Monday, October 3, 2011

How the teaching of Balaam works

"No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother." 1 John 3:9-10

John wrote the letter of 1John largely to address a teaching of Balaam that was rampant in that day---Gnosticism. In general, a teaching of Balaam refers to any false teaching that appeals to the flesh by saying God somehow condones, tolerates or is non judgmental about sin for whatever reason.

John refutes this false teaching in several ways in his letter. In the above verse, he says that the word of God by which we were born again remains in us, like a seed that germinates and flowers. Or said another way, as we enter the gate of salvation by receiving the gospel of Jesus, we see that God's word is not only a gate but also a way for our hearts to walk...a way that says, among other things, "Be ye perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect."

When a believer sins, it should not be downplayed or glossed over with one of the many sin-friendly teachings of Balaam. Our sins must be confessed and repented of because our fellowship is with a holy God in the light of his holy word, under the holy blood of His holy Son. (1Jn 1:7-2:2)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

How the Meaning of Life Works

"Vanity of vanities all is vanity". Such was the famous conclusion of King Solomon to the question of the meaning of life.

Shortly after he succeeded his father David as King of Israel, Solomon found favor in the eyes of God. And one day, God spoke to Solomon and said, "Ask of me anything your heart desires and I will give it to you."

Solomon thought and said. "Lord, you have raised me up to be king of Israel. My only desire is that you give me wisdom to serve you well as king of your people."

That answer impressed God, and he said, "Solomon, Because you didn't ask for riches and honor, but asked for only wisdom to serve me well, I will give you greater wisdom than any man ever born, and I will also give you great riches and honor, more than any king would possess, before or after you."

After receiving these great gifts from God, Solomon not only ruled well and built a vast kingdom, but he used his God given wisdom to search out the meaning of life. His conclusion: "Vanity of vanities all is vanity."

That Hebrew word for "vanities" can also be translated, "meaningless". The word conveys the idea of a breath of air on a cold day, seen for a moment, and then, poof, it s gone.

Solomon tells us why all things are vanity. He says all of creation is like a big cosmic merry-go-round. Now, I'm pretty sure there weren't merry-go-rounds in Solomon's day, but it's a good metaphor of his description of the stage on which man's life runs its course; He notes how the sun rises and sets, waters flow continuously into the sea, the seasons keep turning, back and forth go the tides, everywhere we look, a never ending merry-go-round.

Moreover, man, and the works of man, are merely the merry-go-round riders, going up and down, up and down, as we mimic the merry-go-round upon which we ride. I say mimic because as Solomon says, "there is nothing new under the sun, all that has been done is all that will be done, and there is no remembrance of earlier things, and things that will come to pass, there will be no remembrance of them either ". And all the while, man is just striving after the wind, even as he is perishing.

But before Solomon came to these conclusions, he experimented. For example, Solomon pursued the life of pleasure, but first he began drinking wine in hopes of seeing through the eyes of those who seek after such things. But God's wisdom never left him. And, as he vigorously pursued wine, woman and song, Solomon saw that the laughter along that way was madness and the pleasure, fleeting.

The experiment continued. Solomon built for himself palaces, planted vineyards, gardens, parks, forests, possessed great herds of flocks and amassed great gold and silver. And the bible says, of all that Solomon s eyes desired, he did not refuse them. After all that experimentation, Solomon concluded that all was vanity. Everything is, in today s vernacular, the same old same old, and it all perishes. Man's activity is just striving after the wind, meaning that nothing satisfies.

Solomon concluded that there is no meaning of life under the sun and looked for clues to the meaning of life from the other side of the sun.

Solomon saw four such clues. First, Solomon sees that all these meaningless activities of the merry-go-round, such as a time for war, a time for peace, a time for building up, a time for tearing down, a time to give birth, a time to die and so forth are, ironically, just as God intended them to be.

Second, Solomon sees one activity of man on the merry-go-round as being from the "hand of God", in that, it hints of the meaning of life. He says: Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one's labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him."

Third, Solomon notes that God has set eternity in the heart of man, yet in such a way that he cannot be satisfied with any of the merriment of the great merry-go-round of creation and life.

Finally, Solomon sees that God is like a shepherd, who seeks those who are perishing on the merry-go-round, and so tosses us a life line from the other side of the sun. That life line is his word that adjures fallen man to simply heed God and follow in his ways.

That is where the record of Solomon s search for the meaning of life ends. He concludes there is no meaning of life under the sun. Meaning comes from the other side of the sun, from where God dwells. But the picture is incomplete. The search for the complete meaning of life is to be continued...

