Falling Down

Proverbs 7:24
“Now therefore, listen to me, my children; Pay attention to the words of my mouth”

This chapter is given entirely as a warning against the danger of falling into sexual sin. It is written as a letter from a father to his son, pleading with him to avoid the things that will lead to sin. While this sin is perhaps more common among young men, it is a sin we all must avoid. The principles found in this chapter will apply to guarding against all sin. To grasp the danger being warned against, look at what happened to this young man who turns aside from the Lord for sinful pleasure.

Proverbs 7:22 “Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks . . .“

While it seems as though he was suddenly destroyed by sin, it was actually quite a long road that took him there, and one filled with warning signs he chose to ignore. Falling from the Lord is never something that takes place over night. This young man’s failure illustrates the steps that always lead to a fall.

First, we read he was a young man. While he may have thought of himself as all grown up, in reality he was quite immature. We read he was “simple and devoid of understanding.” Hebrews 5 refers to a group of people who should be teaching others, but because they had failed to grow in Christ, they were still behaving like baby Christians. It is appropriate for an infant to act like a baby, but it is sad when an adult is still behaving childishly. Growth in Christ does not happen simply by being a believer for a long period of time. We grow when we invest in our relationship with the Lord. Failure to do so will make us susceptible to a fall.

Second, we read of the young man walking the street that led to her home. His failure was a result of being in the wrong place. Instead of choosing a different route, he walked where he should not have been. We cannot expect to come right to the edge of sin and not fall off that cliff. To avoid a fall we need to steer clear of the things that will incite the flesh and lead to failure.

Third, this young man is walking alone. Many of our failures could be avoided if we got others involved in the fight. Had this young man walked those same streets with a godly friend, they could watch each other’s back, and encourage each other in order to avoid failure. Finding someone who will be an encouragement to you in your walk, involves being in church regularly, stepping out of your comfort zone to get to know others, and letting down some guards so others can know how to pray for and encourage you. There are certain aspects of our walk with the Lord where we must walk alone, but for the most part, God did not intend for us to travel this road alone.

Finally, our traveler fell because he ignored the obvious warning signs. Whatever he was thinking, the moment she used the word “husband,” he should have known this was not a path to continue on. The correct response at that moment was to flee. The problem was, he had allowed himself to reach a point of no return. Once he began following his desires, rather than the Word of the God, those desires began to control him. Flattering words mixed with her embrace, her kiss and her seduction, brought him to a point where failure was inevitable. We must deal with temptation long before we get to the point where it is too strong to avoid. If we are honest, we will recognize that before we fail, we have passed sign after sign warning us to turn around and travel some other route.

Before we come to the slaughter house of sin, let’s take the time to examine our lives in light of these warnings.

Pastor Jim

 

My Way Out

1 Corinthians 10:13
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”


Years ago, Isuzu ran an ad where a man, sitting in the lotus position meditating, looked at the camera as if to speak wisdom and said, “I can resist anything except temptation.” I think that could be said of all of us. We often resolve to commit ourselves to the Lord, and make steps toward following Christ more closely, only to be derailed by falling again into one of those easily besetting sins. This is a very common experience.

Paul reminds us of three characteristics about temptation. First, temptation is common to all men. No matter who you are, or how long you have walked with the Lord, you will be tempted to do things that are not pleasing to the Lord, and are costly to your relationship with Him. This is not written to justify sin, but rather to encourage us to guard against failure. Leading up to this verse, Paul reminds us of the Children of Israel in the wilderness. He states, while all passed through the Red Sea, ate the Manna, and drank from the Rock, only a few entered the Promised Land. We are all given the same resources to equip us for success. Only those who take advantage of the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the people of God, will overcome the temptations of the flesh.

Second, Paul reminds us that every temptation has a way of escape. There are a few rare cases when we are hit by a surprise attack, but most of the time, we see temptations coming, and are given multiple ways out. Many of the sins that we commit, we do so because we are alone. If someone else were nearby, we would not do them. I think, a very common way of escape, is to simply pick up the phone or go outside. In those rare cases when we are blindsided with temptation, we must follow the example of Joseph, who fled from temptation, even when it meant having his garment ripped off his back.

Finally, Paul reminds us that God is faithful. We would all admit that the reason we fail is that we are too weak. We attempted to resist, but found that our strength was insufficient, and we gave in. Fortunately, we are not left to fight the battle on our own. Our weakness will always be met with His strength. Often, we fail because we keep our attention fixed on the temptation and on our weakness. We will find victory, when we get our eyes back upon the Lord. When David faced Goliath, his eyes were on Jehovah; when he faced Bathsheba, his eyes on the temptation. Victory will be ours when we keep our attention on the Lord. Paul reminded the Ephesians to “Be strong in the Lord in the power of His might.”

