Tag Archives: Poverty

Sharing is Caring

10 Jul

You can watch and listen to the message here.

Last week, the disciples were ordered to stop preaching in the name of Jesus and they responded in prayer. They established a pattern for prayer that we should follow in our lives: pray first, pray together, pray with confidence, pray biblically, and pray expectantly. As we continue our journey through Acts, we’ll see how vital prayer is in accomplishing the mission God has set before us. This morning, we’ll see what happens when people are truly transformed by God.

Acts 4:32-35 says, “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.”

Let’s be clear on something. The disciples have just prayed and God answered by shaking the place where they were and they were, “filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” This is not a contradiction to 2:4. They were empowered again by the Holy Spirit which leads to v. 32. Luke tells us, “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul.” The word congregation is better translated multitude. At this point in the young church, there are at least 8120 men. There had to be lots of women and children that aren’t numbered so it’s reasonable to conclude that the number of believers far exceeds 8120. Don’t use this as an excuse to justify the attendance at a particular church as a measure of success. The point Luke is making here is that of those people that made up the assembly that believed in the finished work of Jesus Christ, those that made a profession of faith and lived like Jesus, those people, “Were of one heart and soul.” You’ve heard that phrase heart and soul before. It should be obvious that Luke is not talking about a physical heart or soul, but a spirit of oneness, a spirit of togetherness, a spirit of community. This passage is very similar to 2:42-47, but one theme stands out in this passage compared to the previous passage at the end of chapter 2.

The overarching premise here is that of unity. This spirit of unity led them to do something very contrary to our way of thinking. “And not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.” That doesn’t mean they didn’t own anything themselves. This isn’t some justification for socialism or a misguided notion of fairness. The idea of fairness is running rampant through our society. We think it’s not fair that someone has a better car than we do. It’s not fair that my kid doesn’t get a trophy. It’s not fair that they got promoted and I didn’t. The idea of fairness has spread to the church too. It’s not fair that they get to teach and I don’t. It’s not fair they get to sing and I don’t. Thankfully, we haven’t really experienced those kinds of things at 3RC.

The defining point where selfishness gives way to selflessness is found in that word, “believed.” Jesus always transforms the heart. Show me someone that remains the same after salvation, and I’ll show you someone that is not genuinely saved. Only in the modern church do we deemphasize the power of God and accept simple profession of faith without corresponding transformation. The murderer Saul was radically transformed into the Apostle Paul. The greedy tax collector Zaccheus was transformed to the point that he gave away half his wealth and if he cheated someone he paid back four times the amount. Peter was an uneducated fisherman and forsook all he knew to follow Christ and was transformed into the leader of the Apostles. Don’t tell me that God doesn’t have the power to transform lives today. The same power that transformed those Bible guys, transformed me. Paul told us, “In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Eph. 4:22-24)

These believers were so radically transformed, they had all things in common. We tend to think of things as our own. I earned it; it’s my money; it’s my room; it’s my toy; it’s my guitar. This selfish nature is destroyed by Christ. Our attitude should be, what’s mine is yours. If you need it, I have it. “And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.” The apostles continued telling people about what they saw after Jesus died. The resurrection of Christ is a pivotal event in the history of the world. I don’t have the time to go through all the reasons why it’s so important, but the short answer is that Jesus’ resurrection confirms the Old Testament prophecies of Messiah and it validates who He said He was.

At this point, Luke focuses on one particular aspect in the life of the new believers and that is sharing. This idea of sharing is nothing new to these people. Luke mentioned the idea of common property in v. 32. This goes back to the ideals of Greek society attributed to Pythagorean and Plato that there is no private ownership of anything. That ideal likely never materialized, but the concept would not be foreign to the people that the Apostles are now teaching. This idea of sharing is more in keeping with the Old Testament promises of God. Deut. 15:4-5 says, “However, there will be no poor among you, since the Lord will surely bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, if only you listen obediently to the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all this commandment which I am commanding you today.” These believers were experiencing the power of God and, “abundant grace was upon them all.” Peter referenced the last days in 2:17 and they are experiencing God’s blessing in 4:33, and now they are working toward the ideal that there should be no poor people among them.

Is this an ideal or is it something that can actually be achieved? Again, we can point to society today where we have so called experts saying it’s not fair that executives make so much money. We have government programs for people that fall below a certain income level. We have government grants that are available for some people to go to college. We have Obama phones because everyone needs a cell phone. These are all programs designed to even the playing field of society. But did these first century believers seek to even the playing field? I can answer that with one emphatic word: no.

So how did it work? Look at vs. 34-35. There were believers that had property. They voluntarily and willingly sold property when there was a need. There is no evidence to suggest this was mandatory, but when a need arose, they sacrificed some of what they owned and laid the proceeds at the feet of the apostles. Before you go and put your house on the market, this is what they used to do. Now if the Lord is leading you to do this, by all means go ahead and do it. In reality, we have to go back to the first century context of what a need is. A need is to require something because it is essential or very important rather than just desirable.

Over the years, I have become very jaded over the subject of needs. The vast majority of people that have come across my path wanting help from the church are not affiliated with any church and are not affiliated with Jesus Christ. Somewhere along the way, the church has become the go to place to make ends meet. From car repairs to cable bills, from rent to utilities, from gas to medical bills, I have seen a lot. Strangers coming to the church expecting to get what they want. They want the church to help them because they think that’s the way it should be. Before you get all judgmental on me and say we should help our folks, most people that come to the church wanting money are not in need; they are in want. I have watched people spend foolishly then come to the church and expect to be bailed out. If you have ever been involved with church finances, you will quickly agree. We will help our members in one way or another. It might be with money, but it also might be with biblical, financial counsel, and accountability. Sometimes we talk about giving up that Starbucks or passing on a new outfit, or you’ll be encouraged to eat at home instead of eating out and then we can give to a good church cause, but these early believers were selling property and land to meet the needs of other believers.

We have such abundance in the church. We fill our homes with stuff and when it overflows, we put stuff in the attic, then is spills into the garage, then we build a shed, and that overflows so we put our stuff in a storage unit. We end up paying money to store stuff we don’t use and likely won’t use. Why? Because we’ve bought into the idea of the American dream. I’ve never heard of the Honduran dream or the Brazilian dream, or the Paraguayan dream. The American Dream was publicly defined in 1931 by historian James Truslow Adams. He coined the phrase in his book, Epic of America. In the book, he says, “The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” He goes on to say the American Dream is not, “. . . a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.

The America Dream seems contrary to the example of the early church. Maybe you’ll point out that what the early church did was descriptive and not prescriptive. You might say, “We don’t have to sell our houses and land to meet people’s needs,” and I would agree. I think it would be appropriate to look at an Old Testament passage from a book few people have read let alone studied. Take the time to turn to Haggai 1. To quickly set the context, a remnant had returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon. There is economic hardship in the land of Judah. Look at the five things Haggai says is going on in vs. 5-6. Even though they’ve planted a bunch of crops, they’re not getting much in the way of harvest. Since the harvest isn’t so good, there’s not much food to satisfy their hunger. There’s not enough to drink to quench their thirst – the word drunk here means satisfy fully. They just can’t keep warm with the clothes they have. For the people that do work, it seems like they just put their money into a pocket full of holes where it disappears. The people have got to be thinking, “How in the world can we afford to rebuild the temple when we can’t even afford to take care of our families?” Many today would ask the same question, “How can I afford to sow into the work of the Lord, when I’m having trouble making ends meet?” I cannot afford to tithe or give.

