Christianity 201

October 1, 2019

Envying the Lost?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Once again we return to the blog Brothers of the Book, written by Bill Hood. Click the title below to read this at its source.

Let Not Your Heart Envy Sinners

Proverbs 22:17–24:22

Our world is all about pursuit of selfish pleasure, and by worldly standards the most selfish seem to succeed. Brother, Let not your heart envy sinners!

When I came to the following verse in today’s reading, I knew it had to be the focus of today’s commentary.

Proverbs 23:17-18 ESV
“Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”

I have long lamented what I consider to be one of the biggest challenges to American Christians. It seems to me that we American Christians are far more influenced by the world than we influence the world. That is not how it is supposed to be. In the book of Acts, we read of a riot in which Christians were dragged to the town square for stoning because they were turning the world upside down; they were challenging the way the pagan world lived.

Acts 17:6-8 ESV
6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8 And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things.”

Further on in Acts, we read of another mob dragging Christians before the civil authorities because Christian teachings threaten their way of life. (Acts 19) America, it seems to me, is the Mecca of self-centeredness. Our culture is toxic. Just view our television, movies, or video games. Listen to the lyrics of our music and read the content of our books and magazines. Sex and violence, money and debauchery seem to be the man-made gods of our society. What happens when Christians stand up and share Christ, share Christian values? Christians are dragged before the media, our modern town square, with outraged cries demanding we be silenced. This in itself is enough to cause many Christians to avoid sharing Christ, and we need to address our fears of such treatment if we are to be obedient followers of our Lord and Savior. Before we can even deal with that, however, we must deal with the fact that our society has infected us with the fleshly disease of self-centeredness. We are influenced by the culture around us and, wishing to be like everyone else, we allow ourselves to become infected and this sickness to distract us from who we are and our purpose for being here.

Brothers, let not your heart envy sinners! They pursue filth! You are meant for greater things! The wealth of eternity is yours as a child of The Living God! Why would you want anything less? You have a future and your hope will not be cut off. Stop letting the world influence you. Start influencing the world for Christ. Expect to be dragged before the public for verbal stoning, but also expect to be joyously escorted before your Lord and Savior to receive your eternal reward! I can withstand the slings and arrows of this dark and dying world because I know what I have in eternity. How about you?

Vivere Victorem! (Live Victorious!)

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Dying to self, living to serve!

July 16, 2019

Pray for Authorities

by Russell Young

The Scriptures tell believers to pray for their leaders. “I urge you, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Tim 2:1− 3)

We live in a partisan world, but it has always been so. In spite of this, Paul admonished believers to hold up their leaders, not because they agree with them, but that they could live peaceful, godly, and quiet lives. Prayers ought not to be dependent upon the persuasions of those in authority and their political aspirations, they are to be in pursuit of our peace and godliness and the Lord has placed all authorities in their positions.

Paul’s words are challenging. It is hard to pray for those in power especially when they appear to attack the things that we value. However, the prayers of the righteous are to achieve God’s objectives. Unless the throne of grace is approached a lack of interest in our condition, and for his glorification within our countries, is demonstrated.

Hosea has revealed the Lord’s judgment against the leaders and the people of Israel. He stated, “A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not acknowledge the LORD. Israel’s arrogance testifies against them.” (Hos 5:4−5) The “spirit of prostitution” was the spirit that permitted their lives to be lived according to their own unholy interests and practices. They deemed themselves to be ‘captains of their own ships.” In their arrogance they felt no need for the one who had guided and protected them for so many years but rested in their own abilities and life choices. The LORD noted, “I am like a moth to Ephraim, like rot to the people of Judah.” (Hos 5:12) In their distress the tribes of Israel had sought help from Assyria while ignoring God. “When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his sores, then Ephraim turned to Assyria, and sent to the great king for help. But he is not able to cure you, not able to heal your sores. For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah. I will tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them. Then I will return to my lair until they have borne their guilt and seek my face—in their misery they will earnestly seek me.” (Hos 5:13−15) Throughout their history the sovereignty of the LORD had been ignored or challenged. The Israelites and the leaders during Hosea’s time had dismissed him as one to be honored. They had lost sight of their holy and loving God and no longer considered him to be of relevance in their lives.

Before transferring his kingship to his son Solomon, King David exercised poor judgment bringing deadly consequences for many in the nation of Israel. He effectively dismissed the might of his God and had presumed that the power and protection of God’s chosen people rested in themselves. He commanded that a census be made of his fighting men. He had forgotten that the LORD was his strength even through he had been throughout their history. The consequence did not fall on David alone however, it fell on the nation. The death of many by the plague rested on those that David called his “sheep.” (2 Sam 24:15) They had to bear the consequence of their leader’s decision.

