Tag Archives: Bible

The Whole Truth

6 Sep

LiarCheck out the podcast here.

Last week, Solomon gave us a biblical perspective on poverty. Instead of looking at things through the world’s eyes, we need to understand things from God’s point of view. As hard as this is to believe, money is rarely the answer to poverty. Money can actually be a barrier to an authentic relationship with Christ. It can affect the poor, but it can also affect the prosperous. In our self-satisfying world, we learned that having too many friends can really cause problems in our lives. Blood bonds are important, but there is no bond stronger than the bond between the created and the Creator. That bond is made possible because Jesus became the Son of man and experienced the full force of God’s wrath as He became sin for us enabling that relationship with God. This morning, we’ll evaluate honesty.

Pro. 19:1-5 says, “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool. Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who hurries his footsteps errs. The foolishness of man ruins his way, and his heart rages against the Lord. Wealth adds many friends, but a poor man is separated from his friend. A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will not escape.”

What is your word worth? If you grew up in my generation or before, you’ve heard the phrase, “A man’s word is his bond.” Deals were made with a handshake. When someone said, “I’ll do it,” it got done. Solomon starts off Chapter 19 talking about something that is extremely valuable these days, but seems to be lacking in many people. He says, “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool.” The word poor used here means destitute or hungry. The form of the word used here is not a bad word as Solomon has used before. The poverty experienced is not because of laziness or an unwillingness to work.    He’s setting up the contrast. “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity.” I think we have a pretty good handle on walking. It means manner of life. It’s who you are, it’s not an act, it’s not something you put on and take off: it is really who you are when you’re alone, when you’re in a strange city, when your boss isn’t looking, when your spouse isn’t home, and when your parents are out for the evening.

So what about integrity? This can be a difficult concept to define. Some will say it’s being honest. I like this definition from vocabulary.com: “Having integrity means doing the right thing in a reliable way. It’s a personality trait that we admire, since it means a person has a moral compass that doesn’t waver. It literally means having ‘wholeness’ of character, just as an integer is a ‘whole number’ with no fractions.” Solomon is talking about having strong moral principles. The obvious follow on question is, “Where do I get moral principles?” The source of morality must be from an unchanging standard. The standard of morality must come from a source that knows the beginning from the end, that was engaged and continues to be engaged in humanity. The standard of morality must come from a source that is impervious to the changing values of society and cultural norms. The standard of morality must transcend human thought. In light of these musts, where can we find that incredible standard of morality that is accessible to us that we can follow and live by?

  • Paul reminded Timothy that, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16)
  • 2 Pet. 1:21 says, “for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
  • Heb. 4:12 says, “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.”

There is plenty of other scriptural support to conclude that the Bible is the only source of absolute truth that we can live by. It was given to us for training and correction, it’s alive, it’s applicable for our times, and it does not change. It’s better to be hungry and have integrity, “Than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool.” Perverse here means twisted or false and fool means thick or dull headed. It’s better to be poor and walk in integrity than it is to use twisted or dishonest words to escape poverty. He goes on to say, “Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who hurries his footsteps errs.” This is a really good one. We have seen a number of times where Solomon has talked about knowledge leading to understanding leading to wisdom. The Hebrew form of the word “person” here is normally translated as soul, but here it means inner drive and vitality. With that in mind, he says that you can have all the ambition and drive and zeal, but if you operate without knowledge, it’s going to cause errors. You’ve heard the term, “Go off half-cocked”? You operate without all the facts or knowledge needed to accomplish the task. As a result, errors are made.

Kari and I sometimes watch those home renovation shows like, “Renovation Realities.” It always horrifies me to watch what they do. I remember a recent episode where a homeowner wanted to take a wall out, and the question was raised about it being a load bearing wall. The response was, “I guess we’ll find out.” It’s not good to proceed in something without the requisite knowledge for success. Hold on, you might be thinking. Don’t you tell us to trust God and go forward even when He doesn’t fill us in on the details? That is entirely different. Keep it in context, if you’re trying to get out of poverty by going off on some half-baked scheme, it will lead to errors. I knew someone that decided one day that he would begin investing in real estate by building houses and doing the work himself. He didn’t really know which end of the hammer to use and it turned out very poorly. That’s not to say that every single time we act without knowledge will lead to problems. Even that blind squirrel will find a nut once in a while.

Here’s some more foolishness. Verse 3 says, “The foolishness of man ruins his way, and his heart rages against the Lord.” How often do we experience consequences from our own misguided notions? How many unbiblical things have we done that led to disaster and then asked God where He has gone? This is the point Solomon is making. When you take God out of the equation, things will generally not work out the way you expect. You enter a relationship with someone that the Bible says not to. You enter or change career paths without seeking guidance from the Lord. You go to college or don’t go without consulting God. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again. Many times we inform God of what we intend to do and then expect Him to bless it. When He doesn’t, we tend to blame God or say He doesn’t answer our prayers or offer up whatever type of blame shifting we can do instead of saying, you know, I blew it. Don’t you try and get your kids to admit when they’ve done something wrong? If you have gone down a path God doesn’t want you to go down, isn’t that sin? Shouldn’t sin always be confessed? Isn’t confessed sin forgiven? I want to look at Ps. 51:1-17 and I really encourage to read this great passage. That’s what genuine repentance looks like. Your sin doesn’t have to be out in the public. You don’t have to have been caught in some sinful act to pray this prayer. It’s never too late to turn your life to Him and follow Him.

Verse 4 says, “Wealth add many friends, but a poor man is separated from his friend.” We’ve seen that principle before. People that have money will attract new friends and forgotten friends. This verse can be summed up by quoting Bruce Wayne: “There’s a thing about being a Wayne that . . . you’re never short of a few freeloaders, like yourselves, to fill up your mansion with, so, here’s to you people. Thank you.” (From the movie Batman Begins)

Just in case you missed it. Back in Pro. 6:19 Solomon said, “A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.” These are numbers six and seven on the list of things God hates. A lying tongue is number two. We know God hates that and Solomon now gives us the result of dishonesty. “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will not escape.” Notice this is a guarantee. You may get away with lying for a short while, but the truth will come out. Maybe not in a natural context, but definitely in a supernatural context. Just because you don’t see consequences does not mean there won’t be any. There are two aspects Solomon is talking about here. One is an official type of capacity like a court of law while the other is normal conversation. In a courtroom, you take an oath to tell the truth. Even though you take that oath to tell the truth, if you’re a liar, do you think that the oath will somehow guarantee that the whole truth and nothing but the truth will be told? My experience has shown that people that lack integrity will lie even when there is no advantage to be gained. I’ve seen people lie even when the lie is so easily proven false. I do believe dishonesty is a character flaw. It is nearly impossible to learn integrity – you either have it or you do not. That being said, do not underestimate or discount the power of God to transform your life. Remember all of the things you used to be. Those character traits have been crucified with Christ. The Apostle Paul said, “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Rom. 8:12-14) You do not have to lie, you’re not forced to lie, you do not ever have to sin.

We started by asking the question, what is your word worth? Do you keep your promises? It’s better to be poor with integrity than get out of poverty by dishonesty. We saw the standard for morality is found in the living Word of God. Don’t do foolish things and then blame god when it doesn’t work out the way you want it to. We finished by talking about lying. It’s never good, right, or acceptable and that’s the whole truth.

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IDOP 2015

2 Nov

IDOPYou can listen to the podcast here.

Today, we honor those that are being persecuted because they have faith in Jesus Christ. It’s not something that is only occurring in far off lands although what we experience here pales in comparison to what occurs in those nations where persecution is a daily part of believer’s lives. Why is persecution still happening? We’ll answer that this morning as we take a look at Satan’s changing tactics.

Today’s passage comes from 1 Cor. 2:1-8. I encourage you to take a look at this before we go any further.

The Old Testament is filled with examples of how Satan continuously worked to prevent the coming of Jesus Christ. It started with the prophecy found in Gen 3:15 when God told him, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” Satan knew there would be One that would deliver mankind and he knew that One would come from the seed of the woman. Yet he didn’t know how and he didn’t know when. As a result, Satan began to systematically attack everything and anything in that road to redemption for mankind.

