It’s God’s Fault

“When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, 

his heart rages against the Lord.”

Proverbs 19:3

In the beginning, God made us upright (Genesis 1:26; Ecclesiastes 7:29). Ever since the fall of Adam, however, we have inherited a sin nature (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:19). With this sin nature, we live out folly. According to the book of Proverbs, folly is what happens when we act without heavenly wisdom and knowledge – it is what happens when we give full reign to our sinful passions and begin to obey them (Proverbs 5:23; 12:23; 13:15; 14:1). And though living in folly may lead to momentary pleasure at times (Hebrews 11:25), it ultimately leads to ruin (Proverbs 19:3). This is clearly seen in the first three chapters of Genesis.

Adam’s Folly Leads to Ruin

God created Adam and Eve to be vice regents, to rule over the world, and to exercise a god-like dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28-30). At the outset of their rule, however, God gave them one prohibition. God prohibited Adam and Eve from eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17). This prohibition was wisely given by God in order to keep Adam and Eve in their proper place. As they functioned as vice-regents of the world, this prohibition reminded them that they were not THE REGENT of the world. It reminded them that they were always to use their kingly rule in a way that honored the one true king, the Lord God Almighty.

Before long, though, the tempter came tempting Eve to disobey this wise prohibition that God had given to her husband (Genesis 3:1-5). I mean, why be a vice regent when you could usurp God’s regency and become THE REGENT? The more Eve thought about this, the more her eyes were captivated by the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She saw that the forbidden fruit was “good for food” and “desirable to the eyes” (Genesis 3:6). 

Desiring to have this luscious fruit burst in her mouth, she disobeyed God’s command, laid hold of the fruit, and partook of it (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:6). As the juices landed on her palate, she enjoyed the savory flavor. She then took the forbidden fruit and handed it to Adam. Adam, too, acted without heavenly wisdom and knowledge. He foolishly took the fruit from Eve’s hand and began to partake in it himself (Genesis 3:6). Little did they know, though, that their foolishness had already begun to lead to their ruin. Though they thought this would allow them to usurp God’s regency, it ultimately led to their alienation from God.

His Heart Rages Against the Lord

Not long after this the Lord approached them in the garden of Eden in the cool of the day. At this point, it would have been wise for the heart of Adam to rage against itself. After all, it was Adam’s own folly that led to his own ruin. Therefore, he should have expressed displeasure in himself, humbled himself, turned away from his sin, and turned to the Lord. Sadly, this is not what happened.

Rather than raging against himself, Adam’s cold dead heart raged against the Lord . . . . just as our proverb above talks about. Even though he was the very author of his own ruin and misery, he laid the charge against God. When the Lord approached Adam inquiring about what had happened with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam blamed the Lord for his very own foolishness by saying, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12). This shows “the foolishness of Adam! First he perverted his way; then he charged upon God its bitter fruit.”

Still True Today

As we saw above, our proverbial teaching is perfectly illustrated in the life of Adam. And even though we are far removed from Adam, this proverbial teaching captures exactly how we are prone to respond when our own folly leads to our own ruin. When we begin to suffer some of the ruin that was inevitable based off the sin we were indulging in, our first sinful inclination is to rage against God. We want to blame and be embittered towards the Lord. This is not the way of wisdom.

When we endure any type of ruin, heavenly wisdom would have us examine ourselves to see if there was any known foolishness that led to this ruin. If we discover that our own folly led to this particular ruin in our lives, we ought to repent of our sin, turn to the Lord, and plead for His mercy and grace. This will keep us from raging against the Lord when we should be sorrowfully raging against our own hearts.

Hear Both Sides!

“The one who states his case first seems right, 

until the other comes and examines him.”

(Proverbs 18:17)

Within our sin nature, that old self that we inherited from Adam, there is a tendency to deceive others. This is especially true when we state our case to other people with the aim of getting them to agree with us about someone that we are not particularly happy with.

In an intense desire to get somebody to agree with us, we passionately pour out our case to others. Our hope is that they will see that we are in the right and that the other person is in the wrong. We want them to join us. We want them to defend us and accuse the other person. We passionately want other people to begin viewing us as the innocent party and the other person as the guilty party.

We Seem Right

However, in doing so, we deceptively and perhaps unconsciously “cast a shade over, or even omit, what might seem to balance on the opposite side.” Because we are so zealous in our effort to get others to agree with our case, we deceptively portray the other person in such a way that those who are listening to us will inevitably agree with us. And because we are the lone person that has stated our case against this particular person, those who listen to us think that we are right. They do exactly what we were hoping they would do – they begin thinking that we are innocent and that the other person is guilty.

Until Cross Examination

Until, as the proverb says, “the other comes and examines him.” Those who are acquainted with both the person and situation come and shed light on everything that we misconstrued and omitted. Perhaps even the person that was originally being talked about comes to give their side of the story.

This reveals to all that we were not as in the right as we originally seemed to be. As Charles Bridges said, “The first tale is good, till the second is heard.” The verdict changes once all the facts are known. Through our deception, they joined us for a while. With increasing clarity, however, they begin to realize that everything isn’t as it originally seemed.

Played Out Everyday

Because this is the inspired word of God that exegetes the sinful nature of man with incredible precision, we see this played out every single day. Cops see this played out during arrests. Judges see this played out in court hearings. Marriage counselors see this played out in sessions with embittered married couples. Parents see this played out with their children. And pastors see this played out within the church. When the first person states their case, there is almost always truth mixed with error – there is almost always just enough deceit to get the other person to agree with them! God is not ignorant of this. This is why Proverbs 18:17 is in the Bible.

Applying This Today

First, if we are stating our case, we must realize that it is very difficult to “state facts and circumstances with perfect accuracy where our own name, or credit is concerned.” More often than not, our sin nature wants to portray facts and circumstances in such a way that we appear to be absolutely right and others appear to be absolutely wrong. We must realize how susceptible we are to this and strive to fight against it. We can do this by distrusting ourselves, examining ourselves to uncover any prejudices that we have, and asking God to search our hearts for any hidden evil that lies within. In turn, this will rid us of deceit and lead us to increasing truthfulness.

