20 September 2011

An Idle Soul

Proverbs 19:15 Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.

The Bible (and the book of Proverbs in particular) has a lot to say about slothfulness, laziness, idleness. In this modern-day American society that’s obsessed with entertainment, amusement and leisure, it’s important that we’re constantly reminded of the dangers of being idle.

There are dangers in idleness of mind.  Benjamin Franklin was by no means a Christian or a godly man, but he said some insightful things.  One of those sayings is that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.  That might not be Bible, but it’s biblical.  We must guard against an idle mind.  Man’s heart is desperately wicked, and if we allow our minds to wander and allow our thoughts to roam, they have a powerful tendency to go where they shouldn’t (Genesis 6:5).  We’re to carefully guard our thoughts, take our thoughts captive, and bring them in obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3).  Twenty times, the Bible uses some form of the word meditate, and it’s pretty much the very opposite of the transcendental variety.  God wants us to think on purpose.  About Him.  About His word.  About what’s right.  Don’t have an idle mind. 

Then there are dangers in idleness of body.  According to Ezekiel 16:49, the root of Sodom’s iniquity and the primary reason for its eventual destruction was not sexual perversion.  That was just a symptom.  A major part of Sodom’s problem was that “abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters.”  Too much free time.  Too much leisure.  Too little responsibility.  And so they kept devising mischief (Psalm 36:1-4; Proverbs 6:14, 18) until they sunk to the depths of depravity.  We ought to be people of activity.  With a God to glorify and a world that’s dying and going to hell and with so much to learn and so much to do, it’s pretty much a sin to be bored.

But what caught my attention in Proverbs 19:15, was the phrase “an idle soul.”  You see, I know a lot of young people who rot their guts on junk food and their minds on video games, but then again, I know a lot who don’t.  They’re not idle in their minds.  They’re busy studying, busy learning, taking tests, writing papers, preparing for their future.  And they’re not idle in their bodies.  They’re working jobs and completing projects and playing sports and participating in this activity, that group, the other program. 

But the dangers they fail to recognize are the dangers of an idle soul.  When it comes to their spiritual life, they’re lazy.  They’re lazy about their Bible reading.  They’re lazy about scripture memory.  They’re lazy about their prayer life.  They’re lazy about witnessing.  And they don’t think it’s that big of a deal.  They’re busy with school.  They’re busy with friends.  They’re busy with their plans.  They’re busy with life.  And that’s good.  But their soul is starving to death. 

The Proverbs passage says that “slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep.”  It makes them like Jonah down in the sides of the ship.  Taking a nap while the world goes to hell. 

1 Corinthians 15:34 Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.

Romans 13:11-12 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

Let’s be aware of the dangers of idleness.  Let’s not allow our minds, our bodies, or our souls to be idle.  Work for the night is coming! 

16 September 2011

Lessons from Ahab

 1 Kings 21:25 But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up.

If you’ve ever heard anyone say that Ahab is the most wicked king that Israel ever had, that statement is based on this passage (and 1 Kings 16:25, 30).  Had a couple interesting thoughts as I came across it this last time in my Bible reading.

1.  Ahab sold himself to work wickedness.

Romans 12:1-2 is about as critical a passage as any other when it comes to the Christian life.  You’ll never become what God can make you and accomplish what God can do through you until you learn to lay your body on the altar of surrender and submit your will to God’s (see Christ’s example, Luke 22:42).  Especially in youth ministry, this is often referred to as “selling out” to God.  It involves sacrifice.  It involves giving up some things.  Things like worldliness (Romans 12:2).  Things like the lusts of the flesh (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).  Things like personal desires and ambitions.  Things like ungodly friends and companions (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).  So we’re challenged to count the cost and to transform our thinking so that we can view it as reasonable service (Romans 12:2).

What I thought was interesting about 1 Kings 21:25 is that doing wrong involves just as much surrender as doing right.  If you want to live for the Lord, you’ll have to be a living sacrifice.  But if you end up working wickedness instead, it just means that you’ve sold yourself to that. 

