Traits of True Masculinity

October 20, 2019 in Bible - OT - 1 Kings, Children, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Human Condition, Image of God, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility, Temptation

1 Kings 2:1-4 (NKJV)
1
Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: 2 “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. 3 And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; 4 that the Lord may fulfill His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul,’ He said, ‘you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’

Evangelical Christians are not particularly good at retaining our sons. The number of women in evangelical churches greatly exceeds that of men even though men outnumber women in religions such as Islam and orthodox Judaism. By and large the ladies remain in the churches while the men head to bars and the locker rooms. What has caused this lack of interest on the part of evangelical men? Part of the answer lies in our failure to appreciate that which is distinctly masculine and to cultivate that masculinity in our sons.

This failure is remarkable in light of the Bible’s delight in both masculine and feminine forms of piety. The Scriptures extol each in their place. A man should display his faith like a man and a woman should display her faith like a woman. So what does masculine piety look like and how should it reveal itself in our congregation? What are the traits of the man of God?

When David was on his death bed, passing on to the land of his fathers, he exhorted Solomon, “Show yourself a man” (1 Kgs 2:2). David expected Solomon to live up to the training he had received and to exhibit certain traits that were distinctly masculine. How was Solomon to do this? The portion of David’s charge we have read today identifies two ways.

First, Solomon must obey the voice of the Lord. Solomon was to “keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies. . .” (2:3). Masculinity, David emphasizes, is not found in rebellion against God, as fallen culture erroneously surmises, but in a rigorous, zealous, full-orbed obedience to His law. Want to be a man? Then study to know and obey the Word of God despite the opposition of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Masculinity is willing to say, “No,” to ungodliness and unbelief; willing to say, “No,” to a gang of thieves and stand up against them; willing to say, “Don’t be dumb,” to a friend who talks disrespectfully of his mother. The mark of true masculinity is dutiful service to God even in the face of stiff opposition. A true man says, “I must obey God rather than men when those men tell me to do what is ungodly. I will stand firm.”

But there is a second lesson about masculinity that David teaches Solomon: a true man is also humble. Solomon was to recall what God had promised his father and to live in light of this promise. This implies that masculine virtue is not afraid to confess its dependence upon others. Real men are willing to learn from their elders; to stand on the shoulders of their forebears; to glean all that can be gleaned from their teachers; to rejoice in the heritage which their parents have already passed and are continuing to pass down to them. As Coleridge once remarked, “A dwarf sees farther than the giant when he has the giant’s shoulder to mount on.” Young men, you are dwarfs, but if you are willing to mount upon our shoulders as we are trying to mount on the shoulders of our fathers, imagine how far you will be able to see.

So give heed to the words of David today – Show yourself a man! Obey the Lord regardless the opposition and treasure the inheritance of your fathers. This is a taste of biblical masculinity. Reminded that we often fail to practice biblical masculinity as men and often discourage its practice as women, let us kneel, as you are able, and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Descent into Utter Debasement

September 22, 2019 in Abortion, Apologetics, Bible - NT - Romans, Children, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Confession, Creation, Depravity, Heart, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Meditations, Politics, Responsibility, Sanctification, Sexuality, Sin, Temptation

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

This morning we continue our survey of Romans 1. Paul reminds us that unbelief never remains isolated in the head and the heart; it inevitably bears fruit. Over time, unbelief degenerates into idolatry, immorality, homosexuality, and thence into utter debasement and societal instability; its fruit is barbarism whereas the fruit of faith is civilization.

Today we begin to examine the descent into utter debasement and societal instability. God is just. Therefore, when we refuse to repent in the face of widespread idolatry, immorality, and homosexuality, when, in Paul’s words, we do not like to retain God in [our] knowledge, then God hands us over to our sin. He gives us over, Paul writes, to a debased mind… This debased mind then reveals itself in the practice of those things which are not fitting.

So what does Paul mean by a debased mind? A debased mind is one that is adulterated, corrupted, twisted. It is the type of mind that argues that no-fault divorce is good for society and good for children; it is the type of mind that believes we can increase wealth by confiscating others’ rightful property; it is the type of mind that defends pornography as freedom of expression; it is the type of mind that cannot distinguish a boy from a girl; it is the type of mind that imagines that having drag queens read to little children and groom them for sexual exploitation is praiseworthy; it is the type of mind that thinks coercing people to make cakes for sodomite unions is just; it is the type of mind that thinks it is merciful to permit mentally confused people to change their sex on their birth certificate.

