The Be Quietudes

September 20, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Talking itself is not a sin. Christianity is a verbal religion, and the Gospel is communicated by words. “Faith cometh by hearing” (Romans 10:17). However the Bible does emphasize that we should not talk sinfully.

The “Beatitudes” are found in the Sermon on the Mount.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Matthew 5:3-11

The beautides describe the conditions for expeiencing blessedness, and they prescribe what some of the blessings are. Those who are blessed, according to Jesus, experience God’s favor, and are marked by the types of attitudes and actions which are pleasing in God’s sight, and bring contentment, peace, and happiness to one’s life.

For this lesson I have borrowed the name “beatitude” and applied it to the idea that there are times when it is more blessed to be quiet than to speak up: “The Bequietudes.”

1. Blessed are those who don’t gossip, for they will not make things worse.

Where no wood is, [there] the fire goeth out: so where [there is] no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.

Proverbs 26:20

Gossip ends when nobody is willing to repeat it – the way a fire ends when there is no fuel left to burn.

2. Blessed are those who LISTEN, for they will gain understanding.

The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them.

Proverbs 20:12

And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:

Matthew 15:10

You can’t listen while you are talking. When people are talking all at once, it causes confusion. You learn more by listening than by talking. God gave you two ears and one mouth – take the hint, and try to listen at least twice as much as you speak.

3. Blessed are those who THINK, for they shall renew their minds.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Romans 12:2

The Gospel is intended to engage your intellect as much as your emotions. Christianity is not mysticism. Serious thinking is hindered, not enhanced, by talking.

4. Blessed are those who READ, for they shall gain knowledge.

And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.

Isaiah 29:12

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane [and] vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.

II Timothy 2:15-16

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Acts 17:11

It’s difficult to talk while you’re reading (unless you’re reading aloud!) Read the Bible. Read books about the Bible. Read other books, too, but be careful what you read. Don’t read things that do not edify.

5. Blessed are they who CONTEMPLATE, for they shall be prepared.

Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:31-33

Your mind is a temple. A temple is where man meets with God. Serious decisions are made during periods of silent contemplation, not audible conversation.

6. Blessed are they who MEDITATE, for they shall be glad in the Lord.

My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.

Pslam 104:34

Meditation is deep thinking; unlike contemplation, though, it is not always thinking about a pending decision. It is where you seriously and silently consider what you have learned about God in His word. Meditation is an acquired taste that tastes better the more seriously you take it.

7. Blessed are they who DON’T BUTT IN, for they shall not look foolish.

A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.

Proverbs 18:2

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it [is] folly and shame unto him.

Proverbs 18:13

Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: [and] he that shutteth his lips [is esteemed] a man of understanding.

Proverbs 17:28

It is important to analyze a situation before getting involved. A person with a reputation for wisdom is more trustworthy than a person with a reputation for being a know-it-all or a busybody. People have less of a tendency to trust someone that is shooting his mouth off all the time.

7. Blessed are they whose words are few, for they shall give a better account.

O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

Matthew 12:34-36

One of the best evidences of what is in your heart is what comes out of your mouth, but, just because you are thinking something, you don’t have to say it. There needs to be a probationary holding pen (filter) before the words formed in your mind are deemed fit to come out of your mouth.

The Purpose, and the Misuse, of Anger

May 28, 2015 at 10:45 am | Posted in Matthew | 2 Comments
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Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

Matthew 5:21-26

We are created in the image of God. This deals more with the make-up of our inner selves than any physical characteristics. It includes our will and our emotions. In some ways, our emotions are a mirror of the ways God chooses to express His feelings. We are able to love because God is love, and He has created an ability to love in us. We have compassion because God understands everything about us, and He has created in us an ability to understand others.

Many of the emotions which we received from God have been warped and perverted because of sin. Jealousy is one example. God’s jealousy is good. We should be jealous of those we love in the sense of wanting what is best for them, and wanting to share a special bond. But instead we make it into a petty, selfish emotion, where we are jealous of what someone else has, so that we want it for ourselves. Another example is lust: a strong burning inward desire for something. We should lust after our spouses. We should lust after righteousness. But we’ve turned lust into a sinful desire to have what is forbidden, and our flesh enjoys it all the more because it is forbidden. Fear is another example. We should have an awe of God, and a reverent fear of Him that helps us. Instead, we make fear our excuse for not moving in faith, for not boldly going into the unknown while knowing that God is with us.

