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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Failure of Faith—Lessons Learned from Solomon—Part II

The loss of faith begins with being drawn away by one's desires.  We know Solomon was led into sin by the influence of his wives but they were women he had no right to.  "But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites--from the nations of whom the LORD had said to the children of Israel, 'You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.' Solomon clung to these in love." (1 Kings 11:1-2 NKJV) 

Solomon's first sin was not idolatry.  It was marrying foreign wives of the nationalities mentioned.  His desire for these women led him into sin.  "Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God; and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin.  Should we then hear of your doing all this great evil, transgressing against our God by marrying pagan women?" (Neh. 13:26-27 NKJV)

I would like to list here some things we can learn from Solomon about how to maintain our own faith and guard against losing that faith.

(1) Beware of the company you keep for it will influence you despite yourself.  The New Testament teaches this principle.  "Do not be deceived:  "Evil company corrupts good habits" (1 Cor. 15:33 NKJV) or as the NIV phrases it, “Bad company corrupts good character.”  Even Solomon, speaking by the Holy Spirit, confessed this earlier in his life when he said, "The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray." (Prov. 12:26 NKJV)  I might add the closer a person becomes to you the greater their influence will be.  We can develop a love or fondness for people who can turn us from God.

The loss of faith is a gradual process.  It takes time to lose one's faith, it doesn't happen overnight, and it often takes outside help which the Bible clearly teaches that Solomon got from his pagan wives.

Here is the problem, the wicked do not at first appear to be wicked.  The women Solomon married did not appear to him to be wicked, not at all.  I would say the chances were great that they treated him with all respect, honor, and kindness, and chances are many of them truly loved him.  Most certainly Solomon did not go out looking for wicked women to marry.  They were most likely the class of their cultures.  There was only one problem with them—they were wicked by God's standards, they were idolaters.

We have the same problem today.  The world is full of good people, good to us, we consider them good, but with God they are wicked.  They may be the most outstanding people you would ever meet but outstanding by the measures used by one human being to measure other human beings.  They may be very likable, have great personalities, are friendly, kind, considerate, thoughtful, helpful, compassionate, honest, hard working, the kind that would not mistreat a mouse, and some of them may even be religious folks and yet in God's eyes, by his standard, they are wicked.  All it takes to fit into that category is to reject God's word.   

These are the kinds of people that destroy, even if unknowingly, those who could otherwise have been saved had they not fallen under their influence.  These are people who themselves either do not have faith or if they do have faith it is not a faith based on the truth of God's word.  Their faith is in what they believe, not in what God’s word says. 

We become close friends with people like this, grow fond of them, and get to thinking so highly of them that we get to the point where we cannot allow ourselves to see anything but good in them whether they have any religion about them or not.  We get to seeing them as so good that a just God could not possibly condemn them.  If they are lost we want to be lost too.  Man thus becomes the standard of what a man ought to be, forget what the Bible says for we consider them to be too good to be lost.  Unfortunately, often such people are family members.

The most dangerous people in the world are not those that appear wicked to us.  We run from them.  They are no danger to us.  Those of the kind I have described above are the ones who take us down for they often appear to us as ministers of righteousness of a sort, the righteousness this world has to offer, the self-made righteousness of man. 

Again, some of these may even be quite religious people but they hold to false doctrine with the thinking often being that the Bible just cannot be interpreted for our generation the way the word of God was for the first generation of Christians.  It is a liberal Christianity they hold to that will not allow the Bible to mean what it says.  They lead well-meaning people astray by what appears to most men to be righteous lives.

 (2) A second lesson we can learn from Solomon’s experience is to obey God whether you want to or not, whether you can see the reasoning behind his commands or not, whether you think his commands are wise or not.  We are not told Solomon's reasoning process that led him to disobey God and marry these pagan women but disobedience always leads to trouble with God.  One problem with sin is that it is likely to lead to even more sin.  It is likely to compound and even multiply once it gets started in one’s life.  Sin repeated time and again eventually leads to the hardening of one's heart.  We get to the point that our desire for the sin outweighs our desire to do what is right which is to say we cannot repent because we do not want to repent and that is a sad state to get in.

Faith does not grow by being disobedient.  Sin will lead one to flee from God as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden when they tried to hide from God.  We know God does not approve of sin thus when we commit sin we prefer not to be in God's presence (say worship services, prayer, Bible reading, etc.), we begin the process of withdrawal, unfaithfulness, and of losing our faith.  Faith in such circumstances torments us rather than comforts us.  We feel better without it.  We become more comfortable away from God rather than with him.

We may attempt to justify our sin, our unfaithfulness.  Solomon found new religions that would allow for what he was doing although I cannot say that was his motivation for turning to them but only that it had that effect.  Certainly, his new religions did not condemn him for marrying the pagan wives or worshiping multiple gods.

With men today it is often that way.  It is not hard to find a body of religious people who will not only not condemn your sins but justify them and make the claim that no sin is involved at all.  Just change your religious affiliation.  You can always find someone more liberal than you who will accept more departure from God's word than you without calling it sin.  They will not condemn your sin and in fact will declare it to be no sin at all.  Churches today, for example, are full of people involved in adulterous marriages.  I know of one that has a lesbian couple and a transsexual man who I am told came to services around Veterans Day with his old army jacket on while wearing high heels and a skirt.

There is no indication from the Bible that Solomon ceased his idolatry even after God spoke to him the last time.  We can get to the point, evidently, that even God talking directly to us would no longer turn us away from our evil passion.  But I ask the question, what if Solomon had just obeyed God and never started down the path of marrying pagan women?  Would it have made a difference in his faith in his old age? 

There is a lot to be said for just obeying whether you want to or not.  Obey and in time you will find you are obeying not because you have to but because you want to.  It has become your life, who you are. 

(3) A third lesson one can learn from Solomon is to beware of religions that are based on appeals to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life for they will lead you from the faith of God's word.  Solomon may have been drawn to one or more of these idolatrous religions because some of them enticed by the nature of their worship.  In at least some of them sexual activities were involved as a part of their worship.  It was an appeal to the lust of man’s flesh.  I do not accuse Solomon of being guilty for I cannot know.  I can only know there was an appeal to the lust of the flesh in many pagan religions of that era. 

A lot of religious bodies today appeal to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life in one way or another and it has its appeal to the fleshly man, not the spiritual man, and is certainly capable of drawing people away from biblical faith into false doctrine and away from God.  Something drew Solomon into idolatry and we know with certainty that it was not logical argument or miracles or signs or wonders.  The appeal was, without doubt, an appeal to the flesh, to the lusts of man.

