Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Monday, June 28, 2010

We Are What We Speak

When former president of the United States, Lyndon Johnson, was running for Senate, he got the idea to release an extremely vile rumor about his opponent. He called in his campaign manager and explained what he wanted to do. The campaign manager said to him, “You can’t say that, it’s not true.” Lyndon Johnson coolly replied, “I know it’s not true but let’s make him deny it, anyway.”

Lyndon Johnson understood the power of words. He understood that spoken words have the power to destroy. An accusation alone is often enough to derail a career or destroy a reputation. But in the same way words can destroy they can build up. Words have destructive power but they also have creative power. God spoke the world into existence.

Genesis 1:1-5
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.

The whole first chapter of Genesis: The creation of the universe is like that. And God spoke; and God spoke; and God spoke. The world was created on the spoken word of God.

John 1:1-3
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2 He was in the beginning with God.3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

This is the power of Word of God. And we can see that power today. Lives are built up and destroyed by the power of spoken words. Today, I want to write about the power of the words we speak.

Numbers 13:23-33
23 Then they came to the Valley of Eshcol, and there cut down a branch with one cluster of grapes; they carried it between two of them on a pole. They also brought some of the pomegranates and figs.24 The place was called the Valley of Eshcol, because of the cluster which the men of Israel cut down there.25 And they returned from spying out the land after forty days. 26 Now they departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land.27 Then they told him, and said: “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.28 “Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there.29 “The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.” 30 Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.”32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature.33 “There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”

The Power of Words

This is an interesting moment in scripture. Moses has sent twelve men to spy out the Promised Land. This is the land that God has given to Israel in the Promise to Abraham. This is the promise that was eight hundred years in the making. These men have gone and looked at the land that is the land of promise.

They have brought back something that represents the blessing of God they brought back with them this huge cluster of grapes. Two men had to carry it between them on a pole. It was huge. It is a sampling of the blessing and abundance of God

So here they have the faithful promise of God and visual picture of the blessing of God that’s in store for them, but what are they speaking? “The Land flows with Milk and Honey, nevertheless…” Do you know what that word nevertheless means? It means BUT, HOWEVER. Essentially they’re saying we have seen the promise of God and we see His blessing, BUT… Then they begin to speak words that sew fear into the hearts of the people.

Numbers 13:28
Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there

The people are strong; the cities are fortified; the land devours it’s inhabitants; there’s giants there…. we’re doomed, we’re all going to die. Look at the affect on the people.

Numbers 14:1-5
So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night.2 And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness!3 “Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?”4 So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.”

They gave up. The can see the grapes, the visual picture of the blessing and promise of God. But it is the words that are spoken that influence them.

It’s just like listening to the news today. Global warming…we’re all going to die. The Oil spill…our way of life is over. Your cell phone can give you cancer…Swine flu will kill us all…George Bush…Hurricanes…the economy. Come on! Everything is about fear and discouragement. Don’t think this stuff doesn’t have an influence on people. The dirty little secret is, that’s what it is intended to do. It is intended to discourage us.

The real problem is that too often, we speak words that lead to our own discouragement. “I’m not very smart…I can’t do it…I’m afraid I’ll fail…What if I get sick?…I’m depressed, doom, gloom, despair” Even worse than that, we speak words of discouragement to and about each other. “You can’t do that…Are you sure you’re right…You’re so lazy…You’re such a b****."

It was Vladimir Lenin, leader of the communist revolution in Russia who said, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth," and he should know.

Examine the words that you speak. Are your words designed to encourage or discourage? Do the words that you speak build up the hearer or tear him down?

The interesting thing about words is that they don’t have to be spoken to a person to affect them. In Numbers Chapter 23 Balak, the king of Moab calls Balaam to curse Israel for him. Apparently, Balaam is famous for this. He’s the “go to” guy when you want to curse someone. Look at what Balak says about him, “for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.” So Balaam goes to Balak so that he can curse Israel. But God doesn’t allow him to speak a curse, instead he gives him blessing to speak.

Numbers 23:5-11
5 Then the LORD put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and said, “Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak.”6 So he returned to him, and there he was, standing by his burnt offering, he and all the princes of Moab.7 And he took up his oracle and said: 1 “Balak the king of Moab has brought me from Aram, From the mountains of the east. ‘Come, curse Jacob for me, And come, denounce Israel!’8 “How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the LORD has not denounced?
9 For from the top of the rocks I see him, And from the hills I behold him;
There! A people dwelling alone, Not reckoning itself among the nations.
10 “Who can count the dust of Jacob, Or number one-fourth of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, And let my end be like his!” 11 Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and look, you have blessed them bountifully!”

Look at the reaction of Balak. He’s beside himself. He’s very upset. “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies and you have blessed.” But who has Balaam spoken to? He hasn’t stood on a cliff overlooking the people and yelled a curse down on them. He’s only spoken to Balak. But the words are released. The words are spoken and Balak is upset because it’s blessing that is spoken out loud. What we speak can affect people whether they hear it or not. I’ll give you an example: Couples who struggle in marriages:

Every couple has difficulties, do you know that? All of us fight, all of us have discord, but there is a commitment there. But something happens when the word “Divorce” is spoken out loud. “I’m sick of this, I ought to divorce him/her.” Right at that moment, even if it is spoken in anger, without really meaning it. It’s out there and the possibility is opened up. It would be interesting to know how many couples really never thought of divorce, until one or the other of them said that. I know this is true, because how many times have you talked to a divorced person who said, “I still love him, or I still love her.” As a pastor I’ve heard it often enough.