Second, we must not establish a verdict too quickly when we are listening to someone make their case. We must hear both sides before we come to a verdict. This is something we have heard since we were children, but it is something we still need to hear today. It is always wise to postpone the casting of a verdict until both sides have been heard. This will keep us from being deceived and led astray. This will also keep us from viewing a particular person wrongly. Therefore, when somebody makes their case, be sure to search for another person that can shed further light on both the person and situation being talked about. Perhaps even approach the person that was being talked about directly to get their side of the story. This will ensure you have all the facts before you cast a verdict.

Applying this proverb in these two ways will allow us to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. For in seeking to apply this proverb in these two ways we ensure that we are loving our neighbor well. I’ll end with some advice from Charles Simeon. The more he aged in wisdom and grace, the more he sought to abide by these rules that he laid down earlier in his life.

Favoring the Reprover

“Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more

favor than he who flatters with his tongue.”

Proverbs 28:23

To rebuke a man is to inform him that he is in sin – that he is guilty of falling short of the standard of Christian conduct as revealed in the Bible. In a sense, a rebuke is like a verbal spanking. Just as a parent spanks their child in order to let their kid know that he has disobeyed the standard of household conduct that the parents have established, so a rebuke is a verbal spanking that lets a Christian know that he has fallen short of the standard of Christian conduct that God has established in sacred Scripture. And though rebukes are never pleasant, they are greatly needed in the Christian life.

Since a gentle rebuke is so profitable, those who give godly rebukes should “afterward find more favor” in the eyes of the ones whom they reproved. Sure, the ones receiving the rebuke may have their pride hurt at first, but they should eventually see the spiritual good that came from the rebuke. Once they see that the well timed reproof served to remind them of the dangers of sin, the value of their souls, and the importance of living in a manner worthy of the gospel, their hearts should favor the reprover. I found this proverbial teaching perfectly illustrated when I read Iain Murray’s short biography on John MacArthur.

The Reprover Finds Favor

During the early years of John MacArthur’s ministry, a flustered lady from his church informed him that her husband had left her in order to go live with another woman. MacArthur knew that this was a spiritually grave situation, so he obtained the house number of the woman this man went to go live with. Upon calling the number, the husband that was messing around with adultery actually answered the phone himself. MacArthur then said to him, “This is John from Grace Church. I’m calling in the name of Christ for you to move out of this woman’s place before you sin against God, your wife, and your church.” Needless to say, the man was utterly shocked. He told MacArthur that he would go right back to his wife. 

On the following Sunday, the man approached MacArthur, embraced him, and said, “Thank you! I didn’t want to be there. I was tempted, and I thought no one would care about that.” Though he did not think that anybody would care about his flagrant sin against God and his willful betrayal of his wife, MacArthur cared enough to actually call and rebuke him about it. Because of this, the man’s affection for MacArthur increased. In light of this stinging rebuke, MacArthur found more favor in this man’s eyes.

The Flatterer Does Harm

Whereas a rebuke does a great deal of spiritual good, flattery does a great deal of spiritual harm. To flatter someone is to insincerely complement or praise them out of self-interest. Instead of rebuking someone over a particular sin, the flatterer will generally encourage them in their sin so as not to lose the advantageous nature of their relationship. Before long, though, it becomes apparent that the flatterer never had the spiritual well-being of the one whom they flattered in mind. They only had their own self-interest in mind. In light of this, the flatterer should lose favor in the eyes of the one whom they flattered.

So, this proverbial teaching is clear: the reprover should find more favor than the flatterer. Too often though, “the flatterer finds more favor than the reprover.” One reason for this is because “few people have the wisdom to like reproofs that would do them good, better than praises that do them hurt.” This is a sad reality. May we all seek to have godly wisdom that welcomes the reprover. And if we give a rebuke, may we give it in the spirit of our gracious Master, Jesus Christ. When he wounds his beloved children through rebuke, he then pours healing balm in the wound.

A Blessed Memory

“The memory of the righteous is a blessing, 

but the name of the wicked will rot.”

Proverbs 10:7

The righteous are those who belong to God, have godly wisdom, and live in accordance with God’s ways. Throughout Proverbs, the righteous are those who fear God (1:7), carry out justice (8:20), increase in learning (9:9), speak profitable things (10:11, 21), remain steadfast (10:30), bear fruit like a tree (11:30), care for their neighbor (12:26), hate falsehood (13:50), and walk in integrity (20:7). 

The righteous live eminently godly lives filled with acts of service to King Jesus. They offer up their bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord (Romans 12:1). Their lives are filled with such godly virtues that they become paradigms of some of the virtues that God works in us by the Spirit. In essence, the righteous are those who truly live in this life.

Nonetheless, though the righteous truly live in this life, they still end up dying. Once they are gone, all we have are memories of them. These memories become blessings to the people of God. This is one of the ways that God honors those who honor him (Psalm 112:6). God sees to it that blessed men and women leave behind blessed memories; memories that are so profitable to the people of God that they are regarded as blessings from God.

We are blessed when we remember how Abraham was willing to offer up Isaac because he was confident that God would raise his son from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-20). Our spirits are encouraged when we think about how Moses chose to be mistreated with the people of God rather than enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin in Egypt (Hebrews 11:24-25). Our souls are renewed with zeal when we remember the steadfastness of Job in the midst of an onslaught of fiery trials (James 5:11).

Sweet Memories of William Tyndale

This is also one of the chief reasons so many Christians have benefited from reading biographies of righteous men and women throughout history. Just the other day I was reading about William Tyndale. Throughout the 1520s and 1530s, Tyndale’s main ambition was to translate both the Old and New Testament into English. Though this was illegal and punishable by death during his time, he was filled with a godly resolve to get the Bible into the language of the common man. Before he began this extraordinarily difficult task, Tyndale famously said to a very learned man, “If God spare my life, in a few years I will cause a boy that drives the plough to know more of the Scripture than you do.”

To enable the plough boy to know more Scripture than the learned man proved to be an audacious endeavor. Tyndale had to live as a fugitive on the run, he had to master the Greek and Hebrew language, and he had to find men that would print his translations even though it could cost them their lives. In all of this, Tyndale did not waver. Before long, his English Bible was circulating throughout England. As the Bible was placed into the plough boy’s hands, the plough boy began to know more Scripture than the Pope!

