All Sin Begins with Questioning God’s Word (Has God Said?)
Is LGBTQ+ the New Normal in God’s Church?
Today there’s a new deception spreading rapidly in churches. That deception is that LGBTQ+ is acceptable before God. Somehow, between the Old Testament and the New Testament, homosexual relationships became morally acceptable in God’s eyes and therefore in His Church. What was an “abominable” lifestyle in Leviticus, became an acceptable lifestyle in God’s eyes. Jesus, being God, somehow decided to override all of the things God called out as sexual immorality in the Old Testament. Now, sexual immorality has been redefined to mean something totally different than God had declared in the Old Testament.
It’s as if Jesus had different ideas than the Father. But scripture clearly tells us that isn’t the case. In john 1:1, we learn that The Word(Jesus) was there from the beginning and that The Word(Jesus) IS God. Paul writes in Colossians 2:9, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; (KJV).” John 10:30 says, “I and the Father are one” and John 5:19 tells us, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” The fact that Jesus is God makes it difficult to to separate the God of the Old Testament from Jesus in the New Testament.
While men and societies change, God NEVER changes. In Malachi 3:6 God said, “For I the Lord do not change;” and Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.” It’s interesting Moses used the term “son of man” because that is how Jesus refereed to Himself. This is reflected in Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” and in James 1:17, “He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” James, the brother of Jesus, clearly states that God never changes, but goes on to say that God never gives a hint He will change. So, from Old Testament to New, God doesn’t change and there is not hint that He will change.
Jesus Never Questioned God’s Word
Jesus entered His ministry on earth after fasting for 40 days and forty nights. It was then Satan came to tempt Him. Satan used a multi pronged attack to disqualify Jesus from the mission He was sent by God to complete. (Matthew 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–15)
First, Satan appealed to Jesus’ physical needs. After fasting for forty days he was hungry. “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered from Deuteronomy 8:3 “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Next, the Tempter challenged Jesus to put God’s Word to the test. Taking Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple, “If You are the Son of God,” he said, “throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command His angels concerning You, and they will lift You up in their hands, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.(Psalms 91:11-12)’” But Jesus again turned to Deuteronomy (6:16) to answer, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Finally, the Devil made an appeal to Jesus’ vanity. He to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “All this I will give You,” he said, “if You will fall down and worship me.” Jesus, once again, answered from Deuteronomy (6:13), “Away from Me, Satan!” Jesus declared. “For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”
Many scholars use 1 John 2:16 as the premise behind Satan’s temptation of Jesus, “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” These things are relevant, as the tempter uses such worldly things to tempt us every day. But there is a larger question. In all three temptations, there was one underlying motive, and that was to question God’s Word. The question the serpent used on Eve in the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 3:1 the serpent asked, “Indeed, has God said.” Sin always begins with questioning God’s Word. Every sin in the history of man, began or will begin with questioning God’s Word.
The tactics used by Satan with Jesus were different than he used with Eve but the same underlying question was there. In two of the instances, the devil used the question attempting to convince Jesus He wasn’t God’s Son. “If You are the Son of God?” Let me rephrase, “Has God said You’re His Son?” While the words are different the underlying meaning is the same. Just like with Eve, in the Garden of Eden, “Is that really what God said?” the serpent followed with “You surely will not die!(Genesis 3:4).” Eve questioned God’s Word because she became convinced she was missing out. Therein lies the problem. We can easily be deceived by simply allowing our own carnal desires to override God’s Word in favor of worldly things. The serpent wanted Eve to believe God was holding out on her. He wanted her to believe she could be “like God” (Genesis 3:5). Eve focused on the object of the deception rather than the motive and she bit the fruit! The difference is Jesus, even in His weakened state, rested confidently in God’s Word, without question or hesitation.
In the final temptation of Jesus, Satan did exactly what he’d done with Eve. In Eden the serpent promised Eve knowledge if she only listened to him. During the final temptation of Jesus, he promised Jesus a kingdom he didn’t own for worship he didn’t deserve. “All this I will give You, if You will fall down and worship me.” Psalms 24:1 says, “The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.” But, unlike Eve, Jesus focused on the motive of Satan’s temptation rather than the object. He swatted the tempter down by acknowledging God’s Word rather than disobeying it. “Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.”
Questioning God’s Word, The Slippery Slope!
Questioning God’s Word caused; Adam to fall into sin(and took the world with him), Cain to kill his brother, Moses not to enter the Promised Land, Saul to lose his kingship, David to lose a son, Solomon to lose a kingdom, Uzziah to contract leprosy and the list goes on and on.
In today’s world, questioning God’s Word has become a form of art. From “Red Letter” Christians who only believe the “Red Letters” in the Bible to liberal theologians who craft clever ways to discredit or change the meaning of passages in the Bible. Whatever the motif, the motive is to modulate the Word of God into something that fits a worldly agenda.
Whatever the focus, it becomes the center-point of the institution. Why not, creating institutions is man’s tendency. Even the disciples had that inclination. Following the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-5), Peter’s first inclination was to build institutions. He responded and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If You want, I will make three tabernacles here: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah(KJV).” Peter wanted to buiild 3 buildings and hang out but God had different ideas. God spoke from the cloud, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him!”
The first thing any new fellowship wants to do is build stuff. Once the institution is built, the focus shifts from ministry to maintaining the institution. Ministry is redefined into “serving” the institution and the vast majority of the resources are concentrated on keeping the institution going. Money, time, everything becomes about what I call “keeping the lights on.” Suddenly, we look up one day and ask, “Is this really what God called us to do?” And, hopefully, we realize that as with Peter, Jesus walks right by us while the voice from the cloud says, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him!”
Eventually, people begin to get disillusioned and the institutional ministries begin to suffer. People get burned out or move on and interest begins to wane. Sooner or later, in the interest of maintaining the institution, standards begin to become diluted. The need for people to perform institutional functions is expanded to include non-members and even those who may be unsaved or have other disqualifying issues. What was strongly centered on principles from God’s Word starts to become relaxed so as to try and keep the institution going. As interest in the institution wanes further, new ideas begin to take over and righteousness gives way to compromise, compromise to unrighteousness and unrighteousness to debauchery. It sometimes takes decades for this to happen and I’ll give an example:
When I was a young boy (back in the 50s & 60s) in conservative fellowships, divorce was unheard of. If someone divorced, they either didn’t remarry or they left the fellowship. Now, divorce is as common in conservative fellowships as in the world. So what was a conservative witness became compromised. Worldly concepts become intermingled with institutional requirements and Biblical principle begins to be subverted. As a boy, worship was singing hymns with all your heart, whether there was someone to play the piano and/or organ or not.
Now worship is a grandiose production with professional musicians and is more entertainment than worship. Now, “Christian Counseling (psychological)” is thing in most religious institutions where once there was a time God’s Word was held up as the only standard to be followed.
Theological Adoption of “Has God Said?”
