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Proverbs 6:20, Various

Proverbs And Mother’s Day

The book of Proverbs teaches us a lot about our responsibilities to our Mothers. Look at these passages: 6:20: “My son…do not forsake the teaching of your mother.” 10:1 “A foolish son is a grief to his mother.”  15:20  “A foolish man despises his mother.” 19:26  “He who drives his mother away Is a shameful and disgraceful son.” 20:20  “He who curses his mother, his lamp will go out in time of darkness.” 23:22 “Do not despise your mother when she is old.” 23:25  “Let your .. mother be glad, and let her rejoice who gave birth to you.”  30:17 “The eye that …scorns a mother, The ravens of the valley will pick it out, And the young eagles will eat it.” 30:11 “There is a generation that … does not bless their mothers.”

Notice that the generation that God speaks against is a generation that “neglects” to do something concerning the mother.  Bless means to “say good words” to her & about her. But the focus of the word “bless” is not on the external words themselves but the heart from which they come. It is the heart of appreciation. So we might say, “The generation that God disapproves of is a generation that does not appreciate their mothers.”

They say a preacher hasn’t preached unless he has challenged you to do something. My challenge today is for every child to bless their mother today. It will be too late one day to express your appreciation. I wish I could be the little girl sitting on the curb crying. A man stopped at a flower shop to order some flowers to be wired to his mother, who lived two hundred miles away.  As he got out of his car, he noticed a young girl sitting on the curb sobbing.  He asked her what was wrong and she replied:  “I wanted to buy a red rose for my mother.  But I only have 75 cents, and a rose costs $2.00.”  The man smiled and said, “Come on in with me.  I’ll buy you a rose.”  He bought the little girl her rose and ordered his own mother’s flowers.  As they were leaving, he offered the girl a ride home.  She said, “Yes, please!  Take me to my mother.”  She directed him to a cemetery where she placed the rose on a freshly dug grave.  The man returned to the flower shop, canceled the wire order, picked up flowers, and drove the two hundred miles to his mother’s home.

Ruth 1:14f

In The Clearing Stands A Fighter

After Naomi’s husband and both of her sons die, she prepares to leave Moab and return to her home in Israel, around Bethlehem. Her son’s widows have a decision to make. Will they return with Naomi to Israel, or will they stay in Moab? One stays, and one goes. Orpah eventually makes the decision to stay in Moab. The text says Naomi advises Ruth to follow Orpah’s example. In Ruth 1:15, Naomi says to Ruth, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” It seems apparent that both of the widows had professed faith in their husband’s God. But Orpah returned to her previous god. On the other hand, Ruth, in one of the most famous verses in the Bible,  says in verse 16, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”

The two widows had both professed faith in Yahweh, but that faith had never really been tested.  God tested their faith. God tested Abraham’s faith. It can be demonstrated that God tests the faith of all those who profess their trust in Him. In Genesis 22, we read, “And it came to pass that God tested Abraham…”  In Ruth, we might read, “So it came to pass that God tested Ruth and Orpah’s faith.” Gingrich explains it well: “Now they were faced with a decision which would reveal whether their faith was spurious or genuine. Would they go back or go on? If they went back to the Moabites’ god, the Moabites’ land and the Moabitish people to receive a husband and rest for the flesh, then their faith in Jehovah was spurious. If they went on to a strange land, to a strange people, and into a future which held forth no prospects of a husband and rest for the flesh, then their faith in Jehovah was genuine.”

The point is that no faith is real until it has been tested. When the trials come, will we keep going, or will we go back? We can go back to what’s comfortable. We can go back to what’s familiar. If we keep going, we face the unknown, the uncertain, and the unfamiliar. Max Lucado says, “When a potter bakes a pot, he checks its solidity by pulling it out of the oven and thumping it. If it sings, it’s ready. If it thuds, it’s placed back in the oven. The character of a person is also checked by thumping. Been thumped lately?” Orpah went back, but Ruth remained and became a heroine in the Hall of Fame of Faith. She was a real fighter. Paul Simon wrote about the fighter, the boxer; “In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade, and he carries a reminder of every blow that laid him down or cut him till he cried out in his anger and his shame—‘I am leaving, I am leaving!’ but the fighter still remains.” It appears to me that Ruth was a fighter.

