The Victorious Humility of the Last Adam

December 15, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Posted in Matthew | 7 Comments
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Lord, help us to accept our circumstances, which are ordained by You. Help us to learn truths which will be encouraging. Help us not to be pessimists, drudging along dreading each trial. At the same time, please help us not to be fragile children, happily hopping around when things are great, but losing faith each time You test us or try us. Help us to delight ourselves in Your statutes, and not to forget Your Words when everything around is yelling at us to depend on ourselves, and not on You. In the name of Christ Jesus I pray. Amen.

As people gathered to hear the message of John the Baptist, he called the religious leaders a generation of vipers.

And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

Matthew 3:4-9

This should remind us to be humble. God can raise up stones to do what you do – and do it better. John’s humility made him reluctant to baptize Jesus, but he did it upon Jesus’s insistence. When he did so, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove. Not like a royal eagle and not like not a bird of prey, but a bird of peace, a bird of mourning, a skittish bird. The Spirit of God indwelling us may be made to retreat when we sin against Him.

The Adam of Genesis 1 and 2 was the “first Adam.” Christ was the “last Adam.” Both the first Adam and the last Adam were tempted by Satan. The first Adam had everything he needed to resist this temptation. He lived in paradise. In Matthew 4, the last Adam went alone into a terrible wilderness, subjecting Himself to 40 days of fasting. The first Adam lost his battle with Satan, but Christ won.

Christ was tempted by Satan in the wilderness with three specific temptations.

And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

Matthew 4:3

This was Satan’s lie: “God doesn’t really love You, so put Your physical needs ahead of Your spiritual needs.”

And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Matthew 4:7

Satan based this second temptation on a Bible passage:

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Psalm 91:11-12

His lie to Jesus amounted to “God’s Word isn’t really true,” but he omitted “in all Thy ways” when he quoted it to Jesus. It is very common for the devil to challenge God’s Word by trying to twist Scripture.

Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

Matthew 4:8-9

In the third temptation Satan tried to convince Christ to take the easy way – to adopt a form of “worship” that did not include service. It was as if he hoped Christ could be tricked into thinking He could abandon the Cross and still receive the glory. Beware of temptations that invite you to take a short cut around God’s will.

Teaching / Temptation

October 15, 2014 at 10:06 am | Posted in Biblical Teaching, Two Sides to Every Comfort | 3 Comments
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Teaching

In the first lesson in this series I explained the original meaning of the word comfort: “with strength.” Strength is imparted to us by God, but it pleases Him to use circumstances to do it. He has given us His Holy Spirit to guide us and to teach us through these circumstances.

But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

John 14:26 (emphasis added)

The Greek word translated as Comforter is parakletos, and it means someone who comes alongside (para) and helps (kletos). One way to describe it is that a parakletos is like a soldier who helps his wounded comrade in battle – except instead of carrying him back to camp, he strengthens him to keep going forward – and he teaches him as he strengthens. The Holy Spirit teaches us the right way to think about our circumstances and the right things to say about our circumstances.

What a comforting thought to know that God has not left us alone to navigate our own sanctification! We could never do it on our own. But remember the comfort that comes from knowing that we have God’s Own Spirit as our teacher has a flip side. The other side of teaching is:

Temptation

God does not teach the way we teach.

Take heed, regard not iniquity: for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction.

Job 36:21

Job was told to be on the lookout for the temptation of iniquity. The “quick-fix” lie of Satan is that we can escape affliction by sinning.

Behold, God exalteth by his power: who teacheth like him?

Job 36:22

God has a very hands-on, trial-by-fire teaching method.

Who hath enjoined him his way? or who can say, Thou hast wrought iniquity?

God is never the author of sin.

Remember that thou magnify his work, which men behold. Every man may see it; man may behold [it] afar off.

Job 36:24-25

God allows temptation, but He also makes the way to escape, and when we emerge victorious over temptation, God gets the glory – and we learn a lesson.

Do you see the connection? We will be tempted, but we will not face it alone, and we will not be left without a comforter. When we fall, He will come along and help us up, and teach us – and we will get comfort.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

John 14:27

The peace that Christ gives is not like the counterfeit peace that the world offers, but it is true peace. It is the blessing and comfort of learning and knowing that God is orchestrating our lives.

