Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Bible vs the world

The Bible vs the world
1 Timothy 6:6 – 10, 17 – 19

A. There is a difference in what we seek.

1. World (Greek philosophy) “contentment.” [Satisfaction]

a. Anything without God is possible.
b. Everything… without God there are no limits.

2. The Bible “godliness WITH contentment is great gain”

a. Godliness understands that there are rules that go beyond selfishness.
b. Godliness imposes a certain humanity that benefits everyone.

B. Paul’s argument:

1. Observations:

a. (v 7) we brought nothing, we take nothing.
(Ill. A miserly husband made his wife promise that when he died she would put it all in his casket so he could take it all with him. At his funeral, she wrote him a check and put it in the casket….)

b. (v 9) the desire to get “rich” has consequences.

1.) “Trap” – “snare” gives the impression of something that is sudden and unexpected. It can also carry the idea of “overwhelmed.”
(Ill. How to catch a monkey: hallow out a gourd. Place food in the gourd. Secure the gourd. The monkey will reach into the gourd and be trapped because with the food in the hand it cannot get away. Even when the monkey sees you, the monkey will not let go. HUMANS, even when we know something is destructive, our pride and the blinding effect sin has on us keeps us from letting go.)
2.) “Desires” are foolish (not understanding, not using judgment) and hurtful (injurious).

2. Results of what Paul observed:

a. (v 10) Love of money = “root”

1.) A root nourishes the sin. (e.g. Hebrews 12:15 talks about the root of bitterness which leads to sexual immorality at godlessness.)
2.) Deal with the plant but NOT the root will not change the person. (It is treating the symptom but not offering a cure.)

b. (v 10) The “craving” for money is not healthy spiritually.

1.) Wandered from the faith… “stray” ignorantly or by deliberate choices.
2.) Pierced themselves with MANY “griefs.” (meaning heaviness and pain… devouring cares.)

C. The cure:

1. Attitude!

a. (v 17) “NOT be arrogant”
b. (v 17) Hope in God (sure) NOT wealth (unsure).

***** Notice there is a threat (“rich in THIS present world” as in poor in eternity) and a promise (God gives “richly”… copiously, lavishly) *****

***** Once the rood (attitude/beliefs) are dealt with (repentance, trust in what Jesus has provided through His death and resurrection); then the plant can be cured. *****

2. Action (How to be “rich”)

a. (v 18) Do good.
b. (v 18) Be generous.
c. (v 18) willing (implies pleasure) to share.

Question: Where do you want your reward?

(V 19) “lay up treasure… take hold of life… truly life”

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fasting: Golden Arches or Pearly Gates?

Isaiah 58:1 – 14
Fasting: Golden Arches or Pearly Gates?

When we think of fasting we think: spiritual, weird, torture. The thought of denying the appetite triggers cries of protest.

We love our taco palaces, pizza houses, burger joints. We can’t bear the idea of life without chocolate chip cookies, ice cream, baby back ribs, juicy barbequed stake.

As families we cherish or yearn for our meal times.

It is said, “If you want to pack your church; announce a feast. If you want to empty your church out; announce a fast.”


I. Fasting at spiritual “breakpoints.”

A. “Breakpoint” is a crisis (time of grief, disappointment, disaster)

1. Dr. says, “it’s cancer.”
2. Teenage daughter says, “I’m pregnant.”
3. Son says, “I have AIDS.”
4. Boss says, “You’re fired.”

***** When you say “I cannot” that’s when you give God a chance to say “I can.”

B. Biblical examples:

1. King Uzziah...
2. Nineveh – Jonah announced destruction, Nineveh repented with a fast.
3. Queen Ester – when Haman threatened to wipe out the Jewish people.
4. King Jehoshaphat – threatened by armies.
5. Moses – before a holy God to receive the 10 commandments.
6. Jesus – lead into the wilderness before His ministry.

