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Monday, February 28, 2011

The Sources Of Disappointment

A Decade of DisappointmentsIn the broadest of contexts all disappointments, it seems to me, can be placed in a couple of different catagories:  circumstances or people.  It seems that all of our disappointments in life will involve our circumstances or people.  It is important to think about these two areas so that we might be better equipped to face the disappointments of life.

You will remember from our last post that we concluded that disappointments are directly tied to expecations.  We are disappointed because we have certain expectations.  Disappointments are kept at a minimum if our expectation is focused on eternal things and not temporal.  That being said we all have certain expectations concerning our circumstances.

Circumstances relating to our relationships
Circumstances relating to our families
Circumstances relating to our work
Circumstances relating to our health
Circumstances relating to our finances
Circumstances relating to our church

All of these circumstances are subject to change.  If for the better we are happy.  If for the worse we are disappointed.  Of course “better” or “worse” is a judgment we pass as frail, finite beings.  We do not always know what is “better” or “worse”.

Not only are they subject to change, they most certainly will be changed.

Our relationships at times will disappoint
Our families at time will disappoint
Our work at times will be disappointing
Our health at times will be disappointing
Our finances at times will be disappointing
Our church at times will be disappointing

The reason is because we have expectations related to all of these circumstances.  When the expectations are not met disappointment is sure to be experienced.  There is plenty of opportunity in life to be disappointed with our circumstances.

Job identified the reality we all face with great brevity in chapter 14 and verse 1, Man born of woman is of few days, and full of trouble.

Ecclesiastes is a book that vividly portrays the disappointment of life.  In dealing with the issues of life from an "under the sun" perspective we are vividly reminded by Solomon of the disappointments that affect us all.

1:2 – All things temporal ultimately disappoint
2:1 – Pleasure disappoints
2:9-11 – Wealth disappoints

Ecclesiastes 3:1-9 – is probably one of the better known passages of of the book.  This is not so much a list of things we should do in life as much as it summarizes the things of which life consist.  It basically comes down to this; there will be a time of expectation, and a time of disappointment.  Life is a cycle of expectations followed by disappointments when lived with an under the sun perspective.  The more temporal our perspective the more intense our disappointment.

People also disappoint.  This is because we have expectations concerning men.  We may rightly expect certain things out of certain people.  We may come to expect certain things out of certain people.  There is no man living who will always live up to our expectations.  No man perfectly fulfills his duty.  No man lives absolutely consistent.  It might do us well to be satisfied with he who mostly fulfills his duty.  It might do us well to be satisfied with he who mostly lives consistently.

Because we have expectations concerning men, men are sure to disappoint.

Proverbs 26:6 - He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool cutteth off the feet, and drinketh damage.
Proverbs 10:26 - As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him.

In 2 Tim. 4:16 Paul informs us that all men forsook him.  The fact that he mentions this is an indication that he had expected different.

Paul, at times, even became very specific about his disappointments with people.  For example:

2 Timothy 4:10 - For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.
2 Timothy 1:15 - This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.

Men are destined to disappoint.  The reason is that men are weak and frail.  The best of us are not really all that far removed from the worst of us.

Paul assessed the problem aright when he wrote in Romans 7:18 – For I know that in me, that is in my flesh.

Men are destined to disappoint because nothing good comes of the flesh.

Jesus marked the conflict when he told the Apostles in Mark 14:38 - Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.

Men are destined to disappoint because the flesh is weak to do what it should do.

Again Paul identifies our struggle in Romans 13:14 - But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

Men are destined to disappoint because the flesh is strong to do what it shouldn’t.

Again, it helps to recognize the source of our disappointments.  Circumstances and people often do not rise to our expectations and disappointment fills the heart.  While it is important to recognize the sources of disappointment it is also important to recognize the danger of disappointment.
Until next time.....

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Devil's Old Favorite Doctrine

The following is from J. C. Ryle

Islam: The Tree of Zaqqum"There is such a place as Hell. Let no one deceive you with vain words. What people do not like--they try hard not to believe. When the Lord Jesus Christ comes to judge the world, He will punish all who are not His disciples with a fearful punishment!

