Lesson 13 -- third quarter 2008
August 24, 2008
© Copyright 2008
Most of us pursue something or another. Recognition. Satisfaction. Success. Marriage partner. Things. Kindness. Service. Peace. Friendship. Self-control. Money. Love. Truth. Some of these are worthy pursuits; others, unworthy. Are these attainable? Do we have to exert ourselves in reaching these?
I have purposed to speak the truth and allow no deceit on my lips. This is not something that will "just happen" no matter how long and fervently I pray. I have to exert a conscious effort to always speak the truth and never even shade it. Have I ever attained to this? Of course! I know when I speak the truth and I know when I fall short of that. Does that mean that I have now reached perfection in truthfulness? Of course not! But inasmuch as I speak the truth, I have fully attained to it.
Now allow me to complicate this discussion a little. Have you ever pursued humility? Is that a worthy pursuit? Will you ever know when you have reached it? Hmmmm!!!
To not pursue humility is to flagrantly disobey the Scriptures that command, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord" (James 4:10) and "be clothed with humility" (1 Peter 5:5). Furthermore, to not pursue humility is to cut ourselves off from divine blessing and protection. God hears, forgives and heals those who know humility (2 Chronicles 7:14). God lifts those who humble themselves (James 4:10). God's grace fills the lives of the humble (1 Peter 5:5). Without a doubt, humility is a worthy pursuit!
Now if the Bible tells us to be humble, does it not seem somewhat illogical to assume that we can never know whether or not we are obeying that command? Apparently the Apostle Paul knew he was humble (Acts 20:19)! Did that make him any less humble? I suspect not. Did that mean he never ever again acted in an egotistical, proud manner? I doubt it. However, inasmuch as he acted in humility, he was humble.
Remember the story of the emperor's invisible clothes? Some con men convinced him they had tailored the most exquisite clothes for him. And they also convinced him that only the unwise could not see the beauty of such garments. The emperor could see nothing but his pride would not allow him to admit to lacking wisdom. So he let the con men "dress" him and parade him through the streets. The emperor and the people all thought he was naked but no one wished to "be foolish."
Can you fit such a fable into 1 Peter 5:5? I'm telling you, I dressed this morning and I know it! Why? I made a conscious effort to put on these clothes. I can see my clothes on me. And nobody wondered why I drove my children to school in a state of undress. I submit to you that to be "clothed with humility" you have to make a conscious effort and you and others will see some results.
How would you define humility? I suggest you begin with "Humility is esteeming others better than myself" (see Philippians 2:3). That begins in the mind then translates into living so that we can also say, "Humility is acting in the best interests of others" (see Philippians 2:4).
Humility is a state of mind, yes (see Philippians 2:5). But humility is also something you do. If you cannot accept that, look once again at Philippians 2:7-8. Is it possible to act humble and not be humble. Of course. However, that does not cheapen the value of acting (that is, of doing).
If you do not pursue godly humility, you cannot walk with God.
Across the vast expanses of time and in multitudes of cultures, God has always called His people to unswerving loyalty. He insists that we come out of and away from ungodliness. He demands our clear-cut separation. He commands us to choose Him or lose His favor. And as He declares in James 4:4, "Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." Since "the friendship of the world is enmity with God," we should daily investigate the level and nature of our relationship with the world around us. Just what does constitute friendship with the world?
Values. When my values begin to spring from and mirror those of the world, I have established my friendship with it. The world's values don't just differ from God's, they oppose His. The world values independence; God says we must depend on Him and His people. The world treasures, coddles, and promotes self; God says self must be crucified. The world says we must get ahead in this life; God says we must keep our eyes fixed on our eternal goal. To avoid the world's values we must choose God's values daily. If we isolate ourselves from His values by neglecting the Bible and becoming careless in our fellowship with Him and His people, we will surely embrace the world's values. So let's seek Him early, for then we shall surely find Him!
Attachments. Our attachments spring from our values. If our souls let down our guards, we shall surely become attached to the same things that seize the lives of the unregenerate. Our choice of music, reading, and entertainment reveals whether or not we are the world's friends. If we become fixated with laying up various types of treasures on earth, we cannot lay up treasures in heaven...and neither can we be loyal friends of God. When material things cease to become a means to honor God and promote His kingdom, they have become the leeches that suck the life out of our friendship with God. I believe ungodly attachments tend to ease themselves quietly and unobtrusively into the lives of the believers. So let's ask God to keep us alert and committed.
Of course there exist other elements of friendship with the world. Stay in tune with God for He will always lead all seeking souls to the truth and security found in friendship with Him. Each day reaffirm your choice of God and His friendship. Then the deceptive friendship of the world will have less draw on you.
And then you will be able to walk with God.
Yesterday I wanted some Pepsi ONE. Now do some imagining with me. To my shock and incredulity, all soft drinks are in unmarked cans. Puzzled at this, I point out the matter to an employee. He assures me that everything is fine because the manufacturer knows what is in each can. When I protest that I also need to know what's in a given can, he sternly informs me that I should rest content in the knowledge that the manufacturer knows. Exasperated at such senseless absurdity, I march off to a competing store...and discover the same situation. Resigned, I call the manufacturer, request a special code which will identify a can's contents, and return to the first store. I find a can with the Pepsi ONE code on the bottom, pay for it and go outside for a hard-earned drink. My first mouthful sets me to coughing, spitting and sputtering -- the stuff tastes precisely like pure mint. At this stage I'm perturbed enough to cup a hand and pour some of the can's contents into it. It smells like mint, looks like mint and feels like mint. Knowing it will be pointless to talk to store management, I call the manufacturer again. Their answer? "What comes out isn't important. What you see doesn't matter. It's what's on the inside that counts. And only the manufacturer knows what's on the inside. How dare you judge what's on the inside by what's on the outside?!" Click.
How silly, far-fetched and logically-challenged! Yet we see its spiritual equivalent espoused everywhere by those who want to make Christianity and separation a heart matter only. They seem convinced that a separated heart does not necessarily lead to a separated lifestyle.
I used a long, fanciful paragraph to illustrate that externals do matter. The Scriptures are much more direct and have authority which I shall never have.
"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh" (Luke 6:45).
"Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit" (Matthew 7:16,18).
The Scriptures are unequivocal and clear. Even logic leaves no doubt. Separation from the world that is not a whole-life experience, is not separation at all. We cannot be friends of God in our hearts, but His enemies with our life expressions. How far-fetched!
"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4).
We can find another valuable point in James 2:17--"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." Separation that goes no further than the heart will not last long.
Separate yourself from the world if you wish to walk with God.
No. Otherwise some twenty-two years ago I should have commended those young folks in Seattle for their brilliant purple spiked hair.
Yes, because God specifically commands separation for His people -- "Come out from among them, and be ye separate" (2 Corinthians 6:17).
Separation must have conformity to Christ as its motivator and purpose; otherwise, it falls short of godliness. How does our separation rank?
If it is for conformity to Christ, we can walk with God!
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