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The World, The Christ, and Us – Part 3

The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life…

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4 NKJV)

15Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  17The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NASB)

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NKJV)

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vain glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.  (1 John 2:15-17 ASV)

15 Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. Because everything that belongs to the world— 16 the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever. (1 John 2:15-17 HCSB)

15Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  17And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:15-17 KJV)

15Love not ye the world, nor the things in the world; if any one doth love the world, the love of the Father is not in him,  16because all that [is] in the world — the desire of the flesh, and the desire of the eyes, and the ostentation of the life — is not of the Father, but of the world,  17and the world doth pass away, and the desire of it, and he who is doing the will of God, he doth remain — to the age. (1 John 2:15-17 YLT)

15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NIV)

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the des ires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17 ESV)

It is interesting to note, also, that what the Apostle is doing in this warning passage is not just referring to the world, but to all three of the cords that bind our souls for destruction: the flesh, the world, and the devil.  The lust of the flesh obviously refers to the flesh.  The lust of the eyes refers to the desire to obtain and find pleasure in the things of this world.  And the “ostentation” or vain-glory of life is that Satanic influence to exalt and glory in ourselves, rather than to be humbled to the dust by the glory of our magnificent Creator.

Consider what our Lord Himself says in the gospels.  In the gospel of Matthew, we read his words:

“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” (Matthew 5:28-30)

In the gospel of Mark, we hear something very similar:

“And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.  And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell.  And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.'” (Mark 9:43,45,47-48).

In the passage from Matthew, Jesus starts with the heart and the sinful intent.  He then goes on to say it is better to cut off your hand or tear out your eye if they cause you to sin.  Of course, it is not the hand and the eye that cause the sin; they are the just the medium for its consumption.  It is the heart (or mind or affections) that control the members of the body.  The addition of the foot in the gospel of Mark is interesting, since this suggests the way we walk as well as that which we stand upon.  The Greek word “peripateo” means “to live” or “to walk”.  For a practical example of how our “walk” is basically the same as the life that is lived out of our heart, see Ephesians chapters 4 and 5.

Considering these warning passages in the gospels, there seems to be many parallels in John’s epistle.  I do not think that Jesus, the great physician meant for people to literally maim and mutilate themselves.  I do think He intended to underscore the severity of dealing with our sin.  The hands that so often feed the flesh the desires of its appetites; the eyes full of desire, seeking their satisfaction in whatever delights them; and the feet–the way we walk and what it is we are standing on.  They are both saying the same things different ways.  Seeking sensual pleasures, earthly treasures, and self-glorification will separate you from God eternally.  They are antithetical to the will of God.  Their end is hell and hopelessness.  If we are pursuing such ends, we MUST REPENT and turn again… for “God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” (Acts 3:26)

It should also be noted that the fruit of the hand and the eye grows from the root of heart.  A rotten heart may produce bad fruit (the works or use of the hands and eyes), but they do not make the root bad.  It is not the fruit that corrupts the root, but the fruit stems forth from what is in the root.

“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit.” (Luke 6:43)

And he said, “Are you also still without understanding?  Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled?  But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.  These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” (Matthew 15:16-20)

“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.  Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.” (Luke 11:34-35)

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The Sin of Abortion

When it comes to the topic of abortion, the thing that no one really wants to confront directly is that for there to be a dramatic change in the sin of abortion, there must be a dramatic change that affects the abortion of sin itself. I will state clearly and publicly that I am no proponent of this evil act, but I will not allow myself to be manipulated by the world–which politics is most certainly a system of the world, and any who have failed to see that have failed to see clearly. I think it is rather unfortunate that so many professing Christians–many of whom have denounced so many other worldly influences that take us away from our focus on God, such as movies and television, newspapers, magazines, catalogs, and even video games–will allow themselves to get carried away by the lure of politics. In my lifetime, the bait of abortion has been set on the hook of politics to lure many Christians away from their first love, diverting them away from the Great Commission of sharing the gospel, endeavoring instead in a humanitarian effort that, as much as I hate to admit is destined to fail. The focus for many well-meaning Christians has shifted from saving those sinners who need to be born again to those who have yet to be born at all, and while it is a noble and virtuous position to take, it is one that will never succeed through political means.

I read somewhere that 4,000 fetuses are aborted every single day in this country. That is an outrageous travesty. That means that 11,688,000 occurred (or will have occurred) under the leadership of the Conservative, confessing Christian George W. Bush. No substantial changes in legislation have occurred, not even when he had both houses of Congress, a fairly agreeable Supreme Court, and the support of an entire nation behind him after 9/11. Why? Because the real truth of the matter is that no matter who is in the White House, abortion isn’t going away.  But why? Because we are a selfish, sinful people. We’re sinners.

