Brace Yourself, God Has a Few Questions
Part 2 of Meeting God
A Series of Articles on Job 38-42
"Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me! Job 38:3
God has shown up – blowing Job’s mind with His entrance in the mantle of a gigantic windstorm equal to any tornado known to man. That had to be a humbling thing to see. But even more humbling was to hear God’s voice coming from the midst of it. Yet, Job probably had no idea what kind of questions God was about to ask him. He had spoken the truth about God according to Job 42:7, and God was not there to question Job’s integrity or his sincerity. What God was there to question was Job’s humility when it came to understanding the providence and sovereignty of God.
The knowledge of our own ignorance is the first step in becoming wise. As long as we hold to the fallacy of man’s great knowledge, we too will think highly of our supposed wisdom and, like Job, question God’s sovereignty and wise, loving providence in our lives. As God begins, He calls Job to summon all his great wisdom and understanding, because it is time for Job to answer a few “God-level” questions.
The manner in which God approaches these questions would make anyone a little squeamish about what was about to happen. “Hey Job,” the Lord says, “Gird up your loins like a man, because I have a series of questions, and evidently you need to instruct Me?” These words were not very comforting to Job. The phrase “Gird up you loins” had to do with how a strong warrior would tuck his outer garments into his belt so that he would be ready to run into a battle. This preparation done by any strong man that faced a difficult task. Job, though, was not facing some difficult physical task or battle situation. Job needed to get ready because he was about to face the questions of God, the Creator. There would be 77 different questions coming Job’s way from God – none of which he could answer with any great knowledge he possessed. They are still unanswerable even though we’ve had several centuries to gather up all the combined human wisdom we can muster.
The arrogance of humanity is breath-taking to consider. We can’t even process and guide what is happening in our own bodies (that is why we have the autonomous nervous system to do these things for us) let alone know what is happening in our neighborhood. But to take over providence from Almighty God requires more than just a comprehensive knowledge of our own little sphere of life. God knows intimately the “goings-on” of every body, every mind, and even the action and reaction of every human and how it will affect every other human. But please add to this the knowledge of every aspect of our planet – its animal kingdom and its inhabitants down to the smallest microorganism as well. Add to this the inner workings of earth beneath its crust, as well as all that is going on in the atmosphere and on every land mass and body of water on this spinning sphere. But wait, O wise and understanding human, there is more!
God also knows and guides every planet, every star, and every last minute piece of interplanetary space dust. Not only does he know and understand it – He designed it so that it works together as a whole. He knows and guides the trillions times trillions of interactions which take place every millisecond throughout the entire universe – and knows all that can be known about all of it. But there’s more! He directs and guides it through His wisdom and divine design structure. It “works” like it does because He made it. The universe is not random – it is designed at a level our minds could never comprehend.
Have you ever thought about the fact that we set our clocks by the atomic clock that functions within the universe itself? All of everything that has ever been made functions within an interdependent, wonderful choreography set in motion and maintained by the wisdom and understanding of the infinite and eternal God. Just a second of time in God’s infinite understanding and maintenance of the universe would fry every single computer we have ever made. Imagine the wisdom involved in bringing it into existence. Now measure that with our propensity to not even remember why we came into a room – or with remembering all the information we need to pass a test . . . that we took three years ago. Yep – like I said earlier – it is breath-taking to consider the unbelievable arrogance of mankind.
Please understand, I do not think that God was making light of Job’s situation. Scripture reminds us that God’s Son faced all that we face – and yet without ever sinning. The Lord fully grasped Job’s pain and suffering (remember, His Son was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world). What God was addressing was how Job was questioning God’s wisdom and questioning how the Lord was running things (at least in his own life). It’s interesting how we take for granted that our universe doesn’t crash into itself extinguishing life as a whole – or that our hearts pump some 2000 gallons of blood through our bodies daily – but we wonder about God’s ability to run things if it means suffering for us or a delay in our ongoing gratification today.