In v. 7, the Lord says, “Consider your ways.” Haggai doesn’t stop there. Look at vs. 8-11. The real call is to evaluate your priorities. Have you ever thought that perhaps your current economic situation is a result of misplaced priorities? The people of Haggai’s time sure didn’t. They were content to hang out in their paneled houses all the while neglecting God’s house. In other words, they were more concerned about how their own houses looked. Their priorities were messed up. These early believers Luke is talking about are way different than the remnant that returned to Jerusalem. I think it’s fair to ask, is your attitude more like those exiles that returned to Jerusalem or these early believers? The early believers sold their stuff when there was a need and brought the proceeds to the Apostles. In the church today, we operate a little differently. We receive tithes and offerings as a way to support the mission of the church God established in Scripture and to fulfill the vision of your pastors. That financial support typically comes in through giving a portion of the wages people earn through their vocation. The attitude of these first century believers demonstrates an attitude of sharing. We are grateful for all the Lord provides for us at 3RC and I don’t take for granted the blessings He has poured out on me. But sometimes, we focus more on what we don’t have than on what we do have and on what God can do. These believers used what God had blessed them with to meet the needs of others in the church.

What’s mine is yours. If you have a need, we must be willing to see those needs met. There is no reason anyone in the church should walk around naked or hungry, but if you have Netflix and the fastest interned available and can’t pay the electric bill, there’s some issues. As Paul said in Phil. 4:19, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Are We Supposed to Forgive and Forget?

12 Sep

forgive2Check out the podcast here.

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

Pro. 19:6-11 says, “Many will seek the favor of a generous man, and every man is a friend to him who gives gifts. All the brothers of a poor man hate him; how much more do his friends abandon him! He pursues them with words, but they are gone. He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will find good. A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will perish. Luxury is not fitting for a fool; much less for a slave to rule over princes. A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.”

This is not a new principle. We saw this briefly last week. “Many will seek the favor or a generous man, and every man is a friend to him who gives gifts. All the brothers of a poor man hate him; how much more do his friends abandon him; He pursues them with words, but they are gone.” This just goes to reaffirm the idea that rich people attract others. Rich people can get places with their money. People fawn over rich people. Just look at the entertainment and sports industries. Because of their fame and fortune, society seeks these people out for guidance, wisdom, their ideas, and their opinions. I’ve always thought it strange that celebrities and sports figures frequently are asked their opinion on matters they know nothing about. They’re sought out simply because they are famous. What is this infatuation we have with celebrities? We even have paparazzi follow them around taking pictures like we don’t know they go to the beach, or go shopping, or go out to eat. They tell us what movie or concert they went to, what they ate and if they’ve gained any weight. While rich people are sought after, have you ever thought about the fact that no one is taking pictures of the other side? Nobody follows the poor around. In fact, sometimes they are told to move along. They’re told they can’t be in public places. This is the exact application Solomon is talking about.

We hear a lot that God is no respecter of persons. That’s true, but when we use it in that application it refers to a Jew and Gentile comparison. “For there is no partiality with God.” (Rom. 2:11) Acts 10 records two visions: one that Cornelius had and one that Peter had. Cornelius’ vision included Peter coming to see him. Peter’s vision included a sheet coming down from the sky that had all kinds of four footed animals and creeping things in it. As he was contemplating the vision, the Spirit told him that three men sent by Cornelius were looking for him. Cornelius was of the Italian Cohort and is widely believed to be the first Gentile convert to Christ. In Acts 10:34 after Peter was told to go the home of Cornelius, he said, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality.” But Solomon is talking about the tendency we have. Ja. 2:1-7 speaks about what Solomon is talking about. It says, “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?” It is wrong to demonstrate favor because a person is rich. This is yet another example of how riches can affect a relationship with Christ. If this happens in the church, rich people can get the idea that God favors them which is very far from the truth.

Let’s do a quick review. “He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will find good.” Remember that, “No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.” (Eph. 5:29) Make an effort to gain wisdom; it will benefit your soul. Verse 9 is a direct restatement of v. 5.

Solomon gets pretty critical in the next verse. He says, “Luxury is not fitting for a fool; much less for a slave to rule over princes.” Luxury is a state of great comfort. Obviously what one considers luxurious might not be so to another. Our facilities here are quite plain and simple, nothing we would consider fancy. Compare our church to a common church in Southeast Romania, and it is quite luxurious. We have heating and air conditioning, indoor plumbing, running water, and padded seats. All of which are missing from your common village church in Romania. When we mention luxury, it can be attributed to a house, a car, a boat, or really anything that is over the top for the common person. Solomon says it makes no sense for a fool to live in the lap of luxury. The fool is out of place. He doesn’t know how to handle it because he has lived a life of foolishness. Think about the lottery winner. A January article on cleveland.com said about 70% of lottery winners end up bankrupt. “People who were little, ordinary people all of a sudden become extraordinary,” said Steve Lewit, CEO of Wealth Financial Group in Chicago. “They’re euphoric. They lose all sense of reality. They think they’re invincible and powerful. They think they’re Superman.” That certainly describes a fool, doesn’t it?

It is equally out of place for a, “Slave to rule over princes.” The fool we can get, but this part is challenging to understand. The best I can come up with is to compare this to the workplace. Employees are not slaves and supervisors and managers are not royalty, but this seems a good application. If given the chance, most entry level employees lack the breadth of knowledge and experience to effectively manage the company. Although they may say or think they can, they really can’t. They are most likely unqualified to lead so a leadership position is inappropriate. That’s what Solomon is saying. Over the years, they might gain the knowledge necessary to fill that position, but not right now.

Another review. “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” We’ve seen this principle before in Proverbs. “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.” (Pro. 14:29) And in Pro. 16:32: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.” It’s the same thing again, but with a modification I want to spend some time on. Solomon is reminding us of the spiritual gift of self-control. It’s easy to let yourself go and lose control. It’s easy to be angry right up until you realize what a fool you’ve made of yourself. Many of us can quote the Bible passage that tells us, “Be angry, and yet do not sin,” but we rarely quote the rest of the verse that gives us the rationale behind the command. That snippet is found in one of the most comprehensive chapters in Scripture regarding our daily lives. We looked at several verses a couple of weeks ago and it’s found in Ephesians 4. Paul painstakingly walks us through the rationale behind his words. The pinnacle of his reasoning is found in v. 22-24. “In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Former manner of life goes with the old self. The old self was being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit. The new self is renewed in the mind. The new self is in the likeness of God. The new self is created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Listen to the reason we’re not supposed to sin when we get angry: “do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” (Eph. 4:26b-27) If you get angry and you sin, you give the devil an opportunity. Opportunity is also translated place. Give the devil an inch and he’ll take a mile. Entertain one thought and he’ll flood your mind. The opposite of the discrete man is found in Pro. 14:17: “A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated.” It is far wiser to be slow to anger. It’s far wiser to consider your words. It’s far wiser to take a breath before speaking. The guy that is slow to anger, “It is to his glory to overlook a transgression.” Overlook here literally means ignore. Before you jump to conclusions, this does not mean that we should forgive and forget – a principle not found in the Bible. Should we forgive? Absolutely. Even if the person isn’t going to change? Absolutely. Even if the person doesn’t ask for it? Absolutely. Maybe you’re thinking that God forgets our sin. Heb. 8:12 says, “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”         That sounds an awful lot like forgive and forget. Let’s think about this for a second. Can God, who knows all things and sees all things, really forget something? The short answer is no, so what are we talking about?

When you put your faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross to atone for sin, you are positionally justified. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, it is just as if you had never sinned. The reason God forgets is because He looks at us and sees the atonement Christ made. Rom. 8:1 says, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We aren’t condemned for sin. Once you enter into an authentic relationship with Christ, it’s not a matter of heaven and hell. You are positionally safe, but you have to align that with other verses that talk about God’s desire that we put off the old self that fulfilled the desires of the flesh and we put on the new self. God doesn’t want us to sin and that should be our desire. So forgive and forget is not a viable reality. Is it hard to move forward? Paul said it like this: “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.” (Phil. 3:13) Don’t let Satan hold you hostage to your past. Overlook transgressions doesn’t mean that we throw wisdom out the window. The easiest way to understand this is to illustrate it. If someone has a history of theft, do we forgive him? Absolutely, but we aren’t going to make him the treasurer. If someone demonstrates a lack of discretion on social media, do we forgive them? Of course, but they aren’t going to be an administrator on our Facebook page. I think you get the idea. Forgiving behavior does not mean that appropriate consequences will not be handed down either by the church, the law, or your friends. What I find strange is that people who are suffering as a result of their decisions complain about the consequences from those decisions.

