Thursday, January 31, 2008

What is humility?

2 Chronicles 7:14

What is Humility?

 

“If my people who are called by My name, will humble themselves…”

 

What does it mean to be humble?

 

Des the spirit with which one approaches God actually affect our prayers?

 

How do we humble ourselves in prayer?

 

MISCONCEPTIONS:

1.                  Humble means to debase ourselves, “I am a worm.”

2.                  Humble means to think lowly of yourself, “I can’t do this.” (When you know you can.)

3.                  Humble is connected to “self-esteem.”

 

·        Humility is how we view others, how we view God, and our heart attitude in response to God.

 

I.                   Humility is about how we view others.

 

A.     Moses in Number 12.

 

1.                  “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth”  [Numbers 12:3]

2.                  Problem: “Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses…” [Numbers 12:1a]

 

a.                         Miriam and Aaron were his sister and brother.

b.                        They were his supporting cast, necessary people.  Aaron was the “High Priest” leading the people in the ritual ceremony and Miriam was a “prophetess” leading the people emotionally.

c.                         Moses did not defend himself, God did..

 

“The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he left them.  When the cloud lifted from above the Tent, there stood Miriam—leprous, like snow.” [Numbers 12:9 – 10a]

B.     New Testament mandate.

 

1.                  “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” [Romans 12:3]

 

a.                         The idea of “do not think of yourself more highly than you ought” does not mean to run yourself down or play “poor-boy.”

b.                        “Sober judgment” means temperate and restrained.

c.                         The more “faith God has given you” the less you will want to seek honor and importance for yourself.  These things are not necessary.

 

2.                  “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” [Philippians 2:3]

 

a.                         “Selfish ambition or vain conceit” are excluded

b.                        The alternative is “humility” that would “consider others better than yourselves.”

 

·     A humble person is not one who feels shame for who they are… a humble person                        will not possess self-honor or self-adornment.

 

II.                Humility is about how we view God.

 

A.     We need an appropriate view of God.

 

1.                  “LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.” [Habakkuk 3:2a]

 

a.                         “Awe” means “an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration…” [www.dictionary.com]

b.                        God is the only one who is “awesome.”

 

 

2.                  “And sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb:  "Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed." [Revelation 15:3 – 4]

 

B.     Humility is NOT putting ourselves down, it is raising Christ up!

 

1.                  God is exalted.

2.                  God is given proper place.

3.                  God is trusted.

4.                  God is reverenced.

 

“This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” [Isaiah 66:2]

 

 

III.             Humility is about our heart attitude in response to God.

 

A.     We must be sensitive to God.

 

1.                  That means we deal with sin and barriers immediately and take action.

2.                  Case study: King Saul and King David.

 

a.                         Saul: 1 Samuel 13:11 – 14.

b.                        David: 2 Samuel 12:13 and Psalm 51

 

3.                  New testament understanding

 

a.     But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." James 4:6]

 

i.          “Oppose” is a military term, “to stand against in battle.”

ii.          We tend to blame others or demonic activity for opposition BUT maybe it is really God who is opposing us because of our pride.

 

b.     “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”  [Matthew 18:4]

 

B.  Humility begins with yourself.  Try “eating crow” [C is for conviction, R is for repentance, O is for obedience, W is for work]     

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"Words for Living" part 5 (published January 9, 2008 in "The Coummunity Voice.")

Many thanks go to the Community Voice and thoughtful readers who have given me the chance to express a few “Words for Living.”

The story is told of a newspaper editor who painted a truthful picture of a wedding. He described the bride as ugly beyond reason. The groom was depicted as a good-for-nothing that belonged in jail. The reason for this brutal commentary was the editor wanted to tell the truth, once before he left town the next day. Unfortunately, telling the truth once is about all anyone can get away with... maybe. At least listen once.

There is only one way to be “saved,” “go to heaven,” or whatever you want to call it. Paul put it this way, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Romans 6:23] Read that verse again. What do you see?

Notice the word “wage” is plural. In other words, “death” (spiritual not just physical) results in eternal separation from God. The old fashion word is “hell.” It is the ultimate and final payout. Fact is, before you get there, you go through pain and misery. They are a severe mercy, intended to get your attention and turn you around.