Christopher Morley said, “I had a million questions to ask God; but when I met Him, they all fled my mind; and it didn’t seem to matter.” That is what is going to happen to Job in the final four chapters of the book that bears his name. The tremendous suffering he encountered filled his mind with a million questions he wanted God to answer. It seemed to him that he wouldn’t be able to go on unless the answers were forthcoming. Then in a wondrous gift of mercy and grace Job met God. He didn’t just hear of God by the hearing of the ear – he was allowed to see God – and when the meeting came to it’s end, Job had no more questions. In fact, it didn’t matter if he ever got the answers he thought he had to have.
Most likely none of us will receive a meeting with God as He speaks out of a powerful tornado. But then again, probably none of us will face suffering so great as that which Job endured either. Hopefully it will suffice that God did show His mercy in meeting with Job – asking His 77 unanswerable questions – and ushering Job into a remembrance of just how little he actually knew. Hopefully we will read of such a thing – receive instruction from God’s Holy Spirit – and humbly lay down our accusations that God doesn’t know what He’s doing in our lives – in our sphere of influence – or even in the entire scope of space and time. Believe me, reading of it is far less terrifying and humbling than having to be there. The truly wise man will realize this and humble himself before God.
Anyone read facebook lately? Anyone stop reading facebook discussions because of how offensive and incendiary they quickly become? In the aftermath of the United States Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage there have been an avalanche of articles and posts on social media both for and against gay marriage. This was inevitable because people on both sides of this issue are very passionate about what they believe. What does not have to be inevitable is some of the vitriol that begins being exhibited by Christians as things begin to get heated. Whether or not the “they started it first” argument is used or not, as those redeemed by God through Jesus Christ – and – as those who are called to manifest the fruit of the Spirit – we need to learn a very valuable spiritual lesson. We need to learn how to share offensive truth less offensively. Hopefully this article will be helpful in doing so.
First of all – a true confession is in order. I am a recovering offensoholic. In my past I have kind of enjoyed being sarcastic. The ability to slip in truth wrapped in little barbs of sarcasm and veiled insult is a “skill” I am wanting to unlearn as quickly as possible. God is revealing to me that more often than not these verbal darts are not very effective when sharing truths that in themselves are going to be offensive to the person hearing them. The proverb, “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” has sparked repentance for the way I’ve said things more than once. There are times when I finish writing a piece that I have to go through a Holy Spirit edit several times – before I have any peace in posting or sending it. The problem is that in our current situation – barbs and sarcasm will quickly turn what could be a logical, profitable conversation into an all out verbal war. After being nailed by the verbal shrapnel of several of these conversations, I want speak so that if there is a descent into ugliness, it is because of truth shared in love. There is no gain when truth is shared in an effort to win – or to score points with Christians who quickly gather to “my” side. The biblical fact is that God wins in all matters of truth. If I speak His truth with love and a genuine desire to engage in an exchange of ideas, I believe God will use it to do deeper work in people’s lives.
One of the things we must understand is that our culture no longer has any clear authority by which it speaks. Just like in the book of Judges we live in a society where every person is their own authority. Judges 21:24 says, “. . . and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” That is where we are currently. Therefore we need to grasp that everyone we speak with is an authority unto themselves. Thus when we share the Scriptures, they will not accept them as an authority. Now please understand that God’s Word was, is, and always will be truth. Whether people agree with that or not does not matter – God’s Word is still true. When you try to share this, people will be offended – and often will say things that will be offensive to you. We will be accused of being someone who does not think, someone who holds to antiquated ideas, someone who is brainwashed, or as I was recently called . . . an idiot. Are these things offensive? Yes they are. BUT – this is where we can become even more effective in what we share. Let me explain.
When we are insulted, we have a choice to make. First, we should review what we’ve said to make sure that while sharing the truth, we did not descend into any kind of name-calling or inflammatory statements. Remember, our message itself is offensive to the lost. Paul spoke of the offense of the cross – and Jesus Himself told us that we would be treated like He was treated. People who are already offended with our moral point of view, and who do not know Christ, will more often than not say offensive things. Get used to it – and be ready for the temptation to say similar things back to them. Also know that if you do – the opportunity will no longer be there to influence someone. It will most likely deteriorate into stronger and stronger comments, insults, and end in a verbal barrage and a scorched-earth mental landscape. Once we determine if we said something unnecessarily offensive, we can proceed in the conversation. (By the way, if you said something you should not have said – apologize. You’d be shocked how many times this begins to disarm the conflict allowing it to move back into a conversation.)
