Enemy Number One

As explained in yesterday’s post (Know Your Enemies), praying for our enemies begins with praying for the members of our own family.  Jesus of Nazareth brought to light the radical idea that evil isn’t something to be avoided “out there” as much as it is something to be avoided “in here.”  That is, Jesus taught us that the central problem of life is evil creeping into our own hearts.  Therefore, if you want to keep evil out of your family, you’ve got to start with keeping it out of your own heart.  Otherwise, you yourself are the biggest enemy.

The way to keep evil out of your own heart is to accept the fact that Jesus sees everything you think, say, and do…all day, every day…and to adjust what you think, say, and do based on this reality…one day at a time.

You can’t change the world if you can’t change your family, and you can’t change your family if you can’t change yourself.  You can’t change yourself overnight, but you can change yourself day by day.  By yourself, change is impossible…but with Jesus all things are possible.

Little children sometimes struggle with the idea that baths need to be taken daily.

A Childlike Attitude Toward Jesus

Can you adopt and maintain a childlike attitude before Jesus?  If you can, you can find and maintain a sense of peace in this life.

The foremost duty of a father is the security of his family.  His responsibility is to provide for them and protect them.  There are two aspects to this:

  1. Their actual security
  2. Their sense of security

These two aspects can be distinguished by recognizing that a child can be safe without necessarily feeling safe.  The father must first make the child safe, and then communicate the fact of that safety to the child.  It is not enough to make the child secure while leaving the child feeling insecure.  Neither is it adequate to encourage the child to feel protected without actually providing the protection.  The first aspect is a matter of reality, the second is a matter of the child being aware of, and accepting, reality.

God (Jesus) first secured our safety.  He changed heaven and earth through His death and resurrection so that everyone now goes to heaven at death.  He thus turned the curse (death) into a blessing (heaven).  Second, He commissioned apostles to spread the word that this security had been achieved.  That is, Jesus communicated to His children the protection He had provided.  In the apostles’ willingness to risk life and limb to spread this message, He was assuring His children that their security was real.

God (Jesus) therefore has admirably performed the fundamental twofold duty of a father toward us His children.  Is it not therefore appropriate for us to adopt a humble and childlike posture in our thinking?  Isn’t our incessant questioning of Him retarding our growth?

Let us not live today as a know-it-all teen, or, worse yet, as an autonomous and defiant adult.  Rather, let us acknowledge that we are but children before a loving and dutiful Father.  It serves neither our interests nor His to pretend otherwise.  There is much that we do not know about life today, but that is nothing to worry about.  A beloved child does not want or need to know everything.  Instead of worrying, a beloved child trusts and obeys.  A rebellious child refuses to believe he is beloved or else considers it a license to indulge himself.  Neither reason for his rebellion is justified.

Jesus is a worthy father; let us live as trusting children before Him.  In this, we will find and maintain peace in any and every circumstance.

The Simplicity of True Christianity

But I am afraid that,
as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness,
your minds will be led astray
the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
–  2 Corinthians 11:3

The apostle Paul wrote these words of warning in the 1st century A. D. to believers in Corinth, Greece.  It is a warning just as necessary for us now in the 21st century as it was for those in the 1st.  And, in giving this warning, Paul was, of course, referring to an event that took place in the life of the first woman at the beginning of creation – thousands of years before the 1st century A. D.  Therefore, we have before us a timeless warning for those who live on the earth.

The warning is that our minds will be drawn away from simple and whole-hearted devotion to Jesus Christ.  Satan is tempting us with this today as surely as he tempted Eve and later the Corinthians.  (Eve did not know about Christ, but she and Adam were given a very simple command.)

Think for a moment of the many ways that people complicate Christianity these days.  They make it a matter of belonging to the right denomination or joining the best local church or reading the books of the most admired theologians.  Yet Jesus simply said, “Follow Me.”