Although this was a remarkable feat, it proved to cost Tyndale his life. Because of his translation work, in 1536 he was tied to a stake, strangled to death by an iron chain, and then burned. William Tyndale gave up his life for the cause of Christ, the Word of God, and the building up of the church. Even though he is gone, we still hear his voice every time we read our English Bible. As you can see, “The memory of the righteous is a blessing” (Proverbs 10:7).

Not so With the Wicked

This is not so with the wicked. For those who do not belong to God, lack godly wisdom, and rebel against God’s good design, their names will rot. When they die, both their body and their names will decay. God will see to it that the wicked are either forgotten (2 Kings 9:30-37; Job 18:5-17; Psalm 9:5), or that they will be remembered with shame and detestation (Romans 9:13; 2 Timothy 3:8-9; Revelation 2:20).

The Stench of Henry Phillips

Take Henry Phillips for example. This is the wicked man who was hired to befriend William Tyndale for the express purpose of betraying him. The same money loving spirit that drove Judas to betray the Son of God fueled Henry Phillips to betray Tyndale, a translator of the Word of God. After Phillips gambled away a large sum of money that his father had entrusted to him, he was willing to do anything to pay off his debt. Knowing this, a wealthy man that abhorred the reformers offered Phillips a sizable amount of money to spy on, befriend, and betray Tyndale. In love with money, Phillips agreed. 

He proved to be remarkably successful in this endeavor. Before long, he lured Tyndale into a trap. Tyndale was then arrested and jailed. As we mentioned earlier, he was then tied to a stake, strangled to death, and then set ablaze. For the church, the memory of Tyndale is a blessing. The memory of Henry Phillips, however, has faded into oblivion. Even when Henry Phillips’ name is mentioned, it is remembered with sense of disgrace.

Righteousness Receives The Crown

“Gray hair is a crown of glory;

it is gained in a righteous life.”

Proverbs 16:31

Even at a very young age, C.H. Spurgeon was a great preacher. As pastors throughout the area became aware of how powerfully Spurgeon preached, they would invite him to come preach in their pulpits. One of the pastors that invited Spurgeon to come fill his pulpit was Mr. Sutton, of Cottenham. Though Sutton had never placed his eyes on Spurgeon, he was eager for Spurgeon to come preach one of his anniversary sermons.

When Sutton’s eyes finally landed on Spurgeon, Sutton was a bit shocked to find that Spurgeon was only a teenager. He immediately regretted inviting this boy preacher to come preach one of his anniversary sermons to a congregation that was jam packed in the sanctuary. The gray-haired Mr. Sutton told Spurgeon, “I shouldn’t have asked you here, had I known you were such a bit of a boy.” To which the young fiery eyed Spurgeon quipped, “I can go back as easily as I came.” Mr. Sutton, however, did not ask Spurgeon to leave. He unexcitedly went ahead and let Spurgeon address his congregation. Though he did rudely and impolitely let Spurgeon know that he didn’t expect much from a young preacher that still had his mother’s milk in his mouth!

When it came time for Spurgeon to preach, he picked up the book of Proverbs and read aloud, “Gray hair is a crown of glory” (16:31a). After reading he looked at the congregation and said, “I doubt it, for, this morning, I met with a man who has a hoary (gray) head, yet he has not learnt common civility to his fellow-men.” Then Spurgeon proceeded to read the second half of the verse, “it is gained in a righteous life” (16:31b). He then said boldly, “Ah! that’s another thing; a hoary head would then be a crown of glory, and, for the matter of that, so would a red head, or a head of any other color.” 

A Saucy Dog!

After these initial comments, Spurgeon went on to preach the sermon he had originally planned to herald. Mr. Sutton came up afterwards and said, “Bless your heart! I have been a minister nearly forty years, and I was never better pleased with a sermon in all my life, but you are the sauciest dog that ever barked in the pulpit.”

Spurgeon was a saucy dog, and this saucy dog taught Mr. Sutton two lessons that day. The first lesson was that gray hair is only a crown of glory when it is gained by years of righteous living. This is the main meaning of the proverb above. The second lesson was that a dark headed teenager with a passion for righteousness is worth listening to! This is an implication of the proverb that Spurgeon felt the freedom to draw out. For our purposes, we will focus on the main meaning.

Gray Hair – Crown of Glory

The Christian that lives a righteous life enters into his latter years with gray hair that is a crown of glory. They have spent decades meditating on and memorizing the Bible. Their constant devouring of the word of God allows them to speak the word of Christ to those around them. As they have lived in God’s world, God has refined and further conformed them into the image of Christ through fiery trials. Faced with difficult situations where it actually costs them to obey God, they have steadfastly remained faithful to Christ despite the costs.

Throughout all of this, God has slowly rid them of pride and produced within them ever increasing humility. They “flourish like the palm tree”, they “grow like a cedar”, and “they bear fruit in old age” (Psalm 92:12,14). Spending time with them is one of the greatest blessings in this earthly life. Their gray hair is a crown of glory, and those within the church ought to esteem them as paradigms of godly wisdom and virtue.

Gray Hair – Not Necessarily a Crown Of Glory

Nevertheless, just because a person is aged does not mean they possess the crown of glory. Apart from a righteous life, their gray hair is merely a crown that lies debased in the dust of the earth. Rather than living righteously to attain the crown of glory, they have lived wickedly storing up the wrath of God. Their “white hairs of ungodliness bespeak ripeness for wrath.” With this in mind, Charles Bridges said, “For what is a more lamentable spectacle, than a graceless old man.” Bridges is right. There is not a more lamentable sight that a graceless old man that has squandered decades of his life in service to the world, the flesh, and the devil.

This is not to say that the young are not to honor and respect even the ungodliest of older men. As followers of Christ, younger Christians should honor and respect them. However, nobody should be so foolish as to think that, just because someone is older, they possess godly wisdom, understanding, and counsel. If they have not live righteously, they lack the crown of glory that comes with old age. This means that Christians should not view them as paradigms of godly wisdom and virtue.