The second thing I am going to suggest may seem very hard, but it will allow you to be able to converse with the person so much better. In order to share it though I need to ask a question. Do you want to know what they think? Please re-read that question because I did not ask if you want to convert to their way of thinking – but – do you want to know what they think. What I’ve found over several conversations is that when I genuinely try to hear what they are saying and thinking, it helps me to share truth with them more effectively. Too many of the conversations I’ve read recently have made a quick trip to the most commonly used arguments against each other. I can almost predict what will be said in the first two or three rounds of statements. What I cannot predict is the reasoning behind them – or the hurts that a person has because of previous barbs thrown their way. If you don’t want to genuinely hear what they have to say – you won’t have any genuine ministry to offer them. But if you go deeper – even being willing to listen or read things you won’t agree with – you will be able to discern what needs to be discussed. You may even find room to offer an apology for how they’ve been dissed and dismissed. If they know you care enough to listen – they may start listening to you.
Once you begin the conversation in earnest – listen for statements that reveal serious conflicts with the message of the gospel. I usually read and listen looking for their source of authority (usually themselves in the end), their view of Who God is (this usually is a hodge-podge of ideas from self, internet sites, and on some occasions actual study of the Bible), and what they see as the problem with things as they are currently. This last concept is basically what they see as sin (which is a word they will almost never use as you do) and what offers redemption or salvation from the problem (again two words they will tend to avoid). From this point I begin to engage the person with questions involving these things: 1) What or who is their authority? (Who or what has the final say in their life) 2) What determines if something or someone is good or bad? 3) What is the problem or problems in life? And then finally, 4) What is the answer or answers to these problems. As I ask questions about these things, I respond to their answers with the gospel – sharing lovingly, graciously, and usually with reference to my sin and how God saved me from the penalty for it. I make a beeline to the gospel – and seek to eventually draw things in that direction. That does not mean that I try to share the “plan of salvation” at every turn. Instead it means that I deal with issues concerning salvation such as: Who is God? What is sin? Who or what has the right to call something sinful? How can a sinful person know a holy God? How can a righteous and holy God love us without being a hypocrite about His righteousness and holiness? What did God do to pay the price He demands as the penalty for sin? These are the things I head to in the end – because they are the things that matter. But in the meantime I also try to understand where they’ve come from – and if there are serious hurts and problems in their past. When these things come up – I want to genuinely care for them, apologize when Christians have been unloving and unkind, and offer real love to them in praying for and empathizing with their offenses.
The goal in all this is to truly love them and share and show them Jesus. This is not hard . . . actually, apart from God’s grace it is impossible! I cannot tell you how many times I have to stop and pray – back up – and deal with wanting to offend back because I’m offended. I thank God that He did not deal with me in this way – because I would have been consumed in wrath very early in His gracious dealings with me. We cannot back up from sharing that sin is sin. We cannot back away from being honest about what the Bible proclaims. This is not love – it is dangerously stepping away from God’s righteousness and truth simply because it may offend. We share the truth – but we do so without the verbal barbs – without referring to the most offensive examples of homosexual activism (or any activism for sinful activity). We speak the truth without name-calling (even if we’ve been called and are continuing to be called names). We choose to ask penetrating questions not just so we can probe their thinking – but hopefully so that they will probe their own thinking as we lovingly share what the Bible has to say.
