Monday, November 19, 2018

Casting All Your Worries on the Lord” (Pt. 4) (Nov. 19, 2018)


“Casting All Your Worries on the Lord” (Pt. 4)

(Nov. 19, 2018)

 

          One of the areas where people often worry most concerns the future.  There is an old French Proverb that says “Never cross a bridge till you get to it.”  George MacDonald put it this way, “No man ever sank under the burden of the day.  It is when tomorrow’s burden is added to the burden of today, that the weight is more than a man can bear.”  Many, many people have suffered much more in this world than they ever needed to, simply because they allowed worry to captivate their attention.

          In Matthew 6:34 Jesus says “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.  Sufficient for the day is its own troubles.”  Perhaps we all need to adopt an attitude similar to that of the Apostle Paul as he exhorted the Ephesian Elders.  In Acts 20:24 he says to them “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”  Throughout Scripture people are repeatedly told to simply trust in the Lord.  When we worry we demonstrate we are not trusting in the Lord like we should.  We reveal that our human weaknesses have gotten the better of us, at least for a time.

          God wants more for us.  He did not create us, die for us, save us, and then expect us to set around worrying!  You were designed for much more than that.  Someone once told his friend, ‘You worry so much you are starting to look like a wart!”   The unsaved world actually has good reason to worry, but not us Christians.  God has promised to take care of us.  Our future is secure in Him! I love the reassuring words of the hymn “God will take Care of You” written by Civilla D. Martin in the early twentieth-century. 

 

[1]Be not dismayed whate’er betide,

God will take care of you;

Beneath his wings of love abide,

God will take care of you. 

 

[Chorus] God will take care of you

Through ev’ry day,

o’er all the way;

He will take care of you,

God will take care of you. 

 

[2] Through days of toil when heart does fail,

God will take care of you;

When dangers fierce your path assail,

God will take care of you.

 

[3] All you may need he will provide,

God will take care of you;

Nothing you ask will be denied,

God will take care of you

 

[4] No matter what may be the test,

God will take care of you;

Lean, weary one, upon his breast,

God will take care of you.

 

          The Prophet Isaiah wrote the comforting words “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.  Trust in the Lord forever.  For in YAH, the Lord is everlasting strength.” (Is. 26:3-4)  Comforting and compelling words indeed!

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

"Casting All Your Worries on the Lord" (Pt 3) (Nov. 14, 2018)


“Casting All Your Worries on the Lord” (Pt. 3)

(Nov. 14, 2018)

 

          During the bombing raids of WWII, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve.  The fortunate ones were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care.  But many of these children who had lost so much could not sleep at night.  They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food.  Nothing seemed to reassure them.  Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime.  Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace.  All through the night the bread reminded them ‘Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.’ (Taken from Jeannine K. Brown; Matthew; TTTC Series; 75)  We read in Exodus 16 of how God provided manna (bread) for the children of Israel in the wilderness.  They had to go out and gather it up daily because God wanted them to remember daily to depend on Him.  God desires for us to remember Him and what He has done and what He is doing.  He is “Jehovah-Jirah” our provider; therefore we have no need to worry or fret!  We are told in 1 Peter 5:6-7 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

          In Matthew 6:31-32 we read “Therefore do not worry saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For after all these things the Gentiles seek.  For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”  All too often worry betrays our faith.  We want to be strong and not worry, but worry is so tempting.  Worry is simply irresistible at times. 

          The opposite of worry is confidence.  Remember how last time it was mentioned that worry comes from an old German word that means to “strangle” or “choke?”  Worry tends to strangle or choke out our confidence in God and His promises.  Sadly, worry just seems to be a part of most people’s lives- maybe yours.  Many walk around, spiritually speaking, with a collar of worry that is way too tight.  The very idea of a Christian “worrying” would be almost laughable if it were not a sad reality.  Someone expressed the foolishness of worry through a little humor that brings home the point.  Maybe you have heard this little ditty about worry before “I’ve joined the new ‘don’t worry club,’ in fear I hold my breath, I’m so afraid I’ll worry, I’m worried half to death.” (Taken from Charles Talbert; Reading the Sermon on the Mount; 129)

          Jesus is teaching, for example, that it is unprofitable, even foolish to worry about what you will eat, drink, or wear.  These are the type of mundane things the pagans/Gentiles worry about; not those who know and trust the one true and living God.

          Today young people worry about having just the right athletic shoes, jeans, and backpack for the first day of school.  People worry about whether their neighbors own a nicer car than the one they own.  Studies have shown that one of the biggest worries people have these days is being “unfriended” on Facebook!  We might as well be worrying about the price of eggs in China as to worry about some of the things we do worry about!  Jesus is saying to all of us, ‘Don’t Worry; I’ve got you covered!’  Why then would we continue to worry so much?

          Worry stems from having misplaced priorities.  When we worry, the care/concern for whatever we are worrying about becomes a focus, perhaps a fixation, and we are therefore taking our focus or fixation off God and His Kingdom.  We are not putting it first.  Matthew 6:33 says “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.”  The world has no idea how to put God first, but strangely, and sadly, even many believers are not putting His Kingdom first either.

          To seek the Kingdom is to seek the King; to love Him as Savior and Friend, to bow to him as Lord, to trust the God who has redeemed us.  To seek the Kingdom is to evangelize, that is to point others toward the Kingdom.  It is to introduce them to our King and Lord. To seek the Kingdom is to submit personally to God’s reign by obeying Him.  We seek the Kingdom when we obey God at some level of personal cost.  A Christian business owner, for example, seeks the Kingdom when he closes his stores on Sunday, even though it is a good day for sales, so that he can worship and rest and model the same for his employees.  Chick-fil-A restaurants are a prime example of a successful business where following Godly principles are elevated above serving the bottom line.  “Black Friday” retailers serve as examples of those not putting God’s Kingdom first.  In fact they have found a way to put a serious damper on two major holidays; Thanksgiving, by using it only as a launching pad for their sales extravaganzas and Christmas by totally misrepresenting the meaning of the holiday which is actually about celebrating the birth of the Savior and the hope He brings to mankind. 

