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Evaluating a Generation February 15, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Character, Contentment, Depravity, Family, Humililty, Hypocrisy, Judgment, Materialism, Proverbs, Religion, Sermons.
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EVALUATING A GENERATION
Proverbs 30:10-17

Agur recognized that without dependence on God’s Word (verse 5) he was not only without answers to some of the most important questions of life (verses 2-4) but also that he was defenseless against temptation (verses 7-9). Although Agur prayed for God to protect him from temptation, he did not pray for God to isolate himself from temptation. What he did do, however, is look at the world around him and note those things about the world system of which he did not want to be a part.

Now we should evaluate the generation in which we live, the world system which is all around us but we should not stop there. When we look at the world, when we look at our generation, we must first evaluate ourselves. You see, the world is corrupt, the world sins, a generation becomes evil for the very same reason that we are susceptible to temptation. Our sinful flesh is corrupt and we sin. For that reason, we will evaluate our own hearts first before we look at the generations around us.

A. We can evaluate ourselves by how we treat those above us and below us (verses 9-10, 17). The importance of impartiality in our personal relationships cannot be overemphasized. James 2 says that we are to be impartial as God is impartial and that how we treat those above us and below us is an indication of the reality or the lack of reality to our faith in Christ. “All men are created equal” is not an American concept but rather a heavenly one.

In verse 10 we have a man who is slandering a slave. The slave is defenseless. The master will believe the other free man, not the slave. The slave will be punished unjustly. We all agree that this is unjust but how many times have we bullied someone, slandered someone, or laughed at someone who we feel is inferior to us. This is sin. The Bible points this out repeatedly and yet we continue to do it. Why? We have allowed our desire for importance to follow the way of the world around us.

One of the worst things about this type of sin is its contagiousness. Hans Finzel in his book on leadership, “The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Makes” puts it this way, “[It] can become like a chain reaction. The boss barks orders to the employee. The employee goes home and barks orders at his spouse. The spouse barks orders at the children. The children kick the dog, and the dog chases the neighborhood cat! (page 25)” It is the way of this generation.

a. Mistreatment, however, of those below us will not go unpunished (verse 9). The slave who is slandered as he goes to the whipping post curses the man who slandered him. There is nothing more that the slave can do. It appears that the free man will truly go free. Agur says, “You will be found guilty.” By whom? God Himself.

I know that it appears that we get off free but we should not forget that we will be repaid according to the deeds we have done in our body. Vengeance is the Lord’s. He will repay.

b. Disrespect for those above us will not go unpunished (verses 10, 17). Now specifically Agur is talking about children and their parents. This is so important that it was a part of the original Ten Commandments. It was the first commandment with a promised blessing. A child who knows this and disrespects their parents is described for us in verse 6. They are adding their own viewpoint to God’s Word. They will be exposed by God for what they are. Verse 17, describes for us more specifically the price they will pay for their disrespect. The eye that mocks, that despises, that disobeys the one in authority over them will be picked out by the birds and eaten. The picture here is of someone who is already dead and the ravens and the vultures, birds that primarily eat carrion, will feast on those who turn their back on God’s commandment and disobey their parents. Now this may not be fulfilled literally in your life but there will be a price paid by the one who disrespects authority.

Now it is easy for us as parents to stand up and shout, “Amen!” Are we any better? Do we show respect for those over us? Do we mock our boss at work or the policeman on the street? During the past year I have been greatly embarrassed by believers with whom I am personally acquainted who have taken great liberties in making fun of our President. The believer who makes mock at our President through watermelon jokes is not exempt from verse 17. I do not know how God will act but He will not tolerate such evil from us.

B. Not only can we evaluate ourselves by the way we treat those above us and below us, we can evaluate ourselves by our self-righteousness. Verse 12 says, “There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, yet is not washed from its filthiness.” If ever there was a definition of self-righteousness, this is it. This is where religion and worldliness meet and breed sin. This where self-deception reaches its most dangerous.

When Jesus attacked the self-righteous, religious leaders of his day, he said to them, “…you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27). He called them hypocrites not because they were pretending to be pure when they really were not but because they were truly convinced that they were pure although they were actually full of filth.

