The Depth of Wickedness in Man

pitYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week, we reaffirmed that we are privileged to play a part in God’s plan for humanity. Whatever that role may be, we’re part of getting accomplished what God wants to accomplish. Our motives should be pure and holy as we seek to fulfill the purpose He has for our lives. Do right in all facets of life because it’s the right thing to do. Be obedient to His leading, but line His leading up with Scripture. We quickly covered a number of principles for daily living that we’ve seen before in Proverbs. We finished last week talking about a contentious woman. If the woman in your life is contentious, show her the unconditional love of Christ. If you’re the contentious woman, allow the power of God to transform your life. This morning, we’ll see the depth of depravity that’s present in the wicked.

Take a look at what Solomon says in Pro. 21:10-19. Where does wickedness come from? I think that’s a good place to start. We need to understand the foundation for wickedness that is present in man. People born into this world don’t need to make a conscious effort to do wrong – it comes naturally. We’re born with the sin nature that is passed from father to son from generation to generation. We saw this a couple of weeks ago when we looked at Rom. 5:19a that told us, “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners.” Remember, “There is none righteous, not even one.” (Rom. 3:10) Sin is the lost person’s master and you have to do what the master says.

Wicked people do wicked things because they have no power to do otherwise. Of course, they can do things that society would call good, but goodness evaluated by a morally bankrupt culture is not the standard. I know that sounds harsh, but we’ve got share the truth of Scripture so people are aware of where they are. Eternity’s too long not to tell the truth. The wickedness is formed in the soul at conception because of Adam’s disobedience. That’s why, “The soul of the wicked desires evil.” Desire can also be translated crave. Evil dominates the thoughts and plans of the wicked. Remember what led to the flood: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:5) Remember the second greatest commandment Jesus referred to in Matt. 22:36-40? He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The wicked have no favor for their neighbor.

Let’s do some quick review. V. 11 says, “When the scoffer is punished, the naive becomes wise; but when the wise is instructed, he receives knowledge.” It’s the same principle we saw in 19:25. When people see that others are held accountable for their actions, it will deter bad decisions. That’s one of the reasons the news reports sentencing for high profile crimes. Wise people make themselves available to learn and are willing to receive instruction. This leads into the next verse, “The righteous one considers the house of the wicked, turning the wicked to ruin.” Even though there may be short term gain for wickedness, the righteous wants to avoid the pain and suffering that comes with it. The righteous remember Pro. 12:7 where Solomon said, “The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand.” No amount of prosperity or comfort in this world will turn the righteous from following God. I’m sure this next verse has been used to justify all sorts of pseudo outreach programs. “He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be answered.” This is a verse that speaks to mercy, but it can’t stop there. It’s great to feed people who are hungry and clothe people that are naked, but if that’s where you stop, it’s just a good thing to do. The Gospel must be intentionally woven into that work for it to be a work of God. Our primary goal as a church is to make disciples, but if all we do is feed hungry people, we’ve missed the goal established for us by Jesus Himself. This verse speaks to the cry of the poor being ignored. If we ignore the plight of those in poverty, then our cries will not be heard. Remember Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt. 5:7)

The next verse is not an endorsement to bribery. A gift in secret subdues anger, and a bribe in the bosom, strong wrath.” Gifts are often appropriate, especially when given in private. If you make a big show of giving someone a gift, then the emphasis is on the giver instead of the receiver. If a bribe is offered to subvert justice, that is clearly unbiblical and must be avoided. “The exercise of justice is joy for the righteous, but is terror to the workers of iniquity.” This make sense, right? If you are righteous, and the only way to be righteous is through the blood of Christ, you want to see justice done. This is the justice dispensed by our government: you want to see right things accomplished and wrong things squashed. So, the next obvious question is, right according to who? We must stick to the unchanging standard of God’s Word. There may be amendments to the U.S. Constitution, but there are none to the Bible.

