SCREENING YOUR TEACHERS

“Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge.”
Proverbs 19:27

Teaching or instructing is a powerful tool. Truth can be communicated and received in such a way that it will stay permanently in the mind of the learner. In the same manner, error can be taught and explained so convincingly that students enthusiastically embrace it. Our text warns us about the importance of carefully screening our sources of information. Simply stated, we are to stop listening to teaching that will cause us to depart from the truth.

We are taught to respect the power of truth; but too often, we fail to respect the power of lies. Error can lead us away from the truth. The sometimes overlooked fact is that error can become “perceived truth” in the unsuspecting mind. Those who have been successfully indoctrinated in error will stubbornly defend it. Cults are convinced that their false beliefs are the absolute truth. We need to be careful about who our instructors are and who is teaching our children.

Lest we think this is not really all that relevant, remember what the New Testament says: “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9). How much error does it take to corrupt the truth? It was this passage of Scripture that convinced me, many years ago, not to allow our children to be taught in the government schools. We did not want our children to be taught the godless theory of evolution or the revised history of our nation, which ignores our Christian heritage. Who are our teachers?

One of the most powerful and dangerous mediums of information is the media. The valueless system of this world is being communicated through music, movies, television, and the printed page. Minds are being conformed to a way of life that is opposed to the Word of God. Medical professionals who should be trained to protect life have been brainwashed to believe that aborting a living human is permissible. Judges in our nation have had their judgment defiled until they believe it is their duty to protect society from the message of Christianity.

Where did all this nonsense begin, and how has it been sustained? It has been promoted and propagated through teaching. We need to take this caution from the wise writer of Proverbs seriously. We are to quit listening to teachers whose error can cause “to err from the words of knowledge.”

SHAME ON US

“Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.”
I Corinthians 15:34

On two occasions, the Bible records that Paul spoke something to shame the members of the Corinthian church. Webster defines shame as “a painful sensation excited by a consciousness of guilt, or of having done something which injures reputation; dishonor or disgrace.” Shame produces an emotional pain brought on by the feeling of guilt. Though shame is almost always perceived in our day as a very negative emotion, in this case, it is both desirable and healthy. Paul wanted the Christians who read these words to feel personal failure and pain because of their negligence, which was sinful. They needed to be ashamed. They needed to feel the pain of shame.

One reason there is so little true repentance in our generation is because of the absence of shame. Society has taught people that they bear no personal responsibility for their choices. There is no connection between their decisions and the sad condition of their lives; and it is not productive to accept blame and thus shame. However, shame has an incredible power to help us improve because we feel pain about where we have been wrong. Paul knew that the church of Corinth probably would not change the way they were unless they were made to feel ashamed of themselves. In their case, the Christians were guilty of neglecting their responsibility to tell others about the Lord Jesus Christ, and the man of God wanted them to take this very seriously.

What about us? Should we be ashamed of ourselves? Paul said, “some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.” They were to be ashamed that there were people in their area of influence that did not have the knowledge of God’s grace and the gift of salvation. It should cause them pain to know that people were destined for hell, and had not heard the Gospel. They had not fulfilled their responsibility, and Paul wanted them to feel the guilt of their neglect. Could the same not be said of us?

God does not want His children to live in continued guilt of forgiven sins, but He does want us to take sin seriously. We need to face the facts when we have failed to be obedient to God. It is good for us to own up to our wrong and feel the shame of being guilty, that we might turn from our sins and be forgiven by God’s grace.

SAVING LOT

“And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.”
Genesis 14:16

When Abram and Lot decided to part company, Lot chose to live in the wicked area of Sodom and Gomorrah. In time, there was war between confederations of kings, and
Sodom and Gomorrah were taken, including Lot and his possessions. News came to Abram that Lot had been taken captive, and Abram promptly went to rescue his nephew.
Our Scripture tells us that Abram “brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.”

Lot will serve for all time as an example of the consequences of wrong priorities and unwise decisions. His desire to live near, and eventually in, Sodom and Gomorrah
proved to be most devastating. He lost his wife, his sons-in-law, his testimony, and his dignity as a result of his foolish choices. Though his daughters survived the annihilation of the terrible cities, there was so much of the world in them that they plotted disgusting acts with their father to preserve the family name. Living too closely to the world will always prove to be a mistake for God’s people. We are also reminded that our decisions affect other people. Lot’s family was affected, his sons-in-law’s families were affected, and the future of Israel was adversely affected as well. The closer one gets to the fire, the more likely he is to get burned. The captivity by Lot and his family described in our text would not have occurred if Lot had not been in the wrong place at the wrong time. One has to wonder how many casualties in our lives might have been avoided had we been where God wanted us to be, rather than where we wanted to be.

