You Shall Be Blameless

“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, 14 for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this. – Deuteronomy 18:9-14 ESV

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Which is to say that if someone mimics your actions or behavior, they are expressing admiration for you. And while there may be some truth to this idiom, in far too many cases, imitation can be a dangerous game to play. Failure to consider the character of the one you seek to emulate can result in far-from-flattering or beneficial outcomes. Seeking to pattern your life after someone else can be driven by all kinds of unhealthy motives. It is far too easy to focus on the external fruit of their behavior; such as success, wealth, and popularity, while failing to closely examine what they had to do to achieve those results. Did their path to success require that they cut corners, bend the rules, compromise their convictions, or sacrifice their integrity? Better yet, will imitating their lives require those things of you?

As the time approached for the people of Israel to enter the land of promise, Moses spent a great deal of time and energy attempting to prepare them for the formidable task that lay ahead of them. They were entering a new stage in their relationship with God that would be like nothing they had ever experienced before. Their faith in God would be tested in ways they could not even begin to imagine. Their willingness to remain faithful to God would come under constant attack.

Compromise would become a daily temptation. Complacency would be a constant threat to their commitment to God. Remaining set apart to God would be far more difficult than they could know. Maintaining their distinction as God’s holy people was going to require diligence and a determination to remain uncompromisingly committed to Him. Moses had repeatedly communicated their unique status as God’s chosen people.

“But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day.” – Deuteronomy 4:20 ESV

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” – Deuteronomy 7:6 ESV

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. – Deuteronomy 14:2 ESV

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. – Deuteronomy 14:21 ESV

The Hebrew word for “holy” is qadowsh, and it means “sacred” or “set apart.” The Israelites had been separated out by God and consecrated as His possession. They belonged to Him. Like Adam and Eve, the Israelites had been created by God and set apart for His glory. But their status as His chosen possession was going to require that they live according to His holy standards. They were not free to live as they wished. They could not follow the ways of the world. And God expected them to make the land of Canaan a veritable island of holiness in the sea of wickedness that covered the world.

Three times in five verses, Moses uses the Hebrew word, tow`ebah, to describe the ways of the people occupying the land of Canaan. They were an abomination to God because their ways were morally repugnant to Him. Their behavior was unacceptable to a holy God. So, Moses warns the Israelites from following their “abominable practices.” And he makes it clear that anyone among the Israelites who imitates their ways will be “an abomination to the Lord.”

Rather than mimic the ways of the Canaanites, the people of God were to do everything in their power to remain set apart and distinct. Moses put it in very stark terms.

“You shall be blameless before the Lord your God.” – Deuteronomy 18:13 ESV

The Hebrew word for “blameless” is tamiym and it carries the idea of wholeness or completeness. It is the very same word God had used when addressing Abraham nearly half a millennium earlier.

When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.” – Genesis 17:1 ESV

While tamiym can be translated as “perfect” or “unblemished,” God was not demanding sinlessness from Abraham. But was expecting Abraham to live his entire life in keeping with His ways. Abraham was to live an integral or whole life, dedicated to God and set apart for His glory. And Moses was trying to convey the same thought to the people of Israel. He was not expecting them to remain totally free from contamination by the world. That would have been impossible, given their sinful natures and the ubiquitous nature of evil in the world. But Moses wanted them to fully understand just how dangerous compromise with the world would be.

And while most of the abominable practices that Moses pointed out had to do with witchcraft, sorcery, divination, and the occult, all of these things were associated with Canaanite religious practices. Moses knew that the Israelites would be tempted to weave these morally disgusting practices into their own worship of Yahweh. Compromise would be a constant threat for the Israelites, resulting in their failure to remain tamiym – unblemished and unstained by the world.

God expected His people to live as who they are: His chosen possession. Their lives were to reflect their unique status as His set-apart ones. Enjoying their status as God’s children came with a non-negotiable requirement that they honor the distinctiveness of their position by living holy lives.

There was no room for compromise or complacency. They were to share God’s disgust and disdain for the ways of the Canaanites. They were to resist exposure to and contamination by the abominable practices of the Canaanites. And they were to never forget that God’s will was the complete eradication of the Canaanites and their unholy ways from the land.

When it comes to holiness, imitation of the world is not flattery, it’s idolatry. Compromising our convictions by copying the ways of the world is unacceptable for God’s people. We have been set apart. We belong to Him. As His children, we are to reflect His character and bring glory to His name by the way we live our lives – wholly unto Him.

The religion of the Israelites was totally unique and prescribed by God. It was not the result of man’s imagination and was not to reflect the practices of the pagan nations of the world. God had set Israel apart positionally and practically. Their status as His people was to show up in everyday life, especially when it came to their worship of Him.

There are all kinds of religions in the world, but only one brand of religious activity is acceptable to God. And James describes this kind of religion in very plain terms.

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. – James 1:27 NLT

And, as Paul told his disciple, Titus, the people of God are still expected to live distinctively different lives, not emulating the ways of this world but reflecting our status as God’s chosen people.

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. – Titus 2:11-13 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

 

 

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I Am – Part 2

13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” – Exodus 3:13-14 ESV

58 “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” – John 8:58 ESV

This is the second half of our discussion regarding Jesus and His self-identification as the great “I AM.” Over the last few posts, we have been dwelling on the central role that identity played in the life of our Savior. It began with a look at the words of Paul found in Philippians 2. In his letter to the small community of believers in Philippi, a congregation he had helped to start several years earlier, Paul emphasized their need for community and gave them the following challenge: “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” And for Paul, the evidence or proof that they were living worthy of the gospel would be clear when he received the news that they were “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27 ESV).

In chapter two, Paul encouraged them to make this outcome their goal; for their own good, God’s glory, and so that his own joy regarding them might be complete.

…complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:2-4 ESV

But the key to any of this taking place would not be found in their ability to “do what Jesus did.” In other words, personal effort, self-determination, and sheer will power were not going to be enough. All Paul’s talk about by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and having one mind was not a call to behavior modification. Yes, he had called them to humbly consider others more important than themselves. He had challenged them not to be selfish or to try to impress others. But Paul knew that the secret to their success would be a change in their way of thinking, not just their behavior.

let this mind be in you that is also in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 2:5 YLT

For the fourth time in a span of ten verses, Paul uses the Greek word phroneō, which can be translated as “think” or “be of the same mind.” Another important meaning of the term is “to have an opinion of one’s self, think of one’s self” (Outline of Biblical Usage). Within the context of the passage, Paul has been emphasizing the need for the Philippian believers to live in unity while facing increasing opposition. And their ability to pull that off would be based on their willingness to share the mindset of Jesus. Paul wanted them to have a proper opinion of themselves, that begins with a healthy awareness of their true identity. And Paul pointed to Jesus as someone whose own sense of self-awareness allowed Him to suffer willingly, serve selflessly, humble Himself gladly, and obey His Father’s will completely – even to the point of death.

Jesus was the Son of God. Paul makes that point quite clear. He describes Him as “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Philippians 2:5-6 ESV). Paul opens up chapter two by using the Messianic title of Christ when referring to Jesus. Then in verse five, he calls Him “Christ Jesus.” But in verse 11, Paul switches to the designation, “Jesus Christ.” The word “Christ” is not a name, but a title, and is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word for Messiah. “Jesus” was the human name given to the Son of God. So, Paul’s use of the title “Christ” before the name “Jesus” appears to support His emphasis on the incarnation – God becoming a man. Of first importance in this 11-verse section of Paul’s letter is the title or identity of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God sent to be the Savior of the world.

Jesus, though a man, was on an equal level with God because He was the Chosen One, the long-awaited Messiah, and the second person of the Trinity. And He was fully aware of who He was and what He had been sent to do. Paul stresses that Jesus willingly “emptied himself” or gave up His divine privileges and prerogatives to do the will of His Father, which included His death on the cross. He knew His identity, and He was clear on His job description. There was never a doubt in Jesus’ mind about His position and purpose. And that seems to be Paul’s point. Which is why he calls the Philippian believers to share that same mindset or outlook. But how?

It all ties back to the willingness of Jesus to humble Himself completely, serve others selflessly, and give His life sacrificially – even though He was the Son of God. Jesus suffered no diminishment in His value or worth by doing these things. His decision to become a slave did not make Him any less the Son of God. His choice to become human did not impact His holiness. While His earthly existence could be viewed as a form of demotion, Jesus never saw Himself as any less than who He was: The Son of God who enjoyed unbroken community and unity with His Heavenly Father.

While Jesus lived on this earth, His actions were never intended to make Him feel better about who He was. He did not do the things He did in an attempt to impress others or win their approval. He didn’t suffer from low self-esteem or struggle with self-worth. He had no doubts about His value and felt no pressure to maintain an air of superiority. So, loving, serving, giving, sacrificing, and even dying came easy for Him.

And they should for us as well, if we share His outlook regarding identity. And this is where the primary message in Paul’s letter comes home. Jesus knew who He was and was fully aware of His purpose in life. But are we? Do we have a strong awareness of our identity and a clear understanding of our God-given purpose in life? If not, we will find it difficult to live out our faith consistently and joyfully.

So, in the remaining time we have, I want to provide you with a list of clear and compelling identity markers found in the pages of Scripture. I doubt you will see anything new. But it is my prayer that, as you read through this list, you will begin to see yourself from a new perspective: The way God sees you. As we begin to grasp the significance of our true identity, we will be better able to recognize the lies of the enemy, who is constantly whispering in our ears, “If you are the son of God…”

He wants to convince us that we are not enough, that we don’t measure up, that our God doesn’t love us, our pain is a form of divine punishment, and that we deserve better and more. He is constantly tempting us to see ourselves as something other than who we are in Christ. He wants to hear us say,

“I am…important”

“I am…a success”

“I am…happy”

“I am…satisfied”

“I am…significant”

“I am…deserving”

But Paul would have us view ourselves quite differently, and he offers us the mindset of Jesus as the means by which we can live as Jesus did. We too can reject the temptations of the enemy to seek false identities and to pursue any other purpose for lives other than the one given to us by God.

When Jesus answered the charges of those who attempted to question His identity, He simply stated, “I am.” With those two simple words, Jesus conveyed His confident awareness of who He was and what He had come to do. Nothing could dissuade Jesus from knowing His true identity and from accomplishing His God-given mission. And the same can be true for us. So, the next time Satan whispers in your ear, “Do you know who you are?” you can confidently respond:

I am…forgiven (Ephesians 1:7)

I am…redeemed (Ephesians 1:7)

I am…God’s child (Ephesians 1:3-8)

I am…a co-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17)

I am…a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)

I am…God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10)

I am…a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I am…justified by Christ’s blood (Romans 5:9)

I am…the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)

I am…set free from sin (Romans 6:18)

I am…free from condemnation (Romans 8:1)

I am…adopted into God’s family (Romans 8:15)

I am…more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37)

I am…a member of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27)

I am…of great value to God (Matthew 5:26)

I am…the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19)

I am…an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20)

I am…a saint (Ephesians 1:1)

I am…wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)

I am…complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10)

I am…part of a chosen race (1 Peter 2:9)

I am…washed clean (Isaiah 1:18)

I am…holy and without blame (Ephesians 1:4)

I am…reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18)

I am…one with Christ (John 17:21-23)

That’s quite a list, and it doesn’t even begin to cover the many promises found in Scripture regarding our identity in Christ. We are blessed beyond belief, and yet, the enemy still manages to distract our minds from these great truths and cause us to seek our identity and purpose elsewhere. Unwilling to focus on who we are in Christ, we begin to look for other forms of identity in a vain attempt to feel better about who we are. But the identities the world offers us are inaccurate at best and unholy at worst. They bring out the worst in us. They are based on pride and self-exaltation. They tend to focus on what we do, who we know, or what we possess, rather than who God made us to be. Possessions, positions, prominence, power, pleasure and the perceptions of others become the measuring rods by which we assess our value and determine our purpose. But Paul would encourage us to…let this mind be in you that is also in Christ Jesus. Think of who you are by viewing yourself through the lens of your God-given identity. And when you do, you will be able to say, because I am, I can.

