Posts Tagged ‘Scripture’

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On Biblical Morality in Modern Times…

October 15, 2012

Moses on the SCOTUS facade.

It is important to consider that morality, at its essence, is a core of beliefs that is acted upon by individuals. Legislation, is but the codification of morality with the aim of directing groups of individuals to/from that morality. It is impossible for legislation to be devoid of morality, because legislation is a codification of values. So whether it serves as a legal restraint for good or a license for evil, it is inherently moral.

For the world, morality is benign, it is neither good nor bad. Dictators can be moral, so can school children, but where the world fails is in determining what if anything is immoral. The secular world fails to recognize any common universal source for morality, an individuals core of beliefs is but a reflection of their own predilection toward one course or another. Therefore when you ask a secularist ‘can one legislate morality?’ they give you this puzzled look. ‘How can anyone legislate or put into legislation individual morality?’ they ask. They go on to say, ‘what may be moral for you, is not moral for me…’ etc. This is the dead end road of the secular worldview. Ultimately nothing has meaning outside the individual, laws are suggestive of desire but not determinate of performance. The end result of this is chilling words from the book of Judges, “In those days there was no king… Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)

For the Christian, morality is far less subjective. It is still a core of beliefs that is acted upon, but that core has a universal objective source. The source of human morality is God’s revelation in His word and in nature. Lodged within the narrative of history is the thread of God’s moral revelation. He reveals it implicitly in the general revelation of nature, and explicitly in the pages of His Word. Paul informs us in Romans that God has written His law on the heart of every man, so that whether they have received His written revelation or not they have within themselves a conscience that reflects their Creator’s image. For the Christian, morality is not benign, it is powerful. Morality is an expression of what one values and is given by God that we might value the right things. God gave His written law for the preservation of His people and the propagation of His glory. So for the Christian, laws and legislation become essential tools. God has created man to be ruled by laws. Whether Laws carved in stone or laws written on the human heart; it is man’s need to be governed by a moral code. The beauty of the gospel is that it redefines morality. Morality is now seen through the work of Christ on the cross. We are now given an opportunity to be governed by a law fulfilled in Christ. We are empowered to do greater works than were ever done before. What is moral becomes a reflection of Who He was and who we are in Him.

So there is great need on the part of the Christian to see that the laws of their lands reflect the redeemed reality of mankind. We must seek the goodwill of our neighborhood and our nation, and advocate for laws that protect and promote God’s design for mankind. But should the tide withdraw, and the season change, we must be prepared to live lives consistent with Christ’s example. Preaching the Word in season and out of season, as those around us “wander off into myths.” (2 Tim 4:4)

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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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Mastering Mammon… Part III

March 23, 2012

We wrap up our focus on this passage of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:22-24 by examining on of the most quoted verses of the Sermon.

24 “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. What are some  modern examples of trying to serve two masters?

Is it possible to serve two masters?

Yes, in a sense, you can serve two masters.  You can have to jobs, you can have two hobbies, and you can have multiple careers over the course of your lifetime.  Jesus is not saying that you cannot serve two masters in the sense that you can not do two things at once.  Jesus IS saying that you cannot serve both God AND mammon.  You cannot serve both God and material desires, greed, lusts or treasures.  God has called for us to be holy, because He is holy (Lev 19, 1 Peter 1:16).  He has bought us.  We are no longer our own, we are God’s, bought with the precious blood of His son.  Therefore we are not slaves to the flesh, or to unrighteousness we are slaves to Christ. (1 Corinthians 7:22)  If you are not saved, if you are not one of God’s children, then you can have and serve as many masters as your flesh will allow you to serve; and your evil eye will deny you the light of God’s truth and your body shall be full of darkness.  But if you are saved and believe on Christ, then you are His and you can only serve Him and prosper.  With that single clear focus, you seek first His kingdom, and everything else shall be added to you.

Some Modern examples of serving two masters:

Driving and texting:  this is a really simple analogy but appropriate.  When we drive we are being called upon to keep our eyes on the road.  This is both prudent and necessary to travel the journey set out before us.  But if we allow our eyes to drift, if we focus on a text message and texting instead of the road that tragedy can occur.

Marriage versus pornography:  Ultimately Jesus is addressing our own selfishness and greed in Matthew 6:22-24.  We are not to store up treasures but rather trust in God, if so we will not be anxious but rely on Him and seek His Kingdom, it is what we should be committed to do.  Likewise we are committed in a marriage.  We are to focus on that marriage and serve our spouse, submitting to one another “as Christ served the church.” (Eph 5:25)  We are to give to our spouses sacrificially and selflessly; but when one of the partners is engaged in pornography, it soon becomes his (or her) master.  It saps a marriage of intimacy and is a perfect example of greed and selfishness.  Porn slowly obscures the light of God’s glorious plan for sex and marriage and fills the addict with darkness.  Soon the only light in their lives is the glow of the computer screen before them.  They seek after pleasure and love, but they end up being denied both.