Now self-righteousness is a hard thing to evaluate. By its very nature, it avoids self-detection. There are, however, some attitudes and actions that might indicate you are self-righteous:

1. The self-righteous exalt themselves in external religious duties (Luke 18:11-12).
2. The self-righteous seek to justify their own sin (Luke 10:25-29).
3. The self-righteous are more interested in what man thinks of them than in what God thinks of them (Luke 16:113-15).
4. The self-righteous seek God’s righteousness through their own goodness rather than through faith in Christ (Romans 9:31-10:4; Proverbs 20:6, 9).
5. The self-righteous condemn the righteousness of others (Matthew 10:10-12; Luke 7:39).
6. The self-righteous despise and slander others (Luke 18:9-11; Proverbs 30:10).
7. The self-righteous walk in their own way (Isaiah 65:2-5; Proverbs 21:2; 30:6).

Self-righteousness is also contagious. In Luke 11:46 and 52, Jesus said to the self-righteous lawyers of religion, “…you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers…you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”

Will the self-righteous escape the awful justice described in verse 17? No, Jesus said to those same self-righteous lawyers, “…‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,’ so that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation” (Luke 11:49-51).

C. We can evaluate ourselves by our arrogance. Verse 13, “There is a generation-oh, how lofty are their eyes! And their eyelids are lifted up.” Certainly, this is an extension of the previous verse. The emphasis here is on their pride rather than their self-deception.

Paul in Romans 12:1-2 begs believers to “…present [their] bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God…and [to] not be conformed to this world…” Is pride and arrogance an indication that someone is worldly? Absolutely! Paul commands the same believers in the next verse “…not to think of [themselves] more highly than [they] ought to think, but to think soberly…” Pride and arrogance are characteristic of worldliness. We, however, are not of this world and should think soberly, that is, in our right mind. At the end of Proverbs 30 in verse 32, Agur states this similarly but in a negative manner, “If you have been foolish in exalting yourself…put your hand on your mouth.” Now foolishness is not only an unwise type of thinking but in it is a sinful type of thinking. When I am arrogant and proud, I am foolish and sinful.

Many of us have quoted and almost all of us have heard Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Commonly, we soft-pedal the emphasis of this verse. We use this verse to mean that embarrassment will follow the proud person. That is not the emphasis of this proverb. Solomon is speaking of judgment. The proud will be judged. Our pride, our arrogance, our self-righteousness will not escape. We will be judged accordingly.

D. Finally, we can evaluate ourselves by the selfish destruction caused by our insatiable greed (verses 14-16). It is easy to read this and say, “Well, that isn’t me!” Are you sure? Let me ask the question this way, “What are you willing to do to get ahead?” “Who are you willing to hurt, so that you might reach your goals?” Certainly, economic greed is in view here but there are many other types of greed. Do you care more for your interests, your ways, and your ideals or do you care for others?

a. You see, greed does not care who it hurts (verse 14). James 4:1-4 describes the worldly attitude of those who in their greed for their own pleasure, for more money or power or prestige. They war and fight, they murder and covet, they are friends of the world and enemies of God.

b. Greed is never satisfied (verses 15-16). Agur uses five examples to show us the emptiness of greed and the futility of discontentment. The blood-sucking leech drinks and drinks and drinks. It does not concern itself for the health of its victim. It wants what it wants. It is never satisfied.

Then there is the grave. Death never fills its quote. It never takes a holiday. The grave never says, “I have enough.” It is never satisfied.

Then there is the barren womb. Some of you ladies know exactly what is being described here. The woman who cannot have a child will go to extreme lengths to have one. We have whole industries built on the yearning of women to bear or to have a child. Hannah’s husband said to his wife, “Am I not better to you than ten sons?” The Bible does not tell us how she answered but what it does tell us is that she went to God and began to bargain with Him for a son. The answer apparently was, “No.”

Then there is the earth that is not satisfied with water. The earth needs rain every planting season in order to produce crops? If we have abundant rain this year and no rain next year, the rain of this year will not satisfy the need of the earth for water. It will become in one year without rain barren and desertlike.

Finally, there is fire. There are three things that a fire needs to burn: heat, air, and fuel. The thing about fuel is this. The fire never says, “I’ve got enough.” It is insatiable.

Is that a picture of your life? Are you driven by greed? Are you driven by your ego? Are you driven by the acclaim and recognition of men? If so, then you are an enemy of God and His enemies will be destroyed and left for the birds to pick over. That is the judgment of God against this generation and against every generation that follows the way of this world.