The same can be true of adultery. When you say it out loud it lodges in your mind. You begin to think about, steer toward it until eventually it happens.

Here is another interesting thought, what you say is what you do. Your actions will follow your words. If you say, “I can’t do that,” you won’t, because you have already given up. Our actions will always follow our words. In other words, what you speak is what you become. “I hate her.” “I can’t trust him.” “I’m a loser.” Remember a lie spoken often enough becomes the truth.

Words Can Build Up

You know, I praise God for my parents. They always taught me that I could succeed at whatever I put my mind to. They always spoke words of encouragement. I believed that I could do whatever I wanted with my life. My being in Taiwan and doing what I’m doing is proof of the power of those words.

What kind of things are you speaking to the people in your life? Are you encouraging them and building them up? Or do you words have the opposite affect. Are those words putting the brakes on their ambition and they abilities? In other words, are your words blessings or curses?

In our text the words that were spoken and the reactions of the people led to the loss of the Promised Land for an entire generation. Only two men from that generation saw the Promised Land, Joshua and Caleb: The two dissenting spies. Everyone else who heard those words died in the wilderness. Why only Joshua and Caleb? Their words were filled with faith and blessing.

Numbers 14:6-9
6 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes;7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land.8 “If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’9 “Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.”

How did he know that, because he knew the words of God? God said those exact words to Israel five times. The most recent being:

Leviticus 20:24
24 ‘But I have said to you, “You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples.

Joshua heard those words spoken by God through Moses and they had a powerful affect on him. He has faith. It is the spoken word that brings faith. It’s not a bad thing to read the Bible, to sit quietly and read the printed words. But the Bible tells us that faith comes from hearing.

Romans 10:17
17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

It is the spoken word of God that brings faith. That’s why it is so important for us to witness and testify. The word of God spoken through us in faith brings faith to another person. It also has the added benefit of strengthening our faith as we hear our selves speak words of faith.

Romans 1:17
17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

We sometimes think it was the miracles that Jesus did that brought people to faith. But the miracles were demonstrations of the things Jesus preached and spoke. There is a passage of scripture in John chapter 6, where Jesus is telling the people about his purpose. He makes a statement that causes them to understand that his purpose is not what they’re seeking from him and so they turn away. Then Jesus turns to the disciples and asks them, “Are you going to go away also.” Look at Peter’s response:

John 6:68
68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Notice that he didn’t say, “You have the miracles and the signs.” He said you have the words of Eternal Life. It was the words of Jesus that infused Peter with faith. It was the words that had the power of Eternal Life. God used words to bring the universe into existence; Jesus used words to bring Eternal Life.
Often we don’t stop and consider the words that we speak. People think that they can say anything as long as they say, “Just kidding,” as if the “just kidding,” erases the words that were already spoken. We need to be mindful of the words we speak. It’s better to speak words that encourage, words of blessing, words that build up. Do you want to improve your marriage, speak words that uplift? Tell her that you love her. Tell him he’s a good man, that you respect him.

Romans 14:19
19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.

That word “edify” means to build up. It comes from the edifice. An edifice is a huge building. The word implies strength; it implies security. The Taipei 101 is an edifice.

People are so fragile, sometimes; they can be destroyed by a callous word. I don’t want to be responsible for destroying someone because of my callousness. I wan to speak only words that will edify. I want my words to be an encouragement, a blessing and not a curse.

You know one of the reasons I’m glad I’m not in Southern California anymore? I got so tired of people always being so negative. I got tired of being cussed out. I got tired of hearing attacks on other people. I used to enjoy following politics, but the political system these days is all about attacks. It’s not “This is what I’m going to do for my country.” It’s “My opponent is a liar, and idiot….whatever.” What did Hillary Clinton call it? The Politics of Personal Destruction.

I’m not into it anymore. I want to hear the words of Eternal Life. I want to hear words of edification. But I need also to speak them. I can speak words of encouragement into the heart of another person. I can speak words of encouragement into my own heart. I want to be like Balaam, only I want to be famous for blessing and not cursing.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Heart of Judas

All of us, at one time or another, has faced betrayal by a friend or a family member. We understand the pain of betrayal. But how many of us understand the betrayer, or the thing that leads to betrayal. There is a perfect picture of betrayal and the betrayer in the Bible, in the betrayal of Jesus. I want to use that picture to understand what it is that led Judas to betray Jesus and what may cause us to betray Him, as well.

John 6:64-71
64 “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.69 “Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?”71 He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.

The Hidden Heart

We often think of Judas as evil don’t we. And don’t get me wrong I don’t want you to think he’s a victim of his environment or give some other pop psychology excuse for his actions. He betrayed Jesus, which is a role that defines evil for us. He betrayed Jesus and that betrayal led directly to His crucifixion.