The Trap of Lust

February 20, 2013 at 10:35 am | Posted in Traps of Lawless Living | 12 Comments
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Samson was under a Nazarite vow. God had placed clear boundaries on his life. These boundaries were meant for Samson’s protection, not to limit his fun. But Samson unlawfully crossed these boundaries. Physically, he crossed the boundary into Philistia, not to serve God, but to satisfy his own appetites. Spiritually, he crossed the boundary of his own Nazarite vow for the same reasons.

And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines. And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.

Judges 14:1-3

Samson was so intent on having this woman for himself that he disrespectfully went against the wishes of his parents. What was it that he liked so much about this woman? He hadn’t talked to her. He hadn’t smelled her perfume. He hadn’t kissed her. He hadn’t even touched her. No, when he said to his father, “She pleaseth me well,” he meant, “I like the way she looks.”

Sinful lust is a dangerous thing.

To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman. Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids. For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adultress will hunt for the precious life. Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?

Proverbs 6:24-28

It is dangerous because it is so often associated with what we see, and temptation is almost everywhere. It is a trap that is often attractively baited, difficult to escape from, and brutally destructive. Note the close association between sinful lust and “looking:”

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit 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 5:27-28

For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

I John 2:16 (emphasis added)

The admonition to “guard your eyes” has become passé and legalistic-sounding in our modern society, but it remains eminently wise advice. Lust complicated the life of Samson, and many others around him. It tends toward heartache, pain, defilement, and shame. We must beware of it and avoid it in the power of Christ.

How Whack-A-Mole Can Help Your Marriage

February 6, 2013 at 11:19 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, Galatians | 8 Comments
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Last time, I discussed Satan’s infiltration strategy as he attacks our marriages. The devil comes up to the wall of your marriage as a tempter at the “sexual relations” section of the wall, but all his spies that tried to sneak through were summarily executed. So now he tries to burrow under – and he messes with your thought life. He borrows a shovel and some trenching tools from the worldly media and popular culture, and (because he doesn’t have the power to “create” new physical sensations the way God does) he appeals to the concupiscible appetite which is already in us. He’s not stupid, either. He knows that our concupiscible appetites, while given to us by God, have also been warped and bent by our sin nature. So he tries to get under the wall by making you think that the appetite itself is the thing to be served (worshiped), instead of the Giver of the appetite. He whispers in your (or your spouse’s) ear, and he says, “This feels good, so it is powerful – and it must be satiated more than your spouse wants to satiate it.” Then he whispers, “There are other ways out there to satiate it… There are things to look at and there are people willing to help…and God knows that you are not stronger than your concupiscible appetites, so God will understand – it’s not a big deal…” And he tempts and tempts and tempts! Remember, Satan is the master liar and tempter. He knows how to make sin sound and look very seductive.

So, will you look the other way when the tempter pops his head up through a hole in the ground on your side of the wall? Or will you remember that “your” side of the wall is really “God’s” side of the wall and that your marriage belongs to Him and not to you? My children used to like to buy those little coin-shaped tokens and play an arcade game called “Whack-A-Mole.”

https://i0.wp.com/timscogitorium.com/tinblog/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Whac-a-Mole-by-Robert-Dobalina-on-Flickr.jpg

Whenever a plastic mole popped his head out of a hole, they would smash it back down with a big toy mallet, and at the same time another mole would pop right up out of another hole. I’m not trying to be silly because we’re talking about a serious matter, but that is a picture of what we, as Christian spouses, are going to have to do in the area of glorifying God with our concupiscible appetites. We are going to have to watch for the devil to pop his head up in our thought lives, and then beat him back into the ground. The difference is, we have the authority in Christ Jesus to not only resist Satan (James 4:7) and to hammer him back down, but to pour cement in the hole so he can’t keep coming back – at least through that same tunnel.

How are we going to do this? We are going to do it Biblically – with the weapon that God has given us to control the concupiscible appetite. It’s called “temperance.”

