Our First Priority

A Remarkable and Important Verse!

One of my favorite verses in all the Bible is Matthew 6:33. Within the section of Scripture that this particular verse is found, Jesus is teaching his disciples how they are not to be anxious about food, water, or clothing. Their lives should not be consumed with an overwhelming preoccupation for seeking the necessities of life. They are made for so much more than this. I mean, unbelievers are the ones that are to be preoccupied with the necessities of life because that is all they have. This is not so with the Christian. We know there is a God that is in enthroned in the heavens. Therefore, that is what we ought to be procuppied with seeking. This is why Jesus says these famous words in Matthew 6:33:

Verse 33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

 This verse is by far the most important verse in this section of Scripture. This is the whole reason we, as Christians, are not to be anxious and preoccupied with running after food, drink, and clothing. It is because we are to be seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

What This Means

Well, the term “Seek” here literally means to “eagerly seek” or to “run after.” Then he says “First” which is in reference to a level of priority. So, in essence, Christ is telling us, in context, to stop placing food, water, and clothing as our top priority and to begin placing the kingdom of God and His righteousness as our top priority.

So, this is what we, as Christians, are to be earnestly seeking and running after. But what in the world does this look like? We like this verse as a screensaver on our phones but what does it mean for our lives? To understand this, let’s begin with what the kingdom of God is.

The Kingdom of God

The Kingdom of God is a reference to the rule and reign of God. It is the Kingdom that is not ruled by man, but the one ruled by Almighty God. It is the kingdom that Jesus Christ inaugurated in his first coming, and it is the kingdom that will be consummated in Christ’s second coming. And to seek this kingdom is three-fold.

First, we need to seek this Kingdom personally. Recall when Nicodemus approached Jesus at night saying, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do the signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). Then Jesus responded to Nicodemus directly, getting at the heart of the matter, saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

This is what I mean when I say that one, first and foremost, needs to earnestly seek the Kingdom of God in a personal way. They need to be born again by the Spirit of God. They desperately need God to impart new spiritual life to their dead spiritual corpses through the ministry of the Spirit. They need to repent of their sins, look at Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected as the only Savior of the world, and then place their faith in Him. It is at this moment that an individual passes from Satan’s evil kingdom to God’s glorious kingdom. It is at this moment that one goes from being in the domain of darkness to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. So, first, one needs to seek the kingdom of God in this way!

Secondly, we need to earnestly seek the Kingdom of God corporately. By that, I mean that we need to be consistently seeking the reign of God in the church. We need to seek each other’s submission to Christ as a local assembly of brothers and sisters in Christ. What might this look like?

Well, we need to encourage one another, we need to speak the Scriptures into each other’s lives. We need to correct and rebuke one another. We need to pray for one another. We need to disciple one another. We ought to be earnest and zealous for everybody in the church, including ourselves, to be more and more obedient to the Lord. This is what it looks like to seek the Kingdom of God corporately!

Thirdly, we need to earnestly seek the Kingdom of God globally. We need to seek to advance the Kingdom of Christ throughout all the world. Our desire and ambition ought to be to take this Gospel of the Kingdom of God to family, neighbors, co-workers, and ultimately to the ends of the earth. We need to pray to this end, raise our kids to this end, give money to this end, and send out missionaries to this end. In doing this, we are seeking the advancement of God’s Kingdom all across the globe!

This is what it means to seek the Kingdom of God. And, according to Christ, it is to be our first order of business! It is to be our top priority. It is to be our main ambition. It is more important that food, drink, and clothing. That is incredible!

His Righteousness

Now, let’s reflect on what it means to seek “His righteousness.” Within the Bible, we learn about two types of righteousness. The first is an alien righteousness we receive by faith. The second is a practical righteousness that comes from being filled with the Spirit of God. So first, let’s talk about the alien righteousness.

In Philippians 3:7-9, Paul says, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”

Did you notice how Paul said that this is not a righteousness of his own? This is not a righteousness that he mustered up. No! It is an alien righteousness. By that, I simply mean it comes from outside of himself. It is a righteousness that comes from God that he received through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the righteousness that brings salvation. This is all by God’s grace!

At this point, it is important to understand that this is not the righteousness that Jesus is telling us to be seeking in our passage. We do not have to seek it. The Lord gives us it as a gift through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the good news of the Gospel. So, if you have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, then God has graciously given you Christ’s righteousness as a free gift. That is why you are saved.

With that said, this means that the righteousness that Jesus wants us to seek in our passage is that second type of righteousness. It is that practical righteousness that comes from being filled with the Spirit of God. It is that righteousness that we are to live out after we become children of God. The righteousness that comes as we submit to God in the whole of life. The righteousness that makes us a light to the world and a city on a hill.

So, this is the righteousness we are to be seeking as our top priority. But what does this look like practically? And to begin with, let’s talk about what seeking this righteousness does not look like.

First, seeking this righteousness does not look like merely attending church on a Sunday morning. Many people think that this is what is required of them. They think that, as a Christian, you go to church on a Sunday morning and that is it.

Secondly, seeking this righteousness does not look like merely being baptized. You talk to many people and that is what they think. They think that to be baptized is what it is all about!

Thirdly, seeking this righteousness does not look like mechanically praying the same rote prayer every evening and before every meal. That is not it!

Lastly, though we could keep going, seeking God’s righteousness does not look like voting straight republican or democrat during the elections. That is not it either! This is too small a view of the Christian religion.

You see, Christianity is huge! It encompasses everything. It consumes the entirety of one’s life. To seek God’s righteousness infiltrates every part of our minutes, days, weeks, months, and years.

It is waking up every day, peering into the Word of God, and saying, “I am not my own, I have been bought by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, Christ is my Lord and I am his slave. My aim today will not be to live for myself, but to live for my Savior. I will aim to love, serve, and obey Him and only Him.”

Seeking God’s righteousness sounds like Paul when he says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians. 3:12-14).

It looks like Jesus when he says, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34). And like Jesus when he was fasting for 40 days in the wilderness and Satan comes and says, “If you are the Son of God, turn this stone into bread.” To which Jesus responded saying, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:3-4). This is what seeking “His righteousness” looks like!

Conclusion

So, this is what Jesus expects us to seek first and foremost. Our main ambition is to be seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness. We are to be running after this. This is what we were made for. This is what we were saved for. This will glorify and honor our Lord a great deal. Therefore, let us strive to, by the power of the Spirit and through faith in Jesus, seek to be obedient to this remarkable verse!

January & February in Books

My goal in doing this type of blog every two months is to give you, the readers, an opportunity to look at certain books that you may like to read. So, here are the books that I have read throughout January and February.

honest evangelism

Honest Evangelism by Rico Tice

I try to read one book on evangelism every six months or so. There are numerous reasons for this. One reason is because it is so easy to lose sight of the discipline of evangelism. If we are not mindful of it then we simply won’t do it. Reading a book on evangelism helps me to be mindful! Another reason is because each individual says something different about evangelism. Everybody has a different technique that they use. For Rico, it is Jesus’ identity, Jesus’ mission, and Jesus’ call. So, in a conversation, find a way to talk about Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, His mission in rescuing sinners, and His call for individuals to repent and place their faith in Him. I found this to be helpful and will seek to put it in my evangelism tool kit. The last reason I read books on evangelism relatively often is because I want to be more faithful as a Christian. These little Christian living books on evangelism teach me how to be more faithful.

pastoral theology

Pastoral Theology by Daniel Akin and Scott Pace

This was a book that I had to read for a seminary class. This is not a ground breaking book when it comes to pastoral ministry. It reads somewhat like a miniature systematic theology with brief sections on the practical implications of certain doctrines in regards to the pastorate.

on pastoring

On Pastoring by H.B. Charles Jr.

