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.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Chris' Letters to the Taiwanians: Second Taiwanians

Editor’s Note:  The title of this comes from this being the second sermon in a series called, “Chris’ letters to the Taiwanians.”  They are both on the subject of Bible Reading and Study.  They are called “First Taiwanians”, and “Second Taiwanians.” 

A few years ago a test was given to five classes high school seniors.  Most of them failed the exam, completely.  Some were so confused that they thought Sodom and Gomorrah were lovers, or that Matthew, Mark, Luther and John wrote the Gospels.  Other said that Eve was created from an apple, and that the stories that Jesus used in teaching were called parodies.  More than eighty percent of the students couldn't complete such familiar quotations as “Many are called but few are______”, or “A soft answer turneth away _______.”

It is pretty obvious that these students weren't Bible scholars or even Bible readers.  One of the difficulties a pastor faces out in the field, is encouraging people to read their Bibles, faithfully.  We want them to know the Word of God and understand God’s will for their lives, but to know God they need to understand God’s Word; His message to His people.  In this post I want to show you that knowing your scripture, knowing what the Word of God says can protect you in times of trial and tribulation.

Genesis 3:1-7 (NKJV)
3:1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" 2 And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' " 4 Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

How Easily Fooled

This is a very familiar passage of scripture.  This is where it all started; the very first instance of sin; the very first act of disobedience.  It is interesting to note how Eve was fooled by the devil.   He lied, she fell for it and took the whole human race down.  To borrow a phrase from the anti-war movement:  he lied – people died.

Look how this happened:  We find out the serpent is cunning; wily; sneaky.  We know, though, that this isn't just a serpent but the devil in disguise.  He comes to Eve and asks a really sneaky question – “Did God really say…”.  He’s asking, “Are you really sure that God said that?” 

Did God really say, “You shall not eat from EVERY Tree of the Garden?  Did He really say that?” 

I think the way he asks that is interesting.  God said they could eat of all the trees in the Garden except one, so they can’t eat from every tree in the Garden.  The question is really a twist of what God said.

Now look at Eve’s answer:

Genesis 3:2-3 (NKJV)
3:2 And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' "

The only problem with that answer is that that isn't what God said.  God didn't say that.  Look what God did say:

Genesis 2:16-17 (NKJV)
2:16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

So, Eve isn't accurate about the Word of God.  She’s not really sure what God did say, so she’s open to be misled.  She can be easily fooled because she’s not sure of the Word of God in this moment of temptation. 

Think about this.  Are there things in society that tempt you away from God’s will?  Things like, “We’re in love, we’re living together.  We’re married in the eyes of God.”  The Bible is specific that fornication without marriage is sin, but we hear lies and twisted truths all the time and if we’re not sure of the Word of God then we’re unable to defend ourselves in an argument.

Benjamin Franklin loved to argue.  Occasionally, he would find himself overwhelmed by the arguments of his friends.  At such times he often would say, “Give me a day to think the matter over, for I am correct.”

Afterward, he would go to his printing shop and set up some type in the style of the Bible, and express his position in Bible language.  He would then return the next day and proudly proclaim:

“Whatever you may think you cannot get away from the fact that the Holy Scripture supports my arguments.  As it is said in the Book of John…” The ruse worked every time.

That trick can only work if you don’t know the Bible.  I once had a homeless man tell me that he was justified in living like he was because the Apostle Paul was homeless. (We know from reading the Bible that Paul worked as a tent maker.)  Then he told me a story that Paul was hungry and had no food, so he made a fire and boiled water, then he put rocks in the boiling water.  All of the people in the town near where Paul was came out and placed vegetables and meat in the pot, to make a nutritious soup.  I had heard a story similar to that one before, but I couldn't really remember the context of the story, or where it came from.  I stopped for a moment to think about it, realizing that it is an old Russian folk tale called, “Stone Soup.”  I knew my Bible and realized immediately, that it wasn't a biblical story, had I not known I may have been as easily fooled as that man apparently was.

In the Garden of Eden, the command God gave was not to eat the fruit.  He didn't say anything about not touching it.  The devil, emboldened, then says, “You shall not surely die.”  He’s saying God’s a liar.  If Eve knew the Word of God, if she was sure of the Word of God, this bold-faced lie would have been a red flashing warning to her.  It’s a lie but Eve wasn't alarmed, she didn't see it for what it was.  Knowing the TRUTH will keep you from believing the LIE.

Genesis 3:5 (NKJV)
3:5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

Now the devil begins to speak of God’s intentions.  He makes the lie bigger; he knows she doesn't know God’s words, so how can she be sure of God’s motivations.  She’s easily taken in by those words, especially, in light of what her eyes are telling her.

Genesis 3:5-6 (NKJV)
3:5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

Her eyes tell her what the devil is saying makes sense.  The fruit looks like it's good to be eaten, so she can’t understand why God would forbid it.  She may think the devil’s right, it will make her wise and that’s what God is trying to prevent.  “If it will make me like God…I’m eating it.”

This is the temptation that destroyed the human race, because it worked.  Think about what this is: 

Her eyes saw it…It looks so good, I've got to have it.
It appealed to her flesh…I can be so wise.
It appealed to her pride…I can be like God.

Have you ever been tempted in that way?  That’s where temptation comes from:  The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.

1 John 2:16-17 (NKJV)
2:16 For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

What happened to Eve is the classic temptation.  The history of every temptation that leads to sin is the same: 

The outward object of temptation – The thing you desire. The inward commotion of the mind – The confusion. The lust and then the triumph of getting what you want, followed by the degradation that comes from sin.  It’s all in the story of the first sin.  In this case, where it all came from was a lack of Bible knowledge and understanding.  I know Eve didn't have a Bible, but she had God’s words, straight from God’s mouth. 