C. Why fast?

1. We hunger for more than food.
2. God place in us a hunger for spiritual realities.
3. (v 5) there is a fast that God desires.

II. Fasting if spiritual “breakthroughs.” (vv 6 – 7)

***** Notice that food is not mentioned... other appetites must be brought under submission.

A. God uses fasting for breakthroughs.

1. Do you feel like you are on a religious treadmill?
2. Do you feel like you are just going through the motions?
3. Do you feel the weight of moral bondage or baggage, bad habits, selfishness, isolation?

***** Fasting breaks up our hard hearts and frees us from empty worship.

***** Fasting breaks the calluses off our deaf ears.

B. God uses fasting to break yokes (vv 9 – 10)

1. Breaks us from the unhealthy pattern of a critical spirit – “pointing of the finger.”
2. Loosens fists clenched in covetousness and materialism.
3. Gives us light to see (euphemism for perceiving God and responding to God.)

C. Things God wants to do for us.

1. Healing (v 8)
2. Righteousness (v 8)
3. The presence of God (v 8)
4. Answered prayer (v 9)
5. God’s guidance (v 11)
6. Satisfaction and strength (v 11)

BOTTOM LINE: God intends to use fasting to increase our prayer life and bring the appetites of this world under control.

How many days should you fast? How hungry are you?

III. Busting Myths.

A. The truth:

1. Fasting is NOT a diet. You diet for physical (or psychological) reasons. You fast for spiritual reasons.
2. Fasting is NOT a hunger strike. It is not to gain “leverage” with God.
3. Fasting does not oblige God. It is a step of obedience.
4. Fasting does NOT get from God what He’s reluctant to give.
5. Fasting is NOT a way of punishing ourselves. Fasting can bring sin to the surface so we can receive God’s deliverance and forgiveness.

6. Fasting is NOT just for the super spiritual. It’s for everyone who has an extraordinary hunger to see God break into their world.

***** Fasting is the fastest way to get our hearts in a place to receive from God what He wants to give all along.

B. Cautions:

1. Fasting is NOT about food. It is our heart.
2. Fasting takes on many forms in the Bible (I count 9).
3. If fasting is about breaking unhealthy appetites and behavior patterns then we need to fast from OTHER things: TV, internet, games, destructive relationships, etc...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It stinks to be you

Romans 8:18 – 30
It stinks to by you!

Some days are just like that... nothing goes according to plan, everything seems to take longer, something is just out of sync.

These are those days you think, “it stinks to be me.” As we groan and moan, I want to remind you that the Bible recognizes that all creation groans, we groan, and the Holy Spirit groans because we have a problem.

To deal with this problem God has instituted a three step program, found in verse 30. We are called, justified, and glorified. Literally, what Paul is explaining to us is not a fatalism. He insists that God invites us into relationship (called), God renders a judgment in our favor (justified), and the God makes us “excellent” (glorified).

This all is possible because of what is called “redemption.” In the ancient world “redemption” had a two-fold meaning. Redemption means ransom AND riddance. In other words, the possibility of ransom is release that comes from the payment made by Jesus on the cross. The possibility of riddance is current struggle and the future hope we have of dealing with the darkness sin has plunged the world into.

I. How does the Bible describe this world?

A. [v 18] “sufferings” means something that is undergone... such as a misfortune, hardship, or pain.

1. Face it, as long as were in this physical body we will have pain and other kinds of suffering.

2. Some is self-inflicted... some is imposed on us.

B. [v 19] “longing” means intense anticipation that is anxious and persistent.

1. If we are honest with ourselves, we know something is not right, unnatural, or simply wrong.

2. We know it but what do we do about it? (Face it, fight it, ignore it, attack those who talk about it.)

C. [v 20] “futility” means a lack of appropriateness. Or another way to say it “perverse” or “perverted.”

1. We tend to misuse those around us. People are turned to objects... used.

2. We tend to misuse the world around us.

“God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” [Genesis 1:28] (Have “dominion.” Wise management, not worship is required)

D. [v 21] “bondage” means slavery.

1. The fact that everything does not work out the way we want, show us that something else is happening.

2. “Law of sin and death” has the tendency to override the liberty to choose... when we choose to obey God.