A debased mind, in other words, is a mind that has lost its moral compass. In our case, succumbing to the internal logic of relativism, our debased mind no longer has the ability to distinguish good from evil, justice from injustice, or kindness from cruelty. “A righteous man,” Solomon notes in Proverbs 12:10, “has regard for the life of his animal, but even the compassion of the wicked is cruel.” Societies that rebel against God eventually lose what used to be called “common sense”; God gives them over to a debased mind.

When God hands a people over to a debased mind, that debased mind begins to manifest itself in action. We do those things that are not fitting, that do not reflect our true glory as men and women made in the image of God. We were created to rule over the world in righteousness, faithfulness, and truth; to erect civilizations to the glory and honor of God. But a debased mind degenerates into barbarism, cruelty, injustice, and dishonor.

In coming weeks, we will explore these actions in more detail. For now, suffice it to say that our dishonorable actions are the outworking of our debased mind. Our debased mind is the root; the dishonorable actions are the fruit. Therefore, what is our calling as the people of God? What is your calling as a follower of Christ? Paul commands in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Your calling is to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, to study the Word of God and permit it to shape your mind anew, so that you can begin to practice that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

So what of you? Are you conforming yourself to the world or are you being transformed by the renewing of your mind? If you are not being transformed, if you are not purposely renewing your mind through study of and meditation upon the Word of God, then let me assure you that you are being conformed. Transform or conform – those are the only options.

Reminded that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, let us confess that we are often conformed to the world instead. And as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord as we confess our sin. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.

The Descent into Immorality

September 8, 2019 in Apologetics, Bible - NT - Romans, Church History, Confession, Depravity, Evangelism, Hell, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Image of God, Judgment, Justice, Meditations, Providence, Sexuality, Sin, Temptation

Romans 1:24–25 (NKJV)

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

This morning we continue our survey of Romans 1. When peoples reject the Living God, they descend from unbelief into idolatry into immorality into unnatural homosexual lusts and thence into utter debasement and societal instability. As we have noted, Paul insists that civilization is the fruit of faith whereas barbarism is the fruit of unbelief.

Today we examine the descent into immorality. Individuals are notoriously and, at times, gloriously inconsistent. We act in ways at odds with what we profess to believe. Consequently, you can have an unbelieving neighbor who is a remarkably kind, gracious, and pleasant fellow and a believing acquaintance who is a narrow, caustic, and unpleasant one. Individuals are frequently inconsistent.

But groups of people, cultures, are always consistent with their most basic presuppositions; they always begin to act in a way consistent with their most fundamental and cherished beliefs. And one of the consistent outworkings of unbelief and idolatry is sexual immorality, sexual rebellion. A survey of the idolatrous cultures of the world illustrates this: among the Canaanites, for example, two of the most prominent deities were Baal and Asherah, fertility gods whose rites included mass orgies. In Rome, one of the most popular cults was that of the phallus, the male reproductive organ. And you are no doubt aware of the many cult prostitutes who served patrons at the various pagan shrines. Idolatry degenerates into immorality: pornography, fornication, adultery, polygamy, concubinage, prostitution, voyerism, sexual abuse, sexual trafficking, ad nauseam.

Why? Well consider America’s descent into public immorality that sprouted in the 1960s and has continued to grow to the present. The form of idolatry in Western Civilization is secularism and its dominant story line is Darwinism or macro-evolution. According to Darwinism, men are but sophisticated animals, in no way unique and in no way accountable to our Creator. Indeed, we are self-created and determine our own purpose. Since the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925, American society has increasingly absorbed this presupposition, this basic belief.

In Paul’s words, “we exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” You see, if we acknowledge that there is a glorious and incorruptible God who has created us in His image to use our bodies with honor and to respect the sexuality of our neighbors, then we will strive to display the glory of God in our sexual conduct. This was once our most cherished belief as a people. But we rejected this truth; we embraced the lie that we are just animals. And what has happened? God has given us over to our lie: we have begun to act like animals and to follow our baser instincts. We have declared that restrictions on sexual behavior are no more than prudery, hold-overs of an uptight generation. Dishonoring our bodies? That’s silly! Sex is just a natural and necessary function like breathing. Honor is irrelevant.

Paul’s words remind us that ideas have consequences. Groups of people always act consistently with their most cherished beliefs; God is not mocked. What a man sows, what a culture sows, that will he also reap. And when we begin to reap the terrible harvest – the immorality itself, the battered women, the abused children, the aborted babies, the STDs, the mental illnesses – that harvest is God’s wake up call, God’s summons to repent and return to Him.