But I wonder if Judas was evil from the beginning. I wonder if he harbored in his heart from the beginning a desire to betray Jesus for financial gain. It seems odd that if financial gain was his motive that he settled for such a small sum. Thirty pieces of silver in those days, was the price of a slave.

I want to examine Judas’ heart. I want to look more closely at the betrayer because I want to give us opportunity to examine our own hearts and look for the seeds of betrayal that bloomed in Judas’ heart so that we can remove them.

Jesus knew from the beginning who would betray Him. But I believe the betrayer himself had no idea that he would be the one to sell Jesus out. . Jesus chose twelve men to be his inner circle. He called Judas in the same way that He called the others. None of these men attached themselves to Him on their own. Each member of the inner circle was called. Judas did no less than the others when he forsook all to follow Him. Judas was a part of that same inner circle of men, an intimate of Christ. He was a part of Jesus’ ministry. He saw the miracles; he heard the words of Jesus that were reserved just for the twelve. And like the rest of them he had given himself as a follower of Christ.

Judas was a trusted member of this community of men. He held the purse; he was the keeper of the finances. He had the same hopes and aspirations that this man, they all followed was the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior. He was a friend of Jesus.

Isn’t that true? If you’ve ever been betrayed who was it that betrayed you? Was it a friend or a loved one? Betrayal takes place in a relationship. There can be no betrayal without a real relationship? A stranger can’t betray you because betrayal speaks of building and then deserting a relationship.

So Judas and Jesus are friends. But there are things that are hidden in Judas’ heart. They’re not hidden from Jesus, He is the searcher of hearts. He’s the one who understands our failings. But there are things that are hidden in Judas’ heart that are hidden from Judas. Many times we are blind to our own sin. That’s how we can justify it to ourselves. Justification of sin is blindness to sin.

Judas had the heart of a thief, and what is it that lurks in the heart of thief? The root of it is greed and selfishness. Look at this verse; watch how Judas justifies his greed.

John 12:4-6
4 Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said,5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.

He justifies it as if he’s using it for good works. But the truth is, according to John, that he’s stealing it and using it for his own purposes. He’s hidden it from himself and he’s hidden it from the others. John writes as if he understands Judas’ intention at the time. But this was written a number of years after the event and John has the benefit of hindsight as he writes this. Look at Mark’s account of the same event.

Mark 14:4-5
4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted?5 “For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply.

The others joined in the criticism. There is no suspicion of his thievery. This is something that’s hidden from them. But I believe there is one other thing that’s hidden in his heart and that’s unbelief. In John 6:64, Jesus tells us that there are some following Him that didn’t believe. There is a link between unbelief and the betrayal that follows.

John 6:64
64 “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.

Let’s look at the context of that statement. To find the context that he’s speaking of we need to look at the day before. Jesus had been preaching to the multitudes. It got late and the people were hungry and Jesus had compassion on them. He fed five thousand men and their families on five loaves and two fish. Look at the reaction of the crowd at the end of this miracle.

John 6:14-15
14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.

Jesus sends the twelve to Capernaum. The Bible says He “constrained” them to get into the boat. That word constrained means compelled. He made them leave. He sent them away. He didn’t want this thought that He was a temporal or worldly king to creep into their thinking. He didn’t want them to get the wrong idea of His mission so he told them to leave. After they left He sent away the multitude. But the next day the multitude was back and Jesus begins to deal with them about His purpose.

John 6:38-41
38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.39 “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.40 “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” 41 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.”

He declares to them that He came not to be a king, but to do His Father’s will and that is to deliver mankind from sin. The people turn away and don’t follow Him anymore after that. They want a political king that will lift the oppression of Rome off them. But that’s not his purpose and so they turn away. Jesus gives the reason in verse sixty-four. He says, “There are some of you who do not believe,” and the verse goes on to say that he knew who didn’t believe and who would betray Him. There is the implication of unbelief in the betrayer’s heart.

Judas is disappointed, perhaps, that Jesus isn’t going to be a worldly king. Maybe that’s the reason that he chose to follow Jesus, because he expected Him to be a king in the political sense. What advantage is there to a thief who is a part of the government.

A High-ranking police officer in the US recently appeared before A federal judge on charges of corruption. He is an elected official who is accused of accepting more than $350,000 in bribes for favors for friends and supporters, one of them notorious for his son’s rape of a 16-year-old girl. The indictment alleges that he ran for re-election in order to continue the lifestyle of corruption that he had lived. A man like this has a thief’s heart. This is the same heart that Judas has.

The unnerving part of all of this for us is that his unbelief led him to betrayal. Why is this unnerving? Because, we don’t always have faith in God. It’s easy to believe when we see the miracles happening right before us. We want to grab hold of Jesus in that situation. When Jesus is blessing we want to believe in Him. What we really want is a Jesus that will make our lives better and easier. That’s why the prosperity Gospel is so popular. But we start to balk at a sovereign God who expects our obedience. We hesitate to embrace a Jesus who came not for our purposes, but for the purposes of a sovereign God. “This is a hard saying who can believe it.” That’s what those who turned away said. We want a God made in our own image, of what God should look like. We struggle with believing that God has a different agenda than making life good and easy for us. That’s the unbelief that makes it easy for us to walk away and betray the savior of mankind. Jesus didn’t come to make our lives better. He came to bring eternal life. The sin and unbelief in Judas’ heart led to his betrayal of Jesus and we need to recognize the unbelief in our own hearts before it destroys us.