Once the witness has been damaged by co-mingling with worldly principles, the church becomes less effective. People see “church” as a Sunday morning meeting rather than a vivacious gathering of God’s people to worship the living God. That being the case, institutions have to find new ways to be relevant. Enter a new wave of “Did God Say?” and where institutional Christianity has gone off the rails of Biblical Truth.
To be more inclusive we have to find new ways to interest people. What was sound doctrine is now watered down even more. Suddenly, once solidly understood Biblical principles become reoriented to meet the worlds criteria for inclusion. When divorce became widely accepted in God’s Church, it’s logical that homosexuality would be next. When adultery became passé, it was inevitable that other sinful behavior would be allowed into God’s Church as well.
This is where many pastors and seminaries failed. They virtually ignore sins like gossip, malice and a host of other things. Sexual sin was divided and classified into heterosexual sin and homosexual sin, each with a different degree of sinfulness. I remember once hearing a very conservative pastor with a DDiv say, “Homosexuality is the only sin called an abomination in the Bible.” That always bothered me because I really don’t believe God sees degrees of sin. We may see degrees, but God sees sin, and sin separates from God. The smallest thing we can do to displease God separates us just as far from God as what scripture calls out as an abomination.
Now, because certain sins became acceptable even in conservative churches, liberal theologians pounced. They began to use the devil’s argument, “Has God Said” to justify behavior clearly defined in God’s Word as displeasing to God. Now, it’s common to hear someone say, “Jesus never forbade homosexuality” or “marriage is between two people.” The agenda of the world is used to redefine or discount the portions of the Bible that disagree with their theological agenda. Because of this, many churches embrace and welcome homosexuals into their fellowships.
When we step back and look at this, it took decades for adultery to be accepted in fellowships but it didn’t take near as long for homosexuality to be accepted. Why? Once the sin standard is lowered, the next level is introduced much more easily. Now we’re dealing with transgender, drag, pedophilia and all sorts of debauchery in church(?) fellowships.
How did this happen so rapidly? The age old question, “Has God Said?” Where does this lead? Religious institutions become “tohu va baho” (formless and void, Genesis 1:2), indistinguishable from the institutions of the world, and having no purpose other than serving the institution.
Those fellowships that try to remain true to God’s Word are discounted and persecuted as bigots, out-of-touch, homophobic, misogynistic, judgemental, and unloving.
The Road Back to Truth, “God has Said!”
Believing God’s Word is Paramount
Today, those who promote the Truth of God’s Word are are marginalized and denigrated publicly by, not only those who embrace worldly doctrine, but politicians, pundits, and the media.
So how do we get back to truth as God intended? There is a way:
- Believe God’s Word (Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
- Be confident God is Who He says He IS (2 Timothy 1:12)
- Know what God’s Word says (2 Timothy 2:15)
- Promote the Truth in love (Ephesians 4:15)
Begin with Jesus:
- Jesus Is God (John 1:1)
- Jesus was there from the beginning (John 1:2)
- Jesus is a God and Man (Hebrews 2:17)
- Jesus lived a completely sinless life (2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15, 1 Peter 2:22, Hebrews 12:2)
- Jesus was the sacrifice for our sins (1 John 2:2, 1 Peter 2:24, 1 Peter 3:18, Romans 5:8, Hebrews 12:2)
- Jesus rose from the dead ( 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Mark 16:6, Hebrews 12:2)
- Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father (Romans 8:34, 1 Peter 3:22, Mark 16:19, Hebrews 12:2)
- Is the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:20-21)
- Is inerrant (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:20-21 )
- Is complete (2 Timothy 3:16, Proverbs 30:5-6)
- Is the authoritative source of God’s Truth (2 Timothy 3:16, John 17:17, 2 Peter 1:20-21,Proverbs 30:5 )
Truth Begins With Believing!
The first verse I remember learning as a young boy was John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will have eternal life.” Another verse I learned was Psalms 119:105, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” In order to believe God’s Word, one must believe God. To believe God one must transfer their trust from themselves to Jesus. To believe God one must have faith as in 2 Timothy 1:12 “I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” But in order to have faith like this, we need to hear about Jesus. Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.(NLT)” People must hear the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ in order to believe. When they receive the good news of the gospel and transfer their trust from themselves to Jesus, they need to be properly taught how to study and interpret God’s Word. Imagine, a new believer thrust into the middle of a Bible study on the Book of Revelation, Daniel, or Ezekiel. There must be systematic training by an experienced, Biblically grounded, mentor to disciple the new believer as Jesus commanded in Mathew 28:20. This is how we begin to combat heresy that’s creeping into the institutional church. This will help the Church avoid raising up casual Christians who really don’t have strong convictions.
Clearly understanding and believing the things that are pleasing to God and the things that are not is key to righting the doctrine of Godly sexual relationships.
Sexual Relationships, “God has Said”
One of the first things we, as well as new believers, need to understand is that sexuality is clearly defined by God in His Word. God declared after creating man that there were boundaries for sexual relations. In Genesis 1:27, God created man and clearly defined the genders He created, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” God clearly stated that man was made in His image as “male” and “female.” God also only sanctioned the sexual relationship to be between man and wife (woman) in Genesis 2:24, ” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
We’ve established earlier that Jesus is God and that He was there from the beginning. Jesus clearly spoke to the sinfulness of the Pharisees because of their position on divorce. They hoped to catch Jesus in a matter of the law, “divorce,” so they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?” (Matthew 19:3) Jesus went right back to creation in his answer. “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate (Matthew 19:4-5).” But Jesus didn’t stop there, He continued, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of your hardness of heart; but it was not this way from the beginning. Now I tell you that whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman, commits adultery (Matthew 19:8-9).”
So, Jesus affirmed gender as male and female and clearly stated the boundary for God sanctioned sexual relationships. He also said that “sexual immorality” was the only valid reason for divorce. The context is clear. Jesus, by stating what a God sanctioned relationship is, also left no room for any other kind of sexual relationships. He labeled everything else as “sexual immorality.” In other words, Jesus told the Pharisees that the only reason they could divorce their wife was if she had a sexual relationship other than within the bounds of marriage as defined by God.
Jewish Law, the Christian and LGBTQ+
There are times when I find myself quoting Old Testament Law and think later, “That really wasn’t right.” I hear arguments from liberals such as, “do you mix threads or plant mixed crops” as an argument against Christians regurgitating Old Testament Law. With all of the disharmony caused by this, it’s necessary to understand whether Christians are under Old Testament Law. The answer, in a word, is “NO.”
So then is homosexuality OK? Again, the answer, in a word, is “NO.” But rather than starting with scriptures from Romans and Timothy, I’m going to start with Acts. In the early church, there was a huge upheaval about following the Law or not. The apostle Paul argued that Christian were no longer under the Law but many Jews disagreed. Paul instructed the Galatians (2:16), “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”
Because of the consternation caused by this argument, the Apostles decided to write a letter to the Church at Antioch explaining exactly what they were to do. Here is that letter from Acts 15:23-29:
“The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”
So here’s the list of things to avoid:
- Things sacrificed to idols
- Things that are strangled
- Sexual Immorality
Three of these things are regarding food. The focus was on not eating blood which precedes Old Testament Law. In Genesis 9:3-4 god told Noah, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” Since many of the sacrifices were strangled, the “life blood” was still in the animal. That being the case, the first three related to that edict which existed before Mosaic Law.