What then should we do? If you are believer, then obey James command in James 4:7-10, submit yourself to God. Humble yourself before your Lord. If you have not trusted Christ, the answer is found in Romans 5:8-10, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” You need to confess that you are God’s enemy, deserving of damnation, and you need to trust Christ as the only way to make things right between you and God.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation February 7, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Contentment, Honesty, Materialism, Prayer, Proverbs, Religion, Sermons, Temptation.
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LEAD ME NOT INTO TEMPTATION
Proverbs 30:5-9

In Sunday School, our five year olds are learning what is known as the Lord’s Prayer or the Model Prayer. They are not yet to this part but eventually they will learn, “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” The prayer we are looking at today is similar. It is a prayer for protection against temptation.

I do not know if you pray for God to deliver you from temptation but you probably should. If you do, however, pray for protection from temptation, you should know more about this type of praying.

A. Our prayers for protection from temptation should be motivated by our faith in God (verses 5-7). Seneca, the Roman philosopher, said, “All my life I have been seeking to climb out of the pit of my besetting sins and I cannot do it and I never will unless a hand is let down to draw me up.” He understood that he needed help against sin. Now certainly it is good when someone can help us out of the pit but would it not be better to have someone protect us from falling in the pit in the first place?

Agur recognizes in verse 5 of our text that God is a shield for those who put their trust in Him. Now if God can protect us from death and hell, from sickness and Satan, why should we not trust Him to protect us from temptation?

a. Our prayer of faith for protection from temptation is dependent on God’s goodness and wisdom (verses 5b, 8b). Agur requests in verse 8b, “Feed me with the food allotted to me.” He is saying, I do not want any special treatment, nor do I want to go through trials. Just give me what I need and that will be enough. Agur believed that God was good and wise. In his prayer He is dependent on God’s goodness and wisdom to give him exactly what he needs.

b. Now why would Agur want to pray that way? – Because the prayer of faith for protection from temptation desires a lifestyle of truth (verse 6-8). Truth is a rare quality and always has been. Since Satan lied to Eve in the garden, mankind has been serving the Father of lies and has been busy deceiving and being deceived. (Proverbs 12:17-22 describe for us the difference between the lifestyle of truth and the lifestyle of destruction.) You see, Agur, wanted the Lord to delight in him and he knew that a life of honesty was necessary to gain the Lord’s delight.

Often, when people are struggling with sin, they pray for protection from temptation. I know that I have. The difference, often, is in the motive. Most of us pray to be protected from temptation because we do not want to suffer the consequences of the sin which we keep committing. There is nothing wrong with fearing the consequences of sin. Agur went beyond that. He wanted to please God and He knew that only a life of honesty could please the Lord.

c. Our prayer for protection from temptation recognizes our inner weaknesses (verses 8-9). He recognized how difficult it is to be honest. Most of us make a habit of being honest except when it appears that honesty just does not pay. The one who prays for protection from temptation recognizes his or her weakness and remembers that the final pain will erase the temporary pleasure.

Paul Harvey told a story (It has been repeated in print several times; I got it from a Charles Swindoll book) that illustrates what happens when you fail to recognize your inner weakness. When an Eskimo wants to kill a wolf, he coats his knife blade with animal blood and allows it to freeze. The he adds another lay and another until the blade is completely concealed by frozen blood.

Then the hunter fixes his knife in the ground with the blade up. When a wolf follows his sensitive nose to the source and discovers the bait he licks it, tasting the fresh-frozen blood. He licks faster, lapping the blade until the keen edge is bare. Still, he licks the blade harder and harder not noticing the sharp sting of the blade on his tongue. The animal does not recognize that his appetite is being satisfied by his own blood. His inner weakness just craves more until it is too late.

Agur recognized the danger of his own inner weakness and prayed for God to protect Agur from Agur.

B. We can flee the temptations of this world through prayer (verses 8-9). There are a number of things that we can and should do but developing a prayer life that is serious about combating temptation is a vital and essential tool in our arsenal against sin.

When I was growing up, there were certain temptations that were constantly pulling me into the pit. With maturity, looking back, I can see that one of the weapons against sin that I neglected was prayer. I memorized Scripture and confessed my sin often but I did not enlist someone to help me to pray in my struggles against sin. There was also a lack of seriousness in my own prayer life. I only prayed about my sinfulness when I felt guilty. There was not a real recognition of what my inner weakness was.

Agur, however, recognized his inner weaknesses. He knew that honesty had to be put at the top of his priority list. He also knew that his economic condition would make him susceptible to certain sins. Not every disease prospers in the same climate. Tropical diseases are not a big problem in Alaska. The reason we have flu season is because certain conditions are conducive to catching the flu. Sin acts in much the same way.

a. The rich are tempted by sins of self-sufficiency and arrogance (verse 9a). Unfortunately, money and the tangible things that money can buy as well as the security and significance that we feel money can provide are the things by which we evaluate our self-worth. It is how we determine whether our lives are worth living. It is no wonder that those with wealth are susceptible to the sins of self-sufficiency and arrogance.

