Tag Archives: Paul

Serious Stuff

11 Apr

SeriousYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week we learned that when you follow your own heart, you’ll end up in a world of hurt. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” Fools think they’re right and don’t bother getting the guidance of others. Wise people seek out wiser people to check themselves. Wise people seek course corrections from other people. When you have people in your life that will tell you the truth in love, you’re going to grow. Don’t automatically ignore the good counsel from others because you think you know it already. That’s a really dangerous place to be in. If you follow this guidance, I guarantee you’ll have sweet success. This morning, we’ll see the interrelationship of hunger, shovels, fire, and speech and how they work in our faith.

In Pro. 16:26-28 Solomon says, “A worker’s appetite works for him, for his hunger urges him on. A worthless man digs up evil, while his words are like scorching fire. A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends.”

From honey last week to hunger this week. Hunger drives a lot of what we do in this day and age. We have Hungry-Man dinners and Hungry Howie’s pizza. We have Hungry, Hungry Hippo and The Hunger Games. We have Food for the Hungry and Freedom from Hunger. We have government programs to ensure no child is hungry. Bruce Springsteen had a Hungry Heart and if we don’t eat, we get hangry. Hunger is one of those driving forces of man. Look at the correlation between hunger and work. Solomon says, “A worker’s appetite works for him, for his hunger urges him on.” What a great verse! This goes hand in hand with what the Apostle Paul told the church at Thessalonica when he said, “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” (2 Thes. 3:10) Perhaps you’ve heard of the protestant work ethic. The idea was first brought up by sociologist Max Weber in his book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism published in 1904. “Weber studied the phenomenal economic growth, social mobility, and cultural change that accompanied the Reformation and went so far as to credit the Reformation for the rise of capitalism.” The start of the Reformation is generally attributed to when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenburg Church in 1517. As Weber studied the Reformation, he discovered what Luther referred to as the doctrine of vocation. Luther stressed that our vocation, or calling in life is not about what we do, but about what God does through us.  He believed that salvation should change how we do life. The gospel infuses our everyday lives with spiritual significance. This is summed up by Paul when he said, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” (Col. 3:23)

Getting back to Solomon, this work ethic means that you need to be willing to work for what you get. It matters little what vocation you’re engaged in as long as it’s legal, ethical, and moral. As a follower of Christ, that vocation must be performed with a level of excellence that points people to Christ. “A worker’s appetite works for him.” Notice the assumption – there’s a worker. What motivates him to work? “His hunger urges him on.” If you’re not willing to work at any job, you’re not hungry enough. Our culture has shifted drastically in the last 20 years or so. We have people that are in their 20s that have never worked a day in their life. The gospel is a transformative experience. Followers should be different. We must be different.

Look at the quick shift. From the worker whose appetite drives him on to, “A worthless man digs up evil, while his words are like scorching fire.” Back in Chapter 6, Solomon equated worthlessness to wickedness, perversity, evil, and strife. This verse means exactly what you think it means. Is there anyone here that has not said things, thought things, or done things that they wish they could change? In the old days, when you did something stupid, it generally didn’t last long because we’d forget. Now, our words and dumb deeds are held in the digital cloud to be remembered forever. Today if something goes down, people whip out their cell phones to record the events. Just so we’re on the same page with Solomon, worthless means having no real value or use. Someone who has no value will look for something in you to gain an advantage. If nothing is apparent, they’ll go as far back as necessary. This is really apparent during the political season. During the presidential campaign in 2012, Mitt Romney was accused of bullying a classmate 47 years earlier when he was in high school and some thought that incident should disqualify him for the presidency. If you remember the snowball incident of 1992 that I shared a while ago, you might consider that I don’t have the personal temperament to pastor a church. The point is that all of us have done things we’re ashamed of or embarrassed about. The worthless person finds those events and brings them to light. “His words are like scorching fire.” Lots of crises have started because of words. Fights have started because of words even if the words are untrue. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase putting out fires. Unless you get to the root of the issue, the fire will likely reflash. Ja. 3:5, “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!” You have to ask yourself, what is the endgame for digging up dirt? I think it’s a good question to ask so let’s answer it.

