3 thoughts from Genesis 9

As we look at Genesis chapter 9, there are many thoughts we can take away from it. This post will mention three. We see the apparent beginning of mankind eating meat, the covenant of the rainbow, and the cursing of Ham. While this will make the post extra long, I can’t decide which one to omit.

Should we be vegetarians?

According to verse 2, there is going to be a dread of mankind from the animals; the same animals that went into the ark with Noah. Just the wording of the verse indicates that this is a new thing.  In fact, if we go back to chapter 1 we will see this:

Genesis 1:29-30 ESV And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. (30) And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

In Genesis chapter 9 verses 3 and 4 read this way:

Genesis 9:3-4 ESV Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. (4) But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

Here we seem to have a clear indication that originally man was a vegetarian and so were the animals. This, of course, does not mean that we should be what we were (if we were) before the flood but it does show a difference between how we lived before the flood and what God allowed after the flood.

In addition to this allowance of eating meat were two restrictions. One, not to eat meat with blood. That seems to continue even to this day.

Acts 15:20 ESV but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.

The second restriction involved the death of  either man or beast who kills a man. The reason? Man is created in God’s image. To kill man is to kill the image of God. This is the basis, as I understand it, for capital crimes. The death penalty seems to be enacted here first.

The covenant of the Rainbow

What does it take to make a rainbow? Well, it takes two things: Rain (water particles) and Sun. This is one reason why I think that perhaps, it really did not rain in the world before the flood. Two passages before the flood and one from here in chapter 9.

Genesis 2:5-6 ESV When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, (6) and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—

Hebrews 11:7 ESV By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

Genesis 9:13-14 ESV I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. (14) When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds,

If you look at all this verses, you might come to the conclusion that it had never rained on the earth when God told Noah that he would bring a flood by having it rain 40 days and 40 nights, to which Noah said “What’s rain?” (concerning events as yet unseen-never before seen) and afterwards God brings clouds and with the clouds come rainbows. A reminder of the flood and a promise never to do it again.

The cursing of Ham

So Noah got drunk. Then he went into his tent and uncovered himself.  It certainly doesn’t seem to be the type of thing a righteous man would do. But we will focus on what happened. The text tells us the following:

  • Ham saw his father’s nakedness
  • Ham told his brother outside what he saw
  • Noah realized what his younger son had “done” to him
  • Noah cursed Canaan (the son of Ham)

Much speculation has been written about this and I am afraid that I could only add to such speculation. However, in such speculation, let us at least look at what the text says. From verse 24, Ham DID something to Noah while Noah was drunk. If the Genealogy given in chapter 10 is in order, Ham was Canaan’s 4th son, meaning he was born many years after the flood. That Ham was cursed seems to give cause for us to believe that he was somehow involved in this incident. So, since we are speculating because the text is void of details. I offer this. Ham (a younger man and perhaps subject to the follies of youth) saw grandpa Noah in a drunken stupor and told his dad. His dad rather than covering his father up decided to share the disgrace and further uncover his father’s reputation with his two brothers.

Proverbs 25:9 ESV Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret,

His brothers did right by Noah and hid the shame rather than further spread it. If the thing Ham ‘did’ was a simple as that (though many suggest much worse), it would be bad enough and if one is correct is assuming that Canaan had a part in it, then the curse on him is not unjust at all, but becomes a punishment his father should have inflicted which Noah did in the absence of such punishment.

There is much we can look at in this chapter and discuss. Do you have an opinion as to what happened between Noah and Ham? Whether it rained before the flood or not? Whether men were vegetarians or not? please share your thoughts….

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2 lessons from Genesis 8

Genesis 8 shows Noah still in the ark and water is not just over his head, it is over the mountains. It takes a long time for the waters to start to recede from the earth and one might wonder what would happen to Noah during that time. A wonderful thing did happen:

God remembered Noah

Oh, to be remembered by God. If you have every had a friend who forgot about you, you can understand the pain of that loss, especially if they were a good friend, or perhaps even “more than friends.”

God knows all of us but it is the remembering that indicates a care and concern for us which Noah received in Genesis 8.

Genesis 8:1 ESV  But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.