I also had to read this book for a seminary class. Though this book was not theologically deep, it was really entertaining to read. H.B. Charles Jr. was the son of a pastor, he began pastoring when he was seventeen years old, and he has many friends that are pastors. So, inevitably, he has made some mistakes, he has done a lot of things well, and he has innumerable stories to tell. This allows him to write this book that is filled with practical pastoral wisdom for young pastors.

the betrayal

The Betrayal: A Novel on John Calvin by Douglas Bond

This is a fictional work by Douglas Bond that lets you in on the life and times of John Calvin. Bond’s aim was to write an intriguing book from the view point of one of Calvin’s enemies that debunks all the negative modern caricatures (and there are a lot) that people have of Calvin. It is a very interesting read and I found myself admiring this theological giant even more by the way that Bond presents him throughout this novel.

Also, there are two reasons that I am reading this book. The first reason is because my wife gave this to me as a Christmas present. The second reason is because a brother of mine in Christ thought that reading some fiction would help me be more creative in my transitions, illustrations, and word choices during the preaching moment. I am taking heed to this counsel in hopes that reading fiction will help me to be a better preacher.

the temple and the church's mission

The Temple and the Church’s Mission by G.K. Beale

This is a biblical theology book that I picked up because I have a desire to become a better theologian. Often times, our theology is a little off because we misunderstand the overall message of the Bible. Books like these help us to see broad sweeping biblical themes (in this case the Temple) which, in turn, help us to better interpret particular passages of Scripture.

In this books G.K. Beale argues this (I am just going to quote him at length):

God created the cosmos to be his great temple, in which he rested after his creative work. His special revelatory presence, nevertheless, did not yet fill the entire earth because his human vice-regent was to achieve this purpose. God had installed this vice-regent in the garden sanctuary to extend the boundaries of God’s presence there worldwide. Adam disobeyed this mandate, so that humanity no longer enjoyed God’s presence in the small Garden. As a result, all humanity and all creation became contaminated with sin. Therefore, in view of the storyline of the Bible, the assertions about God’s inability to exist in any building on earth include allusion to the old earth and temple not being an adequate abode for him because of being polluted with sin and the need for purification and restoration before God’s Shekinah presence, limited to heaven and the holy of holies, could dwell everywhere throughout the cosmos. All human attempts to extend God’s presence throughout a sinful earth met with, at best, limited success. The successful fulfillment of the Adamic commission awaited the presence – and obedience – of the last Adam, Jesus Christ.

Susie

Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susanna Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes Jr.

While many people know of Charles Spurgeon, very few know much about Susanna Spurgeon. This biography allows you to walk back into the 19th century to look at this godly wife, mother, author, editor, book distributor, and church planter. She persevered through affliction. She honored Christ with both her life and her death. She abounded in the work of the Lord. She did this even when she was bed ridden because of chronic illness. You will not regret reading about this woman. Moreover, you will not regret seeking to imitate many of the ways she imitated Christ.

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How Shall We Then Live? By Francis Schaeffer

This book was first published in 1975. Schaeffer sought to reveal to his readers that how we think directly impacts how we live. He says, “What we are in our thought world directly determines how we act.” This is the thesis of this book. He then walks through 2000 years of history (from the time of Ancient Rome to our modern day) to reveal the effects of certain world views (pagan gods, emperor worship, renaissance humanism, modern humanism, a belief in an infinite personal God, the enlightenment, etc.). Schaeffer studied this so much that the end of his book is prophetic. For example, after diagnosing the world view that lead to the passing of Roe vs. Wade, he writes, “In regard to the fetus, the courts have arbitrarily separated ‘aliveness’ from ‘personhood,’ and if this is so, why not arbitrarily do the same with the aged? So the steps move along, and euthanasia may well become increasingly acceptable.” This is just one example of how Schaeffer foresaw the trajectory of our western culture.

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Christianity at the Crossroads by Michael Kruger

When we think about the history of Christianity, we often think that it was Jesus, Paul, the reformers, and then Billy Graham! This is not the case though. After the death of the apostles, churches were gathering, men were preaching the gospel, people were fighting for orthodoxy, the Scriptures were being copied and circulated, apologists were defending the validity of the Christian religion to the Roman elite, and theologians were writing major works. This book will really help you to appreciate what our brothers and sisters in Christ did throughout the second century. It will also open up your eyes to the historicity of the Christian faith!

What are you Reading?

Let me know what books that you have been reading!

Sexual Sin-Proverbs 5, 6, & 7

Introduction

This blog post is specifically going to deal with sexual sin by looking at Proverbs 5, 6, and 7. I will be jumping around these chapters to get a holistic view of sexual sin. Also, I originally taught some of this content to the college students at the church I serve, but have increasingly had a desire to condense and revise it in order to put it on this blog so that it would benefit others. With that said, much more could be said than what is in this post! Let’s get started.

Main Crux

Within Proverbs 5, 6, and 7 we will see a father address his son with loving wisdom regarding the dangers of the adulterous woman and adultery in general.

For men, these chapters are informing us of two things. First, we need to guard our hearts against lusting after women because it will ultimately lead to our destruction. Secondly, we do not need to entice a woman.

For women, these chapters are also informing you of two things. First, you need to guard your hearts against a predatory man. . .one seeking to woo you, win you, and speak sweetly to you, but who will ultimately destroy you. Secondly, do not seek to allure a man sexually with how you act and dress.

Solomon-Speaking from Experience

Now, the father that is giving this advice to his son learned the dangers of sexual immorality the hard way. I say that because King Solomon is the father in this discourse. And, from the biblical witness, Solomon was a man that was given to sexual immorality.

In 1 Kings 11 we read, “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women.” The Scripture goes on to say, “Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 hundred wives and 300 concubines,” as well as, “They turned away his heart and he began to follow other gods.” As is evident, Solomon knew the devastating effects of sexual immorality experientially. With this in mind, he is seeking to give wisdom to his son throughout these three chapters in Proverbs so that his son might not fall into the same trap that he did.

The Desperate Need for Wisdom in this Area

My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, and sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it. (Proverbs 5:1-6)

As we look at this, we see two appeals from Solomon!

  1. “Be attentive to my wisdom”
  2. “Incline your ear to my understanding.”

Every time Solomon is about to address the son about the adulterous woman and adultery in general, there is always an appeal for the son to listen to the father’s instructions so that he can gain wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 5:7; 6:20; 7:1-2).

Moreover, in chapter 7 we are given an example of what Solomon saw one day as he was looking down from his castle. And it was this, a simple boy amongst a bunch of youths that lacked sense. It was this boy that fell into the sin of sexual immorality and thus destroyed himself. Therefore, it is evident that the simple, the ones that lack knowledge and understanding of the appeal of sexual sin, the embrace of sexual sin, the true nature of sexual sin, and the consequences of sexual sin, are the ones that succumb to sexual sin.