Our security regarding our identity is what allows us to serve selflessly, love sacrificially, obey willingly, give graciously, live in community, and avoid the pitfalls of selfish ambition, pride, and conceit. Because I am…I can.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

One With Christ

 – 8  Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers. – Hebrews 2:8-11 ESV

Any sanctification we enjoy or would hope to achieve in this life would be impossible without Christ’s incarnation. Had Jesus not taken on human flesh, suffered at the hands of men, willingly endured the humiliation of a series of trials based on false charges, and allowed Himself to be publicly tortured and crucified, there would be no sanctification available. But the apostles Paul reminds us that Jesus, “who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature” (Philippians 2:6-7 NLT).

He became one of us so that He might become one with us. His deliverance of mankind from slavery to sin and the condemnation of death required that He become a man. The author of the book of Hebrews takes the incarnation of Jesus way beyond the iconic image of baby Jesus in a manger and emphasizes the necessity of Jesus in the body of a man, “made in every respect like us.”

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.

it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. – Hebrews 2:14-15, 17 NLT

Jesus took on human flesh and, in doing so, became one of us. The author of Hebrews makes it clear that the incarnation was a demotion, not a promotion.

Jesus, who for a little while was given a position “a little lower than the angels.” – Hebrews 2:9 NLT

Jesus left His rightful place at His Father’s side in heaven and came to live among men. But not in the form of a burning bush, a pillar of fire, a cloud, or accompanied by flashes of lightning and peals of thunder. No, He took on human flesh so that He might become the visible expression of the invisible God. Look closely at how Paul describes this vital aspect of Jesus’ incarnation.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. – Colossians 1:15-16 NLT

He is the co-Creator of the universe, the second person of the Trinity and yet, He humbled Himself and took the form of one of those whom He created. But Paul goes on to explain that Jesus never sacrificed an ounce of His divinity while taking on humanity.

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. – Colossians 1:19-20 NLT

It was His perfect combination of divinity and humanity that allowed Jesus to serve as God the Father’s reconciler. Jesus lived as a man, experiencing everything that we experience, enduring trials and temptations just as we do, and yet, without sin.

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. – Hebrews 4:15 NLT

It was His sinlessness that made Jesus the acceptable sacrifice for the sins of men. He was the unblemished Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. His death on the cross was an offering, made on behalf of sinful men, and approved by God as an acceptable sacrifice. He paid our sin debt with His own life. He died the death we deserved, offering Himself as sinless substitute whose blood satisfied the just demands of a holy God. And here is the incredible reality of it all:

For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ. – Colossians 2:9-10 NLT

Notice what Paul says: You also are complete through your union with Christ. Paul used the Greek word, plēroō and it conveys the idea of consummation. It means “to make complete in every particular, to render perfect.” It can also mean “to furnish or supply liberally.” Jesus’ incarnation and crucifixion have furnished all that sinful men and women need to be made complete or perfectly righteous in God’s eyes. And all it requires from us is faith – a belief that Jesus paid it all and all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, but He washed it white as snow.

And all of this, His incarnation, sinless existence, death, and resurrection, point to the remarkable truth that Jesus sanctified Himself so that we might be sanctified. Read and consider carefully the words of Jesus expressed to His Heavenly Father just hours before His death.

For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. – John 17:19 NASB

Jesus set Himself apart for God’s use, obediently answering the Father’s call for a sinless sacrifice so that sinful mankind might be reconciled. Jesus, the holy Son of God, sanctified Himself. But what does that mean? Had He made Himself more holy? Was He claiming that His coming death was going to be some kind of righteous performance that would earn Him favor with God?

Unto what did Christ allude when he there spoke of sanctifying himself? Certainily he could not possibly be referring to anything subjective or experimental, for in his own person he was “the Holy One of God”, and as such, he could not increase in holiness, or become more holy. His language then must have respect unto what was objective, relating to the exercise of his mediatorial office. – A. W. Pink, The Doctrine of Sanctification

No, Jesus was completely righteous and fully holy. He was without sin. He was the Son of God. And His death on the cross would not add to His holiness or enhance His righteousness. It would serve as proof of who He was and act as an expression of His humble submission to the will of His Heavenly Father. Jesus sanctified Himself by committing Himself to do the will of God.

“Behold, I have come to do your will. – Hebrews 10:9 ESV

And because Jesus set Himself apart to the will of God, He made it possible for sinful men to be set apart (sanctified) as well. His obedience made provision for man’s salvation and sanctification. As the author of Hebrews states: “he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source”: Jesus Christ. He is everything – the sanctified and the sanctifier. And when we place our faith in Him, we become one with Him. Christ devoted Himself to the will of His Father, so that we might be sanctified as the sons and daughters of His Father.

As a result of Christ’s sanctifying himself – devoting himself as a whole burnt offering to God, his people are perfectly sanctified; their sins are put away, their persons are cleansed from all defilement; and not only so, but the excellency of his infinitely meritorious work is imputed to them, so that they are perfectly acceptable to God, meet for his presence, fitted for his worship. – A. W. Pink, The Doctrine of Sanctification

Jesus became one of us so that we might become one with Him – set apart as God’s children and enjoying all the riches of our inheritance as His fellow heirs of the Kingdom.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

A Call to Older Men

1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. – Titus 2:1-2 ESV

Paul has spent a significant portion of his letter warning Titus about the dangers of those who were promoting their man-made doctrines among the churches on Crete. These individuals were blatantly adding to the simplicity of the gospel message and contradicting the teaching of Paul and the other apostles of Jesus Christ. And one of the reasons these false teachers were making an impact was because of the spiritual immaturity of the congregations. As Paul concluded a few verses earlier in his letter, the believers on Crete were not sound in the faith.