We did some review about money and learned that God doesn’t care how much you have. God’s position on money hasn’t changed and it shouldn’t impress us if people have a lot of money. It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury. It just doesn’t make sense and even if somehow they enter into a luxurious lifestyle, it won’t last long. We saw the importance of self-control. It is one of the bench marks of salvation. We went through the 4th Chapter of Ephesians. It’s a chapter I encourage you to review from time to time. Forgetting a wrong-doing does not mean no consequences will result. As an authentic believer, you are positionally secure in Jesus Christ. Because of this, you need to walk in a manner worthy of your calling.

Stretched Too Thin

29 Aug

StretchedYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week, Solomon talked about speech. Our words are powerful tools that can cause great harm and great joy. Be very careful in your speech and don’t be the guy that talks all the time. You do not get extra jewels in your crown for being verbose. Don’t talk just to hear yourself talk. We spent a lot of time on marriage and we will spend more time later in Proverbs. Finding a wife is a good thing and finding a wife whose ultimate goal is to live an authentic, passionate, and zealous life for Christ is something of immeasurable value. This morning, we’ll dig into biblical poverty and biblical friendship.

Our passage for today is found in Pro. 18:23-24 where Solomon says, “The poor man utters supplications, but the rich man answers roughly. A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Have we turned the corner on this? Our first verse speaks of something I think we need to get an accurate picture of so before we look at that verse, I’d like to give you some biblical perspective on this topic. In Matt. 26, the famous story is told of the precious ointment in the alabaster box. I encourage you to check out the account of the event in Matt. 26:6-13 because I want to focus on just a couple of key points. It’s never a waste to make financial sacrifice on behalf of Jesus. The disciples were, “indignant.” Indignant means feeling or showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment. They argued that the ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus’ response should serve as a warning to us. “For you will always have the poor with you.” Money is not the answer. It may provide temporary relief, but does not provide a solution. We’ve bought the lie that if we’re not giving to the poor, feeding the hungry, or clothing the naked, that we’re somehow failing as believers and as a church.

As I have shared, we get frequent calls from people needing monetary help with everything from their rent to vehicle repairs. Why do people call churches instead of calling a bank, or a convenience store, or a restaurant, or a realty company? Have you ever thought about that? Somewhere along the way, the church became the answer. According to National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), there are over 1.5 million charities in the United States. The largest organization with over 84 billion in assets might surprise you: the Harvard Corporation. Next at over 66 billion is the Kaiser Foundation, a national health care consortium. Third is one you probably have heard of. It’s the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation with assets over 54 billion. Those organizations are classified in the same 501(c)(3) category as churches. I wanted to give you this background to help you understand where we are. Over and over again in Scripture we are warned of the dangers of having an unbiblical view of money. Money is not evil. Whether you are rich or poor by some arbitrary, shifting standard is irrelevant to your status with God. Often in Scripture, the rich or greedy are spoken of in a negative light. “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income.” (Eccl. 5:10) “But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” (Lu.6:24-25) The opposite is often true regarding the poor. Maybe you’re familiar with the widow of Luke 21. The reality God shows us over and over again is that money can be a barrier in a person’s relationship with God.

So here’s the verse. “The poor man utters supplications, but the rich man answers roughly.” Poverty can be an incredible problem, but it can have a positive effect on your relationship with God. Supplication is the action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly. The poor person seeks help from God.  Rich people rarely learn to rely on God for provision. Unfortunately, many times our prayers of supplication turn into a glorified wish list that we want God to fulfill. It is absolutely okay to go to God for your needs. Ja. 4:2b says, “You do not have because you do not ask.” We often quote Phil. 4:19 where Paul reminds us, “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” What we fail to do is recognize the context in which Paul gave us that truth. Let’s take a look at the context. Another passage we need to understand is found in Phil 4:10-19. The Philippians had been long time investors in the Kingdom of God through Paul’s work. We use that ask not verse and neglect the remainder of the thought when James says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.” (Ja. 4:3a) Prosperity can lead to arrogance as well as a desire to hold onto what one has. Of course, that mentality takes God out of the equation when someone thinks that they have achieved something. Remember from a recent message: everything that occurs in this life is allowed by God. When the rich think they’re someone because of their wealth, they fall into that money trap. That’s what Solomon is saying here. The poor offer entreaties or supplications and in return, “The rich man answers roughly.” Just because you have achieved wealth or some status, does not give you the right to treat others harshly. As is often the case with Solomon, he offers a very distinct contrast between two types of people.

Can friendship lead to ruin? Michael W. Smith sang a song that said friends are friends forever. As with many things, we tend to stick to the good part and leave out the caveat or reason behind something. The rest of that line goes: “If the Lord’s the Lord of them.” The idea is that when the Lord reigns supreme in your life, then any issues or differences can easily be worked out. Solomon says, “A man of too many friends comes to ruin.” When I was growing up, I seemed to have multiple sets of friends. I had sports friends, neighborhood friends, school friends, and then I had my real friends. Too many friends can lead to trouble. There are the tag along friends, the fifth wheel friends, the needy friends. But those kind of people aren’t really friends. Friend is defined as a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations. A couple of months ago we looked at Pro. 17:17 where Solomon said, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” So you really can’t have too many friends can you? Solomon says if you do, you will come to ruin. If we understand that ruin literally means broken in pieces, I think we might begin to understand. When we have issues or hurts in life, we expect that our friends will come running and will be there for us. As I said in the message from Pro. 17:17, if you have one, two, or three real friends, consider yourself blessed. If you have too many friends, there won’t be much time to cultivate those relationships, to strengthen them, or to invest in them. Even if you don’t have any so-called real friends, Solomon reminds us, “But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” This is an often quoted verse to remind us of the friendship of Christ. Did you notice the contrast word? Solomon presents the idea that if you have too many friends, they will not be there for you, but there is One that always will be there. There is a friend that sticks closer to you than a blood relationship. Think about that. There is a closeness associated with blood relationships. As members of a family, you might argue or fight and generally not like one another for a time, but if someone goes against a member of your family, all bets are off, right? See, there’s a bond within the family.

Many people think that the friend Solomon is talking about is Jesus. Jesus certainly fits this profile. He became the Son of man in order for us to enter into the closest relationship possible between the Creator and the created. H. D. M. Spence-Jones said it this way, “More tenacious than the mere natural love of kindred, because [it is] founded on the affinity of soul with soul. All the purest types of earthly affection and friendship are but hints of the eternal love of Him who calls the soul into espousal, friendship, and eternal communion with himself.” The bond of Christ is stronger than the bond between family. But good exegesis is more important than eisegesis. The contrast is between a man of many friends and a man of few friends. When you have few friends, you have deeper relationships. It’s better to have a friend that sticks closer to you than any blood relative than it is to have a bunch of shallow acquaintances that call themselves friends. Jesus can be your friend, but He is much more than that.

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

The Work Ethic

25 Jul

Check out the podcast here.

Last week, we saw Solomon use the terms foolish and wicked interchangeably. Someone that says God’s Word is outdated or irrelevant will bring contempt for anything that is holy and pure, and godly. Even though fewer and fewer people are willing to stand in agreement with the unchanging Word of God does not mean you have to. Don’t dismiss the power of God to change your life. He can do it if you’ll allow Him to. A decision to follow Christ will bridge the gap in your understanding of things that are inexplicable, but there will always be things about God that cannot be understood. Biblical and godly wisdom provide an inexhaustible fountain of cool, refreshing living water. Don’t be a gossip. It hurts the one listening and the one that it’s about. This morning, we’ll continue looking at some current events.

Pro. 18:9-12 says, “He also who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys. The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe. A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own imagination. Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, but humility goes before honor.”