So, let’s incline our ears to the Word of God and listen to what our Lord has to say about sexual sin. This will lead, as the text says, to “discretion and guarding knowledge!” That phrase just means that we will be able to make the proper decisions in any given circumstance. . . even when the adulterous woman comes out to entice us and when sexual immorality is bidding us to partake in it. With that said, let’s begin gaining wisdom by looking at the initial appeal of sexual Immorality.

The Initial Appeal of Sexual Sin

The text quoted about said, “Her lips drip honey and her speech is smoother than oil.” The adulteress is revealing the very nature of sexual sin isn’t she? Sexual sin initially appears delightful, sweet, easy to partake in, and enjoyable. It is simply not like other sins in its appeal.

I mean, murder does not look sweet and delicious to the eyes. Theft does not come with a strong appeal of deep satisfaction. Dishonoring parents doesn’t look like honey to a hungry soul! This, however, is exactly what the adulterous woman looks like.

Sexual immorality initially seems to promise our soul many good things. It seems to present something that ought to be partaken in and delighted in. It looks like something to be enjoyed and gratified by. That is the nature of both the adulterous woman and sexual sin. In their initial appeal, they are very deceptive.

And sexual sin’s deception does not stop here. Solomon gives more insight throughout these chapters of the strong appeal that the adulterous woman has. In Proverbs 6:24-25, Solomon says that the adulterous woman has a smooth tongue, that she is beautiful, and that she has eyelashes that capture men. So, the adulterous has a smooth tongue. She has a way with words that strokes the male ego. She uses her voice in subtle ways to allure and persuade men. This is seen in Proverbs 7:21 as well when we read, “With much seductive speech she persuades him, with her smooth talk she compels him.”

She also has physical beauty that she uses to her own advantage as she seeks to draw men in. Chapter 7 says that, “She is dressed like a prostitute, wily of heart.” So, she dresses in a manner that reveals her desire for sexual intimacy. When men see her, they cannot help but think that she is interested in promiscuity.

And she has eyelashes that are captivating. So she shows men interest. She looks at them, shows interest in them, and goes out of her way to gain the their attention.

This is the initial appeal of the adulteress. This is what one sees from afar. This is what allures and tempts. And it is overwhelmingly appealing isn’t it? But, keep in mind, this is only its initial appeal. It is not what she truly is. Rather, she is incredibly crafty. That is why the Scripture says, “She is wily of heart.” She is cunning. She is a hunter dressed in camouflage waiting to kill her prey. This is why these chapters are so important for us. We must get wisdom in regards to sexual immorality’s initial appeal.

However, to know the initial appeal is not enough in and of itself. We also need wisdom in understanding sexual immorality’s initial embrace.

The Initial Embrace of Sexual Sin

For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness. And behold the woman meets him. (Proverbs 7:6-10)

This young man is simple. He is naïve. And, as if that weren’t bad enough, he also isn’t  around a bunch of men with wisdom. Rather, he’s among a bunch of youths that lack wisdom. So, he is ignorant and lacking sense and around others that are ignorant and lacking sense!

And look, he is headed to the adulteress’s street. He is taking the road to her house. And it is at night time when sexual immorality happens to be rampant. So, he is tempting the devil to tempt him. And, with this being the case, the adulterous woman comes out to meet him in order to tempt him sexually.

And think about the strength of this temptation. The naïve young man runs into the adulteress in the evening. Her lips are dripping honey and her speech is smoother than oil. She is beautiful and dressed in a way that shows her desire for sexual intimacy. She is looking at him in an alluring way showing him that she is interested in him. As you can tell, this is not good. This is just the initial appeal though. The initial embrace is even worse.

Proverbs 7:13-15 says, “She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him, ‘I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows; so now I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you.”

The lips that drip honey embrace the young man’s lips. This is a bold sexual encounter! And look, she begins to present herself, not as devoutly promiscuous woman that lives a life of unrestrained sexual immorality, but as a religious woman. She says, “I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows.” So, she has been to the temple to “offer up” sacrifices and vows to God.

But, let’s be honest, her heart is not set truly on God. Rather, she uses religion to her own advantage. She uses it to ease her conscience and also to woo her prey. So, she plays the hypocrite with God all the while she seduces man.

Still Seen Today (Excursus)

This mode of attack is still common today. There are many people out there that use Christianity to assuage their consciences. They live immorally, go to church to fill better about themselves, and then step back into a life of immorality.

And, both men and women, still masquerade as Christians all the while using it to their own advantage. They seek to woo a member of the opposite sex by their religiosity in order to get to their own end. They use religion to get the other person to let their guard down so that they can get them to fall into sexual sin with them. Do not be deceived by this!

Initial Embrace Continued

And then look, she tells the young man, “I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you.” Look at how crafty and manipulative she is. She is seeking to make him feel important. She wants him to feel special. She wants him to feel like he is the only one she intended to be with. But, as is apparent in the text, she has not really been seeking him at all. Proverbs 7:11-12 says, “She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait.”

So, in reality, she is always out and about just waiting for her next prey. This man is not special to her. She cannot reveal this truth though. She cannot embrace him as though he is merely prey. That would not be nearly as successful a strategy for her. Therefore, she embraces him like he is special. She embraces him like he is all she has ever desired.

And is this not the case even today. Whether it be in high school, college, or in your career, at the gym, church, or job, the people that are sexually promiscuous are good with their words. They know how to make a person feel incredibly important. They make people feel like they are the ones that they have been waiting for. They are sweet talkers and know exactly what to say.

But they are not doing this out of sincerity. They are doing this for their own end. . . and that end is immorality. So, look beyond the mere words of an individual. Look at the way of life. Look at holiness, godliness, and knowledge of the Bible. Don’t be easily led astray by mere words!

So, as you can see, the initial embrace of sexual immorality is daunting. It gets even worse though. Look at Proverbs 7:16-20 where she says:

I have spread my couch with coverings, colored linens from Egyptian linen; I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love till morning, let us delight ourselves with love. For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home.

The adulteress has been preparing for this moment. The bait has been set. The couch is covered, nice linens are spread out, the perfume has been poured on, the husband is not home, and no one will find out!

And notice how she says, “Come, let us take our fill of love till morning, let us delight ourselves in love.” She is tempting him to sexual immorality by presenting it as love! She is using the longing of the human heart, a desire to be loved, to manipulate her prey. This is a tactic that is both deceptive and successful. And then in verse 21 Solomon says, “With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him.”

So, this is the initial embrace of sexual sin! And it is very apparent, as we have seen, that the initial appeal and the initial embrace of sexual immorality are overwhelmingly powerful. It seems like sexual sin, for some reason, tends to carry a unique amount of both power and deception. With this being the case, we most certainly need to know the true nature of sexual sin. Thankfully Solomon gives us much detail regarding this.

The True Nature of Sexual Sin

But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. (Proverbs 5:4)

This is sexual sins end. The adulterous’ initial appeal distracts us from the end that she will bring. She promises sweet pleasure but, in the end, she is bitter as wormwood. She promises gratification and satisfaction but, in the end, she cuts like a two-edged sword.

I am telling you, before people partake in sexual sin, they are not thinking “What is this going to do to my soul, my spouse, my children, my reputation?” Rather, they are thinking, “Honey!” “Oil on the Lips!” “Satisfaction!” This is all they are thinking about. And, because of this, they are blinded to what will follow!