The Strength of a Pure Heart

In the text, Peter declares a heart of faith for them all.

John 6:67-69
Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.69 “Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Peter is speaking or them all. He doesn’t see the treachery that is forming in Judas’ heart, he only sees his own faith. What is interesting is that Peter saw all the same things Judas did. He heard Jesus speak the same things Judas heard Him speak. These things led to the firm conviction in Peter that Jesus came to bring eternal life. Look at his declaration, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of Eternal Life. We believe and we know that you are the Christ.” Peter is convinced by the things that he’s seen and heard that Jesus is God.

He was convinced when Jesus told him to lower the nets on the right side of the boat and the miracle fish they caught almost swamped the boat. “Depart from me for I am a sinful man, oh Lord.” By declaring himself a sinner he is declaring the lordship of Christ. He is acknowledging that Jesus is God.

But later unbelief creeps in and he denies that Jesus must die on the cross. This is a moment when he is like Judas.

Matthew 16:21-23
21 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

The unbelief of Judas was that he saw Jesus, not as the Christ, but as a king. He looked to the worldly resolution of things. The cares and concerns of the world overrode his thoughts. We see Peter, here, also being rebuked for having worldly concerns rather than spiritual ones.

This comes after Peter has declared Jesus to be the Christ. It comes after he has said they will remain faithful because they are convinced of whom He is.

We also are convinced. We believe that Jesus is God. We believe that He came and died to pay the penalty of our sin. We are convinced that He is our salvation. But every backslider was at one time a convinced believer in Jesus. Unbelief can creep in as we worry about the day-to-day things; as we struggle under the stresses of life. It is in these struggles that the engine for betrayal is set into motion. Backsliding is a betrayal because it is a willful destruction of a relationship.

There is one aspect of betrayal we must see. It is from this time that Judas begins to be estranged from Jesus. Verse 71 is the first mention of Judas in the book of John. All of the other acts of Judas take place after this. This is the moment of his turn from Christ. Yet, he continued on with jesus and with the others and no one else knew or suspected. At the last supper, Jesus tells him, “What you do, do quickly.’ He sends him on his mission of betrayal and look at the reaction of the others.

John 13:28-29
28 But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him.29 For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.

His heart has changed and it isn’t apparent to any of the others. We can conceal betrayal in our hearts. It springs up out of this root of unbelief that blossoms into bitterness and ends in destruction. Judas’ betrayal leads to the death of Jesus nut also to his own.

Matthew 27:3-5
3 Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!”5 Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.

Betrayal destroys not only the object of the betrayal but the betrayer as well.

Having the Heart of Peter and not the Heart of Judas

Both Peter and Judas struggled with unbelief. But only the unbelief in Judas heart led to betrayal. The difference between them may have been the things that were hidden in the hearts of the men. The things that they were seeking that were apparent.

Judas had the heart of a thief. He sought the advantage that a thief seeks.

I knew a man who robbed his family of a great deal of money. It was very interesting because he seemed so open to people. He was friendly and outgoing, you’d never have thought he’d be a thief. But a thief seeks advantage in order to steal

Perhaps this was Judas’ motivation, he was looking for an advantage. He waited until that advantage could be turned for profit, before he moved. Judas sought material gain. He looked for worldly power.

Peter looked for eternal life. “To whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.” He said we have no choice but to be faithful, turning to that which we have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God. Look at the Wuest Expanded New Testament:

And as for us we have believed, and still believe and have come to know and still know experientially that you are the Holy One of God

He is saying we know from our experience that you are the Son of God. What we have seen of you convinces us. Judas has seen what they have seen. He has experienced what they have experienced the only thing that’s different is what is hidden in their hearts: Things that may have been hidden even to them.

I don’t believe that at this moment, the moment of our text that Judas has planned already to betray Jesus. I believe that the moment of betrayal came later.

John 13:27
27 Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”

He has opened a door that Satan can use, through his unbelief. He has given Satan access to his heart and the act of betrayal began in that moment when Satan entered in. How many of us have had moments of unbelief? How many times have we had doubt that our faith would see us through difficulty? How many times have we considered leaving our church because of something that’s been preached; or because what God’s doing isn’t apparent; or because what God’s doing doesn’t fit your vision of what God should be doing? This is the same root of unbelief that led to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. I would imagine that Peter also faced these moments. In fact, Jesus telling him that He must die is one of those moments. The difference was Peter’s desire was for the spiritual. “You speak the words of Eternal Life. Who else has that?” This is how Peter thinks.

Peter thinks that eternal life is more important than political change. Politics, by its nature, is temporary. There is something going on here that’s bigger than Peter and he sees that.

On the other hand, people betray over feelings, over disappointment, over advantage. They can’t look beyond their own needs. They selfishly look for their own fulfillment. That’s how Judas thinks. He’s looking for advantage both politically and materially: His own needs come before anything else. He’s disappointed that Jesus isn’t here to become a worldly king. He’s disappointed that it will affect his own standing and power, so he is motivated to betray.