Who would have ever thought we’d be in times such as we are. I’m sure other generations have thought the same things about the times in which they were living. Solomon’s opening verse is really an eye opener. “He who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.” As with many of the words Solomon uses, we need to know what they mean before we can fully understand what he’s saying. Slack means careless, lazy, or negligent. Work means occupation or job. Before we talk about that, it’s understood that the guy Solomon refers to has a job; he has the opportunity to support himself. The problem he has is because of the way he performs, or perhaps a more accurate statement is does not perform his job. There are jobs that once you are hired, it’s really hard to get fired. If you do not do the job for which you were hired, you should be fired. People today talk about the jobless rate in America and normally the first week of the month, you hear the jobless rate for the previous month. It gets reported all over the media and those rates often drive the stock market which can drive interest rates and all the other inner workings of our economy. How would you define your work ethic? Our work ethic was given all the way back in the beginning of humanity. Gen. 2:15 says, “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it.” Adam was given a mandate by God Himself. Work was a joy for Adam and his wife and was part of the very good things that God created. It wasn’t until after the fall that work changed. In Gen. 3:17, God cursed the ground and work became hard and sorrowful.

Now let’s fast forward. As a worker, do you fall into Solomon’s category or the Apostle Paul’s? Paul said several things about work, but I want to highlight two verses. In 2 Thes. 3:10, Paul told the church. “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” He wasn’t being mean. If you’re able to work and do not, then you should not reap the benefits of those that do work. We’re not talking about people not able to work. We’re not talking about retired people that worked all their lives. Solomon and Paul are both talking about actually working to support yourself. Back in the old days, if you didn’t have a job, you kept looking until you found one and you were willing to do whatever you needed to do in order to earn an income. We seem to have taken a step backward in this idea. In Georgia, we have 12 government programs to help no or low income families. If you have a job and can’t make it, get another one. I know it can be difficult to get a job these days, but I always say that there is work for people that are willing to work. If you have a job, praise the Lord! Be the best worker you can be. If you have to be there at 9:00 a.m., be there 15 minutes early, not five minutes late. The other verse I want to share is one I’ve shared a number of times that’s found in Col. 3:23: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” Here’s what the rest of that passage says that will tie in nicely with what Solomon says, “knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.” Solomon says don’t be a slacker. If you’re a slack worker and get fired, don’t blame the employer for that firing. That’s what Paul is saying.

“He also who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.” Brother here doesn’t mean blood relationship, it means companion. Slackness and laziness lead to destruction. Laziness leads to waste. Solomon is saying that doing a poor job is as bad as actual destructiveness. If I were to go talk to your boss, and we all have bosses, and ask about your work ethic, what would they say? Are you the go to person at work? Are you the person that not only does their job, but does it with a great attitude? Remember from last week that we have been set apart for the Gospel and that should make an incredible difference in our lives. Christians are not better or worse than anyone else, but we should have a spirit about us that represents Jesus. Keep in mind that great verse found in Acts 1:8 when Jesus tells us, “You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and Samaria, and even to the remotest parts of the earth.” Our life is supposed to be a living testimony of who Jesus is.

I was thinking about titling this message, “What’s in a Name?” Here’s a great reminder: put it on a yellow sticky and attach it to your mirror, your dashboard, or wherever else that you need to remind yourself about who Jesus is. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runs into it and is safe.” There have been many songs written with this verse in it. The name of the Lord is so incredibly powerful. What is the Lord’s name? In Gen. 17:1, God told Abraham, “I am God Almighty.” In Ex. 3:14, His name is, “I am.” In Is. 9:6, “His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” He is the Alpha and Omega; the Beginning and the End. He is the Creator, the Redeemer, the holy and anointed One. He is the good Shepherd, the Healer, our Righteousness. He is our Provider, the Ancient of days, our Sanctification. He is our mercy, our grace, our wisdom. His name is so powerful, “So that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:10-11) Can you picture that? What an incredible sight that will be. When Paul says every knee will bow, he means it. The Name of the Lord gives us His attributes, His character, His qualities – everything about who God is. “My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My savior, You save me from violence.” (2 Sam. 22:3) Ps. 18:2 says, “For You have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy.” That strong tower can withstand any attack.

There are two things going on here I don’t want you to miss. Solomon is not saying God is a strong tower although I just read some verses from Samuel and David that say He is. Here Solomon is saying just His name provides protection. His name provides the safety and security necessary to protect you. Why? Because in His name are all the attributes that tell us who He is. “The righteous runs into it and is safe.” Safe here means protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed. There is safety in Christ. Hold on you might say. There are people suffering all over the place under persecution. Matt. 10:28 reminds us, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” The name of Christ is a safe place, it’s a holy place, a righteous place, an eternal place. Acts 4:12 says, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” It’s not that you’ll never get hurt or suffer, but you rest on the knowledge of who God is and you look and think eternally.

From a safe tower to a strong city. While the righteous are running into a mighty fortress that is our God, “A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own imagination.” Let me be clear; there is nothing unbiblical about having wealth or being rich. No matter what the media says, just because you have wealth doesn’t mean you’re an evil, nasty, selfish person. I encourage you to go to globalrichlist.com. There you can plug in how much you make a year and the site puts your income on a global scale relative to others in the world. For example, with what I make in one month as your pastor, you could be paying the monthly salary of 209 doctors in Azerbaijan. This is the same wealth trap that Jesus warned about in Matt. 19:24 when he talked about a rich man and a camel and is the same trap for many people that have wealth. The media has done all they can to divide us by race, ethnicity, wealth, political affiliation, and faith. Solomon is not saying anything negative, per se, about wealth here. He’s reinforcing the idea that wealth can be a barrier to seeing the truth of who God is. When a person is affluent, there is the perception that all is well, that everything is great in their lives. But the same desire to seek and find the Creator is placed in each and every person according to Rom. 1:19. Instead of finding safety in the name of the Lord, the rich man finds a counterfeit safety in his own strong city. His safety is in his high wall, but the safety is in his imagination. It’s not actual safety because those walls will come down. He’s prideful, he thinks nothing can touch him. “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, but humility goes before honor.” This is the typical pattern for many of us right before we do something dumb. We take our eyes of off Christ and think we can do it ourselves and sometimes we even have an illusion that things are okay without God, but it’s just an illusion. It’s only when our total reliance is on Christ that we will begin to see His incredible handiwork in our lives. There’s no shame in recognizing our reliance on God.

Remember back in Pro. 10:4 Solomon said, “Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, But the hand of the diligent makes rich.” As Christians in the workplace, we should be known for our work ethic. That mandate to work goes all the way back to Genesis, but work didn’t become drudgery until after the fall when the ground became cursed. If you’re able to work, you should work to support yourself and your family. Being a slacker in your work will lead to destruction. When you’re feeling blue, or your down, or your up and excited about life, remember always that the name of the Lord is an incredible reminder about who is really is. Don’t follow what you think God is, follow what the Bible says He is. There is safety in the Lord so put your trust in God, not in riches.

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

21 Sep

FearYou can catch the podcast here.

Last week we answered the question about evil triumphing. It won’t. We saw that it’s more profitable to actually work than it is to talk about working. Just because to don’t get a paycheck for your work doesn’t mean that it is not beneficial or profitable. Telling the truth about Jesus Christ can save people from an eternity in hell. Take the opportunities God provides for you to share the love and truth of Jesus. This morning, Solomon issues a very ominous warning.

I hope you’ll grab your Bible and read our passage for today found in Pro. 14:26-31.