Of course, God was also concerned about the beasts and livestock too. Still, as Jesus will teach in Matthew 6, while God does take care of them,”we” are of greater value. God will take care of us.

Matthew 6:26 ESV  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

A more important question is “Do we remember God?”

God makes a covenant

At the end of the chapter God makes a covenant with Noah:

Genesis 8:22 ESV  While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

This should be of great comfort to us because we know that, although the world will end someday, it will not end before God is ready to end it.

When I was growing up, among the big fears was Nuclear war. Post Nuclear  war movies like Planet of the Apes, Damnation Alley, etc spoke of the horrors of the world “ending” with a Nuclear war. (Not that it actually “ended” it was just very hard living.) Even today movies show the world ending in terrible ways.

What God said, and I believe, is that the world will end when GOD says it ends and until then, we will still have seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night!

This is not to say that we should be care free with how we use the resources God gave us in our world but neither should we be overly concerned when those that do not honor God do things to that appear to destroy the world as if they will actually succeed!

Three things have been “end of the world calamities” in my life: Nuclear war, Global cooling, and Global warming. So far none of it has stopped seed time, harvest, heat, cold, summer, winter, day, or night! So do not be anxious, God is in control. In the end, we will all die so we need to live to God and be sure we are going to be in Heaven with Him.

Don’t let the world influence you.

In a recent sermon which I have entitled “Salt and Light”, we talked about the need for Christians to be an influence in the world. Sadly enough, it is often the world which influences the Christian. Sometimes is is abrupt and sometimes more subtle.

I would like to use two of the illustrations from that lesson in this post. (If you want to hear the whole lesson, you can click here.) The first one, we have all heard, I am sure. The second one, I am guessing, you have not thought about before.

In 1939, Gone with the Wind, was released into the movie theaters and there was ONE…SINGLE…SOLITARY…profane word in it. The nation blushed. Now, that same profane word is common place and even used, on occasion by some who affirm that they are Christians.  Of course, it isn’t just the one word anymore. Many such words are heard in our entertainment; our books, our movies, our music and even, perhaps, our own private thoughts.   Brethren, these things ought not to be. (James 3:10)  Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:4)

The second illustration may cause some eyes to roll in that way that we do when we think someone is either kidding or making a big deal out of nothing. “Seriously!?”, the eye roll says! While it might seem to be harmless, and not nearly has shocking as some of the ways in which the world influences us, perhaps it is that very appearance of harmlessness that we have to be most careful about.

I am speaking of the calendar that so many of us use. Many calendars at home will still show the first day of the week as Sunday. However, many new calendars, particularly, in day planners formats show Monday as the first day. Where is Sunday? It is relegated to a shared space with Saturday. It is part of the “week-end.”

Now, I know that for most of us, we use the ‘work week’ as a Monday through Friday or Saturday event. We schedule our life around our work. The caution that I am going to point out is that our lives do not revolve  around our work but around the Son. (Sunday/Sonday) When we use the term “weekend”, which is a term I still use having grown up with it for so long, we need to make sure we don’t forget that Sunday is actually the week start.  

In elementary school I thought Monday was the first day of the week because that when my school week began. Many of us think that the week begins on Monday today because that is when our work begins. Even easier when we say “How was your weekend?” or “I can’t wait until the weekend so I can rest” and we think of not just Saturday but Sunday as well.

For Christians, who gather on the first day of the week to worship God and remember Jesus’ sacrifice (Acts 20:7; I cor 16:2), we need to keep this in mind and not let worldly distractions enter into our thinking.

Things along this line: “Sunday is the only day I can sleep in.” or “it is a day that I can spend with family, recreating and enjoying some down time.”

Worse, perhaps, we allow our thoughts to be secularized to where Sunday completely loses it’s meaning to us, to our kids, and in the world, the light that we could shine, slowly goes out.

We know in our own mind, of course, that Sunday is the first day of the week. But if we do not live like we believe that it is, then it will not be long before we become like those who although “knowing God…did not glorify Him as God, neither were they thankful.” Romans 1:21

Remember, you were a slave

Five times in the book of Deuteronomy, God commanded the people of Israel to “remember” that they had been slaves in the land of Egypt. In those passages, the context of the command deals with their service to God and their relationship to their neighbor, especially, the poor or needy neighbor.

