The Trap of Loose Liaisons

July 1, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Posted in Biblical friendship, Traps of Lawless Living | Leave a comment
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In the last lesson on Samson’s pattern of lawless living, I advocated banishing the term “luck” from our vocabulary as we think about God’s sovereign and providential control of the circumstances in which we find ourselves day by day. Another example is the way in which Samson only appears to have been “unlucky in love.”

From his marriage to the girl from Timnath, who ended up with the fellow who had been the “best man” in his wedding (Judges 14:20), to the harlot from Gaza, who was nothing more than a one-night-stand (Judges 16:1-3), finally to Delilah, who had to manipulate him repeatedly to get the secret of his super strength out of him (Judges 16:15), Samson does not seem to have been the type of man who was big on emotional or spiritual intimacy. (Physical intimacy was obviously another story!)

Even in the area of non-sexual friendship, though, Samson appears to have been very aloof. Over the four chapters which recount his life, there are no close friendships, no male camaraderie, no sharing of his thoughts or feelings with any sort of trusted “confidant” (aside from Delilah). When his own countrymen came to see him, they found him sitting alone on top of a rock, and he made no special attempt to reason or fellowship with them. Rather, he sulkily told them he was a man motivated by a personal grudge, and asked them not to attack him personally as they handed him over to the Philistines (Judges 15:11-12).

One of the lessons we may learn from Samson’s life is the danger of trusting those who are not trustworthy, but another valuable lesson is the danger that lies when we fall into the trap of being a “lone ranger” in the Christian life. God does not command his people to live a life of monkish isolation. Instead, His Word often extols the benefits of healthy companionship.

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Hebrews 10:25

Maybe it’s overly simplistic, but I like to wonder what would have happened if Samson had made a couple of trusted friends during his time as a Judge over Israel. Perhaps, if there was someone in which to confide, someone to give wise counsel, Samson could have rallied his kinsmen against the Philistines in a concerted God-honoring effort and ended the cycle of wrath and repentance sooner. Judges 14:20 is the only mention of Samson even having a friend, and it says that Samson only “used” him as a friend. As Christians today, we certainly need to be wary of placing our trust in those who have yet to demonstrate a Godly character, but, at the same time, God has placed us into a “family” of brothers and sisters, and Christian friendship can be a terrific asset as we invest our lives in serving our Lord and our fellow human beings.

Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

John 15:15

The Man Who Fell out of Church (Application)

January 28, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Posted in Outcasts of Ministry | 7 Comments
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Eutychus was the young man in Acts Chapter 20 who literally fell out of church. This is not a lesson about staying away from window ledges at the local church where you attend, but there are some practical applications to be learned about the dangers that await us if we ever fall into the trap of becoming unfaithful in our church attendance.

1. If you fall out of church, you will fall into ignorance.

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Acts 2:41-42 (emphasis added)

“Stedfastly” means doing something regularly. If possible, Christians should attend church every week – hopefully three times per week if that is how often the church you belong to has services. “Doctrine” means a systematic study of God’s Word: “Bible study.” You can study the Bible on your own – and you should – but God’s plan is for believers to meet together for the reading and teaching of his Word. People are destroyed because of a lack of knowledge. When the flow of water was cut off from a city in Bible times, the inhabitants would get thirsty, dirty, and sick. Eventually they would die. The Bible talks about the washing of water by the Word.

2. If you fall out of church, you will fall into isolation.

And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Acts 2:42 (emphasis added)

Another main function of the local church in edifying believers is fellowship. In the Book of Acts the early Christian church “broke bread” – they ate together. They also observed the Lord’s Supper, and prayed together. You can certainly eat alone, and you can pray alone, but God designed the local church so that believers could meet together. One of the reasons that God designed it this way is so that we can comfort one another in trials, temptations, and troubles. The local church is also designed for accountability.

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

People in general might ask you, “How was the game?” or “How’s your job?” but in church hopefully someone is asking you, “How’s your walk with the Lord?” God created a desire in us to want to be together with others. It is not good that man should be alone (Genesis 2:18).

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

More than just being together, things really get accomplished when people come together in “one accord.” Christians should be unified – of one mind in Christ. The Apostle Paul was on a journey – a missionary journey – and the church at Troas didn’t hinder him. They could have said, “You need to stay here, you’re focusing too much energy on missions. We’ve got disputes that need to be settled.” Instead, they supported him, fed him, gave him a place to sleep, and helped him on his way.

3. If you fall out of church, you will fall into impotence.

[Disclaimer: Despite the vulgar connotation brought to mind by the ubiquitous pharmaceutical commercials on television these days, “impotence” is not a dirty word. “Impotent” is the opposite of “potent.” When something is powerful, we say, “Whew, that is some potent stuff!”]

And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.

Acts 20:9-12

The Holy Spirit used Luke to write this portion of Scripture, and Luke was a medical doctor, so when Luke writes that “Eutychus was taken up dead” we may safely assume that he was actually dead, and that the Holy Ghost used the Apostle Paul to bring him back to life. Then they went back upstairs to continue having church. These were some powerful – some empowered – believers. There are some charismatic churches today which would say it’s okay if you fall asleep in church, fall down, and get hurt. They have modern-day apostles on standby, just waiting for the opportunity to heal you, but my advice is to stay awake in church. (As much coffee as folks drink at church these days, I don’t see how anyone could fall asleep anyway.)