How easy it is to think like Judas. But how much better to think like Peter.

Some things are hard to accept – But to whom would we go?
Some things seem so important for the moment – But you have the words of Eternal life.
I have believed that you are the Holy One of God – That’s why I followed you in the first place.
I still believe that because I have experienced you – And I’m still seeing your power

This is the thinking that protects against betrayal, because it is thinking that’s rooted in belief, not unbelief. God is not created in OUR image. God is not responsible to be who we think He is, He is who He is. You can believe in Him; even when it gets tough; even when it doesn’t seem like what you get is what you want. If your thoughts are rooted in belief, you protect yourself from betrayal.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Wisdom and Character

Someone once said, “Too often in prayer we ask for a change in circumstances rather than in our character.”

How true this is. We pray for relief from circumstances. We ask God to help mend relationships. We cry out for deliverance from things that seem to be totally our of our control. But how often are those circumstances the result of a lack of character? Someone who lacks character can get themselves into all kinds of bad situations. They we pray for relief from our circumstances when what we should really be praying for is character. I want to examine character from Solomon’s life.

1 Kings 3:5-10
5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask! What shall I give you?”6 And Solomon said: “You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.7 “Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.8 “And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted.9 “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”
10 The speech pleased the LORD, that Solomon had asked this thing.

Praying for Character

This moment takes place in the very beginning of Solomon’s reign as King of Israel. There is so much he could have prayed for. He could have asked for riches; he could have prayed for power. He could have prayed that God would give him something that would benefit only Solomon. So what does he ask for? Basically he prays for character. He asks for an understanding heart, and God grants him wisdom. Wisdom is a reflection of Character.

Wisdom is different than intelligence. Intelligent people can make many things happen. They are writers, mathematicians, philosophers, engineers, inventors. Intelligent people are responsible for much of the technological progress we have made in the last 100 years. But intelligent people are not always wise, because wisdom is a product of experience and character. You can be smart and lack character, but you can’t be wise and lack character. I’ll give you an example. Bernie Madoff was a very intelligent man. He kept a Ponzi scheme going for many years; a very difficult thing to do. But his lack of character destroyed many lives.

As Solomon prays he puts the people of Israel first. He’s looking for the wisdom to govern wisely. His desire is for the understanding that will be needed to lead the Israel. This is something that’s lacking in government today. Leaders aren't looking for the wisdom and understanding to lead well. Their only desire is that their personal agenda will be met. Solomon isn’t asking for his agenda. He’s not trying to make it easier on himself. He wants to lead well, like his father. Look at how he describes his father.

1 Kings 3:6
6 And Solomon said: “You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.

David, according to Solomon walked in truth, in righteousness and uprightness of heart. He’s describing David as a man of character. He can see David’s character. It’s visible in David’s life. He has also experienced God’s mercy toward David and he’s looking for the same thing in his life.

Character is found in example

It is David’s example that shows him what character looks like. Often character is imparted to us through our parent’s example. If our parents have integrity in what they do chances are that we will also have character and integrity in our lives as well.

The problem is that character in an individual isn’t hereditary. We determine much of how our own character is formed. While our parents can be examples of good character they cannot give us character. Look at this story:

A rehabilitation counselor took early retirement to spend the rest of his life preaching the gospel. Early in his career he found a young boy with several birth defects. He arranged financial and medical help. Skilled surgeons restored the child's facial appearance. Trained therapists taught him to speak and walk. By his teens, the boy was able to take part in all the activities of other young people. "What do you think has become of this young man?" the counselor asked. One guessed he was a great athlete; another, a skilled surgeon. "No, none of these," the retired counselor said sadly. "The young man is a prisoner, serving a life sentence for murder. We were able to restore his physical features and his ability to walk and act, but we failed to teach him where to walk and how to act. I was successful in helping the boy physically, but I failed to help him spiritually."

This is what parents face. We can teach our children all they need to know to get through life. We can teach them our values, but we can’t control how they will live. Our children, just like us, will form their own character.

Peer Pressure, The Word of God and Prayer

In may way of thinking there are three ways to find character. The firs way many of us find character is through the people we hang out with. Their values become our values.

You can see this in children as they grow up. They start out as babies, eager to please their parents. Their parents are their whole world, in fact. But once they get into school, they begin to want to be like their friends. They want to do what their friends are able to do. They want to have what their friends have, materially. They learn from their friends how to cheat, steal, and lie. All of those things are taught by their friends. That’s why it is so important for us as parents to understand who their friends are, and the character they possess.

Too often our children see their friends as examples of character. They follow their friends, because of a desire to fit in and be popular, and they can grow up to have completely different values than their parents have taught them.

The second way to find character is to apply the word of God to your life. The Bible teaches us much about character: It shows us examples of good character and we see examples of poor character. We also see God’s reactions to those examples, just like Solomon did in the life of David. He saw David’s example of character, “ His walk in truth, righteousness and uprightness of heart,” and God’s reaction to that, and his own character was formed from what he saw. He grew up with the prophecies of David and he heard and lived with the psalms David wrote. He applied those things to his life

The third pathway to character is prayer, and this is ultimately what Solomon did. Look at the words of his prayer:

1 Kings 3:7-9
7 “Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.8 “And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted.9 “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”

Solomon wants to be able to discern the difference between good and evil. This is really what the crux of character is isn’t it; the ability to discern between good and evil and respond appropriately. What Solomon is praying for here is the ability to judge between right and wrong, so he can lead people to live righteously.