Satan attacks in numerous ways, but those attacks fall under two general categories. First, he attacks the Jesus that is inside of every authentic follower of Christ. When we’re attacked or persecuted, the reason is not because of us, but the life we live because of Jesus inside of us. The good we do because of Jesus. The Word we read and live out because of Jesus. The life we live that has been transformed because of Christ. Satan attempts to use the circumstances of a fallen world to his advantage. He wants to silence you, discredit you, scare you, raise doubt in you . . . he wants you to rely on yourself. Satan uses whatever tactic possible to take our focus off of Jesus and reassign that focus to ourselves. When the challenges and trials of life arise, do people turn to God or turn from God? I’ve seen this go both ways first hand. I’ve seen people turn their backs on God because of some issue or crisis in their life. What I find interesting is that there is rarely a realization or even consideration that sometimes that crisis is a result of decisions the individual has made. Satan uses that and whispers, “God doesn’t love you.” He says, “God isn’t who He says He is or this wouldn’t have happened.” Satan says, “God has abandoned you.” Satan says, “You are all alone.”

Sometimes though, he messes up. He did this with Stephen, the first one that we know of to die for Christ. Acts 6-7 records the incredibleness that was in Stephen’s life described by Luke as, “Full of grace and power.” (Acts 6:8) Satan attacked him because he was living a life totally transformed for Christ. The church was growing by leaps and bounds and the religious crowd didn’t like it. Acts 6:10 says, “They were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.” They couldn’t handle the situation their way so, “They secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” (Acts. 6:11) Stephen was dragged before the Sanhedrin, the religious Council of the day where the prosecution, “Put forward false witnesses.” Picture this; Stephen is sitting in a courtroom of sorts to answer charges of blasphemy – punishable by death mind you. I have been in the St. Marys Municipal Court on many, many occasions and see people shake, cry, and get nauseous when answering for minor traffic offenses where punishment is up to a $1000.00 fine and up to a year in jail. Stephen is facing death and yet, “All who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel.” (Acts 6:15) The high priest asks Stephen if the accusations were true. Stephen acted as his own lawyer and his defense, recorded in Acts 7, consists of a history of Israel from Abraham to Joseph; from Moses to David to Solomon reminding the Council of what they should already know. The Council didn’t see it that way. They ran him out of town and stoned Stephen until he was dead. Acts 8:1, “And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem and they were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.”  A man named Saul, “Began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.” (Acts 8:3) The church not only survived, but “Those who were scattered went about preaching the Word.” (Acts 8:4) Those early Christian didn’t let a small thing like death stop them from telling others about Jesus. Sometimes Satan chooses the wrong person to attack. Don’t allow Satan to attack you by attacking the Lord of your life.

The second way Satan attacks is to attack the written Word of God. Satan understands what a lot of Christians do not. The Word of God changes lives. If he can keep the Bible out of the hands of believers, he can minimize that power. In foreign countries he does it by influencing governments to make it illegal to own or possess a Bible. In the United States, he does it by convincing people it’s illegal to carry a Bible to school or work, or to read it during breaks or other authorized periods of down time. He also gets people in the church arguing over minor points of Scripture and ignoring the most important principles. He gets people so involved in worldly activities and people conclude there is no time to read let alone studying the Bible. He gets people, even professing believers, to deny certain passages and even conclude that the Bible is metaphorical and or allegorical. There are people, even in the church that deny the inerrancy of Scripture.

Satan knows how powerful God’s Word is. We see this when we look at the time Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit. He spent 40 days there and ate nothing. At the end of those 40 days, He was tired, hungry, and weak and then along comes Satan. Satan tempted Jesus by appealing to His physical hunger. “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” (Lu. 4:3) Jesus’ response is deafening: “It is written, man shall not live on bread alone.” (Lu. 4:4) Jesus quoted Deut. 8:3. Satan tempts Jesus again by offering to give Him all the kingdoms of the world if He’d just worship Satan. Jesus responds by saying, “It is written, you shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” (Lu. 4:8) Jesus quoted Deut. 6:13. Finally Satan tells Jesus to throw Himself off the top of the temple challenging that if He was the Son of God, that angels would catch Him. Jesus responds in the same way, “It is said You shall not put the your God to the test.” (Lu. 4:12) Jesus quotes from Deut. 6:16. It looks like Jesus’ favorite book is Deuteronomy, but He actually quotes from 24 different Old Testament books. Jesus knows the power of the Bible and so does Satan. That’s why he is on a relentless campaign to keep Bibles out of people’s hands and minimize the importance of Bible reading to those that do have Bibles.   Even in the church we see this and it falls right in Satan’s plan. Fewer and fewer people even bring their Bibles to church anymore. More and more pastors preach feel good messages with little substance and less power. Peter told us the importance of the Bible when he said, “For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Pet.1:23-25) And Peter quotes from Is. 40:8.

So there you have it. Satan attacks the Jesus in your heart and downplays His significance in your life. He attacks the good you do, the transformation that is occurring in your life and tries to keep you silent so that you will not tell others about our wonderful Savior. He also attacks the written Word of God. If he can keep you out of the Bible, he can keep you down. In those countries where having a Bible is illegal, efforts to smuggle them in is ongoing. “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) “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105) “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17) “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” (Matt. 24:35) If the words of Jesus are so important that they are eternal, isn’t it important that we know what they are? When Satan attacks, and he will, the only way to fight against him is to put on the full armor of God. When you do this, you can withstand his attacks and have victory in Jesus.

Deceptive Doctrine

31 Aug

DeceptionYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we learned that the Bible rarely speaks of the heart as an organ, but as the seat of emotion, the center of a person’s being. Solomon confirmed that you really can’t trust your heart; it will break, it will lead you astray. No one can really know exactly what’s going on in there either. When you follow your heart, you tend to do what is right in your own eyes and the result is death. This morning, Solomon touches on some things that might have you scratching your head and on something that many people have got dead wrong.

Pro. 14:13-14 says, “Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, and the end is the way of death. The backslider in heart will have his fill of his own ways, but a good man will be satisfied with his.”

Emotions are complex. You’ve heard me say that it’s okay to feel something. No one can tell you how to feel or not to feel or how you should feel.   We saw last week that no one can really know how you feel. It’s wrong to deny the emotions that God gave you and often  we cannot control how we feel given a set of circumstances. One thing we can do is control how we respond to and in those circumstances. Here Solomon is giving us what seems like a conflicting set of emotions. He says, “Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, and the end of joy may be grief.” How can your heart be in pain and still laugh? How can your heart hurt and still have happiness? The best way I can explain this is to illustrate it. Outward appearance often mask what’s going on in the heart of a person. Someone that is enduring great sorrow will be asked, “How are you doing?” The typical response is, “Fine.” There may be periods of laughter and happiness, but that will end and what’s inside will still be there. We laugh at funny things and we cry at sad things. Outward appearance can mask what’s going on inside. When you suppress those feelings by acting like you don’t have a care in the world, you miss out on what God wants to accomplish. It might be for your personal growth because we know, “We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Rom. 5:3-5) There’s not a single person here that’s in their right mind would ask God for trials and suffering. But you who have been through a trial and having reached the other side, you wouldn’t trade what you learned, wouldn’t trade how your faith has grown, wouldn’t trade how the Lord worked in you and through you. Emotions are very complex.

A really bad doctrine has been built on Solomon’s next verse. Here’s an example of why it’s poor hermeneutics, poor exegesis, and a total departure of 2 Tim. 2:15. The term backsliding in v. 14 is a general term used in the church to describe someone that made a profession of faith at some point in their life and then strayed off the path of righteousness, or someone that simply does not want to participate in the things of God, but they’ll stand on the confession of their faith. They typically occur for periods of time that can last months, years, or decades.

I’m going to speak in broad terms because there are always exceptions. There’s something very critical in this verse that refutes that argument. We’ve seen Solomon use this writing technique numerous times to this point. It is his use of the word, “but.” If a person has been truly saved, then old things are passed away and all things have become new. (2 Cor. 5:17) Romans 6 is one of the most important chapters in Scripture. I encourage you to study the entire letter of Romans. It has been called the Constitution of our faith. Everything in our walk with Christ must be compared with the foundation established in Romans. I want to highlight a couple of important verses in this very critical chapter to help us understand why we are where we are in the church.

Before I get to Rom. 6:1, Paul has spent significant time laying the foundation of faith in his letter to the Romans. In Chap. 1 he said that God puts a desire in each person to know the Creator. He spoke of people that won’t acknowledge God who were unrighteous, wicked, greedy, evil, envious, killers, deceitful, malicious, untrustworthy, unloving, and disobedient among a host of other characteristics that were worthy of death because they practiced these things. He spoke of Jews and Greeks and confirmed that God shows no partiality to either because all have sinned. He spoke of the Law which served to show people they are accountable to God. We are justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 3:24) Faith is credited as righteousness. We have been justified by faith and God demonstrated His love for us while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8) Where sin increased, grace increased all the more. So now comes the pivotal chapter 6. Paul laid the foundation of salvation through grace by faith and now he says, “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” (Rom. 6:1) He answers his own question in v. 2 by saying, “May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” Look at the conditional statement in vs. 5-15. I wish I had time to go through all of it. The bottom line is that as professing believers, there should never be a period of time where you slide back into old habits, where you look and act like the world, where ungodliness and wickedness is excused under some misguided notion of grace. We in the church are partially responsible for this. In every facet of life, there seems to be some form of accountability. You hold your kids accountable for their chores, their grades, and their behavior. But lately, it seems that our society is becoming increasingly willing to excuse unacceptable behavior.