How about some more fear? Solomon says, “In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and his children will have refuge.” What kind of fear is he talking about? In his first inaugural address in 1933 FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” FDR was saying don’t live in what if land. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Although many folks remember that phrase, if you look at the whole sentence, it becomes even more applicable. “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Solomon has talked about fear before, and it’s not the same as FDR’s fear. In Pro. 3:7 he said, “Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” In 3:25 he said, “Do not be afraid with sudden fear.” We’ll see in 19:23 that, “The fear of the Lord leads to life.” Remember way back to 1:7 to set the whole book of wisdom up, Solomon said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Solomon is talking about reverence. Reverence means to stand in awe, or have a deep respect for someone or something. As a professing believer, he’s not telling us to be afraid like we’re always looking over our shoulder or we’re cowering in fear. It’s an incredible awe over who God is and what He has accomplished in all that He has done and continues to do in our life and in the lives of those around us. It’s a humbling awareness that He loves us and gave Himself for us, that He cares about us, that He wants to be a part of our lives, that He wants us to recognize Him for who He really is. In Matt. 10:28 Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” That reverence leads to strong confidence and trust in God and His Son.

It still amazes me that people of faith don’t have blind trust in Christ. They exercise blind trust in other facets of life, but with God, somehow conclusions are drawn that maybe He doesn’t know what’s going on or that He doesn’t care, or we think He won’t answer our prayers. We have trouble letting go and that’s the root cause. Many folks wouldn’t admit it, but they’re control freaks. What they can’t control freaks them out and frustrates them and leads to panic stricken confusion. I picture God saying, “Come on, I’m here, I haven’t left you, I know what’s going on, I love you, I have plans for you to prosper. Won’t you just trust me?” We must stand on the confession of who Jesus is. He is our protector, our provider, our redeemer, our hope, our passion, our purpose, our assurance, our strong tower, our comfort, our counselor, our righteousness, our healer. He is the Messiah, the Savior, the strong Son of the living God: He is Jesus!

That fear or reverence, “Is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death.” Fountain gives us the idea of unending satisfaction for the soul. The fountain will never dry up. Jesus said, If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” (Jo. 7:37-38) The only way to have that everlasting fountain is to accept the well head that is Jesus Christ. Solomon is saying what he already said Pro. 13:14: “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, to turn aside from the snares of death.” Jesus saves you from death. Likely not physical death, but spiritual death. We are spiritually alive in Jesus.

Next is a verse that needs little explanation. “In a multitude of people is a king’s glory, but in the dearth of people is a prince’s ruin.” If a king has a large kingdom, that generally means he rules well. People want to live in that kingdom and be afforded the protection, safety, and prosperity that comes along with it. The conquering of other lands was not Solomon’s highest priority. During Solomon’s reign, “Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance; they were eating and drinking and rejoicing.”  (1 Ki. 4:20) Without providing for the people, what good is a prince? That’s what he’s talking about here.

Our next set of verses could change your life. In 14:17 Solomon said, “A quick tempered man acts foolishly.” That’s the hot head kind of guy. Now he talks about the mellow guy, “He who is slow to anger has great understanding.” I’m thinking it’s because he actually listens to what’s going on and processes the information. The quick tempered guy just gets mad fast and that causes him to act foolishly. Solomon is now talking about someone that is slow to be offended. He knows how to excuse other people’s faults and he understands that he is not without faults. He is not easily provoked. It’s not that he can’t get riled up, it’s that his patience is great, his understanding is great, and his wisdom is great. That’s why he’s slow to anger. He can get mad, but he chooses to follow wisdom instead. Think about it this way: do you want to be around someone that is going to flip out, or someone that is going to maintain a steady demeanor regardless of the circumstances? Gal. 5:22 says that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit so as believers, we don’t get the luxury to say, “I can’t help it.”

The quick tempered guy? Solomon says he, “Exalts folly” Solomon goes on to say there is a physical benefit to remaining calm. “A tranquil heart is life to the body.” Tranquil means free from disturbance or calm. You want to see what someone is made out of, put them in a stressful or tense situation. When the heart is healthy both morally and physically, the benefit spreads throughout the body. It’s not that this person is stress free; it’s just that he’s learned how to respond and react to that stress. You’ve heard people that say they’re stressed out? It’s used as a justification for all kinds of behavior. “But passion is rottenness to the bones.” Rottenness means suffering from decay. This seems quite strange. I’m passionate about many things. Studying God’s Word. Discipleship. Passion here means envy or jealousy. Jealousy is like a disease that will destroy you from the inside out.

Here’s some random thoughts. Verse 31 says, He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.This is a little bit different than what he said in v. 20-21. Oppress means to keep in subjection and hardship. Being poor does not mean being evil or wicked any more than being wealthy means you have God’s blessing on you. Here Solomon says if you take advantage of, or wrong someone that is poor, watch out. How can we put this in a modern context? Remember a couple of weeks ago I said it’s difficult to define what poor really is. So are there people that prey upon people of lesser means? Think about rent to own places. Think about payday lenders. Think about title loan places. These types of establishments target people they can take advantage of. The rent to own places foster the mentality that you can have it all and they’re willing to let you have it . . . or at least rent it. A local rental center currently offers a 50 inch TV for $64.99 a month. When you read the fine print it says: “Total Monthly Payment: $64.99 + $6.49 (for ASP) = $71.48/month (plus tax) • Total Cost of Ownership: $71.48 x 24 Months = $1,715.52 (plus tax) which equals $1835.61. That same TV retails for $797.99. If you saved for it, you could buy it outright in just over a year. Solomon is warning those types of people to not take advantage of the poor or oppress them. “He who is gracious to the needy honors Him.” How can you be gracious to the needy? Take the time to read Matt. 25:34-40. When you help care for those in need, it honors God. It reflects God’s glory, His mercy, His compassion, and His provision.

Having a healthy fear or reverence for God is a result of understanding who God really is. We stand in awe at who He is and have a deep trust in Him because of His character, His love, and His qualities. We stand amazed in His presence simply because He is. Don’t be quick tempered; be slow to anger. Understand people’s faults and extend grace. Ps. 103:17 says, “But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children.”

Wisdom, Truth, and Folly

14 Sep

TruthCheck out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon told us not to believe everything we hear. Check things out, that’s what people of wisdom do. Foolishness can be inherited from your parents, but Jesus Christ can break that cycle by transforming you into His image. The poor will be with us always, but that doesn’t mean ignore them. Be intentional with the Gospel because that’s what can change eternity for a person. This morning, Solomon continues with themes already presented in Proverbs.

Pro. 14:22-25 says, Will they not go astray who devise evil? But kindness and truth will be to those who devise good. In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. The crown of the wise is their riches, but the folly of fools is foolishness. A truthful witness saves lives, but he who utters lies is treacherous.”

Will evil triumph? It’s a question we often ask ourselves as we see the things in this world spiraling out of control. Solomon says, “Will they not go astray who devise evil?” It’s a rhetorical question. If you devise evil, you are astray. If you are astray, it’s because evil is a part of your makeup. Again, Solomon is talking way of life, habit of life, this is who you are. The answer is yes, those that go astray devise evil. Just because they are in the evil business, does not mean that God is fooled, it doesn’t mean God turned His back, and it doesn’t mean God is not aware of what’s going on. These folks think they can outwit God, but His justice is perfect. We must maintain confidence, as hard as that may be at times, that God is in control and that He will prevail.