“A man who wanders from the way of understanding will rest in the assembly of the dead.” The path of righteousness is a straight and narrow path. Last October, Kari and I were in the mountains of NC and we went hiking. What’s nice about hiking off the Blue Ridge Parkway is the hiking trails are marked. If you get off the marked path, chances are good you’ll get lost. If you stay on the path, you won’t get lost. This is the metaphor Solomon is using. If you get off the path of understanding, you’ll end up with the dead because you will be dead. In Matt. 7:13 Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.” There are no alternate paths to righteousness. It is only God’s way through Jesus.

“He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not become rich.” I could spend a whole lot of time here because this is sure a verse for today. The pursuit of pleasure drives many people – even in the church. Solomon is not just talking about pursuing pleasure, but coveting pleasure. Now there’s nothing wrong with having a good time, but if that’s your focus, something’s wrong. If you’re looking for the next fun thing, the next thing to entertain you, the next thing to wow you, Solomon says that you will become poor. Solomon also says, “He who loves wine and oil will not become rich.” At the risk of being labeled old fashioned, I think this loving wine thing is an epidemic in the church. I know I spent a lot of time on 20:1, but Solomon addresses the topic again. Do you look as forward to getting into God’s Word as you do having that glass of wine? The oil in this verse refers to olive oil. This seems a strange addition to the wine. Wine and oil were common at banquets. Overall Solomon is saying if you pursue pleasure and luxury, you’re going to be poor. Turn over to 2 Tim. 3 and we’ll tie up this thought nicely with Paul’s warning to Timothy. Look at vs. 1-5. Avoid here means keep away from. That’s a pretty stern warning.

“The wicked is a ransom for the righteous, and the treacherous is in the place of the upright.” This is a pretty challenging verse that has to do with justice. The same idea occurs in Pro. 11:8 where it says, “The righteous is delivered from trouble, but the wicked takes his place.” The wicked are atonement or payment for the righteous, but don’t confuse that with the atonement of Christ that brings redemption to those that believe. In Exodus 12, the Israelites were told to put blood from a sacrificial lamb on the doorposts and lentils of their houses. The Lord said He was coming and when he saw the blood, He would pass over the house and go to the next. The Jews followed the instructions and were spared at the expense of the Egyptians. In that manner, the Egyptians became a ransom, or payment for the righteous. Righteous and upright don’t mean perfect here, but an overall desire to follow after God.

In Joshua 6, God told Joshua to lead Israel into battle against Jericho where the walls came tumbling down. Israel was instructed to take nothing as spoils from the battle: no gold or silver, bronze or iron – those are holy to the Lord. Following the victory at Jericho, Josh. 7:1 tells us, “The sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the Lord burned against the sons of Israel.” Achan’s sin affected the entire nation of Israel. Their next battle occurred against the much weaker Ai where they were soundly defeated causing Joshua to tear his clothes and go into mourning. God told him to get up and told him what had happened to cause Israel to be defeated. God declared that, “Israel has sinned,” and because of that, “Israel cannot stand before their enemies.” (Josh. 7:11ff) God instructs Joshua to cast lots to find the guilty party and the lot eventually falls to Achan. Joshua confronts Achan who says, “When I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it.” (Josh. 7:21) Joshua sends people to Achan’s tent and they find the spoils exactly where Achan said it would be. Achan the wicked, was used as a ransom for Israel, the righteous. Achan was stoned to death and then burned. Everyone else in Israel followed God’s instructions – they had a desire to follow after God. I know that was a somewhat lengthy explanation, but sometimes, you really have to work at understanding the meaning of Scripture.

Let’s get one last one in for today. “It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and vexing woman.” This is similar to 21:9 that we looked at last week and Solomon adds vexing here. Vexing means intending to harass and full of disorder or stress. Now, that’s a lovely woman. First, the man is alone on a roof top and now he’s alone in the desert or wilderness. The commonality between the two verses is that it’s better to be alone than deal with an argumentative and unruly wife. I don’t know if that woman from 21:9 found her way to the roof and now the guy has to get away even more or not. It’s better to be exposed to the harshness of the wilderness – the wind, the weather, and the sand than it is to be with that harsh and vexing woman. And before you allow the thought to enter your mind, this is not an endorsement to leave a woman that is constantly arguing and causing stress in your life. The best way to handle a contentious wife is to love her as Christ loved the church.