Something most people do not want to talk about when it comes to this topic of abortion, is abortion at a personal level. Do you know anyone who’s had an abortion? I do. I know a few, and truth be told, I probably know more than I think I do. What do I mean? I mean, the people that I know had one, I know intimately enough to know about. I’m sure our churches and possibly even our families, and the families of our closest friends are littered with people who live with the guilt of one, although we may never even know it. Are they horrible, damnable people who deserve nothing more than the fires of hell? Absolutely. But so am I. And so are you, friend. We all are.

I know people who were once alcoholics, drug addicts, sex addicts, adulterers, Satanists, God-mockers, and some who were just plain vile and vicious, selfish and sinful. I know some people still are, and many will stay that way. But I also know some whom God has chosen and whom God has changed. I consider myself blessed to be one. Sinners all, and I will say as Paul, myself a chief among them. All too many (dare I even say every SINGLE one) of us who call on the name of Christ as Savior today have made decisions in the past for which we are ashamed, done things motivated by sin and selfishness and all the power of Satan upon us. All of us deserve His righteous judgment and the full fury of His wrath. Yet God in His great mercy took pity on us. This is the gospel ~ that we may be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ! Not because of anything we have done, but because of what He has done.

We won’t be saved because we voted Republican or voted Democrat (or chose not to vote at all). We won’t be saved because we had a baby instead of an abortion. Indeed, I am sad to say I know (and love) people who have had lots of babies and unless God does a work in their lives, they are destined for hell. I don’t like to say that, but it’s true.

When it comes down to it, abortion is a matter of the law, and we know well enough that no one is saved by the law. I don’t like it, either, am not here to defend it, but I have come to understand that some things like abortion, adultery, and pornography will not go away simply because a segment of the population is publicly offended by them. They won’t go away because for all of our public offense, enough people still commit themselves to them privately that their presence will persist. Until our Lord comes to establish His Kingdom in all His glory, we will live in this fallen world and suffer its sin. And why? Because it is full of sinners who love their sin–just as we ourselves once did and even today rely completely on the power of His Spirit to overcome. And lest I forget myself, Lord, help me to not pray like the Pharisee, thanking you I am not like that poor sinner who stands over there beating his breast and pleading for mercy, for I am that poor sinner, crying out, “Have mercy on me, A SINNER!”

I cannot count the number of emails I’ve received over the last couple of months that have sought through all sorts of persuasion, often relying on fear, deception, and half-truths to convince me that Barack Obama is evil, that he’s a Muslim, the anti-Christ, an abortion-lover, or some such other wicked thing. Truth be told, I don’t think that he is any of those things. And neither is John McCain. You know what they are? Sinners. Just like the people who keep sending me the emails. Sinners. Just like you and me.

But let us return to this topic of abortion. Yes, it is a sin. Thou shalt not commit murder. It’s the sixth commandment. It is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. As I already said, though, how many people do we really know that might have had one at some point in their life? And are they outside the bounds of Christ? That does not make it right, and one would hope that our brothers and sisters in the church are not still having them. And I’m sure we’d all agree, it is a great and polarizing topic to discuss. We can all get together and hate this sin collectively.

But what of adultery? Is this not the very next commandment given by God–and how often has this one been violated WITHIN the very walls of the church!? Yet, do we say that this is less abominable in the eyes of our Holy God? That some sins are more forgivable? Does not adultery destroy just as many (if not more) families in our culture–and especially in our church–as abortion? Yet who makes this a platform position–to do away with any and all forms of adultery–including and starting with pornography!? No one. Now why is that? Because it has become an acceptable sin in the eyes of man? In the eyes of God, though, is the one worse than the other or are they equally abominable? In fact, did God Himself not punish David for his adulterous sin with Bathsheba by committing an abortion on the child she bore him in their sin? That was the judgment that the prophet Nathan pronounced in 2 Samuel 12. This by no means justifies the act of abortion, for the actions of God are always just. God does not violate His own law because sin is not in Him, and unto Him alone should be the power to grant and take away life. But I think it is a point worth considering in light of this discussion.  Abortion was the judgment God visited upon David for his adultery with Bathsheba.  Is it possible that abortion is the judgment God is visiting on us for our adultery, too?

The truth about this heinous practice is that it is NOT a cause, but an effect. It is not the source of our sickness, but a symptom. It bears witness to our selfish, sinful natures, but is the fruit and not the root of them.

(To be continued…)

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Pledge Allegiance?

I read another post on a blog site earlier this week that had to do with displaying the American flag in our churches, and it really got me to thinking about where we find our identity and where we place our allegiance. Granted this is a long rant, and will probably rub some people the wrong way. But for me it is a matter of conviction, and a question of where we place our values and find our identities.

I am no great theologian, but I have thought for several years now that it is simply wrong to “pledge” my allegiance to any but God. Our government–like any government–is made up of people, and as a result, it is imperfect and fallible. It is not my God, should not be worshiped or put above God, although I deeply appreciate those who serve our nation under the guidance of our Lord, just as I am thankful for the people who give of themselves in service to the Church. I am also thankful to live in a country like the United States where we may freely worship. It is unfortunate, though, that here in America, a country where we have some of the greatest freedom in the world to worship God openly and without fear, we are so spiritually tepid and lethargic that most of us do not even do that well. There are many other places in the world today where people who love and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ do so under the threat of death, yet they worship fervently and appreciatively for what He has done. Here, we suffer little more than mild discomfort or criticism, yet most self-professing Christians shy away from publicly proclaiming Christ for fear of a little bit of ridicule. Yet, we will all put our hands over our heart and pledge our allegiance to a FLAG, and do so proudly whenever there is an opportunity so that we may show off our patriotic spirit. Why is this?