But we have not done so, have we? We have doubled down on the lie. So this morning, as we enter into the presence of the Lord of glory, let us lead our culture in the way of confession. Let us acknowledge our sin and pray that God would have mercy upon us, enabling us to treat one another with honor and integrity again. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

No Creed but Christ?

August 18, 2019 in Bible - NT - Matthew, Church Calendar, Church History, Creeds, King Jesus, Meditations, Temptation, Tradition, Uncategorized

Matthew 16:13–17 (NKJV)

13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” 14 So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”

Our culture has institutionalized the tradition of anti-traditionalism. It is not that “rebellion” is acceptable within our cultural milieu; “rebellion” has become our cultural milieu. From “Not your father’s Buick” to “Not your father’s Root Beer,” to “Just be yourself,” our culture expects each new generation to be different, unique, revolutionary. “Out with the old, in with the new,” we are told. “This is the evolutionary process.”

Unfortunately, we evangelicals have imbibed much of this cultural food, routinely wolfing down the latest fad. However, because we have a residual loyalty to the Bible, we often try to cloak our anti-traditionalism in pious language. Consider, for example, the sentiment, “No creed but Christ.” “All we want to do is focus on Jesus. Away with these other teachings and traditions! Away with the creeds!”

Such a sentiment is nothing more than the anti-traditionalism of our culture cloaked in pious language. A moment’s thought reveals its utter inadequacy: No creed but Christ? What Christ do you mean? Who is this “Christ”? Is he…

  • The literal offspring of God the Father & Mary as Mormons teach?
  • The greatest of angelic beings as JWs & Arians teach?
  • Simply a great moral teacher as liberalism teaches?
  • A spirit being who only appeared to be human as Docetism taught?

To say, “No creed but Christ,” in other words, is vacuous. We must specify which Christ we mean. And this is the dynamic we see at work in our text today. Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” They respond, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  But then Jesus presses, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter confesses, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus declares, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” In other words, Peter got the answer correct.

Jesus’ interaction with the disciples reminds us that creeds, doctrinal summaries of the faith, are inescapable. It is not whether but which; not whether we have and embrace a creed but which creed we embrace – the true one or the false one? It was this insight that led our fathers to compose creeds in the history of the Church – summaries of biblical teaching that answer the question, “Who is this God we worship?” They composed creeds such as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Definition of Chalcedon, and then handled them down to us as a sacred trust. These creeds were attempts to distinguish truth from error, to combat various false teachings that tried to infiltrate the Church – Gnosticism, Arianism, Sabellianism, Docetism, and others.

So how ought we to receive these creeds? As we shall learn in our sermon today, we ought to receive them in thankfulness and then hand them on to the next generation. Rather than scorn the creeds with our arrogant mantra, “No creed but Christ,” we ought to thank God that He poured out His Spirit upon His Church and enabled our fathers to summarize faithfully the teachings of Scripture.

So what of you? Have you given thanks to God for these creedal summaries, treasured them as gifts from God, and considered how you might hand these on to the next generation? Or have you taken them for granted, mumbling through them each Sunday and largely ignoring the blood, sweat, and tears that went into their composition and transmission?

Reminded that God has been good and kind to His Church throughout history and has given us the creeds to lead and guide us in the proper understanding of His Word, let us confess that we have often taken these creeds for granted. As we confess, and as you are able, let us kneel together before the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

When Pride Comes Then Comes Shame

March 10, 2019 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Judgment, Justice, King Jesus, Meditations, Responsibility, Sanctification, Sin, Temptation

Proverbs 11:2 (NKJV)

2 When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom.

In Proverbs 6:16-19, Solomon tells us that there are six things that the Lord hates, yes seven which are an abomination to Him. At the head of that list are “proud looking eyes.” God hates pride.

So what is pride? Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines pride as, “Inordinate self-esteem; an unreasonable conceit of one’s own superiority in talents, beauty, wealth, accomplishments, rank or elevation in office, which manifests itself in lofty airs, distance, reserve, and often in contempt of others.” So pride is first an attitude of the heart that then manifests itself in action. The attitude of the heart is an “inordinate” or “unreasonable” self-esteem and conceit. The proud man imagines himself to be more than he is.