What are you praying for? Are you concerned only with circumstances or are you praying for God to build something in you? Are you asking God to do a work in you? There is more to what God can do in us than meet our needs. There is more that God can do, than give us what we want. God can help to build something lasting inside us. God can do a powerful work in us; make us into something we weren’t before. It’s nice that we can call on God to bring us out of bad circumstances, or to meet financial and material needs. But how much better would it be if we could be transformed into people of character?

That’s a much more difficult thing to pray for, though, because we all know what it takes to build character. Character comes through adversity not blessing. So when we pray like Solomon, we know we’re going to have to go through some things. People don’t want that, but it’s necessary if you want character.

Maintaining Character

Solomon started off well. He cried out to God to give him the ability to discern good from evil. He asked God for character, but he didn’t maintain that character. He ended up leading people away from God rather than toward righteous living.

1 Kings 11:3-10
3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart.4 For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David.5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.6 Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not fully follow the LORD, as did his father David.7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon.8 And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods. 9 So the LORD became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the LORD God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice,10 and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the LORD had commanded.

He turned away from the God who had blessed him so richly toward idols and false gods. He was no longer loyal, he was unable to discern between good and evil. He no longer followed God; he’d broken faith. He’d lost the attributes of character. He had stepped away from the attributes that marked his father’s character and laid aside the example that was before him.

The problem is that our character is always open to influence. Character can be destroyed if we don’t keep our hearts in the right place. In Solomon’s case he allowed his foreign wives to turn him away from God and toward the gods they worshipped. He came under their influence rather than influencing them. In his desire to please them he lost sight of his own character and became a “spiritual” adulterer. There are influences that play on our character for our whole lives. How we react to those influences in a given circumstance can determine the direction of our character for the rest of our lives.

I used Bernie Madoff as an illustration earlier. But do you realize that early in his career he was considered to be a brilliant stock market analyst; a man of wisdom and integrity, a man of great character. He did his job brilliantly, and ended up making a lot of people very wealthy. That’s what elevated him to such a level of trust in the first place. But somewhere along the line he went off track. Something influenced him away from his integrity and he took on a completely new character: One that allowed him to fleece hundreds of people out of $50 Billion dollars.

And we have seen that this same thing took place in Solomon’s life. He lost sight of the things that made him a man of great character and turned down another path.

What if had continued to pray for character throughout his life? What if he constantly reaffirmed his desire to discern between good and evil? It would have been much more difficult for him to derail. Prayer reinforces – it strengthens, because we speak to God aloud the desires of our hearts. That’s what makes prayer so powerful. Faithful prayer activates a movement of God’s part. Look at God’s response to Solomon’s prayer:

1 Kings 3:11-12
11 Then God said to him: “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice,12 “behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you.

God saw the rightness of his heart. It was what Solomon asked for that activated the response of God’s part. God makes it clear that because Solomon didn’t ask, “for riches, a long life, or the lives of his enemies,” that He responded. We all understand that the fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. If he had continued to ask for character God would have continued to give it to him.

Staying on Track

How do we stay on track with God? There are a number of ways.

First, is through prayer, we need to continue to seek God daily for the ability to discern good from evil, because when you think about it evil can be disguised as good.

2 Corinthians 11:14
14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.

If he can disguise himself as an angel of light then he can disguise evil as good. Prayer will help to discern evil intent. It will also help to keep us from justifying things we know are wrong to make them seem right. We can also pray before each decision to ask for God’s wisdom to make the right choices.

Secondly, we can stay on track through fellowship. The Bible says that iron sharpens iron. We need to be around people who can keep us on track: People who can sharpen us. We can challenge each other. We can speak into unrighteousness in another’s life that they make overlook in themselves.

The third way is through the Word of God. The Bible shows us many examples of good character and poor character, so that we can learn from them. We can see and recognize bad character, such as Jacob’s deception and theft of Esau’s blessing. We can also see examples of good character, such as Joseph’s care for Potiphar’s possessions and his right behavior with Potiphar’s wife. The examples are included so that we may see what’s right and what’ wrong and live our lives accordingly.