Also, look at Proverbs 5:5 where Solomon says,“Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it.”

This shows us how sexual sin has impacted the adulterous herself. I mean, she is walking in darkness. She is headed straight for death. Just look at how unrestrained sexual sin has destroyed her. She does not even think about living a holy or righteous life. She wanders, or is unstable, in her ways as she heads to judgment without even knowing it. It is as though her unrestrained sexual immorality has taken away any thought of God.

And this is the nature of sexual sin isn’t it? The longer one partakes in it, the harder their heart becomes. The longer sexual sin is indulged in, the less we think about the things of God. This is honestly why it is so foolish to say, “I will enjoy this sin for a season and then I will repent of it.” That is not how this works.

That view has the presupposition that we have mastered sin and that we can partake and repent of it any time that we desire. This is not true. It is a lie for the enemy of our souls. You see, biblically speaking, sin has mastered us and we are enslaved to it. The only hope that we can be released from its mastery is repentance (which is a gift of God) and faith in Jesus (who obliterated the dominating power of sin on the cross). And, from the Scripture, the longer you put off repentance, the less likely God will gift you with it. So, before you become like the adulterous woman, not even pondering the things of God and following the path leading to destruction, repent and turn to Jesus in faith.

Alright, Let’s continue looking at the true nature of sexual sin. Proverbs 5:7-14 says:

And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciful, less strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, ‘How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teacher or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.

Let’s focus on, “Lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless.” You see, through this act of sexual immorality your honor will be taken away. Just think about David. Wasn’t this true of him? He was a man after God’s own heart who served the Lord many years of his life, yet, bring up David’s name in mixed company and it is his adultery that is mentioned first. This is also the case with Samson and Solomon. These men are remembered more for their adultery than they are for their obedience. It’s clear, sexual sin of this sort will take away honor!

Moreover, Solomon says, “And your years will be given to the merciless.” You must know that people are a harsh. They are not merciful, forgiving, or gracious. When people hear that somebody has had an affair or committed sexual immorality of some sort, they will mock and slander your name. Just look at the newspaper headlines or gossip magazine covers. Affairs make the front page. People simply delight in being merciless.

Then he says, “Lest strangers take their fill of your strength and your labors go to the house of a foreigner.” So, oftentimes sexual sin of this sort (adultery) leads to poverty. Everything you have is taken away and given to a stranger. This is not always the case, but it is generally true. A season of financial hardship often comes on those who have affairs.

And then he says, “And at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, ‘how I hated discipline and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.’” Sexual sin has the tendency to destroy your conscience. As you see the devastating effects of such sin, you want to go back and take heed to the counsel you heard when you were younger, but it is too late. The flesh has been gratified, a life has been wasted, and death is right around the corner.

And lastly, look at how Solomon put the true nature of the adultery and sexual sin. Proverbs 7:23 says, “All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast, till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.” This is horrific. I mean, this sin is bitter as wormwood and sharper than a two-edged sword. It takes away honor, leads people to be merciless towards you, it destroys your conscience, and it often times enraptures its victim so much so that it leads to eternal death. It will cost you your life!

And even though this sin is this destructive, because of its initial appeal and initial embrace, it destroys many people! Solomon says in Proverbs 7:25-27, “Let not your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way of Sheol, going to down to the chambers of death.”

This sin has brought down Samson, David, and Solomon. Sexual sin brings down pastors, theologians, seminary professors, seminarians, CEO’s, doctors, politicians, teachers, etc. It brings down both the wealthy and the poor, the wise and the ignorant, Christians and non-christians, men and women, young and old. It is bringing down people left and right in our day. Sexual sin’s victims are a mighty throng. It continues to slay thousands upon thousands!

And since this is the true nature of sexual sin, we need to know how to die to this most deadly vice!

How to Die to Sexual Sin

First, stay away from it! Proverbs 6:8 says, “Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house.” This shows the strong nature of sexual sin doesn’t it? It is something that we must avoid all together. We must not even get close to it, for in getting close to it, we will find ourselves in its trap.

It is remarkable how, all to often, this simple warning is not heeded. People trifle with sexual sin as though it isn’t that dangerous! They fool themselves by saying:

  • “I can get close to it but not completely succumb to it.”
  • “I can do this or that and it will not affect me.”
  • “I can view this website without going to that website.”
  • “I can go to this party without doing this particular thing.”
  • “I can date this particular guy without giving in like his last girlfriend.”
  • “I can develop a really close friendship with a co-worker of the opposite sex without getting involved emotionally or sexually.”
  • “I can watch this particular movie without succumbing to lust.”

All the while, Solomon is pleading with his son to stay FAR away from the adulterous. . . . do not even go NEAR her house!

With that said, it really is sad that this disposition of the heart towards sexual sin is not seen in our day. We simply play around with it not thinking that we will succumb to it. All the while our fragile self-control falls apart and we end up on the path to destruction. . . like a city with broken down walls.

Secondly, rid yourselves of lust. Proverbs 6:25 says, “Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes.” This is sexual sin in its beginning. It is desiring her beauty in your heart. Therefore, repent of lust and seek to purify your mind by saturating yourself with the things of God and thoughts about Christ.

Thirdly, gain wisdom. These three passages are filled with exhortations to gain wisdom, knowledge, and understanding so that we can have discretion. Therefore, study up on sin. Read books about sin and how we are to kill it.

Fourthly, understand one of God’s providential means to keep you from sexual sin. Proverbs 6:15-20 says:

Drink water from you own cistern, flowing water from you own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?

Pertaining to this passage, Ray Ortlund says:

And God is saying, “Satisfy your thirst through lovemaking with your wife.” Look what the Lord is not saying. He is not saying, “There’s temptation out there? Then what you need is a will of iron. You need steely determination. So here is your future—endless frustration bottled up inside.” Obviously we all need self-control if we are going to have emotional structures above a five-year-old level. Verse 23 warns against a ‘lack of discipline.’ But God’s remedy for your thirst for sex is sex, overflowing sexual joy with your wife. That is what he means in verse 15 by ‘your own cistern’ and ‘your own well.’ Your wife is your own personal and private, divinely approved wellspring of endless sexual satisfaction.

So, understand that God is not some kill joy that is forbidding you to enjoy your natural God-given desire for sex. Rather, He is a gracious God that has given you the institution of marriage for the regular satifaction of those desires with your spouse!

Lastly, a greater view of the worth of Christ. Thomas Chalmers said this in a sermon titled The Expulsive Power of a New Affection: 

In a word, if the way to disengage the heart from the positive love of one great and ascendant object, is to fasten it in positive love to another, then it is not by exposing the worthlessness of the former, but by addressing to the mental eye the worth and excellence of the latter, that all old things are to be done away and all things are to become new.

Chalmers is saying that our hearts are often engaged in a positive love for a great and ascendant object that has our affections. In our case, it would be sexual immorality. And the way to disengage our hearts from this object, sexual immorality, is to expose our hearts and affections to something far more worthy and excellent. Thus, we need our affections set on something that is far superior, satisfying, and glorious than sexual sin. Thus, we need to set our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ.