The Different Christians on Social Media

As Jesus addressed the religious leaders of his day, he said to them, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Mt. 12:34). In saying this, Jesus is informing us that our words reveal our hearts. Whether our heart is evil or good will be evidenced by our words. Simple enough, huh? But what about social media? Would Jesus say, “For out of the abundance of the heart the fingers type and post?”

He most certainly would! Our use of social media evidences a great deal about our hearts. It reveals our passions, our sin patterns, our likes, and even our dislikes. To peruse someone’s social media account is to probe the inner workings of their heart, and it allows you to really get to know them. The sad reality, however, is that our social media usage usually doesn’t reveal the good within us. It usually magnifies the evil in us. As I have followed Christ for ten years, I have noticed this in my own life as well as in the lives of others. In what follows, I have described certain Christian’s use of social media. As I wrote this, I noticed that I myself have been guilty of some of these uses of social media. I am sure you will see that you have been guilty of some of these as well. So let’s look at our first individual.

Mr. Intellect

Mr. Intellect has seen that contemporary evangelicalism is filled with shallow theology and rampant pragmatism. He has perceived that many Christians on his social media timeline spend a bulk of their time grasping after spiritual experiences that will give them glory-bumps (goosebumps from the Holy Spirit). He has become cognizant that most of the Christians he follows look for thrills from the Holy Spirit rather than doctrinal understanding from the Holy Spirit.

As he sees this, he develops a resolve to use his intellect mightily in knowing the things of God. His end, however, is not to know God. It is to know theology, to post about theology, and to destroy those who have neglected to study theology. In every post, Mr. Intellect seems rigid, argumentative, and critical. In his social media interactions, he is precise doctrinally, but he lacks the fruit of the Spirit. Though you find yourself agreeing with him in matters of theology, you also find yourself squirming at the trail of destruction he leaves behind.

Mr. Hypocrite

Mr. Hypocrite knows his stuff. He can tell you that a husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. As a parent, he can inform you that a parent is to raise their kids up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. And he uses his social media platform to show you that he knows and even seemingly does these things. He’s always posting pictures of both he and his wife with a hashtag saying, “#simplyblessed!” And he’s always eager to share a video of his kids quoting the latest memory verses from Awana.

Before long, though, you find that Mr. Hypocrite has another face. His marriage lies in ruins because he has had an affair with another woman. In the midst of this, he finds himself in a divorce that has become public knowledge. Not only this, it is apparent that his kids have gone off the deep end. Of course, this is not entirely his fault. The kids have a sin nature that pulls them towards sin. However, people can’t help but see that many of their ungodly mannerisms come from their father. Even though Mr. Hypocrite’s other face is becoming public knowledge, he steadily post spiritual things on Facebook in hopes to maintain some semblance of Christian character.

Mr. Doomsday

Mr. Doomsday loves the apocalyptic writings of the Bible, and he has dedicated himself to studying these notoriously difficult sections of Scripture. Finally, his laborious study has paid off. Though Jesus Christ said that no one knows the day or hour of His second coming, Mr. Doomsday has finally unlocked the mysterious time.

After linking his religious, political, and American heritage together, he has discovered that Christ’s second coming is directly linked to the mark of the beast, the conservative party, and America as a whole. After making these remarkably in depth connections, every social media post is used as a means to propagate his understanding of the end times.

Mr. Self-Pity

Mr. Self-pity intellectually believes in a good and sovereign God that is working all things in accordance with His inscrutable will. He intellectually believes that Christ loved him and gave His life for him. These, though, are not enough for him to be content and satisfied in this life. He also needs the pity of others.

With this in mind, he always takes to social media to seek the pity of his followers in regard to his current life circumstances. In his efforts to seek pity, he does what any socially aware person would never do. . . he takes to mainstream social media platforms in order to tell everybody about how terrible his day has been, how unfortunate he is, and how discouraged he has been. Slowly but surely somebody takes the bait and begins to pity him. As this happens, he comforts himself knowing that there are people out there that really care about how terrible his life is.

Mr. Passive Aggressive

Mr. Passive Aggressive prides himself as being a religious zealot. He is fanatically committed to attacking the thoughts and beliefs of other people. . . . especially other Christians. In his own eyes, he is a religious reformer zealously seeking the advancement of truth in the midst of a world of falsehood. Though certain aspects of Mr. Passive Aggressive are admirable, he tends to be somewhat of a spiritual coward.

Rather than attacking the thoughts and beliefs of other people to their face, he takes to his social media platforms to do it. Since he knows that it would be frowned upon to aggressively attack someone directly on social media, he does it passively. Behind all of his posts and tweets there’s a target. Those who know him well know the target he is aiming at. Those who do not know him well are unaware of his target, and of the passive aggressive nature of his post. And after each social media post, he takes off his spiritual armor thinking of himself as a conquering warrior in the battle for the truth.

Mr. Narcissist

Mr. Narcissist believes in a self-giving God that loves and cherishes humility in His children. He prays earnestly and consistently for humility just so that he can be admired for it. And he has an intense desire to advance the kingdom of God so that both he and God might be known among the nations.

One of the key methods that Mr. Narcissist uses for the advancement of the kingdom of God is the promotion of self. His social media pages are laden with pictures and videos of himself. Every single post that he sends out onto the timeline of others has something to do with himself. He knows deep down in the inner recesses of his heart that, if he could just get people to understand that evangelical Christianity looks a lot like him, then the kingdom of God would begin to grow.

Mr. Facetious

Mr. Facetious is a funny guy and he knows it. Though he takes great joy in joking about sports, politics, t.v. shows, and the latest movies, he at times jokes about heavenly things. Granted, there are times where sarcasm and humor can be used well and for the glory of God, but this guy has a knack for being facetious about weighty eternal truths.

Mr. Facetious finds the most humorous GIFs or memes when talking about Jesus, hell, unbelief, sexual immorality, and homosexuality. Solemnity is foreign to his social media accounts. As one wades through his social media platforms, it becomes apparent that Mr. Facetious has one agenda. . . . making people laugh. . . .regardless of what heavenly topic he has to trivialize in doing so.