Let’s focus on another example: anger. Anger is expressed by God. God is love, but He does get angry. God is love, and He is good, but a part of being good is being just, and part of being just is rewarding right and punishing wrong. God’s holiness must be offended by, and angered by, sin. It must be angered by injustice, so God reserves His anger for times when His creatures rebel against Him, as is the case with Lucifer, Adam and Eve – and you and I.

Question: How can God be loving and angry?
Answer: How can He not?

We tend to be subjective when we think about someone’s evil deeds. Two people read about a criminal in the news. One person is offended, and another person is not. One person does not approve of the criminal’s actions, but is sympathetic over the consequences of getting caught or over the circumstances that led him to commit the crime. A third person is aghast and disgusted at the villainy that was perpetrated. Deep down, though, each of them has a sense of justice. When the crime is horrific enough, or cruel enough, we feel an urge to see punishment meted out, if not by the authorities, then at least by some cosmic judge. None of us really, truly want a God who could look at 9/11 and just want to give Osama Bin Laden a hug. God’s response to kidnappings, rapes, murders can not be, “Let’s just hold hands and sing kumbaya.”

Question: If God is all-powerful and all good, why is there so much bad?
Answer: That’s the wrong question. The question should be: “If God is all-powerful and all good, why has He not obliterated this whole world a long time ago?”

God expresses anger – it seems – as a way of dealing with injustice and sin. But we have taken our God-given capacity for anger, and have warped it and abused it and tainted it with sin.

There is a righteous anger and a holy indignation. The Bible even tells us to be angry (but not to sin, Ephesians 4:26). Some examples of righteous indignation include Jesus chasing the money-changers out of the Temple, and sinners under John the Baptist’s preaching reacting violently to get past the Pharisees in order to get to God (Matthew 11:12).

Matthew 5:21-26 is part of the Sermon on the Mount, where Christ the King issued His decrees on the fulfillment of – and the real meaning of – the Law. The Pharisees had made the law of Moses completely external. Christ said that its real application is to the heart – internal. Sinful anger is anger that is not justified – anger that exists, according to Matthew 5:22, “without a cause.” And this may very well include 99.9% of all human anger. Because, unlike God, we are sinful and not capable of exercising or administering perfect justice, we are commanded to be forgiving, meek, humble, long-suffering, kind, loving, prayerful for enemies, willing to turn the other cheek.

We who have been forgiven in Christ have been spared the consequences of God’s anger, although God remained just. Therefore, we, being unjust, must not place our own selfish interpretation of justice around us and seek to enforce it.

Sinful anger is very dangerous. It makes us want to destroy, when Jesus has called us to be builders rather than destroyers.

Sinful anger puts us into bondage spiritually (and sometimes literally). God doesn’t want us to be captives. He wants us to be free.

Sinful anger in our hearts comes out of our mouths, and makes a bad situation worse. God wants us to come into bad situations and make them better.

The Law said “thou shalt not kill.” The Pharisees added:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

Matthew 5:43

Jesus said not only is murder a sin, but unjustified hatred in the heart is murder.

Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

I John 3:15

Most murders are not cold and calculated; they are a result of unrestrained anger. Most of them don’t take place when people are defending a righteous cause; most of them take place in the barrooms and the bedrooms. God values human life. Only He gives it, and only He has the right to take it away. So the Lord says, make things right with your brother before you come to the altar to show your love for God. We need to come to worship with a right heart. Bitterness and anger toward our brothers intrudes on our relationship with God, and our worship of Him.

Purity, Prayer, and Possessions

March 9, 2015 at 1:43 pm | Posted in Matthew | 2 Comments
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Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

Matthew 5:17

The Pharisees had placed a crust around the seed of God’s Word. Jesus broke the crust, but He did not destroy the Law. He fulfilled the Law. A seed can stop being a seed through destruction, or through fulfilling its purpose. Remember, Jesus came onto the scene of public ministry after working for years as a carpenter, and His job has always been that of a builder.

In Christian maturity we move past rules and regulations (outward), and get directly to the attitudes of the heart (inward). Imagine if I dug a well, attached a faucet, and filthy water came out. Would I just change the faucet? No, I’d dig a new well. The hearts we were born with can produce only sin and evil. When we trust Christ, He removes the old heart, and replaces it with a new heart, from which can flow God-pleasing purity.