That has made its way into the church as well. There is an overall unwillingness to hold people accountable for their actions and we make excuses for them. There seems to be someone else that is responsible. Their upbringing or background. Their ignorance – they just didn’t know any better. I think it’s an effort to strike a balance between exercising mercy and grace without coming across judgmental. That’s not a bad thing. We don’t want to have an air of superiority or of false piety, but at the same time, we have to be willing to stand on truth without compromise. It can be very painful to realize that someone you love dearly who has professed to be a believer simply isn’t. You cannot excuse a total lack of Christian growth and call it backsliding. If your baby stopped eating, growing, and learning, you’d rush him to the doctor.

Paul says in Rom. 6:17-18, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” The principle of Christian living is an essential element of the New Testament. Living an authentic life for Christ does not save us, but is evidence of a life that has been redeemed by Christ. The people that cry out that we are saved by grace don’t fully understand grace. Paul established that we do not sin greater and greater to show God’s grace is abounding. Tit. 2:11-12 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” The grace of God is the Lord Jesus Christ. If He’s powerful enough to redeem your soul; I think he’s powerful enough to change you from the inside out. Rom. 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” John the beloved is pretty clear in his first letter on this topic of authenticity in our walk of faith. If we say we have fellowship with Christ, if we say we’re believers and yet walk – present tense – in darkness, we’re liars. In 1 Jo. 2:1 he says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” Sin here is a verb. The Holy Spirit through John is telling us not to commit a sinful act, not to have a sinful thought, He is telling us to be perfect. John had just said in 1:8 and 10, that if we say we have no sin, we’re deluded. This is why verb tense is so important in Scripture. This is in the aorist tense indicating a single point in time. He is saying don’t commit individual acts of sin. BUT since you will, God made a way to cleanse us through the blood of Christ who John calls the Advocate in v. 2. Advocate is a legal term that means someone that speaks on behalf of another. Jesus Christ the righteous intercedes on our behalf before the Father. The assumption is that you are not living a lifestyle of sin because that would be inconsistent with the teaching in Scripture. There is no such thing as being an authentic believer and then having a period of time where you turn your back on all things Jesus Christ. I don’t see that modeled in the Bible.

Are there people in the Bible that did terrible things, that engaged in immorality, that lied, cheated and stole? Of course, but I am not aware of anyone in Scripture that is an example of what we have defined as a backslider. It’s a doctrine invented to make us feel good about people that are not really saved. If we really engaged in intentional, consistent discipleship from the beginning, I think things would be a lot different. When we take the time to teach and invest in people using the Bible and engage in this thing called discipleship, we are much more effective in enabling and encouraging spiritual growth.

Walking with Christ is a lifelong endeavor, it is an ongoing process. There are no shortcuts. It is scripturally incomprehensible to excuse a lifestyle of sin by declaring a person has backslidden. Solomon says the backslider in heart. Notice the contrast word but. “But a good man will be satisfied with his.” His ways are God’s ways and that’s why it’s satisfying. Let’s be intentional in making disciples and teaching the commands of God. Let’s be intentional in our walk with Christ.

Wisdom in Action

17 Aug

LiarYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week we saw the importance of a godly woman in the home. We saw that walking in uprightness demonstrates your love for God. It matters not just how you walk, but also how you talk. It matters how we act and react in our lives. Finally, we saw the mess you have to clean from having an ox is worth the benefit that he provides. This morning, Solomon continues giving his rapid fire principles that are going to be eerily familiar to you.

In Pro. 14:5-9 Solomon says, A trustworthy witness will not lie, but a false witness utters lies. A scoffer seeks wisdom and finds none, but knowledge is easy to one who has understanding.  Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge. The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way, but the foolishness of fools is deceit. Fools mock at sin, but among the upright there is good will.”

Liars lie. This comes as no shock to you. In my experience, I can tell you that people lie. I have found this to be true no matter the setting I’m in. Remember, I have not always been a pastor and my experience is not limited to church settings. Even today, my experience is not limited to a church setting. One should assume that in dealing with Christians, people that profess a relationship with Christ, that truth would be at the forefront of their mind. You would think that to tell a lie, one would have to consciously create a lie in their brain for it to come out. Solomon emphatically states, “A trustworthy witness will not lie.” Notice the finality of his statement. If this sounds familiar, it’s because he said in 12:17, “He who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness, deceit.” Notice the two words that form the word trustworthy. Trust means firm belief in the character, strength, or truth of someone or something. Worthy means having great character, merit, or value. So when you put it together, you can see how powerful the word is. When you are trustworthy, and all of us should be, your word is golden, it’s not going to be doubted. The character of a person determines if his words are true and wise. If you catch someone you trusted in a lie, how difficult is it going to be to believe other things they say? We often see this in the role of parenting. A child lies so often to the parent that the parent ends up not believing anything the kid says. When they actually tell the truth the parent doesn’t believe them and the kid gets mad.

Another area where we see this is when someone lies to themselves. Christian existentialist Soren Kierkegaard said, “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”  I do not like when people lie to me, but I need to recognize that they’re not really lying to me because they’re lying to themselves. We convince ourselves of things that are not true. God doesn’t love me and God doesn’t care. God sent this and He doesn’t answer prayer. I know what’s best. Nobody has reached out to me. I can go it alone, I don’t need anyone. These conclusions typically come not in the good times, but in the difficult or challenging times. What is the root cause for these beliefs? It’s a lack of understanding about God’s character that is revealed throughout Scripture. Yes, I believe it comes from not knowing who God really is. Jesus said in Jo. 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth, Your word is truth.” But Solomon says, “A false witness utters lies.” “A false witness who utters lies” is on the list of seven things the Lord hates from 6:19. He hasn’t changed His mind. If you utter a lie under oath in a courtroom it’s called perjury and is punishable as a felony. No matter what you do, no matter the offer you may make, a trustworthy witness can’t be persuaded to tell a lie. We must be a people of truth.

Let’s look at Solomon’s apparent hypocrisy. “A scoffer seeks wisdom and finds none.” This seems totally wrong. Ja. 1:5 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.” That is of course true, but the scoffer lacks something critical to finding wisdom. Solomon set up the book of Proverbs in 1:7 when he said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The reason the scoffer can’t find wisdom is because he refuses to listen to wisdom. He discounts wisdom; he ignores it; he hates it; he despises it. There’s no reasoning with a scoffer because his reasoning comes from within. He creates it himself. On the other hand, “Knowledge is easy to one who has understanding.” This guy understands Pro. 1:7. The fear of the Lord, or a healthy respect for God, is essential in understanding the mysteries of life; it’s the key to understanding what God wants for us. It’s comparatively easy for a person to gain wisdom who understands that they need God and His Spirit to help them.

To go along with this principle, Solomon says, “Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not be able to discern words of knowledge.” It’s as if a fool is a vacuum. The wisdom you have is sucked right out of your brain. That’s not exactly true, but the idea here is that when you realize a fool is a fool, don’t bother with him. It’s a waste of energy, a waste of breath, a waste of time to pursue it any further because he will not accept the truth you speak and will not accept the wisdom you demonstrate. What’s worse, he’ll hate you for it. If you hang around a fool, your ability to gain godly knowledge will be greatly diminished. A good question to ask yourself if, “Am I foolish in any area of my life?” All of us can be foolish at times or about certain things. Are you willing to allow someone that has demonstrated consistent faithfulness, that has demonstrated a commitment to Christ, that has lived by example, that is truly authentic; will you allow them to sow wisdom into your life? I know people in the church that are complete fools when it comes to finances; that are complete fools when it comes to parenting or relationships. You’re thinking , “Is it me?” I know I have been foolish in decisions. I used to think I could simply attend church and that was good enough, that that’s what it meant to live for Christ. I used to think reading along with the preacher was Bible study. Over the years, I have come to understand that living a life of authenticity is much more than that. If you’re unwilling to hear and follow biblical wisdom, regardless of the source, then you are a fool. Sometimes, we make foolish decisions because we keep the company of fools. Carefully evaluate who is on your friend list.

