Fathers and Sons

fathers-and-sonsThe sons of Eli were corrupt.  They did not know the Lord.  They were already adult men, but they never really had the benefit of a father who corrected them at a malleable age.  These men got what they wanted when they wanted it.  This multiplied sin in their lives.  This is what will happen in our homes apart from the grace and mercy of God.

The Character and Conduct of Evil Sons 

  1. They were corrupt (2 Samuel 2.12).  These two men were very wicked and evil men.  Yet they claimed to occupy themselves in the Lord’s work.  Paraphrasing one man, they were children of the devil in the tabernacle of God.  There is much corruption in both fathers and sons who attend churches today as well.
  2. They were covetous (2 Samuel 2.13-14).  These men thrust a three-pronged flesh-hook into the caldron of the Israelite worshipper.  They were base men who were concerned only with physical, temporal appetites.  Living for temporal satisfaction mens never being satisfied.
  3. They were coercive (2 Samuel 2.16).    They took food from the people by force.  The aggressive nature of men is simply intensifying today.  If they don’t get what they want, they bully families, classmates, and society into getting it for them.
  4. They were contemptible (2 Samuel 2.17, 22).  They caused men to abhor the offering of the Lord due to their sin.  They even abused women and had sexual relationships with them at the very door of the tabernacle of meeting.  They brought contempt upon the worship of the Lord.

The Character and Conduct of Evil Fathers 

Eli reproved his sons, but it was too little, too late.  It seems he had his own self-discipline issues.  The Bible speaks of him as being tremendously overweight at the time of his death.  You cannot raise godly men or execute properly spiritual leadership if you cannot be self-disciplined.  A responsive relationship with Christ is the single greatest need in spiritual leaders and fathers today.

The Consequences of Evil Conduct and Character

Eli despised God, so God brought dishonor upon his house and viewed him as contemptible.  We have read about the cloud before the storm in this prophecy given to Eli.

Eli’s judgment will be humiliating (2 Samuel 2.31).  Cutting off the arm communicates all authority and power being removed from his house.  It will be irreparable (2 Samuel 2.32).  It will be eternal (2 Samuel 2.32).

Fathers should meet their sons disobedience, disrespect, and destructive behavior with very firm and very loving discipline.  The welfare of our country doesn’t rest upon who is elected in November; it rests upon godly fathers raising godly children.  If we want our children to live long and prosperous lives, they must glorify God by demonstrating His righteousness to the world at large.

Eli and his two sons should teach us that even when men start off good, their lives can end very poorly.  There is great sorrow in such a life.  May God deliver us from such a fate.

Jesus’ Brother

James:  The Brother of Jesus

We are told in the opening verse of the letter that James is a bondservant of both God and the Lord Jesus Christ (James 1.1).  This James is not the brother of John, but the brother of the Lord Jesus.  He is a brother in the sense that both Jesus and James had the same mother named Mary, but not the same father named Joseph.  The Holy Spirit conceived within the womb of Mary the Lord Jesus.  So then, James is the half-brother of Jesus.

James and his brothers did not believe in Jesus according to John 7.5.  It is thought that James did not receive Christ as Savior until some point after Jesus’ resurrection.  1 Corinthians 15.7 says that after Jesus had risen from the dead, He was seen by James.

I grew up thinking that Mary remained a virgin her whole life.  I was taught that since Mary had no other children, Jesus did not have actual brothers or sisters.  The Bible teaches that Joseph did have an intimate relationship with Mary after the birth of Christ (Matthew 1.25).  Luke 2.7 says that Jesus was Mary’s firstborn Son.  There would be no need to say firstborn if others did not come after Him.  All this to say that James is the brother of Jesus.  But he was also the leader of the early church.

James:  The Leader of the Church

William Varner writes,

If a stranger arrived in Jerusalem or in Antioch between the years a.d. 40–62 and asked, “Who is the person in charge of this movement?” any knowledgeable Christian, including Peter or John or Paul, would have answered without hesitation, “James.” Moreover, he would not have needed to add “the brother of Jesus” because everyone would have known that there was only one person who would be instantly recognized by that single name without any additional description or qualifier.

