Archive for October, 2010

My Reformation Day sermon today was a survey of 2 Timothy 3:1-4:5 called “Preach the Word!” Here is a summary in the space of one sentence: The solution to the problem of a troubled world and church is to preach God’s Word. Happy Reformation Day!

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C.S. Lewis had this to say on the essence of pride:

If you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me, or show off?’ The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with everyone else’s pride. It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise. Two of a trade never agree. Now what you want to get clear is that Pride is essentially competitive – is competitive by its very nature – while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone. That is why I say that Pride is essentially competitive in a way the other vices are not. The sexual impulse may drive two men into competition if they both want the same girl. But that is only by accident: they might just as likely have wanted two different girls. But a proud man will take your girl from you, not because he wants her, but just to prove to himself that he is a better man than you. Greed may drive men into competition if there is not enough to go round; but the proud man, even when he has got more than he can possibly want, will try to get still more just to assert his power. Nearly all those evils in the world which people put down to greed or selfishness are really far more the result of Pride. (Emphasis is the author’s, not mine.)

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As I continue to preach through the book of James, certain themes have risen to the top. One of them is humility, another is pride. In particular, chapter 4 has the theme of pride versus humility running through it. C.S. Lewis made these comments on humility:

We must not think Pride is something God forbids because He is offended at it, or that Humility is something He demands due to His own dignity – as if God Himself was proud. He is not in the least worried about His dignity. The point is, He wants you to know Him: wants to give you Himself. And He and you are two things of such a kind that if you really get into any kind of touch with Him you will, in fact, be humble – delightedly humble, feeling the infinite relief of having for once got rid of all the silly nonsense about your dignity which has made you restless and unhappy all your life. He is trying to make you humble in order to make this moment possible: trying to take off a lot of silly, ugly, fancy-dress in which we have all got ourselves up and are strutting about like the little idiots we are. I wish I had got a bit further with my humility myself: if I had, I could probably tell you more about the relief, the comfort, of taking the fancy-dress off – getting rid of the false self, with all its ‘Look at me’ and ‘Aren’t I a good boy?’ and all its posing and posturing. To get even near it, even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert.

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Dealing with the Devil

James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” One of the questions raised by this verse is how we as Christians – the people of God – should deal with Satan. What should we do?

Twenty or so years ago, there were plenty of books written and sermons preached that encouraged us, because we are the “King’s kids,” to take Satan on directly – to rebuke him, fight against him, ridicule him, and almost literally to “lay the smack” down on him. Thankfully, that message isn’t as popular today as it was then, but what should our attitude and stance be against our enemy, the devil?

The New Testament has four references to our “relationship” to Satan. You may be surprised to hear that, but that’s all there really is – four.

James 4:7 instructs us to “resist” Satan, which means to stand against him. We do that, according to the context of chapter 4 of James’ epistle, by submitting ourselves to God. The closer we draw to God (a reference to James 4:8), the less Satan wants with us.

Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” When we’re angry and don’t deal with it (as well as other sins) a godly manner, we give Satan a foothold or a beach head from which to work.

Ephesians 6:11 tells us to “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” The armor, explained in verses 13 through 17 gives us what we need to stand firm. As we put it on – metaphorically speaking – we’ll be able to stand and remain standing.

1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Resist him, firm in your faith knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” According to the context, we resist Satan by remaining faithful to God and steadfast, even in the midst of suffering.

According to God’s Word, we deal with the devil by submitting to God, dealing with our sin, putting on the armor God has given us, and by being firm in our trust of God.

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This morning, I had the privilege of preaching on James 4:11-12. In a sentence, here it is: Using our words to tear down our brothers and sisters in Christ is wrong because we put ourselves above the law and above God Himself.

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I went to visit a friend in the hospital earlier this week and ended up getting lost for a short time.

I had asked where the particular unit was in which my friend was staying, then followed the directions I was given: end of the hall; elevator; second floor. I stepped out of the elevator when the door opened and proceeded to walk from one end of the floor to the other. I couldn’t find the unit anywhere. I looked hard, but couldn’t find it.

