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Friday, November 21, 2014

Conscience Never Deceives?

"Too often reason deceives us... but conscience never deceives." - Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Sounds good but not true.

1 Corinthians 8:12   But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.

Titus 1:15   Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.

1 Timothy 4:2   Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

The conscience can be weak, defiled and even seared.  It can deceive and often does.  Conscience is the mechanism by which we determine what is right and wrong.  It is not infallible and is subject to influences.

Thus the danger of saying, "I don't see anything wrong with it".  That may be good or bad depending on what has been allowed to shape and influence our conscience.  Just because we don't see something wrong with it does not mean there is not something wrong with it.

Hebrews 5:12-14 throws some light on the subject when we read,  For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Notice the phrase, "discern good and evil".  This is the essence of conscience.  Verse 14 makes reference to the "senses".  This is a word that has reference to an organ of perception; judgment.  Judgment of what?  Good and evil!  Our perception of good and evil must be exercised.  The word "exercise" is the idea of trained.  Not just random exercise but training our conscience to judge good and evil.

This passage is actually addressing those who do have their senses exercised to discern (judge) good and evil.  "Even those who by reason of use".  Use of what?  Not the use of the conscience!  It is in the using of something that the conscience (senses) are exercised to discern.  That which is used is the word of God.

The Holy Ghost was chastising the people for their weakness in the word of God.  He is lodging the complaint against them that they continue to have need of the milk of the word instead of the meat of the word.  Those who continue to use milk are unskilful or inexperienced.  Their conscience is inexperienced because it has not be exercised or trained to the word of God.  They are unskillful in discerning right from wrong.  It is those who have spent enough time in the word to digest the meat of the word that have their senses trained, they are not unskillful and consequently are more likely to be prepared to rightly discern both good and evil.

I say more likely because it is dependent upon the context in which we approaches our bible.  If we interpret the bible through the lens of cultural bias rather than interpreting the culture through the lens of the bible then it is possible to know a lot of bible and still be unskilled in discerning both evil and good.

So I would change Jean-Jacques Rousseau quote to read, Too often reason deceives us . . . but the word of God never deceives.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Error Free Living

MARK 12:18-27

This life is filled with choices.  With every choice comes the potential for tragedy or triumph!  There are some big choices that set the tone for our lives and there are a whole lot of small choices whose cumulative effect can also set the tone for our lives.  One does so in an instant and the other over time.                  

Some decisions we have time to weigh and seek counsel others have to be made immediately.  Some of our choices are the result of other choices that we have made.  Bad decisions often times lead to a set of bad choices.  Some of our choices are the result of choices others make.

What if I could give you two things that would enable you to achieve error free living?  The effectiveness of these two principals will be completely based upon our commitment and faithfulness in applying them.  If we choose to ignore one or both then we should have no expectation of achieving error free living.  Does that sound too good to be true?

OK, let’s take it down a notch.  Accounting for our frailty what if I could give you two principles that would enable you to be practically error free in your decision making.  You would get it right most of the time and with respect to big decisions you had time to weigh you would never blow it.

The principals are fail-proof!  Any failure experienced would be in us and not the principals.  They work every time, for every person, in all places, and in all circumstances.  There is not time they will not work.  There is no person for whom they will not work.  There is no where they will not work.  There are no circumstances in which they will not work.

The two principals are in the passage we read.

The Sadducees, like the Pharisees were opposed to Jesus, but they were also opposed to each other.  One of their points of contention with each other was over the resurrection.  The Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead the Sadducees did not (this is why they were so sad-u-see).

In the passage before us the Sadducees attempted to create an absurdity.  Their purpose was to expose the kind of problems that would exist should men be resurrected from the dead, thus calling the whole premise into question.  In other words, their argument runs, thusly: The resurrection cannot be true because of the dilemmas it would create in the after-life.

Jesus said they erred!  He cited two reasons for their error.  1.  They did not know the Scriptures.  2.  They did not know the power of God.

In verse 25 Jesus answers their absurdity.  In the after-life there is no marriage relationship that ends with the resurrection.  They assume men and women would still be married in the next life with no support in scripture for such a position.  They did not know the scripture.  When it comes to knowing the Scripture it is as important to know what it does not say as to know what it does say.