In our own time, there are some religious bodies calling themselves Christian whose drawing card is an appeal to wealth.  God wants you to be materially wealthy is the claim.  Clearly, the appeal is to the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.  It is all about the contribution.  The more you give the more wealth God will give you in return and in the meantime the finer home the evangelist can live in and the more expensive the car he can drive.  

Big costly buildings, robes, rituals, choirs, drama performances, musical entertainment, trips to amusement parks, ball teams, golf outings, and other such outings, etc. are not found in the pages of your New Testament in the first-century church but they have an appeal to modern man.  Some groups have built worship facilities that include gymnasiums for basketball, snack bars, rooms for pool and/or badminton, choir and band rooms, etc.  Were these things built to appeal to the spirit or the flesh?  One can be drawn away from the things of the spirit by the things that appeal to the flesh.  Can you imagine the apostle Paul soliciting funds from the brethren to build and provide for such things?  Was his interest in athletics, entertainment, and food and drink?

(4) A final thing I would list for our consideration as a lesson we can learn from Solomon's unfaithfulness and loss of faith is that one must beware of our human tendency to desire peace rather than war.  I speak here of arguments and debates and all the unpleasantness that goes with that.  Solomon should have been at war against these idols.  As it was he had peace but not a peace pleasing to God.

I am far from certain that Solomon ever gave up his original religion fully.  There is some indication he did not based on 1 Kings 11:6, "Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David." (NKJV)  I emphasize the word "fully" in that passage which makes it sound as though he did follow the Lord but only up to a point.  It could be he simply added these idolatrous gods to the Lord God he worshipped becoming a polytheist.

If that is the case is that not also what the denominational world today has done as well?  They have said one religion (denomination) is as good as another, it makes no difference.  And, yet, they each consider the other to be teaching some error they do not hold to in their own denomination.  But does error really matter at all if you can be saved practicing the error?  To ask is to answer.  Of course, error does not matter in the denominational world if you can be saved in any denomination despite the error they hold to in that denomination.

So, did Solomon get to where we are in America today where one religion is as good as another?  But you say wait a minute.  All denominations believe in the same God and the same Savior.  Solomon was worshiping multiple gods.  That argument sounds good until you examine it.  What is wrong with it?  Just this much—is the God of denomination A the same God as the God of denomination B if he is teaching one thing in one place and another in another place?  It sounds like two different Gods.

Solomon did not wage war with the other religions or other gods.  He sought peace with them all.  In doing so God was not pleased.  We ought to learn from that.  God is never pleased with a departure from his word, never.  Our job is to seek out the truth and hold to it.  If the rest of the world wants to believe and practice error so be it but we do not have to run after those gods.

A slow continual drip of water will eventually erode rock.  A steady diet of withdrawal from the things that make up the Christian life will eventually erode and destroy faith.  We may not do like Solomon and change religions or as his case may have been just add other religions to his Jewish religion.  We may simply cease to have any religion at all. 

Some think faith can be turned back on at will.  It didn't work with Solomon so why should we think it would work with us and bear in mind God even spoke to Solomon concerning his unfaithfulness, whether directly or through a prophet, but it did not cause him to repent and turn back to God.  We can get to the point where we just cease to care.  When we reach that point it is all over.  We are done.  We need to nurture faith and keep it.  Let us learn from Solomon and move toward God and not away from him.  Let us learn from his mistakes.

[To download this article or print it out click here.]



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Things God Hates from the Psalms and Proverbs

In one sense there is little need to write an article on specific things God hates for it is evident that God hates all sin.  Just list a sin and you know immediately it is a thing God hates and a thing that separates man from God.  "Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that He will not hear." (Isa. 59:2 NKJV)  As much as God loves man his nature is such that he cannot tolerate sin.

He who knowingly sins shows disrespect for God and a lack of love for him.  "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." (1 John 5:3 NKJV)  "He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me." (John 14:21 NKJV)  "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word." (John 14:23 NKJV)  "He who does not love me does not keep my words." (John 14:24 NKJV)  It is true we all sin through weakness of the flesh but when we do we need to face up to the fact of what it tells us about ourselves and then repent. 

For a Christian to sin willfully is to trample the Son of God underfoot, count the blood of the covenant a common thing, and insult the Spirit of grace (Heb. 10:26-29).  Considered this way one can see that God is entirely just in making the wages of sin death (Rom. 6:23) and especially in light of the fact he sent Jesus into the world to make a sacrifice of himself on the cross to redeem man from sin.  God's great love should not be spurned and will not be by those having a good and honest heart.

While God hates all sin and we are all well aware of that it still seems to hit one with more force when the word of God specifically says of a thing that God hates it or if he specifically says of a thing that it is an abomination to him.  Here is a list of such things as taken from the Psalms and Proverbs.

(1) "The wicked and the one who loves violence his soul hates." (Psalm 11:5 NKJV)  How much so?  The next verse reads, "Upon the wicked he will rain coals, fire and brimstone and a burning wind; this shall be the portion of their cup." (Psalm 11:6 NKJV) 

Wickedness is determined by God.  We can only know wickedness from righteousness by his word.  "All your commandments are righteousness." (Psalm 119:172 NKJV)  "Salvation is far from the wicked for they do not seek your statutes." (Psalm 119:155 NKJV)  To walk without the light of God's word is to walk as a blind man and leads into wickedness.  "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105 NKJV) but that is only true of the one who will follow it.

(2) "These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to him:  a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren." (Prov. 6:16-19 NKJV)  In Prov. 16:18 the Bible teaches that, "Pride goes before destruction." (NKJV)  "Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord." (Prov. 16:5 NKJV)  In Mark 7:22-23 Jesus listed pride as an evil thing that comes from within and defiles a man.

As for liars, the book of Revelation tells us, "All liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." (Rev. 21:8 NKJV)

I really do not think it necessary to speak of the other things listed in this Prov. 6 passage for we all know what the Bible says about murderers ("hands that shed innocent blood"), wickedness, evil, and false witnesses who are liars, but I do think it might be good to take a moment to speak of those who sow discord among brethren.  It is a thing God hates but some people thrive on stirring things up.  We might well use the word strife here for the meaning is the same.

Strife can be aroused as the result of hatred (Prov. 10:12), pride (Prov. 13:10, 28:25), anger or wrath (Prov. 15:18, 29:22), and/or pure perversity (Prov. 16:28).  Proverbs 16:28 deals with perversity and strife and helps clarify the nature of a perverse man.