Fourth, we can be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can act as a conscience in us. He speaks to us about our behavior and thought. This is what makes backsliders so miserable. They know and understand what’s right and in refusing to live it they are plagued by the words of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, there is this:

1 Corinthians 10:12
12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.

We need to be careful. We need to watch our words, deeds and thoughts. We need to make sure we stay away from sin. This scripture tells us we need to be careful, because if we’re not we can fall. This is what happened to Solomon. He prayed to receive wisdom and character, but he forgot to be mindful of it; to watch over it and guard his thoughts and heart…and he lost it. He traded away his integrity, until everything seemed like vanity. The word translated as vanity means emptiness, lacking meaning. How sad that he went from a man of such character to a man who sees everything as vanity and emptiness. As a young king he sees ruling his people as a matter of great importance, but ends up as a cynical old man who sees it all as devoid of meaning, because he lost sight of his character and what’s really important. We don’t have to have the same experience.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Fear of Doing Something for God

Mark Ruiz represented the United States in the 2000 Olympic Games, he did not return in 2004. Ruiz missed an opportunity to make the 2004 Olympic squad because he was not able to jump from the next to the last ledge of the 33-foot-high tower.
In practice earlier in the season, Ruiz hurt himself in a painful crash from the 10-meter platform. In the 2004 U.S. trials, Ruiz climbed to the ledge, but could not go any further because he was overwhelmed by a fear of heights due to the earlier crash. Ruiz decided to skip the dive, which cost him the opportunity to make the U.S. squad for the summer Olympic Games in Greece.

This young man allowed his fear to keep him from living out the thing he practiced and worked toward for many years. It is the same with us; many Christians allow fear to stop them from fulfilling the call on their lives.

The thing we need to remember is that God saves us in order that He can use us. People often think God saved them so they can change their lives. Sometimes, people think they received my salvation so that they can enter Heaven. Or they even think, God saved them for them. But I want you to know God didn’t save you to change your life; that’s a by-product of salvation. God didn’t save you so you can go to heaven; that’s the reward of salvation. God saved you because he has a plan for your life and that plan revolves around other people.

We are supposed to love our fellow man. Do you think God saved you because he loved you more than the people who remain unsaved? If you think that you’re mistaken. He saved you because you may be the key to seeing those others saved.

That’s God’s purpose in bringing us to Him; to use us to reach others. Most Christians want to be used by God, but sometimes there is something that holds us back; and most often the thing that keeps us from doing something for God…is us. It’s our own fear that stops us from being used by God. Let’s examine that:

2 Timothy 1:3-8
3 I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day,4 greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy,5 when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God,

Recalling the Faith in You

Human beings are born with just two basic fears. One is the fear of loud noises. The other is the fear of falling. All other fears must be learned. —Ronald Rood – Naturalist and author

We are born with only two fears; the fear of loud noises and the fear of heights. These are the only natural fears, all other fears are learned responses to stimuli. A loud noise could indicate the possibility of danger; that something was going to happen. That’s why it is instinctive to duck.

When my daughters were infants, before they could even crawl, I was watching them in their crib, when there was an especially loud roll of thunder. My daughter Elizabeth jumped and began crawling for all she was worth, but she couldn’t crawl so she was making no headway at all. I put my hand on her back to comfort her, but she must have thought the danger was upon her and began to cry.

The desire to protect our lives is instinctual, that’s why we have fears. In this case fear is a good thing, because it begins the fight or flight response, which can result in us saving our lives. That’s why Elizabeth began to try to escape the thunder.

But for the most part the fears we suffer day to day are unfounded. They are created in our minds; these fears are called phobias. Look at this list of some common phobias:

· acrophobia—fear of heights;
· claustrophobia—fear of closed places;
· pentheraphobia - fear of your mother-in-law
· gymnophobia – fear of nudity – tough to take a shower
· lachanophobia – fear of vegetables
· chaetophobia – fear of hair
· Logophobia fear of words
· How about this one – arachibutyrophobia – fear of Peanut Butter
sticking to the roof of your mouth
· Barophobia – fear of gravity

These aren’t real fears, these fears are created in our imagination. Actually that’s the location of all fear. We can imagine what will happen to us. With phobias we let our imaginations control us.

Someone once said, There are 365 "fear nots" in the Bible—one for each day.

What is the root cause of fear. In some cases fear can be caused by experience. We have experienced some horrible outcome to some activity or by some object and we begin to fear that thing. Sometimes, fear is cause by our imaginations as in the case of the phobias in our list. But the root of fear for a Christian is simply…lack of faith. As Christians we are called to have faith in God, fear comes from a lack of faith.

Look at the beginning of our text. What is it that Paul is remembering about Timothy? Paul writes, “When I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you…” His remembrance of Timothy is Timothy’s faith. But something is wrong here. Because Paul is writing to Timothy to overcome his fear.

Think about your own fears for a moment. What are they rooted in? What is the cause of them? There are people who are afraid to speak in public. Their greatest fear is that they will make a fool of themselves. That’s it…they’re afraid they will look bad, so they won’t do it.

Timothy is receiving this letter from Paul. It has been written while Paul is in prison in Rome, awaiting his execution. Timothy is a pastor in Ephesus, he’s seen what happened to Paul for preaching the Gospel and no doubt he's fearful and somewhat reluctant. But Paul begins by recounting his faith, “I remember your faith.” What is faith, but trust in God? He is reminding Timothy to trust God and through that trust in God will come comfort from fear.

My pastor is funny sometimes. He’ll listen patiently for me to recount all the things I’m afraid of. How difficult it is to get people saved in Taiwan. What if I let everyone down? Or maybe something will go wrong on the outreach. What if I preach the wrong thing? And he listens quietly and says. So God’s no longer on the throne? All is doomed? And I just feel stupid

What Pastor Strutz and Paul are saying is even if the worst happens; you need to trust in Giod. Maybe there is a reason. (Remember the things that happened in Joseph’s life, happened to bring about the will of God.) You just need to trust God.