In a seemingly contrary statement Solomon says, “The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way.” This verse lines up with Jesus’ words in Matt. 7:3 that we saw a couple of weeks ago: “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Sometimes we can see the path that others need to take and we offer “help” in getting them there. Solomon and Jesus are both saying look first at your own path, make sure you’re on track before you go getting involved in everyone else’s lives. With all the verses that speak of discipleship, we must make sure we strike the balance of encouragement and correction, and grace and mercy. Look at your life through the eyes of God, through the mirror and lens of Scripture. “The foolishness of fools is deceit.” Their brains are clouded by foolishness. This isn’t self-deception; it’s trying to fool others. You see this in all aspects of life and we’re going to see it play out in verse 12, so I’ll wait until we get there.

Solomon helps us understand reality. When it’s all said and done, “Fools mock at sin.” Mock is the word that means tease scornfully or ridicule. This really is the root cause of foolishness. A biblical fool doesn’t see sin from God’s eyes. There are no absolutes. Since there are no absolutes in the fool’s world, everyone does what they want to do regardless of the impact on others, regardless of the impact on the family, regardless of the impact on the very fabric of society that keeps things in order. The things that fools engage in actually serve to break down that which is good and right. Listen to Isaiah’s haunting warning, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Is. 5:20) “Among the upright, there is good will.” The times in which we currently live in seem so far from God, but actually provide us with incredible opportunity to be different. No matter what others are doing, we can choose to walk with God; we can choose to serve Him faithfully. There’s no need to panic. While we live in challenging times, other people have lived in challenging times and still managed to live victoriously for Christ. In fact, every generation has faced some sort of challenge. Just in my generation, we’ve seen the inerrancy of Scripture debated several times on a national level, we’ve seen denominational splits over social issues, we’ve seen an overall decline in biblical literacy, we’ve seen the embracement of moral relativism, and we’ve seen landmark Supreme Court decisions on abortion and same sex unions. That highlights just some of the challenges. How we respond to these challenges is what matters. God is in as much control as He’s always been. These things do not change who God is. Recognizing that God is God is hugely liberating.

In Eph. 5:15, Paul warns us to, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise.” We’re responsible to walk the walk of faith. We’re responsible to keep going. We’re responsible for our actions. We’re responsible to shine the light of Christ to a world that is walking in darkness. The good news of Jesus Christ is that you are able to do just that through Him who gives you strength.

You Can Run, but You Can’t Hide

3 Aug

HideYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we learned that when we hang out with wise people, we get wise. When we hang out with smart people, we get smarter. We must and should follow people that follow God, but we must be careful because the opposite is also true. When we hang with people that are not walking with God, we also tend to not walk with God. That’s why discipleship is so vital in our walk with Christ. This morning, we’ll see that God is relentless.

Grab your Bible and read Pro. 13:21-25 so you can follow along.

The hunt is on! “Adversity pursues sinners.” You’re never going to avoid labels. We’re often identified by labels. Applications are filled with them: race, ethnicity, sex, age, religious preferences, etc. We’re good with labels that are part of our personal characteristics or heritage, but introduce a label that has to do with choice, and people start screaming. Sinner can be an offensive label in our times because of the changing morality of people. No matter how fast or how far you run, God is there. God is a relentless pursuer of sinners. If you remember the message from a couple of weeks back, I said that you must have a standard on which to formulate your beliefs or they will shift or change with the circumstances. So we need to evaluate sin from an unchanging standard so we don’t get caught up with the ever changing attitude of people and society. I think one of the root causes for this ever changing standard of ethics and morality has been the general departure from the Bible and the standards found therein. We’ve shifted priorities from God and eternity to self and the here and now. We’ve filled the time we used to spend in the Bible with other pursuits that while not bad or sinful, prevent us from doing what God would have us to do. We’ve convinced ourselves that we can have it all and do it all just like everyone else. That’s why I continuously talk about getting back in the Bible. That’s where we get our standards and the interesting thing is the Bible even predicted a deviation from Scripture would develop. Paul warned his young protégé Timothy about this. Two passages that really highlight this are found in 2 Tim. 3:1-5 and 2 Tim. 4:1-4. Take the time to read these insightful thoughts.

So don’t lose heart. “Adversity pursues sinners.”  We must look at the Bible to determine what a sinner is. In its simplest form a sinner is one who commits sin. The person who says, “We’re all sinners,” as a justification for his sin is likely the same one that has no standard to begin with and will certainly not like being told there is absolute truth.  If we really believe that God is unchanging and thus His Word is unchanging, then the standard for life is the same today as it was before humanity was created. If murder has always been wrong, then it will always be wrong. You can plug in anything you want, but understand the entire teachings of God. Please don’t bring up eating shellfish or pork, the washing of hands, etc. as justification for how outdated the Bible is. The ceremonial aspects of the law were fulfilled by Jesus Christ, and the moral aspects of the Law have been repeated in the New Testament. Jesus Christ was the answer before humanity and He remains the answer today. Being a sinner is what Christians were, but are no longer. The adversity Solomon mentions is always on the heels of the wicked one. There may be short term prosperity or happiness, but again, we must think eternally. And that’s exactly what Solomon says, “But the righteous will be rewarded with prosperity.”

Solomon’s next point is deeper than what you might think. Verse 22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, and the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.” Some would use this as a proof text that you need to work hard to make sure your kids and grandkids are well supported after your death. It’s much deeper than that. The idea is when wisdom is at the forefront of who you are and what you do, the wealth accumulated will be passed down from generation to generation because it’s handled with wisdom. For the sinner, which Solomon uses synonymously with wickedness and unrighteous, there is no inheritance to be passed down because there is no wisdom and therefore anything gained is lost. An even more important principle is passing down the faith of the righteous from generation to generation. “Abundant food is in the fallow ground of the poor, but it is swept away by injustice.” This is a challenging verse. The best I can offer is this refers once again to the diligent work ethic Solomon has told us about. The poor man that is righteous diligently works his land, no matter how small it is, to the best of his ability. As a result, he will have an abundant harvest. The second part of the verse gets tricky. “Swept away by injustice” is also translated, “For want of judgment.” Given the contrast formula used so often by Solomon, it seems likely this refers to the mismanagement of resources by the wicked. To put it in a modern context, management overextends the company, too many employees are hired, too much money is borrowed, too much equipment is purchased and all is quickly swept away. A story published in the New York Times on July 31st highlights this principle perfectly. Let me talk about verse 25 briefly because it goes hand in hand with this verse. The key word is enough. God will provide what is needed. Often He provides more than we need, but we will always have enough. We’ll see later in Proverbs that Agur prayed that he would have enough: neither too much nor too little, but enough.

And now for a total deviation from what you might expect next. Like many verses we’ve seen to this point, the next verse seems out of place. “He who withholds the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” Your wonderful newborn baby has something lurking within them that is difficult to see when they are so young and innocent. As they grow older, that natural tendency begins to come out. In some it is stronger than in others. That natural tendency is known as sin and it takes many forms. Rebellion, pride, disobedience, stubbornness, deafness, the ability to ignore, laziness, lack of focus, short term memory loss, etc. that parents are all too familiar with. These characteristics come naturally to human beings because we are all sons of Adam. That means we were born with this ability to be ungodly, Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) The way to overcome that natural tendency is to use the rod. Rod in this verse means correction. It does not refer to a physical rod, or a broom handle, or a switch, or a wooden spoon, or a hair brush. There are other places in Proverbs where that is true, but not here. Here, Solomon is talking about correcting behavior that is not godly, that’s not consistent with the standard. We’re in a church setting here and that’s the direction I’m coming from. We’re to instruct our kids to adhere to the standard. This is going to be painful for some folks to hear including me. Since we’re all at different places in our walk with Christ, it only makes sense that our kids will follow suit where we walk. If you are prone to gossip, it’s going to be difficult to get your child to understand why gossiping is wrong. If you’re prone to lying, it’s going to be difficult for your child to understand why he gets punished for lying. If you are prone to neglect your study of God’s Word or your reading of God’s Word, it’s going to be difficult to get your kids to understand the value of God’s Word. If you’re lazy in your walk of faith, it’s going to be difficult to get your kids to understand why their faith is so important. If you sporadically attend church, it’s going to be difficult for your child to understand why it’s important. That’s why we must go to the standard of our faith. Some people, even in the church, do not see the value of good, solid, Bible teaching in the home. They want their kids to find their own way. They somehow have missed the importance of training their kids. Somewhere along the way, we’ve come to believe that having reasonable expectations for our kids will somehow harm them. We’ve come to believe that we will irreparably damage their psyche if we discipline our kids. Not every child will respond to a spanking. Not every child responds to a time out. Not every child is the same. One thing is the same. Every child will benefit from being held to a reasonable, age appropriate standard. This is how they learn and grow. When you don’t correct your children, chaos will result.

