Wednesday, July 30, 2008

From the Cradle to the Grave

There's a group out there that wants to control you. They want to control your mind. . . your habits and your daily decisions from the time you are born until the time you die. Do I sound a little too "conspiracy theory" for you? No, "they" aren't hovering in UFOs far above the earth beaming mind control rays into our heads. "They" are the world as spoke of in scriptures. How does it work? Let me give you one example.

Are you familiar with Viacom? Viacom is one of the most prolific corporations the US has ever seen. Viacom manages to touch nearly every US citizen in one way or another multiple times throughout one's life. How? Through their ownership of media such as Nickelodeon, CMT, BET, MTV, VH1, SpikeTV, TVLand, Paramount, Dreamworks, and Atom Entertainment, just to name a few. Much of what you see in theaters and on your home television screen is produced by a Viacom subsidiary. And if you like entertainment, you can literally be theirs from the cradle to the grave.

As a toddler, you can soak in all the "educational" programs on Nick Jr., Nickelodeon's daytime programming. But in the afternoon, when the older kids are home from school, the programming changes. In later years, Nickelodeon has opted for more of an MTV format in the afternoons, offering older kids musical interludes by today's nearly-non-threatening pop acts and breaks by live announcers much akin to MTV VJs. You, as a young child or young adult are being groomed for the next step up in the Viacom world, MTV, BET or CMT. And the messages from the film division are backed up and promoted heavily on Viacom network stations. And each network grooms you for the next until all you can do is watch TVLand and remember the good old days.

So what's the problem? We are being lulled to sleep our whole lives. Your patterns of thinking, behavior, and purchasing are being influenced from multiple directions with a single source behind many of the messages. In an entertainment culture, it is easy to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. But before we know it, we realize we have been sedated. Our minds have been numbed until we reach the end of our lives, which have been shaped by what is temporary and fleeting.

But is Viacom some huge monster in a vast conspiracy to turn you into a drooling clone that answers to their beck and call? Perhaps. They are certainly looking for you to willfully surrender your pocketbook. But ultimately they are merely pawns picked from the toolbox of the world. Romans 12:2 says "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." Conformity to this world is the opposite of what God wants. I also think of Matthew 16:26 where Jesus says "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" To gain a lifetime of fleeting entertainment to only find out that you've lost it all is tragic. But perhaps the most tragic example is in Jesus' parable of the four soils. In the parable, Christ uses the story of a seed sower to illustrate someone preaching the truth of the Gospel. . . God's word. And as the sower scatters his seed, some falls into thorny ground. Oh, the seed grows, but so do thorny vines. And the thorny vines eventually choke the life out of the tender plant from the seed. Christ explains the meaning this way: "Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful."

I pray that is not you, my friend. It is easy to fill our lives with "stuff," only to wake up at the end of our life's journey and wonder where it all went. Our lives are but vapors. . . here today and gone tomorrow. Paul says in Colossians 3 that if "you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth." There we will find treasure that moth and rust cannot destroy. And the thief of time cannot take it away. There, we will find the treasure of Christ.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin

Charles Spurgeon-

1 John 1:7 - but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

“Cleanseth,” says the text—not “shall cleanse.” There are multitudes who think that as a dying hope they may look forward to pardon. Oh! how infinitely better to have cleansing now than to depend on the bare possibility of forgiveness when I come to die. Some imagine that a sense of pardon is an attainment only obtainable after many years of Christian experience. But forgiveness of sin is a present thing—a privilege for this day, a joy for this very hour. The moment a sinner trusts Jesus he is fully forgiven. The text, being written in the present tense, also indicates continuance; it was “cleanseth” yesterday, it is “cleanseth” today, it will be “cleanseth” tomorrow: it will be always so with you, Christian, until you cross the river; every hour you may come to this fountain, for it cleanseth still. Notice, likewise, the completeness of the cleansing, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin”—not only from sin, but “from all sin.” Reader, I cannot tell you the exceeding sweetness of this word, but I pray God the Holy Ghost to give you a taste of it. Manifold are our sins against God. Whether the bill be little or great, the same receipt can discharge one as the other. The blood of Jesus Christ is as blessed and divine a payment for the transgressions of blaspheming Peter as for the shortcomings of loving John; our iniquity is gone, all gone at once, and all gone forever. Blessed completeness! What a sweet theme to dwell upon as one gives himself to sleep.

“Sins against a holy God;
Sins against his righteous laws;
Sins against his love, his blood;
Sins against his name and cause;
Sins immense as is the sea-
From them all he cleanseth me.”

Monday, July 21, 2008

Depravity of Man - Up Close and Personal

If you do not believe in the total depravity of man - that man is inherently evil and born that way - I invite you to slow down and take a look around.