          There are many practical ways that God’s Kingdom should be given first place.  These include things such as voting for candidates, on every level, that demonstrate real concern for God’s Kingdom and His righteousness and vote against candidates that demonstrate little or no concern for God’s Kingdom and His righteousness.  To seek God’s Kingdom first means to consistently look beyond this world to the millennial reign of Christ which is far, far better than anything we now know.  To seek God’s Kingdom first means we invest in things of eternal value and do not waste time, money, or effort in doing things that really have no eternal value/significance.  To seek God’s Kingdom means to put God first, others second, and ourselves last.  To seek God’s Kingdom means to put basic fundamental things like church, Sunday School, prayer meetings, Bible reading, prayer, witnessing, etc. above our personal comfort or personal list of things to do. 

          Commentator Daniel Doriani writes “The context [of Mat. 6:33] suggests that seeking the Kingdom especially means dethroning wealth and possessions as our first pursuits.  We must not hoard treasures or live for pleasure, but put our treasure in heaven by giving to kingdom causes.” (Daniel M. Doriani; The Sermon on the Mount: The Character of the Kingdom; 180-81)  All too often, money makes our decisions for us as we go through life.  Is money your Lord?  Is it what you worry about?  You may say, of course not, but a closer, more honest examination may reveal otherwise.  To seek God’s Kingdom first means all else must be dethroned in our lives and the pursuit of God and His Kingdom must reign supreme.  This is the formula Jesus gave for how not to worry.  Simply seek God’s Kingdom first.  Make it your top priority and worry will quickly fade.

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

     

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

"Casting All Your Worries on the Lord" (Pt. 2) (Nov. 7, 2018)


Allen Raynor Weblog: “Casting All Your Worries on the Lord” (Pt. 2)

(Nov. 7, 2018)

 

          Worry is not only ill-advised, it is simply unnecessary.  It does not help and, in fact, it actually hurts the one doing the worrying.  It adds stress to our lives, stress to our bodies and to its various functions.  Most important of all, worry is sinful.  Worry is a failure to trust God.  In worrying we offer a poor witness for our Savior as believers.  An unbeliever might legitimately ask of a believer why he/she should receive Jesus as Lord if they are going to still have the same old worries?

          In Matthew 6:26-30 Jesus taught “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?  Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?  So why do you worry about clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”  Have you ever seen a bird begging for food?  Have you seen a lily pulling its pedals out over a bad color job?  God provides for them!  And they are not even said to be made in the “image and likeness of God” such as are human beings. Can a person add to their stature?  “Stature” used here probably means “length of life,” or “age.”  The word “cubit” then means a “length” of time not a “distance.”

          Commentator Douglas O’Donnell gives a great illustration in his commentary on Matthew at this point by using the pyramids.  We think of Egypt when we think about them but, in reality, there were/are elaborate pyramids in China, France, Greece, India, Italy, Cambodia, and the Americas.  The oldest and largest of the Egyptian pyramids was the Great Pyramid of Giza (one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World).  Architecturally it is a wonder, but theologically it is a colossal blunder.  Important and wealthy people were buried with their treasures because they believed they could somehow take them to the afterlife with them.  Now, many centuries later, as they are excavated we see the foolish reality of how they worried about treasure.  In fact, they look ridiculous for putting so much work into something that was impossible to achieve.  O’Donnell writes “The only purpose the pyramids serve would be centuries later when they were excavated by overly educated explorers, only to display their contents in some museum where day after day cranky schoolchildren are pulled along by their teachers to help them gain an appreciation for history and civilization.  The pyramids are just big illustrations of how right Jesus was and how foolish people can be.” (Douglas Sean O’Donnell; Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and on Earth; 181)  People in ancient times worried and fretted about taking their “stuff” to the afterlife.  It was important to them to maintain their royal status in the next world.  Not surprisingly when these pyramids have been explored all things are as they were when they were put in there, minus of course the things stolen by grave robbers over the centuries.

          The possessions, and the cares and concerns they bring, often capture people.  In Matthew 6, the question is raised, why would, for instance, people possibly worry about something as mundane and unimportant as clothing?  Clothing was a necessary item, however it was seen in very basic terms by people in antiquity.  To us, by contrast in the 21st century, clothing is much more of an idol.  We are told in this passage that even King Solomon, in his wealth and splendor and glory, was not adorned as fancy as how God decorates the landscape with beauty.  Every beast and every undesirable creature like snakes and insects are provided for by God!  And even possess a certain beauty and unmistakable intricacy.

          How many people worry about money/incomes/jobs/ being able to pay bills, etc?  Yet God is providing for insects, plants, snakes, lizards, etc!  Jesus knew people would worry themselves crazy over things like they do – money and the things money can buy.  The New Testament has much to say about money.  John MacArthur writes “Sixteen of the thirty-eight parables of Jesus deal with money.  One out of ten verses in the New Testament deal with that subject.  Scripture offers about five hundred verses on prayer, fewer than five hundred on faith, and over two thousand on money.  The believer’s attitude toward money and possessions is determinative.” (John MacArthur; Matthew Vol. 1; 418)  Is there really any need to worry about money and the things money can buy?  No.  Someone wrote a short poem that makes a very powerful point about the foolishness of worrying about simple things beyond our control.  “Said the robin to the sparrow; I would really like to know; why these anxious human beings; rush around and worry so.  Said the sparrow to the robin, Friend, I think that it must be; that they have no heavenly Father; such as cares for you and me.” (Taken from Charles Allen; The Sermon on the Mount; 143)