If we want to rid ourselves of sexual immorality, we must set our hearts and affections on Christ. We must always seek to be getting an education in his infinite worth and value. We need to understand that He is a fountain of living water that satisfies the weary soul. We need to see him as the eternal Son of God reigning in glory with His Father. We need to see him as the meek and sacrificial lamb that takes away the sins of the world. We need to see him weeping at the tomb of Lazarus. We need to see Him on the cross, bleeding, and dying as a substitute for sinners. We need to see him resurrecting in glory, restoring Peter, teaching the multitudes, and then ascending into heavens. We need to see him in heaven right now, interceding for us and being a faithful high priest on our behalf. And, when we see Christ, an object of more worth than a billion worlds, our hearts will be drawn from sexual sin and enraptured in Him. This is the key to killing this deadly sin.

Why Trials?

Introduction

I recently read a book written by Thomas Boston titled The Crook in the Lot. The term “lot” refers to the whole of one’s life. The term “crook” refers to a trial that one faces in life. Boston’s purpose in writing the book was to give a theology of trials. From reading Boston’s book, I think it would be beneficial for us to think through the purpose of trials as well.

A trial is a problem, hardship, affliction, or difficulty given to us by God. And below, I just want to walk through some (not all) of the reasons God providentially gives us trials in this life. I mean, if God is sovereign and infinitely wise, then the trials He gives are purposeful. Therefore, we need to know some of these purposes so that we can count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds (James 1:2). Let’s begin.

The Trial of One’s State

God will providentially send a trial our way to test whether we are genuine Christians or religious hypocrites. Just think back to Job’s trial. When the Lord mentioned Job’s name to Satan, Satan responded saying, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land” (Job. 1:9-10). Satan was arguing that the only reason Job’s faith in God was seemingly strong was because God had generously blessed him with a multiplicity of good gifts. Satan is going to go on to argue that, if the Lord were to take away all of these good gifts, Job would evidence that he did not have a genuine faith. So, if all these blessings were taken away then Job would show that he did not fear God simply because God was God but only because God had blessed him. With that in mind, Satan said, “But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face” (Job 1:11). And, as you are well aware, the Lord did stretch out his hand against Job and Job evidenced the genuineness of his faith by fearing God for no reason.

However, not everybody is like Job. Not everybody has a genuine faith. Some people, in the midst of a trial, evidence their religious hypocrisy. This is seen in the parable of the sower. People that originally received the word of Christ with joy eventually went through trials that led them to fall away from the faith (Mt. 13:21). So, it is evident that trials test one’s spiritual state. They evidence sincerity of faith or religious hypocricy.

Weans Us from the World

This wicked world system is under the rule of the Prince of the power of the air. Satan, that evil ancient serpent is the god of this world. And the consistent teaching of the Scriptures is that Christians are pilgrims, sojourners, strangers, and aliens in this world. Thus, our citizenship is not in this world. Rather, we are citizens of the kingdom of heaven. And, as citizens of the kingdom of heaven, we are to journey through this dark world seeking to let the light of the gospel shine through us so that God might be glorified.

However, as we look at our own lives, it is apparent that we do not always do this. Often times we, as strangers of this world, seek to take up residency here. We become all too at home in this world that is at enmity with God and under the power of the evil one. We begin to over indulge in leisure, entertainment, comfort, prosperity, etc. We quit living with gospel urgency and begin to walk in complacency, indifference, and apathy. The thought of the New Jerusalem begins to leave our minds and we begin to live for the kingdom of this world.

It is at this moment that the Lord will providentially give us a trial to wean us from this world. He will gently remind us that this is not our home and that we are to be looking forward to, “The city that has solid foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). Simply put, trials wean us from this world and place our minds on eternal things.

Conviction of Sin

Trials will often serve as a memorial in remembering former sins. They are like the ex-high school football player that continues to have knee problems into his fifties and sixties. Every time he feels an ache in his knee, he is reminded of his high school football days. In a similar vein, the Lord will providentially give us trials to serve as reminders of previous sins that we have committed so that we will not fall into these same sins again.

For example, Joseph’s brothers probably would not have thought much about selling their brother into slavery had it not been for the famine in the land that forced them to go to Egypt in order to get food. However, upon enduring famine, going to Egypt, and enduring other hardships, they were forced to say, “We are guilty concerning our brother,” as well as “God has found out the iniquity of your servants” (Gen. 42:21; 44:16).

Also, Job would not have thought much about the sins of his youth had the Lord not stretched out his hand against him. But since the Lord stretched out his hand, Job said, “For you write down bitter things against me and make me reap the sins of my youth (Job 13:26). Thus, trials sometimes serve as a memorial. They make us recall certain sins that we formerly committed so that we might remember them afresh and make efforts not to commit them again.

Correction, or Consequences of Sin

Every good father disciplines their children for wrongdoing. Each father does this for their children’s good. They want their children to learn that wrongdoing is unhealthy, and that doing right is healthy. So, if this is the case with a good father then how much more will our heavenly Father discipline the children whom he has adopted. When we sin, God will most assuredly discipline us so that we may share in his holiness and righteousness (Heb. 12:10-11).

Also, and this is incredibly important to understand, though our sin has been forgiven and we have been credited with the righteousness of Christ, God will still give us trials and hardships as consequences for sins that we have committed. One of the most beautiful verses in Scripture is found directly after David committed some of the most heinous sins that one can commit (adultery and murder). In 2 Samuel 12:13, David says to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan responds to David saying, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” The Lord graciously put away David’s sin. That is simply remarkable. However, we must not miss what else the Lord said. The Lord also said to David, “The child who is born to you shall die,” and “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from you house.” Those are two major consequences for David’s sins. Thus, David’s sins were covered, yet he was going to endure consequences for the sins that he had committed.

So, you can repent of sin, be forgiven of sin, and not have to worry about eternal wrath, yet still face certain earthly consequences for sin. This is just of God. Consequences for sin is way different than condemnation for sin.

Reveals Dormant Corruption

All of us have certain corruptions that are not lying dormant within us. And by that, I mean sins that we, as well as others around us, are very much aware that we are committing because it is outwardly apparent. We see them. Others see them. Everybody sees them. Therefore, we are able to acknowledge it, repent of it, and then seek to put it to death.

There are other corruptions that lie dormant within us. And by that, I mean certain areas of sinfulness that we are not committing at the time, but are most certainly capable of committing when the right buttons are pushed! So, we are sinful in these areas, but certain things have not happened in our lives that bring out our sinfulness. And, as you can tell, this is not a good place to be. It is not good to have dormant corruption within us that we are unaware of. If we are unaware of this corruption then we are unable to acknowledge it, repent of it, and then seek to put it to death.

With that in mind, sometimes our Heavenly Father will give us a trial to bring this dormant corruption to light. For example, think about the meek and humble Moses. Who would have thought he would have been capable of becoming so angry and bitter? Who would have thought that he would be able to speak so rashly? Yet, that was dormant corruption within him, and, because of the stubborn Israelites, it rose to the top and became apparent (Ps. 106-32-33; Num. 20:13).

The Exercise of Grace

There are certain graces that cannot be exercised apart from some trial. Two of these graces would be patience and steadfastness. These graces are only manifested in the midst of a trial. Therefore, the Lord will providentially give us a trial so that we can exercise these graces. He will give us a co-worker that is not that delightful to be around so that we can exercise our patience in order to demonstrate to the world around us that we are a different. Or, if you are a pastor, he may give you an unruly church member so that you can exercise patience in order to demonstrate to the church what it looks like to be long-suffering.

