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What are you afraid of? What do you fear?
It has been said that God will never give us more than we can handle. But that is not true. If it were fear would play a small or non-existent part in our lives. Why fear something we can handle? Instead, what we discover is that we frequently face circumstances and situations that we cannot handle, nor can they be handled with help from our friends and family. These circumstances and situations could rightly be referred to as giants – circumstances and situations – that produce varying levels of fear deep within us as we come face to face with our helplessness to overcome and “kill” them.
We learn that God does give us more than we can handle by bringing us face to face with these giants of fear, not so we can be “killed” by them, but to learn that it is only when we humble ourselves before Him and admit our helplessness to “kill” these giants of fear by our own strength and to confess that it is only by His grace that we are saved will fear fall dead before us.
There is a story in the Bible that describes this killing of fear by God’s grace perfectly. It is a well-known story. In fact, it is so well known that it is easy to overlook many of its details, but it is in the details that we discover the secret of killing fear. It is the story of David and Goliath found in the book of 1 Samuel. Allow me set the scene before we dig into it deeper.
At the time of this story in the history of Israel Saul is king and David, who will later become king, is just a young shepherd boy. Israel is at war with the Philistines and David’s older brothers were in Saul’s army. As these armies faced each other, one encamped on one side of a ravine and the other encamped on the opposite side, a Philistine of enormous size, Goliath by name, a giant man between 9-1/2 to 11 feet tall (think about that for a moment!), walked into the ravine separating the two armies and issued a challenge to the Israelite army…
“He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, ‘Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.’ And the Philistine said, ‘I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.’ When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid” (1 Samuel 17:8-11 ESV).
Fear gripped Saul and the Israel warriors. We are told that when Goliath issued this challenge…
“All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid” (1 Samuel 17:24-25 ESV).
It was during this time of fear among Saul and the Israelite army that David’s father, Jesse, sent David to the war front with provisions for his brothers and to check on their welfare. He is not there very long until Goliath advances toward the Israelite army and issued his challenge again. And David heard it. But his response is very different from the fear paralyzing Saul, his brothers, and the rest of the Israelite army. He said…
“Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God” (1 Samuel 17:26-27 ESV)?
There was no fear in David. In fact…
“David said to Saul, ‘Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine’” (1 Samuel 17:32 ESV).
At first, Saul tried to convince David that he did not stand a chance against the giant. But David recounted to Saul how he had saved the sheep he shepherded from both a bear and a lion by killing them and that he would do the same to Goliath because…
“he has defied the armies of the living God” (1 Samuel 17:36 ESV).
Saul, with few options to choose from, decided to allow David to fight Goliath, probably not expecting him to live through the situation, but he helped him the only way he knew how.
“Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, ‘I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.’ So David put them off. Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine.
“And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. And the Philistine said to David, ‘Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, ‘Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.’ Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.’
“When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.
“So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it” (1 Samuel 17:38-51 ESV).
When David confronted Goliath he was fearless. This stands in stark contrast to the warriors in Saul’s army.
When David confronted Goliath he was fearless. This stands in stark contrast to the warriors in Saul’s army. Obviously, David had learned how to kill his fear, but the solder’s had not. How was David able to do that, but not the soldiers? We are going to answer those questions in just a few minutes. But in order to do that we have to figure out where fear comes from.
We will begin our search in Genesis 3:8-10…
“They (Adam and Eve) heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself’” (Genesis 3:8-10 NASU).
No doubt God had walked in the garden before this and Adam and Eve welcomed Him; they did not hide. They did not fear His presence. They were not afraid. But this time they were afraid to be in God’s presence. There was fear. Why? Because they had disobeyed Him and knew they were naked. The innocence that had clothed them before their disobedience was gone.
You may be thinking: “What in the world does Adam and Eve and being naked have to do with David and Goliath and killing or fears.” But I think it will become clear to you shortly.
Notice the very first thing Adam and Eve did after they had sinned and their innocence was gone.
“And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths (Genesis 3:7 ESV).
They clothed themselves. They used what they could to hide their nakedness from each other. And it seemed to work. We do not read about them being ashamed or afraid to be in each other’s presence after they clothed themselves with fig leaves. They had successfully killed the fear their nakedness caused them to experience after disobeying God. But their fear soon returned when God came into their presence. They learned that the clothing they had made to hide their nakedness/shame from each other, the fig leaves, did not hide their nakedness/shame from God. That is when God, after having told Adam and Eve and the Serpent what the consequences of their sin were going to be, provided them more adequate clothing than fig leaves. What was that clothing?
“And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21 ESV).
Do you see what happened? Adam and Eve tried to fix their brokenness and kill the fear welling up inside of them by fixing the problem themselves. And they thought they had. The fig leaves hid their nakedness/shame from each other, but when they heard the sound of the Lord God coming near them the fear of the their sin, their brokenness, their shame, and their nakedness being discovered rushed back upon them – and they hid.
Why? Because the fig leaves represent good works. Man believes if he just does enough good things, says just the right things, or gives enough money to charity the bad things we have thought or said or done will never come back to haunt us and will lose their power to influence our lives from fear. But it does not work. We feel good for a while as long as our fig leaves – our masks – are in place, but Goliath soon appears. And he comes toward us and says: “You call yourself a Christian, a child of God? Who are you kidding? Look at you. You’re pathetic. You’re a liar; you’re a hypocrite. You’re no child of God. He doesn’t love you and I can prove it. Come fight me. If you’re a Christian come fight me.”
And what happens when the giants in our lives challenge us? All too often we react in the way that the men in Saul’s army…
“All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid” (1 Samuel 17:24 ESV).
Why do we run? We faithfully put on the armor of good deeds each day and our fears are hidden from the eyes of those around us. But then something happens, a giant comes along – we get sick, one of our children gets sick, our spouse picks up and leaves, we lose our job, our past is exposed, our hidden sins are exposed – and fear rises up before us. We discover clothing ourselves in fig leaves – good deeds – which is the armor the world uses to overcome fear (Saul’s armor) is only effective when life is going good. But the moment something beyond our control comes into our lives we discover we had not killed fear at all, just hidden it. And we begin to lose hope and depression sets in.
But what I want you to hear this morning is that we can the kill the fear within us.
The secret to killing fear is putting on the right clothing.
The secret to killing fear is putting on the right clothing. No, I am not talking about going out and buying a 3-piece suit or an expensive dress.
What clothing did David put on to kill the giant while all the warriors ran in fear of him?
“Then he (David) took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine”(1 Samuel 17:40 ESV).
David’s “armor” consisted of a staff, 5 rocks, a pouch to put the rocks in, and a slingshot. From a human standpoint David’s weapons were totally inadequate to defeat the giant before him who was clothed in a helmet, a coat of mail that covered his body, shin guards, a sword, a spear, and a javelin. And that does not even take into account the fact that Goliath was between 9-1/2 and 11 feet tall. He could have easily tore David apart with his bare hands.
But David boldly faced that which the rest feared, confident he would be victorious. In fact, we are told that David ran toward the giant. Why?
“Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied’” (1 Samuel 17:45 ESV).
David clothed himself in the name of the Lord. He faced his fears in the power and might of the Lord. He did not rely on manmade armor to protect him or manmade weapons to fight with. David knew that he would not be able to defeat Goliath if he relied on his own strength. He knew Goliath was capable of snapping him in two like a twig. But he did not face this giant – this fear – in his own strength. He knew it was only by God’s grace that he would be able to slay the giant. And it is by God’s grace that we slay our own giants – those fears in our lives that mock us and taunt us, threatening to kill us spiritually, emotionally, and sometimes even physically.
How do I know that? Because the Bible tells me so.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says…
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2-8-9 ESV).
Paul go on to tell us in Ephesians 6…
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:10-12 NASU).
