Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I have read and studied Philippians 4:2-9 many times. I've preached on it at least two times. Yet, as I'm preparing to preach on it this Sunday something struck me. I was reading Psalm 37 this morning in my own devotional time and it felt a lot like I was reading Phil. 4:2-9. Look at some of these parallels:
Phil. 4:4, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!"
Psalm 37:4a,"Delight yourself in the LORD"
Phil. 4:5a, "Let your gentleness be evident to all"
Psalm 37:8a,"Refrain from anger and turn from wrath"
Psalm 37: 11, "But the meek will inherit the land, and enjoy great peace."
Phil. 4:5b, "The Lord is near"
Psalm 37:7a, "Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him"
Psalm 37:13, "but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day [his day, ESV] is coming."
Phil. 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything"
Psalm 37:1a, "Do not fret because of evil men"
Psalm 37:7b, "do not fret when men succeed in their ways"
Psalm 37:8b, "do not fret—it leads only to evil"
Phil. 4:7, "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Psalm 37:37-39, "Consider the blameless, observe the upright; there is a future for the man of peace. But all sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be cut off.The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD; he is their stronghold in time of trouble."
(compare especially the idea of 'guarding' and the idea of being a 'stronghold')
Phil. 4:8, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
Psalm 37:27-28, "Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off; the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever."
Psalm 37:37, "Consider the blameless, observe the upright"
(much of Psalm 37 is a contrast between the wicked and the righteous)
Phil. 4:9, "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you"
Psalm 37:5, "Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun."
Psalm 37:34, "Wait for the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it."
Here's a few things to take away:
1. God doesn't change. His commands and commitments to his people don't change.
2. Paul was steeped in Scripture.
3. David could speak of the Day of the Lord being near thousands of years before Jesus and Paul did. It is always near, though nearer now than when those great words were written.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Keller helps us see idolatry from several different perspectives. Most of us think of little (or big) statues when we think of idols. Certainly that is one type of idolatry, but it is not the only kind of idolatry. Israel was certainly guilty of worshiping idols at certain points in their history - the golden calf, fertility gods, etc. However, even at a time in Israel's history when literal idols made of wood and stone had been put away, God still chastised their leaders saying, "these men have taken their idols into their hearts." Neither forms of idolatry were particular to the Old Testament period either. There was a temptation to turn from worshiping the invisible God to worshiping more tangible (and manageable gods). Look at Acts 17:16, Romans 1:22, 1 Cor. 12:2, and the imperative to 'keep yourselves from idols' (1 John 5:21). Literal idols can still be stumbling blocks for believers, maybe not currently in the west, but certainly in other periods and in other parts of the world. Still, we in the modern west must be on guard against idolatry, for as Paul reminds us, there are more subtle idols we may fall prey to (see Colossians 3:5).
While we usually steer clear of worshiping little statues, we need to think long and hard about the 'idols of our hearts'. Remember Calvin's words, "the human heart is an idol factory.' Keller defines idols as 1) goods things and turning them into ultimate things, 2) something we cannot live without, 3) a God alternative, 4) 'anything more important to you than God', 5) "whatever you look at and say in your heart, 'if i have that, then I'll feel my life has meaning...'". Keller reminds us that ancient deities were 'bloodthirsty and hard to appease'. Modern 'counterfeit gods' are the same. Alexis de Tocqueville described America saying that there is 'a strange melancholy that haunts the inhabitants ... in the midst of abundance." Why so melancholy? His explanation is that we, as a nation, pursue satisfaction in "the incomplete joys of this world [which] will never satisfy the human heart." Case and point: remember the slew of suicides in the wake of the most recent financial meltdown! People who place ultimate importance on things that are not God fall into despair when those things are taken away. Many people suffer sorrow at such times, but those who rely on God have an 'ultimate' to fall back on. Those whose 'ultimate' is stripped away fall into deep despair.
