Are you holy? What does it mean to be holy? How does one become holy?
The Apostle Peter, speaking to Christians, commands…
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:13-16 ESV).
Holiness isn’t just to be the possession of pastors or preachers or seminary professors. Everyone who names the name of the Lord Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior is to be holy. If you are a Christian you are commanded to be holy. But, again what does that mean? And how does one become holy?
Well, there’s a story in the Old Testament that I want focus on that teaches us what holiness is and in stark terms how seriously God takes holiness and the consequences of being unholy.
The story takes place in the book of Joshua, specifically in chapters 3 through 7. It tells the story of Joshua leading the Israelites into Canaan to take possession of it in fulfillment of God’s promise to them to have it as their home.
Their first combat mission was to take the city of Jericho. And they overwhelmingly succeeded in doing so having followed God’s unorthodox battle plan with apparently no loss of Israelite life.
Things were looking good for the Israelites. So, they engaged the enemy again, going up against the little town of Ai. After Jericho, Ai should have been easily taken. But they didn’t consult God first. And the results of the battle were a disaster. The Israelites fled from before the men of Ai and ended up killing some of the Israelite solders.
Joshua couldn’t understand why they had been defeated, badly. He fell on his face before God (something he should have done before going to battle against Ai). Eventually God told him…
“Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you” (Joshua 7:11-12 ESV).
Having entered the land of Canaan the Israelites consecrated themselves unto the Lord. They were committing themselves to be holy as He is holy. But the foundation of holiness is obedience and someone in the camp of Israel had disobeyed God’s commandments. Israel was no longer holy. As a consequence she could no longer stand before her enemies.
The situation Joshua found himself in was precarious and very dangerous. They were in enemy territory. And those enemies would soon learn of Israelite’s defeat at Ai. That would embolden them to consolidate their forces and wipe out the Israelites. Therefore, it was imperative that the holiness that Israel had been clothed with when they consecrated themselves upon entering Canaan be regained.
They did and went on to take Ai.
What’s this got to do with us as Christians? We are at war with the powers of darkness, Satan and his demonic warriors. It is only when we are clothed with holiness that we are able to defeat these powers. The story in Joshua teaches us what it means to be holy, what happens when that holiness is compromised, and how to regain that holiness. Though this story happened thousands of years ago by reading and studying it we as Christians can gain insight into how to fulfill the command…
“You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16 ESV).
Now, if you have ever tried to be holy by gritting your teeth, having believed your willpower is sufficient to enable you to become holy you have undoubtedly been frustrated and thrown up your hands in despair. Well, let me try to encourage you. I’ll throw a teaser out there for you to ponder (the answer to which is revealed when you listen to the sermon) revealing how you can be holy.
God isn’t just giving us a command to be holy; He’s giving us something else too. What? Listen to the sermon and find out.
“Remember, God isn’t asking you if you’re able to be holy; He’s asking you if you’re willing to be made holy.”
It has become fashionable in the last several years for churches to make themselves more seeker friendly, a term that refers to those who are seeking to know more about Christianity in general and Jesus in particular. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with churches exploring ways to attract those who are seeking to find the Truth. Paul himself said…
“I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23 ESV).
Paul was a “Seeker Friendly” Apostle.
But there’s a difference between Paul’s Seeker approach and some of today’s Seeker Friendly churches.
Prior to Paul telling us that he became all things to all people that he might save some of them, he said…
“To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak” (1 Corinthians 9:20-22 ESV).
What Paul is saying is that he began his gospel message with Seekers at the point of their current understanding of God, Jesus, and Christianity. Few gentiles would have the same knowledge of Yahweh as Jews. So his message would be tailored with that in mind. His message to Pharisees, who would certainly qualify as those under the Law of God, would be different from those who believed the laws in the Bible were suggestions rather than commandments. We certainly see this today.
But regardless of where Paul started his Gospel message, he always ended up in the same place. In the end everyone who listened to Paul preach knew that they were sinners in need of forgiveness and that that forgiveness was only found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They knew that…
“The sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV).
Paul (and Jesus) met Seekers where they were spiritually, but told them the truth, even if that meant the Seekers might become uncomfortable and leave. The intent of speaking the Truth is not to make them uncomfortable or for them to leave, but neither is the intent of speaking the Truth meant for them to remain in their sins.