I go back to John chapter 4 and how Jesus addressed the Samaritan woman at the well. Let’s be honest saints – that situation was made for some serious name-calling. She was a Samartian – she was guilty of adultery – she was an outcast from her own society – she held errant spiritual views – and she was currently in a sexually immoral relationship. Wow, what a list of potential names that provides. Yet Jesus did not use a single one of them. He asked questions – made biblical statements boldly yet lovingly – and eventually through hearing and understanding her – was able to address her deepest spiritual needs. Her need, by the way, was not to be proven wrong in an argument. She needed living water. The result of that conversation was that her sin was boldly and lovingly addressed, she was drawn to admit her sin and turn to God, and finally – she became a witness to others of God’s grace as she was saved. Now that is where I want to see a conversation go in the end! Just one more comment though – as you learn to do this not everyone will be converted instantly – or possibly even at all. But the sound of loving, biblical, redemptive conversations will ring further than you think. Imagine what one would look like on facebook? We’ve all seen the ones that turn nasty – with both sides eventually walking away with verbal bloody noses. Imagine one where the believer does not descend into name-calling of any kind – but – where they endeavor to do their best sharing the truth in love. That, my precious saints, will look very different. It is also what we need to begin seeing more and more as the grace of God is expressed in love through us by the power of the Holy Spirit. So share the truth, precious redeemed ones! Share it even if it carries with it the offense of the cross – the offense of seeing ourselves as sinful and lost – the offense of being in need of God’s forgiveness – and the offense of being available only through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Just DON’T do this one thing – share this wonderful message in an offensive way that adds to the offense of the cross – and does NOT reflect the love and patience of God or the fruit of His Spirit.
Last week we examined what it means to act with our wills – choosing to do the will of God in our daily lives. God gives us all that we need to do His will as believers, but He will not absolve us of making the choice to do so. So the question naturally results from this – how do we get into a place where we will choose God’s will on a more consistent basis. (The truth is that we want to get to where we choose nothing other than His will – but this article takes into account that we are in the process of sanctification in the nitty gritty of every day life).
One of the major problems we have in consistently choosing the will of God is that often we do not know what His will is. Ignorance is never a good argument for disobedience – especially when God has given us His Word as well as His Spirit, Who teaches that Word to us. This is why Paul prayed for the Colossians after they came to know the Lord. His prayer is a reminder to us of the kind of things we need if we are going to consistently choose God’s will over the world’s ways or our own flesh. Let’s take a look at this prayer in Colossians 1:9-12.
“For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.” (Colossians 1:9-12, NASB)
The first thing Paul prays for these new believers is that they would be “filled with the knowledge of His will.” Therefore the first thing we learn about knowing and doing the will of God is that it is not natural. The Fall has resulted in us being blinded and incapable of knowing God’s will on our own. If we are going to walk in God’s will – and indeed “will” to do God’s will – we will need for God to teach us and reveal to us what His will is.
The second thing we learn about choosing God’s will is that it requires “spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Again, this is not something that we learn like we would learn Math or Science. We need the Holy Spirit to open the Scriptures to us in such a way that we end up with “spiritual wisdom.” This phrase refers to the way we view the world around us. We begin to see things as God sees them. Until we do this we don’t have wisdom and will more than likely walk in foolishness consistently. (It may be helpful to know that foolishness here refers to any conduct where we are walking outside of God’s will or contrary to what God desires in our lives.) Whereas spiritual wisdom refers to seeing things as God sees them, spiritual understanding refers to grasping what we see in a way that we begin to comprehend concepts and relationships between things. But the word used here has a highly practical meaning as well. We not only get things in our heads – but we begin to get the skills necessary to walk out mental concepts as lifestyle choices.
This kind of information comes to us from God as we read, study, memorize, and meditate on His Word. Without God’s revelation (written word) and illumination (Holy Spirit instruction) we are blind to truth. Some will balk at this, but in doing so they only reveal that they still have issues with pride and the self-life. It would be wise for us to be reminded of several passages of Scripture in this regard. God tells us in twice in Proverbs, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25) We also read in 1 Corinthians 1:20-21, “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”
The world’s wisdom will not do the will of God for its wisdom is opposed to Him. This teaches us an important truth. If all we are getting is the world’s information sources each day, we will not walk in God’s will. In order to choose His will consistently in our lives, we MUST have a regular input of His spiritual wisdom as well as His spiritual understanding. Humility is required to do this. We MUST admit that we don’t have these things – and that they only come as we seek God for them.