After Lot was taken captive, it was up to Abram to secure his freedom. God blessed Abram and gave a great victory. As a result, Lot was freed from his captors, and his possessions and family members were saved. Although Lot had positioned himself in harm’s way spiritually, God brought deliverance to his life. The same can be true today. Through the sin of wrong priorities and poor judgment, Satan often enslaves people. But, there is deliverance through the grace and power of the Lord Jesus Christ. God does not want us to leave His will; but for those who have wandered from His way, there can be forgiveness and freedom from the enemy’s bondage.

YE ARE YET CARNAL

“For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?”
I Corinthians 3:3

The word carnal is used eleven times in the New Testament. Seven of those occasions were directed to the Corinthian church. To say that the church at Corinth was a carnal church would certainly be an accurate assessment. The word carnal means “pertaining to the flesh or fleshly.” Being carnal is the opposite of being spiritual. Paul said that he could not speak to them as spiritual people, but as carnal, like “babes in Christ” (3:1). Because the Corinthians were carnal, they were not able to digest spiritual meat. Their spiritual diet was restricted to milk.

Our text gives us some common evidences of being carnal. Characteristics such as “envying, and strife, and divisions” are manifestations of being carnal. The final words of our Scripture tell us that these carnal Corinthians walked “as men.” Their conduct was like that of natural men. They did not walk as spiritual men, but as the rest of mankind. These were serious words to the members of the Corinthian church. Any sincere Christian should be ashamed to be called carnal. They describe a lifestyle that is far from what God desires for His children. He did not redeem us that we might live according to the ways of the world. God did not save us that we remain fleshly and unspiritual.

Church members are to love one another and serve one another. Instead, these members were jealous and divisive. The Corinthian church had its share of spiritual problems. What about many churches of our generation? Could they not also be considered carnal? As a matter of fact, the behavior of the Corinthians would probably be considered normal in most modern congregations. Believers could commonly be described as being more carnal than spiritual. Churches are often filled with members who are jealous, critical, selfish, and worldly. The message of the Word of God would aptly apply today, “ye are yet carnal.”

We should not be satisfied living in a worldly or natural way. Our lives should be drastically different from that of the unsaved. We ought to develop appetites for the things of God, rather than the things of the flesh and the world. What is needed in our increasingly compromising society is a generation of Christians who are truly spiritual, rather than carnal.

PROMOTION COMES FROM GOD

“I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: and to the wicked, Lift not up the horn: Lift not up your horn on high: speak not with a stiff neck. For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.”
Psalm 75:4-7

Most of us can easily recognize the natural tendency to want to exalt ourselves. God warns against the tendency to lift oneself up. To the wicked, He says, “Lift not up the horn: Lift not up your horn on high.” The horn is an emblem of power or authority. To lift up your horn would be the equivalent of exalting yourself. We are not to promote ourselves. The verse then goes on to say, “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.” It is God who has the final say about who is promoted and who is not.

Many men have been disappointed because they did not get a promotion or advancement to which they felt they were entitled. This can be true in the church as well as in the community. This Scripture teaches us that we are to trust in the Lord for His will to be done. We are not to rely on our ability to manipulate or win favor, but rather should rely entirely on God to direct our lives and to guide those who have influence over us. Remember, the Lord is over those who are over us. He can humble, or bring low, those that are proud or haughty. He is able to raise up those who are humble. He sets up kings and puts down others.

It is not our natural ability or human strength that secures our position. Neither is it a simple turn of fate that determines our place. The unseen hand of God ultimately decides where we will serve and what our responsibilities will be. Our place, and our success in that place, depends on God. He may raise up those that we would not choose, and He may put down those that we would promote.

The wisest thing is for us to walk humbly with God and always seek to be submissive to His will. Not only does God have the power to promote or demote those He chooses, He also has the wisdom to know what is best for us and what will bring Him the most glory. He knows that a premature promotion might result in problems. He knows that the experience that humbles us might produce needed character in our spiritual walk.