Patrick Morley relates the following example of this truth. In 1976 the “I Found It” Campaign…saturated communities nationwide…The “I Found It!” bumper stickers were everywhere! People who asked what had been found learned the answer: “New life in Jesus Christ.” Sandy, the local director (in a wealthy Florida coastal town), found a correlation between interest in the Gospel message and the distance people lived from the ocean. In other words, the closer people lived to the water, the less interested. The farther from the water they went, the greater the interest. The wealthy people lived in the condominiums closest to the water, while the service help, who worked in the hotels along the coast, lived in the mobile home parks farthest from the water.”

In other words, they do not feel they need new life in Jesus Christ. They have their best life now!

b. The poor are tempted by sins of desperation and hopelessness (verse 9b). Certainly, the truly poor are not susceptible to self-sufficiency. They need help.

If we have learned anything from the crisis in Haiti, it is that desperation will cause people to do the unimaginable. I was listening to NPR radio this week about a mother in Haiti who had born four or five children. A couple of years ago, she gave two of her children away and believes they were taken overseas because she is desperate for a better life for her children.

Agur prays, do not let me be so poor that I steal and profane your name. It is interesting that he does not say, do not let me be poor, I do not want to suffer, I could not stand the shame of poverty. No, his prayer is focused on God.

Believer, do you pray for protection from temptation? Why? Because you want to glorify God? How seriously do you take your inner weakness? Would you be willing for God to give you a different lifestyle if that would make you less susceptible to sin and more honoring to God? As believers we will never be condemned to hell for our sin but that does not mean there are no consequences. Are you like a moth drawn to the light of sin? Get into the Word, memorize Scripture, get you an accountability partner but do not neglect daily pleading to God for help and strength against the weaknesses of your flesh.

If you have never trusted Christ, you need to know that Jesus Christ died for your sin. You can be forgiven. You do not have to be condemned. Turn to Jesus for salvation and forgiveness today. Come to me after the service and I or one of our people will take you to a quiet place where you can ask questions and understand from God’s Word how to be saved from your sin. Would you do that today?

With heads bowed and eyes closed, I am going to ask you a question and I want you to think about it. Are you going to take temptation seriously? What are you going to do about it? You need a plan. You need a partner, a believer to help you in your fight against temptation. You need a prayer plan. You need a Scripture memory plan. We can help you with all of those things. We can pray for you and with you. Just let us know.

Next Week: Proverbs 30:10-17 “Evaluating a Generation”

Sermon blog: roberttalley.wordpress.com
Church website: http://www.gracelansing.com
Church email: GraceLans@aol.com

The Hardest Lesson to Learn (Philippians 4:10-23) August 30, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Contentment, Philippians, Religion, Sermons.
1 comment so far

THE HARDEST LESSON TO LEARN (Philippians 4:10-23)

The weather is a very revealing thing. Every time the weather changes, we reveal how discontented we are. We have had a wonderful, beautiful summer with plenty of rain and we have spent most of that summer complaining about the rain, forgetting that it is God who gives us our weather. You see the weather in a small way reveals how discontented we often really are with our lot in life. It is a hard lesson to learn but it is a necessary one for the believer in Christ.

The lesson to be learned is contentment in Christ (4:10-12). Contentment is not automatic, it has to be learned. Now there was a group called the Stoics in that day who preached contentment. They taught that you should come to the point of indifference. They were like little Pierre in the children’s book who replied to everything with the phrase, “I don’t care.” That is, until he was swallowed by a lion. When they finally got him out of the lion, his first words were, “I care.” It was said of the Stoics that they made the heart a desert and called it peace. Obviously that it is not what Paul believed. He writes with thanksgiving and rejoices when the Philippians help him out in his time of need. As we go through this epistle, we see that Paul cared, he cared very much. He was an emotional man who went through high times and low times but in this roller coaster that we call life, he had learned to be content in Christ.