How do we know if we have allowed ourselves to set up counterfeit gods in our hearts? Ask, are their things you love more than God? What do you daydream about? What do you enjoy imagining? What are your fondest dreams? Those things, even if you don't possess them yet, can become idols. On the other hand, ask what it is you trust more than God. What do your nightmares look like? What do you fear the most? It's possible what what you fear loosing the most is what has become your god (kids, respect, financial security, etc). Finally, what do you obey instead of God? If the boss asks you to do something immoral, will you? If your desires run contrary to the will of God, do you obey them? If so, it's quite possible that there is a counterfeit god lurking in the corner of your heart.
Keller closes the introduction by reminding us of the great opportunity we now have. We are briefly experiencing a 'disenchantment' with the typical gods of our age, especially the security of wealth. That provides us with the opportunity to speak of the God who can lead us out of despair or to recommit ourselves to fidelity to the true God.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I believe the Bible casts the devil in personal terms, not impersonal. I think it is a mistake to view the devil as the 'dark side' or some other impersonal force. That the bible portrays the devil is evident from the fact that he has a name(s): Satan, Beelzebub (Luke 11:18). In addition, his interactions with others indicate person-hood - he speaks with Eve (Genesis 3:1-7), argues with God (Job 1:6-2:7), tempts Jesus (Mark 1:13), accuses the saints (Zech 3:1, Rev. 12:7-10). Jesus speaks of Satan using personal pronouns like 'himself' and 'his kingdom' (Luke 11:18). Moreover, Satan has a will and intentions - to destroy (Mark 9:22, 1 Peter 5:8) and is morally accountable for his rebellion and evil actions (i.e. Satan is called a 'murderer' in John 8:44. We don't call gravity a murderer though it has killed people. Murder is a term used of persons, not forces - see also 'liar') . Hell was created for him and for his legions of fallen angels as punishment for their rebellion(Matt 25:41).
The Christian response to the devil should be awareness of his existence and schemes, resistance to his temptations and confidence in his utter defeat, not fear. Satan is powerful, more so than man but infinitely less so than God. In fact, the only power he has is the power God allows him to have. It will one day be utterly stripped, and already he has been bound (though that's another post for another day). He is old, but not eternal - he is a part of the created order (Neh 9:6), not an eternal negative counterpart to our good God (not a yin and yang dualism). He is spiritual and non corporeal, but we are never give the idea in the Bible that he is omnipresent. He is wise (in an evil way) and cunning, but again, we are not given the idea in the Bible that he is omniscient. When we are attached by the devil (or his evil demons) we are to resist. He can deceive and tempt, but he cannot make us sin or cause us to do evil. He can himself do evil and cause evil (every lie he speaks is evil he will be held to account for; moreover, it appears that he has some limited control over natural forces and can cause physical evil, see Job 1:19), but he cannot cause us to do evil. Yet, like every other part of God's creation (even those parts with free will), the devil is still bound to follow the sovereign plan of God. Far from being outside the scope of God's sovereignty, he is a tool in God's hand which God wields to accomplish his good purposes. In this Satan is not seeking to advance God's purposes but to thwart them (see posts on Job and on God tempting David?).
I agree with one commenter that we should not give the devil too much attention. He is real and mean, but he isn't the source of all our struggles. Our own fleshly desires are more often to blame. Moreover, we can never simply blame the devil as though 'the devil made me do it'. Adam and Eve tried that in the Garden and it didn't seem to go over too well there! I've talked with a lot of Christians (especially college students) who see demons behind every corner and in the eyes of every gargoyle statue at IU (thank you Frank Peretti). I think that's a mistake. Yet, they are a minority, albeit a vociferous one. Some do, at times, use the devil to magnify all their struggles, casting them all in heroic terms. Yet, they are a minority, albeit a vociferous one. Most people ignore this reality, which is also dangerous. Most modern Christians seem to treat the doctrines of the devil and demons (alongside the doctrines of angels) as an embarrassing holdover of Medieval superstitions. It think the biblical doctrines were clouded in superstitions for centuries, but as those superstitions are pealed away there remains a robust theology of angels and demons, of a spiritual world that is real but unseen. We should not ignore this reality.
I would recommend to anyone interested a small book by Warren Weirsbe The Strategy of Satan: How to Detect and Defeat Him. I think we should make ourselves aware of Satan's patterns of deception and arm ourselves against his schemes.
Resist by reminding him that 'he who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.' Here's another line from Luther (I thought it was a fictitious movie line, but it comes from 'Letters of Spiritual Counsel by Luther): "When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: 'I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is there shall I be also.'"
Monday, November 16, 2009
Monday, November 09, 2009
Luther seemed far more aware that the devil was active, crafty, mean, and hell bent on destroying God's people and God's work. Reading Luther on the devil is almost embarrassing to our modern evangelical ears, not because he's unbiblical (not on this), but precisely because he is so biblical. Consider just a few verses:
"Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved." - Luke 8:11-12
"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." - 1 Peter 5:8
"We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. " - 1 John 5:19
(see also 2 Thess. 2:9; John 8:44; Eph. 6:12; 2 Cor. 2:11)
We have, as the evangelical church (at least the non-charismatic wing of the evangelical church), underplayed or downright ignored the work and person of the devil. I think this is dangerous.
Now for the connection to 'V'. The devil doesn't announce himself. If you have seen the sci-fi series, you know that the 'visitors' that appear charming, altruistic, helpful, etc., are under their pretty human exteriors reptiles that devour people. They come and offer peace and opportunities, but their hidden agenda is destruction. So it is with Satan. He offers pleasures, opportunities, successes, etc. They seem so good, but beneath the veneer is the devil. (For a really creepy video of the alien baby, click here:)
"And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. " - 2 Corinthians 11:14-15
That sets up the last connection - between Satan and our culture. So many opportunities present themselves to the church. Many are God given opportunities to spread the good news, to shine the light of Christ into our dark world. But, some are not. I'm convinced that many ventures we are tempted by are Satanic ploys to seduce the church, distract the church, sully the church, and if it were possible, destroy the church. I'm not yet prepared to point fingers (except at the pornification of church!), but I'm convicted that in our current lust for success and relevance, we have grown increasingly undiscerning in what open doors we walk through. (I often tell college students that open doors don't necessarily come from God - we all have an open door to prostitution!)
I'd love your thoughts on this. I'll leave you with the apostle Paul's words from Ephesians 6:10-20:
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. "
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Monday, November 02, 2009
Sunday, November 01, 2009
“We old folks have to find our cushions and pillows in our tankards. Strong beer is the milk of the old.”
"Your thoughts of God are too human." - Luther in a Letter to Erasmus
"I resist the devil, and often it is with a fart that I chase him away."
"If the devil should say, 'Do not drink,' you should reply to him, 'On this
very account, because you forbid it, I shall drink, and what is more, I
shall drink a generous amount.'" - Dr. Martin Luther in a letter to Jerome Weller, July, 1530
"For where God built a church, there the Devil would also build a chapel."
"I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, Self."
"I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen."
"I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess."
"Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave."
"Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world."
"Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime."
"Peace if possible, truth at all costs."
"Reason is a whore, the greatest enemy that faith has."
"To gather with God's people in united adoration of the Father is as necessary to the Christian life as prayer."
"When schools flourish, all flourishes."
"Even grammarians and schoolboys on street corners know that nothing more is signified by verbs in the imperative mood than what ought to be done, and that what is done or can be done should be expressed by words in the indicative. How is it that you theologians are twice as stupid as schoolboys, in that as soon as you get hold of a single imperative verb you infer an indicative meaning, as though the moment a thing is commanded it is done, or can be done?" - Bondage of the Will