As we close this week’s look at walking in the will of God, we need to answer a very simple question. The question is this: “Are we filling our minds and hearts with the kind of information that will lead to us knowing God’s will?” If our lives are filled far more with the world’s wisdom – we will walk in worldly ways. We will not have the information we need to walk godly – choosing God’s will over our own fleshly wisdom and the wisdom of the world. We will find ourselves far more convinced of the world’s take on things, which will subsequently move us far more consistently with actions and a lifestyle that agrees with the world and disagrees with God. If we are going to be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, we will have to be filled with His will, His thoughts, His reasoning, and His plan of action. Anything else will result in us choosing the same foolishness the world has always chosen – and missing out on the blessing of walking in the will of God.
Last week as we looked at a theology of aging, we saw how God uses aging to remind us that we are returning to Him. We are reminded that life is not just about the here and now – it is also about standing before God. Therefore aging helps us to see a purpose to our existence beyond our own pleasures and desires. This week I want to look at another aspect of aging that will help us to embrace a right way of living.
One of the things that the Bible is abundantly clear about is that with age there should come wisdom. Job wrote, “Wisdom is with aged men, with long life is understanding.” (Job 12:12, NASB) This quote helps us to discern one of the things God would have us to do with the years of life that He gives us. He grants us days and years so that we might walk with Him through them. As we do this, we should be growing closer to Him – and understanding His heart and thoughts toward the things we encounter. This will yield to us wisdom – His wisdom – as we walk through this life. Note, according to Job – wisdom is with aged men. The word for wisdom here refers to the knowledge we gain of God’s ways, God’s Word, and God’s heart. Wisdom is little more than seeing things God’s way – viewing all of life as God would view it.
Job says more about what we gain as we age. There is a wonderful practical side to the wisdom that the aged man has and offers to others. Job says that with long life is understanding. The Hebrew word for understanding is “tabuwn” and it has the idea of being skillful. The wise man not only has wise sayings to pass along. He also has the ability to take that wisdom and put it to practical use as he walks through life. Oh the blessings of knowing an older man who not only views life from God’s perspective, but he also knows how to walk through the days of his life practically using this wisdom to make decisions. The understanding this man has allows him to discern the difference between two choices he has before him. That kind of discernment comes only one of two ways – either with the seasoning of age – or by one who even at a young age greatly values the study and practice of the Word in his life.
In Psalm 119:99-100 David said, “I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Your precepts. (Psalm 119:99-100, NASB) The only time we see wisdom of the younger surpassing that of older men is when a young men takes time to meditate on the Word for the purpose of obeying it. That is a source of great wisdom.
Part of God’s purpose of having people age – and leaving older people on this earth is that they would pass wisdom down to the younger ones who will be here long after they are gone. One of the things we’ve watched in the last 100 years is a gradual despising of the elderly in our society. Our culture exalts being “with the times” rather than understanding them. The unfortunate result has been that young fools have become our leaders. We do not properly appreciate the older people in our world. This has even seen its damage in the church – where we seldom see the older men and women making the commitment to teach and disciple the younger ones. They think they have little to offer to them – and that they would probably be rejected. Thus we have a clash of age groups – and a dearth of wisdom being passed on to the next generation.
Part of this problem though, needs to be laid at the feet of an older generation more interested in passing on traditions than in walking younger people through Scripture. Jesus spoke of those who valued their traditions more than the Scriptures (in fact they valued them instead of the Scriptures). This is not seen as wisdom, but the height of foolishness. I will dare to make a very bold statement at this point. The church will be wonderfully blessed when the older generations (and I consider myself now among them) realize that rather than retire from church work, as they get older, they mentor the next generation as they turn over leadership to them. I call this the, “I’ve done my time” syndrome. This is where the older generation feels they’ve served long enough – and rather than mentor the next generation – they walk away from leadership. The job of mentoring and passing along wisdom is not easy. I’ve attempted it with varying degrees of success and failure over the last 10 -15 years. What I've learned over the years is that the young people I work with are not looking for someone who is perfect - but someone who will love them, teach them, answer their questions, and be real with them about the journey of life. A proper theology of aging includes the older generation of the church taking up the responsibility for mentoring the next generations so that they walk in wisdom, avoiding the foolish mistakes of the past.