Matthew Chapter 6 deals with prayer, fasting, and money. Have you ever thought about why God commands us to pray when He already knows our needs? One reason is that prayer is the God-appointed way for getting those needs met. Here’s how it works. You pray to discern God’s will (“Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”). God allows needs to come into your life, and you draw close to Him in prayer (Psalm 50:15). God shows you that all you really need is Him (II Corinthians 12:7-10). You become thankful to God, even about your needs, and you stay in an attitude of prayer and ongoing communication with your God (I Thessalonians 5:17-18). Prayer prepares us for the proper use of what God already knows we need.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

Matthew 6:19

Materialism is when we stop possessing things, and things start possessing us. Idolatry of things enslaves. It enslaves the heart.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Matthew 6:21

It enslaves the mind.

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

Matthew 6:22-23

What you say is what’s in your heart; what you look at is what’s on your mind.

It enslaves the will.

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Matthew 6:24

Imagine: Your heart, your mind, your will – all enslaved to a bass boat or a TV set or a retirement account or a Cadillac. It’s not a pretty picture. However, in Christ, we can win the victory over our idolatrous desires to be rich, to own property, to possess things. Even worry about the basic necessities of life needn’t ensnare us.

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Matthew 6:25

“Things” used for God will bring glory to God, but things used for me cheapen the things, and cheapen me as well.

What Can I Do for God?

February 18, 2015 at 11:48 am | Posted in Matthew | 4 Comments
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Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

The point of doing “good works” is not to impress other people with how “good” we are. Nor is the point to impress God, in the sense of gaining or earning His favor. However, the Bible does say to live your life before the eyes of God (I Kings 15:5; I Samuel 26:24). Many years ago, when I first started actively serving as a member of a local church, I was not sure what I would be able to do. The church had a gym, and it was in need of painting, so, as part of a big group project, I was assigned to paint a large section of the walls. I had done plenty of painting growing up, but this was special. In my mind, I wasn’t doing this for the church, or for the approval of the pastor or other church members. I was doing it for the Lord. I don’t think I’ve ever painted with such care and effort. I wanted to do a good job for my Lord.

If you are a father and you’ve ever taken a small child to a public playground, you have probably experienced this: There will almost always be young boys there with their mothers or some other female caregiver. They are happy playing by themselves until they see you (the only grown man) there. Almost immediately, they will begin showing off, vying for your attention, hanging upside down from the monkey bars, jumping off the highest part of the slide, turning a back-flip off a swing. “Hey, hey, look at me – look what I can do!” There is something inherent in boys that makes them want to please their fathers (or in the absence of their fathers) some male authority figure. It’s not exactly the same thing with God and His children, but there is a sense in which we should be striving to please our Heavenly Father.

On the other hand, though, we must be careful not to make an idol of our accomplishments when they appear noteworthy. We have a tendency to feel content as Christians when we accomplish all our spiritual “chores:” when we have read our Bibles, said our prayers, witnessed faithfully, advanced in our sanctification. When we have a day like this, we might secretly, perhaps even subconsciously, believe that God loves us “more” than on the days when we lose the battle to temptation, fall into sin, shirk our spiritual duties, and regress into the flesh. I call that type of of thinking “idolatrous” because, when that happens, we have become the source of our own “blessedness” – our own peace and contentment.

There is a difference between striving to fulfill every rule of law and living to please God – of being motivated by His greatness and goodness on one hand, versus being motivated by the false belief that I am somehow adding something to Him, on the other hand.

We like to think that God has no other hands than our hands, no other feet than our feet, no way of speaking but by our mouths, but this is not true. God is not dependent upon His children, and there would be no place for us in the Kingdom of Heaven if it was a place only for those with great faith, tireless devotion, and unfailing, continual, never-sliding-back progress in sanctification.

Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

Isaiah 66:1

The idea that God doesn’t need us might make some folks mad, but it makes me very, very happy. God can raise up a rock to do anything I can do – and do it better than me! It’s not the world’s version of the “great ones” who rule with the King in the Kingdom of Heaven.