THERE WAS GREAT JOY

“And all the congregation of Judah, with the priests and the Levites, and all the congregation that came out of Israel, and the strangers that came out of the land of Israel, and that dwelt in Judah, rejoiced. So there was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem.”
II Chronicles 30:25, 26

King Hezekiah had initiated major reforms in Judah. He ordered that the temple be cleansed and repaired. He then commanded the priests to offer sacrifices of reconciliation on the altar. The Levites were instructed to lead the congregation in music and song. The king then proclaimed that the Passover be observed. Our text declares unto us that this was a time of “great joy in Jerusalem.” They were rejoicing in the reforms that were being observed under the leadership of the great king. They were rejoicing in the revival of their tradition and worship.

One can only imagine the spirit of jubilation and praise that accompanied these constructive changes in the lives of the Israelites. The same kind of spirit can be expected in our hearts and in our worship, as we are willing to give ourselves to repentance and personal revival. The natural by-products of surrender and dedication
to God will be holiness and happiness. The world is so wrong about the fruit of godliness. People have been made to believe that sanctification to God and separation
from sin can only lead to unhappiness and a miserable life. This is not true. The happy life is the holy life. When a true Christian is living in compromise and sin, he cannot experience real joy and victory in his heart.

The popular man-centered worship of our generation is seeking to manufacture happiness when there is no turning from sin. This is a counterfeit. When we have unconfessed sin and unresolved conflicts in our lives, we will not know the joy of the Lord. However, when we are willing to cleanse our lives, as Hezekiah did the temple, the joy will begin to return to us. This is not merely a carnal joy from eating and drinking and having fellowship with one another. It is not a joy produced by entertainment and worldly compromise. This is a spiritual joy from knowing our sins have been forgiven and that God is pleased with our direction and commitments. There was great rejoicing among Hezekiah’s people as a result of the spiritual decisions they made.

BECOMING LIKE THE MASTER

“The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?”
Matthew 10:24, 25

In this passage, Jesus is teaching His followers about the reality of persecution and suffering. He was preparing them for hatred and betrayal. In explaining what they would face, Jesus linked our mistreatment to His own. “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.” Of course, we are His disciples and servants; He is our Master and Lord. If they criticized Him, it only stands to reason that His followers would be treated in a similar way. When we face difficulties for His name’s sake, we can take courage in the fact that He has led the way and we are only following in His steps.

In this great passage of Scripture, we find a summation of a significant part of God’s objective for the lives of His children. “It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord.” The disciple is to be “as his master” and the servant “as his lord.” We are to become like Him. This fact never loses its impact when taken to heart by the sincere Christian. The honest follower of Jesus Christ will always be ready to admit that, in so many ways, we are so unlike Him. And yet, His agenda is to be steadily conforming us to His image, changing us in every imaginable way.

We need to keep our eyes on His purpose. He is not content with simply improving our character or conduct, or making us a little godlier than we once were, or somewhat more spiritual than others. He wants us to be like our Master and as our Lord. He wants to impress the image of His Son on our hearts and our lives. This is a lifelong process. We can know that God is committed to this purpose. Because He is committed to it, He will initiate and design things that will contribute to this goal.

This gives us answers when we sometimes wonder about the things God chooses to allow in our lives. He is the Potter and we are the clay. He is molding us. Because God desires this as our end, we should cooperate with Him. It is our duty to submit to this transformation as He works His will in us. Knowing that God has an objective in our adversity gives us new perspective.

MORE FOR US THAN AGAINST US

“And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may
see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.”

II Kings 6:16, 17

When Elijah was taken to Heaven, Elisha replaced him as the most influential of the prophets. When the king of Syria warred against Israel, Elisha provided information to the king of Israel that delivered them from the Syrians. The king of Syria then sent horses and chariots and a great host to surround and apprehend Elisha. When Elisha’s servant saw that the enemy compassed them, he was full of fear. In our Scripture, Elisha comforts his servant by telling him, “they that be with us are more than they that be with them.”

Elisha asked God to open the eyes of the servant. When He did, the servant saw “the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” God had surrounded His servant with an angelic host that provided protection and assistance. Elisha knew that he could depend on God to care for him as he faithfully served the Lord.