In verses 26 and 27 Jesus answers their unbelief about the resurrection.  Have ye not read?  They surely had!  So they knew!  They did not believe what they had read.  They did not know the power of God.  They knew what the Scripture said, but they did not believe what it said, because they did not know the power of God.  Jesus said, “Ye therefore greatly err.”

They had erred because they knew not the Scripture.  They had erred because they believed not the Scripture (the power of God).  Had they known the Scripture and the power of God (believed the Scripture) they would not have erred.

If we don’t know what the Bible says we are likely to err!
If we don’t believe what the Bible says we are likely to err!

If we want to enjoy error free living then we must do these two simple things.

Know the Scripture!
Believe the Scripture!

May I suggest to you this morning that far too often God’s people are uncommitted to the Book!  In a day when the lives of believers are often in as much disarray as the world around them the explanation is simple: they err not knowing the Scripture neither the power of God!

How many of us could Jesus come to today and say, “Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

You Should!

And they went out, and preached that men should repent.  Mark 6:12

Now there's a novel idea!  Preaching involves "should" not "could". If a preacher is not willing to tell people what they should do he is not really preaching.

Should and could both leave the option of doing the opposite on the table.  However should brings with it a subtle hint that there are consequences for doing the opposite.  Could frames action in a "take it or leave it" context.  You could do it but you don't necessarily have to and its not really that big of a deal.

Too much preaching today has been diluted to could and all the should has been take out of it.

I know that increasingly we live in a culture where people don't like to be told what they should do, but the bible keeps telling us what we should do.  And a faithful preacher will take the message of the bible, the whole counsel of God, and tell people what they should do.

The bible does not give way to cultural pressures!  The messengers may, the bible never does!  Preachers do people a great disservice when they tell people they could do something the bible says they should do.

Just because many and maybe most won't does not liberate preachers from using the word should.  Churches and the world are full of people today who could do something but are never told they should and thus they don't.

Preachers should preach and tell men what they should do!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Dying Of The Lord Jesus

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

How many times have you drawn comfort from these two verses?  I know I have many times over the years.  I love the reminder they provide that however difficult our circumstances may be at times, it is not as bad as it could be.

We are troubled: To think of all the different avenues of potential trouble is troubling in itself. Health crisis, Family crisis, Financial crisis, Spiritual crisis, Relationship crisis. One or more of these things crowding us in and it is easy to feel as though we are troubled on every side.

Yet not distressed:  We are not trapped.  However close and varied our troubles may be at any given time hope gives space to breath and think and believe!  Troubled but not stressed.

We are perplexed: How often as we been unable to understand something clearly or to think clearly, simply filled with uncertainty.  Just at a loss as what to think and sometimes even do.

Yet not in despair:  It is important to remember three things when we are perplexed.  1. We have not always been perplexed.  2. We will not always be perplexed.  3. God is never perplexed!    A moment of uncertainty should not rob us of all that is certain both in this life and the next.

We are persecuted:  It is that feeling we have when things are bad that temptation to run, to flee.  Some who never run with their feet often do with their heart.

But not forsaken:  That feeling of being left behind in some place, to have been deserted.  But we have the never failing promise that he will never leave us nor forsake us!   Just because we feel all alone does not mean we are all alone.  We have a friend who sticks closer than a brother!

We are cast down:  The idea here is to throw down.   Boy, have you ever felt that way?  It could be by a betrayal.  It could be through a series of difficult circumstances.

But not destroyed:  Our faithful lord will not leave us in the hand of our enemies.  We are never left to suffer the extremity.  Things can be bad, but they could also be worse.

Yet the real power of these two verses is actually in the next verse!

2 Corinthians 4:10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.

Think about that first phrase in light of what has just been written, "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus".  All of these things are a shadow of the dying of the Lord Jesus that falls across our own lives.  We experience in part what he experienced in full on our behalf.

You remember the 22nd Psalm that prophetic exposition of our Lord's dying agony.  We should remember it often in our day of trial.

So we are troubled, feeling the problems of life closing in on us. Let us remember Psalms 22:12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.  And, Psalms 22:16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

So we are feeling perplexed and filled with uncertainty.  Let us remember  Psalms 22:1 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? 

So we are feeling persecuted and tempted to make a run for it.  Let us remember  Psalms 22:6-8 But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. 7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, 8 He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. 