So, Paul turns his attention to Titus, tasking his with the job of teaching “what accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1 ESV). Notice that Paul is not asking Titus to teach sound doctrine. He seems to know that Titus has been faithful to promote what is in keeping with the teachings of Jesus and His apostles. But what Paul wants Timothy to do is to teach what “accords with” sound teaching. The Greek word Paul used carries the idea of reflecting or demonstrating. In other words, Paul is asking Titus to teach the Cretan believers what Christ-like behavior looks like. He wants Titus to make it clear to these people what true doctrine looks like when it’s lived out on a daily basis. 

This is in direct response to the false teaching that had begun to infect and influence the church. They were promoting everything from license to legalism. Some were demanding that any and all behavior was acceptable because they believed the spiritual and the physical were two completely separate realms. These individuals taught that what we do in our flesh makes no difference. As you can only imagine, this false doctrine would lead to some abhorrent behavior that was in direct contradiction to the Word of God.

These people were often referred to as antinomians, which literally means “anti-law.” They took the teachings of Paul regarding our freedom from the Mosaic Law and turned them into permission to practice moral license. But Paul addressed this misconception in his first letter to the believers in Corinth.

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. You say, “Food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food.” (This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them.) But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies. – 1 Corinthians 6:12-13 NLT

But right alongside the antinomians came the legalists, the party of the circumcision, who were teaching that strict adherence to the Mosaic Law was mandatory for any and all professing believers, whether they were Jews or Gentiles. These people taught a strict code based on abstinence and adherence. Paul addressed this false teaching to the Colossian church.

“Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires. – Colossians 2:21-23 NLT

So, with these two diametrically opposed brands of false teaching bombarding the local churches on Crete, Paul commanded Titus to provide the people with clear instructions on what proper Christian behavior should look like. And what should stand out to us is the simple, practical nature of Paul’s examples.

Paul begins with the mature males in the church, using the Greek word, presbytēs. It was a common word typically used to refer to someone who was more advanced in years. They were not necessarily elderly, but simply older. For Paul, these men were essential to the overall health of the church. And he states that they were to be “sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness” (Titus 1:2 ESV). Each of these terms is packed with meaning, and they are not to be taken lightly.

The first descriptor Paul uses is nēphalios, which is translated as “sober-minded.” Some translations use the word “temperate” which is probably much closer to the original meaning. The original Greek word meant “abstaining from wine, either entirely or at least from its immoderate use.” And this meaning seems to fit the context. In the very next verse, Paul states that the older women were not to be “slaves to much wine.” It would seem that over-indulgence had become a problem in the churches on Crete. License had led some to drink wine to access. Any belief in moderation had been abandoned for the pursuit of personal pleasure. But in his letter to the believers in Galatia, Paul listed drunkenness among the works of the flesh and temperance among the fruit of the Spirit.

The second attribute or characteristic Paul requires of all older men in the body of Christ was semnos, which conveys the idea of being venerated for their character. They were to be looked up to for the way they lived their lives. These men were to be examples to the rest of the congregation, emulating the character of Christ and leading the younger men in the church to aspire to follow their example. It could have been that these older, more mature believers were setting the wrong example, having chosen to follow the teaching of the antinomians. Perhaps they were leading the way in licentious behavior and causing their younger brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble. But Paul demands that their behavior be Christ-like in every way.

Next, Paul emphasizes their need to be self-controlled. That particular translation of the Greek word sōphrōn is somewhat misleading. It seems to convey the idea that this character quality is completely up to the individual to pull off. But we know that Paul firmly believed in the role of the Holy Spirit in assisting us in our pursuit of Christ-like behavior. In fact, he told the believers in Galatia: “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT). Paul clearly taught that self-control was only possible when one was under the Spirit’s control. 

…let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. – Galatians 5:16 NLT

The Greek word has to do with curbing one’s desires and impulses. It is the mark of someone who is not controlled by his emotions, physical appetites, or sinful desires. And it listed in the qualities required of an elder found in chapter 1.

These are all characteristics that should accompany physical maturity. But Paul doesn’t stop there. He adds a few more qualities that should reflect spiritual maturity or godliness. He states that these older men should be “sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness” (Titus 2:2 ESV). The Greek word that is translated as “sound” has to do with wholeness or completeness. It was often used to refer to a person being sound of body or in good health. Paul is insisting that older Christian men should be whole or healthy when it comes to their faith in God and His gospel message, their love for God and His children, and their patient endurance as they wait for His Son’s return.

Paul held these older men to a higher standard and, more than likely, he included himself as one of them. He worked hard to ensure that his life was an example to the younger men in his life, including Titus and Timothy. Paul was able to say to the believers in Corinth, “you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1 NLT). He told the Philippian believers, “pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example” (Philippians 3:17 NLT). He went on to tell them, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things” (Philippians 4:9 ESV).

Paul was demanding of these men what he demanded of himself. But this was not some form of legalism or license. He was not promoting another form of rule-keeping or behavior modification. For Paul, this was all about living out his faith in everyday life. It was to permeate every area of his life. His belief was to result in changed behavior. And he knew that this was true of each and every person who professed to be a follower of Christ.

The reason older men are singled out first is that they were the pool from which the elders of the church were to come. The Greek word used for older men is presbytēs and the word for elder is presbyteros. Paul had charged Titus with the task of finding and appointing elders in all the churches on Crete. But where was he going to find such individuals if there were no older men who met the standards? The truth is, the church should never be in short supply of elders, because it is filled with older men whose lives reflect the characteristics of an elder. Godly leadership should be readily available and easily accessible because the older men of the church are sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.s

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Fool On the Hill.

Then the Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah, saying, “Is not David hiding himself on the hill of Hachilah, which is on the east of Jeshimon?” So Saul arose and went down to the wilderness of Ziph with three thousand chosen men of Israel to seek David in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul encamped on the hill of Hachilah, which is beside the road on the east of Jeshimon. But David remained in the wilderness. When he saw that Saul came after him into the wilderness, David sent out spies and learned that Saul had indeed come. Then David rose and came to the place where Saul had encamped. And David saw the place where Saul lay, with Abner the son of Ner, the commander of his army. Saul was lying within the encampment, while the army was encamped around him.