Mr. Political

Mr. Political is a citizen of the kingdom of God, but he is also overwhelmingly preoccupied with current events. He reads, investigates, and evaluates what is going on in the kingdoms of this world. . . . especially with America (God’s chosen kingdom of this world). And Mr. Political is not content to keep this information to himself. He must use his social media platforms to inform everybody of his latest political insights.

As one looks through his social media accounts, it seems that Mr. Political believes that God is sovereign over the rise and fall of kings and their kingdoms, but that he also believes that the latest political event is going to destroy and thwart God’s sovereign plan. He seemingly believes that God works all things for good, but that the current political policies being passed are going to ruin the lives of all Christians. Of all the political pundits one should listen too, Mr. Political tops them all. He has no biases or presuppositions that cloud his judgments, posts, or political ideologies.

Mr. Pot-Stirrer

Mr. Pot-Stirrer is well aware that the Bible contains hundreds, even thousands, of encouraging and edifying teachings. He knows and understands that he could post helpful and encouring insights from the Bible on his social media timeline. This use of social media, however, is unappealing to him.

He would rather use his social media influence to talk about the latest and most controversial topic. In doing this, he knows that heated discussions will follow. His minions will love his posts while his critics will be enraged by them. His minions will be stirred up to like his insights on the latest and most controversial topic. His critics will be stirred up to get in a heated exchange with him over his insights on the latest and most controversial topic. And as his followers, both his minions and his critics, are stirred up, it stirs him up to continue being the pot-stirrer he is!

Who Are You?

We could creatively come up with more, but with what has been said, who are you? How might you strive to use social media in a way that honors God? How might you utilize your social media platforms to adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ? A proper use of social media is possible. It just takes intentionality and prayer!

The Necessity of Rebuke

To rebuke somebody is to tell somebody that they have done wrong. It is, figuratively speaking, a verbal spanking (Ps. 141:5)! A godly rebuke, one that honors the Lord, is to lovingly tell somebody they have done wrong with the aim of bringing them to repentance and restoration (Gal. 6:1). An ungodly rebuke, one that dishonors the Lord, is to angrily or bitterly tell somebody they have done wrong with the aim of tearing them down. The important point is this: if either rebuke, the godly or the ungodly, is true, then it is for the benefit of the Christian.

An Illustration

Think about it this way, surgery is one of God’s ordained means to heal a person from an illness, infection, or injury that’s wreaking havoc on the body. Generally speaking, if there was no surgery, then there would be no healing. In the same way, rebuke is one of God’s ordained means to a heal a person of a spiritual malady that’s inflicting harm on the soul. So if there is no rebuke, then there will be no spiritual healing.

An Example

This truth becomes evident as one looks at the Bible. Take David for example; David was languishing in unconfessed sin after he quenched his sinful sexual passions by having intercourse with Bathsheba, another man’s wife (Ps. 32:3-4). As David languished, the Lord mercifully sent Nathan to use the scalpel of rebuke in order to expose David to the spiritual danger that he was in (2 Sam. 12:1-5). Afterwards, David confessed his sin and found restoration and forgiveness (Ps. 32:5). Nathan’s rebuke proved to bring healing. As Proverbs says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6).

Rebuke…..A Despised Thing

Though what I am saying is biblically accurate, I should let you in on something. Our sin nature abhors rebuke. Since we often times desire the approval of man, we don’t like giving nor receiving rebukes, and this is understandable. Giving a rebuke is kind of like doing surgery on somebody that is not under anesthesia. You can visibly see the pain that you are causing them, so you want to stop or even avoid the surgery. And receiving a rebuke is like being under surgery without anesthesia. You feel every bit of the pain.

Despite the fact that our sin nature is repulsed by both giving and receiving rebukes, we must remember that our sin nature doesn’t desire our spiritual well-being. Our Heavenly Father desires our spiritual well-being, and those who are his children must understand God’s ordained means for rebuke in the Christian life. It is clear from the Bible that rebuke is necessary if we want to grow spiritually. And it is clear from the Bible that the godly man both gives and takes heed to rebukes, and that the ungodly man refuses to both give and listen to rebukes (Ps. 141:5; Pr. 13:1; Pr. 17:10).

How To Rebuke

So how are we supposed to rebuke people? Here’s some advice:

  1. Examine yourself to make sure you aren’t in the same sin you are about to rebuke
  2. Make sure what you are about to rebuke is actually sin, and not merely some man-made standard you have for people
  3. Make sure the sin you are about to rebuke is actually deserving of a face to face rebuke
    1. Simply put, you can’t rebuke every sin that somebody commits. I mean, you could……people just wouldn’t hangout with you anymore
  4. Be as gentle and loving as possible when you rebuke
  5. Have useful Scripture
    1. One of the purposes of the Bible is to reprove and rebuke, so let the Bible do the rebuking
  6. Expect the person you are rebuking to get defensive (this will allow you to remain calm when they actually do get defensive…….because they probably will)
  7. Do not expect the person to appreciate your rebuke immediately
    1. Often times the person will come to appreciate your rebuke hours, days, weeks, or even months later
  8. Trust God for their repentance
    1. God is the one that grants repentance, so trust him for the other person’s repentance

How to Receive Rebuke

And here is how we can receive rebuke:

  1. Be in a constant pattern of repentance
    1. This produces humility and a spirit that is willing to receive rebuke
  2. Have friends that are willing to wound you
    1. Gather godly friends around you that are willing to rebuke you when it is necessary
  3. When rebuked, in either a godly way or ungodly way, weigh the rebuke to see if there’s any truth in it
  4. If the rebuke is valid, repent as soon as possible
  5. Thank the one that rebuked you, and tell them that God used it to bring you to repentance
  6. Memorize Psalm 141:5 which says, “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.”

The Danger of Theological Indifference

The Christian faith lends itself to mental effort. Just think about this: we serve a God that has revealed himself in the Bible. In other words, we serve a God that has revealed himself in letters, words, sentences, paragraphs, books, and one body of books…the Bible!

And the Bible is filled with rebukes of false doctrines and explanations of sound doctrines. It is filled with arguments against certain systems of beliefs as well as clarifications on what to believe. It is filled with inferences, explanations, and reason. It is loaded with certain biblical themes that span across all its sixty-six books.