Colossians 3:5-10

Legalism And Licentiousness

There are two things that will rob us of our freedom in Christ. One is legalism. If we insist on writing laws for ourselves or submitting to the manmade laws of others, we end up focusing on the “have to’s” of life rather than the “want to’s.” We build another man-made system of do’s and don’t’s, which simply rob us of our freedom. Jesus fulfilled the law on our behalf, and as he said on the cross, “It is finished.” Now, this legalism is one extreme. The other extreme can enslave us as well. That’s licentiousness. Paul starts to describe what slavery to this might look like in Colossians 3:5-10. Just as we are to put to death the rituals and rules that make slaves out of us, he wants us to put to death licentiousness. He writes, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these, the wrath of God is coming. In these, you, too, once walked when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

Sin is another great taskmaster. When we surrender ourselves to sin, we become its slave, and we lose our freedom. There are more 12-step recovery programs than you can count. Each one is designed to help slaves of any particular sin find freedom. Our freedom from the tyranny of legalism and licentiousness is not total freedom. Since Bob Dillon is right, “everybody serves something,” We need to think carefully about freedom and slavery. “Many people, driven by a desire for freedom, have ended in slavery. The Russian people revolted against the control of the Tsars only to discover themselves enmeshed in a new tyranny. We are free to jump from a high building but not free to suspend the natural consequences. This is because whatever freedom we have is a limited and responsible freedom; it is a degree of freedom within boundaries.”[1] Surrendering to the sins of the flesh is like taking drugs. We get hooked easily. We are then slaves to our particular sin. Christ sets us free from that slavery, and we can now willingly submit ourselves as slaves to Christ. Paul talks more about this in Romans. We are to be servants (slaves) of Christ. Paul refers to himself that way many times in his writings. When Jesus sat his apostles down, he once informed them, who argued about greatness, that the greatest was the one who would be the “servant of all.”

Martin Lloyd-Jones said, “If you are a Christian, you are a servant of God, you are the slave, the ‘bond slave of Christ,’ even as was this mighty Apostle. Show it in your work, show it in everything you do — in your home, in your pleasure, in your recreation, at your lunch, at your tea, everywhere, always, let this come out. So you will realize that, whatever your calling, whatever your lot or position in life, it is a glorious one.”

[1] Seccombe, David. 2013. Romans: Dust to Destiny. Edited by Paul Barnett. Reading the Bible Today Series. Sydney, South NSW: Aquila Press.

Colossians 3:1-2

Setting Our Minds

I’ve often used the title “Siren Song” to describe the calls and appeals of the false teachers that Paul had to deal with. It’s appropriate for us today as well. I’ve assumed everyone knew what  Siren Song is. Its origins are rooted in Greek mythology. The Sirens were beautiful women with the upper bodies of humans and the lower bodies of birds whose bewitching songs lured sailors to their doom. So irresistible were their songs that sailors who heard them would be tempted to navigate the ship close to the shore and risk crashing, or they might jump overboard into the water and drown. In Homer’s Odyssey, the hero Odysseus cleverly stops the ears of his crew with wax to keep them from hearing the Sirens’s song. He tied himself to the mast so he could hear the song yet survive. The Sirens also appear in another Greek epic poem called the Argonautica. In that, the mythical master musician Orpheus helps a crew survive the Sirens’s song by drowning them out with lyre-playing. I use the phrase to refer to any teaching that attempts to beguile us away from the simple message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

The attractions of the siren songs in this life, as well as the shadows of legalistic spirituality, often cause believers to stumble along their way. Therefore, Paul calls us to focus on eternal issues in his second letter to the Corinthians. In verse 2 of Chapter 3, Paul urges us to “set our minds” on things above and not on the things of this earth. He says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”  The Greek verb for “setting the mind” implies the intentional direction of all mental energies on a particular object. In this case, it’s Christ in the heavenly realms. I guess we’d call that concentration. “Set your mind” is a very strong action. Fill your ears with wax so you won’t hear the siren songs of the world to draw your heart from Christ. Strap yourself to the mast and hold fast to that which saves you. Setting our minds on Christ will silence the calls of the world around us.

The things around us will grow dim when we do that.  An M.I.T. mathematician was walking across the campus.  He was so absorbed in thought that when a student greeted him, he failed to respond. But after a few steps, he turned and said, “Pardon me, could you tell me which way I came from?” The student pointed and answered, “That way, sir!” “Thanks,” said the prof. “Now I know I’ve had lunch!” This is a bit extreme, but the point is our minds cannot be set on any object without concentration. One commentator said, “No one will ever learn anything about the subject being considered without it.”  Isaac Newton said the key to his understanding was, “I keep it before me.” Fixing our thoughts on Jesus takes time. You can’t appreciate the scenery at 30 thousand feet. You can’t see the beauty of the country as it flies by on the interstate. We must stop and focus. We must sit still and gaze at the beauty. We must sit still and gaze at the Savior and let the landscape seep into our hearts and fill our souls.

Colossians 2:16-19

Oh, Happy Day!