Varner, W. (2012). James. (H. W. House, W. H. Harris III, & A. W. Pitts, Eds.) (p. 9). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Acts, Galatians, and 1 Corinthians all reinforce the argument that James was the indisputable leader of the early church.  Acts 12 teaches that when Peter was released, he wanted James to know about it first (Acts 12.17).  Acts 15.19 tells us that James made the decision to not trouble the Gentiles to become Jews before they became Christians (Acts 15.19).  The early church looked to James for direction and wisdom.

If James led the early church, Peter and Paul did not.  So, why has James been marginalized by two main traditions of religious thought:  Catholicism and Protestantism?  Catholics prefer Peter because of their unbiblical view of apostolic succession through a line of popes who consider themselves to be vicars of Christ on earth.  The Catholic doctrine indicates that Peter was the first pope.  But the Protestants have problems as well.  They often elevate Paul as the early leader of the church.  Paul has become an unofficial pope of sorts from their perspective.  Yet Paul said of himself that he was the least of the apostles and the chief of sinners.  So, James is the brother of Jesus and the leader of the early church.

James to the Twelve Tribes

The Bible tells us that James wrote to Jewish people who were still scattered since the days when Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple of Jerusalem, burned down the city in 586 BC, and brought the remaining inhabitants back to Babylon under captivity.  The scattering spoken of in James must refer to the Babylonian captivity because it was probably written in between AD 45-48.  The scattering of the Jewish people during the Jewish War with Rome had not yet occurred.  James wrote to Jewish-Christian congregations which were established from Syria eastward.

James and Wisdom

The theme of this letter is well stated in James 3.13-18.  This passage urges us to follow heavenly wisdom rather than earthly wisdom.  This heavenly wisdom is God’s wisdom.  The choice between two ways is the Jewish approach to ethics.  If you think you can have it both ways, James 1.8 says you are double-minded or double-souled.  This makes you unstable in all your ways.  James 4.8 tells the double-minded or double-souled to draw near to God, cleanse their hands, and purify their hearts. Those who purify their hearts are those who determine one thing:  to follow heavenly wisdom.

The key to integrity is pursuing heavenly wisdom.  Those who pursue heavenly wisdom have commendable behavior.  Those who pursue earthy wisdom have condemnable behavior.  Our goal is to realize that the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3.18).

Flutes and Funerals

a002b97f9c06b49145b2f77cd05086beLuke 7:31–35 (NKJV) — 31 And the Lord said, “To what then shall I liken the men of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, saying:

‘We played the flute for you,

And you did not dance;

We mourned to you,

And you did not weep.’

33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 But wisdom is justified by all her children.”

A group of children are sitting in the public marketplaces and calling to other children who are obstinate and unwilling to play games with them.  One game involves a happy event like a wedding.  Another involves a time of lament like a funeral.  But the onlooking companions refuse to participate in either game.

The wedding speaks to the ministry of our Lord Jesus.  The funeral speaks to that of John the Baptist.  One group of children represents both of the contrasting roles of Jesus and John, our Lord’s forerunner.  The second, non-participating of group of children represents the unresponsive, hardened Pharisees and the Jews who follow them.  The non-participants reject both games.  Even so, the Pharisees rejected both ministries of Jesus and John the Baptist.

The Pharisees seek to temper John’s stern preaching.  They don’t like their hypocrisy being put on public display.  As Herod proves when he takes the life of John the Baptist to satiate the bloodlust of his wife.  At the same time, they seek to impose strict legalism upon what they see as Jesus’ permissive ministry.  There is a great tension in this parable between legalism and licentiousness.

  1. Jesus’ message of forgiveness shouldn’t be dampened by legalistic restrictions.  Instead, it should be freely celebrated.
  2. John’s message of repentance shouldn’t be ignored.  Instead, it should be soberly measured.
  3. The truth of this tension between legalism and licentiousness is justified by those who hold to it.

The Pharisees are stubborn children.  They cannot be brought from the sidelines to play nice with the other children.  Flutes and dancing represent the joy of a wedding and the joy of mercy and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  Mourning and weeping represent the sober reality of sin’s just penalty:  death and the funeral.  But the Pharisees will not play that game either.