Has God more to say to us about the meaning of life. Let s fast forward a thousand years past Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle to the time of the New Testament, and sure enough, we read in the gospel of Matthew that there walked among us, one with greater wisdom than even Solomon, and that one was Jesus. Now, when we connect the dots of the words of Solomon with the words of Jesus, we can see a more complete picture of the meaning of life.

As previously noted, Solomon saw that God has put eternity in the heart of man, so that man's heart can only be satisfied by the word of God. In the gospel of John, we see Jesus saying to the woman at the well, "Anybody who drinks of this water (pointing to the well water), will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water I give shall never thirst, but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."

Later that day when his disciples were urging him to eat something, Jesus said: "I have bread to eat that you do not know about. My bread is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work."

You see, in both these stories, water and bread are symbols of the word of God, as they are elsewhere in the bible. Jesus is telling us that it is only the words of God that he has brought down from heaven that satisfies the eternity that God has put into our hearts. Solomon s picture of the meaning of life becomes clearer.

Also, remember that Solomon saw the activity of eating and drinking and enjoying one's labor as a clue to the unseen meaning of life. And so, Jesus reveals to us the two works of God that are necessary for man to walk in God's ways of fulfillment and satisfaction; works so simple that a child can understand and accomplish them. They are, first, to believe on him who God has sent down from heaven with the good news of salvation, and second, to love one another.

And finally, in the book of Revelation chapter three, we see Jesus giving fallen man an invitation to eat and drink with him. This invitation can be paraphrased in terms of Solomon's search for the meaning of life as: "Behold, I am knocking on the door of your heart from the other side of the sun, if you open that door and receive me by faith, I will come in and bring with me living waters and the bread of life that fully satisfy. And you will then know, live and share in the joyful labors of the meaning of life."

Saturday, July 30, 2011

How Peace of Mind Works

How Peace of Mind Works

“Peace through strength”---these were the watchwords used by President Reagan to convey his belief that a strong military was necessary for America and her allies to dwell in peace in a world filled with enemies.

As new creatures in Christ, we also find ourselves encompassed by enemies---the Flesh, the World and Satan. And in this spiritual battlefield, we are told by scripture how we can dwell in calm despite the flack and pressure weighing down on our heart and mind.

The key to peace of mind amid our battle is our spiritual helmet---the word of God, especially those words of hope that help us focus on our heavenly destination.

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.  And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1John 3:2-3

When our minds are set on things above, we will be not wandering off the reservation of God’s word to a place where Satan can sift us as wheat---filling our hearts and minds with fear, despair, depression, strife, bitterness and so on.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Phil 4:6-9

In other words, we are to tell our concerns to our heavenly Father by prayer with thanksgiving, and then put on our helmet of God’s truth about Jesus. This will position our hearts and minds to walk in a place where the Spirit of Christ will envelop us with peace. This is his peace that Jesus gives to his Body, which is wholly different than the peace the world gives to its own (John 14:27).

Hold your head up! Focus your affection
On things above not on things of the earth
Buckle that helmet up tight!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

We Can't Handle the Truth

by Steve Popovich

"No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins."  Mark 2:22

You can't handle the truth! an angry Jack Nicholson bellowed to the lawyer played by Tom Cruise. It is one of Hollywood's most memorable courtroom scenes. But what was said in anger in that Hollywood courtroom, God says in love as He extends a merciful hand of salvation to fallen man.

Jesus said that the joy of the Vine will well up in the branches as they abide in His word (Jn. 15:10-11). How can the stony dead heart of fallen man receive and keep words from the heart of God while being vessels of His joy? We need a bigger boat! We need a new expandable heart.

Bingo! that is exactly what the Holy Spirit becomes for us. The Spirit is our new covenant heart; He germinates eternal life in us as we are born of the Father's word and bears fruit as we grow in that word. We now have a new heart that grows and grows and grows. It matches up perfectly with the word God as we take it in and live it out. Will these new hearts ever stop growing? Well, maybe a trillion years from now if God runs out of words to give us.

A wineskin is a great poetic picture of the heart of a believer. Why? Because water in the Bible is a symbol of the word of God (Is. 55:10-12), and wine represents joy (Ps. 104:15). Put the two together and we see that the vessels who are keeping God's word are also experiencing joy. Water into's a miracle! And it's a truth we couldn't handle apart from the indwelling Spirit; He is our new wineskin.

For those outside of Christ, God's word is the thundering waters of a curse. But for all who hear, repent and receive the word of the Gospel, His word flows through our new wineskin as a river of life and fountain of joy.