Thursday, July 26, 2012

Feeling Uncomfortable in the World

First John 2:15 tells us, “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Last time we defined the world as the evil system controlled by Satan which is set in opposition to God. Obviously, from this verse, the love of the Father and the love of the world are incompatible. They can’t co-exist together.

Why? Because God is the enemy of the world’s sin and values. We know that. God hates worldliness in all its guises. Therefore, it is impossible to love and serve God while loving and serving what God hates and while doing what God has commanded us not to do.

I’m going to quote to you a series of verses that show this: Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” So, how do we ever think we can pull it off trying to love and serve both – God and the world?

Don’t we realize that James said in James 4:4 said? “Adulterers and adulteresses! (That’s what loving the world is – spiritual adultery) Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” That’s one reason we can’t love the world: It’s incompatible with being a Christian. To love the world turns us into the exact opposite – an enemy of God.

The second reason we can’t love the world is this: The world is not our natural habitat. We don’t belong to the world, but to the kingdom of God. In John 15:19, Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

Do you understand that? God has called us out of the world. He’s given us a new home, a new identity. Philippians 3:20 says, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” We are aliens down here. Hebrews 11:13 calls us, “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

What is the moral? We should be as uncomfortable, as unnatural in the world, as we would be underwater. A SCUBA diver can survive underwater only with artificial support, and then only for a limited time. We as believers can survive in this world only through our reliance on the Holy Spirit.

Someone who gets too comfortable in this world and doesn’t seem to mind the sin all around him – man, how can he be saved? I don’t know, maybe he’s not. I don’t know about you, but I get all uncomfortable around sin. It bothers me to see people drinking, especially around my kids; and you can hardly go to a picnic area anymore without seeing that. And doesn’t it offend you to hear people curse and use the Lord’s name in vain? It’s almost painful. And doesn’t it embarrass you to see people half naked, like on a public beach, or hear them talk about their sex lives?

I’d better be careful, or some of you might think I’m talking about television and accuse me of going beyond preaching to meddling. But how people can sit there and watch that stuff day after day, I just don’t understand. Why does that stuff offend us? It offends us because Jesus has called us out of it. When Jesus called men to be His disciples, He said, “Follow Me!” He expected them to leave their fishing nets and tax collecting booths and all their private causes. He expected them to forsake whatever occupied their time and attention, whatever occupied their affections and desires, and follow Him. That’s at the heart of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Where is your heart? Have you given Christ your undivided love? Remember, the first of the Ten Commandments was, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” Jesus said the greatest commandment was to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, and your might.” Are you obedient to them?

Certainly Christians can be unfaithful to God. But like in a marriage, adultery doesn’t change the legal statue, but it does bring disgrace and heartache. And it destroys fellowship. So if you are a Christian, don’t flirt with the world. Don’t let it allure you. Don’t have a love affair with it. Love God instead.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Love God, Not theWorld

We have so much in Christ, why would we want anything else? A life lived for Christ brings the greatest of all blessings. It gives our life meaning and satisfaction. Yet the fact is, so many people, even Christians, live their lives for everything but Christ. We are always tempted by other things.

John knew this, so he gave us a warning. That warning is found in 1st John 2:15. It says, “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Do you see the point of that verse? In general, a true believer should love God and love the brethren. An unbeliever will love the world and the things of the world.

But what is the world? What is it we are not supposed to love? Let’s do a word study. The word for world in Greek is kosmos, or cosmos in English. Carl Sagan used to use the word regularly to describe the universe. But it was used first in Greek culture to mean an ornament, like a necklace. That’s why we also get the English word, cosmetic, from it (No, I’m not going to preach against jewelry, don’t worry).

But as time went on and language changed, the kosmos came to be used for the globe of the world – the ornament of God, they might say. And finally, it came to be used for the world of men. More specifically, with moral overtones, it came to mean the world of men in rebellion against God, which is why the word is normally used in Scripture to describe the world system controlled and dominated by Satan whose values, goals, morals, pleasures and pastimes are all anti-God.

Well, which of these definitions does John have in mind when he tells us not to love the world? They are all used in Scripture. For instance, when talking about Jesus, John 1:10 says, “He was in the world (the physical world) and the world was made through Him (again the physical world), and the world did not know Him (That’s the world of men).” There’s not much help so far.