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


There is Hope

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.

The Shotgun Approach – Part 2

Shotgun ApproachYou can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last week we began looking at a series of verses that came quickly and unfortunately, we ran out of time. We saw that transgression is unavoidable when there is constant talking. Someone who speaks all the time and does not listen will cause problems. But if you restrain your lips, Solomon declares that you are wise. We briefly talked about riches and poverty and neither equate with the riches of God. This morning, we’ll continue these rapid fire principles.

Maybe you read Pro. 10:24-32 last week, but take the time to read it again.

Here we go again. For context’s sake, let me review from last week. “Wickedness is like sport to a fool and so is wisdom to a man of understanding.”  The fool enjoys sin and the man of understanding enjoys wisdom. This is a huge contrast. The man of understanding is in active pursuit of wisdom. He looks for it, he longs for it, he wants it, he runs to it. The fool finds joy in wickedness, but the man of understanding finds joy in wisdom. There is a truth that hangs in the back of the fool’s mind though. “What the wicked fears will come upon him.” While these thoughts may not dominate his thinking, they’re there floating in the back of his mind. They know it’s coming, they know the hammer will drop, they know that there will be judgment, but they lack the wisdom to do anything about it. Ps. 90:11, “Who understands the power of Your anger and Your fury, according to the fear that is due You?”

Again the opposite is true for the man of understanding because, “The desire of the righteous will be granted.” Let’s spend a bit of time here because there are some that will immediately draw a conclusion that Solomon is talking cold, hard, cash. There are some that will tell you that your material possessions are directly proportional to your spirituality or favor with God. They’ll even quote verses like Ps. 37:4 that says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” They treat God like He is some genie in a bottle that exists to grant their wishes. So let’s go back to the verse. The first thing you need to evaluate is are you righteous? Remember this is the character or quality of being, thinking, and doing what is right in God’s eyes. When you look at it like that, the goals or desires of the righteous will match the goals and desires of God. The desires of the righteous are the same as God’s. That desire is in line with God’s will and God’s plans. When we think in this light, verses that deal with this make more sense. 1 Jo. 5:14 says, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” God is not against you having things, but is that the end game? Of course it can’t be because that’s not consistent with Scripture. If I’m righteous, then my desires will line up with God’s will and His will will be done. It may not be in this lifetime, but it will certainly come to pass. What is lurking in the back of the fool’s mind will occur, so what happens to the wicked? The speed by which this certain destruction of the wicked is seen, “When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous has an everlasting foundation.” The wicked will be consumed by judgment from a holy and pure God and the time for changing his ways will be over. The wicked ignored biblical teaching, godly instruction and wisdom for a lifetime and now he will endure judgment for eternity. The righteous man built his foundation on the rock that is Jesus Christ.

The next verse is a great word picture and it describes the pain associated with a lazy person. Verse 26 says, “Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the lazy one to those who sent him.” While vinegar might be great in salad dressing and it’s quite effective in pickling things, try drinking it as a beverage. We’re literally talking sour grapes here just like in Ez. 18:2. It’s a stomach turner, it’s irritating, annoying, and unpleasant. So is smoke in your eyes and that’s what Solomon is saying about someone that doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do. Maybe you’ve dealt with someone like this and had to endure their nonsense. Clear instructions for a task are given, but they’re so lazy, you’d rather just do it yourself. It’s almost like their job is to frustrate others. They spend more time trying to get out of work than the actual work would take.

The remaining verses are familiar comparison and contrasts. Look at s. 27-32. Painting with a broad brush Solomon says if you’re wise, you’ll typically live longer. Yes, sometimes good and righteous people die by what we define as too young. This is a generality. If you don’t have a fear of the Lord, your life will be shortened. Again, there are some pretty awful people that live to a ripe old age. “The hope of the righteous is gladness, but the expectation of the wicked perishes.” It is our blessed hope, the hope of Christ. Paul says it this way to Titus: “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, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” (Tit. 2:11-14) The wicked have no hope, they have nothing to hope in, but believers, “Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer.” (Rom. 12:12)

On the other hand, Ps. 112:10 says, “The wicked will see it and be vexed, he will gnash his teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked will perish.” “The way of the Lord” should be a familiar phrase and means exactly what you think it means. It is the godly way, the Bible way, the righteous and upright way. It is the way of holiness. What is in our hearts will flow out of our mouths and for some people, those words will betray what’s in their heart. So how can you avoid behavior that is contrary to the way of the Lord? Verse 32 is pretty clear.

