Character Matters

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Last week Solomon told us that it’s tough to avoid issues when there’s a lot of talking. The tongue of the righteous is worth a lot, it’s like silver. If you use restraint in your speech, you’re classified as wise. Our speech really is an incredible indicator of what’s in our hearts. He also told us what’s it’s like to deal with lazy people. It’s nauseating, it’s irritating, and aggravating. This morning, Solomon hits on a topic he’s mentioned before, but gives us some additional insight into what qualities make up a person. Over the next couple of weeks as we look at these series of verses, we’ll see Solomon use the familiar pattern of contrasts that he love so much.

Proverbs 11:1-4 says, “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, But a just weight is His delight. When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom. The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them. Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”

What is character and why does it matter? Character can be defined as the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. Character is who a person is and it’s normally shaped by a person’s upbringing. Honesty and integrity are part of that make up. A lack of honesty and integrity also form that make up. Have you ever asked your kids to lie for you? You probably didn’t call it that when you told them if my boss calls, tell him I’m sick. If so and so calls, tell them I’m not here. Have you ever kept the extra change the clerk gave you? Are you habitually late? Are you generally unreliable? We might conclude these are minor things, but it reveals who we really are and that matters.

So Solomon brings out a business practice, “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord.” Back in the day, balances were used for nearly all commercial transactions. An item was placed on a balance and a stone or stones would be placed on the opposite side and balanced out to give a weight to whatever item was being sold. There was often corruption with merchants that used a false balance. In other words, the balance would not give an accurate weight of the item. This verse can be applied to any fraudulent or unscrupulous business practices. We see this evident today as well. From the guy selling meat and seafood off the back of his truck to the guy selling homemade DVDs of first run movies. From Jay Bans and Foakley sunglasses to the “authentic” Coach purses and Rolex watches found in the straw market in the Bahamas. Locals will remember the Cisco Travel Center at I-95 exit 1 in our little town that gave you 19 gallons of gas for the price of 20. God takes a dim view on crooked businessmen and calls these deceitful tactics an abomination.

Not only do businesses need to practice honesty in their dealings, but so does the customer. It has become quite commonplace for customers to try and swindle businesses. From the fake slip and fall in a store to the stealing of an item with an attempt to then return it, or the girl that buys the prom dress then returns it after prom. God expects honesty in all business dealings regardless of which side you’re on. As is his custom, Solomon offers the contrast that, “A just weight is His delight.” Does it seem strange that time is taken to mention this? It does because honesty is an integral part of godliness. You cannot be dishonest and be godly at the same time, it’s that simple. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying the customer is always right. That’s utter nonsense. Sometimes the customer is right and business owners need to acknowledge that. One thing is for sure, God takes pleasure in seeing people engage in honest business.

Here is it again. Solomon talks about pride once again. This time it’s not in a list of things God hates, but instead refers to who a person is. “When pride comes, then comes dishonor.” The end result of pride, whatever form it may take, always leads to dishonor. Dishonor is a state of shame or disgrace. 1 Cor. 10:12 reminds us, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” Those that are filled with pride will fall at some point. This verse is consistent with a familiar verse found in Pro. 16:18 tells us that pride goes before the fall. When you’re proud, you take your eyes off of what’s important. The focus turns inward, it’s a self serving characteristic. When you read the biblical account of Lucifer’s fall in Isaiah 14, you will see that Lucifer was driven by pride. That passage has several occurrences of the phrase I will. That’s a good tip off to what the root is. This was the same appeal the serpent made to Adam and Eve in the garden. “You will be like God” the serpent told Eve. She wanted to be something she was not and could not be. Pride is a sin. Hold on a minute, you say; I’m proud of my kids, am I wrong? There is a difference in the pride you feel in your children and that which is self centered. No one would criticize a parent for saying I take great delight in my child. When Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan by John, God spoke from heaven and said, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased.” (Lu. 3:22) It’s the same thing as saying, this is my son, I’m proud of him. Of course, that can lead to a sinful pride where your child does no wrong and is way better than that other kid. The contrast to the proud is the humility of the wise. That’s how we know the pride Solomon is talking about is sinful. The idea is proud people are not generally wise or else they wouldn’t be prideful. Wise people know they haven’t arrived, they know they don’t have everything together, and they don’t pretend to either.