Not everyone Paul preached to became Believers. Not everyone Jesus preached to became Believers. Often the Seekers left.
What we’re going to talk about this morning is an episode in Jesus’ life where a Seeker came to Him, Jesus preached the Gospel to him, and the Seeker refused to accept the Truth. He left Jesus.
This episode is told to us in Luke 18:18-23…
“And a ruler asked him (Jesus), ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: “Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, ‘All these I have kept from my youth.’ When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich” (Luke 18:18-23 ESV).
I want to point out several things about this encounter between this Seeker and Jesus.
The parallel accounts of this episode are found in Matthew 19:16-22 and Mark 10:17-22. They shed extra light on certain aspects of this story that I think are important.
We know from Luke’s account that this man, this Seeker was a ruler. It doesn’t say a ruler of what, but being a ruler necessarily implies a person of authority. In that respect he differed from the rest of Jesus’ closest disciples. Peter, James, John, and Andrew were common fishermen for example. The rest of the Apostles, with the possible exception of Judas Iscariot, were ordinary working men; certainly not rulers. Also, we learn later in the story that this man was very rich. Again, this is a stark contrast between himself and at least most of those who followed Jesus who were generally poor.
The point is Jesus’ preaching touched something deep within the hearts of all people, rich or poor. He didn’t preach one sermon to the rich and another to the poor. He preached the Truth. And it’s the Truth that exposes the deepest part of man’s need which is found in his spirit, a spirit that has a hole within it that is shaped like God.
When the Truth is uncompromisingly preached the Seeker’s spiritual hunger pangs awaken within him compelling him, driving him to find the “food” that will satisfy his hunger. You see, there’s an emptiness within man, a gnawing hunger, whether rich or poor, that money, pleasure, leisure, fame, and even good deeds can’t satisfy.
This rich ruler was spiritually hungry which is revealed when he asks Jesus the question…
“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life” (Luke 18:18 ESV)?
And he was urgently seeking food to satisfy that hunger.
Think for a moment, if you were really hungry, starving, and you smelled food cooking somewhere, what would you do? How would you react? Would you look at your watch and see if it’s suppertime? Would you take a shower, brush your teeth, comb your hair, put on nice, clean clothes, put on your favorite cologne or perfume? Probably not.
If you’re truly starving all you want to do is get food – as quickly as possible. And if you have to beg for it, so be it. Dignity is not a consideration when you’re starving.
What’s that got to do with this ruler coming to Jesus seeking what he must do to inherit eternal life?
This ruler, this Seeker, didn’t just happen to see Jesus walking along the road and decide on a whim to ask Him about eternal life. He eagerly sought Jesus out, just like a starving man would seek out food. How do I know that?
Listen to how Mark describes how this ruler sought Jesus out.
“And as he (Jesus) was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him” (Mark 10:17 ESV).
Notice Jesus was leaving when this ruler saw him; Jesus was setting out on a journey. Who knew when He would be back again, or if He would be back again? So this ruler, spiritually hungry, desperate to know what he needed to do to satisfy the gnawing hunger he felt within his spirit, threw aside all decorum and ran, ran toward Jesus before He could get away, and not only ran toward Him, but kneeled before Him.
Now it would have been one thing for a commoner or a beggar to desperately run toward Jesus and kneel before Him to ask a question, but for a rich ruler, someone dressed in expensive clothes and probably decked out with gold rings and jewelry to have ran after Jesus and knell before Him would have been a sight to see.
Image if you had been teaching or preaching to crowds about Jesus and as you were leaving Bill Gates runs up to you as fast as he can and kneels down at your feet to ask you what he must do to inherit eternal life. That would be news. Well, that would be similar to what this scene would have been like with Jesus and the rich ruler.
This rich ruler’s, this Seeker’s, heart was in the right place and right position when he came to Jesus. That is, he had run to Jesus, the only One who could spiritually feed him, and he had shown reverence to Jesus by kneeling before Him. Then he asks the question…
“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life” (Luke 18:18 ESV)?
Good question. Very good question. People ask it all the time in one form or another. But it often reveals an inherent misconception of the truth concerning salvation or gaining eternal life as it did here. Asking this question usually implies that one must earn his salvation. What must I do? What act must I perform? What commandment must I obey?