But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

Matthew 19:30

For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:17

Yes, we shall reign in life, but not by our own righteousness. It shall be by the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

The Relief of being Blessed

February 4, 2015 at 3:51 pm | Posted in Matthew | 5 Comments
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The Sermon on the Mount contains the Beatitudes. It is deeply theological, but the deeper you go, the more practical it gets. It is the manifesto of the King. It teaches us to live like kings, not “one day,” but now. “Blessed are” “Ye are the salt of the earth…

The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew 4:16-17

Jesus taught that the Kingdom is “at hand.” It is here right now. The Sermon on the Mount teaches us that we are kings, and kings have what serving under them? Servants. Are your servants serving you? Or are you serving your servants? God gave us appetites, but we must rule over them. Hunger, thirst, and physical desire must be made to serve, and not allowed to rule. What about material possessions and money? God made things to use, and people to love. Too many people start loving things, and the result when you love things is that you start to use people.

It is helpful to remember the Beatitudes as the Be-Attitudes. God is interested not only in what you do, but in who you are. “Blessed” is usually translated as “happy,” but the people of Jesus’s time used the concept of beatus to describe a condition like death – an end of problems. It’s an indictment to us that we think of Heaven primarily in terms of what we get, and not the trouble we will be missing out on. “Blessed” is seeing God – even the God of wrath – turn toward you. He pauses, looks at you, and says, “I am well pleased.” That’s “blessed.”

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.

Revelation 19:11-12

The Mountain No One Can Climb Alone

January 14, 2015 at 12:55 pm | Posted in Matthew, Salvation | 8 Comments
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Matthew Chapter 5 contains the first part of the “Sermon on the Mount,” and includes the “Beatitudes.”  Since we know that Matthew stresses Christ Jesus in His role as King, we may read this sermon as the King’s creed – the guiding and foundational principles of His Kingdom.

Since we also know that the book of Matthew was written primarily to the Jewish people, we may now unlock the significance of Matthew Chapter 5, Verse 1:  “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:”  The Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to make a point of saying that Jesus “went up into a mountain” in order to call to mind the differences between the law that Christ the King was about to pronounce, and the law that Moses gave on Mount Sinai.

And, like everything in the Old Testament which is a shadow (Hebrews 10:1) or a type of the New Covenant, the law of Christ is “more perfect” than the law of Moses (Hebrews 8:5-7).  Examples:  Moses said, give God a tithe (one tenth); Christ says, surrender everything you have to God; Moses said, do not kill; Christ says, do not even hate your enemies; Moses said, do not commit adultery; Christ says, do not even look at a woman with lust in your heart; Moses said, give God a day (the Sabbath); Christ says, give God every moment of every day of your life.

It quickly becomes clear in Matthew Chapter 5 that the kind of rule-keeping and regulation-following it would take to truly achieve “righteousness” under God’s law is impossible for man to obtain.  Only Christ’s righteousness is sufficient for the Kingdom of Heaven.  Has that righteousness been imputed to you by faith?  If not, trust and obey Jesus Christ the King right now. (Romans 4:22-25)

Beware the Foreign Figurehead

November 21, 2014 at 2:08 pm | Posted in Matthew, The Fives | 5 Comments
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The first two beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount deal with people who are blessed because of the situation in which they find themselves: the poor in spirit and those who mourn. But the third beatitude pronounces a benediction upon people who are exercising a certain virtue:

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Matthew 5:5

A person who has the capacity to be meek is someone who already appears blessed. It is a person who has strength, but then, in humility, and out of a desire to love and serve others, brings that strength under control.

Jesus says that the blessing for being meek is inheriting the earth. How much of a blessing is this, though, really? The earth – the arena of Adam’s fallen and sin-sick race – has become quite a shabby place. And perhaps that is the point at which Jesus connects the idea of meekness with receiving it as an inheritance.

See, Adam, the first man, was supposed to exercise dominion over the earth. This was a great honor. As the image-bearer of his Supreme Creator he was supposed to use his position to make His Creator seem great – in other words, to “glorify” Him. However, Adam – acting as our accurate representative even before we showed up – blew it big time. He did not glorify his Creator. He acted like the Creator was a promise-breaker: unwilling, unable, or at least unlikely to keep His Word concerning disobedience. And therefore Adam lost his dominion and our “inheritance,” if you will.

So, here we are, a little over 6000 years later, give or take, and the Creator has managed to redeem us at the greatest possible cost, and restore our inheritance. But how do we claim it? By acting like it should have been ours all along? By no means. We are to remember that this earth is a temporary inheritance compared to the eternal home we shall inherit in Christ Jesus. We are to think of Heaven as our home, and to think of ourselves as foreigners in this world. A faithful ambassador of his king, when visiting a foreign land, does not set himself up as a “figurehead.” Instead, he makes it clear that he is on a mission for his Lord. He brings under control the authority he has been granted, and exercises it temperately, reminding everyone that “the earth” is going to be reclaimed by its rightful Owner one day soon, and that He will deal accordingly with those who pretended that they owned it, and that He will demand an accounting from those He sent to be His emissaries.