Sports versus the church:  This one might get a stronger reaction than pornography.  Parents have to make a decision; are we going to allow our children’s sports to separate us from the gathering together of believers in God’s church.  The fellowship of believers is something that is displayed in scripture and we are commanded not to forsake it.  And yet how many Sundays are missed a year because of sports games, practices, tournaments etc.  Your kids will value what you display to them as valuable.  This is not legalism, this is not old fashioned, this is the word of God.  Are you willing to sacrifice your children’s future on the altar of Sports (or fill in any entanglement that keeps them from church, or following Christ.)

 

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The gaze of the Godly… Part II

March 22, 2012

We continue looking at the Sermon on the Mount by examining the difference between the two types of eyes that Jesus mentions in the passage of 6:22-24.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “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.

 

What does Jesus mean when he talks about clear eyes and bad eyes?

We often use terminology an idioms involving the eyes to denote how someone is feeling or acting.  They might be “dreamy-eyed” in love, or “bleary-eyed” if they are tired.  Someone may even be “cock-eyed” in how they look at situations.  Here we are coming up against two common Hebrew idioms.  The “clear” eye or “single” eye and the “evil eye.”  Key to understanding the meaning of both of these is to look at the context into which they are placed.  Jesus is in the middle of a discussion of material processions and their effects on the life of the believer.  So the “good” eye and the “evil” eye here is referring to matters pertaining to material possessions and one’s attitude toward them.

The clear eye “Words that are closely related to “haplous” mean “liberality” (Ro 12:8; 2, I Cor. 9:11) and “generously” (James 1:5). The implication in the present verse is that if our heart, represented by the eye, is generous (clear), our whole spiritual life will be flooded with spiritual understanding, or light. If our eye is bad, however, if it is diseased or damaged, no light can enter, and the whole body will be full of darkness. If our hearts are encumbered with material concerns they become “blind” and insensitive to spiritual concerns.”[1]  The single or clear eye is “one that does not allow the allurement of wealth and possessions to distract him from God.”[2] Those who seek to divide their loyalties and focus on both “things” as well as God are blinded by a type of double vision.  In trying to look at two items at the same time, the vision becomes blurry and hence useless.  The “Good” or “Clear” eye is one “whose vision is not blurred by focusing on two objects at the same time, God and possessions.”[3]  It represents “single-minded” devotion to God, with one’s heart set on God alone.[4]

The Bad eye  The Greek word here is “Poneros (bad) usually means evil, as it is translated here in the King James Version. In the Septuagint  (Greek Old Testament LXX) it is often used in translating the Hebrew expression “evil eye” a Jewish colloquialism that means grudging, or stingy (see Deut. 15:9, Pr. 23:6 “Do not eat the bread of a selfish man [literally an “evil eye”]). “A man with an evil eye” for example, is one who “hastens after wealth” (Pr. 28:22 “A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth, And does not know that want will come upon him.”).”  The eye that is bad is the heart that is selfishly indulgent. The person who is materialistic and greedy is spiritually blind. Because he has no way of recognizing true light, he thinks he has light when he does not. What is thought to be light is therefore really darkness, and because of the self-deception, how great is the darkness! The principle is simple and sobering: the way we look at and use our money is a sure barometer of our spiritual condition.”[5] “An “evil eye,” conversely, was a stingy, jealous or greedy eye; yet it also signifies here a bad eye (Mt 6:23), one that cannot see properly.”[6]

So let’s tie all this together.  Jesus is instructing His disciples on how to lived the blessed life of one who is called the child of God. What distinguishes the children of God is not that they pray, fast, give and serve; but that they do these things for God alone.  Essential to living this life is having a singular focus on God.  We are to pray only to God. (6:9)  We are to fast and give for God alone. (6:3-4;16-18) We are to Serve God alone . (6:24) And we are to seek only Him and His Kingdom first. (6:33)  So in this passage (6:22-23) Jesus is making the point that those who are full of light have “good” eyes, clear eyes that generously seek and direct their attention on God.  Those who have evil eyes, place their gaze on the things of the world; mammon and treasures on earth.  They shall be full of darkness; unable to serve themselves or God.


[1] MacArthur, John: Matthew 1-7 Macarthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Press 1985.

[2] Quarles, Charles. The Sermon on the Mount 249

[3] Ibid.

[4] Keener, The Gospel According to Matthew, IVP. 232.

[5] MacArthur, John: Matthew 1-7 Macarthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Press 1985.

[6] Keener, The Gospel According to Matthew. 232

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What is Sin? The Unholy Trinity…

June 24, 2011

Sin, Transgression, and Iniquity In Psalm 51.

What is sin, really? 