          Abstaining from worry, as much as possible, is one of the biggest keys to happiness.  When we keep everything God has promised in perspective it becomes much easier not to worry.  Michael Green cites a great illustration portraying the sort of perspectives believers should have.  “There is, in the life of the fourteenth-century German mystic Johann Tauler, a remarkable story that shows something of the attitude Jesus was looking for in his disciples.  One day Tauler met a beggar.  ‘God give you a good day, my friend,’ he said.  The beggar answered, ‘I thank God I never had a bad one.’  Then Tauler said, ‘God give you a happy life, my friend.’  ‘I thank God,’ said the beggar, ‘that I am never unhappy.’  In amazement Tauler asked, ‘What do you mean?’  ‘Well,’ said the beggar, ‘when it is fine I thank God.  When it rains I thank God.  When I have plenty I thank God.  When I am hungry I thank God.  And since God’s will is my will, and whatever pleases him pleases me, why should I say I am unhappy when I am not?’  Tauler looked at the man in astonishment.  ‘Who are you?’  he asked.  ‘I am a king,’ said the beggar.  ‘Where then is your kingdom?’ asked Tauler, the beggar replied quietly, ‘In my heart.’”  (Michael Green; The Message of Matthew; 105)  The only possible way a person could have an attitude anything similar to this beggar is to be a totally dependent Christian who has truly trusted God with everything.  This is what we are all called upon to be, but so few really are.  Do we believe God’s promises or not?  If Jesus is living in your heart you have what it takes to depend on Him this way.  If not, you need to trust Him as your Lord and Savior.

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Thursday, November 1, 2018

"Casting All Your Worries on the Lord" (Pt. 1) (Nov. 1, 2018)


Allen Raynor Weblog: “Casting All Your Worries on the Lord” (Pt. 1)

(Nov. 1, 2018)

 

          Several years ago I had a strong desire to attend seminary but there did not seem an obvious path for me to fulfill that desire.  I had prayed for a few years that God would open that door and provide the way.  I thought my prayer was being answered when, in the early 2000s Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY began offering online courses.  I signed up and began taking classes but after 3 semesters I had exhausted the number of hours (1/3 of the degree requirements) that they would allow to be taken online.  I finally resolved that I had to do what I knew I could have done all along but did not have enough faith to do; that was to simply resign my pastorate, rent a moving truck, and move to Louisville, KY, enroll in classes and allow God to take care of the details.  So, after a few weeks of dedicated prayer I announced my resignation in December and in January we loaded our belongings on a truck and with our 4 young children moved to Sellersburg, Indiana just across the Ohio river from Louisville, KY home of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  There were many unanswered questions and many fears and anxieties crept in, but my faith in God was strong.  In my heart and mind, this was what God was leading us to do.  The short version of what happened is that God did indeed provide in ways I could never have imagined.  He provided for us financially through a handful of people, he gave us a great church, great friends, a great place to live, and the on-campus experience at the seminary was so much more than I could ever have imagined.  In 2004 I earned my long-desired Master of Divinity degree.

          There is an old saying which goes “Never be afraid to trust a known God, to handle an unknown future.”  Jesus knew people’s natures and he knew they would always be prone to worry so He gave us many assurances in His Word.  One thing I learned through my seminary experience and through many twists and turns that life brings is that God often takes a step back from us in order that we might grow toward Him.

          Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? (Mat. 6:25)  The conjunctive word “therefore” in vs. 25 links together what has been said with what is now being said.  Clearly this passage has a connection with money/wealth/riches just like the last passage discussed by Jesus in vs. 24 where He said “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Mat. 6:24)

          The English word “worry” comes from an old German word meaning to “strangle” or “choke.”  Worry is essentially a failure to trust God.  Worry comes and attempts to “strangle” or “choke” out God’s promises in our lives.  And it often causes disciples to be “of little faith.”  Commentator Robert Mounce goes so far as to say “Worry is practical atheism and an affront to God.”   I believe Oswald Chambers brings it home the best when he writes “Most of us are pagans in a crisis; we think and act like pagans.  Only one out of a hundred is daring enough to bank his or her faith in the character of God.” (Oswald Chambers; Studies in the Sermon on the Mount; 65)

          In Matthew 6:25 Jesus tells people specifically to not worry about “your life,”  “what you will eat,” “what you will drink,” “your body,” and “what you will wear.”  Isn’t there more to life than these things?  Absolutely there is!  If a person is worrying about small, trivial things, then it stands to reason they are going to be worrying about everything!

          We live in a “self-indulgent” culture, and with that “self-indulgence” there seems to crop up a lot of anxiety/worry.  A man named Thomas Kepler wrote a book many years ago that tells about how a group of 104 psychologists came together with the cases they were dealing with in order to determine the things that were bringing people (their patients) the most anxiety.  They determined that at around age 18 people worry most about ideals.  At age 20, people worry most about appearance.  By age 26 the biggest worry is about making a good impression.  By age 30 the salary they are drawing and the cost of living top the list.  By age 32 about overall success in their career field.  By age 34 it is about job security.  By age 41 anxiety over politics tops the list.  By age 43 it is anxiety over marital problems.  By age 45 there is anxiety over the loss of ambition they once had.  By the time a person is over 45 their greatest anxiety is concerning their health.  When looking at this list, it becomes quite clear that worry is useless.  Worry is unfaithfulness to the God that we call our Savior.  If He is our Savior He has “saved” us from the need to worry so much!  The only people in this world who should legitimately worry are non-believers; only they have something very real to worry about!

          I have done my fair share of worrying.  Some things I worried about never came to pass.  Some things I worried about did come to pass but I could not have stopped them.  Worry will crowd out trust if we let it.  God wants us to give all the things we cannot control over to Him, which is most things.  There are many benefits to doing so.  It takes the burden off of us, but it also deepens our trust in, and overall relationship with Christ.  My experience of taking the step of faith to move as we did near the seminary campus was a life-changing event for me in more ways than I can count.  God grew me spiritually through it all and the person I am today was heavily shaped through that experience which seemed scary at the time.  I have a feeling God may be waiting to shape you as well if you will take a step of faith with Him.