From his question Jesus knew this Seeker believed he must obey a commandment or commandments to earn eternal life. So, rather than immediately pointing out that one can’t earn one’s salvation, but rather it’s by grace that one is saved, not by works, Jesus does something we should take note of and learn.
Since this ruler, this Seeker, believed he needed to do a good deed in order to inherit eternal life Jesus asked him…
“Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19 ESV).
Ever wonder why Jesus told him that? There are various reasons given by various scholars. I think most of them lean toward the thought that Jesus was asking this ruler if he thought that He, Jesus, was God since he called Him good. And only God is good. That’s possible and I’m no scholar, but I don’t think that’s what was going on in Jesus’ mind.
I think Jesus, because He was able to discern the true spiritual condition of those He met, knew immediately what this ruler’s problems were. And one of those problems was that he thought he was good. He needed to learn he wasn’t. So, Jesus began His answer to him by saying that only God is good and since only God is good, that meant that he, the ruler, wasn’t good. And since he wasn’t good any good deed he did wouldn’t really be good because it would have an element of evil in it – most likely, pride.
Paul once said…
“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Romans 7:18 ESV).
And that’s true for all of us outside of Jesus for only He is good for only He is God. Therefore, if we are to truly be good we must have the Holy Spirit living within us. For outside of Christ we are not good – no matter how many commandments we obey.
And this was what Jesus was trying to teach this Seeker. That’s why He immediately after telling Him only God was good said…
“You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother’” (Luke 18:20-21 ESV).
Matthew’s Gospel includes in the list…
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:19 ESV).
Why would Jesus recite these commandments to this ruler, this Seeker? Jesus knew that simply obeying the commandments he listed wouldn’t save this man. Obedience to them wouldn’t qualify him to inherit eternal life. Jesus listed these commandments to him because He was leading him from where he was spiritually – thinking he could inherit eternal life by being good – to where he needed to be – inheriting eternal life is a gift freely given by God’s grace.
Where the ruler was at spiritually was a good-works based religion. Jesus needed to lead him to a grace-based relationship with Himself. So, how’s Jesus going to do that?
Where did these commandments come from that Jesus quoted to this ruler, this Seeker? The Ten Commandments. “Do not commit adultery” – commandment number 7; “Do not murder” – commandment number 6; “Do not steal” – commandment number 8; “Do not bear false witness” – commandment number 9; “Honor your father and mother” – commandment number 5.
Just as an aside, notice Jesus didn’t name the commandments in numerical order. Why? I believe it’s because He was emphasizing that these laws are equal in importance.
This is what James teaches us when he says…
“For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law” (James 2:10-11 ESV).
Now, when this ruler heard Jesus’ answer to his question about what he needed to do to inherit eternal life he quickly answered…
“All these I have kept from my youth” (Luke 18:21 ESV).
This ruler was telling Jesus he had never committed adultery, never murdered anyone, never stolen anything, never lied, and always held his father and mother in honor. That’s impressive. And it’s possible he was telling the truth, at least as far as his understanding was of what it meant to keep those laws. Jesus certainly didn’t question his integrity though he could have used this opportunity to quote to this ruler the part of one of His sermons that said…
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28 ESV).
Jesus could have done that, revealed to this ruler what it meant to truly keep the spirit of these commandments and possibly convinced this Seeker he hadn’t kept them, or at least not kept one or two of them anyway. But Jesus didn’t do that. Why? Because this Seeker had a greater need than just keeping these five commandments. Jesus knew that even if he kept these five commandments perfectly he still would not inherit eternal life. Jesus knew that even if this Seeker kept these five commandments perfectly he would still feel the need for something more, he would still experience the hunger pangs he was experiencing that drove him to Jesus in the first place.
So what was that greater need this Seeker needed in order to inherit eternal life? The answer is revealed when we look at the commandments Jesus didn’t mention to the ruler when Jesus first answered his question…
“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life” (Luke 18:18 ESV)?
When Jesus responded to the ruler’s question as to what he needed to do to inherit eternal life He recited five of the Ten Commandments. He did not recite the first four of the commandments or the 10th commandment. Do you know why?