Like the servant of Elisha, we often feel like we are outnumbered. As far as he could see with his natural eyes, the situation did not appear hopeful. But, Elisha did not depend on what his physical eyes could see. With the eye of faith, he looked into the unseen world, the world governed by the promises, power, and providence of God.

We must learn to look beyond our apparent resources and trust in the watchcare and wisdom of God. The world is definitely not for us. The devil is obviously against us. Even circumstances can be opposing us. But we rejoice in knowing that God is for us. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Not only is God for us, but so are His promises. No matter how much error seems to increase, truth will always be
more powerful and will prevail. Also, God’s people are for us. Those who are truly the saints of God are supportive of the work of God and His people. Like Elisha, God’s angels also surround and protect us. Sometimes we need for God to open our eyes and let us see that there are MORE FOR US THAN AGAINST US.

FIGHTING A GOOD FIGHT

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:”
II Timothy 4:7

The language Paul used here describes a struggle, a contest, or contending with an adversary. The Christian life for the great apostle was a constant challenge that required great effort. He was near the end of his life and anticipated his soon departure for Heaven. As a statement of fact and appreciation of God’s sufficient grace, he testified that “I have fought a good fight.” It would be wise for us to consider this matter for our own lives. Are we FIGHTING A GOOD FIGHT? Are we engaged in the same type of contest or struggle that Paul was familiar with? What kind of fight are we fighting?

If you ever hear someone speaking of Christians fighting, it is usually not the same kind of conflict of which Paul was speaking. Too often God’s people are fighting with each other. Things like pride, selfishness, jealousy, and rebellion cause strife in personal relationships and churches. To be quite frank, it could be accurately stated that most of the contending done by many Christians is toward one another. This is exactly opposite of what the Bible says we should be doing. Our attitude toward each other should be loving, protecting, forgiving, and encouraging. We should not be our own enemy. Churches will never have revival until they are willing to stop fussing with each other and love one another as they should. This is obviously a grief to the Holy Spirit and a blemish to the world that is watching. It may be fighting, but it is not FIGHTING A GOOD FIGHT.

Because so much attention is often directed to inner strife and bickering, the real battles that should be getting our energy are ignored. We should be fighting those things that hinder the work of God. For instance, we should fight against error and fight for the truth. A battle is raging in our day over the subject of truth. We are to earnestly contend for the faith. Part of this battle is over the source of truth and the integrity of the Word of God. We must also fight against the carnal tendencies of our own nature. We must resist the devil and refuse temptations.

As apostasy increases, we fight against compromise and worldliness. There is a good fight to be fought. When our lives come to an end, we want to be able to say that we, too, “fought a good fight.”

“I”

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”
Isaiah 14:12-14

Lucifer obviously had an “I” problem. Five times in our text, we see the phrase, “I will.” Pride and self-will were at the very center of his rebellion. God Almighty created Lucifer. As a created being, Lucifer’s purpose and responsibility was to serve and please his Creator. God’s will should have always taken precedence over Satan’s will. However, pride entered in and Lucifer developed an “I” problem. He was not content with God’s will. He insisted on his way. In his arrogance, Lucifer wanted to dethrone God.

As we know, God judged Lucifer. He was cast down from his place in Heaven. As a fallen angel, Lucifer became the devil, or Satan. One day, Satan will be banished forever to the Lake of Fire. But, in the meantime, he works feverishly to convince others to reject God and His perfect will. He successfully tempted Adam and Eve to choose their will over God’s will in the Garden of Eden. Since then, he has been deceiving many.

How is it that the devil can be so effective in deceiving people? He uses the very thing that resulted in his banishment from Heaven and from his place of service to the Lord: the “I” problem, a very deceptive and most effective method. If the devil were honest and told people he was planning to route them away from God and His perfect will, and direct them on a journey that would ultimately lead them to ruin and even eternal torment, perhaps many would not follow him. But that is not his scheme. He disguises his intentions. He tempts people to promote or exalt themselves. This is very alluring. Just insist on what you want. Demand your rights. Refuse to accept anything other than your way.

Satan convinces men that life is found in satisfying self, while Jesus taught that life is found in denying self. We have to admit that we also have an “I” problem. If we are going to have a meaningful relationship with God, we must be willing to choose His Word, His ways, and His will above ours.