Pastor Jim

 

A Terrible Thing To Waste 

Nehemiah 5:7
After serious thought, I rebuked the nobles and rulers, and said…”

Nehemiah serves as an example of godly leadership. He mobilized the people to finish a seemingly impossible task, and did it in record time. He was a man of the Word, as well as a man of prayer, but those things did not mean he wasn’t also a man of careful thought. This is perhaps one of the most neglected weapons in the arsenal of the Christian. It is wise for us not to forget, Jesus told us to love Him with all our minds.

Over the years I have encountered many Christians who make big, life altering decisions based entirely upon their emotions. When asked for justification for these choices, they will often claim it is “the Lord”; almost as if that was a trump card overriding all other considerations. While I am not in any way suggesting the Lord does not speak to His people, I am saying not everything God receives blame for, is actually His fault. I think many bad decisions could be avoided if we were to slow down and use our minds. Consider what His Word already declares about the subject.

If you are in the midst of the decision making process, allow me to make a few suggestions. First, take time to pray. Ask God to speak clearly to you and to direct you. Ask Him to make His plan apparent, so you might follow it. Second, keep in mind, God answers prayer through the counsel of His Word. Prayer was not designed to be exercised apart from the Word of God, but in line with it. The proper model would be to pray and search out the Scripture for direction.

It is high time we began to use our minds to love the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

Guilty As Charged 

Ezra 4:15
“That search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. And you will find in the book of the records and know that this city is a rebellious city, harmful to kings and provinces, and that they have incited sedition within the city in former times, for which cause this city was destroyed.”

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The enemies of Israel wrote to the king of Persia encouraging him to look through the record books regarding Israel’s past. They claimed these books would reveal that Israel had been rebellious before, and if allowed to continue, they would prove to be rebellious once again. A few things strike me as I consider this text.

First, the enemies of Israel were correct. Israel had failed in the past. Seventy years earlier, Jeremiah warned the nation that Babylon was coming and they should surrender and allow themselves to be taken captive. Instead of heeding the Word of God, they rebelled and this rebellion was now coming back to haunt them. We need to be careful. Sin always has consequences even if it takes years for them to revel themselves. Had Israel obeyed, the enemies would have no charges against them.

Second, a record book of all Israel’s wrongs was kept in the library of the king. All their past failures and sins were stored up in a book and they are now being found guilty. Jesus explained that the same is true of us.

Matthew 12:36 “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.”
The word “account” is a translation of the Greek word “logos.” The concept is that the words we speak are recorded in a ledger and that ledger will be read on the final day of judgment.

Revelation 20:12 “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”

This should frighten all of us. All our sinful acts, both small and great, are recorded in a book and that book will be used to testify against us in the court of heaven. Secret sins that you thought were hidden or forgotten will be held up to witness of your guilt before God. We know that one sin is enough to condemn us in heaven’s court and we know that we are guilty of far more than one sin.

Fortunately, the story does not end here. Revelation 20 speaks of another book called life. In this book is recorded all who have trusted in Christ, and by doing so have had their sins washed and forgiven. Paul explained that when we trust Christ, the handwriting of requirements that were against us are wiped out. Once our names are found in the book of life, all the charges kept in the other book are erased.

If you have received Christ, you do not need to fear eternal punishment for your sins. If you have not yet believed in Him, do so right now. Don’t wait until it is too late.

Pastor Jim

 

 

Always Watching 

2 Chronicles 27:6
“So Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God.”

My early years in ministry were spent as a Bible teacher at a Christian school. I recall one occasion, when I was called out of the classroom and into the hallway, I told the students to continue with the assignment I had given them. About five minutes later, I returned to the class to find the students had not followed my instructions. All but a few, were no longer working on the assignment, and some were completely out of control. I remember seeing paper flying across the room, and at least two students standing on their desks. I can attest, these behaviors NEVER happened while I was in the room. There is something about human nature which causes us to behave better when we know we are being watched.

The same was true of the ancient king, Jotham. We read in 2 Chronicles 27:2, he “did what was right in the sight of the Lord” and that his secret was, he “prepared his ways BEFORE the Lord.” How differently would you behave, if you kept in mind, everything you do is before the eyes of the Lord? The New Testament tells us every thing we do is “. . . naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account” (Hebrews 4:13). In other words, God is watching everything we do, and we will one day have to account to Him for our behavior.

There are many things we do because we know no one is watching, or we fail to do unless someone is watching. The proper attitude is to “. . . do ALL things heartily as unto the Lord. . . ” Colossians 3:23).

Pastor Jim

 

The Proper Order 

1 Chronicles 15:13
“For because you did not do it the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not consult Him about the proper order.”

This was David’s second attempt to bring the ark of the covenant to its new home in Jerusalem. The first time was an utter failure, resulting in death. This time, David wanted to be sure to do things right, so he consulted the Word of God. Because God designed the Tabernacle, He is also the one who wrote the instructions for how things were to operate. When David and Israel chose to look into the Word of God, they found the proper way to move the ark. What had once been a disaster, became a time of rejoicing; and the same will be true of us.