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

Galatians 5:22-24 (emphasis added)

Temperance is a Godly virtue, it is a Christian virtue, and it is a Gospel virtue. It is the virtue of controlling, mastering, and channeling the sensual appetites. Can it be done? Yes! By walking in the Spirit; by asking God to help you do it; by surrendering to Christ and accessing His power; by preaching the Gospel to our libidos. Now, those are principles that apply even if you are on your own when it comes to understanding the truth about Christian marriage. You can have victory in Christ even if your spouse is not on your side. I will say, though, that it is much less difficult when your spouse is on the same page. In a case where both spouses have bought into the truth of Christ-centered marriage, the concupiscible appetite is channeled, by and with the help of your loving and submissive spouse, into the God-ordained and Gospel-enabled arena in which it is to be freely satisfied. Because God made it that way, this is where it is to be freely satisfied and where it is best satisfied.

A Concupiscible Marriage

January 21, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 10 Comments
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Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

I Corinthians 7:2-5 (emphasis added)

In the continuing study of Satan’s attack on marriage, we have imagined our marriages as an enclosed area (Song of Solomon 4:12), surrounded by a perimeter or wall of fortification. Our duty is to protect the entire perimeter from the devil’s attacks, but we want to concentrate our protective resources where the attack is going to be most focused. We have established that his attack is going to be most concentrated in the area of sexual relations. Here are the four principles we have highlighted so far:

1. Don’t be ignorant. Satan is going to attack in this area.
2. Face up to the fact that his attack is going to be a fierce attack.
3. Realize that this attack could come at unexpected times and from unexpected angles.
4. Prepare to recognize an infiltrating spy.

Now, we will see that we must also:

5. Prepare to recognize attacks in the form of burrowing under the wall and popping up in the midst of your marriage.

Satan, in addition to trying to sneak his spies right through the wall protecting your marriage, will also send tunnelers to burrow under the wall. He does this when he attacks our thought life. I’m borrowing some of the ideas in this lesson from Thomas Aquinas, but only insofar as they line up with the Bible. We are fallen sinners, but Christians are redeemed fallen sinners. That means we have access to the grace of the Gospel. We are not “Gnostics.” We do not believe that only spiritual, non-physical things can be “good.” We believe that our souls have been redeemed and that our bodies have been redeemed (Romans 8:23), in the sense that they will one day be resurrected in a glorified form. The physical pleasures of the body – when viewed through Gospel redemption – are to be enjoyed in their set limits. But that’s only half the truth. The fuller-orbed reality is that, when true Christians enjoy these physical pleasures in their “set limits,” we actually have more freedom to enjoy them with more enjoyment. Do you see the tension? We think of “limits” as restricting freedom. But in God’s Gospel, His limitations actually “free” us up to be what He intended us to really be when He created us.

Now, here’s where Aquinas comes in, because he helps us to see the difference between our “concupiscible” appetites and our “irascible” appetites. For now, let’s leave aside the “irascible” (hopefully I’ll get to those in another session), and focus on the “concupiscible.”

Concupiscible appetites are mainly physical appetites which are very strong because of the physical pleasure they induce and (possibly) because of their ties to our vitality. Eating, drinking, and sex are things that almost all people have an appetite for, and they are all accompanied by sensations of strong physical pleasure. They also happen to be tied to the continuance of life (our “survival”).

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

Colossians 3:5 (emphasis added)

The concupiscible appetite is not inherently evil, but it can become tainted by evil. It is not inherently evil because it was put in you by God. Adam and Eve needed to eat and drink before they sinned, and they were made in such a way that they would enjoy these things. Adam and Eve had a desire to procreate and to be sexual before they sinned, and they were made by God to enjoy the physical acts and sensations which lead to procreation. In the next lesson, I will identify a counter strategy to deal with Satan’s manipulation of our concupiscible appetites.

Marital Espionage

January 7, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 6 Comments
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In a previous lesson I listed the first three fortifications that Christian married couples should build up at the key point of Satan’s attack against marriages: physical intimacy. These three fortifications had to do with recognizing the attack, not underestimating the attack, taking the attack seriously.

1. Don’t be ignorant. Satan is going to attack in this area.
2. Face up to the fact that his attack is going to be a fierce attack.
3. Realize that this attack could come at unexpected times and from unexpected angles.