Remembering that they were slaves in Egypt and rescued by God would help them keep a good perspective in life so as to not forget their need for God or to be generous to their needy brother.

We too can benefit from such a command. We should always remember that we were once slaves too. Slaves to sin and the ways of the world.

Galatians 3:25-4:9 ESV But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, (26) for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. (27) For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (29) And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (4:1) I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, (2) but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. (3) In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. (4) But when the fullness of tofe had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, (5) to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (6) And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (7) So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (8) Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. (9) But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?

English Standard Version

We, who are IN  Christ are now sons of Christ and freed from sin. However, it is beneficial to remember that we once were slaves.  In this way, we can avoid mistakes like thinking more highly of ourselves than we should and forgetting God, or treating in others with contempt as if we are privileged ones and that God is lucky to have us on his team, while others are not worthy.  (Luke 18:9ff)

Yesterday’s lesson deals with this need to remember that we were slaves in a little more detail. you can listen to it here if you wish. In the mean time, there is one other good reason to remember that we were once slaves of sin, owing a debt that could never be repaid. That is, it will help us be more forgiving. No sin or crime against us matches up to the sins we have done in marring the image of God He created us in. If God forgives us…we can and should forgive our fellow man.

Baptism–so misunderstood

Baptism is practiced by many in the Christian world. But do you know why? I do not think baptism is hard to understand but some people make it more difficult than it should be.

The first thing about baptism that one should be able to understand easily is that is a command to be obeyed. In two of the Gospel accounts, Matthew and Mark, Jesus’ last instructions to the disciples were to preach the Gospel to the whole world. As you read these, notice where baptism falls in the context.

Matthew 28:18-20  And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (19) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

English Standard Version

Mark 16:15-16  And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. (16) Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

English Standard Version

Now in these two passages, there is only one command that needs to be obeyed in regard to baptism and the command is not “Be Baptized” but rather “Baptize.” It is not a command  given to the person who hears the Gospel but rather to the person who preaches the Gospel.

Notice that Jesus in Matthew 28:19 says “Go….Make disciples…baptizing them…” Today, you will find many people who are willing to “Go” but not to baptize. That is to say, they will teach about Jesus and not even once mention baptism. They are content to teach about Jesus and when a person says they believe in Jesus then they move on and consider their preaching is done. (To be fair, some will tell these people that they ‘should be baptized’ at some point but “it is not necessary.”) Jesus then follows up his command to the Apostles by telling them to teach the new disciples all of his commands, one of which is to “Go…Make disciples…baptizing them…”

In Mark’s account, the message is a bit clearer. “Go…proclaim! Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved…” In this command, the Apostles were to proclaim the Gospel. The purpose of proclaiming the Gospel is so that people can be saved. Paul tells us in Romans 1:16 that the Gospel is “God’s power for Salvation” and so it makes sense that Jesus would have them preaching the Gospel. Then he tells them who will be saved from their preaching efforts: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved”

But let me ask two questions here. Who will be baptized? and “Why would they be baptized? The answer to the first question should be fairly obvious: Someone who heard the Gospel message and believed. And for the second question: They would be baptized because they were TOLD TO BE BAPTIZED. There would be no other reason. Whatever the purpose is for baptism (that is, whatever reason God has for us being baptized) is completely separate from a command to be baptized.

Think about it like this: An insurance salesman comes to you and shares with you your need to have his free insurance policy, you believe him and he gives you the policy which, he says, contains all the benefits. Now what? Well, if you are not told to do anything with it, then you might put it a filing cabinet or you might file it in the trash, the thing is, you don’t know. What if, what you don’t know is, the policy says that you need to sign the policy for the policy to be valid? How would you know?

Your first, and best opportunity, would be when the salesman offers you the policy for him to TELL you. (Salesman: It is free but you need to sign it for it to be effective.)  Your second opportunity would be when you READ the policy and notice the words “Policy valid only with customer signature”. In either case, your signature would make it valid, even if the salesman ‘forgot’ to tell you.