What is the endgame? Let’s take a step back and look at the fundamental purpose for life. We were created to have fellowship with the Creator. God created us with a free will and the intention was for us to willingly engage in a vibrant, loving relationship with Him. Free will led to pride which led to ignoring God’s instruction and succumbing to the temptation of the serpent. Sin changed God’s design. Of course God knew this yet He still created us according to His perfect design. Sin entered and caused physical and spiritual death, but God already had a plan in place before He created all that we know. Gen. 3:15 points to the Messiah that would redeem mankind. Our fundamental purpose is to point people to this Redeemer we know as Jesus Christ and live our lives totally devoted to Him. The endgame of Satan is to deceive people into thinking there is a different way, another way, or simply that it doesn’t matter at all. “A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends.” Perverse means a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave unacceptably. Strife means anger, bitter disagreement, or conflict. Satan doesn’t always come out and do the dirty work himself. He gets others to do it for him. He wants to tear us apart. He attacks the weak, the newborn, and the sickly and tries to separate us from others that can help. He wants us to think we can do it ourselves. He wants us to make mountains out of mole hills. He wants us focusing on the minor. We need to recognize this perversity for what it is – a plot of Satan. Don’t allow yourself to be influenced by people like this. Yes, it can happen in the church by people who claim they just really care. That’s why they’re all up in your business. Don’t fall for it, but don’t play into the devil’s hands either. Don’t get all bent out and go to attack mode. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Don’t believe the worst about people.

We are here on this planet to live our lives to their fullest for Christ. We are driven to work to exemplify the transformation that is not only possible, but should exist in us because of the work accomplished by Christ. Only people that are worthless seek to harm others or damage their reputation. Don’t allow yourself to get burned by the words of people that are valueless – and that’s hard to understand for us. Recognize the schemes of the devil. He wants us to live our lives apart from Christ and other Christ followers. He wants to destroy us and make us ineffective for Christ. Don’t be fooled by that. Don’t think the worst of others. You like it when you get the benefit of the doubt and you should be willing to do the same for others. This is all very serious stuff that Solomon wants us to understand and put into practice.

Absolute Corruption

7 Mar

Absolute PowerYou can listen to the podcast here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Did It My Way

26 Oct

Frank

Check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon talked about sacrifice. There are prescribed methods to sacrifice laid out in the Old Testament that have far reaching implications in the New Testament and for us today. The sacrifices of the wicked are not pleasing to God because they’re simply going through the motions of sacrifice without a transformed heart. We’re to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to the Lord. This morning, Solomon talks more about the wicked and how they really are and he minces no words.

Proverbs 15:9-11 says, The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LordBut He loves one who pursues righteousness.  Grievous punishment is for him who forsakes the way; he who hates reproof will die. Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord, How much more the hearts of men!”

Let’s get right to it. Solomon is a pretty straight forward guy when he says, “The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but He loves one who pursues righteousness.” This seems totally contrary to those people, even in the church, that says God loves everyone and He just wants us happy. In this verse, we have a very clear contrast in how God feels about two groups of people. Last week we focused on the sacrifices of the wicked and didn’t spend any time on how God viewed those sacrifices. It’s not that the sacrifices weren’t the right ones necessarily; it’s because they were offered as outward gestures only. It’s like putting a band-aid on an infected cut. You’ve got to treat the infection.

Abomination is a tough word to define, but it conveys the idea of rotting flesh. Think about food left in a refrigerator for a few weeks with no power.       Think about fish carcasses left in a cooler. Think about meat left outside in the sun or road kill that has maggots crawling all in it. The odor is overpowering and so thick you can taste it. Now you’re getting a sense of what abomination means. “The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord.” The way indicates lifestyle, habits, outside actions, and inner thoughts. This is who they are and that’s why they are an abomination. It’s not that God doesn’t love them as a person. So you’re asking how can such harsh words be spoken by Solomon on behalf of God? Do your kids ever do anything that is detestable to you? Have they ever acted in a manner contrary to your rules? Have they ever been disobedient? Thoughtless? Careless? Have they ever done something their own way instead of the way you prescribed? Of course you still love them. We wrongly conclude that just because God hates something, that somehow contradicts His love. Paul said in Rom. 5:8, But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners,  Christ died for us.” The only way to be set free from wickedness is through the power of the Holy Spirit through salvation. The wicked do it their way and that is not acceptable to God.

