Thursday, June 25, 2015

What Ambitions Do We Have?

2Co 5:9  So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 2Co 5:10  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

The word translated “aim” or “labor” (KJV) literally means to love honor.  It is used for the idea of ambition, the goals ones has in life.  Paul isn’t speaking of being at home or away on a trip but the context is whether imperfectly in this body or perfectly in the Lord’s presence he only has one goal; pleasing God. 

The word “ambition” generally has a bad connotation in Christianity because it usually is used to speak of someone who is consumed with a goal he has set for himself that has little to do with God and everything to do with doing what he wants to do.  The term “blind ambition” speaks to someone who is so consumed with his goal that he can’t see the negative effects it is having on his life.  Blind ambition that sets its goals on temporal things will always lead to compromise in convictions and character.  But Paul uses this word many times in a good way and it isn’t difficult to see this in the above verses.  Our first duty and highest goal is to glorify the Lord.  From this we understand that every other goal or pursuit in life must be subservient to that one.  This is easy to say but it is also easy to get twisted in our thinking.

Clearly everyone has goals in life that aren’t overtly spiritual, such as a man looking for a job so he can have a family.  In fact, both the job and the family are both worthy goals.  But all such goals must be subservient to the ultimate goal to serve the Lord or they immediately become idols regardless of their legitimacy. 

As in the example above, a man might set his aim in life in a certain career and say that it is to support his family and the church.  These are things that we to do in life and both are important for our wellbeing physically, emotionally and spiritually.  But if said career keeps him from having a proper relationship with his wife and family and keeps him away from church and from ministering to both groups then any attempt to justify it by saying it is for God’s glory is just vain talk.  Clearly his ambition is neither his family nor the Lord but himself.

I can’t number the men that I have known through the years that have justified working on Sundays and long hours in which they are unable to have a proper relationship with their wives and children and in which they are basically strangers to the other members of the church by saying, “Well, I have to support my family, or the job requires it or I have committed myself to this company and I can’t let them down, I don’t want to be a quitter.” 

Well what about your commitment to Christ, his Body and your family?  What is the point of this job if you all you can do is feed and clothe your family but the relationship falls apart?  My answer would be that it is time to quit your job and find one that fits into your goal of seeking the kingdom of God first and his righteousness.  If it means you have to live in a meager house and drive an older car so what.  Some might say but I went to school for this or this is what I want to do in life.  Well, we can’t always have what we want in this life that is part of taking up our cross and following Christ.  If being “fulfilled” in a career is the most important thing and worth giving up everything else then I don’t know what Jesus meant when he said to take up your cross and follow me.  At the end of the day what are your goals in life?  If it is about the Lord’s work your decisions will be made based on what serves him and your spiritual life and your family’s spiritual life the best.  What good is it to live in a mansion on earth but have no room in Heaven for eternity?

If your goal in life is a career, don’t be surprised when your marriage fails, your children are a disappointment (they turn out like you), you think church is a waste of time because it isn’t making you money and one day you might hear, “Depart from me I never knew you”!  Paul’s aim was to please Christ.  If this is our aim we will bring our lives under control to that end, not the selfish ends of our own desires. 

You cannot express a greater love to your wife and family than to lead them to Christ and help to build them up in the faith and this even before you provide for their physical needs.  If we can have a great career and have financial success in this life and use it to further Christ in our life and that of our family then praise the Lord.  But if it is our highest goal it is simple idolatry.

Friday, June 19, 2015

A Powerful Intercessor

Exo 17:9  So Moses said to Joshua, "Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand." Exo 17:10  So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Exo 17:11  Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. Exo 17:12  But Moses' hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. Exo 17:13  And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.

Here we have another great account of God’s deliverance of Israel while in the Wilderness.  Let me make just a couple of points.  Perhaps the most obvious thing we see here is that there is a connection between the seen and the unseen.  When I first went through this in my church I had a young teenager tell me that he was interested in what I was going to say about this account because there didn’t seem to him to be any connection between the outcome of Joshua’s battle and Moses holding his hands up in the air.

Once we think about what all this represents we can start to appreciate the typology.  The rod represents the presence and power of God, raising one’s hands is a standard position of prayer and Moses was their intercessor.  And so the connection is that our power lies not so much in our abilities but in the Lord who gives us abilities.  We can fight and struggle with all our might in this life but at the end of the day the Lord’s will is done and he is our strength.  And he has ordained that through prayer he will give us the help we need but if we presume on him and don’t make the effort to pray then he will not work for us.

