I've heard the above statement practically all of my life. It's a good statement, particularly as it relates to moral convictions and human behavior. We like for people to be honest and consistent in life.
Inconsistency was strongly condemned by the Lord when he chastised the Pharisees for tithing "…mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law" (Mt. 23:23). He earlier told his disciples and the multitudes who gathered to hear him that they were to do and observe what the Pharisees told them, but not to do according to their deeds, "for they say things, and do not do them" (Mt. 23:2). Nobody respects a hypocrite. That's true in religion and society as a whole. However, hypocrisy abounds!!
Let me give you a case in point. You'll need to bear with me on this one and follow me to the conclusion, but I will get to the point. I love animals and have been around them most of my life. Virginia and I don't have a dog, cat, or bird in our house any longer, but it isn't because we don't like them. We just prefer not to have them in the house. The mission of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is to protect animals from cruel treatment. They sponsor ads on television that pull at the heartstrings in an effort to promote care and compassion toward innocent animals, especially household pets. I am certainly in favor of their efforts in this regard.
My problem is with the inconsistency of our society. While we applaud efforts on the part of ASPCA and other similar organizations to provide quality life to animals, we pass laws that take away the opportunity of life for babies in the womb. Am I missing something here? Millions have been aborted since the 1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision. The rate is about 3,315 daily abortions in the U.S. Where is the compassion toward unborn babies that is shown for animals? There is something inconsistent here.
There are several instances in the New Testament in which it speaks of people being possessed by demons. Such possession was manifested in a variety of ways. An individual may become blind (Mt. 12:22), unable to speak (Mt. 9:32), lame, mentally deficient (Mt. 17:15), possess unusual physical strength (Mk. 5:3-4), dropsy (Lk. 14:2), or even have epilepsy. Demons are special servants of the devil who inflicted mental and physical anguish on men during the first century. They only did harm and never anything good (Jn. 10:21). During his ministry the Lord manifested his power over the demonic world by casting them out of men (Mt. 17:18). The demons knew who Jesus was, the Son of God (Lk. 4:41). They even recognized his power over them as evidenced by the fact that some demons entreated him to cast them into a herd of swine and he granted their request (Mt. 8:31-32). The ultimate end of the devil and his angels is the eternal fire of hell (Mt. 25:41) and he wants to take as many as he can with him.
Several years ago the comedian Flip Wilson coined a phrase that became popular, "The devil made me do it." Anytime an evil deed was done it was attributed to the devil's influence as if that absolved man of all responsibility for the wrong committed. The interesting thing is that even during the period of time in which demons actually possessed man, you never read of their forcing a person to violate God's word against their will. Demon possession was always manifested in some mental or physical malady…never in causing a person to transgress the Lord's will. James said, "But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death" (Jas. 1:14-15, emphasis mine). Thus, if we meet the Lord on the Day of Judgment in a lost condition, we can only blame ourselves. We can't even blame the devil.
Polycarp was a contemporary of the apostle John and, evidently, one of his friends. Polycarp was born about 52 A.D. and was martyred around 156 A.D. He served as an elder in the church at Smyrna for many years and was noted for his deep devotion and commitment to Christ. When he was brought into the stadium where he was burned alive at the stake, efforts were made by his executioners to get him to recant Christianity. They said to him, "Have respect to thine age. Swear by the genius of Caesar; repent and say, Away with the atheists." With solemn countenance, Polycarp looked upon the stadium filled with the lawless heathen and waved his hand toward them and said, "Away with the atheists." When pressed further to deny Christ, Polycarp said, "Fourscore and six years have I been his servant, and he hath done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?" Then, threats were made to execute Polycarp unless he denied Christ. He responded by saying, "You threatenest that fire which burneth for a season and after a little while is quenched: for thou art ignorant of the fire of the future judgment and eternal punishment, which is reserved for the ungodly." Shortly after speaking these words, Polycarp was burned alive at the stake.