Also, teach your kids to listen to other adults. It can be very disrespectful to have an eight year old tell me, “My mom says I don’t have to listen to you.” One final thought on this as we’ll get to a score of other parenting principles later in Proverbs, as adults, understand that each parent trains their child to not do things that annoy them. Every person has different annoyances. Also understand that every parent is at a different place in their walk of faith. When you lovingly correct your child, you’re demonstrating how much you love and care for them. There must be the same diligence in this area as in our other endeavors. Don’t neglect this crucial area of the family.

Trouble always pursues the sinner. They may think they won’t be caught, but God will catch them and He can do it anytime He wants. Don’t misunderstand short term worldly “success” as God’s approval. Demonstrate love for your children by teaching them and holding them accountable. Know this, God will relentlessly pursue you as He seeks to transform you into the image of His one and only Son.

There is Hope

20 Jul

HopeCheck out the podcast here.

Last week we learned that it’s better if our kids listened to us. Having good, compliant, respectful kids makes parenting look easy. We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover though because looks can be deceiving. Just because you’re wealthy by the world’s standards means nothing. Money has nothing to do with wealth in God’s economy, but it is better to work hard to obtain what you do have than it is to be handed it. This morning, we’ll see some principles you probably have heard of, but maybe didn’t know came from God.

I encourage you to read Pro. 13:12-19 so we understand where Solomon is coming from.

Solomon opens up with something you probably have experienced. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Everyone has hopes and dreams. Society often dictates these hopes and dreams. Get an education, get married, have kids, have a great job that fulfills you, build that dream home or what is now being called the forever home. Even in the church, we have fallen into the marks of success of defined by society. When those hopes and dreams go unrealized, sometimes we’re defined as failures or at the very least, we feel like failures. To put it into something we can readily understand, think about the promotion you feel was deserved that you didn’t get. Think about the test that you studied so hard for and came up short. Think about the mortgage you applied for that you didn’t get. Think about the ungodly decisions that have come at the hands of our elected leadership.

Solomon is talking about something far more important. The Bible goes beyond those ever changing marks of achievement where you were taught to work hard to achieve what you want. We’ve already learned that this is a good virtue to have, but there is something even more important that leads to this work ethic. As we move through this passage, we’ll see that it has to do with something Solomon has hammered on and that’s character. It’s far more important to develop virtuous character which is borne out of diligent examination of the Scriptures, seeking and listening to wise counsel, and engaging in a lifestyle of Christian community. The biblical outcome of that life long process is a maturing, growing, loving, kind, Christ like individual that lives each day passionately and zealously pursuing Christ in authenticity. Notice I said lifelong process. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. There are too many people in the church that give up or give in. Some folks are unwilling to stick it out. They’ve prayed for weeks and God hasn’t answered. They’ve been serving God for months and don’t see the fruit of their labor. Our fast paced society filled with “I want it now” people are unwilling to persevere for the long haul. Over the years here at C4, we’ve seen many people come and go. Folks have transferred or moved away, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about people that are gifted or talented to serve in particular ways, but don’t want to get involved to build something for God. People want to get in on what’s exciting and happening and growing, but it seems like they don’t want to do the work necessary to make it so. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, real ministry is hard work. When our hopes are in things of the world, they can easily be crushed to smithereens. “But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” We’ll see this conclusion is solidified later in v. 19. Think of those desires that are fulfilled and the feeling that you have. Joy, gratitude, peace, confidence, trust, and of course, hope. This comes from knowing who God is and His unchanging character.

In the next verse, Solomon says you don’t have to like it. “The one who despises the word will be in debt to it.” I think of people that ignore good, solid biblical guidance. This is not so much a perception issue as it is a defining issue. We are experiencing this in ways that are quite shocking. Anytime we quote the Bible in reference to almost any type of behavior we are labeled hate mongers, intolerant, judgmental, unloving, and unkind. 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. You can despise the law, but you still have to follow it. You can really hate stopping completely at a stop sign, but when you violate the law and get caught, you will be in debt to it. That’s the reality for lost people. 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. For us, “The one who fears the commandment will be rewarded.” This isn’t a terrified type of deal. This is reverence, respect, a willingness to trust that God knows what is going on, that He knows the best way for us to live, that He knows what’s what. Do you find it hard to do that?

Let me give you some perspective. You’re sick and go to the doctor and you trust that doctor to provide you with the medical care necessary to make you feel better. Your car breaks down and you go to the mechanic and trust him to correctly identify the problem and fix it. You trust the school teachers to adequately prepare your children to gain and understand the principles necessary to be productive members of society. You trust the bank to take care of the money you put there on deposit. So it’s not really a matter of trust because I just established that we are pretty free with our trust. Sure you might get a second opinion or you might send your child to a different school, but the bottom line is you’re still trusting. The one who may not understand the whys or the hows or the details of the Bible, but trusts in the unseen power of the One and only true God, well he will be rewarded. Don’t look for a check in the mail or anything you might actually put your hands on though. That may not be how God chooses to reward you. The for sure thing is eternity. What I’d recommend is that you put at least the same trust in the Creator of all things as you do your family practitioner, your kid’s teacher, or the bank that holds your money. Always default to God loves and cares more for you than any other living creature on this planet.

I encourage you to commit Jer. 29:11 to memory: “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Paul brings it home by saying, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Rom. 5:5)

Back in Proverbs, “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life.” Fountain is also translated spring which gives us the idea of a never ending source and that’s what Solomon is saying here. You’ll never be able to reach the bottom of the wisdom found in God’s Word. The water continues to flow and never runs out. Through God’s Word, we know Him more intimately. We can better understand His character and His purposes for us. We understand how to deal with the obstacles and challenges of life. His Word provides the road map, “To turn aside from the snares of death.” When you are diligent to study God’s Word, when you are diligent to walk with Christ, when you are diligent to worship God in spirit and in truth, when you are diligent to engage in Christian community, when you are diligent in your walk with Christ, you’re able to recognize the traps being set for us by Satan. Some common traps we’re faced with. I’m too far gone for God to forgive me. God will not use me. Nobody likes me or cares about me. It’s my life and my body. What I do in private is no one’s business. No one will know. I’m as good as the next guy. Solomon says, “Good understanding produces favor.” All those traps are recognized when we are engaged in the fundamental principles of the faith. You may think you’re too far gone, but 1 Jo. 1:9 reminds that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  You may think God won’t use you, but be like Isaiah when he said, “Here am I, send me.” We may conclude that people don’t care about us, but we go back to the truth in 1 Pet. 5:7 that tells us to cast, “All your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” The common thread in most of the traps Satan sets is he gets us to focus on ourselves. When we have the understanding that Solomon encourages, we can recognize and address the issues. Good understanding is built on the foundation of God’s Word and in the context with which it is written.

The opposite way is just that. “The way of the treacherous is hard.” This is another understatement. He’s not talking about difficulty here as in hard to do or understand. He’s talking about overall pain and suffering involved in the way of the treacherous. Sin is slavery. Slavery is awful. And he does not necessarily mean right now. We need to think eternally rather than in the here and now. “Every prudent man acts with knowledge.” He’s cautious, not reckless. He does not get involved in things he does not know about or in things that are not his concern. “A fool displays folly.” Again, opposite of the person that acts with wisdom. The next verse is a reference to the olden days, but has a very modern application. “A wicked messenger falls into adversity, but a faithful envoy brings healing.”

We need to remind ourselves that we haven’t always had the conveniences we enjoy today. We have people alive today that have always had the internet, have always had instantaneous communication, have always had the ability to get information right now. You talk to someone that has lived four decades and they didn’t always have cable TV, cell phones, or computers. You talk to someone five decades old and they didn’t always have color TV and their telephone was attached to a wall and their number had letters in it. You talk to someone six decades old and they were only beginning to watch coast to coast live news. Messengers were sent on foot or horseback to hand carry the news back in Solomon’s day. So let’s bring this verse to 2015. If we only shared the judgment of God, or the bad news, we’re doing everyone a disservice. This also applies to half truths, scriptural misrepresentation, gossip, and just plain old lies. I saw this humorously depicted when one of my Facebook friends posted a quote. “The trouble with quotes on the internet is you never know if they are genuine.” (Abraham Lincoln) Solomon closes in vs. 18-19.