All who are found unrepentant and unbelieving;

all who have clung to sin;

all who have set their affections on worldly things;

all who are without Christ--

all such shall come to a dreadful end! "Anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life--was thrown into the Lake of Fire!" Revelation 20:15

1) I know that some people do not believe that there is any Hell at all. They think it impossible, that there can be such a place. They call it inconsistent with the mercy of God. They say that it is too awful an idea to be really true. The devil of course, rejoices in the views of such people. They help his kingdom mightily. They are preaching up the devil's old, favorite doctrine, "You shall not surely die!" Genesis 3:4

2) I know furthermore, that some do not believe that Hell is eternal! They tell us it is incredible, that a compassionate God will punish people forever. They imagine that He will surely open the prison doors of Hell at last. This also is a mighty help to the devil's cause.

3) I know also that some believe that there is a Hell--but never allow that anybody is going there! They imagine that . . .

all people are good,

all are sincere,

all mean well, and

all, they hope, will go to Heaven when they die!

Alas! what a common delusion is this!

If I never spoke of Hell--I would think I had kept back something that was profitable, and would look on myself as an accomplice of the devil.

Reader, I beseech you, in all tender affection--beware of false views of the subject on which I have been dwelling. Beware of new and strange doctrines about Hell and the eternity of punishment. Beware of manufacturing a god of your own:

a god who is all mercy--but not just;

a god who is all love--but not holy;

a god who has a Heaven for everybody--but a Hell for none;

a god who will make no distinction between godly and the ungodly in eternity.

Such a god is an idol of your own imagination! It is as truly an idol--as any snake or crocodile in an Egyptian temple! The hands of your own imagination and sentimentality have made it! It is not the God of the Bible--and beside the God of the Bible, there is no God at all."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Root Of Disappointment

Proverbs 15:22 - Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.

Disappoint is a word that is not used that often in the Scripture.

Psalms 17:13 - Arise, O LORD, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword:
Job 5:12 - He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise.

The word "disappointed" in our text is translated from a Hebrew word that is used 50 times.  It is translated thusly: break 25, make void 5, defeat 2, disannul 2, disappoint 2, frustrate 2, come to nought 2, break asunder 1, cause to cease 1, clean 1, dissolved 1, divide 1, misc 5.

Most all of these translations of the Hebrew word are concepts we would associate with disappointment.  We experience disappointment when things break, are made void, we experience defeat, something is disannulled, expectations are frustrated, plans come to nought, something is caused to cease, or is dissolved or divided.  Disappointment is a very real part of life.  We experience it early and often in this life.  We experience it slightly and strongly in this life.  We experience it unexpectedly, which is one of the reasons it is disappointment.  What we expect to happen cannot disappoint us nearly as much as what we don’t expect.

Disappointment is ultimately rooted in expectation.  There can be no disappointment in the absence of expectation.  Webster’s defines disappointment as defeat or failure of expectation or hope.  Our lives are subject to so much disappointment because we have so much expectation.  In fact we might say it is a law that, “Our level of disappointment will be in direct proportion to our level of expectation.”

When I started thinking about this I realized how much the average person expects:

He expects to be healthy
Children expect parents to trust them
Children expect brothers and sisters to respect them and their belongings
Children expect to get something for their birthday and Christmas
Children expect to start driving when they are 15
Young adults expect to get married
Young adults expect their spouses to respond in certain ways
Young adults expect to have children
Young adults expect to have what their parents have
Parents expect their children to obey
Parents expect their children not to lie and deceive
Parents expect their children to love each other
Parents expect to raise kids with no hang-ups
We expect to make good money
We expect to drive dependable and comfortable automobiles
We expect to live in nice roomy homes
We expect to eat well
We expect to have cooling in the summer and heating in the winter

And this is just a few off the top of my head.  I think, WOW, with all of our expectations the one thing we do not expect is what we are sure to get, disappointment! 

Could this be why we are discouraged from anticipating in relation to the temporal?

Proverbs 27:1 - Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.

Expectation always has reference to what is to come.  We should limit our expectation.  We do not know what a day may bring forth.  It often will not bring what we are expecting and thus disappointment.