Now, notice what David used to strike Goliath down so he could be killed – a smooth stone. Remember, as David ran toward Goliath he took one of the five smooth stones he had picked up from a brook from his pouch, put it into his slingshot, swung it around his head, and let it fly. It struck Goliath in the forehead, knocking him the ground. David ran up to Goliath, took Goliath’s own sword and cut his head off.
What has that got to do with grace and spiritual warfare – killing fear?
Goliath is described as being 6 cubits tall. Six, in the Bible represents sin and Satan. Thus, Goliath represents the demonic forces that attack us and the fears that result from this spiritual warfare. Five is the number for grace. Remember, it is by grace we are saved. David picked up 5 smooth stones from a brook and used one of them to bring Goliath down. This represents us accepting the fact that we cannot kill the fears that come against us by sheer willpower or by trying to be a good little boys and girls. Willpower, while helpful, has limits and our goodness outside of Christ is corrupted by sin. We have to accept the grace of God that He offers to us through the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior if we are to kill our fears.
It is also important to note David picked up the stones from a brook and that they had been worn smooth by the running water. These were not pieces of rock with rough edges and sharp points. The running water represents the cleansing and purifying power of the Holy Spirit. When you accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of your life the Holy Spirit comes into your heart and begins to overcome, slowly but surely, like running over a stone, the evil, the fears – the Goliaths, the giansts – that live there. He begins to “smooth” out your life.
It is also significant that David was able to bring Goliath down with only one stone. He did not have to use all five stones or even two stones. He used one. Now, remember, the number 5 represents grace. In other words David did not “use up” all the grace he had. He had four smooth stones left. What this teaches us is that God gives us an abundance of grace to kill whatever giants – fears – that come into our lives. And this is exactly what the Bible tells us.
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8 ESV).
This tells us God has given us all the grace we need to kill our fears and then some.
Notice also where David struck Goliath with the stone – in the forehead. The forehead represents how we think – what we believe. Satan would have us believe lies. God’s grace is given to kill the lies we have believed and replace the lies with the truth.
Thus, Jesus tells us…
“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32 NASU).
If we believe God’s Word – the Truth – and continue to believe it, we will kill, by God’s grace, the fears that want to kill us. Our fears live when we believe lies. Our fears are killed when we believe the truth.
And what is the Truth?
Think for a moment. What did God do for Adam and Eve after they had sinned and began living in fear?
“And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21 ESV).
He made them garments of skin. But garments of skin could only be provided for them if a death – a sacrifice – took place. God had to slay an innocence animal, which prefigured Jesus’ sacrifice upon the Cross, in order for Adam and Eve to continue to have a relationship with Him.
And this is exactly what God does for us. We cloth ourselves with good deeds – fig leaves – and our fears live on. But God offers us the opportunity to “cloth” ourselves with Jesus Christ, giving us the power – the grace – to kill our fears.
“The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:12-14 ESV).
Jesus sacrificed Himself upon the cross that we might have the opportunity to “cloth” ourselves with Him. Paul tells us…
“In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27 ESV).
And Jesus told us…
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 ESV).
Killing fear begins with accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior because when we do that God’s grace floods our beings with the Truth and we can face our giants – our fears – knowing it is God who fights for us. All we need do is trust and obey.
Most businesses and schools have a dress code. Some schools even require students to wear uniforms. Even gangs have a dress code of sorts. So would it surprise you to learn God has a dress code for His children, both on earth and in Heaven? He does and it’s important to know what it is.
Jesus tells a parable in Matthew 22 that emphasizes just how important proper clothing is.
“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”‘ But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.
“But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:2-14 NASU).
Simply reading this parable from a secular, unbiblical point of view the king appears to be ruthless, uncaring, self-centered, and intolerant of those who did not meet his fashion standards.
He sent his army to destroy those who slighted him and burn their city. That seems a little severe for what may be perceived as vengeance for having one’s feelings hurt. Just as perplexing is the punishment of the man who was improperly clothed. Perhaps it’s understandable for the king to destroy murderers, but to tie a wedding guest up for wearing the wrong clothes and throw him outside in the cold and dark where he may be in mortal danger, unable to defend himself, seems the actions of a madman.
But was the king mad; was he insane? Was the punishment he meted out to the improperly attired guest disproportionate to his “crime”? Yes, and I am going to tell you why.
According to some scholars when a person, such as a king, gave a wedding feast he supplied the necessary robes for the occasion. That would make sense in this story because the guests had been invited at a moment’s notice. It would have been very unlikely they would have had time to go home and dress even if they had the proper clothing. If this is true and the host, the king, did offer these hastily invited guests the proper clothing, the king’s displeasure becomes more understandable, and so does the guest being speechless when confronted by the king. He was without excuse for his unacceptable condition. The king had a right to be angry. He had a right to punish this ungrateful guest.
This guest depended upon the clothes he had on to be acceptable to the king. They may have been very fine clothes, custom tailored for him and worth a great deal of money. But as far as the king was concerned he may as well have been wearing filthy rags, because they weren’t the clothes provided by the king.
So, was Jesus’ point in telling this parable to warn those who have been invited to a wedding feast to make sure they accepted the clothing offered by the host? No. His message was deeper than that. It was a message that began in the Garden of Eden and ends at the Resurrection. Therefore, to more fully understand what Jesus is teaching us in this parable let’s begin at the beginning.
When God created Adam and Eve they were naked, but unashamed. However, after they had disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit they became very much aware of their nakedness. Sin had stripped them of their innocence. Therefore, they felt shame and the need to cover their bodies. So…
“They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (Genesis 3:7 ESV).
The fig leaves obviously served the purpose of alleviating their shame since the Bible does not mention Adam and Eve trying on other types of “clothing”. We are not told if they were unhappy about the color or shape of their “clothes”. They were probably just grateful they had not chosen poison ivy.
They had successfully overcome their shame by clothing themselves by their own ingenuity and handiwork. This likely caused at least a little bit of pride to swell up within them. They had disobeyed God and were still alive even though God had told them they would die in the day they ate of the forbidden fruit. The only consequence they were immediately aware of for their disobedience to God was an uneasy awareness of their naked bodies. And they quieted that with relative ease.
But a problem with the fig leaves soon became apparent. When God entered the Garden looking for them they discovered fig leaves did not meet His dress code. The Bible tells us that…
“They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself’” (Genesis 3:8-11 NASU).
When God confronted Adam and Eve after they had sinned they hid from Him as if they were still naked. But were they naked? No. They were wearing the fig leaves they had made for themselves. So, why would Adam tell God he was naked? Because the fig leaves represent man’s attempt to save himself from the consequences of sin; the fig leaves represent man’s pride. As long as God is distant from him, “fig leaves” – man’s ingenuity, intellect, handiwork, technology, and natural abilities – hide his sinful nature from his follow man and he senses no shame within his conscience. But when God draws near man must hide because his spiritual nakedness is revealed and his shame torments his conscience.
Anytime man attempts to save himself rather than relying on God, pride is the source. But pride is exposed for what it is in the presence of God. Man may wish to justify himself, but outside of God’s provision for his salvation, Christ crucified, no justification is possible.
Adam and Eve became entangled with sin and instead of calling out to God they made matters worse by covering themselves with what their own ingenuity created. They dressed themselves in pride. Their intent was possibly good, but good works created as a consequence of rebellion may make us look good to others, but they leave us naked before God.
The presence of God in the Garden made Adam and Eve conscious of the fact they needed new clothes. Their fig leaves enabled them to be comfortable in each other’s presence, but not in the presence of the King. So, they had a dilemma. They had done the best they could to overcome the consequence of their sin, their shame at being naked, but they had failed which become obvious when God came near in the Garden. All they could do was attempt to hide from God.
Lest we judge Adam and Eve too quickly for acting from pride to save themselves rather than turning to God in humility and seeking forgiveness the Bible reveals man doing the same thing at the end of the age. With the breaking of the 6th Seal in the book of Revelation we are told…
“The kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand’” (Revelation 6:15-17 NASU)?