Here is the fourth fortification:

4. Prepare to recognize an infiltrating spy.

Satan sends “infiltrators” which are “copies:” perversions of what God intended. Sexual relations must not be separated from Scripture. The command to be “frequent” must be taken seriously. The “desire” part of it must not be disregarded or discounted. Satan has made a number of fakes – and they are good fakes because he works in enough “partial truths” to make them look like real truth. When we recognize these infiltrators trying to sneak through the wall of sexual relations in marriage, we can confront them, confine them, and kill them with Scriptural ammunition.

Fake: Different sex drives can be an excuse for infrequency.

Confrontation with Truth: In mutual service, frequent for one has to be frequent for both.

Ammunition: “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;” (I Thesalonians 4:3-4, emphasis added)

Both spouses are to cooperate in the frequency.

Fake: You have to wait for the “right time.” In other words, the mood has to be just right.

Confrontation with Truth: The right time must be made. “Moods” are feelings which often need to be brought into subjection to Christ’s commands.

Ammunition: “That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;” (I Thessalonians 4:4, emphasis added)

“To possess” is a present tense verb. It indicates that this is an ongoing thing. The devil’s lie is that routine is always boring. God’s truth is that He has granted you imagination and the ability to plan, and that routine in and of itself can be a form of obedience which is not boring.

These are just some of the ways that Satan tries to “slip by” our defenses or impersonate a friendly ally. They are espionage techniques that he uses, but with diligent vigilance (I Thessalonians 5:5-6) and with the supernatural wisdom of God’s Spirit empowering us (James 1:5), we can spot and summarily execute these spies on the spot.

Smart Phones and Marriage

December 12, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 12 Comments
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We don’t want to give Satan any credit or compliments, and certainly not any praise, but we definitely must recognize that he is exceedingly skillful at certain sins: He has seemingly unshakeable pride. (Isaiah 14:12-14) He is a very accomplished liar. (John 8:44) And he is frighteningly subtle (Genesis 3:1), or what we would call “crafty,” or “sneaky,” or “deceitfully devious.” Here’s an example:

Have you ever praised God for your “smart phone” or other modern communication device? Maybe you’ve praised and thanked Him for giving it to you, or maybe even for a time when it’s come in very handy in a crisis, but have you ever praised Him for the design and technology that went into inventing and making it? It is our tendency to think of some computer genius like Steve Jobs when we think of the “inventors” of these types of gadgets and technologies, but do you realize that neither Steve Jobs nor anyone else is the real “inventor” of smart phone technology? In fact, all they did was copy ideas that God put in their brains and then claim them as their own.

Now, when I have said this to people, I have received a common objection: “How do you know this? After all,” they say, “my smart phone is morally neutral. It is true I can use it for great good (such as calling people to invite them to church or to check on them in the hospital) or I can use it for great evil (such as gossiping or downloading pornography). So how do you know that God and not Satan is the one who put smart phone technology into Steve Jobs’s brain?”

My answer is simple: Because Satan can’t create! He can only copy. He himself is a created being and he is not divine or sovereign like God. Satan is what my kids would call a “copycat,” even though he is the world’s most devious copycat.

Several lessons back, we studied the Fall in the Garden of Eden and the Bible made such a big deal out of saying that Adam and Eve were “naked and not ashamed.” Then, they sinned and they knew they were naked and they were ashamed. God put a curse on them and all creation, and He said there’s going to be trouble in the husband-wife relationship from now on: the wife is going to secretly want to usurp authority and the husband is going to want to shirk his leadership responsibility of leading in love. But, remember, I said that the curse was not a curse upon sexual desire itself. Why not? Because God made sexual desire before the Fall and sexual desire was and is good. Likewise, Satan didn’t invent or create sexual desire. He has just taken it and warped it and perverted it and tried to make a false facsimile copy of it.

Sexual desire is a God-given part of our nature. That’s why plain “concupiscence” isn’t described as evil in the Bible. The Bible makes a point of labeling “evil” concupiscence as evil (Colossians 3:5). I am laboring this point in order to underscore the importance of fortifying the area of “sexual intimacy” where Satan is focusing his attack on our marriages.