Jesus also said that the way we needed to follow Him was as “little children.”  Even little children know how to play “follow the leader.”  It’s simply a matter of followers seeing and imitating the leader.  This doesn’t take a PhD.  Even at early ages, kids are not befuddled by the concept.  It’s a game they are usually eager to play.

Figure out how you would teach Christianity to a five-year-old and then make that the Christianity that you yourself practice.

Let us not complicate what God went to great pains to make simple.  True Christianity is personal devotion to Christ.  And the really good news is that if you are personally devoted to Him, it will be impossible for this to escape His notice and therefore impossible for Him to stand aloof from your life.

For more on this subject, see True Christianity.

Ten Commandments: #2 – No Idols

Having briefly described the first of the Ten Commandments yesterday, let’s now consider the second.  And, as we did yesterday, let’s consider this individual commandment in the context of the totality of God’s commandments.

  • God is love.
    • Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • Love your neighbor as yourself.
      (i.e., Treat people the same way you want them to treat you.)

      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.

While Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments, the Israelites grew tired of waiting for him to come back and prevailed upon his brother Aaron to fashion a golden calf for them to worship.  Having such idols was common practice of the nations in that day and Israel wanted to be like everyone else.  This greatly displeased God.

The first of the Ten Commandments forbids false gods; the second forbids false representations of the true God.

Many people today are following idols of the Lord Jesus rather than Jesus Himself.  We see this most clearly when people worship statues of Jesus, though the most common idol for Christians today is probably church.  That is, many Christians think that by being devoted to churchgoing, that they are devoted to Christ.  The Trinity is another common idol, but it is only a philosophical construct – as man-made as was the golden calf.  Some people even make the Bible an idol.  Yet not even the written word of God can eliminate the need for Christ Himself.  Though He did live in the flesh, He was raised from the dead after His crucifixion and is now spirit.  As a result, those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Worship and serve Christ only – not some representation of Him.  This is the second of the Ten Commandments.

Ten Commandments: #1 – No Other Gods

As I’ve been saying, all the commandments of God find their place in the structure outlined below.  For each of the next ten days, I want to say something about each of the Ten Commandments.  I will present them to you repeating this context, emphasizing in bold print the commandment I will briefly address that day.  The term “briefly” is very important because I will only be giving a taste of the commandment’s meaning.  There is much, much more to be said about each commandment than I will say in these posts.  But I can get you started, and the Lord will say more in your heart as you meditate on His word.

  • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
    • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
    • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
    • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
    • 4 – Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
  • You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
    • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
    • 6 – You shall not murder.
    • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
    • 8 – You shall not steal.
    • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
    • 10 – You shall not covet.

We are creatures designed to worship.  We cannot help it; it is how we are wired.  Therefore, if we do not worship the one true God, we will worship some other god or gods.  As night follows day, we will surely serve a false god if we ignore the true One.

God’s commandment is that we worship only Him, but notice how easy it is for human beings to forsake the One who created them.

Atheists think that they are refusing to worship, but instead they are simply misplacing their worship.  The atheist worships himself…or others…or mammon…or…whatever – anyone or anything but the one true God.  An atheist who thinks he is worshiping nothing is blind to his own behavior and completely deceived.

Some people put their children before God.  Some people put their career before God.  Some people put ideology before God.  Some people put popularity before God.  There is no end to the false gods that people can accumulate and serve.

According to the structure of God’s commandments, you cannot truly love people unless you first love God – the One who made you and redeemed you.

Clear your life of all other gods and serve only Jesus.  This is a resolution you must renew and observe each and every day if you want to please Him.

How Will You Survive?

With society in free fall moral decline, how will your faith survive?  As Abraham’s did.

You do not need to be dependent on the institutional church.  It wouldn’t help you anyway, because that’s like leaning on a straw.

