchy to angelic beings and Michael is their leader under God’s final authority. Michael is important.

So what about Michael the archangel? Apparently there was a dispute. Let’s look again at v. 9. We know Moses was God’s chosen man to deliver His people from the land of Egypt. According to Num. 20:12, Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because he struck the rock twice instead of speaking to it to bring forth the water that the people needed. For that one instance of disobedience, Moses would not lead the people into the land flowing with milk and honey.   At the end of Moses’ life, God showed him the land that was promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and Moses was able to look into the Promised Land from the plains of Moab. Moses died and according to Deut. 34:6, God Himself buried Moses and no one knows exactly where. The argument with the devil concerned the body of Moses. The physical body of Moses. It’s interesting that Michael and the devil can even have a conversation, but that gives you insight into what is happening in the spiritual realm. Paul told us that, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) I don’t believe there’s a demon hiding behind every door or under every rock, but I do believe they have incredible influence in our lives and most people don’t even realize it. The word struggle in that passage comes from the word that means intense physical or nonphysical force. Remember there are two types of people in the world. Saved or lost. Children of righteousness or slaves of sin. If I could get really simple right now, Satan is trying to do just two things. Keep lost people lost. Ruin or damage the testimony of Christians. The book of Genesis described him as, “More crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had created.” (Gen. 3:10) He is devious, he is deceptive, he is discouraging. The tactic he used in the garden was to introduce doubt in the mind of Eve. He still does that today.

What does this have to do with Moses? The name Satan means adversary and devil means accuser. They are legal terms so this gives us the idea that the dispute was a legal type issue over Moses’ body. What was the exact nature of the dispute is not at all clear from Scripture, but the contrast to the creepers is clear. The creepers, “revile angelic majesties,” (Jude 7) but Michael the chief of angels, didn’t do that. Given the opportunity and authority, Michael chose to let the Lord take care of things. Michael, “Did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said the Lord rebuke you!” This phrase alludes to another time when Satan accused a servant of God named Joshua. The story is told in Zechariah about Satan accusing Joshua the High Priest of wearing filthy garments. Zech. 3:2 says, “The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” The Lord is our advocate. When Satan accuses us, Jesus stands in as our helper, our mediator before God. When the Lord rebukes, it is a final judgment.

This is a very difficult verse to understand because we don’t have the full back story. We know Moses sinned when he murdered the Egyptian, he sinned by striking the rock, as well as other recorded shortcomings yet God still used him to lead His people. Satan wants to bring us down, wants to destroy us, but Jesus is there to help us, He is there to mediate for us. I want to quote a very powerful passage that we must get and keep in our hearts.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,

“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:31-39)

Wow. Keep going. Fight to the end. Don’t give up, don’t quit.

A Sinful Trifecta

28 Oct

CreepYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Jude gave us more proof that God is a God of His word. We saw the sin of Israel when they were released from bondage in Egypt, the sin of the angels, and those of Sodom and Gomorrah as Jude completed his trifecta of examples. The three examples of judgment serve as a reminder for us. We saw from v. 4 that the creepers turned the grace of God into license. This morning Jude talks about three specific sins of the creepers that will be judged by God.

Jude 8 says, “Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties.”

So what’s the connection? Jude is not haphazard in his writing. He connects this verse with the previous by the phrase, “In the same way.” That phrase connects the Israelites in the wilderness, the angels that left their domain, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember Jude is arguing that God will judge sin and the creepers are no different than the people in history. Jude is not saying the sin of the creepers is the same as the three examples: he is using an analogy. Jude goes on to say, “These men, also by dreaming.” Before we look at the three sins, we need to understand this phrase. Dreams play an important part in God’s plan. We saw the importance of dreams from Jacob and his 12 sons that included Joseph’s ability to accurately interpret dreams. Joel 2:28 says, “It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” Acts 2:17 quotes the passage from Joel. In Matt 1:20, we see an angel of the Lord coming to Joseph the carpenter in a dream regarding the pregnancy of Mary.