When we have the righteousness of Christ, our desires line up with God’s desires. His will is our will. I think it is clear in these verses that our behavior characterizes who we follow. Solomon has given numerous examples of the folly and foolishness of the wicked that are all inconsistent with a life that belongs to Christ. We may do foolish things at times, but that is not who we are. Follow the path of wisdom because it is the path of God.

Parental Guidance Suggested

PGYou can listen to the podcast here.

It’s been a while since we were in Proverbs, so let me remind of what we last talked about. Solomon reminded us of the all too familiar trap of illicit relationships with women. While Solomon was giving his son specific guidance about avoiding an adulterous woman, the principle applies to men and women. No matter how exciting it may seem to be in the moment, death and destruction always results from immorality. We may not see it here in this earth, but judgment will come. This morning, Solomon continues with the theme of marital purity, but he does it in metaphorical terms.

Grab your Bible and check out Pro. 5:15-23.

Are we really talking about water? Most of us do not store drinking water, but back in Solomon’s day, water was a precious commodity because the area was so dry. People would collect rainwater in underground reservoirs so they would have water available during the dry summer months. You can travel to Israel today and see many cisterns still standing. Wells were different than cisterns and were equally important. Gen. 26 and 29 shares stories about the value of wells. Wells often had stones placed over the top of it to prevent unauthorized use. Isaac’s son Jacob first saw his future wife at a well. Solomon is not talking about water. He’s continuing his warning about fidelity in relationships. He’s talking about purity prior to marriage and faithfulness after marriage.“Drink water from your own cistern and fresh water from your own well.” This is a continuation of the warnings from the previous passage. Don’t take what isn’t yours. You can apply this to numerous things, but he’s talking about marital relations. The cistern and the well are metaphors for a wife. A man should have sexual relations with his wife and only his wife. Intimacy is reserved for marriage. Everyone would be wise to follow this seemingly obvious instruction. Think of the world wide implications of abstaining from sex prior to marriage and then remaining monogamous after marriage. If she’s not meeting your needs, demonstrate sacrificial, unconditional love for her. If the man is not a follower of Christ, Peter says it this way ladies, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” (1 Pet. 3:1-2) The cistern and the well represent a source of water to quench thirst. The wife is designed to quench the desire for intimacy. That metaphor seems pretty clear, but then the water gets muddy.

Let’s try and clear up the muddy waters. So far, Solomon has been giving instructions to his son so that the son will, “receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice, and equity” that was stated way back in 1:3. The theme that began at the beginning of chapter 5 continues here, but I wish it were clearer. There is an exclusivity that is expected in marriage and that continues here with vs. 16-17. Some have made the argument that these verses are talking about prostitution, but we can’t be sure. What is certain is that a man’s sexual desire is reserved for his wife and only his wife. All energy must be directed within the boundaries of marriage. Fantasies are not healthy, helpful, or holy. It was Jesus that raised the standard of holiness from the physical act of adultery to the thought of it. Matt. 5:27-28 says, You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Lust is defined as an unhealthy craving or desire. Men, if this is how your life is characterized, it’s sin.

