17 June 2011

The Ignorance of the Educated: Why Learning Does Not Equal Growing

Ephesians 4:11-16
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Hopefully, today’s devotional will truly challenge you. These words are not any easier to right then I know they will be to read. But my intent is honorable and Godly, and hopefully will be received in the manner in which they are intended to be given: the truth in love, just as Paul has instructed me, and all Christians to do.

We are given a divine guide in the New Testament. It is a guide to Christ. It is a guide to salvation, and a guide full of examples from Christ Himself on not only how to become a Christian, but perhaps even more importantly, a guide on how to live as a Christian.

With the preponderance of the doctrine of most of the fastest growing churches and church ‘movements’ in America today, the theology that is being emphasized is one of FREEDOM. Freedom to live and act and do most anything you like, as long as in your heart you ‘feel’ as though you are going this “for Jesus”, or “in the name of Jesus”.  This freedom includes all sorts of ‘evangel’ events and activities that look and feel just like the world because their might be a chance that they can reach someone for Jesus while they are there blending in with the crowd.

This emphasis on freedom preached by many tells us that you are ‘chosen’, ‘predestined’ to go to heaven. Like it or not, act like it or not, you are going to heaven. (Others, well, too bad for them, they are not so lucky.) Even though the majority of those preaching the message will deny that their intent is to let their flocks understand that they can do anything they want in life, including a continual sinful lifestyle, and still get to heaven. But their message ends up being one of confusion. More importantly, they forget that they are preaching to SINNERS, sinners with hearts that will deceive them. Sinners will take whatever advantage they can to promote their flesh, especially when they are told they can do all these things ‘for Jesus’ and all will be well. However, our biblical instructions bear out just the opposite.

We are instead told that we must be continually growing in our spirit. We are to desire the truth, the milk of the word, and graduate into meat-eating carnivorous Christians, desiring to devour all of God’s Word, chewing on it, meditating on it ferociously. Well I’m sorry to say most Christians do not ever really graduate to this level. Most will remain emaciated milk-drinkers starving for a real diet of Christian healthy and enriching teaching. Others will become spiritual bulimics, binging and purging their way through a stagnated Christian life of consuming whatever sounds good, and purging it the moment it is not longer fits their lifestyle, or makes them feel uncomfortable. Heaven help us that we might actually have to change…

Another group might become spiritual gluttons. They take in all they can get, eat and eat and eat becoming fat on the word, only to find out that without a nutritious diet of spiritual foods that have a nourishing effect, that their theological diet, while fattening them, has no value and is in fact killing them.

Herein lays the crux of the issue. You can have uber knowledge of things theological. You might be the brightest, most intelligent man on the planet. You may have ever every theological work that has ever been written, and be able to recite the scriptures from Genesis 1:1 to the Revelation ‘Amen’ word for word. You might have as Paul said in I Corinthians 13:2 “all knowledge”, but if you do not translate that knowledge to wisdom, you are just as equally doomed as the man down the street that cannot read a lick.

If we put our emphasis on knowledge instead of wisdom, this is where we will end up. We’d be theological fat-cats, Pharisaical Christians that recite doctrine, and do nothing in their lives to live it out. We’d be the walking dead. Still.

Knowledge is having the information you need to make right choices. Wisdom is applying that knowledge properly. Knowledge without wisdom is useless. None of us are better off with knowledge if we cannot convert by practical application, that knowledge into wisdom in our lives. In the same way that simply having knowledge does not make one wise, knowing about God and the gospel does not make one a Christian.

Applying wisdom into the practical expression of your life allows those around you to see that you have knowledge. You don’t have to tell them, they just know. Applying what you know about Jesus and the gospel to your everyday life with wisdom allows people to see that you have not only knowledge of God, but that you believe what you have read, that you love God, that you are a rock-solid Christian! You won’t have to tell them, they’ll just know it!

We must have constant growth. The fact that you have been learning the bible, learning about God and His word means nothing if that knowledge does not produce growth in your spiritual life. We must constantly be growing. In the words of fellow Calvary Pastor Damian Kyle, you need to constantly be “closing the gap” between your sinful life, and the perfection of Christ. If you are reading the Word, if you are going to church, if you are attending bible studies if you are reading quality Christian books and you are not growing, then there is a disconnect somewhere between your knowledge and your wisdom. There is a disconnect between your Spirit and your flesh, and your flesh is winning out.

Think back to when you first became a believer. Look how much your life has changed since then. At least I hope it has. But then look back just one or two years. Do you still see dramatic growth? Do you see a mind and thought process becoming more and more Christ-like? Do you see things in a light now, looking through a more Godly shaded set of lenses, than you did a year or two ago? If you don’t – check yourself. There should always be growth, unless you have achieved perfection that is.