Wesley – “ Adam made it liable to the sentence which God pronounced.”

II. Why is it this way?

A. We are caught between “already and the not yet.” [vv 18, 23]

1. [v 24] “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?”

a. KJV (“saved by hope”)... We are saved but are in a state of “hope.” That means we do not have it... except in confident expectation.

b. “We do not yet possess this full salvation.” (Wesley)

2. In other words, this is a promise. Similar to the Roman practice of adoption.

a. Adoption was done privately but was not legal until the public ceremony in the forum.

b. So this salvation we have is a two step thing: We have accepted it but we wait [v 23] (the creation waits.. [v 19])

B. We are caught between freedom and corruption. [v 21]

1. Paul has already framed the context:

“As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. [18] I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. [19] For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do this I keep on doing. [20] Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. [21] So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. [22] For in my inner being I delight in God's law; [23] but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. [24] What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? [25] Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” [Romans 7:17 – 25]

2. Jesus put it this way:

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” [Matthew 26:41]

***** However, none of this excuses our failures or sin!*****

III. Are we left to ourselves? Absolutely NOT!

(We are justified by faith... God’s legal judgement is in our favor. While the judgement is in our favor, we have an entire life to live... and grow into that favorable judgement.)

A. [v 26] “The Spirit helps in our weaknesses..”

1. The “flesh” (sometimes translated as “body”) is a word Paul uses to mean something that appeals to this world, our flesh, and our desires.

For example: “lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.” [1 John 2:16 KJV]

2. “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” [Romans 8:1]

3. This happens as the Spirit intercedes for us!

B. [vv 28 – 30] God’s plan.

1. The idea is that we are called, rendered innocent, and made excellent. (Called, justified, glorified)

2. All this is to move us to become “conformed to the image of his Son.” [v 29]

IV. Since the world (including us) is subjected to corruption [v 21], what are we to do?

A. We are required to manage it as best we can.

B. “Wait eagerly” (“expect fully”) calls us to action. (Act faithfully... belief drives action.)

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Communion Duty

1 Corinthians 11:23 – 26

Theme: We have a duty to reveal our secret. It’s part of the communion service...

1. We reveal our secret when we remember.

Explanation: Once it was thought that children could not become place their faith in Christ... Founder of CEF showed otherwise. Something shifted at that point and some dark things emerged. One of them was that we abandoned evangelism to adults. James Dobson observed that 86% of our children, who make professions for Christ, walk away from the faith. He suggested it was because there is a process where faith has to mature with the individual.

What has developed was a Christianity that has no sympathy towards those who are ignorant of Christ, a Christianity given to immature emotional whims, a Christianity without voice or authority.

Illustration: Take for example the characterization of “contemporary” Christian music. Researchers claim that when a phrase is repeated three or more times with the same music... two things happen. First, the listener’s mind shuts down. Second, the listener is more likely to accept whatever is repeated as true. The study was done in relationship to violent content in music but it applies generally. It’s why the media replays sound bites and why politicians use “talking points” and why good teachers use repetition. The more often we hear something the more likely we are to believe it.

Application: What remembering does is it gets us past the shallowness of our emotional responses and helps imprint the actual facts on our brains and lives. In a sense remember, through the “Lord’s Supper” is repetition that helps us believe BUT it is also a revelation of the best kept secret of our generation.

“Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me.”

Jesus was the one the prophets talked about in the Old Testament. No other religion has the weight of history and prophecy behind it.

“All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” [Acts 10:43]

Jesus was the physical representation of God.

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,
[2] but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. [3] He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” [Hebrews 1:1 – 3a]

In other words, Jesus is exactly like God the Father in every way.