Muslim extremists today who say to people professing Christianity, "Convert to Islam or die," are carrying out dreadful actions. People are being beheaded, crucified, or executed in some other manner. Many have fled Iraq to escape death. While such extreme measures are not being used in the USA today, there is intimidation and mockery of those who are disciples of the Lord. Those who oppose Christians, the Bible, and God are becoming more open and brazen. Eventually, at some point in the future, this may lead to violent opposition. It would be wise for us to prepare ourselves for survival by spending more time in prayer and Bible study. Now is a good time for us to ask ourselves, "Am I willing to die for Christ?" Even more significantly, are you living for him now?
When our daughters were small children and we were taking a trip, they would ask the proverbial question, "Are we there, yet?" Most of the time we were a long way from our destination, but they were either inquisitive or impatient. I don't know which. Naturally, we would give them an estimated time of arrival, but, since they had no concept of time, it didn't mean much to them because they would ask the same question a few minutes later. When children are small I guess it is a part of their learning process to ask questions. One of the most repeated questions asked by children is, "Why?" They will even prolong an explanation by repeatedly asking why to every response. Sometimes a matter can be easily explained and at other times it cannot. But, it is a good question. It seeks for a reason or motivation behind an action.
The word "why" occurs at least 284 times in the Bible. Here are some examples. "Why are you timid, you men of little faith" (Mt. 8:26)? "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord' and do not do what I say" (Lk. 6:46)? "And now why do you delay" (Acts 22:16)? "Why do you regard your brother with contempt" (Rom. 14:10)? These are just some samplings of this important question from the Bible.
I have a few "why" questions of my own. Why do people who wear the name Christian choose not to worship God on Sunday evening or study his word on Wednesday night? Why do people ruin their lives through needless worry when God has promised never to forsake his children (Heb. 13:5)? Why do people work so hard to get ahead materially when possessions do not really satisfy (Lk. 12:15)? Why do people think they're going to heaven even though they live ungodly lives (Rev. 21:27)? Why do people who know the truth not obey it? Why do people redeemed by Christ's blood choose not to serve him? Why do people bring children into this world and, yet, have no intention of properly caring for them or spending much time with them? Instead, they farm them out to day care centers or nannies while they continue to pursue their professional careers. Why do some people spend a lot of money to sit in snow, rain, or heat to watch a ball game, but will not attend worship services where they sit on padded pews in a weather-controlled environment? Why do people make plans for their retirement, but give little or no thought to their eternal destiny? Perhaps we need to pause and give some honest and sincere reflection to these questions.
I'm tired of hearing the gutter language that is spoken by some who lack the vocabulary skills to communicate sensibly. I'm tired of having the homosexual agenda, sometimes in subtle ways and sometimes in ways that are not so subtle, being pushed off on society. I'm tired of immodesty being so openly and approvingly displayed. I'm tired of hearing the conflict and wars that are constantly being fought in various parts of the world. It seems that greedy and power-hungry people are always being disruptive and won't allow the common person to live in peace. I'm tired of hearing the reports of innocent people being slaughtered. I'm tired of reading about rapes, drug abuse, child abuse, spouse abuse, and many other acts of cruelty. I'm tired of the dishonesty, shady dealings, and duplicity that are often involved in politics. It's almost to the point of not being able to trust or have confidence in anyone who is a politician. We live in a great country, but in my opinion we have almost reached the point where we govern by the polls rather than by what is right or best for the country. I'm tired of the entertainment industry spewing their ungodliness on the movie screen for all to see, especially the impressionable minds of children. I enjoy sports as much as anyone, but I'm tired of the fanaticism that some people have toward athletics to the point of ridiculous behavior and blind loyalty. I'm tired of false religions spreading their deceptive messages that result in the eternal condemnation of people who think they are faithfully serving God. I'm so tired of these and many other things that I feel much like the apostle Paul who said, "Come, Lord Jesus" (1 Cor. 16:22). There will be no relief from these and many other problems on this side of eternity. That's true because "…the whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (1 John 5:19, NASV).