In that is my summation. Unless you are perfect, there is always room for growth. Failure to cause growth to happen is failure to see that it is necessary, which is in itself a sign of pride and selfishness. Neither of which are compatible with Christianity.

So there you have it. Knowledge does not equal wisdom. Learning does not equal growth. Failure to grow equals pride which is sin. You do the math from there.

15 June 2011

The Value of Truth: The Devastating Consequences of No Absolutes

John 14:6
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Any relationship of any type at all is of no value whatsoever if it in fact it is not based on truth.

Think about this for just a second. You ask someone, “will you feed my dog for me while I’m on vacation?” and they say yes. But they never feed your dog and your dog dies. Someone who is color blind asks you, “is that red or green? You respond, “it is red”, when you know it is green. Think of the implications at Stop Light intersections alone.  A judge asks a witness in a capital murder case, “is this the man you saw shooting the victim?” and you lie.

Or this: “Do you love me?”, and you answer (or are answered…) untruthfully.

Without truth, EVERYTHING fails. Every legal, moral and ethical standard is gone. Correction and punishment have no value, and even become unreasonable brutality. Every social norm, every acceptable moral standard – gone. Consider the thoughts of people making it a habit to lie while giving testimony in court, to lie in contracts, to lie about their qualifications when applying for a job, and the consequences that these actions would have. When lies become the accepted commonplace over truth, everything that is good ceases to function. Nothing can be trusted. Nothing has value unless there is absolute truth.

In today’s world of post-modern thinking, or when dealing with atheists, evolutionists, and proponents of situational ethics or provisional morality where right and wrong are dependent on circumstances or opinions that are in a constant flux, this argument becomes very apropos. It is a simple argument to show that unless one is a proponent of anarchy, than there must be absolute truth. Without it, we are left to our own devices, our own ‘feelings’ to determine what is right or wrong. A position that is ultimately untenable. As an example, an evolutionist relies on absolutisms; absolute truths are what determine evolution. This evolutionary trait is absolutely better than the previous one, which is why this trait continues, and others fall away and are lost in the evolutionary cycle. To the atheist, if he denies absolute truth, than why is it not OK for the person who disagrees with the atheist to just reach out and kill the atheist? I mean after all, there is no moral standard, no absolute truth in atheism as there is no deity to determine right from wrong, and we all decide on our own. So, the non-atheist kills the atheist, and this must be OK in the mind of the (now dead) atheist.  Right? Geeseh….

As you can see, truth is everything. Without truth there is no foundation, and no future. That being the case it begs the inevitable question once asked by Pontius Pilate, what is truth? Scripture gives us the answer. Jesus. Jesus is the Truth.

God’s Word is the truth. It is the absolute standard by which we all must live. It is the moral, social, ethical, spiritual truth. We do not get to determine right from wrong, God has already determined that for us. If we ever have a question as to what might appear to be a gray area, err on the side of Grace and on the standard that we are to esteem all others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).

The value of truth cannot be understated, because the value of truth is the value of Christ. Without Christ, there is no truth, there is no right path to salvation. In the same sentence where Jesus declares Himself the Truth, He also declares that He is The Way, and the Life. There are all symbiotically tied together. Without truth we are without hope. With truth, our future is secure in Christ. Let us rely solely on Him and that truth. Its value is priceless.  

So, is your relationship with Jesus based on Truth? Not truth as you see it, but truth as He sees it. If not, there is no value in that relationship. For your relationship to be based on truth, you must not only say that you love Jesus, but you must live your entire life like you do, allowing your actions to prove your love for Him. If your life does not say to everyone who watches that you love Jesus, is your relationship really based on truth? Without the proof of your love for Jesus in your every day living, is there any proof at all? Don't tell someone who lived and died for you because of the love that He has for you, that you do love Him, and live your life like you don't.  

There is everlasting value in truth. There is nothing of value in a lie.

14 June 2011

Focus: Preparing For Your Own Spirtual Yard Sale

BrokenMatthew 7:5    

"Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

As we look at this verse, we always seem to look at it as one man looking at another man, And why not, it is the proper context of course. Jesus at this moment speaking to the masses, and talking about improper judging of another. So let's address the judging issue first, as we all know this is going to come up in conversation.

The word used here In the verses prior), most properly translated "do not judge" is a word that means not to judge right from wrong. In the application of today's post-modern view of mankind, this is most important. Jesus is saying fairly clearly that there is no such thing as 'situational ethics', where something is right (or wrong) for you, but not for me or someone else. He is saying that there is one right, and one right only. This is upheld all throughout scripture in no uncertain terms as God clearly defines His Word as absolute truth. HE (no one else) is THE Way, TRUTH, and Life. His word is the final Word. So in the end, it is not that we are not to judge people's actions (as even later on in this book Jesus addresses the fact that we are to look at people's 'fruit' as a sign of their salvation) but rather two things must be considered:
  1. That if we are to judge people's actions, that it is to be judged against GOD'S Word, not personally developed standards.
  2. That before we judge others actions, we must first look at our own and see that we are not approaching this fruit inspection from a hypocritical point of view - considering strongly that we are just as equally sinners saved by the grace of God. We must never go before God as a hypocrite.
With that said, I want us to consider something else now.  What if this is a conversation directly between you and God? What if it were God Himself saying to you, "judge not", or that He tells you to "remove the plank from your eye"? This changes the situation, and makes it not only a lot more intimate, but a lot more critical a situation. It becomes a condition demanding immediate corrective action on your part, and a serious period of self reflection. The alternatives of not doing so are serious and eternal.