I hope you understand what I am suggesting. If you preach the Gospel and you fail to inform your listener of his need to be baptized, you have not given him all the information.

We can infer a second command that applies those who hear the Gospel.  That is, that the one who hears and believes must submit to the baptism.  We infer this because if the preacher is going to “Go…and baptize”, someone has to be willing to submit to being baptized.  A preacher might preach the Gospel to all creation and only wind up with people who hear. But what these preachers are looking for are people who hear and believe. These are the people who will submit to baptism….if they are told to be baptized.

Acts 2:40-41 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” (41) So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

English Standard Version

Only those who received (accepted or agreed to) Peter’s preaching were baptized. Peter was simply following the instructions of Jesus and those 3000 souls were simply following the instructions of Peter: Repent and be baptized (verse 38)

So again, the first thing about baptism that needs to be understood is to be understood by the preacher of the Gospel. When you preach the Gospel, you baptize the believers. Whether you do it yourself or someone else does it does not matter, we are not keeping score because Christ did not send us to baptize but to preach the Gospel. Still, as a result of the preaching of the Gospel, believers are baptized.

Question: If you share the Gospel with someone and do not tell them to be baptized, why not?

 

 


4 reasons to Remember the Word of the Lord

It is January 1st again. A new year and a new set of resolutions for many of us. For those who profess to walk with Christ, often the resolution is made to “read through the whole entire Bible this year!” It is a good resolution but I am going to suggest a different one. The one I would suggest is “Remember the Word of the Lord this year!”

To Remember implies knowing.

Now to be able to remember something, it is apparent that you will need to know it. You cannot remember something that you never knew. So in this blog post I want to encourage you to “Remember the Word of the Lord”, knowing that it will require you to actually read it to accomplish that task. However, it is more important that you remember it than that you read it. If you read it only and then do not remember it, you have gained little and may have lost more than you gained.

Here are 4 reasons why you should Remember the Word of the Lord.

The Word of the Lord instructs us.

God’s Word instructs us on what we should do. It gives us examples of good and bad so that we can learn what to do and what NOT to do.  It instructs us in perspectives that the world might not share but which God says are good.

Romans 15:4 ASV  For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the scriptures we might have hope.

Acts 20:35 ESV  In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

The Word of the Lord is forever.

God’s word will last forever. It is not going to go away. Philosophies and civilizations will come and go but God’s word is going to endure.  The people building the tower of Babel (Genesis 11) wanted to make a name for themselves…an enduring legacy. They are no more but God’s word is still around

Isaiah 40:8 ESV  The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

Those who forget God’s Word encounter great sadness when they remember.

If we ever learned it, we don’t really “forget”, we simply ignore or bury that voice of conscience so that we may continue on whatever wrong path we find ourselves. Take Peter for example, his third denial as Luke records it goes like this.

Luke 22:60-62 ESV  But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.  (61)  And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”  (62)  And he went out and wept bitterly.

Peter was so sure of himself. He would never deny Jesus. Yet, when he uttered that third and final denial, before he went out and wept bitterly….He remembered the saying of the Lord. He remembered the Word of God.

How truly sad it is for us to commit sin and THEN remember God’s word.

Remembering God’s Word brings us blessings.

One of the blessings in remembering the Word of God is that it brings protection from sin.

Psalms 119:11 ESV  I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Jesus must have taken David’s psalm to heart because in each of the temptations Matthew records in chapter 4, Jesus quotes from the Scriptures, specifically, the book of Deuteronomy: “It is written…” He answers Satan’s temptations with God’s Word and resists each one. We can too.

Another blessing in remembering the Word of the Lord (or “not forgetting”)  is it helps us to continue on and endure.

Hebrews 12:3-6 ESV  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  (4)  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  (5)  And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  (6)  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

There are many passages the deal with the need to remember what God has spoken. These are just a few that I hope will cause us to realize that it is not just reading the Bible that is important but that it is also remembering the Words of God.

What other New Year’s resolutions would a Christian be wise to make?

Remember Lot’s wife

Luke 17-32(Sunday’s Lesson can be heard here.)