Indeed, who can stand in the presence of God? Adam and Eve were about to discover the answer to that question.
When God confronted Adam and Eve He passed sentence upon them and all of creation. Adam’s role of provider would now be done with drudgery. Eve’s role as child bearer would be accompanied by intense pain. Physical death was inevitable now that spiritual death had entered creation by their rebellion against God.
All seemed lost with no redemption possible. And from a human point of view redemption was not possible. They had done their best – fig leaves – to save themselves, and failed. They quickly discovered they could not stand in the presence of a holy God.
But God was merciful. Before He sentenced Adam and Eve He cursed the Serpent and while doing so He revealed all was not lost. God was going to provide clothing for Adam and Eve that would allow them to come near enough to Him to worship Him now on earth and promised to provide clothing to them and them children in the future that would allow them to stand in His very presence in Heaven. He was going to see to it that man was given to the opportunity to dress for Heaven.
How do I know that? With the curse God placed upon Man and Creation came the promise of salvation – “clothes” that would allow them to be in God’s presence unashamed. Listen to what God told the Serpent…
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15 ESV).
These words speak of Jesus Christ, the seed of the woman, triumphing over sin by the shedding of His blood on the cross and His resurrection three days later. This promise revealed that the way to stand in the presence of God was to be accomplished by the shedding of blood, not by man’s pride.
To emphasize this truth about the need for the shedding of blood, the Bible tells us that God (not man!) made garments of skin to cover their nakedness. The fig leaves, man’s pride, were replaced with clothes that required the shedding of blood. But what’s important to notice is that even with these God-provided clothes, Adam and Eve were still banished from the Garden. And the way to the Tree of Life was blocked. The garments of skin did not meet God’s dress code for Heaven, only the dress code for earth. Why? Because the promise of redemption comes through the shedding of the Messiah’s blood not the shedding of an animal’s blood. The writer to the Hebrews tells us:
“For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4 NASU).
I believe the garments of skin symbolize the Law. The garments of skin symbolize the sacrificial system God gave to the Israelites that required an animal’s blood to be shed for the forgiveness of their sins until the Messiah would come and shed His blood upon the cross. Israel was to clothe herself with animal blood, so to speak, but this was temporary. Listen to Galatians 3:23-24:
“Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:23-24 ESV).
The garments of skin, like the Law, were given to point to something greater. The Law was…
“only a shadow of the good things to come” (Hebrew 10:1 NASU).
But man corrupted this God-given covering by trying to make it a permanent solution to sin – something God never intended. The garments of skin became religious pride; they became filthy rags. Though given by God they became tainted and stained with man’s pride. Man now clothed himself, not just with good works, but good works done in the name of God. I saw a bumper sticker once that said: “Jesus Is Coming – Look Busy”. That is a classic example of filthy garments of skin.
Garments of skin were the clothing of choice by the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They wrapped themselves in the Law, smug in their self-righteousness. But Jesus exposed their spiritual nakedness and said to the people:
“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20 ESV).
Why? Because their righteousness was on the outside of them. It made them appear righteous to those around them, much like the fig leaves did for Adam and Eve. But just as they could not abide God’s presence because their souls and spirits were still naked, the religious leaders could not abide Jesus’ presence because the temporary clothing God had provided (the Law) had become corrupted and filthy. The garments of skin that were meant to allow man to approach God on earth were never meant to be worn in Heaven. Garments of skin allowed man to have a long distance relationship with God, but as the religious leaders found out an intimate relationship with God required a new type of clothing. They needed to be dressed for Heaven.
But what is this heavenly clothing; what is Heaven’s dress code? It’s not fig leaves – man’s attempt to save himself. And it’s not garments of skin. Their purpose was to allow man to enjoy a long distance relationship with God – man being on earth and God in Heaven.
Jesus once warned His followers that at the end of the age they needed to be properly dressed for Heaven. Listen to His words…
“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed” (Revelation 16:15 ESV)!
What garments? What garments can clothe us that we may not appear naked before the Father? Paul gives us the answer.
“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27 NASU).
It is Christ that replaces the fig leaves; it is Christ that replaces the garments of skin; it is Christ that meets God’s required dress code for Heaven. Christ is the only clothing that allows us to enter into the throne room of God without shame and guilt. Clothed with Christ we can enter the throne room of God with boldness. We no longer need hide when the Father comes near us; we no longer need to rely upon the Law to cover our transgressions and sins. Those who have clothed themselves with Christ are said to have been…
“circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:11-14 NASU).
There’s no room for pride here. We either freely accept Christ as our covering or, like the man at the wedding feast who refused the clothes offered to him, we are expelled from God’s presence.
Therefore, to be dressed for Heaven one must remove the fig leaves or garments of skin and put on Jesus Christ.
That’s why Paul tells us…
“But clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), and make no provision for [indulging] the flesh [put a stop to thinking about the evil cravings of your physical nature] to [gratify its] desires (lusts)” (Romans 13:14 AMP).
Only by recognizing that we are sinners without excuse for our sins, speechless as it were (as the man at the wedding feast was speechless before the king), naked before the Lord and ashamed of our spiritual nakedness, will we humble ourselves and except the only clothing that will allow us into Heaven. A humble and contrite heart opens our eyes to see that Jesus is our wedding garment; Jesus is our hope; Jesus is our righteousness; Jesus is our salvation.
When we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we can say with Isaiah:
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10 ESV).
So, are you dressed for Heaven?
I read a book recently that said the goal most people have set for themselves and their children is to live the good life. And the good life is defined as a life of happiness. The book goes on to say that a radio talk show host had interviewed hundreds of people over the course of a few years asking the question: “What did your parents want most for you – success, wealth, to be a good person, or happiness?” Eighty-five percent said “happiness.”
Obviously, being happy is a high priority for a majority of people. In fact happiness is so important that our Founding Fathers believed that the pursuit of happiness was a divine right ranked right up there with life and liberty.
Listen to these words from the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
So, how’s your pursuit for happiness going? Have you found happiness? That probably depends on what you think happiness is. The modern definition of happiness is experiencing pleasurable satisfaction, feeling really good, and being stoked inside. However, when the Declaration of Independence was written in 1776, about 240 years ago declaring the pursuit of Happiness an unalienable right, happiness referred to virtue and character. That means happiness involved suffering, endurance, and patience because it’s through suffering, endurance, and patience that one becomes a good person and is able to enjoy life.
That might sound contradictory. How can happiness come out of suffering or enduring hardship or being patient?
To answer that question let’s begin with how Jesus told those who desired to follow Him must live.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul’” (Matthew 16:24-26 NASU)?
Jesus Christ, the wisest man who ever lived, has revealed to us that the secret to living life as God created us to live it is by denying self.
But this is the exact opposite of what the world tells us. Books, magazines, TV shows, and movies scream at us that the way to enjoy life and get the most out of it is to do indulge in whatever activities our desires lead us to. If it feels good do it. And it anyone even dares suggest that what you’re doing is wrong just quote Matthew 7:1…
“Do not judge” (Matthew 7:1 NASU).
That will shut most people up because they do not know how to properly response those words. So, if you don’t know anything about the Bible just memorize that verse and go on with your happy life.
But for anyone who has made pleasurable satisfaction or feeling really good – the world’s definition of happiness – his goal in life it soon becomes apparent doing whatever you want to do when you want to do it sooner or later gives birth, not to happiness, but to depression, a loss of purpose in life, and brokenness. Why?
The book of Proverbs in the Bible gives us a hint. In it is a verse that says…
“Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied” (Proverbs 27:20 NASU).
Sheol and Abaddon were names for the place of the dead. Sheol was sometimes translated as “grave” or “pit”. It was a place of gloom and darkness and shadows.