A Theology of Aging, part 1
The last time I wrote to you, I spoke of the lessons God was teaching me as I care for my mom after her stroke. This is not something isolated to me - many who live into their 40's and 50's will have to walk through a time when their parent's health fails. Some lose their loved ones quickly through a heart attack or massive stroke - but others face the task of loving their closest family members through a much longer, debilitating illness. That is what I may be facing in the weeks and months ahead. It is already what I've faced in the we lost Sherie's mom and my father. So where does God fit in to all this?
As I've walked through this time, I've been thinking about aging. If you see another sunrise - you are participating in aging. It is something we all do in life, but seldom think about unless there is a situation which pressing such a thought into our minds. Before all this happened, the only times I thought about aging was after a workout after a long layoff - or maybe someone's death. Most often we let such thoughts come and go rather quickly. But a debilitating illness brings the issue front and center. Let me share a few things I learned - and maybe lay out a very brief theology of aging.
First of all - aging is a result of the Fall. I am not sure what exactly would have happened with Adam and Eve if they had obeyed God and lived until they were several thousand years old or more. The Fall brought aging and death to the world. Even after that the early ancestors of Adam and Eve lived for hundreds of years - most of them passing 500 or more. It was only after the Flood that God chose to limit man's time on the earth to a hundred years or less. His decree at that time was that He would only strive with man 70 years - and so from that time forward old age was relegated to our 60's through 80's. Those who would live into their 90's were few and even fewer would live past 100. The norm for mankind was exactly what God said in Hebrews 9:27, "It is appointed for man to die once, and then comes the judgment." Any decent theology of aging begins here - because I am not sure that before the Fall aging was going to be an issue. It certainly is not one in heaven, where we will receive a new body that will last for all eternity. Thus the issue of aging is only applicable for those of us who are between birth and death here on earth.
The fact that we are going to age and eventually die is to have its proper effect upon us. The reality of death and an appointed time to face the judgment should turn us to seek God. That is the effect it had in Genesis on men. When Seth had his first son (which was after the death of his brother Abel whom Cain murdered) he named him Enosh. That name means mortal man - and focuses on the mortality of man. It was at that time - and after that name was made known to mankind that ". . . men began to call upon the name of the LORD." There was something about knowing our mortality that awakened mankind to the need to call on the name of the Lord. We needed God - and death woke us up to that truth. That is why Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes that thoughts of our mortality will make us wise. Let's look at those verses in Ecclesiastes 7 for a moment, as we close out our first installment on a theology of aging.
It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, Because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for when a face is sad a heart may be happy. The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure. Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 (NASB)
Solomon is not just a depressed old man, as some may think. He spoke wisdom when he wrote these words by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The end of every man is to be in a house of mourning. A wise man knows this and "takes it to heart." He remembers that this life is not just about "this life." We will have to face God when our lives come to an end - and a wise man would consider this fact as he lives out the few days he has on this planet. The rich farmer in the parable of Jesus made his decision without a proper theology of aging and death. His barns were already full when he had another bumper crop. As he thought about what to do, his thoughts turned to what he should do with this additional wealth. His decision was to tear down his existing barns, build new ones, and store his new found wealth so that he would be set for life. What he did not realize was that his life had only one more evening before it was over. God's Word to him was this, "You fool! This night your life is required of you, and what will you do with all this wealth?" His decision was based on a wrong theology of aging. He was about to see his life end - and - he had done nothing to prepare for eternity. He would not enjoy any of his wealth for longer than 24 hours - followed by an eternity in hell. So now how do you feel about Solomon's wise words from God?