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor

Thursday, October 4, 2018

"Be Extra Careful How You Judge" (Part 2) (October 4, 2018)

“Be Extra Careful How You Judge” (Pt. 2)
     
         The majority of us would not like to be judged by the same standards by which we judge other people.  The Apostle Paul called for extreme caution when he wrote to the Romans in 2:1 “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”  It is very hard to avoid a double standard; however, simply realizing tendencies to which we are prone allows us to guard our thoughts and actions in judgment. 

          We all want other people, and especially God, to judge us with mercy and compassion. All too often we do not exercise the same mercy and compassion in our judgments of others.    Commentator Daniel Doriani writes “Since we all violate the standards that we use to measure others, we are all liable to God’s judgment.  But if we hope to receive mercy from God, we ought to show mercy.” (Daniel M. Doriani; The Sermon on the Mount: The Character of the Kingdom; 189)  The simple question for all to answer is “How do I really see others?”  Do I see people as hurting individuals in need of God?  Do I see them as lost souls in need of forgiveness and salvation?  Or, do I see them like the Pharisees, and other religious leaders, saw them in their day.  We have a very insightful occurrence in the Gospels when a Pharisee and tax collector were both at the temple to pray.  The tax collector beat on his breasts and cried out “Lord have mercy on me a sinner!” while the Pharisee piously thanked the Lord that he was so much better than the lowly tax collector and went on to list all the “self-righteous” things that he had done!  We read this account and it seems almost funny to the point of absurdity; however, Jesus sees much of what we do as foolishly absurd also.  We are walking bundles of contradictions when it comes to right and wrong!  A man named George Waelis Koch wrote “There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it hardly behooves any of us to talk about the rest of us.”  Commentator Charles Allen adds “Don’t look for the faults as you go through life, and even when you find them, it’s wise and kind to be somewhat blind, and look for the virtues behind them.” (Charles L. Allen; The Sermon on the Mount; 150-51)

          In Matthew 7:3-5 Jesus explains how many were concerned about a speck of dust in someone else’s eye while there was a “plank” in their own eye.  He was telling them they were hypocrites and did not even know it!  Are we really any better than the legalistic religious leaders in Jesus’ day?  Do we engage in the same sorts of behavior as they?  If you hate half-truths and lies in others but turn around and tell half-truths and lies you are being a hypocrite.  If you hate gossip when others are gossiping but you repeat gossip yourself you are being a hypocrite.  If you hate people breaking commitments, but then you break your commitments you are being a hypocrite.  If you condemn theft yet you are not completely honest when it comes to your own finances you are being a hypocrite.  Do you hate careless remarks when others make them but think nothing of it when you make them?  If so, you are a hypocrite. 

          In Matthew 7:5 Jesus, in fact, bluntly calls them “hypocrites!”  He tells them to get their “stuff” together first and remove the “plank” from their own eye and then they will be able to see clearly to help their brother or sister remove the “speck” from their own eye.  Jesus is saying to them the “plank” in your eye is obstructing your vision and you cannot properly see to assist others.  If you love your brother or sister, as you should, you will judge righteously, but if you only love yourself, you will naturally judge harshly.

          The problem often is that people only love themselves.  Yet, Jesus tells everyone “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  We would not want anyone to know that we are self-centered but the cold hard truth is that everything always seems to be about us!  Many can condemn everyone and everything around them as inferior, inadequate, and insignificant, but strangely believe what they say, do, and think is vitally important.  This is not how Jesus wanted us to live.   As Christians there is a better way to live.  We must not be the center of our own universe.  Jesus must be at the center!  If He is at the center, we will see other people as we see ourselves.

          Some believers need an extractor to get the plank taken out of their own eyes so that they can see clearly to help a fellow man with his problems and difficulties.  We are fellow strugglers all striving to make it through life and find hope and salvation.  The Great Commission Jesus gave could be stated this way “Go out and tell others about the hope that you have found.”  Doing what is right, judging all things righteously, and practicing forgiveness, is strong evidence for possessing a heart that has been changed by the power of the Gospel.

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Thursday, September 27, 2018

"Be Extra Careful How You Judge" (Part 1) (Sept. 27, 2018)


 
          Throughout time, people have had the tendency to judge other people by different standards than they judge themselves.  Within the church this is also true.  The sins, faults, and shortcomings of others are often judged harshly while glaring sins in one’s own life are ignored.  Someone has wisely said “We need to deal with the faults of others as gently as our own.”  Jesus knew our tendency to judge with unbalanced scales would always be a problem for people; therefore He gives plenty of warnings to judge all things righteously.  Judgement itself is not really the problem, but it is the type of judgment we often use that is at issue.  Judgment should always we discerning and compassionate and free of hypocrisy to the greatest degree possible.

          We cannot make “righteous” judgments until we have the right view of God.  Many who do not know God at all are commonly passing judgments.  Many who could not quote John 3:16, the 23rd Psalm, or The Golden Rule seem to know Matthew 7:1 which says “Judge not that you be not judged.”  It has become a mantra for the biblically illiterate generation to justify their own behavior and the behavior of others to whom they are sympathetic.  The world likes the adage “I’m ok, you’re ok,” but that cannot be true.  It is not true because it would elevate diversity of thought to the place of the highest good over and above God’s Word or any other truth that could be viewed as absolute. 

          Sadly, many who do not care about the Ten Commandments, the resurrection of Christ, the second coming, Heaven, etc. somehow care about Matthew 7:1.  The reason is clear.  This verse is used by many to selectively “self justify” themselves, and is further used as a battering ram against anyone who tells them they are wrong. 

          If we take Matthew 7:1 in its most literal sense we cannot or should not judge anything, but is that what Jesus is teaching?  Clearly, no one could make it through a day of their lives without making many judgment calls.  In most contexts no one really cares if judgments are made.  For instance, consider two people watching a football game.  One says, “that coach should be fired!” Does the other one say “Judge not that you be not judged?”  How about two people watching a presidential debate.  One candidate says something one person watching does not like and he comments “That person should not be allowed to run for President.”  Does the other person respond “Judge not that you be not judged?”  What about if two people are talking and one says “I think Whataburger makes the best hamburgers around; they are so much better than McDonalds.”  Does the other respond “Judge not that you be not judged?”  What about a judge in a courtroom rendering a verdict?  Does the lawyer for the losing party stand and shout out “Judge not that you be not judged?”  What about if two people are talking and one says “I do not believe two men should be allowed to marry one another.”  The other responds “Judge not that you be not judged.”  Awe . . . Now finally, here is where we are likely to hear this verse quoted! There are plenty of examples that could be used here but we can easily see how selective we are about how that verse is used in our society?

