Archive for April, 2012

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The Content of Complacency…

April 30, 2012

The conception of complacency:

Genesis 3:1-15  Adam and Eve resided in the comfort provided by God and their sole responsibility to was to carry out the commands of God in creation.  In their comfortable state, they were deceived to think that God was not to be trusted, and that their fate lay in their hands.  Rather than being content in what God has provided, they became complacent.  They displayed a disregard for God and His commands in the face of His manifold provision and protection.

Constant complacency:

-Genesis 6-9  The earth and mankind was afflicted by sin (Gen 6).  God provided deliverance through the judgement of the flood (Gen 7-8); Noah experienced the comfort of deliverance(Gen 9:1-19); Noah was lax in obedience and he got drunk off of his own wine and was exposed naked (Gen 9:20-29).

-Genesis 15-18 Abram was promised a seed that would multiply and bless the world.  Instead of waiting on the Lord, he relied on his own ingenuity, and disregarded God in the face of His provision, sleeping with Hagar and fathering Ishmael.

-Exodus 32  God had delivered His people from the affliction of slavery and provided for them protecting them in the wilderness, comforting them.  They got restless waiting for Moses to return from the Mountain of God, and they rebelled, constructing a golden calf, placing their trust and hope in a God of their own creation.  They disobeyed the command of God that there be no other Gods than Yahweh, they displayed disregard for God and His commands in the face of His manifold protection.

-Judges  Judges tells the story of the people of Israel inhabiting the promised land.  God had provided the land for them, and delivered them into it through the leadership of Joshua.  And yet, they continually disregarded God’s provision.  So God gave them judges to lead them.  But in the end, they occupied the land that he had given them and each ended up doing “what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)  This created an environment of horrendous acts, rape, murder, and idolatry.

-2 Samuel 11-12: David was complacent during the period in which he sinned with Bathsheba.  During a time “when the kings go out to battle” david remained in the comfort and security of the palace.  Rather than fulfilling his duties as king and fighting alongside his men, David remained in the comfort of the palace.  Rather than obeying the law he loved, to not commit adultery, David was complacent and gave in to his sin.  He showed callous disregard for God in the face of His provision, in that David had wives, and concubines, yet he still lusted after Bathsheba.

The conclusion of complacency

-The people of Israel in the prophets: Complacency is both rooted in disobedience and manifests itself in disobedience and ends, like all disobedience, in judgement.  God had commanded that his people worship only Him, that they wait on Him for there are no gods or rulers like Him. (Isa 40)  And yet Israel was complacent in their worship.  He commanded that hey love Him with all of their heart soul and mind (Deut 6:5) and yet their hearts slowly drifted from Him; that drift was complacency.  By the time of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah before the exile, and the prophets like Malachi after the exile; the people of Israel were merely going through the motions with no true love for God.  The people came near to Him with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him. (Isa 29:13)  They felt like they could get by with mere lip-service without really believing in who God is and in what He had commanded them to do.  The result was affliction and judgment in the form of exile and conquest.  Malachi bears witness to this complacency, the priests were going through the motions, offering sacrifices, but they cared little about obeying God fully.  God commanded that the sacrifices to be brought to the altar be whole, without blindness or blemish,(Leviticus 22:22) but the priest were content to continue with substandard sacrifices.  The result was distance from God and the judgment of His silence for 400 years.

In the NT:  Throughout the NT, Christians are called to guard themselves agains complacency.  They are to love the Lord; pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17); Guard against errant doctrine to stand firm (Gal 5:1); and to guard against idols (1 John 5:21).  Failure to do these things results in grieving the Spirit, and exclusion from the body of Christ. (Eph 4:30 and 1 Cor 16:22)

The conclusion of complacency gone unchecked and unchallenged is envisioned in Rev  3 where the church in Sardis is addressed by Christ.  They are a church, they have a name, they think that they are alive, but in fact He knows their deeds and they are dead.(3:1)  Complacency can have the appearance of life and activity, but if the activity is not obedience to God, and its life is not found in Christ, it represents a disregard for God in the face of His provision in Christ.