Haggai 2:5-7
5 ‘According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’6 “For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land;7 ‘and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts.

Paul says, “Look Timothy, I remember your faith. It was in your mother and grandmother, too. So what do you fear? Why are you afraid? God is still on the throne. And the same could be asked of many of us. Why are we afraid? I’ve talked to guys who resist going out to pioneer a church. Nine times out of ten that resistance is rooted in fear. What if I fail? What if I succeed? What if nothing happens, then everyone will know I’m a fake.

These people have a fear of doing something that God has called them to do. They’re afraid to rise up to the expectations of God.

I’ve personally asked people to get involved, but they’re afraid, they attend but they seem to be afraid to stretch themselves to commitment. Have you examined what fear keeps you in your seat? Maybe it’s my approach…My pastor never asked me if I wanted to be involved, he would tell me…”I need you to do this. I didn’t want to let him down. So I swallowed my fears and rose up. Fear will insure that we don’t get hurt, but it will also keep us from ever doing anything.

French Essayist Michel de Montaigne said, “He who fears he will suffer, already suffers because of his fear.”

If we let fear control us, we may not fail, but we definitely won’t succeed either. Everything that’s worth doing comes with a risk. Was it scary to propose to your wife? Was it scary to have your first child? Was it scary to move out of your parents’ house and begin to live on your own? Why are you able to do those things but you fear doing something for God?

We’re fearful because we don’t think God will cover us. Look at Moses for a moment. He was asked to do something much more difficult than God has asked you to do. He was asked to get one million plus people out of bondage in Egypt and lead them to the Promised Land…and solve any problems that come up along the way. Moses was afraid, his first words to God were, “Why me, God? Why not Aaron?” Look at God’s answer.

Exodus 3:12
12 So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

God told him, “I will certainly be with you.” Are you afraid God won’t be with you? Where’s your faith. You know we don’t even need a lot of faith, just faith the size of a “grain of mustard seed.” That’s a little faith. Fear for the most part comes from unbelief or a lack of faith. Paul reminds Timothy of his faith.

“I Have Not Given You a Spirit of Fear”

2 Timothy 1:6-7
6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

What Spirit is imparted into us through the laying on of hands? In the Book of Acts there is a man named Simon who watches the apostles as they minister. He sees what is produced and he wants it…especially the spirit that is produced as they lay hands on people.

Acts 8:17-18
17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money,

It is the Holy Spirit that’s given in the laying on of hands. This is what Paul is referring to when he exhorts Timothy to “stir up the gift of God that’s in you.” It’s through the Holy Spirit that boldness comes into us. It isn’t a spirit of fear that we are given through the laying on of hands, but “a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

When it is necessary to protect your children are you willing to risk death to do that? Why? Because you love them. George Washington risked everything he had to fight against the oppression of England? Why? Love of Liberty. Missionaries have braved death the world over in order to preach the Gospel? Why? Love of God and their fellow man.

Love is able to overcome fear.

1 John 4:18
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

God isn’t in to torment. His love is a perfect love. When His spirit is infused into you and you have the same spirit as God, that same kind of love comes upon you. There can be no fear because His love is a perfect love that casts out all fear. We’ll never reach the world for Jesus when there is resistance due to fear. We’ll never reach our families when we’re afraid to reach out to them.

Fear will always stop us from risking and without risk there is no maturation. A baby takes a risk to stand up and begin to walk. We take a risk as we become more independent from our parents. Life and growth is all about risk. Nothing great is ever done without risk. Do you think great leaders never experience fear? Do you think successful men and women are unafraid? Do you think courage is the absence of fear? Courage is continuing on, in spite of the fear. This is what Paul is trying to instill into Timothy’s life; not an absence of fear but an ability to overcome it so that he can do something for God.

Share in the Sufferings

2 Timothy 1:8
8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God,

Jesus carries the testimony that He lived suffered died and was buried, but that He also rose from the dead. Paul tells him, “Don’t be ashamed of that testimony.” He also tells him not to be ashamed of Paul’s testimony either; that he is in prison for preaching the Gospel. Being ashamed leads to fearful resistance.
How many times has this kind of shame stopped you from preaching the Gospel. “What if they think I’m weird?” “What if they get angry?” This is fear borne from shame. Why are we afraid to be mocked about what we believe about God? Paul is concerned that Timothy will stop because of fear that comes from shame. Paul is concerned that Timothy will quit because of the fear that comes from shame. That’s why he exhorts him not to be ashamed and not to be afraid; so that he can continue the work that God has given him. We can’t afford to be ashamed of the work God has given us. We must continue to press onward despite the criticism we endure and the Gospel endures.

The world will mock and ridicule us, but it is because of our stand for him. The one they hate is Jesus. What we endure is nothing compared to what He endured. What is there for us to be ashamed of, that God loved us enough to come and die for us? That he rose from the dead; that he ascended into heaven? I’m not ashamed of those things. It all cokes down to this: Do you want to do something for God? Do you love God enough to put aside your fears? Are you ashamed of what Jesus did for us on the cross? Paul is speaking to all of us who want to do something for God.