Yet while this is true we are also commanded to fight, to struggle, to put forth the effort so that we can demonstrate that the Lord matters to us.  We are put here not to sit back and just pray and let the Lord do it all but to take up our cross and follow Christ.  To pray and not work is also presumption.  The other side of this is that we are not to just live life as if there is no unseen God; as if life is all about us and what we can do.  Prayer shows that we are not only dependent upon the Lord but that the life we are living is all about him to begin with. 

It is quite possible for people to overcome problems who don’t pray and who are not saved.  They do this through the will and power of God whether they acknowledge it or not.  But the Christian doesn’t live that way.  When we overcome, it is to be done in such a way that acknowledges that it is the grace and power of God that has given us help.  If Moses had not gone up on the hill as their intercessor they would have assumed that it was their power that had gotten them the victory.  But this passage reminds us that there is a spiritual world that determines what the outcome on earth will be and prayer is the connection we have to the spiritual realm. 

One final point to make is that as long as we can look up by faith and see that there is One who sits on the throne interceding for us then we know how all this is going to end.  What is particularly important is to remember that there is One who intercedes for us who is greater than Moses.  His hands never tire, he needs no help.  The victory is his and nothing else needs to be done.  This encourages us in prayer because Jesus has already dealt the death blow to Satan and sin and reigns on the highest throne.  

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Living By Faith and Not By Sight

2Co 5:6  So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 2Co 5:7  for we walk by faith, not by sight.  2Co 5:8  Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  2Co 5:9  So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

Here is one of those verses that are often quoted out of context and misapplied with all sorts of unfortunate consequences.  Paul is speaking of the fact that right now we live in a temporal body and that at death or the Lord’s coming we will receive our new and improved body.  Right now we are physically apart from Christ but some day we will be with him forever, vs. 8.  Right in the middle of all this we have verse 7.  What does Paul mean when he says, “We walk by faith and not by sight” in this context?

First of all he isn’t just throwing out an unrelated truth.  This is an indicative statement; it is a statement of fact, not an imperative statement in which he is telling us to do something.  He isn’t saying we are to live by faith and not by sight but that we are presently living by faith and not by sight.  He is simply saying that at this point we don’t see Christ with our eyes or the glories of Heaven but we are assured of them by faith in the revelation of the Word and so we live in the reality that they exist and we will someday enjoy them.  “Sight” refers to Heaven, not the world around us.

What he is not saying is that walking by faith is to ignore or minimized the physical things around us.  Growing up it was not unusual for the leaders of our church to declare that they believe that it is God’s will for them to engage in some big project for which the church did not have the money.  But by taking this verse out of context they had the idea that if they have decided something was God’s will they could “step out in faith” and begin to build and the God would supply the funds that for the moment were “out of sight”.  So they were walking by faith and not by sight or the fact that they couldn’t afford to build at the present. 

Paul’s use at first might sound similar but I believe is very different.  Because he knew that a glorified body awaited him, he was willing to obey the Lord even though it would mean that his body was going to suffer horribly in the effort.  A lot of it comes down to one’s definition of faith.  If faith is believing God’s Word then living by faith is to obey his Word regardless of the circumstances because one day we will stand before God and give an accounting.  If faith is reduced to just believing that God is powerful enough to supply your needs no matter how misguided they are then that is a whole other matter.  Faith believes all of what the Bible says about God it isn’t just trusting him.

This definition of faith is quite mystical.  It causes one to ignore the laws that God has set up to govern our lives and expects God to suspend them at our convenience.  It assumes that God will suspend the rules that everyone else must live by for Christians with enough faith.  We expect people to get a job and live within their means, but when we want something we can buy it or attempt it and then pray that God will clean up the mess we make.  But the Bible says the Christian life is a whole lot more than just trusting that God will help us.

In college many a young married man decided he was called to preach and would move his family to school with no job, no prospects and no real forethought but assumed that since he was “obeying” God, God would supply his needs.  This usually meant that either they would eventually have to leave school or that they would depend on other people to support them because someone couldn’t stand to see his children go hungry so at their own expense they would give them money.