"An ungodly man digs up evil, and it is on his lips like a burning fire.  A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends." (Prov. 16:27-28 NKJV)

The note in the NET Bible says of this perverse man, "This refers to someone who destroys lives. The parallelism suggests that he is a 'slanderer' or 'gossip' — one who whispers and murmurs."  This goes along with Prov. 26:20, "Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases." (NKJV)  "The perverse person is an abomination to the Lord." (Prov. 3:32 NKJV)

John Gill, the well-known eighteenth-century Bible commentator, says the perverse person of this passage (Prov. 3:32) "is one that acts contrary to the nature, will, and word of God."  It is a person who "goes astray" as the NET Bible puts it.  Some translations use the word "devious" (HCSB, ESV) rather than perverse so we get the idea of an ungodly person who does not care about God or keeping his word.  The NAS77, the original New American Standard Bible, uses the phrase "the crooked man."  Such a person is an abomination to God.  Such a person sows discord, he is devious.

The one who sows discord among brethren not only sins himself but generally speaking leads others into sin as they begin to grow angry with one another because of what he has said and done to stir up strife.  In turn, they end up saying and doing things they ought not and developing hearts that are less than pure. 

The church is not to tolerate and celebrate sin in its midst (see 1 Cor. 5, 2 Thess. 3:6).  We are to have corrective discipline in the church and it would be sinful not to; we are to "reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition." (Titus 3:10 NKJV)  This divisive man is likely to find fault, sin, and error everywhere even when it exists mainly in his own mind.  He is a sower of discord.

In addition to perversity and its relationship to the sowing of discord here are some other things that the Bible says in the Proverbs that are an abomination to God.  I will try not to repeat things already listed above which are repeated elsewhere in the Psalms and Proverbs.

(3)  "Those who are of a perverse heart are an abomination to the Lord." (Prov. 11:20 NKJV)  This differs from the above only in that it goes deeper into the very heart of a man.  One might say well as long as a man does not do the deed he can think as he pleases.  Not so according to the Lord.

The Bible has much to say about God reading a man's heart and knowing it, a topic for another article, but the bottom line is it is the pure in heart that shall see God (Matt. 5:8).  This passage from Proverbs clearly teaches the state of a man's heart toward God, God's word, and toward his fellow man makes a big, big difference with God.  The Psalmist said, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear." (Psalm 66:18 NKJV)  True it is that the perverse in heart will act out in life but he is a condemned man because of the state of his heart even before he acts.

Proverbs 15:26 teaches much the same thing but uses the word "wicked" instead of "perverse."  "The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord." (NKJV)

(4)  "A false balance is an abomination to the Lord." (Prov. 11:1 NKJV, see also Prov. 20:10 and 20:23)  For the younger generation who might not know a false balance is a reference to "false scales" and the passage has reference to one who sets out to cheat another, in reality, steal from him, by using a dishonest measure.  By implication, it is necessarily implied that any attempt to cheat another person out of their goods or short them in a sale, in a dishonest fashion of any kind or means is abominable to the Lord.  It is just and fair for a merchant to make a profit as long as it is an honest profit, not one made by devious means.

(5)  "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord." (Prov. 15:8 NKJV, see also Prov. 21:27)  One cannot just go through the motions of worship, even if making a sacrifice to do so, and think God is going to be pleased.  Cain found this out very early in the history of man.  The sacrifice that is pleasing to God is a broken and contrite heart.  "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart-- these, O God, you will not despise." (Psalm 51:17 NKJV)  This is the very sacrifice the wicked will not give God.  Repentance is far from them.

We also must remember God gets to define wickedness, not you or me.  A person may in fact be sincere in heart and not fit into the category of those I just spoke about and yet his worship is unacceptable to God.  Why?  Because it is authorized by man, not by God.  Man, without necessarily having ill intent, may worship God in ways thought up by other men and handed down by tradition and not worship by what God's word has taught him.  The Bible says, Jesus quoting from the book of Isaiah, "In vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." (Mark 7:7 NKJV)  Some of these doctrines taught by the commandments of men in our own time deal with how men should worship but God, not man, gets to define what is acceptable worship. 

(6)  "He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord." (Prov. 17:15 NKJV)  Wow!  This one can easily arouse a lot of anger and bitterness among men, especially in the realm of politics.  How many people are there when it comes to election season here in America want to justify candidates who hold unscriptural positions?  Unfortunately, there are many.   The Bible says it is an abomination.  Many in high positions of power and influence are today justifying unscriptural marriage, fornication, abortion, homosexuality, and sexual perversions, and yet we advocate for such men and women at election time.  They say we must separate politics and religion at the voting box.  However, I have never found that passage in my New Testament.  I will keep looking.    

On the other hand, how many do we have today who will gladly condemn the Christian who holds to Christian teaching from the word of God?  The number is growing every day as America becomes more and more secular.  They condemn the just because the just will not go along with gay marriage or abortion or the secular agenda and it is said we are denying civil rights and are engaged in a war against women, we are haters and intolerant, and ignorant (ignorant for believing in God and the word of God).  The unjust are now setting the standards by which they expect America to live but the Bible says, "those who hate the righteous shall be condemned." (Psalm 34:21 NKJV)

One final thought on this.  In the personal realm, we cannot justify or uphold a son or daughter, a mother or dad, a sister or brother, a husband or wife, or any other relative or friend engaged actively in sin.  It is an abomination to God.  Who says so?  God does in Proverbs 17:15.

(7)  "One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination." (Prov. 28:9 NKJV)  Sometimes we hear people saying things like the more that are praying for you the better.  Well, yes, if they are the right kind of people.  However, if people are going to be praying for me I am more interested in who is doing the praying rather than the number doing it.  "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry." (Psalm 34:15 NKJV)  Not every man's prayer is going to help.

Those caught up in all kinds of false doctrine, believing it and promoting it, are not going to do me much good according to this verse (Prov. 29:9) and no more so than the man who is totally ungodly.  There are religious bodies doing things in the name of Christianity that you cannot find a word of authority for in your New Testament and yet the Holy Spirit says, "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." (Col. 3:17 NKJV)  It is hard to do a thing in the name of the Lord Jesus when the Lord Jesus gave no word on it.  To do a thing in the name of the Lord Jesus is to do it by his authority, by his word.  Where there is no word there is no authority.  To act without the word is to turn away from hearing the law and do as you please.

This completes a listing of things God says he hates or that are an abomination to him from the book of Psalms and the book of Proverbs but I think it would be good to go outside these two books and list three other things God finds abominable or hates because of their application to modern-day life here in the United States.