The final thing listed was sexual immorality. The only place in God’s Word where sexual sins are clearly defined is in Leviticus which is part of the Old Testament Law. The things defined in Leviticus 18 and 20 are the things outside the bounds of what God defined as marriage. Again, Jesus restated God’s edict from Genesis in Matthew 19:4-4, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?”
The controversy in Antioch was clearly over whether Christians should obey Mosaic Law. Those Jews who tried to bring the whole of Jewish Law into Christianity would certainly have addressed the Law concerning sexual sins because many of those things were common practices in the pagan worship of the time period. This, coupled with a clear understanding God’s edict regarding man, gender and marriage excluded homosexual relationships, sodomy, bestiality, incest and even more clearly refutes the idea of transgender.
The Sanctity of the Believer and LGBTQ+?
This is probably the most heinous heresy when it comes to Christianity and LGBTQ+. When the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, the Spirit guided Jesus and was present during the temptations. Each time Jesus responded from scripture. This is how the Holy Spirit works in the life of believers. In John 16:8 it tells us, “And when he(The Holy Spirit) comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” When one gives their life to Christ Jesus they become a new creation as Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 2:17, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” The old self is gone having been crucified with Christ. They’re a new creation!
Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it (Luke 9:23-24).” The apostle Paul expands on that in Ephesians 4:22-23 with, “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds.”
One of the hallmarks of the LGBTQ+ movement has always been, “This is who I am!” Deep down they know what they’re doing is contrary to God’s Word. This is the reason they have to work so hard to defuse what God’s Word clearly states. So:
- How can we affirm ourselves yet take up our cross to follow Jesus?
- How can cling to old lifestyles and still put off the old self?
- How can we retain former manner of life which is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of our minds?
The answer is simple. We can’t! Either we deny ourselves or we don’t. Either we cling to old lifestyles or we don’t. Either we put of the former manner of life which is corrupt through deceitful desires, or we don’t. All of those those things we have to do to follow Jesus. To repent is “to feel sorry, self-reproachful, or contrite for past conduct; regret or be conscience-stricken about a past action, attitude, etc. (dictionary.com).” When we transfer our trust to Jesus this means we repent. To repent means we turn our backs on our sin and go the other way. The word Jesus used in Luke 9:23 is arnēsasthō, let him deny, from arneomai which means to deny or say no. It literally means let him repudiate himself then take up his cross. When we repudiate something, we want to get away from it. Think about coming upon something that has died, our first instinct is to get away from it. The same is true of our old self. Our first instinct when we come to Christ must be to get away from how we were. Paul continues by telling them, in Ephesians 4:24, “to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” So the old things are done away with and we’ve put on a likeness of God in righteousness and holiness.
Paul says in Colossians 1:13-14, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” How then can we maintain a selfish identity whose kingdom is darkness? The answer is simple, we cannot. In other words, when we try to maintain a selfish identity it means we were never transferred from the kingdom of darkness.
The bottom line is simple. God defined clearly in His Word that there are two and only two genders, male and female. God also clearly laid out that a proper sexual relationship was between man and wife, marriage and any sexual relationship that isn’t within the boundaries of what God defined is sexual immorality.
To be a Christian, a true follower of Jesus, we must deny ourselves, turn our back on our old ways and follow Jesus every day. We cannot try to hang onto our old identity because, whether that identity falls within the bounds of sexual immorality or not, our old self resided in the kingdom of darkness.
I’ll end with Philippians 2:1-11, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” Failure, ignorance, envy & misery are all words Sir Winston Churchill used to describe a society which buys into Socialism as a means of creating an equal playing field for everyone.
“The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples’ money.” A quarter century later, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher expressed the end result Socialism brings to a society. She pointed out socialism is about what “other people” have and, very wisely noted what they have is a finite resource. These great figures of history knew something was inherently wrong with a society which desires to “have” at the expense of others.
Thomas Jefferson made this observation more than two hundred years ago,
“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”
Benjamin Franklin articulated the same idea in this way,
“When the people find that they can vote themselves money that will herald the end of the republic.”
What others have isn’t ours. It’s not “The Common Wealth.” Working hard to obtain more than others is not stealing from them, it’s simply expending effort they are not willing to expend to achieve a goal. Our Declaration of Independence declares, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” While all men (humanity) are created equal, not all use their unalienable rights in equal pursuit of happiness in their Life using the Liberty they’ve been granted. Our unalienable right of Liberty gives us the freedom to pursue or not to pursue happiness. However, true happiness requires pursuit toward a goal that gives us fulfillment and ultimately happiness.
To gain a clear understanding of how a society has descended from this endowment of unalienable rights into socialist tendencies, let’s go through each of the points Winston Churchill made in his insightful observation.
Philosophy of Failure
Failure is something no one wants to experience but everyone is destined to encounter and, more importantly, is something every person must overcome to be successful. Rarely is success achieved without unsuccessful efforts along the way. The term “failure is not an option” is very real, personal and motivating for those who have learned to overcome failure.
In fact, most successful people don’t see unsuccessful efforts as failure. Thomas Edison, when working on the light bulb, was asked in an interview by a young reporter if he felt like a failure and if he thought he should give up. Edison’s reply is telling, “Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp.” After finding about 10,000 ways a light bulb would not work, Edison successfully created the carbon filament light bulb. Edison clearly didn’t associate unsuccessful attempts with failure but as means by which he could not achieve his goal.
For many the greatest failure of all is the “fear of failure”. What if it doesn’t work? What if I can’t do it? What will people think of me if I fail? Fear of failure paralyzes and thus immobilizes many which engenders a defeatist attitude whose ultimate result is the blame of others for what they do not have the drive to achieve. Many times, this blame is focused on amorphous entities like the wealthy, social injustice, “the system” and now “white privilege.”
Today a popular political deception is that of “privilege.” Wealth privilege, white privilege, male privilege, sexual privilege and many other “privileges” foster the perception that lack of achievement is someone else’s fault. All of these political positions feed on the fear of failure as a means of gaining control over those who are afraid to step out and take risks. Success is hard work and maintaining success is even harder. For the lazy person, which the Bible calls a sluggard, everything is just too hard. Here are three Proverbs that describe the condition:
“The sluggard buries his hand in the dish, But will not even bring it back to his mouth.” Proverbs 19:24
“The sluggard does not plow after the autumn, So he begs during the harvest and has nothing.” Proverbs 20:4
“The desire of the sluggard puts him to death, For his hands refuse to work;” Proverbs 21:25
Politicians who desire control feed on the fainéant by promoting failure as victimization. They create an illusion of victimization to divide society along social, ethnic, racial, political, religious and economic boundaries. These Demagogues promote all of the bogus “privileges” and “isms” to sow discord in order to create a victim driven society which must rely on the them to mead out economic justice. In doing so those who work hard to become successful become demoralized and less productive leading to a condition where no one has anything. The most concerning thing about this socialistic posturing is the ultimate reality that everyone ends up under control of the Demagogues.