Paul reminds us in Romans 15 that the Old Testament was written for our instruction. We can learn from the history recorded in it. Jesus was a master at pulling out lessons that we might not otherwise think about.

In Luke 17, Jesus warns that there will be a coming judgement for which people will be unprepared for. Of course, the reason for the warning is so that his followers would be ready.  Toward the end of his instruction, he drives the point home when he says:

Luke 17:32 ESV  Remember Lot’s wife.

Of course, as he said these words, his audience would no doubt exactly what happened with Lot’s wife: She looked back to Sodom as they were fleeing and was turned into a pillar of salt. The warnings and lesson should be very clear.

We remember her disobedience

The command of the angels was clear:

Genesis 19:17 ESV  And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.”

It may be a small thing, as we like to think of it, but when given a clear command like that, one would think that you would know better than to disobey it. Of course, I think it was unlikely that glancing back as the fire and brimstone fell was this issue. (Though that might be.) It is seems more likely that she was looking back with a desire to be back in that city with the comforts, family, and friends.

Matthew 6:21 ESV  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

We remember her disbelief.

If she had believed, would she have looked back? Did she want to commit suicide? No, it is more likely that she did not believe. Why would a loving God punish her for looking back? After all, there was so much history in Sodom. Surely, a little longing for what used to be would not be a bad thing? Peter reminds us that our past life needs to be left behind.

1 Peter 4:3 ESV  For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.

Faith, trusting in God, is so important. Lot’s wife is not the only one who has “looked back.” Israel also kept looking back while in the wilderness.

Numbers 11:4-5 ESV  Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat!  (5)  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.

But, if we look at the world as a place of friendship and good things, we risk making God our enemy.

James 4:4 ESV  You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

We remember her destruction.

We may be tempted to minimize disobedience. Some even will say “I will enjoy the sin tonight and go forward and repent in church tomorrow.”

James 4:14 ESV  yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

What we might think of small sins, God often views differently. While the ones who are punished do not get the chance to repent, we get to learn from their examples. Think about:

  • Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10)
  • Uzzah (2 Samuel 6)
  • The young prophet (I Kings 13)
  • Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5)

They all remind us that God is a Holy God and he needs to be honored.

God is a loving God but it does not mean that he will not hand out punishment for those who disobey. Lot’s wife found out the hard way and we, well, we get the opportunity to learn from her mistake and not repeat the same thing.

What can we learn?

The lesson should be obvious but let’s state the obvious anyway.  We should believe and obey God or risk destruction.  Remember Lot’s wife.

 

 

2 things we can learn from Genesis 7

Gen 7-22Noah also takes center stage in chapter 7. There are 2 things to learn from this chapter. One corrects a childhood lesson and the other teaches us a very important lesson.

NOT two of every kind of animal

If you grew up like I did, you think that Noah had two of each kind of animal. It is an easy way to remember the lesson without over complicated it for a small child but for an older child or adult, the text reveals something else. Gen 7:2

Genesis 7:2 ESV  Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate…

It was 2 pair for the unclean but 7 for the clean. Otherwise, what happened to the animals Noah sacrificed in chapter 8? (Some of you are thinking: Oh , that is what happened to the Unicorns!) No!

Genesis 8:20 ESV  Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

 

Now they did go in 2 by 2 but somehow every picture shows 2 giraffe, 2 hippos, 2 lions, etc. When we read the text we can understand the actual count of animals.

Only 8 persons were saved in the ark.

How sad it is to see that Noah, a preacher of righteousness, had to enter the ark with only his wife, sons and daughter in laws. 8 total people saved from the flood.

Genesis 7:7 ESV  And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood.

 

The lesson to be learned from this is that the world was so bad (Gen 6:5) that Noah had no success in convincing them that a flood was coming. This is one passage that reminds us that few people will be saved. In the midst of a lot of teaching which states that “everyone will be saved, ” we need to take note that same God who wants to save everyone, let everyone else drown.

God is not inconsistent. Repentance and Faith in him are required to have a relationship with Him. If we do not repent at the preaching of the Gospel today, and enter the ark of safety (known as Jesus), then when the next flood (of fire) comes, we will be caught up in it.