A Confident Marriage

May 9, 2013 at 5:29 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 2 Comments
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Confidence is not arrogance. One of the Bible words for confidence is “boldness.”

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

Acts 4:13 (emphasis added)

And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,

Acts 4:29 (emphasis added)

It’s not that the Apostles asked God to make them unafraid. It’s that they asked Him to make them irascible – able to face the fearful situation. What is the sine qua non for courage? It’s fear. God has not given us a “spirit of fear,” but that does not mean that God will keep us out of fearful circumstances. He has given us the ability to be confident in knowing that in Him we can overcome fear.

Are you courageous, constant, and confident enough to minister while being married? To stand at the gate that Satan is battering and to protect your marriage while still showing the love of Christ to a voraciously evil world?

I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?

Job 31:1

In a world filled with illicit sexual imagery, it doesn’t take courage to look. It takes courage to look away.

Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts.

Isaiah 3:16-17

The immodesty we see in society is not only Satan’s assault on godliness – it may also be part of God’s judgment for our pride. It takes courage not only to keep from looking, but to keep from imitating.

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Matthew 5:29-30

That is the zenith of irascibility! Jesus is not promoting self-mutilation. He’s teaching about just how dangerous adultery is, for He turns immediately to the topic of marriage and divorce (Matthew 5:31).

Being married – and especially being a married Christian – in 21st Century America requires irascibility in the form of courage, endurance, and confidence in order to combat the pervasiveness of overt sexuality. Earlier I compared this irascibility to a more masculine attitude toward combat, but this “masculinity” is not based on a “tough-guy” caricature of manhood. It comes from a fear of God.

And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?

Genesis 39:7-9 (emphasis added)

Joseph didn’t want to betray his earthly master, but, more than that, he was downright determined not to sin against his God! Fear and courage are not mutually exclusive. The first must be present for the latter to exist. The fear of the Lord provokes the greatest courage of all. If Satan knocks that wall down, I could lose my wife, my home, my kids, my job, my reputation. That frightens me. But what frightens me more is sinning against the God Who loved me and redeemed me and made me His Own.

Spending Time with the “Right” Kind of People

March 15, 2013 at 10:29 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | 6 Comments
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I suppose I can understand the temptation. You are scrolling down your Facebook feed, checking up on all your friends and relatives, oohing and aahing over the latest baby pictures and commiserating with the complaints about the weather… and suddenly you see it. Someone has shared what looks like an ad from an old-timey magazine with a drawing of a lady in a sunhat sipping an iced tea above a paragraph of prose so catchy and inspiring you feel like you just can’t help yourself from clicking “share!” Before you even realize you are doing it, you have posted something like this:

Free yourself from negative people. Spend time with nice people who are smart, driven and like-minded. Relationships should help you, not hurt you. Surround yourself with people who reflect the person you want to be. Choose friends who you are proud to know, people you admire, who love and respect you – people who make your day a little brighter simply by being in it. Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you. When you free yourself from negative people, you free yourself to be YOU – and being YOU is the only way to truly live.

I don’t know how to transliterate the sound of one of those buzzers that go off when someone guesses incorrectly on a television game show, but just imagine it here. Unless you are not a Christian, that is. If you’re not a Christian, these kinds of mushy self-help slogans and pop psychology tripe are perfectly understandable. If you’ve never trusted Christ as your Savior, you can stop reading now – or better yet click here for something that will help you tremendously.

Now, for those of you Christians who are still reading, I know it’s asking a lot, but let’s try to think before we “share.” The Bible says to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, not the removing of your mind.

Should you “free yourself from negative people?” Not according to the Bible.

Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:11-16

Should you “spend time with nice people who are smart, driven, and like-minded?” Not if you want to be like Jesus.

The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!

Luke 7:34

Is life really “too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you?” If you are selfish, and your goal in life is to make yourself “happy” with a false circumstances-dependent happiness, then it sure is! However, if your goal is to be conformed to the image of Christ, and to love and serve difficult, suffering, and miserable people, then those are precisely the type of people you want in your life.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

Philippians 2:5-7

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were [our] faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Isaiah 53:3

Is “being YOU the only way to truly live?” Silly me, I thought the way to truly live was to die to self and have Christ the Lord live through us.