The proverb is teaching us that death comes to everyone; no one is exempt and as long as there is life Sheol and Abaddon crave to take that life because it is never satisfied.
And just as Sheol and Abaddon never get full regardless of how many people die, the eye never gets full regardless of how much it sees and the ear never gets full regardless of how much it hears.
What I mean is this: You can look at pornography one day and think you’ll never look at it again because your eye is full – so to speak. But what happens? Your eye seeks it next fix. The appetite of the mind, which the eye feeds, is never satisfied. You can listen to hours of gossip until you’re exhausted and think you will never listen to that again because your ear is full – again, so to speak. But what happens? You find yourself straining to hear the latest dirt someone is saying about others. The appetite of desiring the failure or humiliation of another in an attempt to exalt ourselves is never satisfied.
In 1870 a man named John D. Rockefeller started Standard Oil. That company made him a billionaire. Relatively speaking he was wealthier than Bill Gates. Yet, he was driven to make more and more money. In an interview Rockefeller once was asked how many more dollars he needed before he was satisfied. He then answered…
“Just one more dollar”.
But John D. Rockefeller is not unique. Three thousand years before he was born there was a man who was not only as rich as he was, but he had a lot more power. That man was King Solomon, the man who wrote the Proverb we just read.
Materially speaking there was nothing Solomon couldn’t buy. For him money was literally no obstacle. And being a king he had power over the lives of his subjects; nobody told him “no”. He lived in wealth and luxury. If he wanted something he simply got it. But he wasn’t a happy man. We know that because he wrote a book of the Old Testament called Ecclesiastes.
Listen to some of what he says in this book.
“All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing” (Ecclesiastes 1:8 ESV).
That sounds a lot like the verse from Proverbs we quoted earlier doesn’t it? But that shouldn’t be surprising. You see King Solomon wrote both Ecclesiastes and most of Proverbs.
Solomon goes on to express his lack of happiness in spite of being unimaginably wealthy and very powerful.
“All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor. Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 NASU).
When Solomon said…
“All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure” (Ecclesiastes 2:10 NASU)…
he wasn’t kidding. This man had 700 wives and 300 concubines (legal mistresses). He allowed himself to drown in pleasure, yet he wasn’t happy. If nothing else this reveals that engaging in sex outside of God’s design for marriage – which is between one man and one woman – doesn’t satisfy the longing with our hearts for intimacy. Listen to some more of what Solomon said…
“He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 5:10 ESV).
“There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them” (Eccl 6:1-2 ESV).
Solomon, the richest man who ever lived, a man who indulged every desire his body or mind craved in his pursuit for happiness didn’t find it. Why? Because he believed owning things and to be free to indulge any desire his body or mind had was the path to happiness. What he discovered was such a life lead to depression and emptiness.
Living for pleasurable satisfaction, living to feel really good, or living to be stoked inside – the world’s definition of happiness – requires us to take our eyes off of others and put them on us and keep them there. But when we do that we become empty, shallow people with dried-up souls that live in perpetual pity-parties where we blame others for our lot in life. In other words…
“When we make happiness the goal of our life we live as victims rather than overcomers.
But why does this happen? Listen again to these words of Jesus…
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul’” (Matthew 16:24-26 NASU)?
As human beings created in the image of God we are wired for more than happiness as the world defines happiness. We are created by God to honor Him by becoming spiritually mature members of the Kingdom of Heaven. We do this by seeking His Kingdom first before all things and that begins by taking our eyes off of ourselves and living for a purpose greater than ourselves.
The Apostle Paul spoke of those who refused to follow this teaching of Jesus. He said…
“For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things” (Philippians 3:18-19 NASU).
Did you get that? When we refuse to die to self and live primarily to satisfy the desires of our bodies and minds – pursuing happiness as defined by this fallen world – we have made our fleshly appetites our “god”. Our desires and appetites and emotions no longer serve us, but rather have become our master.
Desires and appetites and emotions make great servants, but terrible masters.
Jesus tells us in John 10:10…
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV).
I like the way the Amplified Bible puts this…
“I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)” (John 10:10 AMP).
And how does one take hold of this abundant life? Obey the words of the One who came to give you this abundant life. Let’s repeat:
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul’” (Matthew 16:24-26 NASU)?
There’s an episode of the old “Twilight Zone” TV series entitled, “A Nice Place to Visit”. I encourage everyone listening to or reading this sermon to watch it because it speaks what I have been saying about the pursuit of happiness loudly and clearly.
The gist of the show is this: A man is gunned down and killed by the police while attempting to flee from them, just having robbed a business. But in the next scene this “dead” man, lying on the ground, wakes up and a man dressed all in white is standing beside him. As it turns out this robber had been killed and the man in white was there to show him to his new living quarters.
These quarters are lavishly furnished with expensive furniture, decorations, and a closet full of expensive clothes. But that’s just the beginning of the pleasures he is not just freely given, but encouraged to indulge himself in by the man dressed in white.
Soon, some women join him in his apartment. He said he now knows he’s in Heaven. Shortly after that he goes to a casino accompanied by the women, driving a brand new and very expensive car. Gambling was something that brought him happiness when he was alive.
While in the casino he can’t lose. No matter what type of gambling he engages in – roulette wheel, blackjack, slot machine – he wins – every time. He is having the time of his life, gambling and winning while the women surround him, watching him.
He returns to his living quarters a happy man. But something is beginning to cast a dark shadow over him. His happiness is beginning to fade. All of a sudden a pool table appears in his living quarters. He is ecstatic to have a new game to play. He excitedly rakes the balls, places the cue ball on the opposite end of the table, pulls back the cue stick and strikes the cue ball. The cue ball hits the other balls and every one of them – every one – goes into a pocket; one hit, fifteen balls go down. It’s a shot every pool player on earth dreams about. But not this guy, not this guy who was living in the lap of luxury, not this guy whose every desire – except one – would be fulfilled instantly. Instead of being thrilled with his miraculous pool shot, he broke the cue stick. Why? Because the one thing, the one desire that the man in white couldn’t (wouldn’t) fulfill was to let this thief fail – at anything.
The thief began to realize that having every pleasure fulfilled and instant success a certainty didn’t make him happy.
When he came to that realization, along with the realization that this was Heaven and this lifestyle would go on for all eternity, he told the man dressed in white he thought a mistake had been made. He had been questioning more and more how a person of his evil character could have gotten into Heaven at all and came to the conclusion that he didn’t really belong in Heaven; he belonged in “the other place”. Hearing this the man dressed in white sternly looked at the thief and said…
“Heaven? What makes you think this is Heaven? This is the other place.” And he began to laugh a diabolical laugh that became louder and louder as the thief realized no mistake had been made and that an eternity of “happiness” lay before him. He was right where he belonged.
While we may have an unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness as we read in the Declaration of Independence we discover that that pursuit is only successful when we lay down our lives for others. You see…
“Happiness doesn’t come from looking in the mirror; it comes when we put down the mirror and see Jesus.
Christians are about to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Of all the Christian holidays it’s the most holy because with the resurrection of Jesus comes forgiveness of sins, newness of life in the power of the Holy Spirit, and eternal life free from sin and corruption.
But the Bible tells us of another resurrection a few days before Jesus’ resurrection – the resurrection of Lazarus. The story of Lazarus is found in John chapter 11. It’s one of my favorite stories, not just because it has a happy ending for Lazarus and Mary and Martha, but because of the less obvious truths it contains for every believer and for creation itself. And it’s these less obvious truths that I want to bring out into the light.
So let’s begin digging through this story. I think you’ll come away with a deeper understanding of God’s love for each of you and for creation and how what looks like evil to us this side of eternity is used by God to draw us closer to Him, molding and shaping us into the image of Jesus Christ.
I want to begin by telling you ahead of time that…
Lazarus represents our spirits (conscience, intuition, ability to worship) and Mary and Martha represent our souls (will, emotions, intellect).