Then David said to Ahimelech the Hittite, and to Joab’s brother Abishai the son of Zeruiah, “Who will go down with me into the camp to Saul?” And Abishai said, “I will go down with you.” So David and Abishai went to the army by night. And there lay Saul sleeping within the encampment, with his spear stuck in the ground at his head, and Abner and the army lay around him. Then Abishai said to David, “God has given your enemy into your hand this day. Now please let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear, and I will not strike him twice.” But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?” And David said, “As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish. The Lord forbid that I should put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed. But take now the spear that is at his head and the jar of water, and let us go.” So David took the spear and the jar of water from Saul’s head, and they went away. No man saw it or knew it, nor did any awake, for they were all asleep, because a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen upon them. – 1 Samuel 26:1-12 ESV

Chapter 25 provided us with a brief respite from the ongoing conflict between Saul and David. But chapter 26 picks up where chapter 24 left off. When we last left Saul, he was headed home after his near-death encounter with David. He had unknowingly walked right into an ambush, choosing to relieve himself in a cave where David and his men had been hiding. But David had spared Saul’s life, choosing instead to confront him face-to-face and assure Saul that he posed no threat to his kingdom. He was not going to lift his hand against Saul. And we’re told that “Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold” (1 Samuel 24:22 ESV).

Chapter 25 introduced us to a new character, Nabal, who displayed all the classic characteristics of a biblical fool and whose unwise actions almost caused the unnecessary deaths of everyone associated with him. But Abigail, his wife, had intervened and prevented David from doing something he would long regret. Nabal’s rashness and ungodliness were going to be the death of him – literally. This fool would die a fool’s death. But while David had been able to walk away from Nabal with his integrity intact, he would soon discover that there another fool in his life who had not gone anywhere. Saul may have gone home, but he wouldn’t stay there for long. While he had shown signs of remorse in his last encounter with David, he had not given up his quest to see David put to death. And when the Ziphites betrayed David to Saul a second time (1 Samuel 23:19), informing Saul of his whereabouts, he mustered 3,000 soldiers to hunt him down.

Verse three tells us, “Saul encamped on the hill of Hachilah, which is beside the road on the east of Jeshimon.” Saul’s stubborn refusal to give up the hunt is truly remarkable. His remorse-filled words, spoken to David during their conversation outside the cave had sounded so sincere.

“You are a better man than I am, for you have repaid me good for evil.  Yes, you have been amazingly kind to me today, for when the Lord put me in a place where you could have killed me, you didn’t do it. Who else would let his enemy get away when he had him in his power? May the Lord reward you well for the kindness you have shown me today. And now I realize that you are surely going to be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will flourish under your rule.” – 1 Samuel 24:17-20 NLT

But Saul was a fool. It’s interesting to note that the name of the fool in the last chapter, Nabal, actually meant “fool”. It refers to a particular type of fool, one who is overly self-confident and particularly close-minded. He tends to act as his own god and freely gratifies his own sin nature. This type of fool is the worst kind and can only be reproved by God Himself. The prophet Isaiah describes this type of fool (nabal):

For fools speak foolishness
    and make evil plans.
They practice ungodliness
    and spread false teachings about the Lord.
They deprive the hungry of food
    and give no water to the thirsty. – Isaiah 32:6 NLT

This kind of fool is typically godless in nature. It is not that they don’t believe in God, but that they act as if God does not exist. This was Saul’s problem. He kept pursuing David in spite of the fact that God had clearly ordained him to be Saul’s replacement. Saul refused to accept God’s will and was willing to risk anything and everything in his attempt to circumvent God’s divine authority. He was so busy chasing David, that he had no time to meet the needs of his nation or its citizens. David had become much more than a distraction, he was an obsession.

So, Saul and his troops set up camp on the hill of Hachilah. He foolishly thought he was in the right. He foolishly considered himself safe, falling asleep that night, surrounded by his 3,000 well-trained soldiers. But David and Abishai, his nephew, snuck into the camp that night and crept right up to Saul as he and his crack troops lay fast asleep. Samuel goes on to qualify that their heavy sleep was God’s doing: “a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen upon them” (1 Samuel 26:12 ESV). Once again, David found himself in a tempting situation where his arch-enemy was seemingly handed to him on a silver platter. Even Abishai recognized a golden opportunity when he saw one, begging for permission to put Saul to death right then and there. But David’s response was firm and and crystal clear:

“No!” David said. “Don’t kill him. For who can remain innocent after attacking the Lord’s anointed one? Surely the Lord will strike Saul down someday, or he will die of old age or in battle. The Lord forbid that I should kill the one he has anointed! But take his spear and that jug of water beside his head, and then let’s get out of here!” – 1 Samuel 26:9-11 NLT

David had learned a lot from his encounter with Nabal and Abigail. While the timing seemed perfect and his justification for killing Saul seemed plausible, he knew that he had been given no green light from God to take the life of the king. If vengeance was necessary, that was up to God. If Saul was meant to die an untimely death, that too was up to God. David refused to make evil plans or practice ungodliness. In other words, he refused to act like a fool. He wasn’t going to lower himself to the same level as Nabal or Saul. He chose to do the godly thing. He determined to leave his own destiny and the fate of his enemies in God’s hands. We find in the Proverbs a number of verses that provide apt descriptions of David’s actions:

One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil,
    but a fool is reckless and careless. – Proverbs 14:16 ESV

The anger of the king is a deadly threat;
    the wise will try to appease it. – Proverbs 16:14 NLT

Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
    Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. – Proverbs 3:7 NLT

But the Scriptures also provide us with insights into the nature of Saul’s perplexing behavior.

Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?
    There is more hope for a fool than for him. – Proverbs 26:12 ESV

Wisdom is better than foolishness, just as light is better than darkness. For the wise can see where they are going, but fools walk in the dark. – Ecclesiastes 2:13-14 NLT

Two men stood on a hill. One was a fool, the other was wise. Both knew God. Both had been appointed and anointed by God. But one was living his life as if God didn’t exist, the quintessential trademark of a fool. As this chapter unfolds, we will continue to see a stark contrast between these two men. Their lives were inseparably linked, but the outcome of their lives would prove to be radically divergent. Wisdom and folly. Two ways of life that lead to two very different outcomes.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Self-Pity and Paranoia.