We witness this “boastful pride of life”, as the Apostle John calls it in 1 John 2:16, in the fall of Satan and in the temptation of our first parents. Paul warns us not to appoint a new convert to church office “lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Tim 3:6). It was the devil’s pride, his belief that he could be equal to God his Creator, that precipitated his rebellion against God and then ended in his defeat and judgment. Similarly, Satan lured the first woman, Eve, to eat of the forbidden fruit by promising her that if she rebelled against God and partook of the forbidden fruit then she would “be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5). Pride plunged the entire human race into sin and misery.

According to Solomon, pride always ends in shame. “When pride comes, then comes shame…” Adam and Eve eat of the forbidden fruit and immediately their eyes were opened, and they knew they were naked and were ashamed. The builders of the tower of Babel set out to “make a name” for themselves but ended in mass confusion and dispersion. Miriam rose up in pride against Moses and King Uzziah entered the temple in his pride and both were struck with leprosy, shamed before their peoples. Haman’s pride stretched his neck on the gallows and Herod Agrippa’s pride welcomed the worms that ate his bowels. “When pride comes, then comes shame…”

But Solomon continues our proverb. “When pride comes, then comes shame, But with the humble is wisdom.” “But…” isn’t that a glorious word? We are not sentenced to shame. Shame need not be our lot in life. “But with the humble is wisdom.” The humble man is the one who knows his place and joyfully occupies it to the glory of God. That man shall not be put to shame. “For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame’” (Rom 10:11). The humble shall possess wisdom and honor. “God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Jas 4:6). Abraham possesses the gates of his enemies; Moses dies an old man, greatly esteemed in Israel; Joshua is summoned by God to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land; Ruth tends to her mother-in-law Naomi; Mary welcomes the Lord’s selection of her to serve as the mother of Jesus. “Behold, the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). But with the humble is wisdom.

So what of you? Do you struggle with shame? One cause may very well be that you have been proud, thinking more of yourself than you ought, imagining yourself more significant than you are. There are, of course, other causes of shame. However, pride – a refusal to worship God as God and to listen to Him and submit to His Word as our source of wisdom and life – is one of the chief causes of shame.

And so reminded that with pride comes shame but with the humble is wisdom, let us confess that we have often given way to pride, thinking ourselves wiser than we are. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel in His presence. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Malevolence of the Devil

February 21, 2016 in Bible - NT - 1 Peter, Bible - NT - Colossians, Bible - NT - Mark, Cross of Christ, Meditations, Satan, Temptation, Word of God
Mark 1:12–13 (NKJV)
12 Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. 13 And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.
1 Peter 5:8–9 (NKJV)
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
As Christians, God has called us to fight against three primary enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. And since we find ourselves on the 2nd Sunday in Lent, continuing to anticipate our remembrance of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, it is fitting that we look at the third member of this unholy triumvirate – the devil. Last week we considered the power of our flesh; today, the malevolence of the devil.
The devil was and is a created being, an angelic figure, who rebelled against God in the beginning. He was filled with pride and rebelled against the Good Creator, seeking to exalt himself rather than to exalt His Lawful Lord. In this rebellion other angels took part – and they are the demons whom our fathers worshiped in their idolatry. These demons often possessed hapless victims and drove them toward evil and to this day they feast on human suffering and misery. The devil is their leader and prowls about seeking whom he may devour, endeavoring to swallow us up in his own judgment.
It was against this malevolent being that our Lord Jesus waged war during His 40 days in the wilderness, an event that Lent recalls. Jesus did three things in the wilderness that we must remember.
First, Jesus fought against the devil. The Spirit drove Him into the wilderness to enter into the lists. He did not go into the wilderness for an extended vacation but to contend with the Evil One. So we are called to imitate Him in this. We too are to “resist the devil” – are to be sober and vigilant; to be on our guard like good soldiers. Why? Because, like Jesus, we are at war with the devil who would like nothing more than to destroy us.
Second, Jesus fought using the Word of God as His weapon. The Word of God was for Jesus (even as for us) the Sword of the Spirit with which He manfully attacked the perversions of the wicked one. You see only occasionally does Satan show himself in lurid displays like demon possession; more commonly he seduces us through sin, temptation, compromise, and mediocrity. He is content to destroy people from behind the scenes. And he accomplishes this chiefly by undermining the integrity of God’s Word and causing us to doubt God’s reliability and goodness. “Has God really said…?” was not only the question he posed to Eve in the garden but also the question he poses to each of us in the moment of temptation. So what is the solution? How do we fight him? By clinging tenaciously and faithfully to the Word of God even as Jesus did. In Peter’s words, we are to “Resist him, steadfast in the faith…” To Satan’s question, “Hath God really said…?” we are to reply like Jesus, “Thus it is written…”
Finally, we must never forget that Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness was but the prelude to the great contest between Jesus and the devil on the cross. The wilderness anticipated the cross even as Lent paves the way for Good Friday and Easter. On the cross, Satan believed he had achieved his greatest victory; in fact, however, it was his ultimate defeat. Paul writes that Jesus has taken away “the handwriting of requirements which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers [Satan and his minions], He made a public spectacle [a laughingstock] of them, triumphing over them in [the cross]” (Col 2:14-15). Hence, though Satan remains a bitter foe, we must never forget that he is a defeated foe. Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.