Babies are not very powerful when they’re first born. They need help just to eat and wash. Someone has to take care of them. They have to be taught how to walk and talk and read and write, but eventually they learn how to feed themselves and and take care of themselves. You can be a Christian and not be faithful to church, but why would you not want to be involved in helping new believers survive and grow in the Lord? Where do you give your tithe? How do you know those who labor among you in the Lord, and obey those who have the rule over you? Some people “attend” church by watching church services on television or listening on the radio or internet, but a TV doesn’t pray with you when you have a death in the family. A radio doesn’t come visit you when you’re sick in the hospital.

A common objection to faithful church participation is the hypocrisy of current church members, but, if you feel like your local church if full of hypocrites, don’t let that stop you from coming – they always have room for one more! Besides, there are hypocrites present when you go to work, school, and the grocery store, and I doubt that stops you from going to those places.

Eutychus made a mistake when he fell out of church literally, but he didn’t make the mistake of falling out of church figuratively. He was injured when he fell, but, because he was living in the center of God’s will, his mistake wasn’t ultimately fatal. The local church is there to strengthen, build up, edify the believers, and to get unified so that evangelists and missionaries can be sent forth.

Don’t fall into ignorance, isolation, or impotence by falling out of church. You might be considered an outcast by some if you become actively involved in the local church to the point where you have less time to participate in all the vain and frivolous amusements of this world, but God will in no wise cast out His children.

Order in a Fallen World

June 25, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Posted in Biblical friendship, Ecclesiastes | 61 Comments
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God created everything ex nihilo (out of nothing). This does not mean, however, that God created Himself, for this would be an impossibility. God is self-existent and eternal. There has never been a time when God did not exist. Therefore, the statement, ex nihilo nihil fit (out of nothing, nothing comes), is also true. God created everything out of “nothing,” in the sense that He did not find external matter outside of Himself which He then began to fashion and mold. No, He created everything that exists out of Himself, and in this sense He is “all in all” (Ephesians 1:23; Colossians 1:16-17).

King Solomon, in his wisdom, understood more about the eternal nature of God than most of us, but even he could not truly fathom its depths.

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God. I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him. That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past. And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there. I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.

Ecclesiastes 3:11-17

In Ecclesiastes Chapter 4 Solomon moved from looking at the natural order of life and things in nature, and he began to look at man’s institutions to see if there is anything man has organized under the sun that is not vanity.

1. Government

God has ordained government for the purpose of making society more peaceful than it would otherwise be, especially in a sinful world. However, human beings have been given the “charge” or “stewardship” of earthly governments, so, naturally, earthly governments are corrupt.

So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.

Ecclesiastes 4:1

2. Economy

Solomon sees one man who is hard-working, but who has no time for anything but work.

Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit.

Ecclesiastes 4:4

This man is working just to keep up with the neighbors. He is motivated by envy.

Then Solomon sees another man who enjoys the pleasures of life, but is lazy and does not work.

The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.

Ecclesiastes 4:5

This person is too lazy even to provide for himself! He’s like one of my old friends who used to say, “I just love hard work – I could watch it all day!”

Finally, Solomon finds a man who is more balanced.

Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.

Ecclesiastes 4:6

This man doesn’t have both hands full, but he’s not empty-handed either. The Bible teaches that a balanced life is important.

Then Solomon addressed the pros and cons of working alone versus working together

There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail. Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

It’s strange to me to think that we live a world with something like 7.7 billion people in it, and yet supposedly one the greatest mental health problems is loneliness. If you ever feel lonely, you can call my house and I’ll put you on speaker-phone. I have a wife and a five year old daughter, and it’s hard to be lonely in the middle of constant talking! But, seriously, God has put something in us that cries out for companionship – for togetherness – for fellowship. Social workers and child abuse experts will tell you that newborn babies in a neglectfully dysfunctional environment, who are not held, and who are kept in cruel isolation for long periods of time, have some of the worst problems and mental disorders later in life.

A summation of Solomon’s view on companionship in labor is that there is vanity in working for the wrong reasons, but it’s better to work hard than to be lazy, and that many hands make light work and lighter hearts.

3. Church

We would expect vanity and corruption in man-made institutions such as government and economy, but we should work hard to keep it out of our church congregations. There is no place for vanity in worship.

Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.

Ecclesiastes 5:1

Keep thy foot = watch your step. Don’t take going to church lightly. When you get there, put more emphasis on listening to what God is saying to you, than on telling others what you want to say. We are guilty of “the sacrifice of fools” if we come to church and make an outward show of worship while we have unconfessed sin in our lives. It’s the sacrifice of fools because we are fools if we think we can deceive God.

… to obey is better than to sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

I Samuel 15:22

Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.

Ecclesiastes 5:2

This is a reminder to us to be reverent before God, and to take worshiping Him seriously.

Lord, I thank You that life is emptiness and vanity only from the perspective of “under the sun.” Please help us to keep our focus on things above (Colossians 3:2) – things that are good and edifying and Godly – and keep us from becoming preoccupied with the things of this world. Help us to put away our idols. If we can’t do it, Lord, tear them away. They’re only hurting us, anyway, by keeping us from You. In the Name of the Lord Jesus I pray. Amen.


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