Imagine if George Washington Carver, born a slave, had succumbed to discrimination in a time where extreme racism, absolute segregation and “White Privilege” were not only morally and culturally acceptable but in vogue. Had he given in to the real racial oppression of that age we wouldn’t have boiled or dry roasted peanuts, peanut oil, crop rotation or many other things we now take for granted. This extraordinary man had to apply at six different high schools, yes high schools, because of his race. For George Washington Carver “Failure” was not an option.
It’s easy to do nothing, be nothing and place the blame on others but George Washington Carver was determined NOT to be nothing! His vision, determination, drive to succeed along with hard work, led to accomplishments that revolutionized agriculture and virtually eliminated hunger in this country. Proverbs 29:18 says, ” Where there is no vision, the people perish;” (NKJV). When the vision is victimization, it creates a completely dependent society that has no sense of self-sufficiency, ultimately leading to socioeconomic demise.
Much of today’s society has been victimized by the belief success is because of “privilege” rather than a result of vision, determination, drive to succeed and hard work. This victimization mentality is a “Philosophy of Failure”.
Creed of Ignorance
The ultimate form of ignorance is a sense of entitlement. Young people who’ve grown up in the “helicopter parent” society have been conditioned to believe their success is the responsibility of someone else and that success is deserved rather than earned. In addition, the reality of personal responsibility and personal accountability is completely foreign to many young people today.
This became real for us many years ago when our children were in college. We realized we were going broke paying for traffic tickets for some of our children so we sat down and told them we weren’t paying for any more tickets. Several months later we received a call from the local jail. The conversation went something like this,
“Dad, they arrested me for traffic tickets. It’s six hundred dollars?” they opined, hoping I would pay the fine to get them out.
I responded, “What did I tell you?”
“That you weren’t going to pay for any more traffic tickets.”
“Did you believe me when I told you that?”
“Uh, I dunno. But Dad, I’m in jail!” came the deflated response.
My reply was likely more deflating, “Well, I hope you’re a model prisoner.”
They were a model prisoner for three days instead of six because they were so helpful. But more importantly they haven’t received another traffic ticket in more than 15 years. This is a great example of how personal accountability must be a real experience for someone to embrace personal responsibility.
Lack of personal responsibility and the reality of personal accountability leads to an attitude of self-gratification without boundaries. What others have become something one should have, all other considerations and consequences aside.
A sense of entitlement without accountability is a “Creed of Ignorance”.
Gospel of Envy
Perhaps the most subtle and dangerous of the points is the “Gospel of Envy”. Envy is the underlying condition that causes one to want what others have. The word gospel is defined as “something regarded as true and implicitly believed2” and envy is defined as “a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc.2”
Today’s culture is focused on the unfounded notion we just don’t have enough and deserve more. Is it any wonder that every advertisement on radio, television, cable and now social media evangelizes the gospel of envy by encouraging us to desire something we don’t currently possess! “You deserve” a new car, a new house, a bigger television and practically anything else you can imagine. They have no shame and even promote these “you deserve” views with our children. Toys, games, dolls, monster trucks. Our culture is bombarded with discontenting advertisements that promote the gospel of envy.
A decade or so ago, we had the pleasure of taking care of two of our grandchildren for a period of time and decided to go to Toys R Us to pick up a few children’s things. On the way in my grandson noticed someone buying a remote-control monster truck. I could tell right away he wanted one of those trucks so the next conversation was inevitable.
He asked, “PawPaw, can I have one of those?”
He was very disappointed when I answered, “No, I don’t think so.”
“Ok,” he responded in a sad little voice.
Down deep I really wanted him to have the truck so I said, “I tell you what, I’ll give you jobs around the house this summer so you can earn enough money to buy that monster truck.”
He lit up, “Ok, PawPaw.”
Well, we worked hard to give them plenty of little odd jobs, pick up a little pail of pine cones, sweep the porch, whatever we could think of that wasn’t too difficult and didn’t take a lot of time. By the end of the summer, he had earned fifty dollars.
I asked, “Well, you wanna go buy that monster truck now that you’ve earned enough?”
All smiles he answered, “Yes!”
We got to Toys R Us and went into where the monster truck was and he looked at it just beaming. He ran his little hand across the box and got his money out of his pocket. He looked at the wad of money in his little hand, then at the truck. The next thing he said took me completely by surprise.
“Pawpaw, do I have to buy the truck?” he asked. His little voice quivering.
Tears welled up in my eyes, “No sir, you do not!”
He put the money back in his pocket and with a broad grin asked, “Can I sweep the porch today?”
The personal satisfaction of earning the money became more important to him than having the monster truck. The antithesis of envy is the understanding of goals and means to achieve them.
The really sad fact is that politicians do exactly the opposite. Politicians evangelize this gospel of envy by promoting things such as a living wage, free college, universal healthcare, reparations and social equality as being human rights, which are deserved, as opposed to rewards that are earned. This political prevarication leads to anger, discontent, divisiveness, and hatred, which sooner or later results in anarchy.
When examined more closely this political dishonesty is nothing more than an appeal to selfishness and greed in order to gain support. The desire to acquire from someone else has roots deep in the human heart. The last of the Ten Commandments says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” Exodus 20:17 (ESV). In other words, the tendency to desire what others have is innate but God commanded not to give in to such desire. To be clear, politicians and the media encourage envy and covetousness which is contrary to God’s Word.
Desire isn’t envy when one builds a plan to accomplish goals and works hard to achieve that desire. Desire only becomes envy when accompanied by a sense of deprivation that leads to animosity toward others. Desire promoted as deprivation is a “Gospel of Envy”.
Equal Sharing of Misery
Socialists always opine previous failed attempts at socialism as being a result of improper implementation. In every new generation of socialists there is the belief their freshly hatched yet inane methods will succeed where others failed. But, in fact, every socialist implementation depends on hard working people working harder to subsidize benefits for many who have no desire to work for themselves at all. Further, the greed, ignorance and envy of the socialist leaders compel them to feel entitled to what others have. Soon those at the top consume more than those the socialist hegemony is supposed to benefit and their greed causes them to become corrupt.
Thomas Jefferson put it this way, “To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”
Margaret Thatcher made the same keen observation but in a slightly more practical way, “The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”
The true meaning of misery isn’t only when hard working people have to support profligates but when the society runs out of hard working people to support the profligates. At some point those who work hard to get ahead will no longer feel it’s worth the effort because one’s hard work will ultimately reward someone else so they join the ranks of the profligates. As more people move from work to dependence the socialist society will exhaust its resources and implode resulting in misery for everyone.
Let’s look at Venezuela, for example. A little more than a decade ago Venezuela was the richest country in South America. However, prosperity began to swirl the porcelain with a Communist dictator and has degenerated to the degree Venezuelans are now in such poverty they must dig through dumpsters for food.