          What is really going on here in Matthew 7:1 when Jesus warns about judgment is that He is continuing the same theme of the entire Sermon on the Mount (Mat. 5-7) and emphasizing the necessity of making righteous judgments in all things.  Again, apart from a right view of God, there will be no righteous judgments made.

          Jesus made judgments all the time.  He judged people, He judged places, and He judged things.  He is though emphasizing the importance of exercising the right kind of judgment as a part of overall righteous living in all things.  Commentator David Turner writes “The Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount clearly would not deny the existence of moral absolutes from which one can make absolute statements about right and wrong, good and evil . . . Jesus Himself makes such judgments.” (David L. Turner; Matthew; BECNT; 205)  How then can we be righteous in our judgments?  Hebrews 5:14 is very instructive here. “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”  The key word here is “Maturity.”  Without spiritual maturity we will not be able to make righteous decisions; we probably will not even come close!  Right judgment begins with God’s Word; not with us!

          We have probably all made statements which were perceived by someone else as passing harsh judgment and condemnation on another and it was not received well.  I remember one such time where someone reacted to something I wrote by responding “Only God can judge.”  My response to this lady was “You are absolutely right.  But, on what basis does He judge?”  What I wanted this lady to see was that God has already told us in His Word, the Bible, how He judges all things.  It is no mystery; there is no guesswork when it comes to major moral issues.  Any ambiguity is only in a person’s mind or can be attributed to their lack of understanding.

          When people say we cannot and should not judge things that are clearly discussed in His Word they are, in effect, saying God’s Word is not sufficient on the matter at hand, or perhaps on any matter!  That is a grave error.  What kind of God would tell us something is wrong in His written Word when He really considers it right or ok?  Or, what kind of God would tell us something is good or ok in His written Word when in reality He does not consider it right or ok?  Only a very cruel, whimsical, sort of God would mislead the ones He created down the wrong path.  Scripture says, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”  We can be supremely confident that God will judge all people according to His written, revealed Word.  It is the most fair and loving thing He could possibly do.

          When we judge with righteous or Godly judgment, we are judging with God’s Word clearly guiding us.  With the knowledge we then poses we can help guide others toward the truth.  To accept everything at face value and leave people alone in their sins just because they quip “Judge not” is not the most loving thing to do.  Jude, in his epistle, warned others to have compassion and save some so as by fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh (Jude vs. 22-23)  Satan has fooled and is fooling many into thinking their sins are all ok, and further he has fooled many into believing that acceptance of sin and sinful lifestyles are the most loving thing to do; but God’s Word is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword and can cut through everything else finally making its way to the sinful human heart.  It is the heart that needs to be changed.  Until the heart desires God, everything else it desires will fail to satisfy.  As we judge righteously, we need to remember everything begins with the right view of God.

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

"The Rule that is Golden" (Sept. 19, 2018)


 

          One of the basic laws of physics is that for every action, there is a corresponding reaction.  We learn this principle as children.  I learned early on that certain behavior would cause me to be spanked, certain behavior would earn me compliments and praise, certain behavior would cause me to get hurt, and certain behavior would bring me happiness.  Very early in our development we come to understand that actions carry consequences, therefore we have great need to control our actions.

          In Matthew 7:12, Jesus gives what came to be known as “The Golden Rule.”  The verse says “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (NKJV)  The basic principle of this Golden Rule shows up quite often in a variety of places and forms.  It is unique in that it is stated positively.  There are several ancient sayings from various writers that are comparable to The Golden Rule, but these writers and philosophers always stated it in negative terms.  Probably the most famous of these sayings comes from the Great Rabbi Hillel who wrote “What is hateful to yourself, do to no other; that is the whole Law; the rest is commentary.” (Rabbi Hillel; Shabboth; 31a)  Notice his negative perspective.  It has been pointed out that Rabbi Hillel, and other writers and philosophers, are coming at it from, what is in fact, a selfish perspective.

          The Golden Rule that Jesus gave us is simple enough that it is one of the first things children are taught in Sunday School and one of the first verses they memorize.  However, truly living by The Golden Rule is difficult.  Even the secular world recognizes the need for people to live this way and occasionally makes attempts to get people to follow the concept.  For instance, The Kentucky Department of Motor Vehicles’ final word for those who must take their safe dirving course is “Treat other drivers as you would want to be treated.” 

          Some have called for the performance of random acts of kindness based on this verse.  You have no doubt heard of persons paying for the person behind them at a toll booth or a drive through.  Most anyone could agree that if we lived day by day by The Golden Rule, the world would be a much better place.  The implications are limitless but just a few examples make the point.  If you do not want someone littering on your property, then do not litter on any one else’s property.  If you do not want to be laughed at and made fun of then you should not laugh at and make fun of anyone else.  If you do not want anyone to lie to you, you should not lie to anyone else.  If you do not want anyone cheating you, you should not cheat anyone else.  If you want others to tell you the truth always, then you should always tell the truth.  There really is no end to the practical implications of what Jesus teaches in Mat. 7:12. Sadly, as sinful human beings, we often have a double standard.  We are much more likely to live by the adage “Do not do to me what I am doing to you!”  Far too many people live by the “Law of the Jungle” (“Kill or be Killed”) than by The Golden Rule.

          One mistake many make is trying to follow a social or secular version of The Golden Rule done only in human strength, will, and determination.  It fails because people fail.  The best approach is to start where Jesus taught we should start and that is with God.  How much you really love God and how committed you are to His Word will determine, more than anything else, how much you love other people and therefore respect them and treat them properly.