From the very first verses in this psalm, David is upfront and honest about his actions and the punishment he deserves.  He has not only missed the mark, and failed to follow the law, he has actively engaged in criminal activity, adultery, murder, lying, theft, all of which leads up to a virtual rebellion against the God he now implores for forgiveness.  This is a pattern of evil easy to criticize, but also all too easy to mimic in our own lives.  Thankfully we serve a God or mercy, and compassion.  There is no reason that we should be accepted by a Holy God.  All of us from ‘small’ sins to great transgressions display hearts in rebellion to our maker.  Our only choice is to throw ourselves at His mercy and plead for grace.  David models both the confession and the call for mercy, for his sins, his life of iniquity and pattern of transgression.

 a.     Sin: The word used twice in this Psalm for ‘sin’ is the word חַטָּאָת or chatta’ath.  This word is rooted in the idea of mis-step, to stumble or falter.  To miss the mark, induce sin, or bring guilt and or condemnation.  It is from these sins that the Israelites sought absolution through sacrifice.  David rightly seeks to be ‘cleansed’ from this act and will feel confronted with his sin continually until he is forgiven.

 b.     Iniquity- The word here is עָוֹן or ‘av-own’. It occurs some 237 times in the Old Testament and describes a pattern or display of criminal activity.  This is not merely sin, or missing the mark but engaging in a crime, for which one would be prosecuted, tried and judged.  Sometimes it is the penalty for sin, in that sin brings about iniquity, a pattern or ‘life of crime’.  It is rooted in the idea, and comes from the word to bend or pervert, to twist or distort.  So one could see the natural transition here, from twisted and perverted to iniquity and crime.  To bend and twist the law to fit your own way is to commit a crime.  Certainly David is guilty of this, and rightly seeks to be absolved of his crime, ‘wash me thoroughly from my iniquity.’ Vs. 2.

 c.   Transgression- The word here is פֶּשַׁע or ‘pesha’.  It occurs some 99 times in the Old Testament.  It is rooted in the idea or rebellion or revolt.  Its root word means as much, to turn away from.  Israel was in rebellion against David’s kingdom (1 King 12:19) This is to commit sin against someone else, Joseph’s brothers transgressed against him by selling him into slavery.  Israel.  One can and does transgress against God, every time one sins.  God promises to punish those who transgress Ps. 89:32 but to those who he forgives, He not only forgives but places their transgressions far from them. Ps. 103:12.  But Christ was numbered among the transgressors bearing the sins of many and interceded for them. (Isa. 53:12)

John MacArthur writes:

“If I were to sum up what David was feeling, I might say it like this, “Sin had made him dirty and he wanted to be clean. Guilt had made him sick and he wanted to be well. Disobedience had made him lonely and he wanted to be reconciled. Rebellion had made him fearful and he wanted to be pardoned.”  That’s what comes out of Psalm 51, a man who feels dirty, sick, isolated and afraid…all consequence of his sin. And out of that, he pours forth this confession and it has all the right perspectives of a true confession would be threefold…see your sin for what it is, see God for who He is, and see yourself for who you are. Any true confession is going to have to interact with those components.”[1]


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Redemption Accomplished

June 18, 2011

I was so grateful for the opportunity to teach from God’s word last week for our Bible Fellowship class, Kingdom First at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, KY.

Here is the link to my lesson from last Sunday on Christ’s Redemption Accomplished in 1 Peter 1:13-2:10

Click Here

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What is man? Our place in the mind of God…

June 6, 2011

Psalm 8 is a masterful meditation with a tapestry as rich and complex as the night’s sky. Here a king comes to grips with the significance of God and the minuteness of man. David might be seen strolling atop his palace at night glancing across God’s chosen land into His created heavens, and amid the trappings of royalty, the gold and the silks and the rooms of opulence, he gazes upon a splendor that surpasses all that man can manifest. The earth is wrapped each night in the majestic testimony of the creator God, whom David calls by name. “Oh Yahweh, our Lord.” How many nights he must have seen the heavenly drama unfold, tending sheep. The God he calls to, called him a child an infant, to rise up and still the enemies of Israel. As a small boy, ruddy in complexion, and ruff in demeanor, God used him to establish strength and build a nation, slaying giants and founding cities. Such favor prompts the response, who am I? What is man that You are mindful of him?

Throughout the immensity of earth and the inexhaustible vastness of space God focuses on us, on children in mangers and shepherds in wilderness fields. On single moms and struggling families, students and corporate tycoons, He sees us and is aware of our condition. As we pass by the hurting around us, mindful of only our own needs, God is mindful of them and all of us, and has set about a plan for our redemption and glory.

This psalm is not about our insignificance but rather our insurmountable role as those who would exercise dominion over this creation. God takes the small, the weak, the unwise, the poor and gives them the kingdom of Heaven as an inheritance. Despite being like children, weak and defenseless; despite being the most fragile of God’s creations, as generations of us will pass in the life of a single star, God has chosen to display His glory through us. All that He has created shall be planted beneath our feet and we shall reign.

How majestic is this God? The word majestic used twice in this psalm, is glorious, wondrous, illustrious, illustrating God’s preeminence above His creation. The term is just as good when used to describe the scene in Genesis when the stars are formed, as it is to describe their fall in Revelation. And like his majesty displayed at both ends of scripture, David closes this reflection with the echo of God’s renown. Who are we, but a vast tapestry of God’s grace, millions of minute points of light shining in the darkness bearing witness to His unlimited grace and infinite greatness.

That He is mindful of us in never in doubt, what remains to be seen is if we are mindful of Him.