The answer is discovered when we realize that true worship of God is lived out in the shape of a cross, a “T”. That is, true worship is two-fold – horizontal and vertical. Did you realize that the way we treat others is part of our worship?
For the most part this ruler’s horizontal worship, his treatment of others was fine, but not perfect. It was the ruler’s vertical worship that was causing his sense of lacking something, his spiritual hunger pangs.
You see, the commandments Jesus recited to the ruler, the ones he told Jesus he had kept from his youth – “Do not commit adultery”, “Do not murder”, “Do not steal”, “Do not bear false witness”, “Honor your father and mother” – are all horizontal worship, worship that pertains to one’s fellowman. And it appears his relationship with his fellowman was in pretty good shape. And no doubt many people considered him a good man.
But what Jesus was doing when He talked with this ruler, this Seeker, was to try and get him to see that his faith was founded upon a horizontal lifestyle of worship only by making a contrast between the five commandments He recited and the ones He didn’t recite. What were the commandments Jesus didn’t recite?
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…
“You shall not covet” (Ex 20:3-5, 7-8, 12, 17 ESV).
Notice, all of these commandments except the last one – “You shall not covet” – which is the 10th commandment, directly involve man’s relationship with God; that is, they involve his vertical worship.
This is why Jesus, after first reciting the five commandments that relate to one’s fellowman and the ruler confidently telling Jesus he had kept these commandments since he was young, He told him…
“One thing you still lack” (Luke 18:22 ESV).
When Jesus said this I can imagine this ruler anxiously waiting to hear what the one thing was that he lacked. He was going to get his answer at last. He was going to find out what he needed to do to fill his spiritual belly so that he could satisfy the hunger that gnawed at his spirit and inherit eternal life. I can picture him leaning closer to Jesus to make sure he clearly heard everything Jesus was going to say to him. And then I can imagine the pain and disappointment he experienced when Jesus told him…
“Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven…” (Luke 18:22a ESV).
That must have felt like a punch to the gut to this rich young ruler; and unreasonable. I can hear this ruler saying…
“You want me to do what? Sell everything I have and then give away all the money? Why? I already give to charity. I already help others. Just ask them. I’m a good man.”
Then Jesus’ words would likely come back to him, haunting him…
“No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19 ESV).
At this point in Jesus’ conversation with this Seeker the Gospel of Mark tells us…
“He (the rich ruler) was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:22 KJV).
This word “grieved” is a strong word. I would say it borders on agony of mind. It’s the word used in Matthew to describe Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane after He said to His disciples…
“‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed” (Matthew 26:36-37 NASU).
Jesus then told Peter, James, and John to stay where they were as He went a little further on. He was all alone now. And it is at this time that Luke tells us that Jesus…
“Being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44 ESV).
There was an intense war going on within Jesus. He faced unspeakable pain, both physical in the form of being scourged with a whip that would rip the flesh from His body with each strike, and the actual crucifixion itself, and spiritually as the sins of the whole world would be placed upon Him that He might pay the price to redeem mankind from every sin providing forgiveness for everyone. And Jesus prayed…
“Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36 ESV).
Jesus was seeking for an alternative for Him having to endure the pain of the Cross, and the pain of paying the price for sin. And He could have left. But He stayed.
When a similar war was going on within the rich ruler he was saddened to the point of being in agony of mind when Jesus told him what God’s will was for him. Again, I can almost hear him saying to himself…
“What should I do? Should I sell everything I have and give it away? I’ve worked so hard for it. My money provides me with everything I need. It makes it possible for me to eat, to buy clothes, to have a place to live. Why should I give it all away?”
What was he really saying?
“Money is my god.”
Money was his idol – and that’s what Jesus was trying to teach him.
He was telling this Seeker:
“You are an idolater. Your god is not Yahweh; it’s money. The coins in your pocket bear the image of your god. You call yourself a follower of God, but you are a follower in name only. You don’t trust God to provide for you. And besides all that, for all your goodness toward your fellow man, you still see things others have and want them for yourself. You obey the commandments that make you look good to others, but not the ones that make you good as God is good because Yahweh is not your God.”
But Jesus was telling this ruler that even selling everything he had and giving it to the needy wasn’t enough. To drive the point home that money was his idol, his god, in case this ruler wanted to argue with Him, Jesus added one other stipulation to what this Seeker must do in order to inherit eternal life. When Jesus told him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor He added this…
“And come, follow me” (Luke 18:22b ESV).