Another thing that you should see when you read Romans 6:23, is that “sin” is singular. How many guys have looked at a woman and thought “thoughts?” How many ladies have told or listened to a juicy story about someone? Anyone ever tweak the truth ? Remember its one sin not many sins that earns us our payment.

God does something that is unfair. Rather than punishing us, God offers a gift. This is not a “good-God bad-God” act. This is God taking the hit for us. This is God knowing that we cannot earn or deserve “eternal life” (salvation). He offers it to us as a gift through the unfair suffering and sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus did not do anything wrong. It is our sin that Jesus paid for on the cross. That’s what we celebrate on Easter.

After a morning of hunting in northern Minnesota, I made it back to the lodge for lunch. The police were organizing a search for an experienced hunter that had not returned the night before. He was one of my friends and I didn’t even realize he was lost. After lunch I trudge back out to help save him. Just before sundown he walked past me. He was so confused it took him awhile to recognize a friend. He insisted, like any sensible man, he was not lost. I walked with him, letting him lead, until after dark. At this point, he turned and asked, “Got anything to eat?” I suggested we head for the lodge, he agreed. They packed him in an ambulance when we got back. He was dehydrated, frost bitten but safe.

At some point, my friend had to recognize his need and accept help. How about you?

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Words for Living" part 4 (published January 2, 2008 in "The Coummunity Voice.")

[Please note the sermon for 1.20.08 is posted below.]

Somewhere, out there, is an elephant who remembers me.

I was just at teenager when we went to a local zoo. As a teen it held only one attraction for me, the elephants. Since the zoo was poor, it got visitors to feed the animals. It was a good system, but I always wondered how smart it was to put small children in contact with a creature that could pick up a bulldozer.

Such were my adventures with this elephant. I nagged my parents into buying the peanuts. Standing in line feeding this elephant a peanut at a time from my hand, I came up with the most brilliant idea a teenage boy ever had who had ever feed this elephant. The decision was made and I executed with the flawless hand eye coordination of a third string basketball guard. The extended trunk reached for my hand and found the entire bag offered to him.

You would think that an animal of that intelligence would realize that I was his best friend in the world. After all, no waiting for a measly single peanut. You would think. Trouble is animals, like politicians, have their own agenda. Call it training, call it nature, or call it human stupidity. The elephant knocked the bag out of my hand where it lay at his feet. I began to yell and point at the bag. Just a word of advice, I don’t think it’s smart to yell at a creature that could pick up a bulldozer. So when you get a chance to do it, don’t.

Remember the elephant can reach me. It pointed its trunk at me. I took a step back wondering if the chicken wire that doubled as its fence would hold it. The trunk scrunched up. The elephant inhaled and made a noise like it was clearing its throat. At that moment, I was euphoric that I was typical juvenile male. You see, at that moment any male knows what’s coming next.

I stepped aside and ducked. The guy behind me obviously wasn’t paying attention. Trust me on this one, a creature that could pick up a bulldozer also produces a profuse amount of “mucus.” You remember that old TV show that was popular with the kids a while ago, the one where they poured buckets of slim over some victim. They got the idea from looking at this guy.

I’m told an elephant never forgets. I went back many, many, many years later. There was the elephant, taking peanuts from people one at a time. Suddenly, on seeing me walk by, his head snapped up. He made a trumpeting sound. Thankfully, I could run faster than a bulldozer.

New Years is a time to forget the old and create the new, “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” [Philippians 3:13b] God calls the forgiveness extended to us compassion. “They are new every morning.” [Lamentations 3:23a] “They” means more than once, thankfully.

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Who is my neighbor?

Luke 10:25 – 37

Who is my neighbor?


 

I.         Proposed question exposes problematic response.

 

            A.        “THE” question everyone wants to have answered...

 

                        1.         “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” [v 25b]

 

                                    a.         This was an “acid” test. The idea was to expose or confirm Jesus core theological value.

 

                                    b.         Many will allow others to disagree on different things if they agree on the core theological value of how one achieves (and maintains) salvation.

 

                        2.         Jesus respond with a question meant to cause the “expert” to think.

 

                                    a.         “What is written... how do you read it?” [v 26]

 

                                                1.)       The response/answer was well known among the Jews.

 

                                                2.)       The real question was how the “expert” would interpret the answer.