"You shall not lie with a male as with a woman.  It is an abomination." (Lev. 18:222 NKJV)  I list this because it is a sin listed in the New Testament—see 1 Cor. 6:9 in the English Standard Version--and there is a big push in the U.S. to legalize this sin and make it a civil right (gay marriage).  If they succeed will it be any less an abomination to God in view of the fact he has condemned it in the New Testament as well as the Old?

"One commits abomination with his neighbor's wife." (Ezek. 22:11 NKJV)  This is listed because adultery is as much a sin under the New Testament as it was under the Law of Moses and God declares it an abomination.  Literally millions of Americans have and/or are presently engaged in this sin not just by having illicit affairs alone but by living in adulterous marriages.  The word neighbor in this passage should not be limited to the woman next door.  It was never meant to be defined that narrowly.

And finally, God has made it clear that he hates divorce.  "For the Lord God of Israel says that he hates divorce." (Mal. 2:16 NKJV)  I also wanted to include this passage for it is such a common sin in America today.  Do not misunderstand.  Just because you are divorced it does not mean that you were/are the guilty party but in every divorce at least one party has sinned and as is sometimes the case both parties have.  God hates it.  Just about every time you find a divorce, there are exceptions, of course, you will find another woman or man involved and thus you have not only divorce but adultery also.

This concludes this piece but I would have the reader remember what was said in the first paragraph of this article.  God hates all sin and its wages are death (Rom. 6:23).  We all need forgiveness and have the need to put away sin from our lives once and for all as far as is humanly possible. 

[To download this article and/or print it out click here.]

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Seeking Repentance

Awhile back I received a response (a comment) on an article I had posted online entitled "The Hardening of the Human Heart" from an individual who seemed to be truly troubled after reading the article.  I quote the comment I received in its entirety below.

"The sermon i heard was true hard and direct from god i long disobeyed now its too late there is no way to easily deal with this how do i how can i simply ignore what i was told knowing what i choose to do without the power of repentence you can't simply repent i don't want to accept its too late for me to be saved i feel fear and terror knowing its too late for me knowing there is nothing in heaven i can do or anyone can do to help me i am trying to grasp it but its hard for me to understand even i honestly i don't have any words but the pain i am left with . what do i say god remember me"

The above paragraph is a direct quote but it will be easier to understand if you put in the proper punctuation as I take it that English is a second language for the commentator.  First of all, I want to say that while I always try and write the truth from God's word, or about God's word, nothing I write is "direct from God" as per the commentator's words.  I hope I write the truth and try my best but in the end, only the Bible can be relied upon.

With that out of the way, it is obvious the writer is in turmoil and needs help.  Since the writer publicly used his/her name in commenting on my article I will use it here as well since it is easier than referring to him or her, he or she.  The name was Jamie.  Is Jamie's case hopeless?  Jamie seems to feel as though it is.  I do not. 

A case is hopeless when one has totally rejected Christ, is no longer a believer and is not the least bit concerned or worried about sin or his ultimate destiny.  Even then some tragic event or experience in life may turn him or her back to Christ and the gospel.  The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) gives us some insight into how such a thing can happen.  I think we all know that the father in the parable represents God and the younger son who goes off into prodigal living represents a sinful man who, at least for a time, rejects God.

Jesus in giving the parable says in verse 13 of the prodigal that he "wasted his possessions with prodigal living." (Luke 15:13 NKJV)  The word "prodigal" (Luke 15:13) is used to describe his manner of life in the New King James Version but other translations use words like "riotous living" (ASV, KJV), "wild living" (NIV, NLT, CEV, ISV), "reckless living" (ESV), "loose living" (NASB), "dissolute living" (NRSV), and the NET Bible says "wild lifestyle."  His older brother says he had devoured the father's money with harlots (Luke 15:30 NKJV).  This gives us a pretty good idea of the kind of life he had chosen to lead.

We all know the story if we are familiar with the Bible.  The son becomes destitute to the point of hunger (Luke 15:16) but the Bible says "when he came to himself" (Luke 15:17 NKJV) and began to reason he determined to return to his father and confess his sins with the implication being he had repented.  This took a great deal of humility and involved shame for the failure his life had become.  All pride was destroyed and gone from his life.  He had nothing to be proud of and he knew it.  He had played the role of the fool and had made a complete failure of things but in doing so it brought him to his senses—"he came to himself." (Luke 15:17 NKJV)  He went back to where he belonged—to his home with his father.

We thus have a parable that shows people like Jamie that there is hope of going back to God from a sinful lifestyle.  In fact, Jesus says, "I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance." (Luke 15:7 NKJV)  He again says, "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Luke 15:10 NKJV)  Man has it in his power to bring joy to heaven.  Jamie has power to bring joy to heaven.  Heaven cares about us.  Just thinking about that is powerful, someone cares.  That is powerful for sometimes we all are inclined to get to thinking “who cares.”  Well, heaven cares.  God the Father, Christ the Son, the Holy Spirit, the angels, all of heaven cares.  The creator cares.

Hear the Holy Spirit as he spoke in the Psalms:

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart-- these, O God, you will not despise." (Psalm 51:17 NKJV)  From the tone of Jamie's comments, I think he/she has just such a heart, one God will not despise.

"The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit." (Psalm 34:18 NKJV)

I would say to Jamie it is not too late.  God cares about you and you care or else why are you reading religious articles?  You even say, "i don't want to accept its too late for me to be saved."  You care and for anyone who still cares it is not too late.  The person who is lost because of a hardened heart does not care.  You are not in that category.

Jamie seems to think he or she, as the case may be, cannot repent.  Anyone can repent who wills to do so badly enough.  If we are honest we all know sin can be addictive and pleasurable, at least for a season (Heb. 11:25), and very hard to quit.  Add to that the circumstances in which we can at times find ourselves can make it additionally hard to repent.  Let me give some examples.

Drunkenness is a sin but it is also an addiction for some, a physical addiction and quite possibly a psychological one as well although I am not a psychologist.  Gossip, a sin, can be addictive.  What would life be for some without being able to gossip?  Some are addicted to adultery (they are in an adulterous marriage they refuse to repent of and leave and admittedly it would not be easy to do); some have their own personal idols they are addicted to whether it be money, pleasure, or whatever; some are addicted to "selfish ambitions" (see Gal. 5:20 NKJV); some seem to be addicted to judging others and the list could go on and on. 