It’s possible, just possible that if Jesus had told the ruler to sell everything he had and give it to the needy he may have thought something like this…
“Hey, I know how to make money. I’ve done it before and there’s no reason I can’t do it again. If selling everything I currently own and giving it to the poor is what it takes to inherit eternal life I’ll do it.”
But when Jesus added the stipulation…
“And come, follow me” (Luke 18:22b ESV)…
and he looked at how meagerly Jesus and His disciples lived, the places they lived, the food they ate, the clothes they wore, all the very opposite of the type of lifestyle he was used to living, and realized he would probably never be rich again if he followed Jesus he turned and left. What he needed money couldn’t buy. But that’s all he had because money was his god, his idol.
Jesus was once asked…
“‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets’” (Matthew 22:36-40 ESV).
The ruler obeyed the second greatest commandment admirably. For the most part he loved his neighbor as himself. But for all the good he did for his fellowman he was unable and unwilling to obey the greatest commandment to…
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37 ESV).
Rather, he loved his god, his idol with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his mind. And he loved his god more than eternal life.
This is why you can be a good, moral person and still not be saved. Satan doesn’t care if you worship God horizontally as long as you don’t worship him vertically.
This Seeker had been plainly told by Jesus the answer to his question…
“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life” (Luke 18:18 ESV)?
But he couldn’t bear the answer.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself” (Luke 9:23-25 ESV)?
If you ask Jesus what you must do to inherit eternal life don’t be surprised if Jesus begins idol talk with you. Or if someone asks you what they must do to inherit eternal life you need to begin idol talk with them.
As the Apostle John warns us…
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21 ESV)…
because that’s what you must do to inherit eternal life.
Mention the mark of the beast and the most common response you get has something to do with the number 666. That’s understandable since the book of Revelation says the mark of the beast is the name of the beast or the number of its name which we are told is 666.
Further, most popular beliefs about this mark is that it will be a tattoo of the number “666” or something else on the right hand or forehead. I don’t believe that. Others believe it will be a computer chip implanted inside the right hand or forehead. I don’t believe that.
I will tell you what I believe it is and why I believe it and you are free to agree with me or not. It’s more than a tattoo or computer chip – much more. In fact, there are people today who bear this mark and are doing everything they can to stamp you with it. And unless you understand exactly what this mark is they will succeed in doing just that. You won’t see it on your right hand or your forehead, but it will be there.
1 Corinthians 15:33 says: “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (NASB). This is true. It has been said: “Show me the people your kids run with and I’ll tell you the character of your kids.” But that’s also true of us.
As Christians the most important person we should keep company with is Jesus Christ. But we need His company in ways that go deeper than reading the Bible or praying or coming together to fellowship with each other though all of these things are needful. The Apostles experienced these things when Jesus walked the earth for three years, but it wasn’t enough to keep them from falling away when He was arrested and crucified. They needed to keep company with Jesus in a different way. And they did. It was then that they were able to stand before the enemies of the Kingdom of God.
We need to keep company with Jesus in the same way. So, come along and listen to “The Company We Keep” and find out how we do that.
When some people are told that Jesus had to die in order for us to be forgiven of our sins the response is often: “Why couldn’t God just forgive us if He’s a loving God?”. That’s a good question and it deserves a solid answer and there’s no better time to answer that question then when we celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. So, if you really want to know the answer join us as we listen to the sermon: “Why Jesus Had To Die”.
With the approach of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus, I want to share this sermon that tells the story of a resurrection just a few days before His own.
In John 11 we are told the story of a family Jesus loved, two sisters, Martha and Mary, and their brother, Lazarus. Lazarus was sick so his sisters sent messengers to Jesus to come heal Him. Hearing this news Jesus intentionally remained where He was for two days before beginning to walk to where Martha and Mary and Lazarus lived. By the time He arrived He was told Lazarus had died four days earlier. Jesus was too late. Or was He?
Listen to the sermon, “Lazarus, Come Forth” for the answer to that question as well as why He waited before going to see Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.
There is much truth packed into this story. Join me as we unpack it.