The receptionist in the oncology department told me I was on the wrong floor and gave me more directions. Then it hit me: if I would have paid attention to what I was doing, there wouldn’t have been a problem. I lost focus after I got onto the elevator. Yes, I pressed the button for the second floor, but didn’t pay attention to what floor I was on. When the door opened, I got off. The problem was that I wasn’t on the second floor – I thought I was, but I wasn’t. It was an easy mistake to make if you lose focus and don’t pay attention.

Losing your way in a hospital is one thing, but something far more dangerous is losing spiritual focus. If we don’t pay attention in our walk with Christ, we’ll drift and wander. Hebrews 2:1 says, “Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” In other words, keep your focus and continue to pay attention.

If we do that, we won’t get lost in hospitals and we’ll keep on maturing as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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I began my sermon Sunday with the story of a turtle crossing a river. I left its conclusion hanging. Here’s how it should have ended.

There once was a turtle who wanted to cross a river in the woods where he lived. He had friends on both sides of the river. Most of them could come and go as they please, but he couldn’t. The river’s current was far too strong. If he even put a foot in it, he’d be pulled into the river and carried miles downstream before anyone would know what had happened.

The turtle wanted to cross the river so badly that he came up with an ingenious plan to pull it off once and for all. If he could find a strong enough branch and two eagles who would agree to help him, he’d be on the other side of the river in no time at all.

The idea was simple. The turtle would bite the branch, which would have to be thick, while the eagles also put the branch in their mouths and then fly him across the river.

Two eagles agreed to help the turtle achieve his goal. When all three of them had clamped down on the branch, the eagles began to fly. Things were going very well and it looked like the turtle’s plan would work.

That is, until the turtle heard what the other animals were saying as they watched. All of the animals – on both sides of the river – were praising the eagles for the brilliant plan they had hatched!

When the turtle simply couldn’t take it anymore, he yelled, “It was my idea!” and then promptly fell into the strong current of the river.

It just goes to show that pride goes before a fall.

(I left off that last sentence. Including it “closes the circuit” so to speak.)

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This morning, I had the privilege of preaching on James 4:6-10. Here is my sermon summarized in a sentence: The marks of true humility are submission to God, drawing near to God, repenting of your sins, and having godly sorrow for your sins – all of which comes by the grace of God.

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Here are five good books on the subject of manhood. Everything to be said about biblical manhood is not contained within the covers of these books, but they’re a good start.

1. The Mark of a Man by Elisabeth Elliot. Written as advice to her nephew Pete on true manhood  based on the life of Jesus Christ. As always with Eliot, well-written and clear.

2. The Measure of a Man by Gene Getz. A study of the qualifications for leadership in the church is a good place to start in discussing manhood.

3. The Man in the Mirror by Patrick Morley. The subtitle sums it up well – “Solving 24 Problems Men Face.”

4. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood edited by Wayne Grudem and John Piper. Exhaustive treatment of this subject as well as womanhood, the differences between men and women, roles of husbands and wives, and a lot more.

5. Tender Warrior by Stu Webber. A treatment of balanced manhood by God’s design – king, warrior, mentor, friend.

Tolle Lege!

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James 4:4 says, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” 1 John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world  or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” It should be obvious from these two passages, and many other in the New Testament, that worldliness – love of the fallen, sinful system that is hostile to God and alienated from Him – is  a serious offence against God.

Commenting on Luke 16:13-18 (where Jesus declared that we cannot love two masters), J.C. Ryle said:

The truth here propounded by our Lord appears, at first sight, too obvious to admit of being disputed. And yet the very attempt which is here declared to be useless is constantly being made by many in the matter of their souls. Thousands on every side are continually trying to do the thing which Christ pronounces impossible. They are endeavoring to be friends of the world and friends of God at the same time. Their consciences are so far enlightened, that they feel they must have some religion. But their affections are so chained down to earthly things, that they never come up to the true mark of being true Christians. And hence they live in a state of constant discomfort. They have too much religion to be happy in the world, and they have too much of the world in their hearts to be happy in their religion. In short, they waste their time in laboring to do that which cannot be done. (Emphasis mine)

Worldliness really is a waste of time.

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