I think most of us have a sin or set of sins that tempt us greatly, our own particular weaknesses, that are a real battle to deal with.  They are sins we are drawn to.  I think the Hebrew writer may be talking about this when he says, "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." (Heb. 12:1 NKJV)  Note the writer says of this sin or sins that it "easily ensnares us."  The CEV translation says, "So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won't let go." (Heb. 12:1 CEV)  The Bible commentator Albert Barnes says in reference to this verse, "Every man has one or more weak points in his character; and it is there that he is particularly exposed."  I believe Barnes is right.  The sin that just won't let go, as per the CEV translation, is the sin we are drawn to that tempts us continually and which because of that we have to battle against day in and day out.

It is not at all easy to resist the temptation directed toward our weakness but we can gain victory over temptation and sin through faith in Christ and his strength.  While it is very hard we all know that there have been many who were drunkards, addicted to alcohol, who have successfully been rehabilitated but they fight the battle continually against the urge to drink.

I personally know of a Christian couple who ended their adulterous marriage because of their dedication to Christ and doing what is right.  I think they were married before becoming Christians and one or the other of them did not have a scriptural divorce thus when they married they entered into a state of adultery.  Upon learning the truth about marriage and what constitutes adultery they saw what they must do and did the right thing, unlike Herod and Herodias.  They remain friends and are members of the same congregation.  They no longer are married nor do they live together.

Repentance can certainly be very hard.  It had to be terribly hard for the two Christians I just mentioned but here is another example, a Bible example, showing how difficult repentance can be.  Remember the rich young ruler of Mark 10:17-22 (see also Matt. 19:16-22 and Luke 18:18-23)?  He truly wanted to inherit eternal life.  The Bible also says Jesus loved him (Mark 10:21).  Even so, when Jesus told the young ruler he lacked one thing (knowing the young man loved his wealth) and told him to sell his possessions, give to the poor, and then come follow him the Bible says this made the rich young ruler sad and he went away grieved.  It is or can be very hard to make God number one in our life.  Money had become an idol for this young man and in the end he loved it more than Christ, even more than acquiring eternal life. 

We do people a disfavor when we say or imply that repentance is easy and that it is easy to resist temptation and sin.  If it was easy to resist temptation and sin we could live sinless lives once we acquired the proper knowledge and yet we all do things on occasion that trouble us for we know we were in the wrong and did that which was not right in God's eyes.  Neither Jamie nor anyone else is ever going to live sinlessly no matter how dedicated they may be to living a holy and godly life.  We all sin (1 John 1:8) and chances are when we do most of the time it will be in the realm where we are weakest and most prone to sin.  Those sins that don't ever tempt us, say murder, for example, are not the kind of sins we are going to commit.

Jamie says "without the power of repentence you can't simply repent."  I am not sure what is meant by the power of repentance but suspect what is meant is the will to repent.  There is no magical power of repentance given to anyone by God.  He gives motives for repentance, encouragement for repentance, and blessings for repentance, but does not give one person the power to repent that is not available to all persons.

 The power of repentance lies in the will of man.  Repentance is a personal choice; it is an individual decision.  As I have already said it can be a real battle to repent but it is not impossible for any of us.  It is a choice.  And it is God’s will for Jamie and for all for God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV)  If you are a part of the “any” of this verse God wants you.

We must all forget our past.  It doesn't matter what a no-account you may have been.  It doesn't matter how sinful your life has been.  It doesn't matter what the world may think of you.  None of that matters.  God made each of us in his own image and wants us all to be saved (see 2 Peter 3:9).  He wants us all to come to repentance.  He "desires all men to be saved." (1 Tim. 2:4 NKJV) 

Even Christians must continually be repenting of sin.  David Lipscomb once said he doubted that any man ever lived a single day without sin.  Without trying to make myself a judge of men I suspect he came very close to the truth in that statement.  In fact, the better Bible student you are, the more knowledge you have, the more you realize how short you come in being what God wants you to be, and the easier it is to see the sin you do have and must overcome.

I also want to rid Jamie of any idea that if you truly repented of a sin that once you did so you would never ever again commit that same sin.  It doesn't work that way even though that is the ideal.  The difference between the person who has repented and the one who has not is that the one who has repented fights the temptation and resists committing the sin.  He or she is not always successful in doing so but they fight the fight.  The one who has not repented does not battle temptation at all but readily gives in and engages in the sin.

God does give the Christian help.  "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."  (1 Cor. 10:13 NKJV)  Most translations use the term "endure it" rather than "bear it" at the end of the verse.  I like that better for not only is it true to the Greek (both terms are) but it also tells it like we experience it.  Temptation to sin is something we endure, not something we like or enjoy, for we know when we are tempted it is no fun.  Our spirit is telling us to resist while our flesh is telling us to go ahead and do the sin.  However, the main point of the verse is that there is a way of escape, of getting away if we will take it, so it becomes a matter of our own will.  We can escape if we are willing.  We can win the battle of temptation.

Finally, what does one do if he fails and gives into temptation?  He gets up, dusts himself off so to speak, and says I will not give up but try again to live faithfully.  Of course, he must seek God's forgiveness for the sin he has committed by true repentance and complying with God's other demands for forgiveness which varies for the Christian versus one who needs to obey the gospel.  The Christian repents, confesses his/her sin to God, and prays to God to forgive.  If the sin was against a person then one seeks their forgiveness also and makes whatever amends that can possibly be made. 

Well, what if after doing that he/she commits the same sin again?  The answer is he does the same thing again as he did the first time in seeking forgiveness.  One only obeys the gospel once but one seeks through repentance and confession of sin God's forgiveness many times throughout one's life.  The one thing you never do is give up.  Never ever give up.  Once you give up you are done and lost.

In closing I would say to Jamie and all who may feel like he or she does that God is saying to him/her what he says to all:

"For He says:  'In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.'  Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (2 Cor. 6:2 NKJV)

Jamie, now is the day of salvation for you, now while you have life and breath.

[To download this article and/or print it out click here.]

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Hymn

I love instrumental music (smooth jazz) but I don't want it in worship.  The early Christians did not use instruments and sang only psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs in worship.  For those who have never heard a song sung in worship without instrumental accompaniment here is an example.  Enjoy!  The hymn is entitled "In Christ Alone."


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Psalm 8:3-4—"What is Man That You Are Mindful of Him?"

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him?" (Psalm 8:3-4 NKJV)

Here we have one of the toughest questions in life to answer, what is man?  Then the follow-up, that you, God, are mindful of him.  There was a time when you and I did not exist.  Birth is like a person who has been in a deep dreamless sleep and suddenly he is awakened.  We are thrust into the world; we have no choice in the matter.  How did we get here?  Why are we here?  What is it we are supposed to do or be?  All is a mystery but at that early stage of life, at birth, we are spared from having to think of such things.

