Saturday, April 16, 2016

A brotherhood of man

In 1971 John Lennon, wishfully invited the world to imagine a utopia where there was no heaven, no hell, no countries, no causes to die for, no religion, where all humanity could share the world in brotherhood and peace.  His famous song was an instant hit and became the anthem for the anti-Vietnam hippie generation.  The philosophy of one world united in harmony sounds so lofty and appealing, but is unbiblical on its face.  The book of Daniel prophesies about the end times when the “great king” or antichrist arises, he will “destroy many in a time of peace,” that he will “destroy wonderfully and will prosper.”  International peace will mark his reign on earth, yet under that fa├žade of peace, he will destroy wonderfully.  

“…and shall destroy the mighty men and the holy people. By his cunning, he shall cause deceit to succeed under his hand, and he shall magnify himself in his heart.”  Daniel 8:24-25 MEV

We have to be careful not to fall into the popular notion that global peace needs to be sought after at all costs.  There’s a growing chasm in our culture that is separating those who are born of God from those who agree with the world.  There can be no harmony between darkness and light.  We are promised wars and a falling away of believers from the word of God.  We are promised persecution and sharper divisions between true and false Christians.  Weak Christians will be deceived by the attractive offerings of the peaceful and prosperous world of the antichrist, and will even turn against those who are strong in the faith.  There will be a time when they will be saying, as 1 Thessalonians 5 puts it, “‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape.” 

Jesus is the true Prince of Peace, but to experience that peace, each of us needs to do battle against our flesh, against evil, against the opinions of the world.  It means keeping our eyes wide open to detect the lies, to reject them, and to speak out against them.  It may look aggressive, but it’s this battle that guarantees our peace.  When we have real faith, nothing can cause us to lose our joy – not even the threat of persecution or the loss of approval by our families or friends.  Whoever knows us will either be so drawn to our spirit of peace and victory, or be utterly repulsed by it.  This distinguishes who a true believer is and who isn’t.  Anyone who is comfortable with the world’s philosophies and makes the world feel comfortable with them, is out of step with God and risks being destroyed in the times to come.  

In ancient Israel, the conflict of war kept God’s people sharp and alert, in prayer and fasting, in humble obedience to Him.  Their victories came through the discipline of living a separate and holy life.  The only way for the devil to destroy God’s people, was through a false sense of peace and security.  Making pacts with idolaters and tolerating immorality seemed like good tactical choices, until those spirits defiled them and ravaged their land.  When spiritual boundaries are torn down, God’s people suffer.  Holiness means being set apart, safe within God’s borders.
Don’t fall for popular philosophies of the crooked world we live in. Satan disguises himself as an angel of light through smooth words and lofty sounding ideals.  Be innocent as doves, but crafty as serpents.  Romans 12 and Hebrews 12 tell us that as far as it’s up to us, be peaceful and loving, but never to the point of compromising our faith or tolerating evil.  The days are already here when speaking the truth stirs up hatred and violence.  And that is why it’s so crucial now to get rooted in God’s peace that passes understanding, the peace of true faith, of fearless warfare, and of joyful obedience and victory in all things.  

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s foes will be those of his own household.’” Matthew 10:34-35 MEV

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Forgotten Commandment

If you take obedience to God’s word seriously, it should be a given that the Ten Commandments are the foundation of your life.  Many Christians can’t even name all ten offhand, but most believe that their lives are safely in line with those basic principles.  Only blatantly rebellious Christians will involve themselves in adultery, murder, theft and lying – at least the obvious acts that we associate with those sins.  

We often forget Jesus’ words that if we even just think lustful thoughts about someone, we have committed the sin of adultery.  Even if we lash out in anger or entertain hateful feelings towards someone, we have committed murder.  Who among us has never, even for a moment, fallen into entertaining such hidden sins?  Not even the holiest of the holy in our church community is innocent of breaking God’s commands, because all of us have sinful natures and need God’s mercy and forgiveness – even after being saved.  The more we love God, the more we will run from sin, and not only outward sins, but the sins of our hearts.  It’s a daily battle.  As vigilant as we may be, the human ego is so easy for the devil to manipulate. 

Which brings me to the one rarely thought of command.  Thou shalt not covet.  The full verse in Exodus 20:17, talks about not coveting your neighbor’s house, wife, male or female servant, oxen, donkey or anything else.  The word covet is so rarely used these days, it’s the forgotten command, the one no one seems to care much about.  But our world is full to overflowing with coveting, and we don’t even realize how often we embrace that sin.

The power of advertising and marketing is its reliance on humanity’s abundance supply of covetousness.  We see a product that we don’t really need, but we want to look like the beautiful happy people in that ad, so we waste our money to buy it anyway.  We covet the status that eating in a certain restaurant gives us, or the lifestyle we can pretend we have when we wear those clothes.  We’re embarrassed to drive that perfectly functional car with the funny appearance because we covet the cool factor that the pricier version has to offer, and dig ourselves into debt because of it.  We’ll buy our children expensive trinkets to satisfy the covetousness they learned from us.  Coveting can be done out of jealousy, rivalry and envy, the need to impress, or just out of pure selfishness.  But do we realize that coveting is listed right next to adultery, murder and theft?  It’s a sin of the heart, where we nurture demonic emotions and destroy our relationship with God.  Why are we not fighting against it?  Why is this evil so tolerated?  

If we hated it as much as murder, we would be alert to its presence and be radical about destroying any traces of it in our hearts.  Being grateful every day for the blessings that God has given us is a start.  There are many in this world who would be so happy to have the little that you’ve been blessed with, but coveting creates contempt for God’s provision and a greed for more.  Make a habit of sincerely praising God for others who receive blessings that you don’t yet have – be truly happy for them to kill any root of bitterness or covetousness in you.  All that matters  is how you invest in your eternity.  Everything will turn to dust and disappear, but in one hundred, two hundred, ten thousand years from now, you will still exist – either with God or without Him, depending on how you invest your life right now.  Take your eyes off of temporary treasures and status symbols, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.  Hunger and thirst for God’s ways above all.  It’s not worth showing contempt for the blessings God so lovingly provides for you and losing your salvation in the end.  Love Him in pureness of heart, because in that, there is no room for sin.     

You lust and do not have, so you kill. You desire to have and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have, because you do not ask.  You ask, and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your passions. You adulterers and adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.   James 4:2-4 MEV