While I'm tired of many things, some of which I have mentioned in the preceding paragraph, there are many things of which I am not tired. After more than 50 years of preaching the gospel, I am not tired of doing it. It is just as invigorating as it was when I began. I have never grown tired of the gospel message or the presentation of it. I have never grown tired of studying the Bible with people in a private setting. I enjoy listening to good, sound preaching and teaching of God's word. I have never grown tired of seeing people change their lives from serving Satan to serving God by obeying the gospel. I have not grown tired of seeing people develop and mature spiritually. I have never grown tired of reading and studying the Bible. It is like a refreshing drink of water to the soul and never becomes commonplace. I don't know how many times I have partaken of the Lord's Supper in the 56 years I have been a Christian, but it has never become old to me. Singing praises to God with my brethren in the worship services stirs me to this day. Some of the greatest people I have ever known are my brethren. They may not be in the headlines or make the evening news, but they are the salt of the earth and I enjoy being in their company. They make me happy and stimulate me. I'm never bored being around them. I have never grown tired of reading and hearing about heaven. It gives me hope and motivates me to live for God that someday I may be in a place where there are no wars, murders, rapes, abuse, or dishonest people. God has his own timetable, but I am "…looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God" (2 Pet. 3:12).
Near the end of his Gospel the apostle John said that Jesus performed "many other signs." (Jn. 20:30-31). Around forty are recorded in the four Gospels, but how many others he performed is undetermined. The purpose of the miracles was to convince people that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God.
The word "miracle" is used in a variety of ways today. It is used to refer to the birth of a child, or some remarkable event, or in describing an answer to prayer. The biblical use of the term "miracle" does not fit this description. A miracle is the intervention of God outside the laws of nature which he has established. For instance, man obtains his daily bread through planting of seed and gathering the harvest. It was a miracle when Jesus did not go through this process, but fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fishes (Mt. 6:1-14). One may seek the safety of a shelter during a tempestuous storm, but Jesus "rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm" (Mt. 8:26). A person may have an eye problem corrected through surgery, but Jesus healed the blind (Jn. 9:1-7). Through proper diagnosis and treatment an ill person may avoid death, but Jesus raised people from the dead (Lk. 7:11-17).
Jesus performed many different kinds of miracles. He walked on water (Mt. 14:25-26), cast out demons (Mt. 8:16), and raised the dead (Jn. 11:39-44). He performed so many miracles that even the world would not be able to contain the books that should be written (Jn. 21:25). They were not slight of hand tricks or freaks of nature. They were genuine miracles in which the laws of nature were overridden.
These miracles were performed in the synagogue (Mt. 12:9-14), at public pools (Jn. 5:2-8), and at wedding feasts (Jn. 2:1-11). Even unbelievers were witnesses of them (Mk. 2:1-12). These miracles were performed in the presence of those who were very much aware of the situation. His enemies could not successfully refute their validity (Jn. 9:15-17, 24, 29-34). With Jesus' healings there were no preliminary investigations to weed out hard cases. He did not try to heal and fail at it, and then insult the intelligence of the people by suggesting that the reason why healing did not occur was because they did not have faith. The miracles he performed did not require a special "atmosphere." People who were healed did not have to get well "on the installment plan."
The miracles of Jesus provided infallible proof of his deity (Jn. 3:2). They produced faith in the heart of men (Jn. 2:23). Thomas Jefferson edited a condensed volume of the Gospels in which he eliminated all the miracles of Jesus. All that remained were the ethics Jesus taught. The result was to leave Jesus merely as a wise human philosopher. The tragedy of this is that even though the ethics of Jesus are the highest the world has ever known, yet when Jesus is stripped of his divinity and power, his ethics are likewise stripped of all authority and power.