When no one is watching, authentic believers maintain their character. “The integrity of the upright will guide them.” Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. I lean strongly to the idea that integrity cannot be learned: you either have it or you don’t. I do believe it can be supernaturally given. I do believe that God can do an incredible work in someone’s heart that transforms the DNA of an individual into something supernatural. When that transformation takes place, that integrity will guide them. The opposite is true, “But the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.” In this context crookedness means exactly what you’re thinking it means. It’s their dishonesty, their underhanded tactics, they’re deceit, their overall opposite way of life. Wickedness and treacherous are used synonymously. It is this way of life that will destroy them. It’s a repeat of Pro. 5:22, “His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin.” It’s because it’s who he is. No matter how rich or wealthy you think you are, in the end it just doesn’t matter. “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath.” At death, everyone becomes equal. Royalty is removed, status is removed, position is removed and everyone is the same. On that day, presidents are the same as paupers. Kings are the same as commoners. Death is the great equalizer. Ez. 7:19 says, “They will fling their silver into the streets and their gold will become an abhorrent thing; their silver and their gold will not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord. They cannot satisfy their appetite nor can they fill their stomachs, for their iniquity has become an occasion of stumbling.” The understanding is the day of wrath refers to what will happen to the wicked because there is no relationship with Christ. If there was, there wouldn’t be wickedness or treachery.

“But righteousness delivers from death.” Yes, righteous people die all the time. That’s not what Solomon’s talking about. The death we experience is a separation of body and soul. The physical body dies, but the soul lives on. Some theologians believe Solomon is referring to the second death mentioned four times in Revelation. That’s the death commonly associated with the lake of fire. A person dies first physically and temporarily, but this second death is eternal. Righteousness can only be gained through a relationship with Jesus Christ and that is what Solomon says will deliver us. We will likely still experience a physical death, but not a spiritual death. Our souls will live on in eternity with God the Father, His one and only Son, and the Holy Spirit of God.

In this short passage, Solomon links arrogance and pride to fraudulent or corrupt business practices and links humility to wisdom. Money gained by corrupt business practices will do no good on the Day of Judgment. That corruption is part of the DNA of the wicked, but humility and integrity are character traits that are the best to display in our day to day lives and reflect the power of God in our lives.

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Christmas, Then and Now (Part 1)

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We’re going to take a break from our study in Jude until next month as we look at the origins of Christmas. Believe it or not, Christmas was not invented by Macy’s, Gimbals, Wal-Mart, Kmart, or Amazon.com. Why do we have Christmas? Is what we do and see today consistent with Scripture? What exactly does Christmas mean? If you talk to people on the streets and ask that question, you’ll get numerous responses. From family to good feelings. Parties to presents. Decorations to debt. Gluttony to gifts. Of course the spiritual side talks about the over commercialization of Christmas and that we must keep Christ in Christmas. We fight to keep nativity scenes displayed on public property. We talk about Jesus being the reason for the season. We boycott stores that wish us “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. Oddly enough, some of these are the same people that include Santa Claus and the Elf on the Shelf in their festivities. How far has our modern Christmas diverted from the original Christmas? We think the real meaning of Christmas is to have warm and fuzzy feelings surrounded by family and friends with the gentle sound of Christmas carols playing softly in the background with the home filled with the aroma of ginger and cinnamon. That’s not the picture the Bible paints for the reason we have Christmas. It’s not about family, friends, or food. We must evaluate why we have Christmas through God’s eyes. So what are the origins of Christmas? To understand the why behind Christmas, we don’t look to Luke or Matthew . . . we must go back to Genesis.

Gen 1:26-31 says, Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to everything that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

God’s design for humanity was to engage in intimate, personal, and daily fellowship with Him. The instructions seemed simple enough. Be fruitful and multiply – fill the earth. Take care of the earth and have dominion over it and the animals, and the fish, and the birds, and even all the creeping things. Everything that you see in the garden is food for you. Among all the plants and bushes and trees, two trees stood in the middle of the garden. The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We don’t know how much time had passed between the time God completed His miraculous creation and this point. The Bible does indicate that there was communication and fellowship between God and the man and woman He created. God gave Adam instructions on what he and his wife were to do.