The classroom is life (4:11-12). Contentment is not learned during the good times but rather during the rough times, when we are not getting what we need or want. I saw a wonderful example early in the summer of learning contentment. We have a couple of suet feeders in our backyard. There were a number of different birds who nested and were feeding at our feeders. One of these was a family of starlings or blackbirds. The mother starling would fly to one of the feeders with one of her babies which was as big as the mother, the only difference being it still had its gray baby feathers. It appeared to be just a strong as its mother also. It had no more trouble holding onto the feeder and appeared to be able to fly just as fast. Yet the baby would hang onto the feeder with the food inches away from its beak and wait for its mother to peck out a seed and put it down its throat. The baby starling had it good. It received everything from its mother’s mouth to its own. There came a day, though, when Momma said “No.” You are on your own. The baby bird is not happy with the situation but he has a choice. He can bellyache and beg or he can learn to be content with eating on his own. Why? Because that is what is best for young birds.

This is the secret of life we must learn (4:12). There is no situation in which God is not doing what is best. That is why in each and every circumstance of life we are initiated into the secret of what life is all about: God is in control, I am not, and what He is doing is what is best. God does not play cruel jokes on people. What happens is that we refuse to accept that what God is doing in our life is what is best.

This is exemplified by his attitude towards the lack of giving by the Philippians (verse 10). He recognized that they had not had opportunity. It does seem strange that God had not allowed the Philippians to help Paul during the ten years since he had started the church, but God had not and Paul said with a quiet confidence, “God knows what is best.”

This is exemplified by his attitude towards their gift (verse 11). He says, I did not really need your gift. I am content in Christ, whether you give or not. I am not losing sleep over the fact that the gifts are few and far between. I just tighten up my belt and remember, “God knows what is best.”

This is also exemplified by his independence of circumstances (verse 12). He says, it just does not matter whether things are going well or rotten, “God knows what is best.

The lesson learned strengthens and empowers us (4:13). Now this verse does not say you can climb every mountain and ford every stream. It does not say dream big and you can accomplish big things. It is not a mantra to excuse foolishness or ambition. What then is the “all things” in verse 13 that we can do. The answer is in verse 12. In every circumstance of life, wherever I may be, I have the strength and the power to be content in prosperity and in poverty.

Now where does this strength and power come from? God. We ask ourselves so often, Lord where can I get faith, peace, contentment, power, love, joy, patience, all the virtues that the Bible tells me I need and that I think I want. The answer is “from God.” The power of positive thinking and the strength of a stiff upper lip will not bring virtue in our life. God, however, can and does by teaching us these things (as we talked about last week) through His people, through prayer, and through His Word.

To seek the abundance of others (4:14-18). You see contentment and seeking the abundance of others go hand in hand. You will never be content as long as you are looking out for your own abundance because self is never satisfied. When your needs are met, you will focus on your wants, and when your wants are met, you will focus on the things that others say you need, and on and on and on… Why? Because the desires of man are never satisfied. If, however, you are seeking the abundance of others, there is contentment to be found.

Over the next few weeks, we are going to talk a lot about commitment and giving. I want you to understand, when we ask you for a commitment of time or money or labor or attitude, we are not asking you to keep this work going. God does that. Our motivation must be this, that your heavenly treasure chest will overflow, that your sacrifice will be seen by God as pleasing.

Now it is important that you understand that when you give to the abundance of others, that is worship. When you give so that others might have, you have submitted yourself to God, falling on your spiritual face and said to God that what you have is His.

This involves the giving of money but it also involves the giving of time, strength, priorities, and whatever else that you may have. If you sing to your hearts content and rejoice in the singing and the music but do not give your all for the abundance of others, you have not worshiped but, rather, have simply had an emotional experience. What pleases God is those things that cost us something.

To depend on Him for our needs (4:19). Biblical contentment is more than being happy with what you have. Rather it is an active confidence that what God gives you is what you need at that moment.

http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/1999-01-03-Will-1999-Be-a-Happy-New-Year/).

“The comedy film Cool Runnings is about the first Jamaican bobsled team to go to the Winter Olympics. John Candy plays a former American gold medallist who becomes a coach for the Jamaican team. The players grow to like the American coach and affectionately dub him “Sled-god.” Late in the story the coach’s dark history comes out. In an Olympics following his gold medal performance, he broke the rules by weighting the U.S. sled, bringing disgrace on himself and his team. One of the Jamaican bobsledders could not understand why anyone who had already won a gold medal would cheat. Finally he nervously asked Candy to explain.

“I thought I had to win,” said the coach. “But I learned something. If you are not happy without a gold medal, you won’t be happy with it, either” (With thanks to Ray Pritchard

Do you want the secret of life? The choice is very easy. If you want to live for yourself, you will never know the secret of contentment. But it is there all around you, if you are willing to learn it.

Next Week:

 

Exodus 12:12-37 What Do We Mean By This Service?