Abraham didn’t have an institutional church to keep up his faith.  He and Sarah walked before God, just as God had commanded them:

…”I am God Almighty;
Walk before Me, and be blameless.”
–  Genesis 17:1

In our day, we know “God Almighty” to be “Jesus Christ our Lord” because He has revealed Him to the apostles, and through their testimony, to you and me and anyone who will read or listen to the New Testament writings.

Therefore, walk before the Lord as Sarah and Abraham did.  The redemption of the world that God has wrought though Christ has returned life to its original order: man and woman, and the children that result.  In other words, Christ has focused humanity back on the family – He has called all human hearts to turn toward home.

The institutional church, whether large or small, is not the locus of God’s attention in the earth.  That distinction belongs to the family.

As for the family that is our model, God went on to say to Abraham and Sarah:

“I will establish My covenant between Me and you…”
–  Genesis 17:2

You, too, have a covenant – a new and better one (Hebrews 8:6; 12:24).  Not only is your covenant better than the one God gave Abraham and Sarah, you have yours in writing…and with extended explanations and illustrations of its meaning (the Bible).

Abraham did not need the surrounding world to confirm his faith.  He and Sarah clung to the promises of God (Romans 4:21) and obeyed His commandments (Genesis 26:5), and faithfully taught their ways to the child God gave them (Genesis 18:19).

Did Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac succeed in the purpose for which God called them?  Yes, grandly so!  How much more has God positioned your family to succeed!  Abraham and Sarah faced a hostile world…and won.  How much more will you succeed against a hostile world because of the superior weapons God has put in your hands!

Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness,
Who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock from which you were hewn
And to the quarry from which you were dug.
Look to Abraham your father
And to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain;
When he was but one I called him,
Then I blessed him and multiplied him.”
–  Isaiah 51:1-2

Your victory is assured.  Stand firm in the faith God has given you, for that is where the victory is found.

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith.
–  1 John 5:4

The faith you have been given is richer than the one Abraham and Sarah had.  Seeing how much good their faith did them, rest therefore in the confidence of how much good your faith is doing your family.

Never forget what He is saying to you and to your family:

…Walk before Me, and be blameless.”
–  Genesis 17:1

Walking with the King

The apostle John tells us of a time when many of Jesus’ disciples stopped walking with Him.

…many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.
–  John 6:66

Let us examine ourselves and make sure we are not like these “sunshine soldiers.”

Jesus then turned to His faithful disciples and asked them if they wanted to continue to be faithful.

So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”
–  John 6:67

Peter then gave the answer that you and I want to give:

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

Some people walk with Jesus for a while, but only for a while.  Walk with Him on earth in such a way that you will not miss a step when death transitions you from earth to heaven.  Walk with Him here so that you can walk with Him there.

This is the kingdom of God.

Are you walking with the One who loves you?

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
–  Micah 6:8

This is all your Creator is asking of you.  Do you think it’s too much?

Thinking about the opening to Psalm 115

Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
But to Your name give glory…
–  Psalm 115:1

What is our Lord’s name?  Jesus.

Why should the nations say,
“Where, now, is their God?”
–  Psalm 115:2

Do the nations see our God?  Certainly not.

But our God is in the heavens…
–  Psalm 115:3

How did He get there?  He was raised from the dead.

We will give glory to His name today by living for Him and living like Him.  This begins by acknowledging Him anew each day and settling our hearts before Him.

The Lord Matters

If I say, “The Lord matters,” most Christians will say “Of course He does – what good is stating the obvious?”  But how many Christians today will think and act as if the Lord matters?

We have our plans, we have our intentions, we have our hopes…but where does the Lord fit in to them?

To live for the kingdom of God means to approach each day – including this day – with the desires of the Lord foremost on our minds.

  • What do You wish to see from me today, Lord?
  • How do You want me to think about myself?
  • How do You want me to think about others?
  • How do You want me to think about You?

If you do not dedicate at least a portion of your time this morning to these sorts of questions in anticipation of the day, then it is hard to see how you are living as if the Lord matters.

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.
–  Luke 9:23 [emphasis added]