So we are feeling cast down.  Let us remember  Psalms 22:15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. 

The point?   All of these troubles we experience in life are simply a shadow of what our just Lord suffered in his dying agony!  All our temporary suffering should remind us of what Jesus suffered.  We are simply bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus!

"  "That the life of Jesus might be made manifest in our body".  It is important to remember that the intense suffering of the Savior gave occasion for his greatest victory, resurrection!

    Being reminded of his suffering we should also be reminded of his faithfulness.  Of how he said in the midst of such great agony, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”.  Our suffering is designed to cause us to hope in Jesus.  The darkness of our suffering provides a platform to manifest the glories of Christ.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

You're Not My Judge

Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.  And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.  Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.  Malachi 3:16-18

I wonder how many people who know Matthew 7:1 (Judge not, that ye be judged) know these verses?

People often quote Matthew 7:1 and follow up their memorized scripture with something along the lines of, "God is my judge, I will give account to him."  Or, "You're not my judge!"

I often wonder if people realize how true that is!  Do they realize how sobering this should be?  Yes we will all give account of ourselves before God.

The unsaved, those who have not repented of sin and placed their complete confidence in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ will answer for all of their sin and have judgment passed upon them as vessels fitted to destruction.

The saved will have their works judged and suffer loss of reward for unfaithfulness and disobedience.

These are not trifling issues.  We should be careful about pleading the judgment of God to escape the judgment of men.  Often times this is nothing more than jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

Make no mistake about it we will all be judged by God.  The all-seeing, all-hearing, all-knowing God will discern between the righteous and the wicked and He will discern between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.

This is not a truth that should promotes arrogance and self-confidence but rather self-abasement and soul-searching!  There is coming a day when we will probably wish we were being judged by sinful man rather than an infinitely holy God.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Thinking Outside The Box

This is a sentiment that I hear from time to time.  It sounds good.  It has the ring of innovation and sophistication to it.  It would seem to indicate that one is broadminded and modern.  But there is always something a little unsettling about the idea.  I seem to always get a twinge of uncertainty about where this will end.  I know I'm paranoid.  I enter the plea of the Apostle Paul, "For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: . . . ."  Am I the only one, if so that's OK but sometimes I wonder if some things just sound so urbane that one does not want to challenge it lest they be considered uncultured?

Or could it be that there is some merit to my twinge of uncertainty about thinking out of the box?

Let's take the issue of reaching people with the gospel.  We need to be thinking out of the box when it comes to reaching people with the gospel.  Sounds smart and visionary!  So we do and we come up with an innovative tactic for reaching people with the gospel. I have discovered that this usually means becoming more accomodating for goats, but I digress.  Now we have this new tactic in place that is a result of thinking out of the box.  It seems to me that at some point in the future that new tactic is transformed into a box, and there is a renewed need to think outside of the box.  I guess my fear is that if you think outside enough boxes you may actually end up thinking outside of the Bible and never know it for it was incrementally justified.  The danger seems to be that we may end up expanding the application of the Bible to accomodate a box of our own making!

I suppose it could be argued that the prophets thought outside the box.

Isaiah walked naked prophesying for three years.
Ezekiel ate barley cakes baked with cow dung.
Hosea took a wife of harlotry.

Were they thinking out of the box?  Not really.  They were thinking in the context of the revealed word of God to them.

When Aaron had the people bring their gold and fashioned the calf he might have been able to say he was thinking outside the box.

When Saul saved Agag and the best of the livestock alive he might have been able to say he was thinking outside the box.

When Jeroboam set up calves in Dan and Bethel he might have been able to say he was thinking outside the box.

Had they said that it would have been true but they also would have been thinking outside the word of God.

I know the lure to seem sophisticated can be strong.  The desire to be innovative can be captivating.  However I never hear the phrase in question without thinking about the words of Solomon, My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:"  Changing religious and political practices should be considered with a great deal of caution.  Consider it in the political arena.  Most of us would agree that the political contract we have in the United States has been changed dramatically.  But it did not happen over night, it has been through incrementally drifting away.  It makes one wonder how many high level meetings over the years have had someone present who said, "we need to think outside the box"  which when put into practice was really thinking outside the Constitution?  It is easy to see in the political arena but we are not as open minded about that possibility in our churches.  In fact it causes one to wonder, at least it does me, if the idea of thinking outside the box is a political model, or a business model, or a biblical model.  Where did it originate?