The New Testament refers to God as the “Author of life.” He designed us, and His Word serves as the instruction manual for a successful life. You might look at you life and see it is in need of repair; remember, the secret is to “consult Him for the proper order.” Dating, marriage, finances, kids, work or whatever else you might be struggling with, you will find the proper order when you consult the Word of God and do things His way.

Remember, God’s ways bring life.

Pastor Jim

 

Following The crowd

Exodus 23:2
“You shall not follow a crowd to do evil…”

IMG_1436The Law of God was given as a standard to show the people their need for a Savior, and as a pattern to ensure that the people lived righteous lives. Here we find a principle that would protect Israel from becoming like the surrounding pagan nations. God is declaring that popular opinion is not what determines right from wrong. Almost every child has heard his parents say, “Would you jump off a cliff if your friends were doing it?” We attempt to instill within our children the principle that just because the crowd is behaving a certain way, it does not make it right. Sociologist refer to “mob mentality.” They say it is possible for individuals to lose the ability to think for themselves, and begin to follow whatever the crowd is doing. Living in a democratic state can make this even more complicated. God declares to Israel that popular vote is not the standard of righteousness. If all the people vote to erect a golden calf to represent God, that does not make God a gold cow. His righteous standard will never be changed simply by getting a crowd to reject it.

We live in a time, perhaps like no other, where the Word of God is challenged. The very foundational principles of righteousness are being questioned, ridiculed, and legislated away. We need to keep in mind that righteousness is not a floating standard that can be voted upon. No matter what society tells us, God has a standard of right and wrong, and we must not follow a crowd to do evil.

Pastor Jim

 

The Fear Of The Lord

Matthew 26:5
“But they said, ‘Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.’”

2015/01/img_1380.jpgMatthew 26 and 27 record the final events in the life of Jesus. The hostility toward Him has reached a climax, and His opponents are seeking to kill Him. Theirs is the most heinous of sins, the murder of the Son of God! But the text reveals that their sin was motivated by what commonly drives you and I to sin; the fear of man. The fear of man might simply be defined as being more concerned with what man thinks, than what God thinks. On the other hand, the fear of God is being more concerned with what God thinks, than what man thinks. Solomon wrote

“The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe” Proverbs 29:25

The hunter sets the trap for the wild animal, disguises it as best he can, making it look like something it is not, but his real goal is to catch, kill and eat the animal. The fear of man is a lot like that. So subtly, we set aside what is well-pleasing to the Lord, in order to be pleasing to others. The opponents of Jesus did not want to lose favor with the people because of the position they had and the comforts that went along with it. It was their social status and the fear of losing it, which led them to commit this great sin. John tells us, this is one of the great dangers for all Christians. He said, “All that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16)The pride of life speaks of position, status, wanting to fit in, or fearing we might no longer be accepted in our peer group. We call that “peer pressure,” and warn our children of the destruction it brings. However, even adults fall prey to the pressure of the fear of man. Solomon not only warns of the fear of man, he also speaks of the antidote.

“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.” Proverbs 8:13

Wanting to live well-pleasing to the Lord will produce in us a hate for the things that are displeasing. Had the religious leader’s foremost concern been pleasing God, they would have never committed such a horrible act, as crucifying the Son of God. The same will always be true of us. Today, if we will allow the fear of God to influence all we do, we will find, at the end of the day, we have lived lives well-pleasing to Him.

Pastor Jim

 

Do The Right Thing

Zechariah 7:3
“Should I weep in the fifth month and fast as I have done for so many years?”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/b9a/30989304/files/2014/12/img_1253.jpgThe people in Zechariah’s day were beginning to realize their lifestyle was unacceptable to God. They concluded, the solution to unrighteous living was to fast on certain days. Prior to implementing their new religious program, they approached the prophet for guidance. He declared what they really needed to do was obey the Word of The Lord.

Zechariah 7:7
“Should you not have obeyed the words which the Lord proclaimed through the former prophets…”

There is something about the nature of all men that when we become convicted of our sins, we want to perform religious deeds. We think we need to go to church, recite a prayer, or be involved in some other religious activity. While these activities are very important and must play a role in our lives, our greatest need is to return to the Lord and live in obedience to His written Word.

Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11). He declared to the disciples that if they loved Him they keep His commands (John 14:15). The truest evidence of repentance is a change of behavior. Albeit, there are times when that is very difficult and almost impossible to do. I am reminded of a man with a deformed hand who met Jesus in a church service. Jesus asked him to do the one thing he was incapable of doing. He said “stretch forth your hand” (Luke 6:10). Rather than giving excuses, or even good reasons why he could not obey, the man simply trusted and obeyed. His obedience was met with the power of God, and his deformity was healed.

If God has revealed areas in your life that need to be corrected, don’t settle for a few religious activities. Instead, turn to Him with your whole heart and receive His power to live obediently to His word.

Pastor Jim