The mind of fools is in . . . are you ready for this? It is in the house of pleasure. This man is thinking that the purpose of life is pleasure. Now we need to realize that God wants us to enjoy things. Even Solomon speaks of enjoying the wife of your youth - good food - good friends - and life in general. But - a life lived only for pleasure is a foolish life. Our times of pleasure and fun need to be balanced with times when we consider the end of life - and what is beyond the grave. A wise man thinks about things like eternity - and about what this life is all about. Death and the way it takes everything of this life from us - should make us realize that life is about more than the things of this life. As Solomon says, ". . . this is the end of every man, and the living take it to heart." We are to take to heart the death of family and friends. We are to see that all is not as it should be in this world. In a later chapter of Ecclesiastes Solomon describes the process of aging - and honestly - it isn't very pretty. Very real and truthful - just not particularly pretty. Yet - that is the end for all of us who walk through this whole thing called aging.
So what should our response be to this whole thing called, aging? First of all I want everyone reading this to know that there is not just one response. But, that being said, there should be one response that we should not miss. That response is the one that addresses our mortality. We should be wise in knowing that there is more to life than just this present existance. We should see things like mortality and death and allow them to speak an important message to us. Things are not right here - and we should explore whether there is more than just the here and now. We should explore why the creator of such a marvelous world as ours, filled with so much life, creativity, and wonder - has it age, fall apart, and die eventually. As we ask such questions and explore such things, God's purpose is that we would come to understand the gospel and His work to restore and redeem this world from the death and dying that dominate it. Remember that the purpose of theology, even a theology of aging and death, is to know God through it.
Aging and death are real - that has once again forced its way upon my consciousness. But how glorious it is to see that even in this God's purpose is to bring His gospel and His calling me to Himself to the forefront. Yes, the topic of the theology of aging and death can seem depressing - but only to those who miss God's grace in it all - calling us beyond this life - beyond the mere pleasures of today - to eternity and the glorious pleasures forever at His right hand.
Have you ever sinned and wondered afterward, "How in the world did I get here?" That is a common thing with a lot of believers - and honestly - too common to me to be too comfortable with it. But that kind of moment is one where we need wisdom. The wisdom we need is an understanding of the very question we've asked. How did we get there? If we don't know at the moment - we need to know. The reason we need to know is because unless we know how we got to a point of sin, we will probably not stop sinning in this way. The best way to deal with this is to know the steps to how we got there. Let me share something with you that is very helpful to me when I struggle and fall into sin occasionally. I call it a "post-mortem" analysis of my sin.
James says this to us, "Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death." James 1:13-15
It is good to take a closer look at the day or days leading up to your sin. What I found was that often I was either being set up or was setting myself up for a fall. The first thing James tells us is that we are NOT being tempted by God. Too often we think, "God, why did You do this to me? Why did you have this temptation come my way?" We think God is responsible for our circumstances - at least these that surround sinning. God is most definitely Sovereign over all things - BUT - He does not tempt us. Not blaming God for our problems is a huge first step towards freedom.
James does mention where all this comes from in life. He says that we are "tempted by lust" and then when we don't respond to it properly we are "carried away" by it. First comes temptation - from which I must flee! Lust here is not referring to sexual sin exclusively. It is referring to a strong desire that arises out of our self-centered and self-honoring fallen nature. If I find myself not responding and reacting to these intense fleshly desires immediately. (which I usually did not in this process) my heart would begin hardening to God, to His Word, and to the promptings and warnings of the Holy Spirit. I was not being responsive to Jesus. Left unchecked, these strong desires would grow and I would find myself being "carried away by lust." Soon I would find that not only was I being tempted - but because I was "lingering" - I soon was carried away by my lust into sin.
Let me ask you something at this point. Ever have one of those times when you think, "Man it was like I was unable to stop - like I was being carried away! Well - unfortunately - that was exactly what was happening. You did not stop sin at the point of your own desires being perverted from the truth. Therefore they became so strong that you felt like you could not resist. It was like someone else was controlling you. That is the power of sin and lust. It is powerful - and will dominate you if you do not resist early and often. At this point you are having lust conceive in your heart - and that conception is about to give birth to sin.