I would venture to say that your average homeless person appreciates a half-eaten hamburger from McDonalds, rescued from a garbage can, more than a millionaire who eats a $100 meal at his favorite five star restaurant. When conditions are hard and food is scarce, how much more are even meager scraps of food appreciated? We have every opportunity to serve and worship God here, yet most of us–perhaps because of the luxury we enjoy, fail to make the most of the opportunities God has afforded us. We squander them. Instead of loving God with all our heart, and all our soul, and all our mind (and loving our neighbors as ourselves), we fill our lives with trivial things that distract us from our sole purpose in life, which is to glorify God. We have TVs, cell phones, computers, cameras, DVD players (many of us in our cars even), game systems, and countless other gadgets that all work to isolate us from others and even more so from God. And while verbally, we may pledge our allegiance to a flag, what we really pledge our allegiance to is a lifestyle… a lifestyle of flesh consumption and soul corruption, and then we announce to the world how proud we are to be so “blessed”. But blessed are the meek, Jesus said. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who mourn, and blessed are those who thirst and hunger for righteousness. James borrows from the Old Testament and tells us, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

To “pledge your allegiance” to a flag seems to me to directly violate the first two commandments so blatantly that I am almost amazed so few Christians take to task this daily ritual in our schools when it seems to stand in direct contradiction to the commandments of God’s word. It is interesting that an atheist will take his case all the way to the Supreme Court because the words “under God” happen to be in the rote script our kids rehearse daily, yet few Christians take offense that our children are basically taught to place the flag and their country OVER God (despite what the words might say). There is no question that the motive behind this “pledge” is a sense of “patriotism” (i.e. to honor and fellowship with the United States government) and not religion (to honor and fellowship with God). In fact, the “under God” portion of the pledge was not actually added until much later on after it was originally written.

And not only does this practice of reciting the pledge daily seem to violate the first two commandments that have everything to do with revering and honoring God, they also stand in direct contrast to Peter’s message to the early church and the first Christians. This is what the rock whom Christ used to found His early church had to say:

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For,

“ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS,
AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS.
THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF,
BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.”

And this is the word which was preached to you.

(1 Peter 1:13-25)

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.
(1 Peter 2:9-11)

God does not care where you live or where you have your citizenship. If He did, He would not have chosen Nazareth over Jerusalem when He came incarnate. The Lord is sovereign, and will put you wherever He wills, but your identity in Christ is not to be found in the world or the kingdoms of men, but in the Kingdom of God.

Now, I believe that pride is the first shade of selfishness, and selfishness is the root of all sin. In the verse “The love of money is the root of all evil”, it is selfishness that is at the root. All of the Ten Commandments were given to combat the innate selfishness that resides within us as a result of the Fall. The first four pertain to selfishness in our relationship with God; the last six pertain to different aspect of selfishness in our relationships with others. “Selfishness”, simply put, is elevating and esteeming our own self-nature above God, which was the path of descent for Lucifer mentioned by the prophet Isaiah. It seems to me that we, here in America, live in a culture that values and encourages this type of pride and selfishness above all else. A quick read through Galatians 5:19-21, where Paul discusses the deeds of the flesh, should serve as a painful reckoning as to the “state of the nation” and the real values held by our culture. Indeed, the things Paul underscores as the “deeds of the flesh” are actually marketed (in a more subversive manner) in all of the media and literature most of us are exposed to daily:

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

“Proud to be an American”

How many evangelical Christians have sung along with this popular song… and sung along proudly. But Paul rightly said, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Most of us who have sung that song so loudly and proudly have probably never stopped to wonder, “Why are we proud to be an American?” Am I better than someone who was born in Cuba, Nigeria, Portugal, or Peru? Should I feel a great sense of pride that I was born and live in one of the wealthiest and most self-glorifying and self-oriented nations in the world? Should I be proud that I am one of small percentage of the world’s population that can enjoy all of the “modern conveniences” the rest of the world’s population has to do without? Or that I can work “hard” in an air-conditioned building for eight to ten hours a day, drive my comfortable air-conditioned car home everyday, eat whatever I want with my wife and kids in our comfortable air-conditioned home, and never have to look at or concern myself with the sick or the poor? Should I be proud that I even have the time and resources to work on a website in my “spare time”, as if my vain thoughts are so important I should place them here where anyone can read them? Oh, foolish pride… dare I pledge my allegiance to thee? Or like Paul, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

I am curious as to what comments you might have, so please feel free to leave them.

Peace & Blessings.

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