 

 

3 ways to Discern good and evil

heb 5-14In our quest to mature and become conformed the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29), it is essential that we can distinguish between good and evil.

Hebrews 5:12-14 ESV  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,  (13)  for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  (14)  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

In our lesson from Sunday, November 26th, we looked at the growth process that this requires. In the sermon which you can hear here, we also noted that Satan is trying to get us to shortcut the path God has in mind for us. Obedience brings to our lives the things that will bless our life. Adam and Eve choose a shortcut and it was a disaster.  In an abbreviated blog post here are the main points.

Discernment can and should be achieved over time.

It is expected that we will grow to be able to discern good from evil. The Hebrew writer says that his audience OUGHT to already be teachers but have continued in a state of immaturity and perhaps even regressed a little.

Growth is expected. If you are not growing, you are dying. In our walk with God, stopping or turning back are not options for the Christian. We need to develop an ability to see good and evil for what they are. This comes from practice.

There are no skills which we learned that we did not need to practice. Everything learned from using a fork, tying our shoes, dressing ourselves, riding a bike, learning to speak, learning another language and YES….learning God’s Word takes time and practice to become competent at.

I believe that we have some discernment built into us by God.

Romans 2:14-15 ESV  For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.  (15)  They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them…

However, beyond murder and stealing there may not be as much agreement. Sexual immorality is one of those sins that gets clouded and even many professing Christians have little or no problem living together before getting married or approving of many different variations of this in their life, the lives of those they know, or in their entertainment.

What follows are three things that will help us discern Good from Evil.

#1 Is it clearly condemned?

The easiest way to know if something is good or evil is to see if it makes the list!

Galatians 5:19-21 ESV  Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,  (20)  idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,  (21)  envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

If it is on that list, don’t do it. Discernment is easy in such cases. Perhaps we might need to check with a dictionary for proper definitions but for many people this will settle the question when we ask “Is it evil?” This isn’t the only list of “evil” things. But it is a start.

Sometimes, knowing the opposite of something helps. So the other list is good to know too.

Galatians 5:22-23 ESV  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  (23)  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

If it is on this list, go for it! These are good things.

But what if it is not on either list?

#2 Your conscience and wisdom from another may help.

The conscience when properly trained is a wonderful tool. We should never violate it. However, even Paul, who persecuted the church in good conscience was not doing good! At the very least, if your conscience calls into question what you are doing, you should stop and consider it carefully and perhaps….

Get help from another.

Philippians 3:17 ESV  Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

After all, the Hebrew writer wanted his audience to reach a level of maturity where they would be able to discern right and wrong. Find someone who can do so and get their help.

#3 As always consider ALL of God’s word.

This is the ultimate source for knowing right from wrong.

Gambling is NOT specifically forbidden but a search of the Scriptures will show that the principle of putting your money up for chance is not a good activity.  So let’s ask the questions.

Does it violate my conscience? If yes, then don’t do it. If no, well, you are still not done asking questions.

Ask a mature Christian. Again, not a definitive source but I venture most mature Christians are going to discourage gambling.

Ask the Bible. Though not specifically condemned (and this is not a full study on gambling) here are two passages to consider.

Proverbs 13:11 ESV  Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.

1 Timothy 6:10 ESV  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

While small increases in your income which come over time from salary increases and savings allow a person to adjust to wealth. The rapid and sudden endowment of it can be a problem. (It also can happen in inheritances but more so in gambling winnings.)

Many will say that I play the Lotto in order to help the schools out. It would be much better to  give the school the whole dollar because they only get 19 to 29 cents of that money.  “What?!”, you say, “But why waste that money when you might win?” Yep…and now we see the “love of money”; helping the schools then becomes a justification and not the real reason.

The best way to grow to maturity and being able to discern good from evil is by learning and knowing God’s word. Then, of course, you have to put it into practice to become better at it.

What are some things that you understand better NOW which you were a bit unsure of as a new Christian?

 

The Rocky Soil

The-SowerYou can hear the audio lesson at this link.

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus illustrates 4 different types of hearts that people have when it comes to the Word of God. While the Good soil is the one that we all want to be like, we have to understand the other soils and make adjustments so that we either stop being those soils or so that we do not become those soils.