 

                                    b.         “Love the Lord your God... love your neighbor.” [v 27]

 

                                                1.)       Notice the “expert” gives his opinion without committing to a specific interpretation.

 

                                                2.)       “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied, “Do this and you will live.” [v 28]

 

                                                            a.)       Jesus didn’t argue, the “expert” already knew.

 

                                                            b.)       The REAL QUESTION is in the application.


Most heresy is in application and the attempt to justify the application.

 

            B.        The problem was in the application of the interpretation.

 

                        1.         “But he wanted to justify himself,” so he asked Jesus, “who is my neighbor.”

 

                                    a.         Here is the wrong question: the problem is not the persons love for a neighbor, it is love for God.

 

                                    b.         We seldom admit to a problem between us and God.

 

                        2.         Human nature verses love:

 

                                    a.         Human nature tends to be:

 

                                                1.)       Short-term. “What have you done for me lately.”

 

                                                2.)       Self-interested. “Look out for yourself because nobody else will.”

 

                                                3.)       Selfish. “What’s in this for me?”

 

                                                4.)       Snobbish. “Who is my neighbor?”

 

                                    b.         Love is contrary to human nature:

 

                                                1.)       Long-term. “How will this impact eternity?”

 

                                                2.)       Other-oriented. “Is this fair?” [One of the “four questions.”]

 

                                                3.)       Sacrificial. “What would Jesus do?”

 

                                                4.)       Uncomfortable. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Actively and intentionally seeking the good of others.)


Love is the priority BUT there is a natural gap between the expected and the actual.


In “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” a question is asked of a super computer. “What is the answer to everything?” The computer goes into a deep think and tells the askers to come back in a couple million years.” At the end of that time, the computer spits out the “answer to everything” as being 42. The ones who asked the question are angry about the answer. The computer responds, the answer is right... it was the question that was wrong.

 

II.       Proposed question exposes problematic theology.

 

            A.        The answer to everything is “Love God... love others.”

 

                        1.         The Law has been a tripping point for many people.

 

                                    a.         They are either crushed by the Law because they know they can not live up to it.

 

                                    b.         They become aware of the impossibility, so they look for ways to justify themselves while apparently fulfilling the Law.

 

                        2.         The two characters in Jesus’ story that do not help are people who would be expected to help.

 

                                    a.         We can only guess as to why, their motivations, for not helping.

 

                                    b.         Notice Jesus does not mention their motivations or judges their motivations. The real issue is their behavior.


CAUTION: whenever you think you “know” why someone did something (motivation), you have crossed a very dangerous line.

 

            B.        The theology behind the answer to everything:

 

                        1.         The Law is fulfilled in loving God and loving others. Details become unimportant when the real issue is solved. [see Matthew 22:37]

 

                        2.         Your love for others reflects your love for God.

 

                                    a.         This is why the Bible warns us to not judge others. The same way we judge others will be how we are judged.

 

                                    b.         This is why bitterness is a serious poison.

 

                                    c.         This is why Jesus said, “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” [Matthew 6:15]

 

                        3.         The closer you are to God, the more concerned you will be for those who are “lost” (do not know God, are not saved).

 

                                    a.         The role you play is not as important as the fact that you are deliberately moving others toward God.

 

                                    b.         Some will plant, some will water, and some will reap there is no difference [see 1 Corinthians 3:8]

 

III.      Proposed answer exposes comfort barriers.

 

            A.        The hero of the story was someone the Jews would have considered a villain.

 

                        1.         Samaritans claimed:

 

                                    a.         They were the true heirs of God’s love, favor, and grace.

 

                                    b.         They had the truth, the Jews were lying.


Sounds familiar?


NY Post (and CBS) news story about two Jew teens on the NY subway. They wished other passengers “Happy Hanukkah” A group of people on the subway started shouting anti-Jewish things mixed with unspeakable vulgarities and then physically attacked the Jews. A young man threw himself into the fray to stop them. For his trouble he received two black eyes. Later he was asked why a Muslim would intervene to save two Jewish teens. He said, “I did what I thought was right.”

 

                        2.         Jesus shifts the question from who do I have to love, to who loved.

 

                                    a.         Love is:

 

                                                1.)       Compassion in action. (Not just feeling.)

 

                                                2.)       Commitment at work. (Not just sympathy.)

 

                                                3.)       Consecration with aim. (Not just fuzzy or ingrown.)