Jesus put it this way: “I and the Father are one.” [John 10:30]

The fact is that we need the mercy only Jesus can provide. Here is brutal honesty. It means we are no better off than what we would call a sinner. With sin there is no such thing as “worst” or “better.” The murder and the liar are on the same legal standing, the adulterer and the gossip share the same condemnation, the thief and the gossip are both guilty.

We reveal secret of the blood of Jesus... it is for EVERYONE.

2. The trouble is that very few understand the secret.

Explanation: Paul called God’s plan of providing salvation through Jesus a “mystery.”

“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” [Colossians 1:27]

“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ...” [Colossians 2:2 NIV]
“And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.” [Colossians 4:3 NIV]

“And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ...” [Ephesians 1:9 NIV]

One of the reasons that Jesus is a “mystery” is because there is active opposition to God from Satan.

“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. [4] The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” [2 Corinthians 4:3 – 4]

Another reason Jesus is a mystery is because our minds have become dull with sin.

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” [Romans 1:21]

Or as Jesus put it: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. [20] For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” [John 3:19 – 20]

Illustration: What this means is that we go on our merry way without thinking.

Consider this story: A man and his son are in a car accident. The dad dies instantly, but the boy is rushed to the emergency room. The attending doctor sees the boy and says, “That’s my son.” Who is the doctor?

It is amazing how many people don’t get the answer. Let’s try another...

There is a pyramid that is upside down. It is perfectly balanced on its point. Any disturbance will cause the pyramid to topple. Under the pyramid is an $100 bill. How do you get the bill without the pyramid from falling over?

Chances are you either got it or you are still trying to figure it out.

Some things are so simple but we can’t figure it out because our minds are working in another direction. That’s what happens with Jesus.

We are trained to think we are good people so it’s hard to understand we stand condemned before God if we do not trust what Jesus has done for us.

We are trained to think we can do it for ourselves that it’s hard to understand we are helpless in ourselves.

We are trained to think that our religious motions and moral effort somehow make us righteous when the Bible describes them as filthy rags.

When we were in the Philippines there was a woman cleaning a public bathroom. About half the men used the wall instead of the urinal. She was on her hands and knees mopping this up with a bunch of rags.

That’s what our religious efforts look like from heaven’s point of view.

Application: People will continue in their darkness, their ignorance, their willfulness until someone somehow somewhere helps them understand the truth that Jesus saves.

Unfortunately the number of people who understand that is shrinking because there are fewer people who know Jesus who are willing to share Jesus.

3. Yet Jesus says we have a duty to tell people.

Explanation: Jesus valued the idea that His followers would tell others...

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:19 – 20 KJV]

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” [Acts 1:9]

“...repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. [48] You are witnesses of these things.” [Luke 24:47]

The early disciples understood this... Peter said:

“He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.” [Acts 10:42 NIV]

Illustration: Our problem is that words like “duty,” “obligation,” “responsibility” rub us the wrong way... often they are used as weapons against, to “twist our arms,” force or manipulate us.

We have also become a culture that values individual freedom to the point that we no longer recognize “duty” to any group... even family. We have disconnected ourselves from being able to join something bigger than ourselves. We have isolated ourselves from any obligation that requires commitment of time, or effort or resources.

We are simply more comfortable as “free agents.”

Application: Problem... proclaiming Jesus is part of who we are... Remember sin is defined as doing things that are defined by God as wrong AND not doing things God defines as right.

Conclusion: We cannot look back at the death of Christ and then forward to His return ALONE.

Fact is that this table is a challenge. We either announce or denounce Jesus at His table. Saying nothing essentially violates the covenant we make and renew when we celebrate communion.

Remember someone told you... If you are silent... then people will continue to live in ignorance, darkness, and willfulness. If you are silent the devil will dance on our graves because of our failure. If you are silent then the message ends here, with you.

Challenge: Pick one person you will talk to this year. Pray for that person. Pray for an opportunity to talk to them. Pray for the courage to speak to them.