Included in those instructions was just one thing God told Adam not to do. Often we focus on the don’ts of the Bible. Maybe you’ve even talked to people about Christ and they say they don’t want to get saved because they’re having too much fun. Maybe they say, Christians can’t dance or drink, or smoke or whatever else they may come up with because they think Christianity is all about what you can’t do. Sometimes we have that attitude as well. We’re like the kid who begs his parents for a cookie and then complains because he only got one. Or the ungrateful child that complains on Christmas morning while sitting among all the gifts he received that he didn’t get the gift that he really wanted.

Of all the trees in the garden, God’s simple instruction was don’t eat from this ONE tree. Choice is introduced. They each had the opportunity to choose obedience or disobedience. They could eat from any tree in the garden – there must have been hundreds and thousands of trees. Satan comes in the form of a serpent and is the craftiest being God created. The enemy of man focuses on the one thing God prohibited. The serpent introduces doubt into the minds of Adam and Eve. In Gen. 2:17 God told Adam, “From the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat it.” Again, a seemingly simple instruction. God lovingly provides the reason too. He doesn’t say because I said so although He could have. He tells Adam, “In the day you eat from it, you will surely die.” What does this have to do with Christmas? Christmas began because of Adam. Gen 3:6 says, “She took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.”

The obvious question is why did Christmas begin with Adam? What’s the rest of the story? Gen. 3:8 says, “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” This as not a one-time occurrence. In Gen. 3:10 Adam said, “I heard the sound of You walking in the garden.” Adam must have known the sound of God; it must have been familiar enough for him to recognize the Creator. To find out the true origins of Christmas, we need to understand what just happened. God calls out to Adam, “Where are you?” Adam and Eve who were together and unashamed in the garden now find themselves trying to hide from the all knowing, all present, all powerful Creator. We don’t know the tone of voice or body language demonstrated by God or Adam, but I have to think that even though God knew this day would come, it still had to have grieved Him beyond measure. To answer God’s question, Adam called out, “I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” I picture Adam embarrassed, ashamed, and overwhelmed by what he had done, knowing that he had disobeyed. Immediate consequences resulted from Adam’s disobedience, but not just for him. Guaranteed death for Adam, his wife and for all humanity. 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.”

There are incredible word pictures presented here, but for the sake of time, we’ll focus only on the offspring mentioned. The pivotal statement comes from God when He tells the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Gen. 3:15) This allows us to see into the future through God’s eyes and what He had to do to reconcile humanity in light of Adam’s disobedience. Remember God’s design was to be in intimate, daily fellowship with His creation. God says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman.” Enmity is a word we don’t use often. It means intense hostility or animosity. It’s often used when describing the feelings between warring nations as described in Ez. 25 and 35 or of the feelings that drive one to murder as in Num. 35:21. The enmity occurs between the serpent and the woman first. Singular pronouns are used. The serpent and the woman would be at odds, and the affect of that enmity is transferred to the serpent’s offspring and to the woman’s as well. “Between your seed and her seed,” God tells the serpent. Generation after generation would endure this enmity, this animosity, this intense hostility to one another until Christmas comes.

What does this have to do with Christmas? Christmas is coming. Not December 25th, but what it represents. We’ve led up to this point to understand why Christmas had to come. Next week, we’ll see exactly how Christmas came and what that means for you and me, and for humanity.

Final Instructions

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Last time we looked at Peter, we learned that Satan is like a roaring lion prowling around looking for someone to chew up. Satan operates by stealth. Be aware of this, be alert, pay attention so you don’t get eaten. This morning, Peter concludes his letter with a final instruction.

Take a look at 1 Peter 5:9-14.

Peter gives one last command. He says, “But resist him firm in your faith.” Remember Ja. 4:7, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” This is a conditional clause. It is dependent upon our submission to God. Resist the devil by being firm in your faith. When times are tough, don’t give in. When trials come, don’t give up. When you are persecuted, don’t quit. We are to resist the devil, because serving God is tough. Resist is a verb – an action word. That means we are to actively engage in resistance. We must actively engage our enemy. Satan wants to destroy you and everything you stand for. You will never have victory over Satan if you remain passive. Submit to God. That’s the right way, but it’s also the hard way. It’s much easier, in the short run, to give up, but we are commanded to do things God’s way. It is submission to God that leads to resistance of the devil. It is putting your trust and confidence in the One who made the heavens and the earth, the One who hung the stars in the sky, the One who makes the sun rise each day, the One who cares so much about you that He can number the hairs on your head, the One willing to come to earth as a man and live a life that would be acceptable to atone for our sins, the One who gave His life for mankind. It is putting your confidence in God who has already defeated the devil. That is who we are to submit ourselves to.