With that said, there is a reason we look at the humility and meekness of Moses and regard it as something to imitate. I mean, he was with an irritable and quarrelsome people that would have drove us crazy! Praise God Moses was able to show humility and meekness (most of the time) in the midst of that trial. Also, there is a reason we look at the patience of Job every time we are enduring a hardship in this life. The guy was patient and steadfast through some of the most horrific trials that one could ever endure. Praise God that Job was plunged into those trials and was able to exercise patience and steadfastness in a way that has benefitted the church for thousands of years! Thus, trials show certain graces that bring remarkable glory to God.

Conclusion

As Christians, we ought to take comfort in these truths. A season of barrenness is not purposeless. A nagging co-worker is not meaningless. A rebellious child is not fruitless. Cancer is not valueless. They all serve a purpose. As a refiner places his silver into the fire to achieve the good purpose he has, so the Sovereign God of creation places his children through trials to achieve the good purpose he has. This is a truth we are to take comfort in. This is why we can count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds.

 

 

Unreasonable Ambition

Wisdom from Spurgeon

The other day, I was reading through some notes that I had taken before I taught a biographical teaching on Charles Spurgeon to the college ministry. As I was reading, I ran across a quote that I believe is particularly helpful for Christians in every age group. Spurgeon said, “Many of our young folks want to commence their service for Christ by doing great things, and therefore do nothing at all; let none of my readers become the victims of such an unreasonable ambition.”

Why This is True

The reason I think this is a helpful quote is because it really presents a timeless truth. Far too many Christians, especially within the younger generation, really do want to begin their service for Christ by doing something great. They are always talking about possibly going to seminary to learn more theology so that they can train up pastors overseas, pastor a church, plant a church, become a missionary, open up an orphanage, end sex trafficking, etc.

I have personally heard this kind of thinking often as I have interned in a student ministry, attended seminary, and served in college ministry throughout my 20s. I have heard numerous youth tell me that they were going to be missionaries or pastors. I have talked to numerous college students that talk about how, after they graduate, they are going to go overseas to an unreached people group and risk imprisonment and death in order to share the gospel with people who have never heard about Jesus. I have had numerous people tell me that they were going to finish up seminary and then go do missions in the Middle East, China, or South America. Some seminarians talk zealously about how they are going to plant churches in major cities for the sake of Christ. There just seems to be a thought process within the younger generation related to doing great and magnificent things for Christ.

And, do not get me wrong, some of this thinking is fine. It is admirable to want to do great and magnificent things for Christ! However, as Spurgeon said, it is an “unreasonable ambition” if this is how you think that you are going to begin your service to Christ.

People do not begin their service to Christ by doing these great and magnificent things. That is not how this whole Christian walk thing works. It would be like a person wanting to commence their discipline of running by running a marathon, or somebody wanting to commence their work career as the CEO of a major Fortune 500 company. This type of thinking lacks wisdom. We know that you cannot commence the discipline of running by starting out with a marathon, and that you cannot commence your work career by starting out as the CEO of a major Fortune 500 company. This is the same with serving Christ. It is not as though we can go throughout high school, college, or seminary doing nothing (or very little) for Christ and then, upon graduation, go do something great and magnificent for Christ.

And the practical evidence that this is an unreasonable ambition is because many of the individuals that I have heard make these types of comments have went on to do other things than the great and magnificent things that they were intending on doing. I have seen some of them quit attending church. I have seen some go on to a fine career where they make a lot of money. I have seen some settle into an average career. And the reason for this is because, though they had an ambition to do something great and magnificent for Christ, they never understood the importance of doing everything for Christ.

Sure, they had a hopeful ambition to go evangelize the lost in another country, but they were not consistently seeking to evangelize their neighbor. They were desirous to preach the word, but they would not consistently read the word. They were zealous to plant a church, but they were not willing to serve in children’s ministry. They wanted to pastor a mega church, but they didn’t want to teach the gospel to children. They wanted to engage an unreached people group risking imprisonment and death, but they wouldn’t pick up loose paper lying around in the sanctuary after a Sunday morning service. They hoped to one day do great and magnificent things, but they never started being faithful in small, mundane things. And since this is the case, they will ultimately end up doing nothing. They will do nothing for Christ now, and they will do nothing for Christ in the years to come. This is sad!

Application

We must not fall for this unreasonable ambition. Rather, let us aspire to do great and magnificent things for Christ, but let us aspire to do those great and magnificent things for Christ as we faithfully yield the whole of our lives (even in the small and mundane things) in faithful obedience to Jesus now. And, as we do this, the Lord will be preparing more and more service opportunities for us to steward for his glory! This is how the Christian life works. The reward for faithfulness in ministry is greater opportunities for faithfulness in ministry (Luke 19:15-27). May we seek to commence our service to Christ with this in mind.

The Destructive Power of Sinful Anger

Our hearts are deceitful, sin is deceptive, and the ancient serpent that wages war against our souls is crafty. This is a recipe for disaster. That is why it is so helpful to look after one another, study sin, and be aware of the ways of the evil one.

With that said, the specific sin that I want to look at today is anger. I just want us to briefly think through the destructive power of sinful anger. My hope is that this will help us to, by the power of the Spirit, put this sin to death.

Why Sinful Anger is so Destructive

First, the sin of anger is so destructive because it tends to quickly manifest itself outwardly for all to see.

Proverbs 14:29 “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.”

I like how the NIV interprets “exalts” here as “displays.” I think this is exactly what is being revealed here. Somebody with a hasty temper displays to the public that they are foolish (lacking wisdom). With that in mind, Proverb 14:17 says, “A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated” (Proverbs 14:17).

So, Proverbs is revealing that sinful anger tends to manifest itself outwardly rather quickly. Now, all sin is like this to an extent. All sin, the longer is partaken in, usually becomes more and more manifest to the public’s eye. For example, lust usually begins with the mind. An individual begins to think inappropriately. Before long it begins to be a sin committed with the eyes. So, a person begins to have eyes full of lust and is looking inappropriately at women or men. Then, after a while, lust begins to manifest itself physically. The individual has less and less sexual restraint. Lastly, the sin of lust begins to manifests itself in ways that you never would have imagined. . . . sexual immorality, enslavement to pornography, an affair on your spouse, etc.

This is simply how sin is. And though this is generally true of all sin, it really does seem like sinful anger is a sin that is prone to manifest itself to the public a bit quicker than other sins. There is something about the intense emotions that come with anger that leads it to quickly escalate.

And, even as I say that, you know exactly what I am talking about. Think about the times that you have been angry and then said or did something that you immediately regretted. For example, when I played baseball, I would literally see guys goofing off before an at bat. Then, during the at bat, they would strike out. They would get angry because their pride was shot. They would then come into the dugout, throw their helmet down, throw their bat down, and punch the bench. They would literally break their hand punching the bench (I am not kidding)! And, just remember, they were goofing off three minutes prior to breaking their hand.

Or just think about how quickly people get upset at another driver on the road and then say something verbally or do something physically that is completely out of character for them.

These are just examples from everyday life. The Bible gives us numerous evidences of this truth as well. Cain was filled with anger and killed his brother. Haman was filled with anger and sought to kill Mordecai. King Saul was filled with anger and sought to kill David. The meek and gentle Moses was filled with bitterness and anger at Israel’s complaining and then struck the rock twice when God had only commanded him to speak to it. Jonah was filled with anger and said that it would be better for him to die.