We enter the world naked, helpless, in poverty, having no knowledge or understanding, and unless someone has pity upon us and shows us mercy and gives us care and assistance we cannot live but briefly.  Someone must care for us. 

Man comes into the world a frail creature made of flesh and blood and in a body that is destined for only a limited number of years of life on earth at best.  “The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:10 NKJV)   Man can no more prevent his death than he could have prevented his birth.  This is the story of human life but the question remains, what is it all about; what is life about? 

God made man out of dust (Gen. 2:7).  In speaking to Adam, after the fall, God says to him, "In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return." (Gen 3:19 NKJV)  David, the Psalmist, says, "For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust." (Psalm 103:14 NKJV)

Yet, God gave to man a spirit, not just a body.  "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness."  (Gen. 1:26 NKJV)  "So God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him." (Gen 1:27 NKJV)  Jesus said, "God is Spirit." (John 4:24 NKJV)  So man has a spirit in the image of God, or like God, but enclosed in a frame of dust.    

In the Psalm at hand, Psalm 8:3-4, David the Psalmist in thinking about man and his frailty could look up into the heavens and stand amazed, awestruck, at what his eyes beheld.  Comparatively few people living in America today live in an area where they can get a clear view of the heavens on a cloudless, moonless, night.  City lights, smog, and just the atmosphere itself obscures what is in the heavens to be seen but when you do get a chance to see the sky on a perfectly clear night it leaves you speechless.  What do you say when you look up and see millions to billions of stars?

"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork.  Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.   There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.  Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." (Psalm 19:1-4 NKJV)

What you see is what God meant for you to see—the glory of God declared.  The New American Standard Bible (1977) starts Psalm 19 verse 1 as follows:  "The heavens are telling of the glory of God."

On a perfectly clear night when you look up into the night sky how many stars do you see?  Here is a report from a website called ESA Space Science:

"Stars are not scattered randomly through space, they are gathered together into vast groups known as galaxies. The Sun belongs to a galaxy called the Milky Way. Astronomers estimate there are about 100 thousand million stars in the Milky Way alone. Outside that, there are millions upon millions of other galaxies also!"

From a site called I got this answer when looking for the number of stars that exist:

"The newest estimates gained by the Hubble space telescope places the estimate of 500 billion Galaxies each with about 300 billion stars for each galaxy."

And yet the Psalmist said of God, their creator, "He counts the number of the stars; he calls them all by name." (Psalm 147:4 NKJV)

David could look up into the night sky and see the stars so vast in number as to overwhelm the mind.  It is more than the human mind can take in and comprehend and we are left awe-struck.  Figuratively speaking it brought David to his knees by its magnificence and the glory and might it portrayed—the glory and might of God.  What was, what is, man to such a God?  God is God Almighty truly and beyond doubt!

Have the heavens man can see failed in telling the story of the glory of God?  No!  "For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse." (Rom. 1:20 NKJV)

Paul by inspiration in this passage teaches that man knows there is a God which does not mean, however, that he is willing to admit it or accept it.  There are reasons for not accepting the fact that your child is causing problems in school, or that your spouse is cheating on you, or that your smoking may well lead to cancer, or a hundred other things.  Likewise, there are many reasons people have for not wanting to believe in God and thus not allowing themselves to do so despite clear evidence of his existence.  There is enough evidence that God has shown to man to prove his existence that God said, "They are without excuse." (Rom. 1:20 NKJV)

So what is a man to such an astounding God?  Human reasoning might well conclude that to such a mighty God we would be nothing, no more than the equivalent of a mite on a leaf, but that is not God's view of the matter.  Man is the object of God's love.  This was the thing David was puzzling over.  How can such a great and mighty God care about something as lowly as a man?  It is a thing we may never understand but we must come to believe and accept it and what a wonderful thing it is whether it is understood or not.

God's love for his creation was such that even before creation he determined that man would have eternal life.  "In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began." (Titus 1:2 NKJV)  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world." (Eph. 1:3-4 NKJV)

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16 NKJV)  It is true that eternal life, in the sense of awareness, can be found both in heaven and hell but, "The Lord…is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV)  God wants us with him in heaven where "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." (Rev. 21:4 NKJV) 

In John 17 Jesus prays.  He starts out praying, so it seems, for the apostles but then he says in verse 20, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their word." (John 17:20 NKJV)  Jesus goes on in prayer, "Father, I desire that they also whom you gave me may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which you have given me; for you loved me before the foundation of the world." (John 17:24 NKJV)  God's desire is that all men be with him in heaven and live there with him throughout eternity.  God "desires all men to be saved." (1 Tim. 2:4 NKJV)

Jesus was sent into the world not to condemn the world but to save the world (John 12:47).  Jesus is off now preparing a place for God's faithful children (John 14:2-3).  What we learn from all of this is that God created man, God loves man, and God's intent or desire is that all men be saved and join with him in heaven for eternity.  Who can understand or explain the love of God for man? 

"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:38-39 NKJV)

Man was made to love and be loved by God, created a spiritual being in a body of flesh with the plan being to transform at the proper time into a heavenly body.  "And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly man." (1 Cor. 15:49 NKJV)

That is the future that God has decreed for those of his human creation who choose of their own free will to follow God and obey his commands by faith.  Not only did God create us but he has also told us why.  There are certain things he wants out of us.  This may not be an exhaustive list but it comes close to being a good summary.

God wants man's love.  "'And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.'  This is the first commandment." (Mark 12:30 NKJV)

God also wants man to love his fellow man.  "'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Mark 12: 31 NKJV)

This love God desires of man demands obedience to God.  "If you love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15 NKJV)  "'He who does not love me does not keep my words.'" (John 14:24 NKJV)

God wants man to have faith in him.  "But without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him." (Heb. 11:6 NKJV)

God desires man's worship.  "'But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the father in spirit and truth; for the father is seeking such to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.'" (John 4:23-24 NKJV)  Note the phrase "the father is seeking such to worship him" thus God desires that of man.  "'You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only you shall serve.'" (Matt. 4:10 NKJV) 

God desires that man glorify him in both body and spirit.  "For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Cor. 6:20 NKJV)  The great sin of the Gentiles that Paul talks about in Romans 1 was that "although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, nor were thankful." (Rom. 1:21 NKJV)

To glorify God demands that man treat God as God which means, among other things, reverence, thanksgiving, and giving praise to his name.  It demands a holy and reverent life of faithful obedience from a humble and a thankful heart.  It has to be from the heart.  It must be that my heart drives me to it.