Getting Busy in Marriage

November 19, 2012 at 11:05 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 12 Comments
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Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

I Corinthians 7:2-5 (emphasis added)

As Christians we do not have to wonder whether or not Satan is going to attack our marriages. There is absolutely no doubt that he will. If he has already attacked your marriage, you know that it is not a pleasant thing – but it is a fact. Thankfully, the Bible is very straightforward in telling us that we do not have to be caught off-guard by his attacks.

Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

II Corinthians 2:11

Because we have the Bible, we do not have to be ignorant. I want to be very specific and narrow down what I am talking about here:

1. Because we are not ignorant, we know that he attacks in two ways:
a. As a tempter (Genesis 3; Matthew 4:7)
b. As an accuser (Revelation 12:10; Matthew 12:10)

2. When he attacks as an accuser, he makes two types of accusations against us:
a. Slanderous accusations (John 8:44)
b. Truthful accusations (Zechariah 3:1-5)

3. He makes these accusations against us in two places:
a. In our consciences (I Chronicles 21:1)
b. Before the Throne of God (Job 1)

4. He makes these accusations for three reasons:
a. To destroy our peace – both internally and with God (Luke 22:31)
b. To cause us to doubt God’s goodness and truth (Genesis 3:4-5; Luke 4:3)
c. To paralyze us with fear (Matthew 16:21-23)

When it comes to our marriages he attacks in all these areas, but, according to II Corinthians 7:5, he attacks our marriages more as a tempter than an accuser: “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” (Emphasis added.)

I like to imagine my marriage as an enclosed area with a well-defined perimeter. Satan wants to breach that perimeter. As a Christian spouse, my responsibility is to protect the entire perimeter, but, Biblically, I’ve been told that I need to concentrate my protective resources where the attack is going to be most focused.

In the Bible, cities were often surrounded by a protective wall with different “gates” which were the entry- and exit- points to and from the city. In marriage, one of these sections of the wall is “communication;” one is “finances;” one is “career;” one is “ministry;” one is “parenting;” and one is “sexual intimacy.” According to the Bible, Satan’s attack is going to be most concentrated at the gate and area of the wall devoted to sexual intimacy.

When I Corinthians 7:5 uses the term “incontinency” it refers to a lack of self-control, and its specific reference is to sexual relations. The previous lesson contained an acronym – “F.I.N.E.” – which dealt with promoting the Biblical ideal for sexual intimacy in marriage:

F.requent
I.nviting
N.atural
E.xciting

I’m sorry to be crude, but when I was in college there was a slang term for sexual relations called “getting busy.” The fact is, if you are not getting busy in your marriage, then Satan is! This is not an easy topic to talk about, but Satan is real. I hate to admit it, but he is stronger than I am. And he is smarter than I am. He’s no match for my Lord and my Best Friend, but if I try to take him on in my own strength, he will sift me like wheat, embarrass me, and chase me right out of my blessings, peace, and assurance, putting me to shame. Recognizing that, here are the first three steps to shoring up and fortifying the defensive and protective wall against temptation in the area of sexual intimacy in marriage:

1. Don’t be ignorant. Satan is going to attack in this area.
2. Face up to the fact that his attack is going to be a fierce attack.
3. Realize that this attack could come at unexpected times and from unexpected angles.

In the next lesson we will learn how to recognize Satan in his craftiness.

The Bound Heart

March 4, 2010 at 9:51 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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In Old Testament times Hebrew men would sometimes place passages from the written Word of God into containers, and bind these containers around their necks, across their foreheads, or on their upper arms.

These contraptions were called “phylacteries,” and were designed to remind the wearer at all times of the importance of remembering God’s commands. In modern English we have come close to taking the idea of a “phylactery,” and making it into something lewd by combining it with the prefix “pro,” meaning “before.” The idea is that a “prophylactic” is something that prevents the consequences of an immoral act before it occurs.

In contrast, Proverbs 3:3 describes God’s plan for preventive measures against sin. “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:” A Christian who wants to please the Lord will keep his head down in the Bible on a regular basis to prevent his neck from swiveling around to gaze at every worldly temptation that passes by. He will also go to the trouble (and pleasure) of memorizing Scripture so that it will be written on his heart when he encounters temptation.