We are to resist firm in the faith because we know, “That the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” You are not alone in your suffering. What you are experiencing is the same thing our Christian brothers and sisters are experiencing all over the world. We draw comfort knowing that others have passed through the fiery ordeals, knowing the Lord delivered them, and He will deliver us.

This entire letter can be summed up in vs. 10-11. “A little while” is a relative term. Compared with eternity, anything we go through is for a little while. “The God of all grace” is the important phrase here. God is the possessor and giver of grace. He calls believers by grace through faith and He will enable you to persevere to the end. The trials and suffering are excruciating, but God’s grace is sufficient. God has called us to, “eternal glory in Christ.” We are all called to salvation through the finished work of Christ. Christ will “perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” It is Christ’s quartet of completion. He will complete you, will establish you, will make you strong, and will lay the foundation with you. You will be made firm, made strong like setting concrete. Like a house sitting on a solid foundation, unmovable by wind or floods.

Peter gives his doxology in v. 11. He closes by saying, “To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.” God allows His children to suffer, even allows Satan to prowl around, yet He is supreme, He is totally sovereign, and wields His mighty hand. We are comforted knowing the He cares for each and every person. Peter’s sums up the letter in v. 12. This letter is an exhortation for believers and to testify about God’s immeasurable grace. This letter was likely carried by Silvanus whom Peter calls a faithful brother. Peter provides an endorsement of Silvanus by saying, “For so I regard him.” Letter carriers often served to answer questions about the letter’s meaning should they arise. In Peter’s final verses, he sends greetings from, “She who is in Babylon” as well as greetings from Mark. She most likely refers to the church at Babylon since she is, “chosen together with you” referring to the believers scattered that Peter is writing to. This Mark is the same Mark that went with Paul on his first missionary journey, then went with Barnabas after Paul rejected him. Finally Peter says, “Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ.” An expression of mutual love.

1 Peter is totally relevant for today. We are not alone in our trials. Not only do we suffer for Christ, we are delivered in Christ. God’s grace is all sufficient not just for salvation, but for a continual abiding in Christ’s love. We must stand firm for Christ and be an example of His love and devotion to humanity. Satan is our enemy and he will stop at nothing to destroy us. Regardless of the trials, the persecution, or the suffering, we must hold firm to Christ.

The Warning

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Last week we looked at Peter’s admonition to the young men to submit to the authority of the elders. We saw that humility is an essential factor in unleashing God’s grace on us. God really does care for us and we can throw all the cares of this world on Him and He will cover us with His mighty hand. This morning, Peter gives us a very stern warning.

1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Get ready. Peter says, “Be of sober spirit.” This is a reminder of what he has said earlier in this letter. In 1:13, he said, “Keep sober in spirit.” In 4:7 he said, “Be of sound judgment and sober spirit.” In each of Peter’s warnings to be sober, he conveys the idea of being calm, being self-controlled, and temperate. He means for us to have a cool head. “Be on the alert.” Be on guard, be watchful, be careful, be vigilant. The second general order of a sentry in the Navy is to, “Walk my post in a military manner, keeping always on the alert, and observing everything that takes place within sight or hearing. The eleventh general order is, “To be especially watchful at night, and, during the time for challenging, to challenge all persons on or near my post and to allow no one to pass without proper authority.” That’s the idea Peter is conveying in this passage. Pay attention to what’s going on around you. Don’t let anything catch you by surprise. Keep your eyes and ears open. Don’t let your guard down, don’t be complacent. Remain alert and watchful.