The book of 3 John is a letter written to a church about 85 to 95 AD. It is only 15 verses long, but in those 15 verses the word “truth” or ‘true” is used 7 times. When a word is used that many times in such a short space it emphasizes the importance of that word to the writer and to the ones written to. Obviously, John thought truth was something this church needed to be reminded of. Why? Part of the reason is because there was a man in this church who had a problem with truth. He opposed the authority and teaching of John himself by slandering him. Also, he wouldn’t allow Christian missionaries that came to the church to preach the truth. This man’s name was Diotrephes and he was guilty of a very serious sin, but a very common sin, a sin that’s alive and well in the world today and even in some churches. What is this sin? It’s the First Sin. Listen along and discover just what this sin is.
“Who, in their right mind, would sacrifice one of their children to an idol? The answer is: No one in their right mind would offer one of their children in sacrifice to an idol. But, fallen man is frequently not in his right mind in the sense that he believes lies which contradict reality, which is what insanity is: believing lies rather than the truth.” – Terry L Brown, “An American Idol”
Once, as I was reading my Bible I came across a verse I had read many times before. The verse is Proverbs 18:14…
“The spirit of a man can endure his sickness, but as for a broken spirit who can bear it” (Proverbs 18:14 NASU)?
But as I read it the Holy Spirit impressed upon me that sin has not simply made man sick and in need of comfort and soothing words of encouragement or even a sermon every Sunday, all of which might perhaps make life bearable as one walks through a time of spiritual drought, but sin has badly broken the spirit within man by breaking his relationship with his Creator, God. And it quickly becomes apparent that it takes something more than loving actions and soothing words of one’s fellow Christian brothers and sisters or even the actions and soothing words of a pastor to put broken spirits, which result in broken people, back together again. We can be as loving as we know how to be and speak only positive, encouraging words, but the brokenness of those around us remains. Why? Because all too often our actions and words are missing something. And it’s that “something” that I want to tell you about so we can put broken spirits and broken people (including ourselves) back together again.
As I was mediating upon Proverbs 18:14 something I thought of as weird came to my mind. (That happens from time to time as I’m reading the Bible or praying or just thinking about God.) What was weird was a picture I felt the Holy Spirit was putting in my head; it was a picture of Humpty Dumpty. Yes, Humpty Dumpty; not exactly what I would normally call a highly spiritual thought, but as it turned out it was a spiritual thought.
As the picture of Humpty Dumpty came to my mind so did the words to the nursery rhyme associated with him…
“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
“Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
“And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men
“Couldn’t put Humpty together again.”
When this picture and rhyme came to my mind I could not figure out why God would show this to me. What has Humpty Dumpty falling off a wall and getting broken got do with me or other broken people?
But as I was thinking about this, what I felt the Holy Spirit telling me was: “Creation is broken; people are broken and they are looking in all the wrong places to heal their brokenness.” I thought, “I don’t understand”. The Holy Spirit said, “Read the words again.”
“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
“Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
“And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men
“Couldn’t put Humpty together again.”
What came to me was the fact that horses don’t fix things so of course they could not put Humpty back together again. But the king’s men should be able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. But the rhyme tells up they could not either.
When you think about it Humpty Dumpty is a pretty sad story. He is broken and no one can fix him. And that is when the Holy Spirit said to me: “Just like you. You’re broken and you look for the king’s horses and the king’s men to fix you, but they cannot.”
So I thought, “Who are the king’s horses and the king’s men?” That’s when the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to the fact that someone was missing in this nursery rhythm and that “someone” was the king. He is nowhere to be seen. We know he exists because Humpty Dumpty is surrounded by his horses and men, but he is not in the picture.
Folks, we are Humpty Dumpty. We put ourselves in dangerous spiritual situations (The Wall) by the choices we make and the company we keep. The Apostle James tells us…
“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15 ESV).
Let us not lie to one another or to ourselves. We know what our weaknesses are, yet we willingly put ourselves on a wall, that is, in situations where we can easily fall and be broken. We know if a show or movie we are watching is creating an evil desire within us; we know if walking in front of a bar will entice us to drink; we know if entering a home where drugs are we will take drugs. We know we will fall. We know we are going to be broken. We know. Yet, like Humpty Dumpty, we do it anyway.
The Bible also warns us about the company we keep. It says…
“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33 NASU).