That’s important to remember and I pray it will make sense to you when I’m finished.
We’re going to go through the story of Lazarus a little at a time to make it easier to uncover what I believe the Holy Spirit is trying to teach us.
“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it’” (John 11:1-4 ESV).
This seems simple and straight forward, but I want to break it down some and show how it’s our story. There’s nothing I the Bible by accident. So when I read and study the Bible I look at the names of the people involved in the stories as well as the locations involved and the context in which they are written.
When we do this for this story about the resurrection of Lazarus…
We discover this is a story about us.
This story begins with anxiety and misery and fear because Lazarus is deathly ill and Jesus is far away and the future is uncertain. This truth is revealed to us not just by the words we read, but by learning what the name “Bethany” means, the town Lazarus and Mary and Martha lived in.
Bethany means either “House of Dates” or “House of Misery”.
The meaning is determined by the context and what we discover is that in our case it begins one way and ends another. (Just to be clear: “House of Dates” doesn’t refer to a place where men and women go to meet. Dates come from palm trees and the leaves of palm trees were used to represent victory and peace. Thus, the laying of palm branches in front of Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.)
The story opens with Mary and Martha (our soul) living in misery because Lazarus (our spirit) is sick and about to die. They are living in a “House of Misery”. But they end up living in a “House of Dates”, a place of victory and peace and life.
This is us. We live in a “House of Misery” so much of our lives because we have blinded ourselves to the truth that if…
“anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17-17 NASU).
In other words Jesus has taken our “House of Misery” and turned it into a “House of Dates” – a house of peace and victory. But our lack of taking care of our spiritual health (Lazarus) causes us to delay remodeling our new home with what Jesus offers us and keep all the old furnishings we have bought from the world.
Why would we do this? The names of Mary and Martha give us a hint.
Mary means “bitterness”. Martha means “lady”.
These names, which represent our souls – our will, emotions, and intellect, seem contradictory. But they’re not. In fact, they are a very clear picture of my soul and very likely your soul. What do I mean?
So much of life creates bitterness within my thinking because it seems evil is rewarded and good is beaten down. I can will it to be otherwise, but nothing changes. The result is a life of emotional ups and downs. I get angry at what I see around me and the darkness that I know that lives within me. I live in fear that others will see me for who I truly am and turn away from me in disgust. So, what do I do? The same thing you do. I put on a mask for the world to see, a mask that hides the truth. Rather than the world seeing the anger and bitterness that lives within my soul I become “lady-like”. That is I present a face to the world that tells everyone I’m a good person, I have no problems, and I have everything under control. That’s Martha.
Some time ago David Morales and I were talking about some of the battles I fight and some of the things that drive me crazy. He said, “Terry, you remind me of Martha running around the house worried about so many things, when it was Mary who was sitting at Jesus’ feet listening and learning.”
What he meant was Martha was busy doing needful things, but it was Mary Jesus praised. Why? Because Martha was playing the role of “Lady” making sure everything was prim and proper for her guests. She wanted everything to look just right.
But it was Mary who recognized the importance of listening to the words of Jesus while she had the chance. She could eat physical food later – and so could her guests. Her priorities were correct.
I look around me and see all the injustice and pain and the double standards the world uses to judge right from wrong and the hypocrisy and it makes me angry – very angry. And the result is me, often than I would like to admit, trying to set the world straight by cursing the darkness rather than turning on the Light of Truth by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The next thing to notice is what Jesus says about Lazarus being sick. He says…
“This illness does not lead to death” (John 11:4 ESV).
But it did, didn’t it? Lazarus did die. But that wasn’t the end.
Lazarus’ illness did not lead to death; it led through death to life.
When my father died a few members of the family were in the room where he was along with a couple of ladies that worked for hospice. Right after Dad died someone asked me to say a pray. I only remember one thing I prayed at that time. I said,
“Father, I thank You that my dad is as much alive right now to You as he was to us an hour ago.”
You see from God’s point of view no one is dead. All are live. Lazarus was just as alive to God when his body lay in that tomb as he was when Jesus raised him up. In a sense the resurrection of Lazarus was God allowing us to see with His eyes.
Let’s continue with the story.
“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him’” (John 11:5-10 ESV).
Notice here that it says Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus. This appears to be nothing more than an affirmation of verse 3 that we read earlier…
“Lord, he whom you love is ill” (John 11:3 ESV).
But this is more than a restatement of that fact.
The Greek word used for “love” in verse 3 is phileo.
It means to have a feeling or sentiment of affection toward someone. It’s the love we have toward some family members and good friends. And this is a good love, a love that reveals itself by our kindness and compassion toward the one we love. But it’s not necessarily a love that would die for another.
There’s a different Greek word for that kind of love. It’s agape.
This is the highest form of love. It’s a self-sacrificing love, a love that will pay any price to ensure the one loved receives the highest good. It’s a love that continues to love regardless of whether the one loved deserves it or not.
We usually don’t have a problem believing Jesus loves us when we’ve been good, but we have a very hard time believing Jesus loves us when we’ve been bad. Mary and Martha and Lazarus had been good and believed Jesus had a strong feeling of affection toward them – phileo. But the Bible tells us Jesus’ love for them went deeper than that – He loved them because of who they were, not because of what they had or had not done – agage.
What this story tells us is God loves us with a love that is far greater, far deeper than anything we can imagine. And that’s the love we’re supposed to have for one another. Do we?
Agape is also a love that can cause misunderstanding.
It was because Jesus loved Lazarus that He delayed in answering Mary and Martha’s prayer. We may not understand why God doesn’t heal our friends and loved ones immediately or even let’s them die, but…
As Christians it’s not as important to understand the why of things, but the Who behind the things.
Do we truly believe God loves us with an agape type love when the storms of life are destroying everything around us?
Let’s go on.
“After saying these things, he (Jesus) said to them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.’ Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him’” (John 11:11-16 ESV).
Have you ever had a good friend, someone really close to you, question you about the path of life you are walking down as you follow the leading of the Holy Spirit? No doubt such concern is well meaning. He doesn’t want to see you hurt, nor does he want to experience that hurt with you. So he tries to give you reasons for changing course.
This is what the disciples were doing with Jesus. They knew Jesus’ life was in danger – as well as their own – if He went back to Judea. But when it became clear to them Jesus was going Thomas gives this resounding word of encouragement to Jesus and the other disciples doesn’t he? Uh, not so much.
It’s more like he takes a deep breath, looks around and says…
“Ok, fine. Let’s all die together.”
I can hear Thomas thinking…
“So what’s Jesus going to do? Raise Lazarus from the dead or something.”
Not only do we all have naysayers in our lives like Thomas, well-meaning friends who are loyal to us, but nevertheless do more discouraging rather than encouraging, there’s usually more than one of these people. That’s why I find it interesting that the name “Thomas” means “Twin”. Not only do we have a “Thomas” in our life, he’s not alone. Misery truly does love company.
And the story continues.
“Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.”’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world’” (John 11:17-27 ESV).
Note that Lazarus had been dead four days. That’s significant for a couple of reasons. First, the Jews believed that when someone died their soul remained near the body for 3 days making it possible for him to be revived. But after the 4th day all hope was gone. That means Lazarus was truly dead as far as the Jews were concerned which made his resurrection all the more remarkable.
Four is the number for this world, this physical creation.
And according to tradition the world was about 4000 years old at the time Jesus walked on the earth. That means that the world, creation had been dead in trespasses and sins for about 4000 years because of Adam and Eve having eaten of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.
This is what the death of Lazarus, though real, symbolizes spiritually. He became sick and when Jesus didn’t immediately intervene to heal him he died. Likewise, when Adam and Eve fell into sin creation became “sick” and when God didn’t immediately intervene to “heal” it, man’s spiritual death eventually resulted in physical death. God could have immediately “healed” creation when Adam and Eve sinned, but out of love He had Jesus wait 4000 before coming to this world to raise it from the dead.