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The Desire and Danger of Jealousy…

April 25, 2012

 

Jealousy at its most basic level is the desire for the glory that someone else is receiving. When we see others elevated in anyway and we desire the glory they are receiving we are displaying jealousy. All of creation was created by Christ, through Him and for Him (Col 1:15); Christ is the focal point of all creation and deserves all glory present within creation. When He is denied that glory rightly due Him, God becomes jealous. As a result, jealousy in and of itself is not necessarily bad, as long as it has as its result the desire for God’s glory. For instance, if an event occurs and no one attributes glory to God in that situation, then we might be right to be jealous (on behalf of God) that God receive the glory for the event. This might best be translated as zeal, or being zealous for God. Jealousy becomes sinful when we seek glory for ourselves. If we see others, including God, receiving glory, credit, kudos, etc. and we desire that glory we are displaying jealousy. i.e. Cain and Abel; Sarai and Hagar, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and His brothers etc.

It is important to remember, that envy is the desire for things, lust is the desire for affections, and jealousy is the desire for glory. There are times that these bleed into each other and feed off each other. But make no mistake, misdirected jealousy is sinful and represents action according to the flesh. (I Cor 3:3)

The Danger of Jealousy

“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.”
-James 3:16

Jealousy reorients the direction of worship in our hearts. We are meant and created to worship God (He is Jealous for our worship Ex. 34:14). But our jealousy reflects a denial of this created order as we display our true desire to receive worship and glory rather than to give it. When we are jealous, or act out of jealousy we are in essence saying, “I know that someone else, or even God deserves glory here… but I desire it.” This desire crouches at our door, seeking to devour us; if it remains unchecked then ultimately it will overcome us. When we are overcome with this unhealthy, faithless desire we will usually stop at nothing to get what we want. We will kill our brother (Cain and Abel), we will sell our birthright (Esau and Jacob), we will abandon our brother to slavery (Joseph and his brothers), we will persecute God’s anointed (Saul and David), we will steel our best friend’s wife (David and Bathsheba), we will over-throw our father’s kingdom (Absalom and David), we will even betray our Lord for 30 pieces of Silver (Judas and Christ).

Jealousy is dangerous because it reflects a lack of faith in our hearts. If we trust God, then we face every circumstance, whether we receive glory or not, with the knowledge that God is in control and that He ultimately deserves all Glory. We must be humble enough to realize that God deserves glory and we deserve judgment and death. We have no standing to be jealous of what rightly belongs to God. And if we receive glory from Him through His son, then the only right response is one of praise and adoration for such unmerited grace.

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The Dangers of Doubt…

April 10, 2012

“Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.’ And Peter answered Him and said, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ So He said, ‘Come.’ And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.'”

-Matthew 14:22-31

Is doubt a sin?

Yes. Doubt is an expression of our weak belief and a manifestation of our lack of faith. David Wilkerson states, “of all the sins we can commit, doubt is the one most hated by God.” Doubt is not natural, it is a function of our fallen sinful state. We were created to trust God, rely on Him for everything, and cast our hope on Him. Doubt springs from pride and forgetfulness, it grows in isolation from God, and it ultimately will drive us to seek what we need from someone/thing other than God. Throughout the whole of Scripture God is constantly acting, displaying His command of events and history giving us examples of His care for us and reasons for us to trust Him. He displays Himself as sufficient to deliver the Israelites out of slavery, provide for them in the desert, and deliver them into the promised land. And at every turn and every opportunity the Israelites express doubt and fear and turn to idols for consolation. To be known as a prophet in the Old Testament was to be one who had faith in God and did not doubt. Prophets would call to Israelites mired in doubt and fear to return to God, and put their hope and trust in Him. God is utmost concerned that His Glory be displayed in the universe. We do not display His glory when we doubt.

That is the message behind Matthews passage in Chapter 14. The account of Jesus walking on the water is sandwiched between tremendous acts of faith and provision. Crowds are pursuing Jesus seeking healing from illnesses. When they hear that he is near, they all surround him by the thousands and he heals them, feeds them and send them on their way. These hordes of sick and wounded people had faith, they overcame their doubts and turned their eye and their hope upon Jesus and he saved them. Thousands believe, but Peter doubts. It is by the grace of almighty God through His Son Jesus Christ that He has mercy on Peter and has mercy on us. He comes to us amidst our doubt with one message, “it is I, be of good cheer, FEAR NOT.” (Fear Not! For behold I bring you good news of Great Joy that is for everyman Luke 2:9, “Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me.” John 14:1) our doubt is overcome with one prayer, cried out in faith, “Lord, save me!” At which point, he is faithful to “stretch out His hand and catch us” and rescue us from drowning.