Now Saul heard that David was discovered, and the men who were with him. Saul was sitting at Gibeah under the tamarisk tree on the height with his spear in his hand, and all his servants were standing about him. And Saul said to his servants who stood about him, “Hear now, people of Benjamin; will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, will he make you all commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, that all of you have conspired against me? No one discloses to me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse. None of you is sorry for me or discloses to me that my son has stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as at this day.” Then answered Doeg the Edomite, who stood by the servants of Saul, “I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, and he inquired of the Lord for him and gave him provisions and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.”

Then the king sent to summon Ahimelech the priest, the son of Ahitub, and all his father’s house, the priests who were at Nob, and all of them came to the king. And Saul said, “Hear now, son of Ahitub.” And he answered, “Here I am, my lord.” And Saul said to him, “Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, in that you have given him bread and a sword and have inquired of God for him, so that he has risen against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?” – 1 Samuel 22:6-13 ESV

These verses provide us with a stark contrast. David was in a cave surrounded by misfits and malcontents, but now we see Saul sitting under the shade of a tree surrounded by his servants. The contrast doesn’t stop there. David provided protection for his family by sending them to the king of Moab for refuge. Yet Saul was busy accusing his own son of treason and of conspiring with David to kill him. David was surrounded by men who were willing to die for him. Saul was surrounded by men who feared him and some had even abandoned him to follow after David. But the greatest contrast between these two men is their relationships with God. David received a prophetic word from God that told him to leave the Cave of Adullam and return to Judah. But Saul had not word from God. In fact, he had no relationship with God at all. God had removed His Spirit from him. Saul was on his on and was by all accounts, God-less. The result was a growing paranoia. He truly believed everyone was against him. His daughter and son had turned on him. His servants were untrustworthy. No one could be trusted. And his paranoia led to a heavy dose of self-pity. He was all alone. And his little speech to his servants reveals the extent of his self-pity.

“Has that son of Jesse promised every one of you fields and vineyards? Has he promised to make you all generals and captains in his army? Is that why you have conspired against me?” – 1 Samuel 22:7-8 NLT

“You’re not even sorry for me.” – 1 Samuel 22:8 NLT

Saul even accused Ahimelech the priest of treason, seeing his actions to help David as a personal attack against him.

“Why have you and the son of Jesse conspired against me?” – 1 Samuel 22:13 NLT

Without God in his life, Saul was susceptible to all kind of irrational and unrighteous thinking. His capacity to mentally process the circumstances of his life was greatly hindered by his lack of God’s presence in his life. He had become a fool, lacking reason and rational thought. He could not even process the fact that all of this was the outcome of the prophet’s warning that God was removing His hand from Saul’s life and giving his kingdom to another. Saul was in a state of denial and suffering from delusion, thinking that he could somehow prevent the inevitable and stay the hand of God. But his unwillingness to accept the will of God would simply cause him to sin against God, committing greater and greater transgressions, all in a hopeless attempt at self-preservation.

Standing among Saul’s servants that day was Doeg the Edomite, who might be better known as Doeg the Snitch. He had hurried back from Nob eager to share the news that David was there and had been given food and the sword of Goliath by Ahimelech the priest. When Saul heard this report, he immediately sent for Ahimelech, his family, and all his fellow priests who served alongside him at Nob. If Ahimelech had been scared when he saw David show up in Nob (1 Samuel 21:1), he must have been petrified at the news of a summon from the king, and any fears he had would prove to be justified.

Saul was a man possessed, both figuratively and literally. He was constantly beset by a “harmful spirit,” the result of God’s removal of the Holy Spirit from his life. Without the influence of God’s Spirit, Saul’s reasoning was impaired. He became self-absorbed and suspicious of everyone and everything. Over time, he would become a man-obsessed, unable to think of anything other than the destruction of David. Essentially, he would no longer act as the king of Israel. His whole life would be focused on one thing: David’s death. The very thing he was trying to protect: His kingship, would get lost in his obsessive-compulsive quest to kill off the competition. Sadly, Saul would be unable to enjoy the benefits of being king, because he lived in constant fear of no longer being king.

One of sad realities of godlessness is that it always results in joylessness, discontentment, fear, jealousy, anger… In fact, the apostle Paul outlines the characteristics or “deeds” of a godless or flesh-based life in his letter to the Galatians.

…sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. – Galatians 5:20-21 NLT

Saul was miserable, not because he was losing his kingdom, but because he had lost God. His unhappiness, paranoia, self-pity and misguided attempts at self-preservation were driven by his lack of a relationship with God. His decision-making was totally flesh-based, driven by his own sin nature and devoid of any wisdom from God. He had lost his capacity to see things from God’s perspective. Everything had become all about him. He was no longer concerned about the good of Israel or the honor of God’s name. His only thoughts were for self.

The life of the godless is not a pretty picture. And the truly sad thing is that many, who have a relationship with Christ, can end up living godless lives, refusing to seek His will, listen to His Word, or heed His direction. Rather than living God-centered, God-directed lives, they become self-absorbed and susceptible to the flawed input of their own sin natures. While the Spirit of God never leaves them, they quench and grieve the Spirit through disobedience and wilful, unrepentant sin. Rather than enjoying the fruit of the Spirit and the joys of sanctification, they become obsessed with self-preservation and paranoid about protecting what it is they think they have. Jesus said, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10 NLT). Saul had been deceived by Satan into believing that joy would be found in pursuing and eliminating David. But nothing could have been further from the truth. And Satan is constantly attempting to deceive us into believing that our way is preferable to God’s way. But our way is the way of the flesh, and it eventually robs us of joy, kills our capacity to love, and destroys any hope of having a rich and satisfying life. Satan offers what he cannot give. Jesus promises what He died to make possible. The God-less life is a paranoid, self-pitying, joyless life. But the godly life brings joy in the midst of sorrow, peace in the middle of the storm, hope when all looks hopeless, contentment in the face of loss, and strength in spite of our own weakness. 