This becomes increasingly important when we realize how much importance the bible places on the old paths, and walking in the ways of our fathers, and holding the traditions.

I think a better philosophy is to be thinking in the Bible and not outside the box.  The real issue is we need to be in the right box and then, it seems, there ceases to be a need to think outside the box.

My box measures 7 1/2 x 5 1/2 x 1 1/2 and is black!  I think I will just keep praying for grace and wisdom to keep thinking in my box!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Long Time Coming!

Genesis 42:6 includes a remarkable phrase!  ". . . . and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth."

Seems inconsequential.  Not especially note worthy.  Mostly irrelevant in the big picture.  Well, not exactly.  It is in this little phrase that we find the big picture.

Taken out of it's context it would appear to be insignificant.  In fact only one person present understood the significance.  Not only was it not insignificant it was monumental!  And it was monumental for the very fact that is was a long time coming!

In this phrase the participants are Joseph and his brethren.  They have not seen each other for over twenty years!  Ten of Joseph's brethren are bowing down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.

For the last nine years Joseph had been second in authority in all of Egypt as he, at the direction of the Pharaoh, managed the grain supply during seven years of plenty and two of the seven years of famine. He was thrust into this position of high standing by the Pharaoh himself after interpreting two dreams that Pharaoh had on the same night.

For over two years before that he was in an Egyptian prison managing the affairs of the keeper of the prison.  He was ultimately provided an opportunity to interpret the Pharaoh's dream because he had correctly interpreted the dreams of the Pharaoh's butler and baker.  The butler who had his head lifted up and restored to his place of service and the baker who had his head lifted up from off him!

Why was he in prison?  Because he had been wrongly accused by his master's wife of making advances toward her when in fact it was she who had sought to entice him but his integrity would not submit to the vice.  He was a slave in the household of this high ranking Egyptian official for around nine years.  He was so trusted before the false accusation sent him to prison that all that his master had was committed to his hand.

Why was he a slave in Egypt?  Because his brothers had sold him to a passing band of Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver who brought him down to Egypt and sold him there to the Egyptian official.  Joseph's brothers led their father to believe that he had been torn by a wild beast.

Why would his brethren sell him into Egypt?  Because they were jealous.  Joseph was Jacob's favorite.  He had the coat of many colors.  But mostly their envy and hatred was driven by two dreams that Joseph himself had and which he interpreted.  The essence of which was that his brothers would bow down to him!

I happen to believe that Joseph was fulfilling the role of a prophet. He was clearly an interpreter of dreams.  His brethren's envy, jealousy, and hatred kept them from humbling themselves before the messenger of God.  They were skeptical of his dreams and determined that they would not come to pass.  At the time they asked, "Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us?"  Obviously implying they had no
intentions of bowing before Joseph, ever!

But God said they would and they did!  Believe God!  Believe his sincere, Bible-rooted prophets!  When Joseph was sold into slavery and taken to Egypt it certainly did not seem likely his brethren would ever bow before him.  When he spent over two years in an Egyptian prison it certainly did not seem likely his brethren would ever bow before him.  Even when exalted to a place of managing the affairs of Egypt could it be that he would ever even seen his brothers again?

Then it happens!  And it was a long time coming!  At the beginning of Genesis 42 we follow the narrative as it unfolds the unlikely, the unthinkable, the impossible!  We read with heightened awareness as Jacob prepares to send all but one of his sons into Egypt to buy corn!  Then all of a sudden we find ourselves standing there on the outskirts watching as the ten brothers of Joseph come before him.  Can it be??  Surely not!  Not after twenty years?  Not after serving as a slave and a prisoner?  Not after having been separated by time and distance?

The brothers, they do not recognize him.  He speaks Egyptian.  He looks Egyptian.  He is, in their eyes, an Egyptian!  And then the remarkable phrase appears like a bolt of lightening reminding us there is a God in heaven who rules in the affairs of men, "and Joseph's brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth."

There are many lessons here.  I would leave you with these two!

Do not despise the prophets/preachers of God!
No matter how it seems believe God!