It is just apparent that anger tends to manifest itself in outward ways rather quickly. This, in turn, brings reproach to Christ and misrepresents the God whom we serve. For the God whom we serve is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love!

Secondly, since the sin of anger tends to manifest itself publicly rather quickly, it always brings about harm to our neighbor.

Now, it is important to note that this is generally true of all sin as well. The more public a sin is, the more it harms your neighbor. For example, if I covet, or earnestly desire my neighbor’s things, then I have sinned. However, since I coveted them, but did not steal them, my neighbor is not necessarily affected by my sin. Now, if I were to covet my neighbor’s possessions and then begin to steal them, then my neighbor would be directly affected by my sin.

For another example, just think about King David. When he should have been off at war, he was roaming around on the roof of his palace. Upon roaming around, he noticed Bathsheba bathing. If he would have noticed her and then lusted after her in his heart, he would have most certainly been in sin, but she, nor her husband, would have been impacted by his sin.

However, we see that David did not just see and lust after Bathsheba. Rather, he lusted and then sent his servant to bring Bathsheba to him. In doing this, David’s sin caused greater and greater damage to his neighbors. It hurt David himself, Bathsheba, Uriah (her husband), and honestly the entire kingdom of Israel. So, the more public a sin is, the more harm it usually does to our neighbors.

And I think that anger, since it quickly manifests itself to the public, tends to harm our neighbors a great deal. And practically, we know that this is true. You get angry at your parents, so you say something to them that is hateful causing them much anguish. You get upset with your boyfriend or girlfriend and say something to them that you would not have said in a thousand years had you been in your right mind. You are driving down the road and a car cuts you off making you fume with anger. As you fume with anger, you make a hand gesture that you haven’t made in three years. The list can go on and on. Sinful anger simply destroys our neighbors.

This is why you have Proverbs that say things like:

Proverbs 15:18 “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”

Proverbs 29:22 “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.”

So, this is the second reason sinful anger is so destructive. It always brings about harm to your neighbor!

Thirdly, the sin of anger has a tendency to rub off on the people closest to you. So, if you are an angry person then you’ll usually begin seeing the people around you be angry people.

Listen to what this Proverb says:

Proverbs 22:24-25 “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.

Anger is repulsive. It is a heinous sin. It is absolutely dreadful to be caught in the thicket of, and to see it from afar shows the sheer ugliness of it. Yet, somehow, if we are around it enough, we grow a bit angrier as well. It is as though the sin of anger is a contagion and if we are around it long enough, we too will get it. Listen to what Charles Bridges says about all this:

Common intercourse with a furious man is like living in a house that is on fire. His unreasonable conduct stirs our own tempers. One fire kindles another. Occasional bursts of passion soon form the habit. The habit becomes the nature. Thus we learn his ways, and get a snare to our soul.

So, he is saying, to befriend a person that is given to anger will lead us to have our anger stirred up as well. Then, if this happens frequently, we will make anger a habit. That’s a dreadful thought.

With this in mind, Bridges ends saying, “We learn anger easier than meekness. We convey disease, not health. Hence it is the rule of self-preservation, no less than the rule of God—Make no friendship with an angry man.”

Bridges is saying, for the sake of preserving your own soul, do not befriend somebody that is constantly given to anger. So, this is the third reason the sin of anger is so destructive. It tends to lead those around you to be angry as well.

Lastly, sinful anger tends to stay with us for a long time.

You see, there is something about the sin of anger that tends to stick with us for a while. I mean, let’s be honest, we rarely ever get angry and then quickly get over it. Rather, anger  stays with us a while, increases in its severity, and causes us to do or say things that we should not do or say.

With that in mind, think about this instruction from Ecclesiastes:

Ecclesiastes 7:9 “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.”

So, a wise person may get angry, but they do not let anger reside within them letting it build up. They do not allow it to consistently grow and fester within them. The fool, however, does! He allows anger to lodge in his heart letting it impact all that he does and says. This is one of the reasons that the Apostle Paul commands the church in Ephesus saying, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:26).

So, that is the fourth and last reason the sin of anger is so destructive. Sinful anger tends to stay with us for a while.

Conclusion

So, may we, as Christians, be slow to anger (James 1:19). May we realize that one of the very reasons we are saved is because we serve a gracious God who was and is incredibly patient and slow to anger with us. Seriously, many of us rebelled against God for decades. Let that sink in. We opposed Him for years. We affronted His glory time after time. However, He was slow to anger with us. He was patiently enduring our hard heartedness until we came to repentance and faith in Christ. That is remarkable.

And, as Christians, we ought to imitate that. We ought to be slow to anger as well. For, as is evident from the points mentioned above, sinful anger is destructive. It does not represent the God whom we serve, it does not do any good to our neighbors, nor does it do any spiritual good to us personally. So, by the power of the Spirit, let’s put sinful anger to death to the glory of God.

 

We, Too, Shall Rise

Today is Easter Sunday. Many Christians all over the world are going to gather together to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In light of this, I just wanted to write a blog about how our resurrection is directly tied to the resurrection of Christ. In other words, because our Lord rose from the dead, we too shall rise from the dead. This is clearly seen throughout the Bible, but it is most clearly seen in 1 Corinthians 15.

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul even tells us what our resurrection bodies are going to be like. And let’s just say it is absolutely glorious and should leave us filled with hope. But before we get to the description of the resurrection body, let’s get some context.

Context

The people within Corinth were denying a physical resurrection body. They were saying that Christ had been raised from the dead, but that we will not be raised from the dead. This is why Paul says, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor. 15:12)? Those in Corinth could not wrap their minds around the fact that we are going to have a physical resurrection body because the belief of their day was that the flesh was evil, and that the spirit was good. Therefore, they believed that death was the moment their spirit was liberated from this evil flesh so that it could then go into heaven to be with Jesus forever.

Throughout 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is destroying their unbiblical thinking! He begins by saying that the most important aspect of his teaching was that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and then resurrected bodily (1 Cor. 15:3). Then he shows the Corinthians that many people witnessed Christ’s resurrection body (1 Cor. 15:5-9). He moves from there to explain to them that if there is no resurrection of the dead then not even Christ has been raised from the dead, and that if Christ is not raised from the dead then everything we do is in vain (1 Cor. 15:12-19). That is a dreadful thought!

Praise God that this is not the case though. Christ most certainly rose from the dead and because He rose from the dead, we too will rise from the dead. He is the first-fruits of the resurrection. So, Christ first and then we who are in Christ later on (1 Cor. 15:20-23). Then Paul pretty much says, “Since my resurrection is absolutely tied to the resurrection of Christ, I risk my life every single day for Christ’s sake, and so should you. So wake up Corinthians” (1 Cor. 15:30-34)!

After this, Paul is supposing that there is going to be some wise guy among the Corinthians that will ask a question at this point saying, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come? How in the world does a rotten and decayed corpse resurrect? That would be a bit ridiculous and horrifying!” (1 Cor. 15:35). Paul responds, “You foolish person! This is not far-fetched so quit talking like it would be! This kind of thing happens all the time. What you sow does not come to life unless it dies” (1 Cor. 15:36).