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Proverbs 22c

The Desire of Every Parent.

“Direct your child onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” – Proverbs 22:6 NLT

This verse has been taught at every parenting seminar I have ever been to. It has been held up as a promise from the very Word of God that offers us a virtual guarantee of success in child-rearing if we just do our part well. But as a parent of six and as the youngest son of my own parents, I have found that this verse, while promising, is not exactly a promise. In fact, it is NOT a promise at all. Like all the other proverbs written or collected by Solomon, it is a universal truth. It is how God intended the world to work. But because of the fall and the presence of sin, things do not always turn out the way God intended or as we might want them to – regardless of how well we do at raising our children. But this does not change the reality that the best way is always God’s way. As Christ-followers, we are to raise our children according to God’s will and direct them on to the one path that leads to true life. In most translations, the first part of this verse uses the words, “train up a child.” The Hebrew idea behind this is that of dedication. It is used in the context of dedicating a house to God. So, in essence, we are to dedicate our children to God and give them over to Him for His use – teaching them to walk His path and live according to His will. This includes not only teaching them well, but modeling Christ-like behavior and obedience in front of them. It isn’t enough to simply teach them Bible stories and moralistic platitudes about honesty, sharing, truthfulness, and humility. As the old saying goes, when it comes to teaching more is caught than taught. Our kids will pick up the “godly life” by watching us live it more than they will by hearing us talk about it. When this verse says, “Direct your children onto the right path,” it is encouraging us as parents to live our lives in such a way that our children instinctively know which way to go from having watched us and followed us.
According to the Book of Proverbs, there are only two paths to life. There are only two ways for our children to go: The wise way or the foolish way. The way of righteousness or the way of wickedness. The way of the godly or the way of the godless. Because Proverbs uses the metaphor of the path so often, it fits in well here. It helps us understand that this verse is about a way of life, not just lessons for life. It is about a lifestyle choice. And it is a lifelong job. As parents, we are always training our children – even long after they are out of our house. We are still modeling godly behavior and directing them onto the right path long after they’re grown and gone. The verse says, “and when they are older, they will not leave it.” This conveys the idea that our job is never over and that the impact of our efforts are lifelong, not temporal. We may see our children wander off the path for a time, but we may also live to see them discover their way back our of the high weeds and into the light of God’s will. Our job is to keep training, modeling, and directing. We have to leave the results up to God. At the end of the day, if we have truly dedicated them to God, we must realize that it is He who will determine the outcome of their lives. Only He can reach their hearts and transform their character from the inside out. And while this Proverbs does not guarantee results, it does give us the assurance that if we are faithful to do our job, we can trust God to do His part. We can leave our children in His capable, loving, merciful hands.

Father, give me the stamina and determination to direct my children on to the right path and to do it faithfully, all throughout the years of their lives. Don’t let me take shortcuts or fail to model the godly lifestyle in front of them. Forgive me for taking complete responsibility for the way my children turn out and forgetting that only You can save my kids, and redeem, restore, and protect them. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Proverbs 11c

Sad, But True.

“When the wicked die, their hopes die with them, for they rely on their own feeble strength.” – Proverbs 11:7 NLT

The Scriptures can be blunt. Sometimes just reading through God’s Word can cause us to cringe at what appears to be the politically uncorrect nature of some of the statements that flow from its pages. The Word of God pulls no punches. It takes no prisoners. It isn’t afraid to get up-in-your-face and tell you what you need to hear, whether you want to hear it or not. It’s painfully honest at times. But honest is exactly what it is. It is the word of God and it speaks truth – refusing to sugarcoat the hard facts or soften the impact of its message on the souls of men. Verse seven of Proverbs 11 is one of those I-can’t-believe-you-just-said-that kind of statements. “When the wicked die, their hopes die with them, for they rely on their own feeble strength.” The Message puts it this way, “When the wicked die, that’s it — the story’s over, end of hope.” There is not more. Their petty efforts at achieving success in life are proved to be what they have always been – futile and pointless. Any happiness they have enjoyed is short-lived and temporal, rather than eternal. Rather than trust God for their eternal well-being, they have relied on their own “feeble strength” and learned that no amount of money, success, achievements, accolades, or toys will help them when this life is over.

“Evil people get rich for the moment” (Proverbs 11:18 NLT). They live for this life. Their actions and attitudes are self-focused and temporally-based. They may enjoy all that this life has to offer, but this life is not all that there is. “The reward of the godly will last” (Proverbs 11:18 NLT). Those who choose to live their life according to God’s standards and in His strength, not their own, will discover that their reward is long-lasting. “Godly people find life; evil people find death” (Proverbs 11:19 NLT). “The godly can look forward to a reward, while the wicked can expect only judgment” (Proverbs 11:23 NLT). Wow! That’s blunt. That’s cold and seemingly heartless. But it’s the truth. It is a matter-of-fact wake-up call designed to remind us that we are eternal creatures, not temporal ones. Our focus needs to be on eternity, not the fleeting promises of this life. When we have an eternal perspective, we can give freely because we aren’t looking to the things of this world to satisfy us or keep us safe. We don’t look to money to bring us happiness or fulfillment. “Trust in your money and down you go!” (Proverbs 11:28 NLT). No, those who have their eyes focused on God see life differently. Generosity comes naturally. Holding loosely to the things of this world is easy. They inherently know that “riches won’t help on the day of judgment, but right living can save you from death” (Proverbs 11:4 NLT).

These truths are hard to hear and even harder to accept. We hear a steady stream of propaganda telling us that this life is all that matters. We are told to grab all we can while we can because there’s nothing else after this. We are constantly reminded that our own happiness is all that matters. We’re number one. It’s every man for himself. But God has a different perspective. And the godly recognize that there is more to life than pleasure, possessions, popularity and prosperity. There’s eternal life. This world is not our home, we’re just passing through. The best is yet to come.