The other side of the coin is, “Kindness and truth will be to those who devise good.” People have their own definition of good and that goodness is often compared with people who are horrible.  It generally goes like this: “I may not be perfect, but I’m no murderer.” So whose definition of good are you going by? Let’s go by the definition Solomon uses. Good means that which gratifies the senses and derivatively that which gives aesthetic or moral satisfaction. Moral satisfaction. So in the ever changing tide of moral relativism, what is moral? You have to go to the unchanging standard of morality found in the Bible. Is it any wonder how confused people are as the standards continue to change? So they’re not really standards. Solomon says those that devise or plan good will be rewarded with kindness and truth. I think most people like to be treated that way. Is. 32:8 says “But the noble man devises noble plans; and by noble plans he stands.” Noble means having fine personal qualities or high moral principles

Solomon says talk is cheap. I love this next verse. “In all labor there is profit.” Everyone has been designed to work. The kind of work you do depends on the way God wired you. There are a nearly innumerable variety of things to do to earn a living. Our first example of working goes all the way back to Genesis. Gen. 2:2: “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested o the seventh day from all His work which He had done.” Then in Gen. 2:15 God gave Adam the responsibility to cultivate and keep the garden – to work in it. Work had been around since the beginning. In all labor, in all work there is a benefit, there is a profit. You don’t have to see a paycheck for it to be work. Every woman that has kept a home and every mom that has raised kids knows that even though there is no paycheck, it’s still work. Anyone that has tended a garden and produced food knows it’s work. Anyone that has worked in the church or helped a neighbor or family member knows that not all work pays, but there is profit or benefit. When you work you have a sense of accomplishment. I know sometimes moms can feel like they’re just spinning their wheels in the home. The laundry gets done and next week you have to do it again. The house gets picked up only to have to pick it up again tomorrow. You mop the floor and it rains; you clean your house and have to clean it again next week. A lot of the work we do is repetitive and ongoing. I’m reminded of the term labor used in the delivery of a baby. It’s funny to me that we use that term because the real work occurs over the almost two decades following the labor, longer in some cases

The opposite of labor is, “But mere talk leads only to poverty.” These are not people looking for a job and cannot get hired. These are people talking about working, but fail to do anything to get hired to work somewhere. It also applies to people that don’t do anything around the home. They don’t take care of the yard, the cars, the dishes, the laundry, or the kids. They talk about working without ever really getting around to working. Let’s take a look at this idea of work from the Apostle Paul. You really need to find 2 Thes. 3:7-13 and take the time to read it. There are jobs available for people willing to work. You might have to show up at a particular time and that might mean going to bed at a reasonable hour and setting something that is called an alarm clock. You might have to work for a certain period of time called a work day. You might have to relocate somewhere and it might be cold there. If you don’t make enough to support yourself or your family, you might have to work two jobs. God demonstrated work and designed us to work.

The next verse looks like a departure. “The crown of the wise is their riches.” It often seem like money makes the world go round.    It doesn’t, but sometimes it seems like it does. Having wealth can get you into places that others cannot go. I remember Kari and I were in the market for a newer vehicle a number of years ago and we had stopped at a car dealership on the way home from the beach. We were dressed in beach clothing and were a bit shocked that we couldn’t seem to draw the attention of a salesman because we looked like we couldn’t buy a car. Having wealth and more importantly the wisdom in how best to use it is what Solomon is talking about here. There is a huge opportunity to use your wealth for God’s glory to further His Kingdom. Not everyone can go at any time, but instead saying I can’t do that, we have to ask ourselves, what can I do? If you have any kind of wealth, and wealth is relative, you can use it wisely to further the Kingdom. “But the folly of fools is foolishness.” Solomon has made it really clear that fools act foolishly because they lack wisdom. If you cheat, you’ll be labeled as a cheater. If you lie, you’ll be called a liar. If you scream, you’ll be called a screamer. If you act like a fool, you’ll be called foolish. So there really is no departure. Wise people seek knowledge and that’s why they’re wise. Fools continue to seek folly and that’s why they’re fools.

There so many applications for the next verse. “A truthful witness saves lives, but he who utters lies is treacherous.” You really have to evaluate this on more than a surface level. The Septuagint which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament says, “Save from evils.” KJV translates it, “A true witness delivereth souls.” This verse is really talking about the eternal truth of Jesus Christ. Lives are saved for eternity because of the truth that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Conversely, if you tell lies about Jesus Christ, you’re treacherous. Treacherous means that you’re guilty of betrayal or deception. So you have to ask yourself, why would anyone speak deceptively about Christ? Why would anyone say that all roads lead to heaven? Why would anyone say that Jesus is just one way to heaven? Why would anyone say you can be a Christian and live any way you want? Why would anyone say, “You surely will not die.” (Gen. 3:4) People tell lies about Jesus for many reasons. Lack of knowledge which is called ignorance. It sounds better or makes them feel better about where they are. They have a misguided notion about who God really is. They’re lazy – they don’t take the time to discover truth for themselves. I could go on, but ultimately, people tell lies about Jesus because there is one that does not want you to know the truth. There is one that wants you shifted off the true path. There is one that wants you to accept a partial truth, one that wants you to think of yourself before others, that wants you to think yourself more highly than you ought to, one that seeks your destruction, one that is a liar. One that wants you to follow your own desires. In Jo. 8:44 Jesus said, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.” When we speak the truth about Jesus, it will set people free. Satan is on the offensive and we’re sitting behind enemy lines in safety letting others take up the battle for us. Don’t be fooled: Satan will not stop in his effort to ruin you. 1 Pet. 5:8, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Do good for the cause of Christ. Talk is cheap. Tell the truth about Jesus and live it out every single day and snatch people out of an eternity in hell. That’s the mission of the church. That’s your mission should you choose to accept it.

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

7 Sep

True FalseCheck out the podcast here.

Last week we saw the very destructive doctrine called backsliding. There is no example in Scripture to support what people have defined as backsliding. If you are saved, you’re a new creation and old things are passed away. We need to engage in the intentional process of discipleship and teach people how to walk with God and of course this absolutely means we must walk with God. This morning, we dive into several principles you have likely seen firsthand.

Take the time and read our passage found in Pro. 14:15-21.

Solomon talks first about the naïve. Sometimes we use the term naïve and innocent synonymously. Being naïve in Solomon’s mind is not the same thing. He says, “The naïve believe everything.” Let me remind you of his words in Pro. 1:22a when he said, “How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded?” This is an indication they like it where they are. These people are very susceptible to heresy because they believe whatever they’re told without explanation, proof, or convincing. Because he’s simple and has no real principles or standards within him, it’s easy to lead him down the wrong path. Naïve people believe whatever they are told regardless of how incredible it may be. They lack discernment; they don’t have a biblical worldview and are easily led into things that are not pleasing to God. All of us can be naïve at times, but that’s not what Solomon is talking about.

Let me throw this into the mix, people of influence must be very careful. If you’re in a supervisory position or a position of leadership, your position can be used for ill advised purposes. At the same time, if you’re under the authority of such a person, it might be very difficult to work in an environment where someone uses their position to exert any type of ungodly influence over you. What is really concerning is the theology some believe because someone else told them what to believe. Jesus said it this way and I imagine He shakes His head as He says, “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him.” (Jo. 5:43) I firmly believe that if Jesus Himself told us something, there are people that would dismiss it. In fact, there things Jesus says in His Word that people totally dismiss, including those people that have been raised in church and claim a faith in Christ. Sound, solid, proven biblical principles somehow don’t apply to them. “But the sensible man considers his steps, a wise man is cautious and turns away from evil.” Guess what sensible means? Yep, wise. “Considers his steps” doesn’t refer to transportation. Someone with wisdom listens to what is said and evaluates it against the foundation of biblical truth. What is biblical is retained, what is not biblical is discarded. The one that possesses biblical wisdom exercises caution, he does not recklessly rush into anything. The wise person doesn’t want to do or say anything that would bring reproach on his Savior.

The contrast is of course, “A fool is arrogant and careless.” Nobody knows more than the fool. They won’t get hurt, won’t go broke, has no respect for the law, ignores the rules, won’t hurt anybody else, and doesn’t really care about any of that anyway. They lack wisdom and that causes them to do dumb things that we shake our heads at and ask, “How could they be so foolish?” They’re so foolish because they lack wisdom. “A quick tempered man acts foolishly.” This applies to everyone, not just men. You might call it acting out or showing out. In the South, we might call it acting the fool or having a hissy fit. This type of person has a very short fuse; the littlest thing sets him off. It can be slow service at a restaurant, getting cut off in traffic, getting a flat tire, or having slow internet. They say things they shouldn’t and they do things they shouldn’t. All of us have likely acted the fool at times and I am positive that when I have done that, I felt embarrassed and ashamed. Not this guy. “A man of evil devices is hated.” 12:2 says that he, “devises evil.”  This is the guy that uses underhanded tactics to get his way. He is unscrupulous, he doesn’t care who he takes advantage of as long as he remains ahead. This is the guy that holds a grudge. This is the guy that plots revenge. I remind you of Cain who killed Abel. Of this type of man Matthew Henry says, “There is no fence against him or cure for him.”