What’s the reason for the warning? We are to be sober and be on the alert because, “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” The Bible is filled with word pictures and beautiful imagery to help us understand what it’s talking about and what it means. I believe this is an accurate, real world representation of what the devil is doing to Christians. What’s more disturbing than that though is that many Christians fail to realize it. The devil is your adversary. Adversary has a legal connotation. It means an opponent in a lawsuit. It also means enemy. It reflects the O.T. picture of Satan as the accuser of the brethren. In the book of Job, Satan is pictured as sort of a legal prosecutor of Heaven bringing accusations before the throne of judgment. Job 1:6-7 says, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.’” It looks like Satan was roaming the earth collecting evidence. Satan is not pursuing justice; he attempts to discredit God, His Word, and His works. In Zechariah’s vision, the Lord showed him, “. . . Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.”  (Zech. 3:1)

Now we come to a great example of Satan’s subtlety. I hope you’ll take the time to look up Matt. 4:1-11. In this passage we see just how crafty Satan is. He attacks Jesus’ deity, attacks everything that Jesus stands for. Satan’s subtly is evident in the way he quotes Scripture to Jesus. Satan is opposed to everything good and right and pure and holy that exists. He is against anything we do that is in obedience to God and His word.   Jesus handled Satan’s attacks over and over. In Jo. 12:31-32 as the cross of Calvary loomed ahead, Jesus said, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.  And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” In Lu. 10:18, Jesus told His disciples, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning.” Why is Satan so angry? Rev. 12:12 says, “For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.” That’s why Satan is so formidable as an enemy. He knows his time is short and he doesn’t know when it will end. His anger against the Lord and those who love the Lord grows with each passing day. Sometimes Satan attacks the church from within by disguising himself as an angel of light. Jude told us, “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”  (Jude 4) According to Rom. 16:20 we know the, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”

In Ja. 4:7 we are reminded to, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” It’s not that we don’t have weapons to fight Satan, the danger is that we won’t resist the devil, that we won’t watch and pray, the danger is that we won’t heed the warnings of Scripture. The danger is that we won’t put on the whole armor of God and take up the sword of the Spirit. The danger is that too many Christians don’t think that Satan is real. A 2011 Barna study revealed that 56% of American Christians don’t believe Satan is real. If Satan is to be resisted, if we are going to stand against the devil, we have got to watch and pray; we have got to be vigilant.

“Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” There are some key things in this verse that you need to get a hold of. First, the devil prowls around. Prowl carries the idea of secrecy or moving about in darkness. It has the idea of moving about in a predatory manner usually in an unlawful manner. Second, the devil is like a roaring lion. The lion is a very cool animal. He is the king of the jungle, but there are some things you may not know about the lion that we can draw some very close comparisons to Satan. The lion is not a very fast animal – about 35 mph. His favorite meals are wildebeests and gazelles which can run about 50 mph. So how do lions catch dinner? Stealth. Lions are very good at hiding; they blend in well with their surroundings. They stalk their prey to get as close as possible and then run at them with a burst of speed. The lion surprises his food, catches them, and devours them. Satan roars like a lion to scare you, but he is tied to a chain held by Christ. Satan can tempt you, but “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”  (1 Cor. 10:13) Satan may be the prince of the power of the air and the lion may be the king of the jungle, but Jesus is the lion of the tribe of Judah, Jesus is the King of kings. Fourth, the devil is seeking whom he may devour. He is on a mission.  He wants to destroy you. Devour gives us the idea of completely eating up. Satan wants to totally consume you. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.

Peter has warned us and given the reason for the warning. Satan wants to defeat you, discredit you, and destroy you. Be aware of this and don’t be caught off guard.

Good News for 2012

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Romans 10:13-15, says, “For WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”

Notice the words in v.15, “Good news of good things.” I looked at what the Associated Press said were their top stories of 2011.  There were some items that people will consider good news while most people will consider it all bad. Here are the top news stories of 2011 according to AP.

