Monday, August 13, 2012

The Double-Minded Christian - How Frustrating Can You Get?

Can a Christian love the world? Of course! It seems strange they would want to, but they do. After all, 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.” But Christians all the time, who claim to love God, still are having their love affairs with the world.

A possible explanation is found in James 1:8, “He is double minded, unstable in all his ways.” Double minded? What does that mean? Could it be a Christian who is trying to love God and the world? Wouldn’t that be double minded?

I’ve heard Christians erroneously claim that it is impossible for a believer to love the world. I can give you an example of one who did. It was righteous lot. Some wonder how Lot could be righteous given his history, but he was. Peter calls him that in Second Peter 2:7, and Scriptures doesn’t lie.

But look at his life. Start with Genesis 13:8 following his split with his Uncle Abraham. Lot’s herdsmen and Abraham’s had gotten into a disagreement. The land couldn’t support both of them and their vast herds. So Abraham magnanimously tells Lot, “Please let there be no strife between us.” Then in verse 9, “Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, I will go to the right.” In other words, Abraham was giving Lot first pick, and he would take the leftovers.

Then, verse 10 tells us that “Lot lifted up his eyes, and he saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord [Eden], like the land of Egypt.” Ah, he was succumbing to the lust of the eye. What he saw, he wanted. And Lot is being lured by the world. You see, it was on this plain of Jordan that Sodom and Gomorrah were located. You remember what kind of cities they were, don’t you? – the wickedness was legendary. We have even named the sin of the homosexuals, sodomy, after that wicked city Sodom because it was rampant there. So Lot went down and pitched his tent “even as far as Sodom.”

Didn’t Lot know what was going on down in that valley? Of course he did. But he used the excuse so many Christians use nowadays, “Well, I’m not living that way myself, you understand. And I’m mature enough o handle it. Besides, there is a profit to be made.” So he sidled right up alongside that wicked, old city and pitched his tent. Not in it, mind you, just close.

How like modern day Christians that is who want to get just as close to the world as possible, and yet, be just a little bit different - close but not identical. “We have to maintain our separateness, you know.” And as the world marches steadily, incessantly deeper into sin, the church is marching just a step behind. Not as bad as the world, but where the world was just a year or so ago, the church is today – the very place they condemned such a short time ago.

Well, we left Lot with his tent pitched right alongside of Sodom. Where will we find him next? Well, a confederacy of nations invaded Sodom, and where was Lot? Genesis 14:12 says, “They also took Lot, Abraham’s nephew, who dwelt in Sodom.” He’s not alongside it any more. Now he lives inside the city.

How could it happen? “Well, you see,” Lot might have said, “I found out I could handle it OK near Sodom, so I moved in. I was doing business there, after all, and it was more convenient.” So Lot moved into that wicked city, and now shared its fate. Genesis 14:12 continues, “They also took Lot . . . and his goods, and departed.” All the stuff he’d accumulated was gone – gone like the wind. Abraham had to go on a rescue mission to get Lot back safe.

So, now what? Did Lot learn his lesson? Not on your life. Why? Because sin is addictive like heroin or cocaine or tobacco or alcohol. Once a person gets a taste of it, they have an almost impossible time breaking free. Without the power of the Holy Spirit in their life to release them from the bonds of sin, they are practically helpless.

Where next do we find Lot? When the angels came to get him out of town in the nick of time just before God destroys that wicked city, Genesis 19:1 tells us where the angels found Lot, “Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening and Lot was sitting in the gate.” What was he doing there? He was acting as a city official - as a judge of the land. The gate is where all business was transacted and where court was held. Lot had become part of the establishment, part of the world. He was now totally immersed in the culture of Sodom. And God was out to destroy it.

As a result, everything Lot loved and cherished went up in smoke – all of his possessions and most of his family. How foolish for him, or any of us, to pin our hopes on something that can not last. In Matthew 6:19, Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

Yet, people in the church, just like people in the world, continue to go about gathering up all the treasures of earth. And they are miserable for it. Peter records in Second Peter 2:7-8 that Lot’s righteous souls was tormented day and night over the wickedness of the evil city of Sodom. It tortured him seeing that evil all around him. But he wouldn’t leave it voluntarily. The world was too addictive, and he ended up losing it all. Learn the lesson from Lot. Do not love the world, Love God more. Don’t try to be double-minded, love God with all your heart, soul, and mind.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Clinging to the Wind

Do you know one of the greatest mysteries in the whole world? It is this: Why do the vast majority of men chase after that which can satisfy least and totally ignore the only thing that can truly satisfy and fulfill? Why do they chase after the things of the world and not the things of God? The one is fleeting and the other eternal. What I’m talking about is spelled out in this verse from First John. It’s found in First John 2:17, “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” That is truth! Yet, in spite of that truth, most people are having a love affair with the world.

Oh, I’m not accusing them of cheating on their spouse, but they are committing spiritual adultery against God. What they love most of all are the “good things” of this world – whatever the world offers. They love and pursue the wealth, the power, the pleasure that this world offers (which can never satisfy more than a temporary high), all at the expense of the “good things” of eternity that come through serving Christ. And John was very clear about that. “Don’t do it!” he said. First John 2:15 warns, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.”

Unfortunately, most people of the world, and even a lot of Christians, say, “Well, that’s just stupid. Why should I give up all the good things in life? Why not go for all the gusto – why not get all I can?” As J. Vernon McGee used to say, “The unsaved ought to squeeze this life like an orange to get every last drop. That’s all they’ve got”

When we say, “But God said, ‘No!’” They respond, “So what? That’s not a good enough reason.” They say that because they don’t believe in God anyway, and their motto remains the one on the bumper sticker, “He who dies with the most toys wins.”

Well, is there a reason to give them that they might understand as to why they shouldn’t chase after the world? Yes! Of Course! And the reason is found right here in first John 2:17. “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” Isn’t that reason enough?

It is very simple. The one who dies with the most toys still dies, and he doesn’t win because he can’t take any of the toys with him. Not a single one! I’ve not once seen a hearse go by pulling a U-Haul trailer, and I’ve performed many a funeral. Nothing in this world lasts. Everything changes. Everything wears out or falls apart or breaks down. Even us! And whatever we may accumulate, we die and leave it all behind.

And even if you can get your hands on everything the world says is good, it doesn’t satisfy. It’s like chasing the wind. Like the old beer commercial used to say, “It satisfies; one after another after another.” What a lie! If it really satisfied, you wouldn’t need “one after another after another.” One would be enough to do the trick. But it can’t satisfy, it just makes you drunk and creates within you a greater dependence.

You can take every one of the world’s so called “good things,” even the things that aren’t on a naughty list, and you can prove how transitory they really are and how little they really satisfy. Like they asked John D. Rockefeller once, “How many more millions of dollars will it take to make you happy?” His answer? “Just one more.” It always takes just one more.

Even life itself is like that. James 1:9-11 teaches, “Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat then it withers the grass, its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man will fade away in all his pursuits.” Oh, yes, we all die. Then we lose everything the world gave us. Even before death comes, we lose our looks and our enjoyment of life. Our bodies wear out and become sagging and baggy. The things we once loved to do are out of reach for our decrepit bodies. Like one old guy said, “I can’t even enjoy a steak any more. I can’t chew it with my false teeth.”

So, on the contrary, First John 2: 17 gives the antidote to a life of frustration. It says, “But he who does the will of God abides forever.” How much better to pursue what lasts, not just for a lifetime, but for all eternity? How much better to pursue doing the will of God?