Is there a genetic connection to foolishness? If your parents are foolish, will you be foolish? It’s a good question given other characteristics that are passed down like physical traits, skills, talents, and mannerisms. Solomon says, “The naïve inherit foolishness.” Are our parents really to blame for our foolishness? Yes! And no. If we look at statistics, alcoholic parents tend to have children that will drink to excess. Kids that grow up in homes where there is drug use will tend to use drugs. These are general conclusions. We might conclude that these behaviors are inherited, but the reality is if we go back to the root cause of these behaviors it’s sin and we know for sure that is passed down. Rom. 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” So foolishness is passed on to generations, but the opposite is also true. If you’re raised in a loving, wonderful, God fearing home, the chances are greater that the children will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. If the parents lead a life of authenticity for Christ, the chances are greater that the children will develop the same type of relationship. Let me be clear, there are no guarantees one way or the other. No matter how terrible a home you grow up in, Jesus can deliver you. No matter what type of cycle you’re in, Jesus can break it. “The naïve inherit foolishness, but the sensible are crowned with knowledge.” Sensible means having or showing common sense. Remember in Solomon’s mind, knowledge equals wisdom. Wisdom causes a person to do what is right while a lack of wisdom leads to foolishness.

Now a sign of the end times. “The evil will bow down before the good, and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.” This is more pointing to the ultimate judgment then it is day to day. There will come a time when evil ends. Our mission today is to point people to the hope of Jesus Christ so that people will turn from their wicked ways and turn to God. I know sometimes we can be impatient for judgment, but as I have said in the past, we typically only want quick judgment of others, not for ourselves. The times are drawing to a close and there are fewer and fewer opportunities for people to recognize Jesus as Messiah. We must be more focused on that truth. Here’s another reality you’ve seen. “The poor is hated even by his neighbor, but those who love the rich are many.” The word for hated here means shunned. This is not the way it should be, but it’s the way it is. There used to be a TV show on from 1984-1995 hosted by Robin Leach called, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”  It looks like NBC is trying to revamp the show and Nick Cannon has been tapped to host it. It plays on the idea Solomon is telling us. People love rich folks because of the potential for what might come their way. Call them fair weather friends.

“He who despises his neighbor sins.” God does not want us to sin – ever. This goes along with the previous verse. That brings up a question I am often confronted with. Do we have an obligation to help poor people? That’s a very difficult question to answer and my answer is: it depends. The methodology used to define the poor in America is a dizzying array of facts, statistics, and research. In an often referred to passage in Scripture regarding the poor, Jesus has arrived in Bethany and is at the home of Simon the leper and He is approached by a woman with that famous alabaster box. She takes the box and breaks it and pours the precious ointment over Jesus’ head. The disciples got bent out over what they believed was a waste of resources. John’s account in Jo. 12 says that Judas was particularly vocal in raising the objection. He said, “Why was this perfume not sold for 300 dinarii and given to poor people?” 300 denarii was nearly a year’s wage. That’s a lot of money. On the surface, Judas’ idea was very commendable, but John tells us the real reason he was upset. Jo. 12:6 says, “Now he said this, not because he was concerned with the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.” Jesus concluded the account by saying, For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me.” (Matt. 26:11) People have used this passage to justify ignoring the poor in order to remain focused on our worship of Jesus. What Jesus is really saying is that man’s best efforts will not eradicate poverty.

That being said, it’s absolutely wonderful to help the poor. Solomon says, “But happy is he who is gracious to the poor.” Remember happiness is based on circumstances and we typically use joy and happiness synonymously. Helping someone that’s poor is rarely a permanent cure. You might be able to help them get passed the current situation. If Jesus said we’ll always have the poor with us, I assure you, we’re not going to solve the world’s poverty here this morning. Let me remind you that we must think eternally. If our primary responsibility is the make disciples, isn’t that where we should focus? If things are temporary here on earth, shouldn’t we focus on heaven? The short answer is yes, but we need to balance that with compassion and love. Helping others is a key component of our walk of faith. 

Don’t believe everything you hear. Check things out, that’s what people of wisdom do. Foolishness can be inherited from your parents, but Jesus Christ can break that cycle by transforming you into His image. The poor will be with us always, but that doesn’t mean ignore them. Be intentional with the Gospel because that’s what can change eternity for a person.

Thoughts Lead to Deeds

15 Jun

ThoughtsYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon reminded us that we should be on a lifelong journey in our pursuit to know Christ. Our learning never ends and he said we should be loving instruction. We don’t dismiss instructions from people that are godlier than we are, that are more experienced than we are, that are more like Christ than we are. This morning, we’ll discover additional characteristics of the righteous and the wicked and look at the speech of each.

I encourage you to take the time and read Pro. 12:5-14 so you understand where Solomon is coming from.

Verses 5-7 contain the familiar patter we’ve seen Solomon use before. He speaks of the righteous, wicked, wicked, righteous, wicked, and righteous. “The thoughts of the righteous are just.” You know this because he said it in 11:23. In Ps. 119:15 David said, “I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways.” That’s a good principle to live by. If you’ve ever wondered how to clear your mind, this is one way to do it. For many of us, if we could get a handle on our thoughts, we’d be free from many of the issues that seem to plague us. An issue marinates in our mind and it grows because we continue to think about it. Oftentimes, there is a small issue, but is allowed to grow big and strong and it festers. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Phil. 4:8) The thoughts of the righteous, those that belong to Christ, are just and fair. The righteous give the benefit of the doubt. Don’t you just hate it when someone thinks the worst of you? That’s something that the wicked do. “But the counsels of the wicked are deceitful. The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood.” Notice in the previous verse, Solomon talked about thoughts and now those thoughts give way to words. I cannot emphasize strongly enough just how important our words are. The wicked are deceitful; there are often hidden agendas or motives. What you see or hear may not be what you get. The words of the wicked are full of lies, slander, false accusations, and half-truths which put people’s lives in danger. In a practical application, I think of the false teaching out there about who God is. God is love and patience and all the things that go along with the idea that God approves of all people and it doesn’t matter how one thinks or acts because God is love. People that have no idea who God really is are defining who God is and other people are being led astray. People are acting wickedly and may not even know it. I think Solomon is talking more along the lines of people that do know what they’re doing and are intentional about it.

“But the mouth of the upright will deliver them. The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand.” Our speech should define who we belong to. As I have often said, it is a primary indicator of who has our heart. Our words should reflect the love of Christ in all circumstances. Our speech often denies who we belong to and is a primary indicator of our relationship with Christ. We should take the advice of James and be quick to hear and slow to speak, and slow to anger. (Ja. 1:19) Even though the wicked may prosper in the short run, or at least seem to prosper, they will be overthrown and will be no more. The house of the righteous will stand because it’s built on the foundation that is Jesus Christ. That’s why it’s righteous.

Solomon now addresses the area of respect. I would venture that most people would like to be respected. We want to be treated and spoken to respectfully. What’s funny is that even when we don’t treat people respectfully, we still want the respect we believe we deserve. “A man will be praised according to his insight.” Praised means approval or admiration. Insight means understanding. Insight can also be translated – you guessed it – wisdom. This is a guy that lives by wisdom; that provides practical evidence of a life that is guided by wisdom. This is a smart guy, well mannered, stately, honorable, and all the other adjectives you can come up with for a man held in high regard because of who has his heart rather than any office or position of authority he might hold. Listen to how David is described: “So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and prospered; and Saul set him over the men of war. And it was pleasing in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.” (1 Sam. 18:5) This is a man that is recognized and appreciated because of the wisdom that exudes from his being. David wasn’t just pleasing to his friends; he was pleasing to all the people – the common folk and to the servants. It says a lot about a man when the servants have high regard for you. To put it in a modern context, think of the supervisor employee relationships. David was a man of honor and integrity. Instead of being respected, “But one of perverse mind will be despised.”  Perverse here means a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave badly. We are living in a day according to Is. 5:20 where evil is being called good and good is being called evil, but there still remains behavior that is generally viewed as acceptable or generally viewed as wrong.