Rather than tying actual pages to his arm, a Christian will show forth his true love for Christ in open and obvious ways, thereby wearing his “heart” on his sleeve.

Arise: Naboth’s Vineyard, Ahab’s Vice, and God’s Vengeance – Part 1

October 29, 2009 at 12:30 pm | Posted in Arise | 17 Comments
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To “arise” means to get up – to get moving – to stir, and to get busy.

And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria…

Matthew 4:18-24

And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.

Matthew 8:21-22

When Jesus got ready to recruit disciples, He had been preaching repentance and the Kingdom of God, but when He called disciples, He didn’t give much of a sales pitch. “Follow me,” He said. Have you ever wondered why they did it?

The answer, I think, lies not in the command “follow.” There’s no shortage of people who want to tell you what to do – to give you a command. The answer lies in the “Me” – that short little two-letter Word is more than just the direct object of the sentence. The ME is the King of Glory – the Son of God – the Prince of Peace – the God over all gods – the King over all kings – the Maker of Heaven and of Earth – the Alpha and Omega – the Author of Salvation.

They really didn’t need the “follow” to be convinced. All we really need is the “ME.” When you begin to understand the greatness of Jesus – His infinite worth – you want to – no, you have to – be with Him. And you put the Person – “Me” – together with the “follow,” and you’ve got a Person and a Path.

He says, “Arise. If you want the ‘ME,’ you’re going to have to go places. But it’s okay – because you’ll be going with ME.”

The disciples followed, and it seemed great at first. Matthew 4 says Jesus did miracles. He healed the sick and fed the hungry, and gave sight and the ability to walk. And they became famous, and crowds followed, and people loved them – as if someone said, “Here, free candy – just for coming to church.” Most everybody likes candy. Why? Because it’s sweet. It doesn’t require much effort. It sort of melts in your mouth. But once in a while you get a surprise – a different kind of candy – the kind of candy that, when you say, “Hey, you’re giving me candy, I’ll follow you” – suddenly things turn sour.

Jesus says, If you’re going to follow Me, sometimes things are going to get sour. Sometimes you’re not going to have a bed or pillow or shelter. Sometimes you’re not going to be able to be loved by your family. Sometimes you’re not going to be able to do all the things you want, because you are a follower – and a follower follows a leader – and a leader is in charge – in command.

When a leader says, “Let’s go, you don’t have time to bury your father – let the dead bury the dead – we’re following hard after my Father now…” Do you spit it out? Give up? Too sour? Not what you bargained for? Or do you just keep sucking it up – knowing that one day things will be sweet again – sweeter than ever?

I hope – when things in your life seem too hard – too hard deal with the way a Christian is supposed to deal with them – the way the Bible says to deal with them – that you’ll remember this simple little lesson – you’ll remember Who you are following. Don’t shy away from doing the hard thing. Jesus – if you are really His – loves you even when you taste bad. He is worthy to be loved and followed through any circumstances, trials, troubles, and hardships.

I. The Pious Patriarch

Naboth was the owner of a vineyard in the little town of Jezreel. (A vineyard is a piece of land used for growing grapes.)

So shall not the inheritance of the children of Israel remove from tribe to tribe: for every one of the children of Israel shall keep himself to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers. And every daughter, that possesseth an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel, shall be wife unto one of the family of the tribe of her father, that the children of Israel may enjoy every man the inheritance of his fathers.

Numbers 36:7-8

Naboth, years later, was the patriarch of one these families in one of these tribes. A patriarch is the male leader of a tribe. Naboth’s vineyard had come to him, through his forefathers, directly from God. It was really God’s vineyard. Naboth was a steward over it for God, and for the good of those that God had placed into his care. Every one of us are stewards over the gifts God has given us, and we are to use these gifts to help others, so that God is glorified. Naboth had a command from God: Keep this land in your family. He had a blessing from God: You may enjoy this land.

We have every reason to believe that he did enjoy it. Perhaps in his own childhood, he had played there. Perhaps his wife’s family had worked and played in this vineyard. Perhaps Naboth and his fathers and sons had driven out lions and foxes from this vineyard. Perhaps Naboth enjoyed watching his own children frolic in the rows of grapes, and play in the soft fertile dirt. I call Naboth the Pious Patriarch because when there was a strong temptation to do what was easy, Naboth, instead of doing what was easy, did what was right. But he did so because of a devotion to God.