 

                                    b.         Love will break down barriers, cross fences.

 

                                                1.)       “Go and do likewise.” [v 37]

 

                                                2.)       These words must have ended the world as the expert knew it OR hardened his heart.

 

            B.        Love moves us to mercy.

 

                        1.         Love is not determined by the object.

 

                                    a.         “Anyone” can love someone who is nice, kind, and loving in return.

 

                                    b.         Love is the presumed attitude and activity for the Christian regardless of the action, attitude, and affiliation of the other person.

 

                        2.         Love risks getting hurt.

 

                                    a.         The only people who can hurt you emotionally are the ones you care about. (Physically you will heal, emotionally it’s much harder.)

 

                                    b.         Betrayal, is “almost” unforgivable. Rejection scars us forever.

 

IV.      Proposed answer exposes true spiritual state.

 

            A.        What is the point were what you feel becomes what you do?

 

                        1.         Sometimes there is a “negative” threat: a threat to health or life. [Motivated by self interest.]

 

                        2.         Sometimes there is a “neutral” push: the excitement of someone else, a trend. [Motivated by others.]

 

                        3.         Sometimes there is a “positive” fire: you see the good to be achieved and do it. [Motivated by a greater good.]

 

            B.        How do we love? [the “good Samaritan’s example]

 

                        1.         There is emotional involvement.

 

                                    a.         He took pity [v 34].

 

                                    b.         This compassion moved him to take personal responsibility to do something about the situation regardless of his personal preferences.

 

                        2.         There is risk.

 

                                    a.         The road from Jericho to Jerusalem was notoriously dangerous.

 

                                    b.         He got dirty in the process... bandaged the man’s wounds [ v34].

 

                        3.         There is inconvenience.

 

                                    a.         He put the man on his own donkey [v 34]. Which meant, he had to walk the rest of the way.

 

                                    b.         He took care of him [v 34]. Possibly he had someplace to be or better things to do.

 

                        4.         There is cost.

 

                                    a.           He paid to have the man cared for with the promise of more, if necessary [v 35].

 

                                    b.         Jesus said, “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” [Luke 14:33]

 

            C.        What must we do?

 

                        1.         Love is priority.

 

                                    a.         It is the attitude and posture of love, not the object.

 

                                    b.         Love is includes involvement, risk, inconvenience, and cost.

 

                        2.         Love challenges comfort.

 

                                    a.         This challenge is in an active sense. We look to help instead of waiting for situations to come to us or being asked.

 

                                    b.         Being comfortable makes us complacent. Imagine if Jesus was not motivated by love to die for our sins...

 

                        3.         Love moves us to mercy.

 

                                    a.         At some point, the thought becomes a feeling, the feeling becomes a choice, the choice becomes an action.

 

                                    b.         Sometimes we are on “auto-pilot” and don’t understand everything that moves us to behave the way we do...

 

                        4.         Love is its own end.

 

                                    a.         The test of love is not who. Jesus wanted us to love those who did not or could not love us back.

 

                                    b.         “You have heard that it was said, `Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' [44] But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, [45] that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” [Matthew 5:43 – 45]

 

                                    c.         Bottom line: love is what a follower of Jesus is and does.


“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. [35] By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” [John 13:34 – 35]

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Faith comes by hearing

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. [Romans 10:17]


Biblically speaking, “faith comes from hearing.” There is something special about hearing the Word of God and hearing the message of salvation through/in Jesus Christ.


Yet somehow odd and interesting ideas have developed around the basic dynamics of how faith comes to an individual. Some actually have merit, but fall short.


For instance, how many times have you said or heard, “seeing is believing?” As Americans we tend to believe a picture or video. What we see is “evidence” in our mind to the truth. But faith is beyond what can be seen. The Bible says: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” [Hebrews 11:1]


What can confuse us is the roll seeing plays in our faith experience. For instance, seeing is “proof” but it is not faith. In other words, it supplements and confirms but, seeing is not what we can depend on for faith.


An example of this can be found in the resurrection of Lazarus. Before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He asked Mary and Martha for some level of belief. He then proceeded to His friend’s tomb and asked that the stone be removed.


Then Jesus prays, John 11:41 – 42, “So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. [42] I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." The people who witnessed this event needed to hear the connection between Jesus and the Father. If they had not, there would have been a “disconnect” between Jesus and the event.