Who you hang around with matters – a lot. We are all influenced more than we will admit by the company we keep. We want to fit in and if that means drinking or taking drugs or engaging in sexual relationships outside of marriage, we willingly climb up on a wall praying that we don’t fall off and hurt ourselves or others.
But we do fall. And we break – again. And once again we cry out for someone to put us back together, to heal our brokenness. But only the king can do that and he is not in the picture. Instead, we rely on “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men”.
What does that mean? What does it mean to rely on the king’s horses and the king’s men?
In the Bible horses are most often associated with warfare. Armies trusted in their strength and speed to overpower their enemies. The army with the most horses usually won the war, but not always.
When Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt after having been slaves there for over 400 years, Pharaoh, the king of Egypt who had at first told the Israelites to leave his country as fast as they could because of the plagues God had poured out on Egypt, changed his mind about letting them go and gathered his army together to go get them and bring them back. We are told…
“Then the Egyptians chased after them with all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and they overtook them camping by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon” (Exodus 14:9 NASU).
This of course frightened the Israelites because they had no horses at all and no army. Plus, they did not even have the option of running away because the Red Sea was in front of them. All they could do was watch as Pharaoh’s army ran toward them on horses. They knew they were going to be enslaved again. They feared their lives as slaves, as broken people, was going to continue. But God had other plans.
Listen to what Moses tells the Israelites…
“Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent” (Exodus 14:13-14 NASU).
It was then that God parted the Red Sea so the Israelites could go through it on dry ground. But when Pharaoh’s army, including his horses and chariots tried to do the same thing God caused the Red Sea to return to normal drowning Pharaoh’s army along with his horses.
My point is that while horses are useful and often give an advantage in warfare, to blindly rely on them is foolish. The Bible tells us…
“A horse is a false hope for victory; nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength” (Proverbs 21:31 NASU).
I think what the Holy Spirit was telling me by all this is that the king’s horses in Humpty Dumpty symbolize our natural strength and abilities to overcome things in our lives by our willpower. We think if we just stand up straight, tighten our muscles, and determine in our minds “I won’t drink, I won’t take drugs, I won’t look at pornography, I won’t swear, I won’t gossip, I won’t…” whatever it is that enslaves you we will be successful in winning the war going on inside of us. But do we? If we are honest we have to admit that we fail time after time and our brokenness remains. Why? Because “all the king’s horses”; that is, all the strength and willpower we possess cannot put us back together again. Oh, we might succeed for a little while, but Satan is relentless when it comes to attacking us and sooner or later our willpower, if that is all we rely on, will be overcome by our desires. We find ourselves still slaves to sin. We begin to realize that willpower alone will not save us; it will not put us back together again; we will remain broken.
So, what do we do? We turn to the king’s men. If the king’s horses cannot put us together again then perhaps the king’s men can. Who are these men?
I believe they symbolize pastors, preachers, prophets, elders, and leaders in the church. That may seem strange because is it not these men God has chosen to use to bring healing and salvation to a lost and sinful world, to put broken people back together again? Yes, but no pastor, no preacher, and no prophet, can heal the brokenness of anyone as long as the king is not in the picture.
The prophet Jeremiah lived during a time in Judah’s history when the nation was about to be destroyed by the Babylonian army because the Jews had forsaken the Lord and began worshipping false gods. Judah was on the verge of national extinction. As individuals they were broken people and their nation was about to fall off the wall, so to speak, and be broken right along with them.
So how did the prophets and priests seek to heal this situation, this spiritual brokenness? Did they look to God who was in actuality their King regardless of which man sat on the throne? No. Instead Jeremiah tells us,
“For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for gain, and from the prophet even to the priest everyone deals falsely. They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:13-14 NASU).
The word “peace” used here is the Hebrew “Shalom”. It is a word that means “completeness, wholeness”. It is the very opposite of brokenness.
What Jeremiah was saying is that the religious leaders – all the king’s men – were telling the people everything was just fine between them and God, that their brokenness was not real and that as soon as they realized that, the guilt and pain they were experiencing would go away.
Humpty Dumpty was being told words he wanted to hear by the king’s men, but he was not being told the truth so his brokenness remained. And his pain and his guilt would return continually to remind him that he was broken even though he was being told he was healed – just like what happens to us when we turn to pastors or preachers or teachers or prophets that lie to us and tell us things we want to hear rather than the truth, religious leaders that claim to speak for the King, but in reality do not even know Him.