Solomon now provides us with a series of one liners. “Better is he who is lightly esteemed and has a servant than he who honors himself and lacks bread.” This is an interesting collection of words so let me rephrase it. It’s better to work hard, be considered average and have someone to help you around the house than it is to pretend you’re something you are not and have nothing to eat. Another way to say it is it’s better to be unknown and be able to afford a servant than it is to pretend to be rich, but can’t even eat. “A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, but even the compassion of the wicked is cruel.” This is for all the animal lovers out there. Animals were an important part of life back in Solomon’s day. They provided the power to work the land, to make flour from grain, to mill corn, provide milk, provide transportation as well as a number of other uses. The righteous man recognizes their importance and takes care of the animals to make sure they have what they need not just to survive, but to prosper. On the other hand, the compassion of the wicked is cruel. Even when they are trying to emulate some good qualities, they fall short.

“He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who pursues worthless things lacks sense.” If you work your land, you’ll always have food to eat. This applies even if you’re not a farmer. If you’re willing to work hard, you’ll have food to eat. Pursue worthless things is also translated chase fantasies. All kinds of things are coming to mind. I’m sure people back in the day made fun of people like Eli Whitney, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and the Wright brothers. There is a difference between having a vision and being visionary. Chasing a fantasy is telling the judges that you can sing when you can’t carry a tune in a bucket. “The wicked man desires the booty of evil men, but the root of the righteous yields fruit.” Wicked people want what other wicked people have. Pirates steal from other pirates. Drug dealers steal from other drug dealers. The righteous are planted in good soil rooted in Jesus Christ. When you’re a healthy plant rooted in good soil, you can’t help but produce fruit.

The next ten verses or so deal specifically with the speech of the wicked and the speech of the righteous. “An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous will escape from trouble.” Proverbs has a lot to say about getting trapped. We saw this first back in 6:2 and in context Solomon was talking about debt – making promises to repay what could not be repaid. Now he’s talking about talking too much. It could be slanderous speech, gossip, speaking out of turn, or having an opinion about anything and everything and then making sure everyone knows that opinion. We see that on Facebook all the time. Matthew Henry refers to this as cutting one’s own throat with his tongue. Ps. 34:19 says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” The righteous are delivered by the wisdom of their speech and that wisdom comes from God. “A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his words, and the deeds of a man’s hands will return to him.” Sticks and stones the saying goes, but I think that’s way off the mark. We cannot overestimate the power of words. With our words we have the power to edify or tear down. The power to lift up or lash out. The power to encourage or the power to deflate. The tongue is just like the rudder that controls the direction of a ship: even though it’s very small, it can change the course of that big vessel pretty quickly. Think of a time you used words that picked someone up, that encouraged them, that gave them the hope they needed to go on, or the words you used to help them resolve some conflict. The righteous man uses his words for good and is deeply satisfied. When you work for the Lord, the Lord will reward you, but that’s not why we serve Him. All the good you do for the Kingdom is doing something. Keep working and allow God to work things out. The good you do for the Kingdom does not go unnoticed.

Thoughts often lead to deeds. When you can control your thoughts, life is easier. There are always challenges, but God gives you what you need to be an over comer when you need it. Don’t waste your time chasing fantasies. The righteous continue to do what is righteous and the wicked continue to do what is wicked. Use your words to encourage and edify rather than tear down.

The Shotgun Approach – Part 2

20 Apr

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.

Religion versus Relationship

28 Apr

Religion

You can listen to the podcast here.

Last time we were in stewardship, we looked at the results of true repentance. We saw that repentance really should affect our values and our stewardship. This morning we’re going to look at a story that is told in each of the synoptic gospels. It is a story of a young man that has become known as the rich young ruler.

Mark 10:17-23 says,

 “As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.”Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!”

Here’s the setting. Mark begins in v. 17 by reminding us that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. Some Pharisees just questioned Jesus about divorce in vs. 2-9. The disciples had follow up questions about divorce in vs. 10-12. And in vs. 13-16 we see Jesus scolding the disciples because they tried to keep the little children from coming to Him. All this to set up a somewhat strange encounter.

We see three unusual things in v. 17. “A man ran up to Him.”  Matt. 19:20 calls him young. Matt. 19:22 says he owned a lot of property so he was likely rich. Luke 18:18 calls him a ruler. That’s where we get the rich young ruler. In that culture, men did not run so it is very unusual that a man of his stature would run to Jesus. The rich young ruler, “Knelt before Him.” Again, something unusual for a ruler to kneel before someone else. Here we have a ruler of people, someone considered important; someone who owns a lot of stuff, kneeling before Jesus. The rich young ruler addresses Jesus as “Good Teacher.” In the Jewish way of thinking, only God is good and it would be quite unusual to attribute this quality to someone other than God.

1 Chr. 16:34, “O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
2 Chr. 5:13, “He indeed is good for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
Ezra 3:11, “They sang, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, saying, “For He is good, for His lovingkindness is upon Israel forever.”
Ps. 118:1, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;  For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

Bible experts are divided on whether the rich young ruler was flattering Jesus or paying Him respect. So now the stage is set for the rich young ruler to ask Jesus a question. Here’s the question. The young man continues in his unusual fashion and asks in v. 17, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The question is unusual because the Jews would have said, “You follow the Law.” This has been the question that has been asked throughout the ages with a variety of answers. When you consider the context of the passage, it’s a fairly reasonable question for the young ruler to ask. Given what we know about this young man, it is likely he inherited his wealth rather than working for it. Perhaps this young man had heard Jesus’ teaching about the coming Kingdom. At the very least, he recognized who Jesus was. Before Jesus answers the question, He asks a question of His own: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” Don’t think Jesus is denying who He is. He said in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” Jesus is simply establishing that God is the ultimate example of goodness.

Jesus points out some facts in v. 19. Jesus clearly has the upper hand being omniscient. Jesus says the ruler knows the commandments, but what exactly does that mean? The word know here means to understand or grasp. All Jesus is saying is that, yes indeed the rich young ruler knows the commandments. Remember for the Jews, they equated keeping the Law with salvation. It got really bad in Galatia and Paul told them in Gal. 3:21, “Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.” The commandments Jesus mentioned are 6, 7, 8, 9 and 5. The 10th Commandment is do not covet.  The “do not defraud” is not part of the Ten Commandments. Fraud is a practical example of covetousness and a special temptation of the rich. You notice that the commandments Jesus mentioned deal with relationships of people to each other. Obedience to these provides evidence of obedience to the other commandments –  the ones dealing with the relationships of human beings to God.

Here’s the answer. The rich young ruler offers an astounding answer in v. 20. The parallel account in Matt. 19:20 is more revealing where the young man says, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” He recognized that eternal life wasn’t a matter of keeping the letter of the Law. Jesus didn’t dispute the answer and, “felt a love for him” in v. 21. Here again Christ’s unconditional love is revealed. No matter where you are, or what you are doing, Jesus loves you. Even if you think yourself righteous apart from Christ, He loves you. Matt.19:21, “Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” The one thing the man lacked was poverty. Jesus offers a way out. Sell your stuff. Give it to the poor. Doing that would remove what was keeping the rich man from entering into a relationship with the One that could grant eternal life. Jesus was telling him to get rid of the distractions and be a follower. For this rich young man, riches were his god and that violates the 1st Commandment that says, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Ex. 20:3) The rich man silently responds in v. 22. We find Jesus’ conclusion to the story in v. 23.

A man is not saved by giving away his possessions. He becomes a Christian when he is willing to renounce anything that stands between himself and Christ. Riches make being a disciple difficult but the rewards of discipleship are worth more than material possessions. In the New American Commentary, James brooks writes, “The call is not to poverty but to discipleship, which takes many forms. Discipleship, however, is costly. It involves sacrifice. It involves obedience. It involves following the example of Jesus.”