As we continue anticipating the coming arrival of Good Friday and Easter, therefore, let us (like our Lord Jesus) enter boldly into the lists and fight bravely against the wiles of the devil. And reminded of our call to fight, let us begin by confessing that far too often we have given way to our enemy. Let us kneel as we confess our sin to the Lord.

Homosexuality and the Christian

April 23, 2015 in Bible - NT - James, Book Reviews, Homosexuality, Sexuality, Temptation

I finished reading Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends by Mark Yarhouse. Yarhouse is Professor of Psychology at Regent University. I appreciated his distinction between attraction, orientation, and identity. Attraction is a base level sexual temptation that certain folks experience more than others for members of the same sex. Orientation is attraction that seems to be persistent. Identity is when someone chooses to label themselves as homosexual. I think that these distinctions are helpful; he is articulating James 1:13-15 but in a way that is at times confusing. James would be willing to acknowledge that certain of our desires are sinful and that these desires move us to practice sin. So sin is more than mere behavior – it reaches to our desires. Yarhouse seems to want to say that our “attractions” are never sinful in themselves; he places the label of sin almost exclusively on our behavior and I’m not convinced that’s biblical. Nevertheless, it is true that being tempted is not the same as sinning – Jesus was tempted and yet without sin. So I’m not completely throwing out his distinctions because I think there is a kernel of truth there. Yarhouse is a psychologist and so speaks for that community; as a pastor I’m much more interested in what Scripture has to say and on that I find him less than fully satisfying. Sam Allberry’s Is God Anti-Gay? is more helpful and makes some of the same distinctions.

I appreciated his emphasis on reaching people who struggle with same-sex attraction – and reaching them as “our people.” I think that this is an area where I could certainly grow. At the same time, I simply don’t agree with his approach to some specific cases; for instance, if my child were to choose homosexuality, I would not “respect” that choice. I think that is the wrong framework within which to process the decision. I guess I’ll “respect” him to the extent of holding him accountable for his choice and urging the church to hold him accountable; but I won’t “respect” him in the sense of saying, “I recognize that’s a legitimate choice to make.” May it never be!

So while there were some good an helpful distinctions and the book was very charitable, there are times where I think his allegiance to psychology is more apparent than to Scripture. 

The Fullness of Deity

August 10, 2014 in Bible - NT - Colossians, King Jesus, Meditations, Temptation, Trinity
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
Colossians 2:6-10
One temptation that routinely faces us is to substitute our own religious ideas for the Word of God. Today we will see that Satan strives to persuade us to abandon God’s Word so that he can unmoor us. Without God’s Word we’re like a boat adrift, left to try and find some substitute meaning and purpose to life. So Paul warns us to beware lest we be cheated by such trifles, expressions of human tradition and not divine truth.
Paul informs us that the reason these various substitutes are vanity is because they are not connected to Christ in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. Jesus was God Himself in human flesh. So the reason it is folly to reject Christ is because when He spoke, God spoke; when He acted, God acted; when He wept, God wept; when He thundered, God thundered. Our Lord Jesus Christ was the full embodiment of the deity and so we can know that the things he spoke, thought, and did were infallible revelations of God’s person and will. No clearer revelation was or is possible.
The apostles, therefore, reserve some of their most severe denunciations for those who preach a “false Christ” – a Christ other than the one who lived and breathed and spoke in human history. Jesus really was born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, baptized in the Jordan, ministered in Galilee, died on Golgotha, raised in a garden near Jerusalem, and ascended from a mountain near Bethany. So it is to this Jesus we cling – the Jesus who was and is God Himself clothed in human flesh.
If Jesus is not God then the things he revealed are no more solid and sure than the teachings of Plato or Aristotle or Hume or Sartre. If Jesus is not God, then we are left with the mere opinions and traditions of men. But glory be to God, the Jesus of history was and is fully God and fully man. He is fully capable of revealing the Father to us and fully capable of identifying with us – because He bears in His one person the two natures – divine and human.
Hence, it is no coincidence that of all the differences between non-Christian religions and pseudo-Christian movements like Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses, the one thing they hold in common is a rejection of the full deity of our Lord Jesus. This is the center point of Satan’s attack – obscure the Person of Jesus. But Paul tells us quite plainly today – in Him all the fullness of the deity dwells in bodily form.