Here’s the point.  Those who refuse to surrender to the will of God and opt rather to follow the lusts of the flesh often do so under the delusion of “freedom” or “liberty” or “choice.” 

But if you believe the Bible, Romans 6 makes it very clear that you do have a “choice,” but that choice is whether you yield to God or yield to the flesh.  Romans 6 makes it clear that you’re “free” to choose whether you want to be the servant or God or the servant of sin. 

Here’s the difference.  Those who live after the flesh think they’re free, but they’re really in bondage (2 Peter 2:19; John 8:34).  And the people who live for the Lord consider themselves servants, but enjoy a glorious freedom (Romans 6:16-23; Galatians 5:13; 2 Corinthians 3:17).

2.  Jezebel his wife stirred him up.

Here’s just another example of why the company you keep is so important. Chances are Ahab wouldn’t have topped the “most wicked kings of Israel” list had it not been for the influence of his heathen wife. 

Proverbs 13:20 says that a companion of fools shall be destroyed, and you had better believe it.  1 Corinthians 15:33 says that evil communications corrupt good manners.  If you don’t believe it’s true, that just proves you are deceived.  In Galatians 3:1 Paul asked the foolish Galatians WHO had bewitched them that they should not obey the truth.  Again in Galatians 5:7, WHO did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?

So here’s the question.  Are your friends the servants of righteousness or the servants of sin (there are no other options)?  If the latter, then it’s time to get yourself a new set of friends.  Because the people around you are going to influence you, and you need someone to influence you toward the freedom of serving God.

Another question.  That guy you’re interesting in…  That girl you think is cute…  That person you’re “going out” with or that person you’re thinking about marrying…  What does he serve?  Who does she serve?  You had better make sure you both have the same master!  Because if you’re serving one and she’s serving the other, chances are she’ll win you and not vice versa.  If you’re submitted to the will of God and he’s selling himself to do wickedness, then just the fact that you’d yoke yourself with that type of person shows that they’re dragging you down and not the other way around. 

So even the worst of us can serve as a bad example.  And that’s just the case with Ahab.  Hope we can learn from his mistakes and avoid making them ourselves.  

12 September 2011

Lessons from 1 Kings 13

1 Kings 13 is one of the more interesting and instructive accounts of the Old Testament. I always enjoy coming to this spot as I’m making my way through God’s word.

Let me briefly point out a number of the many lessons we can take from this chapter.

1. God doesn’t appreciate those who dishonor His messengers.

1 Kings 13:4 And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Bethel, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him.

The hand Jeroboam lifted up against God’s prophet was withered in that very instant. God warns the wicked in Psalm 105:15, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” The New Testament believer is instructed in Hebrews 13 to remember and follow them which have the rule over us (v. 7); to obey and submit to them (v. 17); and to salute them (v. 24).

2. On the flip side of that, always stick with God’s word, even when it’s contradicted by those who claim to speak for the Lord.

1 Kings 13:18 He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him.

Mark it down, whenever a man or woman claims that an angel spoke to Him or that God told Him something (that’s not in the Bible), he’s probably lying. Run these references on lying prophets – Jeremiah 14:14; Jeremiah 23:25-32; Jeremiah 27:14-16; Zechariah 13:3; 2 Corinthians 11:15; Galatians 1:8.

3. Partial obedience is disobedience.

1 Kings 13:21 And he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the LORD, and hast not kept the commandment which the LORD thy God commanded thee,

1 Kings 13:26 And when the prophet that brought him back from the way heard thereof, he said, It is the man of God, who was disobedient unto the word of the LORD: therefore the LORD hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake unto him.

This man is to be commended for standing up to the king and speaking out against his idolatrous worship. That took some courage. That took some guts. But that was only part of what God had commanded. Obeying one part didn’t give him license to disregard the other part, and sadly, he paid the consequences.

4. The failures of God’s messengers do not negate the truth of God’s words.

1 Kings 13:32 For the saying which he cried by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel, and against all the houses of the high places which are in the cities of Samaria, shall surely come to pass.