Why, because socialism is the legacy of poverty. What do I mean? In 2007 a Venezuelan 100 bolivar bill would buy 28 US dollars and 288 eggs. Today that same 100 bolivar bill will buy a dime and 20% of one egg. Why? Because it was more lucrative to take money from the government than to manage chickens so the country simply ran out of eggs. Socialism’s legacy is always the same, poverty, pain and misery.
Average citizens digging through dumpsters for food because a single egg costs 500 bolivar is a superb example of the “Equal Sharing of Misery”.
What does all of this mean? Let’s look again at a key statement from the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The declaration of Independence stated that all men (all humanity) are created equal but notice the “unalienable Rights”. “Life” is a right to our own existence. “Liberty” is a right by which we have the freedom to establish our own destiny. But I want to focus on the last of these rights, the “pursuit of Happiness”. We have the right to “pursue happiness” not the right to “have happiness”. The founders’ understood happiness is a resulting condition as opposed to a conditioning result. We have the right to live, the freedom to excel and the ability to work hard to be happy.
Those who’ve been taught to pursue happiness through hard work and accomplishment of an end goal will achieve a feeling of happiness and contentment. My grandson worked diligently to earn enough to be in a position to make the decision as to what would make him happy. That pursuit took all summer long, which is an eternity to a five-year-old, but in the end, he was not simply happy but delighted. He had the freedom to decide what would make him happy due to his sense of self-worth built through accomplishment. The opposite is true of those who’ve been conditioned to believe something is deserved. This entitlement mentality isn’t just unrealistic, it’s naïve, and the result of such naivety is unhappiness and discontentment.
The truth of personal accountability must result in taking personal responsibility. The youth who learned to assert personal responsibility through personal accountability now runs an Amazon Fulfillment Center. Not because they somehow mystically deserved the position but because they set goals and held themselves accountable to achieve those goals.
A clear understanding of truth and consequences is what tempers the soul’s response to what one doesn’t have. Vision, hard work, determination, personal responsibility and drive to succeed in order to accomplish a goal are the things which satisfy the soul resulting in happiness, contentment and security.
No amount of socialist equalization will ever provide happiness, contentment or security but only poverty, pain and misery.
I’ll finish with two verses:
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have…” Hebrews 13:5
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy 5:8
1 – Feature photo
2 – Dictionary.com
Laying Hold of the Kingdom of God
Sometimes it is difficult to grasp the concepts Jesus has given us. It was just as hard for the disciples as Jesus noted on many occasions. One of those times was given in Matthew 11:12 proclaimed; “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.” This scripture is better translated; “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven is advancing rapidly, and determined men lay hold of it.” (see Are You the Coming One?) In Luke 16:16 it says; “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.” Today we’ll demonstrate this concept using the story of a determined man who forced his way into the kingdom of God.
First there is blind Bartimaeus in Luke 18:35-43 “As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant.They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’ And he cried out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, let me recover my sight.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.’ And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.”
The blind beggar in Luke, identified as Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46, sat along the roadside petitioning passers by for money. When he realized Jesus was passing by he called out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Even though people told him to be quiet he kept pressing. Ignoring the crowd he yelled all the louder “Son of David, have mercy on me!” The interesting thing here is that Bartimaeus didn’t ask for sight, he asked for mercy. Because of his persistence Jesus called Bartimaeus to come to Him and asked “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus already knew what Bartimaeus needed and He already knew what He was going to do. Jesus responded, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” It took faith in Jesus for the blind man to persist resulting in a call from Jesus. Bartimaeus called on Jesus for mercy but Jesus asked what he wanted personally. The result was miraculous and, according to Jesus, Bartimaeus faith resulted in recovering his sight. But that is not the end of the story. Once Bartimaeus received his sight he followed Jesus and glorified God. That’s not all, the faith of the one who had been blind ignited the faith of others. Others were drawn to glorify God.
First, Jesus was passing by. Have you ever wondered why Jesus decided to go a certain direction at a certain time? I believe it was no coincidence that Jesus passed by that particular location. He knew exactly where He was going and exactly what He was going to do.
Second, Bartimaeus knew he needed something so he begged on the side of the road. The presence of Jesus passing by ignited his faith.
Third, Jesus waited for Bartimaeus to persistently call on Him. How much did he desire Jesus? How big was his faith? He stopped begging for money and started begging for mercy persistently yelling louder and louder until Jesus acknowledged him.
Fourth, Jesus called Bartimaeus to come. Bartimaeus had to face the people who were telling he to be quiet. He had to step out in faith to meet Jesus.
Fifth, Bartimaeus was changed by the encounter with Jesus. He begged for mercy but received his sight.
Sixth, after experiencing Jesus presence and the miraculous power of God, Bartimaeus followed Jesus glorifying God.
Finally, Jesus presence, as he passed by, spurred Bartimaeus persistent faith which resulted in others glorifying God.
Seven Things that Stand Out
The key to understanding the seven things that stand out is what Jesus said later in Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
1) Jesus did not wait for Batimaeus to come to the synagogue but went out knowing where he was.
2) Jesus knew Batimaeus condition before He passed by.
3) Jesus recognized his persistence.
4) Jesus called Batimaeus to come to Him from where he was.
5) Jesus took action based on Batimaeus faith and obedience.
6) Jesus obedience to the Farther resulted in a miracle for Bartimaeus but God received the glory.
7) Bartimaeus faith resulted in action that drew others to Jesus.
Paper Clips and Magnets
First and foremost, we need to understand those who are lost many times recognize they have an empty space in their heart but they don’t know what is required to fill that space. It is like a magnet passing over a pile of paper clips. If it passes close enough one of the paper clips will be attracted to the magnet. Interestingly, as the closet paper clips are attracted, others will be attracted to the magnet through those paper clips. If the magnet remains static just out of magnetic reach it is unlikely any paper clips will be attracted to the magnet.
Today the world is moving further away from religion so it is less probable people will “come to church.” As Christians we have to be like Jesus. In other words the paper clips are moving further away from the magnet. The solution is not to try and build a stronger magnet but to move the magnet closer to the paper clips. We need to pray that the Father will reveal His will to us. Remember in the story there were many people present but Jesus took note of a specific person. Jesus knew who He would encounter and He knew how that person would respond. Remember just before the encounter with Bartimaeus Jesus was met by the “Rich Young Ruler” who went away sad (Luke 18:18-27). Like Bartimaeus the Rich Young Ruler knew he needed something. Like Bartimaeus the he knew Jesus had the answer but chose not follow Jesus because the cost was too high. Bartimeuas responded differently. When Jesus got close enough Bartimaeus persistence resulted in a life changing miracle and because of the miracle others were drawn to Jesus. In the case of the magnet and paper clips not all of the paper clips are attracted to the magnet but the magnet has to pass close enough to attract paper clips. Jesus set the example by going out. People were attracted to Jesus and while some did not respond others did and it had a dramatic effect.