Lies are Satan’s drug of choice because they numb the pain of the truth of our brokenness and he has many people who will dispense this drug Sunday after Sunday as people come to get their “fix” from all the king’s men who do not truly know the King.
That is why “all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.” The King is not part of their world though they like to brag they know Him and speak for Him. But He is nowhere around.
Our brokenness is only healed when it is the King who does the healing. There is a story in the book of Acts that tells of Peter and John going into the temple one day and a lame beggar, seeing them, asked them for money. Peter replied to him…
“‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!’ And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:6-8 ESV).
This naturally caused quite a stir. And just like us the people who had seen the miracle wanted to get a close look at who had performed it. When Peter noticed this he said…
“Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. And his (Jesus’) name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all” (Acts 3:12-13, 16 ESV).
Notice the lame man was put back together again; his brokenness was healed when the King was brought into the picture. This is what was missing in the Humpty Dumpty rhyme. And this is what is missing in our lives so much of the time.
We rely on horses – that is our own strength and willpower – to heal our brokenness until we realize…
“The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory belongs to the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31 NASU).
“The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue” (Psalm 33:17 ESV).
Try as we might we cannot heal ourselves. So we turn to others who claim to speak for the king who will tell us things we want to hear, but we discover that the lies they speak may make us feel good and mask the pain of our brokenness for a while, but the truth of our brokenness always surfaces and we hurt more and more. We begin to think it will never get better, we will always be broken and in pain; depression sets in because we have lost all hope and life has become a living hell.
What we discover is that we can choose our sins, but God chooses our consequences. What we learn is that God has a reason for allowing the pain of our brokenness to become so great we can no longer ignore it.
Listen to an encounter Jesus had with a man near a pool in Jerusalem who had been an invalid for 38 years.
“One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed’” (John 5:5-6 ESV)?
Does that not seem like a strange question? What person who has been sick 38 years would not want to be healed?
But the question is not as strange as it seems. Some of us say we want to be healed from drugs or alcohol or from addictions or from immoral lifestyles, but the truth is there is a part of us that enjoys partying or indulging our minds or bodies in lust and sexual immorality. We may hate ourselves in the morning, but we love our sins at night. I think it is even possible to pray for healing while hoping God will not answer the pray because we enjoy the thrill sin gives us, even if it is just for a brief moment.
Listen to the way the Amplified Bible translates these verses in John we just read.
“There was a certain man there who had suffered with a deep-seated and lingering disorder for thirty-eight years. When Jesus noticed him lying there [helpless], knowing that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, ‘Do you want to become well? [Are you really in earnest about getting well]’” (John 5:5-6 AMP)?
Are you really serious about getting well, about healing your brokenness? Or do you enjoy – at least a little – the attention and sympathy you get from others as you wallow in self-pity. Hey, I include myself in this.
As human beings we crave attention – and love. But we have discovered the world does not care about us, does not love us. And even more tragically all too often our own families do not care about us and do not love us. We begin to think we are worthless, except to be used and abused. So we begin to numb the pain anyway we can, including blaming others for what is wrong in our lives. We have the “Humpty Dumpty was pushed” syndrome.
So, God allows the pain and brokenness to become so bad that it becomes obvious to us that “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” cannot put us back together again.
That is when Jesus comes to us and says: “Do you want to become well? Are you really serious about getting well?” It is then that we will say “Yes”, and mean it.
If you want to get well, if you want to heal your brokenness, you have to invite the King into your life. You have to ask Jesus to come into your heart and lay your brokenness at His feet when He enters in.
Listen to Psalm 51:17…
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (NASU).
Thankfully, God does not ask us to bring our wholeness to Him, because we do not have any. Rather, He wants our brokenness so He can mold and shape us into the persons He created us to be.
Jesus will take your brokenness if you are serious about getting well and heal you. If you cry out to Him, to the King in heaven, He will silence the angels to hear your voice. Then we will be able to sing a new song that goes like this…
“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
“Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
“And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men
“Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
“But there’s one who can
“When He enters the scene,
“For He’s no mere man,
“He is Jesus – the King.”