We spend so much time in this world literally just spinning our wheels. Like so many people, I spend time on Facebook®, I have hobbies, I have pass-times, and down-times. I'm not here to tell you that those things in and of themselves are bad. Not at all. But in them, where is your focus? What is the focal point of your hobby? What are your goals when you share your status on Facebook®? What is your focus in your down time, or when you are involved in your pass-time? If it is not Christ, and closing the gap between His perfection and your sinfulness, it is time to reevaluate.

I spent part of my evening the other night in what some would call "intense fellowship" with my children and the condition of the basement. It's a mess. We seem to agree that we all play a role in its condition, and constructive action has been taken make amends. But in the mean time, one son (who for the most part would rather see things thrown away) began to point out things of mine in the basement. "When is the next time we are going to use this? When's the last time you used that? What are you keeping this for? We do we need this for..." and the list went on and on.

The picture that was physically painted was one of "stuff". Too much stuff, and time to get rid of some of it. After the night to sleep on it, the picture that was exposed to me from a spiritual standpoint, was one of focus. In other words, it was not the fact that I have stuff, but rather WHY do I have this stuff?

I'm a former professional musician. I have two guitars that I never play. I have two drum kits that I very rarely play. I have a couple of boxes of old vinyl record albums and 45's. I have sound equipment. I have some DJ equipment. I have tools I rarely use. I am a decorated combat Infantry veteran and have retained a lot of my old gear and 'stuff' of which I basically never use. I am a firearms lover and hunter, and I have a lot of guns and associated 'stuff'. I collect, restore and resell old smoking pipes as a hobby with my sons. Again, it is not that I have this stuff, it is the role that it plays ion my life.

If I found any of this stuff in your basement, or the basement of my Senior Pastor Chuck Lind, or the basement of Billy Graham, John Wesley, Martin Luther or Paul the Apostle it would not send up even the slightest hint of a red flag. It is not the stuff - it is the focus I have on this stuff, and the fact that my focus on this stuff, as slight as some of it is, takes my focus of Jesus. And if I take my focus off Jesus for just one minute, that's one minute too much. When my focus is in the world, I am at risk of deception.

For me, it is time for a spiritual Yard Sale. I need to seriously reevaluate this stuff, and determine how much focus I have on it. I need to determine whether that focus is one that can be used to improve my job as a husband, father or pastor, and whether or not it brings me closer to Jesus, or distracts me from Him. If it is the former, it stays. If it is the latter, it has got to go.

I'll spare you the list of things that are going and things that are staying. You might be surprised what has to go. I might be surprised at what has to go. More keenly, I need to be willing to let it go.

The issue is this; if we truly love Jesus, if we truly believe that we are living in the last days (which I certainly do), if our eternity with Jesus is as important to us as it should be, we should be using the example of the 12 year old Jesus when He was found in the temple, and be about the Father's business! Time is FAR too short to be caught up distracted by the things of the world. And folks, the great deception is upon us. We must be constantly aware that Satan is lurking to steal us away.

Naturally, a great deal must go into the decision making process as to what to do with your 'things' as you consider your own spiritual yard sale. John the Baptizer said, "I must decrease so that He can increase", and truer words have not been spoken. Perhaps ultimately, if you cannot not manage to somehow make Jesus increase while you are enjoying life, in your pastimes and hobbies then there is a bigger heart issue to consider.

I do not have all the answers. I don't profess to, never have, and never will. The day I do, you all need to stop reading anything that I write and tell all your friends to do the same because I've gone off my rocker. What I can tell you is what God has done in my life, and how He has allowed me to see things a little differently. God opened the eyes of my heart to see my relationship with Him, verses my relationship I have with my life in this worlds, and my stuff. We must be 100% sold out to Jesus. Nothing must be allowed to get between us.

My life in this temporal world, as much as I want to make it so, is not mine. It is His. I have been bought with price, a very high price. My life is no longer my own. My eternity is owned by the One who paid the price. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit helps us all remember that is true. The freedom we have as believers is the freedom to love and serve Jesus without any reservation.

Examine your life. Examine what stuff steals your time from serving Jesus. Take it to the Father in humble prayer and simply ask Him what must go into your spiritual yard sale.