Jesus went out, He didn’t wait in the synagogue for people to come to Him. Bartimaeus would never have been healed and others would not have been drawn to God had Jesus simply waited safely in the synagogue. Jesus knew who would be encountered along the way and He knew their response but He still went out. Some didn’t respond, but others responded in a way that brought glory to God and drew more people into His presence.
Remember, the presence of God through the Holy Spirit will attract some but repel others. Be aware! Be ready! Go out ready to be God’s magnet in a world that needs Him desperately.
The Swamp Fox
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Sunday School, Worship Service, Hmmm!
The rage lately on college campuses is to create a “safe zone” where group think prevails in curtailing speech that is deemed offensive. The notion of personal responsibility, moral standards and consideration of others has given way to self-absorption, self-gratification and self-exaltation has resulted in suppressing descent of any kind at all costs. Where did this come from? How did it start?
Perhaps we can look at Christian practices as an example. Reading one of my favorite Christian devotionals there was a statement that stopped me dead in my tracks. The writer lamented: “I wonder if church seems more like an exclusive club than a safe haven for forgiven sinners.” This statement literally shocked me. Since when has the church (ekklésia – those God has called out of the world) become an exclusive club or a “safe haven” for forgiven sinners? Since when has the church (God’s people not a building, religion or organization) become an introverted “safe zone” for Christians. How has the expression of Christian faith become a “Sunday Morning Safe Zone” for believers?
Over time Christians have become more interested in socializing than evangelizing, more concerned about learning than practicing what they have learned and the results are evident. It is easier to invite someone to church than confront them with the good news of the gospel. It’s easier to shun behaviors that offend us than demonstrate compassion and forgiveness as did Jesus. That being the case church has become a place where people commiserate in “Christian” group think antipodal to that of the “Safe Zone” group think out in the world. Both result in isolation and condemnation of others the only difference being polarization. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the statement; “I can’t wait for church on Sunday. I running on empty. I need to be with the people of God (code for people who think like me)…” Today “church” has become about buildings and programs, status and position, socialization and comradery, education with no accountability and identification with no action resulting in introversion, isolation, arrogance and condescension. While no Christian sets out to become any of those things it has happened none the less. It happened during Jesus’ time and it’s happening today.
Jesus addressed this condition in Luke 18:9-14 “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’”
In Matthew 28:19 Jesus commanded that we “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” and in Luke 12:12 He told us “the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Corporate worship of the Church should be an explosion of expression exalting God for what He done all week. It must not be a safe zone where believers commiserate on how terrible the world.
In order to better understand this let’s dig deeper into the passage in Luke 18 which describes two men. Both the Pharisee and the tax collector were in “church.” Both prayed. One spoke a highly educated religious prayer of arrogance, condescension and condemnation while one examined his own sinful nature declaring his unworthiness in God’s presence. One came to exalt himself, one came to beg for God’s mercy. One went to his house justified and one did not.
How does the scripture in Luke relate to Sunday Morning Safe Zones? Jesus declared in Luke 12:11-12 there are no safe zones for Christians. “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” He commanded extroversion not introversion. He called on believers to go out and share their faith not come together to commiserate the worlds condition. Jesus viewed sinners with compassion, reconciliation and forgiveness while condemning religious arrogance, condescension and condemnation, so we must ask ourselves why we go to church. Do we see and condemn a world full of sinners or do we see ourselves as sinners who need God’s mercy and have compassion for those who have not experienced God’s forgiveness? Do we look forward to being bolstered in order to survive another week or do we burst with exuberance over what God has done during the past week? Do we trust in the education of man to keep us safe or do we trust God’s Holy Spirit in any situation?
Do we rely on the comfort of a “Sunday Morning Safe Zone for Christians” or do we trust God to guide and support us in every situation, every minute of every day?
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Choices Have Consequences
“I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God. I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High. But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit. ” Isaiah 14:13-15.
The prophet Isaiah described the pride of Satan just after declaring his fate; “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground…” Isaiah 14:12. According to the prophet Satan was cut down just as he began to exalt himself above God. “You said in your heart,” and that was it for the “Day Star, the son of the Dawn!”
Jesus described that moment in Luke 10:18 “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” I’m struck with awe every time I read this passage. When lightning strikes you often see the flash before you hear the bang. Imagine, the Evil One became wrapped up in himself but before he could act on what was in his heart;
From the “mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north…down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit” like lightning. But how could this be? How could one so beautiful become self absorbed so as to exalt themselves above their creator?
God created Lucifer with the power of choice and he chose himself. God created man with the power of choice and man chose himself. The common thread is not the power of choice but the choice itself. When man sinned he made the same choice as the Lucifer, thinking he would be “like God” Genesis 3:5. When we decide to do something we know will displease God we have made the same choice thinking in our hearts; “I will ascend to heaven… I will make myself like the Most High.” But the result is always the same.
Can someone say; “Choices have consequences!” In Luke 9:23 Jesus said “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
God has given us the power of choice. Choose wisely!
Luke 10:19-20 “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Doubting is Human Nature
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming and exclaimed; “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John knew the Savior immediately and responded accordingly. Later, as Jesus ministry became more evident he declared, “…this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease,” but as time went on John found himself on the business end of Herod’s anger and wound up in prison. Prison in that day and age was not the same as today where prisoners are, for the most part, treated humanely. In the time of John the Baptist prisoners were subjected to inhuman treatment, starvation, exposure, beatings and general abuses we simply cannot imagine. John could have been in prison for nearly two years by the time he was executed and it must have worn on him greatly.
Eventually, John the Baptist began to question what he knew to be true about Jesus. We see this in Matthew 11:3 when John sends his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” He’d gone from the mountain top of ministry where he’d declared “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” into the depths of despair in prison where he asked “Are you the Coming One?” Perhaps he thought Jesus may intervene on his behalf or maybe Jesus would institute the Kingdom of God right then and there. Whatever the reason, John asked “Are You there Lord?” Jesus gave an answer that would reassure but not necessarily encourage John the Baptist. He told John’s disciples to report what they had seen then quoted the prophet Isaiah; “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matthew 11:5). Jesus reminded John of the very thing he preached; “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” He reminded John of his own belief, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Then Jesus offered correction to John the Baptist, “…blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Jesus was saying; “John, you know who I am and you have to be content with what you know.”
After addressing John’s disciples Jesus had much more to say. He explained the ministry of John and in Matthew 11:12 proclaimed; “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.” What a dramatic statement. Violence! Did Jesus actually mean physical violence? There is some room for interpretation which is supported by a similar account in Luke 16:16. Here is another way to view what Jesus said; “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven is advancing rapidly, and determined men lay hold of it.” I’ll take a little liberty here to make a point. It is possible Jesus was teaching; “The ‘kingdom of heaven’ advances regardless of the emotion of the moment.”