Why did Peter doubt?

Peter doubted because Peter was a sinner and was fearful. He did not understand yet who Jesus was and why it mattered. This is clear in the next major passage of the text and throughout the gospel of Matthew. Peter is constantly acting with a sort of schizophrenia. In this chapter, he calls out to Jesus as Lord, but sinks into the water because of doubt. In Chapter 16 he will confess Jesus as the son of God, but then will oppose Jesus’ prophesy about the cross. After saying that he would never deny Him, Peter denies Christ three times in Chapter 26. It is clear throughout that Peter had an idea of who Jesus was, but he never fully understood. Peter wanted to put Jesus into a mold. He ha a conception of who Jesus was and who He was supposed to be, his Jesus was the messiah who would lead the people of Israel in rebellion against the Romans; not the man who was to be crucified between two criminals. His Jesus was the king to be served, not the Servant who would wash the feet of His disciples. One would argue that it was not until after the resurrection that Peter, endowed with the Spirit of God, fully understood who Jesus was and why it mattered. As he preached at Pentecost the doubt and trembling is gone and is replaced with certainty and power. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know FOR CERTAIN that God has raised him from the dead– this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36) He doubted because he was a doubter; but the resurrection of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit transformed his doubt into unwavering belief. So it is for us, as it was for him. Faith without doubt is able to move mountains; Faith with doubt will barley keep us afloat.

What causes us to doubt?

Doubt is rooted in our failure to accurately understand who God is. God properly apprehended removes doubt. There are really two kinds of doubt; Emotional doubt and intellectual doubt.

Emotional doubt is and can be experienced by believers and followers of Jesus. This is the doubt we see on display in Matthew 14. Peter’s doubt arose out of fear, “he saw the wind was boisterous and he was afraid.” God created us with emotions, and the ability to feel fear. Fear was a reflex meant for God alone. The beginning of Biblical wisdom is the fear of God. Jesus’ message in the gospels is that we are to believe in God and fear not; and if we are to fear then we should fear only God, “the one who has the power to cast both body and soul into hell.” When we fear God, we reflect an absence of doubt and a fullness of faith in Him. When we are motivated by fear for anything other than God, we allow doubt to take over. When this happens our only response should be one of repentance, and reorientation toward God, fixing our eyes on Him, from whence cometh our help.

Intellectual doubt is less common, and more dangerous than emotional doubt. Intellectual doubt is being faced with the command of God and failing to follow Him because of your own reasoned disbelief. It is not reaction out of fear, but rather the fruit of a proud heart. This doubt is the rich young ruler who approaches Jesus seeking everlasting life. He begins to reason with Christ as to the costs of discipleship, ultimately when faced with the choice of following Jesus or keeping his stuff, he doubted the truthfulness of Jesus’ command and left in despair. Intellectual doubt is Romans 1:21, “for though they knew God they failed to honor Him as God.” Intellectual doubters see God, are faced with Him, and reason that what they see cannot be true or affect their lives. When this happens absent repentance, the consequences are dire and permanent. The only hope for this doubter is a grace given radical understanding of who they are in relation to God. This removes pride and eliminates doubt in who God is and what He has said.

When is doubt deadly?

Doubt is deadly when it is uncontested and given in to. Doubt is no residence for the Christian, a Christian may visit from time to time, but he/she cannot stay. Jesus commands us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind. There is no room for doubt in our pursuit of God. But doubt does happen. When doubt creeps in and begins to crowd out our view of God we begin to sink. Doubt leads to death when people choose to place their faith in any alternative other than God. Christ is our hope, He is calling out to us and when we have faith we can walk through the greatest storm; and even if we doubt, we must repent and cry out to the Lord, and He will be faithful to take hold of our hand and save us.

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5 Ways the Resurrection Gives Meaning to Our Lives….

April 6, 2012

There are many events of history that if I were to mention them to you this morning they would have very little if any meaning, even though they were monumentally important in history. No matter how important the battle, no matter how influential the personality, as time passes and their accomplishments fade the meaning behind what they have done likewise loses power. There is only one event in the course of human history that has never faded, will never fade and will always be as impressive and important today as it was 2000 years ago when it occurred; that event is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. As air entered His lungs, and His heart began to beat, and the stone rolled away the clock of the universe was reset and everything, absolutely everything changed. Satan’s grip on this world slipped, sin’s chains were loosed, and generations gained the first fruits of lasting hope that the end was in fact near. Despite these terrific accomplishments and undeniable effects, how many of us proceed through our days acting as if nothing ever changed? How many of us treat Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection as a mere event in history? A mark on a timeline much like the fall of the Roman empire, or Columbus’ discovery of the new world. Monumental, yes, but distant events with little modern impact and no personal impact on or daily lives.