The Rocky soil is a unique and sometimes hidden soil. The issue with this one is that the roots of faith are not deep enough to sustain it during hard or difficult times. Sometimes they are not deep enough to sustain it even in the face of POTENTIAL hard times. However, until those hard times come, it may not manifest itself.

Luke 8:13 ESV  And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.

A.K.A.  The “As long as it is easy.” soil

Israel faced this problem. When Moses was sent back to deliver Israel by God, Israel rejoiced. They saw the signs that God had given and praised and worshiped God. They were probably thinking “Pharaoh just has to let us go…these signs will convince him that God is God!” And, of course, Pharaoh, not only didn’t let them go, but made their work even harder.  Rather than turning to God for support, they turned on God and complained. (Exodus 4:29-5:21)

Later, after crossing the Red Sea, Israel did another about face. At first they were rejoicing that God delivered them. Then that joy turned to complaining a few days later because they found water that was bitter and undrinkable. Now they were convinced they had been brought out there to die! (Exodus 14:31-15:4ff)

Many other examples can be seen in the next couple of years with manna, quail and other problems but the last straw was just before they were to go into the land of Canaan. (Read Number 13 and 14.) Here Israel was persuaded by the 10 spies that the land, which was flowing with milk and honey, would be a terrible land because the inhabitants were more powerful. And so, the congregation decided it was better to go back to Egypt and were ready to stone Moses. God, on the other hand, had had enough. Ten times the children of Israel had tested Him and He decided that they would NOT go into the promised land until that generation died off. They were to wander 40 years.

As you might imagine the people did not like that. They probably looked at the 40 years wandering on one hand and the giants in the land on the other hand and decided that fighting would be the easiest route to go. They presented themselves to Moses ready to do battle early the next morning and in spite of Moses’ warning that God was not with them, they still went to battle…and, of course, lost.

Israel shows us that Faith does exist which is allergic to conflict and problems. Unfortunately, God’s words and commands often bring conflicts. Mark’s  account of the sower reads this way:

Mark 4:17 ESV  And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

Put another way: If it easy we believe, if it is difficult we leave.

What can be done?

This soils needs some special attention and help. It is important to realize that sometimes nothing CAN be done. Sometimes people fall away and they just will not listen. In cases like this, waiting and, in most cases, praying are about the best we can do as we wait until the prodigal comes to his senses. Other times, however, we need to pursue the fallen away brother. We need to look for the lost sheep or lost coin and do what we can to recover them.

Warnings can help!

A good warning ahead of the problem can be a good start. It can prepare us so we are not surprised when it happens. We need to let our fellow Christians know that Satan is not some little friendly guy in a red suit. He is like a roaring lion looking for his next meal. We are not fighting flesh and blood in this life but the spiritual forces of evil. To this end, we need to know that persecution and tribulation and trials/testings of our faith WILL come. Not might. Not maybe. WILL!

2 Timothy 3:12 ESV  Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,  (7)  so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

James 1:2-4 ESV  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  (3)  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  (4)  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Not only do these trials prove our faith they IM-prove our faith. Our faith grows in the midst of these trials and…God’s name is glorified. While discipline and training are never pleasant (Hebrews 12:3-15), they are necessary components of becoming a productive and functional part of society…whether physically speaking or spiritually speaking.

How can we avoid being the Rocky Soil?

We need good deep roots. When you see a tree planted by the waters, you know that its roots are going to run deep. This is the image the first psalm provides and that tree is the person who delights in God’s word.

Psalms 1:1-3 ESV  Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;  (2)  but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.  (3)  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

We also need to put on the armor of God. This armor will help us in the inevitable battles we face.

Ephesians 6:10-13 ESV  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  (11)  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  (12)  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  (13)  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Perhaps with the proper training and warnings, the rocky soil will change into the good soil. However, it is important that we do realize that we all have rocks to trip over and we should never consider ourselves above stumbling.

Galatians 6:1 ESV  Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

What other characteristics do you notice in the rocky soil? Again, you can listen to the 30 minute sermon here.

 

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