 Verse 18 contains a subtle principle I don’t want you to miss. Notice the phrase, “wife of your youth.” This gives us the idea that the one that married when you were young is still your wife now that you’re old. I love the fact that I’ve been married for over 28 years, but it’s by the grace of God that we have remained married. I can tell you the secret of our marriage is not that I’m a great guy, or Kari is a great girl. It is only because of God working in us and our desire to please Him that we have stuck it out. I can honestly say that we have a great marriage, but it is not without issues. We disagree; we can be short with one another. The only formula I can offer is to become the man or woman God expects you to be as He transforms you continually into the image of Christ. V. 19 contains some very graphic language and I want to focus on that last phrase. “Be exhilarated always with her love.” Exhilarated literally means intoxicated or make very happy. Men, be head over heels, crazy in love with your wife. Solomon is really a romantic guy. Listen to what he said in Song of Solomon 4:9, “You have made my heart beat faster, my sister, my bride; you have made my heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes.” There is an excitement in marriage that cannot be sustained in any other relationship between two people. Notice that Solomon uses the word, “always” and since, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for training in righteousness,” (2 Tim. 3:16) we need to pay attention. Marital sexuality is a wonderful gift for mutual enjoyment between a husband and a wife.

Notice the rhetorical question in v. 20. Why would anyone choose to throw away the blessing of a wonderful marriage? Maybe you’re thinking, my marriage isn’t so great. Are you faithfully and sacrificially loving your wife or your husband? Consider Paul’s definition of love: “Love is patient, love is kind and not jealous; love does not brag, and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails!” (1 Cor. 13:4-8a) I’ve fallen out of love some would say. You have likely heard it said that love is a choice and not a feeling. Choose to love and allow the Lord to transform that cold, stony heart.

Here are some sobering thoughts. In v. 21 Solomon says, “For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord and He watches all his paths.” Solomon is still talking about marital fidelity. What happens between consenting adults is still visible to God. This isn’t some sort of biblical threat, it is a reality. David asked the rhetorical question, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?” (Ps. 139:7) The answer is absolutely no where. And why would anyone want to flee from the Lord’s presence? That’s the better question. You can pretend it’s your little secret. You can convince yourself that no one knows what’s going on and that no one will get hurt. God is watching, but not in the way some in ministry have led you to believe. If you’re not a believer, God’s aim is not to punish you, but to draw you into an authentic, passionate relationship with Him. If you are a believer, God wants you to follow the straight path that demonstrates the power of God. The one that fails to heed these warnings finds himself in a terrible predicament. Check out the final thoughts in this passage in vs. 22-23.

Folly means foolishness and astray means wander. Wow. The immoral man has no one to blame but himself. Don’t ignore the instructions of Scripture. Following the instructions will save time, money, and energy and you’ll end up with the product that you’re supposed to have. Think of all the heartache you’ve experienced just because you didn’t follow instructions. Don’t do that in life.

What about the Tithe?

20140330_084820You can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we got back to basics of giving. We looked at some examples of giving in Scripture and established some principles of biblical giving. This morning we’re going to look at two things: a need and the tithe.

What are our basic needs and what is a surplus? It appears the Bible teaches that our basic needs are food and clothing. “For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.  If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” (1 Tim. 6:7-8) God never promised to make us middle class. There is certainly nothing wrong with having a nice car or house, cell phones, or satellite TV, but it seems that God only guarantees food and clothing. What’s the point of pursuing earthly treasure since it will all be left behind? Surplus is what is left after we subtract our expenses for basic needs from our total income. Most of us probably spend the majority of our surplus on what our society calls needs. Society says you need the latest technological gadgets. You’ve got to have the latest model car; every child must have his own bedroom. Our challenge is to cut back on these desires so more of our surplus can be spent meeting biblical needs.

So what about the tithe? Gen. 28:22 says, “This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” It seems Jacob recognized that it was God who provided everything for him. Gen. 14:18-20 says, “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” He gave him a tenth of all.” Abram felt it necessary to tithe. You may be saying, “Well that’s all well and good, but this is not the age of the law, but the age of grace, so we don’t have to tithe. We don’t live under the law.” The New Testament is surprisingly quiet on this matter. Some believe that since the tithe is only mentioned, not taught in the New Testament, there is therefore no basis for the tithe. That’s the interesting part. The Genesis examples predate the law by over 400 years. There is no grace to ignore Old Testament teachings. Christian pollster George Barna reports that 12% of born-again believers tithed in 2012. A tithe is not regular giving. A tithe is giving a tenth (10%) of your income to the Lord. For most people, you support the church in which you receive spiritual benefits. In Matt. 23:23 Jesus condemned the Pharisees by saying, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others, for being hypocrites.”  They paid tithes, but neglected the more important principles of Scripture. There are indeed, some biblical principles that are more important than others. Just because you follow some biblical principles doesn’t mean you can ignore others.