Jam. 4:13-16 – Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:  Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.  For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.  But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.

Thus if we have expectation we are likely to be disappointed.

Luke 12:16-21 – And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:  And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?  And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.  But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?  So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

Think about all that this man was expecting!  He was expecting life.  He was expecting health to enjoy his life.  He was expecting no evil to deprive him of his prosperity.  He was expecting to "take it easy". 

The reality is that with every expectation there is the potential for disappointment.  I do not mean to say that we can or should live life without expectations of any kind.  I simply mean to say that where we have expectation we have the potential for disappointment.

The real danger is to embrace an expectation rooted in the temporary.  Our tendency, my tendency, is to have much more expectation in the temporal than in the eternal.  The eternal never disappoints, the temporal is more than likely to do so at some level.  By its very nature if it is temporary it is transient.  It shifts and changes and thus likely to disappoint at some point.

In 2 Cor. 4:16-18 we discover that Paul had a heightened immunity to disappointment.

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;  While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

In verse 16 Paul indicates we faint not because our expectation is not rooted in the outward man.  He expected the outward man to perish and was thus not disappointed when it did.

In verse 17 we see that rather than momentary affliction Paul was focused on eternal glory.  Expecting affliction for the moment he was not disappointed when it came.  Had he been expecting a life of ease and earthly glory he would have been very disappointed.

In verse 18 Paul reminds us that rather than considering temporal things we should consider eternal things.  The temporal is sure to bring disappointment.  The eternal never can.

Again, in 1 John 2:15-17 we are reminded of the foolishness of seeking after the world and the things of this world.

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

Verses 15 reminds us of our tendency to expect so much from the world by censuring that tendency.  In fact it could not be much clearer, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world."

In verse 16 we have indentified the driving forces behind much of our expectation.  The lust of the flesh.  The lust of the eyes.  The pride of life.

According to verse 17 we lay the foundation for disappointment when our expectation is rooted in the lusts of the world.  That which changes, the temporal, is unpredictable and therefore subject to disappoint.  Nothing in this world can truly be counted on.

Our situation tomorrow could be completely different and there not be a thing we can do about it.  If our situation ends up being different than what we expect we very well could be disappointed about that.

Our relationships could be altered tomorrow and we have no control over it.  If our relationships are altered we could very well end up being disappointed about that.

Proverbs 19:21 - There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.

Devices is translated from a word that encompasses the idea of intentions, plan, and/or imagination.  All plans are based upon expectation.  Expectation produces intentions.  There are many of these in a man’s heart.  Lots of devices, expectations.

Nevertheless the counsel of the LORD that shall stand.  Man’s expectations do not change the LORD’S counsels.  Man’s devices will not necessarily stand, and in fact often times do not, thus disappointment.

Proverbs 16:9 - A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.

When a man deviseth his way, he naturally embraces a set of expectations.  Which naturally sets the stage for potential disappointment.

But the Lord directeth his steps.  The Lord is sovereign.  The Lord is not obligated to work in a man’s life so as to leave him without disappointment.  The disappointment is not the result of the lord directing the steps but of the man devising his ways.  Again, I am not arguing for the abandonment of devising our way, I am saying we need to make room for the Lord directing our steps.  Failure to do so is to invite certain disappointment.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Tangle Of The Tongue

Are YOU Cursing or Blessing Others?James 3:9,10 - Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.

James in his continuing discourse on the tongue reminds us of the inconsistency of blessing God on one hand and cursing men on the other.  James' conclusion is simple and straightforward.

"therewith bless we God, even the Father;"
The word "bless" here means to speak well of.  God is worthy of being blessed.  He of right lays claim to our blessing him.  It is often with the tongue that we do this and that is a good, a very good thing.  It is a good use of the tongue.

With the tongue we bless God.  With the tongue we praise him.  With the tongue we exalt him.  With the tongue we extol him.  With the tongue we worship him.

"and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God."

The word "curse" means to execrate or to declare to be evil or detestable, denounce, to detest utterly.  With the tongue we rail against men.  With the tongue we slander men.  With the tongue we tear down men.  With the tongue we accentuate the faults of men.