Why would He do that? The delay was necessary to show man that apart from God there’s no way to be “healed” from sin.
The delay proved man’s knowledge and religion could not change his sinful nature.
For 4000 years man tried to rise from the dead, so to speak, by trying to be good and trying to obey the commandments given to him by a sovereign and holy God. But rather than being healed he discovered just how dead he was. At best he was a zombie.
Romans 3:19-20 tells us:
“Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:19-20 ESV).
Mary and Martha represent the bitterness of life man faced after the Fall and his attempt to fix the problem of the deadness he sensed within his spirit by living a good, moral life outwardly. But his attempt to do good by obeying the Law simply revealed how dead his spirit was – which is exactly why the Law was given in the first place.
God knew man died in the Garden of Eden, but it took the Law to prove it to him.
Let’s look at this at an individual level. Mary and Martha represent your soul – your will, emotions, and intellect. There is often much bitterness in your life, often a lot of pressure, and many painful situations. That’s Mary. But because you don’t want the world to see all the garbage and pain in your life or all your failures you put on a mask for others to see. You do all the proper “ladylike” things a Christian is supposed to do. You try to be nice to people, but inside you can’t stand them; you try to say nice things to them, but inside you’re screaming at them; you say you’ll pray God will bless them, but inside your prayer is that God would strike them with lightning.
You get frustrated because you want to be good, be ladylike, but you can’t. Why? Because Lazarus, who represents your spirit – your conscience, intuition, and communion with God – lays dead until raised by Jesus into new life. Once your spirit – Lazarus – is “born-again” and becomes “Head of the household” so to speak, and your soul – Mary and Martha – submits to the headship of your now divinely inspired spirit, you can quit trying to be good and masking the fears and brokenness that is a part of all of us.
Let’s go on.
“When she (Martha) had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying’ (John 11:28-37 ESV)?
I want to quickly point out the difference between how Martha approached Jesus as compared to Mary. Both of them said the same thing to Jesus.
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21, 32 ESV).
But notice their posture. Martha came and stood before Him; Mary came and fell at his feet. Though polite and respectful to Jesus Martha’s posture is one of dignity and emotional control. Mary’s position is one of brokenness and worship. She didn’t care what those around her thought of her behavior.
Too often the masks we wear as Christians so we will appear dignified and in control of ourselves – ladylike – comes at the expense of humbling ourselves in the presence of Jesus out of fear of being thought of as strange or radical. Much of our outward worship is tailored to meet the expectations of those around us rather than allowing ourselves to be free to express our fears, and pain, and brokenness openly. It shouldn’t be that way.
We come to the climax of the story now.
“Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go’ (John 11:38-44 ESV).
At this moment all the doubts and questions the disciples and Mary and Martha had about Jesus’ actions and strange – to them – behavior vanished. No longer would they ask, “Why did Jesus delay in coming to Lazarus? Did Jesus truly love him? Was He unwilling to heal him?”
All of these were replaced with the knowledge that He was willing not only to heal a sick man, but raise a dead man.
But this story wouldn’t be complete without revealing what the name “Lazarus” means. Romans 5:6 says…
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6 NASU).
You know, I have never known of anyone who has a nice home, a nice car, money in the bank, a healthy family, and no problems waking up one morning and saying: “I think I’ll become a Christian today.” That doesn’t happen. It’s when we lose everything and everything begins to spin out of control in our lives and we’re helpless to fix it that we’re brought to our knees before the Lord and seek Him.
I tell you that because the name…
“Lazarus means “helpless”.
Lazarus symbolizes the helplessness creation and we face when we try to save ourselves. It’s only when we realize that we are spiritually dead and are helpless to remove the smell of death from us, it’s only when we realize we are helpless to open the door of our spiritual tomb, and it’s only when we realize we are helpless to remove the grave clothes we are wrapped that we will experience our resurrection from the dead. It’s only when we realize that our name is “Helpless” that we will respond to Jesus when He calls us out of the tomb. Because as long as we think we are not Helpless we will remain deaf to the call of Jesus which describes the majority of mankind.
Finally, notice it was Jesus who gave Lazarus new life, but He used others to roll away the stone from the tomb and it was others He used to remove Lazarus’ grave clothes. That is a picture of the mission of the Church.
Only God can bring a dead spirit back to life, but it’s up to us to open the door of their heart that they might hear the voice of Jesus calling them and it’s up to us to remove the “grave clothes” of the newly born-again that they might be clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ instead.
From the Garden to the Shack
A few years ago the book, The Shack, was published with great fanfare and excitement among Christians. Now, the movie version of The Shack is premiering with equal fanfare and excitement among Christians. But is this the proper response Christians should be expressing for The Shack? Is this book and movie fit for Christian consumption or is it heresy dressed up in an easy-to-swallow pill?
With no sense of superiority I must confess I have not, nor will I, read the book, The Shack. I also have not, nor will I see the movie, The Shack. Whether you choose to read the book or see the movie is entirely your prerogative. Nevertheless, I will give my opinion as to whether this story is something Christians should embrace and promote as good or at least harmless, or if it is something to be ingested through the eyes and ears with caution.
For those who question what right I have to express my opinion on The Shack having never read it or watched the movie, I respectfully answer by saying I have spoken to one, a Christian, who has read the book and had both positive and negative things to say about it. I also read a review on the book posted on cbn.com by Belinda Elliot who gushes over it. From that information and a few other bits and pieces of information garnered from simply reading the give and take of comments posted online in response to the myriad articles one finds on the internet about The Shack, I feel confident that I know enough about the story to give an educated opinion as to the spirit behind this story.
Of course, there will still be some who believe I have no right to express my opinion on The Shack having never personally read the book. In reply I would say it is not always necessary to have firsthand experience with something to accurately understand the benefits and/or detriments of whatever the “something” is. For example, I do not have to ingest meth or cocaine to accurately discern that they are extremely dangerous and addictive drugs. All I need do is read about these drugs and obverse the consequences people suffer from having become personally acquainted with them from firsthand experience. In other words one need not personally experience the full force of evil to understand and discern that something is intrinsically evil, something I believe is true of The Shack.
But in order to make my point in believing that the essential and intrinsic nature of The Shack is evil I will start, not with The Shack itself, but with an episode in human history when a choice was made by a man and woman to believe a lie rather than the truth because the lie appealed to the legitimate needs of the body and mind and because it was presented to them in a way that fascinated and dazzled them. But the consequence of believing that lie and giving it life by literally ingesting it, poisoning the deepest parts of their beings, resulted in the greatest tragedy in human history.
It is a story worth reading.
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
“He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden”?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (Genesis 3:1-7 ESV).
The story seems simple and straight forward, and on one level it is. Adam and Eve lived in a garden God created for them. It was a place where their every need was provided for. It provided food for the body, beauty for the soul, and an intimate relationship with God for the spirit. And where they got that food for the body, that beauty for the soul, and that relationship with God was abundantly provided for by God. We are told…
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden…” (Genesis 2:15-16 ESV).
“Every tree of the garden.” Adam and Eve had full access to every source of food they needed to live, not just physically, but spiritually as well. But with the abundance of God’s provision came a warning from Him…
“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17 ESV).
Along with God’s overwhelming abundance of provision for Adam and Eve came one prohibition. They were not to eat; that is, find their source of food, whether for their bodies, souls, or spirits, from one of the trees: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God made very clear that the consequences of eating from this tree would be death. Simple and straightforward, yes; but also not so simple and straightforward.
Enter Satan, referred to as a serpent in this narrative. His primary goal after God had created man in His image, was to destroy man, to kill him; not just his body, but his soul and spirit as well. And he knew just what he needed to do to accomplish that goal. He began by asking Eve…
“Did God actually say…” (Genesis 3:1)?