Can it mean the physical world? Is that what we’re not supposed to love? Of course not, because 1st Timothy 6:17 assures us that God “gives us richly all things to enjoy.” Therefore, it can’t mean the earth, its raw materials, or the beauty of nature around us. We are to enjoy this world and protect it. God gave it to us.

What about the world of men? It can’t mean that either. John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world (Meaning the people of the world) He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Are we to hate that world? Oh, no! We are supposed to evangelize that world. That’s the world God sent His Son to die for. It is precious to Him.

So than John’s warning must be against the evil world system controlled by Satan. It’s logical. If we love God, we must love what God loves and hate what God hates. Love and hate go hand in hand. We can understand that. If we love our children, we will hate the things that might harm them. We will hate the influence of drugs and alcohol on culture, humanism, pre-marital sex, and on and on the list goes; and we will try and protect our children from them.

So it is natural for God to say in Psalm 97:10, “You that love the Lord, hate evil.” Or Romans 12:9, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good.” The world that John is talking about is evil, and we are to hate it, not chase after it. We are not to love that world.

Let’s define the world John is talking about this way: The world is anything that causes us to lose our enjoyment of God’s love or our desire to do God’s will.

How does that apply to you? Think about it. Do you have an activity, a person, or a possession that gets in the way of your loving God? It could be a hobby, your career, or some pastime. That is the world John is talking about, so “do not love the world.” And does it distract you at all from serving God? Does it take up your time and energy? That’s the world, and “do not love the world.” Love God instead.

The world isn’t automatically something bad in itself. There may be nothing inherently wrong with your pastime, for instance. Fishing is great, but if you do it every Sunday morning instead of going to church, then it becomes the world. It is the world inasmuch as it distracts you from God, or becomes something you value more than God. “Do not love the world.” Love God.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Elections are Not the Answer

I’ve been asked why it has been so long since I’ve added a post to this blog. The answer is simple: I have been doing a lot of soul searching of late as to what my purpose is with this blog.

It all began when I was reminded that the title of this blog is, Searching the Mind of Christ, and it was originally intended to be a way for me to comment on the things I gleaned from Scripture. Yet, because of my writing op-eds for the Citizen Journal and also posting them here, this blog morphed into a bully pulpit to preach my moral and political views. Even though I fastidiously avoided partisan politics (some might doubt that, but I tried), I did use this blog to comment on morality as it touched politics. Somehow, in the process, the original purpose was lost. I want to get back to that original purpose for this blog.

The truth is, I don’t have a lot of confidence in the political process or in elections anyway. Yes, as good citizens we must be involved. We need to be informed. We need to vote and let our voice be heard. Sure, elections matter, but not as much as we like to think.

I agree wholeheartedly with this quote from Michael Brown, “The fact is that I am a follower of Jesus Christ more than I am a conservative (my strong conservative moral values are the direct result of my faith), and although I have voted for the Republican candidate for many years now. . . . I am convinced that the frenzied state we get into every four years is the result of us placing too much blame on the person we’re voting against and too much expectation in the person we’re voting for.” Then he concludes, “Many of us put far too much stress on the presidential elections and not enough stress on our personal responsibility as citizens and leaders.” He is so right.

So, what is the answer? The answer is Jesus Christ. The answer is spelled out in the Gospel message. We don’t look for the Republican Party to bring salvation to this country, we look for salvation from Jesus who brings revival one heart at a time. And the responsibility to preach revival is up to us Christians, especially us pastors. Therefore, our primary purpose is to lift up Jesus and point people to a life changing relationship with Him. The more we do that, the more we will see this country change. Therefore, we should always aim to put the spotlight on Christ. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t talk to people about social and political issues. Rather, we argue our point, not simply from logical reasons, but from Biblical ones.

So, no, my hope is not in elections, my hope is in the church again acting like the church. Second Chronicles 7:14 really points out this truth. It is a verse that brings me hope. It says, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” The answer begins with us. It begins as we realize we are both the problem and the solution. The more we exalt Christ, the closer we will come to the solution.