So with the same tongue we bless God and curse men????

Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing.
It is inconsistent.  It is hypocritical.  This goes right back to when this topic was first introduced at the end of the first chapter;

James 1:26 – If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.

The use of our tongue in religious exercises should influence the use of our tongues in common exercises.  As is always the case the eternal should impact the temporal.

We are taught to think of the use we make of our tongues in religion and in the service of God, and by such a consideration to keep it from cursing, censuring, and every thing that is evil on other occasions: . . .  How absurd is it that those who use their tongues in prayer and praise should ever use them in cursing, slandering, and the like! If we bless God as our Father, it should teach us to speak well of, and kindly to, all who bear his image. That tongue which addresses with reverence the divine Being cannot, without the greatest inconsistency, turn upon fellow-creatures with reviling brawling language. It is said of the seraphim that praise God, they dare not bring a railing accusation. And for men to reproach those who have not only the image of God in their natural faculties, but are renewed after the image of God by the grace of the gospel: this is a most shameful contradiction to all their pretensions of honouring the great Original.  Matthew Henry

"my brethren"
He is speaking to brethren.  We are susceptible to such inconsistencies.

"these things ought not so to be"
It is not right.  There are no grounds for railing outburst against others.  This is not to dismiss the reasoned, necessary, and humble rebuking of those who have sinned in the heaven sanctioned context of church discipline.

One of the sure evidences of the cursing of men is the refusal to channel the complaint through the proper structure. (Matthew 18:15-18)  Relationship problems are to be dealt with in private with an eye to reconciliation.  When a party is being implacable the private dispute is to be moved to a wider circle of witnesses (two or three) and if reconciliation still cannot be achieved then and only then is it publicly addressed before the church.  This is a Biblically mandated structure.  It is designed to protect everyone from the ad hominem (appealing to a person’s feelings rather than the intellect) attacks of those who digress to denounce the brethren.  Refusal to address issues in this context and by this pattern is a sure sign of one who desires to bless God out of one side of their mouth and curse men out of the other.

May our blessing God with our tongue result in a charitable spirit toward the brethren lest our religion be found vain.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Taming The Tongue

Sermon Illustration Video Preview for: Taming The TongueJames 3:7,8 - For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:  But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

"For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed"
Consider all of our domesticated animals.  Dogs, cats, cows, horses, donkeys, camels, chickens, pigs, sheep, goats, etc….  Then there are the wild animals of every kind that have been tamed and trained by men.
Bears, lions, tigers, monkeys, etc . . . .

Parrots, ravens, owls, cormorants, vultures, osprey, falcons, eagles, etc . . . .


Killer whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, walruses, penguins, etc . . . .

"and hath been tamed of mankind"
It really is a fairly remarkable record of dominion over the beasts of the earth, fowl of the air, and fish of the sea.  We have taken all kinds of wildlife and controlled it, conditioned it, tamed it, and trained it.

"but the tongue can no man tame"
I could tame a bear but not my tongue.

I could tame a killer whale but not my tongue.

I could tame a lion but not my tongue.

I could tame a walrus but not my tongue.

I could tame a falcon or owl but not my tongue.

The first step to victory here seems to be a recognition that I cannot control my tongue.  If I cannot tame it then it requires I look for one who can.  Committing my tongue to the Lord Jesus Christ and submitting its use to the Holy Spirit of God speaking only those things that please the Father.

Psalms 19:14 - Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

"it is an unruly evil"
The word "unruly" is a word that embraces the idea of something that cannot be restrained. 

The tongue is more unpredictable than an unbroken stallion.

The tongue is more vicious than a wild boar.

The tongue is quicker than and eagle swooping upon its prey.

The tongue is more venomous than the most deadly serpent.

The tongue is more ferocious than a lion.

The tongue is more aggressive than a bear.

The tongue is more intimidating than a killer whale.

"full of deadly poison"
This phrase seems to be going back and picking up the reference to having tamed the serpents.  There are a couple of things to note about this.  First, the tongue being full of deadly poison cannot be allowed to strike, again it comes back to control.  Once the poison is injected there is no getting it back.  Now it is only the person who has been bitten that can take steps to limit the effect of the bite.  To follow through with the analogy, having been struck by the tongue of another and the deadly poison begins coursing through our veins an antivenin could and should be administered.  The scripture is loaded with doses of antivenin.  Just a couple of examples should suffice.

