Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Human Condition

James 1:12-17  “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.  Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one.  But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived give birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.  Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

Humanistic psychology maintains that man is essentially good, and that it is an evil society that makes us do bad things.  That’s why proponents push for social reform, trying to address crime, poverty and lack of education.  The Bible tells us differently.  We sin because we’re sinners.  Our flesh is corrupted by the fall that took place with Adam and Eve, giving us the potential, ability and inclination to sin.  Jesus came to redeem or rescue us from this condition.  When we turn to Jesus to fix our sin condition, He cancels out the sin debt, breathes life into our spirit man, and we then serve Him instead of Satan.  We are free to say no to sin and yes to God.

Practically speaking, we still struggle with sin.  James writes that we are not to blame God.  Instead we are to see that it our own desire, our flesh that causes us to blow it.  Romans 8:22-23 tells us that all creation groans waiting for God to abolish sin–that’s in verse 22.  Then in verse 23, we see that those who have the Holy Spirit (Christians) groan as well, waiting for the redemption of our bodies.

Do you groan?  I do.  I groan at my weak flesh, my tendency to take the easy way out or to lose patience and get snappy.  I groan at my lack of self control and other failings.  I need Jesus each day to keep me from myself, to protect me from my own weaknesses and to pull me along God’s path instead of my own.  I need Him more than a good cup of coffee, more than a healthy retirement portfolio, more than a new outfit, and more than a little down time.  Aren’t those things what we run to when we start to feel a gnawing inside?  Grab a Snickers.  No, run to Jesus.

I heard a sermon once where the pastor said, “Jesus hasn’t redeemed our flesh yet, only our souls.”  I think that’s true.  That’s what Romans 8:23 points to.  Our flesh will be redeemed from the fall when creation is, when Jesus returns.  In the meantime we have to check in with God each day to keep our flesh in check.

The other thoughts that this section of James makes me think about are Old Testament examples that make you go “hmmm.”  They point to God’s character just like James 1 does.  Passages like 1 Samuel 16:14-15 where it tells us a harmful spirit from God tormented Saul.  Or 2 Samuel 24 where we read that God incited David against Israel because He was angry with Israel and had David take a census.  In 1 Chronicles 21:1 it instead tells us that Satan incited David because he stood against Israel.  So which one is it?  And doesn’t James 1 say that God doesn’t do that?

It was Saul’s bitterness and disobedience that opened a door for Satan to torment him.  And it was David’s pride that led him to take the census, his own flesh.  Oh no, we’re back to our flesh again.  Satan does God’s bidding, as Colossians 1:16 and 2:15 declare.  God created Satan for His purposes.  Jesus triumphed over Satan at the cross.  One day He will throw him into the lake of fire, when Jesus finishes him off.  God uses Satan to bring Him glory and He has way more power than Satan.  We can’t ever forget that.  

That is our human condition.  Satan is a prowling lion, wanting to devour us.  God sits on the throne in Heaven, with Jesus at His right hand.  God uses all things to bring glory to Himself and has plans and ways that go way beyond our comprehension.  I need Jesus every hour of every day to keep fighting that flesh battle.  I need the Holy Spirit’s power to stand and to endure.  My body and flesh groans waiting for the final redemption.  Does yours?

 


Wisdom

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”  James 1:5-8 ESV

James makes it sound so simple–if you lack wisdom ask for it in faith and voila’–you got it.  So why aren’t we wiser?  When we’re stuck and we pray, why doesn’t this formula work as cleanly as this?

I can think of a few things we don’t always do to start with and then I’ll move to the opposite.

1.  James 4:2-4 says that we have not because we ask not.  And when we ask, we have selfish motives to spend on our own desires.  We don’t pray and we’re self centered.  In Joshua 9 the Gibeonites didn’t want to get wiped out by the Israelites so they dressed up like they were from a long way off and got them to sign a treaty.  The Israelites, according to Joshua 9:14, “did not inquire of the Lord or ask counsel from Him.”  One version calls it presumption, which the Hebrew defines as “seething pride.”

Seething pride is when we think we got it covered.  We don’t think we need God, or we don’t think to ask Him.  

2.  We don’t know how to listen for God’s voice.  Some Christians just don’t know that when they ask, God will answer.  We’re not just praying some general rote prayer, like meal time grace.  And we’re not leaving a message on God’s voicemail that He may or may not respond to.  John 10:4-5 clearly teaches, “My sheep follow Me because they know my voice.  They do not know the voice of strangers.”  We don’t have to worry about being deceived if we get to know God’s voice.  

He speaks first and foremost through His Word.  That activates the Holy Spirit and keeps us grounded.  People who get mystical or off in a ditch usually aren’t feeding on the Bible on a consistent basis.  Others are students of the Bible, but think that listening for God’s voice is bogus.  Then so is John 10.  

3.  We get spun around with anxiety, worry, self pity, doubt, fear and unproductive things.  It’s easy to do in any given situation.  So we need to go to God in the middle of the muck and call out for help, for peace, and for wisdom.  Some people like the process of wallowing and don’t like to be called out.  Jesus didn’t mince words when He said things like “O ye of little faith,” and told His disciples they had hard hearts.  He even told Peter, “Get behind Me Satan.”  We need to gently but firmly remind ourselves and each other of God’s call to ask in faith with nothing wavering.

What are the positives about getting wisdom?

1. Wisdom comes from having a hearing heart. You can go to school for knowledge or Google just about anything, but wisdom is gained from calling out to God on a regular basis.  When Solomon was called to be king God gave him one request.  In 1 Kings 3:9  it tells what Solomon asked for: “Give your servant an understanding mind, a hearing heart.”  

 2.  In Proverbs 2 Solomon coached his readers to treasure up God’s commands, to call out for insight and to search for wisdom like silver and hidden treasures.  Wisdom comes from a long obedience in the same direction.  It is a quest that is much like mining for gold.  

3.  Wisdom comes through prayer.  In Luke 11:1 the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.”  It doesn’t say “teach us how to pray,” but “teach us TO pray.”  We try to figure things out on our own, or get advice from others, or something less efficient–but God says to pray.  If you lack wisdom, ask for it.  

We know this stuff, it’s just hard to do.  And even when we do, life doesn’t always comply.  Plus, God doesn’t work on our time schedule.  And things that we think should be easy aren’t.  But the promise still stands.  If you lack wisdom, ask for it and God will give it.  Don’t you wish you could just push the “Staples” easy button?easy button