  1. OSAMA BIN LADEN’S DEATH: He’d been the world’s most-wanted terrorist for nearly a decade, ever since a team of his al-Qaida followers carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.  In May, the long and often-frustrating manhunt ended with a nighttime assault by a helicopter-borne special operations squad on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Bin Laden was shot dead by one of the raiders, and within hours his body was buried at sea.
  2. JAPAN’S TRIPLE DISASTER: A 9.0 magnitude earthquake off Japan’s northeast coast in March unleashed a tsunami that devastated scores of communities, leaving nearly 20,000 people dead or missing and wreaking an estimated $218 billion in damage. The tsunami triggered the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl after waves knocked out the cooling system at a nuclear power plant, causing it to spew radiation that turned up in local produce. About 100,000 people evacuated from the area have not returned to their homes.
  3. ARAB SPRING: It began with demonstrations in Tunisia that rapidly toppled the longtime strongman. Spreading like a wildfire, the Arab Spring protests sparked a revolution in Egypt that ousted Hosni Mubarak, fueled a civil war in Libya that climaxed with Moammar Gadhafi’s death, and fomented a bloody uprising in Syria against the Assad regime. Bahrain and Yemen also experienced major protests and unrest.
  4. EU FISCAL CRISIS: The European Union was wracked by relentless fiscal turmoil. In Greece, austerity measures triggered strikes, protests and riots, while Italy’s economic woes toppled Premier Silvio Berlusconi. France and Germany led urgent efforts to ease the debt crisis; Britain balked at proposed changes.
  5. U.S. ECONOMY: By some measures, the U.S. economy gained strength as the year progressed. Hiring picked up a bit, consumers were spending more, and the unemployment rate finally dipped below 9 percent. But millions of Americans remained buffeted by foreclosures, joblessness and benefit cutbacks, and investors were on edge monitoring the chain of fiscal crises in Europe.
  6. PENN STATE SEX ABUSE SCANDAL: One of America’s most storied college football programs was tarnished in a scandal that prompted the firing of Hall of Fame football coach Joe Paterno. One of his former assistants, Jerry Sandusky, was accused of sexually molesting 10 boys; two senior Penn State officials were charged with perjury; and the longtime president was ousted. Paterno wasn’t charged, but expressed regret he didn’t do more after being told there was a problem.
  7. GADHAFI TOPPLED IN LIBYA: After nearly 42 years of mercurial and often brutal rule, Moammar Gadhafi was toppled by his own people. Anti-government protests escalated into an eight-month rebellion, backed by NATO bombing, that shattered his regime, and Gadhafi finally was tracked down and killed in the fishing village where he was born.
  8. FISCAL SHOWDOWNS IN CONGRESS: Partisan divisions in Congress led to several showdowns on fiscal issues. A fight over the debt ceiling prompted Standard & Poor’s to strip the U.S. of its AAA credit rating. Later, the so-called supercommittee failed to agree on a deficit-reduction package of at least $1.2 trillion – potentially triggering automatic spending cuts of that amount starting in 2013.
  9. OCCUPY WALL STREET PROTESTS: It began Sept. 17 with a protest at a New York City park near Wall Street, and within weeks spread to scores of communities across the U.S. and abroad. The movement depicted itself as leaderless and shied away from specific demands, but succeeded in airing its complaint that the richest 1 percent of Americans benefit at the expense of the rest. As winter approached, local police dismantled several of the protest encampments.
  10. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS SHOT: The popular third-term congresswoman from Arizona suffered a severe brain injury when she and 18 other people were shot by a gunman as she met with constituents outside a Tucson supermarket in January. Six people died, and Giffords’ painstaking recovery is still in progress.

Among the news events falling just short of the Top 10 were the death of Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, Hurricane Irene, the devastating series of tornados across Midwest and Southeastern U.S., and the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that barred gays from serving openly in U.S. military. Those are just the top stories and there was not a single good news story. That’s the problem, we thrive on bad news.

As Christians, we’ve got some good news.

  • It is good Jesus came to Earth.
  • It is good Jesus declared his deity.
  • It is good Jesus died.
  • It is good Jesus conquered death.
  • It is good Jesus destroyed the works of the devil.

Jesus said, “Because I live, you shall live also.”

As we think about a New Year, there’s going to be negative things or bad news that will be recognized at the end of the year.  As Christians, we don’t need to dwell on the negative, but accentuate the positive. Good news should be what God’s people think about.  When we get to the end of next year I am sure there will be several things as we look back in reflection that we can truly say were, “good news of good things.” As I look forward to the coming year, I think of several things that I would like to have take place:

I’d like to see people converted. God’s attitude toward the sinner is revealed in 1 Tim. 2:4“Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” In America, we have decided that sin is relative.  There is no standard of conduct, but the Bible if very clear that we have a sin problem. Rom. 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Is. 64:6 says, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” But that doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t draw us to Him. John 6:44 says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” God made a way through Christ. 2 Cor. 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” We have been justification in Christ: we are declared righteous based on the merits of Jesus. We have been sanctified: Christ’s righteousness is applied to each of us every single day. It’s our responsibility to make sure that everyone knows they’re  welcome at the foot of the cross. John 6:37 says, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”  (2 Peter 3:9) “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16) You don’t have to be a certain way to get Christ, come as you are.