And so, knowing that our Lord Jesus Christ was indeed God Himself clothed in human flesh, let us confess that rather than pay attention to His Word as we ought, we frequently resort to the opinions and traditions of men that can bring only vanity and emptiness. Let us kneel and confess our failure to listen to our Lord.

Sennacherib, Satan, and the Nature of Temptation

March 23, 2009 in Bible - OT - 2 Kings, Meditations, Temptation

“31 Do not listen to Hezekiah; for thus says the king of Assyria: ‘Make peace with me by a present and come out to me; and every one of you eat from his own vine and every one from his own fig tree, and every one of you drink the waters of his own cistern; 32 until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive groves and honey, that you may live and not die. But do not listen to Hezekiah, lest he persuade you, saying, “The LORD will deliver us.”
2 Kings 18:31-32

In the text before us today, Sennacherib’s messenger tries to get the citizens of Jerusalem to open the gates of the city by making grandiose promises to the people. For several years now Sennacherib had been laying waste the countryside around Jerusalem and was now laying siege to the holy city itself. The people were understandably frightened. They had no illusions as to their doom – they would be torn from their homes, sent into a foreign land, likely seeing Jerusalem never again. But Sennacherib knew that with such a clear understanding of their future, the citizens would never open the gates. And so he makes them grand promises. You’ve got my intentions all mixed up, Sennacherib declares. I’m really bringing joy and harmony your way. The future under my rule is bright. I’m going to let you stay in your homes for a while and then, when the time is right, I’m going to escort you to another home – just like the one you’ve got, with plenty of land, plenty of food, plenty of drink.

To us the offer of the king of Assyria should seem patently absurd – that is, if we know anything about the Assyrians. Their brutality was legendary. Masters of the most current military technology and ignorant of all ethical restraint, they not infrequently slaughtered entire cities and repopulated them with inhabitants from other lands. Listen as one of their kings boasts of his exploits:

“Many [of the defeated] I took as living captives. From some I cut off their hands and their fingers, from others I cut off their noses, their ears, and their fingers, of many I put out the eyes. I made one pillar [pile] of the living, and another of heads, and I bound their heads to posts [stakes] round about the city. Their young men and maidens I burned in the fire, the city I destroyed, I devastated, I burned it with fire and consumed it.” [As quoted in Don Nardo, The Assyrian Empire, pp. 12,13.]

This is what the inhabitants of Jerusalem could in reality anticipate. But this blunt description is what you provide after the victory is won – in the mean time, Sennacherib knew, promise them the world.

The offer which Sennacherib makes contrasts vividly with the reality which was lying in wait and teaches us valuable lessons about the nature of temptation. All temptation gets its force from twisting the facts and making it appear that satisfaction and joy lie where they in fact do not. Satan is no fool. And like Sennacherib he knows that no one will submit ahead of time to one who promises them raw sewage for supper and dead cat for dessert. And so he couches his temptations in the most plausible of disguises. Whether it is Eve beholding the fruit which is good to make one wise or the children of Israel longing for the leeks and onions they enjoyed in Egypt, the nature of temptation is always the same. Satan endeavors to make it look attractive. He wants to be the one who defines the good life – the life that makes one truly happy.

But note that he has no interest in our happiness – just like Sennacherib had no intention of making the life of the Judahites as pleasant as he promised. Like the pagan gods of antiquity, the demons who owed their origin to his machinations, Satan is selfish and consuming – promising the good life but bringing destruction to all those who succumb to his wiles.

And so, this morning as we enter into the presence of our thrice holy God, let us come confessing the many ways in which our community believes the lies of the evil one. But let us not stop there. What lies do you come believing? What lies have you believed this week? Whom have you allowed to define the good life? Have you listened to the one who promises happiness but ultimately gives grief or have you listened to our Heavenly Father who knows what will truly bring us joy and gladness and who has created us that we might find our joy in Him? Let us kneel and confess these things to Him.