Dreams are a part of Scripture, but like all good things, Satan provides a counterfeit to truth. If you can, I encourage you to read Deut. 13:1-5 and Jer. 23:25-32. Both passages provide some insight into biblical dreams. Just because someone may say I had a dream doesn’t mean that dream is from the Lord. Just like anyone who says, the Lord is leading me to_______ doesn’t make it true. We need to line it up with Scripture. “By dreaming,” Jude says. In other words, they make up things in their imagination. Their way of thinking; their doctrine is purely imaginary. So these men by dreaming do three things. Let’s find out what Jude says specifically.

Jude lists three sins of the creepers. First they, “defile the flesh.” Defile means to desecrate or profane. In the Old Testament, defile typically indicates sexual type sin. This certainly fits with what Jude said about the angels that left their own domain. It fits with what he said happened in Sodom and Gomorrah. The phrase is also found in early Christian writings describing sexual sin. The creepers pollute their own flesh. In 1 Cor. 3:16 Paul said, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Our bodies are supposed to be holy.

Second they, “reject authority.” We need to keep it in context here and not go all crazy saying things that are not accurate. This phrase can only mean one thing – numerous applications, but it can’t mean more than it means. It would be easy to say this means human authority – the government, church leadership, parents, teachers, etc. The word translated authority never has that meaning in Scripture so it would be wrong to say that’s what it means. If that were to be accurate, authority would be plural, but here it’s singular. Most likely is that Jude means the authority of Jesus Christ especially given that v. 4 tells us the creepers, “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” The creepers reject or dismiss the authority of Christ. Of course, this isn’t new and we still see it today. If you’ve ever heard someone say, “I know what the Bible says, but,” they are dismissing the authority of Christ.

Finally they, “revile angelic majesties.” Of the three, this phrase is the most difficult to understand. We know revile comes from the same word where get blaspheme. Angelic refers to angels and majesties mean glories. So are these angels good angels or bad angels? Messengers of God or are they demons? I can emphatically say . . . I’m not sure. I have poured over the text and cross references and I am just not sure. So what do we do with this phrase? Let’s see what we do know for sure. These creepers are like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, they are like the angels that left their appointed place of authority, and they are like the grumblers that left Egypt. They are disobedient, rebellious, and doctrinally flawed. They are sinners that have not accepted the gift of God through His one and only Son Jesus Christ. They were marked out for judgment because they reject the authority of Jesus Christ.        If that weren’t bad enough, they are in the church and no one noticed.

Perhaps this will clear up when we look at v. 9 next week. The message for us is clear. We need to know the Scriptures so that we can recognize when people teach things that are not consistent with the Bible. If they do it out of ignorance, we can help correct it. But if they intentionally teach things that are not consistent, we need to deal with that in a different way. Always in love, but not compromising on the truth.

False Teachers are Animals

10 Jun

Dragon AttackYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Peter told us that false teachers indulged their flesh. They despised authority and had very high opinions of themselves. The false teachers were bold and arrogant and because of this, God’s judgment of them is right, proper, and just. This morning, Peter wastes no time in telling it like it is.

2 Pet. 2:12-13 tells us, “But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you.”

Peter describes these false teachers by saying they are, “Like unreasoning animals.” Remember they had a high opinion of themselves. The KJV translations calls them, “brute beasts.” Consider this phrase because it really is quite harsh. Peter says the behavior of these false teachers is, “like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct.” The false teachers prided themselves on their intellect. They act on instinct rather than reason. They are controlled by their feelings. Animals act without reason. In the wild, animals don’t kill for fun; they kill when they’re hungry or threatened. These false teachers acted on their desires and feelings rather than upon reason. I’m not saying deny your feelings, God gave them to you, but don’t be like false teachers. We hear all the time people saying, “I feel like the Lord . . .” Don’t tell me you “feel” in a way that is contrary to Scripture. Don’t tell me some spiritual mumbo jumbo and cover it by telling me you have peace about it. I’m put on edge very quickly when people throw out that spiritual talk when it’s obvious they haven’t consulted God or His Word about anything. They’re not using reason, they’re using feelings. Feelings will typically get you in trouble when you allow them to control your actions.