Ephesians 4:2 - With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; . . . .

Colossians 3:13 - Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

It is important to realize that it may take multiple doses.  It needs to be administered as quickly as possible.  Time is of the essence.  If allowed to go untreated it festers and becomes spiritually infected and produces a condition known as bitterness which in severe cases actually mutates into hatred.

Someone says, "I can’t believe they said that??  Oh really, remember “in many things we offend all”.  If we believe what the Bible says about the tongue in James three we really should not be surprised at what anyone says.  Rather than bemoan the fact that it was said it is more productive to deal with the deadly poison constructively and administer the antivenin.

This is not meant to excuse the wicked use of the tongue but rather to prepare ourselves for its certainty.  We should be careful to keep our tongue bridled by the Holy Spirit of God.  We should also be diligent to always be carrying antivenin (for the times we become the victim of the deadly poison) and no matter how painful administer repeated doses until the symptoms subside.  Administering the antivenin may be unpleasant but not near as unpleasant as allowing the "strike" to go unattended.

I guess it comes down to two things.  I must submit my tongue to the Holy Spirit of God and always be carrying doses of antivenin for the times when others are struggling to control their own tongues  After all it is a lot that is common to man.  "but the tongue can no man tame".

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Twenty Plus One

Today is the day that I add a year to the twenty year mark achieved last year. Twenty-one years pastoring. The same church, my first church. I am a bit heavier, my beard much grayer and my hair much thinner. My skin has been toughened and my heart softened. Which is probably a good combination! I know more and feel like I know less! My weaknesses (some real and some fabricated) have been chronicled and "crowed" about, my strengths have been admired and emulated. My goals have been simplified. My voice has deteriorated and my stamina has somewhat decreased. (My dad always says, "A man that says he can do at forty what he did at twenty, didn't do much at twenty.) I have a little harder time keeping track of everything and most of the time can't even remember to write down what I am suppose to remember. I am not as easily dissapointed but am more easily saddened. I have some people who don't like me and others who do. I don't fully understand either. I am more appreciative of good times and thankful for those who help create them. I have been liberated by the understanding that ultimately, when all is said and done, I am responsible for me. That accounting will not be given before friend or foe but a just God who will reward the faithful labors of his servants. I can only hope to be deserving of a few of those rewards by His grace! When I consider that I am but a weak and needy man who has only pastored a weak and needy people I have learned to rejoice in the smallest of victories. For the smallest of victories is a testimony to the grandure of His grace.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Tongue Is A Fire

10 « May « 2008 « Overheard in the Sacristy
James 3:6 - And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.

"the tongue is a fire"
Fire is either good or bad depending on its control.  When we light the fire on the stove it is good.  When we light the fire in a furnace it is good.  When we light the fire in a water heater it is good.  When the fire escapes its boundaries it suddenly becomes a very destructive force.  Most of us have probably seen a house fire.  We have seen images of forest fires.  The tongue can either be used for good or bad.  The principle is that it must be controlled.  A controlled tongue produces good.  An uncontrolled tongue wreaks havoc and destruction.

"the tongue is a world of iniquity"
This provides a clue as to what side of the coin is being considered in this passage.  James is considering the tongue as a force for evil and not good.  This is quite a statement, "a world of iniquity".  Surely the tongue has been the occasion of changing the course of world events.  The tongue has been the occasion of turning someone’s world upside down?  Think of all the sins of the tongue.

• Lying
• Blasphemy
• Backbiting
• Sowing discord
• Cultivating discontent
• Fomenting rebellion
• Disrespect
• Slander
• Hypocrisy
• Boasting
• Promoting error
• Opposing truth
• Occasion of offence
• Fountain of bitterness
• Cursing & swearing

It truly is a world of iniquity!