Our authorities are part of our national body and have been put in place by God for the achievement of his agenda. Prayers and petitions for authorities need not be directed for partisan political purposes but for enhancement of the Lord’s kingdom within our own nations. Through the affirmation of his rule believers can enjoy peace and a godly state.

We do not need to use the weapons of those around us to influence policies; the option of prayer is a much greater power than is often appreciated. “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” (2 Cor 10:3−4) Authorities need the wisdom of God in this complicated and perverse world and they need to be provided insight from the one who has it.

God’s people should not take his blessings upon their nation as something deserved. He finds pleasure in the humble, in those who recognize his majesty and authority and who come before him with a contrite heart and for the pursuit of his purposes. Even David, a man after his own heart, lapsed into failure and brought condemnation on his people.

Paul wrote that “men are without excuse. For although they knew God (through his creation), they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Rom 1:20−21) Perhaps the godlessness that has invaded our nations is the result of his “turning his back” on the nations because he has been neglected by those in authority and by those who can enlist the divine power to destroy strongholds.

Those who want to see just, righteous, and godly government and who want to live in peace need to take greater ownership in their national development before he “returns to his lair” and they are condemned to bear their guilt before seeking his face—and in their misery earnestly seek him. The halls of power are not so far away that they cannot be influenced by the Lord Almighty through prayer. “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.” (Prov 29:2) We have not been commanded to agree with our leaders and their values, but we have been commanded to pray for them so that we might live in peace and godliness.

Russell Young’s column appears here on alternate Tuesdays. His first book, Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? is available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also an extended article at this link.

February 4, 2013

Children of Two Worlds

Exodus 2 (NIV)

Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

“Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”

Christians Live in Two Worlds

Our online friend Clark Bunch at The Masters Table blog posted this a couple of weeks ago under the title Child of Two Worlds.

Moses was born during the time the Hebrews were enslaved to Egypt, and male children were being thrown into the Nile.  Because Pharaoh’s daughter had found Moses floating in a basket and raised him as her own, he grew up in the house of Pharaoh.  Moses became the product of two cultures; his adoptive mother immediately identified him as Hebrew and found a Hebrew women to nurse him.  (Which just happened to be, if you believe in that sort of thing, his real mother.)  But he was raised as a prince of Egypt.  He had a crisis of identity when he saw a Hebrew being beaten by an Egyptian, one of his own people (Ex 2:11) and he struck and killed the Egyptian.  The very next day he tried to resolve a conflict between two Hebrews and was asked who appointed him as judge.  ”Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”  The Hebrews rejected his leadership because they identified him as a member of Pharaoh’s house, and after learning of the Egyptian’s death at his hand Pharaoh sought to kill him.  This is when he fled Egypt for Midian, where he laid low for the next 40 years.

Moses was a child of two worlds that was rejected by both.  All of the events of Moses’ early life were of course orchestrated by God, in order to prepare him to lead the Hebrews from Egypt.  Despite Moses’ objections, God explains to him at the burning bush what he plans to do.  (Moses vs. God lists each argument and God’s response.)  Moses appeared before the Egyptian Pharaoh many times, and was eventually embraced by the Hebrews as their leader whom they both respected and feared.  After the signs and wonders started many Egyptians feared him as well.  It was Moses’ understanding of both cultures that aptly suited him for the job.

Consider the Apostle Paul.  As Saul, he was a citizen of Rome and a Pharisee; highly educated in the Hebrew faith; read and spoke at least two languages and probably more; was zealous in persecuting the Christian faith.  As Paul, his knowledge of the Hebrew scripture and training as a Pharisee made him an excellent defender of the faith.  He debated with the Greek philosophers in their temples, defended himself before Roman governors, and reasoned with Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.  As a child of two worlds chosen by God for the task, he would write half of the books we identify as the New Testament.

Perhaps the most obvious child of two worlds is the Son of God/ Son of Man Jesus Christ.  But what about… yourself?  As citizens of the United States (or Canada, Israel, Australia, etc) we identify with a particular nation.  Within that nation we may relate to one particular culture.  But Jesus told the Roman governor Pilate he only had authority because it was given to him by his Father.  God has established kings and kingdoms, and in a very real sense we all answer to a higher authority.  As a citizen, Jesus yielded to earthly authorities.  He paid his taxes; but he also said give to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar and to God the things that belong to God.  As Christians we are citizens of the Kingdom.  We are each children of two worlds, with an earthly father and a heavenly father.  Christians have been described as pilgrims and strangers in a foreign land, and also as heavenly ambassadors.  One thing to keep in mind: we will spend a very short time in this kingdom but eternity in the next.  

While Jesus came to earth with a specific mission, Moses and Paul each heard and responded to God’s call.  They were citizens of two worlds that God used to build a kingdom.  In Moses’ case it was a physical one, in Paul’s it was the Kingdom not made with hands.  We are children of two worlds, and should think about what we are building.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  (Matthew 6:19-20)