What does that mean for us? Have any of us ever questioned God? Be honest! Doubting is human nature when things to go amiss. We all have times where we find ourselves wondering where God is in our circumstances and find ourselves asking; “Are You there Lord?” That’s the question John the Baptist asked in the depths of his despair and the answer Jesus gave John is the same answer He gives us. It’s a simple answer but not always easy to accept and sometimes even more difficult to embrace. We must rest on faith which is defined in Hebrews 11:1 as “…faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” We have to go with what we know rather that how we feel. We must be determined as the apostle Paul to “…press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12
The next time we find ourselves at the bottom of a valley and our doubting human nature asks; “Are You there Lord?” Rest in the assurance of what we know, remembering; “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven is advancing rapidly, and determined men lay hold of it.”
“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ, my righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”
The Laborers are Few
According to Mathew 9:35-38 Jesus went throughout “all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom (v35).” At some point He felt compassion for the crowds “because they were distressed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd (v36).” Jesus looked at His disciples and said, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (v37-38).”
These verses are often taught as a backdrop to garner monetary support of mission programs. Coming from a Baptist background I can’t tell you how many times I heard Matthew 9:35-38 taught during the Lottie Moon offering season. But, is this what Jesus actually meant? Did He want us to pray for God to call missionaries? Did Jesus want to spur us to give money to support others who feel called to be a missionary?
Perhaps the Savior had something else in mind. When we stop at Matthew 9:38 we don’t have a complete picture of the salient point Jesus wanted to communicate. When Jesus said, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” He was preparing the disciples for ministry. They had seen how Jesus traveled through cities and villages spreading the gospel. They’d watched as He healed, comforted and forgave and He was about to ask the disciples to become laborers in God’s harvest.
First let’s review some observations about Matthew 9:35-38:
- Jesus went to cities and villages proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom
- He saw the number of people (the crowds)
- He felt compassion because they were like sheep without a shepherd
- He knew from the start that one worker was not enough
Jesus recognized the need, “the harvest is plentiful.” He was also aware “the workers are few” but was the answer to “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest?” Did He intend to stop there? In order to understand more fully we must read further in Matthew 10:1-15. Jesus wasted no time as He began to speak, “He called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.” He paired them up, gave them instructions then sent them out; “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (v5-7).” There are five key things Jesus covered in commissioning the new harvest workers:
- He sent them in pairs (for mutual support)
- He gave them His authority
- He did not send them to foreigners (Gentiles and Samaritans)
- He sent them to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (within their sphere of influence)
- He gave them a simple message; “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”
Jesus gave them mutual support, authority, an audience and a simple message but He didn’t tell them to fund a foreign missions program or become a foreign missionary themselves. He also used that pesky verb “poreuomai” for “Go” in the “Great Commission” (Fear is not an Option the Parable of the Sower). He commanded them to ”proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ (v7).” In other words the message was simple, the instructions were clear and the authority was God’s. While Jesus provided the covering, the method and the message He also provided a warning, “..if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town…Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves…you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (v14,16,22)” Just like the parable of the sower, where seed fell in four different places but only seed that fell in one place produced fruit, not everyone will receive the gospel message. As a matter of fact some will be absolutely hostile to the gospel message resulting in persecution. Nevertheless, the command was to continue. In the parable of the sower there is no indication the sower ever stopped sowing and in the case of the harvest workers the message was to “endure to the end.” Now the disciples are aware of the identity of the “Lord of the harvest”, the identity of the workers, the mission and the mission’s operational parameters.
In that context let’s look at a synopsis of the commission in Matthew 10:1,6-7,20,22; “He called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority….go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’…it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you…the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
Now compare that commission to the “The Great Commission” in Matthew 28:18-20; “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
There are clear parallels within the two commissions:
- Jesus provides the covering of His authority
- The command is to go
- The purpose is to proclaim
- He’s always present (through the Holy Spirit)
- Continue to the end
In both cases the disciples were given authority then commanded to go and proclaim. Whether within a sphere of influence or across the world the command is the same; “Go” and “Proclaim” under the authority of the Lord of the harvest Himself. In neither case is there a guarantee of acceptance but simply a command to “Go” and “Proclaim”. Not everyone will listen, not everyone will respond to the good news of the gospel and some will display hate and persecute the bearers of the good news. Jesus prepared the disciples for this by promising the power of the Holy Spirit in Matthew 10:19-20, “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you,” and He promised His presence in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you until the end of the age.”
The authority is clear, the command is direct, the message is simple and His presence is assured. No seminary training required. No special degrees, training, ordination or any other accolade of man. No guarantees of success but a directive to continue. Jesus gave His authority to proclaim a simple message trusting His Holy Spirit until…
The question is simple, “Do we put some money in a envelope and call it a day?” Or “Do we, us, you and me, personally ‘endure to the end’ proclaiming the good news of the gospel wherever we go under the authority He has given while trusting the Holy Spirit for guidance?”
Isaiah 6:8 “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
Tares and Wheat
Have you ever planted a garden and when things started to sprout wonder, “how did these weeds get in this garden? Didn’t I plant good seed here?” This is particularly true if you plant potatoes. When potatoes come up and start growing they just look like weeds and real weeds grow up among the potato plants which are difficult to distinguish until they begin to bear fruit.
Today we’ll look at the story of the “Wheat and the Tares” in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 but I want to begin with a passage in Second Corinthians 11:14-15. Here the apostle Paul makes a very interesting observation, “…for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.” It is with this backdrop we will look at the parable of the “Wheat and the Tares.”
In the parable Jesus describes a man who planted “good seed (wheat)” in his field. But while the workers were sleeping an enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat. Now tares are not just any weed but most likely a plant called darnel and it’s nearly impossible to distinguish between wheat and darnel until the heads of grain begin to form. As the fruit began to be revealed the workers noticed, “Sir did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares? v27.” “…An enemy has done this! v28,” the owner acknowledged. Now the workers were concerned and wanted to do do something about it, “…do you want us to go gather them up? v28,” they asked. The owner answered with confidence, “no, because while you gather them you may uproot the good wheat. Allow them to remain until the harvest then gather the tares first and burn them. Then gather the wheat into the storehouse v29-30.”
Later, in verses 36-43, Jesus explained that He was the sower, the good seed is the sons of the kingdom, the bad seed is the sons of the evil one and the enemy is the devil. Let’s back up one verse in Second Corinthians 11 to verse 13, “…such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.” So now we can draw the parallel between the passage in Matthew 13 and Second Corinthians 11. In the parable the enemy of the owner planted a counterfeit and in Second Corinthians Satan created counterfeits. Now we clearly see in both cases Satan’s intent is to make it difficult to tell the difference until the fruit begins to mature. Therefore, we must be vigilant because the enemy doesn’t come to us in a red suit with horns and a pitch fork but with the appearance of an angel, “an angel of light.”
How chilling it is, in today’s day in age, to realize there are those who present themselves as apostles of Christ but are actually representatives of Satan himself. How do we know the difference? What are the warning signs? Christians must never assume someone to be Godly because they are popular, eloquent or charismatic. Democracy doesn’t imply God pleasing outcome any more than polls or popular opinion imply righteousness and “most people think” does not represent God’s Word any more than “scientific evidence” indicates the eternal truth of God.