Here are 5 ways that the Resurrection gives meaning to our lives:

1. The Resurrection gives meaning to our faith and belief. Belief is the buzzword of religion in America today. You need to believe, she needs to believe, we all need to just believe. Belief is a word that can be used in any setting and it is entirely void of confrontation. Having faith is not a controversial stance. Many people if you were to stop them on the street or talk to them in coffee shops, would tell you that they have faith. Politicians can advocate a number of policies for and against everything from marriage to sexual ethics to defense policy and all be “people of faith.” But what is missing from the common popular conception of faith and belief is anything that grounds those activities in meaning. The question that the Christian must ask is “believe in what?” “believe in whom?” What do we believe in where is our faith placed? It is not enough to simply have faith, it is not enough to simply believe. In order for belief to have any real lasting eternal and temporal value it must be rooted and grounded in God through the work of Jesus Christ. Christ’s Resurrection gives our faith and our belief meaning. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:14 that if Christ had not been raised from the dead then “our preaching is in vain, your faith is in vain.” Without the resurrection faith has no meaning. The only work which saves, the only work by which God has provided a way for sins to be forgiven was and is the resurrection. All these churches, all the missions, all the sermons, would all be nothing, but for the resurrection. If Christ has not risen from the dead then we of all people are “most to be pitied.” (1 Cor. 15:19) Christ rising from the dead gives your faith meaning and purpose.

2. The resurrection gives meaning to your hope. Hope and change are ideas that corse through our culture, behind every tragic event and every cultural controversy. Politicians get your votes on the idea that hope can be realized. Everyone is searching desperately for something or someone to hope in. For so many people in the world today, the hope that they nurture and they hope they find dies with the movements they place their hope in. The hope that the world offers is a dead hope, a futile hope that is tied to death. As Christians, we live lives in the light of our hope in God, or at least we should. But how many of us walk through our daily lives and daily struggles devoid of any evidences true hope. According to scripture though, if we are born again, we are “born again to a living hope.” That living hope is found “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3) What enlivens the hope of the christian is the fact that our hope is tied directly to the fact that Jesus died for our sins and that he rose from the dead. This was according to God’s great mercy, and serves to give meaning to our hope. If we truly believe that this miracle occurred then we should have hope even in the face of death. So as you go through life and interact with others will you be able to give an evidence for the hope that is in you? You can have a living hope, not tied to any movement or any individual, but tied to the work of Christ on the cross for you. Our hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. And His blood means something, and his righteousness is proven real because He has risen.

3. The Resurrection gives meaning to our love for one another. To the world love represents an opportunity. An opportunity to be served, an opportunity to be fulfilled, an opportunity to be complete and feel wanted and needed. Websites advertise how you can search through countless individuals for someone who matches what YOU want, and someone who will most likely satisfy what you need; be it adventure, love, security etc. On a more corrupt level, pornography gives the illusion of love but is wholly constructed to cater to lust. Pornography is like a cool light with no warmth, illuminating only our selfishness, finding our satisfaction at the expense of others. This is love to the world. The resurrection radically reorients all relationships and redefines love. The work of Christ is the ultimate display of love and gives us the model of how to love one another. Time and time again in the Bible we are told to love as Christ loved. If we love, we must be willing to sacrifice ourselves for our wives (Eph 5:21) for our brothers (1 John 3:16) If we know love, according to the Apostle John, we know love by this, “that He [Jesus] laid down His life for us.” We have no greater love for one another than when we are willing to lay our lives down for our brother. The resurrection gives the loving sacrifice of Christ meaning, in that it points to the reality beyond His death. Because of His resurrection, our faith is sure, and our hope is grounded, so as a result we cease to love the way the world loves. We see in the Sermon on the Mount, when we are hated we respond in love, when we are tempted we respond in our love for God, when we are asked to love the world and its treasures we respond by loving and seeking our God first. Our love is real because our Lord is real, risen from the dead. Christian love has the potential to convey far more than any worldly love could attempt; it should reflect and flow from the act of Christ’s sacrificial love made real by the resurrection.