I’d like to see God’s people passionate about ministry. Is. 44:22 says, “I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud and your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.” We need to turn back to the Lord. Why? We have a tendency to take things for granted. The things of God become common place so we look for what is new, what is flashy. We’re looking for a thrill. Some evangelicals would have you believe that man does not exist for God’s benefit, but that God exists for man’s benefit. God becomes this great provider in the sky rather than the One who is worthy of our worship. We are looking for God to serve us rather than for us to serve Him. A general commitment to Christ substitutes for repentance. Emotional feelings replace true worship. We tend to be foolish. Matt. 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” To put anything above the Lord is foolish, but we do it all the time. I think few people would admit that, but our actions speak louder than our words. I’d like to see people get more involved in the opportunities we have here. We tend to be impatient which further separates us from God. America has developed into a nation that doesn’t want to work hard. At 30 years old, we want what our parents had when they were 65.

I’d like God’s people resist Satan. James says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (Ja. 4:7) We cannot resist the devil in our own strength. We must first submit ourselves to God.  Then we can stand against Satan in the strength and might of the Lord Himself. Resist his destructive plans. Satan is a destroyer. He will try to destroy your home, your church relationship, your testimony, etc. Once you say yes to Satan, it becomes easier the next time, and easier. Satan’s way is never good, but unfortunately, even Christians are too ignorant to recognize this.

I’d like to see Jesus come back in 2012. Phil. 3:20 says, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus promised in John 14:3, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” We’re too attached to this temporary home. We work to have things that will pass away. We spend the majority of our time on things that have no bearing on eternity.

What do you want to hear and see by the end of next year? How many will you share Christ with? How will you serve the Lord by serving others? Will you live the life of holiness God has called you to live? How authentic will you be?

Who’s Your Daddy?

You can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we saw that a lifestyle marked by sin is a clear indication that a relationship with Jesus Christ does not exist. Christians have been freed from sin because the Lamb of God appeared and takes away the sins of the world. That is good news that we need to share with others. That’s good news that we need to live by today. This morning, John just can’t get away from the central theme of this letter. No matter what anyone may say, actions speak louder than words.

1 John 3:7-10 says, Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is 1aborn of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is 1born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.”

John addresses a continual problem: “Make sure no one deceives you.” Do you feel like telling John to give it a rest? How many times does he have to tell us?      Until we get it. We live in a dangerous world in dangerous times. John’s instruction is like that of a parent to a child. Look both ways before crossing the street. Don’t take candy from a stranger. Wash your hands before you eat. Deception is all around us and attacks our core values at every opportunity. Deception tells us things like: There is no absolute truth. There is no heaven or hell. The Bible isn’t all true. It’s my body and it’s not a baby. I’m not hurting anyone. I can live anyway I want and you can’t judge me. Sin is relative. I’m just as good as the next guy.

Deception is all around us. John says, “Make sure no one deceives you.” They’re going to try, but don’t be fooled. Remember one of the reasons John said he wrote? These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.” (1 Jo. 2:26) These anti-Christs were purposefully trying to deceive the church with their false doctrine. What’s their purpose, what’s behind what they do? Why would anyone intentionally deceive Christians? Look at the truth that follows the instruction. “The one who practices righteousness is righteous.” Again, it’s important to look at verb tense. This isn’t a onetime good deed. This isn’t something that comes and goes. This isn’t the idea that, “Oh yea, I used to do that.” John is conveying the idea that practicing doing what is right is a characteristic of someone who is righteous. John is talking about a particular  righteousness. It isn’t as the world defines it, but is defined by Christ. “The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.”The qualifier is Christ. Righteousness is a distinct characteristic of the regenerative process that begins at salvation. A Christian practices righteousness because of an inner quality that comes from Christ. Doing righteous acts does not make a person righteous; doing righteous acts is an outpouring of an inner righteousness.  Matt. 7:16 says, “You will know them by their fruits.”