Peter is considering what happens to animals. They are, “Captured and killed.” Think about this. Animals were designed by God for us to have dominion over, to provide meat for us to eat and skin to cloth ourselves. They’re captured and killed. The false teachers are like unreasoning animals. If that’s not bad enough, these false teachers revile, “Where they have no knowledge.” While Peter is talking about false teachers, I think this really describes the church world that we live in. Remember revile comes from the same word where we get blaspheme. Blaspheme in general, means to show a lack of respect, or to speak irreverently about God or His Word. People today do this frequently and perhaps may not even know it. They’ll tell me all kinds of things about God, the Bible, their behavior, their opinions, etc. where they have no knowledge. You’ve heard it too. God is love and therefore wouldn’t condemn people to hell. God wants me to be happy and He doesn’t want me to live like this. I don’t have to participate in the things of God to be a good Christian. I know it’s wrong, but I hope God will forgive me. These kind of statements are just like the false teachers that spoke wrongly about God. Before you say dumb things, at the very least check out what God says in His Word. Listen to what happens to them, “But these [false teachers] will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed.” The same thing that happens to the animals will happen to the false teachers. Destruction is coming.

Peter’s condemnation continues in the next verse. Sometimes we wonder when judgment will come. We don’t wonder about ourselves, but for others. When are people going to pay for what they’ve done? I don’t know the time or the place, but it will come. Peter begins a series of short sentences. He begins the series in v. 13 by saying, “Suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong.” Wrong here actually means injure. In other words, they reap what they sow. When you sow bad seeds, you get bad crops. Gal. 6:8, “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” These people will be injured for injuring others. Jer. 4:22, “For My people are foolish, they know Me not; they are stupid children and have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, but to do good they do not know.” You get what you give. “They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime.” Nothing good happens after midnight. They are so consumed with evil that they don’t wait until dark to engage in their illicit behavior.  Rom. 13:12-13, “The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.” The daytime is when normal people work and instead these false teachers are indulging in their pleasures. “They are stains and blemishes.” Remember these false teachers were in the church according to 2:1. What they engage in, what they practice, their manner of life leaves a stain on the congregation. “Reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you.” Revel means gain great pleasure from. Carouse means lively drinking party. These false teachers are not alone, they’re engaging in these activities with people from the church, because the people from the church have been deceived.

Once again, Peter declares that it really does matter what you do in life. Be careful who you hang out with and what they lead you to do. Know the truth and follow it. There are no excuses.

Divine Power

4 Feb

LightningYou can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last week we kicked off our study in Peter’s second letter. We saw he writes to Gentiles in the first century around 60-65 A.D. Peter identified himself as a slave and an apostle. He reminded us that we are one in Christ because of His righteousness. This morning, let’s look at the incredible power of God.

Peter writes in 2 Pet. 1:2-3, Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”

Peter offers up a nice greeting and says nearly the same thing as he did in 1 Pet. 1:2. The assumption is that his readers have grace and peace. They have saving faith by grace that gives all Christians equal standing with God through Jesus. We have peace as a fruit of the Spirit given at salvation to all who have received God’s righteousness as Peter mentioned in v. 1. Grace and peace are multiplied through knowing God and Jesus Christ our Lord. In verse 1 Peter used the phrase God and Savior. Now he says God and of Jesus Christ – two people which is a more typical greeting in Scripture. This is not just head knowledge, but knowledge that evokes change, knowledge that transforms. What good is knowledge that results only in knowledge? That’s why we’ve all taken examinations of one form or another. There must be intellectual knowledge, but there must also be personal and relational knowledge. Intellectual knowledge should lead to a heart knowledge. There’s a difference between knowing someone and having a relationship with someone. Just because someone is your friend on Facebook does not mean you are best friends.