4. The resurrection gives meaning to our suffering. Why is there pain in the world? If there is a God and He is good then why do people suffer? These questions echo through hospital hallways, across battlefields and storm aftermaths throughout the world. Suffering cries out for an answer. For many Christians, suffering remains unanswerable. This world is broken, caught in a vicious cycle of sin and death which afflicts christians and non-christians alike with profound unfair suffering. Our lives are lived in the hope brought to us by Christ’s resurrection from the dead. ( 1 Peter 1:3). Because when Christ rose that Sunday morning so long ago he broke the cycle of sin, and the consequences of sin, death. His rising points to our future resurrection, through God’s power. This hope gives us the strength to view persecution as a “light momentary affliction.” For we know that no matter how difficult this life gets we have awaiting us a new abundant resurrected life. So we face unjust suffering as Christ did. He suffered for us, leaving us an example for us to follow in His steps. (1 Peter 2:21) Christ paved the way in both His suffering and His resurrection. Therefore, we “should not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among us… but to the degree that you share in the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice.”(1 Peter 4:13) What awaits us is glory, a glory made sure by Christ’s resurrection.

5. The Resurrection gives meaning to death. The unbeliever trembles in the face of death. Death is the great unknown and the ultimate uncertainty. As a result non-christians and unbelievers spend much of their lives, and money, fleeing death and the effects of aging. Christians too, are not immune from this fear. Death seems mysterious, and many Christians act as if there is no hope when death occurs near them. Non-Christians (and functionally many Christians) Pursue life and fear only death. But this should not be. Of all the people in the world, Christians should be the most confident when approaching death, and should live their lives pursuing God and fearing only Him. When Jesus rose from the death the earth quaked at the realization that the old ways were finished, the power of death had been broken. For Jesus conquered death by rising from its clutches. As He rose from the dead imperishable He gave us a picture of what awaits us when we rise from the dead. Hear Paul as he wrote to the church at Corinth;

20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power… 50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed… then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. 55 O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Through Christ we have victory, death is no longer the end, but only the beginning. As He was raised, so too will we be raised, and this promise removes the sting of death. Death is no longer meaningless, but becomes a means by which we experience victory and are joined with Christ to the Glory of the Father.

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The Living Witness: The final stage of missions…

April 4, 2012

The Living Witness

The previous sections have largely been focused the substance of the great commission found in Matthew 28:19-20 applied through the organization of Acts 1:8.  We have focused on going and making, but now we shall focus on living.  In Acts 1:8 Christ addresses His followers prior to His ascension into Heaven.  He does not give them a commission, rather He provides them with a prophecy.  He states, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses…” This “witness” here in the text refers to testimony.  A testimony given in a historical sense about past events; and a testimony lived out before others, that these historical events have a powerful impact on life.  This is not a request on Jesus’ part, rather He is promising that this will occur when the power of the Holy Spirit comes upon His followers.  Where His power is, one cannot help but testify to its effects.

The New Testament provides us with a picture of this power lived out, through evangelism, preaching, church instruction, even martyrdom.[1]  Followers of Christ are commanded to preach to those who have not heard, in season and out of season, the Word of God.[2]  But believers are also commanded to conduct themselves in such a way as to demonstrate an active faith, one that is above reproach, a faith protected from error.[3]  Going into the nations is useless and will have short-lived results if it is not mirrored by a true witness.  Making disciples is nearly impossible if it is not done by displaying a witness what is being taught impacts more than the mind.  Living out a witness is little more than testifying through word and action that my heart has been changed by the grace of God.  He has revealed through His Son: who I should become and who I am.  These truths have affected my life, directed my worship and grounded my hope in the future.

When we are faithful to live this witness before the world, we fulfill God’s command to obey Him, love our neighbor and glorify His name among the nations.   To the extent that we are faithful in this, surely the knowledge of God may cover the earth, as the waters cover the seas, a flood of His glory through the mission of His church.  Lord, may this be done in us.

See Missions Pt 1
The Going …
The Making…

[1] The word for witnesses in Acts 1:8 is where we get our word for martyr.  A martyr is one who literally bears witness of their devotion to Christ through the willing sacrifice of their life for the sake of their testimony.

 [2]Romans 10:17-19; 2 Timothy 4:2

 [3] James 2:17-25, I Peter 2:16-17, Colossians 2:8