The next step is to give birth to sin. The strong desire, left unchallenged, has now dominated our minds and our actions. This means we are about to sin - to choose to disobey God - to choose to disregard Scripture - even to choose to silence the protest of our conscience as we act out in a way that is in defiance to God's standards and commands. The result of this will be death. Spiritually we will feel dead. There will be a grieving of the Holy Spirit and a deadening of our ability to discern what God desires. Rather than being led by the Spirit - we are allowing ourselves to be led by the flesh. The Spirit's fire will be doused within us - we may even feel things like a lack of desire for the Word - an aversion to prayer - and plenty of condemnation. Yeah - pretty much plenty of death is available to us at this point in our sinful escapade.
A "post-mortem" analysis of sin asks the following types of questions.
When we do this, we will most likely find and identify the things that led up to our sin. We will see things like television shows or movies that led to lustful thoughts. We may find that we were wandering from God for days before this thing hit. We will often find that our minds were definitely NOT being renewed with the Word. And one other "usual culprit" will be bitterness and unforgiveness - especially when it is toward a brother or sister in Christ - or a close family member.
The last step in this "post-mortem" analysis is to identify the activities or choices made that led to sin. But that will not be enough. We need to deal with these things. There is a very simple truth here we must grasp. We CANNOT do these things and remain pure. We MUST address these things with the Word and with repentance and a purpose to act differently in the future. This will be the way to turn a sinful situation into one that will not only instruct us - but will in large measure - protect us from things that will lead us into sin in the future. It will also help us to greatly lesson the areas where we feel that when we take a small step - we are gone - because sin has such power over us so quickly. Think of it as CSI - Jesus. The Lord takes apart the crime scene (here a sin-scene) and examines it to show us all the evidence that points to us acting in ways that are going to end up embracing sin and ungodliness. That will be more valuable to us than gold!
God led Paul to write to Timothy the following statement, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-3, NASB) It is one that we need to heed—especially in light of the current problems that we are facing as a nation—and the way that our leadership is choosing to lead us in the midst of them.
As a nation, we are facing difficult times. It is during those times that a leader has the greatest opportunity to lead. It was during such times that we watched great leaders like Winston Churchill rise to lead in extraordinary ways. It was in those times that the greatest leaders led their people to pull together and face the problems they faced with a unified front. Unfortunately for us—our current leadership is not following their lead. Instead of pulling our nation together—they are pitting one group against another for their own selfish interests. What I am referring to is our current president’s practice of encouraging class warfare in light of the crises we face. Jesus told us that a house divided against itself will not stand. I can only hope that our current administration will read these words and cease fanning the flames of social conflict in our land.
There is a conscious effort by President Obama to pit the rich against the poor. In the midst of growing unrest, he and others in the Democrat party are encouraging protests that are attempting to further increase this growing rift in our nation. Whether or not you agree with his economics—one thing is certain—this will not turn out well in the end.
There were two revolutions in the 1700’s that radically changed the politics of our world. One was the American Revolution. It’s purpose was to spread freedom. The other was the French Revolution, which was supposed to be about freedom, but which degenerated into class warfare in the end. One led to what is arguably the greatest spread of freedom in history—while the other wound up shedding copious amounts of blood as well as precipitating a period of chaos ending in a totalitarian state that severely limited freedom.
Why do we need to pray? Because if we continue on this path of pitting one against another “within” our society economically, it will only be a matter of time and political desperation until the next step will be pitting one race against another. The leaders who today want to divide us on financial lines—will in the near future step up their rhetoric to divide us on racial lines. If you think things are problematic now with the encouragement of class warfare—wait until they begin encouraging racial conflict as well. We need to pray for wisdom to prevail—and—we need to do all we can as the church to heal these divides—not further encourage them. This is why I urge you to follow the admonition of Paul to young Timothy. It is a time for us to pray—and pray diligently for cooler, wiser heads to prevail in the halls of leadership.
Most of these articles are taken from the Calvary Courier, a weekly newsletter that is sent to the folks who attend Calvary Chapel Jonesboro. Due to the response to these articles, we've decided to print some of them which proved to be very helpful to God's people at the fellowship.
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