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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.

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