Jesus and the Good News Ministry

John the Baptist is the last of a long line of OT prophets who spoke of a time when the Messiah would come.  Prophets speak of what is to come.  But now the Bridegroom has come.  The best man takes a backseat.  John the Baptist prepared the way for the Lord Jesus.  He is the forerunner of the Messiah who would preach the Good News of the glorious gospel.  Jesus confirmed His own preaching ministry with the miracles prophesied of in the OT by prophets like the Baptist.  He also gave the apostles the ability to work miracles to confirm their teaching ministry.  All was in place.  Nothing should have hindered the reception of the Bridegroom or His joyful message of forgiveness.

The Rejection of the Good News

However, that message was not heeded.  The Pharisees and those who followed them loved the letter of the Law but hated the spirit of it.  They were fine with the shadow but rejected the substance.  The road is indeed narrow which leads to righteousness.  Broad is the path to destruction.  The majority fill the broad way; the minority tread the narrow.

It shouldn’t be surprising that few receive the Good News today.  It’s the way it has always been.  A population tends to waver between legalism and licentiousness.  But that whole population is still on the broad way.  A lot of people think that they are Christians, but they don’t rejoice in forgiveness or repent in the face of serious sin.  Wedding or funeral – it makes little difference to them.  They won’t come out and play.  Believers say with the prophet Isaiah, ”Lord, who has believed our report?”

But recall that John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus were very convincing and powerful preachers.  A lot of people wouldn’t hear them.  Someone weird like John doesn’t really deserve a hearing from the Pharisees’ perspective.  The guy eats locusts and wild honey.  He lives an isolated life wearing camel’s hair.  He doesn’t have fun at all.  He doesn’t eat bread or drink wine.  He must have a demon.  He’s just so austere.  We can’t relate to him.  And Jesus is way too friendly.  Eating and drinking with anybody and everybody.  He’s a glutton and a drunkard.  There’s got to be something wrong with anyone who spends time as a friend of tax collectors and sinners.

Some people hate the glorious message of grace and forgiveness because of their legalistic sin nature.  Others hate it because of the way it cramps their style, calling them to Spirit transformation rather than world conformation.  They wouldn’t mind a Christ to save them, but they don’t want a Lord to master them.

Others don’t like a faith-only message.  “After all, what incentive would there be for righteous living,” they ask.  They are so works-oriented that they drive themselves and other to despair.  Their proselytes are two-fold the children of Hell.  They need a written set of laws and codes to live life by.  Anyone who preaches “by grace through faith” is offensive to these religious, constraining types.  To them, it’s a religion not a relationship.  It is indeed a way to control the masses.

These are hardened, stubborn children.  We look at the Pharisees and the Jews who followed them as being so foolish and churlish.  But we don’t see the legalism working within us that worked within them.  We don’t like it when our legalism is showing.  We like to justify it, but wisdom only is justified by all her children.

The Gospel is free …grace is free.  It’s too humiliating for some people to admit that.  They are too proud to receive it or believe it.  Self-righteousness and self-denial seems to make more sense.  But we have no righteousness of our own, and self-denial turns to self-indulgence in no time without Christ.  Even if we get to the point that we know the Gospel is true, we cannot get to the point that we are to blame for rejecting it.  We blame the messenger …we condemn the Gospel’s preachers in order to justify ourselves.

But the real problem is that we love darkness rather than light.  If Jesus’ message came to us from Him directly, we’d do the same thing the Pharisees did.  We would balk and act wounded and offended.  We’d use that as the reason to reject Him and His message.  But wisdom is justified by all her children.

Civil Rights Commission

img_0205The United States Commission on Civil Rights has released a report which is at odds with our religious liberties.  The findings and recommendations came out earlier this month. An executive summary of the report is titled Peaceful Coexistence. The USCCR has found that civil rights protections ensuring nondiscrimination as embodied in the Constitution, laws, and policies are of preeminent importance. While we as Christians would agree with this, the USCCR elaborated by saying that “religious exemptions to protections of civil rights based upon classifications such …sexual orientation and gender identity, when they are permissible, significantly infringe upon… civil rights (PC, 25).

The USCCR was founded in to fight Jim Crow laws which enforced racial segregation in the 1960s. But sexual orientation and gender identity are not civil rights issues. Homosexuality and transgenderism are sin issues. Nevertheless, the report made five alarming recommendations:

  1. Overly-broad religious exemptions unduly burden nondiscrimination laws and policies.
  2. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects only religious practitioners’ First Amendment free exercise rights, and it does not limit others’ freedom from government-imposed religious limitations under the Establishment Clause.
  3. Recognition of religious exemptions to nondiscrimination laws and policies should be made in such a way that religious beliefs and not conduct are protected.
  4. Federal legislation should be considered in order to clarify that RFRA creates rights only for individuals and religious institutions and only to the extent that they do not unduly burden civil liberties and civil rights protections against status-based discrimination.
  5. States with RFRA-style laws should amend those statutes to clarify that RFRA creates First Amendment Free Exercise Clause rights only for individual and religious institutions. States with laws modeled after RFRA must guarantee that those statutes do not unduly burden civil liberties with status-based discrimination.

This report equates our support for religious liberty with hate. It is a huge threat to religious liberty. We have the right to believe, but not the right to act on those beliefs, especially when it comes to homosexuality and transgenderism. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) spoke on the Senate floor on Thursday of last week. He said the report had a “disturbingly low view of our First Freedoms.” Note the following observations from Senator Sasse:

  • Our national identity is based upon our religious freedoms.
  • Our Founders believed God created people with dignity and we have rights via nature.
    No king, no Congress, no Commission gives us our rights. Government is not the author or source of our freedom.
  • We have rights because we’re people, created with dignity and government is our shared project to secure those rights. And so, “We the People” give the government authorities; the government doesn’t give us us rights.
  • The Commission’s report is titled “Peaceful Coexistence.” But this profession of “Peaceful Coexistence” is meant to quietly euthanize “religious liberty” because Washington lawyers find it convenient to do so.
  • It must never be used to chip away at our most fundamental freedom.
  • It must never undermine the essence of what it means to be human.

The USCCR report undermines the constitutional guarantee of religious liberty. It claims to protect American ideals while subtly attacking them. Our ministry is against all forms of hate. However, right is right and wrong is wrong. We must not tolerate sin in our society. We must be allowed to say what God says about it. I must have the freedom to hire teachers and accept students who are not homosexuals or confused about their God-given identity. I am certain I can do this without hating people in spite of the report’s findings.

The Peril of Prosperity

There is a danger that we all face as Christians.  This danger is intensified when God tangibly displays His mercy in our lives.  The danger is that we might magnify the gift and forget the Giver.  As believers, there is great blessing in the gifts God gives us, but we must evaluate the real worth of such gifts.  The gift must draw us closer to the Giver.  We must magnify Ghannahod …make Him big.  The gift is a vehicle to do just that.

Hannah is an Old Testament example of just this (1 Samuel 1-2).  Hannah looked upon the gift of a son as an opportunity to magnify her God.  What can we learn from Hannah’s words recorded in 1 Samuel 2.1-10?

When we receive great gifts from God, it is because He is a great God.  There is none like Him (1 Samuel 2.2a-b).  There is no one as powerful as He is (2.2c).  There is no one who knows what He knows (3c).  There is no one who is just as He is (3d).  God is able to bring to bear a great reversal in our lives.  He gives great strength in our great weakness (4b).  The full are hungry (5a) and the hungry are fed (5b).  The barren woman has many children and the mother who has many children becomes feeble (5c-d).  The poor are made rich and the low are exalted (7-8).

God alone takes a life in judgment.  He kills but does not murder.  This is His sovereign prerogative (6).  He guards the feet of the saints or those set apart as His children (9).  But those who reject His King and Anointed One, the Lord Jesus Christ, are silent in eternal darkness.  By self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, or self-dependence, no man prevails.  Strength is found in Christ and in Him alone.  Don’t look at the gift but at the Giver.  Look to…

  1. God’s power and holiness brought to bear in the lives of those who trust in Him
  2. God’s wisdom and justice as comforts when inequity abounds
  3. God’s grace found in the benefits of prayer and His full revelation in the Scriptures

All benefits and blessings in this life point up the character of the God we claim to serve.  If these gifts from God become a means to an end, then we have practiced a very subtle form of idolatry.  We have vaunted up creation above the Creator.  If we do this as children of God, we may expect God to bring chastening instead of prosperity.

If you are like me, you’d rather have all of your needs met right away.  But it seems that we are inclined to stop trusting in God when this happens.  Prosperity is a place of peril for many in our country.  We fall into the delusion that our own hand has provided us with these things.

Our families must understand that suffering, difficult people and circumstances, and the crucible of a trial have the potential to be wonderful messengers declaring the glory of God.  Hannah’s great trial was a barren womb.  She pleaded for a child.  God gave her a baby boy.  She called him Samuel.  Samuel’s name means “asked of YHWH”.  When God grants her request, Hannah has the spiritual depth to magnify God and not the fact that she was no longer barren.

Who or what is magnified when God blesses you?  The answer to this question reveals how spiritual we truly are.

Delight

Psalm 37.4The noun delight has its origin in the 13th century.  It is defined as “a high degree of gratification”.  The French origin of the word points up the fact that it is a fairly intimate word.  Psalm 37.4 reads, “Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”

I would guess that many of us have a very difficult time relating to this verse.  We live in a world that knows neither love nor hatred by the physical evidence in front of them (see Ecclesiastes 9.1-2).  Asaph pined away about witnessing the prosperity of the wicked during his life (Psalm 73).

But as the song writer penned, “If I could see beyond tomorrow as God does see…”  Our problem truly rests in the fact that we find a high degree of gratification in all the wrong things.  Our desires are tethered to all the wrong things.  If desire is tethered to time and the sensate experiences of life, we simply have the wrong desires.  It’s hard to convince myself and others that this is positively true.

Psalm 37.4 tells us to delight ourselves in the LORD.  This is a responsibility that we must meet, or we will become unsatisfied with life.  Psalm 81.10 has the clear directive of our LORD:  “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”  Nobody else is able to fill us but our Creator.  Feed on His faithfulness (Psalm 37.3b).

Think of Heaven.  The souls who have gone before us are indeed happy and care-free.  If eternal life is something we enjoy now (and it is), then we ought to bring a little delight from Heaven into our world today.  Don’t live below the position and privilege that you have in Christ as God’s dear child.  Heaven is to you an everlasting possession.  Find a high degree of gratification in the LORD.  Once you do, you will have the desires of your heart …all of them.

Gaining Christ

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Nothing wins in life like gaining Christ.  Self-righteousness is repugnant to God, but the righteousness which is from God by faith is an unsurpassed excellence.  We count all things loss for this excellence.  We count all things as rubbish in comparison with gaining Christ.  Nothing wins in life like gaining Christ.

What is mean by knowing the power of Christ’s resurrection in Philippians 3.10?  This power is certainly found in the fact that the death of Christ is an incomplete story.  Jesus offered up His life’s blood for us.  He then appeared in the presence of God for us as the resurrected Christ (Hebrews 9.24).  If He is not risen, His work is not finished.  But He is and it is (John 19.30).  He was delivered up to death with a view toward our offense;  He was raised from the dead with a view toward making us right before the Father (Romans 4.25).  “It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Romans 8.34).

The power of His resurrection gave entrance for the Spirit to indwell and empower the believer.  Jesus said that it was to our advantage that He went away. If He had not, the Helper would not have come to us.  But He departed, and He sent the Helper to us (John 16.7).  We have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Promised One (Acts 2.38-39).  “Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living” (Romans 14.9).

The power of His resurrection will exalt us to glory.  “By man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead” (1 Corinthians 15.21).  Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14.2-3).  “The forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever” (Hebrews 6.20).

Knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection is experiential and relational knowledge.  The resurrection of Christ establishes the foundation of faith.  It is one thing to read about faith, it’s another to experience it.  Do you have a faith that overcomes the lusts of the flesh?  Do you have a faith that draws you close to God?  Do you have a faith that moves you to delight in those things in which God delights?  If you do, you are experiencing the power of Christ’s resurrection.

Knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection quickens hope.  Hope comes to those who continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.  You ride out the storms of doubt, trial, and adversity.  You keep dependent in times of prosperity.  You trust in the LORD.  You know your sinfulness, but you also know the power of His blood.  You know your weakness, but you also know the sufficiency of His grace.  You are confident of this very thing:  that He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phiippians 1.6).

Knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection transforms temporal life into eternal life.  “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15.13).  This hope-filled, eternal quality of life paves the way for temporal suffering within the sphere of joy and peace.  Only the hopeful are able to enter into the sufferings of Christ.  The power of His resurrection carries us through the fellowship of His sufferings.