And he said to [them] all, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?

Luke 9:23-25

For to me to live [is] Christ, and to die [is] gain.

Philippians 1:21

There is no easy “like” button to click when it comes to sanctification.

Guarding the Top of the Wall in Marriage

March 8, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 4 Comments
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As we seek to guard against the temptation of sexual infidelity, we have imagined our marriages as walled cities under attack by Satan. In the last lesson, I discussed the way he attempts to send “exalted” thoughts and ideas up and over the walls. Remember, these “assailants” are false statements that are esteemed in our culture as being valid. They are statements that boldly exalt themselves against the revealed Word of God.

First assailant: Flirting is not cheating.

Or to put it another way: You can look and not touch (applies more to men, in general). Or to put it yet another way: You can share intimate thoughts and feelings with another person on the internet or the phone and it’s not cheating (applies more to women, in general.)

Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids.

Proverbs 6:25 (emphasis added)

Notice that the prohibition is not against lusting after this beautiful person in your hands, on your lips, or even in your loins! (Although, those would certainly be prohibited, too.) The prohibition is against lusting in the heart (which includes your thought life). There is nothing wrong with admiring beauty. However, when a married man says, “I can admire a beautiful woman if I want,” the only right response is, “Yes, you can, sir, as long as she’s your wife.” From a man’s perspective, women are beautiful and they are exciting to look at. Young boys need to be told that truth. But as they grow into young men, they also need to be told to get a job, to get a home, to get a car, to get it insured, to first become a man – then, to get a wife and look at her all they want.

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

Matthew 5:27

There is an elliptical thought between Matthew 5:27 and 28 that implies – even in the time of Jesus’s earthly life – there were those who believed it was wrong to commit adultery, but not to think about committing adultery.

But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Matthew 5:28

Why did Jesus equate lusting in the heart with the actual commission of adultery? Certainly the person who looks but doesn’t touch does not break up a family or cause an unwanted pregnancy or crush the feelings of his or her own spouse. Jesus’s point was not that lusting in the heart does as much damage as physically committing adultery. His point was that the God Who made us is so holy that He condemns not only the accomplishment of the sin but anything that tends toward the sin.

Second assailant: Sex is physical and it is not mixed up with spirituality.

Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

I Corinthians 6:18

The fact that a spouse may commit fornication without having any spiritual “feelings” for the object of his or her lust, thereby making it a “physical sin,” does not excuse the spiritual implications. If you are a Christian, your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Will you pretend that you can defile His temple without bringing disgrace to Him? Lying can cause terrible pain and trouble. Violence can inflict terrible pain. But fornication defiles not only the people affected by it outwardly, but, in a sense, it defiles that which is most closely related to God’s presence. In the Old Testament, the worshiping of Baal in the temple of God was considered one of the most egregious of all offenses against God. How much more the commission of fornication where God’s very Spirit resides in the body of a believer? The consideration of such a sin must be brought captive and cast down.

Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.

I Corinthians 6:15-16

Satan would exalt the idea that sexual immorality causes the Holy Spirit to temporarily leave a believer long enough for him or her to fornicate with impunity. That wicked lie must be knocked off the top of the wall of your marriage before it gets over.

Third assailant: A mature Christian does not need safeguards.

Satan whispers: “You can handle it. If you can’t take a little flirting, a little proximity to the opposite sex, you must be some immature, baby Christian.” If not trusting my flesh enough to avoid temptation makes me a baby, then pass me a bottle of milk and change my diaper! The truth is, I don’t need to prove whether I can withstand it or not. The Bible (remember, these are “imaginations” of Satanic influence which must be exposed to Scripture) already tells me the score on what I can and can’t handle.

Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

I Corinthians 6:18 (emphasis added)

Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

II Timothy 2:22 (emphasis added)

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:7 (emphasis added)

The devil says, “Look, you’re a Christian. God does not want you to be all angry, like some puritanical prude – what do you mean you won’t even ride in a car with a woman you’re not married to..? You’re a ‘legalist.’ Christianity is about love not anger – chill out. And God hasn’t given you a spirit of fear. He even told you to stand up and fight against me – now you’re going to run away from temptation?” When you find yourself thinking this way, beware. That’s a “high thought” exalting itself against the mind of God as revealed in His Word. It needs to be torn down from the top of the wall around your marriage.

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