There is hope. If you receive instruction from Scripture, you will be better off. If you don’t pay attention to those people around you that are wiser, older, and more experienced, you’ll find yourself on the impoverished side of life. Solomon is not necessarily talking about poverty, but that may happen too. He’s more concerned with how we live our lives; with how we behave, with how we interact with others so that they may know the hope we have in Christ.

Household Troubles

1 Jun

TroubleYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last time we were together, Solomon provided some vivid word pictures about beauty. It is far more important to have the inner beauty of God than external beauty. We learned that the desire of godly people is only good. Godly people rejoice in the good fortune of others. We also saw the comparison of the greedy to the giving. This morning, we’ll continue down the road of generosity and riches to see where it takes us.

Pro. 11:28-31 says, “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like the green leaf. He who troubles his own house will inherit wind, and the foolish will be servant to the wisehearted. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise wins souls. If the righteous will be rewarded in the earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner!”

This is a beautiful segue from our last message. Solomon compared greedy to generous and he reminds us, “He who trusts in riches will fall.” (Pro. 11:28) Rich is a relative term that we typically associate with the ultra-wealthy. According to the Social Security Administration, the average income of an American is about $44,000 a year. That seemed a bit high, so I lowered the income to $25,000 a year and checked globalrichlist.com to determine what rich is on a global scale. If you make $25,000 a year, you are in the top 2% of the richest people in the world. The point is that riches are fleeting; they can disappear in an instant. People that brag about how much money they have are in a dangerous place. In 1 Tim. 6:17 Paul said, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies  us with all things to enjoy.” If you’re hope is in your job, your investments, your 401k, or any other financial type account, at some point, you’ll find yourself lacking. Of course it’s nice to have money, but that’s not where our hope lies. In this congregation, I doubt anyone is putting their hope of eternity in their finances. For the most part, I know you, I know your families, I know where you live, and what you do for a living. While this idea may not apply to anyone here, you probably cross paths with people that have this type of thinking. It’s always about the money. It seems like every conversation you have with them is about money. They tell you how much everything costs or what things are worth. They track the rise and fall of the stock market, they want their kids to have the best education so they have the best job. Maybe they talk about retiring at 40 or 50. Life is more than money.

Think of the hope you can offer someone that is hung up on money, but that doesn’t mean the conversation will be an easy one. Jesus said, “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matt. 19:24) All the financial and material blessings you have on this earth will be left behind. The idea is the rich may not see a need for Jesus because they have what this world offers. When you stand before the Lord, riches will fail you. “But the righteous will flourish like the green leaf.” Maybe you’ve heard this type of analogy before. In John 15:5 Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” Ps. 1:3, “He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” Righteousness causes us to flourish. Flourish means to develop in a healthy or vigorous manner. When riches fail, righteousness remains. No one can take that away because we are grafted into Christ and the more we grow, the more we look like Jesus.

What looks like a shift in topics is not. Solomon speaks of the household. “He who troubles his own house will inherit wind, and the foolish will be servant to the wisehearted.” These represent extremes in the home. There are a couple of different schools of thought on this verse. When you take the whole passage as one, which is the most accurate way to do it, you get the idea that there is a person that causes trouble in the house. You might quickly conclude that person is a child. I don’t really think Solomon is talking about children because there are other parts of Proverbs that we have seen already that deal with kids and there are others that we will see later that talk about kids. It seems that Solomon is talking about mismanagement in the home. Solomon is talking about the head of the household that does not take care of those under his authority – particularly servants. They don’t have adequate food, shelter, or any of the others things you would expect in a home. So who’s in charge of the home? The man, the husband, the father. If the leader of the home is consumed with riches and getting ahead in this world, that will lead to other less than desirable traits. Have you ever encountered someone that is like this? He totally neglects his family for the pursuit of riches. He’s not involved at all in leading the family. He can’t tell you what grade the kids are in, doesn’t know their activities, he really doesn’t know anything that is happening in the home. It seems that most scholars lean to this interpretation.

The troubler of his own house inherits the wind. At least he gets something right? Think about this for a second in the time in which this was written. Wind was useless, it was noisy, it kicked up dirt and sand, and was overall unpleasant. Now you get the idea. If it’s your responsibility to take care of the household and if you don’t, your inheritance is worthless. In fact not just that, but the fool becomes servant to the wise. Wisdom always wins out. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.” This is more than just a nice verse. Think of the metaphor. The seed of one fruit can generate a tree that will produce fruit over the life of that tree. Remember, Solomon is still comparing wise to foolish, godliness to wickedness, good to evil. In light of those comparisons, the benefits of a righteous person cannot be underestimated. The overall good that person infuses into life are immeasurable. Where I live, we have a lot of citrus trees. When you consider the fruit produced by a healthy tree, you typically have more fruit than one family can consume. The righteousness produced by that godly individual not only benefits that person’s family, but provides spiritual nourishment to those around him.

The second part of that verse has been the subject of some controversy among Hebrew Bible scholars. Since I am not an expert in the Hebrew language, I am limited in how far I can understand this. The phrase, “wins souls” is translated to kill where it’s used in other places in Scripture. In fact, the Revised Standard Version read, “But lawlessness takes away lives.” The New Revised Standard Version and the Holman Christian Standard reads, “But violence takes lives away.” The Message reads, “A violent life destroys souls.” When we consider the comparisons in these verses and read the verse to say, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, but violence takes lives away,” it seems to make more sense. We’ve seen patterns in Solomon’s writings to this point so it makes sense to interpret it this way. What’s the point? According to 2 Tim. 2:15, we are to rightly divide the word of truth. Solomon has been making a great case to support the principle that leading a life of wickedness, evil, deception, and ungodliness leads to death while leading a life of godliness and wisdom leads to life. So if you want to read there is wisdom in saving souls – that’s a good principle to live by. I would even suggest it’s a principle we’re commanded to follow in Matt. 28:19-20 as the primary mission of the church. If you think that’s too much info, change your thinking. Don’t fall into the trap that you just don’t need to know all that. Remember what Ravi Zacharias said, we have people that “know[s] less and less of why they believe what they believe.”

Finally, Solomon says, “If the righteous will be rewarded in the earth, how more the wicked and the sinner!” Since we’re still in comparison mode, it’s fair to say that there are often times God gives us what we deserve. Heb. 12:6 reminds us that God disciplines us not just to correct unacceptable behavior, but also because He loves us. It’s the same reason you discipline your children. Many times, He chooses not to give what us we deserve and that’s called mercy. Solomon is saying that if God chooses to hold us accountable and we have examples of this in Adam, Moses, and David among a whole host of other regular people we see in Scripture, He will also hold the wicked accountable. Peter says it this way, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17)

The wicked will not get a free pass. Solomon has gone to great lengths to teach us about wisdom. He’s taken the time to compare godliness and wickedness: greed and generosity. We are challenged over and over again to live a life that glorifies God. Are we going to accept the challenge and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, or are we going to believe the lie that God doesn’t care how we live as long as we’re sincere.

The Miracle of Easter

6 Apr

CrossYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we checked out Solomon’s words regarding wisdom and learned that no matter the path you’re on, there’s always opportunity to get back on the right path. Maybe you’re here and you’re thinking, I don’t know the right path to take. I didn’t even know there was a path. Today is your lucky day! Today, Easter is celebrated all over the world, but do we really understand this day that many people celebrate? Is it just another consumer holiday where we look forward to seeing everyone’s new outfits and enjoy chocolate and jelly beans? Maybe you enjoy Easter because it generally marks the beginning of Spring. I don’t want you to miss the miraculous and eternal significance of Easter. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s go back in time from the first Easter to a week or so earlier.

Take the time to read our passage for this morning found in Luke 19:28-40.

So who is this Jesus? The name Jesus brings many thoughts to people’s minds. Names are like that; they mean a lot. Sometimes nicknames are commonly associated with people and are instantaneously recognized. Old Blue Eyes – Frank Sinatra. The King of Pop – Michael Jackson. The King – Elvis. Michael Jordan is known as Air Jordan. There are the not so great people like Ivan the terrible , Jack the Ripper, Bloody Mary, and Vlad the Impaler. Biblically we have John – the Baptizer. Lydia – the seller of purple. Few people call him just Thomas without preceding it with doubting. These descriptive names are no different for Jesus.