          The Golden Rule is regarded as an exegesis of the great positive commandment of Leviticus 19:18 which says “You shall not take vengeance nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.”  In Matthew 22, the religious leaders had come to Jesus, questioning Him, and asked Him which is the greatest commandment of all.  Jesus’ response is given in vs. 37-40.  “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’” (Mat. 22:37-40).  Until we love God properly, we are not going to love people properly.  Nothing should characterize God’s people (the church) any more than “love.”  We should love one another and care for one another!  First John 4:7-8, 11 says “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love . . . Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  If you claim to be a Christian and the concept of love, and talk about love makes you uneasy or uncomfortable, then you might want to consider that you do not know Christ as Savior.  Love is what it is all about!  What then sums up the Law and the Prophets?  Love!  God gave His law because He loved His people and wanted them to do what was right.  He knew that He needed to tell them what was right or they would not know.  God sent His prophets because He loved His people and wanted to warn them that they faced discipline for their sin if they did not return to Him.

          One of the most important things we need to keep in the front of our minds as we go through life is that we are sinners.  If we ever lose sight of our own “humanity” and subsequent “sinfulness” we will have a highly skewed view of God and others.  The key to success is to keep the proper view of God; then having the proper view of others will come surprisingly natural.  D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it this way “It helps us to see others as we should see them.  We see them now, no longer as hateful people who are trying to rob us of our rights, or trying to beat us in the race for money, or position or fame; we see them, as we see ourselves, as the victims of sin and of Satan, as the dupes of ‘the god of this world,’ as fellow creatures who are under the wrath of God and hell bound.  We have an entirely new view of them.  We see them to be exactly as we are ourselves, and we are both in a terrible predicament.  And we can do nothing; but both of us together must run to Christ and avail ourselves of His wonderful grace.  We begin to enjoy it together and we want to share it together.  That is how it works.  It is the only way whereby we can ever do unto others as we would that they should do unto us.  It is when we are really loving our neighbor as ourselves because we have been delivered from the throws of self, that we begin to enjoy ‘the glorious liberty of the children of God.’” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Studies in the Sermon on the Mount Vol. 2; 214-15)

          Love must be the motivating factor if we are to live out The Golden Rule.  We must first love God supremely and then because of that love for Him, we are able to properly love one another and treat others the way, we ourselves want to be treated.

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Thursday, August 30, 2018


“Lord, Teach Us to Pray” (Pt. 9)

(Aug. 30, 2018)

 

          Have you ever asked anyone a question and the answer you received was so profound it left you speechless?  That must have been the feeling of the disciples after receiving Jesus’ answer to their request Lord teach us to pray! (Luke 11:1) 

          The prayer Jesus gave was revolutionary.  The title of Albert Mohler’s commentary on the prayer captures the essence perfectly well – The Prayer that Turns the World Upside Down.  Indeed this simple, yet profound, prayer is revolutionary!  We think we know how to pray.  On one hand it seems so simple, but is not.  Praying rightly involves communicating with God from the heart, dedication of the mind and spirit, and a person truly ready to ask God for the right things.  The Lord’s Prayer is a uniquely appropriate prayer for both new believers and the most seasoned veterans of the faith.

          Last time we came to the end of the body of the prayer.  The Jews commonly added benedictions to things.  After the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer we have one such benediction.  In verse Mat. 6:13c we read “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever, Amen.”  Several times throughout the Old Testament there is a long or short “Amen” or a word of praise.  The Greek word “doxa” means “praise.”  We get our word “doxology” from this word.  “The Doxology” we sing says “Praise God from whom all blessings flow . . .” What we have at the end of the Lord’s Prayer is something of a “doxology.”  The doxology found  in Mat. 6:13c almost certainly comes from 1 Chron. 29:11 which says “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head over all.” (1 Chron. 29:11)  The words in Mat. 6:13c are not found in any of the earliest manuscripts of Matthew’s Gospel.  It was almost certainly added by a scribe at a later time, a couple of centuries after the originals.  Some of the translations of Scripture have it in the text, while some only in a footnote.  John MacArthur offers this perspective as he writes, “Although they may not have been in the original account, the words are perfectly fitting in this passage, and express truths that are thoroughly Scriptural.  They form a beautiful doxology, declaring the preeminence of God as seen in the greatness of His eternal kingdom, power, and glory.” (John MacArthur; New Testament Commentary; Matthew Vol. 1; 397)  Indeed what is said here is a fitting end for the prayer in much the same way we would say “Amen” after a sermon that was good and biblical as an affirmation of its truth.  We would still understand though, that the sermon itself was not being equated with Scripture.

          The concluding remarks begin by affirming that “His is the kingdom and power.”  We read in Psalm 103:19 “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.”  It would be understood that if there was a king there would be a kingdom and if there was a kingdom there would be a king.  There is not merely “a” kingdom but a very specific kingdom – “’Thy’ Kingdom come!”  It would also be understood that being king would mean possessing power.  Like the passage in Psalm. 103 says, no one put God in charge; He was already in charge.  He rules over all.

          Next we see “His is the glory.”  Second Corinthians 3:18 says “But we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”  Every believer sees the glory of the Lord in the pages of Scripture and are transformed into the image of God.  Christ is the image of God.  The phrase “glory to glory” refers to an ever-growing glory as believers behold the glory of God in the Word of God, and the Spirit of God transforms them into the likeness of Jesus Christ.  What is being described here is the process of sanctification.

          The final word in verse 13 is “Amen.”  Second Corinthians 1:20 says “For all the promises of God in Him are yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.”  This means that all of God’s promises concerning Christ are true and trustworthy: a yes.  One by one we could go through every promise He has ever made and say “Lord did you mean it when you said . . .?”  And every single time the answer would be yes!  Remember “Amen” is like saying “So be it,” “yes,” “It is so,” “It is true,” “It is truth,” “It is correct,” “It is right.”  So when we tack on an “Amen” when we bear Biblical truth we are affirming that we believe what God has said.