Satan began by planting a seed of doubt into Eve’s soul about God’s character. He wanted Eve to question the goodness and fairness of God. He wanted Eve to question why God would prohibit her from eating from this one tree. He wanted her to question if God were intentionally withholding something good from her? He wanted Eve to question God’s motive, the “why”, behind the prohibition.
With the doubt of God’s character now planted within Eve’s soul Satan began to water it by directly accusing Him of lying about her dying if she ate of the fruit of this tree. He then fertilized that doubt by promising her she would actually become like God, knowing (that is, in a very real sense, defining) good and evil. If was as if Satan were telling Eve…
“If you eat this fruit you will no longer need for God to determine for you what is right and what is wrong or what is good or what is evil. You will be able to determine that for yourself. You will be free.”
That is a powerful temptation, one that is today being used with great effectiveness.
But as powerful as that temptation was (is) it is likely it would have been resisted if not for two other components associated with Satan’s lie. What two components?
Notice that when Eve looked at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, after having her conversation with Satan, she saw that is was good; she did not see that it was evil. She saw that it was good for food; that is, it was a source that she believed would fulfill the legitimate need of the body to be nourished. She saw that it was good in that it was a delight to the eyes; that is, it was a source that she believed would fulfill the legitimate need of the soul to be nourished by beauty. And she saw that it was a source of wisdom; that is, it was a source that she believed would fulfill the legitimate need of the spirit to be nourished by truth.
Eve looked at this tree and saw goodness and beauty (truth), encapsulated in a fruit that was perfect in ripeness and firmness. Imagine if Eve had looked at the tree and instead saw evil and ugliness (lies), encapsulated in a fruit that was rotten and worm infested. That would have been a strong deterrent for overcoming Satan’s temptation to question God’s character and His motives for prohibiting the eating of this fruit.
How often do we look at evil and ugliness (lies) and see goodness and beauty (truth) because we want the evil and ugliness to be true because we want to be God, defining good and evil for ourselves?
The first component Satan used to entice Eve to eat from this tree was to deceive her into seeing its fruit as good for her instead of laced with evil that would kill her.
The second component associated with the Satan’s temptation is similar to the first.
Just as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and its fruit appeared as something to be desired, when in fact, it was poison, so was the creature that spoke with Eve. This creature in the Garden of Eden, referred to as a serpent, was not a hideous looking creature. The Hebrew word for “serpent” is nachash. It is a word that means “shining one”, implying a being, if not beautiful, at the very least, a being that fascinates and attracts not only the eye, but the mind.
Whether this serpent was a literal snake or not is a discussion for another time. Suffice it to say that the being that tempted Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit was Satan disguising…
“himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14 ESV).
It is important to note that the Bible says nothing about Eve being frightened in the least by this serpent. She saw only light, not darkness, and certainly not 50 shades of grey.
All too often we associate Satan and evil as being ugly and terrifying, and it is. But Satan knows the way to ensnare his human prey that he might kill him is much more effective when the snare is baited with perceived pleasure and beauty rather than pain and ugliness. Thus, Satan appeared to Eve as a Shining One, striking and dazzling in appearance with a voice that was no doubt very pleasant to the ear.
This was the snare Eve was being drawn into, a snare that was not only baited with what appeared to be pleasure and beauty, but a snare set by a creature that appeared equally pleasant and beautiful.
The combination of Eve’s desire to be as God knowing (defining for herself) good and evil made possible by her eating a fruit that was very appealing to her entire being to achieve that knowledge and presented by a creature of other-worldly beauty, sealed the deal.
The lie was made palatable because the fruit in which the lie was packaged to look like “health” food for the body, soul, and spirit. Further, the lie was made desirable because the one telling it was mesmerizing to look upon and listen to.
Satan’s goal was to mar God’s character, to make Him appear as something He was not in the souls and spirits of Adam and Eve. It was to get them to question God’s motives as to why He would prohibit them from partaking of something that (appeared) good and beneficial. If he could get them to believe something about God that was not true it would be easier to deceive them into believing other, more outrageous lies in the future.
And Satan’s tactics have not changed from that fateful day in the garden of Eden to today. We still find him lurking around where Christians can be found – Christian bookstores and Christian movies – such as the book and movie, The Shack.
The Shack tells the story of a man who has experienced a depth of pain far deeper than most of us will experience in our lifetimes, the pain of having one of his children abducted and murdered. Thus begins his quest to have his questions answered concerning pain, suffering, and forgiveness toward the one responsible for his pain and suffering. And there is nothing wrong with these questions. In fact they are quite normal. What is wrong is where he looked for the answers to such questions, just as Adam and Eve looked in the wrong place to satisfy the legitimates needs of their bodies, souls, and spirits when enticed to do so from a “Shining One” rather than from the One who is the true Light of the world.
For the man in The Shack the Shining One appeared to him after he received a mysterious note telling him to come to the shack where his daughter was murdered. He was not sure what to expect, but in an attempt to get the answers he was so desperately looking for, and thus satisfy the hunger that his pain was producing in his soul and spirit, he chose to go to the shack. And did he find God waiting there for him? Ah, there is the dilemma with this story.
Some would say he did find God because as the story unfolds his questions were answered; his hunger for understanding was evidently satisfied by the fruit produced by the words “God” spoke to him at the shack. Others would say he did not find God at the shack even though he found some comfort and understanding from the words spoken to him by the Trinity of beings he encountered there because this Trinity – Father (an African woman), Son (a Middle Eastern man), and Holy Spirit (an Asia woman) – was not the God – the Trinity – of the Bible.
So, how do we discern which of these two beliefs is true? We turn to the one place where we should look to discern whether anything we believe is true or false; to the Bible. The Bible is God’s Word to us. In it we find the Truth; in it we find how God has chosen to identify Himself so that we can discern if the One “speaking” to us is actually the Lord God (Yahweh) or a Shining One who presents himself as God, or at least, as god-like.
And how does God identify Himself to His creation? Part of His identity is revealed to us right at the beginning of His Word as He was actively creating the Universe and everything in it. The Bible tells us…
“God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night” (Genesis 1:5 ESV).
What does this tell us about the One True God? First, it tells us that God is the Creator of everything, including you and I. But it also tells us something a little more subtle, but just as important. It tells us that God has chosen to identify Himself as male…
“The darkness he called Night” (Genesis 1:5).
Of course, we know that God, in His essence, is neither male nor female. But that does not minimize His decision to identify Himself to us as male – not just here at the beginning of the Bible, but throughout the Bible. Near the end of the Bible, in the Book of Revelation, an angel is speaking to John concerning why God chose him to reveal the events that are to take place at the end times. The angel, referring to God, says…
“The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place” (Revelation 22:6 ESV).
God is here again identified through the use of male pronouns.
Further, God is referred to as “Father” scores of times in the Bible, but not once as “Mother”. Jesus Himself, referred to God as His “Father” over 150 times. Also, of great importance concerning how God has chosen to identify Himself as male to us is reinforced by Jesus when His disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray. Jesus responded by saying…
“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father… (Matthew 6:9 ESV).
What is my point? Just this.
We now live in a time when gender is believed to be fluid; that is, male and female are not concrete attributes of our being. Being biologically male does not mean one is actually male if one self-identifies as female; being biologically female does not mean one is actually female if one self-identifies as male. In essence we are being told that neither society, nor our DNA, has the right to impose its identity upon us. Transgender has become the latest rallying cry of deceived men and women who have taken up arms against God by attempting to shout down the truth that mankind was created by God as male and female (Genesis 1:27).
I believe with all my heart one of Satan’s primary objectives when he lured Eve into a conversation with him concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was to blur the uniqueness of maleness and femaleness because once that blurring reached critical mass the primary building block of human society – the family – would be destroyed and along with it the image of God would be destroyed, for man would then bear the image of Satan. And what is the image of Satan?