In Matt. 1:21 an angel appeared to Joseph and told him, “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, f He will save His people from their sins.” Jesus means Jehovah is salvation. Jesus most often referred to Himself as the Son of Man. He is known as the Messiah. The Light of the world. The Prince of Peace. The bright and morning star. He is the alpha and the omega. He is the redeemer, the advocate, the bread of life. He is the power of God. He is the Lamb of God, the good shepherd, the high priest. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He is the resurrection and the life. That’s who Jesus is. This Jesus was loved by people of all walks of life. This is the Jesus that the prophet Micah said would come to rule Israel, One whose, “Goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” While loved and adored by the common people, this Jesus was despised by the religious groups of the day – the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Jesus upset the apple cart; He rocked the boat; He went against the flow, He said things that were different than what those religious people had been taught and what they believed. They called Jesus a blasphemer, they judged Jesus because He hung out with the less desirables; the tax collectors and sinners. They accused Him of violating the Sabbath because He encouraged His disciples to pick grain when they were hungry. They didn’t like this, in fact, “The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him.” (Luke 6:7) Jesus taught on the Sabbath, Jesus healed on the Sabbath.

So now we know who Jesus is, but why do we need Jesus? The religious crowd of the day despised Jesus because He threatened their power, their control, their desire to be elevated above others, their desire to be better than anyone else, their desire to control their own destiny, their desire and requirement for everyone to follow the Law. The Law was an interesting thing. Various religions and even denominations attempt to control people by requiring the strict following of a set of rules and regulations. Rom. 3:19-20 tells us, “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” Even though the Pharisees wanted everyone to keep the Law, they were powerless to keep it – all the Law did was show people they were law breakers. We need Jesus because no matter how good we think we are, the Bible says there is not a single person that is good. The Bible is very clear about our need for redemption. We need redemption because according to Rom. 6:6 we are slaves to sin. Sin owns us, it is our master. Rom. 3:23 says, “All have sinned.” 1 Jo. 1:8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” Rom. 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death.”

What is sin? If we redefine what sin is, it’s easier to deal with. In our culture, we conform to the idea that personal feelings are the barometer of right and wrong, of morality and truth. We seek comfort and the least resistant path. We seek to please ourselves. We listen to so called “Christian teachers” or influential people who make us feel better about following our own path, about living in sin. Instead of calling people to repentance and authentic Christian living, these people refuse to call sin what God calls sin. We have a whole new generation of people that have succumbed to cultural pressure that it’s intolerant, judgmental, and unloving to declare God’s truth as absolute. I love Paul’s description of this found in Gal. 5:19-21 that says, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Evident is from the word that mean plainly recognized. These are the things of the flesh – they are incompatible with a life that follows God. Left to our own devices, we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

We know who Jesus is, and we know why we need Jesus, now finally, what should we do with Jesus? In answering this very question to the Jews that gathered in the treasury at the temple in Jo. 8:34-36: “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. ‘The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.’” There is freedom in Christ. It’s freedom from the penalty of sin, not from the consequences. God will not and cannot allow us to get away with sin, but don’t expect to see someone’s nose grow if they tell a lie. We live in such a hectic, no time for anything world; a world where we seek instant gratification. Our cure then, comes not by redefining sin or by avoiding it. Our cure comes by admitting our sin, turning from it and receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Easter          is about hope, it’s about life; it’s about fulfilled promises; it’s about Jesus. Maybe you’re thinking, “I want to be free, how do I get this freedom?” To answer that question, we need to go again to the standard of truth. Remember that each of us is a sinner, we have all done wrong. Rom. 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” As with any gift, you must accept it; just because it has your name on it does not make it yours until you receive it. Maybe if we just try harder to be good and righteous. No, the answer to sin is not to try harder to avoid it or change who you are. No matter how hard you try, no matter how good you are, it’s not enough. Eph. 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Rom. 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Confess is a great word. It means the same thing as agree. In other words, when you confess to God your failure to meet His standard or admit your wrongdoings, you are agreeing with Him.

Maybe you’re thinking God won’t accept you like you are. Pastor Ian if you only knew about me. Maybe you’re thinking, when I give up ___________, I will be good enough and I’ll trust in Christ. Here’s the good news: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) We don’t have to try harder because God knows that apart from Christ, we can do nothing. (Jo. 15:5) Rom. 10:13 says, “For ‘WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’” You are that whoever. It is a guarantee. Becoming a Christian is a choice; it is a decision only you can make for yourself. Being a Christian really means being a follower of Christ. God changes your heart, changes your attitude, and you joyfully want to follow Jesus. It’s not something you do begrudgingly. Being a follower of Christ gives you freedom! You are not a Christian because you live in America or because you attend church, or because you pray or read the Bible, or go to a Bible study. You are a Christian because you have made a decision to trust in what Christ did to pay the penalty for sin; you choose to follow Christ. Paul gives us this hope in Rom. 6:10-11, “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” “To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (Jo. 1:12) So how did we get to the point of death? What began just five or so days earlier as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt with people waving palm branches and expressing their adoration for this man from Galilee, was overwhelmed by the crowds in Jerusalem that demanded His death by crucifixion. They got what they asked for and Jesus was sentenced to die on a cross for being found guilty of nothing. Jesus dies a horrible death on the cross and was buried in a tomb.

The rest of the story is found in Luke 24:1-9. Easter is all about the penalty Jesus Christ paid to cover our sin debt. He shed His blood for you, because of His incredible, unending, unconditional love. He is not here because He is risen. Easter is all about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the new life that He can give you.

You have heard about who Jesus is and why we need Jesus. You have heard about what you should do with Jesus now there remains just one question. What will you do about what you know?Risen

Wisdom Speaks

23 Feb

speakYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon reminded his son of the importance of remembering the instructions and commands of God. Then he told us the incredible story of watching that senseless young man walk to his certain death by getting involved with a married woman. She had one thing on her mind as she led him like a dumb animal to the slaughterhouse. It wasn’t Solomon’s son that he was watching, but he is relating the story so that he will not fall into the same trap. We would be wise to heed the same warnings. This morning, we leave the adulteress in Sheol and we hear from wisdom herself.

I encourage you to read our passage in Pro. 8:1-11.

This is not wisdom’s first call. Remember back in Pro. 1:20-33 we heard wisdom shouting for all to hear, but three types of people did not listen. The naïve ones loved being simple minded. The scoffers delighted in their scoffing. The fools hate knowledge. So Solomon asks a rhetorical question in v. 1. He answers his own question by telling us exactly where to find wisdom. Vs. 2-3 says, “On top of the heights beside the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; Beside the gates, at the opening to the city, at the entrance to the doors she cries out.” Another way to put this is wisdom can be found where the people are gathering. Cities typically were founded at the intersection of two roads, “where the paths meet” which we would call an intersection or crossroads. There’s only a few ways to get into St. Marys. As a result, our economy suffers because you can’t really pass through – St. Marys must be the destination. In the old days when people travelled by boat, cities on the water were vitally important. Port cities were and continue to be important to moving goods across the globe.

So if wisdom is right in the middle of people, it tells us that the common man, the regular guy can gain wisdom and understanding. Wisdom is not just for the educated and not just for the religious elite. Wisdom is accessible to the young and to the old if we’ll just listen. No need to climb the mountain to reach the wise old sage to glean from his vast storehouses of knowledge and experience. All you have to do is listen. Who’s she calling to? “To you O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men. O naïve ones, understand prudence; and, O fools, understand wisdom.” Notice that naive ones and fools are called out. Everyone can benefit from wisdom, but these people in particular can greatly benefit by listening to what wisdom says.

So what does wisdom say? She says a lot that’s contained in vs. 6-10. Let’s talk about them individually to get the full effect. “Listen, for I speak noble things; and the opening of my lips will reveal right things.” Noble means having fine personal qualities of high moral principles. Do you know anyone that as soon as they begin speaking, a hush fall over the room? They’re like E.F. Hutton. When this person begins speaking, it’s obvious they speak the truth and really know what they’re talking about. These people really are few and far between. Wisdom is like that person only way better. Whenever wisdom speaks, people ought to listen. “For my mouth will utter truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.” Every word of wisdom is true. 1 Cor. 1:24 says, “But to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Our wonderfully loving and just God is the source of truth. Since, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,” (Heb. 13:8) His Word is unchanging. There are no revisions or alterations. No addendums. It is complete, accurate, timely, and applicable for every situation we face in life. People everywhere have continuously tried to pass off the Bible as irrelevant, archaic, hard to understand, full of contradictions, and sometimes barbaric. Some of these criticisms come from professing believers. Side note, can someone be an authentic believer in Jesus Christ and deny the inerrancy of the Bible? 2 Tim. 3:16-17 seem to tie that one up neatly. Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Wisdom says that, “Wickedness is an abomination to my lips.”