Righteousness is expected of Christians because Christ is the model; He is the standard. Do not be deceived by the false teachers whose lives were characterized by continual, habitual sin. They claimed to be righteous based on some type of esoteric knowledge. Not everyone was special enough to have that knowledge. It’s really easy to deceive people when you have some sort of special enlightenment or revelation. That’s the great thing about pure doctrine. God has given everyone the ability to discover truth. The deception today is that you can’t understand the Bible. The Bible is too hard to read, it doesn’t hold my attention; it’s dry. I find it interesting that people who make these types of claims are the same ones who will pour over their text books not just to get a passing grade, but so they can excel. They’ll review boring, dry technical manuals because it’s part of their job. They’ll memorize hundreds of sports statistics. They’ll pour over the internet reading material from a variety of authors on a variety of subjects. We don’t need a special revelation to understand God; to understand His character, to understand His love; or to understand how we should live our lives. We simply need a willingness.

John is emphatic: “Make sure no one deceives you.” Counterfeit Christians were trying to convince true believers that a person could be “saved” and still practice sin. John does not say that Christians will never sin, but he does say that Christians cannot live in sin. A person that enjoys deliberate sin and who does not experience the conviction of the Holy Spirit or experience God’s chastening better get serious about evaluating their supposed relationship with God. Righteousness is an inner quality that is displayed outwardly. Romans is a great book on the fundamentals of the faith. Every Christian needs to study that book. Rom. 3:22, “Even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction.” Rom. 5:17, “For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” Paul goes on to say, “And having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” (Rom. 6:18) Our righteousness is a result of Christ’s indwelling Spirit.

Let’s answer the question in the title of today’s message. In v. 4, John said that, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.” It’s another contrast in v. 8. If you practice sin. Engaged in sin on a continual, habitual level. Sin is a characteristic of your life. If this is what you are, then John says you are, “of the devil.” Interestingly enough, this is the first time John mentions the devil directly. You practice righteousness because you’re righteous. You practice sin because you’re sinful. This is not very popular. We want to feel good about ourselves. We’re just as good as the next guy. We tend to redefine what is right and good in the world, but we base that on what feels good, we base goodness on things that are relative or arbitrary. We base what is right and good on a shifting standard. John says, “The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.” The devil sinned from the beginning, but Christ is righteous from before the beginning. Sin began with devil. He is the source of sin.

So when was the beginning? That is a great question without a very clear answer. What we know is that Satan was on the scene in the garden. How long before the garden, we don’t know. How long was he the created being Lucifer before he sinned and became the devil, we don’t know. Isaiah 14 recounts the story, but there is no timeline. This we do know; Satan sinned from the beginning and continues to sin. God did not create sin or evil in Lucifer, Lucifer created sin and evil by rebelling against God. Satan enticed and deceived Adam and Eve with the same thing that enticed him: pride. Satan wanted to be like God and he deceived Adam and Eve by enticing them to rebel against God. Don’t get discouraged, don’t get down; there is hope for the world. John is so good about telling us things clearly, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” What are the works of the devil? SIN! The devil uses many methods. Sometimes he veils his intentions in what appears to be good. Sometimes it’s kind of tough to understand what the devil is trying to do, but his goal is always for our destruction. John 8:44, “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.” Jesus appeared for one primary reason: “To destroy the works of the devil.”

He has said it before, but he provides a level of finality in vs. 9-10. A Christian cannot practice sin – present tense. A Christian cannot practice sin because he is born of God. A Christian cannot practice sin because Christ’s seed abides in him. When you plant a garden, you plant the seeds in the ground of what you want to grow. You do not plant lettuce seeds to grow corn. The idea is that when Christ’s seed abides or remains or lives in you, what grows will look like the seed that is planted – in this case – Christ. There are two family groups John mentions. First, there are the children of God. How are they identified? They practice righteousness. Second, there are the children of the devil.       How are they identified? They do not practice righteousness. For John, there is no third group. You’re either a child of God or a child of the devil. John goes even further to say that it is obvious to identify which group a person belongs to.

Christ set Christians free from the works of the devil. We are not enslaved to sin. We aren’t to be deceived by the devil or his plans to destroy us because he has been defeated by Christ. John 8:36 says, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” If you are in the family of God, it should be obvious.