Perhaps we could add to this list but I think for the most part everything that God desires of us could be put in one or the other of the above categories I have listed.  God wants our love, our faith, our obedience, our worship, and our reverence or respect.  He wants to be treated like God and honored as such.

What is man that God is mindful of him?  Man is the creation of God's love and because of that love, God is mindful of him.  If God has loved us so much should we not reciprocate that love?  Does not our heart drive us to do so?  I hope we never harden our hearts against the love of God for that would be cruelty against one who cares for us.  In reference to God’s children the scripture declares “he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NKJV)  “He himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (Heb. 13:5 NKJV)  God is not willing that any perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  Who could be so cruel as to harden his heart against such a God, our God?

[To download this article or print it out click here.]

Friday, August 17, 2012

Psalms 7:11—"God is Angry With the Wicked Every Day"

There are things a person ought to know about God.  In fact, we ought to know all we can about God in view of the fact that, "The LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture." (Psalms 100:3 NKJV)

In many ways, life is a great mystery.  There is only so much we can know about it but the one thing that is certain is that we came from God.  It is either that or the Bible is a lie.  It is either that or life came from non-living matter (which, I might add, brings another question—where did the non-living matter come from). 

Solomon, by inspiration, wrote, "Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed…Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it."  (Eccl. 12:6-7 NKJV)  One day we must all give an account of our lives before God.  This is the fate God has destined for us.

"For it is written:  'As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.'  So then each of us shall give account of himself to God." (Rom. 14:11-12 NKJV)

God is only going to make two divisions on the Day of Judgment and all those who have ever lived will be placed in one division or the other.  "All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.  And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left." (Matt. 25:32-33 NKJV)  Of the goats set on the left hand Jesus says, "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'" (Matt. 25:41 NKJV)  He goes on and says, "These will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Matt. 25:46 NKJV)

This brings me to Psalms 7:11, the subject of this piece.  The entirety of Psalms 7:11 reads, "God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day." (NKJV)  With God man is either justified (we might say made righteous or forgiven) or else he must go into the category of the wicked.  Man is either a sheep or a goat as God gives no other options.

Does this mean that by man's standards or yours or mine that all the wicked are what we Americans normally think of as wicked men?  Not at all!  Many are great guys or gals in that they are honest in their dealings, kind to and thoughtful of others, friendly, do a lot of good deeds, and are often very likable people and fun to be around.  Often their only discernable fault is that they have left God out of their lives but you see that is as big as it gets.  How does one leave his creator out of his life and not give him any thought or honor or respect?  How does one live his life as though God does not matter?

What if we treated a mother or father, a son or daughter, a wife or husband this way?  What then?  Could it be said we love them, that we respect and honor them, and that we care about them? 

When we treat God like he is nothing to us and he does not matter how can we think we are going to be seen as sheep in his eyes?  We have obviously shown we are not concerned about him.  We have treated him with contempt whether we set out to do it intentionally or not.  Is such a man wicked?  Well, maybe not by man's measurements but how about by God's? 

When we treat God this way we deeply offend him and figuratively kick sand in his face.  Can we blame him if he is angry with us?  The Bible teaches God has feelings as well as man does (Gen. 6:6).  We hurt him when we do not care about him.  Have you ever had anyone you love treat you that way?  You love them but they treat you in such a way so that you know by their actions they really do not care about you.  If so you know a little about how God must feel when a man casts God from his life or will not allow him to enter in.

Remember John 3:16?  God loves us and we treat him as though he was to be avoided at all cost, as though he was evil.  No, we may not do these things intentionally but that does not change the reality of our actions. 

I memorized Psalms 7:11 because I felt it was something I needed to keep in mind.  God is longsuffering with us not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9) but the fact that my life or your life is seemingly going along well does not mean God is well pleased with us.  It may only be that in God's goodness he is exercising forbearance and longsuffering in an effort to lead you or me to repentance (Rom. 2:4 NKJV). 

I don't care how much your friends think of you they do not love you like God does and they are utterly powerless to save you.  Neither are they going with you the day you die.   We all die alone.  Even on D-Day when men were dying all over the French beachheads during WW II each had to make the trip to eternity alone whether a human hand held theirs or not.  Many left for eternity that day but each went alone.  The only friend man has capable of being with him through his darkest hour is God.

When that day comes, and it may sneak up on you unexpectedly and early in life, and it will certainly come late in life if you escape it in your youth and middle age years, do you want to face an angry God?  Are you able to take on God and win?  Do you want to be foolish enough to try that? 

Psalms 7:11b is very short, just a few words.  The message is powerful and ought to be life-changing.  Is it going to change your life?  If your attitude toward God and his word needs changing and you do not change then you are sure to face an angry God.

Man has been given free will and gets to choose the road he/she will take with all the consequences that come with that.  Put another way man gets to reap what he has sown (Gal. 6:7) and will indeed do so.  "The way of the unfaithful is hard." (Prov. 13:15 NKJV)  It is a way that is too hard for me to travel intentionally.  I cannot take on God and win.  It is my hope for you who read this that you come to the same conclusion for yourself.  One has not known terror until he faces an angry God on the Day of Judgment.

[To download this article or print it out click here.]

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Psalms 1:1-2--Blessed is the Man

The book of Psalms is likely the most read book of the Old Testament among Christians.  It begins on a high note giving us instructions on how to live a good life away from those things that would drag us down and destroy us.  It begins:

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night." (Psalm 1:1-2 NKJV)

To really get a good grasp on a passage it is often good to read it from more than one translation so I want to quote the passage here from two other versions—the New Revised Standard Version and the New Living Translation.

"Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night." (NRSV)

"Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.  But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night." (NLT)

The Old Testament Hebrew word translated "blessed" or "happy" in this passage ("joys" in the NLT) means, according to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, happy or favored.  The Hebrew can legitimately be rendered "happy" according to most commentators.  It is not a state of emotional ecstasy as in "I am so, so happy" but a state of being in which one could say he has been blessed by being saved from all the troubles and trials sinners bring upon themselves unnecessarily by the lives they live.

It is the kind of blessing or happiness that one can easily fail to recognize for it is related to things like peace, contentment, and joy rather than the momentary and fleeting ecstasy that a single solitary joyous event might bring on.  It has permanence.  It is an abiding quiet type of happiness that lies deep within the soul.

There are things a godly person will never experience which are wonderful blessings within themselves.  The godly person is not going to experience the loss of the love of a loving wife and children because of his cheating on his wife.  He is not going to experience anger and bitterness against himself because of his deceitfulness, lying, and slander.  People are not going to avoid him and disrespect him because of his vulgarity, his foul mouth.  He will not be known as an unloving, unkind, and bitter man.  Because we do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly nor stand in the path of sinners or sit in the seat of the scornful and we do follow God's counsel we miss the trouble, pain, and sorrow that comes as a direct result of ungodliness.    