The result of Lazarus’ resurrection is seen in John 11:45. “Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.” What they saw lead them to put their faith in Jesus in context to what Jesus was preaching.


Paul encouraged the Corinthians to, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?” [2 Corinthians 13:5] This examination was a test and the answer key was what they could see. What they could see should line up with what they knew to be true by faith. James saw the same dynamics when he noted, “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” [James 2:22]


Paul also said something similar to the Colossian church, “For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. [Colossians 2:5] What we are learning here is that what we see can confirm what we know through faith.


Unfortunately, “seeing is believing” can be deceptive. This is how illusionists work. They will set up a situation where the audience will believe what they think is happening because they don’t see what is actually happening. So called faith healers have been caught planting confederates in the audience to make it look like a healing has occurred. Thus, people see what appears to be a miracle and are drawn into the illusion.


Unfortunately, some will not believe unless they see. Peter declared, “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see. [Acts 3:16] The problem was that people were surprised. Surprised people do not think strait. They thought it was Peter and John who had healed the man in question. Peter asks them to see the man who was healed and confirm that it was through the name of Jesus.


Worse yet, the necessity of seeing, is a mark of the skeptical unbeliever.


When Jesus was taunted on the cross, the chief priests and teachers of the law said, “Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe." Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” [Mark 15:32] Truth is, they would not have believed anyway. Jesus put it this way, in one of His parables, "He said to him, `If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' " [Luke 16:31] The person who has chosen to not believe, will not be helped by what they see.


When Jesus was in Cana in Galilee, He was dealing with a potentially hostile crowd. In a sense, they dared Him to do something miraculous. Jesus’ response to this was, "Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders," Jesus told him, "you will never believe." [John 4:48] Jesus described this situation with probably a heavy heart, “Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor." [5] He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. [6] And he was amazed at their lack of faith. [Mark 6:4 – 6a]


After feeding a crowd of 5,000 plus, the Bible says the people started to think that Jesus was a prophet. Before they could idolize Him, He left. The next day, the people found him and started questioning Him, “So they asked him, "What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?” [John 6:30] The reason they were following had nothing to do with love or loyalty for Jesus. The crowd’s focus was on what Jesus could do for them. The discussion ended badly, in John 6:66, we read, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”


Sometimes, skepticism is not so cynical and comes from honest doubt. Remember the disciple named Thomas? After the resurrection, he had a difficult time believing. The Bible tells the story this way, “So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." [John 20:25] Thomas’ was not being mean, or refusing to believe, he was just filled with honest questions. The end result was one of absolute humiliation, because his name is now associated with “doubting.”


Despite the disciple’s disturbing lack of faith, Jesus appeared to him any way. “Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." ... Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." [John 20:27, 29] Jesus used what Thomas could see as proof and gave a blessing to those who believe the resurrection without having seen.


Seeing is important to witnessing. The idea of seeing is not all bad. The question is what the other sees, and the direction it takes them. Jesus preached, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” [Matthew 5:16] The good deeds of those who follow Jesus are to be a reason God the Father is praised.


Notice it causes praise, not belief. This is going to sound impossible, but you can praise/worship without faith. As humans, we are created to praise/worship God as naturally as we breath. Praise/worship is not just behavior from a Christian. In fact the Bible talks about angels worshiping and in one instance, even the demons and Satan himself will worship. The Bible describes it this way, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” [Philippians 2:10 – 11]


However, what others see is an important component in our witness. The Bibles says, “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. [12] Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” [1 Peter 2:11 – 12]


Faith is more than seeing. We have already seen the Biblical definition of faith as “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” [Hebrews 11:1] The Bible announces great joy to those who are able to walk faithfully without seeing. “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, [9] for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” [1 Peter 1:8 – 9]


On top of that we are actually warned to be careful about our natural dependency on sight. Paul urged, “We live by faith, not by sight.” [2 Corinthians 5:7] Think about it this way, some of our most cherished values are not seen. Can you see love or peace? You can see the out come, but you cannot actually see love or peace.


God reveals Himself through His word. And words are spoken. They give power to ideas, images, and experience because in conversation they take on meaning and shape well beyond any picture.