Is God able to suspend the natural laws or perform miracles to help us?  Yes, and he does that from time to time.  But is that the essence of living by faith; to presume upon God because we think we can ignore the way life and reality work because God is able to deliver us?  I would say no.  Remember, biblical faith is not believing real hard that God can do something or what you want you can have if you believe hard enough.  Biblical faith is believing that the Word of God is true and living accordingly; “Faith without works is dead”!

All living by faith means here is that we will do what Paul did; we will live by what the Bible says even though we don’t yet see it all come to pass yet.  Even though everything in this world tells us that there is no God we live in such a way because we know there is a God and he has revealed himself in the Bible.  We live in hope not by sight right now because God is not in our sight yet.  We know that day is coming but we don’t have it yet but we live like Paul did because we know this world’s days are numbered. 

Stepping out in faith is to do what the Bible says even when the world and the circumstances say not to.  It is not deciding what the Lord’s will is in some mystical way when common sense would indicate otherwise but doing it anyway and hoping for the best.  This is tempting God and even Jesus refused to jump off the pinnacle of the Temple just so the Father could come to his rescue.

There is a huge difference between living in obedience to the Word regardless of the consequences and running around doing our own will and expecting the Lord to keep us safe.  That is like a child who runs wild in the yard while his parent makes sure he doesn’t run out in the street.  Are we spiritually mature; able to think through the Word of God and live in its light or are we like children who just want to have fun and not be responsible?

One honors the Lord, the other presumes and dishonors him. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

American Spirituality

This is just a great discourse by Michael Horton on the state of spirituality in America and what it should be biblically.  Enjoy!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Why Must the Earth Be Old?

Gen 1:26  Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." Gen 1:27  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Gen 1:28  And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Gen 1:29  And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. Gen 1:30  And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. Gen 1:31  And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

We have been having an interesting debate over the age of the earth.  I have made a point that I want to explain and expand on in this particular article.  My contention is that an old earth with a universe that is billions of years old rather than the plain meaning of Genesis 1 that God created all things in six literal days only makes sense in an evolutionary framework.  Here is my reasoning:

In a sense the universe was made for man.  God has made man in order to display his glory to him in several ways but primarily through the redemption of sinners.  All this is being played out on the stage of the earth.  The universe and in particular the earth is the platform in which God is carrying out the purposes of redemption. 

As we read through the first chapter of Genesis it is interesting that creation is recounted from the earth’s view point, not even the heavenly.  Philosophically, if not geographically, the earth is the center of the universe.  And it is placed within the galaxy just where it needs to be in order for life to exist as it does and for man to be able to view the universe and see the glory of God in its creation.   In these ways it exists for man’s use; it is his home. 

My question, then, is this; what purpose would God have in creating the earth through a process of billions of years only to house man for a few thousand years?  If its whole purpose is to house man as God works out his redemptive plan in him why did it have to exist for eons of time without any use as God painstakingly, slowly developed it only to be used quickly and then destroyed to make way for a new heavens and earth?  I think any atheistic evolutionist would answer that it took billions of years to form because it all happened by chance naturally; there was no God overseeing it but it happened randomly without purpose or meaning.  We won’t spend any time dealing with the unreasonableness of that, but the point seems to be that if the universe was created then it might as well had been done quickly so that Man could be placed in it and God’s work can begin.  There is no reason for it to exist for eons of time apart from Man and God’s work being accomplished.

The highlighted verse above bears this out.  Man is the pinnacle of creation and when he was made God told him look around I have created a home for you to use as you serve me.  It is yours to have dominion, to subdue and to use for my glory.  Nature exists for Man.  Man was created instantaneously in Adam and Eve and earth and the universe was created just before he was to be his home.  I have yet to hear from any Christian what would be the purpose of developing an earth over billions of years only to be used for a short time.  While I know that if God wanted to do that then that is his prerogative but there is nothing in the Bible to suggest this; certainly God is wise and powerful enough to be able to do so immediately.  And if he did so then it would have to be made at a stage in which it could sustain life which by definition would mean that it was formed at a certain level of maturity or age. 

I might add to this if God will create a new heavens and earth immediately after the destruction of the old order why in the world wouldn’t he have done so with the first order?  Are we going to have to wait billions of years before we will be able to inhabit the new one?  It seems at the heart of the issue is the questioning of the very wisdom and abilities of God.