If we want to enjoy this blessing then we cannot walk in the counsel of the ungodly.  Who we associate with and whose counsel we take can make all the difference in the world.  "Do not be deceived: 'Evil company corrupts good habits.'" (1 Cor. 15:33 NKJV)  Good parents have always been concerned about the company their teenage children keep and with good scriptural reason to back it up.  It is just a fact if you hang around with the wrong people long enough and get into a close relationship with them it is going to rub off on you.  Run with the wrong crowd, avoid the righteous, and it will catch up with you in due time.

There are people out in the world whose advice or counsel needs to be ignored for it is ungodly and ultimately leads to suffering and sorrow.  Gross ungodliness is easy enough to recognize but ungodliness today is often cloaked in what the world perceives to be a mantle of righteousness and can easily draw the uninformed into its grasp.  Paul said, "And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works." (2 Cor. 11:14-15 NKJV)

Homosexual marriage is the latest such thing.  The Bible is clear that homosexual relationships are ungodly but the counsel of the wicked says it is bigoted, unloving, and intolerant even unchristian to prohibit these relationships.  Two generations ago when my grandparents were still living and my parents were yet young all recognized this sin as immorality.  Nowadays it is unloving and bigoted to be critical and some mainstream denominations are beginning to accept gay marriage as righteous.  We cast the word of God aside and say society, not God, is the ultimate judge of godliness, righteousness, or whatever similar term you wish to use.  It seems crazy but who can deny but what we are doing that today? 

When I was growing up it was still immoral and frowned upon for a person to leave their husband or wife.  Nowadays you can have 3, 4, or 5 marriages, all unscriptural, and nobody bats an eye.  In fact, marriage itself is now optional, just move in together.  Adultery in America means nothing to anyone except it seems to the spouse against whom it was committed and to Christians who still refuse to take the advice of the ungodly and who have not been deceived by the one who has transformed himself into an angel of light.

What I am getting at is that it is becoming harder all the time, especially for the young and immature, to discern good from evil, godliness from ungodliness, in a secular and politically correct world where these false ministers of righteousness have gained sway over the public mind.  I know of one case where a woman who attends denominational services on a regular basis, an educated woman, gave her son and his girlfriend a hotel room for the weekend to relax.  Can you imagine?  But that is the world we live in today and people do not seem to be able to distinguish godliness from ungodliness.   Fornication is no longer considered to be ungodliness or sin but just an accepted part of growing up in America in the times in which we live.  Few see it as sin.   

What will become of those who give ungodly counsel?  "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isa. 5:20 NKJV)  If you can make wickedness look good and make it seem to be the charitable and reasonable thing to do and make the Bible appear to be outdated, bound to ancient societies long since buried in history, leaving the word with little to no applicability for today then it is all the easier to get people to walk in ungodly counsel, especially the young who lack life experience.  People today are being poisoned against God's counsel.

Anything that draws boundaries that makes a clear cut line between right and wrong is considered judgmental today no matter how many scriptures you can quote to uphold a doctrine.  Why?  Because Satan has done his work and discredited a conservative reading of the scriptures.  People have lost faith that the word of God means what it literally says or that they will have to give an account to a God who will hold them accountable.  "Why do the wicked renounce God? He has said in his heart, "You will not require an account." (Psalms 10:13 NKJV)

The only way to know what constitutes ungodliness is by knowing what the Bible says and believing it but when people reach the point that their faith has been destroyed in the word what then?  "If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Psalms 11:3 NKJV)  I find it interesting that the Psalmist David left the question unanswered for I think we all know the answer instinctively.  We are getting close to the point in America where the foundations will have been destroyed in terms of faith in the word of God as having any real meaning for us as a guide for daily life. 

The great desire in our time is to have every religion known to man serve as a route to eternal salvation.  That is why the Bible can no longer be accepted by modern liberal thinkers for it says, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12 NKJV)  This is, of course, a reference to Christ.  We have gone from one church being as good as another, which was never true as Christ only built one church, to the point now where one religion is as good as another.  Where does it end?  Again, I think we all know the answer to that question as well. 

Note the progression in ungodliness in this passage in Psalms 1.  First, you take counsel of the ungodly, next you become one with him taking his side, standing with him, and finally, you become scornful of righteousness, you are now the one giving out ungodly counsel yourself.  As the expression goes "who would have thought it" when you first started down that road?  Ungodliness leads to more ungodliness.  Paul says, "But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." (2 Tim. 3:13 NKJV)

One can become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  "But exhort one another daily, while it is called 'TODAY,' lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." (Heb. 3:13 NKJV)  This passage has always scared me for it tells me such a thing can happen and if it happens to a person what then?  You no longer care.  How can you repent?  If you cannot repent, what then?  We all know the answer.

At the close of this first Psalm David says, "Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.  For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish." (Psalms 1:5-6 NKJV)

The good news is there is a blessed man in this Psalm, the one who ignores the wicked and ungodly, who will not take their advice, nor stand with them, nor sit in their seat, "But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night." (Psalms 1:2 NKJV)

People who are not faithful Christians cannot understand how a person could delight in the law of the Lord nor how a person could be interested enough to meditate on it day and night.  When my Dad died he did not leave me a book he had written to me, for me.  I wish he had.  If I had such a book I would rejoice in it and read it and reread it and reread it again and think about it often.  I would find great joy in that.

God, our eternal father, has left us all a book and while that book is for all mankind it is also personally written to each one of us as individual children of his, or at least we can be his children if we will.  This is his letter to us, his way of communicating with us, the only thing we have that truly contains his thoughts, tells us of his love, reveals his nature, and tells us what he wants us to do, and what our future will be like. 

God is going to take care of you and make you eternally happy, at least that is his desire.  Why would you not want to read about that and meditate on it?  Why would you not take an intense interest in what he has to say to you in his word?  Why would you not delight in it?  Speaking on a personal level it is the one place I have found peace in my life.  I cannot tell you how that works, you will have to get to the point where you experience it for yourself, but there is peace to be found in reading and meditating on the word of God. 

There is no space here for me to go on for there is too much to say about the value the word of God has to every person who is willing to reach down and pick his Bible up and begin the long journey of learning about God.  The 119th Psalm will tell you all about the word and its value.  Read it.  But, until you have time to do that remember there is a blessed man in the world—the one who heeds Psalms 1:1-2.

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