          William Barclay writes in conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer, “And so, when we have prayed the Lord’s Prayer, we rise from our knees and go out to the world and its ways remembering the royal sovereignty of God and pledged to obedience to him, remembering the dynamic power of God and trusting in the power to answer our prayers, remembering the glory of God and living with the reverence which knows that earth is penetrated and permeated with the divine glory.” (William Barclay; The Lord’s Prayer; 112)  Indeed, it is so “Amen.”

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Thursday, August 23, 2018


“Lord, Teach Us To Pray” (Pt. 8)

Aug. 23, 2018

 

          We do not have to look very far to find things that deeply disturb, disgust, and make us mad regarding things taking place in this world.  Some of these are ongoing problems like abortion, rape, murder, and crime in general.  Others are apathy, selfishness, and sexual promiscuity. We see a broken world every which way we look that causes us, as Christians, sorrow and grief.  There is an unmistakable coarseness that runs throughout our culture that was not there just a few decades ago. 

          A few months ago, upon the death of former First Lady Barbara Bush, a college professor expressed joy at her death, and mockingly laughed saying nothing would be done to her for her actions and she was right.  We saw similar sentiments shared when Billy Graham died last February as some expressed gladness that this homophobic bigot had finally succumbed to death.  Further, we heard of a bill, earlier this year introduced in California that would ban the sale of the Bible labeling it as “hate speech.”

          In light of these things, and many others, I ask the question “What is evil?”  As believers in Christ we would say yes the things mentioned above are evil, but what about for someone who has a different worldview?  Maybe they believe these things are good.  Have you noticed, in recent years that there are fewer and fewer things that are universally viewed as evil?  It took something on the scale of the 9/11 attacks to get both political parties, for instance, to come together and condemn what happened as evil, but at the same time the Muslim world was largely pleased with what took place referring to it as justice and judgment coming upon America for its greed, immorality, and overall waywardness.

          Confusion abounds in this present world, but confusion about such basic things as right and wrong; good and evil are nothing short of astounding!  Within the context of God’s impending judgment against sin in Isaiah 5, he spoke through the Prophet saying “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!” (Is.5:20)  Notice what is being said here.  Some are so deluded in their thinking/reasoning that they think what is evil is good and what is good is evil; who also think darkness is light and light is darkness; who also think bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.  How can this be?  It is probably impossible to understand what is being said here in Isaiah without understanding the sinful human heart that is enslaved by Satan until/unless a person’s heart is controlled by Jesus Christ.  Isaiah says in chapter 53 of sinful humanity “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Is. 53:6)  When we realize who and what we are as sinful human beings we must call out to God for help.  When we pray we are to be reminded of our helplessness and utter dependency on God for, among other things, deliverance.

          The next phrase in The Lord’s Prayer is “Deliver us from evil.”  The evil one exercises control over this world and its system and he manipulates everything for his purposes.  He has control over countless lives.  In 1974 Heiress Patty Hearst, age 19, was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army who brainwashed her and she became sympathetic to their cause even engaging in bank robberies.  When someone has control of you, it is not unusual, but rather expected, that they will start to manipulate you for their own purposes.  Maybe someone would say, I am my own man/woman and no one can control me.  My will is strong. Christians, of all people, should understand this pathetic logic.  A few years ago a series of articles came out giving statistics about the long-term results of a variety of popular weight-loss products and programs.  The report was very bleak.  People are overwhelmingly controlled (held hostage) by their desires and the appetites of the flesh and their wills are not strong enough to overcome the power/pull/influence of their flesh.  Believers have known about the failing nature of “will power” since Genesis 3 when mankind fell.

          The “Evil One” from whom Jesus teaches his followers to seek deliverance, reigns over this broken world and its system.  The name “Satan” means “adversary.”  He indeed is our adversary and is adverse to anything that will do us good and in favor of that which will do us harm.  The name “Devil” means “slanderer.”  You get mad when other people talk bad about you behind your back, but it is nothing compared to what Satan does!  Revelation 12:10 says “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.’”  We know what the end will be for Satan (he will be cast down/destroyed) but in the meantime, we need to be wise where he is concerned.  Satan loves to fool people and lead them down a path into deeper and deeper sin and further and further away from God and His design.  I wonder how many times we have provided joy and satisfaction for Satan because of our sins that we love so much?  A. W. Pink writes “Satan’s favorite device is to incite or to deceive us into a prolonged self-indulgence in some one sin to which we are particularly inclined.  Therefore, we need to be in constant prayer that our natural corruptions may be mortified.  When he cannot cause some gross lust to tyrannize a child of God, he labors to get him to commit some evil deed whereby the name of God will be dishonored and His people offended.” (A. W. Pink; The Lord’s Prayer; 72)

          Satan will do whatever it takes to keep you captive and within his control.  Second Corinthians 12:14 tells us “For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.”  Jesus was well aware of how Satan worked.  He had seen it, and even in His humanity, experienced it when He was tempted in the wilderness (Mat. 4).  It is because He knew how essential it was to pray for “deliverance” from the evil one.

          Deliverance from the evil one is by God’s grace.  Paul wrote to the Ephesians in 2:1-9 explaining the incomparable power of God’s grace and the inability of man’s own strength or power.  Satan had a stranglehold on us, but Jesus broke that power at the cross!  “To deliver us from the evil one” should be a part of our daily prayers just as Jesus taught.  We need to constantly be asking God to put a hedge of protection around us, our family, our church, our pastor/staff/leaders, and others.  We must remember victory over Satan (Christ’s victory) only came through the power of God.  It was never man’s power.  We are to pray (tap into the power of Christ’s victory over Satan).  Paul wrote to the Colossian church “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth; fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Col. 3:5)  Romans 13:14 says “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts.”  Peter warned in 1 Peter 5:8-9 “Be sober, be vigilant; because you adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” (1 Pet. 5:8-9)  John tells us how we should be living like those who have been “delivered” by God from darkness to light.  He writes “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world.  And the world is passing away and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17) 

          Satan was very real, and particularly obnoxious to Martin Luther.  He wrote a lot about the devil and how Satan worked against him every step of the way as he tried to live for Christ.  In his famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” most of the song is devoted to this struggle between Satan’s influence and God’s power in life.  The first stanza says “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; Our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing; for still our ancient foe, doth seek to work us woe; His craft and power are great and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.”  The second stanza says “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing; were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing; Dost ask who that may be?  Christ Jesus it is He; Lord Sabaoth His name, from age to age the same, and He must win the battle.”  The third stanza says “And tho this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us.  We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph thro us; the prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure for lo his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him.”