The miracles of Christ occupy a most important place in the array of proofs for the certainty of the things we believe. If they were absent from sacred history, our loss would be irreparable. The miracles of Jesus should not be severed from the whole complex of Christ's life and doctrine. Their relation is one of mutual interdependence. The miracles strongly attest to his compassion. They illustrate his authority to forgive and save man from his sins. They underscore his power to give eternal life and declare him to be the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Last month we wrote the first of two articles in which we focused on Eli and Samuel as being examples of godly men whose sons did not follow in the footsteps of their father. This month we conclude by looking at our third example of men who were faithful servants of God themselves, but their children made a different choice. Many faithful Christians have the same experience when their children do not embrace the training they have received from their parents. On Judgment Day they will stand before God and give an account of themselves, to be sure; however, wise parents seek to learn from the mistakes others have made and seek to do a better job. That is the purpose of these last two articles. We conclude by looking at King David.
David was a gifted and colorful king and poet. He was a brave soldier and a respected statesman. However, he was guilty of adultery and murder (2 Sam. 11). Family misery followed David's terrible mistake. One of his sons, Absalom, even plotted a revolution against him (2 Sam. 15). David repented of his wrongs and received God's forgiveness (2 Sam. 12:13), but his momentary weakness had a lasting effect upon his life and that of his children (2 Sam. 12:10-12). Parental example, good or bad, has a powerful influence upon children. Do you teach your children about the dangers of smoking and, yet, you smoke? Do you talk of the value of Bible study and, yet, you spend more time with the comics and sports page of the newspaper than you do reading God's word? Do you teach the importance of honesty and integrity and, yet, cheat on your income tax? Do you convey proper instruction concerning purity and morality and, yet, salacious literature can be found in your house? Do you teach the value of religion and, yet, you have never committed your life to the Lord? Children can "see right through" hypocrisy.
These are just some of the examples of godly men who had ungodly children. All of us, as parents, make mistakes and we have regrets that we wish we could go back and do all over again. We would probably do a better job. Let us realize, however, that even the best and godliest of people are sometimes disappointed by their children. Of all the responsibilities people are called upon to undertake in life, it is hard to imagine a more perplexing or demanding role than that of being a good parent. Parents contribute immensely to a child's intellectual, social, and religious growth. Pray fervently for the wisdom to be a good parent.
It is wonderful to be a father! It is true that there is heavy responsibility attached to it. It is not an easy task. The challenge of rearing, guiding, molding, shaping encouraging, and building character in children is rewarding. Helping children become useful citizens brings a singular joy.
The Old Testament records the life of three men who had heart-breaking experiences with their children. These men did not fail in business, their professional careers, or in their personal spiritual lives, but they experienced heartache as fathers. What they did that was right we need to emulate. We should learn from their mistakes. Bear in mind, though, that their sons made their own choices in spite of the training they received from their fathers. This month's article focuses on two of the three men. Next month we will conclude by examining the third.
Eli was the first man to serve as both priest and judge in Israel. His sons, Hophni and Phinehas, however, were wicked men who did not follow the righteous example of their father. These men were worthless and wayward (1 Sam. 2:12, 16-17). They were the "Elmer Gantry's" of their day being guilty of open immorality (1 Sam. 2:22-23). Without doubt, these sons will be personally accountable to God for the decisions they made in life (Ezek. 18:20). However, Eli failed them by not rearing them properly. He was like many parents today and did not administer proper discipline while the boys were growing up (1 Sam. 3:11-13). I am sure he loved his sons and, perhaps, did not consider the exercise of discipline to be a manifestation of love. But, proper discipline is a high form of love. Even God disciplines those whom he loves (Heb. 12:6). Will we love our children with the love of Eli or the love of God? Effective discipline gives constructive guidance.