"So is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body"
Among our members it is a fire.  Among our members it is a world of iniquity.  The tongue has the ability to get the rest of our being in deep trouble.  Being among the smallest members it has potential to create some of the biggest problems.  How often has the tongue dragged the whole body into sin and trouble?  The tongue will take us places our feet would never go.  The tongue will promote things we would never do.  The tongue will promise things we can never perform.  The tongue will diminish our stature while trying to increase it by attacking others.
"and setteth on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire of hell"
Nothing inflames like words.  They are often more inflammatory than if one was to be actually struck.  The tongue often just has to ignite a fire and the destruction takes care of itself.  
"Observe hence, Hell has more to do in promoting of fire of the tongue than men are generally aware of. It is from some diabolical designs, that men’s tongues are inflamed. The devil is expressly called a liar, a murderer, an accuser of the brethren; and, whenever men’s tongues are employed in any of these ways, they are set on fire of hell. . . . But when it is set on fire of hell, as in all undue heats it is, there it is mischievous, producing rage and hatred, and those things which serve the purposes of the devil. As therefore you would dread fires and flames, you should dread contentions, revilings, slanders, lies, and every thing that would kindle the fire of wrath in your own spirit or in the spirits of others.”  Matthew Henry

The tongue is always better used to warm others rather than scorch them.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Apostle And His List (Convictions)

Struggling” With Sin « Jon CookThe Apostle Paul had lists.  Most of them referenced in the previous post were given by the Holy Ghost but penned by him.

Romans 7:15 - For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.  If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.  Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.  Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.  I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

Paul obviously had a list of things he believed he should do and a list of things he believed he should not do.  Of course when Paul struggled to live up to his list (convictions) he did not complain against the law.  In fact he clearly states that his struggle brought him to the conclusion that the law is good.  Many people seem to come to a different conclusion.

A couple of things become clear about Paul's list.  It was a list he struggled to attain and he felt bad when he failed.  People who have a list they don't struggle with do not have a list of God's making.  It is not about making ourselves the standard but accepting God's standard which is clearly more lofty than any of us can attain in our own power.  Nevertheless we strive bemoaning the failure.  We strive not as a defendant seeking to appease the judge (this we can never do)but as a child seeking to please a loving Father (here we can have a measure of success as we believe God and seek his power to please).  In doing so he gets all the glory and we get all the blessing.

There are a couple of other things to note about Paul's struggle to live consistently within the context of his convictions.

Romans 7:24 - O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?  It caused him to anticipate the day when he would be perfect, delivered from his sin nature and that which hindered his desire to please God in everything and every way.

Romans 7:25 - I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.  He also obviously rejoiced in the areas where God had given him victory.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The Usefulness Of Lists

ANTHONY DOES – MY BLOGI think it is important to recognize that no one is really against lists.  To be against them is to be against a divinely recognized method of organizing truth.  God is a God of lists again the most famous being the Ten Commandments.  Allow me to make a brief list of some of God's lists:

Exodus 20:3-17
Romans 1:29-32
Romans 12:9-19
Romans 13:13,14
1 Corinthians 5:11
1 Corinthians 6:9,10
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Galatians 5:19-23
Ephesians 4:25-32
Ephesians 5:11-21
Ephesians 6:13-18
Philippians 4:5-8
Colossians 3:5,8
Colossians 3:12-22
Colossians 4:5,6
1 Thessalonians 5:11-22
1 Timothy 2:9
1 Timothy 3:1-13
1 Timothy 4:12
1 Timothy 6:11
2 Timothy 2:22,24
2 Timothy 3:1-5
Titus 1:6-9
Titus 3:1-3
Hebrews 13:1-7
1 Peter 2:1,17
2 Peter 1:5-7

Here is a list of 28 passages where God himself lists things that please him and things that don't.  All of these passages are lists that God made.  They range in length from just a few to many.  None of the lists are exhaustive.  An exhaustive list is likely impossible and probably unnecessary.

Forget the lists, our focus should be Jesus and just striving to be like Him.  OK, that's great.  I want to be like Jesus.  How do I know what Jesus was like?  I guess I would have to read the Gospels.  No sooner do I start reading than I begin to see things that Jesus did and some things he didn't do.  I begin to see the way he dealt with different people in different circumstances.  I begin to realize that Jesus is this way and he is not that way.  I think we are going to find it a rare person who does not find themselves reverting back to a list.  If I want to be like Jesus then I will behave this way, and I will not behave that way.