She knew God.  She’d met God.  She’d spent time with God.  Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden.  It’s right here in Genesis chapter three.

Genesis 3:8 (NKJV)
3:8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

They were familiar with the sound of God walking in the Garden because they had direct access to God.  Not being clear in the Word of God led to the corruption of the earth and to the death of all mankind.

Romans 5:12 (NKJV)
5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned--

After the Sin Comes the Clarity

Someone once said, “God’s word is like a highway sign.  You don’t have to pay attention to it, if you don’t care what happens to you.”

God’s word is like a warning sign.  The sign is out there; it’s in place.  It’s there to protect you, but if you don’t read it, it can’t protect you. Most of us know right from wrong, but sometimes we don’t see clearly what’s going on.Eve is deceived by the devil.  She doesn't see through the lies.  She doesn't understand what the devil is trying to do.  She misses it completely until after the deed is done.  Once the sin is committed, the clarity comes.

Genesis 3:7 (NKJV)
3:7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

Now, she has clarity.  Now she knows what she’s done, but it’s too late.  The deal is done.  The devil has his victory.  Death has come into the world.  What a sad, sad day.  Now you might say, “My sin will not cause the death of mankind..  Nothing I could do could have such grave consequences.”  You’re probably right.  After Eve’s sin there’s not much our individual sins can do to harm mankind, but you have to take this down to a personal level.  YOUR sin can destroy YOUR eternity.  Your example may lead others into the same sin.  You can bring death (Hell) into the lives of others.

The real problem that we have is like Eve’s; often we are so caught up in lies and deceptions that we don’t even realize that what we’re doing is sin until it’s too late.  Then the clarity comes in as we see the consequences of that sin kick in, as we stand before God.  Then we’ll have clarity.  Then we’ll realize what we've done, but like Eve it’ll be too late.

Imagine this for a moment…At some point Eve realized that people now face death, sickness and suffering because of what she did – How do you think that felt?  After the sin, her eyes were opened; she saw that she was naked.  She knew what had happened but she couldn't take it back.  It was too late and it’s the same for us.  We can repent and God will forgive us, but often the consequences of the sin have been released.  Those consequences must still be paid. 

Adam and Eve got back into a right relationship with God.  We see that later in their lives, as their children are raised to make offerings to God, but they never got back into the Garden and people still die.  The consequences remain.

The problem is when those consequences affect innocent people.  Our children often reap the consequences of our sin.  If you don’t believe that ask a kid whose parents divorced because one of the parents was unfaithful.  Ask a woman who feels worthless because of her husband’s addiction to pornography.  Ask a man who’s buried in debt because of his wife’s selfishness.  Ask a family whose child is dead because of a drunk driver. 

How much easier would life be if people read the warning sign?  Find the clarity before the sin by knowing and understanding God’s Word.  Know what He’s saying so when temptation comes, you won’t be easily swayed by persuasive words.  The second greatest gift we have been given by God is the Bible; the Word of God, so we can use it to defeat the temptations, twists and lies of the devil.  If only Eve had had that understanding things might have been a bit different.

The Bible has been Given to Help You

A little boy saw his father using a square to see if a board he was planning was straight.  “Why are you so careful, daddy?” 

“We can’t guess in carpenter work,” his dad said, “You have to be just right.  People guess at too many things.  God doesn't like that way of living.”

“I guess there are no squares for living by,” said the boy.

“Yes, there are squares to live by, you will find them in the Bible.  Test all that you do by them, and you go straight in life, my boy.”

This is some very good advice.  The bible was given to us so that we can understand God’s mercy and love for us, and God’s expectation for us.

If we will read and know our Bible, we will be able to fight off so much in the way of temptation.  Let’s look at Jesus’ example for a moment:

After Jesus’ baptism, He was led by the spirit into the desert and was tempted three times by Satan.

Luke 4:1-4 (NKJV)
4:1 Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. 3 And the devil said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." 4 But Jesus answered him, saying, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.' "

The lust of the flesh – He was hungry, the temptation was to fill his stomach.  Look at how Jesus answered the devil.  He quoted scripture…”It is written.”

Luke 4:5-8 (NKJV)
4:5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, "All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours." 8 And Jesus answered and said to him, "Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.' "

 The lust of the eyes – Look at the riches and power you can have.  Again, look at how Jesus answers.  He quoted scripture…”It is written.”  Finally:

Luke 4:9-12 (NKJV)
4:9 Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,' 11 "and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.' " 12 And Jesus answered and said to him, "It has been said, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.' "

The pride of life – You’re special God loves you more.  In fact, this is where the devil twists scripture.  Just like with Eve when he said, “Did God really say…?”  Jesus knows and understands God words.  He recognized the twist and he corrects him. 

He used God’s words to protect Himself from the temptations.  In order to do that, though, He had to know what it really said.  He had to study and memorize them.  He had to know which scriptures would be appropriate with which to respond.  If we want to be able to protect ourselves we need to be able to correctly discern what’s right and what’s wrong or we will be as easily fooled as Eve.

Someone once said, “Should all the people dust off their Bibles, we would have one of the greatest dust storms of all time.” 

Let’s begin that dust storm… forget about the environmentalists, the world is already corrupt because Eve didn't know the Word of God.  We can begin to make that right, by knowing our way through the Word of God and fighting off the devil in our lives.