By his disobedience, the man of God discredited himself as a messenger. But what he said still came to pass (2 Kings 23:16-17) because it was God’s word, not his. Many attempt to excuse their disregard for God’s word by pointing to the failures of those who deliver it, but it just doesn’t work. God uses weak, fallen men to deliver his word. And we’ll not answer for them. We’ll give account of ourselves for what we did with the light (Psalm 119:105) we were given.

09 September 2011

Too Much

Because of Solomon’s idolatry, his kingdom was rent in twain, and the 10 northern tribes were given to the rule of a man by the name of Jeroboam.  This was prophesied in 1 Kings 11, during the days of Solomon (whose resulting attempts to kill Jeroboam were unsuccessful), and it came to pass in 1 Kings 12, at the outset of the reign of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son.

However, it didn’t take long for Jeroboam to slip into the same idolatry that got the kingdom taken away from the house of David.  He set up a couple of golden calves and proclaimed these to be the gods that brought up Israel out of Egypt (sound familiar?). 

And he offered this lame excuse (in 1 Kings 12:28), "It is TOO MUCH for you to go up to Jerusalem…”

Basically, Jeroboam said, “God commanded us to worship in Jerusalem.  God commanded us to offer sacrifice in Jerusalem.  God commanded us to observe certain feasts in Jerusalem.  But He’s really asking too much.  Instead let’s just do this…”

That was almost 3,000 years ago.  Sadly, the same lame excuse is still being put to use by many of God’s people.  What the Bible calls “reasonable service” (Romans 12:1) many times we think of as “too much.”

Church three times a week…is it really necessary?
Fellowship, activities, outreach…don’t you guys have a life?
Daily Bible reading and prayer and scripture memory…aren’t you being a little fanatical?
Dressing like a Christian all the time…you don’t really want your friends to think you’re weird, do you?
All that witnessing and passing out tracts and public ministry…isn’t it just a little overboard?
God doesn’t really expect me to abandon all my desires and just “seek His will for my life,” does He?

There may be some other area of obedience that you just think is extreme, but the point is that we need to transform our thinking (Romans 12:2) and look at presenting our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to the Lord the same way that God sees it. Not as fanatical, not as not as excessive, not as overboard, not as too much – but as reasonable service.  

06 September 2011

Meditate on This

We are commanded to read God’s word (1 Timothy 4:13; Isaiah 34:16; Deuteronomy 17:19).  We are instructed to study God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15; John 5:39).  But something we often overlook is the necessity of meditating on the word of God.  We need to set aside time and make a deliberate effort to think about what we read in God’s word.  To contemplate what we study in God’s word.  To dwell on truths we find in God’s word.

Joshua 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

Psalm 1:2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

Psalm 119:97 O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.

Psalm 119:99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.

Came across a couple statements in 2 Samuel 15 that are worthy of some meditation.

Here’s the setting.  King David is fleeing for his life.  But not from Saul.  This time he’s running from his son Absalom, who has conspired against him and usurped the throne of Israel.  David’s finding out who his real friends are.  And who his enemies are, as well.

Consider the statement made to David by his servants in 2 Samuel 15:15 And the king's servants said unto the king, Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my lord the king shall appoint.

Just think about that.  We’re God’s servants, right?  Is that our attitude?  Is that our heart?  Could we pray that, and really mean it?  Something to think about.

And then David makes this statement in 2 Samuel 15:26 But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.

If you read back into the context (v. 25), what David is saying is that if God chooses to bring him back to Jerusalem, great.  “I’m in God’s hands, and God always does what’s right.  And if not, I’m still in God’s hands, and God always does what’s right.”  Just let the Lord do what He thinks is best.  His way is perfect.  His word is right.  What’s best for me is to let Him have His way.

Is that our attitude?  Is that our heart?  Could we say that, and really mean it?  Are we OK with God doing whatever He wants with us?  Are we OK with God doing whatever He wants to us?  Really something we ought to meditate on.