Once Christ has set us free from sin, we are indeed free! But many false religions in Paul’s day, and in ours, will attempt to diminish the merits of Christ and force into our lives a system of performance based on rituals and man-made standards.  Faith in Jesus is not enough. Some said you have to be circumcised. Others argue that one must observe the Sabbath day. Others say that the Lord’s Day observances are mandatory. Others might focus on one’s diet and insist on observance of all the dietary laws of the Old Testament. There are many religious-sounding siren songs that lure us away from the full sufficiency of Christ.  We should not let any of them distract us. Paul warns us all, “Let no one rob us of our freedom in Christ.” Verse 16 says, “Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.” Verse 18 begins, “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism…”

“Some in Colossae were placing more emphasis on particular meals and days than they were on Christ. Much of this came from the Old Testament Law. Paul declares the people observed the shadows more than the One who created the shadow. There were many types and pictures of Christ in the Old Testament, but they were just a shadow of things to come. Christ had come! God’s plan of redemption had been fulfilled. It was ridiculous to place more emphasis on the rituals that pointed to Christ than the risen Savior Himself.”[1] While acknowledging Christ as the savior, many in Paul’s day and in our day insist on a form of synergism. Man assists God in his salvation. God does His part, and man does his part. A monergist, like myself, insists that the word of salvation was accomplished completely by Christ on our behalf. We cannot contribute to it in any way. I’m convinced that Paul was a monergist.

Augustine, Calvin, and others have defended monergism throughout church history. It is one of the chief canons in the Westminister Confession of Faith. They argue that this tradition has consistently affirmed the doctrine of monergism as that which is taught in Scripture and has rejected various forms of synergism as unbiblical.”[2] Verse 17 says, referring to the Old Testament rules, “These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” He did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. It’s like a debt that has been paid off. We do not need to make more deposits in that account. One of the last words of Jesus on the cross was, “It is finished.” That Greek phrase is one word only. It’s Tetelestai. This word has been discovered on paid-off mortgages and loans during Christ’s Day. It is literally “Paid In Full.” I remember how happy I was when I got that stamped on my mortgage for my house! O, Happy Day. How much more so the day Jesus washed my sins away? “O, Happy Day.”

[1] Benfield, Chris. 2015. “Avoiding Modern Pitfalls # 8 (Colossians 2:16–23).” In Pulpit Pages: New Testament Sermons, 1094. Mount Airy, NC: Chris Benfield.

[2] Barrett, Matthew. 2013. Salvation by Grace: The Case for Effectual Calling and Regeneration. 1st ed. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

Colossians 2:13-14

Alive In Christ

Colossians 2:13-14 tells us that all our trespasses, sins, and debts have been paid for. Paul writes, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” As a Matter of fact, Paul says, everything “that stood against us with its legal demands” has been canceled. Our debts have all been paid! They were “nailed to the cross.”

I read that in Africa, witch doctors often made wooden fetishes shaped like people. They are thought to possess supernatural healing powers. When sickness overcame a village, the priest would nail something belonging to the sick person to the fetish. It would tell the spirit what was wrong and call on its power to heal. Christians don’t need fetishes on which to nail our problems. When His flesh, just like ours, was nailed to the cross, God healed us of our greatest problems: sin and death. By his wounds, we are healed.

Jesus’ earthly ministry of healing is a beautiful picture for us. Leprosy was the disease associated with death because there were no medicines that would heal it. Once a leper, always a leper. Death was the normal and expected result of leprosy. Family and friends rejected them. They were denied access to the religious rituals. They were not even allowed to live in the community. They were cast out of the city to live with the other lepers outside the camp. The God of Sinai forbids his participation in worship.  The rabbis and religious leaders threw stones at him whenever they saw him in the streets.  He must walk down the street with a hand over his mouth, shouting, “Unclean, Unclean!”  Another commentator even suggests that other lepers rejected him.  Lepers are so afraid of enhancing or promoting their own sickness that they even withdraw in disgust from each other.” But this leper comes to Jesus and finds healing. Think about that. Imagine, fingers and toes grow back instantly!  Boils dry up! Eyebrows reappear, dried bleeding skin heals, muscles are strengthened, and eyes and voice clear up. Muscles and tendons are restored. The constant pain of the disease, which the leper had learned to live with, is gone. He is not just cured of a sickness. He is made alive again!

Because of forgiveness, God “made us alive again.” We all have regrets and memories that seem to return to cause us pain. They often disfigure our present and destroy the hope of our future. As I look back, I often feel that I’ve really made a mess of my life! No matter what you think about your past, you can always find complete forgiveness in Christ. Please note it’s not a second chance. It’s not even a third or fourth chance.  I will ultimately fail every chance I am given to make myself righteous. I can’t imagine Jesus telling the leper to try harder. It’s when I stop trying to earn my own righteousness and accept that perfect righteousness offered through faith in Christ that I’ll find any real peace with God.  Because our sins are nailed to the cross, the forgiving Power of God’s love enables us to live a new life.

