Wednesday, August 5, 2009

This Present Evil Age: Worldliness Part Three

by Michael Durham (listen to all four parts of this blog entry by downloading it in MP3 format)

It motivates you to protect yourself.
Its motto is, “You must guard your heart, your reputation, your possessions, and your life. You can’t trust that to anyone; it is up to you.” I cannot expose this enough! It is so pervasive because it is so natural to us!

Much of what we call common sense is nothing more than worldly wisdom, the spirit of this present evil age. Therefore, you can be motivated by this spirit and not even know it. Here is the power of the mask: as we learn to take off our masks, you will find something resisting. It is the voice of worldliness saying, “You cannot let people know the real you! You must protect yourself against pain, hurt and rejection!” But, brothers and sisters, that is not the Spirit of Christ. The Lord bids you to trust Him with your life. He will bring pain into your life, and when He brings pain by the rejection of someone you hold dear, trust Him that it is for your good! Why? “What good can there be in that kind of pain, in someone hurting me like that?” you ask.

I can understand the anger of the question, and have only one answer. By submitting to your pain, you understand that your life is not to be something clung to as precious. It is rejection, pain, hurt and difficulty that keeps teaching you your life is not precious.

I don’t know what Tolkein intended to represent when he wrote of the ring of power; I’m sure it meant many things. But to me this morning it means one thing: your life. What will you do? What lengths will you go to, to hold your life as precious to you? That is the spirit of this present evil age. It is worldliness, and it is choking Christ in you. It is so unlike Jesus, who made Himself of no reputation and took upon Himself the form of a slave. God is not against you by introducing you to pain; He is actually trying to protect you against the person you are trying to protect: you!

This same spirit that keeps men from coming to Christ keeps Christians fearful. It can work just the opposite of self-promotion, causing you to hide in order to protect yourself. You don’t let anyone get close to you, and the few people you do allow near you, you manipulate by giving or withholding your love and affection.
Some are kept from Christ, this morning, because the spirit of this present evil age has manipulated you to believe there is some other way besides Calvary. There’s no better place to see this than in John Bunyan’s dream called, Pilgrim’s Progress, which I love. The pilgrim is loaded down with the burden of his sin. Evangelist has sent him to a place called the Wicket-gate, a narrow little gate that leads on a narrow pathway up a hill to a cross. Do you see the imagery? Burdened with sin, the only way to be free is Calvary. But Worldly Wiseman crosses Christian’s path and diverts him from Wicket-gate.

“I would advise thee, then, that thou with all speed get thyself rid of thy burden; for thou wilt never be settled in thy mind till then: nor canst thou enjoy the benefits of the blessings which God hath bestowed upon thee till then,” says Worldly Wiseman to the pilgrim, Christian. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Christian: “That is that which I seek for, even to be rid of this heavy burden: but get it off myself I cannot, nor is there any man in our country that can take it off my shoulders; therefore am I going this way, as I told you, that I may be rid of my burden.” Does that sound familiar? Is there a load on you, like a concrete block on your chest, which no one has been able to lift?

Wiseman: “Who bid thee go this way to be rid of thy burden?”

Christian: “A man that appeared to me to be a very great and honorable person: his name, as I remember, is Evangelist.”

Wiseman: “I beshrew (condemn) him for his counsel! there is not a more dangerous and troublesome way in the world than is that into which he hath directed thee; and that thou shalt find, if thou wilt be ruled by his counsel. Thou hast met with something, as I perceive, already; for I see the dirt of the Slough of Despond is upon thee: but that slough is the beginning of the sorrows that do attend those that go on in that way. Hear me; I am older than thou: thou art like to meet with, in the way which thou goest, wearisomeness, painfulness, hunger, perils, nakedness, sword, lions, dragons, darkness, and, in a word, death, and what not. These things are certainly true, having been confirmed by many testimonies. And should a man so carelessly cast away himself, by giving heed to a stranger?”

Interesting question, since Worldly Wiseman is himself a stranger to Christian.
What I want you to notice is that Worldly Wiseman didn’t argue that Christian needed to get rid of his sin; he agreed Christian needed to get rid of his sin! But his argument was “You cannot trust the Gospel or the Gospel preacher who gave it to you!”

How many times have you heard that same message? How many times have I proclaimed the Gospel to you? But you heard another voice, an attitude of the heart that said, “Surely, if I can do the same things you all do, then why do I need to go to Calvary and die? Surely if I can learn your doctrine, I shall be rewarded as you! If I can perform and talk as you all do, surely God will accept me in the end!” My friend, that is the spirit of this present evil age! It will damn your soul as it almost did Christian, for when he diverted from the path and took Worldly Wiseman’s advice, his burden got heavier. It increased to the point he was almost to death, until the Gospel preacher came and put him back on the right path.

There is only one thing you need today, and it is not to protect yourself from pain, but to embrace it and let God deliver you. That doesn’t make sense to you, I know. Ask God to illuminate your mind and give you an understanding beyond just intellect. Ask Him to show you what I’m talking about, and He will. Say, “Tell, me, what does this mean, that I must embrace the pain in order that I may live?” He will show you Jesus, dying on a cross for your sins. He will show you a Savior bleeding on your behalf, One who suffered not because He had sinned, but because He was sinless, and thereby could be the only sacrifice for your sin. He will show you three days later, in the empty tomb where they had lay His body—the grave could not hold Him. “Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er His foes!” And you begin to see that when a man accepts God’s way, God will exalt him in due season.

The apostle Peter says in his epistle, “humble yourself, and in due season God will exalt you.” The way up is down! No, it doesn’t make sense, but who asked you to approve of God’s wisdom? Who gave you the intellect that you can discern God’s ways as being right or wrong? Do you have the intellect of God? No, nor do I. But I can testify that I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see. I was dead; now I’m alive. Can you testify to that? If you can’t, don’t listen to the spirit of this present evil age. It will lie to you all the way to your grave. For that is where it means to send you!

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