As evangelists who hit the streets and talk to people one on one, we are forced to slow down, take a thoughtful look at what is going on around us, and engage people in the truth of the Gospel. One of our favorite places to go is Paducah's Downtown After Dinner. If you want examples of depravity, you can find them here. Outside of the entertainment areas on Broadway, you can find large group of roaming kids, many dropped off and left unsupervised by their parents. Some are as young as twelve. In passing them by while walking around downtown, one can hear and see some pretty shocking things. We have seen many fights start, heard language that would make a hardened criminal blush, and seen clothing that was inappropriate both in it's content and lack of content. It boils down to depravity.

Just this past weekend two women around the age of twenty were brutally fighting on the sidewalk in front of the Quilt Museum. One had the other on the sidewalk and appeared to be trying to bash the girl's head into the concrete. The other had her teeth clenched down on the other girl. A group of people stood around just watching. Several people approached trying to break up the fight, but the crowd around them prevented them from doing so. Who was in the crowd? Both girls' parents. One woman said, "I ain't going to break it up, and you ain't either. The girl on the bottom is my daughter, and if she can't take it, she ain't worth it!" Depravity.

But even on Broadway, in the middle of the entertainment, is there depravity? Absolutely! Just ask yourself if all that takes place there is pleasing to God? Depravity is best understood when you see things from His perspective. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with entertainment, but you see people who live their lives without regard to God. They shun Him and go their own way. They care not for the one who gave them life and breath and sustains their very being every single day. They do not acknowledge Him. They are depraved.

If you are not yet convinced, I will give you one more example. Take a look at Myspace. Look at the profiles of people who live in your hometown. The Internet lets people feel more comfortable in expressing themselves in ways that they may not be able to in other public realms. And most of the time, it is not good. The language is fueled by cursings, sexuality, and everything a person puts out in the public eye that they use to communicate "this is who I am!" And, once again, take a look at it from God's perspective. Look at these things and ask, "Is this pleasing to God?"

So what about your own heart? Are you depraved in God's eyes? How do you match up to God's standard of what is acceptable or unacceptable to Him? You see, God demands perfection! You can ask yourself a few questions to see how you stack up. How many lies have you told in your life? Have you ever stolen anything? Have you ever looked at someone with lustful thoughts? Jesus said if you even look with lust, you have committed adultery already in your heart. Have you ever hated anyone? Hate in the heart is the same as murder to God. As you can see by facing just a few of the Ten Commandments, we fall woefully short. And these things are only a reflection of God's righteousness! Paul told us in Romans that we are ALL wicked in God's eyes. Read this passage from Romans and apply it to yourself. I have put it in first person to help: “ There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. I have turned aside; I have become unprofitable; I do no good. My throat is an open tomb; With my tongue I have practiced deceit. The poison of asps is under my lips. My mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. My feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in my ways; And the way of peace they I have not known. There is no fear of God before my eyes.” Now you may say, no, I have done some good! But remember, we have to see things from God's point of view. What may seem good to us is as nothing compared to the righteousness of God. Our best works are no better than excrement.

Paul says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. So what are we to do? Without perfection, we do not enter in to the presence of God, and are destined to eternal destruction where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Yet in this, there is good news. Because while we were still sinners, Christ came to die for us. Christ is the expression of one who did not fall short of the glory of God. He is the glory of God! Christ lived a perfect life. Christ had not the depraved nature of you and I. And, when he hung on the cross, he took the wrath of God that you and I deserved. God poured out his anger against sin onto His only begotten son so that you and I could walk free. Our sin incurred a debt against God that we could never repay. That is why hell is eternal. But Christ stepped in and paid that debt once and for all. And he calls us to repent (turn away from our sin) and put our trust, our lives, and our all in His hands. Then, He says he takes out the heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh. We begin to hate the sin we once loved and love the God we once hated. Without pure righteousness, we cannot enter into the presence of God and will enter into eternal punishment. But when we cry out to Him, he stoops down, picks us up, and gives us His righteousness.

Romans 3: 21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Working FOR the glory of God?

I have heard it said that we are created to bring God glory. While it may be rightly so, we spend our Christian lives working for the glory of God. We do what we can for His glory. We pray for God to bless our toil to his honor. Yet if we are stillborn sinners, lifeless and dead in trespasses, taken from the womb of sin, what can our work accomplish for God’s benefit? If our existence is an affront to God’s holiness, how can the labor of our minds and hands bless Him? Yet even while we are dead and stinking in the grave, the life of Christ beats within the convert’s heart. God takes what is death and, through the propitiatory sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus Christ, He lives His life through us. Our work is not just a means to the ends of glorifying God. Our death to sin, our death to self, our death to pride. . . allows Christ to work in and through us for his own glory. It is not simply doing what we can to repay Christ for His mercy. It is an utterly, and wholly death to self that allows Christ to take up our flesh for the working of His hands.