The tithe isn’t mentioned after the gospels, but I want to point something out. The tithe was neither commanded nor rescinded in the New Testament. Christians continue to argue about whether to tithe or not, or even if the tithe is the starting point for giving. Jesus never lowered the standard for anything. For example, in Matt. 5:27-28 Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” I don’t want to be legalistic about this, but consider this: scriptural offerings were always from the first and best that people had. Maybe you’re a grace giver. The tithe was the minimum required by God so ask yourself, does God expect less of me, who has the Holy Spirit living inside me, than He did of the poor Israelites? You may maintain that we do not need to adhere to the tithe. That’s fine, just don’t use that as justification to give less.

Here’s the reality for us. As Christians, we’re to be different than the world. Rom. 12:2a says, “Do not be conformed to the world.” But how can we be different in this world of materialism? Paul goes on to say, “But be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” We’ve got to realize some things about ourselves that might not be too appealing. We must realize we are greedy. Greed is something that comes naturally to us. We’ve got to unlearn greed and learn generosity from God. In reality, we’re rich. The West has 15 % of the world’s population, but 90% of the wealth. Even the poorest people in America are richer than many people in other countries. Don’t use the tax code as your guide to giving. Taking a legal deduction is fine, but some gifts that God recognizes, the IRS does not. For example, giving a bag of groceries to a friend or neighbor in need is not tax deductible. If you give to get a tax deduction, not only are you missing the point of giving, but you’re bad at math.

Grab your Bible and look at 2 Cor. 8:17-22. In this passage Paul is saying, “Hey, you promised to give, it’s time to pay up.” Don’t make commitments you cannot keep. Our biggest challenge is freeing up our biblical surplus. Society preaches self-indulgence and consumption, Jesus and the Bible teach: Move down in lifestyle, not up. Live below your income, not above. If we have nothing to share, our lifestyle needs to change. Buy a newer car instead of a new car. The goal is not simply to save, but to save in order to invest in God’s work. Our money gets tied up in culture driven wants. God speaks of humble self-sacrifice and cheerful generosity. He honors service and stewardship, not consumption.

God does not need our gifts, but we need to give. If we’re always on the receiving end of God’s grace, we tend to become selfish. As we learn to give, we enlarge our capacity to receive, and we share in the blessings of grace. A carpenter does not count his success by the number of tools in his tool chest but by what he has done with his tools. In the same way, a Christian does not calculate prosperity by the size of his bank account, but by the ministry accomplished with his resources.

Woe, Woe, Woe

RebellionYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we discovered that the creepers slandered the way of the Lord; they reviled things they did not understand. They are unreasoning animals driven by instinct and passion rather than truth and reason. Their way of life leads to destruction. Jude now begins a three verse string that is known as the woe oracles. Remember this letter is designed to be read at one time. We won’t get through all three verses today, but we will look at three examples of people that were destroyed because of their actions.

Jude 11 says, “Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.”

What is woe? Woe is a word we hear Jesus say often. He used the word seven times in Matt. 23. He is consistent in His use of the word in that chapter referring to the Pharisees. Jesus spoke of their exclusivity. He called them blind guides, fools, and hypocrites. He said they focused on the minor and ignored the more important, weightier matters of doctrine. Jesus said they were clean on the outside, but filthy on the inside. He said the Pharisees were like whitewashed tombs – beautiful on the outside and full of dead man’s bones on the inside. On the outside they appeared righteous, but on the inside they were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Jesus called them vipers and serpents and asked them, “How will you escape the sentence of hell?” (Matt. 23:33) The word woe is an expression of grief or denunciation and it can also mean a terrible pain that is to come. Jesus used the term effectively denouncing the attitudes and values of the Pharisees. This is the same usage of the word Jude employs in describing the seriousness of lifestyle and behavior of the creepers. This is hardly the picture of tolerance that many people in the world and even in the church claim that Jesus represents. People that make this false claim of Jesus have not consulted the Scriptures. He is particularly intolerant of religious leaders that claim one thing and do another.