          We have been delivered from the evil one in the most ultimate sense (our salvation).  Even with the knowledge of this truth, we forever pray, “Deliver us from evil” as we seek to live for God and not for the sins of the flesh.

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

“Lord, Teach Us To Pray” (Pt. 7) Aug. 16, 2018


          Temptation is something with which all people struggle.  Temptation comes in a lot of different forms from the simple to the complex.  A person can be tempted to eat too many cookies, stay up too late, tell lies, or have an affair.  We have likely said life would be a lot simpler without temptation all around us.  Temptation is an unfortunate reality, which we must take very seriously.  The less seriously we take it, the more vulnerable we are to succumbing to its allure.

          The next phrase in The Lord’s Prayer is “Lead us not into temptation.”  This line may seem a bit puzzling to us.  We might wonder why we need to ask God, not to lead us into temptation.  Does God tempt people?  Can He tempt people?  We do not get very far into the pages of Scripture and we are confronted with the reality of temptation.  After the fall (Gen. 3), and right before Cain kills his brother Abel (Gen. 4) we have God speaking to Cain in regards to why He did not receive Cain’s offering but did accept Abel’s offering.  God asks “Why are you angry?  And why has your countenance fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin lies (crouches) at the door.  And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (Gen. 4:6-7)  Cain did not heed the Lord’s words of warning about temptation.  He rather allowed his feelings of jealousy, hatred, and resentment to lead him to rise up and kill his brother (Gen. 4:8).  God knew Cain was angry, but there was a test for him in it all.  How would he handle his anger?  Would he submit to God, or act out his anger by sinning?

          In Deuteronomy 13:3 Israel was given an assurance that false prophets, who basically “led people into temptation” would be punished and people were warned to test them and know that they were not of God.  We read “You shall not listen to the words of that (false) prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deut. 13:3)

          In the Lord’s Prayer (Mat. 6:13a) “Temptation” is a “test” or “trial.”  This test reveals how far you are able to go in doing what is right while avoiding doing wrong.  Temptation itself comes from our own sinful desires so we are constantly in the midst of a test or trial.  What should be our attitude toward this reality?  James tells us in his epistle; “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” (James 1:2-3)  Temptations/tests/trials can be seen as both good things and as bad things.  It is good in that it produces good things in us, but it is bad becaue it is often tough and painful to endure.  How can something be both?  A good example to help us understand would be our jobs.  We are thankful we have a job but, at the same time, we moan and groan when the alarm clock goes off on Monday morning at 6 AM!  Another thought to help us understand would be our retrospective on discipline from our past.  I reached the point in adulthood where I was able to truly be thankful to my parents for spanking me and administering other forms of discipline.  Further, I reached a point where I was thankful to my teachers for making me write papers, and study for and take tests.  Also thankful to coaches for making me work so much harder, etc.  Proper perspective only comes through maturity.

          If all this is true, why then are we to pray that we can avoid temptation/trials/tests?  There are three primary reasons.  1) Satan “The Tempter” (Mat. 4:3; 1 Thes. 3:5) tries to exploit every situation for our ruin.  1 Peter 5:8 says “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”  Jesus knew from His temptation experience in the wilderness (Mat. 4; Luke 4) how cunning, crafty, and deceptive Satan can be.  2) The pressures in times of trial can be overwhelming.  We naturally shrink from the thought of having cancer, losing our job, losing our spouse, or losing a child.  No one would pray for that to happen.  We desperately seek to avoid this sort of pain.  3) The knowledge of our own proven weakness and past failures.  We, better than anyone else, know how weak and vulnerable we are in the face of trials/tests/temptations.  Satan attacks us and exploits us with skill!  1 Cor. 10:12 says “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”  Satan knows the more times we fail, the more self-distrust we will have of ourselves.

          In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus found His disciples asleep and said to them “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mat 26:41).  What prompted His comment was the struggle He Himself had had as He battled the flesh.  “Watch” suggests  a soldier on guard; alert for the first signs of enemy attack.  We must be on the alert and know the potential for danger that lurks and be ready to act.  Martin Luther wisely said “You cannot keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”  We will inevitably be tempted/tried/tested, but we do not let Satan have the satisfaction of defeating us.  We do not even have to mope and complain when trials come.

          We can have victory over temptation.  We must recognize that temptations themselves do not come from God.  They are part of our sinful, fallen nature, but God is still able to use them to accomplish good things in our lives.  We read in James 1:13-15 “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God;’ for God cannot be tempted by evil nor does He Himself tempt anyone, but each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.  Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown brings forth death.”  There is no doubt sin is tempting, even alluring to human beings with a fallen nature. 

          The Sirens from Greek Mythology were beautiful, melodious, yet dangerous creatures who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and singing voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island.  Sin has led to “shipwreck” in many lives.  The Bible is very clear however, “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)  If/when anyone falls into sin and they claim the temptation was just too strong, they are calling God a liar!

          The way a person successfully deals with temptation in his/her life is to practice what Paul exhorted the Romans to do in 12:1 where he writes “I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”  We must “continually” present our bodies, our minds, and everything to God.  It takes a deliberate effort. 

          When Jesus teaches his followers to pray that God will not lead them into temptation/trials/testing, He knows the vulnerabilities and weaknesses of the flesh and how easily we can fall victim to our own desires.  With His grace and help we hold the potential to experience victory!

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor