Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Purpose of the Law

Recently a preacher friend of mine posted an interesting comment on Facebook. He said something to the effect of, “Those who say you can preach too much about grace don’t really understand grace.” I did not disagree with his message, but I felt the other side of the issue needed to be addressed. So I responded with a comment that went something like this, “Those who say that ‘law is dead,’ or ‘grace counteracts law’ don’t really understand law.” 
My friend quickly deleted my comment. He sent me a private message wondering whether I had posted the comment intentionally or if I had made a mistake and really meant to use my statement as my own personal status. I informed him that I just felt that his friends needed to know the balance that exists between grace and law throughout scripture. He informed me that his original post “wasn’t about law,” and the issue was dropped.
It is quite popular today for preachers, especially denominational preachers, but also including a growing number within the brotherhood, to preach salvation by grace alone, and that the New Testament is all about grace as opposed to containing any resemblance of a law. Brothers and sisters, don’t fall for this kind of one-sided preaching. Our preaching needs to be balanced to reflect the balanced nature of our God. The Almighty is full of grace and mercy (Exo. 34:6), but he is also just and righteous (Exo. 34:7). The Old Testament is a law that is no longer in force (Heb. 9:15-18), and truly the New Testament is a message of God’s grace and love for all mankind. But this does not mean that the Old Testament does not contain an account of God’s grace and love, nor that the New Testament contains no traces of a law. The Old Testament has been fulfilled - every sacrifice, every holy day, every purification ritual, and every priestly requirement has found its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. But there are principles and purposes contained in the Old Testament that continue today as binding as ever. Romans 15:4 says, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime [the Old Testament - DD] were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” I would like for us to take a look at a principle and a purpose of the Old Testament which abide as truthfully today as ever.

God is the God of all grace.
Noah (Gen. 6:8) and Moses (Exo. 33:17) both found grace in the eyes of the Lord. If there is ANYTHING we learn from reading the Old Testament it is that God is gracious to ALL MEN! This is why God commanded His people to care for the sick, the poor, the widowed, and the orphans among them - because He is gracious, and He expects His people to be (Exo. 22:21-27). This is why God commanded IN THE OLD TESTAMENT all of His followers to love their neighbors as themselves (Lev. 19:18)! The priestly blessing that Aaron spoke upon the people contains this line, “The Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee” (Num. 6:25). It was God’s grace that heard the Israelites cry out to Him in Egypt and delivered them into the Promised Land. It was God’s grace that brought them to Sinai and delivered to them a Law to keep. The Old Law is a demonstration of God’s grace! It was God’s grace that raised up deliverers (judges) when the people were oppressed by the nations around them. According to Jeremiah, it was God’s grace that promised a restoration of the tribes of Israel that had been scattered after their captivities (Jer. 31:2). Job (Job 33:14-26), David (Psa. 86:15; et al.), Ezra (Ezra 9:8), and Nehemiah (Neh. 9:17) all recognized God’s grace in the time of law. The pages of the Old Testament are gilded with God’s great grace!
It seems that some preachers today have the notion that worshippers of God under the Old Law lived in constant abject fear of the punitive justice of God, and had no concept of grace, and did not view God as gracious. Anyone who thinks that way needs to read and reread the Old Testament. Every Jew who ever lived under the Law of Moses ought to have fully appreciated the Grace of God. And from the grace that He showed them, we learn a principle that endures for all generations - God is full of grace!

The purpose of law is to point out sin.
A practicing Jew neither had to hear, believe, repent, or make confession before he became a child of God. He was born into a relationship with God. As he went about his daily life and made sacrifices and tried to keep the Law of Moses, he was not required to have full understanding of how all of the Law would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. That prospect was available to be understood, but understanding was not required of a Jew. All a Jew had to do was faithfully execute the Law and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ would be applied him when it was accomplished. To a Jew, the Law of Moses specifically pointed out what behaviors were sinful. When a Jew committed a sin, he knew exactly what his response was supposed to be - sacrifice. If a Jew did not precisely execute the ordinances of the Law, he committed sin.
The purpose of the Law of Moses was so the Jews could know when they sinned and when they didn’t (Rom. 3:20). IT CONTINUES TO SERVE THAT PURPOSE TODAY! If there is ANYTHING we learn from reading the Old Testament it is which types of behaviors and attitudes are sinful and which are not! True, we do not have to, indeed we MUST NOT, continue offering sacrifices for our sins, or observing holy days, or distinguishing between clean and unclean meats, for to do so is to crucify the Son of God afresh (Heb. 6:6). Jesus Christ fulfilled all the sacrifices, rituals, observances, and feasts of the Old Testament. BUT, the spirit and truth with which we are commanded to worship God (John 4:24) were commanded as part of worship under the Old Testament also, and can be found throughout its pages (Deu. 10:12-22). 
More accurately, the spirit and truth God expects and has always expected of His children can be found to be ABSENT from the Jews’ worship in the Old Testament. The captivity in Babylon, which was predicted by Moses (Deu. 28), and fulfilled in the days of Jeremiah, did not happen because they were not faithfully executing the Law (they weren’t, but that was a symptom of the bigger problem). Their captivity happened because the Jews were UNCIRCUMCISED IN HEART (Deu. 10:16; Jer. 9:25-26). Because they didn’t properly love God and recognize His amazing grace towards them in ages past, they had stopped obeying the Law.
You see, from studying the Old Testament, we find this immutable truth: Grace and Law CAN NEVER BE SEPARATED! The New Testament contains no instructions for physical sacrifices, or holy days, or feasts, or outward cleansings, because we have all the instructions for those things from which we can learn the proper attitude of obedience in the Old Testament. It has been nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14), but it has not disappeared entirely! But, brothers and sisters, do not be deceived - THE NEW TESTAMENT CONTAINS A LAW! It is the Law of God (Rom. 7:22, 25), the Law of Christ (Gal. 6:2), or the Law of Faith (Rom. 3:27), and it is just as binding on us as the Law of Moses was on the Jews (Rev. 22:18-19; cf. Deu. 4:2). Indeed, every Christian must to a certain degree establish the Law of Faith in his own life (Rom. 14), but the principles which we bind on our lives today are not just drawn out of thin air based on our own desires and lusts. The principles for the Law of Faith in our lives today are right before our very eyes - IN THE OLD TESTAMENT! 
Do you want to know what sin is today? Read the Old Testament.
Do you want to know what kind of attitude and heart God expects of us as we worship Him and serve each other today? Read the Old Testament.
But if you want to know how to apply the blood of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to your sins today, then read the New Testament.

And if you want to fully appreciate the Grace of God manifested in His giving of the Law and establishment of the Church, then read the whole Bible.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Spiritually minded

Can spirituality manifest itself through physical means? Does any action prove definitively that a person is walking after the Spirit? Is there anything or any deed in your life that you can point to and say, "See, that proves I am a spiritual person"?

The other day I saw a car with big block letters across the top of the front windshield that said BLE$$ED. That's right, those are dollar signs in the middle of the word. What am I supposed to think about that? Am I supposed to think, "Wow, what a spiritually minded person! I should try to be more like that!"

What is the connection between spirituality and prosperity? What does one have to do with the other? How do you know when a person is truly spiritually minded? Is it in the clothes he wears? The music he listens to? The movies he watches? If a person wears all black and turns his collar around backwards, does that prove he is spiritually minded? If a person listens to "Christian Rock" as loud as he can and belts out the lyrics unashamedly at the top of his voice, does that prove he is spiritually minded? On the other hand, if a person listens to music with obviously carnal lyrics and topics, or watches movies with obviously carnal themes and visuals, can he even claim to be spiritually minded?

I would think that the answers to all these questions are rather obvious. Spirituality is not a "what" but a "how." Surely we are all mature enough to admit that it just is not possible to listen to obscene song lyrics, or watch lasciviousness on television in a spiritual way. Our spirits ought to be offended when we hear and see things that are obviously sinful! You can't condone or defend the enjoyment of sinful things by saying you have the liberty in Christ to do whatever you want to do. Liberty in Christ does not mean you get to redefine the simple definition of what is right and what is wrong. Liberty in Christ means that you are so free from physical attempts to demonstrate a spiritual mind that you participate in nothing physical that would condemn you! Liberty in Christ means knowing that nothing wholesome and righteous can be wrong, and that nothing wicked and deceitful can be good. What freedom from physical pursuits this liberty entails!

We seem to have convinced ourselves that if I am "led by the Spirit" then whatever decision I make must be a decision the Spirit is making for me. Therefore, anything and everything I do is spiritually minded. Naw.

As Christians we are to be engaged in spiritual service (1 Cor. 2:6-16), spiritual worship (John 4:24), and spiritual sacrifice (1 Pet. 2:5). By spiritual service I mean we minister to each other's spirits. We encourage, edify, and strengthen each other in the inner man. I fail to see how spiritual service can be accomplished while lying on the beach in a bikini. We worship God today in spirit, with our hearts, free from fleshly requirements. I fail to see how this spiritual worship can be accomplished by using a manmade instrument. We are to offer up spiritual sacrifices which means you won't be getting a receipt for contributions made. I fail to see how spiritual sacrifice can be accomplished by putting the minimum in the collection plate on Sunday.

Spirituality is how you do what you do. And what you do had better be spiritually motivated, and not some carnal activity cloaked in false pretenses of spiritual service, like so many of our youth group activities turn into. I could go around and clean up every yard of every member in the church I attend, but it doesn't guarantee that I am spiritually minded. It has to be done for the purpose of ministering to the recipient's spirit, out of pure love.

Now consider the other side of the issue.

What is the connection between spirituality and the Word of God? If I am truly walking after the Spirit (Rom. 8), then how will I approach every decision in my life? If I am truly spiritually minded, then how can I demonstrate it?

The answer is that being led by the Spirit means going to the Spirit's Word for guidance in EVERY decision, not just the ones I think I need help on. How could anyone deny that a person who goes to God's Word for help with EVERYTHING is spiritually minded? The only physical demonstration of spirituality is complete dependence on the Spirit-inspired scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Regardless of whether you believe in a direct, personal in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit or a Word-only in-dwelling, surely we all agree that God isn't going to give you special instructions that He hasn't already given someone else, right? Surely we can all agree that all truth has been revealed and is not subject to personal (and I might add, carnal) preferences, right?

If the Spirit bears witness that we are the children of God (and He does - Rom. 8:16), then what is the witness that He bears? What is the proof? What is the physical demonstration that He bears in our lives to show the world that we are children of the Most High God? How can His witness be anything other than His direction of us to refer to the Word in all matters? This is how He bears witness in our lives today - by directing us to the Word He Himself inspired! If you know of some other way that the Spirit bears witness then I would like to know. If you say that it's just a feeling you have, that you just know in your heart that the Spirit is guiding you, then the Spirit isn't bearing witness. In that case, the Spirit would be personally guiding, and that would make His guidance a matter of respect of persons and private interpretation. In that case, you had better try the spirits whether they are of God.

As has happened in all periods of time, in today's world carnality has been redefined to appear spiritual. Do not be deceived! Spirituality can only be demonstrated by trusting God, and the Bible is His trustworthy Word!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Go and Do

At the conclusion of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus told the lawyer who had asked whom he should consider his neighbor that he should "Go, and do thou likewise." Jesus told the Jewish lawyer, who was seeking to justify himself and his treatment of his fellow Jews, that he should go forth from his interaction with Jesus and be like the Samaritan man in the parable. Jesus told a Jewish lawyer that the Good Samaritan was neighbor to him who had fallen among thieves.

Here's the lesson: When you are "half dead," it doesn't matter who offers you assistance, you take it.

Racism is stupid. Sexism is stupid. Ageism is stupid. The world is already half dead. They are dead spiritually, while living in the flesh. Anyone who recognizes their condition wants your help! It does not matter if you are old, young, male, female, white, black, or anything else. If you have salvation, you have what the spiritually dead want.

But we sit back and make excuses why we can't evangelize. "I don't know enough." Or "Men are supposed to do the teaching." Or "I'm afraid to go into that neighborhood." Those who make these excuses show a form of ageism (I'm too young to know enough), sexism (leave the evangelism to the men), or racism (they wouldn't accept my message anyway).

When the Samaritan saw the man in the ditch (whose nationality we do not know, by the way), he didn't look at him and say, "Well I can't do anything about it because I don't have the proper training." Neither did he say, "I'm going to track down that priest who just passed this man and see that he does his job!" Nor did he say, "Here's my chance to prove that Samaritans are just as good as Jews!" He acted immediately on the compassion he felt for a fellow human being.

There is a connection between our lack of compassion for the lost and a lack of appreciation for what has been done for us. Compassion is the natural result of understanding the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf (Phi. 2:1-11). Fear and unwillingness stem from a deep down belief that my own good deeds have earned for me salvation.

When I see a person who claims to be a Christian, but he is either afraid or unwilling to serve the Lord in any way (knock doors, teach class, lead public prayer, etc.) I see a dead person. I know immediately that he does not really understand the value of the sacrifice in which he claims to have a stake.

Unwillingness to serve the Lord in any capacity means there has to be something unspiritual in your life that you are more willing to do. This means something in your life comes before God. Fearing to serve the Lord in any capacity means you are focusing on yourself more than on the message. This means you put yourself before God. In either case, spiritual death is the result.

One of the sub points of the parable of the Good Samaritan (along with numerous other parables) is that YOU CAN'T DO NOTHING! Jesus said, "GO, and DO..."! We are created unto good works (Eph. 2:10). Faith without works is dead (Jam. 2:17). A Christian who does nothing in service of the Lord and His Church is no Christian at all.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Marriage Retreat

Rachel and I are blessed to be able to attend the Smoky Mountain Marriage Retreat this year. Thanks to Cliff Goodwin for this incredible opportunity. Lord willing, we will be able to spend some time in the one of the most beautiful places on earth reflecting on our relationship together as we consider the beauty of the relationship we share with the Father. We have been to this event before and we cherish those memories.

Our marriages are worth every ounce of energy we put into them. The old saying goes, "If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy," but from what I have learned, the same is true for dad, and to some extent the children. Our homes are institutions designed by God to give us a means to appreciate Him better. A home begins with a marriage.

Jesus, when speaking about the sinfulness and sadness of divorce, said about marriage, "For this cause, shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh" (Mat. 19:5). In this verse he is quoting Genesis 2:24. Marriage is the oldest human institution, it is the most fundamental relationship that two people can share, and Jesus defined it as existing between a man and his wife. Let's consider some thoughts about this statement.

First, Jesus said, "For this cause." For what cause? The cause is found in Matthew 19:4 or Genesis 2:23. The cause is that God made them male and female at the beginning. What Jesus is saying is that the two sexes were designed for this relationship! We are made to be together! It was not good for the male to be by himself (Gen. 2:18), so God designed a companion that suited him perfectly, and she was woman. No one can improve on anything God has done, and that certainly includes the design and function of the male and female bodies. We are anatomical matches! When this relationship is exercised with gratefulness to God for his perfect design, I daresay there is no greater pleasure in this world.

Everything that has been designed has an intended use. Everything has been designed, therefore everything has an intended use (Psa. 19:1). Food is designed for consumption and in order for food to provide the benefits of its design, it must be used accordingly. A car is designed for transportation and in order for a car to provide the benefits of its design, it must be used as it was intended to be used.
Male and female bodies are designed for fruitfulness, and in order to provide the benefits of of their design, they must be put to their intended use. I understand and can sympathize with couples who experience frustration over conception, but the point I am trying to make is that marriage is designed to be between a man and his wife, not between two men or two women. A relationship between two men or two women should never be called a marriage, regardless of how much they love each other.

Next, Jesus said, "shall a man leave father and mother." He said a man. A boy should not get married. This relationship requires maturity and wisdom. The head of a household must understand and appreciate his place, just as God serves as head over each of our lives. It is a very serious undertaking, and one for which we need to be preparing our young men. Looking back on who I was when I got married, I realize I probably should have waited longer. I was probably not ready. Some of the difficulties we have faced as a couple probably could have been avoided, or at least dealt with in a better manner, if I had been more mature when we got married.

A man must leave father and mother. Before entering into the marriage relationship, a man must be ready to live independent of his parents. He will now be the guiding force in his own life and in the life of his wife and children. Men, we need to be intently fulfilling this role. We need to be navigating our families with purpose and full persuasion that God is the center of life for us.

Then Jesus said, "and shall cleave unto his wife." Cleaving to our wives is what Paul describes in Ephesians 5:25, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it." Cleaving to our wives means we desire them. It means we desire to be around them, they are our friends and companions. It means we desire to be with them, biblically. It means we desire to give them fulfillment and satisfaction in their roles as wives and mothers. The man is responsible for cleaving to his wife. I am personally so thankful for my wife and her patience with me. I am neither perfect nor profound as a husband or father, but my wife could not be better suited to deal with me. I love her and cleave to her for that reason.

Last, Jesus said, "and they twain shall be one flesh." When a man marries his wife, they become one entity. The offspring they produce is a mixture of both of them, their flesh. This union occurs at every joint and juncture. I think of a nylon rope that is wound together - it is joined along every centimeter of its length.

To separate the cords would require unraveling the whole length of rope. Men and their wives ought to be fused throughout their lengths. We may not see eye to eye on every issue, but we work together as a team to reach resolution that glorifies God, with no other desire in mind. As a couple bound as one flesh, what affects one affects the other. In order to achieve this unity, communication must be valued and practiced. Selfishness has no place in a marriage, as it was absent in Jesus' love for the church.

A fool believes his love is deep for his wife on his wedding day. The marriage relationship is a blessing from God that grows more blessed with each passing day and year. The longer we remain married, the more we value our marriages. Marriage is worth saving and it is worth fighting for. The end of a marriage is sad, however it comes about. Divorce is hated by God (Mal. 2:16). Do we know why? Do we understand and appreciate our marriages to the point that we can say we hate the concept of getting divorced? Let us all exercise ourselves in our roles within our marriages with the intent of fulfilling the design with which God has created this institution. Let us get married to be married. Let us see God's love for us in our love for our mates.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Ancient church restored

Today I saw a blurb for an article on Yahoo! that said "Ancient church restored." When I followed the lead, it turned out to be an article about the "Church of the Nativity" in Bethlehem and the facelift that it is undergoing.

I knew it wouldn't be about the true "ancient church," nor about true restoration, but it was interesting to read about what the world views as "sacred" and "holy" - sites, places, things, and traditions. It seems to me that even in the restoration of such an historic place, there is evidence of greed and covetousness. The amounts of money that the article reported would be necessary to restore this building are enormous! And who gets all that money? Most of it, I assume, will go to the contractors and workers doing the restoration. I'm not saying they don't deserve what they will be paid, but if they were truly zealous about restoring something they viewed as essential to their faith, it would seem fitting that they would provide the services for as little as they possibly could. Just the fact that these "holy sites" have become such money-making tourist destinations is a heavy stroke against the purity of the motivations of those performing the work and maintenance.

Here's the truth of the matter: Man can't restore something that God designed and implemented with the ability to last forever. The church has been in the mind of God since time began (Eph. 3). The church has never ceased to exist since it was built by Jesus Christ (Dan. 2; Mat. 16; Acts 2). The church always has been and always will be perfect! The church and her tenets and structure do not need to be restored.

The people who make up the church need to be restored. Now, you are going to say, "But the people are the church!" Right, but that is not what I mean. The church exists in the mind of God, He has a definition of who is in the body and who is not, and that definition lies within the pages of Scripture. That definition does not need to be restored. It will always be able to be found exactly where it has always been - in God's Word. If we want to be restorationists, let us focus on accomplishing the restoration of souls. God does not need our help in preserving, defending, or restoring His Church. It will stand forever. But we, on the other hand, may convince ourselves that we have the right spirit, and that we are pleasing to God, and that we are better than everyone else because our worship is pure, while at the same time standing in need of restoration in the eyes of God.

We often read the Old Testament and feel sorry for the prophets who got so frustrated with God's people when they wouldn't listen to Him. We empathize with Isaiah and Jeremiah and point fingers at others. But what if we are the others? What if we are the people to whom Isaiah and Jeremiah and the rest of the prophets were preaching? What if we think we are God's people, but we haven't put away our idols and our foreign wives? What if we put confidence in the temple (church building), but are blind to see our own hypocrisy? What if these verses describe us?

"Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return. I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle...Therefore will I give their wives unto others, and their fields to them that shall inherit them: for every one from the least even unto the greatest is given to covetousness, from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the Lord. I will surely consume them, saith the Lord: there shall be no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree, and the leaf shall fade; and the things that I have given them shall pass away from them. Why do we sit still? assemble yourselves, and let us enter into the defended cities, and let us be silent there: for the Lord our God hath put us to silence, and given us water of gall to drink, because we have dined against the Lord." Jeremiah 8:5-14, all emphasis mine.

Christians in America live covetous lives, and then sit back and say "What have I done?" We don't even blush when we look at how prosperous we are in comparison to the rest of the world, but more importantly, in comparison to the first century church. We say, "Peace, peace! You can have your covetousness and your salvation too!" We feel no shame for sitting still while the rest of the world burns, because we have been healed slightly - we have restored New Testament worship. But we have not restored the New Testament lifestyle. Then we wonder why we are for the most part unfruitful in the church today, we wonder why there are no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the tree. We wonder why the church doesn't grow today like it was in the first century, or even in the forties and fifties. And I am as guilty as anyone.

In the coming weeks we are going to examine what the Bible says we can and should do to be true restorationists. Let us have soft hearts and willing minds, and not be the people against whom Isaiah and Ezekiel had to be like flint, and against whom Jeremiah had to be an iron pillar.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Individuality in a sea of mass production

We are making it a tradition in our family to make our own Halloween costumes. The ones from the store are too poorly made and too expensive. It gets all of us involved and stirs our creative juices. We don't do angry, evil, gory, or immodest costumes. We do happy.

I support this approach to Halloween. As young as our kids are, they know nothing about the history of Halloween or the traditional scariness involved with it. Halloween for us is a time to enjoy the best weather of the year, the beautiful colors of fall, and some interaction with our neighbors, which we do far too seldom.

I saw several Iron Man costumes this Halloween season. They all looked the same.
Our kids were unlike any others. This is another example of the dangers of materialism in a society where everything is mass produced - inability to discern the distinctiveness in individuals. Every person is unique and incomparably valuable, but when greed for what everyone else has turns us all into brand-specific billboards we lose some (much) of that distinctiveness.

Mass production and the advertisement associated with it pressures us into being as up to date and equipped as our neighbors (or at least the people who portray our neighbors in commercials). Media asks us to compare ourselves to our peers in order to evaluate our happiness and satisfaction. As long as we fall for this ploy, we will never find an end to the search. It will feed itself, and that is what the advertisers are counting on.

Consider some ways that mass production is having a negative influence on spirituality and religion.

Mass production decreases the value of item. Whatever it is that you want you can have because most likely it is available at Wal-Mart. The more of an item that is produced the less each item costs, and those "savings" are passed along to you, the consumer. Our salvation is not like this. The value of our salvation should be inestimable! No one ought to be able to offer us anything physical or material that would convince us to trade our salvation for it (Matthew 16:26). While others look for the best value, the biggest sales, and the bargain of the century on items that perish with the using, followers of God are instructed to "Buy the truth, and sell it not" (Proverbs 23:23). Mass production has influenced the value of the truth in our world to the point that people take the same view of religion. Most religious people desire the easiest way to follow God, the path that appeals to them, the worship atmosphere that compares favorably to what everyone else is doing. Don't let the peer pressure of religious propaganda influence you to devalue your salvation. You must be fully persuaded in your own mind of your salvation (Romans 14). Never compare what you have done and what you have been given to what someone else has in their faith. Only compare yourself to God's Word for it the sole source of truth. The truth never looks for the easy way out or the most commercially viable solution. The truth does what is right.

Mass production decreases the knowledge base of the masses. Today we buy items with little or no knowledge of how or why they work, we just depend on them to make our lives easier. Mass production has dumbed down society (even though evolution tells us we are smarter than everyone who came before us, but that's a different matter) because everything we have is so disposable. I don't have to know or care why or how something works because if it breaks, I can just throw it away and buy another. Isn't that great?!


Christians must know what makes them distinctive from the rest of the world. "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:15-16). We must retain our individuality in the midst of this sea of mass produced materialism. A person must understand what he is doing when he obeys the Gospel or his obedience is vain. Mass production says it does not have to be so. Mass production says just do what everyone else is doing, because all that matters is the bottom line. In serving God, the details matter. The details matter because God knows you, as an individual. He knows what makes you you, He knows how you are different from everyone else, He knows what you think and feel, and He cares about you. Your details matter to God, so let God's details matter to you! Have the knowledge that a Christian is expected to have. Know God. It is possible (1 John 2:5).

There is a difference between knowing God and knowing about God. Mass production encourages the world to know "about" God, but never to be intimately acquainted with Him. Mass production discourages us from knowing what God would expect or desire in every situation. This is because what God would expect and desire in every situation is the exact opposite of what mass production accomplishes! Individuality in understanding the mind of God (Phi. 2:5) cannot be accomplished through mass produced religion. You are expected to truly know God, not just know about God.

Mass production masks or veils the true function of an item. It wraps the item in a flashy package and entices you to buy based on the external. Like the recent Sonic restaurant commercials say, "It's what's on the outside that matters!" The computers I have and the cell phone I use are capable of many times more work than that to which I put them. I admit that I was influenced to purchase them based on appearances and design. I cannot claim that they function better than much less expensive models. When everything is being mass produced, the model with the best package will usually win out.

We cannot afford to let this be true about our salvation. We cannot afford to let this be true about ourselves! We have a basic function in life: fear God and keep his commands (Ecc. 12:13). To accomplish that basic function, many times (actually daily) we must deny ourselves (Luke 9:23). We must deny our desires to satisfy the flesh based on evaluation of the external. We cannot let mass produced religion veil our true function - bringing glory to God through submissive obedience to Him and loving service of others (1 Cor. 10:31).

I am not suggesting that all Christians renounce or boycott Wal-mart or Apple or GM in favor of hipster unknown underground goods. I am encouraging us not to let the pressure of advertising for material goods influence us spiritually. Jesus told the rich young ruler to go and sell all that he had, for it would only be after doing so that he could be prepared to follow him. If we can identify ways in which our spiritual lives are being guided by mass production, it might be time for us to cut some ties to our stuff and live more minimally for a while (I think "more minimally" might be an oxymoron).

With over seven billion people on this earth, you might could say that God has mass produced mankind, but the difference between what God has done with mankind and what mankind has done with his inventions is that God KNOWS us individually, intimately, and inwardly. Our production is fearful and wonderful (Psa. 139:14). Each of us has been "curiously wrought/intricately woven" (Psa. 139:15). Let what we do towards God be the same.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Director emeritus

The first time I spoke in chapel at the Memphis School of Preaching I was critiqued by brother Curtis A. Cates. After his critique, the director at the time, brother Bobby Liddell, mentioned something about bro. Cates being Director emeritus at the school. Bro. Liddell posed this question, I'll never forget it, and I don't know exactly why it stuck with me, but this is what he said, "You know what 'emeritus' means, don't you?" Well, I didn't know, even though I may have acted like I did, so I looked it up.

"Emeritus" is a Latin past participle meaning "having served one's time" or "having merited one's discharge by service."

Right now, bro. Cates lies on death's doorstep. And there are a plethora of tributes being posted to Facebook about this great man. Here is mine:

Brother Curtis A. Cates will always be Director Emeritus of the Memphis School of Preaching.

There will never be another. Every time I saw him, no matter when and no matter where, I marveled. He was simply a marvel. His joy and unbridled enthusiasm were sincere and abundant.

I interacted with brother Cates probably less than many of my classmates did at school, because he knew my family from years before. As a result I was able to observe his life and teachings in a way they could not. I already knew him so I was not learning of his qualities for the first time. The first time you met brother Cates you might experience astonishment, astonishment that a man could be so thorough in his knowledge, understanding, and application of the Christian life.

My observation led to my marveling. I marveled that through service to the Lord, brother Cates was fulfilled, satisfied, and even self-actualized. The man lacked nothing. And he was happy about it.

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." 2 Timothy 3:16-17.