Jude calls out three Old Testament people that were severely denounced. “Woe to them,” woe to the creepers! The first example of woe. Jude starts out with the earliest example of poor decision making and sibling rivalry when he says, “They have gone the way of Cain.” If we go back to Gen. 4, we’ll see that Cain was the first child of Adam and Eve and grew to be, “A tiller of the ground.” Abel was the second born and, “Was a keeper of flocks.” All was going just great until Cain brought an offering from the ground and Abel brought an offering from the flock. God had regard for Abel’s offering and not Cain’s. God says to Cain, “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Gen. 4:7) The word desire is the same one used in Gen. 3 when God told Eve, “Yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Sin wants to control you, and Scripture says we must master it. Cain didn’t and murdered his brother.

The second example concerns Balaam. The creepers, “For pay . . . have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam.” When we consider the Old Testament writings about Balaam, it can be a bit confusing. On the surface it seems like Balaam was a decent guy; a prophet of God. When Balak wanted to pay him to curse Israel, Balaam said, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of the Lord my God.” (Num. 22:18) It took a donkey to reveal Balaam’s true character. We even see God speaking to Balaam and telling him what to say. But Balaam was anything but a true prophet. Peter said that Balaam, “Loved the wages of unrighteousness.” (2 Pet. 2:15) God concludes, “Your way was contrary to Me.” (Num. 22:32) and in we see in Num. 31:8 that he was killed fighting against Israel. Jude draws a comparison between the creepers and Balaam. The creepers rushed headlong into the error of Balaam and they did it for money. Likely they are traveling teachers seeking to make some cash. There are numerous companies and booking agents that will arrange to have a famous pastor/preacher/teacher for your event and they do it at a cost. There is nothing wrong with earning a living or being compensated for what you do. I often joke that I’m a professional Christian because I get paid to be a minister of Jesus Christ. The truth is I’ve been doing what I do for a long time and it is my privilege to do so. I have done, I do, and would do it without compensation. I still offer much of what I do for free. Counseling.     Weddings and funerals. Coaching. Home repair consultation. Much of what I provide is to people that may attend C4, but are not members. Most of the counseling I do is for people from other churches or people that are not affiliated with any church and may not even be a Christian. Scripture is very clear that the minister of God must not be in it for the money. There’s nothing wrong with paying your pastor or church leader. Paul told Timothy, “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” (1 Tim. 5:17) But Balaam was in it for the money and it looks like the creepers were too. This gives us the idea that the creepers knew what they were doing. Back in v. 4 Jude said they, “Deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” How is it remotely possible that they got into the church and were teaching and still no one noticed that their theology was whacked?

Jude’s not done as he provides the third example of Korah. This is another O.T. reference. Jude obviously loves the O.T. providing some solid evidence that the O.T. is still applicable and relevant for today. Korah and two of his buddies formulated a plan to overthrow Moses and Aaron with the help of 250 others from the assembly of Israel. What is significant about this is that according to Num. 16:2 they were, “chosen in the assembly, men of renown.” Korah and the rest were leaders. God had chosen them. It wasn’t enough for them to be leaders they, particularly Korah, wanted to be in total control. They told Moses, “You have gone far enough.” (Num. 16:3) Korah rebelled against the leadership God had chosen for Israel. Numbers tells us that Korah gathered his 250 rebels with their sensors at the entrance of the tabernacle. Keep in mind the ceremonial procedures for the tent of meeting and incense and offerings were still in place. This attempted coup resulted in some serious consequences. The Lord told Moses to get back and for the people to get back. God opened the ground and swallowed Korah and the rebels. Korah and his people rebelled against the authority God gave them which means they rebelled against God. Three examples of judgment for rebellion of God’s authority.

Do not rebel against God or against the leaders He has appointed. No where are we saying blind obedience or devotion to the leader. The creepers were not wondering or questioning the leaders. They were intentionally undermining the authority of Scripture by teaching things that were not accurate. If you don’t understand something that is going on here or you wonder about something . . . ask! I enjoy a respectful conversation about Scripture, and I will easily admit I don’t know everything. I’m not sure about some things. Can God use you to show me something? Absolutely. The examples Jude mentions didn’t do that. Do not revile things you do not understand.

Empty Promises

Empty PromisesYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week it took a donkey speaking with the voice of a man to get the attention of a false prophet. Balaam may have been spared with the help of his donkey, but in the end, judgment came when he was killed fighting against Israel. The hopes of people that listened to the bad teaching of the false teachers that promised water for thirsty souls were left dry, discouraged, and empty. Peter revealed their true, ungodly character and shifted to the affect the teachers had on others by comparing them to springs without water and mists driven away by storms. This morning, Peter continues with the adverse affect these people have on others.

2 Pet. 2:18-19 says, For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.”

Listen to how the false teachers talk. They are, “Speaking out arrogant words of vanity.” Remember Peter earlier described them as daring and self willed. He’s expanding on that idea. They’re arrogant – they think very highly of themselves. They’re talking with words that make them sound important. It’s like they enjoy hearing themselves talk. Have you heard the saying, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” It comes from Pro. 17:28 that says, “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.” Not these false teachers. Their arrogant words are, “vanity.” They’re empty. They talk for the sake of talking while saying little of substance.

And here it is again. “They entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality.” The false teachers say there’s no judgment for sensuality so it’s okay to give in to those fleshly desires. Remember the meaning of entice. They’re using bait to get unstable souls to bite. They’re trying to trap people and it’s not by accident. They know the pull of the world and all that it contains, but Christians are supposed to resist the pull of the world. We’re supposed to be different, we’re supposed to be pure, and holy, and righteous. We’re supposed to have moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. These are the qualities that are supposed to set us apart from the world. But these false teachers are luring others from the truth, from the straight and narrow path, from the way of truth.

Who are the targets? “Those who barely escape from the ones living in error.” The English translation of the Greek here is somewhat difficult. The word barely should likely have been translated “just” or “recently.” In the N.T., error in this context typically means unsaved. The ones living in error are lost people. In essence the false teachers target recent converts to Christ. They do it in two ways: with their arrogant words and their encouragement to indulge the flesh. They are full of confidence in what they say, but Peter declared it was empty talk. We see this today. People declare the Lord leadeth, yet if they allow you to press them, which many won’t; their strong conviction comes up shallow. If the Lord really is leading you to do something, then have the courage and confidence to say it’s Jesus. Don’t go slinking around, don’t be deceptive, don’t lie. I’m amazed at the people that say these type of things that in the end are just doing what they want to do and don’t want anyone to question, confront, or challenge them. You can see how vitally important discipleship is. Without a firm foundation, the building collapses.

Here comes the hollowness. “Promising them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of corruption.” Have you ever heard the phrase, “Physician, heal yourself?” It means take care of what’s wrong in your own life before telling others how to live and it comes from Luke 4:23. These false teachers were attempting to provide hope to recent converts while they did not know the hope themselves. They are, “slaves of corruption.” This is hypocrisy at its fullest. They promise freedom, but they deliver slavery. “That the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:21) They deliver the opposite of what Christ promises. Over the course of our Christian walk of faith, we’re to become more and more like Christ. We were slaves of sin and became obedient. We were freed from sin to become slaves of righteousness. They taught no judgment; they denied boundaries, but God’s Word provides us what we need to know. Romans 6 is very clear regarding the Law verses grace and I encourage you to take the time to read and understand this pivotal chapter. Peter’s conclusion is found in v. 18: “For by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.” The false teachers were motivated by greed. Greed controlled their agenda, controlled their desires, and controlled their actions.

You can apply this principle to most everything. When boundaries are not established and adhered to, most anything can become sinful. As we’ll see in the next couple of verses, there is a way to victory.