The Bible tells us what pleases God - that could be a list.
The Bible tells us what displeases God - that could be a list.

I want to please God.  I may be too simple minded for my own good.  But I figure if the Bible says something pleases God and I do that thing then I am pleasing God when I do it.  If the Bible says something displeases God and I do that thing then I am displeasing God when I do it.

I am just one of those old-fashioned preachers that believe once we are saved we can and should please God and that the Bible tells us how.

Romans 8:8 - So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
1 Thessalonians 4:1 - Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.
2 Timothy 2:4 - No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

Hebrews 11:6 - But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Part of the difficulty is the blurring of lines between justification and sanctification.  We can keep no list, no matter how short, for the purposes of justification.  Adam and Eve had one item on their list and failed.  This is our story.  If one thinks he is going to be justified and declared not guilty because he has kept any kind of a list he is sadly and tragically mistaken. This is the essence of legalism!

But, being born again and justified through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ we are set by God on a path of sanctification.   It is a path that is intended to make us more like his Son, and consequently more pleasing to him and more useful.

Jesus prayed to the Father, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth".  Paul made mention of the “washing of the water by the word.”  Why??  Because in the Holy Scripture we discover what it is that pleases and displeases God.  The more we commit ourselves to living by faith which results in obeying his word we will do more of the things that please him and fewer of the things that displease him, and in the process we become more like his Son.

The Psalmist stated it simply: Psalms 119:9 - Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.

I have it on my list to add a few concluding thoughts.

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Legitimacy Of Lists


Lists are helpful and useful in practically every area of life. Civil law is built around the concept of a list both of prohibitions and requirements. Practically every organization of people have a handbook of some type which is at its foundation a list of things that are expected and things that are forbidden. Recipes are built around lists (both a list of ingredients and instructions) Chemical processes are built around lists. The reality is that we all live by lists, some written down some we just carry around in our head.

I have a list when it comes to pre-tripping the school bus. I have a mental list when I mow the yard. There are things I believe are right and things I believe are wrong. I suppose if someone asked me to make a list of things I believe are right I could do so.  If someone asked me to make a list of things I believe are wrong I could do so.  Whether such a list is written on paper, engraved in stone or just carried around in my head there is a sense in which it is a list.  I am thinking that most people have such lists.  God gave many lists the most famous of which is the Ten Commandments.

Churches have lists. If you have a doctrinal statement you have a list. If you have bi-laws you have a list. If you have an order of service you have a list (whether written or unwritten).

I understand that lists can be abused and misused and at times are by all of us.  But everyone has them.  Lists are often called into question when they cover areas of behaviour, for example what is considered appropriate attire for a Christian.  But even here I would be a little surprised to find someone who had no list.  Is it morally OK to go without any clothes?  If not then you have a list.  Our lists may begin and end at different places.  If we were to write them down they may be different lengths, but it is a list.  I am perfectly content with the proposition that we will all give account for our own lists (convictions) in every area.  We will give account for what we believe and for how we behave.

Really what we are talking about is convictions.  What we believe about different things.  If we can change the terminology from convictions to a list then the whole concept of holding convictions is trivialized.  Of course the hypocrisy is that I have convictions and others have lists.

It is at times suggested that those who have lists have a tendency to be graceless.  If this is so then we all have a tendency at times to be graceless, and this is in fact probably much closer to the truth.

Those who say you shouldn’t have a list have started one!  And, in many cases the lists of others are judged by their list composed of, “Thou shalt not have a list”.  Often times their lists can become quite extensive in listing all the areas where you should not maintain a list!  Of course making a list of areas where you should not make a list is perfectly acceptable????  It is the spiritual equivalent of the philosophy that there are no absolutes.  But to make such a statement one has just established an absolute.  It is not whether absolutes exists but who establishes them.  Just so it is not whether we have lists but how we determine what is on them.

I'll finish this later.  I need to get to the next thing on my list.  ;-)