Because God has revealed himself this way, it is an invitation for us to use intellectual exertion; to toil and labor to acquire knowledge. He is calling us to follow the evidence that led to the inference; to follow the reason that made up the argument. He is enticing us to trace the themes that span across all sixty-six books of the Bible. He is bidding us to use our God given mental capacities in order to rightly know Him and the teachings He has left us.

Contemporary Christianity-Anti Intellectual

Though the Christian faith lends itself to mental effort, there does seem to be a growing anti-intellectualism in the church today. There are many in the church that distrust the Christian that spends his time reading, memorizing, developing arguments, and striving to become a good theologian. You can hear people say, “We don’t care about all the details. Just stick to the main things like the Bible, the gospel, the cross, salvation, and heaven.” Or maybe they say, “We can’t possibly know things like the Incarnation, Trinity, or God’s purpose in election. Those things are mysterious. Just stick to Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” And when a Christian persists in studying and talking about the particulars of certain theological beliefs, fellow Christians begin to distrust him.

Now, for those of you that may not agree that there is an anti-intellectualism in the church today, maybe you will agree with me when I say there is a growing disinterest in intellectual toil within the church today. People seem to be indifferent to the things of God. They have reduced the Christian faith to the Bible, the gospel, the cross, Jesus, salvation, and heaven. They are not interested in anything other than these aspects of the Christian faith. And, in all honesty, they are not interested in studying these in too much detail.

Right Emphases in Light of the Whole

Here is the thing though, throughout Church history, Christians realized that what they emphasized was important. Therefore, the main emphases throughout Church history have been on the Bible, the gospel, the cross, Jesus Christ, salvation, and heaven. They were not reducing Christianity to these teachings. They were not intending on isolating these points of emphases in order to make them the whole of the Christian faith. Rather, after a thorough study of the Bible, they realized that, at the end of the day, these where the key points of the whole. As a result, they emphasized them.

But, and this is very important, they viewed these key points in light of the whole. These emphases were viewed in light of a good and proper understanding of the Biblical narrative. Behind these key points, there were good arguments for what each point meant in light of what God has revealed in the Bible as a whole.

Right Emphases Without the Whole

Within the contemporary church, we still make the right emphases. We emphasize the Bible, the cross, Jesus Christ, salvation, and heaven. However, due to many Christians’ anti-intellectualism or indifference, these main topics have been separated from the whole of the Christian faith.

At first glance, this doesn’t seem that bad, but, upon further study, it is very bad. Since we have isolated these key points of the Christian faith, they have begun to be understood apart from the whole. As a result, they have begun taking on different meanings; meanings that are quite contrary to the biblical narrative.

A Test Case-Heaven

To get a better understanding of what I have been saying throughout this brief blog, let’s think about heaven. Heaven is an emphasis throughout church history as well as the contemporary church. Yet, the contemporary church has developed a concept of heaven that is quite different from what we find in the Bible. In all seriousness, the present church’s understanding of heaven is in line with what we find in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

At one point in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Miss Watson explains heaven to Huck. According to Huckleberry, “She went on and told me all about the good place. She said all a body would have to do there was go around all day long with a harp and sing, forever and ever.” As you can see, Huckleberry wasn’t that intrigued by heaven. And honestly, because of most Christians’ similar misconceptions of heaven, they aren’t intrigued either.

For instance, as one pastor was talking to Randy Alcorn about heaven he said, “Whenever I think about Heaven, it makes me depressed. I’d rather just cease to exist when I die.” But what was his reasoning for this? Well, the pastor goes on to say, “I can’t stand the thought of that endless tedium. To float around in the clouds with nothing to do but strum a harp. . . . it’s all so terribly boring. Heaven doesn’t sound much better than Hell. I’d rather be annihilated than spend eternity in a place like that.”

This is honestly what many people believe. They still emphasize heaven, but they have isolated heaven from the biblical narrative. As a result, it has taken on a different meaning than what we find in the Bible. They speak of a heaven as a disembodied spiritual existence where we sing Amazing Grace for 10,000 years; as an endless church service where we grow in our ability to play a harp! This is what happens when an important biblical emphasis becomes isolated. It begins to take on an unbiblical meaning.

The heaven the Bible talks about is a restoration of all that Adam lost……and then some! Adam was supposed to dwell on earth, exercise a God honoring rule as a king, and spread the knowledge of the glory of God over creation. Adam failed at this God given commission. With Adam’s sin, humanity fell from its original royal dignity.

Then Christ came to redeem humanity and to restore humanity back to its royal dignity. In Christ, human beings are being enabled to fulfill God’s original purpose for them. As Alcorn said, “God never gave up on his original plan for human beings to dwell on Earth. In fact, the climax of history will be the creation of the new heavens and a new earth, a resurrected universe inhabited by resurrected people living with a resurrected Jesus.” And as we, a resurrected humanity, reign on a non-cursed new earth with Jesus Christ, our resurrected King, we will dwell everlastingly in complete bliss.

This is the heaven that the Bible teaches about. It deserves to be emphasized, but it must be emphasized in light of the whole. My fear is that we have detached it from the whole, continued to emphasize it, and allowed it to lose its biblical meaning!

Where Do We Go from Here?

We must begin realizing that the Christian faith lends itself to mental exertion, and we must be willing to exert our mental capacities in order to better understand the things of God. As we do this, we will not merely emphasize what needs to be emphasized (the Bible, Jesus, the cross, salvation, heaven), we will have proper understandings of these key tenets of the Christian faith in light of the overall biblical narrative. In doing this, we will emphasize them for the same reasons Christians throughout history have emphasized them, rather than simply emphasizing them as a crutch to avoid mental effort.

Childcare Volunteers-Missed People on Sunday Mornings

Sundays During Quarantine

For our church in Louisiana, we have not been able to gather together for four weeks. It has been even longer for other churches in our area as well as around the country. This means that Christian families have had numerous Sunday mornings where they wake up, try to cultivate some type of normalcy, and then sit down as a family to watch their pastor preach to them from a screen.

Of course we can romanticize this by saying we get our hot cup of coffee, sit down on our cozy couch, offer up some eloquent prayers as a Christian family, and then intently listen to our pastor preach the Word of God while our love for Christ is inflamed anew. But let’s be honest, for families with infants and toddlers, Sunday mornings do not look like this.