Samuel ranks high among the great men of history. He was the last of the judges and the first of the great prophets of God. His mother, Hannah, made a vow that if God would bless her with a son she would devote him to the Lord all the days of his life (1 Sam. 1:11). He received some excellent spiritual training from Eli, but his sons, Joel and Abijah, were a great disappointment to him. Their wickedness and lack of leadership created a national revolt (1 Sam. 8:1-5). Samuel's busy schedule probably prevented him from giving his sons the daily guidance they desperately needed (1 Sam. 7:15-17). Many fathers today feel that they must establish their career, run their business, and work extended hours to the neglect of their family's needs. The "demands of the job" as well as social and community obligations have created a situation where children spend more time with passive babysitters than with participating parents. Effective leadership in the community and in the church is directly correlated with leadership ability manifested in the home (1 Tim. 3:4-5, 12). How much quality time do you spend with your children?
The above statement was made by seventy men who were supposed to be spiritual leaders in Israel. Ezekiel was a prophet of God whose work was focused on those who had been brought to Babylon around 606 B.C. during the time of the exile. Ezekiel was just a young man, twenty-five years old, when he was taken to Babylon. At the age of thirty he was commissioned by God to convey God's message to those who were in captivity. He had the privilege of being a contemporary of Zephaniah, Jeremiah, and Daniel.
It wasn't very long after Ezekiel began his ministry that he had a very unusual experience. In a vision, God allowed him to see the horrible spiritual conditions that prevailed in his hometown of Jerusalem (Ezek. 8). What he saw was that the leaders of Israel, in their private chambers, were worshiping creeping things, abominable beasts, and other forms of idolatry (Ezek. 8:9-10). They even had the images of these gods portrayed on the walls of their chambers. Their leader was Jaazaniah, the son of the scribe who earlier read the book of the Law to Josiah when he initiated needed reforms in Israel (2 Kgs. 22). His name means "Yahweh hears," but he was offering worship to gods who could not hear.
These seventy elders were not engaging in these practices publicly, but doing them in the privacy of their chambers. Their argument was that "The Lord does not see us" (Ezekiel 8:12). However, we learn that "…all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do" (Heb. 4:13).
Some engage in homosexuality, fornication, pornography, dishonesty, and a host of other sins thinking that if done in private, or under the cover of darkness, or at a place where one is unknown, that God does not see the sin. Like these Israelites, they are sadly mistaken. There is a day coming when "God shall judge the secrets of man by Jesus Christ" (Rom. 2:16). "Nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest" (Lk. 8:17).
God spared the life of Isaac when Abraham was about to plunge the knife into his body, but did not spare the life of His own Son when He was crucified. Had He done so, man would be hopelessly lost for there is no other adequate sacrifice to atone for the sins of man (Heb. 10:1-4). The death of Jesus on Calvary's tree reveals different dimensions of God's love.
God's love is indescribable. How can you describe a Beethoven symphony to one who is deaf? How can you describe a Rembrandt portrait to one who is blind? Even so, human language is incapable of adequately describing the love of God. F.M. Lehman once wrote:
Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made; were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe
by trade; to write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry; nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from
sky to sky.
When love flowed forth it was so deep, so wide, so strong, that even inspiration did not compute its measure, but gave us that great little word "SO" (Jn. 3:16) and left us to attempt the measurement.
God's love is unquenchable. You can't run beyond the limits of God's love because you can't outrun God. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). Good people don't go to heaven because they are good, but because God loves them. All of us are sinners, deserving eternal condemnation, but God sent His Son to be "…the propitiation for our sins…" (1 Jn. 2:2).
God's love is unearned. Paul declared, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). Salvation is God's gift to obedient man (Heb. 5:9). If salvation cost money, then some would not be able to afford it, for they are poor. If one had to produce a certain number of good works in order to be saved, then some would have unfair advantage over others, for they have greater ability. But salvation is offered to man by God through Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb, provided man accepts and obeys the gospel (2 Thess. 1:7-9).
God's love is inexhaustible. There is enough love in the very nature of God to take care of the sins of the world. No one is beyond the reach of God's love, no matter the immense depths that sin may drag him. God "…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4).
God's love is inevitable. His immense love does not come from anything outside of Himself. He loves because it is His nature to do so (1 Jn. 4:8).
Because of His love salvation is offered through Christ, provided man accepts and obeys the gospel.