There is an important principle I don’t want you to miss. The contrast to the wicked is that God, “loves one who pursues righteousness.” Pursue means follow after. There is an understanding by the writers of Scripture that when you pursue righteousness, you will grow more and more like Christ. That righteousness will get noticed by God and by people following God. Let me tell you about two men from the olden days: one named Paul and the other named Timothy. When you look at how they met in Lystra, it’s pretty exciting. There are people that believe Paul led Timothy to the Lord, but Scripture doesn’t support that. Acts 16:1-2 says, “Paul also came to Derbe and Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium.” The brethren of Lystra, the followers of Christ, spoke well of Timothy – he was already a disciple; a follower of Christ. That’s why Paul wanted Timothy to go with him as he continued his second missionary journey. Then in his first letter to Timothy, Paul gives him instructions for what to do because he will be left in Ephesus as Paul makes his way to Macedonia. As Paul gets to chapter six, he goes into some character qualities that are not consistent with the way of Christ. In 1 Tim 6:11 Paul says, “But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” Pursue is an action word. Timothy is ordered to pursue, to run after, to seek after those godly characteristics with the idea that you will get increasingly closer to the goal. It’s a non-stop activity. In Phil. 3:13 Paul said, “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.” Paul wrote those words about 30 years after his conversion to Christ. We have a mindset that everything should come quickly. Paul was still reaching forward, was still pursuing, was not quitting even after decades of faithful service to Christ. God loves that quality in us. He loves when we keep going. He loves how we get more and more like His one and only Son.

There is a but. While God loves those that pursue righteousness because the idea is you are running after Jesus, there is an alternate reality for many people. “Grievous punishment is for him who forsakes the way; he who hates reproof will die.” Notice who the punishment is reserved for. He expects us to pursue righteousness, but these people are forsaking the way. 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. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14) Few people will find the way. There are many reasons for that and ultimately, the choice is an individual choice. I wonder if we put as much effort into persuading people to live for Christ as we did to persuade people to vote for a certain candidate, how would our communities change? I wonder if we put as much effort into our relationship with Christ as we did our jobs, how would our community change? I wonder if we put as much effort into our walk with Christ as we did anything else on this earth, how would our lives be different and also, how would the lives of those around us be different? Few people find the way of Jesus because we have professing believers not living for Jesus. Yes, everyone has a decision to make, but Solomon is saying the, “grievous punishment is for those that forsake the way.” That means they must know what the way is, they just don’t want anything to do with it. When you point it out, the wicked hate it. God wants a relationship with everyone and as Peter says, The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9)

While that is true, there will be people – many people – that reject the truth of Jesus Christ. “Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord.” It would be easy to conclude that Solomon is talking about the destination of the wicked and at first glance that’s what I thought. We’ve got to look at this in the context of the chapter. Sheol is a Hebrew word to identify the place of the dead whether righteous or wicked. Job 26:6 says, “Naked is Sheol before Him, and Abaddon has no covering.” Solomon is saying that God knows what’s going on in every corner of every place. There are no limits to His presence; nothing is hidden from Him. Since this is true, Solomon concludes, “How much more the hearts of men!” The heart is the seat of emotion, the center of our being, and the source of what comes out in our life. Matt. 15:19, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” You can’t fool God.

Everything about the wicked is a stench to God. Of course God wants everyone to come to the conclusion that He is the only way and choose to follow Him. His ways are right and holy and pure, but time is running out. There is a time coming that will be too late, where the choice made is an eternal choice. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thes. 4:16-18)

You can do it your way and spend eternity separated from Him or do it His way and spend eternity with Him. It seems like it’s an easy choice.

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

Church Shopping?

13 Jan

ShoppingA Facebook friend recently posted that his family was in a new place and had begun week #1 of church shopping. It sounds innocuous enough, but I think there are some real underlying themes there that are overriding traditional church culture and is indicative of where we are in the church today.

While finding a church home is not as critical as other decisions, it’s not to be taken too lightly either. I’ve heard many people use this phrase and it gives an indication that if you keep shopping, you’ll find a better bargain. Have you ever scoured the internet or searched sale papers looking for the best deal for a purchase? As soon as you pull the trigger and buy or order the item, you see the same thing advertised at a better deal. Shopping can be really exciting and fun, but it can also be a real bummer.

Does God’s desire come into play or are we like an excited bride looking for the perfect dress for her wedding? Wedding dresses have become such big business that we now have reality TV shows that follow brides seeking that perfect dress. Tirelessly trudging from store to store with the idea that there is the perfect dress out there . . . you’ve just got to be willing to find it.

Well Captain Obvious, churches are not dresses. You’re right. But when we shop for a church, we convince ourselves that there are better deals, better bargains, and more choices if we just keep looking. I live in a military town and there is a fairly high rate of turnover with people transferring in and out. Unfortunately, God seems to be consulted a lot more frequently about a dress than He is about where to serve. It’s not a life ending choice . . . about the dress or a church. At our church I’ve heard from people’s own mouths that they’ve been looking for a church for years. I think the longest I’ve heard is five years of searching. It took less time to build the Golden Gate Bridge. Paul’s first missionary journey took less time. So did his second and third. What in the world are you looking for? People today are significantly more transitional then they used to be. It’s not unusual for someone not in the military to move every three or four years. Why do people delay in committing to a church? There it is . . . commitment. People are quicker to jump into relationships than they are a church. What if it’s the “wrong” church? What is a wrong church?

I’ve often said there are three things to look for in a church. When I say church, I’m referring to a New Testament church. I remember speaking at a church years ago discussing their future and I preached from Acts 2. I asked the question, “Are you functioning as a New Testament church?” The leader of the church, a 78 year old woman (that’s another story), told me, “No.” That church was dead, they knew it, but they didn’t care. Okay here are the three:

  1. Does the pastor preach biblically based messages?
  2. Does the church care about the community?
  3. Are the people mostly friendly?

There are a number of other benchmarks I would include (doctrine, theology, missions, vision, accountability, etc.), but if a church has these three, then you can enter into further discussion with the leadership about those other important areas. People have got to quit browsing the spiritual buffet to determine where God wants them. Oh, well church X has something for the kids, but church Y doesn’t so we’ll go to church X. In my own ears someone told me, “We’re looking for something for our kids, they’ve never even sat with us in church.” Huh? It doesn’t matter how awesome a church’s student group is if the pastor never preaches from the Bible.

Here’s the deal, if you’re looking for the perfect church: STOP! You’ll only mess it up by going there. Be intentional about plugging in. Take advantage of what is offered. Don’t wait to be asked to serve or participate. Time is short and eternity is long. Do what you can to show people the way there. Get in the game and live out your faith. Do not be a lone ranger Christian.

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.”

Giving May be the Best Barometer

2 Jun

BarometerYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we looked at the certain destruction and ruin the pursuit of riches brings. Instead of pursuing riches, we are to, “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.” The question that remains is what is your attitude about giving financially to the church? Is it a burden to you? Is it an obligation? Do you see it as a ministry to the saints? This morning we’ll look at something that folks may not want to hear about. In this passage from Paul, he repeatedly refers to giving as a gracious work.

In 2 Cor. 8:7-9 Paul says, “But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also. I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”

Paul begins by reminding them of how far the Lord had brought them in their Christian walk. Corinth had been known for its immorality. Temple prostitution was the norm. The people of Corinth took to listening to the wisdom of men. The Corinthians satisfied all their fleshly desires without condemnation until God intervened through Paul’s preaching. It had been a long journey, but they are growing in Christ. He says they abound. That word means exist in large numbers or amounts. He speaks of their faith, utterance (speech), knowledge, earnestness, and love. These are great qualities to have, but Paul doesn’t tell them they have arrived. They have yet to achieve perfection. Paul is looking at one aspect of their faith they need some help on, they need some guidance, they need some encouragement. He tells them, “See that you abound in this gracious work also.” Paul is talking about giving.

So often when we talk about money, we speak of affordability. Mortgage companies make a house payment affordable, credit card companies give you a minimum you must pay; you can pay on a new car for seven years; there are payment plans for court fines. When we think of the gracious work of giving in light of affordability, we miss the real point of giving. Giving is not about the haves and the have nots. We have been through this before, but maybe we still haven’t really grasped the opportunity and responsibility of giving. Perhaps you’ve convinced yourself that the Lord isn’t talking to you, that you are somehow exempt from this teaching.

I encourage you to take the time and read 2 Cor. 8:1-6. Let’s take a closer look at this example. Have you ever thought, “If I was rich then I’d be happy,” or “If this situation was gone, then I’d be happy.” When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, the Macedonians were in a state of, “Great ordeal of affliction.” Ordeal means a prolonged painful or horrific experience. Not only were they experiencing a great deal of affliction, but they were experiencing deep poverty. Deep means an extreme point on a scale of extent. It means exceedingly great or very very. Keep these definitions in mind and read v. 2 again. Did you see the contrast? Even though they were going through all this horrible stuff, they had an, “Abundance of joy” that was expressed, “In the wealth of their liberality.” Abundance means a very large quantity, plentiful. Christian joy has nothing to do with outward circumstances. For the Macedonians, joy + poverty + affliction = wealth. There is no banker in the world that can do math like that, but that’s how the equation works in the Kingdom of God.

To say that Paul was pleased with the Macedonian believers would be an understatement. He uses them as an example of what the grace of God does in the hearts of believers. He’s not playing one church off of another. It’s not a competition to raise more money. The amount is not what Paul is after; he’s after the attitude or the spirit behind the giving. The problem with that though, is the spirit is hard to measure. At the end of the year, we don’t give a record of the spirit of your giving; we give a record of the amount of your giving. There is no measuring stick for attitude. Paul was no dummy, he knew people and he knew how money can be a wall between us and the unstoppable power of God. Paul tells us the really incredible thing in vs. 3-4. They gave according to their ability and beyond. Their giving was not motivated because of a surplus; there was no surplus. They had deep poverty. Paul didn’t badger them for money. They gave of their own accord and not only that; they begged him for the chance to participate. It was because of the grace of God in v. 1 that they were not only able to give, but able to give beyond their ability. Paul is encouraging the believers at Corinth to excel in this area like they excel in the areas of faith, speech, knowledge, and earnestness.

Paul knows the Macedonians provided a practical example of giving, but v. 9 provides our ultimate example. Paul’s not talking about material wealth because that’s not consistent with the Macedonian example. So Paul must be talking about spiritual riches. Riches that cannot be taken away. Treasure in heaven. Christ became poor by submitting Himself to the cruel and humiliating death He suffered because of us.  2 Cor. 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” The 19th Century commentator Cornelius Lapide wrote, “Christ was made poor that we through His poverty might be rich. He took the form of a servant that we might regain liberty. He descended that we might be exalted. He was tempted that we might overcome. He was despised that He might fill us with glory. He died that we might be saved. He ascended, to draw to Himself those lying prostrate on the ground through sin’s stumbling block.”

Don’t think that if you’re a giver you can ignore the clear teaching of the rest of Scripture. We need to break out of the American church consumer mentality of what I can get from the church or what can the church do for me. As Christians, we need to be reminded that the church is the primary vehicle by which God accomplishes His work. We are not called to be lone rangers, but to partner together in a common goal to reach our community for Christ. You can’t use your service to the Lord as an excuse not to give. “I teach so I don’t have to give.” Etc. I encourage you to prayerfully consider this matter of stewardship in your life and ask God what you can do.

A Tale of Two Men

21 Apr

TransformationYou can listen to the podcast here.

This time of year brings about lots of changes. The trees get new leaves, the flowers bloom, and the grass comes back to life. Our students took a break from school and eagerly await summer vacation. Is this what Easter has become in our culture? Is it just another day, another time of year that bridges the gap to something better? If Easter represents the risen Christ, what significance does that hold for us today?

We are in an age where simple profession of faith has replaced transformation. Churches seek the right mix of charismatic leaders to draw the crowds. Find the right mix of musicians, creative teams, and speakers and it doesn’t even have to be a Christian church. Elaborate, high energy worship services filled with emotion seem to draw the bigger crowds and people look around and conclude, “God must be doing something here.” In order to more effectively understand Easter, we need to go back in time. Does the resurrected Christ represent the same thing today as it did back in the first century? For many people in our culture, Easter is part of the semi-annual pilgrimage to church. For others, it represents the culmination of the truth that was foretold from the beginning of time. The church was growing dramatically in the first century and continues to grow at a rapid rate in countries where it is most dangerous to be a follower. I want to look at a first century man that was considered extraordinarily religious, yet was not a Christian.

This is a tale of two people. Stephen was an example of Christ like behavior and our story picks up as his life is ending. I hope you’ll take the time to look up the Scripture references. Look at Acts 7:51-57. Stephen was brought before the religious leaders of the day. They were the Sanhedrin, the elders, and the scribes and he was brought before them because of his testimony of Christ. He told them the truth about the history of Israel telling the leaders about Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and David. They had received the law yet did not keep it. This was total hypocrisy and when Stephen pointed this fact out, they became outraged. So outraged that they took him outside the city and began stoning him where we focus on a man whose story is just beginning.

Look at Acts 7:58-60. Who is this cruel, wicked, evil, heartless man that was so opposed to Stephen that he just stood there? His name was Saul. Stephen and Saul were polar opposites. Stephen is full of the Holy Spirit and Saul is without the Spirit. But Saul is more than an innocent bystander. Keep reading Acts 8:1-3. There was no coercion for Saul, he heartily agreed with what was happening. Heartily means loudly vigorous and cheerful. Think cheering like at a sporting event. The persecution of the church in Jerusalem began that day at the hands of Saul forcing Christians to scatter and Saul begins, “ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.” Ravaging means to cause extensive damage, to devastate. Saul wasn’t content to do this in public settings; no he went in people’s homes and dragged them out and it didn’t matter if they were men or women, he was an equal opportunity hater. To say that he was evil incarnate might be an understatement. But something happened in his life that would change the course of his life and change the course for humanity. Read some more from Acts 9:1-22.

Saul is an example of a total life make over. I want to compare his life prior to Christ with his life following his decision to follow Christ. The key for Saul was written in v. 18, “And he got up and was baptized.” We have to understand the biblical meaning of this word. It wasn’t just that he got put under the water. Biblical baptism comes after a change of mind and heart. It is the outward demonstration of what happened in Saul’s heart. It was a miracle. When you look at Saul’s life, there was a complete and total transformation that could only be attributed to the power of the Spirit of God. Look what happened immediately following Saul’s baptism. Read Acts 9:19b-22. Saul went from destroying Christians to preaching the risen Christ. What he was saying so upset the religious crowd – the Jews – that they developed a plot to kill him. The tables are now turned on Saul. The hunter now becomes the hunted.

In order to protect him, look what happens in Acts 9:26-30. We don’t hear anything about Saul until Acts 11 when Barnabas was sent to get him in Tarsus. Are you thinking, that’s just two chapters over? Even though it’s just two chapters, those two chapters represent about 14 years. Another year passes before the Bible calls this man Paul in Acts13:9. We don’t know all that went on in those silent years of Paul’s life, but I’m sure he knew firsthand the meaning behind 1 Cor. 2:14 as he wrote, “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.” We often think that Saul got saved, God changed his name to Paul and he packed his bags and began his first missionary journey. That just isn’t so. There was a period of years where he must have studied the Scriptures with fresh insight and renewed vigor. We know he taught some and shared the Gospel during that time. He was preparing for ministry during the time he was engaged in ministry. We do get insight that God had big plans for Paul from Acts 9:15, but for about 15 years, Paul did what he could where he could. Paul had a lot of baggage and I’m sure people had their doubts about his authenticity. This is evident in his later writings. Paul mentions his turnaround I his letters to the Corinthians, the Galatians, the Philippians, and to Timothy.

There was such a radical transformation in Paul’s life that after his first recorded sermon (which was off the cuff) in Acts 13, the people begged him to speak again the following Sabbath. Look at Acts 13:42-44. That kind of turnaround can only be attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul went from being a persecutor of the church to one that was persecuted because of his faith. Why should we expect less of modern day people that are indwelt by the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead that we celebrate today? One last passage from Phil. 3:3-6. You see, Saul was very religious, but had no relationship with Christ. His attempts to get to God were fruitless because Jesus said, I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (Jo. 14:6) That’s the key to get to God. Saul resisted Jesus for the same reason we resist Jesus. We think we can make it on our own. We think we make the rules, we think we’re doing good and right in our own eyes. Easter is about the resurrection. 1 Cor. 15:17 says, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” Easter is about acknowledging what Christ did on our behalf and trusting that His words are true.

The teaching of Jesus was countercultural and it still is. We talk about self sufficiency and Christ speaks of total dependence. Living authentically for Christ is the best way to show others He is alive. Saul was a religious zealot, Paul considered himself the chiefest of sinners. That can only be accomplished through the work of a holy and perfect God. We don’t see a period where he did nothing for Jesus, we don’t see a period where he was too busy to serve, too busy to study, pray, or be with fellow believers. We don’t see where he ever quit or gave up when things got hard or didn’t go as expected. For all the incredible things Paul did through the power of God, his main purpose in life, his main goal is found in Phil. 3:7-11. It should be our goal too.

Beware of Twisters

3 Sep

TwisterCheck out the podcast for this message here.

Last week Peter told us to live intentionally; that’s what God expects. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the Holy Spirit can take up residence in your heart and nothing changes. This morning, Peter continues drawing from the conclusion he started in v. 14 and adds some additional instructions.

2 Pet. 3:15-16 says, And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”

But wait there’s more! Verse 15 is tied to v. 14 by the article, “and.” In addition to being, “found at peace in Him, blameless and spotless,” Peter says, “And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.” We’re diligently pursuing a life of holiness because the power of God resides within us giving us not just a desire to be blameless and spotless, but the power to be blameless and spotless. Since we are zealous in our pursuit of Christ, the delay in His coming should be regarded as providing us with additional opportunities to tell people about Jesus, to share the Gospel with people so they can repent and be saved. Remember God’s deepest desire is to reconcile humanity with Himself through the finished work of Christ. Once He returns, it’s game over for lost people. They cannot make a decision for Christ when, “He descends from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God.” (1 Thes. 3:16) No time for lost people to say, “Okay, now I believe.” The door that is Jesus Christ will close. At the same time, I wonder how many professing believers will be ashamed at the lack of zeal they had for Christ on earth. I wonder how many Christians that are content to live a life of mediocrity now will look back at the lives they lived. Our perspective would change if we’d look at things through the eyes of God. We know the answer to life’s problems and challenges and His name is Jesus! Let’s not use our time on earth to pursue temporary things. Let’s use our remaining time on earth to live a life that pleases the King and brings glory to His name. It’s not about us, it’s about Jesus! Remember what Peter said in the beginning of this letter in 2 Pet. 1:3, “God has granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness.” We have the power to live a life that is spotless and blameless because of Jesus. Use this transformed lifestyle along with God’s patience and His delay in sending Jesus back as an opportunity to evangelize.

Here’s an interesting tidbit. Peter mentions Paul. Don’t you just love people that name drop? It seems to creep into all aspects of life. Peter drops a name, but is it the same thing we do? He says in v. 15, “Just as our beloved Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you.” It’s not a casual name drop like we do when we don’t really know the people. Paul wrote about these same two exhortations Peter mentions. Scripture always interprets Scripture. The pronoun, “our” links Paul with Peter and the other apostles. Paul’s letters are a manifestation of the Holy Spirit of God. So why did Peter feel the need to say that Paul taught these things too? It seems that some of these false teachers and mockers had twisted the words of Paul to fit their own agendas. Remember these people are not misinformed students of God’s Word that have taken some verses out of context. They’re not overzealous teachers eager to teach people the way of truth and somehow messed it up. These people are intentionally leading infant Christians astray with their unbiblical teaching.

Look at v. 16 and see how Peter explains it. Peter acknowledges that some parts of Scripture are hard to understand, but that should not prevent us from trying. Paul told Timothy very clearly, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.” (2 Tim. 2:15-18) The best way to combat false or wrong teaching is to be a student of God’s Word. Imagine being named in Scripture as someone that has gone astray. Someone that has gone off the path of righteousness. Remember the false teachers were pushing a licentious, sensual lifestyle saying it didn’t matter how you live because Christ was not returning and therefore there is no coming judgment. They twisted Paul’s words in passages like Rom. 6:1-7. When you read and understand this foundational letter, “I can’t help” it is not an acceptable excuse to ignore or excuse sin. Paul is clear that once you enter a relationship with Christ, you are no longer a slave to sin; sin doesn’t have dominion over you.

“The untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their destruction.” Before we analyze this phrase, we need to understand some words. Untaught literally means ignorant. Unstable means likely to change or collapse. Distort means twist out of shape. One of the worst things a Bible study teacher or leader to ask is what do you think that means? Back in 2:14, the false teachers were, “enticing unstable souls.” Now the unstable are distorting or twisting Paul’s writings, and they do it to their own destruction. We’ve seen throughout 2 Peter that destruction refers to an eternal punishment. What they were doing was not an issue of a minor point of doctrine, but they were using Paul’s words to justify their immoral lifestyles. This isn’t the first time Paul’s writing were misunderstood. In 1 Cor. 5:9-11 Paul said, “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler – not even to eat with such a one.” The Corinthians misunderstood what Paul said. Paul was not the kind of preacher that taught a feel good message that changed with the times to remain relevant. His words are the words of God Himself.

1 Cor. 14:37 says, “If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment.” The Word of God is not just another book. It is God’s history, instructions, commands, expectations, and promises for us. We don’t use it as a weapon to destroy people, but as a light to show people the path to salvation. We use it to get to know the One that transforms our mind, heart, and soul. We don’t need to make it more attractive, or more palatable for the lost, or more relevant to the hip crowd, or more entertaining for the over stimulated teenagers. The Bible is the book of the Lord. (Is. 34:16), the book of the Law (Neh. 8:3, Gal. 3:10), the good Word of God (Heb. 6:5), the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, it is the Word of Truth; it is the Word of Life!

Significant damage has been accomplished by people that attempt to shape God into something He is not. They twist the truth of God and the Bible to fit what they believe God to be without ever attempting to get to know God through His revelation to us. They wrongly conclude things about Him that are not in keeping with the character revealed throughout His Word and throughout history. We cannot allow people to morph God into something He is not. We are to lovingly refute those that contradict sound doctrine.