Knowledge is critical to Peter. In his first letter, he spent time refuting the Gnostics that concluded knowledge was the be all to end all. As long as you had the knowledge, that was all you needed. Peter said no, he said that knowledge must be reflected in behavior. The Gnostics believed it didn’t matter how you live as long as you were enlightened with knowledge. I half think that’s where people in the church are today. They have the knowledge of right and wrong, of good and bad, but it doesn’t lead to a change of behavior. It doesn’t lead to transformation.    The knowledge that supposedly led to a conversion experience doesn’t have any effect on an individual. We have churches full of Gnostics that think just having knowledge is good enough. Knowledge doesn’t do anything, but people are convinced that Jesus is their friend and they’re going to heaven. This knowledge of Jesus brings a multiplication of grace and peace. That’s the only way to be growing in Christ. You gain knowledge by studying – that same way you gain knowledge about anything. You want to grow in Christ? Get to know Him. How do you get to know Him? Read His story, hang with people who want to know Him, who want to be like Christ. The time for talk is gone. Jesus is looking for servants who will actually follow Him. Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”  Are you thinking, “Hey, that doesn’t apply to me, I’m not a priest.” The first phrase is the tip off. God is talking about His people being destroyed because of a lack of knowledge. And He’s talking about a rejection of knowledge. Ignorance and rebellion lead to destruction.

We have everything we need. Peter tells us, “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.” These resources are available to us simply by knowing God. If you know God, then you have everything you need for a life that is pleasing to God. Peter’s call to godliness is rooted in and secured by God’s grace. Without grace, there would be no faith. Without faith, it’s impossible to please God. Salvation comes by grace through faith. Confused? Don’t be. It is God that is the initiator of the relationship. He supplies what we need through His power. If He expects us to have it, He gives it to us. The life Peter refers to is eternal life and comes from the Greek word zoe. Godliness is linked to life because you can’t have godliness without having eternal life. You can’t have eternal life without the transforming power of Christ. Paul warned Timothy about this when he said there were men that held, “To a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these.” (2 Tim. 3:5) If you really have eternal life, it will change your life here on earth. The godliness we may display is not because of us, it’s because of God. The source of godliness is His divine power. When we start to think in terms of what we do, we tend to get high and mighty which leads to a judgmental attitude.

One caution in Peter’s message, there is a qualifier. We have everything from God’s divine power, “Through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” Everything needed for eternal life is rooted in the knowledge of Christ. Salvation is not an emotional decision. Don’t get me wrong, there are emotions involved, but when salvation is purely emotional and those emotions fade, we’re often left dazed and confused. Maybe you wonder why there is no power in your life. Maybe you wonder why you can’t change, why you’re still the same person you’ve always been. I can tell you it’s not from a lack of God’s power. Eternal life stems first from a knowledge of who the Christ is.      John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” First knowledge, then conversion, then transformation. The transformation continues from conversion until death. Glory and excellence point to the same thing. Those that God saves are called by Christ as we understand His love and His forgiveness. This knowledge leads us to make a decision to follow Christ. The decision to follow Christ lead believers to be morally transformed by God’s inexplicable grace. This is one of Peter’s central themes and one of my defining phrases for Christianity. If you are a child of God, your life better reflect His glory. If you think you can live your life any way you feel like, you’re deceived and you’re hurting the cause of Christ. 2 Cor. 4:6, “For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

Those who truly are called by Christ have seen and experienced Christ’s glory and His excellence and will live a life of godliness. The life of the Christian still residing on earth will be lived as an example Christ’s transforming power.

Peter’s Shift in Age

24 Sep

You can catch the podcast here.

Last week Peter spoke of the elder as overseer and he talked about the nature of the elder. Elders are examples not just to God’s people, but to people everywhere. This week Peter closes out this section by speaking to younger men.