Colossians 2:5-6

The Beguiling World

As we learn the Bible, we grow in our appreciation of the endless immensity of God’s love for us.  As we grow in our appreciation of God’s love for us, as ultimately expressed in His Son, Jesus, we won’t be deceived by siren songs in the world that attempt to draw us away from our singular devotion to Christ. Paul explains in verse 5, “I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.” The KJV replaces the word “delude” with “beguile.” It’s better because it expresses intent. There is a personal agenda behind the brands of so-called religion that dilutes the message of Christ.  The agenda is anything but peaceful. In one of Spurgeon’s sermons, he addressed those who beguile instead of delude. Although both might be right in some ways, beguile carries with it the intent of the author. Spurgeon says, “He gives a special warning against some others who would beguile you; that is to say, who will try to turn you out of the right road, but who will not tell you that they mean to do so. They pretend that they are going to show you something better than what you have, to teach you something that you knew not before, some improvement upon what you have hitherto learned.”[1]

But Paul, in the next verse, verse 6, says that he is so glad that the Colossians haven’t fallen for the “siren songs” of their culture. Even in Paul’s day, there were those who would turn believers away from their faith. We face a major effort today, especially in the public school system, that makes the Christian faith look ridiculous. They promote the evolutionary theory of origins. They dismiss the moral teachings on sexual purity. They hold up the common assumption that all religions are the same and all lead up the mountain to God, albeit by different routes. They make the specifics of the Christian faith anathema in the public forum. There is even an element today that tries to beguile children into not accepting the way that God made them. Genital mutilation is referred to as gender-affirming surgery. The Colossians are not fooled. Paul writes, “I am…rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.”

 “Good order” and “Firmness” are military terms. Paul loves to use military metaphors when encouraging us in battle.  Good order deals with unity of purpose. Firmness means they haven’t broken ranks. At times, you can almost feel Paul’s exhaustion with his battle for the faith. It’s especially true in the last books he wrote, the Timothy and Titus Epistles. Paul stood firm. He hung on. He fought the good fight, and we must, too. It’s not just the quality of the lives we live here on earth that’s at stake. It’s an eternity as well. Like the Colossians, our faith is under attack. Like good soldiers of the cross, we need to stay in the ranks and stand firm in the faith.  Stand firm, like a concrete fencepost.

[1] Spurgeon, C. H. 1915. “A Warning to Believers.” In The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, 61:315. London: Passmore & Alabaster.

Colossians 2:1-3

Treasures Of Wisdom And Knowledge

In Colossians 2:1, Paul expresses his concern for the Colossians and the Laodiceans. He has never met them but is deeply concerned about their spiritual welfare. He actually says he’s concerned for all those he has not met. He had never met you and me either.  But, being driven along by the Holy Spirit as he wrote, I see God addressing us today in Paul’s words as well. We are part of the believing community that Paul was anxious about or concerned for, even though he never met us. We face the same struggles and temptations every generation of Christians has faced.

Paul was concerned that the false teachings, the Siren Songs that were so prominent in the world, would turn our attention away from the centrality of Christ in our lives. True disciples of Christ focus on three very important things. 1) Loving. In Verse 2, Paul prays that “…their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love.” Loving God and others was the most important instruction from Jesus.  Distractions dilute our attention away from Christ and damage our loving unity.  Therefore, Paul insists we keep 2) Learning about Christ so we will “reach all the riches of the full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ.”  Additionally, Loving and learning will result in 3) Living. Verse 3 goes on to say that it’s only in Christ that true value, purpose, and meaning of life are found. He calls it the “treasure.” He says that it’s only in Christ that we find all the hidden “treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

 If Jesus has all the “wisdom and Knowledge” that there is, we must see that there is no knowledge that has ever been investigated or ascertained, which is not already comprehended in the knowledge that is in Christ. We certainly live in a wonderful age of knowledge. Time would fail to tell of the advances that have been made in innumerable fields of research. Especially today when we are teaching computers to think on their own. Artificial intelligence is always going to be artificial. Human intelligence is always going to be human. But Jesus’ intelligence is divine. But in the last analysis, when we have gathered up all the treasures of knowledge, we find that we are only “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” All knowledge is in the One who declared, “I am … the truth” (John 14:6).

In Christ, we have all we need! God’s love is immense and irresistible. We have God’s love when we accept Christ. In Christ, we can return God’s love both to Him and extend it to others. As we learn more and more about God’s love as revealed in Christ, our love grows. When love grows, lives change. Antoine de Saint-Exupery was quoted in the LA Times as saying. “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

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