Then Paul gives the Corinthians a lesson in agriculture. He basically tells them to go to the farmer and watch him sow seed. That seed he sows goes into the ground where it then dies and begins to decay, and from that decay comes a beautiful harvest! So, that stock of wheat that sprouts from the ground comes from the seed you sowed. Therefore, there is continuity between the seed and the stock of wheat. However, there is difference as well. That wheat sure looks different than the seed. And this is how the resurrection works. Our current body is the seed, and the resurrection body is what this body will be. There will be continuity. I will be Philip! It will be this body that I am in as I am typing this blog. However, there will be a difference. The body that is to be will be way better than this current body!

After this, Paul tells them to look at the many different bodies that we see on a day to day basis. Look at the body of a human, the body of a fish, and the body of a bird. They all have different bodies. God does this intentionally and easily. Then Paul tells them to look at the stars in the heavens. Stars differ from stars in glory (1 Cor. 15:41). Some are big and some are small. Some are brighter than others. They simply have different glory. So, the key here is to understand that God gives different bodies for different reasons! He then uses all this to tell us that this is how it will be with the resurrection of the dead. This body that we are currently in is what God has sown and it is made for this world. However, the body that will resurrect, though it will have continuity with this current body, will also be different and made for the world that is to come. Then Paul explains what he means, which, in my opinion, is one of the most incredible teachings in all the Bible!

1 Cor. 15:42 “What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.”

Now many of us do not think about this body that we currently have as being perishable, but I am telling you, your body is perishable. The older you get the more this verse will resonate with you. You might begin having a receding hair line, your teeth will begin to decay, and your bones will begin to ache. Some of you, undoubtedly, will be diagnosed with a terminal disease that makes your body wither like a fall leaf as it approaches winter. And those of you who are most healthy, and remain relatively healthy, will ultimately breathe your last breath and be lowered six feet beneath the surface of the earth with the rest of the dead. And even after that, your body will continue to perish as worms and maggots feast on your flesh until nothing but bone is left. This is how God has made this earthly body that we have. He has sown a body that is perishable.

However, this perishable body that we have will be resurrected as an imperishable body. It will be a body that will never notice the beginning of a receding hair line and never feel the effects of a rotting tooth. This resurrection body will have ears that never lose their capacity to hear. You will never have to hear a doctor as he gives a diagnosis for a terminal disease. This imperishable body will never see a coffin again, nor will it ever have to frequent a cemetery. It will never have to mourn at the loss of a loved one. No, God is going to give us a body that will be imperishable. And after 10,000 years of enjoying perfect fellowship with Jesus and other believers on the New Earth in this imperishable body, we will look as we first did when we rose up out of the grave. As Spurgeon puts it, “In heaven every nerve of the new body shall cry, ‘Immortality.’”

1 Corinthians 15:43 “It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory.”

So this body is dishonorable. It has lost its state of honor and dignity. This has come about because of Adam’s sin in the beginning. And to get an idea of just how dishonorable this body is, think about this: God gave us this body to honor him, but we have used it to perpetually sin against him. In perpetually sinning against him, we waged war against Him with the very body he gave us. Then, while we were at enmity with him, God, in His great love for us, reconciled us to Himself through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. And even after He justified us, adopted us, and placed His Holy Spirit in us, we still sinned against him. Then, after years and years of walking with Christ and progressively being made holy by the Spirit, we will continue to commit sins against our heavenly Father. Sadly, even up to the moment of death, we are going to be dishonoring God with some type of sin. This body is sown in dishonor.

However, this dishonorable body is going to be raised a glorious body that does not even conceive of sinning against our Heavenly Father or our blessed Savior. Rather, we are going radiate with the glory of God. We are going shine like the brightness of the sky above, like the stars in the heavens (Dn. 12:3). And like Christ said, “The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father” (Mt. 13:43). This dishonorable body that will return to dust, will rise forth like the morning sun radiating the glory of God forever more. As John Newton says in his hymn:

When we’ve been there ten thousand years

Bright shining as the sun.

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise

Then when we’ve first begun.

1 Corinthians 15:43 “It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.”

This body that God has sown is also weak. We get wearied and tired easily. We run a mile and are worn out. We put in a day’s worth of work and need to go to bed. We study for a test and we get mentally exhausted. Another aspect of this is that we seek to work hard, our bodies get tired, and we end up injuring something. We play baseball, get hit by a pitch, and end up bruising. And when we are near the end of this life, we are so weak that we cannot take care of our self. Other people have to tend to us. And the ultimate weakness of this body is most evident when we die, for we cannot even bury ourselves, our family and friends must do it for us!

But this weak body that God has sown is going to be raised up a powerful body. You will be able to run miles upon miles without growing weary. You will be able to work for years upon years without growing faint. In all your endeavors, you will neither wear out nor give out. Your body will be able to do anything that your mind conceives of. If your mind looks at the highest mountain and desires to climb it, your body will prove to be powerful enough to do it. If your mind looks down into a deep valley and desires to scale it, your body will prove powerful enough to do it. And after you do all that your mind conceives of, your body will be ready to go again. Exhaustion and fatigue will be a foreign concept to one who’s body has been raised in power!

1 Corinthians 15:44 “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”

Now the meaning of this is best revealed in the next few verses, but for the sake of time I just want to sum up what is being said here. The body that we have now is a natural body. It is like Adam’s body in every way. What that means is that this natural body is made for this earth. So, we can put it like this: the natural body is made for the natural realm. Though this body works for us here, it will not work for us in the life that is to come when we are on the New Earth.

Since this is the case, our resurrection body will be a spiritual body. God will graciously give us a spiritual body for the spiritual realm. It will be like the resurrection body of Jesus Christ. Christ’s resurrection body was wonderful. He could eat and drink. He could touch and be touched. And he could also walk through walls and ascend into the heavens! Now we do not know exactly how much our resurrection body will be like Christ’s resurrection body. Christ may be able to do more with his resurrection body than we will be able to do with ours. However, we do know with utmost certainty that our resurrection body will be like His to some extent. That alone is enough to bring great yearning!

So this is the resurrection body that God has promised to his people. Therefore, if you are a child of God, this is the resurrection body that you are guaranteed by a loving God who cannot lie! With that in mind, think about this quote from Thomas Watson, “The body shall rise again; we are not so sure to rise out of our beds—as we are to rise out of our graves.”

Application

There are many ways to apply this. Paul applies this passage beautifully in verse 58 when he says, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” In other words, if this is the truth about the resurrection of the dead, you should always be overflowing in good works that bring glory to God and honor to Christ.

I want to apply this with a story from church history that I think is incredibly powerful. Martin Luther, the German reformer, had a little 14-year-old daughter named Magdalena that he loved dearly. As a plague was making its way through Germany, Magdalena fell into its grasp. This was one of the lowest points in Luther’s life.

Watching his little 14-year-old daughter suffer from this deadly plague was hard for him. He was constantly petitioning God to take away her pain. And then, one day, the Lord did just that by way of death. His little girl breathed her last breath, and Magdalena went home to her Heavenly Father while her earthly father wept by her bedside. Luther was absolutely devastated, but he still had an incredible hope. And that hope was in the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. When the carpenters were nailing down the lid of Magdalena’s coffin, he screamed, “Hammer away! On doomsday she’ll rise again.” You see, Luther knew that, because of Christ’s resurrection, Magdalena’s cold, lifeless body was also going to rise up an imperishable, glorious, powerful, and spiritual body with every nerve shouting immortality! Such is the hope that the resurrection of the dead brings.