When asked about the most important commandment, Jesus did not say, “see.” "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: `Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. [30] Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' [31] The second is this: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." [Mark 12:29 – 31] It was understood, that unless one did not hear, then one could not understand and obey. The reason for this is that we think in words, not pictures. We evaluate what we see and attach meaning to what we see with words.


Jesus is revealed as “the Word.” The Bible says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” [John 1:1] John deliberately tied Jesus to Creation and how Genesis 1 says, “God said,” eleven times during the act of creating. The power of God’s spoken work is unmistakable in the creation and salvation stories in the Bible. This is not a past power but a present, ongoing, and living power. John reinforced this by naming Jesus in the book of Revelation this way, “He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.” [Revelation 19:13]


Speaking to the Colossians, Paul claimed his call was, “I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness.” [Colossians 1:25] Notice, the call was not to plant or grow a church. Nor was the call to some other high profile, valued, and idolized ministry. The fact these things happened can take away from the suffering Paul went through to present the word of God to people. His call was first and foremost to present the word. Or as he told Timothy, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: [2] Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. [3] For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. [4] They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. [5] But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” [2Timothy 4:1 – 5]


Notice Timothy’s charge is to “preach the Word.” This preaching would take on the form of correction, rebuking, encouraging, instructing, and evangelizing. One of the reasons this is necessary is because people will not always put up with sound doctrine and eventually they would turn their ears away from the truth. Again we discover the importance of hearing to the decision process. While we may “drive with our eyes” we believe with our ears.


Never underestimate the power of the word of God. The Bible makes this startling statement, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” [Hebrews 4:12] We are not talking about something mystical or magical. We are talking about real life and eternal destination changing power. What’s more powerful than God speaking? Absolutely nothing. When God speaks to you, everything changes. You can never go back to the way you were before God spoke. He speaks today through His word, through what we call the Bible.


The bottom line is that salivation comes through hearing.


Jesus once told the story of the seed that fell on four types of soil. Listen as Jesus explains what happened in each type of soil. “Then Jesus said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? [14] The farmer sows the word. [15] Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. [16] Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. [17] But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. [18] Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; [19] but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. [20] Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop--thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown." [Mark 4:13 – 20]


Do you see the active interference that happens when the word is sown? There is direct Satanic intervention [v 15], trouble and persecution [v 17], worries of this life, deceitfulness of wealth, and desires for other things [v 19] that work to make sure the word that is sown does not bear fruit. If the devil knows the power of hearing the word, why are we so slow to acknowledge that power and use it? Maybe we shy away from any use of power. Maybe we are ignorant of the resources available to us.


Jesus was very concerned about the issue of how we hear.Then Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” [Mark 4:9] It’s almost like Jesus is saying, “Can you hear me now?” It’s like Jesus is saying, “Be careful how you hear!” Jesus didn’t say it once. The expression is found 14 times in the New Testament. [Matthew 11:15, 13:9, 13:43, Mark 4:23, Luke 8:8, Luke 14:35, Revelation 2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 2:29, 3:6, 3:13, 3:22, 13:9]


Jesus insisted that hearing was essential to acquiring eternal life. "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” [John 5:24] Observe, out of Jesus own mouth the connection between “hears my word AND believes.” On top of that, they are connected to “has eternal life.” Jesus could not have been much clearer. There is not one Biblical connection between seeing, feeling, or thinking causing believing.


What does this have to do with you?


We stated in Romans 10, lets look back and see what it says. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” [Romans 10:14] Now before we get uptight about the idea of “preaching” remember we have transformed it into something very specialized and technical. Before we “churchized” the word it simply meant “to herald.” Another way to say that is to tell someone.


Ever see someone with a problem and offer advice? Ever find a great restaurant or store that you had to recommend to someone else? Guess what, you were preaching in the Biblical sense. Every time you open your mouth and tell someone about something good that you have experienced or share an idea that might help them... you are preaching.


Think it is not your responsibility? Think again. “The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” [Revelation 22:17] The only way it is not your responsibility is if you are NOT part of the bride (Jesus’ church) or you have never come to the water of life. That’s another way of saying, the only way it is NOT your responsibility is if you are not saved, born again, have eternal life (or whatever you want to call it).


If you have found the greatest of anything, I’m sure you would let someone know. If you’ve found something that would help someone else, I’m sure you would help them. Why not let them in on the best kept secret of any generation? Don’t keep the good news of Jesus to yourself.

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