And it came to pass after these things, that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel, hard by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. And Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house: and I will give thee for it a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money. And Naboth said to Ahab, The LORD forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.

I Kings 21:1-3

Saying no to a king is a dangerous thing. Saying no to certain people today – saying no to certain things – can seem very dangerous to us. It can be very difficult. Someone might tell you the same thing Naboth was told: “Give up what God gave you, and you’ll get a fair price for it.” Or, “You’ll get something better in return.” How much more popular could you be with your friends if you would sell your purity – your devotion to God? How much more money could you make if not for having to attend, and serve in, church? How much more rest could you get? How many fun and entertaining things could you see and do?

Naboth said no. He didn’t say, “In my childhood I played here. My wife’s family worked and played in this vineyard. My father and sons have driven out lions and foxes from this vineyard. I love to see my own children frolic in the rows of grapes, and play in the soft fertile dirt.” He didn’t say all those things, but he could have. Instead, he let it be known that he feared God more than the king. He loved God more than men.

Do you love God more than men? That’s the question you’re going to have to ask yourself every time someone tells you to give up what God gave you, and you’ll get something better, or you’ll get a fair price. Will you sink down into the muddy pit of conformity? Or will you arise and say, “The Lord forbid it me.”

II. The Pouting Potentate

A “potentate” is someone with “power” – someone who is “potent:” a king, a ruler, an emperor. King Ahab is the “Pouting Potentate” in this account.

And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him.

I Kings 16:30

… Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.

I Kings 16:33

Ahab married the wicked Jezebel – from Sidon – and, at her prompting, instituted and encouraged the wicked worship of Baal among the groves. The worship of Baal involved sexual debauchery, child sacrifice, and worship of “nature” instead of God. It happened long ago, but it sounds very familiar today. It’s just that we don’t call it “sexual debauchery, child sacrifice, and worship of nature instead of God.” We call it “hooking up, abortion, and environmentalism.” R.G. Lee called Ahab “the vile toad who squatted on the throne of a nation.”

And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him: for he had said, I will not give thee the inheritance of my fathers. And he laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread. But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said unto him, Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread? And he said unto her, Because I spake unto Naboth the Jezreelite, and said unto him, Give me thy vineyard for money; or else, if it please thee, I will give thee another vineyard for it: and he answered, I will not give thee my vineyard.

I Kings 21:4-6

Ahab, the King of Israel, who had lands beyond number, who had livestock, gold, jewels, money, orchards, palaces, servants, maybe 100 vineyards, was pouting like a spoiled little baby – or an over-indulged teenaged child – because he couldn’t have one little garden of herbs right where he wanted it!

Are we much better? Are we always wanting more? Do we worship things, or do we worship God? What is our energy devoted to obtaining? Clothes? Electronics? Cars? Nicer, more expensive luxuries? Or righteousness?

What could make the king of God’s Own people so depressed? As Christians we have access to the eternal riches of glory in Christ Jesus. And the wonderful thing is that God has made us stewards over everything He has given us, but He remains the Owner! The devil comes to you, and whispers in your ear – the way we will see Jezebel do it in Part 2 of this message – and he says, “Disobey God – just a little – and you can have this – you can enjoy that.”

But you say, “Devil, you can’t give me anything – because I have everything I could ever need or want in Christ Jesus!

He says, “Fine, you can’t be tempted with the promise of gaining something you don’t have – but I’ll take something away from you!”

And you say, “Go right ahead, I don’t own anything for you to take from me – this all belongs to God, not me.”

Vance Havner used to say, “What are you gonna do with a man like that?” You can’t give him anything because he has everything – and you can’t take anything away from him because he doesn’t have anything. You can’t head him off if you cut off his head!

I know the world laughs at this, but “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (I Timothy 6:6) I know whom I have believed – though He slay me, yet will I trust Him! (II Timothy 1:12; Job 13:15)

Ahab should have been arising. Rising up to praise God. But instead he was sinking down into a bed of sorrows – discontent, grumpy, pouting.

In Part 2, we will see Jezebel enter the scene.


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