Sunday mornings are filled with distractions. An infant or toddler needs to be attended too at many points throughout the sermon. They need milk warmed up, or perhaps they need the regular stipend of goldfish that the childcare workers in church normally gives them. Maybe their sinful flesh begins to oppose authority and they take all the attention in the room. This is what Sunday mornings looks like for many families during this time.

Meanwhile, the pastor’s words continue to be unheard. Those nuggets of spiritual truths that nourish our souls simply slide past us. Those life given exhortations from our pastor go out into the unknown. Those theological truths in worship songs go on being heard but not grasped.

Childcare-An Undesirable Service Opportunity

Childcare…………

Let’s be honest, most Christians don’t desire to serve in childcare. I think I can speak on behalf of churches all around the country when I say that the ministry that is always in need of volunteers is the children’s ministry. And I get it, it is hard to serve in a ministry where there is very little affirmation, self-fulfillment, or attention. It is hard to serve in a ministry where you see very little tangible spiritual fruit.

And then there are these other erroneous thoughts that run through our minds. We say to ourselves:

Surely God will not look at the rocking of a toddler on a Sunday morning and give eternal rewards. There is no way God will reward the changing of a diaper on a Sunday morning. Plus, even if God sees these things, not many other people do. Sure, the preacher gets some flack as he serves, but he still gets a ton of affirmation and praise from people too. But just look at the childcare volunteer.  People do not praise them. Shoot, I’d be shocked if even God praises them.

These types of thoughts leave our nursery with very few volunteers. They leave the leader of the children’s ministry hastily sending out texts, emails, and Facebook posts trying to find somebody to fill a spot on a Sunday morning.

Childcare-A Missed Ministry During Quarantine

But during these hectic Sunday mornings during quarantine, it is evident that the unglamorous ministry of childcare is deeply missed. People are realizing the sacrifices that childcare volunteers make in rocking other’s people’s children so that members of the church, as well as guests, can be attentive to the Word of God. They are realizing how blessed they are to have vetted childcare volunteers to change their baby’s diaper so that they can join together in corporate prayer during worship. In sum, Christian families are realizing how grateful they ought to be for brothers and sisters in Christ that die to themselves, walk down to the childcare/nursery area, and serve in the unnoticed and often overlooked childcare ministry.

Encouragement to Childcare Volunteers

The church needs you. You are a vital aspect to our Sunday morning gatherings. Because of you, believers and unbelievers have the opportunity to sit through corporate worship, listen to biblical truth, and hear life giving exhortations from the Word of God. With this in mind, know that your labor is not in vain. When you, in faith, volunteer in the children’s ministry, your Heavenly Father sees you, and your sacrificial service pleases Him.

Exhortations to Childcare Avoiders

If you are a member of a local church and have long avoided opportunities to serve in childcare, I hope Sundays during quarantine changes your thinking. When we are once again able to gather together, I hope you seriously consider volunteering in childcare. This is a wonderful and greatly needed way to serve the local church.

 

 

The First Commandment

“You shall have no other gods before me.”

Last year I wrote a blog on the seventh commandment that listed out its meaning as well as some applications that followed. Within this blog, I want to do something similar with the first commandment. Let’s begin looking at this famous commandment.

The Importance of this Commandment

The importance of this commandment cannot be overstated. Our God is an orderly God and, in his infinite wisdom, He placed this commandment at the beginning of the Ten Commandments. This led J.I. Packer to say that the first commandment is, “the fundamental commandment, first in importance as well as in order, and basic to every other. . . .true religion starts with accepting it as one’s rule of life.” And Packer is simply drawing from Thomas Watson who, when looking at the first commandment said, “This may well lead the van, and be set in the front of all the commandments, because it is the foundation of all true religion.”

In essence, Packer and Watson are saying that the essence of true religion is placing the God of Israel, the God of the Bible, as the exclusive object of our worship. If we make the God of the Bible anything less than the exclusive object of our worship, then we have swerved into a false religion.

These truths lead me to say this: in order for us to be obedient to any other commandment, we must be obedient to this commandment. Every other commandment must be obeyed because we have the God of the Bible as the sole object of our worship. To attempt to obey every other commandment without obeying the first commandment is considered sin, and is worthy of eternal condemnation. This is why this commandment is so very important.

The Uniqueness of this Commandment

As one looks at the gods of the ancient world, it is evident that none of them make the kind of assertion that our God makes in the first commandment. The God of the Bible is saying that you must worship Him and only Him. None of the other religions said anything like this. The cult of Baal, Asherah, and Molech never made such statements.

So when God said, “You shall have no other gods before me,” He was saying something quite unique. Ryken makes this even clearer when he says, “This command was without precedent. None of the other nations in the ancient world prohibited the worship of other gods. The God of Israel refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of any ofter God.” As you can tell, the God of the Bible is not a man pleaser! He will have you worship Him and Him alone because all the gods of the nations are false and illegitimate; completely unworthy of the worship of men and women made in he image of the one true God.

The Commandment in Light of the Trinity

We have briefly covered the importance and the uniqueness of the first commandment. Let’s now look at this commandment in light of the Trinity. This will be important when we start addressing what this commandment is requiring of us.

God has revealed Himself as the triune God. The One true God that gave us the first commandment eternally exists as three distinct persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each person within the Trinity is fully God and is worthy of our worship, allegiance, and trust.

So, the Son is worthy of the same honor as the Father (Jn 5:23). The Spirit is worthy of the same honor as the Son. All three distinct persons of the Trinity, since they have the same essence, are worthy of the allegiance that the first commandment requires. And it is when our lives are dominated by our relationship with the one true triune God, that we are walking in faithfulness to the first commandment.

Now that we have a general overview of this commandment, let’s try to understand what the first commandment is forbidding us from doing, as well as what the first commandment is commanding us to do. In order to do this, we will use the two-sided rule.

The Two-Sided Rule

This is one of the interpretive methods we use in studying the Ten Commandments. This rule teaches that, when something is forbidden, the opposite is also commanded. It also teaches that, when something is commanded, the opposite is forbidden. In essence, there are always two sides to each commandment; a negative side and a positive side. We will begin with the negative side of this commandment.