Father, it’s hard to think about the destiny awaiting those who reject You. It’s difficult to wrestle with the reality that millions of people are willing to sacrifice their eternity for a little temporary pleasure. Give me an eyes-wide-open perspective on life. Let me see it from Your vantage point. Keep me focused on eternity. But at the same time, don’t let me get so heavenly focused that I’m no earthly good. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Proverbs 29

With Power Comes Responsibility.

“When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan.” – Proverbs 29:2 NLT

All of us long for power in some form or fashion. The thought of being weak and powerless is naturally repulsive to most of us. And the truth is, we all experience some kind of authority over someone or something else. The question is – how do we handle power when we have it? Are we fair and just or do we wield our power with pride, arrogance and in an abusive manner? Authority is a divine concept and God holds those in authority responsible for their actions. God gave Adam and Eve special responsibilities to care for and have authority over the creation. God gave Abraham authority as the father of a nation of people chosen by God. God gave Moses authority to lead those very same people out of captivity and into freedom. He gave the prophets authority to act as His spokespersons and proclaim His word to His rebellious people. God gave the disciples authority over demons, disease and even death. But all authority can be abused. We can utilize our positions of power or influence for good or bad. A parent can abuse their child, using their authority to destroy the heart and soul of the one they are to nurture and love. A boss can abuse their responsibility, taking advantage of his employees, overworking them while he underpays them. Politicians and rulers can abuse their authority, ignoring the needs of their constituents in favor of maintaining their party’s power and their own position.

The Proverbs have a lot to say about authority and Proverbs 29 is no exception. We are reminded that godly leadership is the best form of leadership. It causes those under it to rejoice. While the leadership of the ungodly produces pain and heartache in those who must bear up under it. According to God, the kind of leadership or authority He is looking for is just, fair, compassionate, and caring. In other words, God expects those with authority over others to practice His brand of leadership. He wants them to lead the way He leads. That means we must lead through love. We must discipline on occasion, but always out of love. We must judge at times, but always with love. We must guide and direct those under our care, but out of love, not anger.

Authority is a huge responsibility. Ultimately, those in authority will be held responsible by God for their actions. There is no place for pride, selfishness, greed, or self-gain. Those who hold positions of authority exist for the good of others. They hold the welfare of others in their hands, whether they lead a nation or a family. God watches over the helpless, hopeless, innocent, and powerless. He will hold those in authority responsible for the manner in which they rule, judge, lead, care for, and protect those under their care. And anyone who holds a position of authority is wise to recognize and to constantly remind themselves that God is the ultimate authority. He is the one who is in control of all things. All others report to Him. They owe their positions to Him. They get their right to rule from Him. So rule well. Lead wisely. Practice authority responsibly.

Father, the world is filled with irresponsible leaders who abuse their roles and take advantage of their authority, to the detriment of those under their care. Help me to see any authority I may have as God-given and to use it wisely, knowing full well that I am under Your authority. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Proverbs 17b

 

Set Your Sights On Wisdom.

“Sensible people keep their eyes glued on wisdom, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.” – Proverbs 17:24 NLT

When reading the Proverbs it sometimes helps if you replace the word, “Wisdom” with Christ. Christ is the epitome, the personification, the embodiment of wisdom. Paul tells us, “It is because of him [God] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30 NLT). Christ, because He is God, doesn’t just have wisdom, He IS wisdom. It is His very nature. So when we look at verse 24 with this in mind, it gives us a new perspective. “Sensible people keep their eyes glued on Christ.” This verse is talking about a person who has understanding, insight or discernment. It is NOT because they have these qualities that they keep their eyes glued on Christ. It is BECAUSE they keep their eyes glued on Christ that they have these qualities. Those who keep Christ “in front of” themselves or right in their faces are the ones who will receive understanding, insight and discernment. They will grow wiser because they have fellowship with the one who is the very wisdom of God.

The idea here is one of focus and expectation. While the godly keep Christ clearly in their sights, the foolish “wander to the ends of the earth.” The fool does not seek Christ. He doesn’t turn to Him for understanding, insight or discernment. Instead, he searches anywhere and everywhere hoping to find what he can only find in Christ. And the sad part is, Christ is available to the fool at any time. He is always there. He is readily findable and accessible – to anyone and everyone. He is no respecter of persons. In fact, look at verse two. It contains a subtle, yet significant message. It describes “a wise servant.” That may not jump out to us, but in their day to call a servant wise would be ridiculous. It would be like an oxymoron. Wise and servant just don’t seem to go together. But a common, household servant who comes to Christ would be just that. He would be wise. In Solomon’s day, a servant who served Yahweh first and foremost would have been wise. He would have gained wisdom from seeking and serving God, and would have been an even better servant to his earthly master.

Christ is available, yet fools seek for understanding, insight and discernment anywhere and everywhere else. But what they discover is more foolishness. They may gain intelligence, but “eloquent words are not fitting for a fool” (Proverbs 17:7 NLT). Fools never really learn. They continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. They become easy prey for the enemy. They are prone to gossip and slander. They are attracted to evil. They use poor judgment. They bring heartbreak to their parents and are constant disappointments to their friends. All because they refuse to look to Christ. They will not focus their attention on Him. And the can be said for so many of us who call ourselves Christ-followers. We can easily take our eyes off of the one who saved us, and decide that we can now save ourselves from all that the world, the enemy and our own sinful flesh throw at us. We turn to the world for wisdom instead of Christ. And we become fools in the process. The New American Standard Bible translates verse 24, “Wisdom is in the presence of the one who has understanding.” The person of understanding is the one who has made Christ his close and intimate companion. He spends a great deal of time with Christ. The wisdom of Christ has rubbed off on him. The prophet Isaiah said it this way: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”

Father, I want to keep my mind and my eyes fixed on Your Son, the one who contains all the wisdom of heaven and makes it available to me. Forgive me for taking my eyes off of Him at times, for looking to the world for understanding, insight and discernment. I know the world can’t deliver. Help me to keep my thoughts fixed on Him. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org