1 Peter 5:5-7 says, You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

Peter shifts from speaking about elders to the younger men, but what does younger mean? Some people get really hung on this phrase. Remember that Peter is writing to believers scattered across Asia. In 5:1 he speaks directly to the elders among the church. In light of this, it is likely that Peter is speaking to the younger men among the people as a specific age group. Why would Peter call out young men? The answer comes from what he says next. He says, “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders.” Likewise – just like everyone else in the congregation. It’s a reminder to the younger men. Why them? Think about the young men you know. As a rule, are they compliant? This isn’t the first time Peter mentions the idea of submitting to authority. In 2:13, he told us to submit to every human institution. In 2:18, he told servants to submit to their masters whether they were good and gentle or unreasonable. In 3:1 and 5 he told wives to be submissive to their own husbands. The idea of submitting to others is not new. But it’s the younger men in particular that Peter reminds to submit to those in authority. There seems to be a rebellious streak in young men that may not be as prevalent in young women and Peter wants to be firm in his reminder to submit to those in authority. But it’s not blind obedience for any follower. We saw earlier that Peter told leaders not to use their authority as dictators. If teaching or guidance is given that is contrary to God’s Word, it shouldn’t be followed. At the same time, people should be inclined to follow the leadership and submit to their authority and not complain about everything that goes on.

Now Peter shifts again. “And all of you.” If there’s any doubt, he includes the entire congregation scattered about. “Those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” (1 Pet. 1:1) Everyone who is reading this letter, who is having this letter read to them. “And all of you clothe yourself with humility.”  Smooth relations will exist in the church if we have a spirit of humility. If we simply have the attitude that everyone is important, things will be smooth. If we have the attitude that we’re all on a journey of discipleship, we’ll get along just fine. Problems can arise when someone wants to exercise some kind of power over another, or wants to dictate how something must be done, or gets upset if their idea isn’t adopted or supported. The foundation of Peter’s challenge is found in Prov. 3:34: Though He scoffs at the scoffers, yet He gives grace to the afflicted.” James quotes the same proverb in 4:6 of his letter. God is against the proud. It’s as simple as that.

Peter’s concludes by saying, “Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on Him because He cares for you.” Let’s look at the first phrase. The “therefore” is there to tell us that since God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble, we need to be humble. When we humble ourselves, we’ll experience God’s grace. We know contextually that believers are suffering through trials and persecutions and afflictions for their faith in Jesus who is the Christ. Believers are challenged to persevere regardless of their circumstances. We need to accept the suffering that God allows in our lives as part of His plan for our purification that Peter spoke of in 1 Pet. 4:7. He will lift you up at the proper time. When is that time? It may not be in this world, but we’re under God’s mighty hand.

The second phrase is one of the most often quoted verses in times of trouble. All you have to do, troubled Christian, is throw the cares or worries of this would to the Lord. It’s that simple! But too often, those words are hollow reminders of our inadequacy and we continue to worry over matters that are beyond our control because no one ever told us HOW to do that. Cast is a verb – an action word and it’s connected to the phrase humble yourselves. It tells us how to actually cast all your cares on Him. Here’s the relationship between the two. Believers humble themselves by casting their worries on God. If we continue to worry, then we are giving in to pride. How can anxiety and worry be characterized as pride? No one would argue that at the very least, worry could be a lack of faith, but pride? When we worry – also a verb – we’re convinced that we must do something to fix or control a situation. We’re trusting in ourselves. When we throw our worries to God, we acknowledge our trust in Him. We acknowledging that God is Lord and He is sovereign over everything. Peter knows the church is suffering; he knows they are under persecution and affliction. Casting your worries on God wouldn’t bring comfort if God wasn’t able to provide help in time of need. You wouldn’t tell someone your troubles or concerns that’s apathetic, cold hearted, or cruel. You wouldn’t do that because they don’t care. Giving your worry to God makes great sense, “Because He cares for you.” God is not indifferent and He’s not cruel. He has compassion on his children and will sustain them in every distress. Ps. 55:22, “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” Affliction and trials will either drive you into the loving arms of God or will separate you from God. You think Peter doesn’t know a thing or two about pride? Peter told Jesus in Matt. 26:3, “Even if I have to die with you, I will not deny you.” I’m sure Peter’s pride haunted him.

Regardless of your affliction or trials, God really does care for you. When you trust Him, you acknowledge His mighty hand, His power, His strength, and His sovereignty. When we humble ourselves before Him, it opens the floodgates for His grace to pour down on us.