The Negative Side

First, this commandment is forbidding us from worshipping any other so called “god.” When the Lord says, “You shall have no other gods before me,” He is forbidding us from worshipping any and all false gods. With that said, false gods come in many different shapes and sizes.

-Obvious False “Gods”

This is important to understand because some people merely think of false gods as statues of certain gods and goddesses, or they think about all the gods of other religions. Though the worship of these statues and gods of other religions is clearly forbidden by the first commandment, there are other false gods out there that are a little more subtle.

-Subtle False “Gods”

False gods that are a little more subtle are ones that have Christian terminology attached to them. For example, in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, the Apostle Paul talks about Satan’s craftiness in deceiving people. One way he deceives people is by placing a different Jesus out there than the Jesus the apostles were preaching about.

Also, in Galatians 1:7, Paul admonished the Galatians for turning to a different gospel than the one he originally preached to them. These false teachers in the region of Galatia are using Christian terminology, but they are preaching and teaching about a different gospel than the one handed down by the apostles. And the first commandment is forbidding us from worshipping these different “Jesuses” and different “gospels.”

This means that the first commandment is forbidding us from worshipping the Jesus of the Jehovah witnesses. They do not believe in the Trinity, that Jesus is God, or that Jesus resurrected bodily from the grave. They preach a distorted gospel with a distorted Jesus.

This also means that the first commandment is forbidding us from worshipping the Jesus of the Mormons. They believe that god used to be a man and that, after obedience to the law, was eventually elevated to a god. They believe that god had sex with his goddess wife and they produced offspring (Jesus and Lucifer). Jesus obeyed god’s laws and became a god himself. This is also a distorted gospel with a different Jesus.

This also means that the first commandment is forbidding us from worshipping the Jesus of the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel preaches that the Abrahamic covenant brings material wealth, that prayer forces God’s hand, that faith is not a gift from God, and that Jesus’ atonement brings physical healing and financial prosperity. As Jones states, “In light of Scripture, the prosperity gospel is fundamentally flawed. At bottom, it is a false gospel because its faulty view of the relationship of God and man.” The Jesus of the prosperity gospel is different than the one recorded in the gospels and preached by the apostles.

And lastly, for subtle false gods, the first commandment is also forbidding us from worshipping the Jesus of theological liberalism. The Jesus of theological liberalism is not God over all, a being most glorious and worthy of our exclusive allegiance. Rather, he is merely a moral example; a paragon of virtue. His death was not substitutionary. It did not accomplish anything. It merely teaches and models what it means to be sacrificial and to look after the interests of others. Simply put, the god of theological liberalism is not the God of the Bible.

-The “God” of the Muslims or Jews

I would also say that worshipping the god of the Muslims or the Jews is a breaking of the first commandment. Sure, both Muslims and Jews say that they worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but as Christians we must reiterate that they are worshipping a god other than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When you look at the Bible, it is clear that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has revealed Himself as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And Jesus clearly teaches that to dishonor the Son is to dishonor the Father (Jn 5:23). Therefore, both Muslims and Jews are worshipping a false god, and not the God of the Bible. They are worshipping a god that is other than the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

-“God” Substitutes

The last category that I want to hone in on when it comes to things forbidden by the first commandment is god substitutes. God substitutes do not present themselves as gods, but we end up relying, trusting, and worshipping them as though they were gods. At the outset, let me just say that these are the predominant idols that gain our allegiance and affection in the west.

A god substitute can be strength (Hab 1:11), money (Job 31:24; Dan 5:23; Mt 6:24), possessions (Lk 12:16-21), pleasure (1 Tim 3:4), or entertainment. The scripture clearly teaches that our sin nature delights in elevating these things to unhealthy places in our heart. When we do this, we then trust and rely on these god substitutes as though they were the one true God. When we do this, we are breaking the first commandment.

The Positive Side

Now that we are done with the negative side of this commandment (looking at what this commandment is forbidding us from doing), let’s look at the positive side (what this commandment is positively commanding us to do). This will be much shorter so bear with me!

The first commandment is positively commanding us to place our allegiance, affections, and love on God and God alone. God is to be the chief object of our love. Our loyalty is to be to Him and Him alone. I love how one author put it when he said, “The commandment calls for a style of life dominated by a relationship with God….the relationship to one God must dominate every sphere of life, whether the life of action, of thought, or of emotion.” So the first commandment is commanding us to have a life that is dominated by our relationship with the triune God of the Bible.

This means that our entire lives are to be consecrated to the Lord; completely set apart for the purposes of glorifying and magnifying Him. Like Jesus, we should seek to be obedient to the Lord in every sphere of life: thoughts, actions, motives, and words. When we eat and drink, we are to do so to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). When we work, we are to work heartily as for the Lord (Col 3:23). While we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord (Rom 14:8). Our entire life is to be dominated by our relationship with the one true God that has eternally existed as three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is when we are doing this that we are walking in obedience to the first commandment.

Gospel Hope

With that said, it is evident that there is no commandment that we break more often than the first commandment. As a matter of fact, anytime we break any other God given commandment, the root of our sinful disobedience can ultimately be found in a breach of the first commandment. It is when God is not the supreme object of our affections that we dishonor our parents, murder, commit adultery, steal, or covet our neighbor’s wife and possessions. So, though this commandment comes first and is of utmost importance, there is no commandment that we have violated more frequently than this one.

And the Bible teaches that only a curse awaits those who violate God’s law. When we commit cosmic treason by elevating other gods and god substitutes to the place of Almighty God, we deserve everlasting torment in the lake of fire. However, the good news of the gospel is that, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal 3:13).

After Christ faithfully obeyed the first commandment throughout his life, he hung on a tree; bearing our violations of the first commandment and suffering under the lawbreakers curse. God the Father willed for Jesus, his beloved Son, to die this way so that violators of the first commandment might be redeemed and restored to a proper relationship with Him. This is the hope of the Gospel, and this ought to lead us to praise and glorify our Savior, who loved us and gave himself for us! Indeed, this ought to lead us to joyfully and wholeheartedly live a life that is dominated by our relationship with the God that saved us by His grace.