So what can we do to recognize Satan’s counterfeits? One way to identify deception is by observing direction. Jesus told us how to chose a direction and why in Matthew 7:13-14; “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Jesus continued in verses 15-17, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruit…every good tree bears good fruit but the bad tree bears bad fruit.” We see this today with crowds flooding toward theology and political dogma under the direction of those who bear fruit which doesn’t measure up to God’s Word. The sad outcome here is the crowds will find out as their fruit reaches maturity they were fooled by a counterfeit?
When it comes to recognizing tares and wheat, Christians must stay in God’s Word, pray fervently and trust His Holy Spirit to identify evil. If the largest crowd is on a wide path, heading through a large gate, odds are we need to turn around and start looking for a small gate with a narrow path. If we seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness it is certain the fruit which matures at the top of our stalk will be wheat and we will not be fooled by the darnel!
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
A Sower Went Out to Sow
In Matthew 28:19 Jesus commanded, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” The word “Go” is from the root word poreuomai which means to go. But Jesus used the passive participle in the plural form meaning “All of you having gone out.” Jesus literally meant while you are going, as you are going, wherever you are going, “make disciples.”
Today we’re going to look at the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:3-9 “…A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”
In this parable the sower having gone out to sow, again Jesus used an active participle, began spreading seeds. One of the most interesting things about this scripture is the sower did not carefully pick the soil on which he sowed. It seemed as though he sowed indiscriminately, almost carelessly. Some seed fell along the road, some among the rocks, some among the weeds and some on the good soil. Today many would say he wasted seed and he should have been more judicious in targeting the location he intended to so. Perhaps some may imply the sower was foolish for wasting seed.
I believe Jesus was making a very different point. What if Jesus intended to demonstrate that the sower sowed the seed everywhere? In His response to the disciples Jesus did not indicate all of the good ground was commonly located he simply noted that some “fell on good ground.” Jesus was making a point, the sower sowed wherever he could reach with the seed. Perhaps the sower didn’t know which ground was best, where the rocks were or where the weeds would come up. He was simply motivated to sow as much as he could sow in every place he could throw seed.
The real meaning of the parable becomes clear in the explanation Jesus gave the disciples. Matthew 13:19-23 “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
Jesus used the phrase “hears the word” four times to describe seed that fell on different soil types in the parable. In only one case the one who “hears the word” produced fruit. Three to one, one in four, twenty-five percent produced fruit. It’s clear the Lord gave us this parable to help us understand that we must spread the word of the kingdom, the good news of the gospel, with as many people as possible even if we don’t know how the hearer will respond. Remember poreuomai? “As you are going” … “make disciples of all nations.”
Today, we have been instilled with a prodigious and paralyzing fear of failure. We analyze and fret fearfully over whether or not to share the gospel. We pine over who will listen. We’re afraid of the response. We’re afraid someone will reject the gospel. We’re afraid we will be rejected. So, often times, we simply invite people to church so the highly trained pastor can share the gospel with them. Few things are more disheartening than to hear a Christian invite someone to church. What a monumental cop out which is no doubt a deception of the adversary. What would please the evil one more than for Christians to believe they are fulfilling they responsibility to share the gospel by inviting someone to church. “But, they might come to church,” may come the reply. In reality, “probably not.” If they don’t come to church they may never hear the good news of the gospel. They may never be faced with the fact that their sin separates them from a Holy and perfect God leaving them doomed for eternity. The most telling thing is there are no commands in the bible to invite someone to church but there is a command to make disciples. “Invite them to church” is rooted in a man-centered conundrum called “fear of failure” but “Go and make disciples of all nations” is a command given by Jesus Himself.
Let’s ask a question; “How many times have we heard the gospel invitation at the end of a sermon?” Shouldn’t we have memorized it by now? The gospel is simple, “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16. “For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of itself, it is the gift of God lest any man should boast” Ephesians 2:8. “Therefore having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained our introduction by faith into the grace in which we now stand and we exalt in the hope of the glory of God” Romans 5:1-2. These simple verses have changed lives since the time they were written. They offer “love”, “eternal life”, “salvation”, “peace” and “hope”. No theology degrees required, no special training, no special gifting or dispensation, simply a desire to spread the good news of the kingdom of God as Jesus commanded.
Fear is not an option!
Be a sower who went out to sow! Sow everywhere! Sow fearlessly!
Position of Forgiveness
Degree is one of those words that is used to describe a number of different things, temperature, education or position. One thing all of these have in common is classifying things higher or lower based on some criteria. For instance, a boiling temperature is higher than freezing temperature, a doctorate is a higher level of education than a masters, a supreme court justice has a higher position than an appellate court justice. By nature we tend to classify things and justify our position according to our own perspective.
Today we’ll look at the story of the sinful woman and the Pharisee in Luke 7:36-47. We will see both Jesus and the Pharisee saw things in degrees but their perspective was very different. The story begins when the Pharisee asked Jesus to dinner so He went to the Pharisees house and reclined at the table. As he did so a sinful woman came in and began to wash His feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. She then began kissing His feet and finally anointed the feet of the Savior with ointment. As this sinful woman performed this wonderful expression of love for Jesus the Pharisee thought to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner (v39).” Jesus knew what the Pharisee was thinking and spoke, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher (v40).”
In answer Jesus told a story, “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more? (v41-42).” The Pharisee, still focused on the sinner in his house, answered grudgingly, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt (v43).” He’d missed Jesus whole point, Simon was still focused on the sin of the woman but Jesus was zeroed in on what was in Simon’s heart. His response laid out the things that Simon had done to violate his own cultural practices,“…turning toward the woman he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little’ (v44-47).”
Notice Jesus pointed out Simon did not perform customary hospitality for Him. “You gave me no water or kiss” and “You did not anoint my head” are telling statements. Other Pharisees would have been offended had Simon not done those things for them and, because there were others at the table, the implication is Simon may have followed the customs for them but not for Jesus. Simon saw things in degrees, himself as the “clean,” highly educated lawyer and Jesus as one who claimed to be a teacher but indulged sinners like the woman. In other words, self-exaltation caused him to miss the degree of his own sin and I believe we as Christians sometimes engage in the same practice. Our human nature drives to compare degrees of sinfulness forgetting the tiniest thing we do to displease God would separate us from Him eternally apart from the forgiveness that Jesus provided for us. The question is, “what drove this sinful woman to enter the house of a Pharisee where she knew she was unwelcome?” Jesus gave a clear answer, “for she loved much (v47).” Her tears demonstrated her sorrow with her own sinful nature and her actions demonstrated her love for the Lord.
Now we have to ask some tough questions:
- Do our sins break our heart to the degree we bath the Saviors feet with our tears?
- Do we love Jesus more because we recognize how much He has forgiven us?
- Do we ever allow our position in the Kingdom of God to become arrogance to the degree we condemn others without examining ourselves?
- Do we ever loose sight of the fact that we need God’s Love to love others?
May our love for God and recognition of our own sinful nature drive us to maintain a position of forgiveness never forgetting there are degrees and degrees!