The first thing I noticed when watching The Passion of the Christ was the appearance of Satan in the Garden of Gethsemane (notice he was back in a garden again) as he crouched down a little way from Jesus as He prayed to the Father. I looked closely at this person portraying Satan and said to myself…
“I can’t tell whether this person is male or female.”
Then I thought of how much truth was wrapped up in that image of Satan; neither male, nor female, but rather an androgynous being seeking to create man in his image. And as transgenderism takes more and more hold upon us as a nation and as individuals we are more and more beginning to shed the image of God and clothing ourselves with the image of Satan. The danger is very real, but very subtle.
We are beginning to not only see the lunacy of the lie of transgenderism as the lines of maleness and femaleness become more and more blurred as males now openly and proudly (think of Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner) put on the mask of femaleness and females openly and proudly (think Chastity/Chaz Bono) put on the mask of maleness, but we are beginning to experience in real life situations the dangers of this lunacy as more and more corporate and government entities chose to allow, if not insist, that males in female bathrooms and locker rooms and females in male bathrooms and locker rooms is good rather than evil. We have returned to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. With this in mind let me turn directly to The Shack.
The Shack is the transgenderization of the Trinity. Rather than Father (male), Son (male), and Holy Spirit (identified by the use of male pronouns in the Bible), the “god” in The Shack is Mother (black woman), Son (male), and Holy Spirit (Asia woman). This may seem like a trivial matter. It is not. No doubt Eve believed eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was trivial compared to the actual consequences of her action. And no doubt those who ingest through their eyes and ears the story of The Shack think it is a trivial matter, mere entertainment. I strongly believe that is a mistake.
In a world where gender-confused individuals demand the right to self-identify rather than conform to the image God created them to bear and to be addressed with pronouns reflective of their self-perceived gender, God is denied that same respect. God has plainly, consistently, and unequivocally chosen to be identified as male. The Shack is an attempt by Satan to strip God of His identity as God and take His place.
The Shack is like a magician’s sleight of hand as he attempts to make you believe something that is false, such as cutting a woman in half with a saw, by subconsciously drawing your attention away from what is going on in the background. The Shack does the same thing as it attempts to divert attention from how he is going to introduce a heretical portrayal of the Trinity (what is going on in the background) as a black woman, a Middle Eastern man, and an Asia woman – which may seem innocent, but it is not – by using the diversionary tactic of focusing one’s attention away from this Trinitarian lie by appealing to the strong emotional, and legitimate need to find peace and understanding in the midst of incredible pain and suffering.
I will close with this question. What is the most lethal poison you know of? Cyanide? Arsenic? Strychnine? They are all deadly, but there is one that is potentially much more lethal than any of them or all of them put together. The most lethal poison known to man is the one that tastes good.
Satan is in the business of making poison taste good, because it is the only poison you will eagerly ingest.
In my opinion The Shack is one such poison so if you decide to read/see it please make sure you have the antidote handy.
Depending how old you are, you have likely read, recited, prayed, or sung a portion of Scripture commonly referred to as the “Lord’s Prayer” since it is the prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray. It is one of the most well-known portions of Scripture, even by those who rarely read the Bible. This prayer is found in the Gospel of Matthew. It says…
“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Matthew 6:9-13 KJV).
But for all the dozens of times, perhaps hundreds of times, you have read, said, or sung these words, have you ever really deeply thought about what it means and how it applies to you? The danger of a portion of Scripture becoming so well-known is we can often mouth the words without even thinking. Satan has no problem with you mouthing the words in this prayer. What he does have a problem with is you understanding them and putting them into practice in your life.
Many years ago as I began to mediate upon this prayer the phrase that continued to come back to my mind was…
“Hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9c KJV).
I kept thinking: “What does it mean to ‘hallow’ God’s name, the heavenly Father’s name?”
As I began to seek the answer to my question one of the Ten Commandments came to my mind. It was the 3rd Commandment…
“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” (Exodus 20:7 ESV).
At first I didn’t get the connection between hallowing God’s name and not taking His name in vain. I couldn’t “hear” what the Holy Spirit was trying to teach me. But eventually the connection became clear. It became clear when I learned what the word “hallowed” means and what it means to take God’s name.
The word “hallowed” means “to be made holy”. Holiness is separation from something or someone unto something or someone. For a Christian to be holy means separating one’s self from everything in this fallen world that is contrary to the Truth as revealed to us in the Bible and joining one’s self unto the Lord, Yahweh, forsaking all other “gods” and submitting to His will for us.
When I put that understanding of “hallowed” next to the 3rd Commandment…
“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” (Exodus 20:7 ESV)…
it was like a ray of light penetrated the darkness within my spirit. I then knew what it meant to not only take God’s name, but to take His name in vain.
It has everything to do with the marriage covenant between a man and a woman. It also explains why Satan hates marriage with such ferocity and is doing everything in his power to destroy it, significantly, not by outlawing traditional marriage, but by diluting it with unions composed persons who practice sexual perversion.
What I mean is this. When we choose to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are in essence accepting Jesus’ marriage proposal; we are accepting Him as our Husband, spiritually speaking. And when we do that we take His name in the same way a woman takes her husband’s name. The taking of the man’s name signifies the joining together of the two into one. Jesus said…
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh[.] So they are no longer two but one flesh” (Matthew 19:5-6 ESV).
Then Paul, writing to the Corinthians said…
“The who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (1 Corinthians 6:17 ESV).
The concept between joining one’s self in physical marriage and joining one’s self in spiritual marriage is the same. When we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior we take the name “Christian” and whatever we do or say when we bear that name reflects upon our “Husband”, Jesus Christ, for good or evil just like the actions of a wife bearing her husband’s name reflects upon him.
There is much here that speaks to the truth of marriage being “holy matrimony” and to fully unpack this truth would consume of the pages of an entire book. But my point right now is for us to understand what we are really saying when we pray the words…
“Hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9c KJV).
and what it means to take Jesus’ name in vain.
I have done this in a book I wrote several years ago now entitled: “Hallowed Be Thy Name”. In this book I explain in detail what it means to take God’s name and what it means to take His name in vain; thus, not hallowing His name. Then I write about ten different biblical characters, some well-known – Cain, Judas Iscariot, etc – and some less known – Diotrephes, Elkanah, etc – to use as examples of hallowing God’s name, taking it in holiness, and not hallowing God’s name, taking it in vain.
If this is something you think you may want to know more about or study, may I humbly suggest getting a copy of my book: “Hallowed By Thy Name”. It is available in paperback or in E-Book format from Authorhouse or from Amazon
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32 ESV).
Blessings to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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.
#idoltalk #eternallife #richyoungruler #goodteacher
Late in the 1st century the Apostle John penned a book that has fascinated countless millions of people for 2000 years. This is the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the last book in the New Testament. And of all the books in the Bible it is possibly the most studied – and the most misunderstood, and the most feared for within its pages we are introduced to a man who is the satanic embodiment, the satanic incarnation of Evil. This man is called the Antichrist or the Beast. It is his mark, the Mark of the Beast, that many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, fixate upon and Hollywood has sensationalized in numerous movies and TV shows.
Churches have split over the interpretation of Revelation. Does it teach a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, a Mid-Tribulation Rapture, a Post-Tribulation Rapture? Is the Millennial (1000) year reign of Jesus Christ literally a 1000 years or is it just a figure of speech? Who are the 144000? Who are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Who are the Two Witnesses? Does Revelation tell the story of national Israel or is it the story of the Church – the Israel of God? And on and on and on.
We’re going to go through this book and I will answer those questions and more. That is I will answer those questions the best I can and tell you why I believe what I believe. Can you disagree with me and still be a “good” Christian? Of course. Churches may split over the Book of Revelation, but brothers and sisters in Christ never should.