Verse 8 says, “All utterances of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing crooked or perverted in them.” Nothing dishonest or unacceptable are contained within its pages. Ps. 12:6 says, “The words of the Lord are pure words.” There are no hidden motives and no secret agenda. Why do some people find it difficult to understand the Bible? There are numerous factors that contribute to difficulty in understanding God’s Word. It could be that people read it for the wrong reasons. It could be due to misinterpretation or taking things of context. It could be due a lack of understanding of the culture and times in which it was written. It could be that people don’t have the necessary scriptural foundation. Instead of trying to figure it out ourselves, let’s let Scripture interpret Scripture to provide us the clarity needed. 1 Cor. 2:14 reminds us, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”  The Apostle Paul says in 2 Cor. 4:3-4, And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.” So there you have it. From my understanding of Scripture, a lack of understanding of God’s Word could be because the person reading it is not saved.

Your next obvious question is, “I’m saved and I don’t understand everything I read.” Don’t freak out! You’re not alone. No where does it say you’ll know and understand everything in Scripture. The most common thing I see is people aren’t willing to take the time and really read and study Scripture. They’re not willing to work diligently to understand. It’s easier to Google it or ask a friend. 2 Tim. 2:15 is a verse you hear me quote often and I love the King James Version translation of it, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” NAS translates it like this, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” The onus is on the individual. No one can relieve you of the responsibility to study God’s Word. Remember what Paul said in 2 Cor. 4:4, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Here’s the true test. When we set this study up, we looked at 1 Kings 3:5 where God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.” We know that Solomon asked for wisdom and God granted him that and so much more. Solomon acknowledged that he was young and didn’t know anything – he was humble, yet walked faithfully in the statutes of God. See, that’s what sets up Solomon, it wasn’t because he was King David’s son. He was already doing what he was supposed to do in God’s eyes and that’s why God granted the incredible gift of wisdom. That’s why wisdom says, “Take my instruction and not silver, and knowledge rather than choicest gold.” There will come a day that silver and gold will be useless. We must think with an eternal mindset rather than a mindset focused on the here and now. We push off the things that matter for eternity in favor of what we can see right now. That’s not how it works in God’s economy. Remember Jesus’ words as recorded by the tax collector in Matt 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The instructions, commands, and principles of Scripture are eternal.

One day, you may end up poor by earthly standards; you may be there right now. You can have everything you consider valuable taken away, stolen, repossessed, or destroyed. All that you hold near and dear, whether it’s your children, spouse, job, friends, or family can be ripped away from you. I can tell you from studying God’s Word myself that when that time comes and all you have is God and His Word, it will be enough. Don’t wait until that happens to learn the value of God’s Word. Never take it for granted. “For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things cannot compare with her.”

No Regrets

29 Dec

No RegretYou can check out the podcast here.

If we think about our lives even for just a moment, we’ll think of things we could have done differently; things we shouldn’t have done, decisions we’d like a do over on. I call it what if land and it’s not a good place to be. The Apostle Paul provides us some excellent insight in his letter to the Philippians. This letter differs in some respects from any of Paul’s other letters. It contains less logic and more of the heart. His letter to the Romans has incredible logic. His letters to the Corinthians rebuked certain prevalent sins. Galatians rebukes a dangerous heresy that threatened the welfare of the Galatian churches. Ephesians unfolds the mystery of God in reference to the Gentiles. This letter is the outpouring of the love towards one of the most affectionate and faithful of all congregations which he had planted. The church at Philippi was founded in A.D. 50 or 51 (Acts 16). On his second missionary journey, Paul, led by a vision at Troas, crossed into Europe, landed at Neapolis and went directly to Philippi. Why Philippi?  It was “a leading city of the district of Macedonia.” (Acts 16:12) It is interesting to note that this was the first church planted in Europe.

Take a careful look at the incredible words of Phil. 3:1-14.

Paul begins with what is not the Way. He starts by this third chapter by telling the church what the way is not. Religious ceremonies are not the way. Paul was, “circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.”  (Phil 3:5-6) If anybody had a heritage to brag about it was Paul. He met all the religious requirements of a good Jew. “Circumcised the eighth day.” In strict compliance with the Law. “Of the nation of Israel.” He could trace his lineage as far back as any Jew. “From the tribe of Benjamin.” Remember that the tribe of Benjamin and the tribe of Judah were the only two tribes not to revolt under the leadership of Jeroboam and maintained their allegiance to God. The tribe of Benjamin was physically located next to the temple. “A Hebrew of Hebrews.” He belonged to a tribe that was as honorable as any other, and that had its location near the very center of religious influence; both of his parents were Jewish with no mixture of Gentile blood. Not one of his ancestors had been a proselyte, or of Gentile extraction. Paul says he was entitled to all the advantages which could be derived from it. “A Pharisee.” The Pharisees strictly adhered to every letter of the law. “So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem.” (Acts 26:4) If religion could save anyone, it certainly would have saved Paul. “Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law.” He was zealous in his persecution of the church who he thought was in great error in doctrine. As a Jew and a Pharisee, he believed righteousness was found in the Law.

Notice how Paul introduces his religion to the Philippians: “Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (Phil 3:2-3) Look at the warnings. Dogs – the greatest insult you could give someone. The Jews called the heathen dogs, and Islam calls Jews and Christians by the same name. The term dog also is used to identify a person that is shameless, impudent, malignant, snarling, dissatisfied, and contentious. Evil workers. Probably the same people Paul considered dogs – Jews who taught that religion saved you. False circumcision – from the Greek word meaning to mutilate. These dogs and false teachers were not truly circumcised. True circumcision comes after salvation as a sign of obedience; it does not cause salvation. But Paul says, “For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (Phil 3:3) We are the circumcision. We worship God the only way one can worship God – in Spirit. We rejoice in Christ Jesus and place no confidence in the flesh.

What is the way to God? You’ve got to look at verses 7-11 to find out. All things were loss except the knowledge of Christ Knowledge in this verse is the Greek word gnosis. This is head knowledge. Anything he had mentally. His seven religious credentials. In v. 8 Paul says, “I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” “Suffered the loss” comes from a Greek word that means to willingly give up. Paul gave up “all things.” Anything thing that someone might depend on for salvation: works, religion, heritage, earthly favor, position. Paul considered it rubbish. Rubbish comes from the word that means excrement. Just as you rid your body of waste, Paul wanted to rid himself all of the earthly advantages and Jewish privileges as a means of obtaining salvation. Why?  Look at what Paul says: “That I may gain Christ.”

In verses 9 and 10, Paul speaks of his own righteousness which comes from the Law. Paul wants the righteousness of Christ which can only come through faith. What is faith? Faith comes from the Greek word pistis meaning a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God. “That I may know him.” This is a different know. This is from the Greek word meaning to know and understand. Paul wants to know Christ so he could share in His sufferings and be conformed to His death. This knowledge or understanding of Christ’s sufferings is obtained by experiencing the daily challenges and needs of ministry that will draw us closer to Christ. Sharing in the Lord’s sufferings will bring you into a more meaningful and intimate relationship with Christ. Comfortable or conformed unto death has a double meaning here. Just as Jesus died because of the sin of the world, Paul is dying more and more to sin in his daily life. Remember that Paul is in prison as he writes and is prepared to die for Christ if that is what’s necessary.

In v. 11 Paul desires to attain the resurrection of the dead. In v. 12 he denies that he has attained it. The word “attained” means to have arrived at the goal and won the prize, but without having as yet received it. Paul knows Christ, but not to the fullest extent possible. He has experienced God’s power, but not to the degree he desires. He has been made like Jesus in His death, but Paul can still die to sin and self. Paul walks in newness of life, but there is still room for improvement. Paul didn’t think he arrived after 25 years of serving the Lord, so we shouldn’t either. In verse 13 Paul says, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” Notice that Paul forgets those things that are in the past. The wrongs you have done. The sins you have committed. The things you should have done, but never did. The things Satan tells you cannot be forgiven. Put all of them behind you and forget them. In his pursuit to know Christ, Paul refuses to let guilt drag him down and doesn’t rest on past accomplishments. We don’t sail on yesterday’s wind. He’s pressing toward the mark. What is the mark? The mark is contained in vs. 10 and 11. Be like minded with Paul because his thinking comes from the Lord.  If you don’t think like Paul, the Lord will reveal it to you.

Are you living in the past or allowing Christ to renew and refresh you? Are you repeating mistakes or sins of the past? Rom. 8:1 reminds us, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”