The Truth about Mockers

22 Jul

MockerYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Peter fired up his readers by reminding them of what they knew. It’s good to be reminded of what we know. Specifically Peter was reminding them of the O.T. holy prophets and the apostles of the N.T. – he’s talking about the Bible. This morning, Peter tells his readers why they need to know what the prophets and apostles have said and gives us a modern day warning.

2 Pet. 3:3-4 says, Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”

First things first. He fired up his readers by reminding them of what they knew in the Bible. We should remind people of what the Bible says. It is our standard, it is our compass, but if we don’t look at it, or don’t refer to it, it can’t help us. That’s why I continually encourage and challenge you to get in the Word for yourself so you can be confident in who God is and what He has done and continues to do in your life. Peter sets it up by saying, “Know this first of all.” A better translation would be, “You understand or recall.” You go back in your mind and recall something you have known. He’s bringing back their current situation to what was spoken of by the holy prophets and apostles. Here’s the time identifier: “In the last days.” Throughout history people have tried to identify when the last days will arrive and there’s lots of confusion. The phrase “last days” is pretty common in Scripture appearing in the Old and New Testaments. Luke seemed to think the last days began when Christ was crucified, died, was buried, rose again, and ascended to heaven. Acts 2:17 reminds us, “‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams.’”

So what’s going to happen in the last days? Peter says, “Mockers will come with their mocking.” Paul warned of the same thing Acts 20:29-30, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” Peter believed the last days had arrived because of the presence of false teachers in the church. Jesus also warned of this in Matt. 24:11, “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.” So our current events should come as no surprise to us. The troubling thing is that we’re seeing mocking from within the church walls. We’ve shifted from churches that equip people for ministry to churches that entertain. We’ve shifted from sanctified believers in the church to seekers and attenders. We’ve moved from churches with purpose to churches with programs. We’ve diverted from pure biblical doctrine to sentimental feelings. We’ve distorted the character of God. We’ve reduced the transforming power of the Gospel to simple profession. Mockers are here and they’re doing just as Jesus, Peter, and the others promised. They are, “following after their own lusts.” They had no moral restraint, no values, no sense of propriety. They did as they pleased regardless of the roadblocks that God put in front of them. As Children of God, we’re to follow Christ; His standards, His goals, His desires. God replaces our desires with His desires and because we love Him, we keep His commandments. We don’t redefine God’s standards. We don’t throw away His Word in favor of what we believe to be a more modern, relevant, situational or circumstantial type value system. Right is right and wrong is wrong and it’s been that way since the beginning.

It gets worse. Not only do they follow after their own lusts, but they’re saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?” You can hear skepticism and mocking in their tone. Each day that goes by without the Lord’s return brings more mocking. It happened back in Ezekiel’s day too: Ez. 12:22, “Son of man, what is this proverb you people have concerning the land of Israel, saying, ‘The days are long and  every vision fails’?” How many people wrongly conclude that since judgment is not immediate that God must be okay with what’s going on in the world today? You probably won’t get many people to admit that it’s okay to live immorally or with a lifestyle that contradicts Scripture, but research indicates that’s exactly what people believe. A Barna study concluded last month discovered that the biblical absolute against same sex relationships have changed over the past 10 years. 70% of practicing Christians define marriage as a union of a man and a woman. 50 % of Catholics hold to the same definition. Why the shift? Even in the church, we’re sometimes unwilling to stand with God and because we don’t know the Word, we get duped. We have church leaders engaged in adulterous affairs, white collar crime, and all sorts of other ungodly behavior. Would it be different if God acted quickly? Eccl. 8:11 says, “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.” That’s why we stick the unchanging truth of God’s Word to determine our morality. The false teacher’s reasoning is that, “Ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning.” In other words, God created everything then took a hands off approach. Whatever happens, happens because God’s not involved in our lives. The false teachers reasoned that the judgment that was supposed to be coming never arrived, so they wrongly concluded that Jesus isn’t coming back. Jesus spoke of His return in John 14, Matt. 24, and Luke 12 just to name a few places. Paul spoke of Jesus’ return in 1 Cor. 15 and 1 Thes. 4. The triumphant conclusion comes in Rev. 1:7-8 that says, “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him even those who pierced Him and all the tribes of earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. I am the Alpha and Omega says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Jesus is coming back, but don’t wait until then to start living for Christ because by then, it is too late.

Ignore the people that proclaim a gospel that does not transform you. Ignore the people that say it doesn’t matter how you live. Ignore the people that deviate from biblical truth. Stand with purity, stand with morality, stand with biblical truth; stand with God.